January 13, 2003

Westney Heights Baptist Church


There was a man in the land of Uz, his name was Job. And this man was perfect and upright, and fearing God, and turning away from evil. And seven sons and three daughters were born to him. And his possessions were seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she-asses, and a very great household, so that this man was greater than all the sons of the east. And his sons feasted in the house of each one on his day. And they sent and called their three sisters to eat and to drink with them. And it happened, when the day of feasting had gone around, Job would send and sanctify them. And he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt sacrifices according to all their number. For Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. This, Job always did.

(Job 1:1-5 LITV)


The Bible is a book of hope. Within its pages we learn that man has received his life from God, was condemned to death for his rebellion, and has the hope of salvation through the atoning work of Jesus Christ. The word "hope" itself appears in various forms about 150 times in the Bible, compared to "faith" at about 350 and "love" at about 500. But He in whom we have our hope is the central character of the Bible. In fact, hope, along with faith and love, is one of the principle components of the Christian"s character. Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthian church these words:


And now faith, hope, and love, these three things remain; but the greatest of these is love.

(1 Corinthians 13:13 LITV)


Hope has a very strong presence throughout our lives: When I was younger I remember hoping for the freedom that would come with being older yet now that I am older I find myself hoping instead for a good day at work, pleasant time with my family, and to have some type of meaning to attach to my life. We all have hopes of our own, some of you are hoping that I don"t speak to long, others of you may be hoping that I say something worth leaving your home for. Overall we are creatures of hope, we love to find joy in the anticipation of the good things we believe are, or should be, coming our way, and in the good things we already have. Without hope the difficulties and joys of life would be impossible to bear.


Hope is a curious thing, however, for we are only able to hope for something that is possible to obtain and which we do not already have. When I was younger I hoped for the freedom of adulthood because it was something that I knew would come with time. Now that I am older, having the appearance of an adult, and have the hoped for freedom I can no longer hope for it, it is something I already have and so I hope for something else. The Bible this as well in Paul"s letter to the Roman church, where he writes:


For we were saved by hope, but hope being seen is not hope; for what anyone sees, why does he also hope? But if we hope for what we do not see, through patience we wait eagerly.

"(Romans 8:24-25 LITV)


Hope fills our hearts and in so doing it overflows into our daily lives. Those things that we hope for are frequently what others know best about us since it is these things that we talk most often about. In the weeks before this Christmas just past my youngest son voiced his hope to receive a toy saxophone on an almost hourly basis. He was so filled with this hope that he couldn"t contain it and it came spilling out into his conversation and everyone he spoke to knew what he hoped for (which, by the way, his parents did give him). In his first letter the apostle Peter speaks indirectly to the fact that we constantly talk about out hopes when he gives this encouragement to his readers:


But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give an answer to everyone asking you a reason concerning the hope in you, with meekness and fear, having a good conscience, that while they speak against you as evildoers, they may be shamed, those falsely accusing your good behavior in Christ.

1 Peter 3:15-16 (LITV)


While Peter is certainly not talking about a toy saxophone here he is with equal certainty discussing a hope that so completely filled his readers minds that they could not help talking about it. It possessed their lives and was noticed by the people around them. Earlier in his letter Peter establishes what the hope of his readers is:


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, He according to His great mercy having regenerated us to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and unfading, having been kept in Heaven for you the ones in the power of God being guarded through faith to a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time; in which you exult; yet a little while, if need be, grieving in manifold trials, so that the proving of your faith, much more precious than perishing gold, but having been proved through fire, may be found to praise and honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ; whom having not seen, you love; in whom not yet seeing, but believing, you exult with joy unspeakable and being glorified, obtaining the end of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

(1 Peter 1:3-9 LITV)


This is the fundamental message of the Bible: That you and I have been transferred from death to life through the blood of Jesus Christ, who is the foundation of our hope through His resurrection from the dead.


