Job 5:7-27 (RSV)
V7- But man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards.
V8- As for me, I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause;
V9- who does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number;
V10- he gives rain upon the earth and sends waters upon the fields;
V11- he sets on high those who are lowly, and those who mourn are lifted to safety.
V12- He frustrates the devices of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success.
V13- He takes the wise in their own craftiness; and the schemes of the wily are brought to a quick end.
V14- They meet with darkness as in the night.
V15- But he saves the fatherless from their mouth, the needy from the hand of the mighty.
V16- So the poor have hope and injustice shuts her mouth.
V17- “Behold, happy is the man whom God reproves; therefore despise not the chastening of the Almighty.
V18- For he wounds, but he binds up; he smites, but his hands heal.
V19- He will deliver you from six troubles; in seven there shall be no evil touch you.
V20- In famine he will redeem you from death, and in war from the power of the sword.
V21- You shall be hid from the scourge of the tongue, and shall not fear destruction when it comes.
V22- At destruction and famine you shall laugh, and shall not fear the beasts of the earth.
V23- For you shall be in league with the stones of the field, and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with you.
V24- You shall know that your tent is safe and you shall inspect your fold and miss nothing.
V25- You shall know also that your descendants shall be many, and your offspring as the grass of the earth.
V26- You shall come to your grave in ripe old age, as a shock of grain comes up to the threshing floor in its season.
V27- Lo, this we have searched out; it is true. Hear, and know it for your good.”
What sea has no waves? What land has no rain? What life has no troubles?
What is the meaning of the word “trouble”? According to the dictionary, it means “affliction, disturbance, agitation, distress and inconveniences.”
So to paraphrase my question again- What life has no troubles? What life has no affliction, disturbances, agitation, distress and inconveniences?
As you go through this life, you will find that your life is always interrupted and inconvenienced by trouble. Someone said, “Interruptions are the spice of life.”
Our key text is a long discourse of Eliphaz, one of the three friends of Job. Eliphaz in the book of Job is the first to speak to Job in his trouble. He is the voice of experience. He is a remarkable man and he relates a strange and mysterious experience. The key to what he has to say is found in Job 4:8-Even, as I have seen.” Everything he has to say rests on that. Although what he says to Job is in the wrong spirit, in the sense that he uses what he has seen in his experiences to rub salt on Job’s wounds, nonetheless his general truths and advices are instructive and excellent. So let’s not throw away the whole fish because of a wrong spirit in him. Keep the meat of his good advice but throw away the bones of his wrong spirit. You’ll notice the discourse of Eliphaz is about trouble and by studying it in detail, you will surely gain some spiritual insights about it.
This morning, I would like to share on a simple topic called, ‘TROUBLE’.
There are five things we can learn about trouble.
1. TROUBLE IS UNIVERSAL
V7- But man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.
We don’t need to pour Eliphaz’s statement into a test tube to find out if it is true. Man is born unto trouble. I don’t think it is even debatable that the human family has adversity, calamity, sorrow, distress, anxiety, worry and disturbance. All one needs to do is pick up the newspaper and read a partial report of the human family: fires, accidents, tragedies, wars, rumors of war. The song says, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen,” but really EVERYONE does know because all people have trouble.
We do not have the same color, we are not all the same size or the same sex, or have the same blood type, or the same IQ, but we all have trouble. No one is exempt or immune or can get inoculated for trouble. Trouble is universal. Tears are universal. In fact the word sympathy means “to suffer together,” and that is the human symphony today – the suffering of mankind. That’s man. There is nothing sure but death and taxes, we are told. We can add to this another surety: trouble. “Yet man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.” The sparks fly upward according to a universal law, the law of thermodynamics. It isn’t by chance or by luck. The updraft caused by heat on a cool night causes the sparks to fly upward. That is a predictable thing just as trouble happening to our life is certain and predictable.
Why do we have trouble? Trouble and suffering comes to a child of God because of a stupid blunder. A woman once told her pastor, “My husband is my cross.” Well no matter how bad he is, he is not her cross. She is the one who said yes. It was her stupid blunder. Your cross is something you take up gladly, my friend.
Trouble sometimes is a judgment of the Father upon his child. We are told, “for if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged” (1 Corinthians 11:31). But if we do not judge ourselves, God will have to judge us.
Trouble is sometimes a discipline of the Father. We are told in Scripture, “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Hebrews 12:6). Moses who was living the life of the prince in the court of Pharaoh chose “to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” (Hebrews 11:25). It was a discipline for Moses. God could not have used him as a deliverer if he had not had forty years training down in the desert of Midian. Also Saul of Tarsus, the proud young Pharisee, came to know Christ and God said of him, “For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:16). God really put him through the mill! Trouble is a discipline of the Father.
