AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH December 13, 2009
Continuing the work of Australian Presbyterian
the Lord without Compromise
and the Bible without Qualification
THE FORGOTTEN CLAUSE
"Though He Slay me, yet shall I trust Him ... " Job 13:15
Though He slay me, yet shall I trust Him...!" - a remarkable statement from Job, that one. But it is not this which is the "forgotten clause," for in any case, it is two clauses.
This however, as with the pointers to the Southern Cross in the skies of this land, points us to it. It is found, the one in mind, in Job 40:2, nestling in the dual clauses:
"Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him ?"
"SHALL THE ONE ... CORRECT HIM!"
The one ? which one ? ANY one!
WHO CAN CORRECT THE LORD ?
THE EXTENT OF THE TEST
This is the pith in the sentence above, in the MAIN clause, set in a rhetorical question! That is, the answer is in context obviously NO, he shall NOT correct the Lord. Indeed, the rebuke to Job that follows is powerful!
When fields and folds, precious and prized possessions and human associates are suddenly gone, YET shall I praise Him! says Habakkuk, except that it is even more than this, for the text is this (from Habakkuk 3:17-19). :
"Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines,
though the labour of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food,
though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
and there be no herd in the stalls -
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.
The LORD God is my strength..."
Now let us be fair to Job who, though scolded and reprimanded by the Lord, was ALSO honoured by Him in the end, appointing him to pray for his tormentors (former friends) who virtually accused him of being a dirty old man, a hypocrite, a vain strutter, hiding his sins in his pride. He as wronged by them, the Lord directed, should pray for them, and they make a sacrifice for themselves, a burnt offering, expiatory and dedicatory, since all the calamities which befell Job were in fact, NOT in themselves, a rebuke to Job. As we see in Job 1, they were a test appointed in exalted circumstances to SHOW that Job's heart was set on the Lord in loving zeal, and not as an indirect way of achieving riches, or contentment or satisfaction, using God simply as a means.
Tear from him his booty, his wealth, his natural bases of contentment and he will curse you to your face! That was the challenge of the devil. The Lord was willing for this, since it must be realised once and for all, He is not hidden in His ways (except where presumption and folly put on the glasses that blind them to reality, and crinkle what they see), but manifest (cf. Romans 1:17ff.). It was to show to all, the realities of life, of faith, of love that the test was made, and in it once for all is the answer to those who like to make of every Christian a religious hypocrite so that they themselves can practice evil, and yet pretend to be good, as good as anyone ever is.
That is where the real hypocrisy lies. The test, so painful to Job, was to show the integrity of faith and the reality of love, of reverence, of worship, of truth, and being freely joined to it with zeal, to know at the end, the power of God:
· "The LORD God is my strength..."(from Habakkuk 3:19).
It is NOT, repeat NOT, anything to do with rewards and satisfaction, though these things are pleasant: for these are not in themselves the point. It is GOD who, as with Abraham, Himself, is our shield, our rock, and our exceedingly great reward. We are NOT, repeat not, who are Christians, who have personal knowledge of God (John 17:1-3), like 'gold-diggers' who 'marry for money'. That has nothing to do with it. With Job, indeed, the following were taken from him in fairly fast sequence: his wealth, his children, the love and even respect of his wife, his status in life, his standing, while his friends acted as vile enemies, using their friendship of yore virtually to abhor him. He was left bereft.
WHO WILL CORRECT THE LORD!
THE INTENSITY OF THE TEST
I WILL TRUST HIM THOUGH HE SLAY ME! and THE LORD HAS GIVEN, THE LORD HAS TAKEN AWAY, BLESSED BE THE NAME OF THE LORD. These were Job's responses at the first, and indeed as things progressed. Yet as we see in Job 10, there was a wrestling in his smitten soul. He acknowledges to God, here, that "there is no one who can deliver from Your hand" (9:7), but protests, "Your hands have made me and fashioned me, an intricate unity, yet You would destroy me"- 9:8. He pursues his theme:
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.. If my head is exalted, You hunt me like a fierce lion, and again You show Yourself awesome against me."
