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Sermon on Job 23:1-9, 16-17 - When God is Gone

Job. Fascinating character. Fascinating story. Scholars tell us it is one of the oldest in scripture. And it wrestles with one of the oldest questions encountered by people of faith: WHY? Why me? Why my kids? Why my marriage? Why six-million Jews in the Holocaust? Why 17 US sailors in Yemen this week? Or even those poignant words of Jesus from the cross, "My God, my God, WHY have you forsaken me?"

Not to bore you Bible scholars, but for the benefit of those who missed that day in Sunday School, the book of Job comprises 42 chapters in the Old Testament, much of which is an epic Hebrew poem to which there is a prose introduction to set the scene. Job is presented to us as the richest man in the Middle East, deeply religious, "blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil."(1) As the story opens, Job is the subject of a conversation between God and Satan (not the Satan of pop theology with horns, a pitchfork and a tail, but this one tantamount to a celestial prosecuting attorney). God says to Satan, "Where have you been," and Satan responds that he has been checking things out on the earth.

God asks if he had noticed Job and his unfailing faithfulness. Satan replies No WONDER - Job has it made! "Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face."(2) So God and Satan strike this strange deal with poor Job in the middle - Satan gets to give Job the shaft just to prove the point. In six short verses, the man loses everything children, barns, livestock. Despite it all, Job is philosophical. "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised."(3) Cheer up, Job, things could be worse...and, sure enough, things got worse - Job is struck down by a hideous skin disease. In utter misery, Mrs. Job advises, "Curse God and die."(4) Not Job. He kept the faith. Miserable... but faithful. "I will complain in the bitterness of my soul...I loathe my life."(5)

Meanwhile, our hero's friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, hear about the horror story Job is living through, and......

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