Last Sunday was my final day with the church that I have been working at for the past year or so. The pastor asked me to speak and I am now posting a slightly modified version of the manuscript here in bite sized chunks.
The conclusion of the book of Job, I think, is also the foundational belief of our faith.
In fact, I think this is the very meaning of faith in Christianity.
Faith is not just about believing some statement to be true. Faith is about our trust in God to be in control, to be working all things for good, even when our lives seem violently out of control and headed for disaster.
We see this faith played out all across scripture. We see it in the stories of Genesis- God calling Abraham to abandon everything he knows to follow God’s leading, Joseph being betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery and yet still he trusts in God. We see this in the Exodus account as a nervous, shaking Moses is sent by God back to Egypt to challenge the most powerful monarch alive in his day. We see this faith in Joshua and Judges and the stories of David and Elijah as battles are won that can only be attributed to God working. And we find this faith in God to ultimately be in control all throughout the prophets of the Old Testament. I want to read just briefly from one of my absolute favorite passages in Isaiah 61:
The spirit o the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion- to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness- the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
Here in Isaiah is a proclamation of the gospel, I think. That the misery and the suffering that we so often face in this life is coming to an end. That God is in control of all things and that we can trust him to bring about justice and to turn our mourning into gladness.
I don’t think it is an accident that Jesus begins his ministry in the New Testament with almost the exact same words.
Luke records Jesus reading directly from Isaiah 61 at the very beginning of his ministry, and in Matthew chapter 5 Jesus will open his ministry with these famous words: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted”- echoes of Isaiah.
The book of Revelation closes out the Bible by describing a future time when there will be no more pain and suffering, no more tears, no more death, no more sin.
God is in control, he is bringing about the redemption and restoration of his creation, he is undoing the effects of sin and death. We can trust him, even when life seems to make no sense whatsoever.