Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?
Gird up thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. Job. 38:1-3
Moreover the Lord answered Job and said, Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him? He that reproveth God, let him answer it. Job 40:1, 2
Then answered the Lord unto Job out of the whirlwind and said, Gird up thy loins now like a man: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me.
Wilt thou also disannul my judgment? Wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous? Job 40:6-8

The above-cited passages contain a series of rebukes directed by the Lord to no one less than Job, the saint of Scripture—and a saint he indeed was—whose patience became proverbial. Mark you, the Lord severely rebukes Job. It was with reference to Job that He asked, “Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him. . . . .” In view of the name that Job has of having endured without a single complaint having formed in his soul and passed his lips, and especially in view of what the Lord said of him in the audience of Satan, namely, that there was none like him in the earth, “a perfect and upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil,” it may awaken some surprise that the above corrective address was actually meant for Job’s ears. Yet it is true. And it is well that it is so. For if Job had as uncomplainingly endured as is commonly supposed, the book that bears his name would not be to the believers the source of comfort that it now is. The kind of perfection that is commonly ascribed to Job, we find only in Christ. Job, despite his being a believer of singular piety, was nevertheless a saint who also had reason to say of himself that in him, that is, in his flesh there dwelt no good thing. And he did say this of himself. When his disquieted soul was again still and he was seeing God with his eye (chap. 42:5) he said, “I am vile, what shall I answer thee (40:4). . . . I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes (42:6).”

It is well that Job was a man of like passions as we. For if it were otherwise we would not be seeing God in this book as we now see Him. In his great and continuous anguish of body and soul, Job could not refrain from crying out. His language becomes violent and sinfully so. And God bears with him. Like as a Father He pities him. He knows his frame. He remembers that he is dust. In His condescending love, he comes to Job, remonstrates with him, corrects him. He binds up his wounds, stills his troubled heart, restores his soul, heals his disease, vindicates him, defends him against his accusers, and lavishes upon him honor and riches! So was Job delivered from all his troubles.

But while in these troubles he had sinned. He had darkened counsel by words without knowledge. He had censured God as to His dealings with him. He had, according to 40:6-8, annulled God’s judgment, that is, sought to substitute what he assumed to be right, his idea of righteousness, for that of God, in order that he might be righteous.

Let us listen to some of Job’s complaints and examine these charges lodged against Job by the Lord Himself in the light of these complaints in order that it may be seen just wherein Job’s sinning consisted.

Chapter 3 is the report of a lamentation, the first one, in which he curses the day of his birth. He spake and said:

“Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a manchild conceived.

Let that day be darkness; let not God regard it from above, neither let the light shine upon it. . . Why died I not from the womb? Why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly?”

This speech marks the beginning of Job’s sinning. If a believer on account of suffering, wishes to die early or not to have been born at all, he is in a state of opposition to God and is unmindful of the blessed fact that God designs the highest good of His people even in their severest sufferings.

“If I had called, and he had answered me; yet would I not believe that he had hearkened unto my voice.

For he breaketh me with a tempest, and multiplieth my wounds without cause.

He will not suffer me to take my breath, but filled me with bitterness.

If I speak of strength, lo, he is strong: and of judgment, who shall set me a time to plead?

If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse.

Though I were perfect, yet would I not know my soul: I would despise my life.

This is one thing, therefore I said it, He destroyeth the perfect and the wicked.

If the scourge slay suddenly, he will laugh at the trial of the innocent.

The earth is in the hand of the wicked: he covereth the faces of the judges thereof; if not, where and who is he?” Chap. 9:16-24.

Job’s reasoning here is briefly this: “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. He would overwhelm me with calamities even if I were innocent. He would not suffer me to draw my breath. If it be a test of strength between God and man, whether physical in a trial-at-arms, or moral strength, in a trial-at-law, what hope would there be for a weak and mortal man as I am. And even were I right, my mouth would not know how to make the right answer and would therefore confess me guilty, though I should be innocent. And truly I am actually innocent. And I will give myself no concern about my life. I will freely utter that confession, cost what it may. Therefore I will out with it: God destroys the innocent and the wicked alike. It is all the same to Him whether a man is innocent or wicked. Both receive an identical treatment. If a calamity suddenly overtakes a people, then he mocks at the despair of the innocent, his desire and delight are in the suffering of the innocent.”

This perhaps is the most bitter speech that was spoken by Job in the whole book.

“I am to be wicked, why then labor I in vain? If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean; Yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me.

For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment. Neither is there a daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both.

Let him take his rod away from me, and let not his fear terrify me: Then would I speak, and not fear him; but it is not so with me” Chap.9:30-35.

In other words, “I am to be guilty, that is, God wants me so even me 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 snowwater and cleanse my hands with lye, thou wouldst plunge me in the ditch so that my clothes would cause me to be abhorred. For God is not my equal, standing on the same level with me that I should answer him, that is, reason with him about my innocence. And there is no arbiter between us to whom we could both betake ourselves and accept his decision. Let Him then take away his rod with which he smites me and let him not overawe, stupefy me with his terror. Then will I speak without fear before Him; for not thus am I with myself, that is, I am not conscious of anything in me, some sin or sins, of such a character that I must be afraid of Him.

