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Job replies to Eliphaz in a speech of no great length, which, though it occupies two chapters, runs to only forty-two verses. He begins by justifying the vehemence of his complaints, first, on the ground of the severity of his sufferings (verse 2), and secondly, on the ground of his conviction that, if God would bring him to an open trial before his tribunal, he would acquit him (verses 3-12). By the way, he complains that God hides himself, and cannot be found (verses 3, 8, 9). He then further complains that God is not to be bent from his purpose, which is set against Job (verses 13-17). In Job 24:1-25. he goes over ground already trodden, maintaining the general prosperity of the wicked, and their exemption from any special earthly punishment (Job 24:2-24). He winds up, finally, with a challenge to his opponents to disprove the truth of what he has said (Job 24:25).
Job 23:1, Job 23:2
Then Job answered and said, Even to-day is my complaint bitter; i.e. even to-day, notwithstanding all that has been said by my opponents against my right to complain, I do complain, and as bitterly as ever. And I justify my complaint on the following ground—my stroke is heavier than my groaning. If I complain bitterly, I suffer even more bitterly (comp. Job 6:2).
Oh that I knew where I might find him! This is the cry of the desolate human soul, feeling its need of God, and yet not knowing how to approach him. God seems to be very far removed from us. He is in heaven, and we are on earth; nay, he is in the highest heaven, or outside it, walking on its circumference (Job 22:14). How are we to approach near to him, so near as to be sure that he can hear us? How are we to "find" him? So, in all ages, has the human heart gone out to God, aspiring towards him, seeking after him, but, for the most part, baffled and disappointed. Job, like most other men in the olden times, though he has faith in God, though he serves him and prays to him, has yet the feeling that he is remote, distant, well-nigh inaccessible. It needed revelation to let man know that God is not far off, but very near to each one of us; that "in him we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28). That I might come even to his seat! Job's idea of bridging the distance between himself and God is that he should rise to the region where God is, not that God should condescend to come down to him. He wishes to "come to God's seat"—to that awful throne in the heaven of heavens, where God sitteth, surrounded by his hosts of angels, dealing out justice and judgment to mortal men (comp. Psalms 9:4, Psalms 9:7; Psalms 11:4; Psalms 45:6; Isaiah 6:1).
I would order my cause before him. Job has put away the feelings of shame and diffidence, which were predominant with him when he said, "How should man be just with God? If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand" (Job 9:2, Job 9:3); and again, "How much less shall I answer him, and cheese out my words to reason with him? Whom, though I were righteous, yet would I not answer; but I would make my supplication to my Judge" (Job 9:14, Job 9:15). He now wishes to contend and argue and reason. This is quite in accordance with our experience. Many am the moods of man—various and conflicting his desires! His mind never continues long in one stay. And fill my mouth with arguments (comp. Psalms 38:14, where our translators render the same word by "reproofs," but where "arguments" or "pleadings" would be more appropriate). The LXX. has there ἐλεγμοὶ, and in the present passage ἔλεγχοι. The word is forensic.
I would know the words which he would answer me. It would be a satisfaction to Job in his present mood to know exactly how God would answer him, what reply he would make to his "arguments." The tone of thought is too bold for a creature, and would certainly not be becoming in Christians. And understand what he would say unto me. Here we have another of the redundant second clauses, which merely echo the idea contained in the previous clause.
Will he plead against me with his great power? rather, Would he contend against me in the greatness of his power? (see the Revised Version). That is, "Would he crush me by mere strength and force? Would he use against me that overwhelming might which he possesses? No, Job answers, certainly not; but he would put strength in me; or, rather, but he would give heed to me' he would pay attention to my cause (comp. Job 4:20, ad fin; where the same verb is used).
There the righteous might dispute with him. There, before his high tribunal (Job 23:3), the upright man (ישׁר) might argue or reason with him, appealing from his justice to his mercy—from God the Judge to God the Saviour (Loathes), vindicating his integrity, acknowledging his transgressions, and pleading that they were sins of infirmity-and at last obtaining from God the acquittal anticipated in the second clause of the verse. In the absence of any revelation of an Advocate who will plead our cause before God for us, Job would seem to have been justified in expecting such a liberty of pleading his own cause as he here sets forth. So should I be delivered for ever from my Judge. The "Judge of all the earth" will certainly and necessarily "do right." Job's conscience testifies to his substantial integrity and uprightness. He is, therefore, confident that, if he can once bring his cause to God's cognizance, he will obtain acquittal and deliverance.
Job 23:8, Job 23:9
Here Job returns to the complaint of verse 3. He cannot "find" God. God hides himself. It is in vain that he searches on every side. There is no manifestation, no open vision. Nothing, however, leads him to doubt God's existence, or even his presence where he is unperceived. "Job's conviction of God's absolute presence comes out most strongly when he feels that he cannot discern him" (Cook).
Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; that is, "He is not there to my perceptions." I may believe it, but I have no sensible proof of it, and I cannot demonstrate it. And backward, but I cannot perceive him. In describing locality, the Hebrews, Arabs, and Orientals generally always imagined themselves to be looking eastward, facing the rising sun. Hence the same word is used for" in front," "forwards," and "the east;" for "behind," "backwards," and "the west;" for "the left hand" and "the north;" for "the right hand" and "the south."
On the left hand, where he doth work; literally, in his workshop. There is an ellipse after "workshop" of some phrase like "I look for him." But I cannot behold him; rather, but I apprehend him not—I cannot as it were, lay my hand upon him (LXX; οὐ κάτεσχον). He hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him; literally, and I do not see him.
But he knoweth the way that I take; or, the way that is with me. My inability to find God does not in any way interfere with his perfect knowledge of me. God knows both "the way of the righteous" (Psalms 1:6) "and "the way of the wicked," which" he turns upside down "(Psalms 146:9). He is "about our path, and about our bed, and spieth out all our ways" (Psalms 139:2). When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold; i.e. as gold from the furnace, I shall come forth purified, when my trial is over (comp. Psalms 12:6; Isaiah 1:25; Jeremiah 6:29, Jeremiah 6:30; Jeremiah 9:7, etc.). Job seems at last to have woke up to the conception that there is a purifying power in affliction.
My foot hath held his steps; rather, hath held dose to his steps, or his path; i.e. I have followed in God's way, and kept as close to it as possible. In other words. I have kept his way, and not declined from it.
Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips. Professor Lee rightly observes that this declaration "takes it for granted that, at least, some precepts of God had been revealed before this time". Them were "commandments" which Job recognized as having proceeded from God, and "words" which he looked upon as being the utterances of his mouth. This is strong evidence of a primeval revelation which, if not reduced to writing, had, at any rate, been handed down by tradition to Job's day. Genesis 3:14-19 and Genesis 9:1-7 may afford the true explanation of this difficulty. I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food. This is scarcely strong enough. Job says, "I have treasured up' taken to myself, and preserved the words of his mouth," either "more than my necessary food" or "more than my own law." If the former rendering be preferred, there is no need of explanation; if the latter, we must regard "my own law" as meaning "the law of my own mind, my own will, the will of the natural man" (Cook).
But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? Once more we hear the voice of complaint. The happier tone of thought which extends from Job 23:6 to Job 23:12 grows out of a sanguine hope on Job's part that God will bring him before his tribunal, and judge his cause according to righteousness. Now he bethinks himself that hitherto God, notwithstanding his prayers, has refused to summon him to his judgment-seat, and begins to fear that there is no likelihood of his changing. "He is One," or "in one." With him is "no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1:17). How is it likely that he will act in the future otherwise than he has acts! in the past? What his soul desireth, even that he doeth. A somewhat harsh way of saying that God doeth that which seemeth him best—and which, therefore, is best. Job does not really suppose that God is actuated by caprice or favouritism.
For he performeth the thing that is appointed for me; i.e he will assuredly accomplish whatever he has decreed for me. I cannot expect that he will blench or change. And many such things are with him. He has many other weapons in his armoury, many other woes with which he might afflict me.
