Preached at New Wine Christian Fellowship on May 24, 2015. Audio should be available soon at newwineonline.com.
Job 42:5-6 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.
Job 42:5-6 I admit I once lived by rumors of you; now I have it all firsthand — from my own eyes and ears! I'm sorry — forgive me. I'll never do that again, I promise! I'll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor. (The Message Bible)
What is Job repenting for? Think back to what God has already said in chapter two: “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” (Job 2:3). Without reason… Job is in pain and agony. Without reason… Job has lost everything he had. Job has not turned against the Lord despite his misery. What is he repenting for?
Now that Job truly sees God, he says, “I despise myself.” He is not exultant. Here the Mercy Me classic “I Can Only Imagine” comes to mind: “Will I sing hallelujah? Will I be able to speak at all?” I think also of the disciple and apostle John, the one who laid his head on Christ's chest at the last supper (John 13:25), but when Jesus appears to him in his vision on the island of Patmos, John falls trembling before him. “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last’ (Revelations 1:17).
Something dramatic has happened for Job. The advantage of the Book of Job is that we get such a window into his thoughts during the entire brutal experience. So let's look back to his last speech (Chapter 29):
“And Job again took up his discourse, and said:
Oh, that I were as in the months of old,
as in the days when God watched over me,
when his lamp shone upon my head,
and by his light I walked through darkness,
as I was in my prime,
when the friendship of God was upon my tent,
when the Almighty was yet with me,
when my children were all around me,
when my steps were washed with butter,
and the rock poured out for me streams of oil!
When I went out to the gate of the city,
when I prepared my seat in the square,
the young men saw me and withdrew,
and the aged rose and stood;
the princes refrained from talking
and laid their hand on their mouth;
the voice of the nobles was hushed,
and their tongue stuck to the roof of their mouth.
When the ear heard, it called me blessed,
and when the eye saw, it approved,”(Job 29:1-11).
Michael Larson has turned this into a wonderful song. But let's look carefully at the root message here. Who is Job's concern? Job! He revels in the memory of “when his lamp shone upon my head”. I was honored by everyone, even the most venerable members of the community honored me, he recalls. When he continues by adding up the good things he has done for widow's and orphans, for the lame and the blind, he commends himself: “my glory fresh with me” (Job 29:20). His lament—it has all changed: “But now they laugh at me, men who are younger than I, whose fathers I would have disdained to set with the dogs of my flock.” (Job 30:1). Again, the center of this lamentation is still Job.
And then Job closes with an oath of clearing. This is a list of his righteous deeds, and lack of sin, complete with curses to fall upon himself if he is untrue in his statements. Job is saying, there is no reason that I should not continue as I did in the days of old “when God watched over me”. What we see is Job making a fierce defense of why he should still be the apple of God's eye (Psalm 17:8)… so that he can continue to enjoy the good and honored life!
What Job does not see is that he is the apple of God's eye. “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” (Job 1:8) That is how God speaks of Job. God wants much more for Job than Job's vision of personal fame and glory understands. So when God does appear before Job he challenges Job's understanding, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.” (Job 38:4).
Then the LORD answered Job:
“Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?
Let the person who accuses God give him an answer!”
Then Job answered the LORD:
“Indeed, I am completely unworthy – how could I reply to you?
I put my hand over my mouth to silence myself.
I have spoken once, but I cannot answer;
twice, but I will say no more.”(Job 40:1-5, NET)
As I see this scene, Job hasn't heard a word, so to speak. He is being challenged by God speaking from the midst of a tornado spitting fire. Like a teenager who realizes he may never drive the family car again if he answers, Job answers as one who answers the Queen of Hearts, “I'm Not Worthy!” Simply put, Job doesn't know that he is beloved of God, and he doesn't know that God wants more than burnt offerings, and more than obedience.
Daddy issues… Many say that it is our relationship with our father, or lack thereof, that can enhance or impede our relationship with God, our heavenly Father. When I left home my relationship with my father was distant at best, and so was my relationship with God. As I began to repair my relationship with the Lord, I realized I had to repair my relationship with my father. So I wrote him an apologetic letter on at least two occasions. No response. That wasn't unusual. In fact in a way it was a part of the problem. I was never sure what he was thinking.
It was about forty years ago when someone first suggested that I write down the good things about my father. I had always seen my father from the point of view of what I didn't get from him, what I wanted from him. Now I sat down to think about what the church, the community, the family and myself did get from him. It made a good list. I would pick up the list and think about it from time to time until it got lost in the midst of being a father myself.
When I came to New Wine Christian Fellowship, and particularly when I moved into community at the Elaine House, the list came to mind. I wrote down the list and thought about it from time to time. But still the gnaw of those things I wanted but never got crept in. But now it was worse. I was a dad. My father's DNA is my DNA. The things my father wasn't good at are the same things that I am not good at and those chickens had come home to roost.
