Though He Slay Me, Yet Will I Trust in Him (Job Sermon 9)
April 25, 2021 | Andy Davis
Faith, Abiding in Christ
Andy Davis preaches a sermon on Job 13:15. This text is the whole point of the Book of Job for Christians: we must hope in God even though he slay us.
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT -
As I come to preach to you this morning, I'm thinking about a critical moment in Israel's history in which the Israelites were apostatizing, they were syncretistic. They were trying to mix together worship of Baal and worship of Yahweh. God raised up a prophet, Elijah, to call them back to faithfulness to the living God. And you know that climactic moment when he took on the hundreds of the prophets of Baal in a great contest on Mount Carmel. At the climax of that encounter, Elijah had an altar built and he had the animal sacrifice on the altar, and had the whole thing drenched in water. And all the people were there watching to see what would happen. And in response to a simple prayer from Elijah, nothing complex about the prayer, just ‘God, please answer with fire from heaven that these people may know that I'm your servant, that everything I've done I did at your command and that you are calling your people back to yourself.’ And then fire fell from heaven and consumed the sacrifice, and the altar, and the stones, and the water. And all of the people fell down on their faces and they confessed, ‘The Lord, he is God. The Lord, he is God.’
Now I'm here as a preacher. I'm just a man. I'm just wearing these regular clothes. I've got this microphone, I've got this Bible here with words on the page. I've got this sermon here that I wrote. We're all just sitting here on wooden pews. All the physical stuff is here. What we need is the fire that falls from heaven, and we're not going to see fire. It's a spiritual fire that falls by the illuminating work of the Spirit taking these words and making them burn within our hearts. And a sense of the presence of the invisible God that we don't usually have, and that God would use that to call us out of our wayward ways of idolatry and into serving him in spirit and truth. That's what I want out of this time, something only God can do. Other than that, it's just very physical and ordinary. There's nothing special.
What's so amazing about that is that that actually can happen for some people and not others in the same room. I understand that. But today's sermon is all about an encounter with the holiness of God and that's what I want. And I know that nothing will happen unless God moves by the Spirit. It's my desire that through just the humble mechanism of a sermon of words, that you would actually have a sense of the infinite majesty of God. And that you would, in some sense, fall on your face before him and confess the Lord, he is God.
I. Knowledge of God….and of Ourselves
John Calvin, in the Institutes of the Christian Religion, the opening line, something that has captivated me for years, he said this, "Nearly all the wisdom that we possess, that is to say true and sound wisdom, consists in two parts: the knowledge of God, and of ourselves." Calvin goes on to say that unless we know God, we really can't know ourselves. It's only by seeing the infinite majesty and the holiness of God that we really know who we are because we are so good at lying to ourselves and deluding ourselves and comparing ourselves to others favorably. We don't really seem to know who we are now. This same man, John Calvin, preached the sermon on the text that we're about to study. And it captivated me, and I want to share some of his thoughts with you. It's one of the most powerfully convicting sermons I've ever read.
John Calvin had a way of just simply leveling human pride, just leveling it. Another image is one of a tangled overgrowth, like a jungle of plants. And you could see like machete work, where individuals are going and hacking it all out and clearing it out. That's just how prideful we are and how hard it is to be humbled. Calvin, in that sermon, spoke in the plain way of the infinite majesty of God and how the terror of God ought to slaughter our pride. I want to draw out some of those insights with you today for your humbling, my humbling, and therefore for our healing, spiritual healing.
My goal is to buttress your souls through this so that you will trust God no matter what he chooses to do in your life. That's my desire. I want you to be able to say from your hearts, whenever the time comes, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.” Now essential to you being able to do that is you have to learn to stop complaining against what God is doing in your life, to stop murmuring against him and to stop questioning him and stop arguing with him and stop being angry with him for what he chooses to do in your life. But before that happens, you have to know how majestic he is, how sublime, how perfect he is in his being and how lowly we are as creatures and as rebels, that you would have a sense of both of those.
