THE CONVERSION OF JOB
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-29-69 10:50 a.m.
Now the sermon this morning, and you are listening to the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message. The sermon this morning is from the Book of Job, and it is called The Conversion of Job. And if you will turn in your Bible to the Book of Job, you can follow the message easily. And it will be more meaningful to you if you can follow it. Hold the Bible in your hand, and I’ll tell you where to turn, and we’ll follow through the message of the Book of Job. Now when you find Job, turn to the last chapter, chapter 42.
When we read about the Book of Job and when we hear other people talk about it, we are under the impression that the book concerns the problem of human suffering. Now I would not deny that, it is about human suffering. But to me, as I read the book and as I study it, the main content, the basic, primary purpose of the book is the attitude and the spirit of the true, godly man. And I hope the Lord will show you that as I preach the message from the book this morning. Now chapter 42:
Then Job answered the Lord, and said,
I know that Thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be witholden 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 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.
If a convict had said that, if a murderer had said that, I could understand, “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” [Job 42:6]. If Cain had said that, I could understand. If Pharaoh had said that, if Saul had said that, if Judas Iscariot had said that, “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” If Nero had said that, if Benedict Arnold had said that, if a slimy member of the mafia had said that, I could understand it. But these are the words of the best man in the earth! The Bible said he was. The book begins, “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil” [Job 1:1]. He couldn’t bear the presence of evil. The Bible says he is the best man in the earth. And not only does the Holy Spirit in the book say that, but God said that in the eighth verse of this first chapter:
And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered My servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect man and an upright man, and one that feareth God, reverences God, and escheweth evil?
God said he is the best man in the world [Job 1:8, 2:3]. Yet I turn to the last chapter of this Book of Job, and I read Job saying to the Lord: “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” [Job 42:6]. Now as I studied the book it seems to me that the great, primary, basic purpose of the book has nothing to do with human suffering, though that is so largely an element in it, nor any other of the things that I read and hear suggested. But to me, the great, primary meaning of the Book of Job, and I hope God will help us to see it as we look at it, is how a man of God ought to be; what his attitude, and what his spirit, and how the man himself ought to be. So let’s start.
It is true that the Bible says that Job was the best man in all the earth, and it is true that God Himself said that Job is the best man in all the earth [Job 18, 2:3]. But there was something else that was also true and that is this: Job knew that he was the best man in all the earth. He admitted it himself [Job 32:2]. And he was cognizant, and conscious, and sensitive to that righteousness. He was proud in it. Now if you will, turn to chapter 29, Job chapter 29, and you listen to these “I’s” as I read them, and you listen to these “me’s” as I read them. Job was a good man and the best man in the earth; and Job himself admitted it. All right listen to him, I’ll start in verse 7:
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 arose, and stood up.
Princes refrained talking, and laid their hand on their mouth.
The nobles held their peace…
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 for joy.
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 feet was I to the lame.
I was father to the poor: and the cause which I did not know I searched out…
My root was spread out by the waters…
My glory was fresh in me, and my bow was renewed in my hand.
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 rain…
I chose out their way, and sat chief, and dwelt as a king in the army…
How do you like that? I’d say he’s got a pretty fine opinion of himself just like you do. The best man in all the world and he admitted it, he knew it.
And when Job spake there was a tone in his voice, there was an attitude. There was a spirit about the man. Now you look. We’re going to turn to chapter 13. I shall read verses 2 and 3, and I shall read verse 22. Now you listen to the tone of this man Job, how his voice sounds:
What ye know, the same do I know also: I am not inferior unto you.
Surely I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to reason with God.
Verse 22, talking to the Lord:
Call Thou, and I will answer: let me speak, or You answer.
There’s a tone in his voice. There’s a manner in his self-righteousness. There’s a pride in his goodness that needs to be changed. And that is what the Book of Job is about. So Job says, “Call Thou, and I will answer: or let me speak, and You answer” [Job 13:22]; so the Lord says, “Fine, let us begin, let us begin.” Now we turn to the thirty-eighth chapter of the Book of Job:
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said,
Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now thy loins like a man; and I will talk to you, I will ask you, I will demand of thee, and answer thou Me.
“All right, let us begin,” says God:
- Job, where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, answer Me if thou hast understanding [Job 38:4].
- Where were you when I flung this creation out into the vast emptiness of the immeasurable space. Where were you, Job? [Job 38:5].
- Whereon are the foundations thereof fastened? Or who laid the corner stone thereof [Job 38:6].
- When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? When the angelic hosts of heaven saw the marvel of the creation and they shouted and sang, where were you, Job? [Job 38:7].
- And this earth, and these planets, and this sun, where is the foundation that holds them up and guides their orbits? [Job 38:19-20, 31-32].
All right, we’re just taking one or two of them.
