Job 38 - 42
Taking the place of the "interpreter" of God's ways, that Job might recognize what "uprightness" demanded, Elihu closed his discourse on the lofty theme of the majesty and the justice of God, so the moment had come for Divine intervention. He is God, and Almighty, as the closing verses of Job 37 declared: He is also Jehovah, and He spoke out of the whirlwind, to which Elihu had also alluded.
It is remarkable too that Elihu had spoken of the "noise," or "roar" of "His voice." Wind is not visible; yet in violent motion, men feel its pressure and hear its roar. As the whirlwind approached and its pressure was felt, its roar was the voice of Jehovah Himself. His words were addressed specially and only to Job. Whether what He said was intelligible to others, we are not told. Brought face to face with Jehovah, Job had to recognize that all his many words had darkened and not shed light upon the matter in dispute.
If we refer back to the beginning of Job 23, we may remind ourselves that Job in a self-confident way had expressed his wish to get into contact with God, feeling sure that he could order his cause before Him, and fill his mouth with arguments, and know the words in which God would answer him. The moment had come now for his wish to be fulfilled, and Jehovah bids him gird up his loins like a man, and be prepared to answer the voice of God. The questionings now should come from God. They begin with verse 4.
The words of Jehovah fill four chapters, with a brief interlude at the opening of Job 40. Question after question is propounded for Job to consider and answer, if he could; and all are concerned with the mighty power that had acted in creation. Once more we see that only the primeval revelation of God is assumed. If, as some think, Moses wrote this book, he wrote of things that happened before the law was given, or, at least, of circles where the law was not known. We are reminded of what we read in Romans 2: 12-15, as we notice that "the work of the law" was written in the heart of Job. Jehovah judged him in the light of what he knew, and as He did so, we shall discover how Job's conscience bore witness and his thoughts which had been excusing him began to accuse him. The law did not make men responsible, it only heightened their responsibility.
In verses 4-38 of Job 38, the Lord asserts His own greatness and Job's insignificance in the light of His mighty creatorial acts. He started with His founding of the earth, which occasioned jubilation among angelic beings, who witnessed it; and then He proceeded to speak of the seas breaking forth, though in darkness, and then light appearing so that there was a dayspring as well as darkness. After that came mention of the wonders of snow and hail and rain, as well as the wonders displayed in the stars, the constellations and the ordinances of heaven. We cannot but be reminded of the early part of Genesis 1, down to the point where we read, "He made the stars also." What did Job know of these things? Had he entered into the springs of the sea? Or had the gates of death opened to him?
From verse 38 and through Job 39 the questions refer to animals and birds, the creation of which is related in the latter part of Genesis 1. Here again, if carefully considered, wonders innumerable confront us, and questions were raised that Job could not answer.
So, in the opening verses of Job 40, Jehovah challenged Job about it and Job at once capitulated. He acknowledged that he had spoken too much and that now silence became him. Before his Creator, he realized he was vile.
But the conviction that now had seized Job had to be driven into him yet more deeply. Hence again he was challenged. He had been guilty of disannulling the judgment of God, and condemning Him in order to maintain his own righteousness. This was really a very great sin, and in verses 9-14 he is condemned in a most searching way. Ironic language is used. Let him not contend with God but rather turn his attention to the proud and powerful among men, and abase such; then it might be admitted that he could save himself.
From verse 15 to the end of Job 41, the Lord makes further reference to the wonders of His creation. He called Job's attention to behemoth and to leviathan- probably the hippopotamus and the crocodile. They had brute strength but no human intelligence. It would be more easy to subdue them than to bring down proud man. In Job's day human inventions had hardly begun, so this was probably not so apparent as it is in our day, when these mighty creatures are easily subdued-but not so, proud man!
Job however could not tackle leviathan or behemoth, nor could he subdue proud man. How then could he contend with God? This was powerfully driven home into his heart.
Jehovah's voice out of the whirlwind ceased, and Job humbled himself in full measure. He confessed the wrongness of his former utterances. He had to abhor himself and repent in the place of death-dust and ashes. These moments in the presence of God had produced a result which all the talk of the three friends, and even of Elihu, had not achieved. The man, who was so excellent among men, and had a testimonial from even God Himself, had discovered his own utter sinfulness in the deepest springs of his being. A discovery we all in our turn have to make!
The whole of this story has a great lesson for us, as we realize, if we read James 5: 11. We are now going to see "the end of the Lord" in all this, which reveals that He is indeed "very pitiful and of tender mercy." What then was the end that the Lord had in view, when He permitted all these testing disasters to come upon Job?
