What is Job, a believer or an infidel? This, as was explained, is the issue to be decided between God and Satan. Satan’s contention is, so it was pointed out, that Job has been serving God not for naught. The implication of this charge is that Job’s affections are set not upon God but upon God’s temporal and material gifts. The charge is a serious one. If it be true, Job is a godless personage. In lodging his charge, Satan islanders not only Job but God as well. God has said that Job is righteous, that thus he is cleansed from all his sins in the blood of Christ and by the power of God’s love, and that, as so cleansed, he has none in heaven but God and none upon earth that he desires beside God. If it be true therefore that Job has been serving God not for naught, it must follow that God is incapable of saving His people from their sins, devoid of the ability to bring them into being as a people with affections sanctified by His grace and thus set wholly and exclusively upon Him, the God of their salvation. Rightly considered, this is precisely Satan’s contention. It must therefore be made to appear for God’s sake that Satan’s appraisal of Job is a lie. That this may appear, God takes from Job his children and all his possessions, thus the very things that, according to Satan, constitute Job’s gods in which he trusts and upon which he sets his affections. In tempting Job, Satan goes still further: He reduces Job to a state of abject poverty and in addition smites him with a terrible disease. Satan through the agency of the three friends now attempts to convince Job that he perishes by the blast of God on account of his past wicked life, in the expectation that Job in his despair and anger will renounce God. In so far does Satan succeed with Job, that Job concludes that, despite the fact that he is innocent of the atrocious sins with which the friends reproach him, God nevertheless for some unaccountable reason holds and treats him as His enemy. But so far is Job from denouncing God and, we may say, so thoroughly untrue, it is that he has been serving God “not for naught” that with his children slain, with all his possessions taken from him, with his body full of unendurable pain, with a mind confused and with a soul in which the thought has taken root that God accounts him as one of His enemies, he in the heart of his disposition still cleaves unto and adores God. The proof of this is those sublime words to which he at the lowest ebb of despair gives utterance—words indicative of a heart with desires concentrated solely upon God, these words, “He also shall be my salvation. . . . For I know that my redeemer liveth. . . . And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet I shall see God.” How ought Satan now to slink away in the realization of the fallacy of his contention!
Yet, as was said, though Job’s faith is indestructible, he does not pass through his trial without sinning. In his great and continuous anguish of body and soul, Job could not refrain from crying out. His language becomes violent and sinfully so. Often darkness comes over him again. Then he hurls curses at the day of his birth, accuses God of destroying the perfect with the wicked, of laughing at the trial of the innocent, of giving the earth in the hands of the wicked, and of multiplying his wounds without a cause. But God in His love finally comes to Job, remonstrates with him, corrects him, binds up his wounds, restores his soul, and vindicates and exalts him. God rebukes Job first through Elihu, the fourth speaker. Elihu, it was shown, utters words of true wisdom. He speaks in the place of God. The merit of Elihu’s discourse, so it was pointed out, is not that from it Job derives the solution of his suffering; the real merit of this discourse is that from it Job may and does learn that his violent speech was absolutely unjustifiable, deeply sinful. The instruction and rebuke of Elihu Job takes home to his heart. When Elihu has done speaking, Job is silent and through his silence declares that he has sinned. The three friends, too, had repeatedly told Job that the Lord was exacting of him less than his iniquities deserve. But Job had turned a deaf ear to their speech on account of their insisting that he had been leading a wicked life and that therefore he now reaped the doom of the godless. To Elihu, on the other hand. Job is a son whom the Lord chastens but who as chastened has sinned.
Let us now pass on to the discourses of Jehovah. The prevalent view seems to be that the aim of these discourses is to set forth the other half of the positive solution of the problem (of suffering)—a solution that consists in the exhibition of the suffering of the righteous as ordained to prove them and to bring out their innocence. The fact of the matter is, however, that no such solution finds expression in these discourses. The aim of these discourses may be unerringly ascertained by attending to the words of rebuke which God directs to Job out of the whirlwind. “Then the Lord answered Job and said, who is this who darkeneth counsel with words without knowledge?” This one is Job. By his perverse and vain speeches he has rendered profitable and intelligent contemplation of the divine purpose of his sufferings most difficult. Let him now “gird up thy loins like a man; for I (God) will demand of thee, and answer thou me.” God is now to enter into a contest with Job, which is to consist in a series of questions to be addressed by God to Job and to be answered by the latter. For this very thing Job in chap. 13:22 had asked for, “Only do two things unto me: then will I not hide myself from thee. Withdraw thy hand far from me: and let not thy dread make me afraid. Then call thou, and I will answer: or let me speak and answer thou me.” The Lord continued, “Wilt thou also disannul my judgment?” The sense and meaning of the Hebrew word translated by judgment is a) judgment; b) right, rectitude, justice. The construction to be placed on this charge (lodged against Job by the Lord) is that Job, through his having declared that God multiplied his wounds without a cause, had denied the justice and the rectitude of God’s manner of dealing with him and had thus disannulled God’s justice. The sinfulness of Job’s doing appears from the next question which the Lord puts to him, “Wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous?” In annulling God’s justice, Job had condemned God in order that he, Job, might be righteous. How Job, the man of singular piety could have become guilty of this wickedness has been partially explained.