Ultimately, I believe that the text we're studying today is the whole point of the Book of Job for us Christians. After the resurrection of Christ, why did the Holy Spirit want this book in the Bible? What did he intend to say to us Christians? I'm reading it as a Christian. And as I've said before, and I will continue to say, I believe it's to bring us to that point where from our hearts, we'll be able to say, "Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him."
II. Terrified by the Majesty of God
So we begin at verse 11 with the statement that Job makes to his friends. Look at verse 11, chapter 13, "Would not his majesty terrify you? Would not the dread of him fall on you?" He's speaking to his friends in chapters 12 and 13. We've been through one full cycle of dialogue. Eliphaz has spoken. Bildad has spoken. And Zophar has spoken. They're all coming from fundamentally the same point of view, the law of sowing and reaping, law of retribution. You reap what you sow. So therefore, all of this misery, Job, that's happening in your life is because of your own sin. Because of the magnitude of the misery, you must be a very great sinner. Job comes back at them in a lot of ways, we looked at some of them last week, sarcastic, he's prideful, different things.
But more than anything, I think at this point, he wants them to come face to face with the same God he fears. He's saying, would you do any better, if this same God looked at you, addressed you, “Would not his majesty terrify you? Would not the dread of him fall on you?" He rebukes their shallow explanations of his sufferings. Verse 12 he says, "Your maxims are proverbs of ashes; your defenses are defenses of clay." But fundamentally I assert to you, as John Calvin did to his congregation five centuries ago, the majesty of God ought to terrify you. The dread of God ought to fall upon you. Job is exposing his friend's faulty statements about God. Why is it that we are also impudent in falsifying the truth about God? It's because we don't see him in his lofty majesty, and we easily pull God down to our level. We make Almighty God like ourselves, and that's a lie. There is an infinite distance between us and Almighty God. As Solomon said, when he dedicated to temple, "Heaven, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you."
So John Calvin said, "Let us bow our heads and let God say whatever pleases him, and when we have heard his word, let him also do whatever he thinks is best, and let us adore him in all his works, especially when we enter into the consideration of our feebleness and frailty saying, “WHAT ARE WE?”" I'm thinking about Proverbs 9:10, which says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." Job, I think, speaks as one who has a genuine fear of the Lord. It's the way he lived his life before the trials came. And he senses that his trivial friends do not really have a healthy fear of the Lord.
So we would be better advised if we took it upon ourselves to speak more carefully of this holy God than we do. But ordinarily, we humans proceed to speak of God stupidly. We ought to repent of this lighthearted trivial manner of speaking of the almighty, holy, majestic God, as in direct violation of the Ten Commandments. Exodus 20:7, "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold guiltless anyone who takes his name in vain." If we're going to speak about God, we should allow a holy reverence and a fear to come upon us. We should learn to conceive of the infinite glory that is in him. The Puritan commentator, Matthew Henry, wrote this, "There is in God a dreadful excellency." Dreadful excellency, "He is the most excellent Being, he has all excellencies in himself and in each infinitely excels any creature. His excellencies in themselves are amiable and lovely. He is the most beautiful Being; but considering man's distance from God by nature, and his defection and degeneracy by sin, those excellencies are dreadful. His power, holiness, justice, yea, and his goodness too, are dreadful excellencies. They shall fear the Lord in his goodness. A holy awe of this dreadful excellency should fall upon us and make us afraid. This would awaken impenitent sinners and bring them to repentance, and it would influence all to be careful to please him and fearful of offending him."
So how can we, finite beings, even begin to conceive of such a God? If we were to compare him with his creatures, with any of his creatures, we would be stripping God of his majesty. And what can we do now when we've been surrounded all our lives with people who have spoken empty words about God, who have joked about him, who have lowered him, who have stripped him of his majesty? We're so used to this lighthearted trivializing of the name of God, the way people talk about him, the way they joke about him. How shall we recover?
Well, I think we recover in part by beginning to consider what we are. We should meditate on our feebleness and the poverty of our being as creatures. That we are small, we're weak. We were created from the dust of the earth. And we should compare our infinite smallness to the majesty of the creation that we see around us. Even the stars up in the cosmos, as David said in Psalm 8:3-4, "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man, that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” Something very healthy about that feeling. What is man?