Indeed, in 13:23-24, he asks,
"How many are my iniquities and sins ? Make me know my transgression and my sin. Why do you hide Your face and regard me as Your enemy ?"
to complete the rumination with this,
"He has made me a byword of the people,
and I have become one in whose face men spit!" (17:6).
Only to his Redeemer will Job flee (19:23-27), and here is his only rest, past doings and wrong doings, at peace in the incarnate God whose he is. "Can anyone teach God knowledge!" he cries (21:22), being well aware of the exaltation of the wicked before their day of doom, and the trials of the saints of God (21:11ff.), not least in this, that the wicked progress and prosper in pomp and vile violation of the ways of the Lord, even while saying "Who is the Almighty that we should serve Him!" (21:15).
This world is not all, but a test; yet the supreme test given Job at times almost overthrew him. Not even the present intimacy of glorious liberty in the Lord, the blessing of His face, the wonder of His fellowship, nothing seemed to remain for him.
Either he feared and loved God for the manifestations of power and presence, and other things for their pleasantness, the whole a nice configuration in life, or else he LOVED GOD for His own sake, trusted Him though He should slay him (as he said), and consequences had nothing to do with it, provided the chief thing was there, God Himself, unchangeable in His ways, reliable in His grace, prodigious in His mercy, the Father of spirits and the friend of sinners.
Yet Job found the very severity of the test frightening, and on some moments, wandered in his speech, despite the manifest underlying faith. Thus while he rests his case with the Lord by faith (Job 19) as Redeemer, thereby acknowledging himself a sinner in the hands of God Almighty, yet he mistakes and declares this, "He tears me in His wrath, and hates me..." (16:9), and indeed in 16:11, his experience is set in terms reminding us of the desolatory forsakenness of Christ!
But this is to show the reality of sin, its incomparable horror, its impossibility as a mix or governor; and why Christ had so to suffer. It is not unjust to expose any and every sin, and the sin of character underlying, the propensities of the flesh and their end, before it comes, so that at last it might not come. In a way, Job was an evidence for the necessity of Christ.
Yet God did NOT hate Job, and in this he erred; and while God may allow those innocent of gross and obvious sins to suffer, it is not as a delight (Ezekiel 33:11). On the contrary, it can be used as a roll-call attesting the desolation of damnation that threatens man, not in part but in whole, and an exhibit of the price of treason against the Almighty that cruel malignities and artless collisions appear; for God hides nothing and all is revealed, even the necessity of the exceeding care of the Lord and the value of His testings.
Thus in eternity there is always to be seen if it were necessary, the horror of sin and its gross cruelty; for God is the God of light, and not of darkness, and He demonstrates as well as remonstrates, and shows to man what is in his heart, that he might seek the mercy he needs, without works (and Job was FULL of good works). This is gained through faith in God alone, by love unmixed, in grace alone, with gratitude for the death of Christ for our sins, accepting its necessity, relishing its redemption and rejoicing in the power of His purity, bodily to rise, rupturing even death (Acts 2:23-24, Romans 10:9).
In his worst tremor, before as in Job 28, Job exalts in the wisdom of God with delight, attributing to Him the unique glory of really knowing all and having sound ways in all things, writhing, he actually declares this, "The earth is given into the hand of the wicked. He covers the faces of its judges. If it not He, who else could it be ?" (Job 9:24). This, amidst his ruminations is a search for the reason for the very profundity of the allowances of the Lord for liberty in man, that He even lets them close their eyes, lest they should see and try to turn aside those who might come to God, as Christ directly charged (Matthew 13:15ff., Luke 11:52).
