Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Woe to Me! (Job 42)

“Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6).

Coming face to face with God’s holiness should be a traumatic experience. Not everyone responds to God’s holiness in the same way. For those like Isaiah, who are described as righteous, the response is one of humility and fear. They tremble as they come into the immediate presence of God. Job had this response, as did Habakkuk. Those who have changed hearts, who are included in the family of God, have their eyes opened to the significance of God’s holiness and to their own sinfulness. They realize their own unworthiness to stand in the presence of such a pure and perfect being because they know they are not pure and perfect. When Peter recognized the power and authority of Jesus Christ, he too responded in humility, asking His Lord to leave him because he was a sinful man.

Isaiah’s response of “Woe is me” was an oracle of doom. An oracle was a summation of God’s message to the people, which He gave to the prophet. An oracle of weal was an announcement of divine blessing, usually begun with “Blessed.…” An oracle of doom pronounced judgment and began with the warning “Woe.…” Jesus gave such an oracle in Matthew 23:13: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees.…” When Isaiah said, “Woe is me,” he pronounced judgment on himself. When he saw the standard of perfection in God’s holiness, he saw clearly that he fell short of that standard (as we all do) and that the judgment that should fall upon him would be one of doom and destruction. When he said he was undone, he saw all his pretenses and illusions of righteousness vanish or disintegrate in the presence of holiness.

God responded to Isaiah by placing a burning coal on Isaiah’s lips. In this painful procedure, God purified Isaiah of all his filth, cleansing him, and forgiving him of all his sins. Nothing Isaiah did merited this forgiveness; only by God’s grace could he be truly cleansed of all his sins. Isaiah’s repentance was a painful process, but necessary for him to come into a new relationship with God. God gave him the gift of repentance and subsequently justified him in His presence, removing all the guilt, all the iniquity, all the sin that had made him a foreigner to holiness.

How was Job’s response to God’s holiness similar to Isaiah’s? Have you ever had such a response before God? Is this response something that is natural to man? How would you define repentance? Why is it necessary to be repentant in order to be a Christian? Is this a work or a gift of grace?