Chap. 24. — This closes the answer of Job to Eliphaz that we began on last Wednesday. Job makes it perfectly clear that all things now are an anomaly — that you cannot judge of God’s feeling about the prosperity of man here below, for the righteous are often far more tried; and it is no proof of anything wrong on their part, but, on the contrary, God putting them to the test, to manifest that they really are His; consequently, submissiveness of heart is what we are all called to under trial, and to perfect confidence in God. Still, we have an advantage saints of old had not and could not have till Christ came — not merely Christ’s work accomplished, but the light of Christ shining. They had not that. This was before the law. Nevertheless, we see clearly that there was light enough for those that looked to God, and that there was darkness unquestionably, just as there is now, for those that have not faith in God. Only, the great profitable lesson of the book is the difference between believers, and why it is. There was a mighty difference between Job and his three friends, and I have endeavoured to point out wherein that difference lay. Whatever might be the mistakes of Job, and whatever his irritation at being accounted a hypocrite by his friends (and if we have ever known anything like that we can know the bitterness of it), there is no blow so keen and so deeply felt as that which comes from those who profess to love us. And yet the devil is always working and trying to set God’s children by the ears.
Well, here we find it in a very extreme form. That is the grand difference between the history of Job and that of other men. They only knew it in a measure; but God brought it out in one great display in the case of Job, who was more tried than any other man ever was. I do not mean that Paul and Peter and others may not have had trials of their own kind, and, particularly their life in their hand. That was not the case with Job. There was no question of life; it was a question of endurance. His life was not to be touched; it would have entirely spoilt the history if Job had died; but God took care that whatever his sufferings might be, he was preserved; and preserved to pass through such a scene as probably was in no other case since the world began, yet turned to incomparable benefit. That was what God was showing.
Satan never does anything for good — always for evil But in this case Satan had entirely failed, and it was God that wrought, and wrought particularly by the unfaithfulness and the unspirituality of Job’s three friends. That is the great moral of the book. It was only then that he began to curse his day — never before. Whatever came from Satan he bore, and bore it with the fullest courage and with all confidence in God. But when his three friends began to insinuate wickedness hidden, and hypocrisy, that was too much for Job; he could not stand it. He broke out therefore into many a word highly unbecoming; but God made all allowance for that, because in the main Job adhered to God, and whatever came, he desired to accept it from God. He could not understand why, but he still cleaved to God. Now he puts the case himself.
“Why, seeing times are not hidden from the Almighty, do not they that know him see his days?” i.e., there are these times of evil, and how is it that God, who is a moral governor, and who takes notice of all evil, yea, even the words of people (words reveal the secrets of the heart) — how is it that He allows it to pass` as He does, and that there is no day of retribution now? Well, we can perfectly answer that. It is all reserved for Christ. The Father will not judge any man; that is not what the Father will do. He is showing love because He is a Father, and showing love because He is God; because God is love just as much as He is light. And therefore it is reserved for Christ, and the reason is plain. Christ was the One whom, without the very slightest reason for it, without a cause, they hated. They hated both Him and the Father; and therefore it is reserved for the Lord Jesus to execute judgment. All judgment is committed to the Son, because He is the Son of man, and as the Son of man He has been hated; His Deity has been denied, and He was accounted as a companion of wicked people. He was accounted as a Samaritan, and to have even a demon. There was nothing too bad for man to say and feel.
And these were not the heathen; the heathen were never so bad as that. It is God’s people when in a bad state that are worse than anybody. That is a thing that many cannot understand and do not believe. There they are beating their drums and blowing their trumpets in Christendom as if everything were going on right. Oh, they are ripening for judgment indeed in England. It is not merely a Kamchatka or in the centre of Africa; all that is quite a mistake. The more light there is, if people are not faithful, the worse they are. And therefore our Lord was very clear in showing that the Jews were the people. It was no question of Sodom and Gomorrah. They talked about the horribleness of Sodom and Gomorrah. ‘Oh,’ said the Lord, ‘it is you that are worse than they. It will be more tolerable in the day of judgment for Sodom and Gomorrah and Tyre’ — and all those places that were regarded as peculiarly wicked — ‘it will be worse for Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum.’ Capernaum was the place where He lived. It was accounted His own city in Galilee. What He thought worse was the rejection of all His light and all His love. And therefore the nearer you are to the blessing, if the blessing is not yours the more guilty you are.
