Midweek 2 LSB #’s 420:1-3, 420:6-7, 524
Text – Job 1:20-21
At this, Job got up & tore his robe & shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship & said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, & naked I will depart. The Lord gave & the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
You all know Murphy’s Law, right? Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Murphy’s First Corollary is: Nothing is as easy as it looks. Murphy’s Law of Mechanical Repair is: After your hands become coated with grease, then your nose will begin to itch. Murphy’s Law of Insurance Rates & Taxes is: Whatever goes up, stays up!
On Ash Wednesday we began a nine-part sermon series on the book of Job. On the Wednesdays through Easter, we will be looking at Job’s life. And Job’s Extension of Murphy’s Law is: Nothing is ever so bad that it cannot get worse.
One moment all is calm, the next moment everything is chaos. In what has all the ingredients of his worst nightmare, Job’s life is totally devastated. First, he loses his wealth to marauding bandits. Gone are his oxen needed for farming, gone are his donkeys & camels needed for transport, gone are his sheep & all his workers are massacred.
Job’s financial empire lies in ruins. The market crashes. His assets tumble. What has been up goes down. Shell-shocked & dumbfounded; Job looks out the window into a sky that seems to be getting darker by the minute. He starts praying, thinking that things can’t get any worse. Yet, that is exactly what happens.
While still reeling from the shock waves of economic catastrophe, news arrives of an even greater personal tragedy, a storm has taken the life of each of his dear children. All ten of them are gone. “It never rains. It pours.” Like Job, we have three choices when something catastrophic happens. We can let it destroy us. We can let it define us. Or we can let it develop us. I want to share how to allow even the worst things in life to develop us & grow us through the act of surrender. It’s what Job did: “At this, Job got up & tore his robe & shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship & said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, & naked I will depart. The Lord gave & the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.’”
The temptation in our grief is to turn away from God. The temptation is to run from Him. The temptation is to go as far in the other direction as we can. We’re tempted to think that God, is in some way, responsible. If He has allowed this to happen, we’re mad, we’re angry, we’re shocked, we’re heartbroken & we run.
All those emotions are natural, & expected, but they don’t benefit us in the long-run. We have to figure out how to be in worship again; how to be reconnected with our Creator. Job found it: “Blessed be the name of the Lord,” or, in Hebrew, “Blessed be the name of Yahweh,” God’s most common name in the OT, used over 6000 times. Job surrendered to Him.
Another one of God’s names in the book of Job is “El Shaddai,” occurring 31 times in Job, & only 16 more in the rest of the OT. Job loves the name El-Shaddai! It reminds us that God is in control & we are not. That’s where surrender comes in. Usually, if you tell somebody some really bad news, they’ll start by saying:
“No. No! It can’t be. I don’t believe it. It’s not real.” Because our minds reject bad news, the 1st reaction will often be, “This can’t really be happening!” Surrender is accepting reality. No matter what the loss is, we need to say it’s over, it’s done. I accept what cannot be changed. I surrender not as a victim, but not with a grudge. Not with a hard heart.
I surrender with acceptance, though acceptance does not mean I stop caring. Acceptance doesn’t mean it does not hurt. Acceptance does not mean I think what happened was good. None of that is acceptance. Acceptance simply means I can’t change it. God is El Shaddai, & I am not. Tonight, what do you & I need to accept that’s over? Maybe it’s a relationship. You keep hoping they’re going to call. They’re not coming back. It’s over. Some of us had a dream which hasn’t been fulfilled. It’s over. We need to get a new dream. We need a new vision. We need to get a new goal for life. The 2nd step is surrendering with acceptance.
When we experience a devastating & catastrophic loss it’s normal to feel like the end has arrived. Life is over. I’m done. I’m ruined forever. Nothing good can ever come from this. All is lost. Hope is abandoned. Still, the book of Job presents us with yet another name. Job gave us Yahweh & El Shaddai. Then, he gives us Eloah.
The name Eloah appears 41 times in Job & only 16 times elsewhere in the OT. Most scholars believe Eloah is related to the verb “go up.” This God takes people who are down & raises them up. He takes people in the pit & sets their feet on level ground. Eloah takes what is dead & brings it back to life!
This name of God means – whatever we’re going through, it’s not the end of the story. Eloah promises that He will bring beauty from ashes. We might remember the ashes placed upon us during the service last Wednesday. The ashes of repentance will be turned to beauty.
Another way people respond to disaster is to suggest there are two equal & opposite forces battling it out in the world – good & evil, God & Satan. The good that happens comes from God & the bad comes from Satan. The result is that God bears no responsibility when it comes to suffering because it’s not really his fault. All the blame belongs to the devil.
Instead, Job presents us with a God whose name is Eloah, whose final word in the midst of death, whether emotional, relational or physical, is always & forevermore resurrection. Although Satan is involved in our world, he is not a 2nd god; a dark force equal to the light force. He is defeated by Eloah who, on Easter Sunday, brought beauty from ashes; brought life from death; & brought resurrection after crucifixion! That means you & I can surrender to our present circumstances in hope because even disaster & catastrophe are not the end. Sadness, sorrow & sickness will never, ever, be the last word. Not ever!
February 6, 1870, George Mueller of Bristol, England lost his wife Mary, who died of rheumatic fever. They’d been married for 39 years, but the Lord gave him the strength to preach at her memorial service.
Mueller said, “I miss her in numberless ways, & shall miss her yet more & more. Still, as a child of God, & a servant of the Lord Jesus, I bow to the will of my heavenly Father. I pray, ‘Thy will be done.’ And so I kiss continually the hand that has afflicted me.”
Does that sound to you like surrender? And how is that possible? Followers of Jesus surrender to circumstances we can’t control because we have these names of God – Yahweh, El Shaddai, Eloah. And all of them are found in His greatest name – Jesus. After disaster we reconnect to our Lord by allowing the Holy Spirit to humble us in worship of Him.
So I thank God for His gifts while they are mine & I release them when the time comes to let them go. “The Lord gave & the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” That is how we allow God to develop us even through catastrophe. Amen.
How sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear! It soothes our sorrows, heals our wounds & drives away our fear. How weak the effort of my heart, how cold my warmest thought! But when I see Thee as Thou art, I’ll praise Thee as I ought. Till then I would Thy love proclaim with every fleeting breath; & may the music of Thy name refresh my soul in death! Amen. LSB 524:1, 5, 6.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet