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JOB 12:7-10 | HE’S GOT THE WHOLE WORLD IN HIS HANDS

“HE’S GOT THE WHOLE WORLD IN HIS HANDS”

JOB 12:7-10

OCTOBER 4, 2015

 

JOB WAS THE RICHEST MAN AROUND, BUT IN A SINGLE DAY HE WAS WIPED OUT.

 

THE SABEANS RAN OFF WITH HIS OXEN AND ASSES AND SLAUGHTERED THE HIRED HANDS.

 

LIGHTNING STRUCK HIS SHEEP BARN AND BURNED UP THE WHOLE FLOCK, NOT TO MENTION THE SHEPHERDS.

 

THE CHALDEANS RUSTLED HIS CAMELS AND MADE SHORT WORK OF THE CAMEL DRIVERS.

 

AND A TORNADO HIT WITH SUCH DEVASTATING EFFECT THE HOUSE WHERE HIS SEVEN SONS AND THREE DAUGHTERS WERE HAVING A PARTY THAT NONE OF THEM SURVIVED.

 

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT WAS THAT JOB CAME DOWN WITH LEPROSY.  AND WHAT HAPPENED AFTER THAT WAS THAT HE CURSED THE DAY HE WAS BORN.

 

HE PRAYED TO DIE, BUT HIS HEART KEPT BEATING.  HE PRAYED THAT THE SUN WOULD GO OUT LIKE A DYING EMBER, BUT IT KEPT ON SHINING.

 

HIS WIFE ADVISED HIM TO CURSE GOD AND THEN GO HANG HIMSELF (SHE EVIDENTLY HAD HAD ENOUGH OF SUFFERING BESIDE HIM) BUT THERE WERE SOME LENGTHS TO WHICH EVEN JOB WOULD NOT GO, AND THIS, EVIDENTLY, WAS HIS LINE IN THE SAND.

 

I DON’T KNOW ABOUT “THE PATIENCE OF JOB” BUT HE HAD FAITH, AND HE WAS A GOOD AND RIGHTEOUS MAN, AND THAT WAS THE CRUX OF HIS PROBLEM – THAT HE WAS A VERY GOOD AND RELIGIOUS MAN AND HE KNEW IT.

 

THEN WHY HAD GOD LET SUCH THINGS HAPPEN TO HIM?

 

THE TRUTH IS I GET VERY ANGRY WHEN I READ THE STORY OF JOB, ESPECIALLY AT THE BEGINNING WHEN THE AUTHOR OF JOB PORTRAYS GOD AND THE DEVIL AS IF IN SOME SORT OF A SCHOOL YARD GAME OF ONE-UP-MAN-SHIP.

 

THE DEVIL SUGGESTS TO GOD THAT THE ONLY REASON JOB IS JUST, RIGHTEOUS, AND FAITHFUL IS THAT GOD HAS RICHLY BLESSED HIM.  “TAKE ALL THAT AWAY,” SAYS THE DEVIL, “AND JOB’S FAITH WILL FAIL.”

 

“WILL NOT, WILL NOT…” GOD SEEMS TO PETULANTLY REPLY.

 

“THEN DO IT,” THE DEVIL SAYS; “TAKE HIS STUFF AWAY AND SEE IF HE DOESN’T CRUMPLE LIKE A CHEAP SUIT.”

 

SO ALL JOB’S STUFF IS TAKEN AWAY, AND JOB REMAINS FAITHFUL.

 

“SEE,” GOD SAYS, “I TOLD YOU SO.”  “WELL, TAKE AWAY SOMETHING THAT MEANS MORE TO HIM THAN LIFE ITSELF,” THE DEVIL SAYS, “TAKE HIS CHILDREN FROM HIM.”

 

SO JOB’S CHILDREN ARE TAKEN FROM HIM, AND THOUGH GRIEF STRICKEN, HE REMAINS FAITHFUL TO GOD.  (I GUESS THIS IS WHERE THE PATIENCE OF JOB COMES IN TO PLAY.)

