Lectures on Job 20-23

Job 20‑23  •  35 min. read  •  grade level: 5
Chap. 20. Job was not a wicked man. There was the great error of Zophar—of this hasty and violent man; for evidently this was particularly his character. He was not so much looking at the long experience of Eliphaz. That was his point—long experience. A valuable thing, but still it may not be the mind of God. It may be right, or it may be wrong; and it was wrong in this case, because Job's trial was altogether peculiar. God had not dealt with any other man in the remarkable way in which Job was tried, and that is the reason why we have a whole book about him—because he was tried so specially. No one save the Lord Jesus was ever tried like Job. The trials of our Lord were far more profound; but in Him there was nothing but perfection, and why? Because, to begin with, there was no sin in Him; there was in Job, and job did not think about the sin that was in him. Job had no idea of what the New Testament calls “the old man.” He bad turned from Satan and frorn his sins to God; he was a real, true, saint of God. But he had no notion, nor, indeed, had anyone among the Old Testament saints, any definite conception of what our evil nature is. That was a truth that came out after Christ came. It was Christ that made everything clear, and till Christ came things were not plain. There was quite enough light to guide; and for that matter all the three friends were pious men, and Job particularly was; but for all that, Job had to learn that there was that in him which was proud of the effects of faith in his soul. Job had too good an opinion of himself.
This is not a very uncommon thing with a Christian even. I think I know a good many who are not disposed to think very lowlily of themselves; but I am quite sure (and I have nothing to boast of myself) I desire to feel thoroughly what I am). Yet I admit we are very often apt to forget it. There was no question of Job's end, no question but that God would receive him, and had already received him in spirit; and therefore there was no fear of death in Job; he looked at it and desired it even; but that would spoil the great lesson. God would allow him to be tried thoroughly, but would not allow Satan so to torment him as to end his life—that would frustrate the lesson he had to learn by agony of suffering and suspicion of his own friends—his dearest friends, those who had most respected him. They all gave him up, and thought there was something very bad behind it—there could not be so much smoke without fire.
That is exactly what people say nowadays when they see anything particular. The eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell must be the worst people in Jerusalem! “Not at all,” said the Lord. God has his own wonderful ways of which we know nothing; but “Except ye repent ye shall all like-wise perish” —by a worse perishing than the fall of a tower upon you. We find how a man was kept—not faultless, far from it—but entirely free from all the hidden evil that was imputed to him because of his terrible suffering, which entirely alienated, therefore, the sympathy of his friends; and instead of getting one grain of sympathy he got a good many tons of scorn, and their suspicion that things were very wrong in him.
This is what entered into all their speeches. And they get worse and worse for a while, and particularly this one. This is the last of Zophar's; he poured it out so strongly, that, somehow or other, he was afraid to come forward again. We find that Eliphaz and Bildad do follow, and Job disposes of them all. They were completely taken aback by Job's reasoning, and the reason is that there was a truthfulness about Job that was not in them, although a good deal remained for Job to learn. Therefore, in comes Elihu, a new personage in the matter, and after that Jehovah himself. These are facts. This is not an imaginary tale. There was a real person called Job who went through all this trial; and there were these three friends; and there was Elihu too; and, further, Jehovah made His presence and His mind known, and settled the case—brought Job out of all his troubles, and at Job's intercession pardoned the other three for all their bad and groundless ill feeling against Job.
Well now, here Zophar comes forward. “Therefore do my thoughts cause me to answer, and for this I make haste.” Yes, and that is just where haste generally lands us. It is easy for those who are not in trouble to speak, and to suspect evil of a man that is in the depths. And that is just what this young man—for he was younger than the others—fell into. “Knowest thou not this of old, since man was placed upon earth” —are you the only man that knows the mind of God? — “that the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment?” Is that all that Zophar had ever learned? Did he know of no dealings of God for the trial and good of His children here below? Had he no thought of God disciplining us? —even before His proper Fatherly relationship was fully made known and conferred upon us. For now we are brought into that very place of privilege—we are children of God. The Old Testament saints were so, but they did not know it. They were saints of God, and they know very well they were separated to God, and that they were not like the men of the world. They knew that perfectly, and they were waiting for One who would settle all questions and make known all things. Even the woman of Samaria knew that. “When Messias cometh, He will tell us all things.” He would clear up all difficulties.
