Thursday, July 2, 2009

Sermon for June 20-21

The Third Sunday after Pentecost
June 20-21, 2009
Text: Job 38:1-11

Dear Friends in Christ,
When I was a child they used to have a television show called “You Are There”. Walter Cronkite, or was usually termed him, Walter Concrete, would host a documentary of a historical event as though it were a current day news cast. They would have actors play the part of various historical people and reporters would interview them. I remember in one episode, Fred Gwyn played Davy Crockett. Of course none of us were really there at any of these historical events. And one has to wonder how accurately the events were recreated. Considering Cronkite’s now documented distortions in his reporting of the Vietnam War, one hardly considers him a reliable source. As much as we might wish to study history, we were not there. I can tell a great deal about the Battle of Shilo, General Grant’s first great victory. But for all the details I can give you, I was not there. I didn’t see General Albert Sydney Johnston stuck down, accidentally, by his own men. I didn’t see General Grant’s heroic stand with his siege guns at the landing. I didn’t see the mortally wounded General William Wallace being lovingly tended by his wife. I wasn’t there. All I can do is read about it after the fact. This places me into a certain relationship with these events and those who were there. I don’t have the right to challenge their accounts, without clear evidence, since I was not there.

In our text, Christ is speaking to Job. We must make this clear. All throughout Scripture, when God appears and speaks to man, it is always God the Son - that is Christ. The Father never directly interacts with man and the Holy Spirit always works in more subtle ways.

Job lived about the same time as Abraham. We know little about him. He was a wealthy man living about five hundred years, give or take, after the flood. He trusted in God. But God allowed Job to be tested. He allowed Satan to take Job’s wealth, his family, and even his health. Why God allows this is unclear. He obviously had His reasons, but they are not revealed to us. Nor it is clear that we would, in this life, be able to understand God’s reasons. Sometimes God does things for heavenly reasons that we would not understand, since we do not, as yet, fully understand heaven.

In order to understand Job and many other events in Scripture, we must distinguish between those who question God in faith and those who question God as an act of unbelief. Questioning God, even wrestling with God, is not wrong, in itself. It is unbelief that is wrong. However, we may not get the answer we are seeking when we question God. Job, in questioning God, was still acknowledging that God was his Lord and His redeemer from sin and death. And He got an answer that only God could give. God tells Job that He does not have understanding of the things he is asking. He is asking in ignorance. Why? Because man does not understand the deep things of the universe. Why is this? Because we are creature. We are part of creation. God stands above it. So there are things that we can never understand. We can’t understand these things because we were not there when the foundations of the universe were laid down.

God is not just asking about the physical creation. He is asking about the law, the laws of nature, physics, and metaphysics. C. S. Lewis illustrates this well in the first book of the Chronicles of Narnia - The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It is one of the few places where the recent movie missed the point. The White Witch knew the magic that had been revealed. What she didn’t understand was that there was a deeper magic built into the foundations of that universe. It’s not just that she misinterpreted the magic, as the movie suggested. She couldn’t possibly know it. So when she killed Aslan in place of Edmond, Aslan rose from the dead. Death could not hold an innocent who died in the place of the guilty. This was part of that deeper magic, which the White Witch did not and could not know. Likewise, Christ is asking Job, if he understands the hidden foundations of the universe. That deeper law that has never been revealed. Christ asking Job if he understands what God has hidden in the foundations of the universe. The answer of course if that Job does not know this, because he was not there when these things were done. These are questions that no human being can answer.

This text takes right to the mystery of creation itself. God created this universe in six days. Man has always struggled with this. Augustine said that the six days are only a metaphor. In fact God created the universe in a single moment. What would he need six days for, after all. However, Luther’s answer to this is the best. “If you cannot understand how this could have been in six days, then grant the Holy Spirit the honor of being more learned than you are.” (WLS p.1523) In other words, you weren’t there, so you know nothing. Listen to words of the One who was there.

Many in our world don’t want to acknowledge that we are creature and that we have a creator. For if we have a creator, we are responsible to that creator. We are not free to do as we please. Also if there is a creator, He has built things like laws into the very fabric of the universe. Some we know, and others are kept hidden from us. We don’t know everything. We cannot answer every question. But many in our world arrogantly assume that mankind has all the answers. This is the whole point of Darwinism. It is man’s attempt to shatter any sense of obligation to God. Darwin himself made statements to that effect. But we cannot change what is. God is our creator and redeemer. We owe Him everything.

Do you know who you’re dealing with? This is really the sum of Christ’s words to Job. Do you understand that I made you - I brought you into this world and I can take you out of this world an make another one just like you. All the old clich├ęs apply. Christ is not saying this to be vindictive. He is our redeemer, the One who died for us. Already, Job recognizes Christ as his redeemer. Job already understood that Christ would raise him from the dead. Yet, He is still God. He is still the holy and righteous one. He is still One with whom we should never trifle. The disciples also caught a glimpse of this when Jesus calmed the storm. He told Job that He is the one who sets the limits upon the waves. As Christians we must never presume upon the grace of God. Nor can we reduce God to a single attribute. We must see that this is our creator and redeemer. This is our judge and our Savior. Only then do we understand our place before Him.

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