Job 1-2 – Worst Day Ever!
Have you ever found yourself saying-This is the worst day ever? It’s a phrase you hear a lot, whether at work or at home. Hopefully it’s not something you say often-because the whole premise of the phrase means worst day ever. So if you’ve said it multiple times in a row-then you’re sort of on an escalating scale-continuing to top your worst day with another day that’s even worse. And usually worst days ever involve waking up late, getting a flat tire, losing or breaking your phone, falling down stairs, forgetting a really important meeting, burning whatever was in the oven for dinner, or just not getting your morning coffee-and that sets the whole day on a bad path. I came across some hilarious internet photos regarding the worst day ever-Sprayed by water-you’re out for your morning jog, getting some exercise and you get drenched. Or another bad start to the day is-breaking the scale. Definitely time to start exercising and go on that diet. Or on your way to work-spilled soda. Or when you’re getting milkshakes for everybody and don’t see the glass door. It doesn’t get much worse than that! Or when you’re ready to eat your ice cream cone-seagull ice cream! And finally-a classic internet photo-stuck in the ground. How or why? Who knows! But that’s got to be the worst day ever-especially when the news shows up! But I’m sure you’ve had bad days where you think-What else can go wrong? And just about the time you say it something does. And you shake your head saying-If something’s bound to go wrong it would be today-worst day ever! Now I tried to think through the Top 5 Worst Days in the Bible. And you’d have to certainly include the day Adam and Eve sinned and the whole earth got cursed because of it. They were kicked out of the garden and hard work and weeds were invented. That was a pretty bad day-and we’re still suffering the effects of that one. Then there was the day the first raindrop fell and the entire earth got flooded. Other than Noah’s family on the ark that affected the entire planet, everyone and everything died, except for the fish who probably weren’t too bothered. But ever since the flood people lived a whole lot shorter and the climate was changed-so that was one of the worst days. Then there’s this Worst Day in Ex 8:1-4; 13-14 NIV. That’s a disgusting day-and we can all thank God we didn’t have to be a part of that. Or what about the day, actually the 3 days, when Jonah was sitting, sloshing around, inside the guts of a fish. How horrible did that stink, floating with other stuff being digested, wondering when you’ll be next-Jonah 2:10. It’s a bad day when being vomited out is the highlight!
Of course when we think of the number one Worst Day ever in the Bible we think of that day described in all 4 of the gospels-here’s Matt 27:45. It was the day the only innocent, sinless person who ever lived was put to death. Matt 27:50-51. It was as though the earth itself was groaning and heaving under the weight of that horrible, dark day. And yet, as we all know, God had a plan and ultimately used that day for good, which is why we call it Good Friday, because we all need the death of Jesus in order to be saved. No matter how bad it looked from our perspective-and Jesus wearing a crown of thorns and hanging on a cross isn’t good at all. But no matter how bad it looked from our perspective, God was still in control. And that’s the same thing we’re going to find as we look at yet another Worst Day ever in the Bible-that no matter how bad it was-and you’ll see was a really, really bad day-and even then God was still in control. So the day we’re talking about belongs to a man named Job. Turn there in your Bibles.
And as you’re turning to the book of Job-as it’s the February midwinter break from school-so we’re taking our midwinter break in our series on Joseph. We’re going to pick his story back up next week-but the reason we’re pausing to look more closely at Job’s life is because his story has a lot of parallels with Joseph. Last week we compared Joseph with Job as we looked at James 5:11. And other than Job, Joseph was certainly someone who remained steadfast by enduring 13 years of unjust treatment and time in prison. Then we looked at Job’s own words in Job 23:10-11. And that same truth could be said of Joseph-following his 13 years he came forth as gold. Joseph’s character was hammered and pounded out by God. But this morning I want us to see the context in which Job says this-because it isn’t his summary statement afterwards when all is said and done. My suffering’s finished-I came out okay on the other side. He’s saying when he has tested me I will come forth as gold-so Job believes in what God is doing in his life. But he’s still right in the midst of it. Job is making a statement of faith-an incredible statement of faith-that the end result of his sufferings, the conclusion to this long stretch of testing in his life, will result in him coming forth as gold, in his character being exactly what God wants it to be. What a statement to make when you’re whole life has basically crumbled and fallen apart! Could you say this in the middle of your sufferings where it doesn’t look like there’s an end in sight? I think a lot of us could say this afterwards-but right in the middle is remarkable. So let’s take a closer look at Job’s story this week and the kind of faith he had in his sufferings.