But Zophar had no difficulty at all. That is generally the case with people who know very little; they fancy they know everything. Zophar, therefore, keeps up this—that there is the great fact, there is a righteous God above, and there are un-righteous, wicked people below, and God invariably deals with these wicked people now. That was not true. A large part of the world has always been allowed of God to apparently prosper in their evil, and the reason is that the time of judgment is not yet come. There may be judgments; there may be exceptional dealings with the wicked just as Job's case was a very exceptional dealing in the severity of his trial, and in the manner in which Satan was challenged by God to do his very worst; and God was secretly keeping up Job even when he was finding fault with God and thinking He was very hard upon him to allow all this. But he was kept up not only for his own good, but for ours. Now we have the Book, and are meant to profit by it for ourselves and for other people. “Though his excellency mount up to the heavens, and his head reach unto the clouds; yet he shall perish forever like his own dung; they which have seen him shall say, where is he?”
Zophar was not at all wanting in power of expression He was what you call an “eloquent” man; in fact, they were all eloquent. They all pleaded their cause with ability—only there was short-sightedness. They had not before them this: that it was out of the goodness of God, and for the blessing of Job himself, that God made Job to recognize his nothingness, and also the evil that was within, which he had never detected to be, as it is, a sin against God, i.e., thinking too well of himself, taking credit for what grace had wrought. For I do not deny that grace had done a good deal for Job. Grace had wrought a fine character, full of benevolence and rectitude of purpose. Yes, but why did Job dwell upon it, and think so much about it? Why did Job think so much more highly of himself than others? All these things were working in Job's mind, and they must all be brought out. That was a great lesson for Job to learn, and it came out at the very severe cost of Job's trial and suffering. “He shall fly away as a dream, and shall not be found.” That was true of some cases; but where were the eyes, where the discernment of Zophar? and this was all that he saw going on in the world! It was a very narrow way of looking at the dealings of God. “The eye also which saw him shall see him no more; neither shall his place any more behold him. His children shall seek to please the poor” —he supposes that God would still keep up the family, and would deal with his children—that they would have to restore some of the ill-gotten goods that their father had acquired.
All this was pointed at poor Job, but not a particle of it was real. It was nothing but evil surmises. So, he describes his case in very strong terms, which I need not follow—all his inward trouble, and the being forced to give up what he had swallowed down. “He shall not see the rivers, the floods, the brooks of honey and butter.” That is, Zophar recognized that God delights in doing good. Yes, He does; and not merely to the righteous, but to the unthankful and evil. Is it that He has any complacency in them? Quite the contrary, but out of His own goodness, as our Lord put it so simply and so grandly, He causes His sun to shine upon the evil as well as upon the good, and He sends His rain upon the just as well as upon the unjust. Well, before all I say now, he is a most wicked man, the greatest enemy of God alive on the earth, who profits by all these benefits, and never thinks of God at all. There he is, so utterly insensible—more insensible possibly than the brute. There is less gratitude than with even the poor irrational brute who owes his master's kindness and care. This is indeed, an awful thing in a man. You might find men of the greatest education and of the highest ability, who are like a stock or a stone before the goodness of God. That you have now. The New Testament has come in and made it all plain. One word accounts for everything—unbelief.
The beginning of God's goodness in a man is when he comes to the sense of his badness, and that is produced by faith. It is by what God sends. God's word is the foundation and the means by which a man is brought out of darkness into light, and out of death into life eternal. And why? Because the word of God reveals Christ. And the believer receives Christ on God's testimony. Now the great mass of men in our country are rushing either into infidelity or superstition. These are both of them making more progress than the truth, at this present moment. God no doubt converts souls too; but if there are a few souls truly converted, how many go back? and sometimes out of the very families of those that love the Lord! So it has been for hundreds of years. So it was at the beginning; so it is now. Some believe the words that are spoken, and some do not believe them. And as some enter now into endless and eternal blessing, so others will fall into absolute and everlasting ruin.