Therefore am I troubled at his presence. The thought of these further afflictions troubles me, and makes me shrink from his unseen presence. I know.not how soon he may lay a fresh burden upon me. When I consider, I am afraid of him. When I reflect on the many forms of suffering which I may still have to undergo, my fears increase, I tremble at the future.
For God maketh my heart soft; of faint' as in Leviticus 26:36 and Deuteronomy 20:3. He takes away my courage, and leaves me a prey to terror. And the Almighty troubleth me. The verb used (the hiph. form of בהל) is a very strong one, and means "hath filled me with horror and consternation?
Because I was not cut off before the darkness, neither hath he covered the darkness from my face. Job complains of two things:
(1) That he was not cut off (i.e. removed from earth) before the great darkness fell upon his life (comp. Job 3:11-13).
(2) That he was not "covered,' i.e. sheltered and protected, by the love and care of God when the dark days came.
Job to Eliphaz: 1. The experience of a seeker after God.
I. GREAT SORROW. (Verse 2.) Two wonders.
1. An afflicted man a seeker after God. Designed to recall men to God (Job 36:8, Job 36:9; Isaiah 19:22; Jeremiah 2:27; Hosea 5:15), temporal calamity is not always attended by so blessed a result. Unaccompanied by grace, it tends to harden rather than soften the human heart, to repel rather than attract the soul's confidence and love. Happily, however, in Job's case its natural tendencies were corrected. With greater urgency and vehemence than before, it impelled him to inquire after God (cf. 2Ch 15:4; 2 Chronicles 33:12; Psalms 34:6; Psalms 77:2; Psalms 119:67; Hosea 6:1; Luke 15:18).
2. A seeker after God an afflicted man. Strange that one who sought God so sincerely as Job did should have been subjected to such overwhelming tribulation. Yet the more triumphant waxed Job's faith, the heavier seemed to fall the pressure of his misery. Notwithstanding the lofty declarations of confidence in God which had fallen from his lips (Job 13:15; Job 19:25), his complaint still bade defiance, while Ms hand lay heavy upon his groaning (Delitzsch), refusing to let it go, because, of course, the cause of it was not removed. His physical disease was in no degree abated. The calumniations of his friends were aggravated, not ameliorated. The felt absence of God was become more intolerable than ever. Even the groaning which involuntarily escaped his lips was pronounced rebellion. But saints and seekers after God have no guarantee of exemption from trouble. Rather, trouble is to them as a refining fire. Hence the loftier their piety, the hotter may be made the furnace through which they walk. Nay, their afflictions may so abound, bodily pain, mental distress, spiritual desolation, that they are compelled to "groan, being burdened" (2 Corinthians 5:4); but, like true saints and genuine seekers after God, they will neither complain too bitterly nor groan too heavily, but study to keep their complaint in subjection, and to make their groaning less than their suffering.
II. ARDENT LONGING. (Verse 2.)
1. A seeker after God at a loss to find him. Considering that God desires (Acts 17:27) and commands men to seek him (Isaiah Iv. 6), and promises that they who seek shall find (Matthew 7:7), it would almost seem as if such a thing should be impossible. But Job being witness, and David (Psalms 42:2), even a saint, losing his inward consciousness of God's presence and favour, may be unable to recover either. And if a saint, then. much more a sinner, who has never yet met with God, may find it hard to reach his seat. It is, of course, certain that true seekers will ultimately find. Only the time of finding, for wise and holy purposes, may be delayed; sometimes to try the faith or increase the earnestness of the seeker, sometimes because of sin or wilful defect in the seeker, sometimes to make known to the seeker the unchallengeable sovereignty of God in discovering himself to men.
2. A seeker after God always possessed of certain characteristics; as:
(1) Knowledge. Like Job, he may be ignorant of where God's seat is; but he must know that God is, and has a seat. Like the Greeks who spoke to Andrew and Philip (John 12:21), he may not understand how to reach the Saviour's presence; but he must be aware that a Saviour exists. The first step in seeking God or Christ is illumination. The minimum of knowledge for a seeker after God is more now than in the days of Job. God must be known as revealed in Christ.
(2) Faith. Like Job, he must not simply know that God is and has a seat; he must believe that God is accessible to sinful men (Hebrews 11:6). Besides understanding where to find God, viz. anywhere, in Christ, seated on a throne of grace, we must apprehend the way to that throne to be continually open (2 Corinthians 5:19; Hebrews 4:16; Hebrews 10:22). Faith in this now constitutes an indispensable prerequisite for genuine seeking after God.
(3) Desire. Like Job, and like the Greeks who were anxious to see Jesus, the seeker after God must be in earnest. Those whose longings after God are as intense as were David's (Psalms 63:1; Psalms 42:2) cannot always obtain access to his presence; but it is certain they who have no such warm aspirations will be denied, though they seek.
III. HOLY BOLDNESS. (Verses 4, 5.) The courage of the patriarch arose from three things.
1. Well-arranged thoughts. Coming into God's presence, and commencing to plead before God's throne, he would set forth his words in orderly array. This implied that Job had spent much time in communing with his heart. Thoughts seldom arrange themselves spontaneously or unconsciously, rather their arrangement requires deliberate and sometimes protracted mental effort. Intelligent disposition of the soul's ideas and emotions before pressing forward to heaven's throne is not only demanded by the ineffable majesty of him who sits upon the throne (Job 37:19), but is eminently conducive to the spiritual fortitude of him who as a suppliant approaches the throne. Thoroughly prepared and well-arranged words never fail to impart confidence to a speaker, as inward disorder is almost sure to overwhelm him with outward confusion.
2. Well-constructed arguments. Job meant that he was able to adduce convincing proofs of his integrity. What these were is not stated, but that he alluded to the witness of his past life may be reasonably conjectured. The best evidence of piety is the testimony of the outer walk and conversation (Matthew 7:20; John 15:8; Galatians 5:22; 1 John 3:10). Nor is any sign so assuring to the heart before God as the consciousness of inward sincerity when supported by the argument of outward propriety. And to this the believer may legitimately appeal in his pleadings before God, like St. Peter when he said to the risen Christ, "Lord, thou knowest that I love thee" (John 21:17).
3. Well-assured hope. So confident is Job of having right upon his side, that he fears not to hear the decision of the Judge. In this Job was perhaps a little guilty of pride. The spirit here evinced is that of self-righteousness, rather than of trust in the mercy of God. Still, a child of God might now evince as great a confidence as Job without being open, like him, to the challenge of self-righteousness; might be able to anticipate the Judge's decision without alarm, not because of his own personal integrity, but because of the all-sufficient merit of Jesus Christ (cf. Job 13:18, homiletics).
IV. SUBLIME CONFIDENCE. Of two things Job declares himself satisfied.
1. God's mercy towards him. (Verse 6.) God would not confound him with the fulness of his strength, or terrify him with his majesty (Job 9:34, q.v.), but would mercifully strengthen him to plead his cause, or, according to a more literal translation, would set his heart upon him, i.e. would regard him with affectionate attention, not only giving him a fair hearing, but dispelling his apprehensions, and enabling him to present his case with lucidity and completeness. What Job anticipated, the believer in God is promised. God will not overawe with his majesty any suppliant who comes to his throne; but will regard him with tender love (Proverbs 15:8; Zechariah 13:9; John 4:23); will listen to his cries (2 Chronicles 7:15; Psalms 34:15; Psalms 145:18); will even strengthen him with might by his Spirit in the inner man (Zechariah 12:10; Romans 8:26; Ephesians 2:18).
2. His victory through God. (Verse 7.) The sincerely upright man, having an opportunity to plead before God, would be certain of ultimate triumph over all who should seek to condemn him; and so shall the Christian believer come off victorious, when he stands before God's throne, and be made more than a conqueror through him that loved us (Romans 8:33-39).
1. The first step towards blessedness is taken by man when he becomes a seeker after God.
2. A man may be getting nearer God, though all outward signs appear to proclaim the reverse.
3. The gospel has for ever rendered Job's prayer unnecessary.
4. If a man fails to find God, he must be seeking for him in the wrong quarter or the wrong way.
5. They who come to God's throne in earnest will find mercy to pardon, and grace to help in every time of need.
A great question answered.