But then comes another very important thing, and that is, that unless our self is judged — unless there is continual self-judgment going on day by day, we get hard; we lose the unction of the truth, we lose the power of it in our souls, and thus we may be very self-complacent, because we know that we believe. That is just where the friends of Job were. They were quite comfortable; there was nothing amiss with them; they were all right, but Job! he must be very bad. That was their entire misjudgment. Now Job faces this question — how is it, if the times are so bad, that the day of retribution does not come? We do not see it. It is coming; it awaits the only One that can perfectly deal with evil.
We are all apt to be very partial. Sometimes there are certain evils very bad in our eyes — man’s eyes particularly. Some people are very hard upon drinking. Well, the same people are not at all hard upon covetousness. Nevertheless I suppose there is no one with any judgment but what avows that the spirit of covetousness is far more blinding and injurious to the soul than even the debasement of a man getting tipsy. No doubt a tipsy man is an object of contempt to those that are temperate, and they pass very severe judgment upon him; and there is where the devil attacks them all. ‘Oh, no; I never drink; I never touch a drop; I am a good man; and they are very bad, they are very wicked!’ Well, I do not at all doubt that they are bad; but I do say other people are worse who have a good opinion of themselves. There is nothing that God has more an abhorrence of than a man who thinks well of himself; for however lofty his thoughts he is nothing but a poor, lost sinner, and if he has not one particular evil he has others perhaps as bad or even worse. I do not say that to excuse anything.
There are many other ways in which people show that they have nothing in common with the Lord Jesus, and that they have no knowledge of God whatever. But it is the Lord that will be the infallible Judge. It is the Lord that will never swerve to the one side or the other. Everything that is contrary to God will be met solemnly by His judgment another day; and it is because people did not see God in Him, but only a man, that therefore He as a man will be the Judge of all mankind. All judgment is committed to the Son because He is the Son of man. Well now, Job describes these anomalies that are going on now. He says, “Some remove the landmarks.” That is not at all an uncommon thing. We have the evidence of it all round about us in London now. There are people that have encroached upon — taken the common land of this very Blackheath. There you see in various parts of it where people somehow or other have encroached; they have laid hold upon what does not belong to them. But it has gone on so long that the law cannot touch them. There they are in possession; and we know that is a great thing in the eyes of lawyers although it is quite contrary to law in itself, but still they cannot touch them. And there are all these anomalies constantly going on — even in the face of all the censure of the law; here we have it. If we were in Cornwall or in the south of Ireland nobody would be astonished; there are plenty of anomalies there; but here you have it in London before your eyes.
And so it is too in many other forms besides land grabbing. But this is what is referred to — a very old trick of bad men, and particularly of men of property, particularly of men of rank and the like, because having land it gives them the opportunity of stealing a little more. And so it is with kings. They see there is a nice province just outside France that would make such a good addition to the Empire, and by and bye it is stolen. Well then again, Germany sees that there is a certain part that gives an outlet to the sea that they have not, and they steal that and find a pretext of war in order to take what belongs to Denmark or whatever country it may be. In that case it was Denmark. That is in our own day — both of these things. And so it has ever been; and that is in the face not merely of the law, but the gospel; and these things are done by people that go to church or to chapel and the like, and there they are professing Christians. And all that by the very persons who by their position are the guardians of the execution of the law; yet they are the people guilty of all this wickedness.
And the same thing goes on in the lower strata of society. There they are prompted very often by want; but then what is it very often that is the cause of want? Why, for the most part it is dishonesty; it is recklessness as to performance of their duty. They lose their post. They strive to get rich; they take money that does not belong to them, and they come under public judgment. That is going on constantly in the lower just as it is in the higher strata, and the fact of it is, all is wrong, and will be wrong here below till the Lord Jesus is the One that executes judgment and that reigns righteously. Nothing will be passed over; there will be no favouritism, but all will be according to God, and never before. For any measure of peace or quietness or allowance of what people have — to be in their possession peacefully — we have reason to thank God very much indeed. But I am speaking now of looking into things as they really are, and it does not matter what country you take.