First, he obtained what we may call a first-hand knowledge of God. Previously he had known of Him by "the hearing of the ear;" that is, by tradition. But now, said he, "mine eye seeth Thee;" that is, God was apprehended in a new and vital way. He did not "see" in a literal sense, as we are assured by 1 Timothy 6: 16, yet the eye is but the organ of sight and it is the mind that sees. Again and again we say, "I see," when something that made no appeal to our eyes has sunk into our minds. Job now knew God in His power, holiness, righteousness, as far as He could be known in those days.
It is our privilege to know God as He has been revealed in our Lord Jesus Christ, and through that knowledge we receive "all things that pertain unto life and godliness," and, "exceeding great and precious promises," as well as gaining day by day, "grace and peace." So we are told in the opening verses of Peter's second Epistle. Indeed we may say that with us, as well as with Job, a first-hand and experimental knowledge of God lies at the base of everything.
But second, as the fruit of this knowledge of God, Job saw himself in a totally new light. Formerly he had sung his own praises. Now the correctness of his outward behaviour faded out of his mind, and he saw the self-conceited depths of his fallen nature. Hence in true repentance he abhorred himself.
This spirit of self-judgment is wrought in all who really have to do with God. Examples of it abound in Scripture. For instance: when Abraham found himself in the presence of God, he said, I "am but dust and ashes" (Gen. 18: 27). Similarly, Isaiah said, "I am undone" (Isa. 6: 5); and Daniel, "my comeliness was turned in me into corruption" (Dan. 10: 8). So, Peter, "I am a sinful man, O Lord" (Luke 5: 8), and Paul, "sinners, of whom I am chief" (1 Tim 1: 15). And all these were saints eminent in their day. They would not have been eminent, if they had not had such an experience. Have we had it?
And now there comes into view another feature comprised in the end which the Lord had in view. The three friends of Job were condemned, for they had not spoken rightly, nor humbled themselves as Job had, vindicating God and condemning themselves. They were instructed to go to Job, offer up sacrifices, and seek his intercession on their behalf: without a doubt a most humiliating process for them. Though they had visited Job in order to commiserate and console they had been led in the progress of the arguments into hurling accusations and reproaches at him, and as they did so developing a self-righteous spirit themselves. Thus, not having humbled themselves as Job had done, they were publicly humbled by God.
But what about Job? The Lord knew right well what a complete revolution had been wrought in his spirit, while as yet his poor body was unaltered. He said, "My servant Job shall pray for you; for him will I accept." Not long before with heat and sarcasm he had argued against them. Now, with kindness and grace in his heart he prays for them! The man who had gained a true knowledge of God, and consequently had learned to abhor himself, is quite transformed in his relations with his former opponents. Resentment has given place to reconciliation. The spiritual gain of this was immense.
It must have been an extraordinary scene. Verse 10 shows that the turn in Job's bodily condition and in his fortunes came when he had prayed for his friends, and not before. Here were the three friends, well-favoured gentlemen of the east with their sacrifices; Job, an emaciated figure, covered with boils Yet this poor physical wreck is in touch with God, and able to hold up his hands in gracious and priestly intercession. When had anything like this been seen in the east? No wonder the story had to be written to find a place amongst the oracles of God.
Let us not miss the application of all this to ourselves. Matters of dispute arise among those who are brethren in Christ, and if out of the presence of God, debate may be fierce and division ensue. Let the presence of God be realized, let self be judged and abhorred, and a totally different spirit prevails and a right solution is reached.
Job's prayer was effectual since he was now right with God, and not only right with his friends. We have the definite statement, "The Lord also accepted Job." The man who condemned and repudiated himself stands in acceptance before God. This has ever been God's way. We find testimonies to it in other Old Testament scriptures; for instance, Isaiah 57: 15; Isaiah 66: 2. But we have to pass on to the New Testament to find the basis on which the acceptance rests. The character of the acceptance which is ours today is found in the words, "accepted in the Beloved" (Eph. 1: 6). In Job's day this had not come to light.
Thus far we have been noting what God wrought in Job, as the result of all he had passed through; now we see God acting for him. Up to this point he has been held in the grip of the awful disease produced by Satan. Now, "the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends." Deliverance for his body took place, evidently with dramatic suddenness, once the end of the Lord as to his spiritual state was reached for with God the spiritual takes precedence over what is physical or material. Satan himself was eliminated from the story by the end of chapter 2. Now his cruel infliction was removed, having been overruled to achieve God's purpose.
