In the previous article under the above caption the false view of Job’s critics was exposed and examined. These critics maintain that without exception every wicked and thus reprobated personage receives in this life his full measure of punishment—a punishment that consists in just the kind of calamity and pain that has overtaken Job. So, beholding Job’s sufferings, they reproach him with atrocious sins, and thus indirectly declare that, being a wicked man, a lion of iniquity, Job has God against him and therefore now perishes as do all the wicked. As was made plain, these friends, through their reasonings, actually classify Job with that unhappy portion of humanity against whom the Lord hath indignation forever.
The question was put what Satan’s purpose is in coming to Job with the theory of these three friends,—the theory that in this life every wicked man without exception receives his full measure of punishment. The question was answered thus: Satan strives to show up Job as a man who has been walking in the way of righteousness merely with a view to keeping God pacified in order that He might continue to bless the work of Job’s hands, as He had done in the past, so that his substance had increased mightily. It is this substance and not God that, according to Satan, Job loves. And it was pointed out that Satan pins all his hopes of succeeding in showing up Job as a man who lacks genuine piety on the ability of these friends to convince Job that they give him the true solution of his sufferings. For, as convinced of this, Job will be driven to conclude, so Satan reasons, that despite his righteousness, despite his having kept God’s way, God holds him for a wicked man, so that as a result he, Job, is now perishing by the blast of the Almighty. Satan feels assured that once this thought has taken root in Job’s soul, Job will conclude that it is utterly futile for a man to serve God, “to hold his foot to God’s steps,” to trust in Him, to enjoy God’s favor through a walk that takes a man on the way of God’s commandments, and that Job, as so concluding, will in his nameless despair and great anger, turn upon God and curse Him to His face.
It can be expected therefore that Satan, through the agency of the three friends, will insist that the solution of Job’s sufferings is the true and only one and that in his desperate attempt to convince Job, he will repeat it over and over. And so he does.
What now is Job’s reaction to his sufferings and to the terrible solution of his sufferings given him by his friends? In how far did Satan succeed with Job? To know this regard must be had to Job’s replies to his critics. These replies reflect the various states of the sufferer’s mind. They set forth the disquieting thoughts that tear at his heart during the persistent attack of Satan. Hearken unto this complaint of his:
“For he breaketh me with a tempest, and multiplieth my wounds without a cause,” (Job 9:17). Know now that God has overthrown me, and hath compassed me with a net. Behold, I cry out of wrong, but I am not heard: I cry aloud, but there is no judgment.
He hath fenced in my way that I cannot pass, and he hath set darkness in my paths.
He hath stripped me of my glory, and taken the crown from my head. He hath destroyed me on every side, and I am gone: and my hope hath he removed like a tree.
He hath also kindled his wrath against me, and he counteth me unto him as one of his enemies.” (Job 19:6-11).
Mark the two sentences, “He multiplieth my wounds without a cause. . . . He counteth me unto him as one of his enemies.” Who now are “his (God’s) enemies”? Who else but the wicked, the reprobated lions of iniquity, whose thoughts are that there is no God. Thus the complaint of Job is that though he has kept God’s ways (as prompted by the love of God shed abroad in his heart), and is thus God’s friend, God counts him as one of His enemies, thus as one of the wicked. Such is Job’s reasoning. It means that Satan’s wish is partly fulfilled. As Job listens to the rebuttals of his friends, the belief does form in his soul that he now receives in his flesh the punishment that God measures out to the wicked in this life and thus that God holds him for an enemy, is angry with him, and in His anger has taken “me by the neck, and shaken me to pieces, and set me up for his mark. His archers compass me around about, he cleaveth my reins asunder, and doth not spare; he poureth out my gall upon the ground. He breaketh me with breach upon breach, he runneth upon me like a giant” (chap. 16:12-14). Why does God so behave toward Job? “Not,” Job maintains, “for any injustice in mine hands: also my prayer is pure” (16:17).