I. THE RECORDED QUESTION. "Oh that I knew where I might find him!"
1. Necessary; since man does not naturally understand either where or how to find God (Romans 1:28; 1 Corinthians 1:21; Ephesians 4:18).
2. Important; since only in the finding and knowing God lies the secret of true happiness (Job 22:21) and the pathway to eternal life (John 17:3).
3. Personal; since no man can find God for his neighbour, but every individual for himself alone (Ecclesiastes 11:9; Romans 2:6; Galatians 6:5).
4. Urgent; since the present is the only moment a soul can count upon for putting such a question (Proverbs 27:1; 2 Corinthians 6:2).
II. THE UNWRITTEN ANSWER. God is to be found:
1. In the Person of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:19), as opposed to the temple of nature, which may speak of God (Psalms 19:1; Romans 1:20), but does not unveil his presence like the Incarnation.
2. In the shrine of the human spirit (John 4:23, John 4:24), as opposed to definite localities. For the truly spiritual worshipper every spot of ground on which he stands is consecrated.
3. In the contrite heart (Isaiah 57:15), as opposed to the soul of the unbeliever.
1. The necessity of earnestness in seeking God.
2. The certainty of finding God, if sought in faith.
Job to Eliphaz: 2. A child of light walking in darkness.
I. THE CHILD OF LIGHT. That Job was entitled to be so described will appear from a consideration of:
1. The creed he professed. It is obvious that Job believed in:
(1) The existence of God. He was not one of those fools who in their hearts say, "No God!" (Psalms 14:1). Throughout this, as throughout his previous discourses, the personality of God is assumed, and indeed is frequently referred to without being named.
(2) The providence of God. As little was the patriarch one of those practical atheists to whom he himself had alluded (Job 21:14). Eliphaz insinuated such a charge against the suffering saint whom he pretended to comfort. But Job implicitly repelled the imputation by recognizing that God's presence, if unseen, was still around him, and God's hand, though ever veiled, was always working.
(3) The authority of God. Job recognized that the supreme Lawgiver for man was this invisible but omnipresent and continually working Deity, the commandment of whose lip and the word of whose mouth was the perpetually and universally binding rule of life and obedience, rather than the inward resolves, purposes, determinations of the individual, as is commonly but mistakenly supposed by the natural heart (Job 21:15; Exodus 5:2; Jeremiah 18:12; Luke 19:14).
(4) The omniscience of God. Job believed not simply that God exercised a general superintendence over mundane affairs, but that his inspection of the world embraced a knowledge of particulars. Like Hagar in the wilderness, he could say, "Thou God seest me!" (Genesis 16:13). Like David, he could sing, "I am poor and needy, yet the Lord thinketh upon me" (Psalms 40:17). Like Jeremiah, he could pray, "Lord, thou knowest all their counsel against me" (Jeremiah 23:23). Like Peter, he could protest, "Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee" (John 21:17). Job regarded his whole life as lying continually beneath the eye of God: "He knoweth the way that is with me" So God's eyes are always upon the ways of man (Job 34:21), and in particular of the righteous (Psalms 1:6). It is the part of a good man to walk before God (Genesis 17:1), and to rejoice that he can say, "All my ways are before thee" (Psalms 119:168).
2. The character he maintained. Besides being an intellectual believer in God, Job was:
(1) An earnest seeker after God. Not content with knowing that God's presence filled the universe around him, and that God's hand was constantly working beside him in the mysterious phenomena of nature and providence (Job 9:11), Job desired a visible manifestation of and a personal acquaintance with this unseen Deity. Many believe in God's existence, character, and work who never seek to know God himself, or make the slightest effort to secure his favour. Such a visible manifestation of God as Job craved, and afterwards obtained (Job 38:1-41 :), has been vouchsafed to men in Christ, the Image of the invisible God (2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3), in whom alone, accordingly, God can now be found.
(2) A faithful servant of God. Recognizing his allegiance to God, Job not only used means to acquaint himself with God's will, as all saints should do, but accepted that will as the rule and pattern of his life:
(a) cheerfully, making God's way his way, like the Messianic Sufferer (Psalms 40:7, Psalms 40:8), and like Christ (John 6:38);
(b) perpetually, adhering to God's commandment always. (Psalms 119:44), rendering obedience not alone to precepts which accorded with his inclination, but to every word that proceeded from God s mouth (Psalms 119:88);
(c) firmly, holding fast to God's steps by his foot, resisting all attempts to cause him to decline or turn aside (Psalms 44:18; Psalms 119:88;
(d) appreciatingly, esteeming the words of God's mouth more than his necessary food (Authorized Version), like David (Psalms 19:10; Psalms 119:72), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 15:16), Daniel (Daniel 6:5, Daniel 6:10), Mary (Luke 10:39-42), and New Testament believers generally (1 Peter 2:2); according to another translation,
(e) carefully, treasuring up God's Word in his breast, like the Hebrew psalmist (Psalms 119:11); and
(f) sacrificingly, preferring, Gods commandments to the inclinations, resolves, and purposes of his own heart, when at any time these came into collision, like St. Paul (Romans 7:22);—all which proclaimed Job a genuinely pious man.
II. THE CHILD OF LIGHT IN DARKNESS. The passage exhibits Job in three different situations.
1. Encompassed by the darkness. The darkness alluded to not the cloud of outward pain and distress by which Job was overshadowed, but the inward mental and spiritual obscuration which these occasioned—the horrible eclipse which his faith suffered, the terrible revulsion of unrequited love which his soul experienced. A genuine believer and lover of God, who was conscious in his inmost soul of sincerity, who with admirable fortitude had shunned every evil way, and who with unrelaxing tenacity had adhered to the path of truth and right, preferring on every occasion God's will to his own, he had yet lost all sense of the Divine favour as well as all conscioushess of the Divine presence. Though he earnestly longed to meet and made frantic efforts to obtain an interview with God, it was always in vain. "Behold, I go eastward, but he is not there; and westward, but I perceive him not. Northwards where he worketh, but I behold him not; he turneth aside southwards, and I see him not." Job meant that he looked in all directions for some visible manifestation of God before which he might come and plead his cause. Job's spiritual desolation and fruitless longing after God are not without their counterparts in the experiences of Old Testament saints and New Testament believers (Isaiah 50:10; John 20:14), who sometimes, like David on account of sin (Psalms 30:7), or like Ethan through calamity (Psalms 89:46), or like Mary through bereavement (John 20:14), or like the travellers to Emmaus through spiritual dejection (Luke 24:17), are altogether unable to realize the comfortable shining of God's favour and Christ's love upon their souls. Job's inward condition had its highest exemplification in the soul-desertion of Christ upon the cross.
2. Supported in the darkness. As God did not leave Christ entirely without consolations in the hour of his great sorrow, so neither does he leave any of his people (Isaiah 43:2; Hebrews 13:5). Job was upheld in the gloom by three considerations.
(1) The knowledge of God's presence. He could not see God, but he was perfectly aware that God could see him. Though God seemed far removed, Job knew that he was close at hand—if a veiled presence, yet still a presence. So Christ believed his Father to be nigh though his face was hid. And faith should teach saints to believe in the continual encompassing of God's gracious presence, even when all inward sense of that presence has departed from the soul.
(2) The consciousness of personal integrity. David could not, have enjoyed this when he lost God's favour in consequence of sinning with Bathsheba. It is a terrible aggravation to the soul's distress to know that through personal transgression one has relapsed into the gloom. On the other hand, the calm clear persuasion that one's conduct has been such as not only conscience but God commends, must prove a rock of adamant beneath the fainting spirit.
(3) The discernment of God's purpose in affliction. This seemingly a new discovery to the patriarch. Formerly inclined to view his misfortunes as a token of Divine anger, he now regards them as sent for his trial, as designed to test his spiritual character as fire is employed to assay gold. So God did tempt Abraham ,(Genesis 22:1), and so believers are subjected to manifold temptations for "the trial' of their faith (1 Peter 1:7). That saints are so tried proves them to be saints. This thought, conjoined with the gracious purpose aimed at in affliction, makes it possible for God's people to glory in tribulations (Romans 5:3; 1 Peter 1:6; James 1:12).
