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BRINGING HEAVEN TO EARTH
TO BRING SOME OF EARTH TO HEAVEN
POIGNANCY AND ITS PARALLELS
There is now to be seen as we pursue the suffering motif, meaning and message in Job, one of those amazingly correlative and extremely sensitive depictions of anguish, exposure, mockery or contempt and injustice, in some degree of parallel to be found likewise in Psalms (22, 35, 69 for example) where they concern the Messiah (cf. Joyful Jottings 22-25), but also in Jeremiah (e.g. 15).
In the latter case, we see the afflictions of the sensitive but eminently courageous prophet, whose love for his people carries him to a fatherly and motherly role in his distress for them (e.g. 9, 44); but true to his divinely appointed commission (1), he does not restrain the charges due for them, the admonitions and the rebukes, which, had they but followed them, would have been their deliverance (17, 44).
is a variant parallel also of soaring poignancy, like a peak never free from
rain and mist, but inverted in a nether embrace. This is seen in Lamentations,
where in this case, DESPITE
Who cannot tremble with an exquisite sadness at hearing the words, spoken of ruined Jerusalem, now seen in the externalia, as it had long been internally through sin in the heart; for it had set up idols in the heart (Ezekiel 14:3ff.).
v “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts, and put before them that which causes them to stumble into iniquity. Should I let Myself be inquired of at all by them? Therefore speak to them, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Everyone of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the Lord will answer him who comes, according to the multitude of his idols, that I may seize the house of Israel by their heart, because they are all estranged from Me by their idols.” ’ ”
Such things occurred in one of the churches which I attended when young, where an elder, wrongly be allowed to be such though a Free Mason with their various gods and emphases among them, and Holy scriptures of various religious kinds as in the Holman Masonic Bible, sought leave of absence from the Church Session of elders, on the ground he had a Masonic role to perform. Similarly, when Pastor of an independent church, one had occasion to be at a crucial meeting which would do much to define both the role and the efficacy of the church, and absent at a similar (but distinct) kind of society, was one of the directors of the church. Had he been present, to urge the (in this case correct) course which the church failed to follow, through lack of faith, history might have been exceedingly different! But he absented himself for the society, and left the church with merely a brief message.
Amusingly, but grimly so, after the meeting, in which like the children of Israel failing through fear to go into the promised land, the church had jibbed at their extraordinary opportunity, it was found that the financial impediment which had moved them to say NO, would have been covered for the first year by one of the members who did not wish them to know this until after they had voted!
So does lack of faith bring failure upon failure, and do idols in the heart, competitive religious variants calling contrary to, or in defilement or disloyalty relative to Christ, occasion much evil, and indeed expose it; for what is to be compared to Christ (cf. Psalm 73:25-26), or what is the payment to be made for NOT forsaking all you have for Him (cf. Luke 14:27ff.).
Is God or are His riches to be parlayed on some other race? or is the Saviour to be mutilated with other sojourners in the soul of man!
v “ How lonely sits the city
That was full of people!
“How like a widow is she,
Who was great among the nations!
The princess among the provinces
Has become a slave!
She weeps bitterly in the night,
Her tears are on her cheeks;
Among all her lovers
She has none to comfort her.
“All her friends have dealt treacherously with her;
They have become her enemies.
Under affliction and hard servitude;
She dwells among the nations,
She finds no rest;
All her persecutors overtake her in dire straits.
The roads to
Because no one comes to the set feasts.
“All her gates are desolate;
Her priests sigh,
Her virgins are afflicted,
And she is in bitterness.
“Her adversaries have become the master,
Her enemies prosper;
For the Lord has afflicted her
Because of the multitude of her transgressions.
“Her children have gone into captivity before the enemy.
And from the daughter of
All her splendor has departed.
Her princes have become like deer
That find no pasture,
That flee without strength
Before the pursuer.
“In the days of her affliction and roaming,
That she had in the days of old.
When her people fell into the hand of the enemy,
With no one to help her,
The adversaries saw her
And mocked at her downfall.
Therefore she has become vile.
All who honored her despise her
Because they have seen her nakedness;
Yes, she sighs and turns away.
“Her uncleanness is in her skirts;
She did not consider her destiny;
Therefore her collapse was awesome;
She had no comforter.
“O Lord, behold my affliction,
For the enemy is exalted!”
The adversary has spread his hand
Over all her pleasant things;
For she has seen the nations enter her sanctuary,
Those whom You commanded
Not to enter Your assembly.