Now this precisely is Job’s great grief, to wit, that God holds him for an enemy. This, Job well knows, he is not. And so far is his conscience from being evil, that he dare say to God, “Thou knowest that I am not wicked; and there is none that can deliver out of thine hand” (10:7). “Till I die,” Job replies to his critics, “I will not remove my integrity from me. My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go: my heart shall not reproach me as long as I live.” So persuaded is Job that his past life is free from the terrible sins with which his friends reproach him, so convinced is he that he is not a man to be classified with the wicked who perish by the blast of the Almighty, that in his final discourse he gives expression to the longing that he be weighed in an even balance, that God may know his integrity, “If my step hath turned out of the way, and my heart walked after mine eyes, and if any blot hath cleaved unto my hands.” If so, “Then let me sow, and let another eat; yea, let my offspring be rooted out. If my heart have been deceived by a woman, or if I have laid wait at my neighbor’s door; then let my wife grind unto another, and let others bow down upon her. . . . If I did despise the cause of my manservant or of my maidservant, when they contended with me; If I have withheld the poor from their desire, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail;. . . . if I have seen any perish for the want of clothing, or any poor without covering;. . . . If I have lifted my hands against the fatherless, when I saw my help in the gate: If I have made gold my hope, or have said to the fine gold, Thou art my confidence; If I have rejoiced because my wealth was great, and because my hand hath gotten much; If I behold the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness; and my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand: . . . . If I rejoiced at the destruction of him that hateth me, or lifted up myself when evil found him: neither have I suffered my mouth to sin by wishing a curse to his soul. . . . The stranger did not lodge in the street: but I opened my doors to the traveler. If I covered my transgressions as Adam, by hiding my iniquity in my bosom. . . . If my land cry against me, or that the furrows likewise complain; if I have eaten the fruits thereof without money, or have caused the owners thereof to lose their life: . . .” then, if Job be guilty of these sins, so “let my arm fall from my shoulder blade, and mine arm be broken from the bone. Then let thistles grow instead of wheat, and cockle instead of barley” (chap. 31). What now is the thrust of this reply of Job to his critics. It is this, “I, Job, take God as my witness that I am innocent of the sins whereof ye, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, art accusing me. I am not to be classified with the ungodly. I know myself to be a child of the light.” It is this assurance that makes Job bold as a lion in the presence of his accusers and that prompts him to say in the presence of God, “Oh, that one would hear me! Behold, my desire is, that the Almighty would answer me, and that my adversary had written a book. Surely I would take it upon my shoulder, and bind it as a crown to me. I would declare unto him (God) the number of my steps; as a prince would I go near unto him” (chap. 31:35, 36).
Here Job has again God in view, for whose judicial interposition in his behalf he accordingly longs again as previously (chaps. 13 and 16). The meaning of this exclamation of his is, “Here is the document of my defense, with my signature! Here I present my written vindication—let the Almighty examine it and deliver His sentence.”
As was said (in the foregoing article on this subject), it must not be supposed that Job means that he is free from the faults and infirmities common to all believers. What he means is simply that he has not been walking in the past in the gross sins that characterize the life of ungodly men.
Why does Job with such surprising tenacity hold fast his essential righteousness? There is reason for this. His testifying in the presence of God that, reviewing his past life, he can discover no such sins as those of which his friends accuse him is certainly not to be regarded as betokening a Pharisaic pride rooting in self-deception. Job is no Pharisee, who builds upon a self-established righteousness. He is a man of genuine and singular piety. Then only, let it be considered, does God tell His people that they are His own, when and while they walk with Him in the way of His precepts. Job has been walking with God. Hence, the testimony has come also to him that he is one of God’s sons. Should Job, therefore, allow himself to be convinced by Satan that he has in the past led a wicked life, he will be driven to conclude that the assurance of his being one of God’s own is a delusion. Now should this thought take root in his soul, his despair will be complete. Hence, his insistence that he is being falsely accused is representative of a desperate attempt on his part to prevent himself from passing under the dominion of Satan’s lie that his assurance is false. In his great affliction, Job’s heart tells him that, though his friends magnify themselves against him, and though his honor has been turned into extreme contempt and his prosperity into calamity, he still has God. This is his sole comfort. But this comfort is his only as long as he can prevent himself from being persuaded that he has become the victim of self-delusion. As persuaded, he of necessity will stand out in his mind as one whose hope in God is vain, and as one doomed to destruction.