Right away you’ll notice that before things turn bad in his life, they start out really, really good. Look at how it book begins-Job1:1. Now let me just pause and say that this doesn’t mean Job was perfect or never sinned. There was only man who lived sinless and that was Jesus as we earlier said. But what it does mean was that Job was a man who trusted God, walked with God, and eagerly obeyed God-turning away from evil-as the text says. So this is a man-again like Joseph of unwavering integrity. Job is a model of faithfulness, and what it means to follow God. I’m sure lots of people looked up to Job and deeply respected him. Look at how his life is further described-v. 2-3. Wealth wasn’t measured in terms of your bank account back then-it was measured by the amount of your livestock. So Job was blessed in his work. Look at-v. 4. He was blessed with a great family that got along together, had meals together and didn’t fight (unlike Joseph’s family to say the least). Look at-v. 5. Here’s Job, like Abraham, acting as a fatherly priest, an advocate on behalf of his family. He’s faithfully praying for them and making offering’s on their behalf. This would be like a Dad in today’s world who’s actively committed to leading his family-doing family devotions, making sure his family is at church, and letting the Lord be central in their home. So these verses are giving us a well-rounded picture of Job’s spiritual life. He wasn’t just a godly man in public; he was also a godly man in private. His spirituality wasn’t just for show, it wasn’t a façade; he was the real deal. There were no skeletons in his closest, no harboring of secret sins or lots of baggage from the past. Job was an authentic guy who loved the Lord. Just like Joseph-and again here’s where his story takes a similar turn. Because if anyone deserved great blessings and peace from God, it would be Job-but that’s not what happened-and as we’ll learn-it’s not how God works. Blessings are never deserved.
So while Job is living life and loving his kids, the scene shifts to the spiritual realm where God is holding council in His heavenly court-v. 6a. You can picture God on His throne and all the angelic host is there before His presence speaking about what they’re doing and giving updates. It’s like the annual heavenly business meeting-but then in slithers Satan as the end of the verse tells us-v. 6b. Clearly one of these is not like the other! I’m sure all the angels are wondering how he got there. Gabriel’s probably asking God-you want me to throw him out? Some of the big angels and I will take care of him for you. But God engages Satan directly in conversation-v. 7. Which is exactly what it says in 1 Pet 5-the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. This is what he tells God he’s doing-I’m prowling around the earth like a sly cat looking to start some trouble-it’s what I do best. And I love how God responds to him-v. 8. And right away we’re supposed to hear that hint of pride in God’s voice as he’s talking about Job, like a father proudly bragging about his kids. God has a glimmer in his eye as he’s beaming about Job’s faithfulness and integrity. Job is one of my finest-someone I can count on no matter what! It makes me wonder what God would say about me-or what would he say about you? How about my servant, Jim, look at his faithfulness-he’s another one of my finest! Or would God roll his eyes and give a big sigh-My servant, Jim, got some work to do with that guy-he could be so faithful, such missed opportunities, always takes the easy way out. It’s an interesting question to ponder-what would God say about you? Would He boast about you in heaven and talk about your faithful life-or give the sigh of disappointment? Satan thinks that God’s boasting about Job is in vain. Satan feels that God’s delusional in His thinking about Job because listen to how he argues-v. 9-11. Satan thinks that Job’s only in it for himself, that he’ll only walk with God as long as God keeps blessing and prospering and protecting him. Take away all his material wealth and Job will give up his faith and turn away. Satan’s telling God-Job only loves you because of what you do for him. He’s really in love with the stuff, not you, God. He likes the gifts you keep giving him, but He’s not interested in you, the Giver. And it’s a very interesting point that Satan’s raised because what if this happened to you? Would Satan’s prediction in v. 11 end up being true of you? v. 11. Would that happen? How would you respond? Are you just in it for the gifts from God, or do you truly love Him, the Giver? It’s a challenging question to wrestle with and God allows Satan’s plan. He lets it happen, yet notice that God is still in control. He only lets Satan go so far-v. 12. God is willing to let Job be tested. Right here He is doing what we all deeply fear that God will do-shape our lives through the crucible of pain and suffering. God is the not the kind of father who does whatever his kids ask or gives them whatever they want. God isn’t a push-over. His love is tough, but it’s a very real and deep love because He does what is necessary for our ultimate goodness, even if it’s going to really hurt in the moment. CS Lewis famously said that God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world. And God is going to use His megaphone in Job’s life.
