THE allusion which is made to Job in James 5: ii namely, " Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy," is enough to draw the attention of any earnest soul to the study of a history so fully recorded for us.
Job is at first presented to us as a pattern man, happy in his own condition, faithful and true in his relations toward God. We see in him a man who had on every side risen above the evil and sorrow which is the lot of man ; a remarkable instance and exemplar among men of how God could distinguish from the rest of men-one who walked before Him in integrity; he was for God on earth, and he was blessed abundantly by God. He was perfect and upright, one that feared God and eschewed evil, and as to possessions and earthly things, they were so abundant that this man was the greatest of all the men of the East.
It is important to see that Job was walking on the earth well-pleasing to God, and owned by Him as such, when Satan first called in question his fidelity, and imputed to him the unworthy motive which was couched in the question, " Doth job serve God for nought? " It affords us the clue to a true apprehension of the nature of the discipline to which he was subjected, when we see that it was not primarily on account of personal failure, but the rather for the purpose of exemplifying to Satan the truth of God's estimate of His servant. It will be seen that much personal failure was betrayed by Job while under the divine discipline ; for though the trials which he suffered were inflicted by Satan, and with the intent to verify his calumny on him, yet they were used of God to accomplish in job that self-renunciation and faith in God which did eventually enable God to establish in full blessedness the truth of the estimate which He had, in His goodness, given of His servant. It is wonderful and most interesting to trace the way and manner in which the blessed God at once confounds Satan, vindicates His own judgment and educates His servant up to the full understanding of Himself, and having brought him to it, rebukes Satan by bestowing on Job twice as much as he had before.
We must seek to realise in our minds what it must have been for one in the circumstances in which Job was to be suddenly plunged into such reverses. We see him but a moment before enjoying the full circle of God's mercies, and at the same time maintaining a scrupulous conscientiousness with God ; in the jealousy of his zeal rising up early in the morning, after the feasting of his sons, to offer up burnt-offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, " It may be my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts; and this he did continually." When every known point of the circle was thus carefully and with jealousy of heart toward God watched over, we might have expected, and doubtless job had reckoned that there would have been no disturbance of the rest in which, through mercy, he was set. Doubtless, whatever might be the fears which, like clouds coursing the sky on the brightest day, beset him, he had no idea of the malignant spirit who, by aspersing him before God, only moves the blessed God to surrender him into Satan's hands, in order that He might, in the most unequivocal manner, prove his integrity and unshaken fidelity to Himself. We must also bear in mind that, while it is God's purpose, in His dealings with job, to vindicate His own estimate of His servant, it is, at the same time, shown us how He educates or disciplines that servant so as to render him worthy of this estimate.
It was at a moment when Job could little have expected it that the crash came. No doubt he often had his fears, for he says, " That which I feared greatly has come upon me " ; and this must ever be the case when the soul has no better security for the love than the evidence and presence of its gifts. The gifts are thus a snare to us, and Satan's imputation against us is often in a measure true; our ground for rest and quietness of spirit before God being His kindness and mercies to us, and not simply the knowledge of His love. This is very evident, from the violent grief and despair many of His people fall into when they are deprived of any particular mercy. They had rested in the gift more than in God, and the gift was to them the evidence of His love ; the love itself was not the rest of their heart. Satan knows man's tendency, and therefore hesitates not to accuse job of it, asserting that he had no link with God, or reverence for Him, but on account of His abundant mercies to him. God, in His grace, had challenged Satan as to His servant, that there was none like him in all the earth. Satan retorts, imputing to job a sordid motive for his allegiance, and asserting that if he were deprived of all which now attached him to God, he would curse Him to His face. The Lord, on this, in order to verify His own estimate of Job, and to render him worthy of this estimate, permits Satan to deprive him of all he has.
In one day, in quick succession, Job loses property, children, everything. Never was a catastrophe so rapid and so complete. " Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped." He bears these first great waves of adversity in a most exemplary manner, and says, "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."
