As Job closed his reply to Eliphaz, he made the confession, "I have
sinned," realizing that God is the Observer of mankind. We might have
expected that Bildad, as he began to speak, would have made some
allusion to this, but he does not appear to do so. Instead he accused
him of uttering words like the blowing of a strong wind, and, to
maintain the rightness of all God's judgments, he insinuated that Job's
children must have been cast away as the penalty of their
transgression. This must have been a bitter stroke at Job, since he had
so regularly offered sacrifice on their behalf. Nevertheless he advised
Job that if only he would be upright and seek God, he would be blessed
in his latter end.
In verses 8-10, Bildad revealed his own standpoint in the argument
that was developing. He set great store by the accumulated treasures of
human wisdom. Even in these remote times it was possible to search in
the records preserved from even remoter times. If Eliphaz argued from
his own observation-what he personally had seen,-Bildad argued from tradition-what
could be learned from the records of earlier days. He distrusted a
deduction from one's personal experience, since the days of a man upon
earth are but "a shadow."
Hence in the rest of the chapter he summarized what tradition would
teach, illustrating his point by things in nature, like the rush and
the spider's web. He claimed that all history showed that God requited
man according to his deserts. If evil, he is cut off. If good, he is
prospered. To tell Job that, "the hypocrite's hope shall perish," was a
cut this time not at Job's children but at Job himself.
This brought forth from Job the striking words recorded in Job 9. He
began by acknowledging the rightness of God's disciplinary ways, but
raised the all-important question, as to how a man could be right with
God. In our day the pithy sentence, "Get right with God," has been used
to awaken interest in the Gospel message. It might well provoke the
reply, "Yes, but how is it to be achieved?" This is just the enquiry
that Job made in verse 2, and the rest of the chapter reveals how
earnest and sincere he was in asking it, for he suggested and examined
four possible answers. Each suggestion commences with an, "If."
The first is of course verse 3. Supposing man adopts a defiant attitude and
contends with God; what then? Disaster, and no justification! Sin has
made mankind into rebels, hence to defy God is their first instinct.
But Job saw how ruinous such an attitude would be. God is so infinitely
great that no rebel can prosper, and down to verse 19 he continues this
theme. The earth and the heavens with their constellations proclaim the
Creator's greatness and glory.
At verse 20, Job suggested another possible answer, How could he be
just with God? Well, could he justify himself? This would at least mean
a forsaking of the defiant attitude and the tacit admission of being
wrong, and thus needing to be justified. Self-justification is
a very attractive proposition, yet Job only stated it to dismiss the
idea as impracticable. He knew he had only to open his mouth to condemn
himself. Moreover he who would justify himself before the searching eye
of God must be able to establish his own perfection. Nothing short of
that would satisfy, as verse 20 shows. He went on to assert that even
if he were perfect God would judge and destroy him, for he only knew
perfection as it is estimated according to human standards.
In verse 27, we find his third "If . . ." He could not defy the God
of heaven nor could he justify himself: then should he give up hope,
abandon his quest for the answer, and give himself up to the careless pursuit of enjoyment?
Human nature has not changed, for many of us have pursued just the line
of thought which Job disclosed here; only he immediately discarded the
idea, realizing how vain it was. If we carelessly forget, God does not
forget. The sinner will not evade the judgment of God by declining to
face the question.
The fourth "If . . ." occurs in verse 30. Job has discarded three suggested answers to his question those of defiance, of self-justification, of careless forgetfulness. What about a course of self-improvement? Would that help in the solution
of the question? He has only to state it, to reject it with equal
decision. He knew that melted snow would give distilled water of the
purest kind, having the greatest power of absorbing and removing
defilement. The figure he used is most graphic. If he achieved
something like this in his own character and life, what then? Why, God
would plunge him in a dirty ditch as the only fit place for him. And
even then, he himself, beneath his clothes, would be
dirtier than they! The defilement was in himself and not in his
surroundings. His rejection of the idea of achieving justification by a
process of self-improvement could not be more decisive.
