One Summer night I was sitting on the balcony at the student flat of a friend contemplating the complexities of life (as you do). It was a perfectly clear night and when I looked into the sky I saw it was lit up with hundreds of stars punctuating the blackness. The realisation struck me then how much that visually represented my understanding of who God was.
Just as the stars looked like small pinpoints of light in an expansive universe, I only had glimpses of who He really was. In that moment I realised that, as much as I thought I knew Him, I had yet to see the fullness of His glory.
Having knowledge of someone is not the same as knowing someone. I want to share with you the story of a man named Job who found himself questioning what he knew about God. You may be familiar with his story in the bible (he gets his own book) and maybe you can relate to his situation in a personal way.
The bible tells us Job was a good man who lived his life in obedience to God. Yet, he experienced incredible trauma in a short space of time. His business enterprise collapsed, he lost close family members in terrible circumstances, and he had a complete physical breakdown. It was so devastating that friends who came to comfort him found they had no adequate words to empathise or reassure him.
Understandably, Job’s faith was severely shaken in these traumatic circumstances. What Job believed he knew about God didn’t make sense with what he was experiencing. Job says this:
“Even today my complaint is bitter; his hand is heavy in spite of my groaning. If only I knew where to find him [God] if only I could go to his dwelling!
I wonder if this is a question we have all asked at some time in our life. Maybe you have asked these similar questions -- God, where are you? What are you doing? What purpose is there in this? These were the types of thoughts popping into my head as I looked at those pin-pricks of light in the dark night sky. I wanted to see God, but I only saw glimpses of Him.
Is it possible to find the answers to these questions? Did Job? There is a lot of dialogue filling those chapters as Job and his friends wrestled and debated the reason for the devastation he encountered. Spoiler alert! The story ends with God Himself stepping forward and speaking his mind to all of them. God healed Job and restored his fortune, but more importantly, Job learned God had not abandoned him at all. But how did Job discover where to find him?
Well, Job seemed to be off to a good start. Job starts by seeking God.
Seeking is a desire, a longing to know or find something. And at first, Job was very confident.
I would state my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments. I would find out what he would answer me, and consider what he would say to me.
Would he vigorously oppose me? No, he would not press charges against me. There the upright can establish their innocence before him, and there I would be delivered forever from my judge.
I love this attitude from Job. He determines to go directly to God. He doesn’t expect opposition, he expects God to listen and judge fairly. God is not threatened by our tantrums. He lets us speak to him, honestly, vulnerably, and even hot-headedly (read the Psalms some time - they weren't all pristine words of poetry!). We run into trouble when we seek out everyone else's opinions before we turn to God.
"In his pride, the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God." (Psalm 10:4)
In contrast, "those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you." (Psalm 9:10)
This was Job's objection to his experience. He knew it was not possible for God to have forsaken Him. His trust in God was warranted, so he sought out God to find out what purpose was there in his circumstances.
Job is disappointed, it seems everywhere he looks, he still cannot see God.
“But if I go to the east, he is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find him. When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him.
Sometimes we have that experience too. “I catch no glimpse of him”. We can feel ‘lost in space'. There is no gravity in space. No direction. We can lose our senses and feel like we are floating in a dark expanse. But the point is, Job was still searching. He searched east, west, north, and south. That is quite different from waiting around, floating in space waiting for a comet to come crashing into your orbit.
Seeking is about a desire, searching is about discovery. Searching means spending time studying, learning, and trying out different devotional pathways. It means spending time wrestling with the issues, studying the scriptures, and the writings of the wise. Searching leads to learning, which in turn develops into a broader and deeper understanding of the character of God.
All the while, this instills in you a growing familiarity with the Father, so when you find Him, you can recognise Him. When my children were toddlers we would play a game called 'Hot-Cold' on their birthday. Rather than give out all the gifts at once, we would hide them around the house. They would go searching for their gift and we would call out 'COLD!' if they were in the wrong direction, or 'HOT!' if they were close to discovering the hiding place. They went searching never doubting that their father would have a good gift waiting. They went in search of it knowing that it was waiting to be found.
In the same way, we can search with an expectation of discovery because Jesus makes this promise:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?
