Lectures on Job 42

Job 42  •  31 min. read  •  grade level: 6
Lecture 11-Chap. 42
We have now the great object of God manifested. It would not at all have been so well for Job to have heard it before; but he had to walk very simply, and to learn to confide in God; to be perfectly sure that God could not fail to be faithful and gracious. Yet the trial was severe; and we know that Job broke down, as every one since the world began has done except the Lord Himself. And indeed, it is very instructive to contrast where the Lord speaks of His suffering, with the irritation that was shown by even so admirable a man as Job. But still we have had the whole case out; and nothing can be more beautiful and striking and instructive than the book looked at as a whole.
You will observe that it is only in the closing chapter that we have the story and bringing in of Jehovah in the dealings with Job. No doubt in what the Lord said to Job, we have it too, but that is coming to the conclusion of the book. In the parts of the book that precede we have nothing of the kind except in the first two chapters. There we have Jehovah the moral Governor, and that not in the way of a nation, but applied to one single soul, yet no doubt other people were tried and brought into blessing; or, at any rate, they had mercy shown to them, as in the case of the three friends. But what we find is that everyone concerned, except Elihu, has to be truly humbled. Elihu is very peculiar, because he takes no part, and we should not have known there was such a person; and he only, and suddenly, appears when the friends of Job had all been silenced, and Job had nothing more to say; for when Elihu spoke, Job was silent still, he could not answer. Still all was not yet wrought completely in his soul till Jehovah appears.
But now it is very striking to see that in this book we have all the great elements that appear in the rest of the Old Testament. We should not have known there was an Israel from this book. We have no reference to the law that was given by Moses, nor to the peculiar place in which the sons of Abraham were set. The very object of the Book is to show that God remains God, and more than that, that “Jehovah” (the covenant name of God) would show He had intimate personal dealings with a pious man, and in point of fact one that was chosen by God for this great trial—the most faithful man then found upon the earth. Even Jacob was not one fit for such a trial, even supposing Jacob and Job had been contemporaries. For although there was a great deal that came out very beautifully as Jacob grew older in the way, there was an immense deal that had to be sifted; there was a great deal that he had to be sorry for, and that he was chastised for at various times of his life, from early days comparatively till his later ones. So that Jacob was not at all as suitable a person as Job.
Job seems to have been a man sheltered (if I might so say) by God, so that he knew very little of the corruption that was in the world through lust. As far as he was concerned he seems to have been prospered in a way that very few men have been; for although he was a pious man, and therefore liable to be imposed upon by the wicked men of that generation, as such men usually are, yet he was really a prince among men. But the sorrowful thing was that Job thought a great deal of it; he admired himself a great deal too much; and further he liked his “nest.” He hoped that he would never have that nest disturbed, and that he would die in his nest, as he said. But God intended to teach him a very severe lesson before that came to pass. In point of fact he became more blest than ever; and there we find ourselves very much upon Old Testament ground. He got large flocks and greater herds; and he had possessions too in the way of love; everybody could not do too much for him after he came into prosperity. That is the way of this world, and that was the way of even Job's friends. But he had more camels, more horses, more herds, and fairer daughters at the end than at the beginning. That is all entirely outside what we know.
In short, we do not find suffering with Christ, or suffering for Christ, throughout the Old Testament. Nor is it the ordinary way in which God acted then. I was only reading this morning in a little paper that came from Spain; and the great object of the person who wrote that paper—who has been seen in this room, too, though not in communion with us—was that the ways of God were always the same. That is where our good sister is altogether wrong. The ways of God differ greatly; the ways of God were quite different in paradise from what they were outside paradise; and they were different after the flood from what they were before; and they were different in Israel again from what they had been before the law was given; and they are still more different now that Christ is come and that redemption is accomplished. I suppose people mean by it that God's character is always immutable. Certainly that is all right; God does not change; but God in His sovereign wisdom takes different ways in dealing with every one of us. At the same time there are general ways that subsist at particular times. There are deeper ways now than ever since Christ came, and we are expected to enter into the ways of God, as well as His counsels which are now revealed for the first time. Heavenly counsels they did not know anything about in Old Testament times. They knew the purpose of God for the earth; they gradually knew that better and better as things went on, and as the regular prophets who wrote their prophecies began to appear. But the ways of God are always according to what occupies Himself, and what He is doing in a general way. Yet at the same time He carries on a moral government with every one of us, so that we have to do with Him.