3. Emerging from the darkness. Indirectly alluded to, but contemplated as certain.
(1) At what time? "When he hath tried me," when the process of assaying has been completed, but not till then. Trouble and adversity are not removed from a child of God till they have done their work in him (Romans 5:3; Hebrews 12:11) as well as for him (2 Corinthians 4:17). But the great Refiner never keeps a soul in the furnace longer than is needful to accomplish its purification and salvation (Malachi 3:3).
(2) In what manner? "As gold;" i.e. true as gold and shining like gold. Sincere saints are never injured by affliction, as pure gold is never hurt by the refiner's pot. Heat only evinces the genuine quality of precious metal, and the fires of adversity only manifest the saint's integrity of character. Adulterated metal is always harmed by the process of assaying, and untrue disciples are without fail detected in times of persecution and seasons of affliction (Matthew 24:12). But the sufferings of this present life only serve to refine and purify, to burnish and beautify, the faithful disciple and humble believer.
(3) With what result? That he no longer walks in darkness, but in the light of God's countenance, in the enjoyment of his friendship and favour for evermore.
1. It is better to be a child of light walking in darkness than a child of darkness walking in light, i.e. in the sparks of his own kindling.
2. Though God's way is sometimes hid from a saint, the saint's way is never hid from God.
3. It is a special privilege which the good man enjoys that he is never afflicted but with an eye to his improvement.
4. The severest season of trial through which a follower of God may be called to pass is certain to have an end.
5. The sufferings of this present life are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.
6. The only way to happiness for man is the way of God.
7. It is a sure mark of wisdom to prefer God's commandment to the wishes or resolves of self.
Job to Eliphaz: 3. A meditation on the Divine Being.
I. LOFTY THOUGHTS CONCERNING GOD.
1. The unity of the Divine nature. "For he is in one mind;" literally, "for he is in one" (verse 13). The interpretation which regards this as an allusion to the absolute majesty and undivided essence of the Deity, as in the sublime monotheistic confession of Israel (Deuteronomy 6:4), though not accepted by all expositors, is yet pronounced by most to be perfectly admissible. How far Job had attained to a perception of the unique personality of the Godhead, as containing more hypostases (persons) than one, may be a subject of controversial discussion. But an utterance like the present seems to mark off Job by a wide gulf from ancient polytheistic idolaters. Job, his three friends, and doubtless many more besides, were monotheists, who held by the grand doctrine of the unity of Goal, which had descended to them in the line of primitive tradition, and which was subsequently republished to Israel from the summit of Mount Sinai. Nay, such passages as those which speak about a Daysman (Job 10:1-22 :33), a heavenly Witness (Job 16:19-21), and a Kinsman Redeemer (Job 19:25), seem to intimate that Job at least, in his ecstatic moments, had caught a glimpse of the doctrine of a plurality of Persons in the Godhead, just as throughout the Old Testament generally the same doctrine is found lying in embryo, though not fully or distinctly revealed (cf. Genesis 1:1-3; Psalms 2:7; Psalms 33:6; Psalms 110:1).
2. The immutability of the Divine purpose. "But he is in one," i.e. one purpose or determination, e.g. towards Job. Hence adds the patriarch, "Who can turn him?" (verse 13), meaning, nothing could deflect him from his fixed resolution to treat Job as a criminal. Dropping out of view the misconception which gave tone and color to all Job's representations of the Divine Being, the truth which remains, that the supreme God is unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth, and therefore invariable and unalterable in his decrees and purposes, is in accordance not only with the teachings of Scripture (Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Psalms 102:27; Proverbs 19:21; Ecclesiastes 3:14; Malachi 3:6; Acts 15:18), but with the dictates of reason. A Being not absolutely perfect in himself cannot be Divine. But a Being in himself absolutely perfect cannot be affected by anything from without or within so as to render him either less or more perfect than he is. Hence absolutely and in himself he must be" the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever." If upon any of his dispensations towards the creature changes seem to pass, these changes, having been fixed and determined from the beginning, are in no degree inconsistent with his immutability. Whatever further alteration appears to surround his decrees is the result of change or variability in the creature.
3. The irresistibility of the Divine power. "And what his soul desireth, even that he doeth;" literally, "And his soul desireth, and he doeth" (verse 13). Not only does the Supreme Intelligence act in accordance with a plan, but he has power adequate to carry into complete realization every item and detail of that plan. Nay, with such ease does he accomplish his purposes, his resources being unlimited, that he has simply to speak and it is done, to command and it standeth fast (Psalms 33:9), or, as here represented, to form a wish and proceed to execute it (cf. Psalms 115:3; Isaiah 46:10, Isaiah 46:11; Jeremiah 32:17, Jeremiah 32:27; Daniel 4:25; Ephesians 1:11), without apprehension of defeat (Job 9:12; Job 11:10; Job 41:10, Job 41:11; 2 Chronicles 20:6; Isaiah 43:13); or failure (Job 42:2; Genesis 18:14; Luke 1:37; Ephesians 3:20).
4. The particularity of the Divine decrees. "For he performeth the thing that is appointed for me" (verse 14). What the Divine mind had preappointed as Job's portion, the Divine hand was engaged in carrying out. The plan of the universe is one that provides for attention to individuals. Nothing is too vast for infinite wisdom and power to comprehend or execute; nothing too mean and insignificant for the Divine mind to notice, or the Divine hand to govern. The falling of a sparrow equally with the dissolution of an empire has a place in the programme of the world which is prearranged by God. The portion of the feeblest saint on earth is as truly prepared for him as is the place that shall be filled by a nation or a race.
5. The universality of the Divine government. "And many such things are with him." Possibly Job meant that God had many more applications and calamities of a like description wherewith to torture him; but the interpretation is not wrong which understands Job to say that his case was not exceptional, that his sufferings formed part of a great plan in which others besides himself were embraced; that, in fact, the supreme Ruler was exercising over mankind at large the same sort of irresistible sovereignty as over him, Job. And certainly the thought should in some degree mitigate the stroke of affliction when it falls on us, that no strange thing has happened to us, but only such as is common to men (1 Peter 4:12; 1 Peter 5:9).
II. MINGLED FEELINGS TOWARDS GOD.
1. A sense of awe. "Therefore am I troubled at his presence: when I consider, I am afraid of him" (verse 15). If the thought of an all-powerful, irresistibly and universally decreeing God arrayed against Job possessed him with inward fear and confusion, terror and dismay, much more should such emotions fill the minds of men who are as yet in their natural condition. And though in the case of such as have made peace with God there is no occasion for inward trepidation, slavish terror, or paralyzing fear, yet even they must find it difficult to contemplate the Divine character as above depicted without a consciousness of awe, without a feeling of profound veneration. So David remembered God, and was troubled (Psalms 77:3). Christ's followers, however, have no need to be troubled by thoughts of either the Divine character or presence (John 14:1). "Perfect love casteth out fear" (1 John 4:18). And we have received not the spirit of bondage again to fear, but the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, "Abba, Father" (Romans 8:15).
2. A consciousness of weakness. "For God maketh my heart soft" (verse 16), i.e. deprives it of strength, makes it faint and feeble (Deuteronomy 20:3; Isaiah 7:4; Jeremiah 51:46). The effect produced on Job by a contemplation of the Divine character as an all-wise, irresistibly powerful, moral Governor, who worketh all things according to the counsel of his will, is not infrequently experienced by serious minds. Nothing impresses men with a conviction of his feebleness like a vivid realization of the power and wisdom of God as displayed in the material universe (Psalms 8:5, Psalms 8:6); nothing affords a glimpse into his spiritual worthlessness and insufficiency like a luminous presentation before his soul's eye of the moral majesty of God (Isaiah 6:5; Luke 5:8; Revelation 1:17). Indeed, the human heart never either breaks or becomes dejected, discerns its weakness or realizes its insufficiency, until it comes in contact with God, e.g. Moses (Exodus 4:10); Isaiah 6:5; Job (Job 42:6).
