The Book of Job - "Searchlights from the Word" by G. Campbell Morgan.
Job ... was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.
That is the description of the man whose tremendous experiences are recorded in this most wonderful Book. In the next five verses we have an account of his circumstances before the days of these experiences commenced. They constituted the accidentals. In these words we have the essentials. These are the things of the man himself, the things of his character. It is difficult to imagine any higher praise. Two words tell the result, while two phrases reveal the secret. He was "perfect and upright": and that because he "feared God and turned away from evil." To recognize this at the outset, and never to forget it throughout the following consideration, is of vital importance. It will save us from the mistake of thinking at any point of those experiences as having their explanation in the man himself. Not for himself did he suffer. His pains were not penalties for wrong-doing: they were not even chastisements for correction. The soul of this perfect and upright man was a battleground between heaven and hell. A subtle and sinister lie of evil was met and silenced through his experiences. For a long period neither he nor his friends understood the deepest meaning of it all. We, however, are immediately admitted to the secret by the story of these first two chapters, with their account of the questions of Satan and the answers of God. We see Job in these chapters bereft of all the things Satan said were necessary to his loyalty. We shall see him passing through great mental strain in the darkness. We shall see him emerge vindicating faith, and giving the lie to Satan. Thus we are taught that experiences through which loyal souls pass may have their explanation in some far-reaching purpose of God: and that suffering may be an honour conferred. In God's great tomorrow we shall have strange and glad surprises.
None spake a word unto him; for they saw that his grief was very great.
This statement gives the true sanction for the use of the word friends, to describe these men. By this time in the narrative we have seen this man Job stripped of all the things of privilege on the level of earthly possession. His property, his children, his health, and the comradeship of his wife in his faith were gone. He sat in appalling loneliness and desolation, and there was no gleam of interpreting light. He did not know of any reason for his sufferings. In that dark hour, all the acquaintances who had sunned themselves in his prosperity were conspicuous by their absence. But no, there were three men, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, and later a fourth, Elihu, who, hearing of his evil case, came to see him. They consulted together, and they came. His condition touched them to the depths. They desired to comfort him. When they saw him, so changed was he that they knew him not. Then their grief found expression in tears. And then came the supreme evidence of friendship. For seven days they sat with him in silence. That is of the very essence of friendship. Let it be remembered to their credit through all the study. They never spoke until he did. All they said was in answer to his first outpouring of grief, an outpouring made possible by their sublime and sympathetic silence. Their true friendship persisted through all the process. Their mistake was that of trying to find a solution. It was born of their satisfaction with their philosophy, the whole of which was true, but which was not all the truth. Nevertheless, their mistakes were the outcome of their friend-ship. It is impossible to think this through, without realizing how often the sympathy of a great silence is a far more blessed thing than any speech can be.
After this opened Job his mouth, and cursed his day.
This chapter records the first great out-pouring of complaint on the part of Job, and, as we have said, the opportunity for it was unquestionably created by the silent sympathy of his friends. That it is a terrible outcry, will not be denied. Taken as a whole, it was a cry for escape, rather than a description of his sorrows. These were patent, self-evident, even to the onlooking friends, although they could not possibly fathom all the terrors through which he had passed, or those in the midst of which he was then living. Escape seemed the only desirable thing. There was no suggestion of seeking escape through death by his own act. But he had come to hate life. Therefore he cursed the day of his birth, and the night of his conception: he lamented that he had been preserved for such days as these: he celebrated the blessing of death through which men escape the sorrows of life. At this point we are tempted to begin our criticism. We say none has any right to curse the day of his birth, or to lament the fact of his life. That is a cold argument - logical, and perhaps even true. But before we say a word, let us honestly place ourselves in similar circumstances. And at once let us say, and remember it throughout, that no word of God rebuked him. Moreover, let us gather the real value of this story, as it reveals to us the fact that there is relief in pouring out all the heart feels in moments of darkness. Such outpouring is a far more healthy thing for the soul than dark and silent brooding. Or to endeavour to remember the whole fact. Here was a man who through suffering which had no explanation to himself, was co-operating with God. The very agonies here expressed were part of that suffering co-operation. What a revelation this is of the greatness of man.
He putteth no trust in His servants! And His angels He chargeth with folly.
These words occur in the course of the first address of Eliphaz. In considering every one of these addresses of the friends of Job, we shall have to distinguish between the truths they uttered, and their failure to bring any help to Job. They were wonderful men, wonderful, that is, in the remarkable light and understanding they possessed. I question whether any exception can be taken to anything they said. But there were so many things they did not know. They did not know the philosophy which would include the experiences of Job. Their persistent mistake was that of attempting to explain everything by their knowledge, which, spacious as it was, was altogether too narrow. Take these particular words. How true they are. So great is God, and so great the universe over which He reigns, that it is impossible for Him finally to trust in any other than Himself. In the ultimate, knowledge, even that of angels, is folly. It is all true, and reveals a very remarkable apprehension of truth on the part of Eliphaz. But what bearing had such a statement on the case of Job? None whatever. Eliphaz thought it had, because his deduction was that such a God punishes evil. He was right so far. But when he concluded that all suffering was punishment, he was wrong. Of suffering as a way of working in the activity of God, and a way of co-operation on the part of man, he never dreamed. Yet that was going on before his eyes. His own statement was a rebuke, had he but known it. Even then God was charging him with folly.
Happy is the man whom God correcteth: Therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty.
Eliphaz is still speaking. We first note the inapplicability of these words to Job. God was not correcting him: the experiences through which he was passing were not of the nature of chastening. All his sufferings were produced by Satan, and permitted by God.. In this permission God was honouring a man "perfect and upright," and who "feared God and eschewed evil," by admitting him to partnership in operations which at last would give the lie to evil, and indicate the greatness of the human soul. Recognizing that, we may then ponder the splendid truth which Eliphaz uttered in these words. God does correct man for wrong-doing: He does chasten His sons when by any disobedience they cease to be perfect and upright. When those who are His, depart from His fear, and compromise with evil, then by afflictions, pains, sorrows, He corrects, chastens, and so restores them. Happy indeed is the man who is the object of this severe, and yet gracious Divine solicitude and activity. The wisdom of such a man consists ever in submission to the chastisement. At the time it is never joyous but grievous: but afterwards it worketh the peaceable fruits of righteousness. God's eyes in great love are ever set upon that "afterward." What unutterable folly, if in such a case, we despise the chastening: that is, if we fail to yield ourselves to its intentions. To do so, is to prevent the peace toward which it is proceeding.. Far better know the troubling that comes from God today, than the disaster of the troubles which come from our own waywardness and wickedness, unchecked by correction and chastisement.
