Sunday 16 July 2023

God Restores - Job 42

Through this term we have been looking at Job, reaching the point where he is 'undone' before the magnitude of God, finding himself on the floor in repentance. From this point God restores Job (verse 10 onwards).

God restores in style. Job receives back twice as much - he has new possessions, new success, new children, and double-sized livestock inventory. We can take this restoration as a 'picture' of God's "Kingdom", the heavenly place that is promised in Scripture where God restores things at the end of all time. This is the place where all has come good, where wrongs are reversed and put right, injustices are resolved. It is the place where finally all things line up with how God would have it be, all is perfect.

When we talk of 'heavenly Kingdom' we typically do it as that future time and place where God restores all. Yet in the story of Job that restoration starts in his own physical lifetime, in other words in the now. That is a useful reminder for us as we follow and serve Jesus: God's restoration is not just all in the future - no, with Jesus we pull aspects of that restoration into the now. That is in fact what Jesus does in His ministry - when He heals people, releases people and restores them. And that is what we do as followers of Jesus, as church. That is why our church vision is 'to see Kingdom Life across the city' - it is to pull God's restoring - His Kingdom - in the here and now for people all across the city of Ely. All the mission activities we do as church, be it parent n toddler, working with people with learning disabilities, or supporting the Foodbank, or the Ely CAP Debt Centre and so on ... are all tied to this principle: seeing aspects of the Kingdom now.

As followers of Jesus all of us have a role to play. Job's "friends" serve as an example to us: in verses 8 & 9 God tells them to show that they are sorry for their wrong ways/ thinking, and go to Job who will pray for them (acting as a mediator). Similarly in our Kingdom ministry we as followers of Jesus have a priestly role - mediating healing and the forgiving presence of God for those who are not able (for whatever reason) to receive God's presence directly themselves. Note that the principle we subscribe to as a church is that all of us as followers of Jesus can do that! You don't need a special qualification or standing - the only test is 'have you asked Jesus into your life and are making a reasonable attempt at following Him?'. It is not our cleverness, our skill or our abilities ... it is Jesus through us. That is the basis for God accepting our prayer on behalf of others.

So as followers of Jesus we can operate on the simple principle of: demonstrate the Kingdom of God; point people to Jesus; teach them to follow Jesus so that they can do the same.

For this we do need some resources. Of course there is the need for spiritual resources, which comes from having your own walk with Jesus and being a living conduit for Him. But for physical resources it is actually alot less than we might think. When cut down to the most basic essentials, the most basic physical resource you need is really just a table - a place you and others can gather around! It doesn't need lots of money, specialised training or even people with theology degrees. It just needs us to be an open spiritual conduit with our availability, which can start simply with us and others gathered around a table.

A final point can be made about seeing Kingdom life in the here and now based on the closing sentences in the story of Job. In verses 14 & 15 it is Job's daughters who are named, not the sons. They are also granted an inheritance along with the sons. These facts are of course unusual against a strongly patriarchal culture and the norm in the older part of the Bible which concentrated on male lineage and inheritance. We can take Job's example for ourselves as another Kingdom principle: in Kingdom restoration we might need to start operating with different norms to that which society has been used to. As we see Kingdom Life (God restoring), we should not expect it all to restore to exactly how it was before, because God's standards are different and better than our. His standards transcend society's norms and improve them.

It means that as followers of Jesus we must be continually open to what we expect being changed and improved by God - for it is His Kingdom Life, not our norms. Our norms can be broken and fallen. So we seek God through Jesus, to bring Kingdom Life His way - all of us playing our part in God's great restoration project.

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