The book of Job has a happy ending. The proverbial “they lived happily ever after” comes through. Job’s suffering ends, and he is blessed with more than he had before. He gets a family. His daughters are the most beautiful in the land. He gives them an inheritance, something unknown in the ancient world. In the ancient world, only the eldest son got the inheritance. So here we see Job, a very progressive man in ancient times. Job lived long enough to see his great, great, great, great-grandkids. (Job 42:12-16)
But as he suffered, he had these three foolish friends who gave him advice on why bad things were happening to him. Apart from the young man, Elihu, the rest, elderly men were just wrong. At the end of the book of Job, God appears, he is angry at them. My anger burns against you and against your two friends, God says to Eliphaz. For you didn’t speak what is right to Job. (Job 42:7-8) God is livid.
God gets angry? An irreligious person may ask. This idea that God gets angry is offensive to those who believe God is only loving. The same people cannot reconcile how God should deal with evil and injustice. How should God deal with unrepentant paedophiles, wife beaters, mass murderers, despots and the like? They turn themselves inside out trying to explain how God should deal with the problem of evil and injustice.
Why shouldn’t God be angry? A God who doesn’t get angry at injustice is not loving. This is a senile old man, an indifferent being. I will not in a million year’s worship or obey this God. Never. God gets angry because he is love and he loves. In a recent TV advert, the voice-over artist says this of Chef Gordon Ramsey, the foul-mouthed, award-winning chef, “he is only angry because he cares”. Even advertising companies know this to be true.
There are others though who only know an angry God. The religious fundamentalist types. A God who, at the slightest misstep from us, unleashes his fury. They cheer when God is only portrayed as angry. The same cannot reconcile how God should deal with those who ask for grace. They turn themselves inside out trying to explain how to deal with a God full of grace. A God who gives people what they don’t deserve.
This happens here in Job’s story. We see a God who is angry and a God of grace. This God who is angry turns to Eliphaz and his three friends and offers them grace.
Go get seven bulls and rams and offer a burnt offering for yourselves (Job 42:8)
In the ancient world, they offered a burnt offering to God. Eew yuk modern people exclaim. Why does God need a braai or barbeque? Why does God need blood? God didn’t need a braai, nor was he bloodthirsty. The animal sacrifices were pointers or signs to what Jesus would come and do for us. The bulls and rams represented Jesus and his work for us. The fire represented the judgment of God. Thousands of years before Jesus came, God told these three fellows to rest on the work of another (Jesus) for their acceptance.
A key line
God says to these three fellows “After you’ve offered the burnt offering for yourselves, I will accept Job’s prayer not to deal with you according to your foolishness.
…. I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.
The three guys offered the burnt offering, and on their behalf, God accepted Job’s prayer.
This is the gospel of grace.
In the gospel of grace, God accepts us despite our foolishness because of Jesus and his work on the cross for us. In the gospel of grace, Jesus became our burnt offering. He suffered God’s anger against our foolishness. It’s his sacrifice offered on our behalf that makes God accept us.
The good person argues back, why can’t God accept me for who I am. Define good, I ask? What is the difference between good and perfect? Are you perfect? No, she answers. So how is God to deal with areas of your life where there are imperfections? When you are a fool like these three fellows, how should God deal with you? Should God just forgive you? For God to forgive you, someone has to pay for the forgiveness. Forgiveness ain’t cheap. The good person whimpers, I don’t want to bear the cost. It’s costly. I don’t have the means to pay for it. I am good, yes, but I’m also broke. God says I will pay the cost. I am good, and I am rich. For you, I will pay the cost with my dear life.
God’s forgiveness for our foolishness came at a cost. With the three friends, it was bulls and rams. In our case, God paid the cost himself. This is the gospel. This is the Christian faith in its fullest glory. God incarnate came down and paid for our sins—our foolishness.
Here’s even more good news. After they left Job, his three friends moved on with their lives. As life is, I’m sure they said some more foolish things. I’m sure God would have required them to offer more burnt offerings. They would have to look for Job to pray for them. We don’t. Just like Job’s friends, we will say and do foolish stuff. Oh yes, we will. If you haven’t, live longer. But guess what? What Jesus has done for us is more than enough for all the foolishness we will ever commit in our lifetime. You and I need not go back and offer more burnt offerings. All we need to do is to remind ourselves of Jesus’ work for us. The Lord’s Supper aka the Holy Communion is the best place to see the reenactment of what Jesus has done for you. In the meal, see your sins exchanged for Jesus’ righteousness, your sickness exchanged for healing, your foolishness exchanged for wisdom, and your weakness exchanged for strength. Your sins are forgiven, and God accepts you because of what Jesus did. Job’s friends didn’t have this benefit. You and I have.
As I alluded earlier, you will say and do foolish things. The longer you live, the higher the chances you will say and do foolish things. Your level of foolishness will shock you. Some of us are already living with the regret of foolish things we said and did. Time we wasted, kids we aborted, opportunities we squandered, marriages we destroyed, health we neglected, kids we abandoned, bribes we paid, education opportunities we skewed, bitterness we left unresolved, love we shunned, jobs we lost, homes we didn’t buy, and bucket lists that were abandoned. Foolishness abounds in every human being.
The good news is this, what Jesus has done for us can lead us to live a life of no regrets, with no fear of punishment. Because of Jesus and his work for you, God has accepted you despite your foolishness.
Hey, I thought this would encourage you.
That’s what grace looks like.