DEVOTIONALS from the Book of Job
THE LIFE OF JOB – LESSONS IN HOLINESS AND HUMILITY
Job's brokenness brings blessing and a deeper knowledge of the Cross
Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute
God has spoken for the last time to Job. In the prologue He spoke in his favor as a man who feared God and shunned evil. Through the process of sudden and severe suffering, God was still silently speaking to His son, awaiting the day when he would hear His voice and see His face. Through his three friends and later through Elihu, God was speaking circumstantially; God was listening with the deeper purpose of blessing and enlarging Job's tent (Job 3-37).
Now He would speak and Job will listen and understand (Job 38-41). From the very beginning of the prologue Job was God's priest for the family offering sacrifices for their sins; he was walking in the light of God's truth. But Job did not know himself as God saw him and what was the depth of his self-righteousness which stood in the way of God's fullest blessing. God would change that through the school of suffering.
But through it all God's mercy and grace were constantly available to him but in great part unrealized by Job in the unparalleled suffering endured at the hand of God, long days of confusion, bitterness of soul and much self-defense. But when God does speak and finally rebuke him, He gives a somewhat muted but faithful rebuke. His two speeches enter around God's owning, controlling and maintaining His sovereign control and wise administration of the animate and inanimate world (Job 38, 39).
God's second rebuke was more pointed, highlighting the divine "irony" and a "charade" suggesting that Job take God's role and do what God must do. His primary role would be to humble the proud. This would be Job's coup de grace, his death sentence.
Job's Second Response to God's Final Word Job 42:1-6
On the two previous occasions God had begun His challenge to Job with the identical demand: "Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me" (39:3, 40:7). Job now responds by admitting: "I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand'" (vv. 2, 3).
In Job's first response to God's challenge he had admitted somewhat lamely: "Behold, I am vile; What shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth. Once I have spoken, but I will not answer; Yes twice, but I will proceed no further" (40: 4, 5). In other words, Job had said. "I have been wrong but I will remedy that by not speaking further."
Most evidently God was not satisfied with such an evasive response. Hence the sharper rebuke so effective in identifying his real problem -- his self –righteousness. Job's problem was deeper and far more serious than he realized. His promised deferral was not enough. He must "see" God and then himself.
Job's last response to God differs greatly from the first. It begins with a far deeper admission of personal blame, now owned as his. His problem is now far greater and he will face it cleanly. His reverent response continues: "Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer me'" (v.4). Job is about to say those fateful words that will change the course of his future life and remain as the immemorial words of the whole Bible. This confession remains the oldest repentance recorded in Holy Writ.
Paul later describes a similar genuine repentance: "For godly sorrow produces repentance to salvation, not to be regretted . . . for observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: what diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! (2 Corinthians 7:10, 11).
Job's Final Words – A Death to Self and a New Paradigm for the Believer Job. 42:5, 6
Hear Job's heart-rending final words: "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (vv.5, 6). These are words almost too sacred to be commented on. God had earlier affirmed Job: "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and shuns evil?" (2:3) but there was much more to be learned and experienced.
Suddenly God intervenes as Job's advocate much to our surprise. "And so it was, after the LORD had spoken these words to Job, that the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, ‘My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has. Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, go to My servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering, and My servant Job shall pray for you. For I will accept him, least I deal with you according to your folly; because you have not spoken of Me what is right as my servant Job has. So Eliphaz theTemanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the LORD commanded them; for the Lord accepted Job. And the LORD restored Job's losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the LORD gave to Job twice as much as he had before" (42:7-10).
After Job's Genuine Repentance -- His Immediate Restoration
On hearing Job's genuine repentance and brokenness, Jehovah immediately forgave him and returned his servant to his Prologue's standing of full acceptance. When Job originally called on Jehovah His divine righteousness was imputed to him; he was declared righteous in the eyes of God. That new position would be irrevocable and permanent [the doctrine of justification]. Job became "My servant," an endearing title used 7 times in the book, four times immediately after his repentance.
Too often salvation is viewed as to what we receive: forgiveness and eternal life. But what was our condition before? Dead in sins, lost, bankrupt of any virtue that God would demand. "Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling." Salvation is by faith alone, a personal trust in God's grace. We were bought with a price, redeemed from the slave market.
But salvation needs to be understood in terms of a prior repentance and a continuing dependence on God as the walk of faith. There can be no true saving faith without a previously implicit repentance. Salvation is as a coin with two faces: the faith that saves and repentance that validates the reception and leads to a contrite spirit and brokenness.
