W W W W World Wide Web Witness Inc. Home Page Contents Page for Volume What is New
The Truth will Out
It is Always About
The Structure of Faith
and the Stricture of Assault
ASSAULT AND RESPONSE
LIKE FIRING AND RECOIL IN A GUN
In the last Chapter, we inserted a note (*9), when pondering the arena of contest in Job, one far more vigorous than any bull-fight, and infinitely more edifying.
Do you recall how the disciples, when told by Jesus the Christ that ONE of them would betray Him, asked not, Is it YOU ? of each other, but IS IT I! each of himself ? (Matthew 26:22). Moreover, they asked it of the Lord, and you can imagine the deep distress and concern*9 at the unthinkable being thought, the unseverable ties suddenly exposed ? Was faith there ? The immediate concourse with Christ Himself showed the cordiality in the reality.
No it was not one of them, but the one who had already (Mark 14:10) DONE IT! Judas had already sold Him! There was nothing mysterious about it: it was a little transaction that he had carried out, like the EU, as it decides to have nothing of Christ in its constitution.
That note read (*9):
On this stretching of the very tissue of the soul,
and the response in the depths of the faith,
far beyond, in the heart,
enlivened by the sustaining power of God: see Crosses and Losses.
This is our current topic.
Where WAS the faith of Job, and WHAT was the faith of Job! That was to be shown, not by estimates or analyses, but by action. You see the tremors and the stresses, but it is not a matter of guesses. It is a declaratory thing, in which action is subordinated to expectation, and response is governed in the last, by the inspiration and preservation of GOD!
Meanwhile, to see the evidence of this faith, its character, its shudderings and its triumph, we need now to examine the text to find the exact relationship which existed between morose mumblings, not entirely surprising in the tornadoes which DESIGNEDLY hit his feeble frame, on the one hand, and on the other, the startling declarations, sometimes indirect, reached as part of some other statement, but on occasion perfectly clear and decisive.
This is instructive, for Job has many partners in suffering, many parallels in trial, and is part of a band of which his voice is one of the most eloquent. Yet above all, it is one which is placed in the divine perspective, and in this way and thus, we are ENABLED to see what is in fact in the background, as well as ponder his words with care.
Job is for this reason a book of the most precious character, and has much in common with the Psalms - the sufferings,
|the grounds for
from the situations and scenarios of trial,
of God in the very midst of what seem
almost overwhelmingly excruciating assaults, and to this we add,
exposure of the Redeemer by inspiration
|which fits into
all the rest of the biblical revelation on this topic
with the affinity and depth of relationship
which is one of the testimonies of the divine inspiration of the Bible.
It is like fitting four engines into their sockets, and finding all the electronic equipment needed, already articulated and installed, ready for the meeting, and the capacity precisely such as the flight requirements demand.
First let us consider Job 7.
As we have already seen, in Job 7, Job DECLARES his case, grinds his chemicals of anxious horror as wealth, friends, wife, children and dignity depart as in a sudden blast. It is not merely the LOSS of this and that, even multiply targetted, as by some MIRV. It is not just this objective fact of desolation as target of devastation, as if from some Multiply Independent Re-Entry Vehicle, vast as is the contest and test in such a spiritual onslaught, be it on the mind, body, spirit, possessions, inter-relationships.
It is more than this. It is the atmosphere, the scene, and the APPARENT scenario of rebuke and rejection, which is the main problem. To strive in suffering is one thing; to be valiant for God, it is one theme; but to SEEM to be despised and rejected by God Himself, as if his former ways did not weigh: this may seem at first utterly intolerable. It is then that one must walk in the light, and keep the eyes open. Job was walking in the light, although he made himself vulnerable through some laxity with his children, who kept up a loose life-style and constantly burdened him with concern. Now however, there was this MIRV test, and with it, the deeper cumulative squall, which touched the very essence of his faith.
You see this phase of development coming before too long.
Such words as these which follow are no small testimony of suffering, and even of an extreme phase of spiritual disorientation, coloured by a psychic cloud and invaded by a dynamic of near despair.
"When I say, ‘My bed will comfort me,
My couch will ease my complaint,’
Then You scare me with dreams
And terrify me with visions,
So that my soul chooses strangling
And death rather than my body.
"I loathe my life;
I would not live forever.
Let me alone,
For my days are but a breath.
"What is man, that You should exalt him,
That You should set Your heart on him,
That You should visit him every morning,
And test him every moment?
Will You not look away from me,
And let me alone till I swallow my saliva?
"Have I sinned?
What have I done to You, O watcher of men?
Why have You set me as Your target,
So that I am a burden to myself?
Why then do You not pardon my transgression,
And take away my iniquity?
For now I will lie down in the dust,
And You will seek me diligently,
But I will no longer be."
The CONCEPT of eternal life is expressly
mentioned. He finds this: if THIS be that life,
who would want it ? WHAT HAVE I DONE ? he asks, "O watcher of men!"
He feels no longer a focus for friendship with the Almighty, but that he has become a target for unforgiven transgressions, loaded on his suffering soul as if, to use a modern parallel, he were a donkey being asked to hold up a Boeing 747, which refused to fly. It seemed an exasperating, a frustrating and a near final dumping, as if the very energies which should, and did, thrust life into his soul, were now in reverse thrust, evacuating it.