- Verse 17, “Have the gates of death been opened unto thee?” [Job 38:17]. Can you open the gates of death? Can you raise the dead?
- Verse 19, “Where is the way that light dwelleth? And as for darkness, where is the place thereof?” [Job 38:19].
- Verse 31: “Canst thou bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion? [Job 38:31].
- Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth,” the twelve zodiac constellations, the twelve seasons of the year? “Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season?” Can you make January come around, say in July? Or could you make July come around, say in January? Or could you bring in any season? “Or canst thou guide Arcturus”—the constellation of the great bear and the stars that follow him—“Canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons? [Job 38:32].
- Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? Canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?” [Job 38:33].
Job, who are you? And what do you know? And what do you understand? That’s just the beginning; there’s page after page. Then Job answered the Lord, now turn to 40. When God got through talking to Job, verse 3 now:
Then Job answered the Lord, and said,
Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer Thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth.
Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further.
Well, look at that man. This is the same man who said, “Call Thou and I will answer; or let me speak and You answer” [Job 13:22]. Huh! “Then Job answered the Lord, and said, “What shall I answer Thee? I do not know. I lay mine hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken, but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further” [Job 40:3-5]. But the Lord isn’t done with Job. Poor Job in the hands of God, “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Gird up thy loins now like a man” [Job 40:6-7]. “That’s what you said you wanted to do; all right, gird up thy loins now like a man: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto Me” [Job 40:7]; that is what you said, Job [Job 13:22]. .
Then God says:
Hast thou an arm like God? Or canst thou thunder with a voice like Him?
Deck thyself now with majesty and excellency; and array thyself with glory and beauty.
Here’s a man made out of dust who’s growing old, and is dying, and facing dissolution, and God says, “Now let us look at you; make yourself strong and beautiful, you who are made of dust, and of clay, and of dirt, and of the ground. Deck thyself with excellency and with power” [Job 40:10]. Then God says to him, “Then will I also confess unto thee that thine own right hand can save thee” [Job 40:14]. Let’s see you face age; let’s see you face dissolution; and let’s see you face death, and let your right hand save you. Let’s see you do it. Oh, oh!
In a little book that I have written for these children––they’re brought to me when they give their lives to the Lord and I have them taught in the faith––behind, at the end of each one of those little chapters, as you know, there’s a little catechism, a little question and answer. And behind the first one, “What it Means to be Saved.” After there is a little summation in there for the child to learn of what it is to be saved, then the catechism begins. Question number one: “If Jesus is the Savior, He saves us from something. What does He save us from?”
And the child will always answer correctly, “He saves us from our sins” [Mark 2:1-11; Matthew 26:28; 1 John 1:7].
“And what is sin?”
“Sin is disobedience to God, breaking the law of God” [1 John 3:4].
“And who has sinned?”
And the answer is, “All of us, we all have sinned” [Romans 3:10, 23].
Then the next question: “And what is the penalty of our sin?”
And the answer is, “Death, death, physical death, moral death, spiritual death, the second death, it is death. The wages of sin is death” [Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 6:23].
Then I always pause and I say to the child, “Sweet little girl,” or “Precious little boy, you see your daddy sitting there, you see your mama sitting there? They love you more than life itself; and they’d lay down their lives for you any day and any time. But son, if you die before your mother or father died, all they can do is just lay you away, bury you out of their sight. They are helpless. They can’t save you. Nor can they save themselves, for the day will come when Daddy and Mother will be laid out of the sight of the earth, buried in the ground.” Where is the arm that is sufficient in that day and in that hour? Where is the man that can save himself?
And that was what God asked Job.
Job, you say you have the answers, and you say you are able, and mighty, and self-sufficient, and all adequate, then Job, you do these things and I will confess unto thee then, that thine own right hand can save thee.
And when God got through with Job, that’s when the words of the text we read:
O Lord, I have just heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but I did not understand, I did not know. But now mine eyes seeth Thee: Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and in ashes.
How is the spirit of a man before the Lord God? Always, if he’s a godly man, one of humility and confession. And what are the attributes of a truly godly man? One of self-effacement and self-abnegation. Oh, there’s so much we do not know, so many things we do not understand, and so many weaknesses! And there’s no strength in our hands or in our arms. “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” [Job 42:6]. Now he’s becoming a true saint of God.
When you confess you are ignorant, then you can learn. When a boy in school says, “I don’t have the answers, and I don’t know,” then you can teach him. But when the young man says, “I know all the answers,” you can’t teach him anything. He’s unteachable and unlearnable. But when he confesses his ignorance, then he’s ready to be a student and a scholar.