Job knows himself to be one of God’s righteous. But why then does God smite him? Job has before his mind but two possible solutions. He has been leading a wicked life. This is the solution of the three friends. The other solution is that Job is innocent and that thus God smites him without a cause. Which of these two solutions will Job adopt. If he adopt the former, he condemns self and justifies God. If he adopt the latter, he condemns God and justifies self. What is Job to do? He may not condemn God. Yet he cannot condemn self, that is, deny his sonship. So, in his extremes, he does now the one then the other.
Now he condemns self and justifies God. Then, as harassed by the three friends, he cries out in his despair that God multiplies his wounds without a cause. When so crying, he annuls God’s justice, condemns God that he, Job, may be righteousness. What ought Job to do? Needless to say, he ought not to condemn God. What sin can be greater! Ought Job then to falsely accuse himself? Ought he, a child of the light, with whose spirit God’s spirit testifies that he is God’s son, deny this testimony and classify himself with the wicked? Assuredly not. Job’s duty is to maintain his sonship and to maintain at once that, though he cannot explain, God is just in smiting him. And this Job also does during the entire period of his trial. But he does so consciously at intervals only, when his faith flowers marvelously and he utters sublime words, such words as, “I know that my redeemer liveth.” But can God in justice smite His children? The view of the three friends is that He cannot. If the view is correct, either Job is no son, or, if he is, God is unjust as the author of his pain. But the view of the friends is wrong. Job is a son, but a son with a small beginning of true obedience. Hence, God cannot be accused of injustice on account of His having laid Job low.
In annulling God’s judgment, Job has set himself up as judge over God and, as a self-appointed judge of God, has submitted to his judgment and appraisal God’s rule, moral government, the manner in which God exercises His rule, dispenses justice. And the verdict at which he arrives is that God as the supreme judge of all the earth, is not doing right, is perverting justice. Does He not multiply Job’s wounds without a cause? To understand Jehovah’s discourses it must also be taken in consideration that he who criticizes another, makes himself the equal of that other. Job criticizes God. In doing so, he makes himself God’s equal in power and in wisdom, yea, in every respect and thus declares that, being God’s equal, he is thus capable of sitting in God’s throne to do God’s work and to do it even better than God. Were he in God’s stead, he would most assuredly refrain from multiplying a man’s wounds without a cause. He is thoroughly displeased with God’s doings. Through the voicing of his displeasure, he gives expression to the wish that he were holding for a season the reins of government of God’s universe.
These reasonings of Job call for a definite kind of rebuke and instruction, for a kind of instruction that, as blessed to Job’s heart, will open his eyes to the vanity of his reasoning and cause him to repent in dust and ashes. This instruction comes to Job in the form of a series of questions that form one harmonious whole, consisting of two principal divisions of equal length. The first (chap. 38:4-38) refers to creation and to inanimate nature, the second (chap. 38:39-39:30) to the animal kingdom. Examining this discourse, the discovery is made that the question “Canst thou” and “Knowest thou” occur over and over. “Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go and say unto thee, Here we are?” “‘Knowest thou the time when the wild goats of the rock bring forth?” In every question the emphasis is to be placed on the pronoun thou to bring out that this pronoun signifies Job as a man who, through his criticizing God, had in his great vexation of spirit declared that not God but that he, Job, knows and is able—knows and is able as God—and that therefore he could take and ought to be allowed to take God’s place as ruler and judge and dispenser of justice of all the earth. “Canst thou, Job, as can God, send lightnings. . . Hast thou the power?” “Where is the way where light dwelleth?” ‘God knows.’ “Knowest thou it” ‘too’? “Where wast thou when I laid the foundation of the earth? Declare if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?” ‘Hast thou? ‘Couldst thou have?’ “Hast thou commanded the morning since the days; and caused the dayspring to know his place; that it might take hold of the ends of the earth, that the wicked might be shaken out of it?” ‘Art thou mighty as God to cause by thy command the morning?’ Who hath divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters, or a way for the lightning of thunder; to cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is; on the wilderness, where there is no man? “Hast thou Job? Couldst thou, wouldst thou be able? “Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion? Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or canst thou guide Arturus with his sons? Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth? 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?”
