Job’s Repentance and Ours (Job Sermon 29)
November 28, 2021 | Andrew Davis
One of God’s purposes in our suffering is to cause hidden corruptions to surface so we'll be humbled and repent. If a godly man like Job needed to repent, how much more do we!
- Sermon Transcript -
Turn your Bibles to Job 42, the text you just heard read. This morning as we do so, as we turn to Job 42, we come to the final chapter in this great book of Job. God, in his kindness to his people in every generation, has enabled us to walk with Job in his agonies, to feel the anguish of his soul as he lost all his possessions and his 10 children in a single day. Then the second wave of sorrow that came upon him, to lose his health, to the point where his body was ravaged by disease and his friends could scarcely recognize him.
Then as Job's friend sat and discoursed with him, and he began to converse with them, his deep and bitter questions began to come to the surface. Under the intense pressure of pain, internal attitudes of sin toward Almighty God were exposed. Fundamental to his bitter questioning of God was his unshakeable sense of his own righteousness. "How could God deal so unjustly with me, such a righteous man?" Only when God shows up in a whirlwind and speaks powerfully to Job, does Job see the greatness of his sin and his own views of his self-righteousness instantly melts like a snowflake on a hot griddle when God shows up, when God begins to talk to him. And by the time God is done speaking with him, Job repents, deeply and comprehensively repents.
Friends, I think this is the whole point of the book of Job for us. As we read it, we're able to walk vicariously together with Job through his sorrows. If we have any empathy at all, we feel his pain. We understand how our sorrows are definitely less than his. We've not gone through anything to that degree, but we have a similar tendency to question God in the midst of those sorrows, to charge God with wrongdoing. Before we suffered, before we walked through afflictions, we thought we were great people, we thought we were righteous and pure. Only in the fiery oven of suffering and sorrow do the inner corruptions begin to rise to the surface. God uses pain and trial to show us those inner corruptions. God means to humble us, all of us, deeply. And this amazing book of Job is a tool in the hands of the Holy Spirit to bring us to repentance. As we come to Job 42:1-6, we have a stunning and timeless display of repentance by this great man Job. It is the end of a very long process that the mighty wise and loving God has been working in him. And in the passage today, that work has reached its level of completion, according to the plan of God. Job has deeply repented of his sins.
Now, the basic idea of this sermon today is a how much more argument for all of us. If a godly man like Job needed to repent, how much more do you, and do I? How much more do we need to repent? I don't imagine any of you is thinking that God's up in heaven, boasting about you in particular as the one person on planet earth he'd like to commend before Satan. I don't think you have that kind of boldness to think you're the one person. Maybe you do. I don't know how such an attitude couldn't come to the surface at some point, but you know that we are lesser people than Job. And if a man like Job needed to repent, then how much more do I, and do you?
"If a godly man like Job needed to repent, how much more do you, and do I?"
As I've quoted to you many times before, this is something that captures me, I think about it every time I write a sermon, every time I preach, John Calvin's words in the Institutes of the Christian Religion, which says, "Nearly all the wisdom that we possess, that is to say true and sound wisdom, consists in two parts, the knowledge of God and of ourselves." We've heard that many times before, but then Calvin, in the institutes, goes on to make this powerful observation about human pride. This is what he wrote: "Again, it is certain that man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself unless he has first looked upon God's face, and then descends from contemplating him to scrutinize himself. For we always seem to ourselves righteous and upright and wise and holy. This pride is innate in all of us, unless by clear proofs, we stand convinced of our own unrighteousness, foulness, folly, and impurity." Calvin goes on to say this: "And I, to which nothing is shown but black objects all the time, all it ever sees are black objects, judges, therefore something modeled or off-white or dirty white as pure whiteness itself. It's all we know." So when we compare ourselves to others horizontally, we think we're pretty good people, not as bad as that one or that one or that one over there. That's our nature, our pride. But then, when we lift our eyes to the perfect purity and wisdom and power, and then the radiant light of God's glory, we realize how dark we really are.
