The story of Job belongs to the Patriarchal age. It is an object lesson of the great principles of God's government. Job stands before us as an example of a good man, a man who has reached the highest ideals of his own time, a godly man, but a man who has not yet been thoroughly crucified to his own strength and goodness, and has not entered into that deeper experience which we know is the resurrection life. We find Abraham passing through it in his sacrifice of Isaac on Mount Moriah; we find Joseph passing through it in his years of anguish; we find Moses and David passing through it, and here we have the story of Job. This sudden trial comes to him, for which there seems to be no explanation, and while it lasts and before he comes out in his marvelous victory, God lets it come before us in a drama in which all the light and help that man can give to his fellow man passes away in
First, we have Job's own wife who fails, utterly fails, and at last in despair bids him give the whole thing up.
Then we see the three worldly friends pass by one after the other, each representing some phase of human wisdom. One represents the wealth of the world, another represents the wisdom of the world, and the other represents the goodness of the world, and each one thinks he knows all about it. Before they got through they had to come and ask God's forgiveness, and then Job's, for their rashness, their blindness, their stupidity.
But they have to appear and then fail. And finally Job has to fail. He thought he was all right, maintained his integrity and stuck to it that he was not to blame; but even Job had to break down at last, his righteousness had to fail, God had to lay him in the dust until he abhorred himself, and repented in dust and ashes. Then God Himself appeared as the explanation and the remedy for all, and Job was lifted up and restored to all that he had before, and the whole drama was made plain that what God wanted was to show the vanity of all human helpers and even Job's goodness, and then give him something better-His own righteousness.
THE VOICE OF GOD
But now right here before the close of the drama, before the climax, this man Elihu appears upon the scene. After all others have talked themselves empty and Job has answered them, Elihu, a young man, steps forward and claims to be the voice and inspiration of the Almighty, and his wise and wonderful message seems to bear it all out. While the whole book is inspired in a sense, yet all the speakers previously have just talked vanity and wind, and Elihu is the first that speaks the thought of the deep spiritual teachings of the New Testament. It is very much like the twelfth chapter of Hebrews. It unfolds the highest and holiest principles of God's government in dealing with His children, and is far in advance of anything we find even in the Mosaic teachings.
First he tells us that God is always trying to talk to men. His object is to reach their consciences and their hearts. "God speaketh once-yea, twice, yet man perceiveth it not." He does everything that He can to make men understand, and through the Holy Ghost He tries to bring to them conviction and to hold them hack from his purpose, and "hide pride from man." That is, that He may arrest you in some wrong attitude or action and humble in you some form of pride which is to bring you to ruin.
God is trying to make us understand, and He is taking the gentler methods first. He does not want to resort to severity, but to guide us with His eye; so He puts thoughts into our minds, He puts fears upon our hearts and brings various influences to bear. He is the God of Providence and interposes in all the events of life. He speaks to us by His gracious deliverances and He tries to have us escape some severer lesson. We read in the eighteenth verse, "He keepeth back his soul from the pit, and his life from perishing by the sword." He kindly delivers us from the danger and lets us see His providential working. Oh, many times God has interposed just that we might understand that He loves us.
GOD'S SECOND VOICE
Still man does not learn, still God's love and kindness seems to be wasted, and now the severe testings have to come. "He is chastened also with pain upon his bed, and the multitudes of his bones with strong pain." Sickness comes, terrible sickness, sickness that seems to make every bone ache with keen pain, so that his appetite fails, his flesh is consumed and his bones all seem to stick out; and they say he must die, there is no hope for him; his friends give him up; the physicians give him up; there is nothing seemingly but the grave. This is the hardest sort of a case. And yet he tells us that God's hand has been in all this. No talk of the devil here at all; the hand of providence is in it all, God's hand. Do not run into wild fire; stick to your Bible. God uses sickness. God uses trial, He lets the devil have a part in it, but it is by God's permission that all this has come. Perhaps it is a long story; perhaps it has taken months, perhaps years, to bring him to this condition.
Well now, what next? Ah, here is the halting place where God brings His next agency. Providence stops for a moment, and now grace comes in. "If there be a messenger with him"....... if there be somebody who understands God's way, that his end is always mercy and His purpose always blessing, "to show unto man His uprightness," God's uprightness, to show him what God's purpose is, to help him to understand God, to submit to God, to listen to God, to put himself in God's hands; if there is only somebody there with a gentle, loving hand, and a faithful touch to press through all the films and help him to get to the heart of God, then, oh, what a change!
"Then He is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom." So here in the very heart of the patriarchal age we have this word. He has been all wrong, but God has a way of making it right, through the very blood of Christ's redemption. Jesus has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. We see this all through the Mosaic teaching. We saw it on a previous page when we were talking about the leper and the two little birds that were used for his cleansing. We saw it in the brazen serpent that was raised on the pole. We have it in the censer of Aaron swinging between the living and the dead. So here we have it, right in the beginning of the Old Testament, the Ransom, Jesus Christ, making settlement on account of our body, substituting His stripes for our sickness and healing us by them.
So this intercessor sits down by Job and tells him about God and then comes the healing. There is no waste of words, but just one sentence: "His flesh shall be fresher than a child's-He shall return to the days of his youth." It is not merely healing; it is regeneration, it is "a converted body," it is life given back in all its freshness. It is not an old man made well, but it is a new heart put into his being and new blood into his veins. It is a renewing of life; it is the deeper teaching of the resurrection life, not the repair shop tinkering you up and letting you go on a little longer in the old break-down way, but it is that something which He is bringing to us in these days, the childhood of nature, it is that deep, sweet love-life of the Lord which He wants to pour into all our being and make us young again.
There is something about this picture of healing that is delightful-"fresher than a child," a buoyant freshness that makes you return to the days of your youth. God wants to make you like a happy, trusting child, and make it so delightful both to Him and you that you will feel it is joy to have Him heal you. He now brings you to a place of closer communion: "He shall pray unto God, and He will be favorable unto him; and he shall see His face with you." You will be brought into a new, sweet place. "He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light."
And he tells us that God often deals thus with men. His real purpose is to make them understand Him, to get them right with Him, and then bless them outwardly as well as inwardly. It is the twelfth chapter of Hebrews, the third epistle of John. It is the soul and body prospering and being in health conjointly. And so shall we not look into our own lives, our own needs, and understand our Father's love? How stupid we have been, how slow and how often we have tried to run from Him!
GOD ALWAYS TEACHING
And then when God is dealing with His children He usually has some deeper lesson for each time. Perhaps you have learned the former lesson and He is now teaching you something more, and the process may be a little slow and a little long. God has something to say that you have not yet heard.
The whole key to this passage seems to be, God speaking and man not understanding. "Man perceiveth not." Perhaps you have learned the lesson of your first and second healing, and now He has something else to teach you. There is a strange, sweet reluctance upon His part here. He speaks once, or even twice, before He brings sickness, and then He is so quick to remove it if we will open our ears and turn our hearts to Him. Never let us lose confidence in His perfect love. He does not want to break our spirit, or let it get hard, resentful or discouraged. He loves us, forevermore, and He wants us to trust His love and through His love to get hold of His life.