It's the problem most all of us have. We are born into an imperfect world to imperfect people. We are imperfect people. And so I asked God to help me. I wanted the list of good things about my father to become real to me, not just a list. I have sat in deliverance sessions where someone said, “I have forgiven so and so, but…”. The hurt, the anger, the emptiness, whatever it is, it is still there. So it was with my list. I thought about it, I prayed about it, but it was just a list. My list to wave against the regret, but it always came back. And so it went on like that for many years. That list was always there on my desktop. And then one day, the words almost came off the page. They sank into my soul.
I don't know how to describe it. It wasn't an intellectual change. It was something much deeper. When I thought of my father now, the grey being that haunted my thoughts was gone. No this is a special someone who is intimately connected to who I am. All of my goodness and all of my struggles are right there, and I love him for what he did with what he had.
When my father's 80th birthday came, my brother and my sister's planned a surprise birthday. As usual, he traveled the few miles to my brother's house in the Seattle suburb of Bothel. My brother and his wife greeted him. And then to his surprise both of my sisters came around the corner. They had come down from Alaska. And then they all nodded behind him. And there I was. The full circle back together and his joy was obvious. As was his character he never said a word about it, but before I left, I remember turning to see him staring at me with such radiance in his eyes. When he passed a few years later, I was not at all surprised at just how many people came to wish him well on his last journey.
There are many kinds of riches. The riches that Robert Andrew Wells, Sr. took with him on that journey are the riches bought with sacrifice and devotion. He gave generously from what he had. There were things that weren't his to give me. And there were things that I insisted on, that he knew would be to my injury. It took my a very long time to understand that.
Led To Be TemptedMatthew 4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
Doesn't that seem just a little strange? The Holy Spirit has just come upon Jesus at the Jordan River, and the first thing the Spirit does is take Jesus to a place where he will face Satan. And what about David, whom Samuel anoints to be king over all Israel? He is lifted to a high position and then finds himself running for his life with a demonized mentor and a large army on his tail. Or Joseph? He receives lofty prophetic visions and special pampering from his father, and then he is suddenly sold to slave traders by his own brothers.
Does this sound like a great selling pitch: God has an incredible promise for your life, but first you have to spend the next ten or twenty years in pure misery. You remember the place in the Book of Hebrews where the author quotes David (Psalm 110:4), “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 5:6). Look at the next two verses:Hebrews 5:7-8 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.
Is misery the proper Christian walk, so that we can learn obedience? I believe that is how this passage is often parsed. But let me ask another question: what does the sinless Son of God need to know about obedience? Something more than obedience is meant here. I would like to suggest the title to one of Oswald Chamber's books: “Conformed to His Image”. To fully release God's image in himself, Jesus had to give everything he had. The context is clearly the cross. Jesus was praying “to him who was able to save him from death”. He had to step into the winepress of God's wrath exhausting it on our behalf, releasing all of the love and all of the mercy of heaven. I will never be able to say to Jesus, “you should have done more”. It is a foolish thought.
Johann Blumhardt, of Blumhardt's Battle, is quoted: “It is much easier to slip into a wrong kind of submission to God's will than to draw the bolts that hold back God's help.” Jesus trusts in God and relies on God, stepping into terrible agony. When Jesus went to meet the devil in the wilderness, he didn't know him as well. David or Jacob are young men who have been doing pretty well. They know God, but they also know the devil. When they find themselves in a dry and thirsty land they turn to God like they have never turned to God before. They learn to see the face of God in the wilderness, in slaver's chains. The safety of the church is great, but when you step into the fight in a place where God and only God can change the outcome, then you learn to seek his face with everything in you.Luke 4:14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country.
Jesus, Abraham, Jonah, David, Jacob, Joseph, Jonah… and the list isn't confined to the Biblical record, I can think of testimonies of David Hogan, Carlos Anacondia, Reinhardt Bonnke… the list of those who have returned from desperate trials where they learned to rely on God is very long. In a smaller way, the treasure hunters are examples of the very same thing.
Many years ago, there was a member of this congregation who quit attending church. Still he would come by and do helpful things for the church. On one such occasion I stopped him to ask him why. He explained that he wanted certain things from God, he knew exactly what he wanted. He was convinced that if he served God, then God had to reward him. God is a good and loving God after all. Since he hadn't received his reward, he was a little upset and had no intention of coming back to church until God took care of him. I haven't seen him for several years.Job 42:8 Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.
Job falls on his face before God saying, “now my eye sees you” (Job 42:5). God doesn't pat Job on the head, wipe his tears and thank him for being such a good boy. God hasn't healed Job yet. God doesn't make any promises or even ask Job's permission. God puts Job to work praying for the very men who have pummeled him for the last forty chapters. And Job does just that.
You see Job's heart has done a Grinch thing. He got out of it and brought God in. And God needs a big house. What Job wants is what God wants. When Job says, “I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6), he is saying is see now that I had a very small heart with a small vision to match. God wants him to pray for these three men, so he does. “And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.” (Job 42:10). That twice as much, has nothing to do with what Job really got.
*All Bible quotes are from the English Standard Version Bible unless otherwise indicated.
Wm.W.Wells — May 17, 2015
Copyright © 2015 Wm.W.Wells. May be freely copied without alteration.