“My soul is weary of life; I will leave my complaint upon myself; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.

I will say unto God, Do not condemn me; shew me wherefore thou contendest with me.

Is it good unto thee that thou shouldest oppress, that thou shouldest despise the work of thine hands, and shine upon the counsel of the wicked? Hast thou eyes of flesh? Or seeth thou as man seest?

Are thy days as the days of man? are thy years as man’s days, that thou enquirest after mine iniquity, and searchest after my sin?

Thou knowest that I am not wicked; and there is none that can deliver out of thine hand.”

Otherwise said, “Is it good unto thee that thou shouldest shine upon the counsel of the wicked, that is, favor it, cause it to succeed? Hast thou eyes of flesh, perceiving only the surface of things, or seeth thou as men seeth, with a vision shortsighted and superficial as that of man? Are thy days as the days of a mortal, or thy days as the days of man? that is, are thy days numbered as that of a man, art thou a limited changeable creature, that thou seekest after my guilt, and searchest after my sins, that doest what short-sighted men would do, seeking to wring out of me the confession of guilt that has escaped thy vision by decreeing that I should suffer, although thou knowest that I am not guilty.”

So in this vein does Job, the man of rarest piety speak. He utters hard words against God. He says that God destroys the wicked and the innocent, laughs at the trial of the innocent and gives the earth into the hands of the wicked. And him, Job, He breaketh with a tempest and multiplies his wounds without a cause. Thus, to serve God is vain.

This complaint is identical to the one coming from Asaph. He, too, said of the wicked that they are not in trouble like other men, that they prosper in the world and increase riches, but that he has cleansed his heart in vain in that all the day long he has been plagued and chastened every morning.

As to Job, his soul is full of gloom. His great faith for the moment is paralyzed. He judges as a critic God and finds Him unfair, unjust. He seems near despair.

What is it that occasions this violent language? The doleful plight of the man, the intensity of his sufferings. Job is being assailed by a secret invisible enemy. The history of his case can be briefly stated. The patriarch Job hailed from the land of Uz. He was rich in material substance. He had sons to the number of seven, and three daughters. He was perfect and upright, a man who feared God and eschewed evil. He was an example to his children. He was kind and hospitable. All men respected him. He was a judge. His decisions were much sought and after he had done speaking men remained silent. He helped the poor, the fatherless and the widows, and was a tower of strength to the weak. So the man stands before us in Scripture.

Then Satan accuses him of serving God for gain. But God says that there was none like Job in the earth, a perfect and upright man. So, to silence the accuser, God gives him power over all that Job has but not as yet over his person. Satan now laid Job low. Job was stripped of all his wealth. Fire from heaven consumed his sheep and those that cared for them, and all his children are hurled into eternity by a mighty wind. Hearing, Job rends his mantle, “and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped.” He blessed the name of the Lord. This is the first trial. It has come and is now gone. Job stood unmovable. He had overcome. And his victory was his faith. Satan was rebuked. But once again the sons of God come to present themselves before the Lord. And Satan, too, is again among them. He must hear from the Lord that he has been foiled in respect to Job. But he will not admit defeat. “Put forth thine hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face.” To this the Lord replies, “Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life.” Satan renews his attempt to destroy Job’s faith. He smites Job with a terrible disease, with the worst kind of leprosy. A description of Job’s illness can be had from the book of Job. He was stricken with boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head, “he took him a potsherd to scrape himself therewith; and he sat among the ashes.” “The ulcers were accompanied by an itching, so intolerable that a piece of potsherd was taken to scrape the sores and the feculent discharge, 2:8. The form and countenance were so disfigured by the disease that the sufferer’s friends could not recognize him, 2:12. The ulcers seized his whole body both without and inwardly, 19:20, making the breath fetid, and emitting a loathsome smell that drove everyone from the sufferer’s presence, 19:20, and made him seek refuge outside the village upon the heap of ashes, 2:8. The sores which bred worms, 7:5, alternately closed, having the appearance of clods of earth, and opened and ran, so that the body was alternately swollen and emaciated, 16:8. The patient was haunted with terrible dreams, 7:14, and unearthly terrors, 3:25, and harassed by a sensation of choking, 7:15, which made his nights restless and frightful, 7:4, as his incessant pains made his days weary” (Davidson).

While in this state he was assailed by Satan first through the agency of his wife, who said, “Dost thou still hold fast thine integrity? Renounce God and die,” and then of the three friends who came to comfort him but who turned out to be the tools of the devil. And attend to Job’s answer to his unbelieving wife, “What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” “And in all this, did not Job sin with his lips.” “but in his thoughts he already cherished sinful words.”

