The Conversion of Job
October 9th, 1966 @ 8:15 AM
THE CONVERSION OF JOB
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-9-66 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. The fall brings to us one of the most beautiful seasons of the year. The springtime is glorious, but it is so largely tempest, and flood, and rain, and cloud, and storm. But for us, outside of the Caribbean and the Florida Keys, it is mostly sunshine and glory. One of the things that we do here in our church in the fall time, once in a while, not every year, but once in a while we have our fall Roundups. I look forward to these convocations of our people more than to anything during the year. They so largely fit our Western world and especially Texas. At 6:30 tomorrow night, our Young Adults will gather in the gymnasium. Everything will be western. If you don’t have boots and chaps and ten-gallon hat, come dressed as I knew those cowmen when I was a boy growing up in West Texas: they didn’t look like dudes, nor did they have anything clean that I ever saw. Fetch anything that you can find, put it on and come to this Roundup. Median Adults the next night; tomorrow night, Young Adults. The next night, Tuesday night, Median Adults, and our leadership in Beginner and Primary division may go to either night, tomorrow night or the next night. Thursday night at 6:30 in the gym will be our young people and Business and Professional division. And Saturday night will be our Senior Intermediates. Then the rest of the group will meet the following week. Now they use the term “Stewardship Roundup,” because they think—and they have good reason for it—they think that when I gather the group around the campfire, I’m going to talk to them about stewardship. Well, I may do that. Wouldn’t we all be surprised if I never mentioned it? But the big thing is the gathering of our people together in an informal situation. And then we have a good time. We eat beans and barbeque and what else goes? Dill pickles and “ingerns,” do they go too? We just have a good time, and you be there. If you are a Young Adult, I’ll look for you tomorrow evening. And so through the weeks that lie ahead.
Now in your Bible, if you would like to turn to the last chapter in Job, Job chapter 42, Job chapter 42; the title of the sermon this morning is The Conversion of Job. Job chapter 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.
Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak:
I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto Me.
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 the use of that word “conversion” is the same kind of a use that we find in the twenty-second chapter of Luke. The Lord said to Simon Peter, “Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to have thee, that he may sift thee as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” [Luke 22:31-32]. For Simon Peter had said, “All of these other disciples may betray Thee, but not I, not I” [Matthew 26:33-35]. And when that little maid said, “Thou art surely one of His disciples, for thy speech betrayeth thee, you talk like a fellow Galilean,” and when Peter cursed and swore that he never even knew the Lord, the cock crew [Matthew 26:73-74], and the Lord turned and looked upon Peter; and Simon Peter went out and wept bitterly [Luke 22:55-62]. Conversion in that sense: not in the sense that he became a Christian then, or a child of God then, but in the sense that his pride, and his self-esteem, and his egotism, and his vain boasting were all swept out of him, and there was nothing left but a broken and a weeping spirit—the conversion of Job [Job 42:1-6].
For are not these strange words that he says? “O God, I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth Thee: Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” [Job 42:5-6]. Had those words been spoken by Cain, had they been spoken by Pharaoh, had they been spoken by giant king Saul, had they been spoken by Judas Iscariot, or by Ananias, had these words been spoken by Herod, who slew the babes at Bethlehem [Matthew 2:16], or by Nero, who killed Peter and Paul, I would have said they are abundantly appropriate, “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” But these words were spoken by the best man in all the world [Job 1:8, 2:3]. The Bible says so. The Book of Job begins with the avowal, “There was a man in the land of Uz, his name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil” [Job 1:1]. And not only did the Bible say he was the best man in the whole world, but God said so. In the eighth verse of that first chapter, “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 an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?” [Job 1:8]. Yet when I turn to Job’s words in this text, Job says, “I have heard of Thee, O God, by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eyes seeth Thee: wherefore, wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” [Job 42:5-6].
