The great underlying message of the Book of Job is the reason why saints suffer. This is all brought about by the slander of satan that Job served God not from any love to God, but because he received from God, temporal blessings.
The conclusions of the whole Book concerning suffering may be thus tabulated:
Paul said: "I take pleasure in reproaches, necessities, persecutions, distresses." And why not sing?
"God lives, shall I despair,
As if He were not there?
Is not my life His care?
Is not His hand Divine?"
"Hast thou considered My servant Job, that there is none like him in all the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?" (Job 1:8).
A great many people are concerned about what men may say and think of them. They feel the public pulse on all questions. They love the praise of men; they seek prominent places in the assemblies and love to be called "Rabbi."
Jesus Christ made Himself of no reputation. He sought not human applause. He did always the things which pleased the Father.
After all, what does it matter whether we have the approval of this world or not? Our chief concern should be to have the "well done" of the Lord. If He says "thank you," all the world may blame.
God said of Job: "There is none like him in all the earth." This by no means meant that God considered Job a sinless man, for he was far from that; but Job was a God-approved man.
In Daniel 10:11 there is a most wonderful picture. Daniel had been mourning and partially fasting for three full weeks. He was deeply burdened concerning his people Israel, and what the future held for them. Finally a Heavenly messenger stood by his side, and a hand touched him and set him upon his knees and upon his hands; then he heard a voice that said: "O Daniel, a man greatly beloved." The margin reads, "A man delighted in."
What greater joy would come to any one, than to have an angel, fresh from the presence of God, to come down with such a message?
God spoke out of the blue concerning Christ and said: "Thou art My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased." Could this be said of us?
From this hour may our chief ambition be that we may stand before the Lord, and be well pleasing unto Him. Let us keep our bodies under and bring them into subjection; let us so run, and so fight, not as uncertainly; lest when He shall come with His rewards with Him, we should be disapproved.
May our heart throb forth the song:
"Jesus I my cross have taken,
All to leave and follow Thee;
Naked, poor, despised, forsaken,
Thou from hence my all shall be.
And while Thou dost smile upon me,
God of Heaven, love, and light,
Foes may hate and friends despise me,
Show Thy face and all is light."
"Put forth Thy hand and touch all that he hath, and he will curse Thee to Thy face" (Job 1:11).
"Put forth Thine hand now and touch his bone, and his flesh, and he will curse Thee to Thy face" (Job 2:5).
Satan is correctly named, "The Accuser." He accuses the saints day and night, before the Lord. He slanders every good they do, and magnifies their evil.
In the case of Job, the devil shows his hand. His charges against Job, were also a horrible thrust at God. Satan said something like this to God: "You think job loves You, and serves You; but Job does neither the one nor the other. The fact is, that Job serves You wholly because You have blessed him, hedged him about, protected him. Job does not care a snap of his finger for You; he is only after what he can get out of You. Just touch what he has, take away Your hedge, destroy his goods and impoverish him; and he will curse You to Your face."
This is just what we hear today on every hand. The wicked world has caught the idea of the wily devil. The world is saying that the preachers all preach for what they get out of it. It says just touch the pocket-book and the preacher will quit the pulpit.
Of the unregenerate and of the worldly this may be true, but it is never true of the real saint.
God turned all that Job had over to satan, and soon one catastrophe was quickly followed by another; and still another came sweeping down against this saintly character, and all he had was gone. Then Job cursed God? Not he. He "arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground and worshiped, and said, Naked came I from 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."
Satan was compelled to acknowledge Job's integrity and his own defeat; but he slandered God and Job the second time and said something like this:
"I grant it that Job is an unusual man. He has held fast his integrity; but, put forth now Thine hand, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse Thee to Thy face; for it is true that skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath, will he give for his life."
God accepted satan's challenge. He permitted satan to touch Job's flesh. The whole Book of Job gives the story of Job's experiences; as satan not only smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his feet to his crown; but as he also moved upon his wife and his supposed three friends to continually nag him.
Never was man more sorely tried. And the inexplicable thing to Job, in it all, was that he was left alone without one ray of light from Heaven to soften his misery. He prayed and pled for a sight of God's face, or a touch of His hand; but all alone he passed through his days of bitterness.