But God is infinitely above the cosmos as Isaiah 40:12, makes it plain, “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or at the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?” Later in that chapter, Isaiah 40:26, Isaiah says, "Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and his mighty strength, not one of them is missing."
Compare ourselves to the radiant angels, the glorious angels that surround his throne, a hundred million of them and serve him continually in heaven. If we had the glory of angels and the purity of angels, we could get closer to the presence of God. But notice how they are, notice how in Isaiah six, the seraphim, the Hebrew word means burning ones, holy burning angels cover their faces and they cover their feet and they never stop crying aloud to one another, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord Almighty.” They're overwhelmed by the infinite gap between God, the creator and they, as creatures. They are overwhelmed by it. That's why they cover their faces. John Calvin says, "But what are we but rottenness,” compared to the seraphim? What are we, but rottenness? Not only are we the dust of the earth, but we have been rebels against this holy God. We've rebelled against him. We've broken his laws. We've violated his majestic sovereign rule. We've transgressed his precepts. So we're not merely creatures of the dust, feeble and frail. We're also rebellious and, amazingly, arrogant in our rebellion.
How frail are we? We are like Calvin said, we're like sparks that jump up from a fire, like a campfire. You've seen a campfire before. And sometimes you watch a spark elevate and start to spiral upward and you watch it. You keep watching, it kind of moves out and then it just goes out, that's it. It's got no thermal mass to it. It's just a very feeble thing. And Calvin says we're like that. We are sustained every moment of our existence by the sovereign will of God. We're feeble and frail. Because of his pure goodness and patient grace in and of ourselves, we couldn't sustain ourselves one instant. We couldn't take another breath. We couldn't make our hearts beat one more time. Only God can do that. And he wills it and he sustains it because there is in ourselves nothing but smoke and vanity. So it is beneficial for us to have a lively sense of who this God is, who created us and who sustains us every moment of our lives, that we are from him and that everything we see in any direction we look, God made it. Ultimately, God made it. Whether we look up or down, left or right, front or back, we will see clear evidence of his powerful handiwork and his mighty wisdom.
This should cause us to be astonished and ashamed at our pride, our arrogance, and to truly humble ourselves before his infinite majesty, to adore his lofty glory. We should quiet ourselves from all murmuring and all questioning of him. John Calvin said this, "So then let us learn to know better who God is in order that we may be trained in all modesty and sobriety, and meanwhile let us examine what we are. When we see that our flesh does tickle us to applaud ourselves so that we're inclined to flatter ourselves and seek to stand in our own conceit, let us stir ourselves up to say ‘Where does this conceit come from?’ It's because you really have not known yourself. Then we shall find that we have a bottomless pit of sin in us, that we're wrapped in such ignorance that it is horrible to behold, which is as it were so thick a darkness that it utterly chokes and strangles us."
So if the essence of all true and sound wisdom is knowledge of God and of ourselves, it seems that we don't know either very well. And that's exactly why we are proud. If we had the experience of an encounter with the glory of Almighty God, we would react with the same trembling and fear that all of the people of God in the Bible always had when God showed up, every time. Calvin, at the beginning of the Institutes of the Christian Religion, he writes, "Hence that dread and terror by which the holy men of old trembled before God, as the Scripture uniformly relates."
And so if you just look at Job 13:11, would not his majesty terrify you? Just take the question on. If God showed up in one of those radiant theophanies, what do you think you would be doing? What do you think would happen to you? Would you not be down on your face like everyone else? Think about Abram when God wanted to prove the truth of his promise that his descendants would be more numerous than the stars in the sky and that he would inherit the earth he was walking on, had a covenant cutting ceremony. In Genesis 15:12, “As the sun was setting a deep sleep fell on Abram, and suddenly a terror and a great darkness descended on him.” A terror and a great darkness. And then God showed up like a fire pot.
