13. Dezember 2018

Sermon on October 7, 2018

Sermon: Gerhard Weissenbrunner

Job 1,1; 2,1-10                     not without his will…..

This first time I heard of Job was in connection with, “Job’s news”. I did not know then that Job was a figure from the Bible. But I learned early that there was a negative connection with a Job’s news. The term, “Job’s news” is common in our language and can signify a whole spectrum of negative announcements. From a trivial message which announces a change in weather and hence the leisure plan must change. To really tragic events. I want to leave the term as it is and not criticize it.

The second connection with which Job is often associated is the question as to how God could allow Satan to take over his family and destroy it. This question is interesting, and this is what I want to go deeper into. It is not enough to read the prologue, to review it superficially and then get upset. Instead, one has to dive into the whole Book of Job. With the prologue of the assembly of Gods, the speech of friends and the objections of Job. With God’s speech and Job’s final jubilee, “I had only heard of you from hearsay but now my eye has seen you.” (42,2). It is only with the dispute that the wisdom of this literature becomes apparent. 

Now we come to the figure of Job. The name, “Job” has two meanings. On the one side it means, “Where is my father (God)?” in the sense of, “Where is God?”. It can also mean, “enemy”. In the meaning of verse 33,10, where Job says about God, “why does he hide his face and see me as his enemy?”.

There are often such questions, which a serious person has on the tip of their tongue. One feels injustice and does not know why.  One suffers and cannot help it. One is punished and is not guilty. Then one asks, “where are you God?”. “How can you let this happen?”. “Are you my enemy that does not protect me?”.

Where these questions concern us, we can also use our name instead of Job’s. And we can bring our complaints to God.  We should not stop there, should not resign, but continue to deal with it.

We know from Job that he was religious, righteous, blameless, God-fearing and avoided evil. He helped the poor, the orphaned, the widows. Foreigners who looked for a place to spend the night found peace with him. Job knew the commandments and the laws. He obeyed and loved them. When he was asked for advice, he judged right and humane. Job was a friend of God’s and of the people. Job was a righteous person!

Now in the prologue there is a talk of a divine assembly in which God discusses Satan.  Satan is authorized to test Job. He is allowed to take away everything that is expensive and which Job loves. Not only his family and his assets but also his health. This authority suggests that God and Satan are fighting behind the scene.  Just as in a game of dice, to prove who is the right of the two hits poor Job.

Here the prologue supports a very strong widespread image of God. God sits far away from the world in Heaven and looks down at the people like a despot.  God gave the people their commandments so that they can hold on to them. He makes them afraid with lightning and thunder and environmental catastrophes so that they go away from their sins and deal righteously again. The image hangs like the sword of Damocles, just like Job – it could strike anyone. Also me!

But it is not so! Whoever interprets the Book of Job in this way has not understood it.

We Christians have it a bit easier. We turn to Jesus Christ and experience with him affection and the love of God. Not a punishing God but a God of love watches over our lives. Out of love to us, Christ gave up his life and left it for us. The big evidence of love is, when someone gives their life for someone else.  A Damocles sword of fear does not hang over us when we are with Jesus Christ but the promise (from Kor. 10,13),  “and God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” Not more than we can handle is what is asked from us. This will be different for each person. God takes us individually as we are.

What we know in, with and through Jesus, Job tried! “That is the closeness of God!”.

We have heard how Job lived and handled. He obeyed the commandments and the laws. He tried with all his power to please God. But still he was not successful to get close to God. Only when he was willing to part with all that was precious to him did he experience God.

Satan did not take everything away from Job. Satan can not do this. He is a zero. He is an enemy. He only gets power when it is given to him.

It was Job’s own will and yearning wish to get close to God. Job recognized that in order to encounter God, he had to release his bonds. Job pushed through his will.  His scream was heard through all the suffering and pain (19, 25-27), “But I know that my redeemer lives. And as much as my skin has been destroyed and my meat has vanished, I will see God. I will see him myself, my eyes will see him. After that my heard will my heart is in my breast.”

We know this motive of,  “letting go” from our lives.

A young man wants to be near the woman whom he loves. He is willing to give up everything to please her. He is willing to leave his mother and his father to be close to her.  He even leaves his hometown, his country, his culture, he gives up everything to be near her. This motive is quite simple. It is a motivation of love. We know that. When the heart wants something special, it does not give up until it has it.

Abraham is called the father of belief. He aligned his life according to God. He was willing to give up Isaac, the most loving thing he had. Then he experienced the encounter with God who spoke to him, “Abraham, Abraham, do not stick out your hand against the boy and do not make him suffer! Now I know that you fear God; you have not withheld to me your son, your only.” (1.M.22,12). Abrahams heart hangs on God and he experienced the encounter with the God of mercy.

This motivation of love is seen throughout the Bible, through the Old and the New Testament. It is not the other way around. God’s heart also hangs on people. God wants to be close to people. “He gives up his son, so that all who believe in him are not lost but can live eternally”. (Joh.3,16). And the believers heard the heart tearing call from Jesus on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you left me?” (Matt. 27, 46). God lets himself go. So that we can feel and experience his closeness and love. 

Job’s heart hangs on God. He is willing to let go of everything to experience God’s closeness. He keeps on going until he has reached his goal. At the end he experiences a wall of love. God speaks to him in the weather storm.

Yet Job does not fall silent in the presence of God. Apparently, he experiences God at eye level. And Job can answer, “I had only heard of you from hearsay but now my eye has seen you.” (42.5)

Job survived the breakthrough. He reached his goal: closeness to God!

What could be a bigger goal that people could have? But also, not a smaller one!

Amen