Lessons From Job’s Repentance (2) By Babatunde Olugboji
As we continue our series on Job’s repentance, it is pertinent to note his unambiguous approach to matters related to repentance: “Listen, please, and let me speak; you said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer me.’” “I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you. Therefore, I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 46:4-6)
In his previous dialogue with God (Job 31:35-40) Job’s tone was confrontational, almost challenging God, but here, after his superb revelation of God, he humbly requested from God the right to speak. Job said: “I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you,” a reminder that perhaps the most powerful aspect of Job’s encounter with God was not primarily what God said; but it was God’s simple, loving, powerful presence with Job that changed him most profoundly.
Job literally saw God, although not with his literal eye, showing him that God was with him in his crisis. And God’s wonderful presence has humbled Job. We should not suppose that what Job knew of God was necessarily false; yet each fresh and deeper revelation of God had a brightness that made previous experience of God seem rather pale. What he had just experienced was so real, it made his previous experiences seem unreal.
Saying he abhorred himself was much more than the normal conviction of sin that even a saint like Job sensed in the presence of God. With this statement, Job appeared to be formally retracting his previous statements made in ignorance. The verb translated ‘I despise myself’ (Job 42:6) could be rendered ‘I reject what I said.’ Etymologically, the Hebrew word literally means to disappear; and from the standpoint of usage, to retract, or repudiate. Job at this point went beyond what he had previously said when he declared, ‘I am of small account,’ and acknowledged that he essentially cancelled himself completely. I disappear, I retract all that has been said; I repudiate the position I have taken up till now.
Job did the right thing when he said: “… And repent in dust and ashes.” He did nothing to invite the crisis that came into his life; the reasons for that crisis were rooted in the contention between God and Satan as recorded in the first two books of Job. Yet, he did have to repent of his wrong words and wrong attitude after the crisis; both for disproportionately giving in to despair in Job 3 and for his unwise and unrestrained speech as he contended with his companions.
We should note that Job did not give in to his friends and admit that they were right all along. The sins Job repented of here were both general sins, common to all men, which seemed all the darker in the presence of God, yet were not the cause of the calamity that came upon him; and they were sins committed after the calamity befell him
What did Job have to repent of? In his sermon, Job Among the Ashes, Charles Spurgeon suggested several things:
Job repented of the terrible curse he had pronounced upon the day of his birth.
Job repented of his desire to die.
Job repented of his complaints against and challenges to God.
Job repented of his despair.
Job repented that his statements had been a “darkening of wisdom by words without knowledge”; that he spoke beyond his knowledge and ability to know.
What a good thing to come full circle and confess our sins in repentance before God. Are there things we can learn from Job’s approach this week as we continue the conversation next week?
Have a great week!
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