Painful Praise

Job 12

If you have dealt with significant pain, perhaps fondest wish is to no longer feel discomfort. Especially if it is the chronic debilitating kind. Doesn’t help our attitude toward pain when we remember God’s words to Adam and Eve:

Gen. 3:16-17To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life.”

Pain tells us something is wrong, something is broken. Can be broken bone, malfunctioning body system, strained relationship – sources of pain, physical and emotional. In Job’s case – add intellectual pain of trying to reconcile his theology with his experience: if God is like this, then why am I like this? Most important for Job – spiritual pain brought on by God’s silence.

As the voice of pain becomes louder and more insistent, it occupies more of our time and attention. Comes to regulate our days, be the focus of our thoughts; pain goes up, attention turns toward complaining and dealing with pain and away from what is hardest – praising God. Sure, Paul says “in everything (in all circumstances) give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thess. 5:18) but seriously? In everything?

Yes. Here’s why: you and I do not have resources within us, in our own strength to live pleasing to God. When it comes to pain and suffering, God’s purpose for you may mean doctors and others won’t be able to help either. In any case, for us just like Job, God is our only help and he deserves our praise even when it is painful praise. Job shows us that when you have only clothes on your back and nothing more, if you have genuine faith in God there is hope.

Job’s friends had treated him shamefully. Even not knowing part of Job’s story like we do, they still sinned against Job in how they accused him of wrongdoing. We certainly wouldn’t blame Job if he refused to listen any longer, told them to go away. Instead, attempted to teach them how their view of God needed to change. Painful praise – adoration and worship of God that comes out of crucible of suffering pleases God. As we listen in on their conversation, may Holy Spirit teach us today from pages of God’s Word.

A. I’m not an idiot v.1-6

aren’t you just full of wisdom?!* (2)

sarcasm no stranger to Scripture; Job just as serious about his friends’ wisdom as Elijah was about Baal – perhaps he’s hard of hearing, sleeping, in the other room

listening to self-appointed experts on God and his dealings with men, wonder if anyone else has any brains at all

don’t talk down to me (3)

important point to remember on hospital visit, when with someone who is suffering: intense suffering may change their focus, doesn’t mean they’ve lost their mind

since Job didn’t respond the way his friends thought he should, they assumed problem was with Job

they kept re-stating the obvious, in more obvious ways, completely missing Job’s question

Job had already searched through standard theological answers to his question, found none that satisfied

I’ve learned a few things – his experience was teaching him

don’t miss this one: the saying “experience is the best teacher” not always true; don’t allow resentment or self-pity over your circumstances keep you from learning good lessons

even the righteous can be mocked by friends (4)

was as if Job’s track record of faithfulness to God didn’t count with his friends

he could list off times when had cried out to God, God had answered – didn’t believe Job when he claimed nothing had changed on his side, he had given God no good reason to be distant, silent

suffering, especially at hands of his friends, taught Job that righteousness before God does not always equate to just treatment by men

it’s easy to condemn when you lack experience (5)

Job could rightly tell his friends: “you don’t know what it’s like to be me”; they didn’t have clear personal frame of reference but were quick to condemn him anyway

those who have not experienced particular kind of hardship / suffering you are may still be right there, ready to tell you how you’re doing it wrong

don’t misunderstand: is not saying we should hold back in condemning what is clearly sinful; Job’s friends weren’t doing that, though – were condemning him for what they assumed to be true

perhaps a twinge of conscience here for Job – had he been too quick to condemn someone who came to him for counsel? or maybe just that he in earlier circumstances would have agreed with friends’ way of thinking, now he has learned differently

things aren’t always what they seem (6)

here’s a challenge to friends: if you really want to show your wisdom, explain how this fits your worldview – those who sin against neighbor get ahead, those who sin against God live unafraid

Job learned not to evaluate someone’s spiritual condition based on their circumstances, even including his own

B. you could learn from natural revelation v.7-13

birds and beasts will teach you (7-8)

there’s beauty, design, stunning diversity present in both living and non-living things – mute testimony to God’s glory and wisdom and knowledge and power

keep looking, what else is there in nature: beauty of Grand Canyon caused by God’s judgment on sin by worldwide flood; magnificent eagle soaring in the sky devours undeserving defenseless lunch

woven into the fabric of beauty all around us are strands of brokenness, remind us we live in world where something is wrong – sin that entered the world long ago through Adam

even creatures know they are dependent (9-10)

every particle of creation is dependent on the Creator – “in whom we live and move and have our being”; “who upholds all things by his powerful word” (Acts 17:28; Heb. 1:3)

obviously, dependent creatures operate under oversight and governing of the One on whom they depend

means creatures, forces of nature do God’s bidding, doesn’t always make sense!

experience is a good teacher, God is better (11-13)

can and should learn from what we take in through our senses; think about someone you know with a sense that doesn’t work well: hearing, sight, touch – how hard for them to learn some new things

life experience has immense value; may find great intelligence in young person, rare to find great wisdom

is for good reason practice throughout all of Scripture – elders, seasoned men with life experience and proven track record were ones given leadership responsibilities

elders were ones most likely to have healthy supply of godly wisdom necessary to lead well, to counsel well

must remember, though – senses can deceive us, experience can mislead us; must look elsewere for teacher who is always right

time and experience have added nothing to God – he possessed all wisdom and knowledge in perfection, always

God has given us many good counselors but ultimately God is the source, God is the standard

C. you could learn more from special revelation v.14-25

God rules (14)

most times we won’t know why God rules the way he does; wouldn’t understand if he told us; can understand and take great comfort from knowing what Bible teaches – he does rule with “wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.” WSC Q.4

He is sovereign over “nature” (15)

that’s why we pray to God when we need rain; to protect from flooding; to change course of storms; to cause crops to produce in adequate amounts

He governs every aspect of society

average people (16)

a hint here of answer to Job’s question about his circumstances: Satan, the poster child deceiver was agent directly responsible for Job’s calamity, however…..under sovereign governance of God

lawyers and judges (17, 20)

unethical ones especially, God often works it out so they fall into own traps; good ones should thank God for discernment he has given them to judge well

kings (18, 21)

kings and presidents and dictators and generals may be highest visible authority, but all rule within boundaries God establishes and at God’s pleasure; same is true of all in places of authority – God governs them, too

priests (19)

kôhên – 750x, all but 7 translated priest; ‘êythân – mighty, pillars of society

leaders of God’s house, who should be pillars of society, for sure are under God’s sovereign rule

intellectuals (22)

it is God who reveals mysteries – pick any branch of science: greatest minds – Gallileo, Kelvin, Newton, Pasteur, Hawking – owe their understanding of scientific principles to God who reveals, or not, at his pleasure

whole nations (23-25)

not a matter of scale for God – rules over all things from largest galaxy to smallest sub-atomic particle

we know this because the Bible tells us so – God purposefully revealed himself and his ways to us in his Word so that we might know truth about him, so we might know him.

Even when all else is gone, when friends have failed to come through, perhaps when they have behaved more like tormentors, God is one source of help and hope. Lord Jesus understands betrayal, abandonment, silence of his Father. Was betrayed at last minute by one of his closest friends. Rest of his friends abandoned him as he said they would. Even his Father did not answer his cry of forsakenness on the Cross. Lord Jesus is the one, the best equipped to help us praise God in our pain, in our suffering.

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