The Mystery of Affliction
Mr. J. Boyd Nicholson, Sr. makes his home in St. Catharines, Ontario. This is the final article of his three-part series on Job.
Job And His Friends
Though with a common interest, Job’s three friends were quite different in their makeup. Eliphaz was the philosopher, the man of reason. Bildad was the theologian, the man of tradition. Zophar was the moralist, the man of ethics. Their approach was necessarily different, but their premise was the same —namely, that all suffering is the result of personal sin. Without going into the details of their individual arguments, we might summarize them by noting that they have two movements. They accused Job of wickedness. “The wicked suffer,” they said. They admonished him regarding the divine justice. And they advised him to seek God and put things right. All they succeeded in doing, however, was to plunge Job into despair, provoke him to self-righteous vindication, and to produce in him a longing for pity.
In chapter 19 Job begins to climb out of the dark, when he took that wonderful look away from himself and his sorrow, and said: “I know that my Redeemer liveth,” or as the word is, “my Vindicator.” Then God intervenes from chapter 32 on, first by the approach of Elihu, whose name means, “God Himself.”
Job And His God
Elihu was prepared by God for this ministry. “The Spirit of God hath made me,” he could say. He was sent by God, for when God took up the discussion with Job, He continued without rebuking Elihu. He spoke for God and stated that he was “in God’s stead.” He was a man of discernment, a man with a sense of divine call, and a man with a desire to help Job. How wonderful in such grief to receive such a visitor as this.
At last God spoke! The long silence was broken, but not with words of explanation. It was with words of revelation, the revelation of Jehovah Himself. God spoke out of the whirlwind, out of seeming confusion, and He asked a series of rhetorical questions that teach lessons of assurance and comfort.
The first brought to Job a revelation of God’s eternity (38:4), and the lesson was, there is a divine point of view with implications beyond the present moment. The next was a question about His authority (38:11). The lesson here is that there are divine limits beyond which grief and trial cannot go. There follows next a question about God’s sufficiency (38:22-23), teaching us that there are divine resources beyond the demands of the conflict. Next, there comes a question about God’s power and wisdom (38:31-32), wonderfully assuring us that there is a divine control over every influence and power. Then in chapters 39-41 there is presented a series of questions regarding God’s provision. And that provision extends from the needs of a hungry lion to the cry of a baby raven for food. In this is still another wonderful lesson that there is a divine supply for every exigency.
First, Job recognized before God that behind all the sorrow and pain and trial he could see God in his circumstance (42:5). He then recognized his sin before God (42:6b). The test is over and now the Lord takes up His gracious ministry of recovery and restoration.
Job’s restoration was complete. His capacity had been enlarged by suffering, and both his priestly ministry and personal liberty were restored (42:7-8, 10). He had been a captive of his sickness, sorrow and circumstance, but now God set him free. Further, his previous hospitality was restored (42:11). One cannot help but wonder where that crowd of fair-weather friends and relatives were when Job so sorely needed them. Finally, his personal prosperity was restored, but note that it was doubled (42:12).
The Lord gave Job three beautiful daughters. He named them in such a way that they would be constant reminders before his eyes, and the eyes of all, that God is the God of restoration. Thus he gave each of them a beautiful name.
The first he called Jemima, which means dove, the bird associated with mourning and peace. Had he known the Scripture, Job might have said under his breath as he saw her move around the house, “The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” The second daughter he named Keziah, whose name means cassia. This sweet fragrance is obtained by stripping the bark from the tree. She was a witness that once Job had been stripped of everything, but now his life would produce a sweet fragrance for the comfort of many sufferers down through the ages. Again, had he known the verse, he might have said to himself as he saw Keziah, “The oil of joy for mourning.” The last daughter was named Kerenhappuch, meaning a vial of cosmetics. Her name would witness to all that out of the secret place of dealings in the purposes of God there comes forth that which beautifies, and so he might have concluded, “Beauty for ashes.”