There is one thing that all fairytales seem to have in common: a happy ending. The prince rescues his princess, the dragon is killed, and the deserving young lovers ride off happily into a glorious sunset. This is the life that Job once lived, but now the Dragon is pummeling Job's shield with his flaming breath and slashing at his armor without rest. Job's fairy tale is quickly coming to an end.
“When Fairytales Have the Wrong Ending”
I recently watched the Disney animated movie Happily Never After with one of my daughters. It was a very unpredictable story line – and that was the point.
There was an old wizard in a tall tower who ran everything in Fairytale land. He had a set of scales representing good and evil tied which balanced all the events of that world. All the fairytales came true and everyone lived happily ever after.
- Cinderella married the prince;
- Sleeping Beauty woke up;
- Rapunzel let her hair down and the prince climbed up and rescued her;
- Little Red Riding hood was rescued when the woodsman killed the wolf and on and on.
The Wizard made sure the scripts were kept in line and everyone followed the story line – all because the scales were kept in perfect balance.
The problem was the Wizards two bumbling assistants. One day, when he decided to take a vacation and go play golf in Scotland, the assistants managed to mess everything up while he was away. They allowed the scales to get out of balance and everything started going awry.
- Rapunzel’s long hair made her lose her balance and she fell out of the tower on top of the prince below.
- Little Red Riding Hood was eaten up by the wolf and
- Cinderella’s mean step-mother became the ruler of the universe.
- Sleeping Beauty’s handsome prince finally arrived, but after he bent down and kissed her, he fell asleep too.
It was a great movie!
It occurred to me, that to many people, their version of God is something like that old wizard. It’s his job to keep the scales of good and evil perfectly balanced and everybody on the script.
If He should ever take a vacation, or much less, take his hands off the scales, everything will get messed up and the expected conclusions to every one’s fairytale won’t come true.
I happen to believe that this is the reality of many people’s version of God simply because of the way they act when their lives don’t turn out like they expected.
Most people have this innate belief that if you follow the script and keep your nose clean and your shoes polished and your pants pressed, that life will deliver the right endings to every chapter.
And when it doesn’t happen, God takes the blame.
One author imagined it this way: You’re driving home from work after a terrible day at the office. In bumper-to-bumper traffic, the guy behind you smashes into you. You then hit the car in front of you, and it happens to be a brand new Porsche. [He isn’t happy!] You finally get everything documented by the police. But the Porsche owner was so angry he threatens to sue you. And when you finally do get home, you don’t have any milk. The dog’s hungry and he’s been gnawing on cabinets. Your kids are misbehaving and gnawing on each other. And the mail is full of overdue bills, and you’re out of money. Then your wife tells you the doctor wants both of you to come see him first thing in the morning. About then, you think “Lord, what is going on?! And while I’m at it, where are You?” And no answer comes. And tomorrow is worse than today. You are about to lose your job; your wife is sick and the guy in the Porsche does sue you . . . and on and on and on.
Charles Swindoll, Job: A Man of Heroic Endurance (Word Publishing, 2004), p. 138
You can identify with a man I have come to deeply respect and admire and sympathize with. By the time you arrive at chapter 15, in the Book that bears his name, Job’s spirit is crushed; his eyes are red with perpetual tears; the days are leaving him more exhausted than ever and those who’ve shown up only make things worse. And the person that doesn’t show up – who is noticeably absent is God.
As you find your place at Job chapter 15, consider the fact that Job has followed the script . . . he has done everything right . . . but the fairytale he had been living had taken a turn . . . it was a different ending than he expected.
Chapter 15 begins the second round of speeches between Job and his misguided counselors.
In the first round, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar have both delivered speeches that basically claimed Job was in need of repentance.
Now, in this second round, all three counselors will speak again. And they will turn up the heat.
When Eliphaz spoke the first time he was discretionary at first and diplomatic. Not this time.
This time, Eliphaz drops his gloves and comes out swinging. He is personally offended that Job has refused their counsel.
Then Eliphaz the Temanite responded, should a wise man answer with windy knowledge and fill himself with the east wind? 3. Should he argue with useless talk, or with words which are not profitable?
How dare he ignore their wise, experienced wisdom?
4. Indeed, you do away with reverence and hinder meditation before God.
As if to say, Job, you’re ruining my walk with God by hanging around this trash dump, trying to talk sense into you.
Friends, what you find in this chapter is a graceless man offering counsel to a grieving man. He will only deepen Job’s wounds.
