Fruit or Failure in Trouble
From Job 36 - 37)
By Iverna Tompkins
Transcribed by Jane Vaughn
I’d like to take you to the Book of Job and read a large portion from The Message, a contemporary paraphrase of the Word of God. We’ll begin in chapter 36 and read on through part of chapter 37. The best title I can give this message is “Fruit or Failure in Trouble” – and we’ll see that, always, every time, without fail, the choice is ours!
Never has there been a period of time in my entire life when I have seen so many reports of real tragedies in countless lives: cancers, sudden deaths (not just old people dying, but young people passing away as well), loss of jobs, marriages in serious trouble, illnesses of various types that we never heard of years ago (some incurable). This is a unique moment in history. After reading a number of my emails recently, I said to Shirlee, my secretary, “I cannot believe this isn’t the Tribulation!” Well, I can believe it’s not, but there are so many things that are just – trouble – big trouble. I know very few families today that could say, “We’re completely trouble-free.” There are children away from God and so many other things that come to mind that are so troubling. I suppose that, maybe – just maybe – there’s a purpose. :-) I mean, there’s just too – too many things going on to be simply circumstantial. Could you believe this with me? And that’s why we think of and turn to Job.
What I want to know is what that purpose is – God’s purpose – because I want to choose fruitfulness in trouble, not failure. And the interesting thing is (you may not like this, but it is very true!) under every negative circumstance – the choice is ours. We can go through them bearing fruit or experiencing failure. It’s what we do in the midst of trouble that makes the difference.
Job – you know his story – a righteous man, a good man, a man we would want on the Board or Staff of the church. He was a man who wanted his children to serve God and even went to their homes to hold “Home Meetings,” if you will. Suddenly, Job is stricken with boils – extremely painful sores all over his body. God, we learn through the conversation with the enemy reported in Job 1 (vs.6 and following), allows some things to come upon him physically (2:6) as well as all the other losses that preceded this physical assault (1:13ff). Job had suffered the loss of possessions (1:13-17) and the loss of his family members (1:18,19). The losses just went on and on until he simply felt like he had nothing else left, and now the physical thing!
Job’s wife is not real, uh, smart in counseling her husband. :-) Her counsel is: “Why don’t you take enough pills – and die?” Or, she said it exactly like this: “Why don’t you curse God and die?” (2:9). In other words, “why don’t you get out of this situation? Get out of it the easiest way you can get out of it. Just do it – end your agony!”
Job’s response to her was priceless! He basically said, “Look, He’s the One that gave me life and He gave me everything I lost… (1:21; 2:10). It was all a gift of His goodness to me.” What an attitude! “How can I curse the One that gave me everything good I’ve ever been, everything good I‘ve ever had. He… God is wonderful!” (1:20).
But the longer Job sits on the ash-heap and the more visitors… those “wonderful friends” who come to, and I quote: “Comfort him…” (2:11e). :-) I can just hear you chuckling – it tells me that you have a few friends like that. :-) And what these friends want to figure out for Job is similar to what I’m saying today. They want to know why their friend is in that terrible state. They know that he has fasted more, prayed more, praised more, worshipped more, been a better man that they – and they want to know, in view of his exemplary life, why all this trouble still has come upon him.
So, they decide (which is what a lot of people call “prophecy” :-)) – they decide what the problem must be. And what they decide, these precious brothers who come to see miserable Job :-), is that there has to be sin in his life or God would never allow all of what he’s going through – because God’s a good God and everything God does is good. We sing it almost every Sunday in our choruses. “Everything God does is good,” and they know that “God is a good God!”
And so each one of these men comes from his own way (2:11b), the Bible says – each of them comes with his presupposed message for Job. When you come with a presupposed message to me, do not call it “prophetic!” If you have figured it out, if you see things you think you can change by talking, just say, “I feel thus and such…” or “I’m going to say this…” – because it’s from you. When the true prophetic flows from the heart of God, it will witness both to the giver (or declarer) and to the person who receives. I hope that helps you in knowing how to minister what is in your heart. We are to encourage one another (Rom.15:14; Col.3:16) and what we say can have great value, but we must not confuse the Source.
So, here is Job, and he’s about had it with these guys. They’ve been taking turns talking, saying, “Well, it’s this and it’s that and it’s the other thing.” Now, here in verse 22 of chapter 36 – Elihu is speaking. He had his first turn, but he’s back on it again. He says, “Now, I’m going to defend God” (36:2). Everything these men say is a defense for God, and much of what they say of Him is quite true.
Can you listen to something – from me – today? Don’t defend God – there’s no need for you to do that. When people say to you, “Well, I don’t know why the ‘Almighty’ or ‘the man upstairs’… (Those are two clues right there that these people don’t really know Him! :-)) When people say to you, “I don’t know why ‘the big man up there’ let this happen to me,” you do not need to go on the defensive on behalf of God! A good answer to that statement is: “I don’t know why either! Let’s go to Him and find out!” :-)
Now, Elihu is talking and he says this: “Do you have any idea how powerful God is? Have you ever heard of a teacher like him? Has anyone ever had to tell him what to do, or correct him, saying, ‘You did that all wrong!’? Remember, then, to praise his workmanship, which is so often celebrated in song.”
