Victory, Defeat, Rebuke (Judges 1:1–2:5)

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Stuart Chase - 24 Jun 2018

Victory, Defeat, Rebuke (Judges 1:1–2:5)

The opening section of Judges may not be the most exciting portion of an otherwise thrilling book, but it does teach us valuable lessons about divine adequacy, favour and rebuke. In it, we learn about the nature of our covenant-keeping God and his commitment to, indeed, keep covenant.

Scripture References: Judges 1:1-36, Judges 2:1-5

From Series: "Judges Exposition"

An exposition of the book of Judges by Stuart Chase.

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There are certain subjects in the wider educational system that seem to have fallen on hard times. History, for example, is not widely considered to be a crowd favourite. Many simply could not be bothered to learn a list of dates and events.

Much the same could be said for geography. Some years ago, a reporter went out on the streets of a town in America and asked passers-by to name a country that begins with the letter U. Answers supplied by bemused interviewees included Yugoslavia, Utah and Utopia. As one young woman wracked her brain for an answer, the interviewer asked, “What about this country?” She responded with a blank stare, which prompted him to help her: “United States of America.” She could only gasp with her hand over her mouth.

Of course, those televised pop street surveys are highly edited. I have no doubt that many interviewees could supply correct answers. Still, the argument that geography is a neglected discipline carries some weight. In his commentary on Judges, Dale Ralph Davis tells a story that illustrates this.

Davis recounts a convention held some years ago for geography teachers and buffs close to where he lives. The local newspaper covered the story, and the reporter was tasked to interview a series of geography teachers who lamented the general geographical illiteracy of modern-day students. The editor proved the complaining teachers’ point when he supplied this title for the article: “Geology Courses Get Low Grade.”

There are certain sections in the Bible that seem like excerpts from a geography textbook. They do not strike contemporary readers as particularly interesting. We read systematically through the Old Testament on Sunday evenings at church, but we often choose to skip large portions of Joshua, which record the division of the Promised Land among the tribes of Israel. It is not that we consider these sections unimportant, but some portions of Scripture lend themselves more to corporate Bible reading than others. I suspect that many Bible readers pay little attention to these sections in their personal reading of Scripture.

As good, Reformed Christians, we know that all Scripture—including geographical listings and genealogies—are God-breathed and profitable for the reader. Those who take the time to dig into these lists are often rewarded as they learn lessons about the faithfulness of God.

One such geographical excerpt is found in the opening chapter of Judges, which records a long list of place names. It may not be the most exciting portion of an otherwise thrilling book, but it does highlight something of the nature of our covenant-keeping God.

Judges was originally penned as a single narrative. It is helpful, when studying a book like Judges, to do so in larger segments than one might tackle when exegeting a New Testament epistle. As we commence a study of Judges, I want to do so by considering the opening three pericopes, which comprise some 41 verses.

Yahweh’s Adequacy

The largest of the three pericopes is found in 1:1–21, and it highlights the truth of Yahweh’s adequacy.

After the death of Joshua, the people of Israel enquired of the LORD, “Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?” The LORD said, “Judah shall go up; behold, I have given the land into his hand.” And Judah said to Simeon his brother, “Come up with me into the territory allotted to me, that we may fight against the Canaanites. And I likewise will go with you into the territory allotted to you.” So Simeon went with him. Then Judah went up and the LORD gave the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand, and they defeated 10,000 of them at Bezek. They found Adoni-bezek at Bezek and fought against him and defeated the Canaanites and the Perizzites. Adoni-bezek fled, but they pursued him and caught him and cut off his thumbs and his big toes. And Adoni-bezek said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and their big toes cut off used to pick up scraps under my table. As I have done, so God has repaid me.” And they brought him to Jerusalem, and he died there.

And the men of Judah fought against Jerusalem and captured it and struck it with the edge of the sword and set the city on fire. And afterward the men of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites who lived in the hill country, in the Negeb, and in the lowland. And Judah went against the Canaanites who lived in Hebron (now the name of Hebron was formerly Kiriath-arba), and they defeated Sheshai and Ahiman and Talmai.

