Almost the entire book of Job is a series of conversations between he and his friends regarding the issue of suffering. Questions like "Why do believers suffer?" or "Is suffering punishment for some sin?" are just a couple. Perhaps you're asking the same questions today, so join Stephen in this message as he reveals to us what Job and his friends discovered.
The Magnum Opus of Faith
Job 18, 19
The sky over Germany in 1941 was as blue as it had ever been. Spring had come, but for thousands of Jews, laboring and suffering in the Nazi concentration camps, hope had become little more than a thread they clung to.
In one particular camp, according to the journal entries of other inmates, a group of Jewish men were assigned to carry stones from one end of the camp to the other. It was rumored that they were going to construct a building. Others whispered that the stones were part of a road project. Day after day, the men hauled stones, their backs aching, their bodies groaning under the load. Then, finally, weeks after they had begun this mountainous task, they finished the job. The stones had been piled in an enormous mass, ready for use. That night the men stretched out on their bunks with a slight flutter of accomplishment and anticipation.
The next day the men were ordered into the camp yard as usual. Their new assignment was delivered. They were to carry the same stones to the other side of the camp – back to where they had been in the beginning. With crushed spirits they began. It became apparent that their task was meaningless. The stones were eventually moved back and forth, without purpose or plan. It was then, as the men realized that they were acting in futility, these men began to waver and eventually they died.
Knute Larson, Holman New Testament Commentary: 1 Thessalonians (Holman, 2000), p. 51
Hardship without meaning is too heavy a burden to bear. The loss of purpose made their lives of pain unbearable.
I have read something similar happening to an entire town – only in a different context. The powers-that-be had decided to build a hydroelectric dam across a valley in Main where a small town had been situation for generations. The people were to be relocated and the town eventually submerged under water where the reservoir would be created. During the time between the initial decision to begin the project and the completion of the dam, this well-kept town with clean sidewalks, and tidy houses and manicured lawns began to fall into disrepair. One resident explained it this way when he said, “Where there is no hope for the future, there is no work in the present.”
Steven Lawson, Holman New Testament Commentary: Job (Holman, 2004), p. 122
When the prospects of a future are dashed, the drive to accomplish something, to work at something, to advance or repair something or even to endure something is abandoned.
Without a future and a purpose, like the tentacles of some vine, despair wraps itself around the heart and chokes off hope.
As far as Job is concerned, God has assigned him to carry rocks from one end to the other of his imprisoned life. There is no purpose in life . . . there is no meaning behind his suffering.
And to make matters worse, Bildad the Black and White has nothing more than another message of guilt and condemnation for Job to suffer through.
In fact, he, like Eliphaz in his second speech, turns up the heat. In order to bring out a confession of sin, Bildad describes for Job the terrible, fearful death of sinners.
The Pit of Fear & Anxiety
Bildad paints four scenes of a sinner’s death – they are true pictures, by the way – the problem is they’re presented to the wrong man.
But for those who do not have a Redeemer, this is their future.
1) The first scene is of a darkened tent.
Notice Job 18 and verse 5 where Bildad begins his lecture. Indeed, the light of the wicked goes out and the flame of his fire gives no light. 6. The light in his tent is darkened, and his lamp goes out above him.
This scene painted for Job is of a lamp hanging in a tent. Suddenly the lamp is snuffed out – perhaps a gust of wind blows through the opening – it smolders for a moment or two with the wick glowing red, but then it goes out leaving the tent dark and
For many people, it is the darkness of death – the mystery surrounding death that makes it the King of terrors.
It will happen to us all.
You can’t ignore it . . . you can’t avoid it . . . the statistics are undeniable – 1 out of every 1 person dies.
In the last century, the American newspaper tycoon, William Randolph Hearst would never permit anybody to mention death in his presence. He never allowed the subject to come up – ever. But it didn’t matter – he himself eventually became the subject of death.
