Lectures on Job 4-5

Job 4‑5  •  25 min. read  •  grade level: 5
Lecture 2.—-Chapters. 4-7
Chap. 4:1-8. I shall not read more now, because we shall have it gradually before us. But here the great debate commences, founded upon Job's outbreak, who was now perfectly overcome through the calamity that God had allowed to fall upon him. As a pious man, Job knew very well that God could have prevented it, if He had not a purpose in it of which he himself was wholly ignorant. But it is well to take notice of this before I say more, that Satan completely disappears. He had been utterly foiled. He had been allowed first of all to destroy all that Job possessed, even to his children—his sons and his daughters—all his property was completely swept away. There is hardly a Christian who would not feel that to be a tremendous trial. And there was a greater trial to follow; for when Satan saw that he failed to move Job against God by the destruction of all his possessions and of his family, he was allowed another opportunity for his malice, and that was to inflict the deepest agony upon the person of Job. It would have been a great relief to Job if Satan had been permitted to kill him. Job had no fear at all of what would be after death, but the trial was to be made in this world.
It was not at all a question of what would be hereafter; but Job had to learn—and to teach others by the lesson—that things are not all according to God now; that the foundations are out of course; that some things that are allowed of God are not at all the will of God. Nor are they for the glory of God, except that God, in result, makes them always to subserve His wisdom and His goodness, though outwardly everything appears to go wrong. Now the friends of Job took the totally opposite ground, that it was not at all a bad sort of world, and that on the contrary what happened now was a very good means of judging how God felt about it; that if they were walking well, nothing could harm those who professed to be His followers and servants. No doubt they were men in a comfortable position of life themselves, and did not know much about trial; in point of fact they would not at all have served the purpose of God. God chose a much better man than all three put together. God chose a man whom He loved specially for his integrity; but nevertheless Job had to learn what he was. It was not to be a question of what he had done. They never could get beyond “what a man has done.” In their minds there must have been something very bad. Nobody, it is true, could see it; but that only showed—they did not like to say it at first-that he must be a hypocrite. They judged of Job by the trial that he was called to endure; whereas the truth emerges, gradually, very slowly, but at last it comes out very fully; though Job had no idea what the end would be. Job's one thought now was to die, no longer to be put to this torment. It was breaking a man upon worse than a wheel; it was wearing him out with the most dreadful tortures and agony; and how could such a God as he knew do such a thing? Yet he believed it was God, so that all this made him writhe; and what brought it out was not Satan—it was his friends!
What a solemn lesson that is! Our friends may sometimes do us the worst turn. possible. That is what they did to Job. Nevertheless God never fails; and God was going to make all this turn to Job's greater blessing. But he knew nothing at all about it—how it was to bean he knew was that, as far as appeared, there never was a righteous man who was called to suffer as he did. And how was it thus if God loved him? and he had always thought so, he fully believed it, he was quite certain that he loved God—he could not make out how it was possible. And yet it was a very possible thing, because the world is what it is; because human nature is what it is; and because the devil is what he is; and also because even the dearest friends that Job had, only aggravated his misery instead of helping him in the very slightest degree. Well, that was a most complicated web, and that is really the Book of Job. So that it is a grand Book in its way, and peculiar, and all the more full of instruction because it was before the law. If the law had come in it would not have mended matters in the smallest way, because the law was a system of divine government for a people on earth, under which, if they walked well, all would be well, and if they walked ill, trouble would come upon them from God. That would have been very much like what the friends of Job insisted upon. But what we learn is that these thoughts are natural to the heart of man, which believes that God deals with us now according to what we deserve. Job perfectly well knew that it would not be so in the other world; he had no doubt about that. It is true that he had not anything like the same ground of knowledge that we have in having Christ—the same Christ who has made redemption a blessed and a fixed certainty, a condition into which we are brought by divine grace, and which abides forever. But it is not merely that. Christ is the One who brings us to know God for every day—for everything that comes across our path every day, and for everything that can try the heart or the conscience every day. It is the same perfect law of God that is found in Christ; and our great wisdom is to learn how to apply Christ to every difficulty.