Oh, that I might have my request; And that God would grant me the thing that I long for.
The speech of Eliphaz added immeasurably to the anguish of Job. His friend misunderstood, and read the worst into the situation, attributing his sufferings to some sin in his life. Job knew that the deduction from his friend's philosophy was unjust. Even though he himself did not understand his sufferings, he knew that this solution was false. His anguish became anger, as the whole tone of this reply reveals. And what wonder? Can there be any experience of the soul more trying than that of having sin imputed by friends, when there is an inner consciousness of innocence? Tortured, by the injustice, these burning words escaped him: and those which follow give us the request. He desired that God would crush him - cut him off. We listen to him in profound sympathy, and yet, having all the story, we know how dire a disaster it would have been for him if that request had been granted. The disaster would not have consisted so much in the fact of his cutting off, as that thereby he would have been removed from the high privilege of co-operation with God. What wonderful light there is in all this for us! There is nothing wrong in giving expression even to such a desire as this, when in the fierceness of some fiery furnace of suffering we honestly feel it. But when the answer does not come, when instead of the release of cutting off, we have the continuity of pain, and a great silence, then let us remember this story: and remain confident that there is some explanation, and that when it comes, we shall thank God that He did not give us our request.
If I have sinned, what do I unto Thee, O Thou Watcher of men?
After the more direct and angry reply to Eliphaz, the speech of Job continued in a bitter complaint against the stress and misery of life generally. The toil of life is strenuous indeed. It is a warfare. Man is a hireling, a servant whose labour issues in nothing, and whose rest is disturbed in tossing. Nothing is satisfying, for nothing is lasting. Job piled figure on figure to emphasize this: a weaver's shuttle, the wind, the glance of an eye, the vanishing cloud. There is absolutely no ray of hope in this outlook on life. Because of it, he uttered his complaint, not only concerning life, but directly against God. It was a definite and determined complaint: "I will not refrain ... I will speak ... I will complain." But most carefully note it took the interrogatory form from beginning to end. These questions clearly show us how Job saw God in those days, and we know that it was a blurred vision which he beheld. But this very method of asking questions shows also that he was not satisfied with his own vision. If that be God - as though he had said - then why is He such? Every question was a great question, as any careful consideration of them will show. Moreover, there was, and is, a great answer to everyone; and had it been possible to have given those answers to Job, they would have amazed him, as they amaze us with the amazement that leads to worship. Take this particular one. Its simple meaning was that God is so great that even if a man did sin, it cannot affect Him. The answer is that this was an altogether too small a thought of God: the truth being that God is so great that He is affected, wounded, robbed by human sin. Job was, like his friends, hindered by a philosophy too narrow.
The hope of the godless man shall perish.
Bildad was a man of different mould to Eliphaz. His speech was characterized by greater directness. By comparison it lacked in courtesy, but it gained in force, and perhaps in clarity. In his address we discover the same philosophy as in that of Eliphaz. God is just, and prospers the righteous, and punishes the evil. No direct charge was made against Job, but the deduction was inevitable. Again we have to say Bildad was quite right in his statements of truth, And quite wrong in his intended deductions so far as Job was concerned. Recognizing this failure, we may consider the truth thus stated: "The hope of the godless man shall perish." Is there anything more perpetually demonstrated in human experience? Hope, as expectation with desire, plays a tremendous part in human life. It is the continuous inspiration of activity, whether good or evil. The output of life's energy is almost invariably the answer to desire coupled with expectation. Nevertheless, it is a patent fact that human life and experience are full of instances of perished hopes. The expected does not happen, the desire is not satisfied. It is true indeed that men are saved by hope: but it is equally true that men are lost by hope. How are we to account for this? Everything depends upon the nature of the hope. The sentence preceding this in the speech of Bildad explains this one: "So are the paths of all that forget God." It is the hope of the godless which perishes, and by it men are lost. Hope set on God is always realized, and by it men are saved.
There is no daysman betwixt us, That might lay his hand upon us both
Two chapters are now occupied with Job's reply to Bildad. Carefully notice the opening of it. He first admitted the truth of the general proposition - "Of a truth I know that it is so": and then propounded the great question, which he proceeded to discuss - "How can man be just with God?" We must clearly understand that this question, as Job asked it, was not an expression of guilt, but of littleness and ignorance. He did not mean, "How can a man be made just before God," 'but rather, "How can a man prove that he is just before God." In a passage of great power he described the greatness of God. He is infinite, invisible, invincible. Therefore it is useless for a man to attempt to be just with Him. Therefore his position is hopeless. His days sweep by him devoid of good. Then there broke from this man this deep cry, giving expression to the profoundest need of the human soul: "There is no umpire betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both." That is what man needs in a profounder sense than Job intended, that, namely, of a justification which includes pardon and cleansing. That is what man needs also in Job's sense, that, namely, of a way of access to God by man, and of access to man by God, so that there may be consciousness and intelligent fellowship. Necessarily our thoughts travel in adoring worship to Him Who is the Umpire: the One Who lays His hand upon us and upon God: Who intercedes with God for us, and with us for God. Through Him we have access into the grace wherein we stand: for we are justified by faith in Him.
Let me alone, that I may take comfort a little.
Notwithstanding the fact that Job felt that it was impossible for a man to argue with God, yet, because there was no umpire, he made his appeal to God. Turning from his answer to Bildad, he poured out his agony in the presence of the Most High. The appeal was by no means a hopeful one, but it was an appeal made directly to God. After complaining of his sufferings, attributing them all to the action of God, and asking if God really delighted in what He was doing, or if His vision was faulty, Job bluntly asked God to let him alone, that he might have a respite from suffering before he died. It is a terrible revelation of suffering, and of the tempest-tossed condition of soul into which such suffering brought this man. As we read it we feel that the suggestions which Job made about God were entirely wrong: but we remember that they were not wicked, because they were honest. Again also we remind ourselves that throughout the Book there is not a hint of Divine displeasure with Job. Job did not, could not, understand: and all his anguish was part of the co-operation with God, to which he was called. We know the whole story, and therefore it is for us to learn the deepest lessons, and so again we remind ourselves that such prayers as these - perfectly honest, and not rebuked - are nevertheless answered in the highest sense, by not being granted. In that fair morn of moms that is to break, in which we shall have explanation of life's experiences, our profoundest gratitude to our Father will find expression in the thanks we give Him for His refusal to grant some of our sincerest requests. If respite means cessation of co-operation with God, better never find it.
Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?