All her people sigh,
They seek bread;
They have given their valuables for food to restore life.
“See, O Lord, and consider,
For I am scorned.
“Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?
Behold and see
If there is any sorrow like my sorrow,
Which has been brought on me,
Which the Lord has inflicted
In the day of His fierce anger.”
The last section is in red as this is the one on which our present focus comes.
Here we see exposed a city almost beyond lament, its lacerations to the heart, to the soul; its invidious evils now insidiously ricocheting, now here, now there, with impact on the spirit, the life of its people, such as are left and not lifted to another land, captives of their tormentor.
If then Jeremiah suffered empathetically, then
Then it came. It is one thing to see destruction; it is far worse to see it deserved, as if someone took a saw to his limbs and began to saw off here a shaving of bone, there another. It is worse then, desolatory; and when with this action, wrought without apparent immediate pain since it is in fact a spiritual one, the results of which may accrue but slowly, there is pride, even arrogance and self-will to be gloried in, then there is an intimation of mortality, a flaring folly of sin.
This, in another image, is like the sulphurous air near the metal works that din in the dark, with lurid flames from time to time, indicative of their labours.
Where however is the case of Job in these sorrows ?
JOB IN HIS PLACE IN THE EMPYREAN OF SUFFERING
The ‘empyrean’ or highest heavens, perhaps relating to a concept of fire in the word’s own formation, reflects the joint presence of the superb and the fiery. Job is tried with a fiery torch that touches more than his skin, that threatens to sour his spirit and cut its soaring forever. That it does not do so is due to God’s grace; but we see the little fractures, and hear the labouring of the engines. Indeed, to pursue the figure, we see the hairline fractures near the tail of his airplane, which as we know from many a dashing from the sky, can be fatal in unkept aircraft.
Our current concern with this is at once the depth, and the meaning of the exhibition of suffering here. It is clear that it is exemplary, NOT as so usual, for others to see in it the reward due to their own sins, so that they might realise the depth of their follies: but so that there might once and for all be proclaimed on the earth, the reality and sincerity of love to God, of the heart of man to his Maker, of the friend of God with his Maker, so showing that religion is not mere gain, as in these more modern ‘success’ Christianity perversions of the cross which IS costly in many domains of the spirit and life of man. This it CANNOT cease to be, without becoming something else altogether (Matthew 16:24ff.).
Yet there is at the more intimate level, far more to be seen – though not less!
As Job’s suffering intensifies, with dust and salt rubbed into his suppurating spiritual wounds, and his physical defects now a matter of little less than horror when eye is cast upon them, we see this same genre of suffering contempt, shame, rebuke, dishonour, in the sensitive sensibilities of the spirit, of disgrace, of wretchedness, of apparent desolation, of corrosive intrusions and pitiless human leers and peerings as in some other scriptures. It resembles in many an external element, the exhibits in the Psalms and Lamentations noted above.
Take for example Job 16:6-17 –
v “Though I speak, my grief is not relieved;
And if I remain silent, how am I eased?
But now He has worn me out;
You have made desolate all my company.
You have shriveled me up,
And it is a witness against me;
My leanness rises up against me
And bears witness to my face.
“He tears me in His wrath, and hates me;
He gnashes at me with His teeth;
My adversary sharpens His gaze on me.
They gape at me with their mouth,
They strike me reproachfully on the cheek,
They gather together against me.
“God has delivered me to the ungodly,
And turned me over to the hands of the wicked.
“I was at ease, but He has shattered me;
He also has taken me by my neck, and shaken me to pieces;
He has set me up for His target,
His archers surround me.
He pierces my heart and does not pity;
He pours out my gall on the ground.
He breaks me with wound upon wound;
He runs at me like a warrior.
“I have sewn sackcloth over my skin,
And laid my head in the dust.
My face is flushed from weeping,
And on my eyelids is the shadow of death;
Although no violence is in my hands,
And my prayer is pure.”
This has undeniable affinities with Psalm 22 and Lamentations, as indeed with Jeremiah 9 and 15. However it is by now apparent that while Lamentations purveys the grief that comes from pangs deserved, and Jeremiah’s personal laments come with grief borne empathetically, and also in view of his being part of the city, though not in its fundamental guilt of rebellion, we have in Job something which is both allied to each, and different from either.
The common element is the striking suffering, expressed in lament and grief almost incomparable.
