Feb. 10, 2016 – Ash Wednesday Text: Job 1:1-12
Dear Friends in Christ,
In 2007 Jim O’Neill was flying from Glasgow, Scotland to Colchester, England when his vision failed. Initially, he thought the sun had blinded him, but soon O’Neill realized it was much worse. He had suffered a stroke. It gave new meaning to the expression, “flying blind.” O’Neill groped around, found the radio and issued a mayday alert. Paul Gerrard of the Royal Air Force quickly took off and, finding O’Neill, began talking to the blind pilot. “Keep coming down. A gentle right turn. Left a bit. Go right now.” Gerrard hovered within five-hundred feet, guiding him to the nearest runway. O’Neill would have to land the plane flying blind.
We’ve all been struck, perhaps not with a stroke, but with divorce papers, a crippling expense or a cancer-ridden body. Not midair, but mid-career, mid-semester, or midlife. Losing sight of any safe landing strip, we’ve issued our fair share of mayday prayers. We all know the feeling of . . .
And so does Job. One of the Bible’s great wisdom books is the book of Job. This Lent we are going to delve into Job’s central message and supporting truths. We begin with Job 1:1-12 and what do we learn?
There are some times when we know why bad things happen. You run a red light. You get pulled over and are issued a ticket. We buy things we don’t need and the credit card is maxed out.
Job’s suffering on the other hand, was undeserved and unjust. Job is described as “blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” This doesn’t mean he was sinless. Job was, however, a godly man. Job was an innocent sufferer.
Job 1:6 lifts the curtain and behind the scenes, a wager is being made between God and Satan. Like a vindictive lawyer or a corrupt policeman with an obsession to frame the innocent, Satan is on the lookout for someone to drag before the judgment seat of God in order to condemn him.
Job 1:8, “Then the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job?’” Satan wants the prized diamond from the jewelry store owner. Thanks a lot God!
Satan then asks the key question in the book. Job 1:9, “Does Job fear God for no reason?” Satan knows that every man has his price and that if Satan removes Job’s good gifts then Job will curse the Giver – God Himself. “The Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.’” Job is about to become Ground Zero as Satan gets ready to launch his assaults.
We see this conversation in heaven between God and Satan. But Job? He has no clue. When all hell breaks loose Job repeatedly, and with increasing intensity as the drama unfolds, cries out, “God, where are you?” Job was forced to learn the art of flying blind.
All of this points us to Jesus. That’s right. Listen to Luke 4:13, “When the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.” We get another bird’s-eye view of spiritual realities. Jesus, like Job, is “blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” – only Christ was without sin in the fullest and most complete sense imaginable. And Jesus is the ultimate innocent sufferer. Like no other, Jesus didn’t earn or deserve any of his human hell.
With Job, God didn’t allow Satan to test him to the point of death. But with Jesus, Satan was allowed all of his weapons of mass destruction. If Job was reduced to living on the local ash heap, Jesus was stripped naked and nailed like a scarecrow in a God-forsaken garbage dump called Golgotha.
When you cry out, from the depths of your suffering, “Where are you God?” Jesus says, “I’m here, on the cross, suffering with you and suffering for you. I’m here, bleeding for the sins of the world. I’m here, feeling your pain. I’ll always be here. I’ll be there to greet you in eternity where there is no death, no crying, no pain, no Job-like flying blind scenarios you will have to deal with.”
And if we want to know how Job’s suffering can be transformed into infinite good, then we journey from the cross to the empty tomb where the crucified Conqueror stands, with the palms of his hands outstretched offering the gift of eternal life. It is there that we find courage and strength to say again, “I know that my Redeemer lives!”
On that day in 2007, on his first try Jim O’Neill hit the runway and bounced up again. Paul Gerrard continued to speak calming words of assurance and hope. Finally on the eighth try the blinded pilot managed to make a near-perfect landing. When we are flying blind many voices clamor for our attention. The talk show host says not to worry. The financial advisor says buy now. The friend says read this book. And then we add our own voice that asks, “What’s the use?” The end result, too often, is that we crash and burn.
It’s time, again, to listen to the only voice that really matters. Jesus speaks with tenderness and love, “Keep coming down. A gentle right turn. Left a bit. Go right now.” And at this table he gives us these words for the ages. “Take, eat, this is my body. Take, drink, this is my blood.” With this voice guiding us we will land safely in his loving arms, today and forevermore!