The method of Zophar was blunter than that of Eliphaz or Bildad. His words were fewer, and there was a roughness and directness about him that they lacked. His philosophy was the same. He argued from the suffering of Job that he must be guilty of sin. The special burden of his message was due to the fact that he felt that Job had affirmed the wisdom of God, and yet had called it in question: and in a passage of really great beauty he reaffirmed it, and insisted upon it that this God of infinite wisdom knew man perfectly. The thing he argued was indeed true, and because it was true, his deductions were false. God knew His servant Job, and all the meaning of his pain, as neither Job nor his friends knew it. We may turn then from Zophar's false deduction to his true statement. No man can by searching find out God: no man can find out the Almighty unto perfection - not even Zophar, nor Job. The application is twofold, first to those who are in such case as that of Job, and secondly to those who stand and watch as did Zophar. Let those who suffer remember that God may have reasons, which for today are not discoverable to them, for permitting their continued pain. That is the last refuge of the afflicted, but it is a safe and quiet place. Let those who watch, cease attempting to explain, lest they be found to misrepresent God in their attempted vindications of Him, even more than does the sufferer in all his outpourings of inquiring agony.
In Whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.
Job's last reply in this first cycle of discussion was not only an answer to Zophar - it was his refusal to admit the accuracy of the general argument found in all the three addresses of his friends. From beginning to end it thrilled with sarcasm, while it maintained his denial of personal guilt. This chapter is occupied with his more direct dealing with these men. In its first movement we discover Job's sarcastic contempt for their wisdom: and in the second we find his declaration of his clear understanding of all they had said about God, and more. The particular words which we have emphasized show us something of his underlying faith and conviction about God. He recognized that all life is sustained by God - that of the living creatures beneath man in the scale of being, as well as that of man. This is a tremendous conception. It means that nothing ever escapes from the rule of God. In itself, it fills the soul with a sense of awe, and in some senses with helplessness. There is no comfort in it, until we learn the character of God. Job knew this only in part: and therefore, while he recognized the fact, it brought him no consolation. The truth thus emphasized needs to be perpetually remembered. Such recognition will save us from active rebellion. To realize the power of God must be to realize that our wisdom is found in His fear. When we know - as it is given us in the Son of God to know - the facts as to His character, the truth becomes our one consolation in all circumstances of difficulty. The most important question we can ask about God is not "What can He do?", but "Who is He?" That is answered only in Christ.
Will ye respect his person? Will ye contend for God?
The emphasis in these questions of Job must be laid upon the character of his friends as he understood it. He was about (as he declared, verse 3), to make his appeal to God directly. Before doing so, he addressed himself to them again in terms of anger. His contempt for them knew no bounds. He described them as "forgers of lies," "physicians of no value"; and proceeded to turn their judgment back upon themselves. They had been speaking unrighteously for God. There is great force in the conception contained in this protest. Whether it was a perfectly fair view of what these friends of his had been doing may be open to question. Personally I think it was. The idea is that men may argue in defence of God upon false lines, through limited knowledge. That is exactly what these men had been doing. The result was that they were unjust to Job. They did not know it: they did not intend that it should be so. But it was so, and that proves their inability to defend God: for He is never vindicated by any argument which involves injustice to any human being. The more carefully we ponder this story, the more does the conviction possess the mind that silence is more befitting in the presence of many problems which are presented to us by the experiences of others. To sit in silent sympathy by the side of those who suffer is always helpful. To affirm to them the fact that God is wise and can make no mistake is always safe. To attempt to explain the suffering, and that by our philosophy of God, may be to lead us into injustice to the sufferer, and to misrepresentation of God. While Job's knowledge of God was imperfect, it was profounder than that of his friends.
If a man die, shall he live again?
Let these words be carefully considered in their setting. The end of this reply of Job to the first cycle in the discussions with his friends consisted of a direct appeal to God. In the course of that appeal he dwelt on the fact that man's life is transitory and full of trouble. Moroever, it ended in the darkness and mystery of death? "Man giveth up the ghost, and where is he?" There is hope for a tree that it will bud again, but there is none for a man. This dark assertion seems to have awakened in the mind of Job a wondering hope, and this found expression in these words: "If a man die, shall he live again?" That the question had in it the element of hope is proved by the declaration which Job made directly he had asked it, as he said that if that were so, he could endure all the days of the conflict. It was only a gleam: and was almost immediately over-whelmed in the darkness of his despair, as the next sentences show. But it was a gleam, shining up out of the deepest things in a human soul. Here we touch one of the supreme values of this wonderful Book. As we observe all the experiences through which this man passed, we discover that the human spirit is of such a nature that ever and anon, even in the midst of the most appalling darkness, it expresses its highest capacities by the questions which it asks. It was a tremendous question: but let us remind ourselves that there is no answer to it, save that which came to men through Jesus Christ and His Gospel. As Paul said, it is He 'Who brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel" (2 Timothy 1:10). The question of Job was answered by Jesus, and that so completely as to leave no room for doubt.
They conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity, and their belly prepareth deceit.
With this chapter we begin the second cycle of discussion between Job and his friends. It is to be noted that the philosophy of these men was the same as in the first, but the method was changed. In the first cycle that philosophy was stated in general terms, and declared that God punishes the wicked and rewards the good, the inevitable deduction being that Job's suffering was the outcome of his wickedness. Eliphaz in this address emphasized one part of that philosophy, that, namely, which declared that God punishes the wicked. It was all true, but it was not all the truth: and so it was not applicable to Job. Apart from its unsuitability to his case, this address of Eliphaz constitutes a magnificent description of the unutterable folly of the man who sins against God. These words consist of a figurative summary of the discourse. The word "iniquity" in the Revised, reads "vanity" in the King James Version. My own view is that both have missed the idea. The Hebrew word 'Aven', strictly means "nothingness," which would be expressed by vanity; but it was constantly employed to express the idea of affliction. So indeed it is rendered by the Revisers and King James translators in chapter 5:6. This is the thought in its aplication to Job by Eliphaz. All his affliction was the result of his evil or mischievous thinking. Of Job it was not true. The truth yet abides, that to conceive mischief is always to bring forth affliction.
Even now, behold, my witness is in heaven, and He that voucheth for me is on high.
