THE CONVERSION OF JOB
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Job 42: 6
6-29-69 8:15 a.m.
This is one of the most unusual pieces of literature in human story. And it is one of the most effective, dramatic presentations that was ever written. There are many discussions concerning why the Book of Job was composed. There are some who say that it was written to answer the question why human suffering. But in my persuasion though that is a part of the presentation of the book, why suffering in human life; and the story is so largely about that; yet, to me, the primary and basic lesson of the Book of Job is this: we are to learn here the attributes and the spirit of a godly man.
Now as you follow the message this morning in your Bible you will see that. What it is to be a godly, a Christian man. Now we start reading at the forty-second chapter, the last chapter of the Book of Job:
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? . . .
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.
“Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” [Job 42:6]. Had Cain said that, I could understand it. Had Saul said that, I could understand it. Had Judas Iscariot said that, I could understand it. Had Herod who slew the babes in Bethlehem said that, I could understand it. Had Nero said that, I could understand it. Had Benedict Arnold said that, I could understand it. But the man who said those words, “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” [Job 42:6], the man who said that is the best man in all the world. The Bible says he was. In the first chapter of Job it begins like that:
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 could not bear the presence of evil, and eschewed evil.
The Bible said he was the best man in all the world. And not only did the Bible say it but God in heaven said it. 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, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?
The Bible said he is the best man in the earth, and God in heaven said he is the best man in the earth [Job 1:8, 2:3]. Yet when I turn to that last chapter and hear the words of Job, “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” [Job 42:6]; there must be something in the life of this man, and there must be some purpose in the story presented here in the Book of Job, that God wants me to learn.
And as I study the book, and as I read the book, I can easily understand it. I can see it. Now let’s see it together. I am going to turn in this Book of Job to the twenty-ninth chapter, to the twenty-ninth chapter. Job was the best man in the earth. God said there was none like him in all of the world [Job 1:8]. But the problem was that Job knew it better than anyone else [Job 32:2]. He was a good man, a wonderful man, an upright man. And nobody was prouder of that fact than Job himself. Now look at the twenty-ninth chapter of the Book of Job, 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.
The princes refrained talking . . . The nobles held their peace . . .
When the ear heard me, it blessed me; 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: my judgment was as a robe and a diadem.
I was eyes to the blind, I was feet to the lame.
I was father to the poor: and what I did now 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 kept silence at my counsel.
After my words they spake not again; and my speech dropped upon
them . . .
I chose out their way, and sat chief, and dwelt as a king in the army.
[Job 29:7-16, 19-22, 25]
What do you think about a man like that? The good man and the best man in the earth and nobody knew it better than Job himself. When I walk by, look how the people bow before me. And when I speak, look how they put their hands over their mouths. No man dare say a word after I pronounce judgment. What do you think about a man like that?
And not only does he say that in words, but he has that tone in his voice. Now turn with me to Job 13, Job 13. I am going to read verse 2 and 3 and verse 22. Now look at the tone of his voice:
What ye know, the same do I know also: I am not inferior unto you. Surely I would speak to God Himself; and I desire to reason with God.
Then verse 22:
Call Thou—talking to the Lord God—Call Thou, and I will answer: or let me speak, and You answer.
There is a tone about the man. There is a self-righteousness about the man. There is a spiritual pride about the man that is evident in everything that he says. The Bible says he is the best man in the world [Ezekiel 14:14], and God said he is the best man in the world [Job 1:8]. And nobody knew that better than Job himself. He said I am the best man in the world [Job 31:1-40]. He admitted it.
Now what is needed is to take the tone out of his voice. What is needed is to take that pharisaical spirit of self-righteousness and personal pride out of his demeanor and out of his life. Now I want you to see how God did it. We are going to turn now to chapter thirty-eight, chapter thirty-eight. And I will start at verse 1:
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and He said:
Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and you answer Me.
Then He starts off in a long series of chapter after chapter, every verse and every stanza is a question God is asking Job. You say you know so much and you are so proud in your self-esteem, then answer Me these things. And you have a cataract of inquiry here and a very tempest of interrogation.
- Look at verse 4. “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding” [Job 38:4].
- Where did all this come from? “Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened?” [Job 38:6].
- What makes this world and these planets and this sun and this universe hang in space and who flung them out in their orbits? Who laid the corner stone thereof? “When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God looked upon it and shouted for joy?” [Job 38:6-7].
- Look at verse 17. “Have the gates of death been opened unto thee?” [Job 38:17] . Can you raise a man from the dead?
- Look at verse 19. “Where is the way where light dwelleth? And as for darkness, where is the place thereof?” [Job 38:19].
- Look at verse 31. “Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?” [Job 38:31] What influence do you have on those great constellations?
- “Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth?” [Job 38:32] The twelve seasons of the zodiac, the twelve months of the Zodiac. “Or canst thou guide Arcturus?” [Job 38:32] The great constellation of the great bear with the stars that follow him?
- “Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? Canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?” [Job 38:33]
And I want you to know when God got through asking and talking to Job….