Yet for all his ramblings amidst his ruin, he still exalted the ultimate wisdom of God (Job 12:16-13:4,19:23ff., 28:1-28), and found rest not at all in any of his own works, though he refused to be wrongly judged by his shallow and superficial friends. As to that, it would be ONLY in the Redeemer of Job 19, Him for whom he longed, both in principle (Job 9:32-34) and in practice (Job 19:21ff.). Nevertheless at times, his sufferings led him to speak out of tune with the truth, and to rely for the moment, on appearance. When God therefore challenges Job at length, as the test concludes, He asks, "Would you condemn Me that you may be justified!"
Those subsidiary waverings in Job were like those of people who say, I will not believe in any God who allows the innocent to suffer! But WHO are these innocents, since as in Psalm 51, we are born in iniquity, and as in Romans 5, we are constituted sinners as members of a fallen race, from the first! If God therefore LETS the sin first shown in Eve, of listening to the concept that God is somehow amiss and man should take power and do his own will as in Genesis 3, proceed to manifest itself, with its results, in this world, is man to judge this folly! Is experimental evidence nothing ? Is truth to be mere authority! Not at all, God tests and tries man, and all things are brought to the light, even in His own love on the Cross, and the cost of purity and pardon.
WHO WOULD CORRECT THE LORD!
THE POINT OF THE TEST
What then of this desire to rule without God, to be the final judge and source, which is so rampant in man, as in the UN for example, even now!
In history, its nature is totally exposed in its folly, pride and self-will in oblivion to truth; and for man who loves to TRY IT OUT, TAKE IT ON, DISCOVER THE TRUTH, to his own satisfaction, the come-uppance of his downfall is made plain. There in history, progressive in its regression, is provided his own living commentary on the state of his heart; and this world is now a veritable megaphone concerning the "EXCEEDINGLY SINFUL" character of SIN (Romans 7:13). Like beauty in reverse, overwhelming to adoration, so sin by contrast is munificently underwhelming, overcast like a black sky radiating rays of death. The exercise is NOT between nice people with nice manners in nice places having nice discourse, but between sinners and their Creator, whatever may be their pretensions, guile or pride. The realities must declare themselves in the light; and how they do!
Let then the godless judge God and cry, seeking to attribute to HIM their own sin, and to HIS rule, their own misrule, ignorant of liberty and its meaning, assuming themselves the final judge, and let man ignore the God who made him and tell Him what to allow and what not, and pose as the great poseur, exalting himself to heaven that he might fall, wings collapsing, to hell: let them do this.
Yet it is mere pride, arrogance and blind autonomy mixed. Darkness IS hell for the soul, when its inveterate follies insist on it (John 3:19,36); for man is made for the light; and that, it is from the Lord who IS LIGHT, the light of the heart, inspiring truth and understanding, knowledge and wisdom, love and purity, the latter costed in blood, that of Christ (Titus 3:3-7).
Man does not do well as God, never did and never will, for he is made, and His Maker is not, Himself being eternal that anything might ever be at all! To seek to judge, attributing this or that wrongly to God who made us whole and is ready to restore through redemption, and to do this when God Himself has taken upon Himself all the judgment that Job experienced in showing the reality of the fear and love of God, this and more, not for one but for all who receive it, doing this in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God: what is this ? What is this, man's sally into the suit of judge ? Why, it is a horror of immorality, a holocaust of truth and a blatancy past all bearing.
Let us then remember Job and Habakkuk, and learn to praise God whatever, because of WHO He is and WHAT He has done, a prodigy of participation, a work of splendour in Jesus Christ crucified, and yes risen even rupturing death for His own. Let us do this, and not make our personal equations, our own book-keeping for life, the measure of eternity, but rather have God as our measurer, and not be like those who are "measuring themselves by themselves" so justly condemned by Paul (II Corinthians 10:12). Let us rejoice with Habakkuk and being tested if need be with Job (I Peter 4:1ff., 4:12ff.), not fire at the fiery trial, but let it consume the dross which is no loss, and being enabled, rejoice in God our Saviour!