Let us now turn to the book of Job and read at versos five and six of chapter 42 as follows, “Then Job answered the Lord and said. I have heard thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Job was a true believer, tried perhaps, as no other believer—with, the exception of Christ—has ever been tried, the reason being that the Lord wanted to provide His people with an outstanding example of the indestructibility of their faith. Job’s case can be briefly stated. God had said of him, that there was none like him in all the earth, a perfect and an upright man, fearing God and eschewing evil. But Satan accused Job of serving God for gain and thereby slandered God. For what Satan denied is, that God is capable of attaching His people to Himself through Christ by a true faith that cannot cease, is thus capable of shedding abroad in their hearts a true love, from which, nothing can separate them. To silence the slanderer, God gave him power over all that Job had, including his person. Satan now did his worst. Job was rich in material substance. Besides, he had sons to the number of seven and three daughters. Suddenly, he was overtaken by a calamity of the first magnitude. He was stripped of all his wealth. Fire from heaven consumed his sheep and those that cared for them, and all his children were hurled into eternity by a mighty wind. Shortly thereafter, Job was smitten with a terrible disease. A description of Job’s plight, can be had from the book that bears his name. He was stricken with boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. His form and countenance were so disfigured by the disease, that the sufferer’s friends could not recognize him. The ulcers seized his whole body both without and inwardly, and emitted a loathsome smell, that drove everyone from, the sufferer’s presence, and made him seek refuge outside the village upon an ash heap. The ulcers were accompanied by an itching so intolerable, that he took a piece of potsherd to scrape the sores. The sufferer was haunted by terrible dreams, and unearthly terrors, and harassed by a sensation of choking. While in this state, his breath was strange to his wife, his kinsfolk failed him, his friends forgot him, and even the young children despised him. “Have pity on me,” he cried out, “have pity on me, O my friends, for the hand of God hath, touched me.” But they had no pity.
In the beginning of his trial, Job’s faith, was strong. As stripped of all his material possessions, and. as standing in the midst of the coffins of his ten children, he worshipped and said, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” But then, as his anguish and pain increased, Job lost sight of God and descended into the deep, and hell rejoiced, for it seemed as though, his faith had ceased. As submerged in the flood of trouble that swept over him, he hurled curses at the day of his birth, accused God of destroying the perfect with., the wicked, of laughing at the trials of the innocent, of giving the earth in the hands of the wicked, and of multiplying his wounds without a cause. So did he set himself up as critic over God, in that dark, hour, and deny the rectitude and the justice of his afflictions. So do God’s people behave, when, in their sufferings, they lose sight of God, and the vile murmurings that rise in their flesh, escapes their lips. Job’s speech became very bitter in that dark hour. “If I am wicked,” he complained, “why labor I in vain? If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands ever so clean; yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me,” In other words, “I am to be guilty, God wants me so, even me, of all mem. I was selected for this treatment, It is utterly vain therefore that I weary myself in trying to be innocent, that I may be acquitted of God.” Job’s faith seemed to have ceased indeed and hell rejoiced, though all too soon. For this speech, however perverse, is not the mad ravings of an atheist, but the lamentations of one of the saintliest of men, who, as he passes through the valley of the shadows, loses sight of God for the moment, and who is sad beyond words, because it seems to him that God, whose fellowship he craves, now counts him as one of His enemies. So, addressing God once more, he asks God to tell him the “why” and the “wherefore” of His heavy rod, to make known, to him the reason of the heavy tribulations peculiar to his trial. Why had he, of all men, to suffer thus? “I will speak in the bitterness of my soul,” such is now his complaint, “I will say unto God, do not condemn me; shew me wherefore thou contendest with me. Thou knowest that I am not wicked; and. there is none that can deliver out of thine hand.” But God is silent. He will answer Job but not immediately.
But three of the four friends, who came to comfort Job imagine that they have the solution of his afflictions. They said to Job, that he was being smitten because, in his well days, he had been walking in the gross sins of godless men. “Thine iniquities, O Job, are infinite,” they said, “for thou hast taken a pledge from thy brother for nought, and stripped the naked of their clothing, Thou hast not given water to the weary to drink, and thou, hast withholden bread from the hungry, Thou hast sent widows away empty, and the arms of the fatherless hast thou broken. Therefore snares are about thee, and sudden fear troubleth thee.” But Job was a man of singular uprightness. Yet, such was their solution of Job’s pain. And by it they wounded his soul, cut him to the quick. These friends have a theory as old as the patriarchs. But it is a theory, that is what it is—a theory picked up by the wayside and slung at random at those in affliction and distress. That the wicked are punished, Job well knew; but that they always receive their deserts in this life—and such was the contention of the three friends—he proves untrue, ‘The words of these friends went deep into Job’s heart. Poor counsellors they are indeed, Satan’s right hand, to hasten Job’s infidelity, if God should permit.