And that was what Job had to learn—that there was, unknown to himself, what was inconsistent with the presence of God. It was not that he doubted a Redeemer; he fully believed in one; but that was a different thing. And people may believe in the Savior now, and yet may never have been brought personally into the presence of God as a practical thing. It is quite a different thing to have it, as the philosophers say, “objectively,” from what it is to make it our own “subjectively.” That was just exactly where Job was. He had no subjective knowledge of it; he had not appropriated it to himself. He rejoiced in the goodness of God. He was a faithful man. We see him acting as a priest, but not as a king; and we have it in a more glorious manner at the end of the book than at the beginning; because we find he had certain fears about his sons and his daughters, but when he had gone through all, he had no fear at all. There was no reserve; he was not at all afraid of anything coming. But he was put into the extreme suffering that might belong to any man. At first the sufferings were such as were common to man. It is not an uncommon thing for a very rich man to become very poor. It is not an uncommon thing for a man to lose all his property. It may be not merely by robbery, but by other means—sometimes through lack of wisdom and other people taking advantage, and so on; there are many ways in which there may be a very great reverse; and further, a person might be suddenly changed from glowing health to be the most miserable object possible.
But I do not call these spiritual sufferings; they are what are common to man. It might be so with an unconverted man; only there was this peculiarity about Job, which he did not know at first—that God was allowing Satan to bring all these things. Satan's pleasure and hope was to entangle Job's feet and cast him down, and that he would curse God. That was what Satan dearly longed to bring about. God allowed him to have his way, but not to kill Job. That would have been agreeable to Job; but it would not have brought out the great moral of the tale, which is, blessing brought into his soul by the very things that seemed to be against him, and not merely by the things that he experienced. When he began to find fault, he had to learn that that very God was One who never could swerve from what was excellent, and that in all this He had a purpose of blessing for Job. Not merely in his having outward blessings, i.e., of a temporal kind, but blessing for his soul.
And all this is very striking in so early a book as this of the Old Testament. For there is no reason to doubt that it is quite as early as the Book of Genesis, and very probably written by the same man. It is earlier, I do not hesitate to say, than the Book of Exodus. It may have followed Genesis or not; that I cannot say. They may have been comparatively together. It might even have been before Genesis, as far as that is concerned; but it is extremely early, and before Israel's history as a nation began. There is, in the book, no coming out of Egypt, crossing the wilderness, and going into the land—not even the slightest allusion to any of them. Had these things then taken place an allusion would have been very highly appropriate; but there is nothing of the kind.
Still, there we have the great elements that we find elsewhere in the Old Testament. The place of sacrifice—you know how very early that came in—from the Fall; and how the first great action of Adam's sons was decided by faith or the lack of faith—Cain bringing a mere offering which would have been all very well after a sacrifice, but showing a total lack of sense of sin, and also of what was due to God. Abel on the contrary brought his sacrifice; there was death brought in between him and God. That looked onward to the death of Christ; but I am speaking now simply of the sacrifice; and Abel's faith, therefore, offered that sacrifice. That answers to the death of Christ now. Any attempt to stand before God without that now, shows that I have no proper sense of sin, or of God's holiness. I neither know myself nor Him; else I should surely look to the one great sacrifice that completes and terminates all others—the sacrifice of Christ.