Warren Wiersbe, Job: Be Patient (Victor Books, 1991), p. 68
Bildad points his finger and Job and says in effect, “Job, you’re ignoring the obvious; the light of your life is about to go out and you will be left in the darkness of God’s judgment.
2) The second scene is of a trapped animal.
Notice verse 9; A snare seizes him by the heel, and a trap snaps shut on him. A noose for him is hidden in the ground and a trap for him on the path.
You’re trapped, Job! Come clean . . . before you’re caught and killed.
3) The third scene is of a pursued victim.
Verse 11. All around terrors frighten him, and [dog] him at every step. 12. His strength is famished and calamity is ready at his side.
There’s no escape! Surrender, Job . . . there’s no way out!
The final scene painted by Bildad the Bruiser is the scene of an unmarked grave.
Verse 17 says, “Memory of him perishes from the earth, and he has no name abroad.”
The Message paraphrases this paragraph to read:
Their lives go up in smoke;
acid rain soaks their ruins.
Their roots rot
and their branches wither.
They'll never again be remembered—
nameless in unmarked graves.
They are plunged from light into darkness,
banished from the world.
And they leave empty-handed—not one single child—
nothing to show for their life on this earth.
Westerners are aghast at their fate,
easterners are horrified:
'Oh no! So this is what happens to perverse people.
This is how those [ignorant of] God end up!'"
Again . . . this is true stuff . . . but Bildad is preaching to the wrong man.
So, thanks a lot, Bildad the Burden-maker.
He has only added more locks and bolts to the door of Job’s pit; a pit of fear and anxiety.
Bildad opened with the words in verse 2, “Job, how long will you hunt for words?”
Now Job opens with his response in chapter 19, verse 2, “How long will you torment and crush me with words?
Bildad asks, “Job, how long are you gonna excuse yourself with words?”
And Job responds, “How long are you gonna execute me with words?”
While Bildad described the terrors of death in chapter 18 – and they are really terrible; Job responds in chapter 19 by describing the troubles of life – and they are really troubling!
So many things were lost.
I couldn’t help but notice by way of contrast, the perspective of these two men on what was truly lost.
Bildad considered Job’s losses to be:
v. 12 – physical strength
v. 14 – financial ruin
v. 17 – the loss of fame and reputation
Job considered these things to be true losses – and were they ever different.
The loss of several things are most troubling to Job.
In chapter 19:7 Job laments what he believes to be the loss of justice;
In verse 8 Job bemoans his lack of insight – he says, “darkness on my paths”
In verse 9 Job laments being “stripped of [his] honor”
In verse 10 it is the loss of hope that crushes him.
In verse 11, the loss of intimacy with God breaks his heart as he cries that God “considers me His enemy”
In verses 13-19 Job brings up all the losses in his relationships with others;
- “acquaintances are estranged” (v. 13)
- “relatives have fallen away” (v. 14a)
- “intimate friends have forgotten me” (v. 14b)
- Even his co-workers are not the same – he says in verse 15, “my maids consider me a stranger; verse 16, my servant does not answer”
- In verse 17a he says – “my breath is offensive to my wife” meaning: because of his wretched condition even she doesn’t come near me;
- He’s lost his relationships with other immediate family – “I am loathsome to my own brothers” (v. 17b)
- The community at large despises him – “young children” even mock him (v. 18)
- Finally, his business partners have turned their backs on him, he says in verse 19. “All my associates abhor me and those I love have turned against me.”
The loss of fellowship with God and friendship with others were far greater losses to Job than fame and fortune.
Bildad thought that losing fame and fortune were what really mattered. Job considered the loss of intimacy with God and his testimony with family and friends to be the real loss.
How much do we value our testimony of belonging to Jesus Christ?
That works not only for individuals but as a church body?
Is our reputation as a church tied to our campus, or to Christ?
I had a rather humorous reminder of this issue several years ago when we were putting up the buildings we now occupy.