3. A feeling of perplexity. As understood by our translators, Job (verse 17) expresses amazement that God had not cat him off "before the darkness" of affliction had come upon him; i.e. either that God had kept him alive solely for the purpose of inflicting on him such mysterious suffering as he then endured (cf. Job 3:10), or that God had not removed him while at the height of prosperity, and in visible enjoyment of the Divine favour. So good people are often puzzled to understand why, in the providence of God, they should have been reserved for this or that particular ca]amity; and why, being what they are, sincere and humble followers of God, they should be treated with as much severity as if they were his foes. But this, of course, results from imperfect knowledge of' the special design and gracious benefits of affliction.
4. A deficiency of faith. Otherwise interpreted, the language of Job (verse 17) asserts that what confounds him is not the external darkness covering his face, surrounding him on every side, and threatening to engulf him but the reward thought that God is against him. And just here Job evinces a lack of genuine trust, or spiritual confidence, in God. Had Job been as honest towards God as he was just towards himself, had he given God as full credit for sincerity as he claimed for himself, he would never have accused God of dealing with him as an enemy, but, rather than impeach God's immutable love towards his faithful followers, would have sought another solution for the mystery of his sufferings. Learn:
1. The proper study of mankind is God.
2. The immutability of God is as full of comfort to God's people as it is of terror to God's adversaries.
3. When God's purposes have been revealed, whether in providence or in grace, they should not be resisted, but received with meekness and submission.
4. Only one Being in the universe, viz. God, can do what his soul desireth; every other is dependent upon God's will.
5. No man can be truly said to be the architect of his own future, since every man's lot is assigned him by God.
6. When a saint is afraid of God's presence, he has either taller into sin, like Adam (Genesis 3:10) and like David (Psalms 30:7), or has misconstrued the character of that appearance, like the apostles (John 6:19).
7. The breaking or the bruising of a sinner's heart is a work for which only God is competent.
8. There are worse calamities than death to a good man; e.g. the loss, or supposed loss, of the Divine favour.
9. Whatever befalls a child of God on earth, he should never part with faith in his heavenly Father's love.
The unchanging God.
"He is in one mind" with regard to—
I. THE PLAN OF THE UNIVERSE.
1. There is such a plan. "Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world" (Acts 15:18; Ephesians 1:11).
2. This plan is so perfect that it never requires subsequent modification (Job 36:4; Job 37:16; Psalms 104:24; Proverbs 3:19; Isaiah 40:13).
3. This plan is efficiently carried out in its minutest detail (Numbers 11:23; 2 Chronicles 20:6; Job 42:2; Psalms 33:9; Isaiah 14:24).
II. THE SIN OF MAN.
1. That it is an abomination in his sight (Deuteronomy 25:16; Psalms 5:4; Proverbs 15:9; Jeremiah 44:4; Zechariah 8:17; Luke 16:15).
2. That it is infinitely dangerous to man (Numbers 16:38; Deuteronomy 29:18; Job 5:2; Proverbs 1:31; Ephesians 5:6).
III. THE SCHEME OF SALVATION. "There is none other Name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). From the Fall downwards, the gospel of the grace of God has been substantially the same-salvation.
1. In antediluvian times, through faith in the woman's Seed (Genesis 3:15; Genesis 4:4).
2. In patriarchal times, through faith in Abraham's promised Child (Genesis 12:3; Genesis 15:6).
3. In Mosaic times, through faith in the sacrificial Lamb, of which the Levitical offerings were the shadows and the types (Hebrews 9:8-10; Hebrews 10:3).
4. In the times of the monarchy, through faith in David's Son (2 Samuel 7:15).
5. In the times of Isaiah, through faith in the suffering Servant of Jehovah (Isaiah 53:1).
6. In the fulness of the times, through faith in him who was the woman's Seed, Abraham's Descendant, David's Son, the suffering Servant of Jehovah, and the world's Paschal Lamb, all in one.
IV. THE PURPOSE OF AFFLICTION. Ever since God's mercy came to this fallen world, and that was immediately upon Adam's transgression, the design aimed at in life's discipline has been not to punish man, but to convert and save, to purify and perfect him (Genesis 3:23; Deuteronomy 8:5; Job 5:17; Psalms 94:12; Ezekiel 20:37; John 15:2; Acts 14:22; Rom 5:3; 1 Corinthians 11:32; Hebrews 12:7).
V. THE DESTINY OF HIS PEOPLE. Though not as clearly understood or revealed in pre-Christian times as now under the gospel dispensation, it was still the same "better country, even an heavenly," to which saints in all ages have looked forward, Cf. Abraham (Hebrews 11:10), David (Psalms 17:15), Paul (Philippians 1:23; 2 Timothy 4:8).
Conclusion. "Who can turn him?"
1. Consolation to the saint.
2. Condemnation to the wicked.
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
Struggles of faith with doubt.
To this long and severe accusation of Eliphaz the sufferer returns no reply. He comes back to the wish he has already expressed more than once, that God will appear as Witness and Judge of his innocence, and so put an end to this long embroilment (see Job 9:1-35. and 13.). He is distressed by the doubt that God has withdrawn himself from him, and left him to drain the cup of suffering to the dregs. And, again, many examples occur to him of wicked men who lived in happiness to a good old age, even to death; and he dwells on these pictures with a kind of pleasure, thinking to establish his position: the incomprehensibility of the Divine government.—J.
Longing for the appearance of the delivering and justifying God.
I. EXCLAMATION. (Job 23:2-5.) So bitter is his complaint, "his hand is heavy upon his groaning," i.e. he must force groan after groan out of himself. Oh that he knew where to find the judgment-seat of God, and that he might have the opportunity of pleading his cause! (Job 23:3-5). He possesses still "faith and a good conscience," those best jewels of a Christian (1 Timothy 1:5), and can think of appearing before God, not with terror, but with confidence. "Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence with God" (1 John 3:21).
II. DOUBT (Job 23:6-9) of the possibility of this intervention of God on his behalf. He timidly thinks of the overwhelming effect of God's majesty upon him (comp. Job 9:34; Job 13:21). But here, relying on the consciousness of innocence, he casts the doubt away. "Would he contend with me in his omnipotence? No; he would only attend to me" (Job 23:6). It would be seen that it is a righteous man who enters into judgment with him, and Job would escape his Judge (verse 7). But then this cheerful expectation is checked by the thought that God is nowhere to be found—neither east nor west, north nor south (verses 8, 9), although present in all quarters (Psalms 139:8-10). Without the definite revelation of the gospel, we may readily lose ourselves in a vague and aimless pantheism. God is everywhere, yet nowhere; present in all things for the intellect, found in none by the heart. It is the doctrine of the Mediator, of the Man Christ Jesus, which resolves this contradiction. God must meet us in the form of man, otherwise he is but an abstraction.
III. REASON OF GOD'S WITHDRAWAL. (Verses 10-13.) According to Job, this is, that although God knows his innocence, he will not depart from his resolve not to be found of him. Verses 10-12 contain strong assertions of his innocence. God knows Job's wonted way or manner of life; and, if proved, he would come out like gold from the furnace. His foot has kept firmly to God's step, God's way he has observed, and has not turned aside, nor departed from the commandment of his lips. "More than my own law I kept the words of his mouth," i.e. more than the dictates of pleasure or self-will (verse 12). "But he remains one, and who will turn him" from his design (comp. Psalms 33:9; Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29)?
IV. AWE AND HUMILITY IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD. (Verses 14-17.) God will fulfil Job's destiny, like that of many others (verse 14). The thought of this unfathomable counsel of God through which Job must suffer fills him with fearfulness and amazement (verse 15). It is God himself, not the mere sufferings, who has unnerved Job and overthrown him (verse 16). It is not the darkness of his trouble (Job 22:11) nor his own hideous form (Job 19:13-15) which have stupefied him. No, it is God alone who is the cause of this stupor, who is behind these sufferings with his incomprehensible counsels.