It is always dangerous to indulge a mood, and Job had indeed experienced so long a period of divinely blessed peace during his life of exceptional grace and purity, great charity to all and marvellous kindness to many, of deep and abiding faith, so that he was as if a mighty peak, cloud-crowned, standing revealed to all, in something not unlike a solemn majesty, when like a vagrant tsunami, such internalised suffering hit with astonishing vehemence, destroying the peaceful littoral of his life. His eyes very clearly needed at once to be open, not shut to a display of spiritual pathogens, which stood ready to assault him.
Was he walking on the way with his eyes open ? At first, it was apparent that he had not at all been spiritually sleeping, but was keenly alert. However the pressure mounted, as if more and more floating corpses were to be revealed from this immense negative impact on his affairs of this wave of evils.
It was not the external loss alone, for he had borne the initial losses of wealth and children, and even the near curse of his wife, who was anything but a comfort to him, with exceptional fortitude. The Lord gives, he had said, at the outset, and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21). A fittingly serene response had looked at the wings taken by wealth and family.
That spiritual success, on the part of Job, in his testimony to the Lord, had been highly unsatisfactory to Satan, the adversary, the destroyer and the delinquent, who would replace God with his ludicrous ambitions (cf. Revelation 12); and he was given permission to attack Job's flesh, yet this without causing his death. Touch his flesh, and then he will curse You! was his disdainful, and evilly hopeful claim and clamour. Accordingly, to intensify the test of probity, integrity, faith and reality in Job's relationship to the Lord, the shaft of faith as one settling in sincerity on the Lord, scope for physical test of the saint's body itself, was granted.
Job was now humbled personally, scratching in the dust, with disdain and dislike mounting on the faces of what had been mere servants, aversion replacing admiration, and scorn, the former presence of a deep respect, seen and felt acutely on all sides.
Would Job now stand for such a disrobing of his very physical being, amidst a discomfort in some ways akin to torture ? This was the sequence in the questioning set by the events. They were not indeed, accidental, but constituted, as the apostles saw when they were beaten for Christ - not in argument, never that, but by punitive weapons (Acts 5:40-41); for they rejoiced at being found worthy to suffer for Christ and His testimony. With Job, the affair constituted a series of aggravating, mounting tests.
It was in this situation that Job had the non-delicious advent of his judgmental friends, who always with his best interests at heart, as it might VERBALLY seem, were plying him with virtual charges of
1) iniquity, long maintained
2) sin, deeply ingrained
4) stubborn unrepentance for the same
5) boastful self-centred self-importance.
It is always easy to judge cases when you do not (and cannot) know what are their depths, and that is why it can take so little time to form such judgments. In no small way, is there need for the strictures of Jesus Christ on such erratic and unspiritual behaviour. JUDGE NOT (Matthew 7), He asseverates, lest you be judged. With what MEASURE YOU METE, with the measures and standards FOR judgment that you adopt, there is your own judgment. The superficial soul is lambasted in this and many ways, in the words of the Bible, and from the lips of Christ for just such spurious and furious condemnations; but this divine exposure of the futile judgments of man is not given so that the folly of presumption against one's fellows might be expressed, not this alone. It is also in order that remedy might be sought.
WHO are you to judge another man's servant! asks Paul (Romans 14:4). To his own Master, he stands or falls ... Judge not that you be not judged! Christ declaimed. A little realism is needed; with the measure of your cup of scorn, will it be poured out on you, if you indulge in the squalor of superficial denunciation without divine grant of grace, and assured testimony of reality: if in short, it is 'judging' people, acting not as factual observer but with tongue of proud presumption.
All this, and precisely this form of superficial and self-assured judgment it is, that Job had to bear from his three friends; and that he suffered for long, as bodily anguish, social dumping and financial ruin stared at him with long and melancholy looks, in the El Greco elongation of his soul, feeling itself distorted by all of these pressures. Thus, on occasion he reeled in amazement, and words of anguish outpaced wisdom by no small distance ... as in the quotation above from Job 7.
Let us envisage it more graphically, and ponder Job's response.
In a way, it becomes a sort of truculence, that he will not yield, no, he will not make 'peace' with God or anyone else, on false premises. He HAS NOT, repeat, negative, done the things his friends sometimes more, at times less openly, suggest. Iniquity has not lain hidden in his bosom, nor has he been mean and unhelpful to the alien, to the distressed. In fact, his efforts in this direction have been monumental, as have his zealous efforts to maintain an inward morality against any lust or declivity.
Not that he is foolish enough to imagine that this clears him! Paul voices Job's thought again, since it is a true thought. Yes, says Paul to the Corinthians, I DO NOT JUDGE EVEN MY OWN SELF (I Cor. 4:1ff.).
Small is the importance of your judging (that superficial stampeding of ill-considered words of which man stands so often guilty), says Paul: I do not even act as MY OWN JUDGE, he declares. Judge NOTHING before the time.
In other words, do not set yourself as God, a spiritual know-all, merely a moth-eaten outer garment for an inward arrogance. Do not so act in deciding the motives, the practices and the state of another's soul. By all means, if you see someone murder someone else, speak a fact; but judgment is far beyond this, and seeks to make of an act, a characteristic, of a failure, a failing, of an error, a chasm or even on occaion, of a goodness an evil, calling good evil and evil good (as in Isaiah 5!).