Job's answer to the speech of Eliphaz practically ignored its argument. He first manifested his impatience with these men. Their philosophy was not new. They were "miserable comforters." He was annoyed at their pertinacity. What moved Eliphaz to answer? - he enquired. While the darkness was still about him, and in some senses the agony of his soul was deepening, yet it is impossible to read this address without realizing that through the terrible stress he was at least groping after light. In the midst of his complaining he said: "Mine adversary sharpeneth his eyes upon me"; and again: "God delivereth me to the ungodly." That leads on to the words we have emphasized. In view of the revelation given to us in the opening chapters of the book, these things might suggest that Job was coming to a measure of understanding of the process through which he was passing, if he did not know the reason of it. The word "adversary" is not the same as that rendered "Satan," but it indicates an enemy. The statement that God delivered him to the ungodly is suggestive. Be that as it may, in the midst of all this travail of soul, his faith triumphed over his doubt. He believed that God knew the truth about him, and would be his witness. Upon that affirmation of faith he prayed that God would maintain his right with God, and with his neighbour. This is another instance of the light breaking forth, if only for a moment, from his deepest life. If the gleam were but momentary, it yet demonstrates the fact that the light had not been utterly put out. We may employ these words with greater confidence, for the Umpire has come to us, and has now gone to appear in the presence of God for us.
Where then is my hope? And as for my hope, who shall see it?
The light faded immediately, and Job passed again into thick darkness. He was in the midst of difficulties. Mockers were about him: none understood him. There was no "wise man." Yet he struggled through the darkness towards God's vindication. Again he thinks of death, but in it sees no brightness. That is the meaning of these questions. They must be read in close connection with the thrice-repeated "If" of verses 13 and 14. If he has been looking for release in death, that means also the abandonment of hope. This is a great unveiling of a mental mood. The idea that a man can live again if he die, was here for the moment forgotten or refused. Yet the spirit of the man was in rebellion against so hopeless an outlook. I repeat that in the movement of this great answer, it does seem as though some outlines of the truth were breaking upon him. He was conscious of the action of God in his sorrows; of an adversary who followed him relentlessly, and tore him pitilessly. Somehow that adversary was at one with God, and yet he knew that God was his witness. At least we see light in these complainings, and we can well imagine how in the after-days he would come to recognize how these strivings of the soul, these passionate desires and out-cries for Divine defence, were gleam§ in the darkness. It is not to be wondered at that this great Book, although it gives no solution of the problem of pain, has ministered comfort and strength to countless distressed souls, as it mirrors their own experiences, and moves on to an end in which the troubled soul is led to rest, even without explanation.
Surely such are the dwellings of the unrighteous, and this is the place of him that knoweth not God.
Bildad now resumed the discussion, and as in the case of Eliphaz it is evident from his opening rebuke that he spoke under the sense of annoyance. He was wounded at what he conceived to be the wrong Job had done him and his friends, in that he had treated them as "beasts," and as "unclean." He was angry, moreover, because he considered that Job's attitude threatened the moral order with violence. Turning from the mistaken application of his view to Job, to the things he said, they constitute a powerful statement of the issues of wickedness. These words formed the closing summary, and for interpretation we need the whole of his speech on the subject. He had first declared the preliminary experience of the wicked. His light is "put out." It is a graphic portrayal. In the case of the wicked his own spirit, "the spark of his fire," does not shine and the light without is extinguished. Therefore, his steps are straitened, and "his own counsel" destroys him. His pathway without light to death is described. Lacking the light, he falls into all sorts of snares and traps. Following his death he becomes extinct, so far as earth is concerned; "his remembrance perishes"; he is "chased out of the world"; he leaves behind him no children who enter into his inheritance. This is a tremendously powerful delineation of the way of wickedness. Again we have to say - all true, and therefore to be taken to heart; but not all the truth, and therefore of no meaning in the case of Job.
Know now that God hath subverted me in my cause, and hath compassed me with His net.
The answer of Job to Bildad by comparison with his previous answers, is brief, but it touches the deepest note in despair so far, and presently for a moment gives utterance to the most splendid note of hope. What Bildad had said of the wicked was true of him. He was indeed abandoned by men, his kinsfolk, familiar friends, his maids, his servants, his wife, even young children. In his case this was not due to wickedness, but to some unexplained action of God. It is very questionable whether the word "subverted" in this verge is an improvement on the "over-thrown" of the King James Version. The Hebrew word death is a primitive root meaning "to wrest." It is not necessary to believe that Job was charging God with injustice. He was attributing all his affliction to His action, and that gave him his greatest pain, because no explanation of the reason of the Divine action was forthcoming. It was out of this deep darkness that words passed his lips most full of light. He affirmed his conviction that his Vindicator lived, and that at last he would see Him, and that as standing on his side - for that is the meaning of the words: "Whom I shall see on my side." The full value of what he said was not known to Job; but again we have a revelation of the greatness of the human spirit, which out of circumstances of deepest darkness catches some gleam of the essential light. This is poetry. That does not mean that it is untrue, a baseless dream; but rather that it is an apprehension of a truth, which at the moment defies any attempt at demonstration or detailed definition.
This is the portion of a wicked man from God, and the heritage appointed unto him by God.
Zophar replied in evident haste, and his speech was introduced with an apology for that haste, and a confession that he was angry. These closing words were in the nature of a summary of all he had been saying. The sufferings he had described were such as fell to the wicked, and that by Divine appointment. All this was true. But other things were true, of which he seemed to have no knowledge. It was true that the same sufferings came at times to men who were not wicked, and that they were not by Divine appointment, but by Divine permission. That was the story of Job. The narrowness of Zophar's philosophy made him unjust to Job. Leaving, then, the false application, and considering only the truth in itself, we have in this address a wonderful description of the nemesis of wickedness. In a passage thrilling with passion Zophar described the instability of evil gains. There is a triumph, but it is short. There is a mounting up, but it is followed by swift vanishing. There is a sense of youth, but it bends to dust. There is a sweetness, but it becomes remorse; a swallowing down, which issues in vomiting; a getting, without rejoicing. The final nemesis of the wicked is that God turns upon him, and pursues him with instruments of judgment. Darkness enwraps him. His sin is set in the light of the heavens, and earth turns against him. Let the history of wickedness be considered, whether in the individual or in nations, and it will be seen how true all this is. Godlessness is folly, for it never brings man what he seeks.
How then comfort ye me in vain, seeing in your answers there remaineth only falsehood?
At the close of the second cycle of discussion, as at the close of the first, Job answered, not merely the last speaker, Zophar, but the argument of the three friends. These closing words sum up his arguments as to the breakdown of these men. They had tried to comfort him, but in vain, and that because when applied to him, their truth had nothing in it but falsehood. All they had said was true, but it was not all the truth, even concerning the wicked, for in many cases, for the time being at any rate, the wicked continue in prosperity. It is impossible to read this answer of Job without realizing that, like his friends, he was limited in his outlook, and so failed to interpret accurately the facts of life. All he said was true, but it was not all the truth. If in his friends' arguments there was no comfort for him, it is equally true that in his answers he brought no conviction to them. All this is strangely suggestive. Men discussing human life are almost certain to blunder when they attempt to explain it. There are things of which the mind of man is not cognizant, qualities which elude him, facts and forces of which he is ignorant and, therefore, however sincere and truthful he may be, he cannot find the solution of many actual experiences. Two follies are revealed. The first is that of indulging in the condemnation of any soul on the ground of what we know, for there may be many things we do not know. The other is that of attempting to answer false condemnations by our own philosophies, for they may be as faulty as those of our fallible judges. There are hours in which we should be silent, in assurance that what we do not understand, is known to God. In such silence we may wait for Him.
