“Worship and Our Light Affliction” – Part One
This article was written by Jon Cardwell on May 25, 2010 specifically for the The Sovereign Grace Messenger, a periodical published by the Sovereign Grace Baptist Fellowship. It appeared in that edition of the messenger, Issue 27. Because of its length, the original article will appear in two parts at Preaching Christ Crucified.
“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;” —2 Corinthians 4:17
Today’s Christianity has slowly changed some of the prevailing perspectives concerning worship. For many, worship has been reduced to the congregational gathering on one or more designated days of the week. Even further, some have reduced worship to only certain aspects within that public gathering. Yet, even further still, some only see worship as the song portion of that corporate assembly; and worse, only particular songs are designated as “worship,” as opposed to what they identify as “praise.” Therefore, we fail to see our very lives as an expression of worship.
Man was created in the beginning for worship; and even fallen mankind was redeemed by Christ’s precious blood for worship. Several catechisms, from Westminster’s to Spurgeon’s, open with this statement: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever” (1 Cor. 10:31; Psa. 73:25-26).
If our very lives are instruments of worship unto God, especially as souls redeemed by the atoning sacrifice of Christ upon the cross, then we may be minimizing or even missing many blessed dimensions of true spiritual worship. One much overlooked aspect of worship is our worship of God through, or because of, our trials, tribulations, afflictions and sufferings; and what better way to explore that aspect of worship than through the life of Job?
Most of you probably know the story of Job but it may be wise to review some things to refresh our memories. Although the story is presented as poetic literature, Job was a very real person, mentioned in Ezekiel 14:14, 20 and James 5:11. He was a prosperous man (Job 1:1-3), who was “perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil” (Job 1:1); that is, Job desired to do righteously before God, and because he revered God, Job despised and shunned evil.
One day the angels of God presented themselves before the LORD; and Satan presented himself as well (Job 1:6). The LORD asked Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan replied, “From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it” (Job 1:7). God said, “Have you considered My servant Job? There’s none like him in the earth. He’s a perfect and upright man; one that fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8). Satan said, “Does Job fear God for nothing? Haven’t you protected him, his house, and all he has? Haven’t you blessed his labors and increased his cattle upon the land? If you smite all that he has, he will curse You to Your face” (Job 1:9-11). God said, “Okay, all that Job has is in your power; ONLY, don’t lay a hand on him” (Job 1:12). So, Satan left God’s presence and in Job 1:13-19, Satan ruined Job’s crops, destroyed his livestock, and killed Job’s children. Upon receiving the news, the Bible tells us what an upright, God-fearing man does: he worshipped God. It is written,
“Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly” (Job 1:20-22).
Although Job knew nothing of the conversation that took place at the heavenly throne between God and Satan, and although Job was brought to abject poverty, which included the death of his children, Job worshipped God. In fact, he not only praised Jehovah (blessed be the name of the LORD), but he also praised God for His sovereignty (the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away). Job’s worship presented both true worship and spiritual worship. Let’s take a look at each.
True Worship in Suffering
Job had reason to mourn. He lost everything in moments. His loss made the American stock market crash of 1929 look prosperous. Yet, Job kept a clear head. He worshiped God and didn’t sin against Him foolishly. How did Job keep a clear head? His worship was rooted and grounded in the truth. Job realized that he came into the earth with nothing and that he would also leave the earth with nothing (Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither). We read this truth in the New Testament as well: “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (1 Tim. 6:7).
The Word of God promises that we would suffer (Phil. 1:29); that we would be hated (Jn. 15:18-19); that we would be persecuted (2 Tim. 3:12); and in fact, that we would have tribulation: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33).
In the last portion of John 16:33 cited above, we not only have the promise of tribulation from the Lord, but also the peace and comfort contained therein. As Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (Jn. 14:6), we worship Him in our sufferings because He is our peace (Eph. 2:14), as well as the God of all comfort (2 Cor. 1:3-5). The source of our joy and peace in the midst of sufferings is Christ, and most specifically, in what He has done by way of His atoning sacrifice: “…but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33). The story of Job also identifies for us the truth of the cross of Christ within the suffering of this upright man.
Job prophetically proclaims the truth concerning Christ’s sufferings upon Calvary’s cross: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him” (Job 13:15). The only man that can make that claim, maintaining righteousness before God in the face of death, is Jesus Christ, who was “without sin” (Heb 4:15). Though the proclamation of Christ crucified will bring persecution and tribulation, it is only in embracing God’s grace by the truth of the cross that we have peace and comfort in our sufferings.
Job also speaks of the Christ’s crucifixion when he says, “He cometh forth like a flower that is cut down” (Job 14:2). The issue of judgment is pondered in Job 14:3, whereas we know that Christ received judgment on behalf of His redeemed by condemning sin in His own flesh (Rom. 8:4). We are given a hint of the doctrine of regeneration that occurs by grace when Job asks, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?” (Job 14:4). Job 14:7 would seem to foreshadow the death of the righteous Branch which sprouts eternal life as Job says, “For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease.” The “root [waxing] old in the earth” (Job 14:8) would then speak of the eternal existence of Christ, as well as Christ’s burial in a tomb for “a set time” (Job 14:8-13). In Job 14:14-15, the resurrection is pondered. We could go on and on as we look at the texts through a Christ-exalted, cross-centered, gospel-saturated lens.
In one of Job’s early discourses, he speaks an incredibly important truth when he seeks someone to plead for him, not only because of the calamities that have befallen him, but also against the accusations that have come upon him. He wants someone to vindicate him; someone to justify him. He desires a mediator to plead for him before God. He desires an intercessor to pray on his behalf. He desires an advocate to represent him at the judgment bar; and we know that he is asking for Jesus Christ. Job says, “O that one might plead for a man with God, as a man pleadeth for his neighbour!” (Job 16:21). Through Christ’s atoning death, we have that exalted Mediator: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1 Tim. 2:5-6). In Christ, we have that perfect Advocate: “And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 Jn. 2:1).
Job also prophecies the truth of Christ’s resurrection and heavenly reign, as well as the promise of the resurrection in the last day: “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God” (Job 19:25-26). Jesus Himself promised that He would raise every one drawn of the Father in that day, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day” (Jn. 6:44).
Part Two of this article will be published at Preaching Christ Crucified at 7:00 am CST on January 31, 2013.