How evident it is that Job knew that he was a sinful creature before
his holy Creator, and that he possessed in himself no means of getting
right. That being so, his only hope was in the intervention of a third
party; but no such third party, or "daysman," was known to him. His
three friends could not act the part, nor could any other man, since
the daysman must be great enough to lay one of his hands upon Almighty God, and gracious enough to lay the other upon poor diseased and sinful Job.
How pathetic are the words that close this chapter! If only there
were an efficient intermediary, how different it would be; but, says
Job, "it is not so with me." Have we ever thanked God with sufficient fervour that it is so with us?
The fact is that though he may not have known it, Job was sighing for
the advent of CHRIST. We can now rejoice in the "one Mediator between
God and men, the Man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2: 5). By Him the ransom
price was paid, so that it is possible for a man to be just with God.
But for Job there was no apparent answer to his question, so we are
not surprised that Job 10 is filled with his further words of complaint
and sorrow coupled with pathetic appeals to God. He had just said of
God, "He is not a man, as I am," hence he was aware that he was as
nothing before His holy eyes, that searched him through and through. In
verse 2 he appealed to God to show him the reason why He contended with
him by these disasters. In verse 6 he again admitted "iniquity" and
"sin," yet in the next verse he said, "Thou knowest that I am not
wicked," using this term evidently in the sense in which Eliphaz uses
it when we come to Job 22: 15.
Yet, on the other hand, he knew that God's standards were far higher
than his, and hence woe would come upon him if he were wicked, and that
even if he were righteous he could not lift up his head in the presence
of God. He was filled with confusion; his affliction increased; he
again complained that he had ever been born, and as to the future he
had no light. Death was to him as "a land of darkness," as
we see in verses 21 and 22. We have to pass on to New Testament days to
get such a word as that, "the true light now shineth" (1 John 2: 8).
Yet even today there are all too many who regard death as the taking
of "a leap in the dark." And indeed it is that to them if the Christ,
presented to them in the Gospel, be neglected or rejected. For such
there is no excuse, whilst for Job there was every excuse. Again we
affirm that the gloom of this excellent saint of Old Testament days
should move us to much thanksgiving to God, who has brought us out of
darkness into His "marvellous light."
Job 11 we have the brief speech of Zophar, the
third of Job's friends, and reading it, we note that his tone is a
little more severe even than Bildad's was. Possibly he was irritated by
the fact that Job had not accepted the charges and arguments of the
other two, but it was overshooting the mark and unfriendly to charge
him with a "multitude of words," of being "full of talk," of uttering
"lies," and of mocking. Nor had he claimed to be "clean" in the sight
of God. Zophar does not as yet reveal the standpoint from which he
speaks, but he oracularly declared that Job really deserved from God's
hands severer punishment than he was getting. Seeing that his suffering
exceeded any other of which we have record, and that the discussion
centred around God's disciplinary dealings in this life, and did not look into eternity, this again strikes us as harsh and dogmatic in the extreme.
From verse 7 onwards, however, he did say some striking things that
have truth in them, as other Scriptures show. It is indeed true that
man cannot by his searching find out God. It is equally true that man,
being sinful, is "vain," or, "empty," or, "senseless," and is born like
"a wild ass's colt." Zophar evidently felt that Job needed to recognize
these things, without much consciousness of how they applied to
himself. If the men of this twentieth century recognized them, it would
puncture their inflated pride. They may find out means of destroying
human lives by the hundred thousand, but they cannot find out God. He
can only be found in Christ, who has revealed Him.
Zophar's final words of counsel (verses 13-20) also have truth in
them. Verse 14 in the New Translation begins, "If thou put far away the
iniquity which is in thy hand;" that is, he again assumes, like the others, that Job is after
all an evil man, holding tight to his sins. Here he was wrong, though
his counsel to put away evil and turn to God was good, and his
description of the happy result of so doing was correct enough.