Tell Me, If You Know
Rev. Kurt Lantz Proper 14 A Job 38:4-18
August 09, 2020 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON
Dear people longing for the LORD,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Once in a while we are awed by the power of nature in God’s created world. We are close to Niagara Falls and people come from all over the world, just to see some falling water. They could stare at the water running from tap to drain in their bathroom sink and see the same thing, but not the same power. It is common gravity at work, the same thing that puts your foot back on the ground every time you lift it to take a step, but at Niagara Falls there is an awesome power generated from the amount of water falling from a substantial height. In fact, we have harnessed some of that power to provide electricity throughout our region, as you all know. That may be awesome to the electrical engineer, but we find it more awesome to think about the destructive power of that falling water when it crashes to the bottom.
Similarly, you can enjoy a nice quiet canoe paddle in one of the decommissioned canals or a row out on Martindale Pond, but if you are out in open water of Lake Ontario when the wind starts to pick up and the waves get higher and higher, the peace and quietness quickly disappear. It is awesome to stand on the shore and watch a thunderstorm over the lake, but to be out there in the middle of it is another experience altogether.
The awesome power of nature is both wondrous and frightening and it is evident in more than just water. For almost a year now, microbiologists have been studying, with awe and wonder, a virus that has demonstrated some pretty awesome and frightening power. It is a simple microorganism, that cannot be seen with the naked eye, yet it has displayed the power to lay strong grown adults flat on their backs, and to bring death in numbers so significant that the world tries to keep an accurate up to date count of them all. I am sure that some virologists look at the 2019 novel coronovirus like tourists look at Niagara Falls. They stare transfixed and take their pictures and wonder at its destructive power.
Lightning, tornado, fire, the devouring locust, and the explosive potential of ammonium nitrate; all of these have a power that is both irresistible and frightening. We have an urge to get close, to try to harness it, to try to prove our superiority and mastery over it, but time and again we are knocked flat.
The disciples, many of them experienced fishermen and many of them living their entire lives around the Sea of Galilee, hopped in the boat and went for the other shore (Matthew 14: 22). They had mastered the waters of the lake for travel and for food and for commerce. But every once in a while they were reminded that the waters could not truly be mastered.
It seemed that Job had mastered life. He was rich and righteous, highly esteemed, and blessed with a large family (Job 1:1-3). But has anyone truly mastered life? Like experienced and successful fisherman can get caught in a storm, helpless in the rage of the waters, that can happen in life safely on shore as well. Storms took away Job’s riches and all of his many children. Disease took away his health and vitality. Resentment and grief took away the support of his wife. Suspicion, jealousy, and pride took away the comfort of his friends. Job could not understand it. He thought he had figured out the secret to a long and happy life. What’s more, he thought he had figured out how to live a life under the abundant blessing of the Lord God.
When the disciples were caught in the storm, they were so frightened that they didn’t even recognize Jesus coming to them. That can happen in the storms of life too. We can be so full of grief and fear that we don’t recognize Jesus coming to save us, in the words of Scripture spoken from a friend, or a visit from the pastor sent to preach the saving Gospel of peace, or the regular gifts of God given out in the Divine Service at Church. This is Christ coming to save you from the storms of life, but often we don’t recognize it until the storm is calmed. That is why it is so very important to have a habit of regular Bible reading, family devotion, as well as church attendance, and to keep it up with all the more effort when it gets difficult to do so, as we have experienced over the last few months of pandemic.
Yet even so, we are prone to regard even these things as a display of our mastery over the storms of life, rather than admit that there is only one Master over all. Peter was quick to jump out of the boat and go to Jesus, but he then quickly realized that he was still subject to the wind and the waves and was not himself master over them. He still needed Jesus to save him. Although we often hear people encouraging one another to get out of the boat as a step of faith and to take some course of action that will prove that the awesome frightening things of this world have no power over them, there is truly only one Master of life.
So, Job, in his righteous faith, did not flee from the Scriptures but examined them for any evidence as to why he deserved to suffer in the most horrible ways that he did. He had rigorous theological debate with his counselors and intense spiritual introspection to try to get some idea of where his life had gone wrong. He did not abandon God in his suffering, rather he demanded an audience with his Creator. Like Peter, Job got out of the boat, so to speak, in order to go to his God, and he found himself sinking once again.
It is far too easy for us to develop this sense of mastery over life, and even over faith, over the spiritual things of this world that are truly out of our hands and out of our control. We want to be able to claim that we have mastery over them, that we know the secret to the abundant life under God’s rich blessings. Have you got it all figured out? Tell me, if you know. You could write a book, give a TedTalk, become a pastor or professor or president. You could change the game, solve the problems, and lead us all into a new era of success and growth and glory. Tell me, if you know. That was God’s challenge to Job, who was sure that if God would just give him an audience, he would set the record straight.
There is one Master over all, over creation, over life, over you. Jesus calmed the storm. Jesus rescued Peter from sinking in its waves. God set limits to the whirlwind that destroyed Job’s property and killed his children. God set a limit for Satan who afflicted Job’s bodily health. There was nothing that Job could do to stop it or regain what he had lost. There is only one Master who could do that for him, and He did.
“Who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?” (Job 38:8-11). Tell me, if you know.
It is not only the limits of the sea that God sets in place and enforces by His almighty power. He has also set limits for you and said, “Here shall your proud waves be stayed.” You are not master of the sea, or of the wind, or even of your own life. There is another who is Master over all, and He exercises His mastery for your salvation and for the good of all. It is not in your hands. It is in His hands and that is a much better place for it to be.
The Lord God has done what you cannot. He created all things. He knows all things. He orders all things. He gives stability. He was there at the beginning and will be there at the end. He preserves, and that means that He also restricts. He prescribes but it is for your protection. He purifies and it is for your salvation.
The one who is Master has done what you cannot. He does what you cannot, and He does it for your salvation and for the good of all of His children. In what is best for us, He did what we would never have done. He came into His creation and was born of the Virgin Mary. He showed His mastery over wind and wave. “Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep?” (Job 38:16). He did. “Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of the deep darkness?” (v. 17). He has.
Jesus showed His mastery not just over wind and sea, but also over life and death. He gave Himself into death on the cross for our proud sins which would try to exercise control over our own lives and the lives of others. He died on the cross, was buried in a tomb, and descended into hell not just as a tourist looking around at the power of death, but as a conqueror, as the Master even over death and the grave which will have to surrender its captives at His coming cry of command.
St. Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down) or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead)” (Romans 10:6-7). No one could do that except Christ Jesus Himself, and He has already done it for you. He descended into hell, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven, and He will come again in glory for you.
Where is the mastery of life, the mastery of the Christian life? Tell me, if you know. It is in Christ Jesus. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord [not you], and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead [He did], you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). He is the Word made flesh who died and rose again for your salvation. He is still saving you in His Word, not in any way that you might master it, but in the way that it masters you, revealing the Gospel that He is the Saviour and you are one who needs to be saved by Him from the storms of life and death.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.