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September 24, 2023

Though He Giveth or He Taketh…

Passage: Job 1:1-3, 13-21

“Though He giveth or He taketh, God His children ne’er forsaketh; His the loving purpose solely to preserve them pure and holy.” The hymn stanza comes from the hymn, “Children of the Heavenly Father.” This hymn was a classic in the Swedish synod during the 1800’s, and was written by Caroline W. Sandell Berg, or Lina Sandell for short. Lina was an excellent hymnist who was highly revered by her Swedish kinsman. She wrote many hymns, glorifying God with many wonderful stanzas. Among all the hymns that she wrote, perhaps the hymn “Children of the Heavenly Father” reflected her life story in the most practical manner. Lina was a pastor’s daughter who was very close with her pastor father, and though this strong father-daughter bond was certainly a blessing given by the Lord, one day it all came to an end. On one dreadful day in poor Lina’s life, she had witnessed her father’s tragic death by drowning. With all the grief, pain, and suffering, you can only imagine what Lina went through. How could she ever cope with this? Of course, one of the ways she coped with this tragedy was by writing hymns—650 in total. And in this hymn, Children of the Heavenly Father, it is quite clear that Lina didn’t despair or give up on her God during this tragic time, but rather the opposite. She offered Him praise and gave glory to His name, saying, “Though He giveth or He taketh, God His children ne’er forsaketh; His the loving purpose solely to preserve them pure and holy.”

What an excellent hymn! That final stanza is absolutely amazing, and yet it is very familiar. It reminds me of a different hymnist if you will. I think Job wrote it first, and how did he put it? “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD." With these words as her inspiration, Lina wrote then that beautiful, final stanza; that final stanza will serve as our theme for today: “Though He giveth or He taketh, God His children ne’er forsaketh.”

(We pray…)

“Though He giveth or He taketh…” it looks like Lina knew her Bible when she wrote that stanza. She did well in applying the Scriptures as a lamp to her feet and a light to her path. Even in the darkest and dreariest path, the path of having to walk through the valley of her father’s death, she found a portion of Scripture for applying the right mindset during these kinds of hardships. She found in Scripture a faith strengthener in Her God even in the darkest of times. She turns to the Old Testament to find the Lord’s servant Job, for what better place is there than the book of Job to see the Christian walk during times of sorrow.

Now, perhaps we’ve all done the same, that is turned to Scripture for light during dark times like this. Maybe you’ve even consulted the Holy Spirit’s comforting truths in the book of Job itself. And regardless of whether the story of Job is new for you or simply a refresher of Gospel comfort, let us be like Lina and learn from this account of Job that “Though He (the Lord) giveth or He taketh, God His children ne’er forsaketh.” And regardless of whether you’ve suffered family tragedy or have been blessed to have never felt that in your life, this portion of God’s Holy Word will give you insight on how to shine the Lamp of God’s Word in the darkest of places. This portion of God’s Word, as well as many other comforting sections found in its pages, will strengthen the steel cable of your God-given faith even when it seems like it would snap under the immense emotional pressure of tragedy.

Turing then to the life of Job as a strengthener for our faith, in order to fully understand the plight of Job and the durability of God’s gift of faith, and in order to fully understand what it meant for Job to say, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord,” you must first understand the context of Job’s life. Here is where the context begins: behind the scenes, beyond Job’s physical limitations, beyond what his five senses could grasp, there was an exchange of divine proportions. Satan and God had spoken to each other concerning Job. To find this dialogue, you can look up the verses between verse 3 and 13. In them you will see that Satan, like the serpent that he is, thinks that he has Job sized up. Like a boa constrictor lining itself up along the side of its pray to measure, Satan thinks he has Job measured. He thinks he can take Job down and swallow him into unbelief and despair. And so, here’s what Satan sees: a man who feared the Lord and walked in the ways of goodness. Yes, Satan did see a good Christian in Job, but what he thought he saw beyond that was that Job was only a good Christian because God gave him all his wealth. In other words it’s as if Satan says, “Job only likes you, God, because you give him things. You gave him ten children, thousands of animals, a nice house. He’s one of the richest people in the middle east! Of course, that’s why he likes you!”

Meanwhile, while Satan had his eyes fixated on Job and his things, God knew what Job was like; for the Father knows His own, the Son knows His sheep named Job, and the Spirit is the one who equips Job to make him ready for anything. And so, God focused more so on the important part of Job’s life and character, the part that we read in verse 1, “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil.” God blessed Job with this lifestyle. This is not to say that Job never sinned, but rather that God put saving faith in Job’s heart. Job was a man who was righteous in God’s sight because He believed in His deliverance given in the Messiah, Jesus Christ. With this faith, Job yielded many fruits of faith unto His Lord. God knew then what Job would say even if Job lost everything, “Though He giveth or He taketh, God His children ne’er forsaketh.”

God knew what Job could handle as regards temptation and trial. He knows what Satan wants to do, and He knows that Satan’s allegations are not true. But what does God do? He allows this trial to happen to Job. Here with Job it seems that God takes away the dam and lets Satan flood the life of Job with destruction in a matter of seconds! Within these seconds, messengers winded from sprinting desperately away from their demise come to tell Job the unfortunate truth. One after another, while the other was still speaking, Job heard, “raiders stole your animals and killed your servants, fire from heaven consumed more, and a windstorm killed all of your children.”