Here, again, we see how deep is faith in the heart of Job, how inextinguishable the longing and the need for communion with God, which is life to him, and more than life l He can bear pain, he can dispense, if need be, with human sympathy; but he cannot bear the absence of God! As the plant in the cellar, so the faithful soul ever turns and struggles towards the light; and the only Light of the soul is God!—J.
HOMILIES BY R. GREEN
The true support under deferred judgment.
In the bitterness of his complaint and the heaviness of his stroke, Job makes known his desire to appeal directly to God. In the impossibility of this his faith is more and more severely tested; but he reposes in an assurance that the Divine eye is upon him, and he is confident of a just and even merciful sentence. So does conscious integrity uphold the tried and suffering believer, over whom for the present the shadows of suspicion gather, although the sufferer is tried by deferred judgment.
I. THE DEMAND FOR A PATIENT HEARING. Only the consciously upright would desire to plead with his judge. The self-accused tries to hide from the keen eye of detection and exposure; but he who knows himself to be unjustly accused may well desire to appear before a righteous tribunal. It is a high testimony to Job's character that he makes demand to be tried by One who cannot err (verses 3-7). But his longing is not allayed. A further test is applied to his character. For the present, at least, judgment is denied him.
II. JUDGMENT WITHHELD, A FURTHER TRIAL. To the unjustly condemned no severer testing could be given than the withholding of the desired judgment. Job's hope is in God; but God is hidden. If he attempts to "go forward," behold "he is not there." If "backward," he "cannot perceive him." Turning to the right hand or to the left, it is the same. God, his Friend, is hidden. His only refuge is closed. How severely is faith tried and patience put to the proof by the hiding of God! The struggle is a spiritual one. The soul is cast upon the unseen. It is thrown back upon its integrity and upon its power to wait. It is the supreme test of faith. It precedes the dawn of the day of vindication, of judgment and deliverance. It is a further weight upon the already tried heart of the patriarch. To an afflicted spirit is added a suffering body, and for the present the cruel accusations of would-be friends, who mistake the discipline of God for his judgment against sin.
III. IT IS HERE THAT JOB'S FAITH IN THE DIVINE JUSTICE SHINES OUT WITH CLEARNESS. He knows God would not take advantage of his "great power" to plead that against him or to crush him with it. Nay, rather he would "put strength" in the poor suppliant. He would compassionate the oppressed, and concede to him. So Job comforts himself in the quiet repose upon the justice of the Divine decisions. The fruits of early obedience and faith are now gathered. He who sows in his own heart the seeds of Divine truth in earlier days, prepares for himself a harvest of consolation in the days of trial and adversity. Job is proving the blessedness of the man whose ways please the Lord.
IV. ALL THIS IS BASED UPON JOB'S CONSCIOUSNESS OF PERSONAL INTEGRITY. With confidence he rebuts the accusations of his accusing friends. He rejoices in the assurance of the Divine cognizance of his doings: "He knoweth the way that I take." Happy the man who can appeal with confidence to the searching of the Divine eye! Job may have had cause sufficient to be abased before God, but he is conscious of innocence of the charges preferred by his friends. Thus is falsely accused innocence sustained when its judgment is deferred. And Job appears a bright example of the comfort derived in affliction from faith in God and consciousness of untarnished integrity.—R.G.
The humbled and overwhelmed sufferer.
The position of Job is one of confusion and unexplained mystery. He is in the hands of the Almighty. His punishment, as some affirm it to be, is very heavy. It at times seems to be greater than he can bear. Yet he is uncondemned within. He holds fast to his integrity. Like his friends, he interprets sufferings into punishments for sin. Yet he is not conscious of sin, certainly not of sin to such a degree as to merit such heavy judgment. He is confounded. He can but yield. He believes in the Divine justice, although his faith in it is tried by the conflicting convictions of his mind and his inability to interpret the Divine ways. That his own righteousness will shine out ultimately he is persuaded. "When he hath tried me, "shall come forth as gold." In the mean while he is overpowered. The struggle is severe; the strain upon his faith is very great. It is the uninterpreted mystery, the apparent confliction of the Divine dealings, that bows Job to the earth. He is troubled at the Divine presence; when he thinks of God he is afraid, and his heart is dejected. This picture of the humbled, overwhelmed servant of God holding fast his faith in the consciousness of integrity, declares the true causes of the support which Job experienced in his overwhelming afflictions to be
(1) a consciousness of integrity;
(2) faith in the Divine Name;
(3) patient anticipation of final vindication.
I. Without THE ASSURANCE OF PERSONAL INTEGRITY Job could not be free from the sorrows which come of condemnation. The testimony of conscience to the wrongness and disobedience of life is the keenest and most penetrative of afflictions. It reaches to the very core of the spirit. The utmost sensibility of the soul is aroused. No outward calm can allay this inner agitation. But if there is peace within; if the soul is not at war with itself; if there is the inestimable consciousness of personal freedom from condemnation, the soul may writhe in its pain, but it is upheld by the assurance that the affliction comes not weighted with the burden of retribution.
II. It is through this freedom from self-reproach and self-condemnation alone that TRUE FAITH IN GOD can be sustained. Job may be overwhelmed at the thought of God, but he lacks not faith in him; and them is no sense of buried wrong weakening his trust, or impairing the comfort that comes from a belief in the deep, if hidden, Divine approval.
III. And it is this which supports him in THE HOPE OF A FINAL VINDICATION The unjustly condemned may wait. Trouble may overshadow him, he may be heavily burdened, his heart may quake and fear, but he knows he shall at last rise superior to all aspersions of evil-doing. Herein lies the secret of a sustaining peace in the midst of the severest of earth's trials; this is the true ground of hope, this the encouragement to sustaining faith.—R.G.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
The bitter complaint.
Job's comforters have failed. Their many words have not lightened his troubles. On the contrary, they have aggravated them. To external disaster has been added cruel misunderstanding and false accusation. Of all this Job naturally complains most bitterly. Many troubles are softened with time. It is not so with his. The same melancholy despondency, the same cry of agony, the same grievous complaining, are still with him.
I. IT IS NATURAL TO GIVE EXPRESSION TO GRIEF. In the East this is done with great demonstration, and even ostentation. Any extravagance is foolish; self-restraint is certainly more manly than a wild abandonment to sorrow. Yet it is neither necessary nor desirable to suppress all signs of feeling. God, who has made the fountain of tears, cannot require it to be always sealed. There is a relief in the natural expression of sorrow. To hide it in the bosom is to injure the soul. Extreme reserve and self-restraint may lead to insanity. We are more likely to think unjust thoughts of God when we brood over our wrongs in secret than when we venture to give an external expression to them.
II. THE GREATEST GRIEF EXCEEDS EXPRESSION. Job feels that this is the case with his sorrow. Bitter as his complaint is, his stroke is heavier than his groaning. We are tempted to exaggerate the smaller troubles of life; but we cannot find adequate expression for the greater ones. They who have never suffered from those troubles cannot understand how keenly they are felt. It is, therefore, unjust to judge of the complaining spirit of other men, as the three friends did of Job's. On the other hand, inexpressible grief is perfectly understood by God. It is no drawback to his sympathy that men cannot give full expression to their feelings, because he reads the heart.
III. THE BITTER COMPLAINT OF GRIEF SHOULD LEAD TO PRAYER. This is the case with Job; and after one brief utterance of his burdened soul, the suffering man turns at once to God (see verse 2). Then he must do more than give expression to grief. While God listens patiently to the complaints of his suffering children, it is not a worthy thing on their part only to burden him with those complaints. Submission, obedience, and trust should have a part in the utterance to God.
IV. NO HUMAN GRIEF CAN EQUAL THAT OF CHRIST'S SORROWS. Job's sufferings seemed to be unique. But they were fearfully surpassed by what Christ endured. To know that some one has suffered more is not to lighten the present sufferer's load. On the contrary, this fact only makes the world look the darker and the more miserable. But there are characteristics of Christ's sufferings that should help other sufferers. He shows us how to bear suffering. More than that, his suffering brings healing to others. "With his stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5). Thus the sufferer may look for saving deliverance from his own trouble to the Christ who suffered for him.—W.F.A.
