August 5, 2016 by jmar198013
Manuscript of my sermon for Sunday, August 7, 2016.
Scripture is Job 42.7-17.
An audio link is embedded below for those who would rather listen.
No more TV dinner theology
I love what God tells Job’s friend Eliphaz in our lesson today:
I’m angry at you and your two friends because you haven’t spoken about me correctly as did my servant Job. So now, take seven bulls and seven rams, go to my servant Job, and prepare an entirely burned offering for yourselves. Job my servant will pray for you, and I will act favorably by not making fools of you because you didn’t speak correctly, as did my servant Job.
The entire book, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar have bee insisting that Job is the one in the wrong. But God tells them, No, Job’s the only one of you who was right.
God tells Job’s friends that they haven’t spoken about me correctly as did my servant Job. If you read through Job, his friends are always urging Job to be a good boy. Thank God in every circumstance. Buck up and bear his punishment, even if he doesn’t understand. Zip his lip, unless it’s to sing God’s praises. Job’s friends basically offer him the Archie Bunker Bible: God don’t make no mistakes. That’s how he got to be God. They are very pious, and quick to jump to God’s defense against Job.
On the other hand, we’ve heard some of the things Job has said about God. For instance, in 9.22-24, Job shakes his first at the heavens and shouts:
God destroys the blameless and the sinners.
If calamity suddenly kills,
he mocks at the slaying of innocents.
The earth is handed over to the wicked;
he covers the faces of its judges.
Job’s friends said only good things about God. They stood up for God, defended God’s honor, God’s justice, God’s fundamental goodness. Meanwhile, here’s Job accusing God of laughing as innocent people are slaughtered. But God tells Job’s friends—not once, but twice—that he’s angry at them. Because they didn’t speak correctly, as did my servant Job.
What’s up with that? Is God saying that Job was right—that God really is on the side of the wicked; that God really does pervert justice; that God really mocks at the slaying of innocents?
Of course not. Another way to understand what God was saying about Job is you didn’t speak truthfully to me, like my servant Job did. Job was hurt, confused, and angry because of everything had happened to him. So Job spoke honestly from his hurt and anger and confusion. Job protested. Job lamented to God. Job told God how he really felt. God respects that. Indeed, God respects it so much that many of the psalms in our Bibles are lament psalms. Lament psalms are protest songs that ask God, Why? Why did you let that happen? And how long before you make it right? Indeed, there is a book in our Bibles called “Lamentations.” An entire book spent asking God, Why?
Job spoke honestly about God. But his friends offered up stale, leftover, reheated, TV dinner theology. God was happy with Job’s offering. But he was so offended by the offerings of Job’s friends that he required them to make a huge sacrifice—seven bulls and seven rams. God says that’s the only way I will act favorably by not making fools of you. Of course, Job’s friends had already made fools of themselves. I suspect God required such a massive sacrifice from them because he wanted their foolishness to come with a high cost. How else would they learn? How else will we?
If we take Job seriously, we learn that God doesn’t just give us permission to question; to protest; and to lament like Job did. God seems to insist on it. That’s what you do in a real relationship with genuine give-and-take. Which is how God does want to relate to us. He wants us to take him seriously, but he takes us seriously, too.
After all, many years later when God’s own Son was suffering unjustly on a cross, he called out with the words of one of those lament psalms I just mentioned. Psalm 22.1: My God! My God, why have you left me all alone?
So it would seem that Job, the righteous sufferer who complained to God, was in very good company.
Job comes back to life 
God had told Job’s friends to take seven bulls and seven rams, go to my servant Job, and prepare an entirely burned offering for yourselves. Job my servant will pray for you. That was just after God took Job on a whirlwind tour of creation. On that tour, God showed Job how he was always at work within creation: midwifing mountain goats; answering the prayers of hungry raven chicks; showing carrion birds to killing fields so they could feast on the carcasses. God also showed Job how God—and God alone—can tame chaotic forces in the universe. Like the Sea. And the ancient serpent Leviathan, before whom even the heavenly armies tremble. God showed Job that there is order and beauty in the world, but also chaos and danger. And only God can tame the worst of it. Job came away with a new appreciation for the complexity of the universe, and told God: I repent of my dust and ashes! He was ready to leave the ash heap he had been sitting on, protesting and lamenting, since chapter 2. Job was ready to get back to work. Job came back to life.
Job’s first order of business as a newly resurrected man was to intercede with God for his friends, by offering sacrifices with prayers on their behalf.
On one level, we should see this as a sign of God restoring Job. After all, at the beginning of the story, we learned that Job regularly offered sacrifices to God for his children, just in case they had sinned in their hearts. But there’s a whole other level of symbolism going on here. Who offers up prayers and sacrifices on behalf of others? That’s right: a priest. God calls Job back to life to resume his priestly duties.
