I developed this sermon in the first person—that is, in Job’s voice—while in seminary. For various reasons, I did not preach it in the first person today, but the ideas in what is written below were the core of the sermon. I also should note that we baptized Alexandra Paige Price this Sunday in response to her profession of faith. Job had a vision; so did Alex, of what her baptism should be like. She was baptized by pouring, an option we have in the United Methodist Church, albeit one seldom selected. Like Job, Alex has faith in her Redeemer, known to us now as Jesus Christ. He will return one day to make the restoration of the world complete.
I recently found an interesting book called “The Holy Bible.” Imagine how surprised I was to find my story in this book—it’s about a third of the way from the beginning, with the simple title, “Job.”
I have to say, I’m relieved at how the written version begins. “There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” It’s good to see that this book affirms my righteousness. A lot of people questioned my character.
For a long time, my life was just about perfect. I had a beautiful wife, seven sons and three daughters, and frankly, I was rich beyond belief. I had sheep, camels, oxen and donkeys grazing for as far as the eye could see, and I had servants taking care of them. To my utter bewilderment, it all fell apart on me in a single day.
First, thieves made off with my livestock, slaughtering most of my servants in the process. Then, out of nowhere, a great windstorm knocked down my oldest son’s house, crushing to death all my children as they feasted.
Not too much later, I began to get sick. I developed these nasty, oozing sores from the top of my head to the soles of my feet. And folks, that means they were on everything in between, too. I felt like God’s garbage, so I went and sat down on the ash pile. There, at least, I could use a piece of pottery to scrape the festering mess off of myself.
That’s when my friends showed up. They did really well at first—they just sat quietly with me for a whole week. I was in misery, but at least I had company. But as soon as I remarked that I wished I had never been born, Eliphaz felt the need to speak up. Then the others joined in.
Their arguments were quite elaborate, even poetic, but they all boiled down to this: “Job, you must’ve done something to offend God.” I told them I couldn’t imagine what it might be, but they just went on and on.
I should mention one surprise I learned from this book. One of God’s angels, the one known as Satan, “The Accuser,” was the actual cause of my troubles. He thought my righteousness resulted from my easy life, and that he could make me curse God.
To be honest, knowing that God let an accusing angel do so much evil to me leaves me even more confused.
I suppose I’ll just have to rely on what God told my friends and me: The Creator cannot be fully understood. At least God gave me a new family and restored my wealth in the end.
Still, I would like to better understand God. In the midst of my sickness, I did have a vision. I poured out some powerfully strange words, so powerful that I longed for someone to engrave the words in stone. Maybe a fever accompanied the sores—I don’t know.
Those words are recorded in the 19th chapter of my story: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself and my eyes shall behold, and not another.”
It’s a strange hope to have. Who is this Redeemer? And how could I ever hope to stand in the flesh before God after my body has been destroyed? It all sounds a little crazy.
Perhaps as I read the rest of this “Holy Bible,” I’ll find some answers.