These are but a few of the questions, chosen at random, which the Lord puts to Job. There are also questions that refer to God’s moral creature man. “Then answered the Lord Job out of the storm, Hast thou an arm like God?” The ‘arm’ of God is symbol of His power. Job, through his finding fault with God has actually maintained this. The Lord continues, “Then put on thy majesty and grandeur; and array thyself with glory and beauty” (chap. 40). The meaning of this divine challenge is to the following effect, “Clothe, deck thyself with those attributes of divine greatness, power and wisdom which thou, Job, sayest that belong to thee.” The challenge is, to be sure, intended ironically; it demands of Job the impossible. Having decked himself with his imaginary divine greatness, let (verse 11), “the outbreakings of thy wrath pour themselves forth,” that is, display, manifest thy holy wrath against sinners. “Look on every one (every sinner) that is proud, and bring him low; and tread down the wicked in their place. Hide them in the dust together; and bind their faces in secret. Then will I (God) also confess unto thee that thine own right hand can save thee” (verses 12-14, chap. 40). It is especially this divine challenge that forms the conclusive proof that the charge lodged against Job by the Lord Himself is that he, Job, through his criticizing God, has said, “I am God and no man,” and, “God is a not-God.” But is this actually the sentiment to which Job gave expression? Not, to be sure, directly and in these words, not deliberately and voluntarily but involuntarily and in his great extremes and through his crying out that God multiplied his wounds without a cause, thus through his murmurings and outbursts of anger, through his expressions of his dissatisfaction with God’s way with him. Consider once more that the Lord accuses Job of having condemned God in order that he, Job, might be just. What does it now mean that one condemns God in order that one may be righteous other than to affirm, “I am God and God is a not-God.” But to say this is to utter blasphemy, is, rightly considered, to curse God. Has Job then, in his extremes, after all actually become guilty of this? And the answer, “It is the wicked devoid of the love of God who commit this sin, who literally, knowingly and willingly, that is, presumptuously, say that God is not. It is said of the godless alone that all their thoughts are that there is no God. Literally and presumptuously cursing God is a sin inconsistent with grace.” The Lord certainly is not accusing Job of having committed this sin when He says to him, “Thou hast condemned me.” What the Lord, through His addressing this utterance to Job, does, is to analyze for the benefit of Job and of us all Job’s murmurings and dissatisfactions, to teach Job what his murmurings at bottom are, namely, blasphemy, and what Job, by implication and without being aware of it, did when in his great anguish of soul he cried out that God multiplied his wounds without a cause, namely, annul God’s judgment, condemn God, declare that God as ruler and dispenser of justice was thoroughly unfit in that He lacked power and wisdom and knowledge and those divine attributes that in Scripture are called holiness, justice, righteousness. To find faint with God, to murmur against Him when His hand rests heavily upon us, to criticize Him as the author of our pain, to be dissatisfied with His way with us, O the horror of it! And yet, when the Lord scourges his sons because He loves them, how full of murmuring and dissatisfactions they then appear still to be as to Job, had he actually and literally condemned, cursed God, presumptuously renounced and denounced Him, it would have to be said of Satan that he has actually succeeded in showing up Job as a man who has been serving God not for naught. But, as was just said, Job did not presumptuously and literally condemn God. But Job criticized God, murmured against Him, accused God of injustice, and thus has, in the sense just explained, annulled God’s judgment and thus given expression to the wish that he were the dispenser of justice of all the earth.
