Sunday, July 1, 2012

Job 38:1-11 Pentecost 5

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” 

The Declaration of Independence states that our country was founded on the principles of equality and fair opportunities for everyone to be happy, free, and successful.
But we don’t need a declaration to prove that equality and fairness are deeply important to us.  How old do you have to be to cry out, “that’s not fair!”  From young on, when we see that others have it better than we do, we cry out, “That’s not fair!”  Often, that cry is directed against God.
When a boy sees another who has the cool new Nerf gun that he has been wanting for so long, he says, “not fair.”  A girl sees another who has the latest “Hello Kitty” backpack that she has been wanting for so long, and she says, “Not fair.”  A young man sees another who is more athletic.  That guy gets all the girls.  “Not fair.”  A young woman looks at another who is prettier and has nicer clothes.  That girl always has a date.  “Not fair.”
Parents see other parents who are able to do more for their children.  They seem to have it all—the house, the job, the happiness.  It’s not fair.
Some of you could tell me that life doesn’t get fair when you’re old, either.  You might know someone in their 90’s who still gets around alright, still lives at home, and still enjoys a fairly healthy life.  Maybe you are in your 70s and you can’t do all of that.  “Not fair.”  But the 90-year-old looks at his or her life and sees that everyone has died.  There is no one left to relate to.  “Not fair.”
Who is it that is not being fair when these blessings of life are handed out?  You might not want to admit it, but when you say, “Not fair,” you are actually crying out against God.
In the Bible we meet a man named Job who also had complaints about God’s fairness.  Job was a wealthy farmer, but God let the devil take away all of Job’s animals and servants.  Job was a family man, but God let the devil take away all his children.  God let the devil take away Job’s health—he was covered in boils.  Job was a well-respected, good man, but he even lost that.  He lost the respect of his friends—they came to him and told him that he must have done something horrible to deserve such punishment from God.
Job cried out to God, “Not fair!”  Listen to his prayer—
 “I cry out to you, O God, but you do not answer;
I stand up, but you merely look at me.
21     You turn on me ruthlessly;
with the might of your hand you attack me.
22     You snatch me up and drive me before the wind;
you toss me about in the storm.
23     I know you will bring me down to death,
to the place appointed for all the living.
24     “Surely no one lays a hand on a broken man
when he cries for help in his distress.
25     Have I not wept for those in trouble?
Has not my soul grieved for the poor?
26     Yet when I hoped for good, evil came;
when I looked for light, then came darkness.

Job thought God was treating him worse than any man would; and, as we understand justice, Job was right.  But we don’t understand justice.  We don’t see things how God sees them.  And that was God’s answer to Job.  God tells Job to look at creation, because there we find many wonderful things God has done that we don’t understand.  Job learned his lesson, that he has no right to question God, because it is impossible for him to understand what God does anyway.  Like Job, we have no right to question our Creator.  We are to trust him.  Hear God’s response to Job, the sermon text:

Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm.
He said:
2       “Who is this that darkens my counsel
with words without knowledge?
3       Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
4       “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
5       Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6       On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
7       while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?
8       “Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb,
9       when I made the clouds its garment
and wrapped it in thick darkness,
10     when I fixed limits for it
and set its doors and bars in place,
11     when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;
here is where your proud waves halt’?
Don’t question God; trust him.  But there are so many times in life when it looks like God doesn’t know what he is doing.  Why shouldn’t we question him?

