Sermon, Pentecost 22B, Sunday October 21, 2018, St Petri
Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the whirlwind. He said:
2 ‘Who is this that obscures my plans
with words without knowledge?
3 Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
4 ‘Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone –
7 while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels[a] shouted for joy?
I have been in some whirlwinds this last two weeks. Pushing into a 30 knot cross wind riding our bikes across the Hay Plains feels like you are in a whirlwind.
Leanne and I could hardly talk because of the 40 knot head wind rushing through the assorted gear on the roof rack of the Landcruiser on the way back from the West Coast too. It was just a hard, silent push.
From what I hear in this Book of Job this morning, I know that God speaks in whirlwinds winds like these.
As Pastor Trevor said last Sunday, God and Satan and this man named Job and his three friends have a long conversation in the Book of Job. We hear today that the conversation ends up in the whirlwind.
The conversation is about living through suffering. And surprise, surprise, that is where God is – in the whirlwind. It is from the whirlwind of suffering God speaks to Job.
I suspect, like me, you believe and prefer that God will speak in other places more comfortable, manageable, logical, understandable – not in the whirlwind, the cross wind, the head wind hammering you.
At first Job finds no voice of God in his suffering. He certainly finds no hope in the words of his three friends or his wife.
Job’s three friends do well at first. They don’t speak! They gather around Job to “console” him. Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar see Job’s suffering and sit with him for seven days and don’t say a word.
Sitting together with family around faith-filled saints of Jesus like Elva Falland or Lorna Vogt who are in the whirlwind of serious illness of facing dying is always best done with minimal words. Caring is usually 90% presence; just being there.
Job’s mates do this well …… for a week. And then they don’t.
All three basically suggest that job is in the whirlwind of suffering because of his own fault. Job has sinned, knowingly or not, or is being a hard-head and not admitting his sins to God and so is cursed or being punished by God.
In their search to fix this, explain this, get this under control, be happy again or find answers to their own doubts about God, they blame Job. One says that Job should just “curse God” and get it over with – just end the suffering and die.
Job has none of it.
Job says that the suffering he is experiencing is not because he did something wrong. This suffering is not God’s punishment. He is not cursed. This is God’s doing for God’s purposes of which Job has little capacity to grasp.
In the whirlwind of suffering Job and God speak. Job boldly says, “Please Explain”!
“I cry to you and you do not answer me;
I stand and you just look at me.
You have turned cruel to me,
With the might of your hand you persecute me…
You toss me about in the roar of the storm…, says Job to God. (30:20-22)
Ever felt like that – tossed about in the roar of the whirlwind, like God is punishing you or that he has no feelings for you, no understanding of you or that person you love? I bet you have. I know I have many times. And how does the conversation go with God – if you dare to have one?
Do you think asking God to “please explain” is being far too disrespectful or even sinful? Many do. Many opt for keeping quiet about it all and either try to find the secret cause of theirs or their loved one’s suffering, or simply get angry and give up on God.
Not Job. Job does two things. He names his complaints to God and he seeks response from God, and both are the ways we are being shown to live with faith in suffering.
Name your pain to the Lord; make your complaint to him with all you’ve got. Ask your honest question – brutally if necessary. Even sing a sad song if you are bold enough, and then wait and listen to the Word from the whirlwind of it all.
From the whirlwind God speaks boldly to Job in response to Job’s bold “please explain”.
“Get yourself ready and take this like a man, Job.
I am going to question you now…
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the world?
Tell me if you have any understanding.
Have you ever commanded the dawn since you have been alive?
Have you entered the source of the sea and walked around in its dark depths?
Have the gates to death been revealed to you?
Please say so if you know.
If I am Job, and I have been at times, I have to say, “I don’t know, God”. In the heavy crosswind of trouble I face I want to say to God with Job;
“See, I am of such small account!
I will put my hand over my mouth now.
I have spoken once, and I will not answer now.
Twice, but I will not got any further. (40:4-5)
I know that you can do all things
Therefore I have said things I didn’t understand
Things to wonderful for me, which I didn’t know”. (42:1-5)
Can you hear this morning that:
In the whirlwind is the place you need to speak to God.
In the whirlwind is where he will speaks with you.
That means that the whirlwind is not to be avoided or dismissed or considered something from which to escape as fast as you can. Quite the opposite: it is the place to listen and receive God.
Why so? Making your case and complaint against God is actually an act of faith. You may be angry with God or unsure if he exists at times but as you speak these words of pain and doubt you are by default, trusting that he is listening even if you can’t trust that he is responding. That comes in time….
Oh how we need more songs, more silence, more prayers and conversations that don’t avoid the questions and pain but that express them so we hear God in the whirlwind – in the suffering.
We need more laments. But alas, in this culture of endless happiness searching and controlling of life (like Job’s three friends) we will not allow it.
But we can allow a sad song to God, can’t we?
We have a God who has been through the whirlwind of our shame and pain to the full and calls us through it with him now.
We have a risen great high pastor who is familiar with all our ways, a suffering servant of people and a friend of sinners and man of human sorrows who prays for us and with us daily.
And as Job rightly said about the suffering upon him, all of this was not our doing. It was the Lord’s doing and it is marvellous in our eyes. Once we were not a person of Christ. Now we are the people of God in Christ.
You may be heading into a heavy cross wind today – a long, hard push without many words.
Speak. Speak to him. Complain. Speak a sad song. Ask your questions. Don’t hold back.
Go to the God in the whirlwind of suffering (not apart from it). He is on a cross hanging there in blood and pain for you – in pure, pure love for you. He is standing with raised arms and wounded hands and feet showing you his glory and his grace.
After the singing and the speaking and the silence and the questions the will speak as he did for Job. He speaks in the whirlwind. Amen.