We in England think ourselves a very righteous nation, and there are many that think we are, as compared with others; but I have just been referring to things that prove how very hollow all this pretension to righteousness is. And therefore there is the greatest possible comfort in looking up to God. There there is absolute righteousness, and not only that, but active goodness. There there is God caring for His own. He chastises them because He loves them — where there is something that they do not see; for very often it is that they do not. Sometimes we are buffeted for our faults. That is a thing that ought not to be. We ought to suffer for righteousness rather than for unrighteousness, because “for sins Christ once suffered, Just for unjust,” Who is made infinitely dear to us. But there we come on Christian ground.
Now Job simply takes up the things that are around him. “They violently take away flocks and feed thereof. They drive away the ass of the fatherless, they take the widow’s ox for a pledge. They turn the needy out of the way” — these were what you may call the “respectables” of society, the people who had flocks and herds, but they wanted more. “The poor of the earth hide themselves together.” Well, now we see another class; we see the poor and distressed here below. “Behold, as wild asses in the desert, go they forth to their work” — they are the people that have nothing, now the “masses,” that have no skilled work, but that live merely jobbing about, and in all the precariousness and the suffering that this jobbery produces. “As wild asses in the desert, go they forth to their work; rising betimes for a prey” — before the light, and a prey, because it is not something settled — it is what they can catch. “The wilderness yieldeth food for them and for their children.”
Think of that — the barren sands of the wilderness, that is the only thing, and why? Because they have got no land of their own. “They reap every one his own corn in the field” — that is the corn of the rich man — “and they gather the vintage of the wicked.” Now they are called not “rich” but “wicked.” “They cause the naked to lodge without clothing” — that is what these wicked rich do. They have not pity for them; they make use of them for their work. “They cause the naked to lodge without clothing, that they have no covering in the cold. They are wet with the showers of the mountains” — describing still the indigent class that had scarcely any regular work to do, — “and embrace the rock for want of shelter. They pluck the fatherless from the breast, and take a pledge of the poor. They cause him to go naked without clothing, and they take away the sheaf from the hungry.” There might be a sheaf or two forgotten in the case of harvest, but they have found it out, and they are at them to get back their sheaf. “Which make oil within their walls.” They are employed for their abundance — they make the oil, but they never have a drop of it for themselves — “and tread their wine-presses and suffer thirst.” There is no wine for them. “Men groan from out of the city, and the soul of the wounded crieth out; yet God layeth not folly to them.” God does not take any notice of it, and the reason is that He is waiting for that day.
Now what a wonderful love it is to the very persons to whom the gospel is preached. It was to the “poor” the gospel was preached; they were peculiarly the object of the Lord Jesus. There never was such a thing before, since the world began. Nobody ever made them his grand object, and that for eternity. But Job could not know anything of that. “They are of those that rebel against the light; they know not the ways thereof, nor abide in the paths thereof.” Then he describes a still worse class. That is a man — whether higher or lower it does not matter — a man of violence, the murderer. The man who has got his quarrel, and the man that nothing will satiate but the life of his victim. “The murderer rising with the light killeth the poor and needy, and in the night is as a thief” — who will be ashamed to show that he was robbing the poor. “The eye also of the adulterer waiteth for the twilight, saying, No eye shall see me” — the corrupt man — violence and corruption, the two great characteristics of human evil — “and disguiseth his face. In the dark they dig through the houses, which they had marked for themselves in the day-time; they know not the light. For the morning is to them even as the shadow of death; if one know them, they are in the terrors of the shadow of death.” They cannot bear to be known, what they are and what they seek. There he pursues this terrible picture down to the end of the chapter, showing that there is an eternal misery and a consciousness of guilt — for that was a very wonderful working of God.
