God Over All

Unspeakable Consolation
Job 1; Belgic Confession Article 13 (Part II)
Preached by Rev. Keith Davis at Lynwood URC on 10-16-11 (Songs: 140, 74, 461)
Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the last stanza of Longfellow‘s poem entitled
The Rainy Day we find a very familiar line. The last stanza reads:
Be still, sad heart, and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.
―Into each life some rain must fall.‖ Do you know what the poet is saying there boys and girls?
He‘s saying that every one of us, at some point and time in our lives will experience some form
of sadness, or difficulty or hardship or tragedy.
Everyone in this sanctuary today, everyone who may be listening to this sermon on the CD or
hearing this recording on the internet, will sooner or later experience a period (or periods) of
grief or calamity or sadness. That is one of those cold, hard, unavoidable facts of life.
And you can count on this as well, when those sad and difficult moments strike, it almost always
hits us out of the blue. It almost always comes out of nowhere and seems pointless, absurd, and
even (dare we say) undeserved.
You may be pulling weeds in the front yard with your two year old well in sight, only to realize
to your own horror, that in a quick trip to the garage to find a pair of gloves, your two year old
made a mad dash for the street – or just as awful, he has disappeared, someone abducted him.
Or you may be driving to work one day -- just like every other day, but on this day the car ahead
of you blows a tire and spins out, and before you know it, you‘re involved in a deadly accident.
Maybe you‘re the one who may not survive your injuries. Or you may be with your loved one at
the doctor‘s office for a check-up, and the doctor reports the news that he found a mass on your
liver or breast or lungs.
And in our shock and dismay, we might cry out a dozen times Why? What‘s the reason for this?
Why is God doing this to me? And an important part of my calling as a minister is to prepare
God‘s people for ―rainy days‖ like this.
It is to preach God‘s Word to you in such a way that you are prepared in your heart and mind to
face such rainy days – so that in the face of such calamity you would not respond in resentment
and anger toward God; you would not curse God and accuse Him of injustice.
Rather, you would stand strong in the faith which God has given you, and you would instead
worship and bless God as our faithful God and Father, who is the overflowing fountain of all
good, and who always does what is best for us.
And congregation, that is why the book of Job is so relevant to our lives. Jobs suffering not only
comes out of nowhere, but it has no connection whatsoever to his character. His calamity and
misery cannot be blamed on a life of sin. And his story is recorded for us in the Scripture so that
we might be trained and disciplined in the way of suffering.
So that our faith is built on something more than empty clichés and meaningless platitudes -where we do our best to keep a stiff upper lip and trust that everything will be all right. No, we
want to know that in the midst of dark, dreary days we not only have an anchor cast in heaven to
which our faith is securely fastened, but we also have an unspeakable consolation here on earth.
That is what we want to meditate on this evening for a few moments. Here in Job one and the
rest of article 13 of the Belgic Confession, we confess that God’s Providence Produces
Unspeakable Consolation.
1) Job’s Extraordinary Calamity
2) Job’s Faithful Confession
1) Job’s Extraordinary Calamity
In the opening verses we are introduced to a man named Job, and two are immediately brought to
our attention. First we‘re told about his character. He was a righteous man – blameless and
upright is the way the NIV puts it. He feared God and he shunned evil.
This is not to suggest that Job was perfect or sinless. Rather, it emphasizes that (like Abraham)
he was a man of faith, and his faith in God was credited to him as righteousness; and when it
says that he had an upright heart, it means the he sincerely loved and served the Lord; he was not
a double-hearted man (his devotion to God was not lip-service, but life-service).
This passage shows us another quality of Job‘s character. He was also a loving and devout father
who conducted himself like the priest of his household. Verse 5 says that he regularly made early
morning sacrifices on behalf of each his ten children. He did this in the event that any one of his
children sinned and cursed God in their hearts. (Lesson to all of us parents).
As we know from the rest of the book of Job, it‘s very significant that chapter 1 establishes the
righteous and godly character of Job, because later on in the book, as Job‘s three friends come on
the scene, they try to attribute Job‘s calamities to the presence of some unrighteousness in his
life, to some unconfessed, hidden, grievous sin. In other words they reasoned along these lines:
Job you must have done something wrong (must have gotten God mad) for this to happen to you!
But the truth is, Job character had nothing to do with his trials. Another item that is brought to
our attention is the blessedness which Job enjoyed in his life. We‘re told that Job had seven sons
and three daughters and huge numbers of sheep and camels, oxen and servants. He was the
greatest of all the people of the east. This was evidence that Job was a man blessed by God, who
found favor in God‘s eyes.
But then what happened? Boys and girls, what happened to Job? In verses 13-19 we read of
four messengers who appear before Job in quick, rapid-fire succession. And as each messenger
comes, the news grows progressively worse. First, it is reported that his oxen and donkeys were
stolen by the Sabeans and the servants who tended to them were killed.
