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We have already considered the conception in force in the book of Job: DOES JOB serve God for some kind of reward ? IS it even material ? IS his interest merely a machination of moral, financial or social convenience, so that in return for a fealty of self-control and obedience, he gets a lot that many would like, but somehow fail to grab ? IS there no love in it ? IS there no faith in it ? IS Job a hypocrite in this, that all the elements of morality and spirituality are mere mirages on the road, the road itself being formed of stubborn concrete, and concerned with self-interest, at whatever ‘nice’ and engaging level it may project itself, create garlands for itself or festoon philosophies to make it seem more palatable!
Satan has said in effect, that such things as these are so, that this schema is just, true and palpable. God has said: Very well, TEST IT. That is only one of the glorious things about God. TESTS HE LOVES, because they are allies of truth. Therefore, to take a blighted romance of our own day, when evolution fails to raise a toadstool in its field, in terms of positive results of carefully controlled tests, that is the end before God. It doesn’t do it. When creation passes all tests with flying colours, even inventing new colours, such is the degree of utter and uncontrollable triumph in the face of any and every test (cf. SMR pp. 140ff., TMR Chs. 1, 8, A Spiritual Potpourri Chs. 1-9, Wake up World! … Chs. 5-7, Spiritual Refreshings Chs. 6, 13, 16, Earth Spasm… Chs. 1, 7 etc.), this is the end of the matter, except for those for whom unattested dreams, rejected by logic and empirical scientific method alike, are the very stuff of reality.
You get something rather like that in the current craze of Harry Potter. Peter Pan had a little in common. In these cases, the things that go on in the whirlwind of the dream, do not go on in the winter of reality on this earth; and this is part of the charm of the illusion.
However those books are not presented as scientific reality, but imaginative journeys for those who like to give some exercise to their powers of that order. When it comes to discerning the difference between dream and reality, tests are the order of the day, the desire of God and represent at least as to their results, the odium of those engineering entrepreneurs, who seek to make reality out of dreams. God has never had much time for their ways, as you see in Jeremiah 23:28-29. “What,” He asks, “is the chaff to the wheat ?” and earlier in the same vein, “The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream; and he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully.” Chaff is the comparison of the dream, and wheat of what actually works, has worked and does work; and as a result of the work of we are equipped here to discuss such things (cf. Repent or Perish Ch. 7).
TESTS THEN, not mere biological ones, material ones, but the far more interesting and subtler ones in the realm of MORALS and the working of MAN, come to light in Job.
Job is in one sense, a walking laboratory. HOW will he perform, react, to the tests which he is about to undergo ? The devil stakes the claim, when at first, having lost children and riches, that his health by itself is enough to make a man a willing slave for reward (Job 2). He wants not only riches and children, but health stripped for this test. Hence this too is suffered to be touched, but not to death, which would evacuate the test of meaning! The wife advises Job, in his new and sudden distresses, to curse God and die! (Job 2:9). This was an interesting feminine result in the household of Job!
However in this case, the attacked target was Job. His friends then become a new test. Subtly at times, in terms of platitudes which Job so designates (Job 13:12), they insinuate that since God is just, and Job suffers, he cannot be, and should repent of whatever secret defects, deficiencies or even gross but hidden sins have been his erstwhile ways.
Now here is a very good test indeed. NO MAN is without sin. Some of course wallow in it, love it and endorse it; some rather rarely indeed fall into any obvious and immediately stylised sin, but ALL are sinners, falling categorically short of the mark of the high calling demonstrated in Christ. In each, the sins of the heart can become important, even when the spirit is unaware of them (cf. Psalm 139:23-24).
If then Job had reacted to say I DO NOT SIN, that would be a lie. If however, on the other side, he should react to say, AH yes, we are all sinners, so ho, there we go, I am getting mine! that is an unclear testimony, as though any sin could seduce him at will, as if an athlete would pretend to live a life similar to that of someone whose booze stomach and gross indulgences made him a mere mess physically.
The Perils and the Probity
Pride could lead him to say the first, in reaction to the obvious antagonism, so superior and swaggering at times, to be found here or there in this friend or that who addresses his ‘case’. On the other hand, despair could lead him to subdue the very force and power of the spirituality he has known personally for so long, allowing him simply to collapse verbally into a heap, as if sin were his mere sovereign, which of course, both as in Job and in Paul, in their (explicit or implicit) teaching (cf. Romans 6), it is not.