It is to be noted that a great accumulation of afflictions are better borne at first than afterwards. The strength that is in the heart, the confidence in God, is -die resource where the crash is sudden and terrific ; and in the rapidity with which Satan used his power, it appears to me he outwitted himself, for certainly sufferings with an interval between them are more trying. Satan, however, hoped that the crash would be so overwhelming that job could not but reproach God for the calamity. But extreme difficulty always calls out the latent strength, as with a drowning man, where a lesser difficulty would not. The trial is not sufficient at times to rouse one to effort. It is when the effort has been drawn out by extreme difficulty and has proved unavailing that real helplessness is felt, and the cloud of despair invests the soul. Job had borne his troubles so well that the gracious God is able again to challenge Satan as to His estimate of His servant. Satan retorts, " Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath Will he give for his life. But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face." Of course it fills the cup of misery, if besides being deprived of everything my heart clings to, and the whole scene once so lovely and pleasing to me is now a waste - with but tombs of my former enjoyments, if besides this I have become by bodily affliction a burden to myself! Surely bodily suffering and disease would in such a case be the bitterest way of reminding me of my utter desolation without heart or power to retrieve my condition. God permits Satan to afflict job with the most grievous bodily suffering: he is smitten with sore boils from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot. How complete his misery! his wife is overwhelmed, and in her distress falls into Satan's snare, and counsels her husband to curse God and die. Thus everything is against job. What a moment of exercise to his soul! How he must have wrought within himself as to hope in God! But every exercise, though the sufferer at the time little knows it, is strengthening the soul in God. The deeper the distress, the deeper the sense of His grace in relieving it; the one only makes a good rooting ground for the other.
Job bears up wonderfully at first. He rebukes his wife, saying, " What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? " But he is further tested. His friends come to mourn with and comfort him. If I am passing through discipline from God, which my most intimate friends and relatives do not understand, their intimacy and offers of help and comfort disturb and injure me rather than the reverse. This Job had to encounter with his wife on one side, and his three friends on the other ; one on the ground of nature, the other on the ground of superior intelligence. What a scene it was! " When the friends lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice and wept; and they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him ; for they saw that his grief was very great."
" After this Job opened his mouth and cursed his day." Under the weight of a terrible blow there is such utter exclusion from everything all round that there is no attempt to complain or to express oneself. And if the soul has confidence in God it is more shut up unto it, while the sufferer is unable to look at himself in relation to things here, and as he was among them. But the moment he awakes to the reality of his relation to everything here, himself must occupy him, unless he is done with self The discipline is ministered in order to set aside self, and introduce the heart into its true relation apart from self with God. Hence the effect of the discipline is to expose the secret workings and feelings of self, which otherwise would not have been detected or known, and, if not known, not renounced. job felt himself now a hapless one, with misery all around him, having outlived every enjoyment on earth, and he cursed his day. What had he lived for, and what should he live for) Little he knew the place he was occupying before God, or how God was preparing him, through terrible sufferings, to vindicate His own estimate of him to Satan. We have now to examine how God effects this His blessed purpose, noting the course which a soul under discipline from God necessarily takes in order to arrive at simple dependence and rest in Him.
The first thought, and the most bitter one, after awaking to a full sense of one's misery, is to curse one's day ; a terrible impression, and the one which leads to suicide when God is not known. But when God is known, as in job's case, it is the beginning of healthy action, not in the discontent and wretchedness which it discloses, but because the sense of death, utter exclusion from everything, is known and felt. I may give way to rebellion and discontent in learning the utter wretchedness of man on earth, but the sense of this is necessary to full self-renunciation. I ought not to blame God for it, but I need to realise it as man's true place. Death, because of such present misery, is preferred. To live in it has no attraction for the heart. This job feels. He knows not that God seeks to make him a witness of dependence on Himself against Satan. But this is God's way. Discipline may have the effect of making us feel that death is preferable to life, but it is working out God's purposes.