Job’s pains must have daily increased. His bodily anguish becomes unendurable. Such anguish as Job’s continuing on cannot be endured. His friends are there with him now. They had heard of the evil that was come upon him, and they came, every one from his own place. When they saw him, they did not recognize him, so his countenance had changed. And they wept and rent every one his mantle and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven. And they sit down with him upon the ground. The condition of their friend confounds them. They have come to comfort him. They would fain speak. But no word they deem appropriate will come to them. “For they saw that his grief was very great.” They have been with him seven days now. And still they are silent. O, if they would only say something! Job can stand it no longer. So finally, in his unendurable agony, he cries out fiercely and curses the day of his birth, “Let the day perish wherein I was born,” he says, “and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived. Let that day be darkness; let not God regard it from above. . . .” And the friends, they are astonished at his wild outburst. They begin to imagine that there must be something terrible in the state of the man. It seems not to occur to them that what they are listening to now is the involuntary language of unendurable suffering. His violent language sounds to them like an outburst of profanity. He ought not so to speak. So when he is silent, the oldest of the friends is ready to answer. He cannot withhold himself from speaking, “If we assay to commune with thee, wilt thou be grieved?” he asked Job. But without waiting for a reply he continues “but who can withhold himself from speaking?” What now comes from this friend’s mouth are words that sting. “Behold,” says Eliphaz to Job, “thou hast instructed many, and thou hast strengthened the weak hands. Thy words have beholden him that was falling, and thou hast strengthened the feeble knees. But now it has come upon thee, and thou art troubled.” He would say that Job found it easy to comfort others but now that suffering and misfortune has overtaken him, is unable to console himself. Now were this true, then the word with which Job had come to others in their distress, dwelt not in his own soul. Job, this friend would say, should examine himself and discover the hidden evil within him. He continues, “Is not thy fear thy confidence and the uprightness of thy ways thy hope? Remember, I pray thee, whoever perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off? Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness reap the same.”

Even from this initial reply, it is plain that these friends are wholly incapable of placing themselves in Job’s position and thus of correctly appraising his violent language. Therefore were they unfit to properly deal with Job in his present state. Here at the very outset, Eliphaz reasons as if Job’s raving were due to his lack of faith and confidence in God and thus to fear that God was about to destroy him with the wicked. Whereas, so he reasons, Job lacks confidence, he must have sinned perhaps without himself being aware of it. Therefore let Job search himself, his life, for that sin. Let him confess it and he will live and not perish. This is the foundation upon which they proceed in all their replies.

Now, the fact is, that Job does not lack confidence in God. The fear that he will perish with the wicked is not in him. How could it be. He is a man of singular piety. The cause of his violent outburst is not his fear of perishing but solely the hugeness of his suffering. Therefore he raves as he does. Now this is what he attempts to explain to them in his first reply, when he says, “Oh, that my grief were thoroughly weighed and my calamity laid in the balances together! For now it would be heavier than the sand of the sea: therefore my words are swallowed up,” that is (in the original), therefore I rave as I do. My sufferings are unendurable. They madden, bewilder me, so that I speak like a madman. “For,” so Job continues in chapter 6, “the arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit: the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me. . . . Even that it would please God to destroy me; that he would let loose his hand and cut me off! Then should I yet have comfort: let him not spare: for I have not denied the words of the holy One.”

That he has been guilty of no denial stands out in his mind as a fact. Therefore he has confidence in his distress and feels assured that his righteousness will show itself, even in death, and that thus in death he will be with the Lord. His sole longing is that he be freed from his sorrows through death. He considers his disease incurable, so why should his life be prolonged?

“What,” so he continues, “is my strength, that I should hope (for recovery)? And what is mine end, that I should be patient?” His strength, he means to say, is not in proportion to the weight of his cross. He sees before him no end of his plight, if he lives on, for, humanly speaking, he cannot regain his health. Why then must he live? His sufferings are too intense to be endured. “Is my strength,” so he asks, “the strength of stones? or, Is my flesh of brass? Is not my help in me brought to nought” Chap. 6:13.

He now upbraids his friends for their lack of sympathy and understanding. He reproves them for their mean insinuations.

“To him that is afflicted pity should be shown from his friends and not reproach, even if he should have forsaken the fear of the Almighty. My brethren (speaking of these friends who came to comfort him) have been false as a torrent, and as the stream of brooks that pass by, which are blackish by reason of the ice, and wherein the snow is hid: . . . . For now ye are nothing; ye see my casting down and are dismayed. Did I say, Bring unto me? or, Give a reward for me of your substance? or, Deliver me from the enemies? or, Redeem me from the hand of the mighty? Teach me, and I will hold my tongue: and cause me to understand wherein I have erred. How forcible are right words! But what does your arguing reprove?. . . Yea, ye overwhelm the fatherless and dig a pit for your friend. . . . Is there iniquity in my tongue? Cannot my taste discern perverse things” Chap. 6:14-30.

Instead of insinuating that the grief by which Job has been overtaken in his sin returning to him in the form of punishment, let them give him a true solution of his present plight. So far from the truth it is that he dreads death, because he fears that death will be to him what it is to the wicked, that he fervently longs to die, that he may be at rest.

(to be continued)