If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"
STOP STARING INTO SPACE
In Job's story we find that even though Job was seeking and searching, he still complained that he couldn't catch even a glimpse of God. He was looking, but he couldn't see him. And yet - take a look at vs. 9
'God was at work in the north'
Even when Job couldn't see it, God was at work, Funny that God can be at work and we can still miss it. Sometimes, we don’t glimpse God, because we are looking in the wrong places – we are staring into black holes and dark spaces. We can let our attention be diverted by the voices that question the character of God. Job’s friends didn't seem to be so concerned with pointing out to Job where they could find God, but rather, all the reasons why he didn't deserve to, simultaneously misrepresenting God's nature. So much for an entourage of encouragement! At other times, I know I have missed Him because I thought it was all about me, but there were other people 'north' of me, who were part of God's plan all along.
The truth is – God is always at work on our behalf. 2 Kings 6 contains an amusing story that illustrates this brilliantly. We need to stop staring into ‘space’ and focusing on what we can’t see. After all, our ability to see beyond our natural eye is limited. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to see (Psalm 119:148). Another wonderful story that illustrates this is that of a blind man whom Jesus healed. When questioned he almost chuckles as he says, "Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes."
You and I and Job may not see where Jesus is coming from, yet He is doing God's work, right before our very eyes.
So instead of glaring at the emptiness of life's dark night skies, we should gaze on the stars that are already scattered in our view. For example, Job was still alive, with a wife, friends, and a voice. As Paul points out to the church in Rome, let's observe the things God has already put before us that ‘reveal His invisible qualities', such as the beauty of creation, the joy of music, how love is felt in a hug. Elsewhere he celebrates that we have every spiritual blessing that exists (Ephesians 1:3) and urges us that 'whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." (Phil 4:8)
SEE YOUR SALVATION BEFORE YOU
Job had kept his faith in the God of mercy and justice. He looked to Him, not only to be rescued, but for what he had to be reinstated. While the book of Job doesn't appear to have any direct prophetic reference to Israels' Messiah*, he does make this unusual (and beautiful) concession;
"I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God." - Job 19:25-26
Who is this Redeemer who Job looks to and who gives Him hope that he will be restored and see God with his own eyes? Jesus, the Son of God, the One who came and suffered with humanity. Perhaps his most agonising moment was not the physical pain of crucifixion, or the emotional distress at the betrayal of his friends, but that, like Job, He could not longer see His Father.
Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”
-- which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Jesus himself went through this experience. At his crucifixion, as the sky turned to darkness mid-afternoon, Jesus could no longer glimpse the sun or stars or the God of the heaven's and earth. Jesus was righteous, faithful, powerful, and had deep intimacy with God, and even He, like Job, asked ‘where are you?’
YET – God was at work. At that very moment, God was securing for us the salvation of humanity. In that moment He reconciles us to Himself so that we could know Him as our Father, and no longer strive to seek Him, but He would come and live in us by His Holy Spirit.
Because it is in Jesus that we SEE God.
If you want to know what God looks like, how He thinks, how He reacts, how He feels, just look at Jesus.
"No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known." - John 1:18
Job has been seeking, and he has been searching, and he may not yet have found what he was looking for, but he has come to an interesting conclusion; Even if He doesn't know which way the Lord will be found, "God knows the way that I take" (Job 23:10). God is not distant or absent, but takes an invested interest in your personal life. In Jesus, God came for you. King David puts it this way in Psalm139:6-8. 'Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
In the end – God revealed himself to Job in a spectacular way. I mean, you kind of get the impression God grabbed him by the shoulders and forced Job to look him in the eye.
"Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you, and you shall answer me."
One of Job's earliest complaints was that He wanted to find where God dwells. For believers today, God's Holy Spirit dwells in you. You can't get any closer than that. God is not withholding Himself from us, He is willing to be found -- and He wants to speak with us. Start seeking. Keep Searching. See your salvation before you. Because "if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul." - Deut 4:29
And even just a glimpse of Him is glorious.
Father, all glory to your holy name; May the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. We look to you Lord and your strength; help us to seek your face always.
and remember the wonders you have done, your miracles, and the good judgments you have pronounced.
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Note: All Scriptures are quoted from the NIV translation
** 1 Chronicles 16:10-12