From there they went against the inhabitants of Debir. The name of Debir was formerly Kiriath-sepher. And Caleb said, “He who attacks Kiriath-sepher and captures it, I will give him Achsah my daughter for a wife.” And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, captured it. And he gave him Achsah his daughter for a wife. When she came to him, she urged him to ask her father for a field. And she dismounted from her donkey, and Caleb said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Give me a blessing. Since you have set me in the land of the Negeb, give me also springs of water.” And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the lower springs.

And the descendants of the Kenite, Moses’ father-in-law, went up with the people of Judah from the city of palms into the wilderness of Judah, which lies in the Negeb near Arad, and they went and settled with the people. And Judah went with Simeon his brother, and they defeated the Canaanites who inhabited Zephath and devoted it to destruction. So the name of the city was called Hormah. Judah also captured Gaza with its territory, and Ashkelon with its territory, and Ekron with its territory. And the LORD was with Judah, and he took possession of the hill country, but he could not drive out the inhabitants of the plain because they had chariots of iron. And Hebron was given to Caleb, as Moses had said. And he drove out from it the three sons of Anak. But the people of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem, so the Jebusites have lived with the people of Benjamin in Jerusalem to this day.

(Judges 1:1–21)

These opening verses are a record of warfare. The heading in the ESV reads, “The Continuing Conquest of Canaan,” which is a good summary of what we find here. If Joshua highlighted the taking of the Promised Land, Judges highlights the possessing of the Promised Land. Joshua shows how Israel, in somewhat blitzkrieg style, subdued initial resistance; Judges is the record of the second wave attack, which secured territory from weakened opponents. At least, that is what should have happened.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We’re are familiar with the theme of judges—that there was no (righteous) king in Israel, but that everyone did whatever was right in his own eyes (17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25)—but these opening verses actually continue the positive record started in the book of Joshua.

Before we consider how these verses point us to divine adequacy, perhaps a word needs to be said about the conquest itself.

A Word about Conquest

There was a time, not too long ago, when Christianity, even if it was rejected, was considered to be a bastion of ethics and morality. That time is quickly passing. With the rise of what is termed new atheism, Christianity has come under attack as brutal and bloodthirsty. New atheists tend to broad brush all religion with the same brush and make little to no distinction between Christianity and radical, militant Islam. To make their case, they often point to the Old Testament. Hear Richard Dawkins:

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

If you don’t recognise the god of whom Dawkins is speaking, you’re not alone!

Daniel Dennett finds fascinating what he calls Yahweh’s “kinglike jealousy and pride, and his great appetite for praise and sacrifices.” Christopher Hitchens described the Canaanite conquest in these terms: The Canaanites were “pitilessly driven out of their homes to make room for the ungrateful and mutinous children of Israel.” He claims that the Old Testament provides “warrant for trafficking in humans, for ethnic cleansing, for slavery, for bride-price, and for indiscriminate massacre.” Gerd Lüdeman considers the Canaanite conquest to be “extremely offensive.”

If we are honest, we will admit that the language used to describe the Canaanite conquest can be troubling. Consider, for example, this instruction from God to his people:

But in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes, but you shall devote them to complete destruction, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, as the LORD your God has commanded, that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against the LORD your God.

(Deuteronomy 20:16–18)

The Old Testament narratives frequently record that Israel utterly destroyed the people against whom they fought—and by divine command. Is such action in any way justifiable? Are the new atheists correct in their estimation of the God of the Old Testament? To ask the question that one writer asked, is God a moral monster? Let’s consider just a few things.

First, the character of the Canaanites must be brought into the equation. Preston Sprinkle quips that, if you were to believe Richard Dawkins’s reconstruction of events, “you would think that [the Canaanites] were innocent peasants living peaceably with one another, when all of a sudden a sociopath named Joshua came in and slew all the women and children.” Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. God describes the Canaanites as “unclean” (Leviticus 18:24–25) and a people whose “customs” he “detested” (Leviticus 20:22–24). The Canaanites were given to “wickedness” (Deuteronomy 9:5), which is described in these terms: “Every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods” (Deuteronomy 12:29–31). In God’s economy of righteousness, they were hardly innocent victims.