Trouble comes to us sometimes for the purpose of teaching us to be patient and to trust God. Practical James says, “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience” (James 1:3). Somebody says, “There is no education like adversity.”
At other times trouble comes to us because God is putting the sandpaper on us to smooth the rough edges. We will see that Job comes to the realization that God is doing that for him: “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). He saw that God was putting sandpaper on him to smooth him down.
Illustration: Before Jan went to France, she took up a job as a Concierge at Marina Sands Bay and there was one colleague who was always bothering and insulting her, even though in terms of qualification, Jan is in every way higher than her. Jan was very troubled by her until one day she found this saying about sandpaper in the internet: “When people hurt you all the time, think of them as sandpaper. They may scratch and hurt you a bit but in the end, you end up polished and they useless.”
Then sometimes God permits trouble to come to us to get our minds and hearts fastened on Him. Someone says, “Stormy weather is what man needs from time to time to remind him that he is not really in charge of anything.” God wants us to recognize Him and depend on Him. The minute we sway to arrogance, complacency or idolatry, trouble will come our way in the form of pain to get our attention. Someone else said, “Pain plants the flag of reality in the fortress of a rebel heart.” C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse the deaf world.”
These are some of the reasons for trouble coming to a child of God. Which reason fits your trouble that you are undergoing today?
1) A stupid blunder
2) A judgment of the Father
3) A discipline of the Father
4) A teaching for your patience and trust
5) A refining and smoothening of our rough edges
6) An attempt by God to get our attention?
Therefore Eliphaz is accurate when he says, “Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.”
2. TROUBLE DRIVES US TO PRAYER
V8-As for me, I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause;
Message – If I were in your shoes, I’d go straight to God; I’d throw myself on the mercy of God. After all, he’s famous for great and unexpected acts; there’s no end to his surprises.
Our great comfort in trouble is that we can address ourselves to God in it. God is to be sought when we are in trouble. Somehow trouble has a way to bend our knees before God in humble petition.
Look at some of the plane rides you have had. Whenever there is turbulence, you’d see the Filipinos automatically doing the sign of the cross. That is a gesture of running to God in prayer in our trouble.
Eliphaz says that not only must we let our trouble drive us to seek God but that also we must come before God to plead our cause and commit our cause to Him. When we are in pain and in darkness, we tend to complain, question and moan like Job. We hardly pray and I believe Job is no exception. So Eliphaz’s instruction here is wise.
When we dare to bring our troubles to God in prayer; when we dare to come before His mercy throne to commit our troubled cause to Him, we will get to experience the attributes of God firsthand.
We will find out in prayer for yourselves:
- THAT GOD IS ALMIGHTY
V9- who does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without numbers:
God is Almighty, meaning He is strong and mighty to help and deliver you. Nothing is impossible with God. He does great things. His Almightiness is seen in His works of creation, “marvelous and without numbers”, both for greatness and minuteness, numbers and complexity. Look at the way He creates the Milky Way; the way He conceives a child in a womb; the way He keeps the earth rotating in order round the sun and the moon. When we view God as a one who does great things, not only our reverence for Him increases but also our trust. You can trust that great God.
- THAT GOD IS GOOD AND KIND
V10- he gives rain upon the earth, and sends waters upon the fields.
V11- he sets on high those who are lowly, and those who mourn are lifted to safety.
Rain is a striking display of God’s goodness as well as of his power and wisdom. Rain is one of God’s most common and precious gifts to mankind (Amos 4:7; Zech 10:1; Acts 14:17- yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good and gave you from heaven rains and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness). Every drop of rain comes to us as a witness-bearer of the Divine kindness. Can you remember how Iloilo had no water for many months because of the drought and God sent the rain after we prayed?
God also shows his kindness and goodness to the lowly and those who mourn.
V11- Msg- He raises the down-and-out; gives firm footing to those sinking in grief.
For those who are the lowly (the down-and-out) and those who mourn (those sinking in grief), God will be kind and good enough to send you spiritual rain to lift you up and to give you a firm footing. Today, if you look at the changes on the part of thousands from wretchedness and despondency to gladness and rejoicing, it all can be traced to the spiritual rain of salvation and revival that God has poured upon them.
So if you are down-and-out and if you are sinking in grief, run to God in prayer and He will surely rain down on you the spiritual rain of Holy Spirit to lift you high up again and bring you to a place of safety.
- THAT GOD IS WISE
V12-14- He takes the wise in their own caftiness; and the schemes of the wily are brought to a quick end. They meet with darkness in the daytime, and grope at noonday as in the night.
Msg – He aborts the schemes of the conniving crooks, so that none of their plots come to term. He catches the intricate intrigues swept out with the trash! Suddenly they’re disoriented, plunged into darkness; they can’t see to put one foot in front of the other.