Then there's Jacob, his grandson, at Bethel when he had that dream and his mind was filled with light. And there was a stairway going up to heaven with angels ascending and descending on it. And at the end of that incredible evening, he woke up that morning, Genesis 28:17, and he was filled with terror, “And he said, "How awesome is this place? This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”"
Then there's Moses. Twice in his life, more than that, I'm sure. But at the burning bush, Steven relates in his sermon in Acts 7:32, "Moses trembled with fear and did not dare to look." And then again, when God caused the ground to shake under the nation of Israel and descended in fire on Mount Sinai. The author in Hebrews 12:21 says, "The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”" What do you think you would be doing if you'd been there? The ground is literally shaking under your feet and the mountain around which you have assembled is burning at the top with God having descended in fire on the mountain. You'd be on your face.
What about Isaiah? We've talked about him. He saw the Lord seated, high and exalted, the train of his robe filled the temple, the seraphim covering their faces. What was his reaction? “Woe is me! I'm ruined! For I'm a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” What do you think you would be doing?
What about Habakkuk? When God gave him a revelation of what was going to happen with sinful Israel and the exile to Babylon, how God was going to use the Chaldeans to punish his own people, and he was somewhat arrogant, Habakkuk said, ‘I don't get it. I'm going to stand here at my post and I'm going to wait until you answer me.’ Well, he answered him. What was Habakkuk's reaction? Habakkuk 3:16, "I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept in my bones, and my legs trembled." Same thing.
Ezekiel had an almost inexplicable vision of the glory of God, almost stretched words to the breaking point to try to describe what he saw. High above all of these angelic beings was a throne and one seated on it. And he says, "This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell face down."
We think, well, that's all Old Testament. We're in a new era of closeness with God now through Jesus. What about the Mount of Transfiguration, which I mentioned even last week. Peter, James and John and Jesus is revealed in glory before them and his face shown like the sun, his clothes became radiantly white, whiter than anyone in the world could launder them, “And a bright cloud enveloped them and a voice came from the cloud saying, "This is my son whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!"” What were they doing? Peter, James, and John were on their faces. What would you be doing? Same thing. Would not his majesty terrify you? Would not the dread of him fall upon you, if you had been there?
And then there's the apostle John at the end of a holy and fruitful life exiled in the island of Patmos. And it was the Lord's Day. And he had a vision of the resurrected glorified Christ, which he describes in Revelation one, "His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze, glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters…when I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead." Friends, that's after the resurrection, that's after Christ’s ascension into heaven. That's in the new covenant era. Would not the dread of him fall upon you? Would not his majesty terrify you? Almighty God himself said, "I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is humble and contrite in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and revive the heart of the contrite." He said later in Isaiah 66:2, "This is the one I esteem: he who is humble in contrite and spirit, and who trembles at my word."
So I do believe that the purpose of the book of Job is to bring us to a solid confession of trust in God. But before we get there, we have to know who we are and who he is. I do believe that the purpose of the book of Job is to humble us like Job himself was humbled at the end of the book. Job 40:4-5, "I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer—twice, but I will say no more."
And then in chapter 42:5-6, "My ears have heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent and dust and ashes." The fear of the Lord is essential to us being humble in his presence. And it's essential to the holy life he's calling us to live. He shook the ground at Sinai and he descended in fire on Sinai to make the people afraid to sin. He said that in Exodus 20:20, “Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid, God has come to test you so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning."”
So it is essential to us, therefore not questioning God or murmuring against him or arguing with him or getting angry at him when he chooses to bring us through pain and sorrow for our own glory to know his majesty, his wisdom, his love, his power. Now ultimately, Jesus Christ came to take away all fear and terror of God, ultimately. As John Newton puts it so beautifully in Amazing Grace, "Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, in grace, my fear is relieved."
So what happened on the Mount of Transfiguration when Peter, James, and John were trembling on the ground? Well, it says in Matthew 17:7-8, “Jesus came and touched them, "Get up", he said. "Don't be afraid." And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.” He did the same in Revelation 1:17-18, “John said, "When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I'm alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.'"”