Next his flocks and their shepherds are destroyed by lightning. Third, Job is told that three
parties of Chaldeans came and raided the camels and took them off, killing whatever servants
were guarding them. And fourthly and finally, and most painful of all, the news came that a
mighty wind had struck the house where all his sons and daughters were gathered for a feast; the
house collapsed and all of them perished.
Two of the calamites were caused by evil men, the other by natural catastrophes – the power of
creation. In the end, we see that all of Job‘s prosperity evaporates in the span of one afternoon.
And anyone who saw what happened to Job back then, and anyone who reads this account asks
the same question – What in the world is going on here? How and why did this happen?
But as Rev. John Piper puts it, the answers we seek are not found in this world and so we have
to look outside this world. That is why this passage is so helpful and insightful. This passage
gives us a glimpse into heaven; it shows us a meeting, an exchange between God and Satan.
Satan has been roaming through the earth and going back and forth on it which, as we know
from Satan‘s nature, means that Satan has been ‗up to no good.‘ He‘s been busy tempting
mankind; it‘s his full time job is to pervert and deceive the heart and soul and mind of man.
Satan lives to lead men away from God, to turn their hearts from God. And that‘s what makes
the next words from God so surprising, even mind-boggling. The Lord says to Satan -- Have you
considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a
man who fears God and shuns evil.
It‘s as if the Lord is putting the bait right there in front of Satan. In fact, one minister equated
this to the owner of a jewelry store asking a well recognized jewel thief what he‘s doing in his
store. The jewel thief replies Oh nothing, just walking around. And then the owner says: Hey
have you seen my priceless diamond in the showcase at the front of the store?
Maybe to some this might seem like God is setting up Job for trouble, like he‘s playing with
Job‘s life like a child plays with his toys. But what‘s really happening is this. God is pleased
with his servant Job. Job is a man after his own heart, and by his faith he has set himself apart
from other men.
But as it is his evil nature, Satan objects. He refutes God‘s findings. As the great accuser of
God‘s people he says: Does Job fear God for nothing? Isn’t it true that you have built a wall of
protection around him, his household and every thing he has. Isn’t it true that you have blessed
the work of his hands so that he his flocks and herds are spread out through all the lands.
The answer to the latter observations is yes. Of course the Lord has blessed Job — and there‘s
no shame in that. The Lord is free to bless all those who love Him and walk uprightly before His
face. But Satan‘s contention is that if the Lord would remove his hedge of protection and his
hand of blessing, then surely Job would curse God. Surely even Job will be defiant toward God.
So what does the Lord do? God permits Satan to tempt Job. The Lord (as he would one day do
with David and Peter) allowed Satan to sift Job as wheat. The Lord put everything Job had into
Satan‘s hand; the only stipulation was that Satan could not harm Job himself.
And then, of course, the dreary, dreadful day comes. It was more than a ―little rain‖ that fell into
Job‘s life. It was a monsoon of sorrow and heartache and calamity. And before we get to Job‘s
response, I want to make a few observations on the way this calamity befalls Job.
We‘re told that God permitted Satan to do what he wanted to Job. Later on in chapter 2, when
Satan again appears before God again, God tells Satan Behold, he is in your power; only spare
his life. What this tells us is that (at least in Job‘s day) Satan had power to destroy the lives of
God‘s people; to bring ruin and destruction and even evil upon them. But only to a certain point.
In every circumstance and situation, God always sets the limits of Satan's power to inflict harm,
to cause pain, to bring about evil. It can never be said that Satan does anything outside the
power and control and knowledge of God. It can never be said that God is disappointed or
frustrated or even worse, that God is handcuffed by the power and subtlety of Satan.
Peter in his Epistle may refer to Satan as a lion who roams about, seeking to devour whom he
may, but the fact is, Satan is a lion on a leash. And to accomplish God's purposes (to bring about
God‘s perfect will), God will either rein in Satan (thus restraining his power and influence in the
world or in someone‘s life) or at other times, God will give Satan more freedom to strike, to
inflict more damage and pain.
But either way, we have to know and confess this: Ultimately, Satan accomplishes God‘s will.
Satan cannot make a move with God‘s permission and freedom, and God only allows Satan to do
that which, in the end, will promote His own cause in the world. In Job‘s case, God sought to
bring glory to himself through righteous Job, and to show Satan that Job was no mercenary.
That Job did not serve God only for the blessings.
In William Green book, The Argument of the Book of Job Unfolded he says this about Satan:
With all his hatred of God and spite against His people, he cannot emancipate himself from that
sovereign control, which binds him to God's service. In all his blasphemous designs he is, in
spite of himself, doing the work of God. In his rebellious efforts to dethrone the Most High, he is
actually paying Him submissive homage…
God used Satan to test and refine Job‘s faith, in very much the same way that God used Satan to
test His own Son in the wilderness and prepare Him for ministry. So remember that as well, that
while Satan‘s power over us is very great, He is always under the divine control of God; and
remember as well, that even when we fail, even when we give in to sin, if we are faithful to
confess that sin and repent of it, God can still use that failure as a building block for the future.