David, the man after God's heart, sinned grievously with Bathsheba but repented deeply in that classic Psalm 51. "For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart – these, O God, you will not despise" (vv.16, 17). Job was now a witness to that liberating truth.
Job's later sin of self-righteousness and pride involved his moral condition, [the doctrine of sanctification]. The old nature still present in him manifested itself in pride, selfishness, fear, confusion, anger and resentment toward God. God was suspect for Job in the days of suffering. His pride was exacerbated by his three friends' attacks. But nothing less than the LORD Himself speaking to him in indirect ways would guard His servant's faith and yet be consistent with his urgent need.
In His second reproof, Jehovah asks ironically that Job play the role of God and humble the proud. Then He adds insult to injury by saying in effect: Then I would also believe that you can save yourself! (Job 40: 12-14). What an indictment of Job! But he does a 180 degree about face in repentance and tears!
Such is the wonder of salvation. Faith and repentance are divine twins that issue in a permanent position of acceptance before God [justification] and a moral condition that undergirds the walk of faith and victory in Christ [sanctification]. Faith will lead to holiness and a broken and contrite heart will lead to daily humility, the two touchstones of sanctification and God's fullest blessings.
Jehovah Deals with Job's Three Friends,
Jehovah dealt harshly with Eliphaz, the representative of the three. He leveled a direct accusation against his unjustified attacks on "My servant Job." In fact, to speak against Job, My servant, was to speak against Jehovah Himself. But one might argue: Didn't Job speak as foolishly and as rashly to his friends as they did to him? Is God not partial to Job? In no way, Job was His servant fully justified with the position of acceptance as a true son. His deep repentance of his pride was the sin of a son under the loving hand of his God who was achieving a deeper purpose in him through divinely appointed suffering.
The three friends had given no prior evidence of their speaking in behalf of God. On the contrary, serious questions could be raised about the source of Eliphaz' counsel. "Now a word was secretly brought to me, and my ear received a whisper of it . . . Fear came upon me . . . A spirit passed before my face . . ." (Job. 4: 12-16). The three friends were possibly, unknown to them, agents of the spirit world, in addition to judging Job by mere human reasoning.
Jehovah spoke in full support of Job and presented him as their mediator. "My servant Job shall pray for you. For I will accept him, lest I deal with you according to your folly" (v.8). To this counsel the three named specifically in the text: "did as the LORD commanded them for LORD had accepted Job."
Job now humbled and broken and fully restored before the LORD shared in the recovery of his former friends. God knew that Job's prayer would be efficacious including no revenge but only forgiveness and mercy as the LORD had shown to him,
Job's Double Portion Enjoyed to the Full Job 42:11-17
In full accordance with ancient custom a double portion spoke of bounteous favor. Should there be two wives with two sons, there must be no partiality in dividing the patrimony. "But he shall acknowledge the son of the unloved wide as the firstborn by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the beginning of his strength, the right of the firstborn is his" (Deuteronomy 21:17). God gave to Elisha a double portion as requested and literally God doubled the number of miracles (2 Kings 2:9-12).
In great detail the inspired author records that his brothers, sisters and acquaintances rewarded him handsomely. The actual numbers of his flocks and herds were specifically doubled and the ultimate benefit,10 children given, a measure of life fullness. As an extra bounty, the names of his three daughters were given, plus they were world- renowned for their beauty. Job lived a 140 years [further evident of pre-patriarchal days] and saw his children and grandchildren for four generations. As final proof of ancient times he died, old and full of days.
The book of Job long treasured by the Jewish people and preserved in their sacred canon would serve as an example as a pattern for future generations, a veritable paradigm of God's deeper dealings with His own.
Job's Example -- A Pattern and a Paradigm for Others in a Deeper Walk with God
The marvel of the Cross is that God deals with His own in unique ways. But basic to them all is a death/resurrection process. First, a repentance /faith/trust that leads to forgiveness and new a position. But that position is immediately followed by a walk in union with Christ - a death to the old nature and the release of the new in the person of Christ living His life through the believer.
While the walk with God is a process, the glory of His Cross work is that it was all accomplished in His death to sin once for all ( Romans 5:10) and in the same manner is ours to believe, count on and appropriate by faith. On such a basis the Holy Spirit does the work of transformation. As in Job's case there was an entry through brokenness.
