Reading Time: 3 mins

Old Testament: Job 38:1-11 (Pentecost 5: Series B)

Reading Time: 3 mins

Job is given something so much more comforting than an explanation: He is assured of God’s nearer presence.

Why do bad things happen to good people?

The problem of “theodicy” (defined as the vindication of divine goodness and providence in view of the existence of evil) is the point of the discussion between Job and his friends in the previous thirty-seven chapters of the book of Job. All the while, tension has been building as Job keeps asking God to answer his complaint (9:32; 13:3, 15, 22, 23; 31:35). Finally, God speaks the final Word. The focus of this sermon is on how God responds to Job.

However, if you like rational, analytic, clear-cut answers, you will not likely be satisfied. Two questions we bring to this text are: Why did Job suffer? Does the problem of suffering lay with Job personally or with the world generally? Notice how God does not correct Job or teach him a lesson. Instead, he demonstrates His divine glory. God stretches Job’s imagination to ponder the majesty of His First Article gifts of creation (refer to the Apostle’s Creed and its explanation in Luther’s Small Catechism). Job is taken on a whirlwind tour of space, time, and nature. God invites Job to behold His work (“let me share with you what I have done”). At the end of God’s first answer, Job is invited to respond, but he wisely has nothing to say (40:1–5).

The last chapters of Job remind us how it is not so much God who must answer us, as it is us who must answer to God. God’s “answer” to Job is no solution, at least not yet, because the answer can only be found in Christ. Rather, God’s “answer” to Job consists of questions, rhetorical questions, because we cannot even begin to fathom God’s depths. Job sees (42:5–6) a theophany which gives Job the answer. Namely, God is here, and He is here for Job. Job is given something so much more comforting than an explanation: He is assured of God’s nearer presence.

God, who is the creator and sustainer of all things, does not abandon any of His creatures. He lowers Himself (Philippians 2:6-11) to address even one who has complained against Him. It is critical for the gospel connection in this sermon that you establish how, when God speaks, God points out to Job His care for every living thing He has made. The LORD gives them everything they need and constantly watches over and sustains their lives. This means God is also taking care of Job, seeing his every moment, sustaining his breath and life, and having mercy on all his infirmities. This is no different than how God cares for us. However, we do not see it in the whirlwind. Instead, we see this clearest in Christ, who has come down to us, suffered and died for us, and rose again for us so we too, in the midst of the suffering and trials of this life, can realize we are not abandoned either. God cares for us, and we see this best in Jesus. Christ, truly suffered more than anyone else (even Job) and cried out on the Cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me” (see Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34)? God’s reply came three days later when Christ was raised again for you.

God, who is the creator and sustainer of all things, does not abandon any of His creatures. He lowers Himself to address even one who has complained against Him.

Developing the “Theological Confession” that God can be trusted will help your hearers grow from this text. The orderly processes of God’s First Article gifts are one evidence of God’s faithfulness. But we also need the Second Article assurance in Christ that, as we lay in beds of pain or in moments of fear and anxiety or when we think there is no help from anyone anywhere, God demonstrates His faithfulness to us in Christ, crucified and risen again.

Since the text has a “Question Answered Structure,” this is the shape we will use for the sermon:

“This structure identifies a significant question for the hearers (in other words, one which cannot be easily answered, and addresses matters that are significant to the hearers, such as “theodicy”) and then theologically considers one or more feasible but unsatisfactory answers before arriving at a final satisfactory resolution.

 

The question is simple, memorable, and remains the same throughout the entire sermon. It cannot be answered with a “yes” or “no,” but invites the hearers into processing various solutions. The movement toward a faithful response provides the dynamic progression of the sermon. This could be a movement from false answers to a true answer, or from partial answers to a full answer. The preacher avoids trite false answers which will insult the hearers and seeks to have a final resolution that proceeds from the Gospel.

 

The sermon usually opens by depicting the human or textual dilemma that raises the focusing question. The answers are then arranged in a climactic scheme, offering more development to the later answers. In dismissing the false or partial answers, the preacher is clear about the theological reasoning which guides the discussion and, thereby, teaches the hearers how to think through matters theologically. Along the way, the preacher is careful not to raise distracting issues or to change the question. Finally, the sermon concludes by proclaiming the satisfactory Gospel-based answer.”[1]

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Additional Resources:

Craft of Preaching-Check out out 1517’s resources on Job 38:1-11.

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Job 38:1-11.

Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Job 38:1-11.

Lectionary Kick-Start-Check out this fantastic podcast from Craft of Preaching authors Peter Nafzger and David Schmitt as they dig into the texts for this Sunday!

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[1] https://concordiatheology.org/sermon-structs/thematic/question-answered/