So transition back to earth, the sun is shining and everybody’s happy, no one is aware of the heavenly conversation that’s just taken place-v. 13 The family’s laughing and talking together, enjoying themselves, the business is doing great, everything is peaceful and perfect, not a care in the world, not a cloud in the sky, time to raise a glass and say cheers. And then it happens-v. 14-16a. He hadn’t even finished his report-v. 16b-17a. He hadn’t even finished his report-v. 17b-18a. Now a fourth time-v. 18b-19. Four messengers, four horrible messages. All his money, all his business, his farms and livestock, all his livelihood, his house and all his children destroyed in a matter of moments-worst day ever! Can you even get your head around that? It’s like getting fired from your job, getting into a car accident, going bankrupt, and having a hurricane where your house and family are destroyed-all in the same day! His life has just been totally ruined. v. 20a-raised his fist to God and screamed and shouted and cursed God for all he was worth! No, look at that word which ends the verse-v. 20b. It may have been the worst day ever for anybody in human history-but Satan’s just lost. His prediction for Job failed. Instead of cursing God and walking away, Job humbly bows before God and submits to His will. Listen to his incredible perspective-v. 21. Job realized that none of those blessings would last in life so don’t get too focused or caught up in them.
There’s a quirky story told by a former pastor from California who was also a graduate from Dallas Seminary where I went, Ray Stedman. One time long ago he was traveling out of town for a week-long ministry conference, but upon arriving forgot to pack his suit. So instead of buying a new one, he did something a bit odd. He walked over to the nearby funeral home and asked if he could borrow a suit. Strange choice-but it was the 70’s. So he got a suit and that evening when he was speaking, he went to put his hand in the suit pocket but couldn’t. Immediately he realized a very important truth-funeral suits, those for the deceased, have no pockets! Because you can’t take anything with you when life is over. Not your car keys, your wallet, spare change or a pack of gum-none of it goes on. So you’ve got to hold it loosely. Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked shall I return. Job held it loosely so that when it was taken away from him, and all came crashing down, his life wasn’t over, he wasn’t ruined because life for him was not just his business. Life wasn’t just his livestock or his money or his stuff. Life was about loving God and walking with Him. But if your life is about your stuff, and if you let what you have define you, then when it is taken away-you are done for and life is over. That’s what Satan was banking on for Job. He was hoping the things of this world had become Job’s idol. But Job refused to do that and trusted in the Lord even when it all vanished-v. 22. Satan loses round one.