What if I told you that being God’s priests has always been the work of humans? That creation is God’s temple, and God made people to be his priests? So that Job wasn’t just getting on with his own life. Instead, after God showed him around his temple, Job discovered that to be human is to be priestly. To represent God on earth. To be about God’s work in God’s world.
Like I said, God created the cosmos—the heavens and the earth—to be a temple for his dwelling. Isa 66.1-2 states this clearly. There, God says:
Heaven is my throne,
and earth is my footstool.
So where could you build a house for me,
and where could my resting place be?
My hand made all these things
and brought them into being.
What else is a temple but a house for God? And we’ve just heard God say that he built the cosmos as a house for him to dwell in. The heavens are his throne, and the earth is his footstool. The world we’re living in—these heavens, and this earth—was created by God to be his temple. Elsewhere in Isaiah, we are allowed to join the prophet in God’s heavenly throne room. There, we hear angels shout: All the earth is filled with God’s glory! (6.3) That image of the glory of God filling a place is a temple image. In Exodus 40.34, God’s glory filled the tabernacle. In 2 Chron. 5.14, God’s glory filled Solomon’s temple.
So, if the heavens are God’s throne, and the earth is God’s footstool. And if God made the heavens and the earth as a house for him to dwell in. And if all the earth is filled with God’s glory—like Israel’s tabernacle, and later Solomon’s temple. Then what else are we to believe but that God created the cosmos to be his temple?
Also, did you notice that in Isaiah, God called the cosmos—the heavens and the earth—his resting place? That’s interesting. We know that, On the sixth day God completed all the work that he had done, and on the seventh day God rested from all the work that he had done (Gen. 2.2). Rested there is shabbat, from whence we get the term Sabbath. Now, here’s where things get interesting. When the Sabbath gets codified into law in Exod. 20.11, it says: the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them in six days, but rested on the seventh day. A different word is used for rest there. That word is nuach. That word is less about ceasing work than it is about settling down somewhere. Nuach means something more like what Augustine meant when he said: Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee. In other words, God ceased from his work after six days because he had finished building his temple. He had a place to dwell.
Every ancient temple had an image of its god. According to Gen. 1.26ff, so does our world, our cosmos. There, we overhear God say:
God created humanity in God’s own image,
in the divine image God created them,
male and female God created them.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and master it. Take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds in the sky, and everything crawling on the ground.”
God placed his image in his temple. And that image is us. Humanity. We are God’s image. And we have work to be doing. God put us here to be fertile and multiply; to fill the earth and master it; and to take charge of the non-human creatures. The image of God has much more to do with our relationship to God, and the work he has given us to do, than to some quality we possess. God put us here to work on his behalf. To continue the work he had begun. We were put here from the beginning to expand God’s kingdom. To bring order to the world. To care for each other, and the creatures God put under us.
To live out the image and likeness of God is to represent God on the earth. In other words, to be human is to be a priest in God’s temple. Gen. 2.15 tells how, The Lord God took the human and settled him in the garden of Eden to farm it and to take care of it. The verbs back of farm and take care have the root meaning of serve and protect. God created humans in his image to serve in his temple, and protect his temple. Well, those exact same verbs are also used in Num. 3.7-8 to describe priestly work in Israel’s tabernacle:
They will perform duties for him and for the entire community before the meeting tent, doing the work—serving—of the dwelling. They will be responsible for—protecting, taking care of—all the equipment of the meeting tent and the duties on behalf of the Israelites when they do the work of the dwelling.
So our world, our cosmos, is God’s temple. And God made humans to be his priests, serving in his temple. To represent God on earth. To live and work in God’s world, God’s way. So when Job told him, I repent of my dust and ashes; Job meant, I’m ready to get back to my work as a human. Job was ready to go back to living and working in God’s world, God’s way. Job was ready to resume his God-given vocation of being a priest in God’s temple.
And so Job’s first duty as he resumed his priestly role was to intercede for his friends with sacrifice and prayers. Think about that. His friends had falsely accused him of being a sinner and a liar. But they had sinned against Job. They sinned against Job through their ignorance and their self-righteousness. They thought they were standing up for God. But they were really ganging up on an innocent man in God’s name. I wonder if, when Job prayed for his friends, he said something like: Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing (Luke 23.34)? Many, many years later those would be the words of God’s innocent priest when his neighbors ignorantly attacked him in God’s name. As he offered up his prayer for the very people who were sinning against him.
Job’s restoration, and ours
And so we are told that: the Lord changed Job’s fortune when he prayed for his friends, and the Lord doubled all Job’s earlier possessions. Job gets on with his life; resumes the human vocation as a priest in God’s temple; and God blesses him.