Now, can you even imagine this happening to you? Imagine hearing, “your place of business was robbed and destroyed by criminals, your car blew up in your garage and burned your house down, and all your children have been killed,” and you hear it all in the same day. Perhaps you can’t imagine that. Tragedy can strike, and it can strike hard like it did with Job or the widow of Nain who lost her young son. And when it does, what are some of the things we are tempted to do or say? Perhaps we don’t want to know what we’d do or say if that happened to us. Satan measures you up like a boa constrictor. Like Job, He wishes that he had this sort of freedom with you. He wants to sift you like wheat, just like he wanted to with the apostle Peter.

With this as our sobering warning, let us not view our earthly hardships in a foolish way. Can we handle what Job went through? Not alone…if it were left up to us, Satan would swallow us whole with his ravaging mouth of despair. We are blessed by not having to handle the immense suffering that Job went through, but we have been vexed by Satan before. And how do we handle these situations? Perhaps we’ve tried to handle it on our own…and that was a mistake. We are not strong enough. We are nowhere near strong enough to handle these things on our own. We must realize this, and, like Job who realized his weakness, turn to our God, the one who, though He giveth or taketh, will never forsake you in times of trouble or any time at all.

Now, considering our weakness and God’s strength, perhaps there is one more looming question in your minds: Why would God allow Satan to ravage poor Job, taking everything he has and everything he loves away from him? Why would God allow Satan to claim the lives of even Job’s family members? Why would God allow Satan to do anything like this to anyone? Let’s look to God’s answer given through His servant Job. Job was a man with a strong faith. He was a man who meditated on God and His word and prayed to Him frequently. Job’s faith was already strong before this trial, and it was about to get even stronger. For you see, these trials don’t have to be seen as detriments to a person’s faith. In fact, I would encourage you all to view trials of this magnitude or any true trial for that matter as an opportunity to strengthen faith. From our earthly perspective, viewing Job’s faith amid the trials of Satan may look like a little candlelight ready to be quenched by the flood of hate and injustice, and yet this is not the case. Here is how God views it: The Christian’s faith is already a strong metal alloy prepared by the Holy Spirit, a steel cable which clings to Jesus our Savior and Healer for dear life. And do you know how one makes metal stronger? You heat it up…to intense degrees of heat. And so it is with Job’s faith. It has been heated up to intense degrees of heat, and was thus made stronger.

Now, in realizing our depravity and hopelessness in trusting ourselves and seeing how God uses trials to make our faith stronger, let us turn to God’s instruction. He lays it out perfectly with His servant Job. After hearing all of this tumult and sadness from the messengers, how does Job react? Does he walk away with a happy go lucky smile? No. Does he shrug it off? No. Should he have? No, Job grieves like any other human being would. He quickly rises up, showing his intense feelings. He tears his clothes, showing his broken heart. He cuts off his hair, reflecting his emotional recognition that he lost his loved ones. And yet, does this mean that he lost his faith? No, by no means is this the implication. The damages of sin are hard to bear physically, psychologically, and emotionally. So, yes, Job grieves. But what else does he do? He fell to the ground and worshipped God. He humbled himself before God. He proved Satan wrong. He worshipped God even when all his stuff was taken away. He worshipped God even when his children were killed. When tragedy struck, Job turned to the right place. He didn’t turn to despair. He turned to the Lord, the God of grace. He turned to the God who would one day graciously show His delivering love when He raised a young man outside of Nain from the dead, a God who will one day raise us from the dead.

Then in worshipping his God, Job says three important things: 1) Naked I came and Naked I will return. First Job shows this truth of life. Each individual comes into this life with no legacy, no belongings, not even children. God is the one who gives all blessings. And on the other hand, mankind will go into the ground and all their belongings will be withheld. Job has nothing in himself. Rather, Job has everything he ever needs in the one he is talking to. He has everything he needs in His Heavenly Father. And so it is with us, Children of the Heavenly Father, we have everything we need in Him. He is our refuge in times of trouble. And so, we like Job will one day go into the ground with nothing to our names…or so it seems. The reality is that when we are buried, we will be blessed in Heaven with blessings of a different, eternal kind.

And How can Job and ourselves have this confidence? 2) The LORD has given and the LORD has taken away. To answer our question, look at the name which Job address. Notice how LORD here is spelled in all capitals. This is the LORD, the God of justice and mercy. This is the covenant God who upholds the standard of His Law and provides atonement in His Son. And this Lord gives and takes away from His people for His own purposes. Job is blessed in both ways. The covenant LORD has made His faith stronger. He has ordered Job’s life in this way for his eternal wellbeing. And so, it is with you. The LORD has given to you and taken away, but He has never forsaken you. No, He did that to His Son on your behalf. Christ gave up His life to meet the LORD’s requirement to save you. Christ, the LORD, literally gave you His Righteous record and took away your sin. It is then in Jesus Christ, God made man and the covenant promise, that we are preserved pure and holy. In Jesus Christ we are blessed in both times of gain and times of loss.

And in view of all this love, Job says one more thing: 3) Blessed be the name of the Lord. Let’s not take this expression for granted, but rather let’s break it down. First, what is the name of the Lord? To say it is only words like God, Jesus, etc. is only part of it. The name of the Lord refers to God’s character as a whole. Blessed be the whole character of God. That is let His name be adored. And why would Job say that? He has lost everything! Well, Job has everything he has because of the giving Lord. And He also lost everything by the direction of the Lord in order to strengthen Job’s faith in the Lord. The Lord is gracious, guiding His children in the way they should go. He is worthy of praise, He is the covenant God who gives you what you need whenever you need it, and takes away when He sees fit in order to strengthen your faith in Him.

And so, with this last point, Blessed be the name of the Lord, we realize “though He giveth or He taketh, God His children ne’er forsaketh. His the loving purpose solely to preserve them pure and holy.”