We have to be un-made in order for God to remake us. We have to die for God to raise us from the dead. And Job, in his pride and in his self-righteousness and in his sufficiency; “the best man in all the world” [Job 1:8, 2:3], that’s right, but a man who thought he knew all the answers [Job 32:2]. . Thought he had all required strength in his arm. A man like that God loves, of course, and is proud for his righteousness, of course. But the tone of his voice doesn’t fit, and the spirit of his life doesn’t bless. And when Job is bowed down and is led to see how weak he is in his life, and how unknowing he is in his understanding, when finally he says, “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” [Job 42:6], then he’s ready to be God’s truly best man in the earth [Job 1:8, 2:3].
All of life is like that. What can you do with a Pharisee? What can you do with a Pharisee? Goes up to the temple to pray, and he stands there and looks into the face of God and he says:
O Lord, I thank Thee I am not like other men, extortioners, sinners, vile, unclean, unholy, blasphemous, rejecters, unbelievers, unrighteous; Lord, I thank Thee I am not like other men!”
And then recites to the Lord all the fine things about his life, and about his character, and about his work. What can you say? “That’s right, you’re a good man, yes sir.
That’s right; you are a fine citizen, that’s right.
That’s right; you are a noble man and an asset to the community, that’s right.
You are a fine man, that’s right.
Yes sir, that’s right.
Yes sir, yes sir.”
When I talk to men, ninety-nine out of a hundred will answer me like that. They’ll parade their virtues before me.
“Yes sir I, yes sir I—yes sir. Oh, yes sir!”
And that’s all I can say, “Yes sir, yes sir, yes sir, that’s right; you’re the best man.”
“Yes sir, you good man; yes sir, you a moral man; yes sir, you are a credit to our community.”
“Yes sir, you’re the finest man, oh sir, yes sir, yes sir.”
That’s all you can do. You don’t have any message for them at all. But that publican that went up to the temple to pray and he would not so much as lift up his face to heaven, but he beat on his breast saying, “Lord, be merciful to me the sinner” [Luke 18:13]. And that’s the way it is in the original, “the sinner,” as though there’s none other in the earth. “Lord, be merciful to me the sinner.” Say, what a message God has for him, and how you can teach God’s Word and message to that publican. When the fellow’s proud like a Pharisee there’s no message. There’s no gospel. There’s nothing to say; “Yes, yes, yes that’s right.” But when a publican beats on his breast and says, “Lord, look at me. Look at my life. Look at me in my soul. Lord, Lord, be merciful to me” [Luke 18:13], say, you got a message for him. My soul, what a message you have for him!
Or take again, in the story in the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Luke, the story of the prodigal son. What can you say to the elder brother? He comes storming in before his father and he says, “At no time did I ever transgress thy commandment” [Luke 15:29]. I have walked in rectitude all the days of my life here. I never disobeyed any command you gave me. I’ve got up early in the morning and worked till late at night, and I’ve been here all these years; look at me, look at me.
Well, that’s all you can do; “Yes sir, son, that’s right.” That’s what the father said, “Yes sir, son, that’s right. Yes sir, son, that’s right. Yes sir, you never disobeyed any commandment, you never fell into transgression either. That’s right, son, you’re the best son in all the earth, that’s right.” That’s all you can say. You don’t have anything else to say. But, O Lord! What a message you have for that prodigal boy who comes in and says:
Oh, Dad! What a stupid idiot I’ve made of my life. Why, I have been wrong every day of it. I’ve been duped, I’ve been deceived; and I’ve wasted my days, and my hours, and my life. But Lord, I just want to be close by, I don’t want to ask to be a son; I’m not worthy to be a son, but I’d like to be close by. Just make me a hired hand, just let me be like one of the servants; but I want to come back home. I want to be close by.
Say, what a message you have for a boy like that! Oh, what a word from heaven! Why, a boy like that, you can open your heart and you can open your hand. He’s ready to be a real son. Why there’s no limit. There’s no limit. Find me the best ring and put it on his finger. Buy me the finest shoes and put them on his feet. Buy me the best robe and put it around his shoulders, for this is my son [Luke 15:22]. You don’t have to worry about spoiling him. You don’t have to worry about anything with a boy like that. Your whole heart, and soul, and life can enrich a boy like that. He’s ready to be a real son.
Or just, once again, what can you do with a malefactor who was hanged by the side of the Lord Jesus, nailed to the cross like the other two? And he turns to the Lord and begins to rail on Him [Luke 23:39], and say, “You there, on the center cross. You say You’re so much. And You say You’re the Christ. And You say You’re the Messiah. Well, let’s see You save us now. You’re dying, just like we’re dying. I see the blood pouring out of Your wounds; that’s just red blood like mine. And there You are in agony and suffering, that’s just like us. You’re no better than we are: I’m just as good as You.”