And that's exactly what happened to Job, but it took the intense heat of pain, of sorrow, to bring this corruption to the surface. Friends, God wants to save us. Think about that. It is the good pleasure of God to give you the kingdom. He wants to save us, and he wants to bring each one of us into his glorious heavenly home. That heavenly home is a world of pure light, of perfect goodness, but we sinners are not pure light. We are not perfect goodness. We are darkness itself, naturally. We are sinners to the core, corrupt to the core. When God therefore begins to save us, he must humble us. And he does humble us, and brings us to an initial saving faith in Jesus Christ. We realize we need a savior. And that's a humbling work. But we realize these things only at a shallow, superficial level at initial justification. At that shallow, superficial level, we flee to Christ, and we find in Christ a savior for all of our sins, but we're underestimating all of those sins. And God, in his wisdom, begins in us an education process. We are saved in stages. Justification leads to sanctification, which leads to glorification. And God, in his wisdom, chooses to leave a huge measure of corruption within our souls. He doesn't have to do that, because at glorification he'll instantaneously take it all away, at death and at the resurrection, it'll be gone.
You might think you have a better plan than God. "Oh, God do it right away. The moment I come to Christ, take away all of my corruptions. What a pure life I would live then." And you would, it's just not God's way. He leaves within us so much pride and selfishness and self-righteousness and independence and idolatry and deceit and lusts. He leaves these corruptions, these seeding corruptions still within us as justified sinners. A seething world of infamy is instilled in our souls. That's why the Apostle Paul cries out against himself in Romans 7:24, "What a wretched man I am. Who will rescue me from this body of death?" That's the apostle Paul writing the book of Romans, in the middle of that, says that. Part of the wisdom of God then, is to cause us to walk for years in those seething corruptions, those inner corruptions, all the while thinking we are purer and better than we really are.
In the course of time, God, in his wisdom, just like he did with Job, brings us into the crucible of pain and suffering, of sorrow and trial. And then we begin to cry out as Job did to God, "Why oh Lord, why this? What is happening? Don't you love me?" And God is burning off of those inner corruptions by first showing them to you. Then when at last, he instantaneously purifies you from all of your inner corruptions at death, and at the resurrection, you will spend eternity as pure as light. Brothers and sisters, that's where you're heading, you're going to end up pure as light. You're going to shine like the sun in the kingdom of your Father. You're going to be radiant and beautiful in Heaven. But you're not going to fall into self-worship, as Satan originally did. But why not? Because God, I believe, in his kindness, will cause you to remember what you were. What you were. And you'll spend eternity thanking God for his grace, that in the coming ages, he will show you the measure of his grace expressed in his kindness to us in Christ, Ephesians 2:7. He's going to continually show it to you, how kind he was, and how he forgave not only your sinful acts and actions and attitudes, but just the seething world of infamy that was in your heart every day that you lived, how he covered all of it by grace.
Now, God will enable you in heaven to remember your past corruptions, but it will not cause you any pain or shame whatsoever. None, because there will be no more death, mourning, crying or pain in heaven, Revelation 21:4. He just wants you to know what he did for you. And you will be humble, won't you? You will spend eternity boasting in your Lord Jesus Christ. As the scripture says in 1 Corinthians 1:31, "As it is written, let him who boasts, boast in the Lord." And you will. Whatever boasting capacity you will have in heaven, and you will have it, you'll be boasting in the Lord Jesus for all eternity. That's where we're heading.
I. The History of Repentance
Our study today is to understand the depth and nature of Job's repentance to help us with ours. To help us with ours, so we can understand the nature of true repentance. I don't think that every element of true repentance is found in Job's statements here, but some significant things are, and we're going to walk through them. Now, before we do, I want to just give you a little bit of a biblical history of repentance. Biblical history of repentance. Repentance is the religion of sinners. Religion of sinners. Perfectly righteous people have no need to repent. They think perfectly, they love perfectly, they live perfectly, but since Adam and Eve fell into sin, there's only been one man who has ever done that. Only Jesus Christ has met that description. Only Jesus Christ thought perfectly, only Jesus Christ loved perfectly, only Jesus Christ lived perfectly. Christ alone.
"Only Jesus Christ thought perfectly, only Jesus Christ loved perfectly, only Jesus Christ lived perfectly. Christ alone."
As soon as Adam and Eve fell into sin, they dragged themselves and their progeny, their descendants, the entire human race, into a dark, deep pit of sin. God immediately confronted Adam and Eve as they'd eaten from the forbidden fruit, confronted them in their sin. “The Lord God said,” Genesis 3:13, “to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’” That's God confronting humans in their sin. No one can say to God, "What have you done?" But he has the right to ask us, "What have you done?" And he does. He confronts us. This began the sad history of repentance in the human race.