Acquaint now thyself with Him, and be at peace; thereby good shall come unto thee.
With this chapter the third cycle in the controversy between Job and his friends begins, and Eliphaz is again the first speaker. In his address there are two movements. In the first he made a definite charge against Job, as he declared the sins which, according to his philosophy, would naturally account for the sufferings which he was enduring. They were the most dastardly sins possible to a man of wealth and position: those of the spoliation of the poor, the neglect of the starving, the oppression of the helpless. In this charge Eliphaz made his supreme mistake. The second movement of his address consisted of his appeal to Job. Realizing its inapplicability to Job, by reason of the falseness of the charges made, when we consider it in itself it is full of strength and beauty. What man needs in order to be blessed himself, and to be a blessing to others, is knowledge of God. The whole matter is first stated in these opening words. Continuing, Eliphaz set forth the conditions of such acquaintance with God. The law is to be received from God. There is to be return by the putting away of unrighteousness. Human treasure is to be abandoned as worthless. Then the way of the Divine answer is described. Instead of the lost treasure, shall be the possession of the Almighty. In Him there shall be delight: with Him communion: and through Him triumph. Moreover the result shall be ability to deliver others. Great and wonderful words are these. Had Eliphaz applied them to himself he would have found that his own imperfect acquaintance with God was the reason why he was not able to bring any real comfort to his suffering friend.
But He knoweth the way that I take; When He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.
In replying to Eliphaz directly Job ignored the charges preferred against him. To them he returned in a later speech. He discussed Eliphaz's criticism of his view of God as absent from the affairs of men, and boldly affirmed his consciousness of the great problem. In answer to the advice to acquaint himself with God, he exclaimed, "Oh that I knew where I might find Him!" .He sighed after God, and principally for His judgment seat. He desired to stand before Him, to plead his cause, but he could not find Him, though he went forward or backward. He was conscious of His presence, but he could not see Him on the right hand, nor on the left. Then it was, that suddenly, in the midst of this bitter complaining, there flamed out a most remarkable evidence of the tenacity of his faith. He declared his conviction that God knew the way he was taking. He even affirmed his confidence that it was God Who was trying him, and that presently he would come forth from the process as gold. Again he insisted upon it that he had been loyal to God. Then immediately this faith merged into words of trembling and fear. Whatever God was doing, he could not persuade Him to desist! He knew His presence, but it troubled him. He was afraid of Him, because He had not appeared to deliver him. Notwithstanding these words of fear, the confession of faith was great, greater in its apprehension of truth than even Job understood. God did know; and through all the processes was moving toward the vindication of the true gold in this man. This is the persistent power of faith. It reaches out towards, and grasps great truths, which reason unaided never discovers.
Why are times not laid up by the Almighty? and why do not they that know Him see His days?
In the first part of his reply Job had spoken of his consciousness of the problem of God's apparent withdrawal from human affairs as it applied to himself. Now he proceeded to speak of it in its wider application to the world at large. He asked the reason of God's non-interference in these words; and then went on to describe the evidences of it. Men still existed whose whole activity was that of oppression. In other words Job declared that the things with which Eliphaz had charged him were present in the world; and he described them far more graphically than Eliphaz had done, ending with the declaration: "Yet God regardeth not the folly." Continuing, he said that the murderer, the adulterer, the robber, all continued their evil courses with impunity. He admitted that it was true that they pass and die, but for the moment they were in security. He ended all by challenging anyone to deny the truth of what he had said as to God's absence, or at least of His non-interference with the ways of wickedness. Here again we see Job breaking down, not in integrity or sincerity or honesty, but in his attempt to formulate a philosophy on the basis of the appearances of the hour. The truth is that times are laid up by the Almighty; that He does impute wickedness to men for folly. God is neither absent from human affairs, nor does He fail to interfere. There are often hours in which it seems as though God were doing nothing. Such seeming is ever false. Faith holds to that certainty, and waits the issue with confidence.
Dominion and fear are with Him; He maketh peace in His high places.
The brevity of this speech of Bildad is in itself suggestive, as it shows that even though Job has not convinced these friends of his that their philosophy does not include his case, he has succeeded in silencing them. Bildad showed that he was not prepared to discuss the general truth which Job had enunciated, but he had no sympathy with the personal application which Job had made of that truth. The same thing was true of Job. He did not quarrel with the general statements of his friends, but protested vehemently against their deductions as to himself. The whole discussion is a revealing one. Men are heard arguing within the limits of imperfect knowledge, and so never arriving at true conclusions. Once more we have to say that, so far as it went in positive statement, this last address of the three friends of Job has nothing in it to which exception can be taken. How true are these opening words, affirming the absolute sovereignty of God, and declaring the effect of the exercise thereof to be peace! This conviction is the very foundation of strength and confidence in human life. To act upon it, as well as to accept it theoretically, is to be silent in the presence of many things which we cannot explain. These men had a correct theory of God in so far as it went, but they did not act in complete harmony with it, or they would not have said much which they did say about His servant Job.
Lo, these are but the outskirts of His ways: and how small a whisper do we hear of Him! But the thunder of His power who can understand? - Job 26:14
In this chapter we have Job's answer to Bildad. It is characterized from first to last by scorn for the man who had no more to say. In a series of fierce exclamations he revealed the importance of all his friend had said to help him in any way. Then, in order to show the poverty of Bildad's argument, he spoke of the power of God in such way as to prove that he knew that power even more perfectly than his friends. God's power is exercised in the underworld. They that are deceased tremble. Sheol "is naked," Abaddon has "no covering." The whole material fabric is upheld by His power. The mysteries of controlled waters, and light, and darkness are within the sphere of His government. The sweeping of the storm, and its disappearance, are both the result of His power and His spirit. Having thus in remarkable poetic beauty revealed his consciousness of the greatness and government of God, he ended with these words, declaring that all these things "are but the outskirts of His ways, only "a whisper," of Him, and asked: "The thunder of His power who can understand?" In all this we have a further evidence of the greatness of this man's faith, in its revelation of the remarkable apprehension of the greatness of God. The outskirts of God's ways are so wonderful, that the central facts must indeed be beyond our grasp; the whisper of God is so marvellous, that the full thunder of His speech must be beyond our comprehension. And so we are constrained to worship.