Well, that could not be yet; but the remarkable thing is that it was his dear friends—for they were dear to him, and he had always been dear to them before—who began to look askance. They heard poor Job in his passionate outcry at this terrible suffering that came upon his person. Oh! he could have borne it if they had not been there; he could have borne it if there had been none to look upon him. He might have groaned and cried unto God, and he would surely have done so; but what formed the crisis was his three friends. There they sat for seven long days, looking at the unhappy man! listening to his shrieks, and thinking that after all he ought to be quiet! They had no idea what he was suffering; they were very cool indeed; they were very calm; and they thought they were the men! But God thought otherwise; and Job knew in his heart that they had made a profound mistake, and that they had misconstrued not only Job but God Himself. He was quite right about that; and one thing that he never allowed in all the debate was that it was because of any hidden wickedness, that it was because of the smallest tinge of hypocrisy. No, no, no; they were all wrong about that, and he would never give it up until cockles turned into barley. He knew perfectly well that that could not be. And so it was. He would stick to it, and fight for it; and so he did.
Now, all this brought out what was not at all comely, the deep resentment that Job felt against the injustice of his friends. He could not help knowing they were all wrong, and he could not help feeling that, unless he was one who had no love for them at all and no respect; but it was just exactly because he had, that it all came so painfully upon him. He knew perfectly well that their glum silence meant that there was no proper sympathy in their hearts toward him. There they were, thinking their bad and dark thoughts about Job all the time, and yet afraid to let them out. But at last Eliphaz picks up courage, and, being the eldest of them, he certainly has much more calmness and dignity and self-restraint than the others that follow. He ventures to speak with a kind of apologetic tone. He says when he hears of this, “If we assay to commune with thee, wilt thou be grieved? but who can withhold himself from speaking?”
It was so very shocking that Job should let out so strongly! “Behold, thou hast instructed many, and thou hast strengthened the weak hands. Thy words have upholden him that was falling, and thou hast strengthened the feeble knees.” He allowed the excellent character of his dear friend in the past, but what was the meaning of all this violence now? Well, he was so changed that the first sight of him made them rend their clothes and cast themselves upon the ground. They were astonished at him. It appears that from head to foot he was covered with everything that showed the awful inflammation and the workings of what seemed to be deadly corruption covering his body—so much so that even worms were appearing all over, and clods of earth. Had he not thrown himself upon the ash-heap to get something or other to relieve this terrible sting? Besides, all his comforts were gone—everything that he had had to alleviate him.
It was all very well for them; they were comfortable; they were not in pain; and they could not in the least degree enter into this terrible suffering of the godly Job. And now Eliphaz allows that he had been a good man towards others, but how was it that he could not teach himself now? Now that this terrible affliction had come, he ought to be a model! Yes, we ought all to be models; we ought all to be like Christ; and we ought all to be like Christ particularly when we are in the depth of affliction, and when we are suffering in the most terrible way; but it is not always so even with the Christian. At any rate, Job could not avoid an expression of his agony—it must come out in some way or another—cries and tears and shrieks as the pain entered most deeply into his nature. Well, there was One who suffered without a murmur;
One who always bowed submissively. There was One who accepted from God the most utter contempt and bitter persecution, even to being called Beelzebub; One who had not a house of His own; One who was entirely dependent upon other people—some of them poor fishermen, and others women who followed as they so often did, seeking in that way to serve Him.
So it was with the Lord! He would know what the feeling of a man is about that. You know very well that any man of what is called the least spirit likes to be independent, and that it is the most galling thing to be entirely dependent upon, what is called, other people's charity. There was the Lord of glory and when it came to be the time of personal suffering, we can measure a little what it was going to be upon the cross by that which the Lord passed through in the anticipation of it, because He never hardened his heart to shut out what was coming; He went always through the trial before the trial came.
We try not to think about it. Sometimes, also, people take means of strengthening the body against the feeling of these trials and pangs, but not so the Lord Jesus. No; He would take the vinegar, but He did not take the potion that was meant to deaden feeling—that He refused.