Now, much of the Old Testament is part of that history, that unfolding story of God working repentance in his people. King David, called a man after God's own heart, was yet still a sinner with much inner corruption. And he wrote two great Psalms of repentance: Psalm 32, Psalm 51. Remember, after his terrible sin with Bathsheba, God sent the prophet Nathan to confront him and bring him to repentance. And Nathan told him a story, like a parable, or maybe as far as David knew, a real story, of some grave injustice that happened in his kingdom. Drew, he lured David into that story, and at some point David's rage was kindled against the villain in the story, and said, "That man deserves to die what- for what he's done." And then the prophet Nathan pointed his finger right at him and said, "You are the man."
That moment is key in understanding God's working with his people. God, through the prophetic word, comes and stands in front of us, and exposes us, and finds our corruptions and our sins, and then points the finger at us. Each one of us. You are the man. You are the woman; it's you. I'm talking about you. David hardened his heart for a year or more against this repentance. He would not yield. He became hardened. His neck was stiff against it. And he writes about that process in Psalm 32, God pressed down hard on him. He had physical pain and disease, it seems, and difficulties, but he would not yield. And then finally he did. Psalm 32:5, "Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said I will confess my transgressions to the Lord, and you forgave the guilt of my sin." And then in Psalm 51, David makes the most important assertion that all of us need to understand about true repentance. And that is how vertical it is, how God-centered true repentance is. When he says to God, "Against you and you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so you are proved right when you speak, and justified when you judge." So therefore true repentance is God-centered. It is God-focused. True repentance realizes that ultimately all that matters is the glory of God, the holiness of God, the sight of God. God alone created us. God alone sustains us. To God alone we will give account on the day of judgment. In God alone do we live and move and have our being.
So God sent a series of prophets, filling them with the Holy Spirit, to confront the people of God in the Old Testament with their sins, and seek to bring them to repentance. Isaiah cried out against the great wickedness and sin of the nation of Israel, and sought to bring them to repentance. In Isaiah 1:16-18, God spoke to his people, "’Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight. Stop doing wrong. Learn to do right. Seek justice, encourage the oppressed, defend the cause of the fatherless. Plead the case of the widow. Come now, let us reason together,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If you're willing and obedient, you'll eat the best of the land. But if you resist and rebel, you'll be devoured by the sword, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’" That's Isaiah, God, calling the people to repent. "Come now, let us reason together." Sadly, however, again and again, the people of God resisted this call. Isaiah 30:15, “This is what the sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel says: ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it. You said, ‘No.’’" Isaiah 30.
So again and again, throughout Israel's history, the prophets came in God's name, called his sinful people to repentance. Sometimes they did. Sometimes individually or even as a group, they would turn. But again and again, generally, they resisted. Then John the Baptist came as a forerunner of the New Covenant era, a forerunner of the coming of Christ. And this is what he did. Again, in the same spirit as the Old Testament prophets did, he called on the people to repent of their sins. We're going to study this, God-willing, beginning in two weeks in the Gospel of Mark. Mark 1:4-5, "John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River." And then Jesus, the one he had come to prepare the way for, came and picked right up on the same message. Mark 1:15, he said, "The time has come. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the gospel."
Essential to Jesus's messianic ministry were his healings, Jesus did a river of miracles. Huge populations went out, and Jesus healed them all with a touch over the word. But he showed that those miracles, physical, actual miracles, were also symbolic of a work of healing that has to happen in our souls. And that is a transformation of our hearts through repentance. And so he said in Luke 5:31-32, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I've not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." That was his work. He's come to heal our sick hearts, and to give us healthy hearts that are characterized by repentance. "I've not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." Every single one of Christ's people who will spend eternity, radiant and glorious in heaven, will have gotten there the same way, through repentance of their sins and faith in Christ. All of them. And will spend eternity aware of that.
