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A Whisper of God’s Glory

July 19, 2020 Speaker: Kit Johnson Series: Job

Topic: Expository Passage: Job 22-27

Introduction

You all know that I grew up as a flat-lander in Western Illinois. We had some hills but nothing that even remotely resembled mountains. Therefore, I was pretty excited as a 14 or 15-year-old, when my grandparents offered to take my sister and me with them to visit our cousins in Colorado. I remember well the long, flat drive across Nebraska and Eastern Colorado. It seemed endless.

Finally, as I looked out on the horizon, I began to see what looked like faint shadows covered with white clouds. I got very excited. My Grandpa thought I was just seeing some patchy clouds, but the more we drove, the more it became clear that it was the Rockies. As we got closer, my eyes were locked in. I was stunned at how massive and majestic the mountains were.

My experience provides a good parallel for how we often see God. We live in a broken world, and we are broken ourselves. And God often seems like a distant shadow. Sometimes, we doubt our eyes. Is he really there, or am I just imagining things? But he is there, and he is infinitely glorious. Our challenge is to see with eyes of faith, even when life is dark and lonely.

That’s what Job is struggling to do. He feels like he is living a nightmare, and his friends are pushing an ungodly theology. But Job keeps pushing toward the mountain, working to keep his eyes on that distant vision of God. And the more he pushes forward, the clearer his vision becomes. I’ve been so blessed to watch how his faith and hope blossom as he moves through these conversations with his friends.

Today we are going to study the 3rd and final round of conversations between Job and his friends. We’re going to watch Job’s faith continue to grow, and we are going to be challenged to “See the glory of God and trust in him, even when God seems distant and life is dark.” I’d like to summarize the 4 sections to the conversation with 4 challenges.

I.  Be careful about speaking for God (Job 22).

Job 22 records Eliphaz’s 3rd and final speech. Last Sunday, we saw that in his 2nd speech, he boldly declared that Job was guilty, because God always judges the wicked. His 3rd speech is even more bold and harsh. Notice that he brings very specific and serious charges against Job (vv. 4–11).

Those are some serious charges. Biblically speaking, there isn’t much that is more wicked than taking advantage of the poor, of widows and orphans. But none of it is true. Job 1:1 states, “Job…was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil.” Eliphaz is just throwing mud and hoping some of it sticks.

Yet he persists. In vv. 21–30, he urges Job to repent and promises all sorts of blessings if he will do so (read vv. 21–26). If Eliphaz were preaching this sermon to a crowd of unbelievers, he would make D. L. Moody, Billy Sunday, and Billy Graham all proud. The problem is that he is preaching it to Job, and Job does not need to repent. We know that he is blameless.

Therefore, Job 22 provides another caution to be careful about claiming to speak for God, as Eliphaz does. It’s an important warning, because a lot of people carelessly claim to do so. How many times have you heard someone say, “God told me…”?

First of all, God already told us everything we need to know in Scripture. He is not running around giving revelations. Second, “Thus saith the Lord,” is a big claim. We better be very cautious about claiming to speak for God or claiming his authority.

This is especially important for all of us who having teaching and mentoring responsibilities. It’s important for every parent and grandparent. Be very careful with how you handle and apply God’s Word and always clearly distinguish your opinions from what God actually said.

Even more to the point, be careful about interpreting the circumstances of life as signs from God, because that’s specifically where Eliphaz failed. Yet Christians make the same mistake all the time. For example, I’ve heard a lot of believers boldly proclaim, “God opened the door or shut the door.” But when you listen to their story, it sounds a lot more like they are using God as a prop for what they want to do.

Yes, God does direct through our circumstances, but never contrary to wisdom and his commands. Therefore, God’s Word needs to be my anchor for discerning God’s will, not my ability to interpret circumstances.

With all of this, we must maintain a healthy dose of humility. God’s ways are higher than my ways. His purposes are infinitely greater than I will ever understand; therefore, I need to stay anchored to what I can clearly know from the Word and to what I am clearly responsible to obey. Keep that focus, and then humbly trust the Lord with the rest. So, the first challenge is, be careful about speaking for God. 2nd

II.  Hold fast to your faith when God seems distant (Job 23–24).

Job responds in chapters 23–24. As we work through these chapters, I’d encourage you to picture Job as out on the dry prairie in Eastern Colorado, like I was that day in the car, straining to see God. It’s hard to see God, and he seems so far away, but Job continues to fight for faith. I’d like to summarize these chapters with 2 faith-filled affirmations. The first is…

God will be faithful to me (Job 23). Job begins with a big request (read vv. 1–7). Again, Eliphaz just made some awful accusations against Job. He knows that he will never get justice from men. Therefore, Job longs to bring his case before God. In v. 4, he imagines presenting his case to the Lord and pleading his innocence.

