Job 42:4-6 (Repentance)

Image result for repent in dust and ashesIn his most bitter moments, Job seeks God.  “Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat!”  (23:2-3).  But what was Job’s motive?  He wanted to argue his case; he wanted God to acknowledge the fact that Job, an innocent man, had been wronged (23:4-7).  As we have seen, God responded to Job’s demand for an audience.  But instead of Job questioning God, God questions him (38:3).

Twice during their encounter, God pauses and allows Job a response.  The first time, Job states he has no words; he is speechless (40:4-5).  The second time, Job issues a retraction of his challenge.  I didn’t understand, says Job (42:3).  I know now, it was not my place to question you, Lord (42:4).

Job concludes:

“I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”  (42:5-6)

In the past, Job knew something about God.  He knew enough to worship God, and to turn from evil.  In fact, God acknowledged Job as his “servant” (Job 1:1, 5, 8).  But then Job was plunged into suffering.  In his anguish, Job accused God of being arbitrary, of acting as his enemy (9:22-24, 16:6-17).  Job’s sense of estrangement from God intensified his pain.  His understanding of God was inadequate in the face of his afflictions.

Instead of the confrontation that Job desired, God offers communion.  He gives Job a more complete picture of himself:  his joyful work as the creator and caretaker of the universe (chs. 38-39), his power over the forces of darkness in the world (chs. 40-41).  If we saw the fullness of God’s glory, our puny human brains would explode (Exodus 33:20).  Nonetheless, God opens Job’s eyes and reveals himself in a supernatural way.

And Job changes.  Note that his knowledge of his own situation has not changed.  He has no idea that Satan directly instigated his suffering.  He has no idea that God called him “blameless” from the very beginning – thus drawing Satan’s attention.  Instead, Job relinquishes his demand to know these things.

Before, Job hated his life (7:16, 10:1).  Now, after seeing God, Job despises his sin.  By accusing God of wrongdoing, Job was setting himself above God.  He was at risk of becoming a “son of pride,” estranged from wisdom and aligned with the forces of evil (28:7-8, 41:34).  As Elihu noted, one of the functions of suffering is repentance and growth:  God “delivers the afflicted by their affliction, and opens their ear by adversity.”  (36:15).  After his long road of suffering, Job not only sees God, he sees himself clearly as well.  And Job responds in humble repentance, in dust and ashes.

God does not leave Job in the dust.  Instead, God rebukes the three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar:  “My anger burns against you [Eliphaz] and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”  (41:7).  While Job had much to learn, his heart continually desired a right relationship with God (29:1-5).  In contrast, Job’s friends treated God as a business partner; they were interested only in God’s blessings, and not God himself.  Their pat answers and rigid theology contributed to Job’s suffering, under the guise of comfort (21:34).

As God praises Job and expresses displeasure with Job’s friends, Job receives his long-awaited vindication.

That’s a Great Question!

Image result for questionThe Question:  I enjoy listening to the Andrew Klavan podcast on DailyWire.  On Wednesdays, Klavan takes questions from subscribers.  The questions can be political, personal, or even theological.  I was listening to the December 4, 2019 show when Klavan read out this question (at 29:00):

What happens to people who died before Christ came?  Are they saved or not?

The Answer:

When it comes to Bible questions, Klavan often issues the disclaimer that he is “not a theologian.”  But – good sport that he is – Klavan will usually attempt an answer.  According to Klavan, most Christians believe there is some sort of “mechanism” for the salvation of individuals who died B.C.  (For example, some say Christ may have “preached to the dead” during the three days between his crucifixion and his resurrection.)  Klavan ends by saying that he trusts “God’s perfect justice,” and that there are many things we can’t understand from our limited human perspective, presumably including this question.

I admire Klavan’s humility and trust in God’s perfect plan.  But the question still makes me a little anxious for my Old Testament friend Job.  God wouldn’t leave Job behind, would he?  How was Job saved?

Fortunately, there is no need to be anxious — the Bible provides a satisfying answer to this question.  Job was saved the exact same way that any of us are saved:  by faith  (Hebrews 11, Habakkuk 2:4, Romans 4:3, Genesis 15:6).  We know that no one is perfectly righteous, and no one can be saved by good works, not even “blameless” Job.  We are counted righteous by God through faith alone.

Faith requires that we (1) believe God exists; (2) acknowledge that salvation is found in God alone; and (3) humbly seek him (Hebrews 11:6).  This heart attitude will produce fruit pleasing to God (Micah 6:8).

The Bible is clear that we will be judged based on the information available to us (Luke 12:48).  On the one hand, we are all without excuse: nature sings of her creator day after day, calling us to seek him (Romans 1:19-20, Psalm 19:1-6).  On the other hand, the details of God’s plan for salvation were not fully revealed until Christ;  the Old Testament believers had to trust God on far less information (1 Peter 1:10-12).