The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 3:19 –“The wisdom of men is foolishness with God.”
Throughout history, we see many crafty plans and schemes of men that were most carefully planned. But then they were all made to collapse like house of cards by God.
E.g. The splendid Armada (navy or fleet) designed by Spain for the overthrow of the Reformation in England was dissipated and destroyed by unfavorable weather. Of the three attempts of the French to make a landing in Ireland, the first and second failed because of adverse weather and the third by the influence of the change in Bonaparte’s counsels.
Look at the Bible examples again . Evil Hamen’s well-laid scheme to crush Mordecai and the Jew ends in his own disgrace and ruin. At David’s prayer in the time of his trouble of Coup-detat by his son Absalom, God turned Ahiothophel’s evil counsel into foolishness and as such David was delivered.
- THAT GOD IS COMPASSIONATE
V15- But he saves the fatherless from their mouth, the needy from the hand of the mighty.
V16- So the poor have hope, and injustice shuts her mouth.
Msg- But the downtrodden are saved by God, saved from the murderous plots, saved from the iron firsts. And so the poor continue to hope while injustice is bound and gagged.
This verse can be summarized as: “God saves the oppressed from their mouth and the poor from the mighty hand.”
The phrase “from their mouth” represents someone who is open to devour you with their words.
The phrase “from their hand” represents someone who is lifting his hand to slay you with his schemes.
E.g. The enslaved Israelites was delivered from the HAND of Pharaoh and the Egyptians (Exodus 18:20); Peter was also delivered from the HAND of Herod (Acts 12:11); Paul was delivered from the MOUTH of the lion Nero (2 Tim 4:17).
Here you can see the demonstration of God’s compassion towards the needy and oppressed. The helpless and the afflicted are especially the objects of His care and concern.
“The poor have hope” -Indeed, God has delivered so many oppressed from the mouth of the oppressor and the poor from the hand of the mighty and therefore we must have hope. THE POOR HAVE HOPE. INJUSTICE WILL SHUT HER MOUTH when we continually come to God to plead our cause.
So whatever injustice you are undergoing now, do not despair. God will intervene and injustice will shut its mouth. Persecution and oppression are often struck down by God’s deliverance of the poor and His judgment on the wicked. God’s works will put the wicked and the oppressor to silence when His words do not.
3. TROUBLE IS A BLESSING IN DISGUISE
Job 5: 17-18 (RSV)- “Behold, happy is the man whom God reproves; therefore despise not the chastening of the Almighty.
God uses trouble to chasten, to reprove and to chastise us. All theses connotations are that of training for betterment than punishment. The word “punishment” has a negative connotation but not these three words – chastening, reproof and chastisement.
Illustration: Extraordinary afflictions are not always the punishment of extraordinary sins, but sometimes the trial of extraordinary graces. Sanctified afflictions are spiritual promotions.
There is blessing in chastisement. No chastisement can be pleasant while it is being endured or it would cease to be chastisement.
In what way is chastisement a blessing?
- It is a proof of God’s love (Hebrews 12:6)
Hebrews 12:6- Whom the Lord loveth he chastened.” Therefore to be chastised is to receive a token of God’s love.
- It is designed to produce purification
It will not lead to this end unless we cooperate submissively to God. To be purged from sin is better than to be made rich, comfortable and externally happy. It is a true blessedness, though we have to undergo it in tears and sorrow.
- It leads to joy
Hebrews 12:11- For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Look at the words, afterwards it “yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness”. We consider a man happy who is on the road to great good. He may enjoy it already by anticipation. At all events, he is to be congratulated on his destiny, as one congratulates the heir of great inheritance. So the Christian may be congratulated of this present time if he can say with Paul, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).
So let us not refuse God’s discipline as something nauseous nor reject it as some thing hurtful, nor look at it as something useless. There are hidden blessings in our trouble, if we allow God to use it.
Illustration: “Even a misfortune may prove useful in three years.” Nancy Reagan says, “A woman is like a tea bag. You don’t know her strength until she is in hot water.”
Philip Yancey in His book, “Where is God when it hurts? Says, “I have never read a poem extolling the virtues of pain, nor seen a statue erected in its honor, nor heard a hymn dedicated to it. Pain is usually defined as “unpleasantness”. Christians don’t really know how to interpret pain. If you pinned them against the wall, in a dark, secret moment, many Christians would probably admit that pain was God’s one mistake. He really should have worked a little harder and invented a better way of coping with the world’s danger. I am convinced that pain gets a bad press. Perhaps we should see statues, sing hymns, and write poems to pain. Why do I think that? Because up close, under a microscope, the pain network is seen in an entirely different light. It is perhaps the paragon of creative genius.