The sum and substance of Job's attitude during these dark hours may be expressed, by the words that Job spoke; "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him."
Satan's slander was false. Job loved God for Himself, and not because of what God had done for him.
Time and again this slander of satan's has fallen to the ground. Thousands of saints have lost all, even life itself for the Lord; and they have never quailed.
"I saw the martyr at the stake,
The flames could not his courage shake,
Nor death his soul appal;
I asked him whence his strength was given,
He looked triumphantly to Heaven,
And shouted, 'Christ is all.'"
"Now when Job's three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite" (Job 2:11).
Eliphaz the Temanite. This "comforter" was a man with much self-assertiveness. He was a man who professed to have seen some wonderful visions. Concerning his visions he said:
"Now a thing was secretly brought to me,
And mine ear received a whispering thereof.
In thoughts from the visions of the night,
When deep sleep faileth on men,
Fear came upon me and trembling,
Which made all my bones to shake.
Then a spirit passed before my face;
The hair of my flesh stood up:
It stood still, but I could not discern the form thereof:
An image was before my eyes." etc..
One who had seen such hair-raising visions, surely felt that his words should be deeply appreciated. Job should sit up and listen.
The sum and substance of the testimony of Eliphaz was this: "Who ever perished, being innocent? Or, where were the righteous cut off? They that plow in iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same. By the blast of God they perish."
The difficulty with Eliphaz lay in the fact that he did not know all the truth. Sin and wickedness will surely be visited with chastisement; but it is wrong to say that all suffering is the result of God's chastening hand.
In John 9, the question was asked by the disciples concerning the man born blind, "Who hath sinned, this man or his parents?" They had the same idea as that expressed by Eliphaz. Job was suffering, because Job had sinned.
Beloved, let us not be too hasty in our judgments. Some of God's choicest saints suffer the most.
If Eliphaz had been able to look behind the scenes he would have found that God, through the trials of Job, was vindicating His own righteousness and also substantiating the faithfulness of Job.
If the disciples had been able to look behind the scenes, they would have known that the man had been born blind; in order that "the works of God should be made manifest in him."
One thing is sure—when we do not know the reason for our suffering and our sorrows, we can "trust and not be afraid."
"Not now, but in the coming years,
It may be in the better land,
We'll read the meaning of our tears,
And up in Heaven we'll understand.
"We'll know why clouds instead of sun,
Were over many a cherished plan,
Why hopes were crushed, when scarce begun,
'Tis there in Heaven we'll understand.
"God holds the key, He leads the way,
He guides us with unerring hand,
Sometime, with tearless eyes we'll see,
Yes, up in Heaven, we'll understand."
"Then answered Bildad the Shuhite" (Job 8:1).
Bildad the Shuhite is what we would call today a "big talker." He is one who says much, but conveys little. He can talk with rapidity, and with seeming rush of words, but there is no solid bottom to his sayings. He speaks in borrowed sentences, and revels in petty platitudes.
The sum of his contention is thus expressed:
"Doth God pervert judgment?
Or doth the Almighty pervert justice?
If thy children have sinned,
And He hath cast them away for their transgressions: * *
If thou wert pure and upright:
Surely now He would awake for thee. * *
The hypocrite's hope shall perish. * *
God will not cast away a perfect man."
Poor Bildad. He too had truth, but not all the truth. He knew somewhat of the justice of God, but he knew nothing of His mercy. With Bildad there was no place for God to manifest pure grace.
Bildad did not seek to go deeply into the sorrows of Job. Like Eliphaz, he took it for granted that Job had sinned, and was under wrath.
Bildad reminds one of the Pharisees, who dragged a woman taken in sin before the Lord. They supposed that He must bid that she be stoned, even as Moses commanded. Christ requested that the man among them, who was without sin, should cast the first stone at her; and then He stooped and wrote upon the ground. When Jesus lifted His face, they were all gone, being convicted in their own consciences.
Bildad could easily see Job's sin, but he saw not his own sin; even though God had placed Job far above Bildad. It was of Job and not of Bildad that God had said, "There is none like him in the earth, a perfect man and just, one that feareth God and escheweth evil."
How often do we condemn the just. How often do we condemn others, and justify ourselves. Should the kettle call the pot black?
