By Horatius Bonar
"Behold now, I have ordered my cause; I know that I shall be justified. Who is he that will plead with me? for now, if I hold my tongue, I shall give up the ghost." -- Job 13:18,19
THIS is the utterance of a justified man, and of one who knew that he was justified, and was prepared to defend his position as such against all accusers.
Job's declaration here may primarily be the assertion of his innocence against the accusations of his friends. But we may use it for something beyond this.
We do great injustice to the Old Testament saints and to their privileges, and no less so to the God who made them what they were, when we conceive of them as possessing an imperfect justification, or an imperfect and uncertain knowledge of their justification. Paul's declaration was explicit on this point: "I know whom I have believed"; and yet it was not a jot more explicit than that of Job: "I know that my Redeemer liveth." When Paul said, "It is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth?" he was only speaking what Job had spoken ages before: "I know that I shall be justified. Who is he that will plead with me?'
In connection with the words of our text, let us note the following passages: Psalm 32:1,5, Isaiah 50:7-9, 51:12, Romans 8:31,34, 1 John 1:9. In all these we have the same truth, the same tone, the same confidence, the same assurance, and the same source or channel for the flowing of all these into the soul. The old and the new are alike. We cannot say either the old is better or the new is better; both are good, and both are the same. In both we have the utterance of the one creed of the church, and the voice of the one Spirit, the Spirit of adoption, through the one Redeemer.
In our text (along with the context on both sides), we have the expression of an old saint's feelings in reference to man and to God. He has no hope from man, but he has all hope from God. One would have expected the opposite. Imperfect man might be expected to bear with an imperfect fellow man; but can a perfect God be expected to do this? Yet it is on God that he falls back; and the infinitely holy, all-searching God is felt to be a surer refuge for a sinner than unholy, sin-excusing man. Such must be the spirit of our dealings with God. His holiness and His omniscience are not only no discouragements, but the opposite. He knows the very worst of us, and He hates it; yet He pities us. We cannot tell Him worse of ourselves than He knows already. And is not this encouragement! Man's narrow heart makes us despair of him; God's infinite heart gives us hope. Have we not often been comforted with the thought that God knew us fully? Let us then mark the feelings or attitude of a saint towards God.
I. Misconfidence. "I know that I shall be justified." It is no mere hope, or peradventure; it is a certainty. It is of this that Paul speaks, "We are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast." This was the attitude of Old Testament saints, much more that of New. It is the feeling of the child; it is simple trustfulness, for everything, beginning with pardon.
II. It is confidence as a sinner. Job speaks as a sinner, simply as such, not as a better man than others. He goes to God simply as such; and he trusts as such. He realises this blessed truth that a man's evil is no reason for distrusting God. When Adam fled from God, he did not know this; he thought that his sin was a reason for distrusting and flying from God, till God taught him differently, and shewed him what grace was.
III. It is confidence arising from God's character alone. He has looked into the face of God, and learned there that a sinner may trust Him, just because of what He is; nay, that a sinner can only glorify Him by trusting Him because of what He is. It is not only because of His grace that He trusts; but because of His holiness and power; for these are no longer against the sinner; but on his side. Everything in God's character, has by the cross of Christ been turned into a reason for trusting Him. The more man knows of Him the more he trusts. Trust is the natural and inseparable response of the soul to the divine revelation of the character of God. It is not what man sees in himself, of his good deeds or good feelings, of his graces, or his repentance, or his regeneration, or his faith; but what he sees in God, that calls out confidence.
It is confidence of personal justification. "I know that I shall be justified." It is no vague confidence in some unknown God; some sentimental trust in God's universal fatherhood, or mankind's universal sonship. It is of personal justification that he speaks; thus acknowledging personal condemnation in the first place; and then, as the result of a judicial act, personal justification. It is of this that the whole Bible speaks; it is this that the cross seals to us. This is not a state in which we are born; but into which we come by believing in Him who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. Do you know this? Is this the beginning of your religion, the starting-point of your heavenward course?
It is confidence in spite of all accusers. From verse 20 to verse 27 Job is pleading with God, confessing sin, and uttering confidence. In verse 28, and next chapter, he turns to man as his accuser. Who is he? A man that shall die. What matter his accusations? Let the whole world condemn, what matters it? Shall this shake a confidence resting on the word and name of God? Let Satan and conscience accuse; shall they shake a confidence which comes from above? Let their charges be all true, what of this? "Who is he that condemneth?" "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" We plead guilty to the accusations, but not with the less confidence do we claim an acquittal from the Judge, simply on the ground of what our Surety has done.