All people, whether born before or after Christ, are in the same boat.  We are dead in our sins, without any righteousness of our own (Romans 3:23).  Even the simplest forms of faith, the faith of Old Testament saints straining to see what God would do, must have involved the work of the Holy Spirit.  It is the Spirit who wakes us to life, culminating in a new birth (which we experience as conversion).  I believe this happened for Job, as he described the process poignantly.

Like Klavan, I enjoy answering questions.  Feel free to submit your own through the contact form.  Answers are guaranteed to provoke thought, or your money back.

 

Gold Star Friday

Image result for Gold StarFinally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  (Philippians 4:8)

What I’m Reading / Watching:

Eggs Are Expensive, Sperm Is Cheap by Greg Krehbiel.  Politically incorrect — and truthful — this short book breaks down the differences between men and women, including the implications for society.

Ford v. Ferrari (the movie).  This was my husband’s pick, but I really enjoyed it.  Unapologetically masculine and pro-American.

Devotional Links:

On women in ministry:  https://hopeandstay.com/2018/12/28/on-being-a-christian-woman-in-the-year-of-our-lord-2019/.  An inspirational example:  https://thefederalist.com/2019/12/05/amid-poverty-this-remarkable-alabama-woman-changed-the-lives-of-more-than-20-foster-children/.

D. A. Carson on how we can know the Bible is true: https://themelios.thegospelcoalition.org/article/but-thats-just-your-interpretation/

NYT gets advent right:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/30/opinion/sunday/christmas-season-advent-celebration.html

Remember God uses our suffering to advance the gospel:   https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/someone-needs-to-see-you-suffer-well.

Political Links:

A good primer on the Electoral College:  https://thefederalist.com/2019/12/03/warren-ill-be-last-american-president-elected-by-the-electoral-college/

Small town success https://www.rd.com/true-stories/inspiring/columbiana-ohio-nicest-place-in-america/ and small town suffering:  https://thefederalist.com/2019/12/04/tucker-carlson-blasts-paul-singer-for-using-hedge-funds-to-destroy-small-town-america/.  Build local community, beware big government and big business.

Angelo Codevilla – can federalism save our divided country?  https://www.claremont.org/crb/article/the-cold-civil-war/  Also Codevilla – can we conserve what needs to be conserved?  https://amgreatness.com/2019/12/02/a-deplorable-strategy-beyond-2020/.

As my husband says, sometimes the right thing is to do nothing:  https://humanevents.com/2019/12/02/principled-inaction-in-the-face-of-climate-change-extremism/.

On embryo adoption and our brave new world:  https://thefederalist.com/2019/12/04/why-embryo-adoption-damages-childrens-rights/

Victor Davis Hanson on college life:  https://amgreatness.com/2019/12/01/how-americas-students-need-to-get-woke/.

Links on Mental Illness:

Kim Cash Tate on dealing with anxiety:  https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/you-can-be-anxious-about-nothing.

Yuval Levin on gratitude, which is key to mental health:  https://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2019/11/58540/

Shameless Self-Promotion:

You can read my articles at The Federalist, Servants of Grace, and The Gospel Coalition

My Book on Psalm 119

Pray for Z. – My oldest son is recovering from serious mental illness.  Because of his disability, it has been challenging for him to find and hold a job.  Nonetheless, he is a man of many talents – including novel-writing.  We are trusting God for meaningful work for him.

Job 42:1-3 (Submission)

Image result for the annunciationGod has finished speaking.  It’s time for Job’s response.  Now that Job finally has his audience with God, what will Job say?  As we have seen before (40:4-5), Job’s planned, self-justifying speeches fail him.  Instead, Job concedes God’s authority and cries “uncle.”

“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”  (v. 2)  Job acknowledges that God is sovereign.  God can do all things – his power is not bent by human schemes or desires.  God has his own designs that will not fail.  And, after passing through many levels of grief and anger, Job is now ready to submit to God’s will.

Today is the first day of Advent, the Christian church’s period of waiting before Christmas.   During Advent, we remember another story of submission, the story of the virgin Mary.  Out of nowhere, the angel Gabriel appears and tells Mary that she is highly favored by God.  “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.”  (Luke 1:31).

This unplanned pregnancy would have raised many problems for Mary, especially in traditional Jewish society.  What would her family say?  What would her fiancé Joseph say?  Would she and the baby be cast out, forced to fend for themselves, doomed to a life of poverty?  Is this how God shows his “favor?”  (Think about how God showed his “favor” to Job!)

But Mary’s first question is pragmatic:  “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”  (Luke 1:34).  With echoes of Job, Gabriel replies, “nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37).  God is sending a Savior to redeem the world.  And God can do all things to accomplish his will, even create new life in a virgin.  No purpose of God’s can be thwarted.

