This evening, and again God willing next week, we are returning for two weekends only to the book of Job. We still have a couple of chapters outstanding that we haven’t yet properly addressed and so we’re tying up the loose ends, we’re completing the story, importantly because if we left it where we left it we would have left Job in his misery and without the resolution that is part of the whole message of the book. And so we would neglect to see some important truths about God and His grace, working not only in Job’s life but also in our own. Actually, when last we were in Job and I announced that we were breaking, Phoebe Kruger came at me pretty wild that we would be stopping right here. "You can't do that to us!" she said. And when Phoebe Kruger comes at you like that, the only reply is, "Yes ma'am!" And so I’m fulfilling all righteousness and satisfying Phoebe’s requirements and we are finishing out the book of Job!
Where we last left things in the book of Job in chapters 39 through 41, we looked at God who is the last speaker in a series of speakers that confront Job. Up till now, four friends have come to Job with their point of view about Job’s suffering and they’ve all said in one way or another, “The reason you’re suffering Job is because you’ve sinned; it’s your fault.” And God Himself has come at last and revealed Himself in extraordinary ways, shown Job something of His glory and greatness, wisdom and power. We saw four features in particular in chapters 39 through 41. We saw the faithfulness, the wisdom, the justice, and the power of God on display. And in showing Himself like that to Job, Job and we were being invited to put our lives, our sufferings into their proper context.
Sometimes we let our trials loom so large that they eclipse almost everything else. Don’t we? All we can see is our suffering. If we’re not careful, our suffering can begin to frame everything else. And so Job 39 through 41 is God's reminder of the real context for our lives, for Job's life, for all our triumphs and all our trials. As we begin to see the Lord again, as He really is in His glory and greatness and grace, our lives find their proper proportion at last. They become appropriately small, our sufferings no longer fill the entirety of our horizon, and we can, at last, begin to learn to "trust in the Lord and lean not on our own understanding, but in all our ways acknowledge Him."
Now to be sure, our sorrows, our struggles, our suffering may yet remain, but our hope can’t now be extinguished by our sorrow or our suffering, no matter how sore it becomes, because we’ve realized in the light of who God is, we are not the measure of our own destinies. Our confidence, rather, is in the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. That was last time – Job chapters 39 through 41 as God addressed Job.
What we didn’t do was linger over the two short passages where Job responds to God, so that’s our task for this evening. You will see these two passages, the first of them in chapter 40, verses 2 through 5, and the second in chapter 42, verses 1 through 6. So we’re going to read those together in just a moment. Before we do that, let me invite you to bow your heads with me as we pray once again. Let’s pray.
O Lord, it may be for some of us that Monday morning is already intruding upon our thoughts. It may be that the week behind us continues to exert a pull over us as we rehearse what we should have said or what we said that we should not. It may be that we are more aware of ourselves and less aware of You than we should be. For sure, so many of us are here tonight with burdens and questions and fears and doubts that are too big for us. Thank You that You have a way of speaking to us and opening Your Word to us. And so we pray to You, please will you give us ears to hear and grant to us, not that we may shut out all these other competing voices so much as we may hear Yours answering theirs. And as we listen to You, to begin to find peace. For we ask it in Jesus’ name, amen.
Job chapter 40 at the first verse:
“The Lord said to Job:
‘Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it.’
Then Job answered the Lord and said:
‘Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further.’
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind…”
And if you’ll turn forward to chapter 42, we see Job’s response to God’s address to him. Chapter 42 verse 1:
“Then Job answered the Lord and said:
‘I know that you can do all things and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me. 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.’”
Amen, and we give thanks to God for speaking to us in His holy Word.
Let me tell you the story of Hector McPhail. He was, as his name probably suggests to you, a minister who served in the Scottish Highlands at the end of the 18th century in the little parish of Resolis on the southern shore of the Firth of Cromarty. One year he was sent by his presbytery, just as some of us here were, went just a few weeks back, as a commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, gathering in the city of Edinburgh. And on his way south, he stopped and spent the night at an inn not far from the city of Inverness where he met a very poor, very ignorant young girl, who knew nothing of spiritual things. She didn't know that she had so much as a soul to lose or a Savior to gain. After talking to her for a little while, the minister told her that if she would agree to pray a simple little prayer that he would teach her, each day until he came back, he would bring her a present on his return home from Edinburgh. Here was the prayer: "Lord, show me myself. Lord, show me myself." The little girl agreed; McPhail left for Edinburgh.