To this experience job receives a check in the reply of Eliphaz the Temanite. I think we should regard these three friends as representing to us the various exercises which engage our consciences when under this order of discipline. Eliphaz intimates to Job that he deserved these afflictions : " even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same " ; and still more (chap. 5 : 17), that it is not even chastening, for if it were " He that maketh sore bindeth up " ; thus insinuating that as He had not bound up, it was something more than chastening. In consequence of this Job is now (chaps. 61 7) not so much occupied with his misery as with his right to complain and endeavour to retort the suggestions of his friend. He gives us a history of his calamities, disappointment in his friends being added to the list occupied with self-vindication, though at the same time only the more convinced that his days are vanity, saying, " My soul chooseth strangling, and death rather than life." What lessons of anguish one has to learn before one sees the wisdom of renouncing self! What has not the soul to pass through in discipline in order that it may be brought to this 1 How tormented it is with one suggestion or another, which never could reach or trouble it only for the amount of self which exists. It is the possibility of the truth of a charge which makes it painful and irritating.
Bildad replies. This is another exercise to Job.
It is well for us to have recorded in God's word an account of the unexplainable exercises through which we pass when learning the nothingness of man in himself suggestions claiming to be friends, afflicting us still more sorely. Bildad here severely reproves job, telling him that the words of his mouth are like a strong wind, and that if he were pure and upright God would awake for him ; thus throwing him still more on himself, and implying that his trials are judicial requitals for sin, and not, as really was the case, the discipline of God leading him to the full end of himself. He is now no longer so much overwhelmed with his misery as occupied in righting himself in the sight of his friends. Painful and cruel work is it to the spirit to repel charges made by friends of deserving irretrievable misery. job knew that he had done nothing to deserve it; but what he had to learn was that he was entitled to nothing, and this his friends knew no more than he ; they stood entirely on righteousness.
Job now owns the greatness of God. He is turned Godward: yet while he owns the greatness of God and His power, he uses it only to shew the distance that is between himself and God; even that they cannot meet on equal terms ; but that if they could, he should not fear. It is evident his soul has a link with God, but his friends have occupied him with God as a judge, intimating that the deprivation of temporal mercies is a punishment for sin, which implies, of course, that the gift of them is the contrary. In this new exercise he sees God's greatness, and does not see God's care for himself: as under His hand ; what (he argues) can he avail? He sees no reason in it, regards it as arbitrary, and implies that if he had a days man who could place them on a common footing, he could make good his case ; but as it is, there is no hope. " Oh , " he cries, " that I had given up the ghost, and no eye had seen me! "
Zophar replies, endeavouring to convict him, pressing on him that God exacteth less of thee than thine iniquity deserveth and if there were no iniquity, there would be present mercies. " Thou shouldest lift thy face without spot, and take thy rest in safety." Zophar makes man's acts the measure of God's dealings. He does not see the evil of man in himself, and his consequent distance from God, as without title to any blessing. job replies. What little way a soul makes when occupied with self-justification! The friends had stung him with reproaches, that his afflictions must be on account of sin. job, unconscious of any evil that would warrant such suffering, denies it. The reproaches which the Lord bore without reply, though unjustly heaped upon Him, job rebuts, because he has not seen himself as he is before God. He is only judging himself as a man would, and as his friends ought, who really were on no higher ground than himself. God's sovereignty accounts to him for everything. He sees no purpose of grace in God's ways with him, and yet it is evident his soul is gaining ground, for he exclaims, " Though he slay me, yet will I trust him," and a gleam of hope bursts in on his path, for he adds, " Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee : thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands." What a season when the soul passes through all this exercise and anguish in order to emerge from self-satisfaction and to rest only in God! yet God's way is perfect, as the end always proves.
