“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
In my readings today I am reminded of a precious and powerful moment with God in my life shortly before I was saved or had an assurance through the Spirit that I was a child of God. It was a moment of deep conviction. A neighbor had given me a Good News Bible. I had many times in my life longed to read the Bible and could never seem to read very far before I felt completely defeated by the gap between my desire and my ability to understand. Of course, I had always tried to read my little fine print, thin paged, white, leather-bound personal Bible, the only one I had, which, for a poor reader like me, was defeating almost before I began. But now I had in my hands a used paperback, modern English version with reasonably sized print and heavier pages that was instantly more inviting. And being moved by the Spirit, I opened it and began to read the first full book of the Bible I had ever read—the Book of Job—read in one sitting. I found that I could not put it down until I finished it.
As I read I became engrossed in Job’s trials and tribulations. Having had all my life an unhealthy awareness of all my own trials and tribulations and those of my whole family, I could identify with Job and commiserate with him in his. When he questioned God. When he doubted God. When he sat in despair and wondered where God was and why He did not show Himself or answer, I was at one with him. This was a God I could identify with, a God that you desperately sought, but who was illusive, distant, unreachable, unpleasable, and who did not come when called. Yet, somewhere deep in my heart, like Job, though perhaps not as intimately as he or unwavering as he, I believed that “my redeemer liveth.”
Then, in God’s time, God spoke to Job and He spoke to me and I shall never forget that moment in time.
“Who is this that darkens counsel
By words without knowledge?,” God said.
“Now gird up your loins like a man,
And I will ask you, and you instruct Me!
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?”
“Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty?
Let him who reproves God answer it.”
When I surrounded myself with my own strength to overcome adversity, or my willingness to suffer unjustly when I could not overcome, or my own good works, which I thought were many, and my own so reverent acts of humility in worship, I considered myself quite holy relative to others I knew. Such is the curse of a religion of works.
But now, I was, suddenly and instantly, deeply ashamed of the pure vanity of my heart. Of the fact that God was God and I was not.
But now, like Job, I abhorred myself and I repented in dust and ashes. Job and I replied,
“Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You?
I lay my hand on my mouth.
I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear;
But now my eye sees You;
Therefore I retract,
And I repent in dust and ashes.”
I stood in the presence of the God of all creation, Himself, in the presence of true holiness and omnipotent power. And I was little. I was petty. I was self-absorbed. And I was exceedingly sinful and ashamed.
It is alarming to suddenly and unwittingly find yourself standing naked before almighty God, with the cloak of your own self-righteousness removed, like Adam and Eve in the garden. Standing before Him there is no place for the “boastful pride of life,” feeling that God owes you something simply by virtue of the fact that you are.
God in essence said to Job, When you can do what I have done; when you are my equal—“then I will confess to you that your own right hand can save you.”
I had been all my life aware, like the Apostle Paul, that the good that I wished to do, I did not. And that evil was ever present with me. My only hope was that my good works would be pleasing enough to God to merit His favor. And I thought that in the end they would be. It would be some months later when I could say with Paul, “but thanks be to God who gives me the victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ.” It would be a few months more before God would reach down in love to me through His Word and say, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of yourself. It is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast.” On that day, I would fall to my knees before Him and weep for a long time over the goodness of God. On that day, I would know His love. On that day I would know I was His forever.
But I praise God for that first vivid, very personal, encounter with Him through His Word. For without it, I would not have known the depth of my own depravity, I would not have known the truly unreachable holiness and majesty of God. I would not have known that “apart from Him I can do nothing.” That moment was a precious gift, a gift of God’s grace. It was the preparation of the soil to receive the seed of the Word of God with gladness. It was the impetus of my love affair with God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit through His Word for the rest of my life—although, regretfully, not with the perfect faithfulness it might be and should be.