In Chapter 9, you see something of the depths of Job's conceptions and musings, as he reflects on the dealings of the Almighty, and his own life. 9:10-21 appears for reflection, below.
But what does it show ?
"He does great things past finding out,
Yes, wonders without number.
"If He goes by me, I do not see Him;
If He moves past, I do not perceive Him;
If He takes away, who can hinder Him?
Who can say to Him, ‘What are You doing?’
"God will not withdraw His anger,
allies of the proud lie prostrate beneath Him.
"How then can I answer Him,
And choose my words to reason with Him?
For though I were righteous, I could not answer Him;
I would beg mercy of my Judge.
If I called and He answered me,
I would not believe that He was listening to my voice.
For He crushes me with a tempest,
And multiplies my wounds without cause.
He will not allow me to catch my breath,
But fills me with bitterness.
"If it is a matter of strength, indeed He is strong;
And if of justice, who will appoint my day in court?
Though I were righteous, my own mouth would condemn me;
Though I were blameless, it would prove me perverse.
"I am blameless, yet I do not know myself;
I despise my life."
Let us follow his theme and watch the developments, seeking what Job HIMSELF is saying, and what the principles which he emits, in fact are. Further, let us seek to develop the sequence of thought, to find better the final resultant. It may be convenient to use the alphabetical markers above, since verses do not necessarily correspond with thoughts.
Job acknowledges God's irrepressible originality and wisdom. It is BEYOND MAN, to plumb from his own resources. In other words, he is not setting himself up as if he were a god, to combat and equal God. He is far below, and has no illusions on that basic and underlying fact.
Further, Job, realising the invisibility of the Maker of the creation, acknowledges freely that he has no way of checking up on all of His activities, as if he were some kind of deity-metre. It is one thing to know His power and His basic productions, but this is not to be enabled to assess His various strategies. Thus to the admission of vast inequality between himself and God, his powers and those of his Maker, Job freely confesses that he is no condition or situation to enable him to harass or call to account the diverse and deep works with and in which the Creator in moving in His created inventions: of which man is one.
Consider Job 10:8-15.
"Your hands have made me and fashioned me,
An intricate unity;
Yet You would destroy me.
"Remember, I pray, that You have made me like clay.
And will You turn me into dust again?
"Did you not pour me out like milk,
And curdle me like cheese,
Clothe me with skin and flesh,
And knit me together with bones and sinews?
You have granted me life and favor,
And Your care has preserved my spirit.
"And these things You have hidden in Your heart;
I know that this was with You:
If I sin, then You mark me,
And will not acquit me of my iniquity.
If I am wicked, woe to me;
Even if I am righteous, I cannot lift up my head.
I am full of disgrace;
See my misery!"
Thus Job is in no doubt about the supreme aseity of God, the entire creative power and that he himself is a product of this divine wisdom and power. He has neither forgotten who he himself is, nor has he lapsed into unbelief. Indeed, as you see in this last passage, he is asking God for help, in the emotional distress, with the red-rocket arising from the submarine depths of his toils and anguish, as if occasionally rising to the surface, he quickly sends off the distress rocket.
"SEE MY MISERY!" he cries. Please understand my predicament! is the implicit message, as he seeks to sketch before the Lord his own understanding of events and their significance, or their semantic blur before him, and the quandaries in which he is moving.
He feels however, as Job 10 shows, that he is not being pardoned, if he sin in the eyes of the all-knowing God, on the one hand, and that even if he be righteous, there is a mist of missing sight, a cover which prevents intercourse and concourse of his spirit with that of his Maker: for he finds a dismal alienation, or at least a drab distancing, so that he is but a butt, and there are no 'buts' with which he can protest. "I am full of disgrace!" he moans.
Thus in our next section of Job 9, we have what is in some ways a precursor of the material found in Ch. 10.
While he freely acknowledges that it is for God to pardon, that acquittal from iniquity is His divine and inscrutable privilege and indeed prerogative, yet in his case, God "will not withdraw" His "anger". There seems to Job to be a movement from inscrutable privilege in being merciful in His own way according to His own INFINITE knowledge of all things, which is only right, to inscrutable dismissal and sudden departure. It is a seeming transition from the post of Friend who purifies to Foe who amplifies or at least exacts from His infinite knowledge, which Job can neither understand in principle nor handle in practice. The proud lie judged, but he himself appears in a dim throng of dismissal.
All things in the realm of judgment are suddenly beyond him, and his little life is suffocating in the smog of confusion.
We see thus that his doctrine of divine dealings is as sound as ever; he has not changed his faith, but his excruciating spiritual, social and psychic dramas are forcing him to enquire and to seek, to ruminate and to ponder, to wonder just WHAT it can be which is going wrong.
Things have indeed reached such a desolatory dynamic, that he is beginning to feel that should he call to God, no answer would come; for tempestuous evils seem to descend like - to wallow in the anachronistic - machine gun bullets despatched with withering accuracy. He has no opportunity to draw his breath, to reflect and respond, for some numerous hills, the guns are firing, and one is no sooner done from one angle, than another comes from a neighbouring hill. Meeting such fire, he is led to enquire: WHY and from what GROUND, and WHY this sudden change!
Thus bitterness begins to enter into him. If he were a child, he might say: "It isn't fair!"
