The Conversion of Job
October 9th, 1966 @ 10:50 AM
THE CONVERSION OF JOB
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-9-66 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the morning message.
The fall time of the year is to me the most beautiful time of the four seasons. And it brings to us here in this state of Texas—humiliated now, depressed, disgraced; but it could not have been done by a greater people—it brings to us in Texas an event in our church that we have opportunity to share once in a while. We do not do it every year, but we have our fall Roundups once every three or four or five years. I would like to do it every year, but the staff tells me that they get kind of weary of doing the same thing all the time. To me that is just like saying, “Now I get tired of eating, let’s not eat anymore.” Man, I am in favor of it again and again. I love these Roundups. They are opportunities for our people to be together and leave all of our dignity and our dressed-upedness at home. If you have a pair of old boots, or a pair of jeans, if you have an old dress, you come. I never saw in the days that I grew up—I hope I am not mistaken in this—I never saw a clean cowboy in my life. He smelled like it even. Out on the range, riding a horse, roping those calves, branding them with an iron, and that is what we are doing down here: we are leaving all of our dignity and all of our dress-upedness at home, and we are coming down here. And there is something about it that when you meet a fellow and he is not dressed up, why, you just kind of feel, “Well, I can talk to him, I can say something to him.” And now that is what we’re doing in these Roundups. Every night, as it is announced, at 6:30, in the gymnasium, let’s come. Tomorrow night will be our Young Adults; and the next night, Tuesday, will be our Median Adults. And Thursday night will be our Young People and our Business and Professional division; and Saturday night will be our Intermediates and our Seniors. And then next week, following this, will be the rest of our divisional groups. Now they close with a campfire; and that is the part of the pastor. I have the campfire. And because it’s stewardship time, why, they have announced these as stewardship Roundups, because everybody thinks that I’m going to talk about stewardship around that campfire. Wouldn’t they be surprised if I never mentioned it and never referred to it? Well, I’d be surprised myself. I would suppose the pastor will have something to say about that. But mainly and bigly and mostly, it is just a gathering of our people together. We have the best time in the world. We eat beans, we eat cornbread, we eat barbeque, we have dill pickles and “ingerns,” we just got all kinds of things. And we’ll look for you. And if you have a guest, you bring that guest, and welcome.
Now the title of the sermon is The Conversion of Job. And if you’d like to turn in your Bible to the forty-second, the last chapter of Job, you will be amazed at what this man of God, the best man in all the earth [Job 1:8, 2:3], you will be amazed at what he says. Job 42:
Then Job answered the Lord, and said,
I know that Thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from Thee.
Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge?
Therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not . . .
I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth Thee:
Wherefore, wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.
The conversion of Job; and that word “conversion” is not used in the sense of a man who is introduced to the Lord and who becomes a Christian. But the word is used in the same sense as it is used in the twenty-second chapter of Luke:
And the Lord said to Simon Peter:
Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren
That’s the meaning of that word “convert,” “conversion,” as we read the story of Job. For Simon Peter, a big fisherman, big in every way; he was also big in his words, and big in his boasting, and big in his self estimation. Simon Peter for all of his marvelous gifts had some of the most clay-like in his makeup of any of the disciples that the Lord chose. For example, Simon said, “Now Lord, You say that all of us are going to forsake You? [Matthew 26:31]. Well, these other disciples may, I grant You that. They may deny Your name, but not I. I will go with You down to death” [Matthew 26:33-35]. And the Lord said, “Simon, all these others may forsake Me, but not you? Why, Simon, before the cock shall crow twice in the morning, three times will you deny that you even know Me” [Mark 14:30]. And Simon said, “Lord, that is unthinkable, unimaginable” [Mark 14:31] He had a fine opinion of himself. And in that self-assurance, he boasted before the Lord; and it was then that the Lord said, “Simon, I have prayed for thee; and when this experience comes, and you convert and you turn, strengthen thy brethren” [Luke 22:32]. And you know the rest of the story: with bitter tears, Simon went out from the presence of the Lord and that little maid, a different kind of a disciple [Luke 22:55-62].