As God liveth, Who hath taken away my right; and the Almighty, Who bath vexed my soul.
Our reading now brings us to a new stage. Five chapters contain nothing but the words of Job. They fall into two great speeches. Each is introduced by the words: "And Job again took up his parable" (27. r and 29. r). In them he poured out all that was in his heart with complete abandon. After his answer to Bildad he seems to have paused, waiting for the speech of Zophar. The last of the three was silent. Then Job took the whole matter up and made general replies. He began with a protestation of innocence, and thus answered directly the charge which had been brought against him, that his own sin was the cause of all his suffering. In the course of that protestation of innocence he made use of these words, and in them we have a revelation of his state of soul at this time. His faith abides. God liveth, and He is Almighty. Moreover He is governing. It is God Who has taken away his right; it is the Almighty Who has vexed his soul. All this is the language of unshaken faith. But it is the language of perplexity and of pain. His very faith created his suffering. His right was taken away, his soul was vexed, and that not because he was a sinning man. He strengthened all the arguments of his friends as to the punishment of the wicked. It was true - all of it. But - and here was his problem and his pain - it did not account for his sufferings. There must be some other way to account for this. His friends had not found it, and he did not know it.
These are the strong and central words of this wonderful chapter. After his protestation of innocence, and passionate revelation of the need of some solution of his sufferings other than that which this friends had suggested, Job discussed the question of wisdom. He first described man's ability to obtain possession of the precious things of the earth. Silver, gold, and iron are mined, and the description of bow man does the work is full of beauty. Having thus described man's ability, he asked: "But where shall wisdom be found?" The answer is in these words: "God understandeth." The evidences of the truth of this are to be found in the impossible things which God does. He "looketh to the ends of the earth." He makes "a weight for the wind." He "meteth out the waters by measure." He makes "a decree for the rain." Therefore Job arrives at his conclusion that for man, "The fear of the Lord - that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding." This is, indeed, at once our confidence and our comfort - "God understandeth." The things that perplex us, do not perplex Him; the mysteries by which we are surrounded, are no mysteries to Him. And there is more in the truth than that. "God understandeth" us also; He knoweth our frame, He remembereth that we are dust. When our best friends misinterpret our experiences, and therefore misunderstand our complainings, God understandeth. That is the secret of our comfort, the very rock foundation of our confidence. In the midst of all the perplexities and problems and pains of life these words are a song - "God understandeth."
Oh, that I were as in the months of old, as in the days when God watched over me.
Probably, after a pause, Job resumed his speech. This second address was not so much an answer to his friends as a statement of his whole case as he saw it. He was still without a solution of the mystery of his sufferings. That of his friends he utterly repudiated. Everything in his address led up to the utterance of a solemn oath of innocence. These words introduce his description of the old days. Those days he described as to his relation with God: they were days of fellowship in which he was conscious of the Divine watchfulness and guidance. Then in one sentence which has in it a sob of a great agony, he referred to his home-life: "My children were about me." Then he described the abounding prosperity of those, days. He called to remembrance also the esteem in which he was held by all classes of men, even the highest. The secret of that esteem had been that of his attitude toward men. He had been the friend of all such as were in need. Clothed with righteousness, and crowned with justice, he had administered the affairs of men so as to punish the oppressor and relieve the oppressed. In those days his consciousness had been that of safety and of strength. Those days he described in this opening declaration as days in which God watched over him. In that form of introduction his keenest sorrow is discovered. It was that of the feeling that, in some way, and for some reason, God no longer watched over him. He knew that God still saw him, as his previous words have proved, but there was a difference in the watching. Because we know the whole truth, which Job did not know, we recognize that the watchful care of God had never ceased through all the troublous times.
This phrase introduced Job's description of the circumstances in which he found himself. It is a graphic and terrible portrayal, and is the more startling, standing as it does in contrast with what he had said concerning the old days. He first described what he evidently felt most acutely, how the base held him in contempt. In the midst of this reviling of the crowd, he was suffering actual physical pain, and this he graphically described. The supreme sorrow was that when he cried to God, there was no answer. He claimed that in such suffering as he endured, there was ample justification for all his complaining. It is impossible to read this section without feeling that protest was approaching revolt in the soul of this man. He did definitely charge God with cruelty (see verse 21), and in his questions, "Did not I weep for him that was in trouble? Was not my soul grieved for the needy?" (verse 25), he was contrasting Gods attitude toward him with his own attitude toward suffering men in the days of his prosperity and strength. How often when 'But now," is the starting-point of our thinking, and we contemplate only the things seen and near, we are driven to exactly the same agonized outcries. Then for our comfort let us remember that God still watched over His servant, uttered no word of rebuke; but sustained him even when he was unconscious that He was doing so.
Lo, here is my signature; let the Almighty answer me.
This whole chapter is occupied with Job's solemn oath of innocence. It was his final and explicit answer to the line of argument adopted by his three friends. In every cycle they had insisted upon one conclusion, that his affliction must be the outcome of his sin. In a systematic and carefully prepared statement he now affirmed his innocence: personally (1-12): in his dealings with men (13-23): in his attitude toward God (24-34): ending thus with his signature, and demand for definite indictment. The chapter closes with the words: "The words of Job are ended," and these are generally attributed to the author of the book, or to some subsequent editor or copyist. Personally, I believe they constitute Job's last sentence. He had nothing more to say. The mystery was unsolved, and he relapsed into silence. There is an interval filled with the discoursing of Elihu. At chapter 38, we shall come to the words: "Then Jehovah answered Job." No other words of argument on the part of Job shall we find in the book. He only spoke twice again (see 40:3-5 and 42:1-6) and in very different tones. At this point, then, we have reached the end of Job's expressions of pain. The end is silence. That is God's opportunity for speech. He often waits until we have said everything: and then, in the silence prepared for such speech, He answers. His answers then are not always what we have demanded: but they bring rest and satisfaction, as we shall see in the sequel.
There is a spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty giveth them understanding.