For a man who during most of his life has been a recipient of abundance of divine mercy and delicious repasts of spiritual comradeship, this makes him think: and it is MEANT TO DO JUST THAT.
He is not allowed to 'catch my breath', because this is the plan. He is not to use various resources and AVOID the issue; but to face it. Such is the plan; and this he does not know. That is the test.
Here you find that Job is far from basically disoriented, being rather aghast. For it is one of the major features of his soliloquies, musings and mouthings, that true principles are continually invoked, while actual history is painfully watched, and his 2 and 2 do NOT make 4; yet they do, and he is striving tremulously to understand, at times in pain screaming out, at times in reflective understanding, acknowledging as here, the hopeless nature of any contest with God, though he seems to see no other option. It is the NEED for a tender-hearted and truly merciful answer which he finds currently unmet; and it is the ludicrous character of trying to have a day in court with GOD, that he sees, dismissing it, yet with longing, almost wishing that it could be.
What could be more orthodox than this!
"Though I were righteous, my own mouth would condemn me;
Though I were blameless, it would prove me perverse."
As a member of the creation, he has no post to amend or contend with the Maker and Judge. He is systematically inept in such depths, and decisively unseated before he would even set himself up to go!
Job does allow himself a flash of thrusting thought, as you see in 9:27-35.
"If I say, ‘I will forget my complaint,
I will put off my sad face and wear a smile,’
I am afraid of all my sufferings;
I know that You will not hold me innocent.
"If I am condemned,
Why then do I labor in vain?
If I wash myself with snow water,
And cleanse my hands with soap,
Yet You will plunge me into the pit,
And my own clothes will abhor me.
"For He is not a man, as I am,
That I may answer Him,
And that we should go to court together.
Nor is there any mediator between us,
Who may lay his hand on us both.
"Let Him take His rod away from me,
And do not let dread of Him terrify me.
Then I would speak and not fear Him,
But it is not so with me."
At first, in this latter part of Ch. 9, Job is being realistic. Merely optimal conduct for optimistic pretence is a spiritual decease. Forget it. Smiles may suggest happiness, but they do not achieve righteousness. Justice is still the awe-ful and impending reality to face.
He muses more. If then, already condemned, as if of a drug offence in some contemporary countries, in one case of which a judge declared that the accused had only to prove innocence and supply the actual perpetrator and all would be well. What CAN he do ? HOW prove innocence ? HOW show that some one else did it, other than show it was plausible ? HOW would you rule out contingencies ? How do you kill or imprison someone because something may have happened! It would all but seem in such cases that guilt is assumed at the outset, and only a TV of the actual events would dismiss it. At all events, Job seems to be feeling something rather like this, to put it in our modern terms.
If he is 'guilty' at the outset, why then labour ? There is no innate perfection about him, so that if he wash in snow water, the clean clothes will still no doubt find something less than entire sunshine and perfection in him, indeed may declare him far from righteous. WHAT THEN CAN HE DO! There is a sense of almost sullen exasperation here appearing. How do you answer omniscience ? and with what do you confront the totality of wit in God ? Again, he longs for a mediator, and of course this is the divine way of showing us the wonder of having such a Being, which Job alludes to quite directly with utter conviction, in Job 19. At this chapter 9, however, it is a mere longing, so that within the small limitations of the non-self-knowing human invention, there might be help at the mighty and elevated level, even of God!
Judgment however seems already to sit upon him, and it makes any articulation supremely difficult, the patriarch finds. Such is the theme in this latter part of Job 9. It is not audacity of heart, so much as of thought that the tested patriarch seems to exhibit, and it is indeed, as Job 19 shows, not insolent at least in basic intention but rather a resultant of that now innate sense of the divine wisdom and grace, from which Job cannot divorce himself, though he shudders like a wing in an acrobatic flight.
He feels deprived, in unfortunate case, needing knowledge he lacks, wisdom that is not his, help that is not part of the confrontation at this stage; and yet, he is in danger of an imperious audacity as he seeks deliverance, an attitude from which he frequently shrinks.
"I am blameless, yet I do not know myself;
I despise my life."
There is his dilemma. How ludicrous to judge himself and to be as if he were some kind of self-adjudicating God! Yet in his conscience and heart, while not imagining that he is perfect or any other solemn and solidified rubbish, he knows of no immediate cause of his desolation, of the attacks which have come in such a sequence and cumulative passion, that he feels sure there must be some occasion for it all! He writhes. His past conduct has been so equipped with righteousness, that you could almost feel it sing in the air.
This you see in Job 29:6-24, in full and perhaps even fulsome measure!
"When my steps were bathed with cream,
And the rock poured out rivers of oil for me!
When I went out to the gate by the city,
When I took my seat in the open square,
The young men saw me and hid,
And the aged arose and stood;
The princes refrained from talking,
And put their hand on their mouth;
The voice of nobles was hushed,
And their tongue stuck to the roof of their mouth.
"When the ear heard, then it blessed me,
And when the eye saw, then it approved me;
Because I delivered the poor who cried out,
The fatherless and the one who had no helper.
The blessing of a perishing man came upon me,
And I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy.
"I put on righteousness, and it clothed me;
My justice was like a robe and a turban.
I was eyes to the blind,
And I was feet to the lame.
I was a father to the poor,
And I searched out the case that I did not know.
I broke the fangs of the wicked,
And plucked the victim from his teeth.