“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord,” says Mary, “Let it be to me according to your word.”  Mary, like Job, is God’s servant (Job 1:8).  Yet Mary comes to the place of submission much faster, and more easily.  Yes, Lord, says Mary.  You have spoken, let it be.

God’s grand design is beyond Mary’s comprehension, yet she still accepts his authority.  And so, eventually, does Job.  Note that Job’s understanding is also incomplete.  God never told Job about his discussions with Satan in the divine council, never revealed any clues about Job’s specific situation.  Instead, God pointed Job’s attention to the mysteries of the natural and supernatural world.  And this was sufficient to bring Job to his senses.

Job acknowledges God’s rebuke: Job had spoken without knowledge, thereby obscuring the word of God (Job 38:2, 42:3).  Job admits, “I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”  (42:3).  Job knew only the immediacy of his pain – his dead children, his stolen livestock, his loathsome skin disease.  Job did not stop to think about God’s care for the larger creation, and where his small story might fit.  He did not consider what hidden forces might lurk beyond human perception.  Yet at the end of it all, when God graciously gives Job a glimpse of the big picture, Job calls it “too wonderful for me.”

Have you been fighting God, trying to understand why he has allowed some suffering into your life?  Bad things happen, and God’s plan seems incomprehensible to us.  Nonetheless, as we crawl through fog, we can find, with Job and Mary, that place of submission.  We can trust that God has a good plan, a plan that will someday make glorious sense of our current afflictions (Romans 8:18, 28).

Gold Star Friday

Image result for Gold StarFinally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  (Philippians 4:8)

What I’m Reading:  Different:  The Story of an Outside-the-Box Kid and the Mom Who Loved Him by Sally Clarkson (mom) and Nathan Clarkson (son).  I wasn’t sure I would enjoy this book, because Sally Clarkson’s personality is so… exuberant.  Nonetheless, I find myself inspired by how she wisely parented her son with special needs, including mental illness.  Recommended for anyone who interacts with difficult / frustrating kids.  This book will help you find the grace and compassion you need.

Devotional Links:

On Thanksgiving:  https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-lovely-insufficiency-of-gratitude

On Love and the Leviathan:  https://youtu.be/DyC5RHKNBm4

Political Links:

A serious study of the problems with our civil rights bureaucracy:  https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3482015

Where did the deep state come from?  A history lesson:  https://amgreatness.com/2019/11/22/the-foundations-of-the-administrative-deep-state/

Links on Mental Illness:

Hope for those with gender dysphoria:  https://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2019/11/58390/.  Walt Heyer is a terrific advocate for those with gender transition regret.  You can read his testimony in A Transgender’s Faith.

Shameless Self-Promotion:

You can read my articles at The Federalist, Servants of Grace, and The Gospel Coalition (new!)

My Book on Psalm 119

Pray for Z. – My oldest son is recovering from serious mental illness.  Because of his disability, it has been challenging for him to find and hold a job.  Nonetheless, he is a man of many talents – including novel-writing — and we are trusting God for meaningful work for him.

Happy Day After Thanksgiving!  I am thankful for readers, new and old, who have taken the time to follow my journey.  Over the past week, I have received many emails from people who are suffering as a result of mental illness and other afflictions.  Thank you for sharing your stories.  I trust we will continue to encourage each other.

Love and the Leviathan

Image result for fiery heartAt the climax of the book of Job, we meet two terrifying monsters.  God describes the brute strength of Behemoth, fearless even as the mighty River Jordan rushes against his mouth.  (Job 40:23).  Next comes Leviathan, covered in plate armor “shut up closely as with a seal,” and sneezing out flashes of fire (Job 41:15, 18-19).  Behemoth and Leviathan represent the demonic forces of evil and chaos, against which Job and his fellow humans are powerless.

No one is so fierce, says God, that he dares to stir up Leviathan (Job 41:10).  Leviathan is not a pet you can train on a leash (Job 41:5).  This is a veiled rebuke of Job, who in his suffering wished for the dark forces to swallow up the day of his birth (Job 3:8).  God alone has power to control the forces of evil – and to demolish them once they have served his purposes.  Thus God declares his ownership over “whatever is under the whole heaven” – including Behemoth and Leviathan (Job 41:11).

We cannot manipulate God, or purchase a protection plan from earthly suffering.  “Who has first given to me, that I should repay him?” asks the Lord (Job 41:11).  God in his sovereignty limits evil as he sees fit.  This means that God is even more terrifying – even more to be feared – than the Leviathan.  (Job 41:10).