When man was first created, he did not know anything about good and evil. He did not know the difference between them, because no such thing here existed. He was made perfectly without any evil. There was no evil in man when God sent him forth from His hand. But directly he fell into sin he acquired the power of judging what was wrong, and what was right in itself. That is conscience. There was no need of conscience judging of what was right and wrong when all was good; but directly man fell, he began to judge good and evil That is what God does perfectly — man does it in an unhappy, miserable way. It is because he knows of what is within that he detects it without, and pronounces judgment, but man is none the better. Now when man is unconverted, he goes on in that kind of misery, and his use of good and evil is this — there are other men he considers as bad as, or worse than, himself, and he excuses himself on that ground, and so he goes on. But when a man is converted conscience turns its eye upon himself. That is the reason why repentance is indelibly and from the very beginning bound up with the believer in Christ. Faith and repentance go together, and the fact of our receiving Christ makes us judge self, and not merely to spot other people’s evil or excuse ourselves.
You see it in the poor tax-gatherer. When the Pharisee was saying, ‘God, I thank Thee I am not like other men; I am a better-man; I do not drink; I do not swear; I do not go to gamble or anything of that kind; no, I am a good man, much better than other people’ — there was the poor tax-gatherer, to whose soul God had spoken, and who, instead of looking to find other people as bad or worse, can only say, “God be merciful to me the sinner!” It is not merely “to me a sinner.” For many, many years I have been struck with the great beauty of that expression “God be merciful to me the sinner, if ever there was one. I know my sins and they are so overwhelming I do not think about others. God be merciful to me the sinner; me only.” That man went down justified rather than the other. It is not what is called “justification by faith”; but it was the right thing that always takes place in a converted soul — self-condemnation before God And it is the light of Christ, somehow entering, that produces that. And therefore now that the work of Christ is done He is exalted to give repentance and remission of sins to every one that looks to Him.
So that repentance is a gracious work; the very opposite of men having a bad conscience. It was man, at any rate, having his conscience set right to condemn himself. He did not know it yet. He did not know his sins gone — that is the consequence of redemption. That could not be till the work of Christ came in. There might be a looking onward to Christ and His work. Some had a confident hope that the Lord would take their sins away; they did not know how. But now the gospel is the proclamation on the part of God of that which clearly explains and fully accounts for it. “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth from all sin.” We are glad to believe that — “from all sin.” If all our sins are not blotted out none of them are. If one sin is gone they are all gone. It is only through Christ, and never does Christ do a thing in a half or niggardly way, as man does. No; it is complete. Here then Job is simply looking at the terrible state of these bad consciences, and then goes on to his death, and there the worms have their feast; that is all he says about it. And if the wicked are exalted, it is only to go down the more.
Well now we come to Bildad (Job 25). And Bildad only barely gives the appearance of a speech. It is a very short one, and it has no kind of application really to Job. They are evidently obliged to give in, and Bildad, the second of them, he it is that now descants upon the glory of God. And it is all perfectly true, and very finely stated too. There is a great deal of what is very beautiful in what Bildad said, only it had no bearing on the matter at all. “Dominion and fear are with him; he maketh peace in his high places.” Yes, but what troubled Job was that he had anything but peace in his low place. There he was in this terrible humiliation and suffering, and he could not tell why it was. “Is there any number of his armies?” That is all very true; was that any comfort to Job, or any answer? “And upon whom doth not his light arise?” Well, there might be an implication that Job was all wrong because he did not enjoy the light, and it was not that Bildad did. The fact is that he was quiet; he was entirely without any trial; and he could therefore talk reasonably, and so far quietly; but he had no understanding of Job.
“How then can man be justified with God?” That is exactly what Job had said in the ninth chapter, so that he was only repeating what Job had said a great deal better than he. Job enters into it in a very full manner, and so strongly that he even puts forth the need of a daysman, i.e., a mediator, between God and man. He had far more spiritual light than any of them. “How can he be clean that is born of a woman?” That again is what Job had already taught. “Behold even to the moon, and it shineth not; yea, the stars are not pure in his sight; how much less man, that is a worm, and the son of man, which is a worm?” That was all true, but had no bearing.