Donald Grey Barnhouse commented on this chapter that it is a sad fact that the tongues of professing Christians are often all too busy doing the devil’s work.
Steven Lawson, Holman Old Testament Commentary: Job (Holman, 2004), p. 133
- The counsel of Eliphaz begins with offended pride – in verse 2;
- It’s followed with insults in verse 3;
- Then pious condescension in verse 4;
- Then there’s a big dose of condemnation in verses 5 and 6; For your guilt teaches your mouth and you choose the language of the crafty. Your own mouth condemns you and not I; and your own lips testify against you.
In other words, Job, every time you open your mouth, you dig your hole that much deeper.
Besides, Eliphaz implies, “Who do you think you are?”
And he now resorts to sarcasm in verse 7; were you the first man to be born, or were you brought forth before the hills? 8. Do you hear the secret counsel of God, and limit wisdom to yourself? 9. What do you know that we do not know? What do you understand that we do not? 10. Both the gray-haired and the aged and among us, older than your father.
We’re the veterans Job. Look at my gray hair . . . I’m older than your father.
We are the original wise men from the east.
And we’re not about to surrender our perspective on your pain.
You need to understand that it was critically important to these three counselors that they win the argument; that their diagnosis is correct. In fact, the diagnosis has now become more important than the patient.
Because if Job was not a sinner being punished by God, then the three friend’s understanding of God was all wrong. What’s worse, that meant they had no protection against personal suffering themselves. If obedience was not a guarantee of health and wealth, then what happened to Job just might happen to them.
Warren Wiersbe, Job: Be Patient (Victor Books, 1991), p. 56
So it’s critically important that Job fess up! That they prove he’s the sinner.
We’ve got the wizard figured out. We know how the scales work. Job, you’re not getting the ending you want because you haven’t followed the script. Verse 12 . . . your heart has carried you away . . . verse 14 . . . you’ve turned your spirit against God.
You can’t be a righteous man . . . this has to be your fault!
Let me make two observations about Eliphaz’s counsel and about wrong counsel in general:
First, wrong counsel wants to support it’s case more than it wants to offer comfort.
The counselor, the Christian who is advising you, that leader or co-worker just has to win the argument.
An unwise or self-centered counselor is more interested in their perspective than they are in your pain.
Eliphaz didn’t want to help Job as much as he wanted to be right.
And when your argument runs out of logic or Biblical support, do like Eliphaz; repeat yourself – only louder.
The inside story on preachers is: if you have strong points – yell; if you have weak points – pound pulpit and yell louder.
Secondly, wrong counsel ultimately is self-serving and self-promoting.
What motive is there for serving God, if God doesn’t pay up? Eliphaz is actually constructing a relationship with God that makes God the servant of man. Otherwise, religion isn’t worth it.
And he’s playing into the very argument Satan brought up in chapter one when he told God, “take away Job’s family and his health and his fortune and he’ll curse you to your face.”
In other words, make his religion not pay up, and watch him take off. Take away his fortune and watch him give away his faith.
You see, the question is, “How do you respond when Christianity doesn’t seem to pay off?”
How do you follow through with biblical commands when obedience creates conflict or discomfort.
We’d like to believe that whenever you do the right thing – good things happen. Fairytales always have happy endings.
A simple illustration happened right in front of me a couple of days ago. I needed to pull out into a lane of traffic that had stopped at a red light. I was leaving a store parking lot and there was almost enough room for me to pull in front of a lady sitting there in the line. I needed a couple of inches. She waved me on with a smile – put her SUV in reverse and backed into the car behind her.
It was a brand new Jaguar. People who drive Jaguars are really picky about their cars. Dents and stuff like that.
I felt so badly for this woman . . . she had been kind and polite . . . she had done the right thing – and it had a bad ending.
Ultimately, our motive in doing the right thing is not so good things happen, it is so that God will be glorified.
Jesus Christ challenge His disciples in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before men that they might see your good works and . . . . give you a raise . . . elect you to the board . . . put you on first string . . . give you an A for good attitude.
No . . . that they might see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
If counselors and counsel does not ultimately point us away from ourselves and toward the glory and honor of God, chances are you will follow nothing less than self-serving, self-promoting, comfort seeking, compromise allowing counsel, self-assuring counsel.
Eliphaz goes on for the rest of this chapter to deliver his own experience, which is another sign of poor counsel. He says in verse 17, “I will tell you, listen to me; and what I have seen I will also declare.”