But of course he doesn’t give up easily, so again he decides to slither back into God’s heavenly business meeting. And God says the same thing as before-2:3. God is reminding Satan that Job had done nothing to deserve what happened. God is not punishing Job for acting sinfully, He’s not out to get him. In fact, God is actually showcasing Job’s unwavering integrity through this trial. He’s clearly reminding Satan that he’s wrong, that Job hasn’t cursed him or fallen away, despite all that’s happened to him, Job has still maintained his integrity. Once again God is allowing this to happen so that Job’s character is refined like gold and proven genuine. But old Satan doesn’t buy it. No way God-how about this–v. 4-5. You make that guy experience real, physical pain-Satan’s saying-inflict his body, ruin his health-and then believe me, God-he’ll abandon you and turn away. Satan is operating on the same premise-that if it’s too hard for Job he’ll give up his faith. So God, in His sovereign wisdom, sets up parameters to test this theory-v. 6-8. This is totally horrendous! Boils, festering sores, oozing with pus that would burst open, scab over and crack apart. I’ve had poison ivy before-maybe you have too-where it feels like your whole body is itching and on fire-but that’s nothing compared to this. Job couldn’t even get comfortable to sleep-look at 7:4-5 NIV. He’s infected with worms, sitting on the town ash heap-basically the town garbage dump-in abject poverty and pain. This is misery to the nth degree! And to add insult to injury-look at 2:9. Now that’s helpful-clearly she does not have the gift of encouragement! But I find this so ironic. She’s saying-What’s wrong with you, Job? You’re foolish to hold on to your integrity! And yet God was just praising Job for maintaining his integrity. So she’s bought right into Satan’s schemes-v. 9b. How about that for a get well soon card? Heard your sick-you open it up to read the message-curse God and die! But that’s what she’s saying-Give it up Job, you’re a mess! Look at you! Just end your pathetic life. But here’s Job, once again filled with suffering and agony, yet still speaking wisdom and godliness-v. 10. I love how the NIV says it: Shall we accept good from God and not also trouble?
Job understands what few of us do. He accepts what most of us try to fight against-that God does allow painful trials in our lives and like Job we have to endure them and trust Him. Job is saying exactly what Peter would say centuries later-1 Pet 4:12. And yet don’t we often react that way? Lord, what in the world is going on? Why is this happening? I haven’t done anything wrong-at least nothing too bad. Quite honestly I think I’ve been extra good lately. I’ve been praying more, putting more money into the offering, diligently doing my devotions. I should be on your good side God. Why are you letting these bad things happen to me? I think you’ve got the wrong person! Somehow we think that God owes us blessings and favor, that it’s His job to make sure our lives are happy and smooth sailing. God, you’re up there to make sure I’m doing good down here. Have you said that before? And even if you haven’t said it I’m sure we’ve all thought it. But that’s not what Scripture says. God doesn’t exist to make our lives easy, we exist to glorify Him-and that means becoming the people He calls us to be-which requires trials. Trials aren’t some strange anomaly that come out of the blue and make us scratch our head in puzzlement. Instead, this is saying that trials are just as much a part of God’s plans as His blessings. They’re the instrument God uses, His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. So Job is saying what we really don’t want to hear-Shall we only accept good from God, and not also trouble? Shouldn’t we recognize that trials are just as important and necessary in this fallen world? Unfortunately, when we do view trials as some strange abnormality we freak out and hastily try to solve them in our own strength and stop the pain at any cost, which usually means losing out on whatever God is trying to teach us through them. Look at how Peter continues-1 Pet 4:19. And that’s Job to a T. Even though he’s suffering-and suffering miserably-he is still entrusting himself to His faithful Creator. You made me, Lord, so I can trust that you’re making me into who you want me to be as I go through this. What about you-and the things God is taking you through? Are you entrusting yourself to your faithful Creator? Are you continuing to do good and serve God in the midst of suffering? Or are you opting for Ms Job’s approach by wanting to curse God and give up? That’s the easy way-let’s be honest. To complain and grow bitter and say-enough’s enough, God. There’s no way I can trust you if you’re taking me through this. I didn’t ask for this.