Now turn to chapter 40, verse 3. “Then Job answered the Lord, and said, Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer Thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth now. Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice have I spoken; but I will proceed no further” [Job 40:3-5].
But God’s not through with Job. “Then the Lord answered unto Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Gird up thy loins now like a man: And I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto Me” [Job 40:6-7]. You see Job had just said back there, call down, and I will answer: or let me speak, and You answer [Job 13:22]. So God says, fine. “Gird up your loins like a man now and I will demand of thee and then you answer Me” [Job 40:7].
- Then verse 9. “Hast thou an arm like God? Or canst thou thunder with a voice like Him? Deck thyself now with majesty and excellency [let us see you do it; And array thyself with glory and beauty” [Job 40:9-10]. You who are dying and decadent and finally dead, let’s see you glorify yourself.
- Then verse 14, “Then will I also confess unto thee that thine own right hand can save thee” [Job 40:14]. Let’s see you save yourself. Let’s see you deliver yourself even from the bonds of death. Let’s start there.
Poor Job. What do you say when God says things like that to you?
One of the things I always tell these children when they are brought to me and I talk to them there in my study, I have a little series of questions. “If Jesus is the Savior, what does He save us from?”
And the child will answer, “My sins” [Mark 2:1-11; Matthew 26:28; 1 John 1:7].
“And who has sinned?”
“All of us” [Romans 3:10, 23].
“And what is the penalty for our sins?”
“Death” [Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 6:23].
Then I ask again, “Who can save us from that death?”
And the child always will answer, “Jesus” [Acts 16:30-31].
And then I always explain to the child this little word. “Son,” or “Sweet little girl, if you die before your father and mother do—and they love you with all their heart, but if you die before your father and mother do, all they can do is just bury you out of their sight, just bury you in the ground somewhere, put you out of their sight somewhere and weep and lament and cry and wring their hands. But that is all they are able to do.”
It is unbelievable almost how weak is a man made out of dust and ashes. Even to provide and to keep and to care for those that he loves most and best and for whom he would give his life. Many times see them agonized in pain and agony and you just sit there and you can’t do anything. Finally see them waste away and die and all you are able to do is just bury them out of your sight.
When God got through talking to Job, Job said then the words of my text, “O God, O God, I did not know what I was talking about” [Job 42:3]. “I was saying things I didn’t realize. And the goodness of my life is like filthy rags in God’s sight. Wherefore I abhor myself, and I repent in dust and in ashes” [Job 42:6].
That is the attribute and the spirit of a godly man, one of deepest humility and self-effacement. Lord, I don’t consider myself better than anybody. Nor do I think I know more than anybody. By the grace of God I am what I am, and it is all together in God’s grace. And when a man comes to that place in his life, one of deepest self-effacement and humility and repentance and confession of his need and of his lack, oh what God can do with a man like that. When a young man confesses that he is ignorant you can teach him. When he thinks he knows it all you can’t teach him anything. But when he comes to the place in his life where he sees he doesn’t know, ah what a pupil you have and how he can learn.
And in the realm of the spirit and of the soul, we have to be unmade before God can remake us. We have to die before He can raise us from the dead.
I want you to look, look with your heart, look. What can you do with a Pharisee who goes up to the temple to pray and he stands before God and he says, “O God, I thank Thee I am not like other men, vile and villains and sinners and iniquitous and evil. I thank Thee Lord I am not other men” [Luke 18:11-12]. Well, all you can say is that’s right. Yes, sir. Yes, that’s right. I’m a fine moral man, upright, a good citizen, upstanding. That’s right. All you can do is agree with him. That’s right. That’s right. That’s right. Yes sir, that’s right. Oh, what a fine man you are, that’s right. What an asset you are to the community, that’s right. What a noble man you are, that’s right. That’s all you can do is just agree with him. That’s right.
But God doesn’t have any message for him. There is nothing you can say. There is nothing in the Book. He is righteous in his own eyes, and he walks in his own self-sufficiency.
But that publican that goes up to the temple to pray and he won’t so much as lift up his eyes to heaven but he beats on his breast and he says, “God be merciful to me the sinner” [Luke 18:13]. That’s the way it is in the original. The sinner. Say, what a message you have for him. The whole Book is for him, and the whole story of God’s atoning grace is for him. You can preach the gospel to him.
Or take again. What can you do with the elder son in the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Luke in the story of the prodigal? [Luke 15:11-32]. What can you do with the elder son? He says to his father, “Father, all my life I have walked before thee and at no time did I ever transgress thy commandments. And I have worked hard from morning to night, and I have been true and faithful” [Luke 15:29], and on and on and on, and he goes on, and on and on, and all you can do is to say that’s right. That’s right. That’s right. That’s right. That’s right. That’s right. Son, that’s right. That’s all you can say. That’s right.
But oh, what you can do, and what you can say, and what a message you have for the prodigal who comes back to his father, and he says, “Father, I’ve been duped. I’ve been stupid. I have followed deceptive and devious ways, and I’ve given my life to waste. But, father I have come to myself. I can see, I can see the emptiness of my life. Just let me come and be a hired hand. Just so I can be close by” [Luke 15:18-21]. Say, what a message you have for a boy like that.