1.  Look at his Creation!
God challenged Job to consider the earth, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?”  Were you the architect, Job?  Did you plan the mountains and valleys, like a builder who stretches a line to measure the length of his walls and make sure they are straight?  Were you the one who laid the foundation for all these wonderful sights and the creatures that live here?  God challenged Job, “Who was it that shut the sea behind doors, who said to the water, ‘this far you may come and no farther’”—was it you, Job?  Who makes sure the water doesn’t run all over the land—that was God, who created the valleys and holes where water collects, and created the gravity that keeps it there.  Do you understand how he did that?  Can you replicate it?
God continued to challenge Job with the wonders of creation.  He asked Job about the dawn—can you make the dawn happen?  Can you turn the earth so that the sun comes up again?  Can you make all those brilliant colors light up the sky at sunrise?  What about the rain and the thunder?  God asked Job about that too.  Can you bring the rain?  Can you make a lightning bolt that lights up the sky, splinters in a thousand directions, and makes a crash louder than any firecracker?
What about the animals, can you feed them?  God asked Job if he could watch over the lions and mountain goats, and all the other wild creatures that live in desolate places.
Let’s bring it closer to home.  If we were to ask God to explain himself to us, he might ask us if we are able to understand any of the things we see him doing around us.   Can you make a redwood grow so tall?  Can you fill an ocean with water?  Can you teach a salmon to find its way back to the stream where it was born?  Can you teach a hummingbird to fly like it does?  Do you understand how your dog can be the most good natured creature on earth?  Do you really understand where that new life comes from when an animal gives birth; or when a woman gives birth?
You can’t make any of those things happen.  It is arrogant to ask God why he does things.  It’s foolish to demand that he explain how he is being fair to us.  We wouldn’t understand it anyway.  We can’t understand any of the things he does.  We are like clay and he is the potter.  The prophet Isaiah put it like this, “Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among potsherds on the ground.  Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’”
We have no right to question God.  We see his great power and understanding in the world he has made.   But how do we know that we can trust him to be good to us?  Creation doesn’t tell us that.  In fact, our feelings tell us that we can’t be too sure.  Christians who rarely go to church will always say that they hope God will take them into heaven.  They don’t know!  Creation can’t tell us that God will be good to us.  We need to turn to the other pages of Scripture.  We need to understand Creation in the light of Christ.

2. Understand Creation in the light of Christ.
Look what Christ did in the Gospel reading this morning!  There was God, with all his power over nature, coming to save his people!  He rescued his disciples from that dangerous storm.  Even more than that, he continued on his way to bear our sins on the cross and die in our place.  How do we know we can trust God?  Look at Christ!  He is the proof that God will use his wisdom and power to save us. 
Look for proof in the Word and Sacraments.  The Scriptures are filled with proof that God wants to be your God and use his power to save you.  In 2 Corinthians 5:21 we read, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not counting men’s sins against them.”  In Christ, God took the lump sum of humanity’s sin and set it aside.  In Christ, and through faith in him, your sins are not counted against you.  God has set your sins aside because Christ died for them.
In your Baptism God has promised that you belong with him, and he will be good to you.  The water has washed your sins away, and joined you to your God as his children and heirs of his kingdom.  This is what it means when a person is baptized “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  You now have the name of God on you, and you have his promise that he will be good to you and treat you as an heir to his kingdom.  You are his child.  You are princes and princesses in his heavenly kingdom.
In the Lord’s Supper he has promised again and again to be good to you.  Jesus has offered you his own body with the bread, the body that he gave on the cross for you.  He has offered you his own blood with the wine, the blood he poured out for you in his death.  Every time you eat and drink the Lord’s Supper you are given Christ again and again.  You have him in you and with you.  Of course God will be good to you.  He has given himself to you.
Now with the assurance that God will be good to us, Creation is not just evidence of God’s power.  It is evidence of God’s power to care for us.  Jesus said,
ˆLook at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they? …See how the lilies of the field grow.  They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”
The power and wisdom that we see in Creation is God’s power and wisdom that he will use for us—to care for us and to save us.
But how can that be true, when there are so many things that seem to go wrong, and so many times when it looks like God either isn’t watching or doesn’t know what he is doing?  Ultimately, we know that God is going to save us from this sorrowful life and the death that waits for us all.  By his power and wisdom he has created this life, and by that same power and wisdom he will raise us from the dead and give us eternal life.  We know this because he has already done it—he raised Christ from the dead.  Because he has done it for Christ, he will do it for us too.  We have been baptized into Christ.  We have been fed by his Word.  He has given himself to us in his holy Supper.  We can’t be cut off from him now, not even by death.  The same amazing power of God that gives life to new born animals and new born babies will give us eternal life, so that we will be with Jesus forever.

Conclusion:  Is God being fair to you?  You’re actually not allowed to ask that question.  It’s a sinful question, because it comes from distrust of God.  There is no question that God is able to care for us.  There is also no way that we can understand the wisdom of his ways, so we can’t demand an explanation from him.  If we are tempted to demand an explanation of God, we need to remember his grace to us in Christ.  He has proven that he will be good and kind to us.  He has promised us a rescue from this miserable life of sin and a resurrection to an eternal life of bliss.  It isn’t so hard to believe; he creates life every day.  Look at the proof around you, every time new babies are born and new plants sprout.  Look at his creation!  Understand it in the light of Christ—God is pleased with you because of Christ, and so he will use his life giving power to save you.  So is God being fair?  Don’t question God; trust him.  Amen.