The world around us has its own idea of hope. The overwhelming message of our culture is that hope can be placed in a multitude of things, examples of which include: Favourite sports teams, relaxing vacations, retirement savings, and possessions. The principal difference between where the world would have us place our hope and where the Bible teaches us to place our hope is this: The world has us placing our hope in things, material items, while the Bible has us placing our hope in a living person, Jesus Christ. Jesus addresses this fundamental difference in the following words:


Do not treasure up for you treasures on the earth, where moth and rust cause to perish, and where thieves dig through and steal. But treasure up for you treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust cause to perish, and where thieves do not dig through and steal.

(Matthew 6:19-20 LITV)


The things of this world can and will fail. Inflation or the roller coaster ride of the stock markets can cause our retirement funds to be less than we would desire. Our shiny new car comes with a guarantee which carries with it the suggestion that it will break at some point. Even if all goes well we have the assurance that, regardless of the care that we take of ourselves, our health will at some point fail us and the best of our plans will not be of any help to us. The goal of the Bible through teaching us of Jesus is to encourage us to put our hope in something that will not fail.


Job, probably one of the most tormented men of all time, had hope in something that would not fail him. In the midst of Satanic oppression, all ten of his children dead, all of his riches destroyed, reduced to sitting on a heap of ashes and scraping the sores of his body with a piece of pottery. He is confronted by his friends who grandly tell him that all this is due to some sin he has not confessed and by his wife who simply tells him to curse God and die. Yet in the midst of his despair, when life has taken its darkest turn Job speaks some of the most inspiring words in the Bible:


For I know my Redeemer is living, and He shall rise on the earth at the last; and after my skin has been struck off from my flesh, yet this, I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and no stranger.

(Job 19:25-27 LITV)


Job has been reduced to poverty and suffering as few men have ever suffered and yet he has not lost sight of his hope, he knows that after his death he will see his Redeemer with his own eyes and speaks not only of the eternal power of God but also of the regeneration of the earthly body into a heavenly one.


Peter"s message of being ready to defend the reason for our hope is also surrounded by warnings of suffering. The main thrust of his first letter is to encourage his readers not to loose hope in the face of persecution. Hope is then, as far as Peter and Job are concerned, not something that keeps bad times away but it is something that keeps bad times from being deadly. The 19th century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who was mostly wrong, did get something right when he said:


Men and women can endure any amount of suffering as long as they know the why of their existence.


which can very well be paraphrased to say that men and women can endure any amount of suffering as long as they have hope. This is not to say that hope makes suffering enjoyable but that it makes it endurable because what is known to lie beyond the current difficulty is far greater than the joy that the has been taken, as Paul has said:


For I calculate that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to compare to the coming glory to be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly awaits the revelation of the sons of God.

(Romans 8:18-19 LITV)


We come now to the "Why" of the matter. Why is it that hope can give us strength to endure hardship? The answer lies in the proclamation of Job and his use of the word "Redeemer." He did not say God, or Father, or Creator, but Redeemer. Job saw God as not only his creator but also his redeemer. It is interesting to note that never once thought that he was suffering because he had sinned, he knew that he was suffering unjustly and that was the heart of his cry to God.


Behold, He will cut me off; I will not wait, but I will justify my ways before His face. He also is my salvation, for an ungodly one shall not come before Him. Listen, hear my word, and let what I say be in your ears. Behold now, I have set my cause in order; I know that I shall be justified. Who is he who will strive with me? For then I would be quiet and die. Only two things do not do to me, O God, then I will not hide myself from Your face: Remove Your hand from me, and let not Your terror make me afraid. Then call, and I will answer; or let me speak, and reply to me.

(Job 13:15-22 LITV)


He wanted justice because he knew that what was happening to him was not fair, there was no reason for it that he could see. He also knew that he was guilty of sin for he earlier has said:


If I justify myself, my mouth will condemn me; though I am perfect, He shall declare me perverse; though I were perfect, I would not know my own soul; I despise my life.