Now most of the time Job succeeds in holding fast his essential righteousness. There are moments, however, when Satan’s persistent attack so confuses him, that he lets it (his righteousness) go. Attend to the following complaints, “How many are mine iniquities and sins? make me to know my transgressions and my sin. . . . For thou writest bitter things against me, and makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth (chap. 13:23, 26). I have sinned; what shall I do unto thee, O thou preserver of men? Why hast thou set me as a mark against thee, so that I am a burden to myself? And why dost thou not pardon my iniquity? For now shall I sleep in the dust; and thou shalt seek me in the morning, and I shall not be” (chap. 7:20, 21). What Job means is that death will soon hurry him away and that God will then have no further opportunity to show him favor. The sentiment to which Job here gives utterance indicates that he seems to be regarding it as probable, that, unbeknown to himself, he in the sight of God may have been walking in gross sin, and that, being thus wicked, he may have to perish with the ungodly. It is in moments when thoughts of this kind dwell in Job’s soul, that he sinks to the lowest depth of despair. At such times he seems to place a question mark behind his essential uprightness, with the result that his soul is then haunted by the terrifying thought that there may be for him no forgiveness. It is not often, however, that Job finds himself at this low level of despondency. His prevailing conviction, during all the time of his great suffering, is that, though for some unaccountable reason God counts him as one of His enemies, God is still for him and that, though “after my skin worms destroy my body, yet in my flesh I shall see God.” Chap. 19:26. This being his conviction, it can be expected that he will also assail the theory of his critics that, without exception “the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a time,” and that thus every godless person is exposed by his state and portion in this life. And so he does. Zophar again voices this theory. And Job replies that so far is the hypocrite (every hypocrite without exception) from flying away like a dream that the wicked live, become old, yea, are mighty in power? “Their seed is established in their sight with them, and their offspring before their eyes. Their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them. Their bull gendereth and faileth not; their cow calveth, and casteth not her calf. They send forth their little ones like a flock, and their children dance” (chap. 21:7-10).
It is plain, then, to what extent Job is influenced by the reasonings of his three friends. To this extent is he influenced that he can see it no other way but that, despite his integrity, God holds him for an enemy and also behaves as an enemy toward him. What emotions do these tragic thoughts raise in Job’s soul? Satan’s wish is that Job become angry and despair of himself and of God and that in his anger he turn upon God and curse Him to His face. And whereas Job, according to Satan’s appraisal of him, is devoid of true piety, Satan feels assured that Job will indeed end in renouncing and denouncing the Almighty. But Satan is due for a complete disappointment. In showing this the remark is in order that to Job’s life as it is known from the book that bears his name, there are four stages of experience through which he is made to pass, to wit, the stage of prosperity, of reverses, of reverses more severe, and of restoration. To the third stage belongs the great debate. It is while Job passes through this third stage that, with Satan’s reasoning in his ear, the feeling steals over his soul that God counts him for an enemy and has therefore destroyed him on every side. What are now the emotions that this feeling arouses in Job? His replies exhibit a soul resentful, angry, vexed and grieving, and a soul encircled by a gloom thick and deep.
There is anger in some of those replies of the sufferer especially in the one in which he hurls imprecations at the day of his birth. And mark once more the bitterness of this language, “How should a man be just with God?” Should Job have completed this sentence, he would have said, “How should a man be just with God, if God is determined that a man be unjust, wicked?” Job goes on to show that it is utterly futile for a man to attempt to be just before God, if God is resolved by Himself that a man be unjust. “If he (man) will contend with him (God), he cannot answer him one of a thousand (questions).” The meaning is that God, as infinitely man’s superior, would overwhelm him with such a multitude of questions that he must stand before Him in mute embarrassment, so confused that he would be able to utter not one word in defense of himself. The meaning of Job’s utterances that now follow (chap. 9:16-35) is, “Should I call to God, and He ask me what I wanted, I would not believe that he would listen to me should I tell him. For He breaketh me with a tempest, and multiplieth my wounds without a cause, that is, He overwhelms me with calamities, even though I be innocent. . . . And even were I right, my mouth would not know how to make the right answer and would therefore confess me guilty, though I were innocent. And truly I am actually innocent. And I will give myself no concern about my life. Therefore I will out with it: God destroys the innocent and the wicked alike. It is all the same to Him whether a man be innocent or wicked. Both receive an identical treatment. If a calamity suddenly overtake a people, then He mocks at the despair of the innocent, His desire and delight are in the suffering of the wicked. I am to be guilty, that is, God wants me so, me, even of all men. 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 by God. If I should wash myself in snow water and cleanse my hands with lye, thou wouldest plunge me in the ditch so that my clothes would cause me to be abhorred.”
