In my first full-time pastorate in Wichita, Kansas, a thirteen-year-old boy, with life’s dreams looming large on his youthful horizon, died after a brief bout with cancer. His faithful father and mother had to have been shaken to the core of their being; but as this young fresh out of seminary and not yet 30 years of age pastor tried in the best way, he knew how to minister hope and help to them through God’s eternal Word, if they were shaken, they remained steadfast in their faith and in fact it was the mother and father who ministered, mostly, I now know, to the pastor, not vice versa. In that same assembly, a dear mother was stricken with cancer and she implored the Lord to let her live until her children were out of high school. Her prayer was answered and when what she had requested had been fulfilled, God called her home. Those are two incidents, of scores and scores, that flood the memory folds of this pastor’s mind as I recall how God has worked in so many ways in so many lives of dear ones whose lives, along with their family and friends, have been shaken in the storms of life. None probably like Job’s life was shaken, or the Apostle Paul as he catalogues his upheavals in 2 Cor.11, but no less shaken in the individual and unique ways orchestrated by a loving heavenly Father, the God of all comfort, enabling His children to be stronger in faith and mightier in spirit as we move ever onward toward our “graduation” day, and an abundant entrance into His presence. This post will outline briefly Job’s observations of what he went through on the day and on the days after he had been shaken to the core. Of necessity I will give you this in outline form and encourage you to read the full story in Job 16 and grow in grace through it.
- The source of our “shaking,” is God, v. 11,12: “God hath delivered me to the ungodly, and turned me over into the hands of the wicked; I was at ease, but He hath broken me asunder….” God allowed the Adversary, Satan, to execute the shaking, but God alone was the engineer, allowing it but for His divine purposes for “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purposes.” Romans 8:28 John the Baptist was beheaded; Paul was in chains and a whole lot more (2 Cor.11); Peter according to tradition was crucified upside down; Stephen was stoned to death; Elijah despaired of his very life and so on and on. But the God who allowed all of this to come upon His choice servants is the God of whom Paul wrote when in 2 Cor. 4:7,8 we read: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed but not in despair.”
- Note the suddenness of the shaking: “I was at ease….” v. 12 Life can be going very well and after a routine trip to a doctor and a visit next door to the lab it can take a cruel turn. You may find yourself totally if temporarily in shock; you have recited verses to your friends and prayed with them when they had similar “worse days of their lives,” but now it has come to your house. A wife leaves with only a note that she is “through with this marriage.” A wayward child disappears from off the face of the map only to break your heart when you hear of the relationship that son/daughter is cultivating with a “partner.” A teenage daughter through her public school arranges for an abortion when she learns of her pregnancy and it all happens before you are even aware of what is going on; etc., etc. Life. The suddenness of those pesky potholes or in more cases those deadly detours.
- The severity of it, v. 12: “…He hath also taken me by my neck, and shaken me to pieces, and set me up for His mark.” Those were the words of a man who had walked in intimacy with God, Job 1:1. He was not sinless but he eschewed evil. Job acknowledged on his worse day as he fell down upon the ground and worshipped God that “the Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:20,21 Yet, there came a day when he would cry out that God had taken him by the neck and shaken him to pieces. It had touched every fiber of his being, body, soul and spirit.
- The Saint: Job responded to this bleak assessment by donning sackcloth and ashes and crying out to God. He had searched his soul and concluded that what had happened was “not for any injustice in mine hands…my prayer is pure.” Job 16:17 Yet, he had been taken to the very precipice of death: “…on my eyelids is the shadow of death.” Job 16:16. Through it all, this Old Testament saint of God, without a complete Bible to cling to; without commentaries or devotionals to be buoyed by, affirmed that “Also now, my witness is in heaven, and my record is on high.” Job 16:19 Job was and remained one of God’s saints before, during and after the dark cloud was moved from off his being.
- Note the saints. I have commented on the saint in the story, Job; but there were also some saints that were on the scene as there well should have been, but sometimes the saints give counsel that is not saintly, as in Job’s case: “My friends scorn me: but mine eye poureth out tears unto God.” Job 16:21 They had judged Job wrongly with their super pious yet merciless assessment of his suffering. What light the Holy Spirit sheds on this when through the Apostle Paul He said: “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” 2 Cor. 1:3,4 James reminds us wisely that we ought to be “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” James 1:19 I mentioned in part 1 of this 2-part post that we lost to death an eleven-year-old grandson who died at Riley hospital of a ruptured appendix. A dear pastor friend and his wife having heard of our loss, showed up on the day of David’s death and sat with us for an hour. We basically all sat in silence…there were no words. But Ellen and I will never forget that precious hour of comfort that a seasoned pastor with his beloved wife sat at our sides comforting us by their presence. They were saints in deed. Not Job’s three friends who totally missed it.
- The solution, v. 21: “O that one might plead for a man with God, as a man pleadeth for his neighbor! When a few years are come, then I shall go away whence I shall not return.” Job 16:21,22 Well, Job got his answer about having someone to plead for him with God and the solution ends on a triumphant note: “For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.” Job 19:25-27 And Job’s confidence has been the confidence of those who are His followers through the ages. Stephen, recognized as the first martyr of the New Testament church that Jesus promised to build, got a standing welcome from the Lord Jesus as he transitioned from this world of shadows into the eternal light of his home in heaven. “It will be worth it all, when we see Jesus. Life trials will seem so small….”
“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38,39