Second, God’s judgement was not reactionary. As far back as the time of Abraham, God said that he would give the Canaanites literally centuries to repent of their wickedness (Genesis 15:13–16). This opportunity was by no means unrealistic, for by the time Israel entered Canaan under the leadership of Joshua, the Canaanites were familiar with their God. The Gibeonites reported, “We have heard a report of [the LORD your God], and all that he did in Egypt, and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon the king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth” (Joshua 9:9–10). Rahab likewise bore witness to the fact that the Canaanites were familiar with Israel’s God (Joshua 2:10–11). When she submitted to him, he gladly forgave her and welcomed into the community of his people.

Third, before Israel attacked a city, they were to offer it terms of peace (Deuteronomy 20:10–12ff). Only if the city rejected the offer of peace and retaliated was Israel to subdue it by force. In fact, God’s command, more often than not, was not to slaughter enemies, but to drive them out. Only if they resisted were they to be met with force. God’s concern was that no Canaanite remain in the land. If they opted to leave voluntarily, they were free to do so.

Fourth, we must recognise that the Bible is ancient Middle Eastern literature, and war accounts in the Middle East were often described using hyperbole. For example, Joshua 10:40 explicitly tells us that “Joshua struck the whole land, the hill country and the Negeb and the lowland and the slopes, and all their kings. He left nothing remaining, but devoted to destruction all that breathed, just as the LORD God of Israel commanded.” However, as the record of Joshua and Judges clearly shows, that is hyperbolic language, because there certainly were still living Canaanites. This is like a sports team claiming that they “annihilated” or “wiped the floor with” their opponents. What they mean is that they decisively defeated them in a sporting event, but we understand the hyperbole. That is likely how we should take biblical references of similar language.

With that said, let’s now turn our attention to how this text portrays divine adequacy. It does so in at least two ways.

An Adequate God

First, the text highlights the adequacy of God himself to meet the needs of his people. The opening words of the book are instructive: “After the death of Joshua” (1:1). If we are tempted to read this just as an introduction to the book, we should rethink that approach. Joshua’s death was significant for at least two reasons.

First, Joshua was a leader of unusual calibre. This was a man of whom “Israel stood in awe … just as they had stood in awe of Moses” (Joshua 4:14). Men of Moses-like calibre are not found on every street corner. Even today, Joshua is revered as one of the greatest leaders in Israel’s history.

Second, unlike when Moses died, a successor to Joshua had not been appointed. At least when Moses died, the people knew whom to look to next as God’s representative. No single successor had been appointed for Joshua. This was no fault of Joshua’s, for a single leader was no longer necessary now that the people had possessed the Promised Land, but it still must have been daunting for Israel to lose a man like Joshua and not have a particular figurehead to whom to look to next.

But as you read the rest of the story in these verses, you find Israel making progress. Why? Because, even though Joshua was no longer with them, the Lord was with them. And that was enough. The Lord still communicated with his people (1:1–2) and still gave his people victory (1:3–4ff). The people learned quickly that they were not dependent on Joshua for divine guidance or to secure divine favour. The Lord was all they needed.

We do well to realise that God’s people need God, and God’s presence and favour toward his people is not dependent upon human leaders. Leaders come and go, and when they go they may leave gaps, but the Lord gives his people what they need. We don’t know how the people enquired of the Lord, or how the Lord actually answered them, but it is clear that he did not need Joshua to do so. Nor did he need Joshua to lead his people to military victory.

Israel was tasked to secure a land for the people of God, where they would thrive and learn to worship. The Lord’s presence gave them all the confidence they needed to go about the task obediently. Under the new covenant, God has given to his people (the church) the task of taking the gospel to the world and thereby bringing others to worship him. The confidence that we need to accomplish this task is found in the Great Commission promise of Jesus: “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Ultimately, God’s promise of his presence with us provides all the confidence we need to go about the work to which he has called us.

