On the Book of Job

Job  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Job pretends to no ostensible date. The ways of God are simply and directly in question.
The reader of the Book of Job is let in at once into what was really going on, that he may know God's purpose and ways. Job is not. It would have destroyed the effect of the gracious, though painful, process. God takes notice of His saints. “Hast thou considered my servant Job?” Satan's attention thus attracted to them, in a way which shows that God, whatever Satan's malice, is the real source of all that is to follow; he becomes the accuser. Thus the great scene of which man (and, we must add, the saint) was the object, really opens.
God, whose purpose is only disclosed at the end, in the profit done to Job's soul (though His being the source of all is revealed), leaves Job, in a measured way, in the hand of the adversary for temptation and trial. Such is the scene and spring of action from within. But all comes on Job from without by apparently ordinary causes. The predatory hordes of Sabeans, Chaldeans, and the like, make razzias on his flocks and herds; a violent wind from the desert throws down his house when his children are feasting; and at last a disease of the country attacks his own body—rapidly accumulated, no doubt; but all ordinary events, however trying. What was Job's own character? He was, in his general character, a godly, upright, gracious man, fearing God, eschewing evil, and gracious with those around him. Why should evils, if there be a divine government, fall on such an one? If this world be simply the present manifestation of divine government as such, then, indeed, it would be incredible. But though Providence overrules all, and God delights to bless, even temporarily; and though, in result, when He takes to Him His great power and rules, the blessing of the righteous will fully arrive; yet now, in a world of sin, He is carrying on another purpose—the perfecting of saints for the full enjoyment of Himself. This, since sin and will are come in, is wrought in two ways—judgment of self and submission to God.
Now Job needed, and God saw that he needed, this. He was gracious and pious, but He did not know Himself; and he had never so seen God as to be brought to a real knowledge of Himself in His presence. God deals, therefore, with him in a way to bring his sinfulness fully out, and then places him with it manifested to himself in His own presence. Elihu's place we shall see in a moment. He gives the key to God's ways in grace, in order to the bringing in of the soul dealt with into God's presence, as under discipline, not under judgment. Job had acted well, for grace had acted in him; but he did not know himself before God. Thus he speaks: “When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me; because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me, and I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy. I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my judgment was as a robe and a diadem. I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. I was a father to the poor; and the cause that I knew not I searched out.” All very right and gracious; but was it all that was in Job's heart? What did the thinking of it do? What did it show? Men waited for Job, no doubt. But where was Job's heart? What was it? Well, God allows Satan, in his malice, to sweep all away; and here more good is displayed. He is patient in his sorrow. He blesses God, and bows his head to Him who gave and saw fit to take away.
But Job's heart was not yet reached. Its reflections on itself there was nothing to change. Men would have said, “What more can you want than grace in prosperity, and patience in adversity?” I want such a knowledge of myself as makes God everything to me, and me morally capable of enjoying Him. Had God stopped here, though outwardly preparation had been made, Job would have been better pleased with himself than ever. Had God restored him now, mischief would have been done. Satan had done all he could. His friends arrive; and sympathy or shame (for God will have His blessed work fully done) reveals Job to himself; and he who has become the type of patience, curses the day in which he was born. The surface is broken through, and Job, and his friends too, come out in their reality. His friends take the ground of the present certain government of God manifest in all His ways; in which they are wholly and in every sense wrong. Did He directly govern, He could allow no sin at all. He who could suppose this present evil world the expression of the just and adequate results of God's character in government, must have an awful idea of God Himself. They had a pre-existing standard of morals, and judged God and all things by it. God loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; Job was under his afflicting hand: consequently, he was a hypocrite. They pronounce, indeed, many “wise saws,” common-place truisms, which explained nothing, and reached no man's conscience, not even their own—and hold their tongues, vexed that their wisdom was despised.