Basic differences include these.
v With the Messiah, it is purgative and vicarious, and for those concerned by faith, substitionary in its atoning grace (Isaiah 53:3-5 shows the healing to those whose sins He bears, and 52:12ff. the aweful operations of sufferings in His soul and body, who is the Messiah cf. Highway of Holiness).
v With Jeremiah, it is grief in terms of spiritual horror at the tempestuous follies that bring acute and severe suffering on his own people; just as it is empathetic in its anguish.
v In Lamentations, it is the foreseen fulfilled, and the lamentable consequences of lamentable obduracy for so long against the laments of the prophet whose words were despised, though in the case of Ezekiel who also addressed the people before the national calamity, they enjoyed his words from the Lord, like a symphony, though no more in this were they EXECUTED than is the work of a composer by an audience! (cf. Ezekiel 33:32).
What however is the case with Job ? This is the question we must pursue.
“Though I speak …” and HOW well he can speak! “my grief is not relieved!” says the patriarch.
For “now He has worn me out” (Job 16:6). “You have shriveled me up, and it is a witness against me.”
That, in view of Job 9:29ff., it is interesting. He does not disdain things to the point that in his sense of outraged justice, he ignores that the umpire’s decision has a MEANING. To be sure, he misjudges it; but on the other hand, it is a truth which he is brought more and more to see, that though his actions did not specifically bring down divine wrath, yet there is in man a cleavage from perfect righteousness so considerable, that to ignore a certain propriety in suffering, even when as here there is test, readily becomes both thoughtless and ignoble (Job 7:21).
It is NOT that Job claims sinlessness, but innocence from direct, deliberate, sustained sin, from reckless or feckless, spiritually chestless charges and follies, which being uncorrected could result only in such divinely wrought suffering as he has inherited.
Yet he WILL NOT to make things easy for his inquisitors, his apparent friends, allow that things have been other than they are. Indeed in Job 31 we see an itemised defence of his moral life and proclivities. He WILL NOT say, Oh well, God knows what He is doing and perhaps I do deserve all this. For sin to be visited in peculiar affront, he conceives, there needs to be a singular cause. In this he is somewhat limited, though in fairness we need to realise something else that he uttered (Job ):
Ø “I am blameless yet I do not know myself.”
Job is far from superficial. He does in principle at least, realise that God may have great plans to which for some reason or other (as here, the very character and structure of the TEST), he is not made privy (Job 11:7, -22, 25:13-14). God has unique knowledge of all components and schedules, every thought and meaning, every value and skirmish: it is He, not Job who comprehends the man.
Yet the patriarch’s sufferings do not diminish; the resolution does not appear like a zephyr to redeem the erstwhile heat. The pot bubbles, he apparently feels, and he is the meat. He wishes to speak to the cook.
However there is this, this further and perhaps most intense of all the griefs. It is found expressed in these words.
““I cry out to You, but You do not answer me;
I stand up, and You regard me.
But You have become cruel to me;
With the strength of Your hand You oppose me.
“You lift me up to the wind and cause me to ride on it;
You spoil my success.
For I know that You will bring me to death,
And to the house appointed for all living.
“Surely He would not stretch out His hand against a heap of ruins,
If they cry out when He destroys it.
“Have I not wept for him who was in trouble?
Has not my soul grieved for the poor?
But when I looked for good, evil came to me;
And when I waited for light, then came darkness.
“My heart is in turmoil and cannot rest;
Days of affliction confront me.
I go about mourning, but not in the sun;
I stand up in the assembly and cry out for help.
“I am a brother of jackals,
And a companion of ostriches.
My skin grows black and falls from me;
My bones burn with fever.
My harp is turned to mourning,
And my flute to the voice of those who weep.”
It is apparent that this has a certain parallel to Psalm 22:1: “My God, My God why have you forsaken Me!”
In that pinnacle of suffering, pointed at the sun, but bathed in a blackness from a sort of dark spotlight, there is clear attestation of divine plan. A thousand years before it happened, the sense of desolation necessary for and actual to the situation of the Saviour, was not dramatised, for it needed no action which was a drama of its own; but it was depicted. THIS is the price of sin (Isaiah 59:1-2), and when the Saviour bore it, this was the price therefore for HIM! (Galatians 3, II Corinthians 5:17ff.).
SIN cuts off, He bore it, He was cut off, and if He were not, how then did He bear it; but bear it He did, and cut off He was, all as scheduled, even to the words uttered! (I Peter 2:22ff., Matthew 27:46, ).
