Humbled And Made Penitent Through Trials
August 23, 1998 / No. 2903
Our Scripture reading today is found in Job 42. Please read the first 6 verses and verse 10.
This passage serves as a climax to the book of Job. God had said of Job in the beginning of the book that Job was upright and perfect. Satan had accused Job of serving God merely for gain. Satan had denied that God is able to preserve and keep His people so securely that they cannot fall away from that faith which God gives. Satan had claimed that the only reason why Job was remaining faithful to God was because of his earthly possessions. In order to silence that slander and to show the power of God’s grace, God gave Satan power over Job, over everything that Job had except for his life.
From the beginning of the trial Job demonstrated his strength. He made confessions which showed the power of his faith. He demonstrated his union with God and his confidence in God. But as Job’s anguish and pain increased he began to lose sight of God and he descended into the deep. It seemed as though his faith had ceased. He set himself over against God as a critic, complaining. Meanwhile the devil rejoiced. The three friends had spoken and had increased his sorrows. Elihu spoke for God and assured Job that whom the Lord chastens He loves. There is a suffering, said Elihu, among God’s people which is not due to wickedness. But the suffering is for the spiritual uplifting of God’s children. Job had remained silent. He could not yet fathom nor understand the full depths of the purpose of God with respect to his own suffering. Though he had expressed it at times, his faith was faltering. God came to Job out of the storm, working peace and sanctification in that raging of Job’s own bosom.
And now a new day dawns in Job’s soul. The long shadows, the sorrows are dissipated. The breath of God’s Spirit now reveals a fresh new purpose and goal for him. He has seen God. And he is humbled. He had spoken rashly. He had multiplied his words before God. And now he disowns all of that, reluctant to speak any more new words before God. Yet he speaks a few words, words which served to condemn himself, words which flow from a heart and soul that have seen God. And in that awareness he expresses: I abhor myself.
Job had said in chapter 40:4 that he was vile. He did not need to use many words, just that word sufficed to describe him before God. What does it mean that he is vile? His vileness is further explained here in our passage when Job states that he abhors himself. The word “abhor” literally means “to melt away,” or “to run away.” The picture is presented of a filthy, running sore, a sore which is full of pus and matter, a sore which is loathsome. And Job now likens himself to that putrid sore.
This is not the only place in the Bible that man is likened to such a terrible and disgusting thing. Isaiah 1:6 states, “From the sole of thy foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.” In Psalm 14:3, “They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” In Matthew 23:27, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.” This verse in Matthew 23 is speaking of a specific group of individuals, the scribes and Pharisees, who were so self-righteous. But that condemnation cannot be read without the child of God shuddering. It may be true specifically of the Pharisees and scribes, but it is also true of you and of me. The human race is likened unto a filthy, running sore. They are all gone out of the way, they have become corrupt. There is no good within them, but rather a stench which is revolting. Job confesses: I abhor myself, I see myself as a stinking, rotten sore, which is only pussy and disgusting. This is the language of self-condemnation.
There is always a standard by which we must evaluate and judge ourselves. Self-condemnation is the result of judging according to a standard which is higher than we. The object of our judging (our own selves) cannot bear the name of good because that to which we are being compared is the holiness and righteousness of God. And in light of the holiness and righteousness of God, men are vile. They are like putrefying sores. And there is a trembling, a shivering, a turning away from the holiness and righteousness of God because of the awareness that we are so desperately wicked.
Job says: “I have uttered what I understood not.” His self-condemnation here is thorough. He does not try to make up excuses. He does not try to hide or cover anything. He does not enter into arguments against God. Everything is laid out in all of its truthfulness. And Job is overwhelmed by Jehovah’s greatness. Therefore, he is anxious to come into closer union with God. God has worked in his heart and soul, and God has given him to know the joy and wonder of living as His covenant friend. Job now sees more clearly his own sin. He has wrongly accused God, his covenant friend. He has passed judgment without knowing the issues. And now he prays to God for forgiveness. Without any hope of reward, still suffering tremendous pain in his body, Job bows before God. He knows that God can do everything. His confession is that God’s purpose is the determining factor of man’s life, that God stands supreme and every sufferer must submit to Him.
As Job humbles himself before God, he does so in the awareness that that which is most important is his life and communion with God. He has no hope that God will restore him here below. But his confidence is that God will take him to be with Him and give him the joy of covenant fellowship. Job has come to the point where he now is willing to give up everything for God. He sees himself as a running, stinking sore. He is willing to submit completely to God’s will, having now given up all of his possessions and even his own health, willing to submit to God.
That is the true penitent child of God. And that is not only Job. That must be you and I. We must confess that we are putrid by nature, that we deserve to be cast off by God because of the way we have responded to God in our trials. We have questioned God’s goodness. We have wrestled with God. We have refused to sing expressions of His goodness and mercy. We have found ourselves wrestling with and denying the goodness of God. And now we confess that we know nothing, that God’s will is indeed good.
Job now finds himself with God in His holy temple, in His communion and fellowship, and he enjoys that which is more precious than anything else that he could ever experience, confessing as a fruit of God’s grace working in his heart: “I know that Thou canst do everything.”
This is the language of faith. The natural man judges in a far different way. The natural man looks around and condemns others for not being as good as himself or as others. The natural man eulogizes certain individuals, esteeming one above others. The classic judgment of the Pharisees: I thank God that I am not like him or like her. I judge everyone except myself. I am righteous and, therefore, I despise everyone else. Such is the judgment of natural man.