So Jesus comes in the wake of the powerful working of the Holy Spirit that makes us fear his judgment and his wrath and makes us fear sin and comes and puts his hand on us, who believe in him, who trust in him and his atoning work on the cross. And he says fear not. Fear not. But we who live in the 21st century in the affluent west, we're used to a very casual form of religion, aren't we? We're not used to having our pride stripped away from us so roughly. We revel in the imminence of God, his closeness. God is my friend. God loves me. He is my loving father. He hugs me. All of those are true.
We're not so familiar with: ‘our God is a consuming fire.’ We're not so familiar with the transcendence of God, the infinite holiness of God, his majesty, that proper dread should come upon us in time, in his presence. So this I believe is a profound basis of Job's astounding piety. And from that we see Job at his absolute best.
III. Job at His Best: Though He Slay Me, Yet I Will Hope in Him
Look at verse 15A. We get to 15B at the end. But 15A is better than 15B. Job 13:15, he says, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." I want you to see the logical connection. Verse 11 feeds the first half of verse 15. "Would not his majesty terrify you? Would not dread of him fall upon you?” feeds, "Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him?" So let's just understand the statement plainly. Even if the worst possible earthly outcome were to happen to me, I would still hope in God. I would still trust in him. What is that? My wealth, my family, my health. These three things were assaulted in the trials with Job. Imagine things like that happening to you. Though he were to clear out my wealth, I would still trust in him and hope in him. Though he were to take a loved one out of my life or multiple ones from me, I would still hope in him and trust in him. Though he were to assault my physical health, even to the point of death, though he slay me, I will still hope in him and trust in him.
Now I believe essential to the reality of that statement is a solid belief in the resurrection from the dead. I will be trusting in God on my deathbed because I don't think that's the end of the story. Job already knew he was going to lose everything at death. Job 1:21, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised." Death should not come as a shock to us. Some surprise, a stunning plot twist that we never saw coming. I will die, but I will die hoping in God. I will die trusting in him. The only way any of that makes sense is the resurrection from the dead, life beyond the grave.
"Now I believe essential to the reality of that statement is a solid belief in the resurrection from the dead. I will be trusting in God on my deathbed because I don't think that's the end of the story. "
Did Job believe in that? Now, that's an interesting question. And it's so complex, we're going to reserve it for next week, if God lets us live. If we get time next week, we'll talk about what Job believed about the resurrection from the dead. It's harder than you might think. Some people question the translation here. Some of you, dear scholars, read the footnotes of your English Bibles. And you're like, wait a minute. I'm not even sure that's what the verse says. All right. Well, it's what the verse says up on the page. There are some footnotes in some of your more scholarly Bibles. So what does it say up on the page? Well, in the King James version, it says, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” The New American Standard, the ESV, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him.” There's the only difference is trust and hope, kind of equivalent. CSB Job 13:15, “Even if he kills me, I will hope in him.”
So they all say about the same thing. You would think that would settle it, but the scholars don't let anything be settled. So they just keep working on things and they say, yes, but there's another reading in the Hebrew, all comes down to a little Hebrew word, lo, which could mean to or for him, or it could be a negation, a not word. And so they actually think a better translation given how Job's behaving at other times is this, “If he were to slay me, I would have no hope.” Wow, that's different. Don't you think? Say it again slowly. If he were to slay me, I have no hope.
That's a downer. That's not too encouraging. Doesn't make much sense. I don't feel like the Holy Spirit's saying that to me as I read the Book of Job. Like if I die in the end, all my hopes are gone. What does that mean? It's for this life only I'm hoping in God. Directly the opposite of what Paul said. “If for this life only we hope in Christ, we are of all men [most] to be pitied.” Seems like Job is a man to be pitied. Like if you would give me my children back, and if you give me my health back and give me all the stuff back that he took from me, then I'll have hope in him. But if he doesn't, I have no hope.
Now, those scholars say, yes, but look at other things Job says. Yes, it's not great. And we're going to walk through it next week, not this week, but I'll give you an example. Job 17:11-16. It's a good example of Job at a low point, "My days have passed, my plans are shattered, and so are the desires of my heart." Wow, "These men turn night into day; in the face of darkness, they say “Light is near.” If the only home I hope for is the grave, if I spread out my bed in darkness, if I say to corruption, ‘You are my father,’ and to the worm, ‘My mother’ or ‘My sister,’ where then is my hope? Who can see any hope for me? Will hope go down to the gates of death? Will hope and I descend together into the dust?” That's really depressing. So I had to wrestle with what Job thought about the resurrection from the dead and the full effects and fruits of that wrestling will be next week's sermon.
