Lectures on Job 6-8:3

JOB 6-8:3  •  26 min. read  •  grade level: 5
Lect. 2. (Continued)
Chap. 6. Now they had talked about the lions—Eliphaz had, at any rate. But Job brings a much more pertinent case into the matter.
“Doth the wild ass bray when he hath grass?” If he has got his proper food does he bray as if he were suffering from great hunger? “Or loweth the ox over his fodder?” No, he thankfully eats it. “Can that which is unsavory be eaten without salt?” “Here am I, and not even a morsel of food but what costs me pain, and I have nothing to make it agreeable; no salt with it; it is all poison as it were” —poison that entered and drank up his spirit. “Or is there any taste in the white of an egg?” The best thing he could get was that which was altogether insipid and disagreeable. “The things that my soul refused to touch are as my sorrowful meat. Oh that I might have my request; and that God would grant me the thing that I long for! Even that it would please God to destroy me.”
You see he had not the slightest fear of death. He was singularly above it; but he looked at death not so much as gain—he could not do that; he had not Christ to make it gain; but he looked to death as the cessation of his trouble, the end of his suffering. And so it would be. That, of course, was a very partial way, and by no means up to the mark that God was going to show him. But I mention it to show that it was not at all any fear of the unseen world; it was the trial that he could not solve in this present tangled life. “Then should I yet have comfort; yea, I would harden myself in sorrow: let him not spare; for I have not concealed the words of the Holy One.” The ordinary meaning of “concealed” is not at all the idea here. “I have not violated; I have not denied the words of the Holy One.” That is what they were doing; they were denying the words of the Holy One. They in their zeal, and in their superficial judgment, they were not guided by the Holy One at all; they were acting according to their own thoughts; judging according to their own feelings, on the mere surface of poor Job's intense affliction.
“What is my strength, that I should hope? and what is mine end, that I should prolong my life? Is my strength the strength of stone, or is my flesh of brass?” —to be able to endure all this without any feeling. “Is not my help in me? and is wisdom driven quite from me? To him that is afflicted pity should be showed from his friend.” That they should be so lacking in pity—there was what galled him; there was what was inexplicable, next to the great riddle of how God allowed all this to come upon him—that there was not one word of true pity; not one word but what was very superficial, because of the bad judgment, the misjudgment that was underneath it. “My brethren have dealt deceitfully as a brook, and as the stream of brooks they pass away; which are blackish by reason of the ice, and wherein the snow is hid: what time they wax warm, they vanish: when it is hot, they are consumed out of their place.” They were no use whatever to him “The paths of their way are turned aside; they go to nothing, and perish.” He compares it with the desert; he was familiar with it, as they all were. It is a very different thing to pass through the desert in the winter, and to pass through the same desert in the summer—in the winter when people do not want so much the refreshment of water, and in the heat of summer when they feel the great need of even a drop of water to cool their tongue—then it is that the “wadies” as they call them—those brooks that for a time cross the desert of despair—are completely sucked up by the sand or exhaled by the power of the sun. That is what he compares this to. And therefore it is that the same company of Tema, or of Sheba, that passed through the desert might remember that there is where we should find water in the midst of all this trouble. 'Ah! we hope we are nearing it now.' Not a drop; not a drop! That is like you. Time was when I could have got comfort from you, but now everything is changed. You have nothing now but an evil lurking suspicion that has no foundation at all. “The troops of Tema looked, the companies of Sheba waited for them. They were confounded because they had hoped; they came thither, and were ashamed.” There was no water to be seen. They had been promising themselves when nearing it, That is where we were only six months ago, when there was plenty of water ' and now six months after, not a drop! “For now ye are nothing; ye see my casting down, and are afraid.”
Yes, that was their state; they were shocked; they did not want to get near him even. They did not wish to have even the sense of the fetid breath of the poor sufferer, or to touch the skin for fear of contracting something bad themselves. They kept away from it; they were afraid. “Did I say, Bring unto me? or Give a reward for me of your substance?” He says, “It is not that I have the least want for anything, and yet you are treating me as if I were a person to be wanting to draw upon you in my trouble. No, I ask nothing of you except that you should not misjudge me.” “Did I say Bring unto me? or Give a reward for me of your substance? or, Deliver me from the enemy's hand? 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 doth your arguing reprove? Do you imagine to reprove words?”