"Then I said, ‘I shall die in my nest,
And multiply my days as the sand.
My root is spread out to the waters,
And the dew lies all night on my branch.
My glory is fresh within me,
And my bow is renewed in my hand.’
"Men listened to me and waited,
And kept silence for my counsel.
After my words they did not speak again,
And my speech settled on them as dew.
They waited for me as for the rain,
And they opened their mouth wide as for the spring rain.
If I mocked at them, they did not believe it,
And the light of my countenance they did not cast down."
To say no more, it seems apparent that Job, perhaps in a heightened mode because of an almost wistful reflection on former times, was particularly conscious of his formerly apparent divine blessedness, his social privileges, in the setting of his very real and gracious functions to many. "They waited for me as for the rain" ... does have a sense of the prodigious, and even though his exceptional life may have been most marked, like a vast and spreading tree, inspiring even some measure of awe, yet it is apparent that the dissection away from the flesh of his life, of the occasions of self-congratulation, of the grounds of self-esteem, should these have taken spontaneous root in the soil of his soul, is a highly worth-while and intensely meaningful operation.
It was NOT, and the case is quite clear, in order to do this, that the divine action was taken in the first place. 'Humbling' was not the code word for the divinely permitted mission. This is exceptionally clear in Job 1. Rather, the plan was was to answer a challenge of the Satan, the adversary, the ruin merchant, the chider, the reductionist par excellence, who loved to abolish righteousness and its very ground. THAT was the reason for the action; but the occasion seen here set within it, shows how beautifully apt the whole thing was.
DID, in fact, such RESULTANTS of righteousness have any part in the basis of the faith of Job ? Did they make it work ? Were they active ingredients or mere superfluous if pleasant additives ?
The answers to such questions would appear in the result, and the consummate precision with which all the ACTUAL ingredients in Job's affairs - and indeed in those of his 'friends', inter-relate as things known to God, both the ostensibly incidental and the purposive, provides an excellent illustration of how, even in suffering, all things work together for good for those who love God, for the called according to His purpose.
In an operation, such as this author had on the ear, with many stitches, there may seem a very plethora of incisions and movements of this and that, as a cancer was removed. In the eventual result, however, the many cuts were a prelude to a new composition of amazing fidelity to the original! This illustrates the principle, but Job experienced it in the very depths of his being. What would be the result ?
The day would show. This, it was a test, and the last thing to occasion surprise in a test, is that it tests: it tests the heart, the conscience, and it shows which is conviction and which is convection in the heat of the soul!
It is therefore delightful to find Job here acknowledging
"I am blameless, yet I do not know myself;
I despise my life."
He finds no gross sin to occasion such industry of the infliction of sorrow as has so recently come to him; but on the other hand, I DO NOT KNOW MYSELF, he freely acknowledges. He is NOT assuming omniscience in his own mind or spirit, he does not make of himself a god, and being so crushed, and being so apparently dumped, he finds nothing in himself to admire, and ends feeling a species of contempt for himself.
Thus it is apparent that it would be easy to overstate the case of his tantrums, if one dare use such a term of such a man in such a case, in such a test. What then ? extremities of frustrated passion ? Call them what you will, they are very contained, so far.
If now we turn to Job 9:23-24, we find what is perhaps his worst outburst, in the sense that he is becoming rather truculent.
"This is one thing, therefore I said , He destroys the perfect and the wicked.
If the scourge slay suddenly, He will laugh at the trial of the innocent.
The earth is given into the hand of the wicked: he covers the faces of its judges;
if not, where, and who else could it be?"
This outburst is clearly however contemplative. He is NOT condemning God, but asking this: Given the current enigma, tell me this, if God is not back of it, name the one who is!
In this, he is quite sound in part. GOD was indeed back of it, yet not as the instigator, but rather as the One willing to show by test the sincerity and reality of the love and fidelity of a man so exemplary in so much, that if this failed, the devil might well gloat. If however Job prevailed under test, faith prevailed, integrity shone, what then ? Since Job walked in the truth of God, it would, this test, not show what was not there. Hence for all time, this classic case would speak integrity in the face of morbid or even obsessive reductionism, such as Satan embraced. Integrity of faith IS! This it would show, not that trials and stresses in the process, are not!
Was this suffering to sate the wicked and unwieldy wiles of the devil ? Not at all, it was a preference to speak by action, to show by example, to exhibit by experiment in the laboratory of life, for those who view it that way, so that the spirituality of the spiritual, the godliness of the godly is shown much more real and indestructible, God Himself their support and justifier, than gold.
As to that metal, though remarkable, it has its limits. God has none, and there are none for the deliverance of His children.
Thus the musing probe of Job had a certain amount of point. However, the 'destroys the perfect (or righteous, those of an upright style of life before God through His merciful grace) and the wicked' is on dangerous ground. In one superficial sense, something near it might be maintained. Hence Christ died for sinners; the loving may die for the loved, even among man (Romans 5), and God may suffer this in His wisdom, where the demonstration of love is beyond rubies. However it is not a malign thing that tests involve costs, whether of a space-craft before it goes, or a man. In this case, the trial by ultimate triumph was to provide an everlasting and never to be annulled testimony of the wisdom of God, the need to believe and not to pout, to avoid reductionism and look with hope on the hand of God, the reality of faith, the testimony of integrity, the beauty of holiness.