Hold up, though. Doesn’t this sound a lot like the doctrine of retribution? That the moral universe is orderly and predictable, with God doling out punishment to the wicked, and blessings to the righteous? Isn’t God blessing Job for being righteous, while holding the threat of punishment over his friends who turned on him? But wasn’t the point of Job’s story to call that doctrine of retribution into question? Sure. But the point of Job isn’t that justice and retribution don’t matter to God. Instead, the lessons Job has to teach are more nuanced, more qualified, and much truer to life. Job teaches us that, yes—God does care about justice and retribution. God does bless the righteous and punish the wicked. There is order in the universe. But at the same time, some of God’s creatures do create chaos in the world. And that means that there are innocent victims. So you can’t automatically assume that if one person is on top of the world; and the other is naked and starving in a gutter, that God put them there.
Besides, Job’s friends had ruthlessly and relentlessly accused him of sins, even though he was innocent. Of course God would vindicate Job! In the same way, many years later, God would vindicate his unjustly condemned and crucified Son by resurrecting him. And he will likewise vindicate all of his sons and daughters one day.
Next, we are told that:
All his brothers, sisters, and acquaintances came to him and ate food with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him concerning all the disaster the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a qesitah and a gold ring.
Back in 2.11, Job’s friends had also come to console and comfort him. But they had, of course, failed miserably. Job’s brothers, sisters, and neighbors finally do this. Job finally finds comfort and consolation not by people quoting the Bible at him; or explaining to him how his suffering was God’s plan for his life; but in community. Around a dinner table. Job is comforted and consoled by relationships—resuming the good life with his family and neighbors.
Of course, his family and neighbors did still attribute all the tragedy that had befallen Job to God. Just as Job had done at first, when he said: The Lord has given; the Lord has taken; bless the Lord’s name. Again, for whatever reasons, God never told Job about his Adversary the satan’s role in his suffering. So Job’s kinfolk and neighbors obviously wouldn’t have known, either. But what Job did know—what God had revealed to him—is that not nearly all suffering comes from the hand of the Almighty. I personally would have preferred a verse or two where Job corrected his neighbors’ theology. But of course that’s exactly what had gotten Job’s friends into trouble, isn’t it? Besides, I’m sure Job was tired of arguing about God by then.
Did you notice that Job’s family and neighbors all brought him silver and gold? That helps explain how the Lord doubled all Job’s earlier possessions. God didn’t just do that on the spot. Rather, we learn that:
The Lord blessed Job’s latter days more than his former ones. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand yoke of oxen, and one thousand female donkeys. He also had seven sons and three daughters. He named one Jemimah—or Dove—a second Keziah—or Cinnamon—and the third Keren-happuch—or Dark Eyes.
Job’s family and neighbors brought him gold and silver to help him begin to rebuild his life. He had to invest in more livestock and more flocks. Job got back to work, and God blessed the work he did, so that he ended up better off than he’d been at the beginning. God didn’t instantly double Job’s fortunes just because Job was a good guy. God blessed Job’s choice to embrace life, when Job knows how fragile, how chaotic, how risky life can be. By doing so, Job truly lived out the image and likeness of God. Because God goes before us every second of every day, also choosing to embrace humanity and all of his creation, even though his choice to go on being involved with us often brings him pain.
The tragedies they had suffered had caused a great deal of pain between Job and his wife. But he also embraced his wife again, and they had ten more children. Even though Job knew from experience the pain of losing children. And in so doing, we see Job continuing to embrace his priestly work in God’s earthly temple. Job and his wife were fruitful and multiplied. And Job went back to work taking charge of the animals. Job and his wife went back to doing the work God made humans to do.
The story of Job points beyond itself, and beyond the genuine risks that coming with living in a fallen world. Job points to God’s great story. A story of how God created the heavens and the earth to be his temple, and humanity to be his priests. So that God and humans could dwell together in a lush, green garden. How evil and chaos frustrate God’s gracious plan for his creation, and for humanity. The relationship between God and humans is distorted, the creation threatened, and the temple compromised. Job’s story of satanic testing; of evil and suffering and loss—that’s the story of our world, and everyone who has ever lived in it. But the story of Job’s restoration also points beyond itself to the fulfillment of God’s great story. When God will finally restore everything—us and our relationships and his cosmic temple. The story of God restoring Job’s life should give us all hope for the renewal of all things, as described near the end of our scriptures. Rev. 21.1-5 says:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “Look! God’s dwelling is here with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his peoples. God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look! I’m making all things new.”
We live in hope for the time when the temple of heaven and earth is rebuilt, and God dwells with us in his temple forever. Until then, we—like Job—must be at work representing God on earth. Embracing life here with its chaos and risk and sometimes even genuine evil. But trusting that God will restore his creation, and restore us, just as he did Job. We live trusting God’s promise that he is making all things new.
 This act of the sermon relies heavily on G. K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission: a biblical theology of the dwelling place of God, New Studies in Biblical Theology, ed. D. A. Carson (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 29-121; and John Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2009), 71-85.