This strange experience that entered the life of Job came about like this. He was the most affluent, apparently the richest of all of the men in the East. There was no good thing that the Lord withheld from that wonderfully effective and devout servant of God. But when the Lord handed Job over to Satan, and when Satan was through with him, Job lost all of his property, he had lost his sons and his daughters, he lost his health and almost his life [Job 1:13-19, 2:7], and he sat in an ash heap in misery, in affliction [Job 1:2-8]. But there was one thing that Job still held: even in his affliction and his misery, he still clung to his integrity [Job 2:9-10]. And when he speaks, he speaks with a round, sound voice. For example, in the twenty-ninth chapter of the Book of Job, I read what Job says of himself, listen to it:
I washed my steps with butter, and the rock poured me out rivers of oil;
When I went out to the gate through the city, when I prepared my seat in the street!
The young men saw me, and hid themselves: and the aged men arose, and stood up.
The princes refrained talking, and laid their hands 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:
Because I delivered the poor that cried…
The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me: I caused the widow’s heart to sing.
I put on righteousness, and it clothed me: and my judgment was as a robe and a diadem.
I was eyes to the blind, and I was feet to the lame.
I was a father to the poor: and the cause which I knew not I searched out.
I brake the jaws of the wicked, and plucked the spoil out of his mouth . . .
Unto me men gave ear, and waited, and kept silence before my counsel.
After my words they spake not again; and my speech was poured out upon them.
I chose out their way, and I dwelt as a king in the army.
Pretty fine words, wouldn’t you think? And the man is describing himself.
And not only that, but when those comforters came, unworthy as they were, this is Job: “What do you know that I do not know also? I am not inferior to you!” [Job 13:2] Then Job turns to the Lord God, and he says to God, “Call Thou, and I will answer: or let me speak, and You answer” [Job 13:22]. And Job is described in the book, “So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes” [Job 32:1]. And the second verse of that thirty-second chapter, “And because he justified himself rather than God” [Job 32:2]. Now isn’t that a strange thing, how proud and how boastful that a man can be, even when he is cut down and sits in dust and in ashes? [Job 2:8]. What needed was for the tone of the voice to be taken out of Job and all of his boastful pride to be swept away.
So, when Job says to the Lord God, “Call, and I will answer; or let me speak, and You answer” [Job 13:22], why, the Book says that the Lord God came down in a whirlwind, and the Lord spake to Job and said, “Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up thy loins now like a man; for I will demand of thee, and you answer Me” [Job 38:1-3]. And I haven’t time to go into it: page after page after page the Lord God talks to Job [Job 38:4-41:34]. He asks Job those questions that Job challenged Him to ask, not one of which Job could answer [Job 38-41]. And finally came down to Job’s integrity, and his boastfulness, and his self-sufficiency. “Save yourself,” says the Lord [Job 40:14], “and let us see you do it. Raise yourself up to heaven, and let us admire you in the ascent” [Job 40:9-10]. On and on the Lord God talks to Job, and when finally the Lord God was through with him, Job bowed himself in the presence of the great High God and said:
O Lord, O Lord, I had just heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but I did not realize, I did not understand, I did not know. Now that mine eye seeth Thee, I abhor myself, and repent in dust and in ashes
What is the attitude of a man made out of dust before the great High God? His attitude must always be one of humility, one of bowing, one of self-abnegation; for before God can remake us, He must unmake us. And before God can bring us to life, we must die. What can you do with the Pharisee who boasts in the presence of God and his fellow worshipers in the temple of his righteousness, and his personal excellence, and those fine virtues that characterize his life? “I thank Thee, Lord,” he says, “that I am not like other men. I pay my debts, and I live virtuously, and integrity are my daily garments, and righteousness follows me as a train. I thank Thee, Lord, I’m not like other men. And I thank Thee, Lord, I’m not like that publican down there” [Luke 18:9-12]. What do you do with a man who extols himself to you? All you can do is say, “That’s right. That’s right. That’s right. Yes sir, that’s the truth. You pay your debts. Yes sir, you live a noble life. Yes sir, you’re the finest man in the community. Yes sir, you’re a credit to the city. Yes sir, you are a noble patron, yes sir. That’s right.” And as he continues to boast of himself and of his goodness and of his self-sufficiency, all you can do is say, “Yes sir, that’s right. That’s right. That’s right. That’s right.” And the heaven becomes lead above him. But oh, the infinite possibilities in the publican, who would not so much as lift up his face to heaven; but beat upon his breast, and said, “Lord be merciful to me the sinner” [Luke 18:13]. Oh, the possibilities in a man like that! The message you have from heaven for a man like that: “Lord, I’m the unworthiest man that walks in the dust. And there’s not a creature in the earth more unworthy of Thy remembrance and Thy goodnesses than I. Lord, be merciful to me in my weaknesses, and my sins, and my follies. O God, be good to me.” Think of the possibilities in a man like that.