This same experience is recorded in the life of Job. “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” [Job 42:6]. Had those words been spoken by Cain or by Pharaoh, had they been spoken by giant Saul, whom the Lord forsook [1 Samuel 28:15], had they been spoken by Judas Iscariot, or by Ananias, had these words been spoken by Herod the Great, who killed the babes at Bethlehem [Matthew 2:16], or by Nero, who slew Peter and Paul, I would have thought, “Well, how appropriate.”
“Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” [Job 42:6]. But these words are spoken by the best man who lived in the earth. The Bible says so. The first verse of the first chapter of Job begins like this: “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil” [Job 1:1]. And not only does the Bible by inspiration describe Job like that, but God in heaven said it also: “And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered My servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a blameless man, and upright, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?” [Job 1:8]. When I read that characterization of Job and then turn to this last chapter, “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” [Job 42:6], I am overwhelmed. You see, Job was the best man in the earth; but nobody knew that so well as Job himself. Even in his affliction, when God allowed Satan to cut him down, he’s lost his property; he was the richest man in the East; he’s lost his family, his seven sons and his three daughters; he’s lost all of his friends [Job 1:13-19], only three, Job’s comforters, come to visit him [Job 2:11-13]; he’s lost his health; he sits in an ash heap; and his sores from the top of his head to the sole of his feet [Job 2:7-8], his sores cry aloud for assuaging, for ointment, even the dogs coming to lick him somehow comforts him. I could not imagine a man in a more wretched condition, miserable, sorrowful, tragic, than this man Job. Yet in his tragedy, in his affliction, in the ash heap [Job 2:8], he speaks in a round and a strong voice; for the inside of him is unbroken. He delights in his integrity. He’s argumentative. He is filled with self-justification.
For example, I read from Job’s words himself, as he says:
When I went out to the gate to the city, when I prepared my seat in the street!
The young men saw me, and hid themselves: and the aged arose, and stood up.
The princes refrained from talking, and laid their hand on their mouth.
The nobles held their peace, and their tongue cleaved to the roof of their mouth.
When the ear heard me, it blessed me; and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me:
I delivered the poor that cried…
The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me: and I caused the widow’s heart to sing.
I put on righteousness like a garment: and my judgment was as a robe and a diadem.
Somewhat proud, wouldn’t you say? At least he had a good opinion of himself, wouldn’t you think?
I put on righteousness as a robe: and my judgment was as a diadem and a crown.
I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame.
I was a father to the poor: and the cause which I knew not I searched out—
“Not anything too hard for me”—
I brake the jaws of the wicked, and plucked the spoil out of his teeth . . .
Unto me men gave ear, and waited, and kept silence at my counsel.
After my words they spake not again; and my speech dropped upon them.
And they waited for me as for the latter rain…
I chose out their way, and sat chief, and dwelt as a king in the army.
[Job 29: 25]
Pretty good judgment, wouldn’t you think? He thinks rather well of himself.
And when those friends came, he said to them, “What do you know that I do not know? What you know, the same do I know: and I am not inferior to you” [Job 13:2]. Then he turns to the Lord, and he says, “Call Thou, and I will answer: or let me speak, and You answer” [Job 13:22]. Which is fine, that’s fine. I’m supposing all of that was true. Job was the most righteous man in the earth, and the best man. The Bible said so, and God said so [Job 1:1, 8, 2:3], and Job said so: “I agree. I agree. I agree with what the Bible says, I’m the best man. I agree with what God says, I’m the best man.” And as I turn these pages and read further, those three friends who came to see Job, “They ceased to answer him, because he was righteous in his own eyes,” Job 32:1. And Job 32:2, “And because he justified himself rather than God”; well, we’re going to see what God does. The Lord’s not done with Job.
When the Lord takes away all of his children, and the Lord takes away all of his wealth, and the Lord takes away his health and nearly his life [Job 1:13-19, 2:7-8], God is not done with him. And the Lord God says to Job, “Job, is this what you said, Call, and I will answer: or let me speak, and You answer, is that what you said, Job?” [Job 13:22]. Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, “Who is this talking like that? Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now thy loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you answer Me” [Job 38:1-3]. And I haven’t time to pursue this. Page and column, and page and column, God asked Job; and not a one of those questions, not one is Job able to answer [Job 38:4-41:34]. All Job can say is, “Lord, I do not know. Lord, I do not understand. And Lord, I never thought of that. Lord, that has never occurred to me. Lord, I am like a child; I cannot even frame the language to speak” [Job 42:1-3]. Yet the Lord’s not through with Job. I turn over this page, and the Lord begins to talk to Job about himself and about his ability to deliver himself and to save himself [Job 40:6-14]. And finally, when God has done with Job, there is no life in him, there are no answers, there is no boasting, there is no self-sufficiency, there is no adequacy; Job is in the dust in his soul [Job 42:6], as he was in an ash heap in his physical frame [Job 2:8].