What then of Job ? He bore no one’s sin, nor could he (Psalm 49); and moreover, he was by his own admission a sinner, not some near to perfect piece of isolated sanctity unlike all (though his sanctity was noteworthy and blessed). He was not a spiritual poseur (Job , Job ). In his case, it is not merely empathetic and sharing pathetically the turmoils of is beloved people; and it is certainly not vicarious suffering.
It is an INTEGRITY ON TRIAL for popular benefit for all ages.
It is thus in one sense, rather near to benevolent, but it is not voluntary. It could be near to vicarious, but again, it is in no sense a payment, or a cover for the impact of justice on what is loved.
What then is it, the pith of the suffering of Job, so like other sufferings in external form, so unlike in inner meaning ?
It is didactic suffering, assuredly, suffering in order to teach, but it is not voluntary. What IS voluntary is Job’s love of God and determination that he will TRUST HIM THOUGH HE SHOULD SLAY ME! It is in this reality that the action occurs.
Again, it is lectures through love. It is in his own way, though involuntary in the specific case, yet voluntary in terms of his generic attitude of distressed yet genuine devotion to the Almighty (13:14-18, 19:23ff., 21:14ff., 28:12-28); indeed, for all his talk and pondering, there is the dramatic exposure of a virtual prophet of spiritual realms. Further, it becomes an exercise in comprehension for all peoples thereafter, a testimony of the demands of integrity, the depth of God’s counsel and the necessities of love, that it trust in the Beloved, who is God.
Moroever, it is a spiritual laboratory to demonstrate (and indirectly remonstrate with) the nature of sin. Its guileful indictments are shown (such as seen in Job’s friends, whose words in some cases, at times almost sound rather like spiritual hedonism, against which Job’s experience itself is an exquisite declamation), as are its awful portents, its due sufferings.
If indeed it were not for this lesson (shown in many ways biblically, but here in appointed drama, made the more moving because it happened in history), the whole of godliness would be the cash register sort of thing: HOW can I get the most pleasure, the least pain; or the most prestige or importance or power or satisfaction or relish or whatever it is that appeals, in part or in whole, in composition or in items added ? Does God serve this ? Let’s have God!
Such blasphemies are not far from the lips of some, and some churches are unstable precisely because the serviceability of God for the sinful self is mistaken for the substitution of Christ for the damned and damaged life of man, so that he is crucified with Christ, and arising with Christ, serves Him with relish, being dead to the drum beat of sin, in philosophical, physiological or ‘spiritual’ domains; and if not perfectly so, yet so characteristically (cf. John 1:7-2:2).
JOB ARISING TO THE HEIGHTS FROM THE DEPTHS,
LIKE A SPACE STATION RAISED ALOFT
It is not that Job found wisdom, but that wisdom found Job; it was there. It came. When it came, his eyes saw the inner meaning, the actualised agenda, the schema for it all, into which all drama of life and meaning of suffering could fit. It is found in Job 19, that acme of beauty and melodious march that brings a message better than all music.
Tormented by friends, sores and spiritual sadness, outraged by improper imputations, feeling that “He has fenced my way, so that I cannot pass,” that “He has set darkness in my paths,” Job reflects on the removal of brothers and relatives from him, that “I am repulsive to the children of my own body,” and cries (Job 19:21-22):
“Have pity on me, have pity on me, O you my friends,
For the hand of God has struck me!
Why do you persecute me as God,
And are not satisfied with my flesh.”
They do not however do so, but continually vault and vaunt, proclaiming though sometimes with a degree of point, a simplistic structure of thought which tends to villainise Job, who indeed at times exceeded with his lips, but then what is love for ? Is it to forsake the friend in time of need, as if friendship were a promotion exercise and not in the spirit of a man at all!
It is impossible to ignore this further parallel to the sufferings of Christ, in terms of suffering, though of course, not in terms of its purpose; for in each, the purpose is defined, and for each it is cardinally and categorically different, the one for redemption, the other for instruction. Yet the suffering is in the jaws of sin and its due reproof, in Christ to bear it, in Job to portray integrity even when the full force of sin’s rebuke begins to be felt. It is no small part of the test, that it be felt over some little time, and in increasing measure. With Christ, of course, it was felt for years, at the very summit of His mission, ministry and visit in all its profundity, to and for man.
But consider now Job’s words. Their beauty is better than rubies, their pith superb, their placement in his sufferings eloquent. They appear in Job 19:23-27.
v “Oh, that my words were written!