That is what they were doing. He had broken out in these violent words, and they pitched upon them at once to say, Ah, yes! there is old Job beginning to show himself. Now he is in this way; just think what the world would say if they heard or saw Job now! “Do ye imagine to reprove words, and the speeches of one that is desperate, which are as wind? Yea, ye overwhelm the fatherless, and ye dig a pit for your friend. Now, therefore, be content; look upon me” —yes, he begs that they would look upon him— “for it is evident unto you if I lie.” That is, “if there is anything hidden under; that is what you suspect.” “Return, I pray you, let it not be iniquity” —he begs them to return to that, and to return to a sound judgment of the case. That it was their poor friend put to so tremendous a trial and could not see why it was come upon him. “Let it not be iniquity.” It has nothing to do with that. He had to learn that his own righteousness, however real, could be no ground; he must have the righteousness of God to stand upon, though he hardly knew how it could be. That is what comes out later in the book. “Is there iniquity in my tongue? Cannot my taste discern perverse things?” That is what they were treating, him to.
“Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth?” (chap. 7). There he has another ground; his trial was so prolonged. It was not merely a tremendous trial, which is usually very brief in this world. If people have great agony, say in the foot or the head—well, very often they become insensible if it is the head; and if it is the foot no doubt it is very trying, but it passes; the paroxysm passes. “But how is it that I from head to foot am nothing but a mass of sores, and inwardly suffering the deepest agony? Oh that God had taken it away; that God had terminated this terrible suffering.” “As a servant earnestly desireth the shadow” —of the evening, when he has done his work— “and as an hireling looketh for the reward of his work; so am I made to possess months of vanity, and wearisome nights are appointed to me.” They had each day their relaxation from labor; it may be hard labor, but still they had their night of ease and rest. “But I have nothing day or night, it is all the same terrible unremitting suffering.” “When I lie down, I say, When shall I arise, and the night be gone? and I am full of tossings to and fro until the dawning of the day.”
Sometimes we have a little of that experience; but how little it is compared with Job's; and how very quickly it gives place. But God was putting him into the furnace in order that he might come out purer than ever. “My flesh is clothed with worms.” Think of that; not merely with woolen or linen— “My flesh is clothed with worms and clods of dust; my skin is broken, and become loathsome. My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle, and are spent without hope.” That is, it was always something coming just like the rapid process with which a weaver passes his shuttle every moment. “Oh, remember that my life is wind; mine eye shall no more see good. The eye of him that hath seen me shall see me no more; thine eyes are upon me and I am not. As the cloud is consumed and vanisheth away” —that is what he compared himself to “so he that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more” —that is what he wanted, that it should terminate. “He shall return no more to his house, neither shall his place know him any more. Therefore I will not refrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul. Am I a sea, or a whale” —a sea monster “that thou settest a watch over me? When I say, my bed shall comfort me, my couch shall ease my complaint; then thou scarest me with dreams, and terrifiest me through visions; so that my soul chooseth strangling, and death rather than my life.” It is not that he would have done it, but that is what would have terminated his suffering. That is what the merely natural spirit would have done—terminated it violently.
Oh, no; he had no thought of such a thing. He was under the hand of God, but he begs God's hand to close it. “I would not live alway; let me alone; for my days are vanity.”
And he uses that very remarkable expression which we find in two other parts of the Old Testament: “What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him? and that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him?” It is very different here from what it is in the 8th Psalm, and it is sensibly different from what it is in the 144th Psalm. “What is man?” If you look at man without Christ there is nothing very wonderful to talk about; but when you look at Christ there is the most wonderful thing of all, both in the depth of His humiliation and the height of His exalted glory. Well, that is the 8th Psalm. But here it is man under the discipline of God; under the moral government of God. “Oh,” he says, “what is man, to be under such a tremendous government as this? If I were a sea I should not feel it; and if I were a big whale, well, I might perhaps endure more than I can now; but what is man? —poor, sensitive man; poor man full of his nerves, and full of his feeling, of mind, too, embittered by his outward trial?” “Oh!” he said, “terminate it! terminate it!”