Is the 'righteous', the redeemed, reclothed and inwardly transformed sinner, willing to serve in ANY way a a child of God, to show His glory and help his fellows, the other saints by example and all by demonstration of the truth ? If ostensibly all such are willing to be so used, is it then such a marvel when the Director of events on occasion so acts!
But what of this part of the musing of Job ? IS the earth indeed given into the hand of the wicked ? There is again, some measure of truth in this. The world does indeed lie in the wicked one, as I John 5 tells us. It is however not the ULTIMATE placement, any more then pneumococcus is the last word in antipathy to health.
The wickedness of the wicked one, and the principles of his profession, what does it all amount to ? It is an affliction, it is temporary, it is vicious, it is part of the liberty of things to demonstrate, illustrate and by creative exhibits, show what they are, and in that case, it is part of the ultimate generic curse on sin. Nothing is created but slithers worthy of scorn, ambitions sure to be doomed, contortions, extortions, distortions, as if by gravity of space: but what does this signify, but an object lesson, and an eternal testimony of the virtueless excreta of vanity. It has this for its testimony of its corruption. It is not only theorised; it is shown. In the trial, there are no small exhibits to ponder!
Wickedness ? It is limited but lustful.
As God showed Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:17,32-37), He can give kingdoms into the hands of the basest of men. Sin has its little day, iniquity finds its plausible pirates coves, and the day of wrong steams till it boils, overflows and vaporises. It has its place to the end of the race, when its delinquency established in fair test, and its folly exhibited on all sides, wickedness whether in pride, ostentation or inane aspiration, lies naked before truth, and open to ultimate judgment.
Liberty is not a mere name; it is a fact. History is not a litany of propositions of piety, but rather a declaration and a demonstration of the holiness and mercy of God, to be received as given, and not as imagined. If it is rejected, and where it is not honoured, evil can come as do weeds in untended fields (cf. Psalm 1).
The result is not pretty, and is one of the many spiritual X-rays of sin, which to all eternity remain the testimony of its nature. Truth has its testimony and history has its point. Sin, like a plague, afflicts the earth and man wilfully without God, appears like a child in a tornado; and all are tested.
However, there can be little doubt that Job is near to pointing the bone at God, here; yet again, it is not actualised, since it ends in a question: IF NOT, then WHO IS HE WHO DOES IT!
In a Shakespearian sense, this is very like dramatic irony. WE, the audience in this case of Job, WE know who it is, for the plan is decisively exposed in Ch. 1, which we have read. The affair, the suffering, it is the outcome of the evil which liberty allows and the Satan epitomises and heads. It is not however its end! Nor is this known to Job: for how do you test if the nature of the test being exposed, makes it no test at all ? It would be then more like having a spelling test with a dictionary in your hand!
Thus in Job 10:1-2, Job immediately APPEALS to God, DO NOT condemn me! SHOW me why You are contending with me!
He inveterately believes God, and believes that such a merciful thing both could and should be done. But he is intemperate and impatient. Agony is like that, anguish always has this danger. But he has not by any manner of means, given up his faith. He coruscates with enquiry; ravaged, he relishes solution, and clamours for it.
The SHOW need not go on,
for its Nature is now Clear
Now we find that the case is staggeringly clear. Job has whimpered and even growled a little, but his faith is intestinal, inveterate, and because of divine ministration, invincible. It comes out as fat does, despite harassing garments, but this is nothing unsightly, but something rather far better to be sighted. And indeed, it IS seen.
Take just two of the monumental expressions of it. These are found deliciously in place, at Job 13:15. To be sure, having enunciated a pearl of blessing: "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him," the criterion of faith, yet he adds not far below, "Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him!"
Thus on the one hand, FAITH per se is established past recall and recoil. KILL ME, and I still trust you. What more of faith than that! It signifies moreover by implication clearly confirmed in Job 19, that Job expects life beyond death, even that eternal life which, as we saw, did not appeal to him if it were to be a mere continuation of the detestable enigma which his threshing soul temporarily found under the dire stress of test.
By faith, express, explicit and ringing, he affirms that the faithful God as present Redeemer will openly met him at the end, in illimitable satisfaction. Such is Job 19's tenor, just as Job 13 affirms trust in Him in whatever circumstances. The 'ulcer' will yield! It has to. It cannot be otherwise; and this, it cannot be otherwise than faith!
In that Job 19, moreover, the blessed patriarch shows
1) that God will be on this earth
2) that He will STAND upon this earth
3) that it will be in final demonstration of the truth that He does so
4) that death itself has no power to prevent Job's personal participation in this event
5) that in taking part, Job will be beyond the death of worms,
and equipped with eyes, personally behold God,
an event to which he looks with as nearly infinite a relish
as man is capable of having,
thus exposing his ultimate trust in the word of God, and His ways,
despite and beyond the appalling troubles which for the time so beset him.
6) that Job is so SURE of all of this that he declares that he KNOWS it
7) and that this knowledge is so incapable of invalidation or qualification
that he wishes that for all time it might be inscribed on rock with leaden for ink.
Hence Job looks to what is more even than Rock, God Himself, in innocence from all evil, delivering all goodness, coming not merely to congratulate the perfect, yes not that at all, and not even in that dress or mode at all. Rather it will be as REDEEMER that He comes, showing that Job is aware that intractable conditions past all of his own consciousness are to be met, and met as God sees fit, and that the only way this can be done is by redemption.