Well, then again, we find another very important truth from the beginning of it, and that is, the connection of heaven with man upon the earth, and that which is about to take place in man on the earth, arranged in heaven before it reaches the man himself. Well, that is true now; that is going on still. We find that is carried on afterward. We see it in David—another phase of it—Satan's opposition, in the last chapter of 2 Samuel (and in Chronicles, repeated in another form); and, further, in the Book of Kings we have it. But this Book of Job was written hundreds of years before. So that it was perfectly original in Job's case. It had not been written in any other book until long after. And there we find another terrible personage; not only the angels, familiar with the presence of God, and God telling out before them what is going to be upon the earth; but the devil, man's great enemy; yet withal the perfect supremacy of God in His love and in His power. He particularly brings Job's case before Satan; and He (what we may call) glories in Job before the devil; and the devil, of course, is excited to every kind of spite and jealousy because of that very thing; and God allows all this to be, knowing perfectly well, but always working by His own; grace, that in due time all would be set right. It might require His own personal intervention, and that is one of the great peculiarities of the Book of Job.
But we find the same thing in Zechariah—Jehovah speaking to Joshua, and Satan resisting; and this in one of the latest books of the Old Testament. So that here we find that Job has the same great truth in an earlier form—at the beginning of the Old Testament—of what afterward is found near its end. Because Zechariah was only just before Malachi, and in fact they may have been contemporaries. They were post-captivity prophets. And then comes the great trial. And the remarkable thing is, first of all, Satan was entirely defeated. Satan could do nothing with Job. He did his worst, and all that time Job was seen at his best.
But there was that in Job's heart that must be got out somehow; and it is remarkable that the friends of Job, not the enemy, seem to have been the means. And God has a very humbling lesson for them, as He has a humbling lesson for Job. They got it all round; and, in point of fact, Job's friends were more ignorant of God's ways than Job; and they took a very bad view of his case, and this, when it is about a good man, is always a danger. There may be something that the Lord has to chastise; but very often those who try to do it only show their own shallowness, and also that they are very unspiritual—that they do not enter into the mind of God about it. That was the case with the three friends of Job. I have no doubt that they were highly respectable, and that they were also thought to be very pious men indeed. And I do not doubt it. But pious men have to find their level.
And so it was with Job and his three friends, and the great debate goes on; and they are sitting, who had come to sympathize; and the end of their looking at him and seeing the terrible state in which he was, was that they had not a word to say to him; and job could not understand that. If they had not been there he might have stood it. But sometimes we can bear alone what we cannot bear in the presence of other people, and that was the case with Job. And Job accordingly, after bearing this for seven days and nights, their sitting demure, judging him all the time, with not a word of sympathy this aroused Job, and he broke forth into expressions that were certainly very unlike his habit, and anything but glorifying to God. And then came their doubts of him, growing more and more passionate, until they began to think he must be a very wicked man. They went upon the ground that what occurs now is according to the absolute character of God.
Why, it is not so at all. If things were according to God's mind now, there would be no such thing as war; there would be no such thing as intriguing; there would be no such thing as people taking advantage one of another; there would be no such thing as robbery or drunkenness or any other kind of wickedness allowed. There will be a day when that will be the case, and when the state of things on earth will answer to the mind of God in heaven. Why, that is what is expressed in what is called “The Lord's Prayer” — “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” That will never be till the Lord reigns. And these men had the very foolish notion that no pious man walking properly could ever suffer, and that if a person came into very great suffering it was because he was a very great sinner, and, if nobody knew it, he must be a hypocrite.
That was the “amiable,” or “loving,” or whatever you call it—self-righteous really—the “self-righteous” judgment, with gross ignorance of both God and man, of the three friends of Job. Well, he resisted it and resented it; and he accordingly told them very plainly that they were physicians of no value at all; that they, instead of giving him comfort, on the contrary cauterized his wounds, and that they only inflamed them—in point of fact, that they were comforters of no value whatever, at the same time that they thought they were the wise men; and so he stopped, and whenever they uttered a word, he uttered a better; and so at last compelled them to silence. Then it was that we find Elihu, who appears very opportunely, and in what is very beautiful to a spiritual mind who would understand it, for he was a young man, and they were old—he had kept silence until they had not a word to say—not only the three men, but Job also, for he had come to the end of his long parley; and until that was the case Elihu never opened his mouth. But when he did, he told them plainly that he was obliged, young man as he was, to speak for God; and that he was indignant, first that the three men had entirely misinterpreted Job, and secondly that Job had misinterpreted God; and therefore that Job deserved to be rebuked, and that he must tell him plainly where he was wrong. But after he did that he disappeared. So that he plays the part of an interpreter, one of a thousand. This is what Job had wanted at the beginning because he was terrified when he thought of the majesty of God; and he wanted some one that was of clay like himself.