Well, in the 144th Psalm there is another thing. He is looking for the kingdom to be brought in by divine power, and he says, “What is man?” Man stands in the way. There the nations are, but what are they? Execute judgment upon them, put them down with a high hand. That is the way that it is looked at. So that you see this “man” in all the blessedness of Christ, and this “man” in all the sufferings of Job, and this “man” in all the worthlessness of the nation; those are the three different comparisons in the three different places. “How long wilt thou not depart from me, nor let me alone till I swallow down my spittle?” —i.e., to get a moment to breathe. “I have sinned” —or, “If I have sinned” I should think to be the real sense of the passage— “What shall I do unto thee,” “O thou” —not exactly “Preserver” but “Observer?” It is well to take notice of these errors where they are more particularly flagrant “O thou Observer.” For he was perfectly conscious that God had his eye upon him all the time—perfectly conscious of that. Still he was not in the presence of God in the way that he afterward entered it, when he knew himself, and when he knew God better, as he learned through this.
That is what we have the privilege of learning in a very much more simple and blessed manner. “If I have sinned, what shall I do unto thee, O thou Observer 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 transgression?” He had confidence in God, and he could not understand what God somehow or another had against him—what he was not conscious of himself “Oh,” he said, “why not pardon it, if there be that of which I am not conscious” — “and take away mine iniquity? for now shall I sleep in the dust; and thou shalt seek me in the morning, but I shall not be.”
LECT. 3.-CHAPS. 8-10.
The reasoning of Bildad is precisely the same principle as that of Eliphaz. It is all founded on God's moral government, i.e., the impossibility of causing God grief, and casting down to the ground a really righteous man, and the certainty of His bringing to naught every wicked man. It is all founded upon what is going on in the world now. There was no faith in it. There was conscience, conscience toward God; but conscience, however useful and highly important as it is for the soul, never does, nor can it ever, reveal God. It detects our bad state, and the more it is purged by divine grace through redemption the clearer is its judgment. But that was not the case then. Everything was more or less confused, and God was merely regarded as a righteous God. But God is the God of all grace. And many people confound God's grace with His goodness; but the goodness of God is quite a different thing from the grace of God. The goodness of God is that which flows out in every sort of kindness, and in patience with us and consideration of our weakness. But the grace of God means not merely His love, but His love rising above sin; His love triumphing over all our evil.
Now it is clear that that never was nor could be, till Christ came, and it was not even when Christ did come. It was in His death on the cross; it was there and then for the first time that all the love of God met all the evil of man. Both worked fully out, but had never worked fully out before. Man had never shown himself so wicked as round the cross of the Lord Jesus. And it was universal; it was not merely the multitude, though it is a terrible thing to see how fickle the multitude is. They are just the same to this day, and they will never be any other until the Lord change the face of all peoples. The same crowd that cried “Hosanna to the Son of David!” and applauded Him to the skies, with one mouth cried, “Crucify him, crucify him!” within a few days. Well, and how was that? It was the power of Satan. It was their unbelief. Because their applause was nothing. Applause is merely human feeling excited at the moment, and that feeling may give way to a totally opposite one, and very quickly. Why, even the children of God are never to be trusted. The children of God are the most foolish people in the world in many respects. And the reason is because Satan hates them, and Satan entraps them, and they are apt to be deceived by appearances. They never seem to take warning from the word of God; they are always ready for some new thing; and the consequence is, always tumbling into some mess or another.
Well, this has always been the case; it was the case in the experience of the apostle Paul. “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ, unto another gospel; which is not another” —it is no gospel at all. It was a man once born; it was poor wretched fallen man that was the groundwork. That is the very same thing in Christians now. They are carried away by man, and they are all so anxious to get man to applaud them, and to sacrifice and compromise everything in order to get the assent and consent of people that want to be saved, that have no kind of judgment in things divine, for this never can be had unless we not only have Christ, but know what it is to be crucified to the world and the world unto us. That is, it must be a thorough-going work, and the children of God shrink from that; consequently, they will read anything that merely keeps up their spirits, just like a boy at night whistling through a churchyard. Anything that will keep up their spirits—every little dram, every little sentiment, every little phrase—perhaps a very bad and poor phrase—but still there it is, and that keeps up their spirits. Well now, friends, that is the way to get removed from Him that called us; because it is entirely by growing in grace, and by dependence upon that grace, that we are kept from all these snares that more particularly surround the people of God. At the time of the cross the people of God were the Jews, and that was the reason why they were the worst of all.