Why, my brother, you could open your heart to that boy and you could open your hands to that boy. He’s ready to be a real son. You could bring forth the finest ring and put it on his finger, and you could bring forth the finest robe and clothe around his shoulders, and you can bring forth the finest gifts and bestow upon him [Luke 15:22]. He won’t be spoiled. He is ready now to be a real son.
Or take again. What can you do with that malefactor that was crucified with the Lord Jesus, and he began to rail against the Lord? [Luke 23:39]. “If You be the Christ, save Yourself and us. You think You are so much better than we are; You are being crucified just like us. You make all these pretensions and You are no better than we.” It’s what he said. What he is saying to us, a malefactor like that. Well, that’s right. That’s right. All three of them crucified up there. That’s right. The One in the center just as nailed to the cross as the one on either side. That’s right. He has got blood flowing out just like our blood, that’s right. And they are saying all matter of things about Him; they are executing Him as a criminal, just like us, that’s right. That’s right. That’s right. You don’t have anything to say to him.
But say, that man on the other side who rebuked the blasphemer and said, “We die according to our just desserts. We ought to die. We are sinners, and we are receiving the just recompense and reward of our deeds. But this Man in the center cross, No” [Luke 23:40-41]. And by faith he turned to Jesus and said, “Lord, I believe someday God will give You a kingdom and someday You will be a King. Lord, when Thou comest into Thy kingdom, remember me” [Luke 23:42].
Oh, what you can say to a man like that. What a message you have to a man like that. And Jesus delivered one sentence of it that very moment. “Today, verily, truly today shall thou be with Me in Paradise” [Luke 23:43]. Oh, “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” [Job 42:6]. What God can do with a man like that?
This last week I was on a preaching mission in Kentucky. And in one of those unusual providences, in a trip that I was taken on, we passed by a country church where I held a revival meeting. They have a new church that is way out in the country, no village, no stores; way out in the country. And as the car passed and I looked at that church, the old church is used for an educational building where I preached, and they have a new beautiful church house there in that country church. And as I drove by, as we drove by and I looked at it, I thought of something that happened in that revival meeting.
I was a guest for a dinner in one of the families, one of the affluent families who had a large farm there in Kentucky. And he had a hired man. And when I ate dinner with the family, that hired man and I was grateful for it, that hired man ate dinner with us. He had washed his hands and his face, combed his hair and put on the best coveralls that he had. And he was seated right across from me, just a young fellow.
So as I ate dinner across the table from him, I began to talk to him and I asked him, I said, “Young man, are you a Christian? Are you a Christian?”
And he looked directly and honestly in my eyes and answered in a way that just caught me by surprise. He bluntly but plainly and honestly said, “No, sir, I ain’t no Christian. I am a lost sinner.”
Well, I said to him, “Young fellow, you don’t know it but you are nigh the kingdom of God.” Isn’t that something? “You don’t know it,” I said to him, “But you are nigh the kingdom of God. You are right at the door” [Romans 10:8-13]. Right at the door. And bless your heart, it wasn’t but a night or two of that revival until that young fellow came down the aisle and gave himself to Jesus in the free pardon of his sins, and was baptized into the marvelous fellowship of that country church.
God can’t speak to a man when he is full of himself. The man has to empty himself for God to fill him. You have to be willing to learn. You have to be willing to bow. You have to be willing to seek. You have to have a need in your soul. Otherwise there is no gospel, there is no message, there is nothing to say. That’s what the Book of Job is about.
I am not denying that there are many, many other things in it. But I am just saying that as I study the book and as I read the book, that is the great message that God wanted us to see and to learn in the Book of Job. In our pride and pharisaical self-sufficiency there is nothing that God can do for us. But when you are bowed down, and when you are a confessed sinner, and when you know you don’t have the answers, and when you are cognizant and sensitive to your weaknesses and need, say, God has a word for you. And it is a marvelous word, a glorious word.
In a moment we are going to sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing that hymn, if you have a need in your heart that God can supply, you come and stand by me. “I know I am a sinner, and I know I shall someday die, and I know that I shall someday stand in the presence of God. I know that there is a judgment day. I am not sufficient in this life. I am not sufficient in death, nor am I able in the day of judgment, and I am coming to Jesus [Romans 10:8-13]. And I accept Him for all that He said He was, for all that He promised to do, and here I am, and here I come” [Ephesians 2:8].
Giving your heart to Jesus in this solemn morning hour; or a family, to put your life in the fellowship of this church [Hebrews 10:24-25]; or a couple, or just you. In the choir, in this balcony round, on this lower floor, down one of these stairways or into one of these aisles, “Here I am, pastor. I make it this morning. I am coming now.” Do it. Make the decision now. And when we stand in a moment to sing, on the first note of the first stanza you come. Angels will attend you in the way. God has Paradise waiting for us who will trust in Him [Luke 24:42-43]; all the blessedness of following the Lord. Do it now. Make it now. Decide now, and come now, while we stand and while we sing.