In this again we see illustrated a great principle of God's ways. He makes the malevolence of the devil, as well as the wrath of man, to work cut to His own praise as well as our good. The great example of this, unapproached by all else, is of course the Cross. To accomplish that, Satan entered into Judas Iscariot. Of such extreme importance was it in his eyes that he allowed no lesser demon to deputize for him. Yet he was helping on his own overthrow for referring to His Cross, the Lord Jesus said, Now shall the prince of this world be cast out" (John 12: 31). A further example we see in 2 Corinthians 12, where the "messenger of Satan" sent to buffet Paul, was overruled for Paul's spiritual preservation. When afflictions come upon us, let us remember these things, and profit by them.
As we observe "the end of the Lord," we can indeed say with the Apostle James that, "the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy." We have noted at least five things: (1) that Job gained a first-hand knowledge of God, such as he had never had before: (2) he knew and abhorred himself, as he had never done before; (3) that in spirit and character he was transformed, from anger and harshness to grace: (4) that he was given the knowledge of his acceptance before God: and (5) that he was delivered in his body from the grip that Satan had been permitted to have upon him.
But now a sixth thing appears for, "the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before." Previously he had been a man of very large wealth, as wealth was counted m those days, but now his possessions grew to such proportions as would have befitted a king. God gave a mighty increase to the animals he had, but there was also that which came to him by the gifts of his brethren and acquaintance. He was restored to the confidence and esteem of all who previously had known him: a great point this, when we remember his sad complaint as to the treatment he had received, recorded in Job 30.
In keeping with the day in which he lived, the blessings recorded are of a material sort, which ensured earthly prosperity to the end of his days. These were the positive blessings granted, just as the fifth item, noted above, was blessing of a negative order-the removal of bodily trouble. The first four items we noted were blessings of a spiritual order, and of the very first importance, since once received they abide for ever. Let us remember that as Christians all our blessings are of a spiritual and heavenly order, as stated in Ephesians 1: 3.
Having passed through this unprecedented storm, Job lived to old age under the smile of God, enriched spiritually and materially. He saw his possessions, sheep, camels, oxen, asses, multiply until their number was doubled. His seven sons and three very beautiful daughters grew up around him, and so God gave him twice as much as he had before.
But what about the sons and daughters? They were not doubled. Should they not have numbered fourteen and six? As the new family grew up around him and then stopped at the number recorded, we wonder if it raised an enquiry in his mind, as it certainly does in ours. Yes, after all God did give Job twice as much as he had before, without exception. The animals were visibly doubled for the earlier lot were irrevocably lost, and he would never see them again. The earlier sons and three daughters were not lost FOR EVER.
About these earlier sons and daughters Job had been continually concerned as the first chapter of the book bears witness. Acting as priest of his family he had continually offered sacrifices on their behalf. They were outwardly God-fearing for Job did not fear that they cursed God with their lips, but he thought they might have done so in their hearts. Yet in spite of this all of them, and all together, they had been swept out of life in a moment. So in this striking way it was intimated that another world does exist into which their spirits had entered, that the resurrection, as to which Job had reasoned and debated in Job 14, would be reached in due season, and that Job would meet them again.
We are not told in so many words that all this was plain to Job, but we assume that God, who so kindly gave this intimation, gave him the ability to perceive it. It must have confirmed his faith in resurrection on the one hand and comforted his heart on the other. It has, we trust brought comfort to many a heart beside Job's. When full of days Job ended his long life, he must have looked back upon this time of unparalleled testing, through which he had to pass, as being but a dark tunnel leading into bright sunshine a time of outward disaster but of inward enrichment. That it was so, such a scripture as Ezekiel 14: 14 bears witness. He is held up as a shining example, together with Noah and Daniel.
As we close our Bibles on the Book of Job, we may well do so with a song of praise and thanksgiving in our hearts, and also having, we trust, learned some needed lessons. We may not suffer in anything like the degree that Job did, but none of us escapes the chastening hand of our God and Father. When chastened ourselves let us be exercised thereby; and when we observe chastening coming on others, let us be careful how we interpret it.
In the light of the New Testament, chastening may be sent for retribution, as we see in 1 Corinthians 11: 30. But on the other hand it may not be, as we see in Paul's case-2 Corinthians 12: 7, -where the thorn in the flesh was preventive; lest he should be puffed up and fall. Yet again, it may be neither retributive nor preventive but educational, as Hebrews 12 shows. The Father trains and disciplines His children, and even scourges them; but all is in pursuance of His objective - "that we might be partakers of His holiness."
In that direction Job was led, as we have seen. In that direction we too are being led in all the Father's dealings with us. Let us ever remember this, and praise God that it is so.
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