Then Job answered the Lord, and said, “I know that Thou canst do everything, and that no thought can be withholden from Thee [Job 42:2]. O God, I had heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now my eyes seeth Thee: Wherefore, wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” [Job 42:5-6]. It’s a new Job. The old one prideful, boastful, self-sufficient, “I have got all the answers, and I know all the ways. And wisdom is glorified in me. And my very robes are righteousness and integrity.” That’s the old Job. But the new Job, sitting in his ash heap, with his spirit in the dust of the ground [Job 42:6],“Lord, I have come to conclude I do not know anything. And I have come to conclude that my own righteousnesses are like filthy rags [Isaiah 64:6]. Lord, I have no personal justification. And I cast myself upon Your mercies. I repent in dust and ashes” [Job 42:6]. And oh the possibilities in a man like that, for God must unmake us before He can remake us. We must die before we can live again.
What can you say to a man who is self-righteous, and boastful, and proud, and self- assured? What can you say to him? What can you say to the Pharisee who stands on the marble pavement of the temple, and he lifts up his face to God, and he says, “O God, I thank Thee that I am not like other men. I live righteously. I am a fine citizen of this community. I pay my debts. I live as a respectable citizen. And I know how to find my way; I stand on my own two feet. Lord, I thank Thee I’m not like a lot of other men.” Then his eye fell on that publican down there, and he said, “And Lord, especially do I thank Thee that I’m not like that publican” [Luke 18:9-12]. Well, what can you say to a man like that? “Yes sir, that’s right; you pay your debts. Yes sir, that’s right; you’re honest and upright. Yes sir, that’s right; you are a fine citizen. Yes sir, that’s right; you’re successful in your profession. Yes sir, you are a noble man, standing on your own two feet. That’s right. Yes sir, that’s right; that’s right.” What else can you say to a man like that? But, the heavens become lead over his head.
But down there at the entrance of the house of God stood a publican, a sinner; and he would not so much as lift up his face to heaven, but he beat on his breast, and cried, saying, “Lord, have mercy upon me the sinner” [Luke 18:13]. Oh, the possibilities in a man like that. What God can say to a man like that! What a heavenly message God has for a man like that!
What can you say to the elder brother? In the parable of the prodigal son [Luke 15:11-32], in the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Luke, what can you say to the elder brother, who comes in from the field, and he sees all that group gathered round that whoremonger and that spendthrift and that prodigal? What can you say to that elder brother when he stalks into the house, and there stands his father welcoming that prodigal back home? And he stalks outside the house. The father comes out to entreat him. And the elder brother says, “All of these years have I worked here, and at no time have I transgressed thy commandment. I have been right, and I have been righteous, and I have been laboring, and I have been in obedience to all of these commandments. And there is no finer son that any man ever had than I am” [Luke 15:28-30]. What can you say to a boy like that? “Yes sir, that’s right; you’ve been working here; that’s right. And you haven’t transgressed any of my commandments; that’s right. And you’re the finest boy in the earth, that’s right. That’s right. That’s right. Yes sir, son, that’s right.” What else can you say to a boy like that?
But when that prodigal comes in, and with a bowed head before the father, he says, “Father, I have played the fool. I have done wrong everyday of my life. I have fallen into gross error. I have disobeyed, I have fallen short” [Luke 15:18-21]. And as you look at the boy, the old Adam has been beat out of him. All of his pride, all of his self-sufficiency, all of his boasting is gone; and he stands there with his head bowed, saved. The possibilities in a son like that! Now you can open to him your hand and your heart, now you can buy the ring and put on his finger, now you can buy shoes and put on his feet, now you can buy a robe and drape it over his shoulders, now you can make merry in music and in gladness in the house, for the home is almost like heaven [Luke 15:22-24, 32]. What a difference. What a difference. And what a difference it makes in the judgments of Almighty God.
