2008.07.10 - “LOCKS VERSUS KEYS” - Job 42:1-6
(From: “Baffled to Fight Better” - Oswald Chambers)
Everything a man takes to be the key to a problem is apt to turn out another lock. For instance, the theory of evolution was supposed to be the key to the problem of the universe, but instead it has turned out a lock. Again, the atomic theory was thought to be the key; then it was discovered that the atom itself was composed of electrons, and each electron was found to be a universe of its own, and that theory too becomes a lock and not a key. Everything that man attempts as a simplification of life, other than a personal relationship to God, turns out to be a lock, and we should be alert to recognize when a thing turns from a key to a lock. The creed Job held, which pretended to be a key to the character of God, turned out to be a lock, and Job is realizing that the only key to life is not a statement of faith in God, nor an intellectual conception of God, but a personal relationship to Him. God Himself is the key to the riddle of the universe, and the basis of things is to be found only in Him. If a man leaves out God and takes any scientific explanation as the key, he only succeeds in finding another lock.
(1) THE REHABILITATION OF FAITH IN GOD --
As the Source and Support of all Existence.
“Then Job answered the Lord, and said, I know that You can do everything, and that no thought can be withheld from You.” (Job 42:1-2)
To rehabilitate means to reinstate, to restore to former rank. The problem all through the Book of Job is that the teaching of the creed and Job's implicit faith in God do not agree, and it looks as if he is a fool to hang in to his belief in God. That is what will happen as the result of this war (World War I) -- many a man's faith in God will be rehabilitated. The basis of things must always be found in a personal relationship to a personal God, never in thinking or feeling.
Job says, 'I cannot find any rest in your reasonings or in my own, and I refuse to blink the facts in order to make a rational statement'. Job had perfect confidence in the character of God though he did not understand the way He was taking. “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” We sometimes wrongly illustrate faith in God by the faith of a business man in a cheque. Faith commercially is based on calculation, but religious faith cannot be illustrated by the kind of faith we exhibit in life. Faith in God is a terrific venture in the dark; I have to believe that God is good in spite of all that contradicts it in my experience. It is not easy to say that God is love when everything that happens actually gives the lie to it. Everyone's soul represents some kind of battlefield. The point for each one is whether we will hang in, as Job did, and say 'Though things look black, I will trust in God'.
“Then Job answered the Lord....” This does not mean that Job saw the Lord standing before him as a man; but that he had a trained ear as the result of his faith in God. The basis of a man's faith in God is that God is the Source and Support of all existence, not that He is all existence. Job recognizes this, and maintains that in the end everything will be explained and made clear. Have I this kind of faith -- not faith in principle, but faith in God, that He is just and true and right? Many of us have no faith in God at all, but only faith in what He has done for us, and when these things are not apparent we lose our faith and say, 'Why should this happen to me? Why should there be a war? Why should I be wounded and sick? Why should my “cobber” be killed? I am going to chuck up my faith in God'.
(2) THE RE-ESTABLISHMENT OF TRUTH IN LIFE AND PERSONALITY --
As the source and Support of all Real Experience.
“Who is he that hides counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me which I knew not.” (Job 42:3)
There is a great difference between Christian experience and Christian faith. The danger of experience is that our faith is made to rest in it, instead of seeing that our experience is simply a doorway to God Himself. The reason many of us refuse to think and discover the basis of true religion is because evangelical Christianity has been stated in such a flimsy way. We get the Truth through life and personality, not by logic or scientific statements. “Therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me which I knew not.” In refusing to stand by what was not true, Job uttered bigger things than he understood at the time. That is the way God uses men when they are rightly related to Him; He conveys His real presence as a sacrament through their commonplace lives. Our Lord Himself becomes real in the same way that life and personality are real. Intellect asks, 'What is truth?', as if truth were something that could be stated in words. “I am the Truth”, said Jesus. The only way we get at Truth is by life and personality. When a man is up against things it is no use for him to try and work it out logically, but let him obey, and instantly he will see his way through. Truth is moral, not intellectual. We perceive Truth by doing the right thing, not by thinking it out. 'If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine ...'Men have tried to get at the truth of Christianity head-first, which is like saying you must think how you will live before you are born. We instantly see the absurdity of that, and yet we expect to reason out the Christian life before we have been born into the realm of Jesus Christ. “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” If ever we are to see the domain where Jesus lives and enter into it, we must be born again, become regenerated by receiving the Holy Spirit; then we shall find that Truth is not in a creed or a logical statement, but in Life and Personality. This is what Job is realizing.
(3) THE RELIGIOUS BASIS OF SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY --
As the Source and Support of all Abiding Exposition.