A week later, after the Assembly concluded, McPhail came back and stopped at the inn as he had promised. He found the girl and she was in a terrible state. She was overcome with shame. Giving her the little scarf that he had brought her for a present, he said, “Well, here is your present just as I promised. Did you pray the prayer that I taught you?” “Oh, you taught me a prayer that God has answered in an awful way,” she replied, “He has shown me myself and oh, what a sight it is! Minister, minister, what shall I do?” McPhail, of course, told her the Gospel and then before he left her for home, he asked her to pray a second, four-word prayer. Not, “Lord, show me myself” – can you guess what it is? But, “Lord, show me Thyself. Lord, show me Thyself.”
And the years passed. McPhail heard nothing of the girl again until one day she arrived on the doorstep in Resolis, a grown woman. “You’ll scarcely know me, Mr. McPhail,” she said. “Do you remember a little scullery maid some years ago at an inn in whose soul you took a deep interest upon your journey to Edinburgh? I was that girl. You taught me two short, expressive prayers. By the first, I was brought to feel my need of a Savior. By the second, I was led to behold that Savior Himself and to view Jehovah in the character of a reconciled God and Father in Christ.”
"Lord, show me myself," and "Lord, show me Thyself." Those two prayers are wonderful prayers to pray; they should always be prayed together because the truth is – Calvin speaks about this in the opening chapter of his institutes – we can never really know ourselves without seeing ourselves in the light of who God is.
The Display of God
And actually, as you read through Job chapters 39 through 42, that's precisely what happens to Job. The Lord comes to him and displays to him His greatness and glory, His power and wisdom, and He begins to interrogate Job and Job suddenly, in the light of who God is, sees the truth about Himself at last. If you take these two passages together, chapter 40:2-5 and 42:1-6, you'll see that they have sort of a cumulative effect. There's a growing acknowledgment that Job has gotten things all wrong. God Himself has confronted him and now suddenly, horribly, you know that moment of realization as you're running back over events in the past at three o'clock in the morning that you sometimes have – am I the only one? But that sort of chill of sudden realization comes over Job as he sees how and hears in his own mind how he's been speaking and how he's been behaving in the sight of the living God. He sees himself as he really is at last.
Maybe the best way, I think, to get at the teaching of these two sections in the book of Job is to go to the very conclusion, the climax of what Job has to say in chapter 42 verse 6, and then we'll sort of back hill from there. So would you look at chapter 42 verse 6? At the end of it all, here's Job's conclusion. "Therefore," he says, "I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes." Now you will remember that Job has been protesting his innocence and defending his own righteousness throughout the book. And to be sure, in one sense, he's been quite right to do so. His so-called friends have all said in effect, "You're suffering because you deserve it. The universe operates on a system of cosmic quid pro quo and you're simply reaping what you've sown, Job." That was their point of view. But we know better. Don't we? From the opening chapters of the book, we know that Job is not suffering because of some sin that he has committed for which he is being punished. Rather, we understand he is being afflicted by Satan in order that Satan may attempt to discredit the God that Job honors and serves. That's what's really been going on in the book of Job. And so Job has been quite right to defend his innocence.
The Beginning of Restoration
But as Job has done so, along the way he has sometimes crossed the line. As he has pleaded his own innocence, Job has sometimes assumed the role of judge or prosecuting attorney with God Himself as the accused. But here in chapters 39 through 42, now at last God Himself as stepped forward and turned the tables on Job. God becomes the prosecutor; Job must take the stand and be subject to the interrogation of the Lord. And as God's case progresses, Job realizes, as we all must before the self-revelation of God in Scripture, that he has no real defense. The flimsy fabric of his own self-righteousness crumbles around him and it's obviously a painful moment for him. But however painful it must have been, as we will see, it is, in fact, the beginning of his restoration. Job has come to repentance. “I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
Actually, the beginning of restoration, of renewal, is always repentance. There’s no way to short-circuit the process. It’s always repentance. That’s step number one. There really is no other path to right standing before God than this one. The route to renewal and restoration begins always, always for all of us, howsoever mature and advanced in the Christian faith we may be, it always begins with repentance. And so the passage before us tonight, these two portions of two chapters, are designed to take us back to school, as it were, and to teach us what repentance looks like. To train us again so that we may learn or relearn the path to renewal that begins with repentance.