 

“SEE,” GOD SAYS, “I TOLD YOU HE’D REMAIN FAITHFUL.”  “WELL, I BET IF YOU WERE TO TOUCH HIS OWN BODY – GIVE HIM SOME HORRIBLE DISEASE – I’LL BET YOU HE’D TURN FROM HIS PRECIOUS BELIEFS THEN…” THE DEVIL SAYS.

 

SO JOB COMES DOWN WITH LEPROSY, AND AS WE MENTIONED A MOMENT AGO, THIS DOES DO HIM IN; ALMOST.  NOW, JOB, AT LEAST, BEGINS TO QUESTION HIS FAITH.

 

WE WILL HAVE TO LEAVE OUR DISCUSSION OF THIS COSMIC BATTLE BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL, BETWEEN GOD AND THE DEVIL, WITH JOB CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE FOR ANOTHER DAY, BECAUSE WE WANT TO TALK ABOUT JOB AND JOB’S FRIENDS FOR A MOMENT.

 

AS WE SAID, JOB’S WIFE WASN’T MUCH HELP, ENCOURAGING HER HUSBAND TO JUST GET IT OVER WITH, TO DO HIMSELF IN, BECAUSE EVIDENTLY THIS IS WHERE IT’S ALL HEADED ANYWAY, AND WHY TAKE HER DOWN WITH HIM?

 

AND JOB’S FOUR FRIENDS AREN’T MUCH BETTER; EACH ONE COMING, ONE AFTER ANOTHER, TRYING TO CHEER HIM UP BUT ALSO TRYING TO EXPLAIN TO OLD JOB WHAT MUST HAVE HAPPENED.

 

THEY TELL JOB, THAT DESPITE ALL OUTWARD APPEARANCES TO THE CONTRARY, AND ALL INNER APPEARANCES AS WELL, JOB MUST NOT BE AS JUST, RIGHTEOUS, AND FAITHFUL AS HE THINKS HE HIS.  HE SIMPLY MUST HAVE DONE SOMETHING WRONG TO CAUSE ALL OF THIS SUFFERING.

 

“EVERYONE KNOWS,” THEY SAY, “INCLUDING THOSE WHO ARE JUST BARELY SMART ENOUGH TO COME IN OUT OF THE RAIN, THAT GOD IS JUST, AND THAT GOD MAKES BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO BAD PEOPLE AND GOOD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE;

 

SO, IPSO FACTO, IF BAD THINGS ARE HAPPENING TO JOB, HE MUST HAVE DONE SOMETHING WRONG TO DESERVE IT.”

AT EACH TURN, AND IN EVERY REPLY TO HIS FRIENDS, JOB PROCLAIMS HIS INNOCENCE, AND BECAUSE AS READERS WE KNOW WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON BEHIND THE SCENES; WE KNOW THAT JOB IS TELLING THE TRUTH;

 

THERE’S NOT A THING JOB’S DONE, OR FAILED TO DO, THAT CAUSES THE SUFFERING HE’S EXPERIENCING NOW.

 

JOB’S FRIEND’S VISITS DO GIVE JOB PLENTY TO THINK ABOUT, AND PLENTY OF TIME TO THINK ABOUT IT; BUT WHAT JOB MOSTLY DOES IS TO DEFEND GOD.

 

JOB CAN’T EXPLAIN IT, AND HE SPENDS PLENTY OF TIME ASKING GOD WHY ALL OF THIS HAS HAPPENED TO HIM, BUT MOSTLY JOB KEEPS DEFENDING GOD, AND SAYING THAT WHILE HE CAN’T EXPLAIN WHAT’S HAPPENING TO HIM, IT MUST ALL BE PART OF GOD’S PLAN.

 

AND THIS IS WHERE WE FIND JOB IN OUR PASSAGE FOR THIS MORNING.

 

JOB IS TALKING TO HIS FRIEND ZOPHAR AND HE’S EXPLAINING TO HIM THAT HE’S DONE NOTHING TO DESERVE ANY OF THIS; THAT HE CAN’T EXPLAIN ANY OF IT;

 

BUT JOB SAYS, IT IS AS PLAIN AS THE NOSE ON YOUR FACE, THAT THIS IS ALL PART OF GOD’S PLAN.

 

“BUT ASK THE ANIMALS, AND THEY WILL TEACH YOU; THE BIRDS OF THE AIR, AND THEY WILL TELL YOU; 8ASK THE PLANTS OF THE EARTH, AND THEY WILL TEACH YOU; AND THE FISH OF THE SEA WILL DECLARE TO YOU. 9WHO AMONG ALL THESE DOES NOT KNOW THAT THE HAND OF THE LORD HAS DONE THIS? 10IN HIS HAND IS THE LIFE OF EVERY LIVING THING AND THE BREATH OF EVERY HUMAN BEING.”

 

“HE’S GOT THE WHOLE WORLD IN HIS HANDS…”

 

WHEN WE SANG THAT SONG AS CHILDREN I DARESAY NONE OF US HAD JOB IN MIND; OR SUFFERING; OR WE’RE TRYING TO EXPLAIN SUFFERING;

 

IN FACT, IT WAS JUST THE OPPOSITE, IT WAS A SONG OF REASSURANCE; A SONG THAT ALL OF US ARE IN GOD’S HANDS; LITTLE BITTY BABIES; YOU AND ME BROTHER; YOU AND ME SISTER; THE WIND AND THE RAIN; EVERYTHING IS IN GOD’S HANDS;

 

SO IPSO FACTO, WHATEVER HAPPENS TO US OR TO OUR WORLD, ALL OF IT IS IN GOD’S HANDS;

 

AND TO JOB’S WAY OF THINKING, AT LEAST, PART OF GOD’S GRAND PLAN.

 

NOW I KNOW, AND DO BELIEVE, AND SO DO MOST OF YOU FOR THAT MATTER, THAT GOD IS IN CHARGE; AND WHAT GOD SAYS, GOES; AND THAT WHATEVER HAPPENS, HAPPENS AND ULTIMATELY SERVES THE WILL OF GOD.

 

AND THAT WHEN IT’S ALL SAID AND DONE, OR AT LEAST, WHEN WE ARE ALL SAID AND DONE, GOD’S WILL WILL ULTIMATELY BE DONE.

 

BUT SOMEWHERE ALONG THE WAY WE GREW UP, AND THE WORLD THROUGH OUR EYES AS ADULTS LOOKS QUITE DIFFERENT THAN IT DID WHEN WE WERE CHILDREN; AND WE CAN’T SEE HOW A LOT OF WHAT HAPPENS IN THE WORLD HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH GOD;

 

AND WE ARE AS PERPLEXED AS JOB IN TRYING TO EXPLAIN WHAT ALL OF IT MEANS, AND HOW THINGS THAT HAPPEN THAT SEEM SO CONTRARY TO THE WAYS OF GOD COULD HAPPEN, MUCH LESS BE PART OF GOD’S PLAN;

 

AND WE WONDER, ALOUD SOMETIMES, HOW WHAT’S HAPPENING TO US COULD BE A PART OF GOD’S PLAN FOR OUR LIVES, WHEN WE’VE SEEMINGLY DONE NOTHING TO DESERVE ANY OF IT, EVEN IF WE AREN’T AS PATIENT AS JOB, OR AS JUST, OR AS RIGHTEOUS, OR AS FAITHFUL AS HIM.

 

ALL OF IT, A PART OF GOD’S GRAND PLAN FOR THE WORLD?  FOR US?

 

WELL, YES, IN A MANNER OF SPEAKING, IN THE GREAT GRAND DESIGN OF THINGS; THE ONLY PROBLEM IS THAT THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS.

 

THE DEVIL IS IN FREE WILL, AND THE DECISIONS WE MAKE, AND THE CHOICES WE CHOOSE; IN THE THINGS WE DO, AND THE THINGS WE LEAVE UNDONE.

 

THE DEVIL IS IN US INDIVIDUALLY, AND IT IS IN US CORPORATELY, TOGETHER, AND IN THE WAYS WE LIVE AS A SOCIETY; AND IN OTHERS AND IN THEIR SOCIETIES AS WELL.

 

THE DEVIL IS IN PERSONAL SELFISHNESS AND IN CORPORATE GREED.

 

THE DEVIL IS IN PERSONAL IRRESPONSIBILITY AND IN INSTITUTIONAL CULPABILITY.

 

THE DEVIL IS IN OUR PERSONAL PREJUDICES AND IN CULTURAL XENOPHOBIA.

 

THE DEVIL IS IN HOW WE TREAT EACH OTHER AND HOW WE TREAT THE PLANET ON WHICH WE ALL LIVE.

 

ONE OF THE MANY IMPORTANT THINGS POPE FRANCIS SAID WHILE HE WAS HERE IN THE UNITED STATES, AND IN CUBA, BUT FOR THE WHOLE WORLD TO HEAR, WAS THAT “WHAT WE DO TO CREATION, WE DO TO ALL OF HUMANITY.”

THE DEVIL IS IN THE “LEAST OF THESE” AND IN THE “GREATEST OF THESE” AND EVERYONE IN BETWEEN, AND REALIZING THAT ABOUT EACH OTHER RATHER THAN CAUSING US TO POINT FINGERS, AND BLAMING THEM, OR THEM, OR THEM, IT OUGHT TO CAUSE US TO ACCEPT OUR COMMON HUMANITY AND DO WHAT WE CAN FOR EACH OTHER, ALL OF US, IN THE SAME BOAT.

 

AND THE WHOLE BLOOMIN’ WORLD IS IN HIS HANDS.

 

GOD HAS LAID OUT HIS PLAN FOR THE WHOLE WORLD, AND IT’S ALL RIGHT THERE IN THE BIBLE; AND IN THE HOLY SCRIPTURES OF OTHER FAITHS;

 

AND IN DOCUMENTS LIKE THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA; AND IN THE UNITED NATIONS’ CHARTER;

 

AND IN MULTI-NATIONAL TREATIES WE AND OTHERS HAVE SIGNED ABOUT HOW WE ARE GOING TO TREAT GOD’S GOOD CREATION; AND DEAL WITH WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION; AND IN HOW WE FIGHT OUR WARS AND TREAT EACH OTHER’S PRISONERS OF WAR.

 

GOD’S PLAN IS IN HOW WE TREAT THE 13 MILLION REFUGEES IN THE WORLD (4 MILLION OF THEM NOW SYRIAN REFUGEES ESCAPING THE WAR AND DEVASTATION OF THEIR COUNTRY AND THE SURROUNDING AREA);

 

AND IN HOW WE ADDRESS NOT THE ISSUE OF IMMIGRATION BUT IMMIGRANT PEOPLE, FELLOW HUMAN BEINGS.

 

GOD’S PLAN FOR THE WORLD IS WRITTEN IN CREATION ITSELF, JOB SAYS:

 

“ASK THE ANIMALS AND THEY WILL TEACH YOU; THE BIRDS OF THE AIR, AND THEY WILL TELL YOU; ASK THE PLANTS OF THE EARTH, AND THEY WILL TEACH YOU; AND THE FISH OF THE SEA WILL DECLARE TO YOU…”

 

WE’VE ALL SEEN THE PICTURES OF STARVING POLAR BEARS IN THE ARCTIC;

 

AND WADED OR DRIVEN THROUGH WHAT SEEMS TO BE THE HIGHEST TIDES AND COASTAL FLOODING EVER SEEN HERE IN KEY WEST, AND WE KNOW THAT THE HANDWRITING IS ON THE WALL, AND ON CREATION ITSELF.