(Job 9:20-21 LITV)


He did not regard himself as a perfect man but as a righteous man, a man who had done wrong but who had been forgiven. He knew that no matter how close to perfection he was God"s standard was still to high for him to reach and regardless of his own perfection God would still consider him a sinner. He knew his condition but he also knew that he had a Redeemer who had forgiven him. He knew also that he would see his Redeemer after his death not because he was a perfect man but because his Redeemer had forgiven him. God himself, when confronting Job at the end of his trial, does not condemn Job for his sin, but as a created thing, one who has no right to question the actions permitted by his Creator.


And Jehovah answered Job out of the tempest and said: Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will question you; and you make Me to know. Will you also set aside My judgment; will you condemn Me so that you may be justified? And have you an arm like God; or can you thunder with a voice like His? Adorn yourself with majesty now, and with grandeur, and clothe yourself with glory and honor; pour forth the outbursts of your anger; yea, look on everyone who is proud, and bring him down low; look on everyone who is proud, and humble him, and trample the wicked in their place; hide them in the dust together; bind their faces in darkness. Then I also will confess to you that your right hand can save you.

(Job 40:6-14 LITV)


This message began with the opening words of the book of Job, among them being the following:


And it happened, when the day of feasting had gone around, Job would send and sanctify them. And he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt sacrifices according to all their number. For Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. This, Job always did.

(Job 1:5 LITV)


Job offered sacrifices on behalf of his sons and daughters in case they had cursed God during their feasting. Now the sacrifice of an animal on behalf of a person had no power in and of itself to remove the guilt of sin from the person. It was effective only as a symbol of the removal of the guilt of sin by a Sacrifice far greater than the sacrifice of an animal, as it is written in Hebrews:


For the Law had a shadow of the coming good things, not the image itself of those things. Appearing year by year with the same sacrifices, which they offer continually, they never are able to perfect the ones drawing near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered? Because those serving did not still have conscience of sins, having once been cleansed. But in these there is a remembrance of sins year by year, for it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

(Hebrews 10:1-4 LITV)


Today we know that Jesus Christ is the greater Sacrifice of which the earlier sacrifice was a symbol. In the days of Job the person of Jesus Christ was unknown but that such a person was necessary to perform the work that He would do through His death and resurrection was both known and symbolized by every aspect of the worship of God. Job"s Redeemer could only be Jesus Christ, there was no other alternative.


We have discussed in passing the temporary ability of earthly things to be worthy of our hope. What of Jesus Christ, is He worthy of being our hope in spite of everything, even death itself? The apostle John writes of Jesus that He was real, that He existed, and that whatever John and others have said about Jesus could be trusted because they had seen him and touched him:


What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld, and what our hands touched, as regards the Word of Life. And the Life was revealed, and we have seen, and we bear witness, and we announce to you the everlasting Life which was with the Father, and was revealed to us. We announce to you what we have seen, and what we have heard, that you also may have fellowship with us. And truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.

(1 John 1:1-3 LITV)


In his biography of Jesus the apostle John also says that Jesus is God in the form of man:


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and without Him not even one thing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.

(John 1:1-4 LITV)


So, based on the testimony of John we know that Jesus is real, that He walked and talked at a specific moment in history, and that He is also God, the creator of all things. If He made all things then He had to exist before anything was made and He therefore will also exist after all things that have been made are destroyed and made perfect. He is eternal. In His own words:


I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the Ending, says the Lord, the One who is, and who was, and who is coming, the Almighty.

(Revelation 1:8)


Here is One in whom we to can hope. Here is One who lived before we or anything we know had been made. Here is One who is both our sacrifice and our God, who will come again at the end of all things and take us home. Here is a place to put our hope without fear that it will be misplaced. Let us put our hope in Him and trust Him to hold our lives secure regardless of what may come. Let us say with Job:


For I know my Redeemer is living, and He shall rise on the earth at the last; and after my skin has been struck off from my flesh, yet this, I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and no stranger.

(Job 19:25-27 LITV)


We shall see Him who loved us to the point of death and who dying remains eternally alive. There is no other place for hope than Him.