The great Puritan, Thomas Watson, once said that, “Repentance is a spiritual medicine made up of six special ingredients – sight of sin, sorrow for sin, confession of sin, shame for sin, hatred of sin, and turning from sin.” Those are the six things he says that comprise the medicine of repentance. “If anyone is left out,” he says, “it loses its virtue, its power, and its potency.” Sight of sin, sorrow for sin, confession of sin, shame for sin, hatred of sin, and turning from sin. And as we’ve said, Job has come to true repentance, and actually as we’re going to see, all six elements can be found in these two portions of his confession and his repentance.
Sight of Sin
The first of them that I want us to think about, Watson says, is sight of sin; a clear sight of sin. If you'll look at the passage with me, up till this point, remember, Job has adamantly refused to see or to confess any sin of his own. Listen to how he'd been talking about himself. Chapter 27 verse 6, "I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go. My heart does not reproach me for any of my days." That's what he'd been saying about himself. But as we read Job's two closing speeches now, quite clearly everything has changed. Hasn't it? No matter what he said before, no matter how just his cause, despite all his assertions to the contrary, now suddenly his heart does indeed reproach him; his conscience does condemn him. He sees himself as a sinner, guilty before God, really for the first time in the book. Look how he puts it in chapter 40 verse 4. "Behold," he says, "I am of small account." Literally what he says is, "I am light, insubstantial. I thought I was weighty and immovable, but now I know I cannot possibly withstand the whirlwind of God's glory and greatness blowing against me."
Back in chapter 31 verse 37, Job had claimed some glory of his own. He said, “If the Lord will allow me to come to Him and present my case, I’ll come to Him like a prince.” You may know that the word for “glory” in Hebrew is related to the word for “heavy, substantial.” Well here now he realizes he’s not coming like a prince. Whatever imagined glory and weight and substantiality he may have previously claimed, now he knows in the sight of God just how much of a lightweight he really is. Now when he looks at himself, he can find nothing in which to boast. Like the Highland serving girl that McPhail taught to pray, “Lord, show me myself,” Job has come to see himself, his sin clearly, and it’s not a pretty sight.
Sorrow for Sin
Which brings us, actually, to the second element of repentance that Watson mentions. First, there's the sight of sin, then there's sorrow for sin. Notice in chapter 42 verse 6 he says he “repents in dust and ashes.” What’s that about? Dust and ashes. That’s a little weird, isn’t it? Is this telling us that the way to repent is to save the dust from the next time you grill? Maybe you have some left over from the Fourth of July you’re supposed to liberally spread around? Is that what this is about? Well, no. In the Old Testament Scriptures, dust and ashes were a symbol of mourning, of sorrow, of grief. Ezekiel 27:30, the prophet is pronouncing an oracle of judgment against the city and people of Tyre. And Ezekiel says that when judgment comes, it will be so great that the people would “shout aloud over you crying out bitterly. They cast dust on their heads and wallow in ashes. They make themselves bald for you and put sackcloth on their waist and weep over you in bitterness of soul with bitter mourning.” So dust and ashes are about bitter mourning. Job not only sees his sin, but he sorrows deeply for what he sees. He repents in dust and ashes.
Now we really do, I think, need to get this straight in our thinking and in our practice. 1 Corinthians chapter 7, Paul wrote to the Corinthians about their godly grief that led them to repentance. He said godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret; whereas worldly grief produces death. You see what he’s saying? Being sad on its own isn’t enough, but seeing sin and not being sad isn’t any good either. Seeing your sin and not sorrowing over it is arrogance. But being sad not because of sin but because you got caught is manipulation. It is still a form of pride. But what Watson is urging us to is godly sorrow, true grief that sees sin as an offense against God whom you have come to love, against whom your offenses are a source of misery in your heart. Sorrow for sin is an appropriate thing.
We live in a culture that tells you if you’re a Christian and a follower of Jesus you ought to put a smile on your face and be happy all the time. “Joy, joy, joy!” Let’s be careful that we do not exclude a place for godly sorrow. If you are living today in a path of persistent rebellion against the Lord, you ought to be sad because you grieve Him. And the path back to restoration requires that you see your sin, you own the sinfulness of your sin, the guilt of it, the offense of it, and that you grieve over the rebellion festering in your heart. A sight of sin. Sorrow for sin.
