Stand Up Like a Man
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 4 December 2004
It doesn't happen too often, thank goodness, but every now and then I really struggle to know what it is I am to preach about. I had such an experience whilst preparing today's sermon, sitting for hours in a state of spiritual paralysis. Of course I knew that we had several visitors this weekend and since it is the responsibility of the pastor to minister to his flock and not simply to talk about whatever takes his fancy, I was particularly conscious of them. Indeed we have a busy month ahead of us not only because of many visitors but also Hanukkah.
Anyway, I finally gave up searching for a topic and went into prayer, asking Yahweh to lead me to that which I should speak to you about today, and it came in an instant. I was led to a passage of Scripture I had read whilst in the bathroom on Thursday morning. Moreover, I could see that it connected to an inner struggle that I had been having - and which I had dreamed about whilst taking my afternoon nap - and which I am absolutely convinced affects every person sitting in this congregation today as well as the many thousands abroad who read these sermons afterwards on the Internet. So I know without a shadow if a doubt that the words I have for you today are inspired and case-specific: they are for all of us.
My text is from the Book of Job towards the very end after his useless friends have given him all their spiritually-sounding yet human counsel, and Yahweh finally breaks in. Although I usually don't approve of paraphrased editions of the Bible, this was the version in which His message was given to me, so I am going to use it freely. Here is what Yahweh had to say:
"Why are you using your ignorance to deny My providence? Now get ready to fight, for I am going to demand some answers from you, and you must reply" (Job 38:2-3)
"Get ready to fight", was Yahweh's word to Job after he had been abused by his friends. Now to be sure, Job had had a rough time. His trials and tribulations had appeared utterly meaningless to him, as I am sure - no, indeed, I know - ours appear to be to us. Job had put up a good defence of his moral character - he could find no meaning in his difficulties, the terrible loss of family he had sustained, the humiliation of his friends' lousy counsel, and his wife's apparent dismissal of both him and Yahweh. Yet we, reading his story thousands of years later know, because we are told, that Job was selected to be a witness of Yahweh Himself to all the angels of heaven. There had already been one rebellion there, with one third of the heavenly host defecting to Lucifer. And they had done so presumably for centuries for we learn that these rebel malakim or watcher- angels kept coming down to earth and marrying the daughters of Adam. They produced a race of giants called the nefilim who so defiled the gene pool of mankind, such that their objective - of stopping the Messianic seed from propagating - looked as though it might prevail. Indeed the world had been reduced to the brink of spiritual anarchy, the kind that is approaching us even now. The earth was swarming with demonised people and half-breed angel-men, leaving only eight pure souls amongst the millions. The earth must have looked fair game to Lucifer and all the fallen angels with Yahweh apparently impotent and unable to do a thing about it. But then, suddenly, in a few days, it was all over. The rebellion was wiped off the face of the earth in a great flood.
I know that life for the servants of Yahweh is currently pretty tough. I know because I am in touch with many of these people both within our Church and from others. Some of them are currently on their last breath and are crying to heaven for answers. Some are responding in faith and others with somewhat less faith than they ought to be exercising. To all these men and women - and I include myself in their number, as I am sure much of my family does - I ask this question, because it was the same one Yahweh asked Job when he was at the end of his tether. So I repeat it for you again: "Why are you using your ignorance to deny My providence?"
If we are to get ourselves right with Yahweh then the first thing we must do, in all humility - because I assume no one here believes they are greater than Job - is to admit that we are ignorant of Yahweh's plan for our life. Well, aren't we? Can anyone tell me here what Yahweh's plan is for his or her life in the barest outline, let alone detail? I am sure you have some ideas but I can be equally sure that many of them are wrong. How do I know? Because I have experienced this myself and I know others who have lived through the exact same things. We just don't know, however much we would like to, in order to comfort ourselves or even to validate ourselves before unbelievers and even believers from whom we are seeking approval.
"Why are you using your ignorance to deny my providence?" I think we often assume, in our weakness and lack of faith, that Yahweh has intended only a second-class life for us. We are so easily and so wrongly convinced that it is the will of the Almighty that we should aim for second-best, using as our justification - and what a false justification it is - that to desire any more would be tantamount to admitting we were guilty of some wicked pride or lust. Well, as you know, I have no sympathy whatsoever with the so-called "Prosperity Movement" - the lawless "health-and-wealth" advocates of watered-down Christianity who prefer to see God as some sugar-daddy performing their every whim like a circus artist. I have nothing but contempt for such attitudes. And nor would I suggest for one moment that we have anything to boast about of ourselves, for our achievements are never our own anyway. Whatever we have achieved has only been because we have been given the ability to do these things. We are not independent forces in the universe. Nevertheless, Yahweh does not want us to fall into the opposite trap - the other end of the "prosperity spectrum" - of believing Yahweh wants to keep us under His foot as miserable worms. Job suffered, and his suffering was by no means small, but it was for a purpose and only for a short period of time in the eternal scheme of things, even though to him it must have seemed as eternity. But at the end of his tribulation, what did Yahweh do? We all know - He gave him "seven more sons and three more daughters" (42:13), giving him more at the end of his life than he had at the beginning (v.12). But he had neither earned what he had lost in the beginning, nor what he received after his ordeal was over - these were gifts of Yahweh-Elohim.