Oh, that they were inscribed in a book!
That they were engraved on a rock
With an iron pen and lead, forever!
v “For I know that my Redeemer lives,
And He shall stand at last on the earth;
And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
That in my flesh I shall see God,
Whom I shall see for myself,
And my eyes shall behold, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!”
He yearns with that characteristic intensity, for a record so permanent that it might be as if his word were inscribed into a rock. But with what ? Of course, with an iron pen and lead used as ink!
Why is this great thrust of soul upon him, and why does his spiritual yearning desire such a dashing and daring course ? It is because he has the pith of the matter and wants all for all time to see it, know it, appreciate it, value it and finding it, find its solace, its joy and its ultimacy.
What then is this message, this revelation (cf. Ephesians -19), that God gives just as He gave it to the prophets in times of stress ? (cf. II Chronicles 19:1-3, II Samuel 12, Jeremiah 42:3-14, 44:2ff.).
Like the Psalmist in Psalm 49:7,15, Job realises that ONLY redemption is the escape from the crashed airplane of man. A man per se can neither redeem or be redeemed by a mere man; it is God who is to do the redemption (as in Hosea , Micah 5:1-3, Isaiah 52-53), Himself providing the salvation which is His own unique prerogative (Isaiah 43:10-11), just as it is His joy so to act (Psalm 40:1-3), however great the suffering (Psalm 22).
Moreover Job at once shows the clarity of the vision. The REDEEMER IS TO STAND ON THIS EARTH.
In seeing Him, one sees God (John 14:9, Job -27). There is no mediator for this mediator; it is Himself and Job’s eyes will see Him for himself, without interference or indirection. With an obviously resurrected body, since the present one as he has been so eloquently and painfully reminded is certainly to go (cf. I Corinthians 15:50), Job is to see God from the vantage point of his own flesh, and it is his eyes that will do it, not some occult phenomenon, just as it is God whom they will see and not some mere spiritual vision (cf. Revelation 22:4-5, I Corinthians 13).
This Redeemer is always alive; and though He later stand on the earth, He NOW lives, yes even in the immediate present for JOB himself! It is not a putation; it is not an imputation: it is a fact. Job’s Redeemer is alive, and it is HE who will redeem him from all his sins, and from the impact of the sins of others, from the whole sinfulnessness of the universe, from the smudges and fudges, the drudges and sludges of the earth, of the mind, of the spirit of man in its sin. It is not some elevation of spirit which will redeem Job. It is the God who made and regulates, rules and has His own patterns for the earth, His own program for man and His own mission for His servants, as here for Job.
Eternal life is in view; death is to be defeated and all as a result of redemption, divinely wrought and immaculately consummated. No friend or for that matter, fiend, can prevent this; and Job TRUSTS Him, NOT ONLY should He slay him, but to act to the full the magnificent role of Redeemer WHICH EVEN NOW IS HIS RELATIONSHIP with Job personally!
So loss of temporal life is followed by realisation in full of the gain of eternal life, and not only this, but life forever through the Mediator, the kinsman, the daysman, the One with relish of reason, joy of service, the Servant of Isaiah 42, 49, 52ff., the Redeemer, the Saviour and hence God as man (Isaiah 43:10-11, 53), the King of Psalm 72, the Rod of Isaiah 11 and what more ? One granting great rest to the Gentiles (Isaiah ).
How great is this ultimacy descried and described in Job 19, the more clearly recognised when the present things for Job were in such danger, and seen in their own limited light! (II Corinthians 4:18-5:5). The temporal is not dismissed to leave one ‘naked’, but overcoated with the eternal as Paul there shows; and so does Job realise from revelation from the Almighty, that a new body and a direct facing of the Eternal is to be his lot, making suffering an introduction, the laboratory of service a prelude, the glory of God not merely to be sought, but seen!
How it resembles I Corinthians 15 in its massive majesty and simple practicality!
How much more did Job know than many a professing ‘Christian’ today!
How many doctrines have we seen now added to our list in the last chapter, in entire conformity to the Scriptures of truth, of which indeed this is a part. Though there be no mention of Moses, of the word of God in covenantal exposure, of the sacrifices of the temple, of the Exodus for that matter, or the entry to the promised land, of brethren in Israel or the ways of that country; though there is nothing about the prophets or the ceremonies of the temple, of the history of the Jew, yet there is this same assurance, this poignancy with power, with many an indication as we are told by those whose field this is, of an antiquity to or before Moses in the text.