Thankfully, this is not the end of the story.  God is all-powerful, but he is also love.  As the Apostle John tells us, God’s perfect love casts out fear.  (1 John 16-19).  The Old Testament wisdom literature – a canon that includes Job – gives us a picture of this love.  Just as Behemoth and Leviathan are the mascots of cosmic evil and destruction, King Solomon and his bride are the mascots of cosmic love.

The Song of Solomon – an erotic wedding poem – contains the following passage, which may be familiar:

Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm,
for love is as strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord.
Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.
If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house,
he would be utterly despised.  (SoS 8:6-7).

The parallels between Love and the two chaos monsters are striking.  The forces of darkness are strong, but so is love – “as strong as death” (SoS 8:6).  Rows of shields form a seal along the back of Leviathan (Job 41:15), while love is a seal on the heart and arm of the beloved (Sos 8:6).  Behemoth is not afraid of drowning (Job 41:23), and neither is love, which cannot be quenched by many waters (SoS 8:7).  Love even breathes out flashes of fire, just like Leviathan!  (SoS 8:6, Job 41:15, 18-19).

In the face of these cosmic realities, both evil and good, worldly wealth fades in value.  The book of Job delineates, in horrific detail, how riches cannot save us from destruction.  All of Job’s thousands of sheep and camels, his hundreds of oxen and donkeys, his very many servants, could not save him from bandits, fire, whirlwind, or skin disease (Job 1:1 – 2:8).  You can’t bribe God to change your lot in life (Job 41:11).

Interestingly, love also cannot be bought.  Even if a man offers all the wealth of his house, his love may remain unrequited; he may find disdain instead (SoS 8:7).  Who knows what brings a man and a woman together, what physical and metaphysical formulations draw two hearts to become one?  The way of a man wooing a maiden is one of the wonders of the world (Proverbs 30:19).

The Song of Solomon contains an interesting admonition:  “I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases.” (SoS 8:4).  Like the Leviathan, love is a deep, cosmic force.  Love is not a plaything, not a pet you can train on a leash.  The consummation of marital love results in new life, i.e., babies.  What Job wished Leviathan would destroy – the day of his birth – was a miracle created by the love of his parents.  As God tells Job, no one should dare stir up Leviathan (Job 41:10).  We should also have referent fear when stirring up romantic love.

Not all mysterious forces are evil, not by a long shot.  Perfect love casts out Leviathan, both now and for eternity.  And so we look forward to the final wedding feast, where God himself will wipe away every tear (Rev. 19:9, 21:4).

Gold Star Friday

Image result for Gold StarFinally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  (Philippians 4:8)

What I’m Reading:  I took a road trip with my husband last weekend.  The Jack Reacher thrillers – his choice, of course — are not a bad way to pass the time.  We clocked 26 hours in the car, finishing one book and starting another.  Here is a guide to the series from The Federalist.

Devotional Links:

Read More Bible:  https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/read-the-bible-with-your-heart; see also, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/lies-that-keep-women-from-the-word; and https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/ask-the-bible-anything

Vaneetha Risner comforts with the comfort she has received in Christ:  https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/my-rope-out-of-the-pit;

Reject platitudes, read more Job:  https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/when-christianity-doesnt-work/

David Powlison, we miss you: https://www.ccef.org/helping-angry-god/ (helping those who are angry with God); more insights from CCEF:  https://www.ccef.org/desire-for-approval/

Political Links:

Suzanne Venker should be required reading for young women:  https://thefederalist.com/2019/11/12/4-feminist-lies-that-are-making-women-miserable/

The legal definition of marriage matters: https://thefederalist.com/2019/11/20/10-years-later-the-manhattan-declarations-defense-of-marriage-is-even-more-needed/

Why many of us chose to leave the Golden State:  https://www.lawliberty.org/2019/11/11/exit-stage-right/; see also, https://amgreatness.com/2019/11/14/the-seven-deadly-sins-of-californias-political-establishment/

Amazing first-hand perspective on life in socialist Venezuela (the future of California?): https://www.breitbart.com/latin-america/2019/11/10/venezuela-socialist-hell-electricity-water/

Links on Mental Illness:

How the system fails those with mental illness:  https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2019-09-26/mental-illness-treatment-schizophrenia-law-los-angeles-jail.  If you are interested in advocacy, sign up at https://p82homes.org/ for updates.

Shameless Self-Promotion:

You can read my articles at The Federalist, Servants of Grace, and The Gospel Coalition (new!).  You can also go to Amazon and purchase my short devotional book on Psalm 119.

Pray for Z. – My oldest son is recovering from serious mental illness.  We visited him last weekend (the mission of our 26-hour road trip).  Thankfully, he remains healthy and in good spirits.  Because of his disability, it has been challenging for him to find and hold a job.  Nonetheless, he is a man of many talents – including novel-writing — and we are trusting God for meaningful work for him.