“Hear, I beseech You, and I will speak: I will demand of You, and You declare unto me.” (Job 42:4)
We have not to bring God into our system of philosophy but to found our philosophy on God. The source and support of all abiding exposition is a man's personal relationship to God. If we base our philosophy on reason, we shall produce a false philosophy; but if we base it on faith in God, we can begin to expound life rightly. Actual conditions come into account, but underneath lies the Redemption.
Sin is not man's problem, but God's. God has taken the problem of sin into His own hands and solved it, and the proof that He has is the Cross of Calvary. The Cross is the Cross of God. On the ground of the Redemption I can 'wash my robes, and make them white in the blood of the Lamb'. Pseudo-evangelism has twisted the revelation and made it mean -- 'Now that God has saved me, I do not need to do anything'. The New Testament revelation is that now I am saved by God's grace, I must work on that basis and keep myself clean. It does not matter what a man's heredity is, or what tendencies there are in him, on the basis of the Redemption he can become all that God's Book indicates he should be. The essential truth of Christianity in thinking is that I can 'wash my robes, and make them clean in the blood of the Lamb'. That is the exposition of the Redemption in actual experience. Are we thinking along this line, or on the pagan line which makes out that the basis of things is rational, and leaves out God, and Jesus Christ, and the Redemption altogether?
(4) REPENTANCE AND THE DAWN OF GOD'S HUMANITY --
As the Source and Support of a 'Second Chance'.
“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6)
Because a man has altered his life it does not necessarily mean that he has repented. A man may have lived a bad life and suddenly stop being bad, not because he has repented, but because he is like an exhausted volcano. The fact that he has become good is no sign of his having become a Christian. The bedrock of Christianity is repentance. The apostle Paul never forgot what he had been; when he speaks of 'forgetting those things which are behind',he is referring to what he has attained to; the Holy Spirit never allowed him to forget what he had been (see1 Corinthians 15:9, Ephesians 3:8, 1 Timothy 1:13-15). Repentance means that I estimate exactly what I am in God's sight and I am sorry for it, and on the basis of the Redemption I become the opposite. The only repentant man is the holy man, i.e., the one who becomes the opposite of what he was because something has entered into him. Any man who knows himself knows that he cannot be holy, therefore if he does become holy, it is because God has 'shipped' something into him; he is now 'presented with Divinity', and can begin to bring forth 'fruits meet for repentance'.
A man may know the plan of salvation, and preach like an archangel, and yet not be a Christian (cf. Matthew 7:21-22) The test of Christianity is that a man lives better than he preaches. The reality of the heredity of Jesus Christ comes into us through regeneration, and if ever we are to exhibit a family likeness to Him it must be because we have entered into repentance and have received something from God. If the disposition of meanness and lust and spite shows itself through my bodily life, when the disposition of Jesus Christ is there, it will show through my bodily life too, and no one need ever be afraid that he will be credited with the holiness he exhibits. “Now my eye sees You,” said Job, “wherefore I abhor myself” (“I loathe my words”, R.V. marg.) “and repent in dust and ashes.” When I enthrone Jesus Christ I say the thing that is violently opposed to the old rule. I deny my old ways as entirely as Peter denied his Lord.
Jesus Christ's claim is that He can put a new disposition, His own disposition, Holy Spirit, into any man, and it will be manifested in all that he does. But the disposition of the Son of God can only enter my life by the way of repentance.
NOTE; This is perhaps one of the clearest expositions and explanations of the true nature of Regeneration, the New Birth, and their basis in repentance -- that I have come across.
Oswald Chamber's notes on the Book of Job were prepared for British Armed Forces especially from Australia and New Zealand stationed in Zeitoun, Egypt, just before going into battle in Gallipoli. These boys knewthat perhaps only 40% or less would return. It was a trying time, and Chambers as their YMCA Chaplain wanted to leave them with words that would help them prepare most likely for death.
In the face of death -- nice words and pretty sermons would have been completely out of order. So from the depths of his own vital relationship with God, Jesus Christ and the Redemption -- he spoke and wrote words appropriate to the desperate needs of these young soldiers.
These notes are from the last chapter from his book on Job, “Baffled to Fight Better!” What an appropriate title! It exactly describes what Job went through in the preceding 41 chapters.
Does this apply to you and me also -- though we are not facing almost certain death such as these soldiers? I read the above words perhaps 3 decades ago, and applied them to my own life. I trust that many of you will reread the Book of Job as I have just done -- and then take very special note of the Chaplain's words to desperate soldiers, and apply them to your life also. What Chambers thought of the church in his day and the wishy-washy Gospel that came forth from it, might well apply to our 21stCentury Church also.
Don't settle for a watered-down, pablum-oriented Gospel. Settle for a manly, Truth-oriented, Realistic Gospel that can take you out of the doldrums of mediocrity, and catapult you into the Glorious Possibility of a life hid with God in Christ!
Your friend -- Jim Watt