Job 42: 1-6, 10-17———-Psalm 34: 1-8, 19-22———22nd Sunday after Pentecost
October 24, 2021———–Rev. Patrick Mecham
You all know the story of the lowly caterpillar. It is earthbound, slowly crawling from leaf to leaf, munching its way through life. Then one day it attaches itself to a branch and develops a chrysalis and, to the uninformed eye, DIES. How sad. But, on a later day, the apparently dead thing starts to wiggle and eventually splits and the form of a butterfly struggles to emerge.
The miracle of metamorphosis: caterpillar to butterfly! Pretty dramatic, isn’t it?!
Did you know that people also undergo metamorphosis? On the outside, it’s not as dramatic as that of the caterpillar becoming a butterfly—but on the inside, it is a thing of wonder!
Our Scripture readings for today are about spiritual metamorphosis—dramatic change in the way we walk through this life. We see it in Job, and we see it in the words of the Psalmist—words that have been spoken and sung through hundreds of generations!
First, a note about preaching—about the purpose of preaching and about what I hope God might accomplish through it. I have heard of preachers who have a tendency to “beat up” their congregations, smacking them over the head with lots of guilt and shame and manipulation disguised as “Biblical Truth.” But there is nothing winsome or helpful in this style of preaching. It fails to achieve what I consider to be the primary objective—drawing people closer to God and inspiring them to live into the life of wonder that God intends for each of us!
Let’s take a look at our texts together, allowing God’s Spirit to warm our hearts and fire our imaginations, encouraging our own spiritual metamorphosis.
Job’s New Insights
We’ll begin with our old buddy, Job. He has suffered terrible loss and grief and illness. And he has cried out to God for justice. God has questioned Job as a way of reminding him that God knows more than Job, that God is powerful, and that God will do what is needed. And in the process of his spiritual metamorphosis, Job has come to some new insights! He says to God, “I have uttered what I did not understand—things too wonderful for me (Job is full of wonder); things which I did not know (used to be a “know-it-all”?).” He tells God, “I had heard about you, but now my eye sees you! You can do all things. No purpose of yours can be thwarted. He even says that he “despises” himself and he repents—which means, “Aha! Now I understand!”
At the conclusion of his story, the Lord restored his fortunes. God gave Job twice as many possessions as he had had. Job develops significant relationships: praying for his friends and siblings, enjoying newborn children and his wife of many years. And he had long life—long enough to know four generations!
Then we are given an interesting detail about Job:
- He had three beautiful daughters: Jemimah, Keziah, and Keren-happuch;
- He gave them an inheritance along with their brothers (whose names we are not told);
- Job was obviously enlightened for his day and his culture, because none of his neighbors thought to include their daughters with an inheritance!
- The story has a happy ending and we can celebrate Job’s metamorphosis.
- Of course, this makes us wonder about our own metamorphosis—how do we respond to the difficulties in our lives, and how is God at work in us through them?
He Delivered Me from All My Fears
Next, let’s take a look at Psalm 34, a Psalm of David. He urges us, “Taste and see that the Lord is GOOD!” (This is especially important for those whose circumstances might cause them to question the goodness of God.) He goes on with, “Happy are those who take refuge in God. This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord, and was saved out of every trouble.”
Tucked away in verse 2 is an interesting line, “Let the humble hear and be glad.” We’ve been talking about Job and his exchanges with God. Through that process, Job grew humble—learning the greatness of God and the smallness of humanity. Humility results from understanding who we are in relationship to who God is.
Keep in mind, Psalm 34 is a song of David, King David, one whom we think of as brave and confident. But there is a line in verse 4 that says that the Lord “delivered me from all my fears.” There were times when David was in a dangerous position. For example, when the Philistines had seized him in Gath, this inspired him to later write in Psalm 56, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.” That is the key that helps us understand HOW God delivered him from all his fears—his decision to TRUST in God’s provision (even when things looked pretty dark)!
I Will Fear No Evil
Let’s go back to our old buddy, Job. At the end of his story, we are told that people comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him. This is odd, isn’t it? Talking about the evil that the Lord had brought upon him. The text is referring to all the difficulties and losses and griefs that Job experienced, NOT saying that the Lord was doing evil.
We are told in 1 John 4, “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. Love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
- God is love;
- There is NO fear in love;
- Perfect love drives out fear;
- Psalm 23, “I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”
So, what is EVIL?
- The absence of God;
- As darkness is the absence of light;
- As cold is the absence of heat;
- If God is with us, there is no reason to fear evil!
- God says, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Let me finish up today with a little recap. Metamorphosis is how we describe the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly. Spiritual metamorphosis is one way to describe what happens to you and to me as we struggle through life and become different beings. God is right in the middle of that process, loving us and empowering us to grow.
Yes, life is full of struggles! We often wish it were not so! But the struggle represents our “growing edge,” the place where we are learning to lean on God, the place where life comes more into focus. Life is full of struggles.
Friends, those with tender hearts are tempted to “rescue” others from their struggles, but this might be truly UNhelpful. I read a story about a boy who watched a butterfly trying to emerge from its chrysalis. It was struggling, and the boy did what he could to help it, using a small knife to open the chrysalis wider. The butterfly was able to emerge, but there was a problem. Because its struggle was prematurely terminated, its blood was not forced into its wings, and they did not finish their development. As a result, the butterfly did not fly.
This can also happen with parents who don’t want to see their children struggle, and they intervene too soon or too much. This results in the arrested development of the child, and it is a sad thing.
Just imagine God, watching Job struggle with losses and grief and ill health. I KNOW God’s heart went out to him, but God didn’t step in and rescue Job too soon. Instead, he supported Job and gave him time to grow into a new person.
Friends, I know some of the struggles that many of you have. I pray with you and for you as you find your way through them. Here is what the story of Job teaches us: God knows our difficulties and our pain, and God suffers along with us as we grow. Let’s encourage and support one another as we journey through our Spiritual Metamorphosis!