And now in Christendom, in the world as it is now, who are the most guilty? Who are ripening now for the severest judgment of God? The world-church. I do not mean by that the Established Church; it will take in the Dissenters just as well. The Dissenters are further away in some respects than even the Anglicans. They are howling politicians, howling for their own will, and calling themselves, in the most extraordinary manner, “passive resisters.” Why “passive resistance” is passive nonsense. You cannot be passive and resisting. If you are resisting you are not passive. It is the same kind of thing as people talking about the Roman Catholic Church; but if it is Roman it is not Catholic, and if it is Catholic it is not Roman, and the two things are just a marvelous piece of contradiction. But what I mean is this—there are different streets. There are high streets and low streets; there are streets of grandeur and there are streets of wretchedness of every kind—dishonesty as well as all kinds of contention. And it is upon that that the awful judgment of God is coming.
Babylon is more loathsome to God than “the Beast.” The beast is open self-will rebelling against God; but Babylon is that which is a harlot in God's eyes, and pretends to be the espoused of Christ. And it is that pretension—that high pretension of being the holy bride of Christ—accompanied by the greatest unholiness and the greatest laxity of doctrine when pretending to be the orthodox, the holy Catholic, Apostolic, and I do not know what else. Well, that is Babylon, but that is only high Babylon; there is low Babylon too; and all Babylon, no matter whether high or low—all will be the great object of God's fury. For that is the expression of the term. It is His highest indignation. It is all this pretension to what the world has not. They are now giving up to religion as much as possible. What is the intent? To carry on religion with the world, that is, Babylon. It is the confusion of two things that cannot be united, and there they are—the greatest and worst confusion that is possible to be.
The Babylon of Christendom is a great deal worse than the Babylon of the Chaldees. What privileges had they? Why, they were the heathen; but there you have only the human mind; in Christendom you have got the New Testament. There they pretend to have the Holy Ghost. There they can give the Holy Ghost to a baby! and they can give the Holy Ghost to a priest! Or they can do anything; bring fire—not from heaven, but from hell, to burn the martyrs of God. They can do anything that is wicked and is at the same time a pretense against God. Well, I say, because of them you must not be surprised that any who have got the truth in a measure are for that very reason the great object of Satan's desire to draw them into what will undermine and destroy. Therefore we need to be guided; we need the guidance of God; we need not to be taken in by appearances and fair promises and good desires that will never keep the same for one day or hour. But on the contrary, the better you desire, if you are not subject to God the more easily you will be drawn into that which will oppose God.
No doubt, nobody means that no Christian could be like the Galatians—you do not mean that. They thought they were in the better state. They thought they were getting on, that they were not so narrow minded as some people, that they were not so very bigoted as Paul. Paul was too much in one line; they were the large people; line; they were the large people; they were the liberal people. And so it was that they got into this terrible snare of the devil. The same thing repeats itself in every age. And I believe that there are persons on the face of the earth that are as much the object of Satan's wiles as the Galatians.
But that is no reason to be discouraged; not to be discouraged is the necessary consequence of having the truth—a necessary consequence that Satan dislikes and dreads, and will leave no stone unturned to prevent.
Why was it that Job came to this terrible plight in the Book we are reading? Because God said “There is nobody like him on the earth—a perfect man; a man thoroughly, all round—of integrity.”
Yes, but there was one thing that neither Job nor his friends understood, and that was grace; and it could not be understood. He did know that God was a faithful God, and his piety led him to feel, and to stand to it, that all the troubles he came into were from God. And so they were, because the devil even had disappeared. It was not merely the devil that endeavored to cast him down. That he did most fully in both the first and second chapters. But at the end of the second chapter he was defeated and baffled, and went off, and never re-appeared.