"Why are you using your ignorance to deny my providence?" We begin by acknowledging that we are ignorant. Even Solomon the Wise was ignorant - why, he denied it all and descended into raw paganism and spiritual oblivion. Even the great theologian Paul was ignorant - he wrestled with the thorn in his side all his life, and Yahweh left it there to keep this potentially arrogant man humble. We don't know the weaknesses of these two men, at least not those which can take one over the brink and into hell, and kept the other plagued by a demon all his life, even if he was one of the great luminaries of his time. Yet this is what happened to them.
Job, however ignorant - and he admitted it at the end as we know, and in deep repentance - was not allowed to simply acknowledge his inability to comprehend. And it is never enough to admit we are wrong or ignorant, for what does Yahweh next demand of this dishevelled servant at the end of his wits? He says: "Now get ready to fight, for I am going to demand some answers from you, and you must reply" (38:3). Repentance is not merely acknowledging ignorance - it not merely a passive state of being. Repentance also requires that we fight - but against what or whom?
After making this demand, Yahweh gives Job a long lecture - rather, He asks him dozens of difficult questions like, "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?" (v.4), "Have you ever once commanded the morning to appear?" (v.12) or "Can you stalk prey like a lioness?" (v.39). He asks question after question for two chapters. And as we read them, you and I, our size shrinks and His gets bigger. This is not because He wishes to humiliate us, not at all. All He wants is that we face reality and have a right perspective. After two chapters of questions, Yahweh asks Job: "Do you still want to argue with the Almighty? Or will you yield? Do you - God's critic - have the answers?" (40:2-3).
As you know, I work a great deal with the victims of Satanic Ritual Abuse who go through horrors far worse than anything Job ever experienced. And their struggles are heart-rending. It is almost unbelievable the suffering they go through. And yet the human in them - the unredeemed - complains against Yahweh. They protest and deny His providence. They refuse to believe He loves them or will rescue them ... until they meet Him face-to-face and then their entire perspective of life changes in a flash. To meet the Almighty is to have human protest dissolve into vapour. It took me a long time to understand, however, why it is that Yahweh seems to allow the struggle to overcome to take longer than we, as humans, might ordain were we God. And thank goodness we aren't, for we would mess the whole process up!
Let us focus again. Here is Job who has lost all his family save a faithless wife and has been reduced to an untouchable leper. He is utterly helplessness. He is the most despised person on earth, ridiculed by young men and chided by the supposedly wise who, by the way, had to go to Job to pray for them when all was done and made right. Having done their worse to make this servant of Yahweh guilty of sin, Yahweh steps in and says: "Why are you using your ignorance to deny my providence? Now get ready to fight, for I am going to demand some answers from you, and you must reply."
We often forget that it is not enough to fight Satan. It is not enough to endure persecution at the hands of our enemies. We must also fight Yahweh even if the odds are hopeless. Do you remember the deceiver Jacob? He had to fight Yahweh also. He fought His angel until he had obtained his blessing. And it was not a 1 hour wrestling match ... it went on all night, until daybreak. And what does that daybreak symbolise? The light of truth. We must wrestle with Yahweh and prevail until the Light of Truth bathes us in the certainty of our deliverance.
Well, you would have thought that after Yahweh's giant 'Question Time' that it would be all over. Job listened to one question after another. "Do you know how a hawk soars and spreads her wings to the south?" is the last question (39:26). Job is defeated. Yahweh says: "Do you still want to argue with the Almighty? Or will you yield? Do you - Elohim's (God's) critic - have the answers?" (40:2-3). Well, what would you have answered? There was Job, doubtless head bowed in shame, still a leper, still diseased of body, still feeling like the tiniest speck on the earth, and Yahweh says all this to him. This pitiful man replies: "I am nothing - how could I ever find the answers? I lay my hand upon my mouth in silence. I have said too much already" (v.4-6).
"I have said too much already" ... Well, no doubt you think that that's that. Job has come to the moment of realisation. He's at his lowest ebb. The fight is out of him. He is awed by the vision of the truth of his own humble station - his own nothingness before the Almighty. And you probably think to yourself: "At last it's over, now Yahweh will restore him." But you would be wrong. "What, isn't that enough for the poor man!?" you might protest. "How can he be expected to fall any lower! His face is already in the dust of humiliation!" Well, it's not over. Hear what Yahweh says next: "Stand up like a man and brace yourself for battle!" (v.7).