There was a cup given out of human mercy for the ordinary criminal to deaden pain, to be a kind of opiate, as we call it. But the Lord would not allow that. No, no; He allowed no anesthetics for Himself. It is all very well; men and women try to get a little anesthetic even for taking out a tooth, and yet there was all this unparalleled suffering that came upon the Lord Jesus. Nevertheless, there it is: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” But there was in Him no such thing as the fighting spirit of Job.
No doubt Job's friends were exceedingly provoking men, and that was a thing that did provoke him; but still the Lord was the complete contrast of it all. And this is a very instructive thing to carry with us, as we read the Book of Job, and look at it more particularly than I can afford to do in the lectures that I now purpose—i.e., the reading of it privately, phrase by phrase, and word by word. I can only pretend to give a helpful sketch-time would not allow me to attempt more. But the contrast is very admirable between the best of men put into a position which was nevertheless nothing to be compared with the sufferings of Christ. And yet there Job was, an object of contempt in a measure and of deep suspicion to the three friends of his, who were not to be named with himself.
Well, now, Eliphaz comes to it; he says, “But now it is come upon thee, and thou faintest; it toucheth thee, and thou art troubled.” Yes, no doubt! it did not trouble Eliphaz very much. He was very sorry, no doubt-that is easily said. “Is not this thy fear, thy confidence, thy hope, and the uprightness of thy ways?” That is a phrase very badly given indeed in our version. It consists only of two clauses. The true meaning of it is, “Is not thy fear, thy confidence” (i.e., “thy pious fear of God")? “Is not thy fear [of God] thy confidence? thy hope, the uprightness of thy ways?” There are these two clauses, and only these two clauses in it, and that is the real connection. He is astonished that Job should forget his fear and also his hope which he formerly had. He could not speak about faith in redemption, because there is nothing at all of that; all the blessing for an Old Testament saint was in what was coming. But meanwhile the fear of God gave him confidence that God would take care of him, and there, hope was something far better than what he said. “The uprightness of his ways” —yes, he was not a hypocrite; but that is a poor ground after all, when we think of a Christian. Why? Christ is our ground. It is not our upright ways that are our great spring of hope; it is not anything but Christ which gives us firm confidence before God. So that Eliphaz only speaks according to that mixture that was constant, unless God gave a revelation in the Old Testament.
But there was always a mixing of their fidelity with the faith of the Christ that should come—the hope of Christ who was coming. That is the reason why there could not be certain peace. There are a good many people in that state now. They mix up their own personal fidelity with Christ, and what is the effect of it? The mixture of self with Christ has always a disintegrating effect—always injures and darkens the ground of our peace. I must have a peace entirely outside myself. I must have a confidence based upon Him who has no flaw at all, and who has done a work that gives me to be without a flaw before God. That is exactly what Christ has done.
Yet the time was not come to have that clear. But as the phrase stands in our version of 1611, I really could not pretend to understand it, and I very much doubt if anybody else could. In fact, it is very imperfectly rendered, and our translators, I am persuaded, did not understand it. That is not uncommon in the Book of Job, where are more of these misrenderings, I think, than in almost any other Book of Scripture. First of all, the language is very ancient. Of course, I know that the Germans say the contrary, but that is their fashion; they love to contradict what every true believer accepts; they love to unsettle all the foundations of the faith, and when that is done, they can say, 'Away with the Bible!' That is what is coming; that will be the end. So that they are not much help, whatever be their profession.
“Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished” now he comes to his false comfort. “Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent?” Well, what about Abel? I am beginning early enough in the Bible, and I am beginning with a clear example in the Bible. “Who ever perished, being innocent?” Well, there was Abel that perished. We are speaking about perishing in this world; Job never had a question about the next; and they were looking not at the next world but at this. It was not at all a question of faith; it was a question of sight; they were drawing all their conclusions from what they saw. That is always a false ground for a believer. “Who ever perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off?” There it was again. Abel was righteous, and he was cut off by the unrighteous man; Abel was entirely guiltless; it was because Jehovah accepted Abel's offering, that Cain could not endure it. So, therefore, he perished as far as life in this world is concerned; and that is the only question that is discussed in these passages of Job.