A man told me that one of his co-workers had a real scare. Many of you may remember how we held a service on this land before the building project got underway.
So instead of holding worship services on Sunday morning down the street on Tryon where we used to meet, we met here on this property.
This man’s co-worker was heading to his office on Sunday morning to do a little more work – and he realized that he’d be traveling in front of our church. He looked at his watch and thought, “Oh no, I’m gonna be stuck in that church traffic jam for 10 minutes.” But as he got closer, there was no traffic line-up. He wondered why? Then, when he drove past our church building he saw that the parking lot was empty. He immediately thought, “Oh no – it’s the rapture!” He thought he’d been left behind.
We ought to do that once a year . . . shake people up. That our testimony would be so associated with Jesus Christ that if we didn’t gather here, it would be assumed Christ had raptured the church.
If our parking lot was empty today, would anybody connect it with the rapture?
And if you didn’t show up for work, would anybody wonder, could it be that?
That kind of reputation is built by living life for what really matters.
For Bildad, that meant fame, riches and stuff. Job, you’re never gonna get back your name – your wealth – your position among the power brokers of Southern Arabia if you don’t listen up.
For Job, what really mattered was not something you could put on a ledger or in the bank.
By the way, on this Father’s day, this text provides a wonderful check-up for us men.
What would you consider the greater losses?
-Your stock portfolio;
-Your retirement fund;
-Your integrity in the business world;
-Your testimony for Christ;
-Your relationships with family and friends;
-Your fellowship and walk with God.
What losses would keep you up at night?
You read over and over what Bildad thought was Job’s true losses and you soon learn that Bildad would have fit right into the American culture. He would be selling books on management and finance.
- Here’s how to stay in top drawer shape physically and mentally;
- Here’s how to avoid financial ruin;
- Here’s how to expand your reputation in the community and beyond;
- Here’s how to be sought after and promoted;
- Here’s how to be a mover and shaker in your world.
But Job would say, “I had all that!” And now that I’ve lost it all, what matters most are my relationships with the Lord; my integrity; my fellowship with family and friends.
By the way, I got a similar sounding email this past week from a couple in our church who are living some of what Job experienced. They have lost their business . . . their finances along with it . . . their home is headed for foreclosure . . . they are having to declare bankruptcy.
Yet, the email goes on to evidence faith in Christ and trust in the grace of God.
Even from the pit of anxiety and fear, they reached the pinnacle of assurance and faith.
Would you believe that in the midst of this experience – here in Job – from the depths of the pit, you’re about to hear nothing less than one of scriptures pinnacles of faith.
Look at verse 23. Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were inscribed in a book! (They will be Job! People have been able to read them for some four thousand years now.)
Why Job? What do you want us to read that you have said?
Verse 25, As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. 26. Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God; 27. Whom I myself shall behold, and whom my eyes will see.
Talk about The Pinnacle of Faith & Assurance
This is it . . . I know that my Redeemer lives. Wow!
One of the most famous musical oratorios is called The Messiah, by George Handel.
It is considered his Magnum Opus – which means – greatest work – most renowned achievement.
I found it interesting that this Magnum Opus of Handel was written under difficult circumstances. Go figure!
It was rumored that this piece was composed while he was in the Tower of London, imprisoned for debt. It wasn’t true, but it was true that at this time in his life he was struggling with insurmountable debt.
Add to that the fact that he had recently suffered a stroke – his health broken by an anxious and difficult life. The stroke had paralyzed the left side of his face, causing intense pain.
Most days, Handel could barely afford rent and food. He was despondent and discouraged.
One night in 1741, depressed and defeated, he wandered the lonely streets until dawn when he returned to his shabby room. On a table was a thick envelope. It was from Charles Jennens, a friend, who encouraged him to take the texts and compose a new work. They were simply Bible verses regarding the prophecies of and fulfillment by Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
George tossed the pages aside and crawled into bed. But he could not sleep. Some of the words he had read came back to him: Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith your God . . . the people that walked in darkness have seen a great light . . . it is the glory of God . . . Hallelujah!
