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Job

I HATE BIRTHDAYS

Job 2:1  Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD. 
Job 2:2  And the LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” 
Job 2:3  And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” 
Job 2:4  Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. 
Job 2:5  But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” 
Job 2:6  And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.” 
Job 2:7  So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. 
Job 2:8  And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes. 
Job 2:9  Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” 
Job 2:10  But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. 

Intro:

“I hate birthdays.”

These words are found in the book of Job:

  • Job loses his worldly possessions,
  • He loses his children,
  • and finally he loses his own health.
  • And we meet him sitting in the ashes scraping the sores off his skin with a piece of pottery.
  • First his wife tells him that his life is not worth living: “Curse God and die”
  • – and then Job says: “I hate birthdays”

Job 3:1  After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. 
Job 3:2  And Job said: 
Job 3:3  “Let the day perish on which I was born

I was speaking to someone this week who told me that there was a period in her life when she no longer wanted to celebrate birthdays. … her life was difficult and hard - and things had not turned out in the way she dreamed as a young girl. So she decided that there was nothing to celebrate

I have also heard these words used in a national context:

When we celebrate the birthday of South Africa there are people who ask what we have to celebrate –

  • The people are still poor
  • The people still have no jobs
  • The people still do not have land
  • So why have a birthday celebration?

Some have asked the same question of Bryanston Methodist Church:\Today we are 62 years old!
But we are not yet perfect!
We can find things that are broken in the life of this church
We can find people who are dysfunctional
And some of us might fondly remember the “good old days” – which we think were much better.
So why celebrate a birthday?

Take us back to Job – sitting in the ashes and refusing to have a birthday.
The book of Job is an ancient Jewish story that has been handed down in the form of a sacred poem.

The book starts with God and Satan discussing Job, who is described as a “perfect and upright” man who “feared God and avoided evil” (1:1).

Satan, or Shaytan, is better translated as a position in God’s court – He is “the Accuser”… Satan is the council for the prosecution.
Shaytan The Accuser tells God that Job is only faithful because he is well off; were he to suffer, he would surely “curse you to your face” (1:11). Satan sets out to destroy Job’s life.
And so Job curses the day he is born.

This is not a true story – it is a teaching tool – a parable that helps us to ask questions about suffering and struggle in our lives.
Because since the beginning of time we have had to ask this one question: why do human beings suffer?  

Put differently……

Is it worth celebrating birthdays when life is hard?
Somehow we as people believe that we deserve to have easy lives –
This is the stuff of all advertising: use our product and your life will be better:

See if these adverts are familiar to you:

  • A soft drink that tell you that can literally open happiness / Coke
  • Fast food that makes you happy: I’m loving it / McDonalds
  • Happiness is simple – eat our potato chips / Lays
  • Appliances that make your life good: Life’s Good / LG

And probably the best advertising campaign of last year: a whole nation was feeling the effects of a loss of global dominance: so Support our politician and you will feel great again / Donald Trump

We live in a culture that assumes the human right to be happy and satisfied.
So that when difficulties come our way – we complain .
And when that doesn’t work we look for someone to blame:
Either we blame the people around us
Or we blame the politicians / business leaders / the weather
Or we blame God.

The story of Job invites us to see life in an altogether new way:

When Job and his friends are finished complaining –
God comes to Job and asks him this simple question:

Job – were you there

  • Were you there when I designed this world?
  • Were you there when I put the stars in the sky and created the rain?
  • Were you there when I put the fish in the sea or made the birds of the air or made the animals?

In essence – God tells Job that this world is made by God – without Job’s help or advice.

Job: “You can’t make a world – but you complain about what I have made for you.”
God has given Job a world that is designed to help him grow spiritually – and Job is complaining about the difficulties of life!

Then we hear these startling words:

Job 40:7

Dress for action like a man”…

Stop complaining and look for the lessons you can learn from this one life that I have given you.
Job – grow up and be a man.

Job 42:1  Then Job answered the LORD and said: 
Job 42:2  “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 

Challenge us to pause – and stop complaining!
Challenge us to discover that God at work in everything!

Personal reflection:

My birthday this week – an opportunity to reflect on my life: 61 years of life – 40 service the MCSA.
I am grateful for everything. Some stuff exhilarating / joyful
Some stuff very difficult. But in all of it I discovered God at work.
I am retiring – and I am looking forward to my 62nd chapter of life with God.

So let me offer these words to us –
It is our birthday:

Let us celebrate – not just the good, but also the difficult things
Let us celebrate not only the joyful moments – but also the painful moments…Because in everything God has been with us….and everything has the potential to be an opportunity to grow spiritually.

Close with the story that I began with –
I told us of a lady who gave up birthdays: today she says that she has decided to have birthdays again: because birthdays are her opportunity to thank God for the gift of life.

A life that has both good moments and bad moments – but through it all – a life that is accompanied by the presence of God.

Te Deum

A Hymn of Praise that is said to be at least 1600 years old. Originally sung in Latin – now translated into most languages on earth. Famous composers such as Hayden, Mozart, and Dvorak have offered tunes.

The joy is that it has been transposed onto African soil: In South Africa it is sung in isiXhosa – with various an indigenous tunes.

Choir will lead us: even if unfamiliar – invite us to try it - connect with our ancient Christian history – and at the same time to connect with the soil of Africa.

 

“To comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” Finley Peter Dunne (1867–1936)