That was the great question between him and his friends. It was what was going on now; they drew from that that God had a very serious charge against Job. Nothing of the kind. God was the very One who looked with admiration on him; and brought out Satan's earnest plan and subtle way to try and make Job speak against God—to curse God, as it is called—but he failed, and he had to be off, and he never appears again. No, it was through another way, the last that anybody could expect; it was through his friends that God did bring Job into—not cursing God—but cursing his own day, that he had been allowed to live; and if he had not been allowed to die before this came upon him, that God should not now take him away—that was Job's complaint. He did not see what God was going to do; he had not yet learned the lesson that God meant him to learn. Eliphaz shows in a very animated and striking manner what is a general modern principle— “Even as I have seen,” “they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same.” But it is not an absolute rule. There are those who have sown and plowed iniquity too, and yet they have reaped a good deal in this world, and have laid up wealth and honor in the highest degree; they have become kings and emperors and all the rest of it. Well, that is the very thing. It was extremely short-sighted to talk as he did. “By the blast of God they perish” sometimes. That is true, and Job never denied that, without making it an absolute truth or an absolute falsehood— “and by the breath of his nostrils are they consumed.”
Then he brings in the lions as a figure to show that, however strong and great and matchless a lion may be, still he may be broken—and so it is with men who play the lion in the world. And now he brings in a vision of the night. He was very serious. And God has often used visions of the night. It is true we have something a great deal better; we have the vision of the day; we have the great vision of Christ manifested in flesh; we have the vision of God showing Himself, and God speaking and acting for us in this world of sin and death. But he refers to what he saw or heard then. “Now a thing was secretly brought to me, and mine ear received a little thereof. In thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falleth on men. Fear came upon me, and trembling” —it was evidently not enough of grace that he had; grace does not make people fear in this kind of way. It is judgment that does so, and this is what these good men were full of; they were full of the spirit of judgment.
And yet that is the very thing we are called not to do. “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” When there is evil found on the part of one who bears the name of the Lord we are bound to judge him; but there was no evil found on the part of Job at all. And when evil is not found we are bound not to judge; we are not to yield to our own thoughts; we are to wait upon God to make it all plain. Look at the way the Lord bore with Judas. He knew it, but they did not; and the Lord would not act upon this; it came out for them to judge. Well, this spirit, he says, passed before his face; “the hair of my flesh stood up. It stood still, but I could not discern the form thereof; an image was before mine eyes; there was silence, and I heard a voice, saying, Shall mortal man be more just than God? Shall a man be more pure than his Maker? Behold, he put no trust in his servants; and his angels he charged with folly. How much less in them that dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, which are crushed before the moth? They are destroyed from morning to evening; they perish forever without any regarding it. Doth not their excellency which is in them go away? they die, even without wisdom.” Well, all that is very true, but it did not apply to the case at all. It was a very good lesson for Eliphaz; however he may have learned it is another thing. But there is a great, deal more to learn, and that is what had to come out,—that behind all the trouble, behind all the affliction, behind everything that can be brought by the malice of the devil upon God's children in this world, there is a God of grace; and more than that, that God looks for the sense of grace to fill our hearts too; and that is what He accomplished with Job. How much more ought it to be in us, who have seen by faith the Son of God! who have learned by faith what Jesus suffered that we might be brought into stable, everlasting and blessed relationship with God even now! That, of course, was beyond Job, or any in Old Testament times.