THAT, incidentally, is one of the constant harmonies one finds in the Bible. Here is the book of Job, by many placed on various evidences, before Moses, saying precisely what the Old Testament and the New do about sin, as you find in reading David and Paul! It is not at all different. There is one God, one message, one systematic theology, however much in detail it may and indeed does develop. There is one teacher, who never changes, and His name is in the book continually, constantly: it is Almighty God. There is no other. He stands alone, writes alone, passes all tests alone. That is all there is to it at the heuristic level.
Job meanwhile does not fall into either of these most insidious traps.
On the one side, in Job 9:29-31, you see the impossibility of being absolutely sinless, exposed in dramatic style
§ “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” …
while in Job 13:13-15,
§ “Hold your peace with me, and let me speak,
Then let come on me what may!
Why do I take my flesh in my teeth,
And put my life in my hands?
Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.
Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him,”
you find that Job is adamant on one thing. While admitting the sovereignty and insisting on the justice of God (Job , 13:7-8), even to the point of exposing those who erroneously seek to ‘defend’ Him, still pursues this point: “Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him.”
He is not going to aspire to be pretentious, or descend to being seditious: he is liable to correction indeed, but there is no thought of equating his life which has been in and for God, with one which is not. The gulf is absolute in kind, like that of a child without parents, living among the drug-ridden street livers, and one who enjoys with relish the constant honing in holiness of beloved parents. To pretend otherwise is mere lie, and Job does not do this. He passes these tests.
To be sure, there is momentary weakness, when he fails to realise the plan of God and with a boldness reminiscent of the advice given in the New Testament (Hebrews 4:15-16), opens his mouth too unrestrainedly (as in Job 9:17, 23-24), as if God had NO CAUSE for His action concerning the patriarch Job, rather than no cause as yet understood by Job. Nevertheless, this has two redeeming features, or at least mitigating factors.
First, he moves on from this to acknowledgement that he is in fact not at all perfect (Job -31, ,13-15. -23, 26, 14:4), and that God is certainly going to be his salvation, however much the OSTENSIBLE situation cause his troubled mind to wander and wonder (Job ).
There is, also, even in his worst verbal fidgets, that sense of pursuing a thing actively and remorselessly to the end, born of the certainty that reason and truth are not in vain, that God is reliable, and that although there is something like a slaying of his own person going on in grinding gradualness, yet GOD IS TRUSTWORTHY, even then. Indeed, this, though He slay me, yet will I trust Him! represents a resolution in which faith transcends reason, but not to the exclusion of the same (Job ), merely in order of action.
With this, there is the delicious sense that there is INTEGRITY there, that it will WORK, that despite all appearances, there is an answer, that in fact he, Job will be vindicated (Job 13:18). This of course is a work of faith, not without ground, for his entire long knowledge of God with all the interchange and of all whom he has known and seen are ground; but it is one where faith acts as a forerunner.
There is however a vast procedural problem afflicting this ancient saint. HOW can he manage to get an interview with God, one in which he may both present his case, despite the severity (admitted) of his afflictions, and deal with an honest freedom as the case seems, in its anguish, to demand! (Job 9:32-35):
§ “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.”
The term ‘mediator’ which in the AV is ‘daysman’, signifies in context an arbiter, a chairman to resolve issues, and in some sense, an independent assessor.
The plan or plea or desire is indeed bold with regard to God, to seek such a person! A mediator with GOD! Thus Job – and this is another endearing and righteous feature – is well aware of his boldness in making such a proposal, and without exulting in it, yet feels a certain drive to have some review in such a style; and he even says so (Job 13:13-14):
§ “Hold your peace with me, and let me speak,
Then let come on me what may!
Why do I take my flesh in my teeth,
And put my life in my hands?
Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.
Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him.
He also shall be my salvation,
For a hypocrite could not come before Him.”
One is reminded almost of Gilbert and Sullivan with
the judge who demands of his court, “Let me speak! Let me speak!” Such
is his desperation; yet there is no humour in his situation, dire as was
WHY does he take his flesh in his hands then ? It is because of his utter conviction that reason and right is there, that justice and truth will prevail, and that something is out of kilter; this on the one hand: and that there is and must be an ANSWER if only he could find a mode of access which, putting him beyond a selective situation, as the complainant, might enable unrestricted communication, interrogation even!