In view of Job’s vile murmurings what instruction is better suited to bring Job in the dust before God, than the instruction, the questions with which the Lord comes to him, “Canst thou? Knowest thou? Do divine attributes belong to thee? Art thou God?” And Job replies as only a believer, by the mercy of God, can reply, “Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay my hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further.” Job here makes a retraction of all the charges and challenges contained in his complaint that God multiplied his wounds without a cause. The Lord now continues His discourse. When He has done speaking, Job speaks. His reply reads, “I know that thou canst do everything, and that no thought (that is, no purpose which thou dost carry out) is forbidden thee.” God, so Job here confesses, has the power and the right to do as He pleases, to execute all His thoughts, His purposes, without condition or any limitation whatever and without involving himself in injustice. So, when he severely inflicts his people, who are without blame and spotless in Christ, He is still righteous God. Job continues, “Who is this that obscureth counsel without knowledge?” Here Job cites verbally the words of God at the beginning of the first discourse (chapter 38:2). ‘So,’ Job means, ‘hast thou, O Lord, rightly spoken to me, as this is my sin. I have obscured counsel without knowledge.’ “Thus (ver. 3 of ch. 42) have I judged, without understanding, what was too wonderful for me, without knowing,” that is, my judgment to the effect that Thou art multiplying my wounds without just cause, that thus these sufferings are unmerited and that Thou therefore art cruel,—“this judgment was uttered by me without knowledge or understanding.” Now Job (ver. 4) again cites from the first discourse of Jehovah (ch. 38:3) and from the introduction to the second (ch. 41:7). Thus verse 4 is of Jehovah’s previous command to him. Thus the meaning is, “Thou, O Lord, hast demanded of me to make my answer to Thee; my answer can be none other than the one that now follows (vs. 5, 6), I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself and repent in the dust and ashes.” What has Job heard of God? All that he now sees. We have to do here with a report of an experience common to all believers. Both these expressions “I have heard thee. . . Now mine eye seeth thee” must be made to apply to the truth about God as it dwelt in Job’s heart,—the truth that God is a being of infinite perfection, a being righteous and just and holy by Himself and in all His doing, also in that doing of His consisting in His inflicting most severely the just man, a being further, whose might is without limitations and who therefore is to be worshipped as the Most High God. Job knew this in his well days and also when in his great anguish of soul he cries out that God as the author of his pain was unjust, as well as he knew it after he has hearkened to the instruction of Elihu and even of Jehovah. The discourses of Elihu and of the Lord do not increase Job’s intellectual knowledge of God. This is not the purpose of these discourses. What takes place is that Job’s knowledge of God becomes more saving. This can be explained. Job is brought to extremes. God lays him low without giving account of His doing. Job is perplexed, and amazed. In his great pain he sins grievously. He accuses God of injustice. He deserves to be destroyed. But instead God in his mercy brings Job under the conviction of his sins. The result is that Job’s knowledge of his misery and native corruption grows, and this also on account of the fact that new abominations, of whose presence he formerly was not even aware, have bestirred themselves in his bosom during the period of his trial. He stands amazed now at his capacity for foolishness. How ignorant he by nature is! As a beast he sees self before God. He now abhors self, and repents in dust and ashes. But, if sin has abounded, grace much more abounds. God forgives. And Job now tastes, as he has never tasted, that the Lord is good. It means that Job advances spiritually, that he has grown in grace and in knowledge, that his faith is stronger by far and his hope more living; it means that his fellowship with God is characterized by greater intimacy, that thus he has come closer to God, much closer, and as a result sees God better, so that, as never before, the all wise, holy, just, and good God stands out in his mind as a blessed reality. There is then a difference between then and now. And this difference Job can bring into words only by saying that formerly he has heard of God by the hearing of the ear but that now his eye sees Him. What he speaks of is the intuitive seeing, a spiritual discerning, the certain knowledge, the assurance and conviction, of a blossoming saving faith. Thus what Job has longed for, namely that he might see God, has come to pass. We are to notice the order of the two classes (a) “but now mine eye seeth thee”; (b) “wherefore I abhor. . . . . myself and repent. . .” Abhorring oneself on account of ones sins is an action that takes place when one is close to God, when there is present in the soul the conviction and assurance of a flowering faith. Job now sees God, not face to face but through the glass of an earthy revelation. Seeing God face to face is the prerogative only of the glorified church in heaven.
The experience which Job describes by the clause “Now mine eye seeth thee” is identical to that which Asaph brought into words when he said, “Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end. . . .” The sanctuary of God is His dwelling place. Thus to go into the sanctuary is to draw near unto God; it is to appear before and to abide in His presence; it is to have fellowship with Him. They who enter the sanctuary are the just and the pure in Christ. They see, therefore, spiritually discern God and the end of the wicked.