Here then, we see the all-importance of our getting the mind of God. Neither experience will do, nor tradition. Bildad was as fond of tradition as Eliphaz was of experience; but Zophar, I fancy, was pretty much confident in himself. And this self-confidence is what makes a man still more biased than either the weakness of thinking too much of the wisdom of old age, or of the tradition of the elders before us. No, God will have His own word; and God is honored by our receiving His own word and applying His word, not to other people merely, but, above all, to oneself. Everything issues from this, “I believe.” That is exactly where all human knowledge fails. Human knowledge—science for instance—is entirely founded upon the facts that are before our eyes, or the facts that we gather even if they are invisible to our eyes, that are ascertained through whatever means, sometimes by the microscope, sometimes by the telescope—but however it may be, it is all founded upon what is before man's eyes and before man's mind.
Now the blessing of God is entirely founded upon divine testimony. You honor God by believing God against yourself; by believing God against your sins; by believing God, receiving His testimony about His own Son. But God has love enough in His heart to lay all our case at all costs upon the Lord Jesus; and He has perfectly met all the mind of God about it. That is Christianity now; and this, of course, in Job's days, was yet to be. There was just enough light—a little distant gleam as it were—a rift in the cloud that showed the Messiah that was to come, but that was all. There was a little increase of light in the Psalms, and still more in the Prophets; but the full light was never there till He Himself came. Then it was not merely a gleam; it was not merely a promise; it was Himself. It was the Son of God, and eternal life in the Son of God to be given to everyone who believes in Him. By that I do not mean a mere nominal assent. No, beloved friends, it is always through our conscience that we are brought into the truth. There is no divine link with God unless it be the conscience that acknowledges our sinfulness, and, therefore, casts oneself in faith upon the Lord Jesus.
Well, now, we do not find anything of this in Zophar; it is all looking simply at judging wicked men. The judging of a righteous man never entered his mind, and that was the real question. So he puts to Job the awfulness of what will come to pass upon the man that goes on in his wickedness, and does not allow it, but only is clever in hiding it. And really he had got that in his head about Job, and never could get it out until God brought down everyone of them into the dust, and they were indebted to Job for escaping the severe chastening of God. He finishes, “This is the portion of a wicked man from God, and the heritage appointed unto him by God.” Here is not the slightest sense of God having chastening dealings with those that He loves during this time of pilgrimage. Yet this is exactly what God does. This is what He is carrying on today with you and me. The apostle Peter refers to it particularly in the first chapter of his First Epistle, i.e., that after we are born of God we become subjects of the dealings of God as Father. We are judged every man according to his work now. He will not do that by and bye; the future judgment is entirely in the hands of Christ; and it is particularly said that the Father has committed it all to the Son; and it is as the Son, and as the glorified Man too that the Lord will sit upon the Great White Throne, where all the evil of all the unrighteous will be judged finally.
That is the last thing before the new heavens and the new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness. The Father has nothing to do with that; but the Father has everything to do with watching over our faults, with pruning the vine, every branch of the vine, and this is what goes on now. It is the Father who is the husbandman, and He prunes that we may bear more fruit; and if there is no fruit at all, He takes it away.
Job now answers in the twenty-first chapter. “Hear diligently my speech.” It was a great relief to the tried man to speak out. He had entirely failed to win their sympathy, but still Job preferred to speak plainly out, and had no difficulty in meeting anything they had to say. “And let this be your consolation. Suffer me that I may speak; and after that I have spoken, mock on.” It was severe, but still it was not more than they deserved. “As for me, is my complaint to man?” In the midst of all this he has the deep sense of having to do with God, and that is true piety. “And if it were so, why should not my spirit be troubled?” i.e., I do not understand it; that is the thing that makes it so terrible. “Mark me, and be astonished, and lay your hand upon your mouth. Even when I remember I am afraid, and trembling taketh hold on my flesh.” And what was it that made him so afraid? Why, he too saw just the very opposite of what Zophar only saw.