It is the greatest mistake to suppose it is only the devil. In the millennium there will be sin and death when the devil is bound. In point of fact, the occasion of Job's breaking out so violently was his three dear friends; and they were pious men, too. But what about that, unless you are guided of God? And that is the very thing that this Book is so instructive in—that we cannot trust to be led even, by a pious man. With the best of intentions we require God's guidance and to be kept to it.
And it was these three pious men by their conduct, so far from God's thoughts, so thoroughly judging by appearances, it was that that made them think that there must be something very bad in Job, after all his appearance, after all his life that seemed so fair, and after everybody thinking that there was nobody like Job. Certainly, if God said there was nobody like him, you may depend upon it that all pious people thought the same. And it was true, but still there was the great lack; because Job, till he got Christ as an object, made an object of his own piety, and thought a great deal of himself.
It is one of the greatest mistakes that a believer can make—to think a great deal of himself. I think I drew attention to a beautiful word of the apostle Paul that teaches the very contrary— “esteeming others better than ourselves"; and that means any Christian. And yet the Christians may be full of faults in this way or that way.
But still, who is the person whose faults I know better than anybody's? My own. And therefore I can honestly and loyally count a man better than myself. I do not know his faults to be anything like the faults I know of myself. Of course, others have the very same and are called to the very same feeling, and they may have more reason, too; that is another question altogether. But we have to do with the fact that we know what we are, and we ought to know, and it is a great thing to grow in knowing, that we are not only nothing for guidance, but we are worse than nothing in the sight of God. Our nature is declared to be the flesh in enmity against God. And that is what we know working out. Other people may not see it; other people may not have any reason to see it.
But that is what every Christian should know who is not like Job, admiring himself because he is not like other people. That is, he is like the Pharisee.
“God, I thank thee I am not as other men.”
Yes, that is a very bad state; nothing could be worse—nothing worse in a believer. And these dear saints at that day were in imminent danger, every one of them, not even excepting Job. Job had a better knowledge of God, comparatively, than they; and Job stuck to it with amazing tenacity, first that all the trouble that came upon him was from God; that it was God who allowed it all to come upon him. He could have hindered every bit of it—and that he could not understand. Why, why, why? He had a thoroughly good conscience as far as that was concerned; he had no sin upon him at all, no particular defect of any sort. It was a question of self and not of sin; it was a question of never having judged himself in the presence of God fully.
I should like to know how many here in this room have judged themselves in that way now? I think they had better search and see. That is surely a very great lesson to learn, and it is a lesson that nobody likes to learn. It is always extremely painful, and it is very humbling to our comfortable thoughts of ourselves. Because we are occupied perhaps with the gospel, and we see that the gospel is completely clear. That does not touch self. It ought to lead to it; but it may not at all. And consequently there may be people most zealous in the gospel that are peculiarly ignorant of themselves—peculiarly so. They are generally occupied with other people, and have not much time for sober reflection and self-judgment; and therefore, active work in the Lord always pains, unless it is corrected by Christ—learned in this practical way by the power of God's Spirit judging everything of flesh-in ourselves. That is where they were all wrong, and it is bringing out that clearly—that it is not merely a question of the righteous government of God; but it was then the secret of grace. Now the grace is published; now it is proclaimed; now it is preached; now it is manifested; and therefore, now it is a far more serious thing. And there was what these Galatians overlooked entirely. They had never learned that yet; they were converted through the apostle; they were brought into the full joy of as good a gospel as ever was preached in this world—a great deal better than any of us preach it now. They were brought into that by the preaching of that blessed man—and yet they had not profited, to judge themselves. And it is this that we all need most deeply, in order that we may be kept from the snares that surround us, and which may spring upon us at any moment, even from friends just as dear as the three friends of Job. They were the occasion of this downfall, and that in a way that only God could have accomplished.
Well now, Bildad follows the line of Eliphaz, and says: “How long wilt thou speak these things?” He could not in the least understand it. “And how long shall the words of thy mouth be like a strong wind?” Because Job could not understand why: as he was quite sure of the perfection of God, quite sure of the faithfulness of God, quite sure that God loved him, quite sure that he loved God; “How has all this come upon me; what is the key to all this terrible suffering that I am sure God has sent?” He would not lay it upon circumstances. [W. K.]
(To be continued)