Let us now attend to the historical conclusion. “And it was so that after the Lord had spoken these words unto Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, 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 has. 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; for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, like my servant Job. So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went, and did according as the Lord commanded them: the Lord also accepted Job” (42:1-8).
Statements occur in this section that may awaken some surprise. The Lord’s wrath is kindled against Eliphaz and the two friends. In this group Eliphaz is the leader in thought. As he has spoken, so have they also spoken. His theory is theirs; likewise his solution of Job’s sufferings. They have not spoken right of God as Job has. They have spoken foolishly of God. Wherein, then, did the foolishness of their speech consist? And what is that right speech of Job concerning God or spoken to God? According to one view this right saying is chap. 40:4, and 42:1-6, “Behold I am vile; what shall I answer thee? . . . Therefore have I uttered that I understood not. . . Wherefore I abhor myself. . .” This right saying, then, is, according to this view, Job’s confession of sin and expression of contriteness of heart. The three friends, on the other hand, had not fallen upon their faces, and laid their hands upon their mouths; they had not confessed and repented in dust and ashes. This Job had done. He had humbled himself, and therefore, according to the view now under consideration, did God highly exalt him to be priest and mediator for the others.
What now to think of this view? It is too highly improbable to be accepted. According to this view, the fundamental position that Job had taken in the great debate is as wrong as that which the three friends had taken; and the discourses to which Job gave utterance are essentially, at bottom, as censurable and God-dishonoring as those uttered by the three friends. Thus, essentially Job sinned as grievously as did they. The only difference is that Job was the first to see and to confess his sin. Now, were this true, could it be expected that God, solely on this account, would have said to the three friends, “My wrath is kindled against thee. . . .” and to Job, “Thou in distinction from them hast spoken of me the thing that is right,” and thereupon would have exalted Job to be priest over the others? This is inconceivable. Yet, on the other hand, Job’s confession of his sin, his repenting in dust and ashes is not to be excluded from “the right saying” for which he is recommended. Only this forms not the whole content of “the right saying.” The sentiment that comes to the surface in Job’s confession of sin, permeates, rightly considered, all Jobs’ discourses.
Thus, the right utterances for which Job is commended are to be sought for in his discourses. Let us once more consider the following. With his children slain and with all his possessions taken from him, Job said, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Mark you, Job did not say, “Not the good and kind God, but the Sabeans fell upon my servants and took my cattle away, not God but a strong wind caused the house to collapse over my children, so that they died, blessed be the name of the Lord.” but Job said, “The Lord did it all. Praise Him.” This is the truly religious sentiment. The man that can say this from the heart, actually glorifies God. Did this praise die upon Job’s lips afterwards when he sat upon the ash heap smitten with boils? It did at times but it was not gone. It abided all along there in the heart of Job’s disposition. (Job’s faith was indestructible). At no time did this praise altogether cease to spring up and mix itself with his groaning. As was said, Job’s discourses as a whole are the lamentations of a man, of a lover of God, who is sad beyond words, because the thought has taken root in his soul that the God after whom he thirsts, for some unaccountable reason, has become his enemy. These lamentations are therefore at bottom praise. Job during all the period of his trial held fast his righteousness, his sonship and God. It means that the silent and at times also audible speech of his heart continues to be, “Why God smites me, His son, I know not. But this I know that God is good. Though He slay me, I will still praise Him.” This is what he said in substance when he declared, “I know that my Redeemer liveth. . . .” Job gives utterance to the truly religious sentiment, which is, “Though I do not perceive rationally the justice of His way with me, yet I know by faith that as the author of my pain He is just, for He is God. I will adore Him.” Job is the truly religious man, during all the period of His trial, despite his violent language. He truly glorifies God. He pays Him the highest conceivable tribute. He gives God the trust that is blind. It is enough for him to know that God does it. He speaks of God the thing that is right.
But now the three friends. They do not stand where Job stands fundamentally. What is their great sin? Job tells them, when he says, “Will ye speak wickedly for God? and talk deceitfully for Him? Will ye accept his person? will ye contend for God? Is it good that He should search you out? or as a man mocketh another, do ye so mock Him? He will surely reprove you, if ye do secretly accept persons” (13:7-10).