Confession of Sin
Then Watson says what comes next is confession of sin. That’s here in Job too, isn’t it? Look at chapter 42 verse 3. In verse 2 he confesses his faith in God; he affirms truth about God in chapter 42 verse 2. “I know that you can do all things and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” There’s a sort of a sense now of Job submitting to the sovereignty of God even in his own trials and circumstances. Mysterious providences though they have been, he’s willing now to bend the knee before the Lord. And then in the first part of verse 3 and again in verse 4, do you notice he quotes God’s words to Him? You see it in verse 3; look at verse 3. “Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?” Or look at verse 4. “Hear and I will speak. I will question you and you make it known to me.” Those are the first words God said to Job back in chapter 39 verse 2. Job is quoting God here. “Who is this,” God had said, “who darkens counsel by words without knowledge, dressed for action like a man? I will question you; you make it known to me.” Job is telling us how his heart has been cracked open and exposed. How it is that he has been led to this moment of repentance. The Word of God to Job had interrogated him. And that interrogation exposed things about his heart that he had missed before.
I wonder if you have ever had that experience for yourself. You come to church, much as you have before, you are perhaps preoccupied, distracted, weighed down even. Maybe you haven’t been in ages, but here you are ticking the box, fulfilling all righteousness, but as the prayers are prayed and the songs are sung and the Scriptures are opened, something unexpected begins to happen and you find you feel a bit like Job here. You’ve been put on the stand and you are being interrogated by the Word of God. The secrets of your heart are being laid bare. It’s like the preacher has been reading your diary. “Who’s been gossiping about me to that man?” you begin to wonder. But that’s not it. No, God has placed your heart under the scrutiny of Scripture and it’s not a comfortable place to be. Is it?
Well when that happens, what should you do? When you come under the scrutiny, the interrogation of God by the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures, what should you do? Well, Job shows us what to do. When the Holy Spirit walks into the attic of your heart and turns on the light and all the skeletons in your closets are exposed, what will you do? Confess. Confess. Don’t blow up in anger. Don’t let ego defend you. Don’t let your pride deceive you. Confess. You see, the Scriptures interrogate our hearts not to condemn us, but to save us. That’s what Jesus told Nicodemus. Do you remember in John 3 verse 17 He said He came “not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” When Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, flips the switch and lights up your secret sin, it’s an invitation to restoration, not condemnation. So don’t withdraw. Don’t run and hide like our first fathers did when they were caught red-handed in the garden. “We hid because we were naked and we were ashamed.” This is an invitation to step into the light. Confess your sin and begin to be made new by the grace of God.
That is what Job does. He says in effect, “In light of Your Word to me” – in chapter 42 verse 3 – “In light of everything You’ve said to me, having been interrogated by Your Word to me, therefore now I see it; I uttered what I did not understand – things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. What a pompous ass I have been! How arrogant; I wanted answers, but what I needed was the humility to trust You because the answers were way too big for me.” He confesses. Have you confessed? Come clean. Own up. Stop the self-defense, the empty justifications. Step into the light and confess. A sight of sin. Sorrow for sin. Confession of sin.
Shame for Sin
And then, Watson says fourthly there must be shame for sin. We need to be careful here. You see, our culture often burdens us with shame that is unnecessary, while at the very same time destroying all sense of shame in those places where we ought to feel it. Have you noticed that about our society? It piles shame on in areas that it doesn’t belong and then it removes shame where it does belong. You just need to talk to some teenage girls who frequent social media for a while and you’ll hear all about a culture of shame, destructive and twisted, that operates in their world. It’s everywhere in our society – poisonous, wrongheaded, inappropriate shame. One of the great ironies of life in our cultural moment is that while there is an awful lot of needless, inappropriate, wrong shame, we’ve also simultaneously desensitized ourselves to shame where we ought to feel it very keenly. The truth is, we embrace sin quite often because it’s lost its shamefulness. We no longer blush to look or to touch or to consume. The inner recoil that we ought to feel at the very idea of it, has dissolved. Perhaps because some sins are positively celebrated on our television screens. Some are repackaged as virtues, championed, you know, as a way to be true to yourself. To live your truth. But when the Word of God exposes our hearts and we come to see our sin clearly, in those moments, in those moments shame fits. Our capacity – listen – our capacity for godly shame is restored to its proper place by repentance. It makes us blush at sin, recoil at sin, feel horror at sin. The sight of sin. Sorrow for sin. Confession of sin. Shame for sin.