Zophar confined himself simply to the particular cases of God's dealing judicially with some specially wicked men. And there are such cases every now and then. A man calls God's name in vain, and swears to a downright falsehood—perhaps theft, or any other breach—and, occasionally, a man drops down dead after it. Well, that is a very unusual thing. Other people swear to it and keep their money, and try to keep their character, but all the while they are heaping up wrath against the day of wrath. Now what made Job tremble so when he saw wickedness prosper? As he says here, “Wherefore do the wicked live?” He says—I can understand it so far; I can perfectly understand God casting down wicked men—it is only what they deserve; but it is not the fact, for the great mass of them seem to flourish in their wickedness for the time. “Wherefore do the wicked live, become old, yea, are mighty in power? Their seed is established in their sight with them.” It was not at all passing away like a dream (as Zophar pretended) as a general rule; it was rather the other way. “Their houses are safe from fear.” Many a pious man's house is broken into by a robber; many a pious man's house is burnt over his head; and here there might be wicked men of the worst character, and they do not come into these troubles at all!
But there is the awful end that awaits them, the awakening up like the rich man Dives, “in hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torments.” Ah! that was a solemn thing, but it was the Lord that gave us that picture. Nobody could speak positively of that till the Lord came. And that is not describing what will be after the resurrection; this is what takes place directly after death. And it was not a wicked man as he appeared in the eyes of the Jews; it was not a man who was a drunkard or a thief, or a robber, or anything of that kind. He was a man highly respected; he was a man characterized by self-indulgence. We do not hear of any swearing; we do not hear of any scoffing. There he was; he acknowledged father Abraham even in the midst of his torments; and the Lord is the One that describes it. Dives is anxious about the souls of his five brethren; he was anxious about them. That is to say, he was a man whom people might consider of high respectability, but there was no faith, no repentance, no looking to God, no waiting for the Messiah. He was quite content to enjoy all his wealth; and, as for poor Lazarus, the dogs might look after him for all he cared about him.
“Their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them.” Ah! but it will be. “Their bull gendereth, and faileth not; their cow calveth, and casteth not her calf.” Everything went flourishing. “They send forth their little ones like a flock, and their children dance” —everything prosperous and smiling— “They take the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ.” It is rather serious to find all that with such bad company—a solemn check for those that are given up. “They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave. Therefore, they say unto God, Depart from us.” Job's words are far more solemn and more true than the violent Zophar had painted. “For we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. What is the Almighty, that we should serve Him? and what profit should we have if we pray unto Him” It is not meant that they say that to man, but that is what their conduct says to God.
Therefore there is great force in what we read: “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God.” Perhaps he never uttered that once in his life, “There is no God,” but it is what his heart says. God reads the language of the heart. And the evil servant says in his heart, “My lord delayeth his coming.” Perhaps he preached what people call the “Second Coming"; he may have preached it, but that is what his heart said. He was not really waiting for Christ at all; he was glad that Christ stayed away. There never was such a prayer with him as “Come, Lord Jesus.” So that it is a very solemn thing—the way in which the Lord takes the crafty and reads the heart; and therefore, it is of all importance that we should judge ourselves, and look to the Lord, that we may have Christ Himself before our souls so habitually that we are filled by His mind and directed by His love, and led by the Holy Spirit who gives the needed power and grace to those that look to Christ.
“Lo, their good is not in their hand; the counsel of the wicked is far from me.” Job was farther from these people than his three friends. It is very possible that these three friends liked to be on good terms with people that were so flourishing, for that is a very common snare. People like to be in what they call “good company,” and to be respected by people that are respectable in this life; but where is Christ in all that? Our hearts are called to be with that which Christ values, and with those whom Christ loves. I do not say we are not to have the love of compassion for the very worst of mankind—surely, surely; but this is a different kind of love altogether. It is loving the family of God. This is higher than loving an unconverted wife; higher than loving our children if they are not brought to God. The family of God are nearer to us, and for all eternity, and we are glad to walk in that faith and love now. “How oft is the candle of the wicked put out!” There he allows the other side that they were all harping upon; they only looked at that. “And how oft cometh their destruction upon them!” There were such cases; he had seen and known them, and in no way disputed them.