Let me tell you something. Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who fall asleep. Amen. I know the end. I'm not entirely sure what Job knew. And we'll talk about that, but I know what we believe and I know what we have. And we're able to go back to Job 13 and 15 and say, whatever the translation, “Though he slay me, yet while I hope in him” makes perfect sense as the final end of the story of Job. Makes perfect sense. So whatever Job intended and whatever, frankly, Job said, I know what the Holy Spirit is saying concerning the rest of our lives. We're going to suffer. We're going to struggle. We're going to die if we're not the final generation. We're going to lose everything in death. And that will not be the end for us, Christians. But we're going to be raised in glory and we're going to spend eternity in heaven. And so we can die well.
I would say the book of Job makes no sense with that alternate translation down in your footnotes. And you should be glad it didn't make it up on the page. That instead, this is the scholars that did the King James Version, the scholars that did the New American Standard version, the NIV and the ESV and all of them thought it best to put it up on the page, I think will stick with it. But I think it ultimately makes sense for the whole story. Otherwise it makes no sense. His children really were dead. They were gone. He would not see them again in this world. And the possessions that would be restored to him at the end of his life, what's that, they're just going to be taken from him when he dies again. And so we have to have an answer that goes beyond the grave, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.”
Now is your theology big enough to think of God slaying you? Did you think your death would have nothing to do with God? The fact of the matter is Psalm 104:29 says, "When you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust." You realize that whenever a Christian dies, God did it. Whatever affliction or malady they had, God could have healed it. Effortlessly. Look at the healings that Jesus did. None of them were hard for him. He sustains life as he chooses. He can bring anyone out of any illness and any physical emergency any time he chooses. Ultimately, then, no Christian dies accidentally. No one shows up at the proverbial pearly gates, and God is shocked to see them. ‘What are you doing here?’ ‘Car accident.’ ‘Really?’ ‘Really.’ ‘Okay. Well we got to hurry and get a place for you. Get a cot set up. We're almost done. Come on in.’ That is not going to happen. When he takes away their breath, they die.
"Now is your theology big enough to think of God slaying you? Did you think your death would have nothing to do with God? "
As a matter of fact, Psalm 116:15 says, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." It's a precious thing when the time comes to call them home. We follow a Savior who laid down his life willingly. John 10:18. It says, Jesus said, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have the authority to lay it down and the authority to take it up again. This command I receive from my Father." I just lay down my life for them. And I take it back up again in resurrection power. And then we follow a Savior who's calling us to do the same. In some cases, literally.
Jesus said in John 12:24 through 26, "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces much fruit. The one who loves his life will lose it, while the one who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me." Now, we see that in church history, some of our brothers and sisters were called to literally die for the gospel. They were called to be martyrs to spread the gospel. Tertullian said in the Roman era, “The blood of martyrs is seed for the church.” Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him that he will use my death to spread the gospel and he'll reward me in heaven, rejoice and be glad because great is your reward in heaven. Even if they kill me. That's the way they lived. That's the way they died.
And we follow a cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 11, who are willing to lead exquisitely difficult lives for the cause of the gospel, who did not always have the earthly win, but sometimes had what some would call the earthly loss. But it was all part of God's wonderful plan. And so it says in Hebrews 11:35-38, "Others were tortured and refused to be released, so they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted, and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and caves and holes in the ground." They lived out, though he slay me, yet will I hope in him. And theirs was kind of a long dying kind of life in service to the gospel. They were willing that God would slay them, that others might live.
I see beautifully in the Bible, a progression on this whole logic. Job says, though he slay me, yet will I hope in him, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego facing that golden idol and the fiery furnace said this to the tyrant, not-yet-converted Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 3:7 and 17-18, "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know we will not bow down to your idol and serve it." So keeping it simple, though he slay me, yet will I obey him.