There is an almost childlike beauty about this; but it is the beauty of integrity, of trusting in the midst of an enigma, the actual solution. Here it is something which WE KNOW, for we were shown it at the first in this book of Job; but it is an aspect which equally surely, he does not know.
It is not a difficult thing in the least to understand, the real reason for Job’s sufferings; a child of ten could grasp it. However, when a man does not KNOW what is going on, and is in desperate discomfort financially, socially and made to squirm morally, through false attacks as from his friends (however veiled at times they may have been!), then the simplicity of the solution (test for display, proper since you claim to want to serve God at ANY COST) may not appear! Faith is then tried (ONE purpose of the test in any case) in that although such things COULD BE, it has to believe that some such thing is the case, instead of vilifying God in an ignorant presumption which could come close to hypocrisy.
What HONOURS GOD, in the event, in this laboratory of history, it is Job’s absolute assurance that the appearances, even when he spells them out in a sort of stunned horror, are NOT SO, and that WHEN he could reach the divine presence unimpeded, there would be a vindication because truth is truth and IN TRUTH he has with his whole heart sought to serve God! He does not essentially ever vary from this oft-repeated proposition, presented now this way and now that. So the test is a superlative success; but yet there are some further elements of the utmost interest, showing that the test is actually to JOB’S own ultimate advance in understanding, and to that of his friends, though their arrogant judgmentalism had to be rebuked, and their pride humbled. It was God who did that, as we shall see.
Meanwhile, how poignantly does Job survey the problem that death poses to the sensitive mind. Chop a tree, and the stump may re-sprout; but let a man die, and what in all nature avails for him! (Job 14:7ff.). Where is he ? comes the searching riddle. Grave ? Ah a place of escape from the searching eye of his God ? (Job ), from having his steps numbered (), his sin a matter of a vigilante alert! Yet in this phase of his thought, finding no escape from divine searching or repose in nature, he laments.
The Parallel Bars of Immovable Doctrine
Thus we see
v Conviction of sin (14:17, Job 14:17, 13:26, John 16:9);
v Conviction of righteousness (, , John ),
v Conviction of judgment (14:2, 13:9, John );
v Divine control and sovereign supervisory authority (, cf. Ephesians );
v The Boldness of Faith (Job , Hebrews -16),
v Divine aseity and sufficiency (Romans , II Corinthians 3:5, Job , ),
In Job as elsewhere in the Bible, it is all one in essence and principle, with this difference that it is here CALLED FORTH in a drama as deadly as death, and as we shall see, as certain as eternal life. In this word of God, the Bible, whether in Moses, in Paul, in the Gospel, in Revelation, we see life in faith which though equipped with many a blemish, is depicted in one and the same frame. Doctrine does not vary: it is only that the character of the drama and the subtlety of the test is a specific.
God is thus seen as sovereign, just, inscrutable, but man in need of a mediator, a daysman, an arabitrator, an accessible and sympathetic avenue for discussion, presentation of reason, procurement of interview, assessment of cases, cover of sin, comfort and compassion of deportment, equity and articulation.
God is presented here as elsewhere in the Bible, as neither in need, nor desirous of receiving meretricious defence or praise, the truth sufficing. He finds out all things and weighing all things has His way; His zest reaches to the least of things and His relentless insistence on purity and truth is unavoidable, deeper than any well, lake or oceanic crevasse; His knowledge all comprehending.
We shall come to see far more of the parallels later.
Accordingly, in the course of his sufferings Job becomes aware that the impasse between suffering and justice, reason and the seemingly arbitrary, needs resolution. Since life is most challenging and God most competent, what is needed for man is a resolution provider, One who will cover the uncovered, keep the faith in its ground clear to the heart of man, suffer a near approach even if man has, perhaps inadvertently, strayed in some way, and somehow achieve a cleanness which, for a bag in which sin is sealed, may be suggestively indicated, but yet must be certainly present. How is all this to be done ?
