Listen to the sermon here:
Scripture: Job 19:23-27a; Psalm 17:1-9; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17; Luke 20:27-38
“And at last he will stand upon the earth … then in my flesh shall I see God!” This is Job speaking. Job suffers the loss of family, wealth, and health. His flesh was made to disintegrate. He is declaring that “in my flesh shall I see God! Even though his friends thought he must have done something to displease God, and they insisted they were right, Job knew that he had done nothing to disturb God yet he knew God was behind this whole sorry experience.
Job saw his cattle die, his children die, his health fall apart, and his friends accusing him without ceasing. Yet, there was this strong bulb of faith within himself but not a physical thing. Instead it was planted there firmly by God to keep Job faithful to God through all this puzzling suffering.
We know from reading to the end of this miserable story that God had agreed with Satan to let Satan test Job. Seems cruel, do you not agree? It seem out of character with the God we would like to have. We talk about a loving God, an always-present God. This is the lesson: we cannot put God in a box. We can look for the good. We can find small pockets of good and large bins of good but we cannot deny the suffering around us and within us. We cannot put God in a box. We are not to understand our God. Wisdom dwells with God. God is wisdom.
But, we have this resurrection hope. I know that my Redeemer lives. History agrees that Christ walked this earth; was killed on this earth; and rose again, lived again! We also believe that we die with Christ and live again with Christ. Even now, even before we die, we are in Christ. Christ is in us. If we are mechanical prove-it-to-me thinkers, we may as well go on another search. If we are natured to accept what cannot be seen, what cannot be measured, we will find the glorious resurrection even while we live in misery.
Those of us who live in relative wealth need to be aware! Job had wealth. Job had health. Job had property. Job had a large family. Job had friends. Job had a wife who respected him. God allowed Satan to test Job. How much did Job really believe in this Redeemer? Wait! We are in the Old Testament with Job. Research experts have placed Job’s life on earth between 2000 B.C. and 1000 B.C., probably closer to 1000 than 2000. Why is he speaking about a Redeemer?
“I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the end he will stand on this earth. My flesh may be destroyed, yet from this body I will see God. Yes, I will see him for myself, and I long for that moment!” (Job 19:25-27) Some theologians may tell me that this is not really Jesus, the Redeemer, but a general idea of a redeemer. So let it be!
Do we really need to argue to establish belief; to establish faith? Or is faith something that comes without reason? God has the wisdom, we accept it as a gift which flows through us into every nook and cranny. Explaining it makes it less. Living by it makes it great!
Listen to today’s Psalm – Psalm 17:1-9 – as though the author is Job.
“Hear a just cause, O Lord; give heed to my cry; listen to my prayer; which does not come from lying lips. Let my vindication come forth from your presence; let your eyes be fixed on justice. Examine my heart, visit me by night, melt me down; you will find no impurity in me. I have not regarded what others do; at the word of your lips I have avoided the ways of the violent. My footsteps hold fast to your well-worn path; and my feet do not slip. I call upon you, O God, for you will answer me; incline your ear to me and hear my words. Show me your marvelous lovingkindness, O Savior of those who take refuge at your right hand from those who rise against them. Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me under the shadow of your wings, from the wicked who assault me, from my deadly enemies who surround me.”
Here is one of the testimonies of the wholeness of the scripture. This Psalm seems to fit Job as though he spoke it. Instead someone else was making this picture whole. The essence of the redeemer was in there also. Completeness, wholeness, an inclusive sphere of God’s creation; all currents moving along toward this day when the Redeemer will stand in front of us; clear as day; in our flesh shall we see God. Part of Job’s suffering was an attack on his very flesh. Job had the gift of vision of clear, healthy flesh in the presence of the Son person of God – the Redeemer. We don’t need to just read about this phenomenon; we can claim it and be firm in it while seeming to float in it.
Paul writes in his second letter to the Thessalonians, “… the day of the Lord is already here.” Of course, Paul is writing in the New Testament after our Lord actually was present, died, and rose. Paul lived in the day of the Lord. The Redeemer was revealed to God’s people on earth. And not only to “God’s people” but to people who denied that Jesus was an integral part of God. Paul’s writing, here in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17, flows from Job’s experience and relationship with God.
Paul speaks about this. “Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction.” Here is Satan front and center. This Satan was the one whom God allowed to test Job’s faith. God knew that Job’s faith was strong by itself and not dependent on his wealth of family, property, and goods. This Satan is still roaming through our lives. How strong is our faith? Listen to Paul’s instructions to the Thessalonians and therefore to us. “But we must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth.”
Then Paul reminds us that we are called to proclaim the good news, so that we may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul exhorts us to stand fast with the knowledge of God that we were taught. I exhort us to stand fast with the feeling of God’s presence. How can we doubt God’s existence and faithfulness to us? Well for those of us who have experienced or will experience jolt after jolt to our well-being it may be easy to doubt. Paul has this benediction for all of us – those of us who have not yet been confronted as Job and those of us who are already confronted and tortured. “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.”
You may be relieved if you know that Job’s wealth was restored, his health was restored, his wife was still living, he had more children. With our reasonable but empathetic minds, we are not returned to a sense of justice and rightness and fairness. No! What about the children who died during this episode? Our limited wisdom and sense of rightness cannot wrap around that fact and accept it. It seems totally unfair and wrong! It is not the picture of God that many of us hold.
In the time of Jesus, there was a sect of Jews who were called Sadducees; who did not believe in the resurrection. Prior to the resurrection of Jesus, these Sadducees declared resurrection to be a false conception. They enjoyed trying to trap Jesus with their rhetorical questions. One such question arises in Luke 20:27-38. Their question? If a person is married to a second person after his or her spouse dies, what happens in heaven with what could be a triangle or a four-cornered dilemma? It was just a trick question, since these Sadducees did not even believe in heaven. This was one of the trials for Jesus, just as Job had trials. Of course, being an essential part of the Trinity, Jesus had more than faith. Jesus had this wisdom; this wisdom of God.
Jesus explains, patiently or otherwise, that, in heaven, marriage as we know it does not exist. We are all children of God together, in healthy, happy relationships. This may please some of you and strongly displease some of you. If you and your spouse had a close, loving, dependent relationship on earth, you may still be feeling your loved one’s presence with you or you may have a strong sense that your loved one is watching lovingly and directing you lovingly from this place called heaven. You picture yourself being physically reunited with your loved one when God calls you to this ultimate home – heaven.
Please don’t lose that image, that feeling, that hope. One small section in the Bible does not prove anything. Cling in faith to the continuation of a committed relationship between you and your loved one. We need to look at the wider picture. We need to see the pieces of knowledge and experience that each of us has accumulated. Let God assemble the pieces for us. Just because Luke explains Jesus’ answer in this way, does not mean it is absolute truth. That is how Christians differ in our belief. Some of us take each verse in the Bible literally as absolute truth. If that works for you, wear it. Some of us like to take a step backward and be in a state of waiting for God to assemble the pieces in our mind; for God to speak to our hearts and minds. Some of us believe that God knows that we need to learn and accept and grow our faith in various ways.
That is why in today’s climate of social inclusiveness some of us take a very strong definitive stance and hold fast while others of us look through the lenses of the love of Jesus when he said things like “let the little children come to me” and when he did not judge people who were declared sinners by their peers. The lenses of Jesus will reveal his habit of seeking the lost and the unlovely and declaring them lovely. Let us not forget the unlovely people who were healed; healed! Not on the outside only but deep, deep within. As our Redeemer lives, so we are called to be alive. That is our faith! I know that my Redeemer lives and this is the day to declare it!
This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. Amen