Eliphaz replies (chap. 15). He waxes severe and unmeasured in his efforts to convince Job that he and his companions have wisdom, and therefore they are right in their statements that God is now dealing with men according to their merits, that the wicked man travaileth with pain all his days; and he adds, " a dreadful sound is in his ears : in prosperity the destroyer shall come upon him."
Unless we study the exercises of our own hearts we can hardly estimate the heart rending which these censures must have caused job. They turned him in the wrong direction: they engaged him with himself. He could not deny that he was afflicted ; he did not see, measuring himself with man, that he had done any act to subject himself to so great affliction; and his friends harassed him, directing and confining his mind to this one point, that God's doings were all according to man's acts, and therefore, as he suffered so much, he must have been wicked in an extraordinary degree. job resists (chap. 16), and pronounces his friends " miserable comforters " ; and so they were. " Though I speak," he cries, " my grief is not assuaged: and though I forbear, what am I eased? " He has now the bitterest of feelings, even that God had delivered him to the ungodly. He tastes of our Lord's sufferings as a man. Who can comprehend the bitterness of sorrow that now devours the soul of job! " My friends scorn me," he exclaims, " but mine eye poureth out tears to God." In all his sense of the terribleness of his affliction and suffering, there drops out now and again the link, that, as a regenerate soul, he has with God. He has not as yet seen himself in the sight of God ; and therefore he maintains (v. 17), " Not for any injustice in my hands : also my prayer is pure " ; and therefore he looks to plead with God, as a man pleadeth with his neighbour. He has a partial sense of God's greatness; but he has not the sense of His holiness, and the reason of this is, that he has never been near enough to God ; for it is nearness to Him that produces the sense of His holiness. Therefore he concludes that if he could plead with Him, he must be acquitted. We see thus what terrible distress of soul arises from estimating sufferings from God's hands according to man, that is, looking manward in respect of them. How much of Job's self is before his mind! He feels that he is a " byword of the people." " Upright men shall be astonished at this, and the innocent shall stir up himself against the hypocrite." To such thoughts as these death can be the only release. " If I wait, the grave is mine house : I have made my bed in the darkness."
Bildad replies (chap. 18) in angry and reproachful terms, and in a pointed way traces step by step the course of the wicked ; first, " taken in a snare, because his own counsel hath cast him down, until he shall have neither son nor nephew among his people. Surely such are the dwellings of the wicked, and this is the place of him that knoweth not God." Well might job reply-thus goaded with the assertion that he knew not God-" How long will ye vex my soul, and break me in pieces with words? " What a wonderful time for the soul, when with conscience and faith in God it seeks to justify itself, amid all the affliction and sorrow which here judicially and righteously is the common lot of all, and still more when they are for discipline. job repels the accusation of having been taken in his own snare, saying, " Know now that God hath overthrown me, and hath compassed me with his net." He ascribes it to God, but cannot see any reason for it. But with all this probing of the wound in the increased sense of being unduly afflicted by God, his spirit is nevertheless strengthening in hope, as we may discover in his words, " I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth : and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God."
Chapter 20.-Zophar now in the most emphatic manner presents to Job the utter and overwhelming ruin of the wicked. He denounces him without pity. Heaven shall reveal his iniquity, and the earth shall rise up against him. job replies (chap. 21), detailing the prosperity of the wicked in order to show that Zophar must be in error, and yet he knows that the reproaches of his friends are unfounded ; he has no clear idea of God's will or of any order of purpose in His dealings-knowing nothing more than He is omnipotent and can do as He likes, without being able to see that He always has a distinct end before Him for every one of His ways. " Known to God are all his works from the foundation of the world." " How then," he retorts, " comfort ye me in vain, seeing in your answers there remaineth falsehood? "
Chapter 22.-Eliphaz now for the last time addresses him, and endeavours to make an impression upon him by the enormity of his charges. " Is not thy wickedness great? and thine iniquities infinite? " reiterating again that false principle, so ready to the carnal mind with reference to God's dealings, that He gives the gold and the silver to them who return to Him. " If thou return to the Almighty thou shalt be built up, thou shalt put away iniquity far from thy tabernacles. Then shalt thou lay up gold as dust, and the gold of Ophir as the stones of the brooks " (V. 23).