And despite the fact that Job’s circumstances appear to indicate that God is vindictive and mean, Job believes that God is just and that he will give Job a fair trial. In v. 5, he imagines God sharing his reasons with Job. Incredibly, Job believes God has good reasons for allowing Job to suffer.

And Job continues to express great faith in vv. 6–7. He doesn’t believe God would simply intimidate him into submission. Instead, Job believes that God would listen with grace and respond with justice. Job concludes, “I would be delivered forever from my Judge.” God will do what is right!

Have you ever felt like God isn’t giving you a fair shake? We all do at times. Maybe you receive some earth-shattering news that forever changes your life, and you don’t understand why God would put you through such a horrible ordeal. Often, it’s not one big thing; rather, a bunch of small things pile up, and we get frustrated at God.

When those times come, it’s vital that we keep the perspective of Job. God is not coldly and arbitrarily putting you through the ringer for no good reason. Instead, he is always just, and he always has good reasons.

Our challenge is to humbly the accept the fact that I don’t have to understand, and God is not obligated to explain. All I have to know is that he is compassionate and just, and I can go forward with that knowledge.

But God knows this is easier said than done. Job wants to appear before God, but notice his complaint in vv. 8–9. Have you ever felt like that when you pray or as you struggle against sin? You want to hear from God, but it feels like he is nowhere to be found. Job can relate, and God records his struggle to that that he understands how hard it is.

But in the midst of that struggle, we have to see the shadow of God’s glory with eyes of faith. Notice Job’s example in vv. 10–12. What a testimony! Job begins, “He knows the way that I take.” Even if Job can’t see God, God sees Job, and he is carefully watching Job’s every step. Specifically, God sees his righteous “way” or manner of life.

Not only that, God has a perfect way or path laid out ahead for Job. He knows exactly how he will purify and sanctify Job. As a result, Job boldly declares that when all of this is over, “I shall come forth as gold!” Job will be a more godly, sanctified man. He will be better for it.

And in eternity, when Job stands before his Redeemer, the prize for that godliness will be more than worth the awful struggle Job has endured.

That’s so timely, because it’s very easy in our present circumstances to just focus on all that is wrong, to be frustrated, and to long for life to return to normal. If that’s our focus, we are going to miss a great opportunity for God to sanctify us and for us to glorify him.

I’m not saying it’s not difficult, but we need to embrace the moment and what God is doing in the moment. By the power of his grace, he is conforming us to the image of Christ. We know that he will complete his work in us, and we will become gold. It will be worth it all, so embrace God’s incredible, gracious work.

And then determine, by God’s grace to go forward as Job testifies in vv. 11–12. Job knows he is righteous, and he is determined to maintain his righteousness. He will not allow his circumstances to compromise his integrity. Again, that’s so timely, because when life is hard, it’s easy to become consumed with things you cannot control.

You can’t control the government, a virus, or people’s responses to it all. But you can decide how you will respond. Every day, by the grace of God you can choose joy, you can choose love of neighbor, and you can choose obedience. You can keep walking toward the shadow of God’s glory. Focus on the promise of God and on what you can control, and leave the rest with him. Job’s 2nd faith-filled affirmation is…

God will judge the ungodly (Job 24). I talked a lot last week about how Job repeatedly swings between hope and despair. Job does it here too. He follows his triumphant moment of faith by lamenting how the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer (24:2–8). Job mentions some hard realities.

In vv. 18–25, Job responds to these hard realities. There’s a lot of debate about how to understand these verses, because in the most literal reading, Job seems to be agreeing with his friends, that God will swiftly judge the wicked. Therefore, the NKJV adds a bunch of italicized words, as if Job’s point is to say that the wicked should be punished (vv. 18–20). Other translations add things like, “You say” to the beginning of v. 18 so that Job is quoting his friends without actually agreeing.

But I believe the best option is to just take it at face value. Job believes that God will judge. Yes, he doesn’t always judge the wicked as quickly as we would like. But Job believes that in his time, God will bring justice to all men.

It’s another simple testimony of faith. Again, Job is able to keep his eyes on the shadow of God’s glory in the face of grave difficulty and hold fast to his faith. May God help us to do the same, no matter what life brings, and may God help us to view all of life through that lens. Hold fast to your faith, when God seems distant. The 3rd challenge is…

III.  Apply God’s truth cautiously (Job 25).

This is the last speech by Job’s friends. It’s very brief, and Zophar doesn’t even take his turn, which probably indicates Job’s friends have nothing left to say (read). Like Eliphaz, Bildad says some good things. In fact, there is nothing technically wrong with what Bildad says. He rightly affirms God’s sovereignty in vv. 2–3, and the depravity of man in vv. 4–6.