What can you say to the thief, the malefactor, who was crucified on one side of the Lord Jesus, and he turns to the Man in the middle, the Son of God, and he says to Him, “I hear You are the Messiah. Yeah, I hear You are the Messiah. I hear You are the Son of God. And there You are, dying just as I am dying; nailed to a cross, just as I am nailed to a cross. And if You are so good, and if You are so fine, and if You are better than we are, then save us! Come down from the cross, take us with You” [Luke 23:39]. Oh, I can just imagine all kinds of things, for the Bible says that that malefactor cast into the teeth of Jesus all of those blasphemous things that were repeated by those who wagged their heads marching up and down in front of Him [Matthew 27:39]. What do you say to a malefactor like that? “That’s right. That’s right. Both of you up there, dying on the cross; both of you up there in shame, in disgrace, in ignominy; both of you up there, criminals, crucified by the Roman government, that’s right [Luke 27:39]. That’s right. That’s right. That’s right.”
But oh the possibilities in that other malefactor, who turned to the Lord on that central cross, and said, “Master, I receive the just desserts of my life. I deserve this execution. I deserve it. But Master, someday, some righteous and triumphant and glorious day, Master, when You come into Your kingdom, Master, could it be possible that the likes of me could have a place, could enter in? Could it be, Lord? When Thou comest into Thy kingdom, remember me, remember me” [Luke 23:40-42]. And the Lord said, “Verily, verily, today, this day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise” [Luke 23:43]. For a man like that is ready and prepared to walk through pearly gates and down golden streets [Revelation 21:21]; oh, the possibilities in a man like that!
If I had a judgment gathered after the years and the years of my own pastoral ministry, it is this: the hardest thing, the hardest thing to grope with, as I try to deliver the message of the Son of God, the hardest thing to grope with is our own false pride. “That guy over there, yes, and that old sister over there, yes, and that somebody on either side of me, yes, oh, they need to repent, and they need the Lord, and they ought,” and on and on and on; “But not I, not I, not I. Oh, that message was for them meant, and for them; but not for me.” Oh! And in the appeal we make to a lost man, it is not one out of one hundred thousand that will ever say, “I need God; I ought to repent. I need to be saved; I am a lost sinner.” There’s not one man out of a multitude to whom I will ever speak, but when immediately began to justify himself to me, “O preacher, don’t get it down wrong: I’m not bad, I’m not bad; I haven’t been in the penitentiary, and I haven’t killed anybody, and I’m not a wastrel, and I’m not a whoremonger, and I’m not all of these things. I’m a pretty good guy; I am.” That’s as far as the message of God can ever go with a man who justifies himself. It is a rare, rare, rare, rare man that is ever seen who will bow his head in the presence of the Almighty, and say, “Lord, I have to confess to Thee I don’t have all the answers, and I can’t stand on my own two feet, and I’m not equal for the fortunes and the vicissitudes and the exigencies of life; and I’m a lost sinner.” You won’t see a man like that in a millennium.
Isn’t it strange how some things impress you, stay in your mind? Here’s one of those little things. In a large, large country church, as a youth, I was holding a revival meeting. And after the morning service, we were eating dinner in one of those large, spacious homes. The family there, and among others invited was a laboring man, a hired hand on that large farm. And in the providence of God, he sat right across the table from me. And as the people began to converse and visit, I started talking to that young man; and finally I asked him, I said, “Young fellow, are you a Christian? Have you been saved?” And he looked straight across the table at me, and he said, “Preacher, I ain’t no Christian. I am a lost sinner.” He said that so honestly and so directly that he just swept me off of my feet. I just wasn’t looking for such a thing. “No sir, I ain’t no Christian. I am a lost sinner.” Well, when I could get my mind back to thinking straight again, I looked at the lad, and I said, “Young fellow, I have a prediction to make of you. Within these few days, you’re going to be saved, and you’re going to find yourself in the kingdom of heaven.” And that prediction was of the Lord: within three evenings that young man was gloriously saved, wonderfully saved. A man is nigh to the kingdom of God when he confesses before the Lord that, “I am a lost sinner. I don’t know all the answers, and I’m not equal to the fortunes that await me. Lord, my eyes are upon Thee, and I am committing myself unto Thee.”