The search for God.
I. ITS SOURCE. Job is prompted to seek God by his terrible troubles. The false accusations make him the more anxious to find the just Judge, who can clear up the dreadful misunderstandings and vindicate his injured cause. Thus the innocent man in trouble needs God. Still more does the guilty man; for no one can deliver from sin but he against whom one has sinned. Although it is most evident that many who thus need God are not actively seeking for him, yet, even if held back by fear or distracted by worldliness, all men have somewhere in the depths of their hearts the instinct of hunger for God. We need God, and we can have no rest till we find him.
II. ITS HOPE. Job believes that, if only he can find God and come to his seat, justice will be done, and right will be apparent; for Job is only thinking of vindication. No doubt that result will follow. But others also enter into the great human hope for God. If he were only to vindicate the righteous, the great multitude of men could hope for little from him. But the great Judge who does this is the compassionate Father, who has pity on his children's needs apart from their deserts. Thus the hope turns to the mercy of God for deliverance and blessing. Still, it is not wise to separate these two forms of the hope. God can only bless by leading us to righteousness; and it is really for our good that he is just. We need God not only that he may judge the righteous cause, but also that he may make the sinner righteous.
III. ITS DIFFICULTY. Job expresses a deep, heartfelt desire with great anxiety. He has not yet found God. Others have been in the same condition—longing for God, yet finding him not. Where is the difficulty?
1. God is a Spirit. If we try to find God by earthly means we must fail. He is not hidden among the mountains or above the clouds. He is simply invisible by nature. We must look for him in spiritual ways.
2. We are sinful. Nothing so blinds us to God as sin. This first of all banishes us to a great distance from God, and then makes darkness about our way back.
3. Life is often perplexing and sorrowful. Job had lost the vision of God in his sorrow, rather than through sin. So had Christ on the cross when he cried, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Great grief seems to blot out the heavens and leave us in desolation.
IV. ITS REWARD. Job did find God at last (Job 42:5). God has promised that they who seek him earnestly shall find him (Proverbs 8:17), and Christ that if men seek they shall find (Matthew 7:7).
1. God reveals himself to faith. We believe in order that we may see, trust in order that we may know. This is true of all knowledge of persons.
2. God is seen in Christ. Philip expressed the soul's desire for God when he said, "Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us;" and then Christ declared where the revelation of God was to be seen: "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father" (John 14:8, John 14:9).
3. The full vision of God is dependent on purity of heart. Some know]edge of God can be had without this; but we cannot see him as he is till we are like him (Matthew 5:8).—W.F.A.
Job 23:8, Job 23:9
The unseen God.
Job enlarges on the idea of his search for God and the efforts that he has vainly made to find him. God is still invisible; searching has not found him.
I. THE PHYSICAL IMPOSSIBILITY OF SEEING GOD. There is more to be said for modern agnosticism than for eighteenth-century deism. Pure rationalism will not find God. Physical science cannot discover him. The animal is dissected, the metal is melted in the crucible, but the analysis reveals not Divinity. We sweep the heavens with the telescope, and can see no Deity enthroned above the stars. But we are very foolish if we expect to find God in any of these ways. He is neither seen by the bodily eye nor discovered by the scientific faculty. Science, indeed, points to causation, and reveals order and thought; but she does not say how these things came to be. Natural theology prepares the way for the revelation of God; or, if it may be said that it is a revelation of God, still this comes only in such a large and confusing idea that we cannot find in it what we need—the revelation of our Father in heaven.
II. THE MORAL DIFFICULTY OF SEEING GOD. Job's search was not in regions of science. He looked abroad on the great world, and he probed into the deep musings of his own heart, but not as a philosopher seeking for a scientific explanation of the universe. It was his deep distress that drove him to God. He missed God in life, in the providential control of human affairs. It is not always easy to see God in this strangely confused human world, where so many things go wrong, and where so little seems to be done to keep them right. In his perplexity and distress man cries out, "Where is God? If there is indeed a God, why does he not declare himself? why does he not put forth his hand and rectify the world that so greatly needs him?" Whatever may be the theoretical scepticism that gathers round problems of science and philosophy, the moral doubt that springs from the experience of injustice and misery is much more keenly felt.
III. THE SPIRITUAL CAPACITY TO SEE GOD. We cannot find him by means of our philosophy; we miss him in the dark struggles of man's world of action and suffering. But why? Because we are looking for him in wrong directions. The true vision of God is only to be seen by means of spiritual fellowship with him. Meanwhile, although this is hard to obtain, we may console ourselves with the know]edge that if he does indeed exist, his being does not become shadowy and unreal just because we do not see him. It is desirable that we should have a more intimate acquaintance with our Father, but even before we have attained to this, even while we are blundering and stumbling in the darkness, God is truly existing, and is ruling over all. Our ignorance does not limit God's being, our blindness does not cripple his activity. We cannot see him; we find it hard to trace his purposes among the tangled threads of life; all looks dark and aimless. Yet God is God, and therefore he will not desert his creatures.
"God's in his heaven,
All's right with the world."
God's knowledge and man's discipline.
I. GOD'S KNOWLEDGE.
1. The fact. Job has just been owning his difficulty in finding God. He searches in all directions, forward and backward, on the left hand and on the right, and he cannot discover God (verses 8, 9). But although it is so hard for him to attain to a knowledge of God, he is quite certain that God knows him. We are known by God before we think of acknowledging him, and when we are bewildered with the mystery of life all is clear and open to God.
2. Its scope. God knows the way that his servants take.
(1) Past experiences. He knows what we have had to contend with, and why our lives have been vexed and tried.
(2) Present circumstances. At the very moment when we have some new difficulty to face, some new height to climb, or some new snare to avoid, God is with us, perfectly understanding the whole situation.
(3) Future scenes. One step is enough for us, because God knows all that lies before us. Although our way may seem to be leading to impossible regions, he who sees the end from the beginning can lead us through.
3. Its consequences. If God knows our way, we have not to travel, like Columbus, over untried seas. The whole route has been mapped out by God. We cannot be lost if he who knows our way is our Guide. Gordon's favourite passage from Browning shows the right spirit of one who trusts this truth—
"I go to prove my soul.
I see my way as birds their trackless way.
I shall arrive! What time, what circuit first,
I ask not; but unless God send his hail
Or blinding fireballs, sleet or stifling snow,
In some time, his good time, I shall arrive.
He guides me, and the bird. In his good time."
II. MAN'S DISCIPLINE. Job is now confident that when God has tried him he will come forth as gold.
1. Its source. The suffering man holds to the idea that his trouble comes from God. All along he has not perceived Satan's share in it. Therefore his faith is the more remarkable. He is right to some extent, because his trouble is only what God permits. God may not be the direct agent of a person's affliction. This may come from the cruelty of men or from other undetected causes. Yet it is all within the restraint of God.
2. Its process. Job perceives that he is being tried by God. This is the first time that he has given evidence of holding such an ides. Hitherto he has been simply dismayed and distressed at the problem of suffering. He has had no theory to oppose to his friends' orthodox notion that it is the merited punishment of sin. That that notion was wrong, experience and observation have made him see quite clearly. But hitherto he has not been able to supply an alternative idea. Now there dawns on him a perception of the disciplinary purpose of suffering. The husbandman purges the vine-branch because it is fruitful (John 15:2). The father chastises his son because he loves him (Hebrews 12:6). God tries his servant, not to punish him, but because he values him.
3. Its aim. That the sufferer may come forth as gold. Job will have his innocence vindicated. A deeper result than vindication, however, is the perfecting of the soul through suffering. The fire not only tests, it refines.
4. Its success. The end aimed at will be attained. The assurance of this lies in the previous thought of God's knowledge. He does not need to assay the soul in order to discover for himself whether it is of true gold. He knows the worth of his servants. He adapts their discipline to their requirements. It seems disproportionate, but it is suitable; for God knows the way of his people; therefore he will bring them forth as gold.—W.F.A.