II. The Definition of Repentance
So, what is repentance? We've been talking about it since the beginning of the sermon. How would we define it? Well, the Greek word, it's a simple change of mind, to change your thoughts, your mind, to have it a new mind. The basic idea there is that sinful actions come from sinful thinking. Always. The sinful thinking precedes the sinful actions. So if you want to change a sinful lifestyle, you have to change a sinful thought pattern, a sinful mind. Some have likened repentance to a massive U-turn. You're driving in one direction, and then you turn around and drive in the opposite direction. Well, that's fine, but you need to understand what causes the person to make that turn. They think differently. It's a different thinking pattern. Something's changed in the way they approach. And fundamental to that is the concept of a new heart, a transformed heart, to have a different heart, the center, the core of our being, the part of us that thinks, that reasons, that understands, the part of us that loves and hates, the part of us that chooses and rejects the core of the being biblically is called the heart. Heart does all of those things. No genuine repentance can happen without a transformation of the heart. That inner part of us that thinks, that loves, that reasons, that chooses, that's the heart. We must have a new heart. And so the prophet is Ezekiel spoke of the radical heart transplant that God does. Ezekiel 36:26-27, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you the heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees, and be careful to keep my laws." That is essential to our salvation. That's what it means to be born again: a radical transformation of the heart, the corrupt heart.
Knowing that you need a new heart is essential to our salvation. It's also essential to know you can't do it to yourself. You could as well perform physical heart surgery on yourself as give yourself a new heart. It's not something you can do, but God in his grace can do it through the Holy Spirit. He can give us a new heart. Repentance, therefore, is a gift of God. 2 Timothy 2:25, it says, "And the hope that God will grant them repentance, leading them to a knowledge of the truth." God grants to his children repentance; he gives it to us as a gift. So let me just stop and say, if you are right now, and have been for some time, a repenter, believer in Christ, thank God for his grace to you. God has granted you repentance unto life. He's given you a gift, and it's not of yourselves; it's grace from God. And he does this by his powerful Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit knows how to do it. He's very good at it. The Holy Spirit is sovereign in his work, and he's able to take out that heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh. Amazingly, it is the kindness of God, Romans 2:4, that leads us to repentance. So when you see the kindness of Christ in dealing with broken sinners, women that are lavishing tears on his feet, and drying his feet with their hair, and he's so kind and gracious to them, or lepers and his heart just moves out to them, the kindness of God in Christ leads you to repentance.
"Knowing that you need a new heart is essential to our salvation. It's also essential to know you can't do it to yourself. "
All right. So, in summary, by genuine repentance, the sinner has a spiritual sight of sin and sinfulness. You see it for what it is. There's a deep sense of it. Not just that sin is dangerous and that it will result in consequences and judgment and even eternity in hell itself, all of that's biblically true, but that's not enough. But that sin is essentially morally disgusting, so that even if you could get away with it and not have its consequence, you still wouldn't want any part of it, because it is foul, it is disgusting in the sight of God. And you don't want it either. That's genuine repentance. So the God-centeredness of general repentance, that vertical aspect of it, "Against you, and you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight." There's also an emotional aspect to it, in which we have a sense of brokenness and grieving over the sin, and a sorrow over it. All of this results, ultimately, in a volitional aspect of turning away from a lifestyle of sin to a new kind of life. That's biblical repentance.
III. The Elements of Job’s Repentance
Now let's look at elements of Job's repentance. Now, as we've said, God has been doing a deep work in Job. Given how this whole book of Job unfolds, it seems that bringing Job to this level of repentance was God's loving purpose all along. Job was an amazingly godly man, as we said, a man about whom God was accustomed to boast, even to Satan, the accuser. Then Satan put Job to the test, taking away all of his wealth, taking away in one day, all 10 of his children. Subsequently, taking away his health, afflicting him with terrible sores. And ultimately God was behind all of these things. The Lord gave and the Lord took away. So ultimately this was God's work in Job's life. Job began well. Well enough. He didn't accuse God of wrongdoing. He didn't challenge God. He worshiped God. He started well, but the trial went on. We've learned this. The chronic nature of suffering, it doesn't go short time; it just continues to unfold and so stuff starts to bubble to the surface. And that's what happened with Job. He starts to say very harsh things against God. Maybe you didn't realize before you read the book of Job. You say, "Well, you know, he didn't sin against God in anything he said." Well, that was at the start friends. It just kept going. And then he starts to say some things that are just not godly about God himself. In Job 9:16-18, he said, "Even if I summon him [God] and he responded, I do not believe he would give me a hearing. He would crush me with a storm, and multiply my wounds for no reason. He would not let me regain my breath, but would overwhelm me with misery." It's like God is some cruel capricious tyrant that just enjoys crushing his children.