‘Well,' says Elihu, ‘I am a man of clay like you; and there is nothing to frighten you in me, and therefore I will tell you the truth, that you have been speaking in a way altogether unbecoming a saint of God. You have allowed yourself to be roused and inflamed by the bitter reproaches of others and you have vented it upon God; your proper place was to remember that God was carrying on His discipline—that He does that even with the unconverted, and still more with the converted, that they might walk consistently. This is what He was doing with Job; and Job's place should have been to judge himself, and submit to God. Well, that was exactly true. And the Lord then intervenes in the case; and He overwhelms job by a succession of questions that one of the most scientific men that ever lived could not answer.
One of the things in which the Germans have been successful—not about the Bible; there they are nowhere; but about matters of science on this earth; they have had some very able men of late years, and nobody perhaps was a greater oracle in science and in knowledge of the world generally than the famous Baron Alexander Humboldt; and these words of Jehovah astonished him; and he acknowledged that what Job could not answer, the men of science cannot answer yet. It is overwhelming to them; because although men of science are very clever about secondary causes; they are always stopped by primary causes. They never can arrive at the great cause, and they do not want the great cause. The reason is this—that nobody ever learns God by knowledge or by wisdom. We learn God by our want of Him. We learn God when we are poor sinners overwhelmed in our souls. And who can meet us but God? Repentance, therefore, is always toward God; and repentance means that I take the place of nothing but a sinner; for God will show me mercy; and God shows it in our Lord Jesus. However, Job did not know and could not know the Lord Jesus as we know Him; but he was waiting for Him. That is another grand truth that comes out.
No doubt the way in which Job looked for the Lord was rather as a Kinsman-redeemer who would also be an avenger on the enemy. Well, that is very natural. “The Seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head.” That is the proper Old Testament idea. But he could not enter into it as yet. It was not given for a great while after. There is a most remarkable Psalm of David—the 22nd, and the most remarkable in the Book of Psalms in that way. And it is not the only one. We have a companion one particularly in the 102nd Psalm. And we have another that is more with reference to the Avenger in the 69th Psalm. And there are two others that I need not dwell upon now; but at any rate, in the Old Testament there is One that is coming to avenge. And therefore Israel looks, at the coming of the Lord, for their enemies to be destroyed at the same time that they themselves are delivered. That is not our faith at all of the Lord's Second Coming. We look to go up to heaven as the Lord went up to heaven. It will make no difference to the earth, and men will not see it; they will know that we are gone somehow or other, as they knew about the Lord.
That was a nine days' wonder, and was soon forgotten. And so it will be then. One would think that it would make a great impression all over the world as to the saints disappearing; but it will be a day when they are given up to hardness of heart, and when judicial blindness will fall upon them, so that God will not therefore be working to awaken their souls. He will, by converted Jews, send out the everlasting gospel to the Gentiles, and there will be a very great gathering of converts, Jews as well as of the Gentiles too; but that is during the time that we are up in heaven before the Lord appears. But the view of the Savior as dying for us, and consequently giving the meaning of all the sacrifices—all this was very much hidden from the Old Testament saints. Why, even the apostles did not understand it till the Lord rose. They had no idea of it, and did not believe He was going to die; and I have very little doubt that Judas flattered himself, when he was getting the money for selling the Lord, that the Lord would escape out of their hands; and when he found that the Lord was going to die, he committed suicide. He gave himself up entirely to despair and to the devil.
But in the 53rd of Isaiah we have a very luminous prophecy. Yes, it is all very luminous to us now; but what was it in Isaiah's day? It is very doubtful whether any of them understood it. Look at that good treasurer that came up from Ethiopia to worship at Jerusalem, reading from that very chapter, and not understanding what it meant. He did not know at all. It is very possible that the treasurer had heard of the death of the prophet of Nazareth, but he did not connect it with the chapter at all. And as I have said, the apostles themselves were never clear about it till the fact had taken place. And it was only after the Holy Ghost was given that there was any power to proclaim it; but after the Lord breathed upon them, they do seem to have entered into it during those forty or fifty days—forty while the Lord was with them, and ten days later before the Holy Ghost was given. So much as there is even of types of it in Scripture, so little does man put things together; and so much are we beholden to the Spirit of God for giving us to understand the Scriptures.