God can use that failure as a tool of learning, so that what might be a moment (or a period) of
great shame and embarrassment, might be turned into a monument of God‘s grace, of God‘s
goodness, of God‘s might in turning evil to own profit.
2) Job’s Faithful Confession
Now, we want to go on and consider together Job‘s Faithful Confession. Verse 20 records Job‘s
reaction. He is overwhelmed by his sorrow, yet, even in this dark hour of his grief, even as he
experiences deep anguish in his soul, he mourns and grieves as a righteous man.
Job tears his robes and shaves his head as a sign of his grief and mourning. Why is that
significant? Unlike Job‘s pagan neighbor‘s he doesn‘t cry out or writhe around and cut himself
with sharp rocks and stones. Even though no one could hardly blame Job for crying out in anger
against God, or for cursing the evil men who stole away his herds, Job remains faithful.
And this is where we see such a powerful foreshadowing of our faithful Savior. We think of
Christ‘s hours of anguish and grief; of the hellish agony of soul in the Garden Gethsemane and
as he hung in the darkness, all alone on the cross. Yet, not once did Jesus sin in His grief.
Jesus was a righteous and blameless man who suffered and endured the wrath of God against all
our sin and guilt, and He did so fully, completely, and obediently. Jesus did not curse God! And
neither did Job. As verse 22 says, in all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrong doing.
Instead of giving in to those powerful emotions -- of desperation; of anger; feelings of injustice
against God (which is exactly what Satan wanted him to do), Job did just the opposite. Instead
up standing up in defiance to God and demanding an explanation, Job humbled himself before
the Lord His God.
He bowed down to the ground in worship; he reverenced himself in humble submission before
the mysterious will and ways of God. And his act of worship produces this faithful confession:
Naked I came out of my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart (return); The Lord gave and the
Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised!
Beloved, these are not the words and actions of someone who is merely resigned to his fate, who
in simply giving up or giving in to despair. That‘s not the quality of this response. No. This is
the response of a child of God who knows and trust his God; this is the response of a man who
recognizes that everything he had, all that he possessed -- from the oxen in his field, to the sheep
and cattle grazing on the hills, to the camels in the stall, to his very own children eating around
his table—none of it was his; none of it belonged to him! It was all a gift of His gracious God.
Job understood that and he believed that from the very beginning. If it were otherwise, beloved,
then Job would have charged God with wrong doing; then Job would have proven himself to be a
mercenary; and then Satan would have been right.
But Job was every bit of the righteous man that God said he was, and he won a great victory of
faith for himself, and for the church of Jesus Christ! How did he do it? With the same faith God
provides us. We too, like Job, have to know and accept the fact that comfort and blessings as
well as trouble and calamity come from the hand of God.
And so we‘re called to place our faith and confidence in the sovereignty of God, in the
sovereignty of the God who loves us, who did not spare His own Son to save us, so that in the
end, we will not relinquish our faith, we will not give in to anger and despair. But that we will
stand in the unspeakable consolation of God‘s Providence!
…this doctrine affords us unspeakable consolation, since we are taught thereby that nothing can
befall us by chance, but by the direction of our most gracious and heavenly father; who watches
over us with a paternal care. Keeping all creatures so under his power that ‘not a hair of our
head (for they are all numbered) nor a sparrow can fall to the ground without the will of our
Father, in whom we do entirely trust; being persuaded that He will so restrain the devil and all
our enemies that without his will and permission they cannot hurt us...
We‘re called to have faith in God and in the supremacy and majesty and perfection of His plans.
We‘re to humbly submit ourselves to God‘s will -- even in tearful times, even when a loved one
is taken from us and translated to glory. Even in times when unexpected and unexplainable
tragedy befalls us; even when we do not understand it, we still find our comfort in knowing that
everything that transpires in our lives is from the loving hand of our heavenly Father.
It is He who made us; it is He who redeemed us for Himself by the death of His own Son, and it
is God who guarantees that we belong to Him – come what may -- in life and in death, in body
and in soul.
So we are (once again) awed and humbled by the wonderful providence of our God. And going
back to what we talked about this morning, we are called to glorify this God who is reigns over
us so marvelously, so wonderfully, so perfectly; confessing that from him and through him, and
to him are all things – including the very power of Satan Himself which is at God‘s disposal.
In light of this, beloved, let us humble ourselves before this great and righteous God; and let us
submit our life, and our will, and all our plans, and our present and future to Him, knowing that
God is in control of blessings and calamities, and therefore we need ot fear or fret – we need only
put our trust in Him. Amen.