My Testimony of Brokenness for His Glory for My Good
I would like to share my entry into the death/resurrection process that may illumine the reader. I was raised in a godly home and at age 12 trusted Christ. In the first missionary conference at age 14 in Prairie Bible Institute High School I made a life time commitment to God and missions.
I thank God to this day for PBI where for 7 years I was exposed daily to the truths of the Cross. Being an avid reader and diligent student, I received many honors: valedictorian, graduation speaker in HS and BS; on a missionary night I shared the heroic life of Adoniram Judson before an audience of 1,000.
I graduated the youngest in a class of 99. Two mission boards advised more education and pastoral experience. For 5 years I pastored a small church in Winnipeg and finished my BA in Providence college. Grace and I married in 1950 and we were accepted for missions in Africa awaiting only her physical. But two doctors, one a missionary doctor, turned her down without any illness! God closed one door to later open another, RGBI.
From the first two years of the pastorate, little fruit was evident. I thought the reason was that the brethren did not understand the truths of the Cross, our union with Christ as I did. I must, therefore, expound on Romans 6-8 . On a cold Sunday morning I was teaching on Romans 6:6 -- very probably in a reproachful manner. To my consternation in the midst of my exposition the Holy Spirit – not in an audible voice - said in no uncertain terms: "Gordon, You are a hypocrite; you know nothing of these truths!! When the Spirit speaks a believer listens.
I was too proud to tell my wife of God's reproof. Before went to bed I prayed in desperation of soul: "Lord, let it cost me what it may, I must know this truth. If not, I'll leave the ministry." I had no such intention of leaving but it expressed my state of heart anguish.
After a few months, the shock had worn off. To my surprise I was invited by a church in Northern Minnesota that I knew quite well to be their conference speaker. I silently thought to myself -- they have found me! And then I hated myself for such a proud thought. But I prayed and, even fasted, to be able to share God's word for His glory alone – so I thought.
Upon arriving the pastor asked me to speak Sunday morning. The other speaker, Rev. Ed Folden, would speak in the afternoon. Again my proud heart -- He choose me for the first service and again I rejected the though. But I could not deny that they were indeed my thoughts. I spoke on Abraham's offering up of Isaac, a truth God had revealed to me in Bible school. But nothing happened beyond my preaching.
In the afternoon I arrived ready to analyze Ed Folden's preaching techniques, etc. But I noticed that he did not go up to the platform but stood and opened his Bible. To tell you the truth I remember not a word of his sermon. But the Spirit so smote my proud heart that I was devastated; I felt deeply for the first time my inner defeat in God's holy presence; proud and evil thoughts were slain that no one knew. I "saw"' myself as God saw me. I seemed to see a grotesque figure hanging on a cross. "Lord, what is that?" "That is you, as I see and know you!"
Now came the unexpected. "Gordon, ask for the floor and tell everyone what I see in You."
"But, Lord, they send me back home the bus." But I had always said: "If God speaks, I obey Him. [I had no concept of the time frame]. I stood up and spoke for possibly two minutes, explicitly telling them of my inner defeat and my proud sinful heart -- a devastating revelation to me.
Then I broke down and sobbed and stood speechless for a time. I could say nothing more but sit down utterly broken. But in that instant to my great surprise there came to my mind so clearly the Spirit's reference to my original text Romans 6:6 and His reproof: "Knowing this that Gordon Johnson was crucified with Christ that the body of sin be cancelled that henceforth he should not serve sin." I re-lived the reproof of months earlier. Now I knew; I had entered in just like Job who repented in dust and ashes.
Now for a greater surprise. The service did not end for another hour with church members publically confessing hidden sins and divisions within the church body. For the second time in my life I lived a moment of true revival.
Sheepishly now what? To my shock the pastor asked me to speak in the evening service. But now my heart said to God: "I can't. I'm not worthy." To my mind came God's response: "Gordon, you'll never be worthy to open my book, but speak My Word." I changed the message to the anointing of the high priest - blood applied to the ear, finger and foot and then the anointing oil on each (Leviticus 8:23-30).
One further surprise. I retired to bed that evening but couldn't sleep for joy. Near midnight I heard a car drive up, car doors close and I heard whispering below. Next morning at breakfast my hostess said: "Last night late the Kochendofers came and we were reconciled." The Kochendofers and the Clows were leading members of the church and were at odds. Then she said: "I did not know that you pastors have hearts like ours! What an indictment of our hypocrisy!
That was in 1952 and I entered into victory through brokenness only to be maintained by faith and daily obedience. The death to self and life in Christ has been my passion and my burden since that day.