As I read this text from the lips of Job [Job 42:5-6], I cannot but recall Abraham, God’s friend [Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23] and the father of the faithful [Galatians 3:7], when Abraham tarried before the Lord, interceding in behalf of his nephew and his nephew’s family. Abraham says, as he pressed the appeal before God, Abraham said, “Lord, Lord, I have take upon myself to speak unto Thee, I who am but dust and ashes” [Genesis 18:27]. Who am I that I should speak to the great High God? Yet ninety-nine percent of us pray as though we were complimenting God, “Look at me, I’m praying. Well, these heathen out here, they don’t pray. And those sinners over there, they don’t pray. But I’m praying. And how I must compliment God calling on His name; and what righteousnesses do I clothe myself with. Here I am, talking to the Lord.” Oh, oh, when a man approaches the great throne in glory, it ought to be as Abraham: “Lord, behold I have taken upon myself to speak unto Thee, I who am but dust and ashes” [Genesis 18:27].
Not in my life have I ever been more, more humbled than in the visit that I made to Serampore, the great Baptist college and missionary station founded by William Carey; up the Ganges River from Calcutta about eighteen miles and on the other side of the river. And in the library at Serampore, I looked at the massive, massive work of that Baptist missionary. You could not believe your eyes, that one single man could ever have amassed the illimitable knowledge that seemed to lie back of what he had done. He literally opened the Bible and the way of life to millions and millions and millions of people who live on that subcontinent. He translated the Word of God into language, after language, after language, after language in India. And not only that, those shelves were filled with lexicons and dictionaries and grammars, all of which had been done by that one glorious man! And as I took book after book after book down from those shelves and looked at it, and the guide said, “This is Telugu, and this is Brahman, and this is Hindu,” and it just, it is just overwhelmed me! And from that library that represented the amazing mind and achievements of that glorious missionary, from the library, I walked across the campus to his grave and stood there where William Carey is buried and read the headstone. He had caused to be incised, to be engraved, on that marble monument, these words, listen to them: “A poor, miserable, and helpless worm, on Thy kind arms I fall.” What God can do with a man like that. Now God can use him. Now God can exalt him. Now the Lord can trust him. Now the Lord can bless him.
And that’s what happened here in the life of Job: “And it was so that after that the Lord,” and then these verses; the Lord blessed Job, and the Lord turned the captivity of Job, and God gave twice as much as he had before [Job 42:10-17]. It is not in our pride and our boasting, in our own self-sufficient righteousness that we ever see the face of the Almighty; but it is in our broken heartedness and our contrition and our repentance [Psalm 34:18, 51:17; Isaiah 57:15, 66:2; Acts 3:19, 20:21; James 4:6]. It is in our bowing that we rise to the heights where God lives. “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and in ashes” [Job 42:6].
And may the Lord grant to us that salvation and that pilgrim way, that someday the Lord may have right and have cause to crown us with blessing, with glory, with welcome. Be that way. Be that way. And if you are, as I said to that hired boy, “It’ll not be but moments until you’re in the kingdom.” And if you’re already saved, as Job was, God will exalt you. “Humble yourself therefore” said Simon Peter after that bitter experience, “humble yourself therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due season: Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you” [1 Peter 5:6-7].
We must sing our song of appeal. And while we sing it, you, somebody you, give himself to Jesus; come and put your hand in mine. A family you, to put your life in the fellowship of the church; a couple you, a child, a youth, as the Spirit of God shall press the appeal to your heart, come, make it now. There’s a stairway at the front and the back on either side, there is time and to spare. Some of us would stay here all day and all night long if you’d come. The press of people on this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front, “Pastor, today we’re coming. This is my wife, these are our children; all of us are coming.” Or one somebody you, while we sing the song and make the appeal, come now. On the first note of the first stanza, come now. Stand up coming; make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
THE CONVERSION OF JOB
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Strange language of Job 42:6
II. The Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind
III. Job humbled
IV. First call of God is repentance
V. God insists that we repent
1. Key to the heart and life of man
2. It is the way back to God