Job 23:11, Job 23:12
A faithful life.
I. ITS COURSE.
1. A course of conduct. Job speaks of his foot holding, etc. He is reviewing his actions. It would have been of little use for him to have vindicated his creed and his sentiments if his conduct had been faithless. The most important question is as to how a man lives, not as to what he thinks or how he feels.
2. A continuous course. It is a way, and Job has had to keep to it, A momentary spasm of virtue will not satisfy the requirements of the Divine Law. To achieve a single heroic deed that makes the world ring with one's fame, and then sink into idle apathy, is not the way to earn the commendation, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"
3. A Divine course. It is easy to persist in one's own way. The difficulty is to leave that and to accept and follow faithfully in God's way. Yet he has marked out the course of service for every one of his people, and the plain duty is to find it and follow it.
4. An arduous course. It is not easy to keep to God's steps. The way is narrow (Matthew 7:13, Matthew 7:14). Many temptations urge us to forsake it for flowery paths or for the broad road. The Christian life is a course of self-denial. The path leads uphill. Even while we only think of standing still we are really slipping back It is a mistake to suppose that the Christian life is necessarily a growth and a progress. There is danger of worse than stagnation, of declension and decay. We may have done well in the past, and yet have been hindered later on in life. To be true Christians we must be ever watchful, earnest, active in pressing forward along God's way.
II. ITS INSPIRATION. How is it possible to be faithful, keeping continuously to God's way?
1. My the guidance of revelation. Job has been following God's commandments. We cannot follow God's way without the aid of light from heaven. Instinct and conscience are our natural guides; but instinct is blind, and conscience has been in some cases perverted. Therefore God has given us "the more sure word of prophecy." God's Word is a lamp to the feet of his people. This is its chief object. Difficulties are felt as to certain questions about the Bible, e.g. how to reconcile Genesis with geology, how to settle the relation of the Law to the prophets, how to harmonize the gospel narratives. But these questions do not touch the main purpose of the Bible, which is to be a guide to conduct. The righteousness of the ten commandments, the blessedness of the sermon on the mount, and, above all, the glory of Christ, still shine from the sacred page as beacon-lights undimmed by the clouds of controversy that gather about quite secondary points.
2. In the power of affection. Job has set a supreme value on the words of God's mouth. Their truth and goodness and beauty won the heart of the author of the hundred and nineteenth psalm. We have still greater attractions in the New Testament. Christ, the living Word of God, draws men to himself by his love and by his sacrifice of himself, so that when he is known and loved faithfulness becomes possible for his sake. Christians are called to walk, not only in the steps which God has marked out for them, but in those which Christ has trodden, which he has made sacred by his own presence.—W.F.A.
The inflexibility of God.
I. THE INFLEXIBILITY OF GOD IS ESSENTIAL TO HIS NATURE. He has not the reasons for changing that we have.
1. He knows all things. Men decide from partial knowledge, and then fuller information leads them to change their minds. But God knows everything from the first.
2. He is strong. Men are persuaded against their better judgment, or they weakly yield to temptation. But God is perfect in will and character. He cannot be urged to do what he knows is not the absolutely best.
3. He is good. It is well that men can and do change, for much of the past course of the world's history is wrong, and the only hope for man is in his mending his ways. But God has been faultless from the first; there is nothing for him to repent of.
II. THE INFLEXIBILITY OF GOD IS A WARNING AGAINST MAN'S PRESUMPTION. The danger is in judging God by man's changeable standards. Thus people come to think that he will not really perform what he threatens. They trust to the influence of time in melting away the Divine purposes against sin; or they rely on their own urgency in attempting to persuade God not to accomplish his will; or they imagine that in some way they shall be able to elude the grasp of his Law. All these courses show a foolish misapprehension of the firmness and strength of God. They are false because he is true.
III. THE INFLEXIBILITY OF GOD IS AN ENCOURAGEMENT FOR FAITH.
1. In his Law. He has revealed his will, and we may be sure that he will keep to it. He is not like a fickle despot, whose shifting moods baffle the watchfulness of the most subservient courtier. When we once know his will, we may rely upon it that this is permanent.
2. In his promises. God has revealed himself in gracious purposes. These purposes he will never abandon. The ingratitude of man does not destroy the good will of God. A weaker being would be worn out with the constant rebellion and the utter unworthiness of his children. But God is infinitely patient. In spite of the world's folly and sin, he holds inflexibly to his purpose of saving and redeeming it. It cannot be that of all the Divine attributes mercy only is fragile and transitory; that while God's truth and justice remain, this one characteristic may be broken down, and may vanish away. On the contrary, it is explicitly revealed to us over and over again that "the mercy of the Lord endureth for ever."
IV. THE INFLEXIBILITY OF GOD IS NOT INCONSISTENT WITH HIS VARYING TREATMENT OF US. He has no rigid, uniform method of action. He adapts his treatment of us to our conduct and our need. His inflexibility is in his character, not in details of action. The very fact that he is changeless in himself leads to the result that he acts differently under different circumstances. We are governed not by an iron law, but by a faithful God.
1. In answer to prayer. God is not changed or bent by our prayer. But he sees fit to do, in response to our confidence in him, what he would not think well to do without it.
2. In the redemption of the world. This is a new action. The gospel declares a fresh Divine movement. But all of it springs from the eternal purposes of God; and all of it is in accordance with his changeless character of love and righteousness.—W.F.A.
Job 23:15, Job 23:16
Troubled at the presence of God.
I. THIS IS NATURAL IN GREAT DISTRESS. The soul is plunged into grief; like Jacob, the desponding sufferer exclaims, "All these things are against me" (Genesis 42:36). Then he comes to regard God as the Source of his misfortunes. God seems to be his Enemy, and any approach of God is regarded with apprehension, as bringing fresh trouble. We have to learn not to form our judgment of God in our darker moments. It is difficult to have any well-balanced opinion when we are plunged in deep distress. While the knife is in him it is possible that the patient may think the surgeon rough, cruel, even malignant. But he is not then in a fit state for forming an opinion.
II. THIS IS RIGHT IN THE GUILT OF SIN. The wonder is that people sin with so little reflection as to how God regards them, and that they are often quite ready to meet him without a thought of their great guilt. Thus it is said of a bad man's end, that "he died like a lamb"! As though his dull and senseless departure from this life were any guarantee of his spiritual state. But when conscience is roused, it shrinks from the searching gaze of God. Blind eyes may be turned to the sun, at which seeing eyes cannot glance without pain. It is not only that God can punish sin. There is a sense of shame in the thought that One so good and holy should ever see it. Then it is all a direct offence against him. When the sinner meets God, he encounters One whom he has grievously wronged. Lastly, as God is our Father, there is an especial ground of trouble in his rebellious children meeting him.
III. THIS MAY BE OVERCOME BY A BETTER ACQUAINTANCE WITH GOD. The fear should not be perpetual. Something is wrong, or it would not have arisen, and that which caused the fear can and ought to be removed. It is not well that any man should continue to live in a chill fear of God. In the New Testament God is so revealed that all terror of him may be dissipated.
1. As our Father. If we thought him hard and stern, we were unjust. Christ has revealed his true nature in his Fatherhood. Therefore the idea that God's presence is itself terrible comes from ignorance. Following the light of Christ, we discover that God is the home of our souls, and that no place is so safe, or so peaceful and happy, as where his presence is felt.
2. As our Redeemer. The just fear that arises from sin cannot be rightly expelled until the cause of it is removed. As God must be angry with sin, it would only be a dangerous deception that covered up and hid the thought of his wrath. But God himself has provided the best, the only right way of dispelling the fear of his presence by giving us a remedy for sin. Now, as it is he who sends the remedy, we have to know his intentions in order that we may no longer live in fear of him. The very fact that Christ was sent from heaven to save the world from sin shows how terrible the evil was; but it also shows how deep and strong the love of God must be—deeper than his wrath, outlasting his chastisements.—W.F.A.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Job 23". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13