Whatever the specific features of the writing of Job, it is revelation from God, wrought in such entire conformity to what IS the law and what IS the New Testament, and to what is the corpus of revelation outside it, that it appears as a brother indeed, as a home from home and a house of beauty, built like all the biblical books, with one pattern of truth, one schedule of redemption, one exposure of sin, of God’s sovereignty and power, searching ways and entire compassion.
The sacrifice of redemption is not small, and the faithfulness of the Redeemer to come at last and stand upon this earth, it is precisely what is in the heart of Christians to this day (as in I John 3:1ff., I Cor. 15, I Thessalonians 4, Matthew 24, Zechariah 14, Galatians 6:14 cf. Questions and Answers 2); and their assurance as they suffer at the hands of enemy of the faith, jihad or crusading infidel, lost in his illusions and vain in his confusions, it is at one with that of Job (Romans 8:16, I John 5:10ff.). The one true God has never varied in his message (Galatians 1, Acts 2 cf. SMR pp. 1080ff., Barbs, Arrows and Balms 17, TMR Chs. 2 - 3), and in completing it, has adorned a foundation already laid from of old.
The Strange Case of ELIHU
And the Aims of this Presentation
There remains an issue of some interest, which also may be instructive, since Job is a work which epitomises instruction. God rebukes Job’s three friends, who have to be exposed as improper critics, lost in their own punctiliousness or platitudes or both. Job has to pray for them, and they are instructed to go to Job with sacrifices which he will offer for them. He of course is restored and blessed, for the test was not for his dismantling but for his exposure of one element of the truth, its integrity in the hearts of the saints.
Why then was not the FOURTH of those who attacked Job, mentioned in the humbling at the end, and why is not this Elihu advised of his error, like the rest ? Incidentally, Job had indeed not been perfect, though his INTEGRITY of faith and trust in the REDEEMER had been made clear, as well as his sincere intentions, so that he too received, with blessing and reward, unlike the tiresome trio, only a measured rebuke.
Why then did not this critic, this Elihu receive even a mention ?
It may be this. His words were rather elevated. He DID tell Job that at times in the counsel of God and His deep intentions, you have to WAIT (Job 35:14). This was true, and God did indeed, when the test was concluded, SPEAK and ANSWER and give a full account of His response! Intemperate intensity when it goes beyond trust and importunity, to a demanding assurance relative to action, based on too little knowledge can indeed become an affliction to the soul concerned (Job 36:16-17).
In fact, in Job 32:2, we see as introduction to Elihu’s speech that he was wrathful because he felt Job justified himself more than God. There is certainly such a trend in Job at times, and this activation within Elihu’s thoughts is creditable in measure – and this may be one reason why he was not named in the rebuke (nor commended).
Yet this emphasis on patience is too little for the case, for Job is being specifically tried for a most fascinating purpose, and not merely getting bitter in some ordinary way. Nevertheless, there is this danger with Job of reacting too much, speaking at times too intemperately. Thus if it were all to be teased out, that Elihu had good point here, but not there, it would tend to weigh down the drama and its point. Something, as my father used to say, should be left to the IMAGINATION, and as far as this reader is concerned, that is most exhilarating in this case!
Do you not recall Christ admonishing his disciples, as if they should more readily see more ? (Mark ). There is in teaching one beautiful feature, of explicit delineation of elements; but there is another, implicit resting of a case before the mere articulation of it brings the hearers almost to tears, because of the sheer volume of the expatiation.
Further, the omission of this consideration, in view of the above, encourages us to see more and more in these things. Our own treatment has majored merely on certain features, especially relevant in Christian, Biblical Apologetics. These include the following.
1. The communality of doctrine in Job and the rest of scripture, as indeed is true throughout it all, as one of the testimonies of the single mind and spirit back of it, in terms of properly envisaged verification. This verification of the Bible is immense, intense, startling in its intimacy, vast in its extent, and is most significant in this book vis-á-vis all the rest, its neighbours in the library of divine truth.
2. The unison and intimacy of the rapport of the sufferings depicted in their nature, intensity and scope: whether for expression of redemption by substitution, as with the Messiah for His people, empathy in involvement as with the prophet Jeremiah, or as in Lamentations, a species of spiritual strangulation as love beholds the due process of justice, mercy long ignored, on the loved people whom it has sought to aid.
