This is made available from the pulpit of ...
AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH
Lord’s Day August 10, 2003
He in Me and I in Him
We come shortly to the affair of Elihu, and the scope of the teaching in Job, and how it applies to ourselves. Let us first review a little. Some of this material will provide a record for you.
1. JOB IS ELOQUENT on his Sufferings
“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 ...”
That, in view of Job 9:29ff.. 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 9:21):
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 12:7, 12:21-22, 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.
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 14:17, Job 13:26). 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.
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! (Job 13:15). It is in this reality that the action occurs. Yet he plans to defend his case.
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.
Moreover, 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).
2. JOB ARISES 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. He knew its source (Job 28), but in his trial, focussed clearly on its message. 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!
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!
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 13:14, 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 19:26-27). 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).
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!
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!
3. The Case of ELIHU
and the Impetus to a Pure Heart
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. Yet it was one!
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 4:13). Job’s extensive expostulations were perhaps dimming his sight needlessly long.
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 Christ’s sufferings as in Philippians 3:10 ?
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. We who are Christ’s are called to know BOTH the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings AND the power of His resurrection, and to be sure, they are friends whom you cannot separate. We must be prepared for both, and blink at neither!
As Christ declared, we are to
abide in Him, as He is in us, like vine and branches (John
15). HIS glory is the objective of the branch; His life is His gift to the branch. It is mutual or nothing; and it is HE who as Lord, gives character to the branch, and growth and vitality! Abide then in Him!