An Adequate People

But there is a second way in which God displayed his adequacy for his people, and that is by giving them each other. Notice: “The people of Israel enquired of the Lord” (1:1). When the Lord gave direction, “Judah said to Simeon his brother, ‘Come up with me into the territory allotted to me, that we may fight against the Canaanites. And I likewise will go with you into the territory allotted to you.’ So Simeon went with him” (1:3). Israel did not set about the task to which God had called them in a lone ranger fashion but worked together.

One of the ways in which God displays divine adequacy is in the community of his people. Christians are not called to face the world alone, but to do so with the full support of a community of likeminded people. In our day, we call this the church.

As a Christian, you can try to go it alone, to fulfil the task to which God has called you in a lone ranger fashion. But you will find your ability to do what God has called you to do stunted. You will find that God’s promise to be with his people is (primarily) to be with his people, not with individual persons.

At the same time, let us recognise that this was not an individual Christian calling for the aid of another individual Christian (though the principle is the same), but a tribe calling for the help of another tribe. As God does not intend for Christians to go it alone, nor does he intend for Christian churches to go it alone. There is beauty in churches joining hands in the task of the Great Commission. There is great wisdom in churches associating with one another in the task to which God has, collectively, called the church.

Baptists have traditionally held firmly to the autonomy of the local church, and with biblical warrant. But autonomy does not mean isolation. From the earliest times, Baptists have called both for autonomous local churches and for associations of autonomous local churches. Sola 5, of which Brackenhurst Baptist Church is a member, is one such association. The goal of Sola 5 is to enable member churches “to benefit from an unambiguous shared identity, fellowship, prayer, accountability, theological education, mutual support in church planting ventures, coordination of ministry activities, a usable Internet website, and economies of scale in the publishing of sound literature.” More can be accomplished by churches working together than churches working independently of each other.

In fact, this is the very theme of the 2018 annual Sola 5 Conference: “Partnered to Plant.” At the Conference, we will focus intentionally on what it means for autonomous local churches to partner together to plant new churches in areas of need. We must be committed to helping one another in the work of the kingdom.

Churches in association should likewise partner together in prayer for one another. There is a reason that we, as a church, publicly promote one sister Sola 5 church every week for prayer. It is in the spirit of working together that we do so.

As Judah and Simeon joined hands, they moved forward effectively for God’s glory. God gave them victory where they went. Yes, there were setbacks (1:19), but, overall, they marched forward, hand in hand, in obedience to God’s command. And while it was not easy, God gave them a lot of stories to tell (1:5–7, 11–15).

Yahweh’s Accusation

Sadly, the tale is not only one of victory. Defeat—and even disobedience—are mixed into the picture.

The house of Joseph also went up against Bethel, and the LORD was with them. And the house of Joseph scouted out Bethel. (Now the name of the city was formerly Luz.) And the spies saw a man coming out of the city, and they said to him, “Please show us the way into the city, and we will deal kindly with you.” And he showed them the way into the city. And they struck the city with the edge of the sword, but they let the man and all his family go. And the man went to the land of the Hittites and built a city and called its name Luz. That is its name to this day.

Manasseh did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shean and its villages, or Taanach and its villages, or the inhabitants of Dor and its villages, or the inhabitants of Ibleam and its villages, or the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages, for the Canaanites persisted in dwelling in that land. When Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labour, but did not drive them out completely.

And Ephraim did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites lived in Gezer among them.

Zebulun did not drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, or the inhabitants of Nahalol, so the Canaanites lived among them, but became subject to forced labour.

Asher did not drive out the inhabitants of Acco, or the inhabitants of Sidon or of Ahlab or of Achzib or of Helbah or of Aphik or of Rehob, so the Asherites lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land, for they did not drive them out.

Naphtali did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh, or the inhabitants of Beth-anath, so they lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land. Nevertheless, the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh and of Beth-anath became subject to forced labour for them.