And it culminated, as we've seen, in him directly accusing God of injustice. In Job 19:7, "Though I cry, ‘I've been wronged.’ I get no response. Though I call for help, there is no justice." He thinks he could directly challenge God in a court of law and win. He's so convinced in his own righteousness. He believes, Job 31, he goes through all of these vows and assertions of purity. And at the end of that, he says, "I sign now on my defense. Let the Almighty answer me; let my accuser put his indictment in writing. Surely I would wear it on my shoulder. I would put it on like a crown. I would give him an account of my every step. Like a prince, I would approach him." Does that sound like Job here in Job 42? Not at all, but that's where he was at. He was so convinced of his own righteousness that he would take God on in a court of law and win against God. So the very sin God accuses him of in Job 40:8, "Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?"
So let's look at elements of Job's repentance. He begins with this statement in verse 2, "I know that you can do all things." So first we see deeper knowledge of God's power. Job is at a whole different level in understanding God's power now. Job knew that God was powerful before all this happened, but now that God has appeared in a whirlwind and has spoken so powerfully to him with his own voice, Job was ready to be taken to an entirely new level of his knowledge of God's awesome power. Now I think Job 42:2 may be the clearest, simplest statement of the doctrine of God's omnipotence in the Bible. You've heard often of the omnipotence of God. Well, this is the clearest statement of it you'll find. I know that you can do all things. Jesus put it this way. "All things are possible with God." Mark 10:27. Anything that power can do, God can do. Job learned this from God's words, tracing out his direct activity and creating and sustaining the universe, laying the foundations of the world, controlling the boundaries of the sea, making the mountains rise and the valley sink to just where he ordained that they should go. Controlling all the patterns of the weather, the wind, the rain, the snow, thunder and lightning. Controlling even the distant stars and the laws by which they are governed, the distant constellations. God understands those laws, rules over them. There's nothing Job can do about any of them.
And then the animal world, the 10 animals that he brings out as evidence of his wisdom and power. The lions, ravens, goats, deer, donkeys, oxen, ostrich, horse, hawk, and eagle, how they're born, where they live, what they eat, what their habits and habitats are, their capabilities, how they interact with each other in a network of life. When they live, when they die, all of it in God's hands. It was at this point, as you remember, that Job repented for the first time. Job 40:3-5, “Job answered the Lord, ‘I'm unworthy. How can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer twice, but I'll say no more.’” But God wasn't finished with him. He rebuked him for thinking he could discredit his justice in order to justify himself, as we saw. He reminded Job effectively, "I'm God, and you're not." Job 40:9-10, "Do you have an arm like God's, and can your voice thunder like his?" Imagine hearing that from God. "Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor, and clothe yourself in honor and majesty." He reminded Job that he, God alone, can judge the wicked and arrogant of the world. And because Job could do none of these things, then Job cannot save himself.
Then God brought forth those two last great beasts, behemoth and leviathan, whose terrifying power and ferocity make them impossible for man to hunt down, to corral, to control, or to kill. And it seemed best to me, as I walked through those chapters, to see in them the personification of demons and of Satan, that ancient serpent, that ancient dragon who is behind so much of the misery and sorrow of this world, and a beast we cannot kill. Seemed best to me just because there is no physical beast we cannot kill. But hermeneutically it seemed best to say we can't kill Satan. He's too strong for us. He's too powerful for us. But God is saying, "Though you cannot corral him, you can't control him, you can't kill him. I can. I put him on a leash. I put boundaries around him. And when I'm done with him, I'll kill him for all eternity." Job had never realized the extent of God's awesome power before. Now, as essential to his repentance, he does. He knows in ways he never did before. "I know, oh Lord, that you can do all things."
Number two, deeper knowledge of God's wise plan, "I know, oh God, that you can do all things. And no plan of yours can be thwarted." The awesome power of God is controlled at every moment, by the wise plans of God. The wisdom of God controls the power of God. God is not some random, terrifying force of the universe that runs amuck. Picture the proverbial loose cannon, an old wooden fighting vessel, a sailing vessel, and a cannon's loose. And it's a heaving storm. And the deck is rolling and tossing. And the waves are random and powerful and big. And you have no idea where the cannon's going to go next. Non-Christians see suffering and evil and hurricanes and all that with that kind of randomness, but we know differently. God's awesome power is linked to his wisdom in his plan. His wise plan. And God's plans will all be executed. No plan of his can be thwarted because he's all-powerful. So essential to Job's repentance is understanding, not only the infinite power of God, but the perfect details of God's wisdom, God's wise plan. So Job losing all his wealth, all 10 of his children, and his health is part of God's wise plan for his life. It's not time plus chance. Not at all. There is a wisdom to the plan of God.