Now in chapters 23 and 24 there arc two points which come out: the first, that Job is sensible of his distance from God, and while sensible of it, desires to be brought near. It is the true exercise of a quickened soul-groping, as it were, in darkness for what it yearns after. " Behold," he says, " I go forward, but he is not there ; and backward, but I cannot perceive him." With this there is sense of the unchangeableness of God's purpose. " He is in one mind, and who can turn him? " And yet the true fear, the solemn effect of His presence, is not unknown, for he says, " I am troubled at his presence : when I consider, I am afraid of him." The second point is that Job turns his eyes on men ; he has not found rest or acceptance for himself with God, and now he looks at men; and he sees that the wicked prosper in the world ; yet they have their secret sorrows, and death checks their career. But at this stage of his experience he is not so much magnifying himself ; he seeks to be near God, but fears His presence, because not at rest or in acceptance. Varied indeed are the exercises which a soul must be put through while refusing to see the completeness of its ruin in the sight of God.
Chapter 25.-Bildad concludes his strictures, reiterating the greatness of God and uncleanness of man, as if there could be no ground of reparation between them. Bitter words to a worn one seeking for standing ground with God, whom in his spirit he knew and believed in.
Chapters 27-3 1. - Job now gives a summary of his state, etc., as he is in himself, and also as to his apprehension of God. The greatness of God creationally comes before him; but this never makes the soul conscious of the character of its distance from God ; hence in the next chapter we have job maintaining his integrity. If not in the light I must maintain my integrity, unless I have broken some law-done some overt act * so here Job thus seeks to relieve himself from the reproach of being stricken of God. In chapter 28, where he finely describes wisdom, it is interesting to mark how, under all the pressure, his soul is advancing in true light and knowledge, and that thus the discipline is effective. The more I see the wisdom of God and His way (as one does sometimes when under pressure) the more depressed 1 shall become, if not able to connect myself acceptably with God, and, as a consequence, I turn back on my own history and become occupied with myself. Thus job in chapter 29 dwells on the past, and this is always an evidence of the soul not being right with God ; for if it were going on with Him it would have greater things than the past to recount. This is especially the case when what it has to recall is self-amiability and God's gifts and goodness, which made up the sum of the young ruler's possessions ; Mark 10. If I have a sense of sin from having been a transgressor, then retrospection is necessarily shorn of its charms ; but when in misery the soul can recall a time of uninterrupted blamelessness of life and conduct-the light of God's favour in His gifts shed around it-such a retrospect is attractive and engrossing to the heart. Job's time was before the land of Canaan was given, and hence, as a Gentile, he is learning the evil of himself, not by law but in the presence of God, and having lived in all good conscience, he found it no easy matter to count all as dung and dross. He is allowed to dwell on it in order to show us how the righteousness which is of ourselves may engage and hinder us, and yet, on the other hand , how utterly futile was the course of job's friends adopted to help him to a true estimate of himself before God, and according to God Himself. Thus, still occupied with himself, Job in chapter 29 dwells on his former prosperity, while in chapter 3 1 he goes seriatim over the goodness of his whole course and ways, judging according to man's judgment, and after it all he sums up thus: " My desire is, that the Almighty would answer me." Such are the exercises of a soul which, without having done anything to offend the natural conscience, has not seen itself in the light of God's presence, and therefore knows not the corruption of its nature. If the natural conscience could have found wherewithal to convict its action might have been easy and summary ; but where the moral sense is not offended, a lengthened process is required for the soul ere it can reach a spiritual sense-that is, an estimate of itself formed in the light of God's presence.