One may ask whether there is real and close connection between the questions put by the Lord to God and the reply of Job. This connection could be no closer. Job’s reply is the only suitable one. God asks, “Canst thou. . . . Knowest thou, . . .Hast thou understanding? Do divine attributes belong to thee? To this Job replies, “I abhor myself. . . . . I repent in dust and ashes. . . . . I confess that I have spoken as a fool, without knowledge and understanding.” What Job here by implication declares is, “Lord, I do not know. I am without might and understanding. I am creature. I am nothing. Thou only knowest. All power is thine. Thou art wise. God art thou and none else. Divine attributes belong to thee alone. And yet, Lord, I a man, criticized Thee, the infinitely perfect One, a being who art the inclusion of all that is good and lovely. I denounced Thee and Thy perfect work consisting in Thy chastising me. In my conceit, I annulled Thy justice, and thus pronounced Thee, the all wise, almighty, and holy God unfit as judge of all the earth. This is my sin.”
How did Job come to this? He had been unable to harmonize the doing of God consisting in His smiting him with his essential righteousness. Job had this question, “How can God smite me who am His son.” With this question he had gone not to God but to his own mind. And the answer he received was that God was unjustly smiting him. This answer he had accepted and given expression to. He had accepted the verdict of his mind, reason, and annulled God’s judgment. But did not Job realize that if this verdict be that God is unjust, it of necessity had to be rejected as with God there can be no unjustice? Job was bent on holding fast his own righteousness even if by doing so he was driven to deny God’s rectitude. This was his great sin for which he now abhors himself, repents in dust and ashes.
What now may be the merit of Jehovah’s discourses? Their merit is not that they provide Job with a solution of his suffering. They do this even much less than the discourse of Elihu. The merit of Jehovah’s discourses is that, as blessed to Job’s heart, they bring him under the conviction of his own nothingness and of Jehovah’s infinite greatness and perfection. Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised. God is He and none else. Terrible is He in His works. Righteousness is the foundation of His throne. Let His people therefore trust him implicitly also then when they cannot apprehend the justice and the goodness of His doing. Let them still trust in Him; for He is God. He can make no errors. He is the almighty and all wise God of His people in Christ.
This is the very message that Job in his extremes has need of hearing. From Elihu Job hears that the Lord in His love chastens His sons, the just ones, for their good. Job hears and believes. But he receives from Elihu no full solution of his great suffering. Job’s chastisement was uncommonly severe. What is the reason for this? God knows. Satan has slandered God and must be silenced. This is the solution of Job’s great pain. But it was not revealed unto Job. It was not God’s will that he should know. Would Job have been given the explanation for his sufferings, the book that bears his name would not contain for believers the lesson that it now contains, the lesson namely, that believers must not become vexed because God refrains from revealing to them the special or particular reasons for the pain and sorrow that he causes to enter their lives. God does not explain in detail His doings. There is no need of this on the part of a man if there be faith that God is good and wise and just, that He makes no mistakes and that whatever the hidden reason may be, it is one as excellent as is God.
God in His word tells us why He wills that His people suffer in this life. Suffering is a trial of their faith that worketh patience. Suffering is chastisement which all His people must undergo in order that they may become partakers of His holiness. When suffering, the believer is being disciplined in order that he may be withdrawn from destruction (Job 33). Then there is also a suffering for well-doing and for righteousness’ sake and for the sake of Christ’s name. But with all these reasons tabulated, the believer can still ask questions concerning his suffering,—questions to which Scripture gives no answer. Why had that father of a family of dependents to be taken away by death? Why he and not that aged couple with no dependents. Is this a wise and a just doing of the all wise God? The man who leans upon his own understanding will denounce the doing as unjust, unwise, and cruel. But faith, annulling the judgment of the flesh, says, “Praise the Lord.” And this is right, as the Lord is God, He alone is great. The finest compliment that one friend can pay another who seemingly offended is to tell him that he need not explain. As to God, He is above reproach. He can do no wrong. Why then, when our finite minds are unable to apprehend the rectitude of his doing, should we want to ask Him to explain and to disclose the hidden reason? Isn’t it enough to know that it is He Who has done it? Job’s great pain had a hidden reason. And Job asked, over and over, “Why Lord, dost thou smite me.” He wanted to know the hidden reason. But God was silent. Job’s crying became increasingly violent as the divine silence was prolonged. Finally his complaint became that God smote him without a cause. Then God came to him not with the purpose to disclose to him the hidden reason but to revive him with this truth, “Job, know that I am God not thou. Praise Me!” And by the mercies of God Job praised. He refrained, then, from crying for the hidden reason. Job praised! And the peace of God filled his soul. He came to rest in God. Then his eyes saw God; for he was in God’s sanctuary.