The Amorites pressed the people of Dan back into the hill country, for they did not allow them to come down to the plain. The Amorites persisted in dwelling in Mount Heres, in Aijalon, and in Shaalbim, but the hand of the house of Joseph rested heavily on them, and they became subject to forced labour. And the border of the Amorites ran from the ascent of Akrabbim, from Sela and upward.

(Judges 1:22–36)

The fairly positive first part of the chapter quickly turns south in the second part. We have just read of great victories obtained by the people of Judah as they drove inhabitants from the land, but now we begin reading of the half-hearted obedience of Israel.

The record starts out positively enough with a record of Joseph’s obedience (1:22–26)—except, perhaps, for the brief note of Joseph having freed the traitor and his family (1:25). But then we begin running into severely problematic language: “Manasseh did not drive out” (1:27); “Ephraim did not drive out” (1:29); “Zebulun did not drive out” (1:30); “Asher did not drive out” (1:31); and “Naphtali did not drive out” (1:33). In each case, the enemy lived among them, sometimes subject to forced labour. In 1:34–36, Israel’s fortunes are seen to take a turn for the worse as the enemy drives the people back.

Perhaps you wonder what was actually wrong with all of this. After all, Israel was clearly proving its dominance. And that is true—but dominance does not excuse disobedience. Let me explain.

The reason that God commanded the Israelites to drive out the inhabitants of the land had more to do with theology than with strategy. No doubt, the Promised Land was a strategic piece of real estate in the ancient world, but there was far more at stake here than military or economic strategy. The motivation for expelling the Canaanites is clearly spelled out in Exodus 23:31–33: “I will give the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you. You shall make no covenant with them and their gods. They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.” Yes, this divine expulsion would take place in stages (Exodus 23:29–30), but the removal was nevertheless to be complete. When we read, therefore, of Israel seemingly living comfortably with the people of the land, we should read it as a divine accusation.

Don’t miss the fact that Israel’s military prowess is recorded even as her half-hearted obedience is highlighted. She became powerful militarily, but weak in obedience. Her success was not a mark of a life lived in pleasing obedience to God. You can have a life marked in many ways by success and yet be a failure in God’s eyes.

When famed atheistic physicist Stephen Hawking died earlier this year, his body was cremated and his ashes buried at Westminster Abbey. That might strike you as strange, for Westminster Abbey is decidedly a Christian site. How can such a famed atheist be buried at a Christian landmark?

The Very Reverend John R. Hall, Dean of Westminster, who ultimately decides whether or not a person’s ashes can be buried at Westminster, explained that Hawking qualifies not just because of his contributions to science but also by virtue of the inspirational life he lived in the face of huge obstacles. His atheism, says Reverend Hall, did not disqualify him. “Whether he was actually an atheist, whether he was actually an agnostic, what his position was, is not, to my mind, entirely clear. My position is quite simply this: Whether a person believes in God or not, if someone is achieving extraordinary things then I believe God is in that process.” In other words, to Reverend Hall, Hawking’s success in physics was more important than his faith in God.

Of course, that flies completely in the face of biblical theology. We should, by all means, do the best we can to achieve the best results in whatever field we pursue, but this should never come at the expense of obedience to God. It is possible, student, to earn top marks at school or university, yet fail in your devotion to God. It is possible to work hard to provide for your family’s needs and yet to fail to honour God as a spouse or a parent. You can push your children to earn top stripes in international sports and still see them fail miserably to live a life that is pleasing to God. Success must never be pursued at the expense of devotion to God. Indeed, as the Lord himself said to Joshua many years before this time, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:9). It may sound trite, but it is true that success, in any given field, is to find God’s will and to do it.

The greatest model of successful obedience, of course, was Jesus Christ. In his High Priestly prayer, Jesus prayed, “I have glorified you on earth.” How had he done so? “Having accomplished the work that you gave me to do” (John 17:4). Jesus lived a life of complete obedience, always cognisant of what it meant to obey his Father. In terms of gaining a following, Jesus may have looked, by the end of his life, to be a failure. But he was a great success in God’s eyes because he had done precisely what God had called him to do.