Job answers (Job 26), and certainly with quite sufficient keenness, “How hast thou helped him that is without power? How savest thou the arm that hath no strength? “He was like the poor publican, the tax-gatherer. “How hast thou counselled him that hath no wisdom? And how hast thou plentifully declared the thing as it is? To whom hast thou uttered words?” He was talking in the air. “And whose spirit came from thee?” Now he showed that he entered into God’s dominion far more fully and extensively than Bildad had admitted. “Dead things are formed from under the waters, and the inhabitants thereof. Hell is naked before him, and destruction hath no covering. He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing” — a very remarkable anticipation of modern discovery. “He bindeth up the waters in his thick clouds; and the cloud is not rent under them” — i.e., whether it be the little rain or the great rain, all is under God’s control. “He holdeth back the face of his throne,” etc., etc. (vers. 8-13). “Lo these are parts of his ways” — they are only the fringes of his ways, which would give the idea — “but how little a portion is heard of him?” It is only the whisper that we hear now — “but the thunder of his power” — ah I that is reserved for the day of judgment — “who can understand?”
Well, in the next chapter (27) would have come the time for Zophar; but although Bildad had very little to say, Zophar had nothing. He is fairly out of the debate; and we shall find that Eliphaz does not return. Job has it now all to himself, and accordingly he gives here what might have been an answer to Zophar, but there was no Zophar to answer — he was silenced. They felt now they were fairly out of court. They began with great vigour; full of confidence that their judgment was a sound one; but Job had completely answered all their foolish talk, and there they were silent. It is not that they were yet convinced that they were wrong; but they do what many people do — they shut up, and have not a word to say, and still are of the same opinion. But God would not allow it to rest there. God brought them out of their hiding place, and pronounced upon them; and it was through Job, as we shall find by and bye, that they were saved, either from a terrible judgment or death itself.
“Moreover Job continued his parable and said, As God liveth,who hath taken away my judgment; and the Almighty, who hath vexed my soul; all the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils; my lips shall not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit.” He still stands to it that all their imagination was false. He said now more solemnly than ever — it was a kind of swearing to it — As God liveth this is true. “God forbid that I should justify you.” Now he turns upon them; he says “You are the culprits, not I”. “Till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me. My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go; my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live.” They were, on the contrary, imputing what was very bad to him in most of their speeches. “Let mine enemy be as the wicked, and he that riseth up against me as the unrighteous.” That is what he says. ‘It is you that are acting the part of wicked men without knowing it. It is you that are the unrighteous, not I.’ “For what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul?” It shows that he had a great abhorrence of it — quite as much as or more than they had. “Will God hear his cry when trouble cometh upon him?” Here he describes it to the end of the chapter. ‘Do you think I am going to fight against God in that way?’
“Will he delight himself in the Almighty?” That is what Job did. “Will he always call upon God?” He called upon God even in that terrible distress. “I will teach you by the hand of God: that which is with the Almighty will I not conceal. Behold, all ye yourselves have seen it; why then are ye thus altogether vain?” ‘You know very well that I have been cleaving to God; you have heard my confession, and why do you impute such a thing as hypocrisy?’ “This is the portion of a wicked man with God and the heritage of oppressors, which they shall receive of the Almighty.” And even if they go on and have their children multiplied, it will only be deeper sorrow in the end. “If his children be multiplied, it is for the sword; and his offspring shall not be satisfied with bread,” no matter what he may be appropriating (and so to end of verse 19). This is all totally opposed to their reasoning,and Job rather triumphs over them in this way. “Terrors take hold on him as waters, a tempest stealeth him away in the night. The east wind carrieth him away, and he departeth; and as a storm hurleth him out of his place.”
And now in the next chapter (Job 28), which will close tonight, we have a very remarkable addition — one of the most striking in the Book of Job. It seems very abrupt. He now turns away from man altogether in his bad ways, or from vindicating those who really looked to God; and he locks at the general state of mankind. Not any particularly evil class or righteous class.
“Surely there is a vein for the silver and a place for gold where they find it.” Gold is not found in veins like silver, it is in quite a different way — very often in the form of dust, and sometimes of nuggets. But silver is found in large and rich veins. “Iron is taken out of the earth, and brass is molten out of the stone.” That is just exactly where copper is found. Where we read “brass” it is very often “copper” — chiefly so in the Bible. “He setteth an end to darkness.” He now gives us a remarkable sketch of mining in very early times. “He setteth an end to darkness, and searcheth out all perfection” — in quest of these precious metals, gold, silver or the like — “the stones of darkness, and the shadow of death,” i.e., he goes down to the depths of the earth after them. “The flood breaketh out from the inhabitant” — water there is very dangerous, and so the great point is to get rid of it safely — to drain it or turn it aside so that they may work their mine. “Even the waters forgotten of the foot.” That is, waters that people do not walk beside; not the rivers and rivulets and the like, but water deep in the earth. “They are dried up; they are gone away from men.” There is the drainage in order to carry it on.