But Paul has the final word on this pattern. He basically says, though he slay me, yet will I rejoice in him. I will delight in him while he's slaying me. So in Philippians 2:17, he says, "Even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you,” so you too should be glad and rejoice with me. As he had said earlier, "For me to live is Christ and to die is,” what, “gain.” If God wants to take me home, let him take me home. But I think I'm going to stay, he said, serve you Philippians and suffer more for the gospel. I'm actually torn between the two. What an incredible man he was. Torn between suffering more for the gospel for the benefit of others or going and being with Jesus, he actually would prefer to stay and suffer some more so that there would be fruitful labor. Incredible. But though he slay me, I'm going to rejoice in him.
"Torn between suffering more for the gospel for the benefit of others or going and being with Jesus, he actually would prefer to stay and suffer so that there would be fruitful labor. Incredible. But though he slay me, I'm going to rejoice in him."
So Job's triumphant statement should inspire us Christians to suffer well and to die well for Jesus, for the spread of the gospel and for our own growth in godliness as well. And in order to get there, you have to start at verse 11. "Would not his majesty terrify you and would not the dread of God fall upon you?" Start there and then you'll have that kind of robust faith that he's talking about. All right, well that was Job at his best.
IV. Job at His Worst: Yet I Will Challenge Him to His Face
I can't help, but finish the verse and that's Job at his worst. It's like, what is it with Job? You're good. You're bad. You're in, you're out. What is it? Well look at the second half of verse 15. I'll read the whole verse. He says, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face." Hmm. Interesting. What happened to dread of the Lord falling on you in terror and majesty?
This is who Job was at that point. He was ready to argue his own innocence before God, before the holiness of God. Job should have heeded his own words. And he doesn't feel this way at the end of the book, does he? Not at all. He's not going to argue his ways to God's face at the end, but that's how he felt at that point. I'm reminded of Richard Sibbes’ masterpiece meditating on the bruised reed and the smoldering flax, the beautiful statement made by Isaiah the prophet and then ascribed to Jesus by Matthew, Matthew, 12:20, "A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory." Friends, we redeemed sinners are weak and feeble. We're bruised reeds. We're not mighty oaks of righteousness. We're bruised reeds, and Jesus is skillfully able to take that bruised reed and bind it up though it hangs by a slender green thread. He's got that skill and that gentleness, Jesus does, to bind up bruised reeds. That's the first image. Richard Sibbes talks about that, but he also talks about the second image, the smoldering flax. What is that? It's like a wick. And it's smoldering, it's almost extinguished. It's got some light, it's got some heat, but it's got some noxious smolder too. We're not mighty bonfires of holy righteousness and zeal, we're flickering flames or smoldering wicks. And there is continually in the saints, a combination of light and heat on the one side than smolder and noxious smoke on the other. That's who we are, and it especially comes out in times of affliction.
And so we need to learn the lesson from Job that when pressed hard, we're going to have times of disrespect. We ought not to have it. He repented from it at the end, but we're going to say things we ought not to say. We're going to have demeanors and attitudes we ought not to have. And so that's where the Holy Spirit and his power and his love and his gentleness brings us back to the fear of the Lord and the dread of his majesty. And then back to the resurrecting power of Jesus. Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.
Close with me in prayer. Lord, we thank you for what we've learned from these basically two verses today. I pray that you would strengthen each one of us to a holy, healthy fear of the Lord. We are so glib when we talk about God and we don't imagine properly what would happen if you showed up in your glory, if you showed up in a glory cloud and spoke to us, if you shook the ground under our feet. But Lord, we know that whenever that happened with the holiest men and women, they always were on their faces. And so Father, I pray that the fear of the Lord would be the beginning of wisdom for us. And then we would see that because of Christ mighty resurrection victory, we'll study this more next week, we can say, though he slay me, yet will I hope in him. We're ready by your grace to suffer well and not charge you with wrongdoing and not murmuring, complain and argue, or be angry with you, but we're ready to send off a beautiful aroma of witness to the on watching, the onlooking world. In Jesus' name, amen.