Again, there is nothing wrong with pursuing success in studies, sports, or your career, but if it is done at the expense of sustained, authentic devotion to God, you may well have shown yourself mightier than the Canaanites and yet find yourself living comfortably among them.

Yahweh’s Announcement

Yahweh’s accusation against his people led to the announcement in the opening verses of chapter 2.

Now the angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, “I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall break down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done? So now I say, I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.” As soon as the angel of the LORD spoke these words to all the people of Israel, the people lifted up their voices and wept. And they called the name of that place Bochim. And they sacrificed there to the LORD.

(Judges 2:1–5)

As we consider these words, we want to be careful to say no more or less than the text actually says. The Lord appeared to his people and reminded them of his grace to them. He reminded them of his covenant promise, but then highlighted their covenant failure. In light of that failure, he would keep the covenant warnings that he had given. He would not go with them to give them victory. Their disobedience would result in removed blessing. Political and, more importantly, spiritual blessing would be forfeited.

In a sense, God was giving them over to what they wanted. He had warned them that failure to expel the inhabitants of the land would be to their spiritual peril; now he assured them of it: “Their gods shall be a snare to you” (2:3).

The text goes on to reveal the response of the people: weeping and sacrifice. They named the place in memorial of the revelation. And yet, most striking in the text, is the silence that follows. There is no indication that the Lord considered these to be tears of repentance.

When Nineveh heeded the warning of Jonah and repented in dust and ashes, we are told specifically how the Lord responded: “When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it” (Jonah 4:10). At Nineveh, God observed repentance, forgave sin, and withheld punishment. Not so here. There is no indication that God considered this to be true repentance or withheld the judgement that he had pronounced. The silence is startling. The people wept and sacrificed and then—what?

We should probably be careful of pronouncing with absolute certainty that the show of repentance was not genuine, but we should refrain, with equal caution, pronouncing the repentance genuine. The text simply leaves us hanging.

What is important is that we examine our own confession of sin. It is quite possible to confess sin without repenting of it. It is quite possible to shed tears and even perform sacrifice without seeking forgiveness and cleansing. But confession that does not lead to repentance is empty.

You see, in Christ, God calls people to full-orbed repentance. The call that God issued to his people through Joel remains God’s call to us:

“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.

(Joel 2:12–13)

We see an illustration of this in the story of Job. When the Lord confronted Job toward the end of the story, he did so by calling Job to consider his power and authority. In chapter 38–39 of that book, the Lord took Job to the zoo. He pointed him to the majesty of creation and said, in effect, “That’s my doing.” The Lord concluded, “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it” (40:1–2). Job’s response showed his confession of sin: “Then Job answered the LORD and said: ‘Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further’” (40:3–5).

That was a good start, but evidently not enough, because the Lord immediately, in chapters 40–41, launched into second series of questions, confronting Job again with his majesty. This time, Job got it. After the second confrontation, we read,

Then Job answered the LORD and said: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

(Job 42:1–6)

At first, Job confessed his sin and promised to speak no more. But that was not enough. The Lord wanted more than confession; he wanted repentance. And that is what he got from Job in chapter 42.

The Lord is looking for our repentance. He is not looking for us to merely confess that “no one’s perfect,” but to actively confess that we have sinned against a holy God and to seek repentance and forgiveness in Christ. Christ came to offer forgiveness and cleansing, but he gives it only to those who both confess their sin and repent of it. God calls all people everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30). God’s call to you today is, repent and believe the gospel.

Unbeliever, will you confess that you have sinned against a holy God and, confessing, seek his face in repentance? Will you look to the Jesus, who lived a perfect life and died a substitutionary death, for forgiveness and cleansing?

Believer, will you confess that you have sinned this week against God’s law, that you have broken covenant with him? Will you look afresh to Christ for cleansing and forgiveness, clinging in faith to God’s eternal promise: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9)?