You see, what Zophar and the others press, was only a half a truth. Now half a truth never sanctifies. What you leave out is perhaps of equal, or, it may be, of still greater importance, and there was just the difference. With all his defect, Job really was cleaving to the truth, and he looked at it with a larger heart and with a more exercised conscience. There are people moralized, or what you call “sermonized"; but this did not come from their souls; it was merely their correct talk according to the thoughts of men. It was not the language really of faith at all. Job's was, in spite of all its defects. “They are as stubble before the wind, and as chaff that the storm carrieth away. God layeth up his iniquity for his children; he rewardeth him, and he shall know it. His eyes shall see his destruction” —he allowed it might run in the family— “and he shall drink of the wrath of the Almighty.” “For what pleasure hath he in his house after him, when the number of his months is cut off in the midst?” i.e., selfishness is at the bottom of all these wicked men that flourish in this world. And even their children are in no way an object to be compared with the number of their own months. That is what they want—to live as long as possible.
“Shall any teach God knowledge?” —now he turns to Him to vindicate him— “seeing he judgeth those that are high. One dieth” —you see he took in the two sides. This very man had spoken of truth being double; but it was all mere: talk; it was not put into practice at all. It was a wise saw; it was merely an apophthegm, without being the true expression of his feeling and life. But Job had a reality about him. “Another dieth in the bitterness of his soul, and never eateth with pleasure. They shall lie down alike in the dust” —and the careless world goes to their funeral, and thinks they are both all right, that it is all right with them both. That is what is called “judging with charity” —charitable judgment! They hope that everybody goes to heaven, unless they are too bad—openly wicked! Now what is the judgment according to God? That if One died for all, then all were dead. That is the state of man. There is no question at all of their state or their end there. And He died for all—all mankind. They are all inexcusable. And the death of Christ makes them in a worse state if they do not believe than if Christ had never come and never died. He died for all, that they which live—ah! there is the difference—they which live—should not any longer live to themselves. That is what they all did. The dead—the spiritually dead—live to nothing but themselves. It might be honor; it might be seeking the applause of mankind and the world; but they live to themselves, not to Him.
But the Christian, the believer, lives to Him who died for us and rose again. That is not said to be for all. The resurrection of the Lord is the pledge that He will be by and bye the Judge of those that do not believe. The resurrection to the believer is the sign-witness on God's part that his sins are all blotted out. For the One that became responsible for his sins went down into the grave, and God has raised Him up to show us that our sins are gone. It was for all that believe, and for none others. And what for the others? The risen Man is the One that will judge all. That is what the apostle declared to the Athenians. They were not believers, and therefore he does not speak of any being justified; but he tells them that the resurrection of the Lord is the proof and pledge which God has given that He is going to judge all the habitable world by that Man whom He has raised from the dead. What makes it so solemn is that it was man that put Him in the grave; it was man that slew Him. It was God that raised Him up. And that risen Man will judge them, all that are found alive—all the habitable world. It is not here the White Throne judgment; it is the Lord judging the habitable world when He comes again in the clouds of heaven. He does not speak here about taking up all that are Christ's, but of His coming down in judgment upon all that are not Christ's.