Now, I refer to that because we have again, let me mention, another thing very remark-able, as showing how far they had got—the two resurrections—the 18th chapter, as I have already pointed out, is with reference to the resurrection of man, and this is only when the heavens are no more. But in the 19th of Job it is the resurrection of the saint; and there is brought in the Redeemer, and the Redeemer standing upon the dust of the earth; that is before the heavens are no more. You see that exactly agrees with the two resurrections in the 20th of Revelation; the resurrection of the saints while the earth is still going on, and the resurrection of the wicked after heaven and earth are all completely dissolved, and are to reappear as the new heaven and the new earth. But Job does not speak about that. Isaiah does, but applies it to Israel. He takes a very contracted view; he was not allowed to see it fully. But the 3rd chapter of the 2nd Epistle of Peter brings it out fully as a matter of doctrine; and John, in the 21st of the Revelation, has a heavenly vision that manifests it to us and makes all plain.
Well, Jehovah overwhelms Job; but even He does not speak of the sacrifice of Christ. What Job confesses is, his impropriety, the forgetfulness of his own ignorance and of God's omniscience—for Job had pretended to understand what God had not yet revealed to him. It was not yet revealed. It was after this. But what is a man to do when he does not understand? Why, to look up confidingly to God; and secondly, to judge himself, lest he might allow any thoughts that were wrong. Job was wrong in these two ways, but is completely set right; for these wonderful questions of the Almighty laid Job in the dust for the first time. And the Lord stopped in the middle of it and addressed himself to Job, and even then Job said, “Behold I am vile.” He now had come down to a thought of himself. It is not merely that I was vile before I knew anything of Thee, but, In spite of all that Thou hast been to me, and in spite of all the grace shown I am obliged to come to this, “Behold, I am vile. What shall I answer Thee?” Well, nothing at all. That man that was such a fine answerer of others, and particularly eloquent about himself! For there is as grand a description as you can have of an admirable saint, in the 31st chapter of this Book. But the misfortune is, it was Job talking about himself. Now, it is a fine thing to be eloquent about other people's goodness; but it is not a fine subject for oneself, and there is what betrayed Job. He had the greatest pleasure in thinking of the great honor showed him, and how the nobles held their tongues when Job uttered a word, and how everyone bowed down to Job. And now it had come to this! that he was the ridicule of all the naughty little boys, and that the bigger boys tried to entangle his feet and push him down—and all the rascally ways of a wretched world just such things as would be now if people saw a grandee that had come down to be going in filthy rags in the street, and all his body a mass of corruption!
Oh, it is a terrible plight, and an awful thing! But how good the result was! Well, now, he says, “I will lay mine hand upon my mouth” —that mouth that talked so well! “Once have I spoken; but I will not answer; yea, twice; but I will proceed no further.” That was one good sign. But now after the Lord had brought it fully out, what He dwells upon are two things in particular—His supremacy, and also His power, accompanied by the most tender care; not merely of good animals, such as sheep and lambs, or the like, but of lions and lionesses, which certainly are very redoubtable. And the eagle—an object of interest to God particularly; yea, and further, He had chosen to make the ostrich; and although the ostrich is no bird of flight, but simply a very fast runner, still, there it was, and could beat a race-horse for a good while. Who is it? —was it you, Job, that managed all these things? Was it you that cared for them all, provided for them all? Were you born when they began? In fact, Job was thoroughly laid low on every point, and, in every possible way, overwhelmed with the sense of his ignorance and presumption in talking about the far more wonderful ways of a God dealing with a man's heart, man's soul, man's circumstances now. The Lord does not express that last part. It was God showing His majesty, power, wisdom and goodness in outward things. If that were true of God, how much more in spiritual things? And this is the great lesson of the book that Job had to apply. And it had its effect.