You see it is not enough to be knocked down into the dust of life by adverse circumstances. It is not enough to know you are wrong and that the Almighty is ultimately incomprehensible to us while we are in this mortal frame. Yahweh does not want defeated robots - He is a God of victory! You see, Job has still not come to enlightenment. He still does not understand. All he sees is adversity, the gulf between him and the Almighty, and his helplessness. But our loving Heavenly Father never leaves us in this state - this is not the goal, to humiliate us and leave us feeling utterly worthless, for in truth we are not that - we are His precious children whom He loves to pour our His favour upon. But because He is a God of Truth, and Justice, and Holiness, and Law, His servants must be prepared in such a way that there is no room left for the enemy to repossess us. He wants us free of the satanic malady for good - he wants no doors left open for the demons to return and oppress, because then we cannot be the most effective ministers in the Kingdom and nor can we know a fullness of joy. And who here will deny that at the end of his Job enjoyed a fullness?
"Stand up like a man and brace yourself for battle!" That's the next stage if you want to make a success of your experience of having sin burned out of you by adversity. Don't stop here and give up. Stand up! Get ready for battle! And so Job did. Once again Yahweh fires questions off at him, once again Job sees his pitiful smallness before Heaven. But this time - at the end of this discourse - this Servant of Yahweh is not all huddled up with head bowed in the ground - he is standing up! And what a difference in his words too. Gone is the self-pity, the "poor-little-me" attitude of the coward. Gone is all that! Yes he's humble, but now he is standing in the full stature of a Son of Elohim (God). He sees his carnal nature for the abomination that it is. Here is what Job says:
"I know that You can do anything and that no one can stop you" ... not even Satan and his demonic hosts ... so many people believe the demons are winning and will win or have already one. But it's a lie, brethren and sisters, a lie. They aren't going to win! In fact, they have already lost, and know it. Good grief, Hitler knew he had lost after the Battle of Stalingrad, but he fought on another two years, and even launched a counteroffensive in the West. But it was ultimately hopeless. He knew it then and the demons and Satan know it now. They are fighting a lost cause and all they can hope to do is 'make the best of it' in the short time of chaos and anarchy which is permitted them so that the souls of Yahweh's elect can be refined and purified.
Job continues: "You ask who it is who has so foolishly denied your providence. It is I. I was talking about things I knew nothing about and did not understand, things far too wonderful for me" (v.3). Ah yes, we face our ignorance. We thought we knew it all. We were cocky, we were bold and ... we thought we were brave. But we were none of these things, not until we had exhausted the last of our carnal weapons and discovered they were hopeless. Then - and only then - we gave up. Then - and only then - we admitted we were fools. So Job concluded his testimony in the only way he possibly could: "But now I have seen You, and I loathe myself and repent in dust and ashes" (v.5).
That's it. We must come to loathe our sinful behaviour. That is genuine repentance, not the sorrow at having lost this or that. True repentance is sorrow at being so foolish as to have been swallowed by sin itself. And that was the end of it. That was the realisation that Yahweh-Elohim, the Almighty One, was waiting to dawn on His servant Job. That was his moment of illumination. And from that moment onwards, everything changed - and it changed dramatically and rapidly.
First his friends got a stern rebuke - Yahweh was angry with Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, who represent the snake-oily, watered-down, hypocritical excuses of lawless believers who exalt themselves and knock others down, especially those who are already down. For all their sophistry what they said was just wind. Yahweh was furious with them, and said He would destroy them unless they made sacrifices and got Job to pray for them. "I will accept his prayer on your behalf," He said, "and won't destroy you as I should because of your sin, your failure to speak rightly concerning my servant Job" (v.8).
Yahweh's servants are being attacked by the Torahless ones everywhere, and by the faithless ones who have believed in a false Gospel. They are to be brought to account, and to live they will need the prayers of the Jobs. They offered animal sacrifice to atone for their sins then, but today they must come before the throne of grace and beg for the blood of Yah'shua (Jesus) to wash out their offence.
So this is my message for us all today. Many I know are in desperate straits and are crying out to Heaven for understanding. Their answer - our answer - is two fold: first, we have to step down off His Throne and vacate it for He who is worthy, Yah'shua (Jesus), and stop believing the lie that we are some 'mighty ones'. We aren't. We need the perspective of Job. We must stop excusing ourselves and denying providence. We must accept only what He wants, and that is the best. The sons and daughters were not built to live in hovels but in Mansions of Glory, but only when the carnal nature has been burned out and the enemy of our souls dismissed. Then we must stand and fight because He said so! He doesn't want us caving into the enemy who would have us believe that everything is hopeless. He wants us to believe in His Providence and wait patiently for it.
The Book of Job ends with is amazing message of hope: "Job lived 140 years after that, living to see his grandchildren and great-grandchildren too. Then at last he died, an old, old man, after living a long good, life" (v.16-17). May Yahweh-Elohim grant you and I that true vision which we must see if we are to be inheritors of that promise, and the promises of eternal life through Yah'shua our Messiah (Jesus Christ). For I believe in them as I think you do to. So arise and take hold of them. Don't just sit idly by. For today is the day of our salvation. Amen.
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Last updated on 7 January 2005
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