THE MEDIATOR has already been emphasised by Job (9:32-35), and just as there is no ‘solution’ if your house is burning like an inferno and the flames lick your boots while you are drowsy, unless there is A WAY OUT and a WAY ON, so here. How is it to be found ?
When it is found, it is apparent that there is need of
v a stable and resourceful beauty of holiness, so that Job and others like him find
v access rather than merely feel unmitigated read, experience terror, and find
v One willing to listen,
v even if rebuke prove necessary (9:34ff., ).
“Will you frighten a leaf, driven to and fro ? and will You pursue dry stubble ?”
asks the persistent and pathetic Job,
who for all that, carries his argument
with courageous conviction,
based on God’s ultimate, actual and profound righteousness and care.
As we read in Job 28-29, it is a question of the PLACE OF WISDOM, of the SITE of understanding, the ACQUISITION from God’s grace, of the needed provisions for man that he might live.
With what zeal does Job desire it, like Solomon (cf. Wisdom Regained)!
§ “But where can wisdom be found?
And where is the place of understanding?
Man does not know its value,
Nor is it found in the land of the living.
“The deep says, ‘It is not in me’;
And the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’
“It cannot be purchased for gold,
Nor can silver be weighed for its price.
It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir,
In precious onyx or sapphire.
Neither gold nor crystal can equal it,
Nor can it be exchanged for jewelry of fine gold.
No mention shall be made of coral or quartz,
For the price of wisdom is above rubies.
The topaz of
Nor can it be valued in pure gold.
“From where then does wisdom come?
And where is the place of understanding?
“It is hidden from the eyes of all living,
And concealed from the birds of the air.
Destruction and Death say,
‘We have heard a report about it with our ears.’
“God understands its way,
And He knows its place.
For He looks to the ends of the earth,
And sees under the whole heavens,
To establish a weight for the wind,
And apportion the waters by measure.
“When He made a law for the rain,
And a path for the thunderbolt,
Then He saw wisdom and declared it;
He prepared it, indeed, He searched it out.
And to man He said,
‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom,
And to depart from evil is understanding.’
After this expression of conviction that WISDOM is found in the invisible realm of power where God Himself is, that it is HIS, that the world is established in its terms, and that man’s path is to have reverential fear of God and zest to pursue His way, Job laments that this wisdom now seems to be giving him difficulties as well as blessing. Where is the carriageway over the chasm created in life by the sinner Job to the friendship, once more, with God, in integrity and with a balm of blessing!
§ “Job further continued his discourse, and said:
‘Oh, that I were as in months past,
As in the days when God watched over me;
When His lamp shone upon my head,
And when by His light I walked through darkness;
Just as I was in the days of my prime,
When the friendly counsel of God was over my tent;
When the Almighty was yet with me,
When my children were around me;
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.’ ”
Here we come upon an interesting new feature. Job had INDEED been highly respected, even aware of his authority though by no means using it either for self-aggrandisement or manipulation; and it HAS been sweet and blessed, dew-anointed, emollient to the touch. He has rejoiced in all of this. What then ?
Was this time of suffering, then, more than a mere test ? Does it not have a sanctifying balm as well ?
Is it not salubrious that Job find the meaning of life on the other side, where one receives bounty instead of merely giving it ? Could this not temper his attitude to something more than judicious kindness, longsuffering, uncomplaining righteousness, so that there is an empathetic and even appealing aspect to his goodness, after his own tests are over ? There has, moreover to be a foundational certainty which outside all question and inside understanding, indeed equipped with revelational wisdom provides for Job the awareness that not only must the love of God be pure, but the wisdom of God must be realised to be profound, unimpugnable and so far from incomprehensible, planned with a depth and a meaning that makes of life itself, a benediction.
Multi-dimensional wisdom is there, and it is not only the individual and the Lord, or the realities of equity, justice, wisdom and truth; it is also the triumphal tenderness of compassion which is willing and able to provide a path, and to pattern it with vast and beautiful deposition of news and provisions for the human race. Blessed is he who is used to draw attention to this universal need and divine provision. Blessed is Job for having done so. Blessed is the Lord who scheduled the plight of Job in making manifest what He has done, seen, understood, contemplated and long before provided.
In what way however has He done so, as attested in Job ? It is to this we shall attend in our next Chapter which DV will appear shortly.