3. The explication of suffering, in terms broader than often realised, in view of the multiplied purposes of the love, mercy and judgment of God (cf. II Peter 1:1ff., I Peter 4:12-13, I:6ff., Psalm 139, 22, Isaiah 52-53, Jeremiah 2:19, 30:11).
4. The flaming wonder of Job’s Redeemer Song in Ch. 19, set like a jewel in the dark, shining with borrowed light, concentrating and exposing wonder in its unified witness from easier times, and both mercies and judgments elsewhere shown in the Bible.
5. The fact that Job’s desire has been fulfilled, that his words should be written as with an iron pen and lead for ink, on rock; for they have lasted far beyond that, so that we should take heart in the promises of God and His fatherly care, realising, where we are speaking of Christians, with fresh emphasis, the beauty and reasonable duty alike of the word: “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” – I Peter 5:7.
He is the God who ACTS for the one who remembers Him in his ways, and rejoices and does righteousness (Isaiah 64:5).
6. The tenderness of God who, like a mother cares, but like a Father prescribes; but in no place is unaware of the foci and features of the life of His flock; remembering the end of Job, and the necessities of patience.
7. The utter necessity when your trust is in God, to TRUST IN HIM, and not in the thoughts of your mind, the words of your friends, the convenience for your own purposes or the selfishness of self-satisfaction: as if life were a rotunda for peace in the shade, lest one ever ventured forth to be of service to God in the midst of this present world, or wanted payment like some hired servants, as a prescription for work done for the Lord, forgetful of Matthew 6:33.
8. The categorical character of faith in the life of the Christian, so that at all times your eyes are on God, not as a sort of glorified Social Service procurer, but as a Leader, Commander and witness to the people (Isaiah 55:4), in the person of the Messiah, the Christ who has come, has done, will return and is present in the hearts of believers so that, whether they look at Job, or David, the Psalms or the Prophets, they see their fellows, their fellows in the Army of the Lord of Hosts. Thus surrounded (Hebrews 12:1), the Biblical Christians are moved to relish their opportunities in their own day and way, to glorify God, whether by life or by death (Philippians -21).
9. Thus there comes the vast impact of the reality, as Paul put: “For to me to live is Christ…”
JOB AND THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST
SOMETHING TO JOIN
We are left with but one feature of our focus: How does Job in his sufferings parallel or even participate in what PAUL calls, the fellowship of His sufferings as in Philippians 3:10 ?
Firstly, Job suffers something at least of the ravages that sin brings, and though the cause is different, NOT to dismiss them for those pardoned by satisfying justice in the bearing of them so that mercy is freely dispensed (Romans 3:23ff.), as with Christ, but rather a practical demonstration of vital truth: yet the impact has something in common in its sense of shame, desolation and rejection with that of Christ.
Secondly, as Job was tormented by his ostensible friends, whom one would have hoped to have had consolation EVEN IF he had erred, rather than condemnation in a situation where in fact his error was not the crux, the criterion or the cause, so Christ was assailed, assaulted and trickily made a butt for the wit of those who should have been His friends! Though ostensibly, the priests, the Pharisees and the Sadducees were His servants in that He is the Son of the Father, and these, the religious officials were supposedly doing His work, and should have loved Him on arrival, so that they beheld in the face of Christ Jesus the glory of God: yet it was not so.
Christ reminded them of this (John 8:42, Mark 12:1ff.).
Instead they did not respond to this proclamation of peace in Him, but vehemently they assaulted His works, His words, making repetitively of His healings (when on the Sabbath) a cause célèbre, as if ANYTHING would suffice for His downfall (Luke 11:46-54, Matthew 22:22-45).
The superb and even exquisite hypocrisy there shown does reach some element of similarity with some of the worst platitudes of those, Job’s friends, who subtly at times, less so at others, intimated their opinion of his ‘secret’ morals. So is the slanderer, never to taste, and his words slither in the earth to this day.
The SHOCK of receiving such tributes is added to the agony of having them ADDED to one’s sufferings as already endured. In finding this outcome of sin, in his experience of TESTING, Job experienced something of the sufferings of Christ.
Thirdly, Job experienced the sheer ravaging which sin can bring. In his case, this was assigned to the comparatively innocent (though like all others, his sins at any time, and in defect compared with Christ are still sins, still require death, still are outré in heaven, still need redemption), yet he had this in common with Christ as an element of his experience, though the latter had NO sin and had to bear the FULL impact of sin TO THE DEATH for judicial purposes. This meant that the isolation for Christ was far greater, just as His innocency was eternal, and His life the same, which thus suffered the more in its divestment, even in the flesh.
