Wesleyan Roots: “The Trouble and Rest of All Men”

 

Wesleyan Roots: “The Trouble and Rest of Good Men” #127

A Message on Job 3:17-19

For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church

Nov. 4, 2018

By Doug Wintermute

dwinterm@yahoo.com

 

Job 3:17-19 (NRSV)

 

There the wicked cease from troubling,

   and there the weary are at rest.

There the prisoners are at ease together;

   they do not hear the voice of the taskmaster.

The small and the great are there,

   and the slaves are free from their masters.

 

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The book of Job is one of the more unusual books in the Bible. In it we find God almost wagering with the devil, allowing bad things to happen to Job in order to prove a couple of points.

 

There’s more to it, though. It is a very deep and theologically complex book dealing with suffering and faith.

 

Here’s the beginning of the story. Job is an upright, honest, and righteous man. He has many blessings: wealth, children, livestock, etc. Then the devil shows up and begins a conversation with God and says that the only reason Job is righteous is because God protects all of his property and his family. Take away that protection and Job will curse God.

 

So God takes all that protection away from Job and Satan goes to work. All Job’s children are killed. All his livestock are stolen or killed. Everything goes bad for Job, but Job takes it all in stride, lamenting but saying “the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” He doesn’t curse God.

 

So the Devil returns for phase two. He tells God that if he takes away Job’s health that Job will turn against God and curse him. So God allows it and Job gets afflicted with all kinds of physical problems. Job actually sits in a pile of ashes and scrapes at the sores on his skin with broken pieces of pottery. Even his wife tells him, “Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die.” (Gee, thanks honey…)

 

Then Job’s friends show up and are shocked by the shape he is in. They just sit with him for seven days.

 

Job is suffering so badly that he wishes he had never been born. He wishes he wasn’t alive. He is doing some serious lamenting.

 

And that’s where we find the scripture we read today. Here is The Message paraphrase of it:

 

Where the wicked no longer trouble anyone

   and bone-weary people get a long-deserved rest?

Prisoners sleep undisturbed,

   never again to wake up to the bark of the guards.

The small and the great are equals in that place,

   and slaves are free from their masters.

 

Job is talking about heaven. In his suffering he is looking ahead to something better that will come along.

 

Now this is significant because the concept of heaven and hell didn’t really exist among the Jewish people of Job’s time. Their philosophy and theology was pretty much “when you’re dead, you’re dead.” That’s why children were so important. It was their one link with immortality.

 

So for Job to be saying this is unusual to say the least.

 

We learn a lot more about heaven and hell in the New Testament. In the book of Revelation John gives us metaphors to describe heaven as a beautiful, awesome, perfect place. That’s where we get the “streets of gold” and “pearly gates” images.

 

As Christians we can take comfort in knowing heaven exists, especially when our loved ones die. I experienced that consolation this past February when my dad died. His last few days were not pleasant at all. I watched his condition deteriorate and I was there when his breathing got more and more shallow and then he took his last breath.

 

I knew my dad didn’t want to live in the condition he was in. Being a physician it was something he had experienced with his patients, and because of that it was something he feared. He didn’t fear death, but he did fear dying. I think that is just part of human nature.

 

But as Christians we have hope because we know that no matter how much we suffer, no matter how much our health deteriorates death is not the end. Jesus death and resurrection gives us the promise that we also, will be resurrected. Death doesn’t win. God does.

 

As that old hymn says, “The world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ through.”

 

John Wesley talked about this in his sermon “The Trouble and Rest of Good Men.” The “trouble” he speaks of is the trouble we have here in this world. The “rest” is the rest we will receive in heaven.

 

Here is how he describes heaven: “There then ‘the weary be at rest.’ The blood of the Lamb hath healed all their sickness, hath washed them throughly from their wickedness, and cleansed them from their sin. The disease of their nature is cured; they are at length made whole; they are restored to perfect soundness.”

 

Today is All Saints Sunday, the day every year that we stop to remember those who have died since the last All Saints Sunday. Earlier we rang a bell as each name was read. We mourn, because those beloved ones are no longer with us, but we also are comforted by knowing that because they believed in Jesus Christ as their savior they are in a place so great and wonderful our minds aren’t capable of imagining it.

 

And we can take comfort in knowing that heaven awaits us as well. Like Job we long for a place where “the wicked cease from troubling,

   and there the weary are at rest.

There the prisoners are at ease together;

   they do not hear the voice of the taskmaster.

The small and the great are there,

   and the slaves are free from their masters.”

 

The Lord’s Supper, partaking of the bread and wine in recalling Jesus sacrifice for us, reminds us that heaven awaits as well. As Paul says in Romans 6:3-5, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”

 

So my challenge to you this week is to remember the saints, those who have gone before us, and remember that one day that those of us who believe will also be saints as well. Knowing that gives us courage for today and hope for tomorrow.

 

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

 

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