Instead of calling Job a hypocrite and an evil doer, why did he not confess his own sin?
"Then answered Zophar the Naamathite, and said" (Job 11:1).
Zophar, the Naamathite, is the man who professes to walk in the light. He is on close terms with God. He knows all about how to help poor Job.
1. He tells Job, "O, that God would speak and open His lips against thee." Zophar's second speech is even more bitter.
"The triumphing of the wicked is short,
And the joy of the hypocrite is but for a moment. * *
They that have seen him shall say, Where is he?
He shall fly away as a dream and not be found,
Yea, he shall be chased away as a vision of the night. * *
The Heaven shall reveal his iniquity,
And the earth shall rise up against him."
Zophar knows nothing of the imputed righteousness of Christ. He can think of Job only as a sinner under wrath. He breathes in his first speech one ray of light—that if Job would prepare his heart and stretch out his hands, and put away his iniquity; he might have hope.
But one thing is foreign to Zophar's eyes. When Balaam would have cursed Israel; he, instead, spoke only good of Israel. Why? Because God had hold of Balaam's mouth and spoke forth His words. Therefore Balaam said: "God hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath He seen perverseness in Israel."
God looks at His children through the Blood of the Cross. Our sins are on Him. He has borne them all away. We are an unclean thing, but He hath made us white as snow. We are hidden in Him; and who can lay anything to the charge of God's elect?
Zophar has no vision of God as "a gracious God," and no vision of God in mercy toward the guilty.
"But Job answered and said" (Job 6:1, etc.).
It is impossible to even review Job's responses to the men who stirred his soul to its depths. We can but mention some characteristic sayings:
1. In the 9th chapter, three remarkable statements come forth:
Verse 2: "How can a man be just with God?"
Verse 20: "If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me:
If I say I am perfect, it shall prove me perverse."
Verse 32, 33: "He is not a man, as I am, that I should answer Him.
And we should come together in judgment, Neither is there any daysman betwixt us."
Herein Job confesses that he could not stand before his own heart, let alone before God. He asks that greatest of all questions: "How can a man be just before God?"
2. In the 13th chapter, Job says:
Verse 15: "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him:
But I will maintain mine own ways before Him."
Verse 16: "He also shall be my salvation."
In verses 22 through 27, Job appears to be in total darkness. He cries:
"Wherefore hidest Thou Thy face,
And holdest me for Thine enemy?
Wilt Thou break a leaf driven to and fro?"
3. In the 19th chapter, Job manifests a faith that looks through the darkness to a better day.
Verses 25 to 27: "For 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:
Whom I shall see for myself,
And my eyes shall behold, and not another."
4. In the 23rd chapter, Job's very soul is reaching out after God.
Verses-3-12: "Oh that I knew where I might find Him!"
Verse 6: "Will He plead against me with His great power?
No; but He would put strength in me."
Verse 8: "Behold I go forward, but He is not there;
And backward, but I cannot perceive Him."
Verse 10: "But He knoweth the way that I take:
When He hath tried me I shall come forth as gold."
Verse 12: "I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food."
To sum up Job's responses:
(1) Job held invariably to his own uprightness of purpose. Chapter 29 particularly records Job's recital of His own goodness. It is like the 7th of Romans in the frequency of the personal pronoun
(2) Job never held to the fact of his being without sin. He confessed that he had sinned.
(3) Job could not comprehend the reason for his ills. He was in much darkness and sometimes almost in despair.
(4) Job never denied his Lord. He did not understand Him, but he trusted Him. He did not know the way, but he knew the Guide. He never turned away from faith.
(5) Job had assurance of some day seeing God and understanding all his sorrows; he also had assurance of a coming reward.
"Then was kindled the wrath of Elihu" (Job 32:2).
Elihu being younger, had stood by and listened to the words of Job's comforters, until he was filled with anger. Finally he broke away from the restraint that his years had put upon him, and spoke.
Elihu gives some striking statements. He does not fathom the depths of the "why" of Job's sorrows; but he goes far beyond the three false friends.
Just some of the striking sayings of Elihu we can note. These words seem to sum up his contention:
1. Elihu describes how God in the night time, speaks to one who has sinned.
"For God speaketh once,
Yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not.
In a dream, in a vision of the night,
When deep sleep fai