Well, Eliphaz pursues it. He says (chap. 5.) “Call now, if there be any that will answer thee; and to which of the saints wilt thou turn? For wrath killeth the foolish man, and envy slayeth the silly one. I have seen the foolish taking root” —he was an aged man and was fond of looking back upon his experience— “I have seen the foolish taking root; but suddenly I cursed his habitation.” Ah, there it is! No prayer for him—cursing his habitation. No pity for him. Well, that was just the spirit that was produced by this readiness to judge, and to found the judgment upon appearance. “Judge not according to the appearance,” said the law. We are bound to wait for solid fact. Take a person who has a bad appearance. Sometimes a bad man puts on a good appearance. Well, we are not at all deceived by that. Sometimes a good man may be in such circumstances that appearances are very much against him. There we have to take great care. So that judgment according to appearance is a very dangerous ground. That is exactly where they were. “His children are far from safety, and they are crushed in the gate, neither is there any to deliver them.” That was a very painful word for Job to hear. Job had been most careful about his children. Job watched over them with much prayer to God, and burnt offerings, as was the nature of things at that time—the way in which piety expressed itself. Eliphaz did not make it personal; nevertheless there are many ways of giving a hint. “Whose harvest the hungry eateth up, and taketh it even out of the thorns, and the robber swalloweth up their substance.” Something very like that had happened to Job I do not say that he imputed it to him, but still that was the spirit that was at work.
“Although affliction cometh not forth of the dust, neither doth trouble spring out of the ground; yet man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward. I would seek unto God.” Oh, yes, Eliphaz, all right—you are the man! It was a word meant for Job. He did not think that Job was seeking unto God. But he—he was very calm; and he could say, 'Yes, if I were in your case I would seek unto God, and unto God would I commit my cause, instead of crying out so loudly and complaining so bitterly' (as poor Job did); Unto God would I commit my cause'— “which doeth great things and unsearchable; marvelous things without number: Who giveth rain upon the earth, and sendeth waters upon the fields: to set up on high those that be low; that those which mourn may be exalted to safety.” But does not God sometimes try people? and the rains are not merely for fruitful seasons, but to destroy the fruit. The rains may be such as to greatly try the poor farmer and the husbandman; and it may all turn out quite the other way. It is entirely special pleading that we find in these men. It is not the whole case at all; it is never the full case. It is not the judge; it is the mere advocate; and in this case Job was the poor defendant. They were all on the side of hounding out Job, and finding where the secret iniquity was that they believed was at the bottom of all his trial. They were all wrong. “He disappointeth the devices of the crafty, so that their hands cannot perform their enterprise. He taketh the wise in their own craftiness; and the counsel of the froward is carried headlong.” Not a thought about the bad people that prosper; he only looks up certain ones that were punished; and the idea is, Job must be one of them.
Well, we find that he does at last fall upon a real truth, quite different from all this random talk. “Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth” (ver. 17). He never thought that that was the case with Job. “Happy is the man.” He knew that Job was very unhappy, and therefore he did not count him one of those at all. “Therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty” —there he does venture to exhort— “For he maketh sore and bindeth up; he woundeth, and his hands make whole.” There certainly is a milder vein running through these reproaches of Eliphaz as compared with the others; as we shall see at a later date. “He shall deliver thee in six troubles; yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee. In famine he shall redeem thee from death; and in war from the power of the sword. Thou shalt be hid from the scourge of the tongue; neither shalt thou be afraid of destruction when it cometh” —and so on. The end would be that “Thou shalt know also that thy seed shall be great, and thine offspring as the grass of the earth. Thou shalt come to thy grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in in his season. Lo this, we have searched it, so it is; hear it, and know thou it for thy good.” And the remarkable thing is that that was the end; and little did Eliphaz think that it would be verified in Job's case. It was more a homily in a vague way; and although he called Job to apply it, he had no idea that God would apply it, and that God would bring out Job more blessed than ever.
Now for Job's answer (chap. 6.). “Oh that my grief were thoroughly weighed” —there was just where they were wrong; they only looked at the surface “and my calamity laid in the balances together.” No, they had no proper balances, they were all one-sided. “For now it would be heavier than the sand of the sea” and so it was— “therefore my words are swallowed up.” They were all confused. He admits his language was not what it ought to be. He was so put to it by inward suffering and desperate pain that his words were quite confused, not quietly uttered, but simply swallowed up in the violence of his emotion. “For the arrows of the Almighty are within me.” You see he entirely gives way to it. “The poison whereof drinketh up my spirit; the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me.” [W.K.]
(To be continued)