He got up and went to his piano. He began to write. He was left handed, and because of his stroke, he had trouble writing and the notes and text in his original script were poorly written and somewhat strangely curved.
It didn’t stop him. For three weeks straight, he composed . . . hardly stopping to eat or sleep. He refused to see anyone. At last, after 22 days, a friend managed to get inside the apartment and found George Handel at his piano, sheets of music strewn everywhere; tears were streaming down his face and he said to his friend, “I do believe I have seen all of Heaven before me, and the greatness of God Himself.”
It was indeed his Magnum Opus. When it was first performed in London, King George stood up at the Hallelujah Chorus and removed his crown.
Edited from several internet sites: George Handel/History of The Messiah
From the depths of anxiety came the declaration of assurance.
From the pit of fear came this pinnacle of faith.
It was Handel’s declaration of the gospel of Jesus Christ – The Messiah. Today it is sung all around the world
One of those texts incorporated into Handel’s Messiah is this text in Job 19:25.
Before this became the Magnum Opus of Handel, it was the Magnum Opus of Job.
This was the crowning achievement of Job’s faith.
I am in the pit – but as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives.
There are at least 6 features in this Magnum Opus of Faith:
1) First, would you notice the conviction of faith;
As for me, I know!
I would agree with Spurgeon who preached from this text that you would expect Job to be certain of nothing. Nothing seemed to be certain with Job but uncertainty. [But this he knew]. The Messiah lives. The winds may rage and the tempests roar, but they cannot shake this rock – I know . . . I know.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon edited by Kerry James Allen in The Suffering of Man & The Sovereignty of God (Fox River Press, 2001), p. 161
Not, “I hope so” . . . “I think so” . . . not “Maybe so” or “It could be so”.
Listen, if Job could have this assurance with what little revelation he had been given, and none of it in written form, how much more should we who carry around with us the completed infallible word of God believe with this assurance.
The Apostle John wrote of this assurance, “These things I have written unto you that believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13)
2) Secondly, notice the possession of faith:
He did not say, “I know that my wife’s redeemer lives”! Not “my parent’s redeemer”; “my grandfather’s Redeemer”; “my Sunday school teacher’s Redeemer”.
Martin Luther used to say that the meat of the gospel was found in the pronouns.
He is MY Redeemer.
3) Third – notice the concentration of Job’s faith:
I know that my Redeemer lives!
Where did Job get that word – go el – Kinsman Redeemer, apart from the moving of and revealing work of the Holy Spirit.
The go’el was someone who could buy a relative out of slavery.
The go’el had the right to defend a relative in court
The go’el could marry the widow of a near relative and give her a future and a hope.
Long before Boaz fell in love with Ruth, the widow, and purchased the right to redeem her estate and take her as his bride, Job understood that there was a Redeemer who would buy him out of slavery; defend him in court and give him a future and a hope.
In the pit, by faith, Job held out his heart for his Kinsman Redeemer.
4) Fourth, you have not only the conviction of faith and the possession of faith and the concentration of faith, but you have the foundation of faith:
“I know that my Redeemer lives!
Were it not for the resurrection, our faith would be meaningless, Paul wrote to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 15)
Job didn’t say, “I know that my Redeemer will live one day”; “I know that my Redeemer used to be alive”
Oh no . . . this is the foundation of Job’s magnum opus. His Redeemer was alive.
Spurgeon preached from this text, “Spring on this rock, man! If you are struggling in the sea, just now, and waves of sin and doubt beat over you, leap on to this rock – Jesus is alive.”
Ibid, p. 162
5) Next, Job delivers the expectation of faith: (v. 25b)
And my Redeemer will take His stand on the earth!
Job said more than he understood . . . he delivered more truth about Christ than he could ever begin to explain.
From the pit of despair came this powerful declaration of prophetic truth.
