For has anyone said to God, ‘I have borne chastening; I will offend no more; teach me what I do not see; if I have done iniquity, I will do no more’? (Job 34:31, 32, NKJV)
These words come from the book of Job as the youngest of his “counselors” offers advice to Job regarding his lot in life at the hands of a sovereign and loving God. Elihu was used of God to prepare Job for a “face to face” meeting with the One Whom Job had carelessly complained about in his speeches with those “who had not spoken of Him what is right” (Job 42:7). Those well-meaning friends became more of a weight to Job, adding to his deep distress rather than helping him in his time of need. Elihu’s task was to speak truth, to help Job understand God and His ways among the children of men, and to understand the deceitfulness of men’s hearts. In these words Elihu reminds Job that man, by nature, despises examining himself. Job spent much of his time using his own terms and conditions to examine himself under God’s mighty hand and failed to see that God’s standards are far different. That is why at the outset of this meeting between the Omnipotent God and a humbled Job we read these words: “Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” It is what Elihu was seeking to teach Job when he later asked him, “Do you think this is right? Do you say, ‘My righteousness is more than God’s?’?” (Job 35:2) Of course, we know that Job will be examined by God Himself and will rightly come to the end of his foolish ways to find his resting place in the One Who lifted up this humbled servant.
As I write to you each month, it is my desire that you learn the importance of examining yourself before God—especially as we come together to that place where the Apostle Paul says we must rightly examine ourselves (1 Corinthians 11:27-32). Each time we come to the Table which Christ Himself spreads before us, we are to be certain that we belong to Him through faith. And that work of examining one’s own heart is the most difficult and necessary of tasks. In a book I have referred to in the past, Heaven Taken By Storm, author Thomas Watson reminds us of how difficult this task is and why it requires a holy violence:
The Scriptures say, ‘The heart is deceitful above all things’ (Jeremiah 17:9). Solomon said there were four things too wonderful for him that he could not know (Proverbs 30:19). He might have added a fifth, the way of a man’s heart. The heart is the greatest imposter; it will be ready to put one off with seeming grace instead of saving grace. The heart will persuade that a slight tear is repentance, a lazy desire is faith. Now because the generality of people do not believe that there is such fallacy in their hearts, therefore they are so slow to examine them. This natural backwardness in us to self-reflection should cause us to offer the more violence to ourselves in making a thorough investigation and search of our hearts…Oh that I might prevail with Christians to take pains with themselves in this great work of self-examination…Oh, let us try our hearts, as we try gold by the touchstone! Let us examine our sins, and finding out this leaven, burn it. Let us examine our grace, whether it be of the right kind…let us offer violence to ourselves in this great business of examination…” (Watson, pp. 32-33).
Would you carefully consider these things as you prepare to come to the Lord’s Table this week? Surely the one humbled under His mighty hand, like Job will be lifted up. Surely the one who will see sin as it really is will, by His grace, see Christ as dying for sinners such as us. Surely the one who sees the depravity of his/her own heart as we have been seeing in our ongoing study of the book of Leviticus, will by the mercies of God, see Jesus as the Substitute and the Lamb sacrificed for us that we may be washed, cleansed and made whole again in Him. To the end that we may be encouraged in these most important things, Watson offers these words of comfort:
Great advantage will accrue to us through self-examination, for the benefit is great whichever way things turn. If upon examination we find that we do not have grace in truth, then the mistake is discovered and the danger prevented. If we find that we do have grace, we may take comfort of it…He who upon searching finds that he has the least degree of grace, is like one who has found his box of evidences; he is heir to all the promises and in a state of salvation.
In the Name of Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith,
Pastor Ted Trefsgar