We now come to another epoch in this interesting history. We have traced briefly and inadequately the patient, searching process by which God leads a soul to discover its utter ruin in His sight. The example before us is one against whom no one could bring any charge. As far as works went God Himself could challenge Satan and assert that there was none like job in all the earth: an upright man and one that eschewed evil. But while either to man's eye or Satan's eye there was nothing to blame or censure in Job, God would have Job know that in His sight he was utterly corrupt and lost. To learn this is most painful and bitter work to nature. Nature must die. job begins by feeling that death would be preferable to life, all being misery here. He then, both from his own mens conscia recti, xxx and also his knowledge of God's ways (while tortured by the unjust reproaches and surmisings of his friends as to his concealed guilt), rebuts the doctrine which they upheld, even that God rules and determines things for man according to man's works here ; that He has no other principles of government, and that man's acts suggest to God a course of action, thus placing God without a purpose, and only like an ordinary sovereign legislating according to the vicissitude of circumstances. job by all this exercise is strengthened in two points which only add the more to his perplexity. He is the more deeply convinced of the sovereignty of God, and that all power is from Him, and, secondly, as his friends have failed to touch his conscience, he is bolder in self-justification.
Chapter 32.-At this juncture Elihu comes in. This servant of God comes, as we shall see, from God's side, and supplies now to Job the teaching he so much needed. We are not aware often of the severe process of soul which we must pass through before we are prepared to hear of God from His own side. We may have to weary ourselves in very darkness before we are ready to hear the word of light; for light comes from God only: He (Christ) is the " light which lighteth every man which cometh into the world." All reasoning from man's side, as job's friends had done, only occupied him the more with himself, and provoked his self-vindication, while it necessarily made him more sensible of the distance between himself and God, and therefore deepened in his soul the need of God. Elihu now shows that it is not true what Job had asserted : that God acts arbitrarily, that " he findeth occasions against me." His first argument is, that God is stronger than man. " Why dost thou strive against him? He giveth not account of his matters."
The first great thing for a soul is to humble itself under the mighty hand of God. This Job had not yet done. But furthermore, adds Elihu, God in dreams deals with man " that he may withdraw man from his purpose." How gracious, that when all is in the stillness of sleep, God should show His wakeful interest for man, and warn him in dreams! God is full of mercy, as we see (vv. 23-28). When there is confession on the ground of God's righteousness, there is mercy and salvation from God. All these things worketh God oftentimes with man. We get in the case of Isaac an example of the convulsion that occurs when the truth of God regains its power and rule in the soul. He trembled with an exceeding great trembling. job must now learn this; he had allowed his own mind to judge God, instead of submitting himself to God and waiting for instruction from Him.
Chapter 34.-The next point with Elihu is that God must be righteous. job had said that he himself was righteous, and that God had taken away his judgment. If God were not righteous, yea, the fountain of righteousness, how could He govern? " Shall even he that hateth right govern? " " Surely God will not do wickedly, neither will the Almighty pervert judgment." " Who hath given him a charge over the earth? " Elihu exhorts Job to understand that God is righteous, and in His righteousness He can act as He will. " He will not lay upon men more than is right, that he should enter into judgment with God." Seeing this to be so, the true place for job was that of confession. " Surely it is meet to be said unto God, I have borne chastisement, I will not offend any more." Though these varied lessons, these progressive steps in the history of a soul, are presented to us as one continued unbroken tale, we must bear in mind that there are often long and suffering intervals while each step is being learned. It is the order of their succession that is presented to us here, rather than the suffering which the soul goes through in learning them.
In chapter 35 Elihu touches on a new point, namely, that God is infinitely above man ; that man's works can in no wise affect Him. job must learn that " If thou be righteous, what givest thou him? or what receiveth he of thine hand? " " If Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory ; but not before God." There ought to be perception of the goodness that cometh from God; but on the contrary, " none saith, Where is God my maker, who giveth songs in the night? "-when all around is darkness. job had dwelt on what he was to God, not on what God was to him. And then, " Surely God will not hear vanity, neither will the Almighty regard it."
