10th Sunday after Pentecost (Prop 14 – A)
August 13, 2017
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Old Testament reading from Job, which was read a few minutes ago.
One of the questions that every child has asked is “Why?” Sometimes, we don’t mind answering their “Why?” question: “Why can’t I have cake for breakfast?” “Because Daddy ate it for his breakfast!” Other times our children question us and we don’t feel like we have to give an answer. Kids hate this, right? They want to know why and they want to know now. The unanswered “why” has frustrated children since Eve said it to Cain and Abel. When parents refuse to give an answer it’s not because they’re mean, it’s often because we know something that our children don’t. We’ve learned an important lesson in the past. We have an insight that they might not understand yet. We can see something they can’t. So, we don’t answer and that’s our prerogative as parents. It’s not just children that ask “Why?”, so do adults, and we especially like to ask it of God. Like us, Job asked God, “Why?” but God didn’t give an answer. He instead gave Job a question of His own and it’s the same question He asks us; “What do you know?”
Job is often considered the epitome of patience. He loses his children, his wealth, and his health. It’s so bad that his wife tells him to just curse God and die. But Job won’t do that, he remains faithful and trusting. For a bit, and then it all comes out. He still speaks positively about God but he alternates praises with complaints. He asks “Why?” He proclaims that he’s innocent and that God is out to get him. He vents his resentment. Three buddies come to check on him and they’re no help. They tell him that he must’ve done something wrong; that obviously he’s a sinner and he probably deserves worse. And throughout this whole time, do you know what God says? Nothing. He remains silent. There’s no answer for Job’s pleading questions.
As a pastor, one of the tasks of my call to Emmanuel is to share with you the Word of God. It’s to teach you about God and how much He loves you. It’s to tell you about Jesus death for you. It’s to share with you His promises that give you hope. It’s also my duty and privilege to answer your questions. These responsibilities can be joy filled, but they can also be discouraging. I want to always give you the answers you want. I want to be able to explain why you’re sick or why you have constant pain. I want to be able to answer your sorrow filled “why?” questions. I want to be able to tell you exactly why God is allowing you to suffer or grieve. I want to be able to share with you the reasons why God is doing whatever it is that He’s doing. I want to tell you why God allows innocent people, children, to die. You ask why. I ask why. And too often for our liking, the “Why?” goes unanswered.
Atheists and unbelievers use God’s silence to justify their unbelief or hatred of God. They assume because God’s not answering “Why” questions that He must not exist, or if He does exist, He’s a hateful God. Even Christians are tempted to turn on God when He doesn’t give them the answer they want. Christians too commit the sin of making false assumptions about God based on what He does or doesn’t say. If Job, a man whom God describes as “none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil” can react this way, we certainly can, and do. In a sense, Job speaks for all of us because the question of “Why?” is one that encompasses all people of all times.
After listening to Job and his friends ask the wrong questions and come up with the wrong answers for most of the book, God decides that it’s time to acknowledge Job’s questions. Now in all honesty, it’s probably not the answer Job wanted, or we want, but it is the right answer. The Lord starts by saying, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.” I’m guessing that God’s opening remarks did nothing to soothe Job’s troubles. Instead of answering him, God gives Job a series of rhetorical questions that remind everyone that God doesn’t have to justify Himself to anyone.
He really puts Job on the spot, and rightly so, “What do you know?” What does Job know about the creation of the world. What does he know about the perfect dimensions of this world where the distance from the sun and the tilt of the earth are perfect for maintaining life? What does Job know about the oceans and the sunrise? What does Job know about death and the grave? Then God demands an answer, “Declare, if you know all this.”
These questions remind Job, and you and me, that we’re not the Creator so we’re in no place to answer these questions. God knows all things and He sees all things, even if we don’t. He is perfect, holy, and just and His will is not always revealed to us. Like one person told me, “He’s God and we’re not.”
When we question God, when we ask “why?”, we too must be careful that we don’t venture beyond our place as His creations. He’s not going to tell us why people get sick or die. He’s not going to explain terrorist attacks. He’s not going to tell why He lets bad things happen. He’s not going to defend Himself against our accusations and He’s not going to explain Himself. As hard as it is, we must accept that fact. We think questions will settle our minds and ease our souls, and they could, but what if they didn’t. What if we had the answer to the “Why’s” but it wasn’t enough? God doesn’t answer all our questions because He has something else in mind, something better.
When God asks you, “What do you know?” you know more than you realize. While God doesn’t answer all the why questions, sometimes He does. In the Bible, we are told that Sin ruined God’s perfection. We know that Sin brought sickness, untimely death, and sorrow with it. I know some of you don’t like the answer “Because of Sin”, and yet it’s the truth.
To help you find answers, let’s change the questions from “Why?” to “How?” You don’t know the answer to “Why does God allow this?” but you do know the answer to “How will I make it?” God promises you again and again that because He is the Creator, He’ll be with you. You weren’t there when God created the world, yet you can be sure that the One who creates holds you, His creation, in His hands. You weren’t there when the oceans were set into place, but God promises you that spiritual and emotional oceans will never overwhelm you. In the middle of the darkness of Sin and sorrow, God stands as the light of the world. He’s the one who promises us that the darkness will never overcome us because His love for us has no bounds.
One of our sources of hope and the answer to “How?” is found in Romans 8 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good.” God promises that He knows things we don’t. He knows the future like He knows the past and He knows how He’s going to work all the unanswered questions for our good. We may not ever see it, but He promises it. He can create so certainly He can use evil for good and pain for pleasure.
You know this through faith. It’s hard to take things on faith, we like answers and evidence, so God gives us answers and evidence in His Son Jesus Christ. You can look to Jesus as the answer to all your questions. He embraced pain and suffering for you. Jesus said to His Father, “Why have you forsaken me?” and so now you can trust with all your heart that God will never forsake you. You walk through the valley of the shadow of Death? He walked their first, and now He’s there walking with you. You weep in sorrow? He weeps with you. You’re overcome by all the “why?” questions? Jesus doesn’t answer them, He does something better, He leads you through the questions to Himself as the answer to all things.
When I was a child, I swore that I would never give my children the no-answer answer and if they asked me “why?” I would calmly explain my reasoning. Becca knows that I changed my thinking somewhere along the line, it happens to all parents. We’re the parents so we don’t need to justify ourselves, we just know better. We need to extend that same attitude to God. Instead of echoing Job with our own “why” questions, let’s listen to God’s answers. You see, the why isn’t important. What’s important is the how. So, when God says, “What do you know?”, you can answer, “I know that you are my God and my Savior in whom I trust and in whom I will persevere.”
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen