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“Job: The Comforting Hope of Everlasting Life”
Life Lessons from the Old Testament Sermon Series
Job 19:23-27



Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost—August 23, 2009

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The name Job has become synonymous with suffering.  In the first chapter of Job, he loses everything he has, all his property is destroyed and his children all die.  In the second chapter he loses his own health as he his covered with painful sores.  The rest of the book is a dialogue between Job and three friends who come to comfort him.  But, as the saying goes, “With friends like that . . .”  Because, what they say to Job is not really comforting at all.  They assume that all these sufferings have come upon Job because he is being punished by God for something he has done.

Several years ago, I related an incident that happened to my father when he was about 60 years old.  Dad made his living building waterways and terraces for soil conservation.  One day he was on his grader out in a lonely field when a man pulled up in a pickup. Thinking this man might be the landowner, Dad drove his grader over to where the pickup was parked.

Dad didn’t recognize who the man was, but when he introduced himself, Dad remembered him as a former grade school classmate.  Right off the bat he told Dad he had an apology to make.  Dad was mystified and couldn’t imagine what it could possibly be about, because they hadn’t even seen each other in nearly 50 years.  This man then proceeded to apologize to my father for having pushed him down on the playground at recess in the fourth grade! 

My father was flabbergasted!  He told the man he couldn’t even remember such an incident, and he wondered what in the world had prompted him to come and apologize for it now.  It turns out this man’s farm was failing, and the leaders of the church he belonged to told him it must be because of some sin for which God is punishing him.  The only way to save his farm was to figure out what this sin might be and then make amends for it.  So, this poor, misguided man had searched back through his whole life and finally concluded that God must be punishing him for pushing down Leroy Vogts one day on the playground at recess in the fourth grade.

That TRUE story illustrates the tendency we humans have to think that when something bad happens to us, it must be some kind of punishment for something we have done or have failed to do.  We think that way because in our world, that is how it usually works.  At work, at school, in every aspect of our day-to-day lives, we expect to be rewarded for doing good and punished for doing bad.

That’s exactly the way the Job’s friends are thinking.  They tell Job all his misfortune must be because of some sin for which God is punishing him.  Like the leaders of the church that poor man who came to my father belonged to, Job’s friends urge him to search back through his whole life and figure out what this sin might be and then make amends for it.

But, does God really work that way?  Does God keep a carefully recorded accounting of our sins, just waiting to one day pay us back for the wrong we have done? 

Some people have a photographic memory, they can instantly remember entire books.  When I was in college there was a professor who has memorized the entire Bible and can instantly quote any chapter and verse you request.  God, of course, has a perfect memory, but he chooses to forget your sins.  As the Lord declares in Isaiah, “I blot out your transgressions, for my own sake, and I remember your sins no more.”

God chooses to forget your sins, not because you have earned or deserve forgiveness, but for his “own sake,” because all your sins have been blotted out by the blood of his Son, Jesus Christ, who suffered for you all the punishment your sins deserve.  Paul puts it this way in today’s Epistle Reading: “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy . . . and to present her to himself . . . without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”

Because of his Son’s substitutionary sacrifice, your heavenly Father completely forgives and forgets all your sins.  Through faith in Christ you are “holy and blameless” in his sight. If you were to stand before the Lord right now and ask him to tell you all your sins, he would say simply, “I remember your sins no more.”

What about that misguided man my father met?  Was his farm really failing because he pushed my father down on the playground at recess in the fourth grade?  Or maybe there was some other sin God was punishing him for?  No!  God doesn’t work that way.  As Psalm 103 says, “He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities . . . as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”  For the sake of Jesus Christ, God forgives and forgets.  “I blot out your transgressions, for my own sake, and I remember your sins no more.”

Today’s Old Testament Reading is the climax and turning point of the book of Job.  In the midst of all the sadness and gloom, of Job’s terrible losses and suffering and then his misguided friends accusing him and saying his afflictions are a punishment from God, Job cries out in faith.  Faith in the coming Messiah, his Redeemer.  Faith in the comforting hope of everlasting life: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.  And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes.”

In 2nd Corinthians, Paul beautifully expresses the comforting hope of everlasting life that is yours in the midst of your struggles in this world: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. . .  because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus. . .  Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are bringing us to an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

What are some of the bad things that have happened, or are happening, to you, in your life?  Problems at work or school?  Financial problems?  Problems in your marriage or family?  Illness?  The death of a loved one?  The life lesson you learn from Job is in the midst of your afflictions, in the midst of this world’s sadness and gloom, find peace in your Redeemer, and his forgiveness of all your sins, and the comforting hope of everlasting life.  “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.  And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes.” 

We confessed this comforting hope of everlasting life earlier in the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in . . . the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.”

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