Proper 25B’21
24 October 2021
Job 42
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone <+>

O God all-knowing, grant us your grace to trust in your goodness especially when our vision is clouded by darkness; and ever remind us, that there is “no pit so deep, that your love is not deeper still,” through Christ who is above all and in all. Amen.                                            

          – inspired by a quote by Corrie Ten Boom, Concentration Camp Survivor, author, and speaker.

Welcome to the fourth and final installment of our series on the Life of Job. I hope you have found this great piece of writing from the wisdom literature of the Bible to be an encouragement to your journeys of faith. Our story that began with “once upon a time there lived a righteous man named Job…” ends today with “and they all lived happily ever after” but not quite. More about the ending later.

But first for a brief recap: The story begins when in a cosmic vision, Satan strikes a deal with God to test Job by bringing all manner of horrible and undeserved adversities upon Job. His sheep, and cattle are poached and slaughtered, his servants are kidnapped or killed, his children all die in a tornado. Then Satan comes to God again and tells God that if God would just touch and afflict his body that Job would curse God to God’s face. This power is granted and Satan afflicts Job with itchy and painful sores all over his body. His wife encourages him to curse God and die. Job is then approached by three friends and a younger man who each in turn present their arguments for “why” these bad things have happened to Job. All three of the friends come up with variations on the theme of sinful wrongdoing. Job must have said or did something that was sinful and so he was being punished. Job all the while maintains his innocence. The fourth visitor, a young man by the name of Elihu, believes he has a better argument and proceeds to tell Job that this was all happening to him for his own good as God was putting him through this series of trials to build character in him.

By this point Job is in total darkness, but he still believes that God would give him a fair hearing if he could only find God but he cannot. Finally, after 37 chapters of this theological wrangling and jockeying, God confronts Job by his overwhelming presence and power and speaking to him out of a whirlwind, responds to Job not with answers, but by a series of questions: “Who are you, to darken counsel with words without knowledge? Where were you, when I laid the foundation of the earth? Can you comprehend the expanse of the earth? Declare, it you know all this.” (see Job chap.38)

Today we hear the reading from Job where Job gives his final answer to God. In a word Job’s response is one of humility: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted…I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know…” Basically, “Ok God, you win! I give up I’m out of my depth and way above my pay grade – you are God, and I am your servant.” Then Job hits the high note of his answer to God: “I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.” Job is answering God rightly, and further humbles himself by kneeling in the ash heap and repents. Job has been sorely tested, by the multiple losses of family, property, and livestock, marital strife, the false accusations by his friends, and with a silent God. What do you think God thinks of Job at this point? Did he pass the test? Will he be vindicated and exonerated, or will the traditional theology of the day “That bad things only happen to bad people” as presented by his friends, be upheld and Job expelled?

The next three verses that were left out of the lectionary are too important to the story to leave out, listen to them as translated in The Message version of the Bible: “After God finished addressing Job, he turned to Eliphaz and Job’s other two friends and said, “I’ve had it with you. I’m fed up! You haven’t been honest either with me or about me – not the way my friend Job has. So, here’s what you must do. Take seven bulls and seven rams, and go to my friend Job. Sacrifice a burnt offering on your own behalf. My friend Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer. He will ask me not to treat you as you deserve for talking nonsense about me, and for not being honest with me, as he has.” Job had gone through such great suffering from family, foes, and friends alike, the thing he must have longed for was to be vindicated (to be cleared from blame and suspicion) – and what vindication God gave him. To Job’s three so called friends, God rebukes them and tells them they had gotten it all wrong about God, about what God had been doing and they got it all wrong about Job. During his address he tells the three friends, three times that Job was God’s friend – God’s three declarations clear up the muddied water created by the three friends, and clears Job’s name forever.

The final scene in the life of Job is of God not only restoring his fortunes of property, lands, and servants, but by doubling what he had before. He and his wife also had seven more children. He gives an inheritance to his three daughters that were equal to what he gave to his sons – this was unheard of in this deeply patriarchal society. This scene is on the cover of the bulletin as it was engraved by William Blake.

Well, what do you think of the ending? I wouldn’t say that they all lived happily ever after, but I do believe it was a very good ending. I can’t imagine the grief that would still need to be resolved from all of Job’s catastrophic losses, the loss of faith with his wife, and the loss of all of his children. All of this Job would have to face in the days ahead, but maybe the biggest take away is that it does pay to follow God. Not in a name-it-claim-it brand of a prosperity gospel, but in one way or another, in one form or the other, friends, there will be a blessing. Job was willing to continue with his God, blessing or no blessing, no matter what.

If he hadn’t had a strong faith foundation to face his woes, I think the book of Job would have been extremely short. He could have joined a cult, or cursed God and died, or he could have become an atheist. Instead, he continued to hope against hope, and he held on – and in the end he was vindicated, and declared by God, to be God’s friend. Job shows us that our faith can look any adversity in the face and say: I may not know what the future holds but I know who holds the future.

In closing I want to share with you a prayer that was found in the vest coat pocket of a fallen Civil War soldier:

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve.

I was made weak, that I might learn humbly how to obey.

I asked for health, that I might do greater things.

I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.

I asked for riches, that I might be happy.

I was given poverty, that I might be wise.

I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men.

I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life.

I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing that I asked for – but everything I had hoped for.

Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.

I am, among all men, most richly blessed. Amen![1]


God Restores Job’s Fortunes by William Blake


[1] Appleton, George Ed. The Oxford Book of Prayer (Oxford University Press)