I pause here because I want to talk to you about this. How many times have we sung the words to the Omniscient, Omni-present, All-powerful God and then, even as we leave the service, we’ve talked negatively with one another: “I don’t know why God…” “I don’t know why I’m still hurting…” “I don’t know why God doesn’t answer my prayers…” “I don’t…” – and we undo the entirety of our worship – by negative talk – which He will not hear!
Verse 25: “Everybody sees it; nobody is too far away to see it.” No one can escape from God. “Take a long, hard look. See how great He is…” Think about how many times we have actually sung this sermon! I love it! “…infinite, greater than anything you could ever imagine or figure out!
Verses 27 and 28: “He pulls water up out of the sea, distills it, and fills up his rain-cloud cisterns. Then the skies open up and pour out soaking showers on everyone.” Except on Phoenix! :-) I just have to do that when reading these longer portions of Scripture – just to see if you’re really paying attention :-). Besides, I live in the Valley of the Sun and it’s mostly rain-less! :-) Alright now – listen to this, verse 29: “Does anyone have the slightest idea how this happens? How he arranges the clouds, how he speaks in thunder? Just look at that lightning, his sky-filling light show illumining the dark depths of the sea! These are the symbols of his sovereignty, his generosity, his loving care.”
What a God! I said, “What a God!” Maybe now would be a great time for us to go back to worshipping Him! I mean… We’re seeing that He’s so Big! So – wonderful! Can anyone figure this whole thing out? Scientists will give some observations, even explanations, but they’re not “figured-out” ones – they can’t explain how He does it only that it is done. Oh, yes, we know how to distill water and now we put it in a bottle and charge people a fortune – the ones that are stupid enough to pay for it! :-) Okay that’s about all of us – me included… :-) When I was a little girl, if you would have told me, “Some day, you won’t be buying soda pop in a bottle, you’ll be buying water that way…” I would have howled with laughter! :-) And you would have done the same! :-)
Elihu goes on to say, “He hurls arrows of light, taking sure and accurate aim.” Now you remember that verse when you hear some of the window-shaking strikes – some of the lightning strikes that accompany thunderstorms. He has “accurate aim.”
There is a divine purpose (when we have trouble or know about someone else’s trouble) way beyond anything you can know! But what we do is to sympathize: “Oh, isn’t it terrible that ….” It isn’t terrible – it’s trouble! Hurled by the arrow of the Almighty and it finds its point, the bull’s eye – for a reason – that He does not have to explain to any of us!
“The High God roars in the thunder, angry against evil.” (vs.33).
Now, I want to tell you this: Number one – God is good. He is just good. Many preachers have you repeat that responsively: “God is good” and then you say, “All the time!” And then, “All the time…” and you respond: “God is good.” Very simply, He is good! But we have had so much teaching about His goodness that we have forgotten – He is holy! That’s another truth about our God that we sing: “You are holy, God. Holy.”
When we recognize that God is holy, then we also must know He gets very angry! Angry at sin and evil (remember His dealings with the Israelites throughout Old Testament history). God is thundering over sinful situations, even now. And we always seem so amazed at that! But don’t you know that if you would listen for the still small voice (1Kngs.19:11-13) and say, “God, what’re You doing? Why all this thunder?” He’d say, “I’m answering your prayers. You’ve been interceding on behalf of your family – on behalf of your city – on behalf of your church – on behalf of your nation…” Hopefully you have been busy on your knees! “I am answering your prayers.”
We sing it – the words of that beautiful hymn (and if you don’t mean it, you’d better get there!) – “Thy Kingdom come! Thy will be done!” Well, what? Do you think it will just be a little soft-shoe that God’s going to do when He comes in? That He’ll come in like an old song-and-dance routine? “Hello there! I heard your prayer.” :-) No! He’s looking down and sees the sin – and not just in the sinners or the unbelievers – but the sins of omission and commission and neutrality among His own people! And He roars in thunder over that as well!
Why the roar? For the same reason that when our children don’t hear us the first time… they likely will the second. :-) God is going to get the attention of His people – and of people everywhere!
Elihu is talking about this God that’s thundering – Job 37, verse 1: “Whenever this happens, my heart stops – I’m stunned, I can’t catch my breath. Listen to it! Listen to his thunder, the rolling, rumbling thunder of his voice.”
I challenge you. We have just entered our season – for the thunder. This Valley of the Sun enters the monsoon season during the summer months when we likely will have plenty of thunderstorms, replete with roaring noise and lightnings. I challenge you, this time, as you witness it to meaningfully say, “God, I know You’re speaking and I thank You for it. I don’t always hear the words – I’m like those who rode with Paul (Ac.9). I don’t know exactly what you’re saying in the thunder, but I know that You are answering the prayers.” And if you live elsewhere, you can still hear Him roar in the stormy weather where you are and know He is speaking.
Go to Part 2