An interviewer once asked GK Chesterton, if he were stranded on a desert island, what one book he would want to have with him. Expecting him to say the Bible, he was surprised when Chesterton replied, "Thomas' Practical Guide To Shipbuilding." And that leads me to a question: If you could not have a Bible, but only ONE CHAPTER, which one would it be?
Of course the pastor then went through what he thought were the "usual suspects", like John 3 and Romans 8, I Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 2. But my mind went nearly immediately to the last chapter of Job. Here's why.
Background: At this point, after listening to the "three stooges" for the better part of 30 chapters, Job has, in rapid fire, heard Elihu say that Job's problem was that he was trying to give glory to God, but JUSTIFICATION to himself. And that God has a reason for everything- just not always one we are going to grasp. Then God enters the picture. And God gives him both barrels- first, a fairly detailed way of saying, "Who are you to question Me"; and then, after God gives him a chance to answer, and for once he wisely refuses, God asks him whether he believes that his "own right hand can save" him, using the magnificent imagery of the possible dinosaurs Behemoth and Leviathan. Though they are dull witted beasts, guided by their stomachs and pride, Job could throw an army at one of them and do it no harm; how then, could he do what God cannot?
This is where I often come in. I glorify God by coming to Him, then waste His time and mine questioning Him on what I cannot possibly understand- BUT THINK I DO. In the recent post mentioned here and in a previous rant, I was called "higher than thou", in a mixed metaphor by a false friend- but there is a good deal of truth to that. I don't have a problem so much with thinking I'm right as knowing I am, and presenting it thus. Like Leviathan, I can at times be among the "first of the Children of Pride." And so, I turn to that 42nd chapter of Job. It starts with Job's confession:
Job 42:1 And Job answered Jehovah and said:
Job 42:2 I know that You can do all, and no purpose is withheld from You.
Job 42:3 (You said,) Who is this hiding counsel without knowledge? So I declared, but did not understand things too wonderful for me; yea, I did not know.
Job 42:4 I pray, Listen, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You will make me know.
Job 42:5 I have heard of You by hearing of the ear, but now my eye has seen You;
Job 42:6 Therefore, I despise myself, and I have repented on dust and ashes.
First, he gives God the glory.
Second, he admits he doesn't know what God knows.
Third, he realizes that while he has served God all his life, he has not and cannot truly KNOW Him- until now, when he realizes the scope, at least partially, of how much greater God is than himself.
Fourth, he repents of this sin.
But the story doesn't end there.After Job's confession, God then turns to the "stooges", and informs them that He is not mad at Job, but at THEM: "For you have not spoken what is right about Me, AS MY SERVANT JOB HAS." See, God wasn't mad at Job for what he said, how he questioned God- God expects that from righteous, thoughtful creatures, who cannot grasp how suffering, disease, and evil can be worked into His plan. With Job, it was all about his attitude. For the "stooges" however, it wasn't their righteousness but their self-righteousness, believing that Job MUST have fallen, because look at the state he was in- both misrepresenting Job AND God. He then turns over their repentance and salvation TO Job, "for I will accept him".
The twin lessons we get from this are perhaps the ones I need for myself the most. Lesson one: God doesn't mind if we don't get it all. As long as we get the two things He wants, the two things He has requested at least since Abraham: walk with Him and be Holy. Lesson two: We cannot save, we cannot justify, ourselves. That is for Him, through the power of Christ.
This world has a real problem of man using ignorance to justify himself. Any tour of a Facebook political post will show you that. If we want to be right, we have to be right BECAUSE GOD IS RIGHTEOUS. If we cannot justify ourselves in our ignorance, we cannot justify ourselves in the other guy's ignorance, either. And THAT is often I lesson I need reminding of.