There was also a, fourth friend, who had come to comfort Job in his sorrows. His name was Elihu did not, as these three friends of Job had done, accuse Job of having led, in his well days, a wicked life, to seek therein the solution of his pain. Proceeding on the foundation of Job’s being a true child of God, but mindful of his being a sinful man, despite his essential uprightness, he tells Job that God’s visitation upon him is a ministry of love, sent for his correction, and that, in the way of his willingness to be corrected, God will heal all his diseases, restore his soul, and crown him anew with honor and glory.
Elihu speaks for God. For this is the true solution of Job’s sufferings and of the sufferings of every child of God. In it is contained the germ of the New Testament teaching that “whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourges every son whom he receiveth and that, if we endure chastening, God dealeth with us as with sons,. Elihu’s solution of Job’s suffering is God’s answer to Job’s request that He reveal to him the “why” and the “wherefore” of his affliction. And although it leaves unanswered the question of the tribulations peculiar to Job’s trial and the tribulations peculiar to every believer’s trial—for all God’s people suffer not alike—it is the only answer that Job receives, because it is an answer fully satisfying to faith, and it opened to Job and to every child of God the way of faith in his afflictions. It shows that, though it is true, that there is a suffering because of sin, it is equally true that not all suffering can be attributed to personal sin. There is a suffering among God’s people which is not the result of wickedness; it is for the spiritual uplifting of God’s children.
Job has heard the instruction and the counsel of Elihu. And hearing he is silent. The storm that rages in his bosom subsides, and he becomes thoughtful and pensive. For God is working in him His very own salvation, through sanctifying His word unto Job’s heart—the word spoken by Elihu. A new day dawns in Job’s soul, and the love-hanging vapors from the abyss are being dispelled by the sanctifying; breath of God’s Spirit, so that Job now breathes a purer atmosphere.
But “why does not Job now praise God and bless His name and glory in tribulations? Why does he remain silent? Because, though he is making progress, he still hears of God by the hearing of the ear, perceives rationally, that God is good, and that his affliction is God’s perfect work in him, a work of love. Job’s discernment is not yet sufficiently spiritual. That, “whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth,” is a truth that, as yet, does not stand out in his mind as a blessed reality; (He knows it to be true, but as yet he can take no comfort from it, so that his mouth remains closed. He must first see God. He must first see God with a spiritual eye, by means of intellectual faith perception, before he can thank God for his pain, and glory in his sorrows. He must first stand on the summit of the hill of God and behold the beauties of the Lord in His temple, before he can praise. But that hill, that rock, is too high for him. God must set him there, which He now does. For we read, “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, “Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge.” That one was Job. Of this he is guilty. Two things are implied in what the Lord here says to Job: that his suffering is founded on a purpose of God and that Job, by his perverse speeches, is guilty of distorting that purpose by representing it as caprice without purpose. He had accused God, had he not, of multiplying his wounds without a cause. The Lord continues, “Gird up thy loins now like a man; for I will demand, of thee, and answer thou me.” This is a severe approach on the part of God. But Job had need of it for the breaking of his pride. He had set himself up as critic over God. And he must suffer until his pride is broken and he justifies God, seeks his pardon, cleaves to Him as his Savior, and blesses His name. To attain his purpose with Job, God brings him face to face with His infinite goodness, with His power, wisdom and knowledge, as revealed gloriously in all the wonderful works of His hands in nature. He directs Job’s mind to the creation of the earth, to the formation of the sea, to the dawn, to the underworld, to the surface of the earth, and to ice and snow; And he asks Job, whether the earth and its fullness is his work, whether it is under his government and control, and whether he can explain its operations. “Where wast thou,” says the Lord to Job, “when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding. Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days; and caused the dayspring to know its place? Where is the way where light dwelleth, knoweth thou it? Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds, that abundance of waters may cover thee? Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go and say unto thee, Here we are.”
