In Dust and Ashes

For most people, the book of Job records the account of one of the most patient men who ever lived. He endured the loss of his children, his wealth, and his health, and yet he refused to curse God and would not be bullied into saying that he deserved all of this for some sin, as his friends insisted. However, beginning with the speech of Elihu, the emphasis changed in a very important direction. Elihu acknowledged that Job’s friends had failed him, both in making accusations they could not prove and being unable to offer any solution to the problem. However, he also scolded Job for his insistence that God provide an explanation for what had happened. The LORD then built upon Elihu’s speech by challenging Job to compare his knowledge and understanding with God’s, using a number of examples from the physical universe. Then, in the final chapter of this wonderful book, we find the resolution. Job acknowledges the LORD’s great wisdom and his own ignorance, ultimately saying, “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 42:5-6).

In all that the LORD had said to Job, He never explained to him why all of this had happened, though we can understand it from the record provided in the first two chapters of this book. Instead, the LORD proved to Job that He did not owe him an explanation. It is this fact that Job acknowledges in the closing chapter. Many people get caught up in demanding answers and explanations from God. Whenever something bad happens in life, they want to know why, as if there is some specific reason planned out for everything, an idea based on a misunderstanding of God’s sovereignty. Some refuse to do what God says until they receive a detailed explanation of why God would require such a thing. (Though, in reality, few obey even when they receive such an explanation.) This brings us back to the lesson Job learned at the end. The key element that provides the foundation of faith is the recognition that God knows far more than we do and God always knows best. Therefore, whenever we try to argue with God about the nature of life or something He requires, we will lose that argument. The faster we realize this the better. Instead, we must do as Job did, rejecting our own wisdom while accepting God’s, ceasing all our meaningless attempts to argue with His will, and humbling ourselves by accepting that we do not know as much as we think. This process of acceptance placed Job far ahead of his three friends (Job 42:7-9).

In the end, the LORD restored Job’s losses and gave him far more beyond what he had originally (Job 42:10-17). The LORD’s mercy was still there, but the LORD’s timing allowed Job to grow, his friends to learn a lesson, and Satan to be proven wrong. Job did not receive an answer to the questions he had of God; he received something far better. And that is what we should keep in mind for the rest of our lives.

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