Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Living Without an Explanation

Part 5 of Why?

Text: Job 38-42

You can listen to this sermon here.



“‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (Job 42:3). 


God Is Not Our Personal Assistant

In the 1960s, Elisabeth Elliot wrote a fictional novel entitled No Graven Image. The story is about an American missionary in South America named Margaret who devotes her life to translating the Bible into the language of an indigenous tribe. To make a long story short, Margaret fails to finish her translation.

Elliot had difficulty getting her book published because publishers didn’t think God would allow Margaret to fail. They must have forgotten about what had happened to Elliot’s husband Jim. He was a missionary who was killed trying to contact a tribe in Ecuador. In the book, Margaret’s only consolation is stated on the final page of the book: “God, if He was merely my accomplice, had betrayed me. If, on the other hand, He was God, He had freed me.”

Margaret had been worshiping a God of her own creation—a God who was supposed to act like her personal assistant. Many Christians have this same concept of God. To them, God exists to do what they think is best. What the book of Job tells us is that the all-wise, all-powerful, all-good God is not our personal assistant.


No Explanation

When suffering comes into our lives, we ask, “Why? Why me? Why this? Why now? Why?” And Job wanted an explanation from God. [1]

God did finally answer Job: “Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind” (38:1). But God didn’t give Job an explanation. (He never told him about dialogue between him and Satan.) The reason for Job's suffering remained a mystery to him. The same is often true of us when we experience suffering. How can we endure suffering without an explanation? 


God Is Greater Than We Can Imagine

God asks Job, “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades or loose the cords of Orion?” (38:31). The answer, of course, is no. God is not only sovereign over the earth; he is sovereign over all the universe. The psalmist declares, “He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names” (Ps. 147:4; cf. Isa. 40:26). Do you know how many stars are in our galaxy? Some astronomers say 100 billion; others say 400 billion. And do you know how many galaxies are in the universe? At least 100 billion. God’s is greater than we can imagine!


Questioning an Immeasurably Great God

Some people say, “If God is so great, why doesn’t he prevent suffering?” But if God is so great, maybe we shouldn’t question God. We aren’t as smart as we think we are. We’re like little children who say silly things (e.g., “Dad, if you really loved me you’d let me play on the street!”).

God said to Job, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (38:2). In other words, Job wasn’t as smart as he thought he was. God spoke to Job twice (38:1-40:2; 40:6-41:34). After God finished speaking the first time, Job said, “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth” (40:4). And when God finished speaking the second time, Job said, “I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (42:3). Job was saying, “I’m not as smart as I thought I was.” And he repented of his pride: “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (42:5-6).


The Immeasurably Great God Loves Me

God asked Job, “Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?” (40:8). The NIV says, “Would you condemn me to justify yourself?” But isn’t that what happened? Jesus was condemned so that we could be justified. “For our sake [God the Father] made [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).

God is greater than we can imagine, so we can trust him when we don’t have an explanation for our suffering. 

Not only is God’s wisdom and power great, but his love for us is great! God is not only a sovereign God (“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted,” 42:2); he’s also a suffering God. If I suffer and say, “I don’t deserve it!”, I should remind myself that Jesus suffered without deserving it.


God Loves Me and He Knows What He's Doing

Most people want a complete answer for the question of suffering. Answering the question of suffering is like knocking down bowling pins. We can knock down a few pins [i.e., give some answers], but we’re not going to knock them all down. [2]

Even if I don’t get an explanation for my suffering, I can have confidence that God loves me and he knows what he’s doing.


[1] Job also wanted vindication, which he got in 42:7-9.
[2] There are several biblical answers to the question of suffering, such as (1) God allows people to make evil choices; (2) God can use something bad to do something good; (3) suffering can make us better.