But that’s the first thing we learn from Job’s story-Pt1:In Suffering: it’s far easier to raise your fist at God than to rely on Him by faith. It’s far easier to become angry, mad, frustrated and hostile to God, than it is to trust Him and remain faithful. Right away we want to cry out-Not fair, God! No way! Why me? And it’s okay to ask those questions-God can handle them. But we can’t stay there in that place. I love the example from David’s life in Ps 13:1-2. He’s asking those questions-How much longer Lord is this going to continue? When will you turn and help me? When will I get some answers and find some relief? No doubt these were the type of questions Job was asking, probably the questions Joseph was asking in prison. How much longer Lord? It’s okay to ask them and pour out your heart to God. But look at where David finished-Ps 13:5-6. David concludes in that place of reliance and faith. He doesn’t keep his fist up at God-or walk away angry. And that’s the very thing you and I can’t do. The moment you get bitter and walk away from God is the moment the evil one wins and you lose. His tactics haven’t changed. Satan wants to do to you the very same thing he tried to do with Job. He wants to get you to raise your fist at God and complain and argue and accuse God of being cruel and mean. He wants you to think that God’s at fault, that He’s let you down again, that He can’t be trusted. He doesn’t want you at this place in Ps 13 singing of God’s goodness. He wants you thinking that God isn’t good and doesn’t love you, that He doesn’t understand what you’re going through-that this isn’t fair and you deserve much better. The devil wants you to buy into all of his lies so that your faith will weaken and you’ll walk away from God angry and bitter, having abandoned your integrity. It’s so tempting and easy to go down that road. Back to Pt1. That’s what Job’s wife was suggesting, that’s usually our normal reaction, but that’s where Job was unwilling to go. Not trusting God was not an option for him. Job was a man of faith and resolve because he understood that God is his faithful Creator and His ways are best-even when they hurt. In Tim Keller’s book on Pain and Suffering he concludes each chapter with a real life story of different things people are going through. And early on there’s the story of a woman named Emily who’s husband left and abandoned her and her kids-terribly painful-but listen to what she says-Suffering, 33. She knew that God can be trusted through this-that God was perfectly using this painful season in her life to make her into who she was becoming. It’s no different for you.
And that’s Pt2:In Suffering: we see a small pinpoint in time, God sees the whole panorama. We see the momentary pain and difficulty of the situation, God sees the overarching purpose. We say-I don’t like this, it hurts, I want it to stop. God says-This slight and momentary affliction is preparing you for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. Instead of believing the devil’s lies that God is unloving and unfair, you need to remember the truth. That God is in control, that His ways are higher than your ways; that nothing-absolutely nothing-happens to you outside of His control. That’s what’s so good about this passage-Satan can only go as far as God allows him. Don’t forget that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, that He loves you far more deeply than you could ever imagine, that He wants the best for you which means He’s willing to take the long-term route to get there. Don’t forget that! God loves you too much for just a quick-fix or a band-aid to cover it up. He’s not in it for the short-term because He knows the long-term is what counts. He wants to take you through trying, difficult times in which you’ll feel like you’ve been stretched to the breaking point, like you’ve gone through a narrow funnel. But He’ll do that because His goal is to deepen your faith and strengthen your character for eternity. If you’ve trusted Him to save you than you’re in this for the long haul, which means some short-term pain and suffering is going to come. Don’t be surprised at it. Don’t keep fighting against it, don’t become bitter-even though you’ll be really tempted to do that-but accept the pain and suffering, endure it, and hold fast to your faith and your integrity because you know that God sees the eternal panorama of your life and you can trust Him. Look at-1 Pet 1:6-7. Job lost all his gold, it was gone in a matter of minutes-worst day ever! But God was concerned about something far more important than gold. He’s concerned with your faith-because that’s what lasts-not gold. Gold, money, possessions-none of that stuff follows you into eternity. Your suit doesn’t have any pockets-you can’t take it with you. What you take is who you are. It’s your character, your faith-and look where it leads you-praise, glory and honor when Jesus is revealed. And that is the Best Day ever! In fact, that’s a day that will open up into an endless number of days, forever and ever and ever, for that’s when Jesus returns and you’ll stand before His glorious, magnificent presence. And nothing’s more important than being ready for that day. God will take you through some of the worst days ever so that you’ll be ready for the Best Day ever when Jesus is revealed and eternity begins. Back to Pt2. And He can be trusted!