What can you do with the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal son? [Luke 15:11-32]. What can you do with the elder brother who comes in, and striding in his self-sufficiency before his father, says, “And at no time did I ever transgress thy commandments, but I have lived here righteously, and I have worked and toiled. I am your finest son” [Luke 15:28-30]. What can you do with a boy like that? “That’s right, son. You’ve been here working all the time. That’s right, son. You have never transgressed my commandments. That’s right, that’s right; you’re the best boy in the earth. That’s right; you’re the finest son I have. That’s right; you’re the diadem of the family. That’s right, son. That’s right. That’s right.” What can you do but agree with him? But oh the infinite possibilities in the prodigal boy, who comes back home, crushed, broken, the old man Adam has been killed in him, and he says to his father, “I have been a fool. I have sinned every day of my life. I have wasted God’s heritage. And now, father, if there is a place for me among the hired servants, I so long to be home and with my father, and in my father’s house, if there is a humble place for me, let me be as one of thy hired servants” [Luke 15:18-21]. Now, he begins to be a son. Oh, the possibilities in a boy like that! Now you can open to him your heart, now you can buy a ring and put it on his finger, you can buy shoes and put them on his feet, and you can buy a robe and drape it over his shoulders, you can be merry and praise God [Luke 15:22-24, 32]; the infinite possibilities in a boy like that.
What can you do with the blaspheming thief who was crucified with the Lord Jesus, who says to the Lord as He dies on the center cross, “You, You say You are so great, and You are so such and such; You say You are the Messiah and the Son of God. You are not any better than I. I’m just as good as you” [Luke 23:39]. What can you do, what can you say to a blaspheming criminal dying on the cross by the side of the Lord, boasting of his equality with the Son of God? All you can answer is, “That’s right, both of them dying there together, both of them nailed to the cross, both of them soon to expire, both of them figures of shame and ignominy and disgrace. That’s right, both of them there together.” But oh, the infinite possibilities in that other malefactor who turned to the Lord Jesus and said, “Master, we are receiving our just deserts. We deserve to die; we are so covered with sin. But Lord, in the mercy and goodness of Thy judgments and Thy kindness, Lord, could it be, could it be that in the day Thou comest into Thy kingdom, there would be a place for somebody like me? Lord, remember me.” And that day, when the Lord God Jesus raised up to heaven and entered Paradise, He did not enter alone, for by His side was a malefactor who was ready to enter those pearly gates, and to walk those golden streets [Luke 23:38-43]. “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” [Job 42:6].
I think one time of a dinner that I ate in a country home. Around that large festive table was this man’s family, a large family. And he had invited to the dinner hour one of his hired hands. And that boy, that young man, sat across the table from me. I was holding a revival meeting in that large country church. And when I sat there, breaking bread and sharing with the family, I began to talk to that hired hand. And I asked him if he was saved, if he was a Christian. And he looked straight into my eye, and said, “No sir, preacher, I ain’t no Christian. I am a lost sinner.” There’s not one time in ten hundred thousand but that a man in pride and boastfulness will justify himself, “I’m just as good as any other man you have down there, I’m just as fine, I’m just,” and on and on. Not often you’ll meet a man who will reply, “No sir, no sir, I don’t know God. I’ve never been saved. I am a lost sinner.” I looked straight across the table to the young man, and I said, “Son, I make a prediction: it will not be long until you are gloriously saved and a fellow member in the household of faith and in the kingdom of God.” And my prediction came true. Within three nights of that revival, that young fellow was gloriously saved.
“Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” [Job 42:6]. When I think of that text, I think of the prayer of Abraham when he tarried before the Lord [Genesis 18:22]. And as he prayed, Abraham said, “O God, be not weary with me, as I ask Thee yet just once more.” Then he introduced his last request with this sentence: “Behold, behold, I have taken upon me to speak unto Thee the great High God, I who am but dust and ashes” [Genesis 18:27]. Abraham, God’s friend and the father of the faithful [James 2:23].
And when I read this word from Job, my mind recalls the life and the ministry and the death of the greatest modern missionary, William Carey. This man had a genius for language beyond any man who ever lived. When I was in Serampore, up the Ganges River from Calcutta, I went into the library of the college that he founded there for the training of preachers and missionaries. And there were shelves and shelves and shelves of books that William Carey had translated into the dialects and into the languages of India. He opened the door of life to millions and millions and millions of people who live in that subcontinent. And there were grammars, and there were lexicons, and there were dictionaries, and there were Bibles, and there was theological literature, all of which had been created or translated by that glorious missionary. And as I walked through the library and looked at those books, I could not believe that one man, one man could do so mighty a work and so great a task! It just overwhelmed me. And I walked from the library of the college there in Serampore out to the grave of William Carey. And I stood at that grave and read that headstone; and I could hardly believe my eyes, the reading that I read. For he had carved, he had given instructions, and his disciples and friends had carried it out; on that headstone of that incomparably glorious missionary, there are carved these words: “William Carey,” the dates, and underneath, “a poor, miserable, helpless worm, on Thy kind arms I fall.”
“Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” [Job 42:6]. The nearer we get to God, the more humbled we become. “I have heard of Thee, Lord, by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth Thee: wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” [Job 42:5-6]. All of our egotism gone, all of our boasting gone, all of our adequacy and self-sufficiency gone, and nothing left but a humble, broken, contrite spirit lifted unto God, “O Lord, O Lord, O Lord” [Psalm 51:17; Isaiah 57:15]. And God can take a man like that and exalt him, and bless him, and bestow every heavenly benediction upon him.
And it was so—and I haven’t time to follow it through—and it was so that the Lord turned the captivity of Job [Job 42:10], and the Lord blessed Job, and God gave Job twice as much as he had before; and the whole rest of the chapter how God blessed that broken and humble and repentant man [Job 42:11-17]. This is the way of the Lord. And when we walk in it, it is not with pride or self-sufficiency; it is not with boasting or vainglory: it is with confession, and humility, and asking God’s remembrance of us in our hour of need and necessity and unrighteousness. “O Lord, remember me, and in Thy goodness bless me” [Luke 23:42-43]. And the Lord will; He will not forget us. [He will] lift us up, exalt us, when He can trust us with His infinite mercies and His heavenly blessings.
Now Lee Roy, we must sing our song of appeal. And while we sing it, in this great throng this morning, somebody you coming down that aisle, giving your heart to Jesus, “I look in faith to the Lord. Here I am, and here I stand.” Or, “We want to put our lives in the church, and here we come, my wife and I, the family”; you, one somebody you, however God shall say the word, come and make it now.
And could I ask you, there are people who attend this early service who have to leave for other appointments; there are preachers who come who have to go to their churches, but unless there is some vital necessity for your leaving, do not leave until these who come to God have given me their hands. Then I’ll give you opportunity to go. But don’t go now. As we sing this hymn of appeal, all of you who possibly can, unless you have a necessity, an assignment, all of you stay here with a prayer in your heart that God will bless the appeal that somebody will be saved today, that God will add to His church this holy hour.
And if that prayer is for you, help God answer it in your own heart. In this balcony round, come. On this lower floor, down to the front, come, “Here I am preacher, I give you my hand; I give my heart to God. I take Jesus as my Savior.” Or, “We’re putting our lives in the fellowship of this dear church.” Do it now, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.