To be sure, the Hebrew term for 'Redeemer' used in this chapter of Job is often used without the ingredient of payment of ransom, though it can be so used - it is not the usual term for that. Nevertheless it is apparent that the coming of the Redeemer to stand upon the earth which Job attests, has clear function. It is to remove one from death, which is part of the entire process into which man is placed. This event and advent is not seen in ignorance of sin, but in its very midst and with its very penalties quite clear (Job 9:20, 9:29-30, 33:24-26, 42:8).
It is to this that comes this Redeemer, who thus removes all of the plague of and from sin and iniquity, and all of its consequences by His own power and act. It is from death, the very epitome and criterion of this plague, this dire thrust at life, that the Redeemer here delivers, and that personally! In this, then, He is not less the Redeemer from sin, but Redeemer from the whole array of which sin's sting is like an injection, the needle that leads to it.
What then have we found ? It is this. There was no difference or difficulty on the nature of man before God, which was at heart troubling Job. Rather it was a question of the specialised and alleged discrepancies in his own case, beyond the norm, which appeared to him to be wrongfully imputed. Ransom, redemption and sacrifice were not in question to the slightest extent.
What was in view was rather the extent to which Job, seeking to remove FALSE premises and accusations, gross and fraudulent assertions from his friends when they simplistically tried to remove suffering from all places in life except for one's own specific sins - made too much fuss about his virtues. In parallel, he spent too little thought on the fact that BEING a sinner, he had an uconfinable amount to answer for, and was in no position to argue! On the other side, he was as unable to remove the embedded assurance of the trustworthiness of God as to remove the bones from his body. His sometimes almost querulous complaints were tempered, and at times wholly indunated by the torrent of his unobliterated assurance. It crept in like mist or it showed itself like a search light, depending on the case. But it was there!
He did however assuredly err. While he saw the need to limit his words, lest he assume too much, yet in his crusade against the wrongs done to him by men, and the his contention about the divine actions in his trials, he did seek to justify himself in the very presence of God, to the extent that God COULD not be understood to be so harassing him, and had something to answer for.
That point is made eloquently by Elihu. Thus, near the end, Elihu, unlike the friends of Job, is not rebuked when the Lord Himself enters the scene and gives the directions for the sacrifices to be made for the sinning friends of Job. It was to three, not four of them, that the divine charge was laid. Job himself however is rebuked because he sought to justify himself rather than God. How could a sinner undertake such a proposition, even if in answer to vicious slanders of man!
Thus we read quite succinctly in the text, at Job 32:1 "So these three men ceased answering Job, since he was righteous in his own eyes." All question of the perspective in view here is removed in the following verse, which shows that Elihu's wrath was stirred, though he was younger. The reason ? It was statedly because Job "justified himself rather than God."
God Himself declares this to Job as seen in Job 38:2-3:
"Who is this who darkens counsel,
By words without knowledge ?
Now prepare yourself like a man.
I will question you and you shall answer Me."
It is apparent from these considerations, that Job has been guilty of a profound error, in constituting himself judge, if not in form, then at times in function. He is not repudiated as a PERSON, nor is he cursed, nor is he disciplined. He is simply rebuked for his pioneering which at times, though ruminating with more realism than some of his friends, bordered on the profane. Above all, however, it was a case of NOT seeking FIRST to show the righteousness of God, but instead his own! It was NOT that he wanted to appear sinless, but NOT GUILTY of the specified and hypocritical life of sin which his friends tended to attribute to him. However in so doing, he over-stepped the mark, not making express allowance for the fact of his own sinfulness as DISQUALIFYING him in any assessment.
To be sure, his expositions and expansions of his case, his ruminations were not all at fault, and at times, as in the matter of the 'daysman', the mediator, the redeemer to appear before God on his behalf, this actually led to an inspired answer from the Lord which has been a delight to all generations since (jOB 19). Becoming man for man, God still God, as man became the counsellor, the redeemer, the advocate and the payment (as foretold expressly in Hosea 13:14, and in detail, in Ezekiel, Isaiah 40-55), Himself nothing less than the Good Shepherd (Isaiah 40), as the latter prophet depicts (Ezekiel 34), as indeed does Isaiah 40.
Justice may indeed answer; truth will indeed be given; counsel may indeed be sought; God is indeed approachable. However WHEN He decides to undertake a test, one may NOT demand one act as co-judge, nor forget that however free from gross failure one may be, one is far from presentable in white robes as if part of the body of final assessors, or co-adjutant. The One who does that, as appears later in this book of Job, is God Himself, but with an infinity of understanding, mercy and prodigious liberality, He becomes man so that as man, with all the understanding obvious, and all the pangs actually felt, He yet determines with open face, for all. NONE suffers as He, since the soul of His suffering was the suffering of His soul, as one put it, the intensity being in the facing of the awful squalor of sickening sin, in His own person.
Thus it is all from God, and nothing from man; but for man, it must be taken so, and not as if he himself could take the robes and perform the tasks of ultimacy, while yet sinner, finite and fallen.
This delicate balance, the fact of sin and its disqualification, and the fact of mercy and truth in kindness with provision by sacrifice to cover sin, leaves Job CORRECTED and rebuked, for too much self-assurance in the matter, but not at all for too much GOD assurance, in which he ultimately excelled (Job 19 and 13:15.
