Friday, February 23, 2018

Repentance in Dust and Ashes

"Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes." Job 42:6

Job is one of the most compelling books of the Bible, because we can identify with Job's misery, we all have friends who try to give us bad advice, and we are baffled as to what God's plan with our lives actually is.  Job was a near-perfect man who pleased God, but God allowed Satan to cause him to fall, to test his faith.  Job struggles for dear life, philosophizes and soliloquizes up a storm, and in the end he perseveres, because he does not curse God.  However, God chastises him at the end of the book.  Why?  Because merely questioning God's motives is sin.  Even the most pure human being on Earth is still a sinner, because the mere act of questioning God shows disrespect for the one, perfect being. Indeed, this is the problem we all have today.  Our culture has poisoned us to believe that innocent questioning of the perfect God is safe and even desired by him.  Yes, he is perfect love, and so he tolerates our failings and shortcomings, but the incessant objections from mankind are still sinful.  So, even nigh-perfect Job, after almost forty chapters of struggle with God's motives, gets a mighty earful of chastisement and heavenly wisdom about how far short he has fallen from understanding the true God. Job finally responds to God's reprimand with several points that we should all take to heart:

1) He now knows that God can do all things. We say we believe that, but do we really? God can literally do all things, and he has done all things. We talk about Science v. God. I've got news: God invented science. Anything a scientist discovers, God already knows, because he created it.  Any book you read with information in it: that information was already known by God.  That information wouldn't exist without God.  Also, he knows all things that a scientist cannot discover: what lies in the human heart, how all creatures think and move and be, and whether someone has a true, saving faith or not.  There are no rogue atoms.  Not one thing behaves in a certain way without God directing it.

2) No purpose of God is thwarted. Everything may seem to go south continually, but God is using every circumstance to his purposes.  He works all things for good for those who love him.  He makes no error.  It may seem that he does, and so we question his motives, but he does not, so we shouldn't. If a young Christian dies, that person has eternal life.  If a young, unrepentant sinner dies, another unrepentant sinner may then repent.  God knows every soul that is his, and so everything is orchestrated to draw his souls toward him or push lost souls away.  We make the free choices on this earthly plane, but the pig picture, the grand plan is only knowable by God, and it will not be thwarted.

3) We pretend to be wiser than we are.  Job quotes the Lord back to him: "Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?" A little learning is a dangerous thing, because we think we know more than we do.  Even so, much of the time, we don't even have the "little" learning.  We just heard something from someone, somewhere and we just assumed it to be true.  All the false knowledge we have about God, the World, the Universe: it all accumulates until our minds are completely filled with nonsense.  Socrates said, "he is wisest who knows he does not know."  God's first words to us when we stand before him may be, "what were you thinking?"

4) Not only do we declare what we do not understand, but the truth is more wonderful than we can imagine. We would rather perpetuate the weak lie than proclaim the glorious truth.  We focus on how we feel about things than rather what we think about things.  The emotional response is the one we favor, and the truth is not in us.  God is truth.  Sin makes the watered-down lie more appealing to us, because the truth is more astonishing than we can comprehend.  God is light and in him is no darkness at all.  His perfection eludes us, and we then conclude that he has deception.  We judge God, proclaiming him to be beneath us, when in fact we are so far beneath him that the darkness we are in looks like light to us.

5) We must humble ourselves to God. We must listen to God through is Word.  He speaks clearly when we listen.  When we earnestly seek his instruction, it is readily available.  The problem is that we don't listen; we don't earnestly seek his instruction.  We hear about God from others and the picture we get of God is incomplete and sullied, spoiled.  Only through God's word to we get a clear picture of our Lord.  Only through God's Word do we see the one we are to worship clearly.  The Bible provides the clearest picture of God that exists on Earth.  Only in heaven will we see him perfectly.

Retract your weak ideas about God!  Recant the false attributes you have assigned to him.  Repent for the evil in your hearts.  We are dust and to dust we shall return.  We deserve to be ashes at the base of a fiery pit.  However, God, in his mercy, does not destroy us as we deserve.  His goodness manifests itself in our savior Jesus Christ.  When we compare what he has done for us on the cross with what we say and think about him in return, our only recourse is to repent in dust and ashes and beg forgiveness.  Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us sinners!