“As for the earth, out of it cometh bread; and under it” — that is deep down in it — “is turned up as it were fire. The stones of it are the place of sapphires” — precious stones as well as these metals — “and it hath dust of gold.” They do not enter into these depths; they go up into the heights and they traverse all the surface of the earth, but the fowls do not venture into the mines where man goes down. Not even the vulture. The vulture has a keen sight, as we all know, especially for a dead body, and there they are — God’s natural scavengers for this poor world of death. “The lion’s whelps have not trodden it, nor the fierce lion passed by it” “He putteth forth his hand upon the rock; he overturneth the mountains by the roots. He cutteth out the rivers among the rocks; and his eye seeth every precious thing,” They get a great sensitive understanding of what is worth — not by any means that they are always right. Sometimes the miners in our country have thrown away as rubbish what was quite as valuable as all that their mind was set upon; but as a general rule they learn what is valuable. “He bindeth the floods from overflowing; and the thing that is hid bringeth he forth to light. But where shall wisdom be found?” No, there is no wisdom in all that. There is self in all that. There is what will make a man rich; there is what will bring money and perhaps distinction; but where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding? Well, it is not on the earth, and it is not down in these mines of darkness where man is so prompt to follow for that which he values. Where is it to be found? “Man knoweth not the price thereof; neither is it found in the land of the living.”
What a very solemn thing that is! True wisdom and true understanding not found in the earth at all! It comes down from heaven. It is found only in Christ; and Christ had not yet come; and further, this is what came out still more by Christ’s rejection and Christ’s death. “Therefore the depth saith, It is not in me.” There are silver and gold in the depth, and other like commodities, and precious stones. “The sea saith, It is not with me.... It is hid from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the fowls of the air.” It is not in the skies as far as they are open to the eye. “Destruction and death say, We have heard the fame thereof with our ears.” Yes, it was just that very thing. There was a report of that One who is Himself wisdom, and who is the Giver of wisdom to the meek. It was by death that it came to us, but they did not know it.
“God understandeth the way thereof, and he knoweth the place thereof. For he looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven; to make the weight for the winds.” It was many hundreds, yea, some thousands of years after that when man discovered that the atmosphere had weight. But it did not enter into the philosophy of the philosophers then; they knew nothing about it. Here is mentioned the weight of the wind. “He weigheth the waters by measure,” so that no matter what comes, the sea is never too full. There is always going on, the circle of waters — waters rising up in the form of vapour, and in vast quantities; for the power of the son acts upon the waters, and there are many tons going up every day. There was a measure for it all, in God’s mind. “When he made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder, then did he see it, and declare it; he prepared it, yea, and searched it out. And unto man he said” — there is a wisdom above man — “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.” And that is just exactly what is felt when a soul is converted. He may know nothing more than that; he sees how he has been in almost all evil, and he departs from it. A real sight of Christ is enough to do that by the spirit of God, and the fear of the Lord. That is what is abiding even when souls are not occupied with their evil, and speaking of it — the fear of the Lord and departing from evil.
But that is not the same thing as the gospel; it is not the same thing as knowing that all our evil is judged already in Christ’s person on the cross, that our sins are completely gone, and that we are brought in as children whiter than snow through the blood of Christ before the eye of God. That is the gospel; and it is after his reception of the word of truth that man receives the Holy Ghost, to delight in it, and to be the witness of it; but enjoying it first. Not to speak unto other people at first; oh, no; that is not the first thing. That is what the vanity of youngsters very often thinks — but to enjoy it with thankfulness and praise of God, and in worship of Him; that is what we come to. That is the true effect of the Spirit of God working. But then there is often a great deal of energy, and people are often more occupied with the wants of other people than with the infallible grace and truth of God. If the Lord will, I hope to continue on next Wednesday evening.