Another blessing we can gather from trouble is you get to experience the healing hand of God.
V18-For he wounds, but he binds up; he smites, but his hands heal.
Though God makes sore the body with sore boils, the mind with sad thoughts, yet he binds up at the same time like a skillful surgeon would bind up a wound inflicted by his scalpel. When God smites you with his rebukes, he binds up by the comfort of His Spirit, which oftentimes abounds to balance up your pain. Though He wounds, yet His hands will make you whole again in due time.
God’s usual method is first to wound and then to heal; first to convince and then to comfort; first to humble and then to exalt. God never makes a wound too great, too deep for his own cure. “There is no pit so deep but He is not deeper still”. The hand that inflicts the wound, applies the cure. God tears the wicked and goes away but to the humble and repentant ones, we may say, “He has torn and he will heal us (Hosea 6:1).”
4. TROUBLE RECURS IN SUCCESSION
V19-He will deliver you from six troubles; in seven there shall be no evil touch you.
The phrase “for six troubles” is to be taken poetically and not literally. The phrase “six troubles” here means ‘MANY’. That is your affliction and troubles will recur. You will experience one trouble after the trouble. You even lose count of it. This means that as long as we are here in the world, we must expect a succession of troubles. God is saying to us, that after the SIXTH trouble, may come a SEVENTH. After many, look for more.
5. EACH TROUBLE IS MATCHED BY GOD’S REPEATED DELIVERANCE
V19- in seven there shall be no evil touch you.
You will notice the use of 7 here. It is used in Proverbs 6:16 and in fact, quite often throughout the Bible.
The word 7 in this case is not the number of perfection but rather it is the NUMBER OF COMPLETENESS here. For instance the seventh day was the completion of one week. Seven is the number of completeness here and it refers to the total spectrum of the trouble of man.
In other words, you will go through the whole spectrum of trouble as a human but in each spectrum you are going through, God will deliver you in each and every one of them.
i) In famine he shall redeem thee from death (v20)
ii) In war, from the power of the sword (v20b)
iii) From the scourge of the tongue (v21)
During the war in Vietnam, people were given a body count in the daily news. I wonder what the body count from gossip would be in this day. The tongue has probably killed more people than war has. We need to pray that God will deliver us from the evil tongue. There is a woman in a church that had a very evil tongue. The pastor kept praying, “Oh God, don’t let her hit me with that tongue.” Later the pastor found out that she did use her tongue against him. She was mean but God protected the pastor from being hurt by her.
iv) From the fear of destruction when it comes like typhoon, tsunamis and storms (v21b)
v) From famine (v22)
Have you ever stopped to think that generally wherever the Gospel has gone, whether or not it has been widely accepted, you find one of the prosperous areas of the world? These nations are the “haves”. I do not think that this is an accident. We always thought that with the food we send to “have not” countries should be rice or food but the best gift we can give to them is the Word of God. Blessings attend the reading of the Word.
vi) From the beasts and stones of the earth (v22b-23)
The beasts here represent danger. As a judgment on the land, God would often send wild beasts to invade the land to devour the people of God. The stones here refer to the hindrance to the cultivation of the field. The verse here says – For you shall be in league with the stones of the field and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with you. That means nature will be at peace with you. You won’t be attacked by wild animals and whatever your hands want to cultivate, stones will not hinder you. Remember 2 King 3:19- and you shall conquer every fortified city and every choice city and shall fell every good tree and stop up all springs of water and ruin every good piece of land with stones.” Figuratively, it is talking about our successful evangelistic effort where we will not be sowing the gospel to stony hearts. Our evangelistic field will not be destroyed by stones but each stony heart will be in league with you.
vii) From premature death (v24-26)
No premature will come upon your flocks, your children or even yourself. You will be blessed with many flocks and children. You shall die at a ripe old age.
MANY ARE THE AFFLICTIONS OF THE RIGHTEOUS BUT THE LORD DELIVERS OUT OF THEM ALL.
As a child of God, you may go through recurring troubles. Maybe you are going through the whole spectrum of trouble but in each trouble you are in, you will never fail to see the deliverance of God upon you.
What is the trouble you are facing now? Are you in any pain, any distress, any agitation, disturbances or any inconveniences? Remember:
- Trouble is universal
- Trouble drives you to prayer
- Trouble is a blessing in disguise (Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning)
- Trouble recurs in succession (So, don’t be bewildered at the fiery ordeal that comes upon you suddenly as if something strange has happened to you)
- At every trouble, God matches it with his faithful deliverance
So believe that morning comes after the night; healing comes after the pain.
End of sermon
Sermon of Pastor Lily. Preached at EFC Iloilo on 4 Dec 2011