The problem is the application he implies, that Job cannot possibly be righteous. He is surely suffering under God’s judgment.

It’s another reminder that you can have the right theology and completely miss the heart of God and how to apply his Word. We need to watch our theology, but we must also be careful that we use our theology consist with the true nature of God. The 4th challenge is…

IV.  Glory in the power, wisdom, and sovereignty of God (Job 26–27).

Job begins by ripping into his friends one last time (26:1–4). Then, he spends the remainder of this speech focusing his vision on the shadow of God’s glory. In Job 26, he rejoices that…

God is infinite (26:5–14). This is another wonderful expression of faith. In a very dark time, Job pauses to reflect on God’s glory. He says in vv. 5–6 that God is present even in Sheol or the grave. Even the dead are under his sovereign hand. Verse 7 notes how God stretched out the sky over the earth, when he created the world. God also hangs the earth on nothing. He holds the universe together.

Verse 8 ponders the wonder of how God created the clouds. They hold massive sums of water but never break. The way God provides rain for the earth is truly incredible. Verse 10 mentions the beauty of the horizon and how God created day and night. Verse 12 reflects on the power of sea storms. The oceans and their storms are so powerful, yet God “stirs” the storms and in turn stills the sea.

When you look around at creation, at both its grandeur and its intricate designs, all of it is truly incredible. And all of it is a testimony to God’s mighty power and perfect wisdom. Psalm 19:1 states, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.”

So, vv. 5–13 say some wonderful things about the glory of God, but it’s all just preparing for the climax in v. 14. I love this verse! Job says that you can spend a lifetime studying creation in an effort to understand the power and wisdom of God. You could do the same studying Scripture and theology. You could reach the end of your life and know more about God than anyone else has ever known, and how much would you know?

You would have achieved “the mere edges of His ways.” You could say the “tip of the iceberg or the skin of the apple. It’s like a frayed string on the edge of a shirt. As well, Job says, you could hear everything God has ever said or revealed, and it would be just “a whisper” of God’s thunderous voice. It’s a wonderful testimony to the infinite glory of God.

Sometimes, we begin to think we understand God and his ways. Job’s friends certainly thought they had it figured out. But Job puts them in their place. Our best efforts just scratch the surface. There is no way our itty-bitty minds will ever fully grasp God’s glory or the complexities of his purpose.

To return to my opening illustration, we can strain our eyes as hard as possible at the shadow of God’s glory, and we will never exhaust all that there is to see and understand.

That doesn’t mean that we stop learning. We should be hungry to understand every bit of revelation God has given in Scripture and in general revelation. There is no greater blessing we can enjoy than to know God and to be near to him. So, go after God.

But always do so with a sense of humility and faith. It’s not my job to “master” God the way Job’s friends wanted to. Instead, I must stand in awe and humbly trust his every purpose. As I said earlier, my pursuit of theology and Bible study must end in worship, love, obedience, and humble faith. And when life raises questions that I don’t understand, I must rest in the wisdom of God. He has a plan and it is good, even if I cannot understand. Praise God that he is infinite. And then Job closes this speech in Job 27 by rejoicing that…

God is just (Job 27). After the climax of 26:14, Job 27 sinks back into reality and into Job’s miserable plight. Job’s friends were sure he had to be enduring God’s judgment and needed to repent. His wife had said that his integrity was not worth the pain. But notice Job’s resolve (vv. 3–6). Job is determined to hold fast to his integrity.

Then with the rest of the chapter, Job reflects on the destruction of the wicked. I have to mention that there is a lot of debate about how to understand these verses, because like Job 24, it sounds like something Job’s friends would say (vv. 13–17).

That sounds a lot like the 3 friends, but Job can’t mean the same thing, because he just began the chapter by affirming his innocence. Rather, v. 7 is the key (read). This verse tells us that Job is longing for justice, and we should understand the rest of the chapter in this light.

Therefore, in the midst of a dark time, Job again fixes his mind on the nature of God. He knows that God is just, and he determines to trust the Lord to do what is just. Then he spends the rest of the chapter with eyes of faith meditating on what the justice of God will look like.

Conclusion

And moment by moment, we must determine to do the same. When we find ourselves in the wilderness, we must fix our eyes on the beauty and majesty of God. Psalm 17:15 states, “As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with your likeness when I awake.” We have to believe that God is infinitely greater than we can even imagine. We only understand the edges of his ways. And because of that, I must go forward in righteousness by the power of his grace knowing, “He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.” He will be faithful, and every challenge will be worth it all.

More in Job

August 2, 2020

Where Can I Find Wisdom?

July 12, 2020

My Redeemer Lives

June 14, 2020

Hope in Life and Death