But the righteous judge differently. The righteous judge others to be better than self. I know my own heart. I do not know the heart of others. I know how prone I am to lust, to covet, to desire the things here below. I know that I am personally, as I stand before the righteousness and holiness of God, as a stinking, rotten sore. I know that I am a sinner. Every day I fall prey to the temptation to steal, to covet, to lust. Every day I reveal my love for the world more than my love for God, my love for the pleasures, the lusts, and the enjoyment here below.
But God is able to do all things, even to take me in my sin, in my pride, and to humble me and bring me to understand and to know the fullness of His love. The confession that Job here makes, and our confession, can only be by the power of God’s Spirit. It is the Spirit of God that testifies in our hearts that we are nothing. It is the Spirit of God that testifies in our hearts that, though we be nothing by nature, we are everything to God. We are the apple of His eye, chosen from all eternity, whom He loved, and for whom He sent His own Son.
And the Spirit gives us faith to humble ourselves before God and to walk in humble confidence that He knows our way.
That gift of faith cannot be conquered. God had given Job faith. The devil did not believe that God could bind men to Himself by such a power as faith. But now the devil is silenced. Job’s faith, though it faltered, did not cease. It could not have. That faith was being maintained and preserved by God. That faith was a gift which God had worked in the heart and life of Job. God would not let that faith die, but would continue to nurture and keep it to the very end.
The friends of Job were able to see the grace of God and the power of grace in the life of a believer. The devil himself was able to see the power of God’s grace and the power by which God holds and preserves His children. And God shows His mercy to His children, to Job, by defending Job over against his accusers. God’s wrath is kindled against those friends.
Job appeases God’s wrath by making sacrifices and praying for them-for God’s own sake. And God heals Job’s disease. God did not have to do that. But He shows His mercy and compassion upon Job. God gives to Job twice as much cattle as he had had before, crowning him with honor and glory, not because of anything in Job, but for His own glory and for His own name’s sake. Job’s friends and relatives come over, according to chapter 42:11, and they bring him money and gold.
Job is blessed with another ten children. His three daughters, mentioned even by name in verse 14, were even included in the inheritance among their brethren. Jemima, meaning “the day, the new day after the dark night of affliction.” Kezia, meaning “the spice of fragrant smell, devoting special beauty and value.” Kerenhappuch, expressing that “plenty has been restored.” God has restored and wiped away all the tears. These three daughters did not receive a small portion, as was customary. They too were given a large portion, perhaps because of Job’s great wealth.
But the design of this book is not to exalt Job. Our focus must not be on Job. Our focus must be on God’s indestructible work of grace in His children. We must see the love and grace which is rooted in the cross. Therefore the book of Job exalts God, not merely by the the revelation of His power in nature as He comes in the storms and through the great beasts, but even more by the revelation of the power of His grace in the heart of Job.
God’s grace and power could not be overcome. Faith could not be destroyed. Though the devil unleashed all of his anger and wrath; though he took everything from Job; though he struck Job down with painful boils and afflictions; though he sent three friends to accuse; though he took away Job’s wife; Job’s faith could not be undermined because it was the faith of Jehovah God worked in his heart by the power of His Spirit.
Job, therefore, is motivated to show that thankfulness and gratitude to God: “Mine eye hast seen thee now.” Job had heard of God. Perhaps he had learned of God from his father and mother. Perhaps he had learned from tradition and from the stories. He knew God. But now Job, after these afflictions, tastes a new grace and a knowledge of God unlike any he had experienced previously. He advances spiritually. His fellowship with God now reaches new plateaus, characterized by a greater intimacy. Though he had heard God, now Job sees God in a far more clear and majestic light. He sees God as an all-wise, holy, just, and good God-not merely from having read about and understood God, but from having tasted of the goodness and mercy of God.
How God made known His power to Job so vividly we do not know in all of its fullness. Perhaps it was as Paul speaks in II Corinthians 4:6: “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” God’s speech now to Job enhanced His glory and wisdom to such a degree that Job saw God’s glory and majesty. He saw the awe of God. And when the child of God sees God in all of His glory and power, then he sees himself as a sinner. We see God in even greater light than did Job. The true light of Jesus Christ, by the power of His Holy Spirit, has shined in our hearts. We have heard and seen God’s glory and power in our lives. The effect of this has been and is to bring us to repentance, to humble us before God. God takes our eyes off the sinners around us and brings us to see ourselves, our own rottenness, our own vileness in light of His attractive love and glory.
And our response? Have mercy on me. My brother, my neighbor, my wife, they are all sinners. But I, have mercy upon me, a sinner, rotten and vile in Thy sight.
And those who condemn themselves will not be condemned by God. Those who cast themselves down in shame and plead for forgiveness will be heard. They will find mercy, the mercy of the Son of God. They will praise God and experience the peace of God filling their soul. They will come to rest in God and will see God when they are in the sanctuary of God as God’s friend.
May we give thanks and praise to God that we are not cast off as we deserve to be, but that, by the power of God’s grace, though He afflict us severely as He did with Job, He will preserve us so that we might be made more fully the apple of His eye.
Let us pray.
Humble us, our Father, that we might walk and live more fully in Thy sight. And create within us that true awareness of our own need as we stand before Thee, that we might experience more fully the love, the mercy, and the kindness which Thou hast shown to Thy children in Christ. Be with those in affliction. May they know Thy nearness, Thy comfort, and Thy peace. Amen.