We today join Job in looking forward to that victorious day when Christ will personally, literally, actually stand upon the earth – when everything will be put under His feet (I Corinthians 15:27).
Job refers to Him as standing – a picture of conquest and victory and triumph.
This is the expectation of our faith.
6) Finally, you have the motivation of Job’s faith;
After my skin is destroyed, I shall see God in my flesh
Not only is the Redeemer gonna reign triumphantly on the earth – not only will there be a future with God and man fellowshipping together as they once did in the garden – and much more so – Job says, “I’m gonna be there too!”
I shall see God!
No wonder critics and skeptics try to tear this verse from the lips of Job. Or distort its clear and simple, yet profound prophetic truth.
In this declaration of faith you have the doctrines of the incarnation, the atonement, the resurrection of Christ and the future, physical resurrection of those who follow after God.
Listen, we’re heading for home. Not death – but deliverance – full and final in the triumphant life of Christ our Redeemer.
Steven Lawson included in his commentary on Job the following story involving Henry Morrison and his wife. Morrison was a rather famous missionary to Africa during the late 1800’s. They had served on the mission field for 40 years. In fact, they had never returned to the States until this particular voyage which signaled the end of their fruitful and dedicated missionary service. As the steamer headed into New York harbor they had wondered if anyone would remember them . . . would anyone be there to even greet them. This was before the days of fax machines and cell phones and they weren’t certain if anyone from the mission would be there at the dock when they arrived home.
As the steamer pulled into New York Harbor, Henry Morrison and his wife stepped to the railing of the ship’s upper deck. They were astounded to see hundreds of people standing at the docks bearing signs that announced, “Welcome Home!” There were banners and balloons everywhere and smiling people waved and cheered as they steamed up to the dock. Henry’s heart just leaped out of his chest and he turned to his wife and said “Sweetheart, they have remembered us . . . they have come to welcome us home.”
Unknown to them, sequestered away in private quarters and hidden from the rest of the passenger’s knowledge, Teddy Roosevelt had been a passenger. He was returning from a big game hunt in Africa and was returning to the States. The banners were for him. The waving and smiling friends were all there for the president of the United States.
He and his wife were detained from disembarking until the President and his entourage got off the steamer – The Marine Corp Band was even there to play, “Hail to the Chief.”
Henry Morrison said, “It just doesn’t seem right that we’ve served the Lord so faithfully for these forty years. We’ve served in anonymity, but we’ve been faithful to God. Teddy Roosevelt comes to Africa to shoot some elephants and the whole world welcomes him home. It just doesn’t seem right that we come home and there is no one to even greet us.”
Henry’s wife looked up at him and gave that now famous response when she said, “But Henry, we’re not home yet. We’re not home.”
Adapted from Steven Lawson, Job: When All Hell Breaks Loose (NavPress, 1993), p. 149
One author wrote, “If we were given all we wanted here, our hearts would settle for this world rather than the next. God is forever luring us up and away from this one, wooing us to Himself and His kingdom where we will certainly find what we so keenly longed for.”
The Elisabeth Elliot Newsletter, Sept/October 1988, quoted in James Dobson, When God Doesn’t Make Sense (Tyndale House, 1993), p. 106
Home is not here . . . it’s There.
And how do you get from here to there? Our Redeemer! The Messiah – Jesus Christ.
Just remember, while you’re heading for home . . . you’re not just moving rocks from one place to another – pain without purpose. Effort and struggle without meaning. No, you’re building a life which is nothing less than a monument of faith in the provision of Christ now – and the visible presence of Christ to come.
So . . . keep singing the lyrics of your own personal faith in Christ. There is a redeemer – who is alive – and He is mine – and I will see Him one day with my own eyes as He reigns triumphantly in glory.
These are the lyrics to the Magnum Opus of our own faith – your faith – in your Redeemer, who is Jesus Christ.
Bill leads . . . There is a Redeemer