“Behold, I know your thoughts, and the devices which ye wrongfully imagine against me.” Here you see he is now returning to their fault through this narrowness of their view, and the impropriety of allowing people to surmise evil without the slightest ground in fact for it. No, we are called upon to live what we know; we are called upon to speak when we do know; but where we do not know we look to God. “For ye say, Where is the house of the prince? and where are the dwelling places of the wicked? Have ye not asked them that go by the way? and do ye not know their tokens, that the wicked is reserved to the day of destruction?” That is the reason why they flourish now. He laid hold of the great truth morally in a very admirable manner. “They shall be brought forth to the day of wrath.” Not a question of now! These friends were all looking at the present time as the adequate proof of what God thought about men—that if He thinks we are all walking well we are flourishing, and if we come into trouble it is because we are bad people. That was their theory, an utterly wrong and corrupt theory. “Who shall declare his way to his face? and who shall repay him what he hath done? Yet shall he be brought to the grave, and shall remain in the tomb. The clods of the valley shall be sweet unto him” —looking at the outward appearance— “and every man shall draw after him, as there are innumerable before him. How then comfort ye me in vain, seeing in your answers there remaineth falsehood?”
Well now, we begin again with Eliphaz (chap. 22.). Eliphaz takes it up, and he says, “Can a man be profitable unto God, as he that is wise may be profitable unto himself?” Yes, Eliphaz, but cannot a man please God? It is not for profit that a pious man submits to God, and obeys the word of God, but it is to please Him, and why? Because He loves Him. That is not working for profit. That is a way in which a Jew did afterwards. “Is it any pleasure to the Almighty that thou art righteous?” Yes, it was. He was quite wrong about it. God was pleased with Job—that very man that they were so insidious against, and against whom they insinuated all kinds of evil. God pointed out, as you remember, at the beginning of the Book, that there was not a man on earth that was all round like His servant Job; and yet there was something there that God meant to bring out, of which Job had no idea, i.e., that he never recognized that it was wrong. “Will he reprove thee for fear of thee? Will he enter with thee into judgment? Is not thy wickedness great? and thine iniquities infinite? For thou hast taken a pledge from thy brother for naught” —now come all his evil surmisings once more— “and stripped the naked of their clothing. Thou hast not given water to the weary to drink.”
Eliphaz is just imagining what he thinks Job must have done to account for the troubles that he was passing through. “But as for the mighty man, he had the earth” —Job was the mighty man— “and the honorable man dwelt in it. Thou hast sent widows away empty, and the arms of the fatherless have been broken. Therefore snares are round about thee.” You see all the reasoning is quite mistaken. “And sudden fear troubleth thee; or darkness, that thou canst not see; and the abundance of waters cover thee, Is not God in the height of heaven? and behold the height of the stars, how high they are! And thou sayest, How doth God know?” That was not what Job said at all, but quite the reverse. “Can he judge through the dark cloud?” Well, un-doubtedly he was not a scoffer. Nothing of the sort. He was a pious, narrow-minded man; and there are plenty of such individuals. “Yet he filled their houses,” &c. (vers. 1-20). There was a little bit of tenderness in his heart toward Job. “Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace; thereby good shall come unto thee. Receive, I pray thee, the law from his mouth.” Eliphaz certainly was nothing like Zophar, nor even Bildad. “And lay up his words in thine heart. If thou return to the Almighty, thou shalt be built up.” And so it was. Little did he know that that return was about to be made manifest, to their shame. “Then shalt thou lay up gold as dust, and light shall shine upon thy ways” (vers. 21-28). And so it did, in the most marvelous way, and much sooner than Eliphaz expected. “When men are cast down, then thou shalt say, There is lifting up; and he shall save the humble person. He shall deliver—”
There is a very odd mistake in this verse (30); that word “island” is all wrong. The same word in Hebrew means “island” and also “not.” To give you an instance—take “Ichabod,” there you get the “I” (ee) —used adverbially, meaning “not,” for “Ichabod” means “not glory,” or “inglorious” — “the glory is departed.” This was the name that the poor wife of Phinehas gave, in her dying moments, to the son that was born to her— “Not glory.” Well now, that is the word here; and if you translate it as a negative particle you get the true sense of it— “him that is not innocent.” “Island” only makes nonsense. Nobody could explain it as given in our A.V.; no person has ever done it nor approached it, and it is an astonishing thing that it remains. I believe it is all right in the Revised Version; but it is well worth knowing, because I daresay you have been puzzled to find where “the island of the innocent” came in. You know there is a proud little corner of Europe that calls itself “the Isle of Saints,” but the isle of the innocent is still more extraordinary. There has never been such a thing. Man lost his innocence, and has never recovered it. Man gains holiness by the faith of Christ, but no recovery of innocence; that could not be. “He shall deliver [him, or] those that are not innocent” —that is the point of it.