In chapter 36 another point is pressed on Job, even that if he looks at things from God's side, he must see His righteousness. job ought to understand that " He withdraweth not his eyes from the righteous "-" He openeth also their ear to discipline "-" He delivereth the poor in his affliction." Here it was that job had failed; he had been occupied in justifying himself, instead of having his ear opened to discipline. " Behold, God is great." There is an immense advance in the soul when it comes to this, and regards things distinctly as from God's side. When I have a true sense of what He is, the effect must be to humble myself under His mighty hand, and to wait on Him.
In chapter 37 Elihu leads Job into further contemplation of what God is in His greatness and in His works : just as the Lord said, " Believe me for my very works' sake." And this is the introduction, if I may so say, for what we shall find in the next chapter, when God Himself addresses Job apart from any recognised instrumentality, instructing him in His own greatness and Dower. job has listened to Elihu, and now prepared for God's voice, God in His mercy deals directly and closely with his soul. How deep and solemn the exercise when the soul, alone with God, is in His wondrous grace and mercy taught by Him the majesty and goodness of Himself.
In chapter 38 we read, " Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind," and calls on him to ponder and consider. " Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? " " Through faith we understand that the worlds were formed by the word of God." This is the beginning of faith, as also that he that cometh to God must believe that He is. job did believe in God as existing, but his faith was not simple and fixed in the might of God-in His greatness. He is now called to consider whether he could explain or know the origin of any of God's works. Could he reach or comprehend them? God challenges him, " Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? or who hath given understanding to the heart? " In the material world God proves job to be ignorant of the origin of any of His works, and now, in chapter 39, he is required to ponder how unable he is to rule over the animal world. Be it the unicorn, the horse or the eagle, each and all are superior to Job in strength. How much more He who created and gave them their qualities, ought not He to command supremely job's reverence and fear! " Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him? " (chap. 40). Now it is that Job feels the force of the divine word. Then job answered the Lord and said, " Behold, I am vile ; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice ; but I will proceed no further."
He is now brought to a sense of his vileness ; but only so far as this, that he will be silent ; for he knows not how to answer. He feels condemned, but has not yet reached simple self-renunciation. One may have a sense of vileness, and inability to answer, and yet hope to improve. It may be only a pause to recover from the conviction which the word of God must effect in the soul stunned but not subdued. If the sense of ruin and vileness were complete, there would be no promise of improvement or expression that one was doing something better now than heretofore. Hence the voice of God still addresses Job, and he is subjected to the divine challenge again ; chaps. 40, 41. This time God presses upon him that behemoth, the leviathan, is a greater creature by many degrees than he ; " Upon earth there is not his like, who is made without fear," and for this purpose, the variety and order of God's ways with regard to this strange and mighty being, is brought before the soul of Job, who feels himself in the presence of God and is confounded. Now it is that he arrives at the end desired of God in all the discipline to which He has been subjecting him. job now seeing God forms a true estimate of himself, and repents in dust and ashes. The blameless man, in nature good, and as a man upright, when brought into the presence of God abhors himself. As a man he has whereof he may boast; he may justify himself to his fellows but not before God. Before and in the presence of God he can claim nothing, expect nothing, and feel himself entitled to nothing. In the sight of God's holy eye his only consciousness of self is to abhor himself and repent in dust and ashes.
Job has now done with himself. Happy fruit and consummation of all discipline! And so completely is he freed from himself that, before there is any relief from the circumstances and trial which had been the proximate cause of all his misery and soul-exercise, and which Satan had brought upon him to prove his hollowness, he can pray for his friends. Superior to his own sufferings, he thinks of his friends before God, and then it is that the Lord turns the captivity of job, proving (and how deeply we may lay it to heart!) that " the end of the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy." Amen.