“I know that thou canst do everything, and that no thought can be withholden from thee.” Not only no word; he had spoken wrongly. “Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge?” Why, it was himself; he owns it. This is his great confession, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear” —I knew it objectively; but now that I have made it my own, applied it to my own soul, my own circumstances, my own state— “now mine eye seeth thee:...I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” There was the great moral victory that God had accomplished in the face of Satan and in the face of the three friends of Job, and in the face of Job himself. For what he had said might have provoked anyone but God. And so it is that we see the wonderful goodness of the Lord in the midst of it all.
“And it was so, that after Jehovah had spoken these things unto Job, Jehovah said to Eliphaz the Temanite” —why did He speak to him? He observed that none of these three men said a word. They did not profit by it like Job. If they had properly profited by it they would have joined Job and said, ‘O Lord, forgive our folly; we have sinned not only against Thee, but against our dear friend Job.' But no, they held their tongues, as so many people do when they are very wrong. They say nothing. They ought to speak out. “My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath.” When was it that Job spoke the thing that was right? The first statement which I have just now read from the 40th chapter, after the Lord had first spoken; and then the second statement that the Lord added. It was not his fine speeches. That was not the thing at all that the Lord valued. It was his humbling himself and taking the true place. And the Lord put the others in their place. They did not humble themselves. But the Lord threatened them, and told them—not that they had spoken now, for they had not spoken— “My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath. Therefore take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering, and my servant Job shall pray for you” (vers. 7, 8). He had to become an intercessor for them. “For him will I accept.”
It was all perfectly clear now; so clear, that he could act for those who were wrong. “Lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant Job.” Now they were bowed; and accordingly they that were sitting in judgment upon Job, took the place of being offenders against God, and looked to Job to entreat the Lord for them. “And Jehovah turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends.” There was the returning them good for evil. He prayed for his friends. “Also Jehovah gave Job twice as much as he had before.” Then we find everybody turning round (ver. 11). “So Jehovah blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning; for he had fourteen thousand sheep” —just twice what he had before. Now that will be accomplished—what answers to that—on the earth.
This is not heavenly recompense at all, but what will be the case with man on the earth. The Old Testament does not take you off that ground, and even in Job, who was not a Jew, we find the same thing. The time when Israel will be blessed will be the time when the nations will be blessed. Israel is the first-born of the nations, and they will come in subordinately to the Jew. But that time is not arrived, and it will be the perfect contrast of this time. Our place is in Christ, just as, figuratively speaking, mankind was in Adam, as being the one who was the father of them all. Now there is another head, and we are spoken of as being in Him—in Christ. And another thing is true “At that day, ye shall know.” The great truth of the Epistles to the Ephesians and to the Colossians, is that in Ephesians we are in Christ for all our blessing; and in Colossians it is Christ in us in order that we may fulfill our responsibility “of manifesting Him who is in us. So that if the one is the great comfort of the Christian, the other is the solemn reminder to the Christian. “Ye in Me” —there God was blessing; “I in you” —that you may count upon Me, to fulfill your responsibility here below. Well, we have nothing of that kind here; but we have everything that heart could wish here below. Job was a far greater man than ever—if you count that to consist in the vast things that he possessed; and, further, he was blessed in his family particularly.
“After this lived Job an hundred and forty years.” I do not mean by that, and I do not think the words are intended to convey, that Job lived 14o years after this was over, but that the whole life of Job was 140 years; a very respectable age—very. It was not so long as that of Abraham or Isaac; but it was, I think, something about as much as Jacob's, thereabout in a general way, and greater than that of Moses. So it was before Moses, who in his psalm (Psalm 90.) tells us, that “the days of our years are threescore years and ten,” etc. Moses seems to have been the writer of the Book. He and his brother Aaron did not arrive at 140, but Job did. But if you suppose him to have lived 80 years before the 140, it would make him far older than any of the patriarchs. I do not mean some of the elders before the Flood, but after the Flood people did not live to such great ages—except immediately. And so the Book ends with Job dying full of years.
W. K.