Yes, and God did that, and who were they? Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. They were the people who were “not guiltless"; they were guilty, they were “not innocent.” So that there are two words rather mauled in this version. The real force is, “He shall deliver those that are not guiltless,” and that was verified in the case of Job's three friends, little as Eliphaz expected it. They were treated by God as being guilty towards their dear brother whom they had so misjudged, to whom they had imputed all kinds of hidden evil, and made him a hypocrite as well as a naughty man. And Eliphaz here unconsciously gives utterance to words that came true. We sometimes find that. Words said passingly by a Christian— they had no idea perhaps that they would ever be verified—and yet how often they have been—as I have known frequently, from very simple souls—perhaps only some poor brother that could not write, or from a poor old sister that could do very little except mend stockings.
So here we find these words were true. God has a great deal more to do with any good words which are uttered than we at all realize. Eliphaz, although he was so wrong, was nevertheless, allowed to say words which came true in a marvelous manner about Job himself. “He shall deliver him that is not innocent,” or “not guilt-less” that is the proper word— “and he shall be delivered by the pureness of thine hands.” This was what God compelled these three men to feel—that Job was more righteous than they; that his hands were cleaner than theirs. They had defiled their hands in setting upon Job so foully and so violently; and they owed it to Job that they were spared their lives.
Job answers in the next chapter (23.), and that is all we can look at to-night. “Even today is my complaint bitter; my stroke is heavier than my groaning. Oh that I knew where I might find him!” Ah! there was a pious heart, although he felt and smarted under his terrible sufferings. He was so preoccupied that he could not find Him yet. He did, however, before long. “That I might come even to his seat! I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. I would know the words which he would answer me, and understand what he would say unto me.” Now that is what he desired. He was not afraid of what God would say. He was sure to be good, because He loved, and because of what Job knew Him to be. “Will he plead against me with his great power?” That is what they thought. “No,” said he; nothing of the sort; “but he would put [strength] in me.” “Strength” goes a little too far. It is rather, “he would give heed unto me.” “There the righteous might dispute with him; so should I be delivered forever from my judge.” I know it would be all right if I could only get a hearing. If I could come close to Him, then He would listen.
“Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him; on the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him; he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him; but he knoweth the way that I take.” There, you see, was a heart always turned towards the center of attraction, always to God. He might waver under the affliction—just as you know the needle may be very unsteady for a little; but leave it to rest, and it always turns to the pole. “My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined. Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips.” He was perfectly conscious of a good conscience. Yet he had nothing at all, and that was what he had to learn. God had to show him; because it was not a question merely of an outward blemish that anyone would notice. This is what people think very proper.
I have been at dying beds of real Christians, and I am sorry to say, the principal thing that I have heard from them has been, “I look back upon my long life of following the Lord Jesus.” If Job had said, “I look back upon the tender mercy and the forbearance of God and His continual support when I never deserved it” —oh! that would have been all right. I ought, perhaps, to add that those whom I have heard speak in that way never have heard the gospel in the way which you all are familiar with. Still, I do not doubt that they were Christians, but misled by bad teaching. “My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and hot declined. Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.” “But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth.” Job allowed His entire supremacy; he allowed His sovereignty in the fullest degree. “For he performeth the thing that is appointed for me; and many such things are with him. Therefore am I troubled at his presence.” He was troubled that there was something between God and him; something with which God had a question, but what—he did not understand yet. “When I consider, I am afraid of him. For God maketh my heart soft, and the Almighty troubleth me; because I was not cut off before the darkness, neither hath he covered the darkness from my face.”
W. K.