Is the fundamental thought of this discourse of Job that the sovereign power of God acts in the life of the individual in a merciless, arbitrary manner, entirely regardless of all human right and innocence? In other words, is the case that Job imagines that of a man who, as a result of the labor that he has expended upon himself, is actually guiltless and clean, but who, despite his innocence, is being dealt with by the Almighty as a guilty and wicked personage for the sole reason that God wants him guilty? Expressions occur that leave no doubt that this is indeed the view to which Job gives expression in this discourse. God does just as He pleases, whether it is really right or not. Mark the following expressions, “He destroyeth the perfect and the wicked. He laughs at the trial of the innocent. He multiplieth my wounds without a cause. If I make my hands ever so clean; yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me.” It is said by many (a commentator) that the being whom Job here delineates is the God of the pre-destinationists and extreme Calvinists, disposing of the destinies of men in accordance with an unconditional, arbitrary decree, irrespective of all moral worthiness or unworthiness. But this accusation is false. True it is that the decree of God that touches the eternal destiny of His moral creatures is unconditional and thus absolutely sovereign. But this decree is not arbitrary. Further, though the divine decision to reject some was made irrespective of the moral worthiness or unworthiness of those rejected, the reason of the actual perishing of the reprobated wicked is their sin. Those whom God in His sovereign good pleasure decided to reject, He through the ages also prepares (whom He will He hardeneth) for the doom to which they were appointed, so that, though God disposes of the destinies of men in accordance with an unconditional decree, it is only the wicked who actually perish. And they perish on account of their being guilty and wicked, so that, though God does just as He pleases, what He pleases to do is absolute just and right. Now this is what Job in his great vexation of soul denies. Job’s contention is that the innocent—those who are actually innocent—perish, that God breaketh him, Job, without a cause. He thus accuses God of injustice.
How is it to be explained that Job, the saint of singular piety, can give expression to a sentiment of this character? Job suffers unendurable pain. The man is being severely chastised. And in great pain he is being driven to distraction by the philosophy of his friends. The discourse of Job under consideration is a reply to this philosophy as again voiced by Bildad. “If thou were pure and upright,” Job hears Bildad saying, “surely he (God) would now awake for thee, and make the habitation of thy righteousness prosperous. . . . Behold, God will not cast away a perfect man, neither will he help the evildoers” (chap. 8). “O Job, thy trouble is,” Bildad means to say, “that thou art wicked, and being wicked refuseth to repent of thy sins. “If thou wouldest therefore (only) seek unto God betimes” “then all would again be well with thee.” Catching hold of these statements of Bildad, Job replies, “I know it is so of a truth, but how should a man be just with God, if God is determined that he be guilty.” It is impossible. “And this,” Job means to say, “is precisely my case. I am innocent. But God wants me guilty; and therefore I now suffer.” It is plain that in uttering this language, Job means to strike not so much at God as at Bildad and Eliphaz. But in overturning the reasonings of his critics and in maintaining his integrity, Job assails God’s justice. He does so, not deliberately but rather accidentally. That he speaks as he does is to be accounted for by the fact that his soul is full of confusion. There is therefore not a destruction, but merely a temporal withdrawal, eclipse, of his conscious faith. It is not the real Job speaking here. When the dark cloud of despair is again removed, Job stands before God as His saint.
When Satan heard Job utter this violent speech, he must have greatly rejoiced, thinking that Job was now about to turn upon God and curse Him. But Satan did not understand. Being Satan, how could he! Even the most violent language of Job is, rightly considered, the utterance of a man grieving because he deems himself forsaken by the God after whom his soul yearns and for whom his soul is crying. The discourses of Job, taken as a whole, are the lamentations of the pious soul of a man, who is sad beyond words because the thought has taken hold of him that the God whose fellowship he craves now counts him as one of His enemies. How can such a man renounce and curse God?
(to be continued)