Job here anticipates what really happened afterwards. What is the sin of these three friends? In order to make it possible for themselves to keep God before their mind as a being of whom they can rationally perceive that He is just, they deny what they know to be true, namely that Job is a true child of God and thus innocent of the gross sins with which they are reproaching him. What they should have done is to freely acknowledge what they knew to be true, namely that Job was a child of the light. But acknowledging this, they would then be at a loss to explain how God in justice could be afflicting Job. So to make it possible for themselves to rationally justify God, they against better knowledge classify Job with the godless. This is their sin. They deliberately lie, in order that God may stand out in their minds as just in His dealings with Job. Now to lie is to sin against God, is thus to deny Him. It is questionable therefore whether in their attempt to justify God, they were motivated by true love of God. Job intimates that they were actuated by a carnal motive, by unholy fear of God. Says Job to them, “Will it be well for you, when he searches you out (goes to the bottom of you) or can you deceive him as a man is deceived.” What they, too, should have done is to maintain Job as a just man and then declare that God is righteous also in His present dealing with the just Job. This they failed to do, failed to cleave to God when cleaving to Him required of them that they annul their own judgment. Despite their pious-sounding speeches, they rose not to those sublime heights of faith where the lover of God says with Job, “Though He slay me, I will still trust in Him,” and with Paul and thus with Job, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable are his judgments and his ways past finding out.” They refused to recognize that God’s thoughts and ways are infinitely higher than those of man, that God is the mystery not to be comprehended but to be adored and praised. In a word, the three friends had not spoken of or to God right like His servant Job. There was more genuine piety in the most violent language of Job than in any of their reasonings.
And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: . . . . It is to be noticed that Job did not pray for his friends, and through this prayer rebuke them for their sins, until after he himself had first repented in dust and ashes. Let us ask in general how a man, himself an ill-deserving sinner can be allowed, by the Lord God to admonish and pray for the erring. Is not such a prayer, such rebuke, administered by one who himself is unworthy, the expression of stinking pride and sickening hypocrisy? It is indeed, unless the one who prays, first goes down in the dust before God. For is it not true that even the holiest of men daily increase their guilt before God and through their continual sinning make themselves worthy of destruction every moment of their earthly existence? Such is the truth. Job, too, was sinful, despite his being, according to God’s own testimony, a man of singular piety. What abominations were still dwelling in him, that is, in his flesh! How through his vile murmuring, he had taunted God! And this man must now in the behalf of his erring brethren send up a prayer in which the thrice holy God can delight, this man who by himself is too vile to direct his gaze to God’s sanctuary? How can God hearken unto the voice of his pleading? He can and does hearken, but only because it is the voice of a penitent one, of one who abhors self also on account of his sins, of one who himself is prostrated before the throne of God’s grace and who therefore is spotless and without blame in Christ, thus of one who can pray for the erring under the impulse of true love and who because he loves can have compassion on those erring ones. Thus Job’s prayer for his friends was at once an act through which he, also, together with them, humbled himself under God’s hand. Therefore does the Lord turn Job’s captivity, then when he has given evidence of being capable by the mercies of God to bless and pray for those who had, in their mistaken zeal, reviled and persecuted him.
Also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then came there unto Job all his brethren, and all his sisters, and all they that had been acquainted before, and did eat bread with him in his house: and bemoaned him, and comforted him over all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him: every man also gave him a piece of money, and everyone an earring of gold. So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning. . . .
This all has great significance. Job is a man who passed through suffering and death to glory. Mark him. During the period of his reverses and pain, he had put his trust in God. The conviction had continued to be his that Jehovah was his Goel, his Defender and Redeemer, who in His own good time would arise to justify him in the hearing of all his accusers and to deliver him for His own name’s sake out of all his troubles. And his Goel does not put him to shame. The Lord did just that. 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 his 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.”
But there is more to take notice of. “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 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. . . . I am their song, yea I am their byword. They abhor me, they flee far from me, and spare not to spit in my face. Because he (God) hath loosed my cord and afflicted me, they have also let loose the bridle before me” (29, 30).
How truly sorry the plight of this man Job has been! There he had sat on the ash-heap, with possessions taken from him by thieving hands, with children who had just met a violent death, with his person covered with boils, with a body filled with excruciating pain, with his God hiding his face from him and turning a deaf ear to his cries, with a soul full of confusion on account of the treatment the Almighty afforded him, with friends and acquaintances who held themselves at a distance because they saw something terrible in the state of the man, but with three of these friends tormenting his soul with their reasoning that he perished by the blast of God because of his past wicked life.
But Job had held fast to God. What a marvelous thing faith is, the faith that God genders in the hearts of His people! How able God is to preserve to Himself His people in the midst of trouble!
Once more, Job had trusted in 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, through their comforting him and giving him gifts. How the Lord now asserts Himself in Job’s life as his Redeemer indeed!
And after this lived Job a hundred and forty years, and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, even four generations. So Job died, old and full of days.
There is a mighty sermon that comes to us through this record of the experiences of the man Job. This experience is to be taken as a prophetic type of the redemption of Christ, of God’s method of salvation, of the way on which He leads His people in His saving them to the uttermost, namely, on a way that leads through suffering to glory; it is to be taken, this experience, as the certain pledge that God, without fail, will redeem His people, will cause His church to appear with Christ in glory to inherit with Christ all things.
It is to be noticed that Job repents before God turns away his captivity, thus while he is still in his pain. His repentance therefore is in the supreme sense an act of faith. Before his redemption becomes an actuality, Job must confess that by his sins he has made himself unworthy of what God is ready to bestow.