That’s what he said. Well, what can you say? There’s not anything you can say. The red blood that poured out of the wounds of our Lord and encrimsoned the earth, just like that other malefactor; the suffering and the agony was just like his. They were dying there on the cross together, just alike. That’s right. All you can do is agree with him, “That’s right, that’s right.” But say, that other malefactor, that other thief that was crucified, he turned to the one on the far side and said, “Don’t you fear God? Don’t you fear God? We’re dying our just desserts for the evil and iniquity of our lives [Luke 23:40-41]. But this Man who is dying in the center,” and God gave to that other thief a spiritual intuitive understanding, and he said, “Someday, Lord, You are coming into a kingdom, and someday, Lord, You are going to be a King. And Master, when that day comes, remember me, remember me” [Luke 23:42].
Say, what a message you have for that man! Oh, what a gospel of hope, and assurance, and salvation you have for a man like that! And Jesus turned His head and said, “Verily, verily—truly, truly—I say unto thee, today, today, this day—semeron—today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise” [Luke 23:43]. What a message for a man like that. Ah, Lord! And that is what the Book of Job is about. This proud man, self-righteous, good and knowing he’s good, bowed himself and said, “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” [Job 42:6], the attributes of a saintly man; bowed, humble, leaning on the arm of the Lord.
This past week I was on a preaching mission in Kentucky. And in the kind providences of the Lord, in a car, I was driven by a church way out in the country—no village, no store, no anything there—that church way out in the country. In the days when I was a youth I held a revival meeting in that church. The old church is still there. They made it into an educational building and they built a beautiful new little church in front of it with a spire pointing to God.
And as we drove by, I remembered something in that revival meeting. I was the guest in an affluent home, a farmer that had a large acreage there; eating dinner with him. And he had men working for him. And one of his hired men he invited to come and eat dinner with us. He was a young man, and oh! He had scrubbed his hands! And he had scrubbed his face, he combed his hair, and he put on the best overalls that he had. And he was there eating dinner right across the table from me. So as we broke bread together, I began to talk to the young man and I asked him, “Are you a Christian? Are you a Christian?”
And his answer caught me by surprise. Honestly, bluntly, looking straight into my eyes he answered, “No sir, I ain’t no Christian, I’m a lost sinner.” Won’t be one man in a million that would admit that, “No sir, I’m a lost sinner.” I looked back at him and I said, “Young fellow, you don’t know it but you’re nigh the kingdom of God. You’re just at the door” [Romans 10:8-13].
It’s when the man is self-sufficient that there’s no gospel. There’s no message, there’s no word, there’s nothing to be said. But when a man is bowed before God, “I’m a lost sinner,” say, he’s at the door—and what a message you have for him!
And sure enough, about two nights later in the revival, that young fellow came down the aisle, giving his heart to Jesus [Ephesians 2:8], baptized into the fellowship of that country church. God bless him then and forever.
If your hands are already full of your self, God can’t fill them. If your heart and soul are already overflowing with you, there’s nothing God can add. If you know all the answers, there’s nothing the Lord can say. And if you don’t feel that you’re lost and don’t know that you’re a sinner, the message of Christ on the cross has no relevancy and no pertinency. But say, man! If you don’t know all the answers, I can point to One who does. My brother, if you find yourself weak in your life, I can point to One who is all-sufficient grace and strength. If you find yourself bowed down in sorrow, and weakness, and a thousand other delinquencies, and hurts, and inabilities, and weakness, and stumbling, and stammerings, and lack, I can point you to the Someone who is all strength, and all comfort, and all help, and all grace.
Like that dear woman who came to me Friday and said, “My husband is dying, and somehow I am not equal, what shall I do?” And I said, “Let’s look to Jesus. Let’s look to Jesus.” And we looked to Jesus in prayer, in faith, in commitment. And He blesses and gives us strength for every need. That’s what Job learned. And maybe the sorrows that come into your life and the troubles that overwhelm you are for that purpose; that you might learn to bow before the Lord, to find out how little we really know, and how weak we really are. For strength, and grace, and help, and salvation, and mercy, and answers are in Him. Look up. Look up! Down, looking up. Maybe a little further down, still further down; until finally you get to sit like Job in dust and in ashes [Job 2:8], looking up; looking up. O God! Bless us, my sweet and precious people.
Lee Roy, let’s sing us a song. And while we sing the song, you to give your life to the Lord [Romans 10:8-13], would you come and stand by me? A family you to put your life with us in this dear church [Hebrews 10:24-25]; a couple you answering the call of God; or just one somebody you, while we sing this appeal, come now. In the balcony ‘round, there’s a stairway at the back and at the front, and on either side, and time and to spare, come. If you are on that back, topmost seat and God speaks to your heart, come. The throng, the press, on this lower floor, in the aisle and down here to the front, “Here I come, pastor, I make it now.” Do that. Make the decision now. And in a moment when we stand up, stand up coming. Do it. Do it now. Make the decision now and then come. And you will find angels will attend you in the way, 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