The last voice in the earthly controversy was that of Elihu. Job never had opportunity to answer him. God took no notice of him except to interrupt him. In the epilogue Elihu has no place. Nevertheless, the thought in the long speech, or group of speeches, of this man, is full of interest, and moves on a higher plane than that of the men who had already spoken. With these words Elihu introduced his argument, by declaring what he conceived to be his right to speak at all. He was not trusting to age or wisdom, but to revelation. Whether he was justified in believing that what he was about to say resulted from such revelation, may be open to question; but this statement is full of interest in that it does reveal the method by which God makes Himself and His thoughts known to man. The first sentence, "There is a spirit in man," reveals man's capacity for receiving communications from God. The second sentence, "The breath of the Almighty giveth them understanding," shows how God makes use of that, capacity. In man's essential nature there is spirit, and that is a Divine creation, and of the Divine nature. That makes it possible for man to have direct and intelligent dealing with God. The breath of God reaches that spirit-life of man, and gives understanding; that is, communicates to man the thoughts of God. That God should speak to man is not supernatural, but natural. The deepest truth about man is that he was created with the capacity for fellowship with God. This capacity is destroyed by sin, but it is restored by Grace.
Lo, all these things doth God work, twice, yea thrice, with a man, to bring back his soul from the pit, that he may be enlightened with the light of the living.
These words constitute a summary of Elihu's arguments up to this point, as to the methods and purpose of God in His dealings with men. He declared that God is greater than man, and that man has no right to ask explanations. This, however, is not all the truth. God does answer. He speaks "once, yea, twice," that is, in one way, yea in two. (See verse 14.) The two ways are those of the dream or vision of the night, and the operations which produce suffering. It is to this latter that the words we have emphasized refer. This suffering is the work of God. "Twice, yea, thrice," is a figure of speech indicating the persistence and completeness of the method. The purpose is that of bringing back the soul of man from the pit, the enlightenment of life. Elihu's philosophy was that suffering i is educational; that through it, God is leading men to some higher plane of life. His philosophy was a wider one than that of his friends, who saw nothing in suffering other than punishment for sin. Elihu saw that it might be a process through which the individual soul gained clearer light, and so fuller life. Undoubtedly he was right. But here again we at once see that the truth did not explain the suffering of Job. Elihu, in company with his three friends, had no conception that men may endure suffering for the sake of others and so, in suffering be co-operating with God. Evidently satisfied with his own view, he challenged Job to answer him if he had anything to say and if not, to be silent while he continued.
Yea, of a surety, God will not do wickedly, neither will the Almighty pervert judgment.
Job gave no answer to the challenge of Ehlm, and so he proceeded. His second address occupied this and the following chapter. It may be well to note the whole movement first. Elihu opened with an appeal to the wise men, asking that they listen, in order to try his words. The address then consists of his answers to two quotations from what Job has said (see 34:5, 6, 9, and 35:3). Neither of these quotations was literal; each was Elihu's summary of what he had understood Job to mean. The first may be summarized as a contention that he had been afflicted by God notwithstanding his integrity. The second suggested that Job had argued that nothing was gained by loyalty to God. This chapter deals with the first. Elihu answered this, first by declaring that Job had been keeping company with wicked men. He then proceeded to argue for the justice of God. This is centrally expressed in the words we have selected. It was a great truth, and his arguments in support of it are incontrovertible. The authority of God is beyond all appeal. He cannot be influenced by any low motive. Therefore, whatever He does is right. Proceeding, Elihu declared that the government of God is based upon perfect knowledge. He sees all men's goings. There is no need for Him to institute special trial. His judgments are the outcome of His understanding. Therefore it is the wisdom of men to submit. How true it all is, and how important, that we should lay it all to heart! But how completely it failed to explain the problem of Job's sufferings. Once more we have to say it was all true, even about Job, but it was not all the truth.
If thou hast sinned, what dost thou against Him? And if thy transgressions be multiplied, what doest thou unto Him? If thou be righteous, what givest thou Him? Or what receiveth He of thine hand?
Elihu used these words in the course of his answer to the second of his quotations from Job. He declared, first, that when Job questioned the advantage of serving God, he was guilty of setting up his own righteousness as being more than God's. In these questions he attempted to lay bare the very foundations of truth concerning the sovereignty of God. He declared in effect that there is a sense in which God is unaffected by man: his sin does nothing to God: and his righteousness adds nothing to Him. This view had been already advanced in the course of the controversy. Undoubtedly there is an element of truth in it: and yet what an illustration it affords of the fact that a partial truth may become an almost deadly error; The complete revelation of God shows that, whereas according to the terms and requirements of infinite righteousness, God is independent of man, nevertheless, according to the nature of His heart of love - which these men did not know - He is not independent of man. The whole Biblical revelation, centred and consummated in Christ, shows that human sin inflicts wounds upon God, and causes sorrow to the Holy One: and that man, living in righteousness, does give glory to God, and cause joy to His heart. Elihu answered Job's declaration that there was no advantage in serving God, by saying in effect that there certainly was no advantage to God in such service, and no disadvantage if it were not rendered. Both Job and Elihu were wrong.
I have yet somewhat to say on God's behalf.
After Elihu had answered the arguments of Job, as expressed in the quotations made, there would seem to have been a pause. Then he commenced his third and last address, which, as we shall see, was never finished. This address falls into two parts, and our chapter-divisions at this point confuse us, rather than help us. The first part is contained in the first twenty-five verses of this chapter, and consists of argument. The second part begins at verse 26, and runs through the next chapter. The first things he had now to say on God's behalf were those of a clear statement of his own explanation of Job's suffering. He was absolutely sure of his ground, and at once plunged into his theme. This opened and closed with statements of the greatness of God. Between these he uttered his words of explanation. It is not true that God "preserveth ... the life of the wicked." It is true that "He giveth to the afflicted their right." Such as are right with Him are not immune from suffering. Thus Elihu's view clearly was that God has something to teach man which man can only learn by processes of pain. This was a great advance on the solutions suggested by his three friends, but it did not so much as touch the case of Job. In his suffering, God was not attempting to teach His servant anything. He was rather using him in order to answer an essential misinterpretation of the relation between God and man, and thus was conferring high honour upon him. Yet again we feel that the great message of the story to us is that of the wisdom of silence in the presence of suffering.
Touching the Almighty, we cannot find Him out; He is excellent in power; and in judgment and plenteous justice He will not afflict.
As we indicated in our previous note, the second part of this address of Elihu commenced at the twenty-sixth verse of the previous chapter. Now, rising above mere argument, he proceeded to speak of the greatness of God, first as to its manifestation, and then in application to Job. It has been suggested that this last part of Elihu's speech was a description of what was happening at the time. When presently God spoke, He did so out of a whirlwind, and the idea is that it was this very storm, in its approach, which Elihu described. First, there was the drawing up of the water into the clouds, their spreading over the sky, and the strange mutterings of the thunder. Then came the flash of the lightning, followed by darkness; and again the lightning striking the mark, and the cattle were seen taking refuge from the storm. Gradually the violence of the storm increased, the thunder was louder, the lightning more vivid. In a strange mixture, the south wind and the north were in conflict, and ice was intermixed with rain. The purpose of the storm may have been for correction, for the land, or for mercy. That which Elihu desired to impress upon Job is revealed in these concluding words. He was endeavouring to bring him to realize the impossibility of knowing God perfectly, and the consequent folly of his complainings. The truth so expressed is a great one, and had application to Elihu also. He could not find God out, and he did not understand the mystery of Job's sufferings.
Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto Me.
With this chapter we come to the third and final movement in the great drama, that in which Jehovah and Job are alone. Out of the midst of the whirlwind the Divine voice spoke, for which Job had long been waiting. Its first word was a challenge. This has been variously interpreted as applying to Job, or to Elihu. Personally, I believe the reference was to Elihu. Carefully note that the word of Jehovah did not charge Elihu with false interpretation, but with darkening counsel by the use of words which he himself did not perfectly understand. The theme which he had been attempting to discuss was too great for him, and God took it from him, and dealt with it Himself. In these words He called Job away from discussion with man, and away from lonely brooding. He was to gird up his loins like a man, and hold converse with God. This was a great call, revealing at once the Divine estimate of human dignity, and the conditions upon which God can deal with man. When a man acts like a man, God can speak to him, and he to God. That is a declaration of dignity, and a revelation of a law of life. When God thus spoke to Job, He gave him no explanation of the mystery of his suffering. The method of God was that of unveiling His glory before the mind of His servant, thus leading him to more perfect confidence in Him with regard to experiences which were not yet explained. The first movement in this unveiling had to do with the simplest facts of the material universe, which are sublime beyond the comprehension of man. Through all, God was suggesting His own knowledge, and the stupendous ease of His activity. Job was being led to forgetfulness of himself in a contemplation of God.
Still the great unveiling proceeded, and by these words the mind of Job was directed to recognition of its own limitation. The voice of God spoke of the mystery of the begetting and birth of the animals, with the sorrows of travail and the finding of strength; of the freedom and wildness and splendid untameableness of the wild ass; of the uncontrolled strength of the wild ox. Did Job know these things? They were all known to God, and were under His government, and within the range of His power. Yet again, the differing manifestations of foolishness, of power, of wisdom, as evidenced among birds and beasts, were dealt with. The ostrich rejoicing in the power of her pinions, and in her folly abandoning her eggs and her young, was described; and her very foolishness was accounted for as resulting from the act of God. No reason was given for this depriving of the ostrich of wisdom, but the fact was affirmed that God had done it. All the strength of the war-horse was declared to be Divinely bestowed. The hawk, with wisdom directing her to the south land; the eagle, placing her nest on high - were revealed as Divinely guided. Thus, everywhere God was revealed, guiding, governing. The reasons of what He did were not disclosed. Job was again reminded of the fact. Thus he was being led to lean not to his own understanding, which was baffled everywhere in the presence of the most common things in the midst of which he lived; and to recognize anew the wisdom and power of God.
Behold, I am of small account.
There was a pause in the great unveiling as Jehovah spoke directly to His servant and asked for an answer to the things He had said. The answer of Job was full of suggestiveness. The man who in mighty speech and strong defiance, had been of unbroken spirit in reply to all the arguments of his friends, now cried out: "Behold, I am of small account." The method of God was producing its effects. Job was brought to the consciousness of his comparative insignificance in the midst of a universe so wondrously governed. This very sense of insignificance was also one of comfort, for it came connected with the recognition of the fact of the interest of God in the smallest things, and so spoke of the understanding of God, concerning himself and all his circumstances. This was but the first part of the things he was yet to know; he had yet to be taught that he was of much account to God. For the moment it was important that he should realize the greatness of God. This was breaking in upon his mind with new force. He said: "What shall I answer Thee?" There was nothing he could say. He would lay his hand upon his mouth, and so cause his speech to cease. Silence was at once his opportunity of wisdom and his manifestation thereof. Then Jehovah continued. And again He charged Job to "gird up" his "loins like a man," thus recalling him to a sense of his own dignity. Among all the things over which God ruled, man alone was able to commune intelligently with God. In the midst of his suffering Job had complained of the method of God. Jehovah now called upon Job to endeavour to occupy His place. Let him assume the reins of government in the moral realm in which he had been critical of God. There was a tender and healing satire in the suggestion, as it helped Job to a sense of his own limitation, and of the all sufficiency of God.
The address of Jehovah to Job ended with the suggestion that Job should make two experiments to govern, not in the moral realm, but among the great beasts. It has been objected by some that the descriptions of behemoth and leviathan are interpolations, as they do not seem to fit with the argument. This surely is to miss the meaning. The material always yields itself to man's government more readily than the moral. If then Job cannot assume the moral government of the universe, let him try in the realm of the non-moral. Again, there was the playfulness of a great tenderness in the suggestions Jehovah made to Job about these fierce creatures. Shining through all this, and perhaps perceptible to Job, there may have been suggestions concerning those spiritual beings of wickedness against which the man of faith ever has to contend. Satan may be typified here by behemoth and leviathan. Be that as it may, the question left with Job was this: "Canst thou?" Thus he was called to the recognition of his own impotence in many directions, and at the same time to a remembrance of the power of God. Thus the method of God with this man was not that of explanation of the meaning of his sufferings, but that rather of the unveiling of His own glory.
I had heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth Thee; wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.
This is Job's answer to the words of Jehovah. It is characterized by the stateliness of a great submission. In his words of surrender, the ultimate greatness of the man is revealed. He had been brought to a new sense of God. In the power of it he knew that much of his past speech had been that of ignorance, and he confessed that it was so. In this new attitude of Job, there is revealed a glory of 'God, not manifest in any other part of the universe. This utterance of surrender is ever the vindication of God. There was no explanation of pain, but pain was forgotten. A man had found himself in relationship with God, and in so doing had found rest. The epilogue is full of beauty. Jehovah turned to the friends of Job. His wrath was kindled against them, but it was mingled with mercy. Their intention had been good, but their words had been wrong. To them God vindicated His servant in that He called him, "My servant," as He had done at the beginning. They had attempted to restore Job by philosophy. They had failed. He was now to restore them by prayer. The bands of his own captivity were broken, moreover, in his activity of prayer on behalf of others. Having passed through the fiery furnace, the last days of Job were more blessed than his earlier ones. In this great Book there is no solution of problems. There is a great revelation. It is that God may call men into fellowship with Himself through suffering; and that the strength of the human soul is ever that of the knowledge of God.