Fourthly, Job’s life served to pin-point sin and hypocrisy, to expose it, to make the man and woman, yes and child of God more aware of its slithering servitude to Satan, and hence to strengthen the brethren, and though Christ’s strengthening is utter and entire, and by His Spirit a direct dower, yet Job entered into something, in his own Age, of the sufferings of Christ in this strengthening. . Thus in Christ’s own day, the disciples would have the concept of Job’s friends, and their hideous deformation of the truth in a very religious way, to fortify them as Christ, their leader suffered much from vituperation, recrimination and misrepresentation, and finally entirely.
Fifthly, Job’s rehabilitation with blessing for cursing, restitution, and the Lord’s gracious provision for him, after the test was concluded, of new children, are in some ways reminiscent of Christ. These things remind one of Christ’s resurrection in this, that it was an entire vindication, in Job’s case not of sinlessness but of innocence of a charge of being the direct cause of his own sufferings: for their object was didactic and strengthening, not for a form of rebuke at the outset. These things also remind us that though Christ had no children because of His being put to death so young, yet He now has many children through faith in Him! (cf. Isaiah 53:10 and see The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 9 No. 8).
As Job’s riches increased, so does Christ’s heritage, though foreknown before the world was founded (Ephesians 1:4, Romans 8:29ff.), abound continually, increasing daily, monthly, yearly in practical terms, as now this one, now that one is converted to the truth, and KNOWS that his/her REDEEMER LIVES. What else ? this, that on the last day, He shall appear upon the earth, whom your eyes shall behold for yourself, for in your flesh shall you see God, yes and that face to face!
So does all scripture speak but one language, in whatever words
it has been composed, like the work of one architect, in whatever buildings for
whatever specialised purposes, he may be operative. As they reputedly said of
Christopher Wren’s work in
Indeed, in the Bible, with the Christ whom it depicts, central to faith and cardinally or peripherally, intimately or discursively, but always in place principally indicated in every clime and manner, form and format, its unity is found almost terrifying. More vast than any waterfall, more intricate than any flower, more abundant than any forest, more beautiful than any sunset: exuberant with the very energy of God, it is His written word to us all, its tests and testimony unexampled, exemplary and decisive.
Wise is he who follows this word to its source, and being sourced, is saved and sent on missions worthy of the God who created man in the first instance, and will judge him at the last. In this judgment, for the Christian, mercy smiles in its face (James 2:13), since the Barrister who was bloodied in payment is the Prince whose peace nothing can violate, now internal, then external and final (Isaiah 9:7, Philippians 4:4-6, John 10:9,27-28, I Thessalonians 5:9-10).
We do well to follow with two beautiful passages from this very word, out of Proverbs 1 and 8 respectively, the one negative but horatatory, the other positive, though solemn.
“Wisdom calls aloud outside;
She raises her voice in the open squares.
She cries out in the chief concourses,
At the openings of the gates in the city
She speaks her words:
§ ‘How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity?
For scorners delight in their scorning,
And fools hate knowledge.
§ ‘Turn at my rebuke;
Surely I will pour out my spirit on you;
I will make my words known to you.
‘Because I have called and you refused,
I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded,
Because you disdained all my counsel,
And would have none of my rebuke,
I also will laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when your terror comes,
When your terror comes like a storm,
And your destruction comes like a whirlwind,
When distress and anguish come upon you.
§ ‘Then they will call on me, but I will not answer;
They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me.
§ ‘Because they hated knowledge
And did not choose the fear of the Lord,
They would have none of my counsel
And despised my every rebuke.
Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way,
And be filled to the full with their own fancies.
§ ‘For the turning away of the simple will slay them,
And the complacency of fools will destroy them;
But whoever listens to me will dwell safely,
And will be secure, without fear of evil.’ ”
The other passage of wisdom, it is this which follows from Proverbs 8 (cf. Proverbs 8).
“Now therefore, listen to me, my children,
For blessed are those who keep my ways.
Hear instruction and be wise,
And do not disdain it.
“Blessed is the man who listens to me,
Watching daily at my gates,
Waiting at the posts of my doors.
For whoever finds me finds life,
And obtains favor from the Lord;
But he who sins against me wrongs his own soul;
All those who hate me love death.”