In Job two things are brought out—an unbroken, impatient will, which set up to judge God and say that he was more righteous than He; but, at the same time, a heart which had a sense of relationship with God, though in rebellion against Him, and writhing under His hand—a perception of qualities in God, which showed a personal knowledge of Himself, which only longed to find Him, and knew that, when he did, he should find Him such. He could not indeed. He was in one way, and who could turn Him aside? But if he did, he would order his cause before Him. There was that confidence in Him, that he counted upon His heart towards him. When he can get rid of the stupid importunities of his moralizing and heartless friends, he turns to cry after God with an “O that I might find Him!” In justice, he sees it is no use. How can a man plead with God? But in heart, he will trust Him if He slay him. Nothing can be more beautiful than the way he turns thus, casting aside his friends as he may, to throw himself into the arms of God, if he could only find Him. But all was not ready yet; the confidence would be sustained, but the will must be broken self-complacency destroyed. In this process all manner of feelings come out—impatient anger presumptuously arraigning God; acknowledging present government in pious justification of His ways, clearly proving that it was no present adequate proof of what God thought of a man; a deep, personal, heart-sense of what God is, expressed in confidence in Him. The heart was fully exercised, its evil brought out, its good, its faith in God brought into play: but the riddle was not yet solved.
Elihu then comes in, “an interpreter, one among a thousand,” and brings in this truth—that God deals personally with man. A general, superintending government no doubt there is—a God that judgeth the earth; but there is another kind of government—that of souls. He turns man from his purpose. He hides pride from man. He hideth not his eyes from the righteous. They are with kings; but he binds them in affliction and cords of iron, to show them their works, their transgressions that they have exceeded. He chastens, restores. He governs with a view to blessing—governs souls in a moral relationship with Himself. He was not God to terrify Job; yet Job could not answer when God, acting in respect of an unjudged conscience and an unsubdued heart, was brought out.
Yet while judging the conscience, and showing the sin of the will and pride of heart, such reasoning showed God's active, condescending, pains-taking grace to a soul that had the integrity that was found in Job. Thus God's ways were revealed by the interpreter, and self-righteousness totally set aside. Still one thing remained where gracious ways had softened the heart of the willful one for submission. God's own majesty was to be revealed to show Job his utter folly, (worms and sinners that we are.) Hence God is displayed in majesty and power; and Job acknowledges his vileness, first by shutting his mouth before God—staying his presumptuous words; and then opening it in unfeigned confession before the gracious God who dealt with him, in whose presence he now stood in a truth and reality he had never been in before. “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee; therefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Then God can fully bless him, and pardon his friends, putting each in his place. These were, so to speak, the parties in question—self-righteousness referring to present government now; a saint, yet unsubdued and not knowing himself as a poor sinner before God; and the God of majesty with whom they all had to do. Elihu was but an interpreter by the way, and hence not seen when the judgment is to be pronounced. He answers to the intelligent spirit of Christ, acting by the word to teach God's ways as the Church ought to know them; and we “have heard of the patience of Job, and seen the end of the Lord, that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” Such, I apprehend, is the purport of this book—the most instructive revelation for every soul of God's ways with men.
I do not doubt its application to Jewish history, for in the Jews God will ultimately display His government of the earth, as He has already to those who have spiritual intelligence to discern it. But that is but a large picture of man's heart and God's ways that we may learn them. There are higher revelations in the New Testament, no doubt. But the sovereign grace has not superseded these principles of intercourse of God with godly men—with the redeemed, and with men in general, which are brought out, independently of all dispensations, in this wonderful and most beautiful book. It carefully shuts out thus all special dispensational character or Jewish legal form of knowledge, or God's taking a people specially to Himself, while picturing the dealings developed in them. I have no doubt, from the kind of idolatry referred to, the patriarchal manners, and other characteristics of the book, that it is of Mosaic date at least: but however this may be, of its spiritual place and purpose in the holy book of God I have not the least doubt. The idea is a godly man, standing with God in government in the earth, and his acceptance before Him The reader will remark that sacrifices are introduced as the means of escape from the consequences of our folly and sin in respect of God. The Book of Job is the testimony now (independently of all peculiar dispensational truth and blessing, and it was the testimony before there were any) of the great fundamental truths on which all relationship between God and man on earth rest.