It ALSO left him greatly blessed, having vindicated the reality of faith in the very face of Satan, and shown that stripped of all but God, he would indeed feel naked, but could and would finally admit that the cover was from his Redeemer, and God would and did provide the ultimate sacrifice for one as for all who trust in Him and in His word.
Faith shone and in integrity, from and for God, the enlivener of the heart and the lifter up of the eyes, and it was even expounded. Neither hypocrite nor faithless, Job endured.
Hence he was given twice as much as he had before, we find, while his friends in their simplistic and unkind assumptions were truly rebuked, even to the point of having JOB bring in sacrifices, sin offerings on their account.
NONE failed to sin; but as to Job, his faith did not fail. Its structure showed as clearly as iron girders below a building, or a concrete foundation, when one investigates a building. GOD for His truth, His mercy, His redemption, His justice, His righteousness, His ultimacy beyond, before and for all goodness, remained as clear as the day. What had been obscured, was Job's need of humbling himself in the face of calamity, which at first he did wonderfully well. Yet he also learned to take care by not over-reacting to false and fraudulent criticisms, even when these were brought forward on misplaced theological grounds, rather than from personal vindictiveness.
If now he had simply said,
Sinner though I am, I am not guilty of what you ascribe to me;
and God who tests and provides as He will,
though now acting in a way past all my own comprehension in this special case,
you may be sure is acting with mercy and wisdom, yes and righteousness,
for suffering is for more - far more - than mere rebuke:
then all might have been well.
It was well, in the end, after providing a lecture on life, love, trust, truth and integrity to all and for all time. The musings of all of them exposed some of the fundamental misconceptions which may easily and indeed inadvertently arise. The strivings of Job illustrated the PROFUNDITY of his faith, that he would even seek to reason with God about righteousness, to be sure with embarrassment since all righteousness, power and knowledge is God's, but still, because of his incensed concern at his own sudden apparent dumping, his mouth at times betrayed him, and showed his need of refinement ... which he assuredly gained!
As to the sense of 'dumping', Job knew within that ULTIMATELY this COULD not be the case, and that ultimately also, he would rejoice in God his Saviour, who would not only redeem him from every evil work of whatever source or character, but raise him from the dead to behold it.
Hence his current confusion was not a source of diffusion of his actual faith. He believed, stated the case, stated what he found irresistibly lovely and wonderful about God, showed that this would at last be exhibited overpoweringly to be true, that God in personal solicitude would cover all his trials, sins, troubles and even death on his behalf, the ultimate in redemption, and that he would personally and individually, in supreme and final blessedness BEHOLD THE VERY FACE OF GOD.
Hence the test was passed; but the nature of sin was further exposed; the wonder of actually having, as we do, a REDEEMER who is a 'daysman' in that He also became man, was shown in its glory (Job 9:32ff., 19:21ff.); revelation to the uttermost point was provided for all time, and the result was a flattening of the feeble efforts of Satan, shown out of his depth, like a child trying to sail a toy boat, not where the swans were, in the gardens, but in the mighty tempestuous oceans, where the truth of things is made plain, and every frail craft, or uncovered seagoing unit, fails.
Not so, Job; but that he needed his Redeemer is made clear, precisely as it was in the case of Peter who being both earnest, blessed with a living faith and resolute, yet in some things failed, and needed his Redeemer to reassure and recall him, a converted sinner upheld by divine grace, rather than a valiant solider, whom nothing could daunt. Undaunted ? Yes, but by the grace of God alone.
One is reminded of coming down the rapids in the Yarra near Melbourne. Together two of us came through rocky pass after rocky pass, our canoe pierced here by a sharp edge, torn there on the side. However we persevered, until we arrived at last at the lower dock, after some hours if one recalls, slowly sinking, so that on arrival, the boat was wholly submerged, though we were not, as it like a log, floated obscurely beneath us.
The point ? In the end, for Job there WAS deliverance; but there was also submergence. One had to be taken up at the end, even though one had continued on the way.
In the end, the dock and the raising up is always there, by grace, through the power of God, in whom as Redeemer we have, through this alone, any way, any result worth having, and all the power at all the occasions which calls for it (Ephesians 1:19 presents the promise and this provision as does I Peter 1 in association with II Peter 1). It is not our own, and sinners, we deserve nothing of al that is so gloriously and graciously assigned to us. Yet we have it, as believers.
That ? It is grace. Receiving it ? That is faith. Job had faith in God, in His glory, truth and integrity, though he ruminated far, remonstrated much; for borne aloft, he demonstrated what he believed and assuredly expected, the glory of God invested with truth and comfort, care and kindness, power and wonder; and this like light in a room with door shut, could be seen from time to time as well, glimmering past all the temporary explosions of feeling.
It assuredly was not a dumb show, a pantomime: it was beyond opera, having reality and sincerity, integrity and fidelity, like a hi-fi recording.
Job, it is a book of titanic marvels, and this Titanic, though it sunk some distance below the waves, it was raised! Further, we see in passing the supreme wisdom of the sovereign God, who knowing all things at all times, did not allow Job to be subjected (as the selected test case), without their being a great and individual value in it for that patriarch himself , as for all those who read of it. Blessed be He, who in all things in all wisdom brings blessings where space is to be found for them.