Essential, therefore, to repentance is thinking differently. Thinking differently. And part of that is vertically realizing God's a better thinker than you are. Can you handle that? Can you handle that God is better at thinking than you are? Isaiah 55 says it plainly, "’For my thoughts are not your thoughts. Neither are your ways my ways,’ says the Lord. ‘As the Heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.’" So repentance is, God, I know that you're better at thinking than I am. Teach me how to think. Teach me to think differently. So God, when he comes to you and says, "Come now let us reason together," says the Lord, follow his train of thought, not your own.
Thirdly, a deeper sense of Job's own ignorance, this is the other side of that same coin. It follows the last one. Our thinking is juvenile. Our thinking is like that of little children, sometimes. One commentator in the book of Job likened Job and all of us to backseat drivers in our own lives, a 12 year-old backseat driver. And the dad is a skillful driver. Yeah, it's rainy and yeah, the road's wet, and all that, but the kids shrieking in the background, yelling at the driver to do this and to do that. He's a 12 year-old backseat driver. And God wants to say, "I know what I'm doing. I know how to drive your life." So look at verse 3, "You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my council without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know." The words “you asked” are in my translation, your translation may not have them because they're not in the Hebrew, but it is a quote of what God said to him. "You said this to me, ‘Who is this that obscures counsel by speaking words without knowledge?’ So, God, you said that to me.” So basically in his repentance, he's accepting God's very low view of his own thinking. He's accepting God's evaluation of his ignorance. Essentially, he's saying back to God, "You're absolutely right. I was obscuring counsel by speaking words without knowledge. My ignorance is overwhelming. Truly Lord, I was speaking about things I knew nothing about. I was out of my depth." Out of my depth.
Fourth, greater awareness of the wonder of God's ways, look at verse 3, "Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me." The word translated, wonderful, is really an incredible word here. It means things that are amazing. They create awe and worship. The complexity of creation is certainly among them, the inanimate universe, the foundations of the earth, the mountains, the valleys, the limits of the oceans, the weather patterns, all of those things. “It's too wonderful for me. It's beyond my ability to comprehend. And then how much less can I understand animate creation, the animals, the systems of life if a rock is amazing, and eagle is more amazing? I can't make a rock and I can't make an eagle. And so I think, oh God, your ways are wonderful. They're amazing.” Isn't it striking that Job includes all the dimensions and details of God's wise plan here, including the vast sorrow of his own life, the death of his 10 children? Though the pain is still fresh, his repentance includes their death in his word, wonders- things too wonderful for me to understand. So, when we get to heaven we will look back and remember all of the sorrows of our lives, but they'll cause us no sorrow in heaven. And will we not see the handiwork of God in every moment of our lives? Will we not see it as ultimately wonderful, what God did to get us, in a multitude greater than anyone could count, from every tribe, language, people and nations, get us all safely to heaven. Are not his ways wonderful and amazing? And so, essential to Job's repentance is to learn, not just to submit to God's wise and fatherly decrees about his life, but to delight in them, delight in them.
Fifth, a vision of God himself, verse 5, "My ears have heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you." This may be the greatest mystery in all this book. Somehow we have to limit our understanding of these words. Because God said to Moses, putting him in a cleft in the rock, "No one can see me and live." Right? We know from 1 Corinthians 15, "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” We cannot in these mortal frames, see the full glory of God. We cannot see God and live. Or as John 1:18 says plainly, "No one has ever seen God." So the movement in Job's life from hearing about God to seeing him is mysterious. But this is what we call in the Old Testament, a theophany. God shows up in some display of his person, some display of his greatness, and it’s overwhelming, an overwhelming experience. Now in reality, when we get to heaven, we will actually see the face of God. Revelation 22:6 says, "His servants will see his face." We're going to see God directly. And we'll be able to survive it and delight in it. It says in 1 Corinthians 13:12, "Now we see but a poor reflection, as in a mirror, then face to face. Now we know in part, then we should know fully, even as we have been fully known." We are heading toward a world in which we will see God face to face.