 

BUT MOST OF ALL, GOD’S PLAN IS WRITTEN IN OUR HEARTS, AND ON OUR SOULS, AND IN OUR MINDS, ALL OF US, EVERYONE, EVERYWHERE, “CREATED IN THE IMAGE OF GOD.”

 

BY FAR THE LARGEST RESPONSE TO THE POPE’S REMARKS TO A JOINT SESSION OF OUR CONGRESS CAME WHEN HE REITERATED THE WORDS OF THE GOLDEN RULE:  “THAT WE ARE TO DO UNTO OTHERS, AS WE WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO US.”

IT IS A MESSAGE WRITTEN INTO OUR HEARTS AND WOVEN INTO THE VERY FABRIC OF WHO WE ARE AS HUMAN BEINGS.

 

SO, IPSO FACTO, IF GOOD THINGS ARE GOING TO HAPPEN IN THIS WORLD, TO A GREATER OR LESSER DEGREE, THEY ARE GOING TO HAPPEN BECAUSE WE “DO TO OTHERS WHAT WE WOULD HAVE THEM DO TO US.”

 

AT THE END OF THE STORY OF JOB, JOB HAS ALL OF HIS STUFF RESTORED; IN FACT HE ENDS UP WITH EVEN MORE STUFF THAN WHEN HE STARTED; MORE SHEEP, MORE CAMELS, MORE OXEN AND ASSES, MORE LAND.

 

HE HAS A WHOLE OTHER FAMILY AND HE LIVES LONG ENOUGH TO SEE FOUR GENERATIONS OF THEM RISE UP (PEOPLE LIVED A LONG TIME IN THE BIBLE).

 

IT IS A FAIRYTALE ENDING TO SOMETHING OF A FAIRYTALE STORY AND YOU CAN’T HELP BUT WONDER IF THE AUTHOR OF JOB TACKS ON THIS ENDING AS A WAY OF SOFTENING THE BLOW GOD’S IMAGE TAKES AT THE BEGINNING OF THE STORY.

 

“AND THEY ALL LIVED HAPPILY EVER-AFTER.”

 

IT WOULD BE NICE TO THINK THAT THIS IS HOW LIFE ALWAYS HAPPENS;

 

AND THAT IN THE END, EVERYTHING IS ALL RAINBOWS AND UNICORNS, MARSHMALLOWS AND BUTTERFLIES; AND EVERYONE LIVES HAPPILY EVER AFTER…

 

BUT WE ARE NOT CHILDREN ANYMORE; AND WHILE WE MAY SING, AND STILL BELIEVE, THAT GOD DOES INDEED, HAVE THE WHOLE WORLD IN HIS HANDS;

 

OR AS IT SAYS IN JOB: “IN HIS HAND IS THE LIFE OF EVERY LIVING THING AND THE BREATH OF EVERY HUMAN BEING.”

 

OR AS THE PSALMIST WRITES IT: “THE ETERNAL GOD IS OUR REFUGE, AND UNDERNEATH ARE THE EVERLASTING ARMS.”

 

WE KNOW ALL TOO WELL THAT THE WORLD, AND WHAT HAPPENS IN IT, AND WHAT HAPPENS TO IT, IS IN OUR HANDS TOO.

 

AND THIS IS THE PURPOSE FOR WHICH GOD HAS CREATED US – TO LOVE THE LORD OUR GOD WITH ALL OUR HEART, MIND, SOUL, AND STRENGTH; AND OUR NEIGHBOR AS OURSELVES.”

 

IN THE WORDS OF JOB: “WHO AMONG US DOESN’T KNOW THAT THE HAND OF THE LORD HAS DONE THIS?”

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