Turning from the inanimate creature, the Lord now directs the mind of Job to the wild roaming animals, to the lion, the wild goat, the raven, the hinds, the wild ass, the wild ox, the ostrich, the war horse, the hawk. And God asks Job whether these creatures are in his hand, whether he can explain their behavior and whether they look up for their sustenance to him. “Knowest thou the time when the wild goats bring forth? Who provideth the raven with food? Dost thou Job, Hast thou given the horse strength? Canst thou make him afraid like a grasshopper? Thou, Job who striveth with the Almighty, instruct him now. Thou, who reproveth God, answer.” We grasp the thrust of this discourse of the Lord to Job. It is this. “O Job, art thou God, is power, wisdom, knowledge and understanding thine, and am I man, seated at thy feet, that thou shouldest reprove and criticize me, and presume to be able to instruct me, as to how I should order thy life? If so, answer these questions, and I will listen and be informed.”
Then Job answered the Lord and said, “Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee. I will lay my hand upon my mouth.” We grasp the thrust of Job’s reply. It is this, “Thou art God and none else. Thine is all the power and knowledge and wisdom and understanding. That I, a sinful man, should have criticized thee. O the sinfulness of sin, the amazing stupidity of sin, even as it riots in the flesh of God’s people.”
But God is not yet done with Job. Job has made progress, but he is not yet where God wants him. So the Lord again answers Job out of the whirlwind and says, “Gird up thy loins now like a man: I will demand of thee and declare thou unto me. Wilt thou disannul my judgment? Wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous.” Also the thrust of this word of God to Job is, “Art thou Job God? Are divine attributes thine?” The Lord continues, “If so, deck thyself now with majesty and excellency. Look on every one that is proud and bring him low, and tread down the wicked in their place. Then will I also confess unto thee that thine own right hand can save,” ‘thus confess that thou art God indeed.’
It is enough. Job is humble now. “I know that thou canst do everything,” such is his reply to the Lord, “and that no thought can be withholden from thee. Who is he that hideth council?” ‘That one am I Lord.’ “Therefore have I uttered things I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.” ‘Thou chasteneth me, and I severely found fault with thee. I said that in smiting me, thou wert unjust. But I spake without understanding and knowledge.’
Job is now with God in His holy temple, where he sees God with his eye and gains a new insight into his own vileness, wherefore he says, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear but now my eye seeth thee, wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes.” It is good for Job to be afflicted. Ascending from the valley of the shadows, he passes onward and upward to new and unknown spiritual heights. He tastes, as never before, that the Lord is good. The question of the “wherefore” of the tribulation peculiar to his trial no longer vexes his soul. It is enough for him to know that “whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth.” He can only praise now, for he sees God with his eye.
So has the slanderer been silenced; for Job’s faith did not cease. It could not. His faith had suffered only an eclipse. See now what God does to him. He casts Job’s sins behind him, defends Job before his accusers, vindicated him, heals his diseases, and crowns him with honor and glory, not certainly because of anything of goodness inhering in Job—Job is vile—but solely for his own name’s sake. Certainly, the designs of the book of Job is not to exalt Job but to abase him and to exalt God’s indestructible work of grace in him, and thus to exalt God, in order that He may be feared.
During the period of his suffering and pain, Job had put his trust in God. The conviction had continued to be his that Jehovah was his God, his defender and redeemer, who in His own good time would arise to justify him in the hearing of his accusers and to deliver him for His name’s sake out of all his troubles. And the Lord did not put him to shame. He turned Job’s captivity, he healed all his diseases and gave him twice as much as he had before, blessed his latter end more than the beginning: “For he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she asses. (He had also seven sons and three daughters. . . . And in all the land were no women found so fair as the daughters of Job: and their father gave them inheritance among their brethren.
And “then came unto him all his brothers and sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance before.” During the period of Job’s fiery trial all these brethren and sisters, and acquaintances had kept their distance. They had deemed him smitten of God on account of his sins of which he was innocent. Thus all had forsaken him. He bitterly complains of this, while in his great pain, “O that I were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me. . . . When I went out of the gate through the city. . . . The young men saw me and hid themselves: and the aged rose and stood up. . . . but now they that are younger than I have me in derision.” Truly, the plight of Job was sorry. Rut in all his trouble Job held fast to God. And this trust is rewarded. God causes even those acquaintances to return to Job and to retract their vile accusations, and to confess that Job is one of God’s just ones, the beloved of Jehovah. And this they confess through their eating bread with him in his house, and comforting him and giving him gifts. And after this Job lived a hundred and forty years, and saw his son’s sons, even four generations. So died Job, old and full of days.