Perhaps it's like it was with Isaiah, where he saw the pre-incarnate Christ. He saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted. And the train of his robe filled the temple. Isaiah 6. And John 12 tells us, Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus' glory and spoke about him. So there's this pre-incarnate vision of the greatness of the Lord, perhaps. At any rate, essential to Job's repentance is the delight and overwhelming power of seeing God's glory. “I've heard of you, but now my eyes have seen.” And I want to tell you, as I've meditated on heaven for five years, the movement from hearing only to seeing also, that's what heaven's all about. Well, what's that going to be like? I mean, what are we doing here? You're listening to yet another sermon. I have to find ways to use words, nouns, verbs, adjectives to captivate your imagination for another about six minutes. And then we're done. How many of you would prefer to hear a verbal-based sermon, or to see God's glory face to face? I can't compete, friends. I'm not trying to compete. This is what we've got for now. We've got logic, we've got words, we've got the written word of God, and it's enough. But we are going to move someday from hearing only to seeing at last. And I can't wait. That's going to be delightful. I've heard of you at the ears, but now my eyes have seen you.
Six, the vision of God, of himself, has nothing before God. “My ears have heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you, therefore I despise myself.” I despise myself. You're like, "Well, pastor, that's not a healthy self-image." He's going to end up with a very healthy self-image. What was happening before was the unhealthy self-image. That overweening pride, that arrogance we all have. That's unhealthy. It is healthy to be humble before a holy God, to realize we're creatures and that we're sinners. That is healthy. And for us, therefore, to despise ourselves in that healthy way, what does it mean? I think little of myself. It's not self-loathing, it's not self-hatred, it's self-littling. I realize I am a speck on the scales. I am a drop from the bucket. “You, oh Lord, are infinitely majestic. And I can't begin to comprehend you. So I despise myself as small.” It's similar isn't it, to Psalm 8, "When I consider the Heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you created, what is man that you are mindful of?" Isn't that, “I despise myself?” What are we? We're small. We're insignificant. We're weak. That's what “I despise myself.” This is what repentance is. Do you remember the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector? The tax collector stood at a distance. He would not look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, "Be merciful to me, oh God, a sinner." Genuine repentance is a deeply humbling work. And that's what opens the door for God's grace to work. Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, for whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
"It is healthy to be humble before a holy God. To realize we're creatures and that we're sinners. That is healthy."
And then finally, “I repent in dust and ashes.” What does that mean? I realized I was made from dust. I was made from dust, and to dust I'm going to return. It's who I am. I'm mortal. And it's also a sign of mourning over sin, of grief over sin, of turning from it emotionally and saying, "I hate my sin. And I hate what I said about you. God, all of it was false. I repent in dust and ashes."
IV. Christ’s Call to Us to Repent
Well, that's Job's repentance, elements of Job's repentance. Christ is standing in front of all of you, calling on you to repent. No matter where you're at in your lives, no matter where you're at in your spirituality. You may have walked in here an unbeliever. This morning, you've heard the Gospel. You hear it again. That God, in his kindness, sent his Son. The only begotten Son of God, Jesus, incarnate of the Virgin Mary, lived the only sinless life that has ever been. Died on the cross in our place, rose again. And if you repent of your sins, turning from your sins to him, you'll be forgiven, past, present and future, all your sins, forgiven. And he's calling on you now to repent and believe the good news. But you may have done that years ago and I say, praise God, your sins have been forgiven. They are forgiven, and they will be forgiven. There's still work to be done. Amen? Still work to be done. And so he's standing before each one of you and saying, “Be honest about your inner corruptions.” Say, “I know if you brought that level of sorrow in my life, I would begin to complain against you and murmur against you and question you. And so therefore, God, work in me, work in me, deep, deep repentance.”
Close with me in prayer. Lord, thank you for the things we've learned from Job. We have one more sermon in this incredible series. I thank you for his experiences, oh Lord. We would not want to go through them, but we can benefit from them as we read. And Lord, I pray that we would let go of our pride, let go of our arrogance and our selfishness. And that we would turn to you in repentance, and allow you to work in us, our whole lives, a deep-seeded repentance. And we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.