Hatred and Turning from Sin
Then let me take the last two in Watson’s list together. Next, he says comes hatred and turning from sin. You hate sin and you turn from it. "I despise myself," Job says. "I loathe what I find festering in my heart and I never want to go back to it." Of course, the reason a sinner starts to hate sin, the reason you will start to hate your sin is because you've come to love God as you see Him in Jesus Christ, not only in His holiness but in His infinite mercy and grace in the Gospel. You've come to love Him. You've tasted His love for you in Christ who died and rose for you to forgive and cleanse your sin away. You know that if anyone confesses his sin, "He is faithful and just to forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." And as you see the wonder of that and you come to love this God, you begin to hate the sin that grieves Him, that is such an offense to Him. A sinner who starts to hate sin hates sin because she loves God. He starts trusting Jesus. She starts clinging to Christ. She sees her sin and her Savior no longer as companions in her heart but as competitors. Only one may live safely in her heart now. She's embraced Jesus' teaching – we cannot serve two masters, "either we will love the one and hate the other or be devoted to the one and despise the other."
That’s what Job says in verse 5. “I heard of You by the hearing of the ear but now my eye sees You. Therefore, therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes. Now that I see You, now that I have some sense of who You really are, at last now I see myself, I see my sin, and I can’t stand it anymore and I want to be rid of it.” Repentance hates sin and turns from it. You may say, “Oh, I repented,” but you have not begun to hate your sin. Until you hate your sin, you never will forsake it. That’s why in chapter 40 verses 4 and 5, Job says, “I put my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once and I will not answer; twice but I will proceed no further.” He’s determined not to continue, do you see, in that course of boastful self-assertion that characterized his speech up till now. “I’m done with my besetting sin. I’m resolved to kill it, to turn from it, to desert it all together.” We are lying to ourselves about our willingness to walk with God until we are willing to kill our pet sin. To kill it.
In John 8, when a woman was caught in adultery and dragged to Jesus for judgment, you remember Jesus said, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” and nobody moved a muscle. And so He asked the woman, “Is there no one to condemn you?” “No one, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.” What wonderful good news! “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” When you come with your sin to the Savior He doesn’t condemn, He forgives! But He doesn’t stop there, does He? He says to her, “Now go and sin no more. Now go and sin no more.” Titus 2:11 puts it this way. “The grace of God has appeared bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright, godly lives in the present age.” The grace of God that appeared in the coming of Jesus Christ kills sin. A repentant heart is a heart in which grace brings change. It trains us to renounce ungodliness and live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives.
Brothers and sisters, let’s be clear. Let’s be honest. Feeling bad isn’t repentance. Saying, “Sorry,” isn’t repentance. Sight of sin in the light of the holiness of God, sorrow of heart for your sin – not for getting caught but for offending God Himself whom you love – heartfelt confession, owning it, coming clean about it, stepping into the light, shame for sin, blushing at it, the inner recoil of your heart restored and reset as you see sin, and hating it and turning from it, never wanting to go back to it – like a dog returning to its vomit, you are done with your sin – that’s repentance. It’s hard work. It’s hard heart work but it is vital work if renewal and restoration and fellowship with God are to be ours. Where are you resisting God, refusing God? Where are you hiding your pet sins, coddling them, toying with them, indulging them? I wonder if you will today hear the call of the living God to put them to death. The Jesus who says to you tonight in the Gospel, “I do not condemn you,” also says, “Go and sin no more.” Let’s pray together.
Our Father, we praise You, do praise You that Jesus has bled and died and risen and reigns so that for every sinner that repents there is now no condemnation. But we confess to You the many ways we substitute repentance for an array of counterfeits. We don’t like feeling bad, and so we justify and rationalize our sin. We blame others or we grade ourselves on a curve. “Yes, this was bad, but You should have seen what she did!” We excuse. We pretend that saying, “Sorry,” is the same as repentance but we make no resolution to kill our sin. O Lord, the truth is, we need Your grace so very urgently to train us to renounce ungodliness and to live soberly and uprightly in this present age. So we pray now before You, having been interrogated by Your Word, that You would deal with our hearts and help us to get serious with ourselves in Your presence not so that we may be condemned, but rather that we might be delivered, set free from the bondage of sin in our lives and live for Your glory. For we ask it in Jesus’ name, amen.
© 2018 First Presbyterian Church.
This transcribed message has been lightly edited and formatted for the Web site. No attempt has been made, however, to alter the basic extemporaneous delivery style, or to produce a grammatically accurate, publication-ready manuscript conforming to an established style template.
Should there be questions regarding grammar or theological content, the reader should presume any website error to be with the webmaster/transcriber/editor rather than with the original speaker. For full copyright, reproduction and permission information, please visit the First Presbyterian Church Copyright, Reproduction & Permission statement.