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Proper 25 2009 Job

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Theme: Humility before God

Let us pray.

Most holy, Lord God, give us the courage to be open with God and to repent when we have erred; like Job, your servant, may we honor your glory and obey your commands, through the one who demonstrated your great love, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Born in 1725, John Henry Newton entered a sailing family. He started sailing with his father when he was eleven. He became captain of a slave ship (the family business) in 1742, at the age of 17. A year later he was pressed into service in His Majesty’s Navy. Facing a long voyage, he deserted. The captain wanted to make an example of Newton. So, he had Newton flogged with 96 lashes and reduced in rank from midshipman to common seaman.

Newton next served on a slave ship. When his mischief became too much, Newton was left in Sierra Leone as a servant. He was treated as harshly as the slaves. Newton was rescued in 1748.

On the way home he had a spiritual conversion. Newton was ordained a priest of the Church of England in 1764.

Newton would receive almost unbelievable answers to his prayers because he believed in what he called “large asking.” When explaining what he meant, Newton would often cite a legendary story of a man who asked Alexander the Great to give him a huge sum of money in exchange for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Alexander agreed, and told the man to request of Alexander’s treasurer whatever he wanted.

So, the father of the bride went and asked for an enormous amount. The treasurer was startled and said he could not give out that kind of money without a direct order. Going to Alexander, the treasurer argued that even a small fraction of the money requested would more than serve the purpose.

“No,” replied Alexander, “let him have it all. I like that fellow. He does me honor. He treats me like a king and proves by what he asks that he believes me to be both rich and generous.”

Newton concluded: “In the same way, we should go to the throne of God’s grace and present petitions that express honorable views of the love, riches, and bounty of our King.”

Newton, I think, could have made the same conclusion about Job. Job’s humility and repentance and obedience though intersession found God’s favor for an end of suffering and to live the rest of his life in luxury. And this where we find Job at the conclusion of the book.

Last week, we heard God’s reply to Job’s accusations of unjust treatment by God of Job. God was basically saying to Job and all of us that we cannot fathom God, God’s mind, nor God’s actions or lack thereof. Job got the message. Today, we heard Job’s apology and his repentance.

Job concedes that God is all powerful and God’s purpose cannot be reversed. God asked who talks so much without knowledge. Job admits that that person was him. God told Job to shut up and listen and then answer God’s questions. Job is humbled in that Job has seen and heard God. And because of this, Job hates himself, sitting in his dust and ashes, vowing to never again question God.

In the verses that are skipped, God talks to Job’s so-called friends. God says that God does not like what they said to Job. Their advice was full of lies. And to atone for their treatment of Job, they are to offer a sacrifice to God that will cost them more than just a few bucks.

Next comes the “they lived happily ever after” part of the story. Job prayed for his friends and God accepted Job’s prayer. It is significant to note that Job’s friends tormented him. Yet, Job nonetheless prays for them – interceding to God on their behalf. Then God made Job twice as rich as he was before, and Job was pretty rich before he lost everything.

Job then gave a feast, really big barbeque, for his family and friends. They, in turn, out of sorrow for what Job went through, brought Job expensive gifts. God blessed Job with a whole lot of livestock. Job then had several children, though they could not have replaced his children who died.

His daughters were among the most beautiful in the world. And Job did something really unusual. In a society where women are disenfranchised, Job allowed his daughters to inherit property along with his sons. Job seems to be seeking to transform society. Just as Job no longer suffers, neither will his daughters.

Job lived a really long time, so that he saw his great, great, grandchildren. Then Job died.

Job’s conversation with God contains a really important part of communication. Job, out of despair, spouts off to God. God then demands that Job hear what God has to say. Job then does something really important. Job listens. Only by listening, does Job begin to understand God. Of course, God only intervened after God heard Job.

So this conversation that God and Job had was centered in listening, one to another.

When Job responds to God, “I had heard you by the hearing of the ear,” Job is telling God that Job heard what God was saying. And before saying that Job heard and understood God, Job signaled that he really did hear God by repeating back what God said. By doing so, God knew that Job really heard what God said.

This is a model for all of us. God and Job are modeling communication skills. We signal to the person we are hearing what the other person said is by repeating or better, paraphrasing back, what the speaker said. The speaker can then confirm or not confirm that the listener understood what was being said.

John Henry Newton, on his way home from Africa, called out to God when he found the ship filling with water and he listened to God. He says this was the beginning of his spiritual conversion. On ship, he began to read the Bible. He continued to work in the slave trade. On a voyage to the West Indies from Africa, he asked God to take control of his life. His conversion complete, he felt totally at peace with God.

He didn’t become an abolitionist until 1788. In 1767 Newton collaborated with William Cowper on a book of hymns. They included: “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken”, “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds”, and “Faith’s Review and Expectation.”

That last hymn, “Faith’s Review and Expectation” you may not be familiar with, but you are intimately familiar with it. The hymn begins with these words, “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.” Newton saw himself as a wretch, yet saved by God. Job ended up seeing himself as a wretch, yet saved by God. No matter how we feel about the things we have done, we are saved by God.

We now pray: Gracious God and giver of all good gifts, gift us with the comfort to listen to you and the humility to accept your grace, who saved a wretch like me, through him who saved the world, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Text: Job 42:1-6, 10-17 (NRSV)
42 Then Job answered the Lord:

2     “I know that you can do all things,

and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

3     ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’

Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,

things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.

4     ‘Hear, and I will speak;

I will question you, and you declare to me.’

5     I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,

but now my eye sees you;

6     therefore I despise myself,

and repent in dust and ashes.”

10 And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. 11 Then there came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and they ate bread with him in his house; they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him; and each of them gave him a piece of moneya and a gold ring. 12 The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand donkeys. 13 He also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 He named the first Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. 15 In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them an inheritance along with their brothers. 16 After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children, and his children’s children, four generations. 17 And Job died, old and full of days.[1]


a  Heb a qesitah

[1]  The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. 1989. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

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