The wicked are in pain all their lives - v. 20
They are riddled with anxiety - v. 22
They are terrified of death - v. 23
They regard themselves as invincible - v. 25
But his wealth won’t last - vv. 28-29
He will lose everything he has - v. 30
He will not leave an inheritance/legacy - vv. 31-33
His doom is certain - vv. 34-35
Eliphaz is obviously talking about Job here; he barely camouflages his condemnation. In his view and the others, everything that has happened to Job is proof of this perspective.
So there it is Job! Bad people don’t enjoy the fairytale . . . but good people live happily ever after.
No wonder Job responds in chapter 16 verse 2 – as I imagine him putting his head in his hands as he says, “I have heard many such things; sorry comforters are you all.”
The word miserable, or sorry, could be translated, burdensome.
In verse 4 he says, I too could speak like you, if I were in your place. I could compose words against you and shake my head at you.
In other words, Let’s trade places – and see how easy it is for you to take what you’re dishing out.
You climb into this hospital bed . . . take my place in this unemployment line . . . exchange accounts and take my place in bankruptcy courtroom . . . let’s exchange seats and see how easy it is to come up with obvious answers and simple reasons for trials and tribulations.
One author said that sometimes we have to experience misunderstanding from unsympathetic friends in order to learn how to minister to others.
Wiersbe, p. 61
If that’s true, and it is, Job will one day be a first class giver of comfort.
But for now, he’s not sure he’ll make it up out of the pit of despair.
He laments in verse 6 regarding his emotional pain; If I speak, my pain is not lessened; and if I hold back, what has left me?
He refers to his physical state in verse 7, where he states, “God has exhausted me.”
Socially, Job has become a desolate island – verse 7b – You have laid waste all my company.
Spiritually, Job is at his wits end, notice chapter 17 verse 1, “My spirit is broken, my days are extinguished, the grave is ready for me.
There’s no way out . . . there’s no hope left.
C.S. Lewis, in his book, A Grief Observed, wrote about his spiritual and emotional struggles after the death of his wife. He wrote with openness and candor like Job speaks here in his response. Lewis wrote, “Where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him you will be, or so it feels, welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face; a sound of bolting and double
bolting on the inside; after that, silence.”
Swindoll, p. 139
The silence of God inspired rich truths from the sufferings of His servant Job.
Those who suffer acutely tend to see more clearly.
You’ve found that to be true in your own life. At the times of your greatest desperation, you mind has been most open to the word of God; your heart most tender to the Spirit of God; your life most available to the work and will of God.
You have tasted the sweet fruit that accompanies sorrow.
Back in chapter 13:15, Job made this incredible resolution – remember? “Even though He slays me, yet will I trust Him!”
I was reading an article written by Jill Briscoe, the wife of Stuart Briscoe who pastored for many years. She was retelling the story of David, their young elementary aged son. Evidently he was going to be taken for a doctor’s appointment and he was told by his father, “Don’t go to school on Monday. You’re going to come with me to get an x-ray.” That was the length of the conversation. That was on Friday. Monday came and David got into the car, face white and drawn, his eyes wide with fear. Start said, “David, you’re not afraid are you?” He said, “Of course I’m afraid Daddy!” “Why?” Little David responded, “Cause I know what an execution is.”
She then wrote, The amazing thing was that he actually showed up – and got into the car. Why? Because he trusted his father.
With that kind of child-like resolve, Job was willing to get in.
For one thing, his resolve is bound to a clear conscience.
In chapter 16 and verse 17, “My face is flushed from weeping, and deep darkness is on my eyelids, although there is no violence in my hands, and my prayer is pure.
But Job . . .it’s not worth it . . . it’s not paying off. God is not paying up.
Notice another amazing resolve in chapter 17 verse 9. Nevertheless, the righteous will hold to his way, and he who has clean hands will grow stronger and stronger.
That’s another way of saying, “I’m not giving up on my character. I’m not cashing in my faith. I’m gonna hang on to the path I know is right, even though it doesn’t seem to be working out.
For those of you who identify with Job today – you’re presence here restates your commitment to Christ and the path of godly living . . . you’ve come here and your presence delivers your resolve – you are gonna hang on . . . and you’re also, like Job, gonna look up.
Notice verse 19 of chapter 16. Even now, behold, my witness is in heaven, and my advocate is on high.
Wow. We know by way of further revelation that our advocate is Jesus Christ, who ever lives to make intercession for His people (Hebrews 7:25)
The great missionary and pastor Robert Murray McCheyne once wrote, “If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet the distance makes no difference. He is praying for me.”
Lawson, Holman OT Commentary, p. 147
So keep looking up . . . and keep holding on.
The writer of Hebrews asked us to make the resolve of Job our own; Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne fo grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
Paul challenged Titus to hold firmly to the faithful word which is in accordance to the [apostles] teaching –that is sound doctrine. (Titus 1:9)
That’s why spiritual disciplines are not called spiritual delights. Though they produce spiritual delights, they come by way of spiritual disciplines. Prayer doesn’t get easier, it gets harder. The spiritual battle for purity doesn’t ease up, it heats up.
It’s an entirely different sermon, but I must reference several items that appeared in chapter 16 and chapter 17.
To me, as I read over these chapters again and again, there was the unmistakable fragrance of Good Friday;
In chapter 16:10; They have gaped at me with their mouth, they have slapped me on the cheek with contempt; they have massed themselves against me. God hands me over to ruffians and tosses me into the hands of the wicked.
Can you see the crucifixion of our Lord there?
17:2, Surely mockers are with me, and y eye gazes on their provocation.
Here is Christ at the betrayal of Judas in verse 5, He who informs against friends for a share of the spoil.”
Here is our Lord before His own people in verse 6. But He has made me a byword of the people, and I am one at whom men spit. Literally, in whose face people spit.
Job did not know that his own suffering would mirror in some ways the suffering of our Lord. He would indeed become a partaker in the sufferings of Christ – and also, as Christ came to liberate him from Paradise, a partaker in the victory of Christ over death and the grave.
And so will you who believe in this suffering, dying, resurrecting, ascending, interceding Savior.
Before we leave this episode in Job’s life, let me draw from this event several observations:
For those of you are criticized:
- Remain open.
There may be truth buried underneath harsh words and unkind thoughts. Learn from them if you can . . . grow from it.
- Keep alert.
Don’t buy into personal criticism just because somebody is selling it to you at half-price.
Stay alert. There is a reason that Satan, your enemy is known as The Accuser of the Brethren.
- Third, stay focused.
Don’t get sidetracked. Job held on to the anchor of his hope – he knew heaven would eventually vindicate him as having walked with God with clean hands and a pure heart.
Don’t lose sight of the path. The devil will just as readily distract the believer or the local church as he will try to destroy them.
Remain open . . . keep alert . . . stay focused.
A word to those who comfort:
This episode between Eliphaz and Job is a good reminder that comfort is not dispensed in convenient doses like cough medicine. It comes unannounced . . . how many opportunities do we pass by . . . we are truly surrounded by people who silently, desperately need an encouraging word.
Adapted from Wiersbe p. 65
My mother in law recently began dialysis treatments. I picked her up from the clinic the other day and she was telling me about all the people who come into that clinic to get hooked up to the machines for 3 days a week. All ages . . . all sizes . . . all races . . . all kinds of personalities. There’s the 85 year old who waves at everybody.
There’s the middle aged couple who have just begun treatment. There’s the 16 year old young man who comes in . . . with a chipper attitude as he responds to the others around him. Hooked up to the dialysis machines, 3 to 4 hours at a time, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon, he’s there. I can’t help but wonder, who knows at his school? What students know why he slips off campus and misses the afternoon games; I wonder how many teachers know why he has to hurry out the library or why his classes are arranged for an early dismissal 3 days a week.
Who has any idea of his subculture of sufferers? This is one of a thousand little worlds that people live in day in and day out. Frankly, we would probably be shocked with the multitude and variety of sufferers in our midst even today.
Grace is always needed. Comfort is always welcome. A kind word; a handshake or a hug or even a nod of the head today in the hallway or in this auditorium might be all someone will get this week that even comes close to a demonstration of care and grace.
Let’s not forget, God does not comfort us to make us comfortable, but to make us comforters. In fact, God’s comfort is never given; it is always loaned. God expects us to distribute it to others.
Wiersbe, p. 65
Let me give one closing word to those who need comfort – you’ve sat through this sermon and have identified with Job.
I want to leave you with this thought. This is not the end of the fairytale. No matter how it seems to be turning out . . . this isn’t the end.
The truth is, for the believer who has placed his life in the hands of God, you will indeed live happily ever after. Your Prince is on His way and He will set everything right . . . He will make everything new.
So hang on to your character . . . to principle . . . to purity . . . to the ways of God . . . and keep looking up . . . the Prince is coming soon.
David – sing a couple of stanzas and we join you just on the chorus of “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.”