The argument implied in the poem seems to be this: that Job, seeing God so far before him in power, and his works so far beyond his understanding that they filled him with wonder and admiration, ought to have reasoned that he who could work so grandly must certainly use wisdom in things that touched him nearer, though they came no nearer his understanding. In this world, power is no proof of righteousness; but was it likely that he who could create should be unrighteous? Did not all he made delight the beholding man? Did such things foreshadow injustice towards the creature he had made in his image? If Job could not search his understanding in these things, why should he conclude his own case wrapt in the gloom of injustice? Might he not trust him to do him justice? God’s ways with him might well be beyond his comprehension! The true child, the righteous man, will trust absolutely, against all appearances, the God who has created in him the love of righteousness.
God does not tell Job why he had afflicted him: he rouses his child-heart to trust. All the rest of Job’s life on earth, I imagine, his slowly vanishing perplexities would yield him ever fresh meditations concerning God and his ways, new opportunities of trusting him. Everything which we cannot understand is a closed book of larger knowledge, whose clasps the blessed perplexity urges us to open. That God knows is enough for me; I shall know, if I can know.
Through the Gloom of Injustices
by Dave Roney
There is a debate runs through the book of Job between him and his friends, which is lengthy but not very sophisticated; how much of animus it generated between the besieged and his antagonists I am not sure; at least some is evident, though being divorced from the actual event as we are, and tending to read the very visceral account more or less analytically, that degree is hard to determine; it is apparent to me that one would needs have been a fly on the wall to fully appreciate the reality.
Any debate is, or ought to be, a polite form of argument, the intelligent presentation of coherent thoughts which, through a process of deduction, lead to a judgment; in condensed form it is syllogistic in nature, having a major premise, minor premise, and a conclusion. We find it in both Job's argument and that of his friends: His friends say “All who are unrighteous suffer; you are suffering; ergo, you are unrighteous.” From Job's point of view; “God is unjust if He causes the righteous to suffer; I am righteous and I am suffering; ergo, God is unjust.” These men, from their opposing sides of the debate, are both sure they are right and the other wrong; what they have failed to take into account is the possibility that both may be wrong. And both were wrong, Job as much so as his misguided friends:
“If Job could not search his understanding in these things, why should he conclude his own case wrapt in the gloom of injustice?”
God unjust? Ah! That is what righteous Job thought. See the 30th chapter! In it he first brings complaint against his friends for their injustice (vs. 1-18) then turns to blame God (vs. 19-23) before then turning to his own misery for the balance of the chapter. Hear what he says of God:
“God has cast me into the mire,
and I have become like dust and ashes.
I cry to You for help and You do not answer me;
I stand, and You only look at me;
You have turned cruel to me;
with the might of Your hand You persecute me.
You lift me up on the wind; You make me ride on it,
and You toss me about in the roar of the storm.
For I know that You will bring me to death
and to the house appointed for all living.”
Do you realize that while his friends blamed Job, Job did that which was far worse, for he blamed God? In retrospect we see that both were wrong, but whose of the two seem the greater sin to you? To blame a man unjustly or to blame God unjustly?
Men may rightly form an opinion when insufficient reason is available for them to form any higher thought, especially as regards a conclusion; an opinion is like unto what the Lord said concerning a house built flat on the ground without foundation; within the immediate context of His great Sermon He is condemning it, but He does not always condemn it—for many long years the Tabernacle was that place where God dwelt among His people, and it had no foundation. And the Tabernacle is like unto an opinion, in the sense that both can be readily pulled up and moved. What foolishness would it have been had men dug and laid a foundation for the Tabernacle, as though it were to be affixed to the sand. And what of a man who, having nothing better than his opinion, should anchor it in the shifting sand of thought and imagination, then count it permanent?
Both Job and his friends established their arguments upon sand, that of opinion. Neither knew fact, the less did they have access to the truth which is borne upon the tide of revelation. Both were wrong in their ill formed conclusions. Yet, as we shall see by the end of the book, God blessed Job but condemned his friends. How can this be? If both sides of the debate were wrong, the friends in how they understood God to work, and Job as to what the character of God is, then how can God be Just if He approves either? I see that whereas Job only put down tent pegs to hold his opinion in place, his friends dug a deep foundation for their opinions; we shall shortly see repentance in the man, at once when he knew better, but not a word of it concerning his friends; God laid to them blame and in mercy had Job make sacrifice for them:
“'Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.' So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the LORD had told them, and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer.” (Job 42:8-9)
What is the chief difference, then, by which God smiles upon one man who is wrong but frowns on another man who is wrong? We could debate that, according to our several opinions, and forget the lesson at hand that sometimes in debate it is not either/or but both parties who are in the wrong. Yet, even as with Job, God has given us further revelation of Himself to help us; God is always revealing and never concealing Himself; He is as transparent to a man as a man allows; through forward pointing Scripture He revealed more and more of Himself over long centuries, ultimately showing Himself fully open as to nature, will, mind, purpose, in His great Son. And now add to that increased revelation the Spirit given to us as our Guide into even deeper truth concerning Him.
God does not hold to the charge of a man that which he has done wrong, but only that which he continues to do wrong; it goes without saying this same applies to a man's thinking, to his attitude, to all there is about him; the intent of God is not to upbraid but to transform, not to condemn but to redeem, to lead or else prod a man to be perfect even as He is perfect; to have in him the same mind that is in Christ Jesus; He can bring no darkness for He is Light, no death for He is Life, no bondage for He is perfect Liberty, no discord for He is our Peace. God will allow what we see as destruction to befall us if that is for our best; it is the Fire of intense pain coming from the Heart which loves intensely; it is for our best, though we might desire less, the good only, a thing He is incapable of giving us. And do we not know that when the child is in pain the Father is in more pain?
Did we think Him aloof, distant, uncaring, when unspeakable grief has betaken us? Did we accuse Him of unjustness in the midnight of our travail, as though He were an unfaithful God, an inconsiderate Father, some derelict Deity? There is a further lesson we should learn from Job: God did not set upon him, but allowed Satan to do it. A man will use many a tool to produce his work,
As though we deserved better? O! Indeed we deserve better, but only when we are better! We are His gold, He will refine it; we are His diamonds, rough and scaly; He will facet and polish us so that we refract His light which has first penetrated us, reflect it to our brothers and sisters, become the crown jewels fit for His diadem, His heart, that secret place within Himself where He keeps His treasure, His children, the living stones of His making. “To this very day My Father is at His work, and I too am working” says our Lord; but how does God work? Think of it; in the vintner's barn will be found many tools for his trade, and oaken casks for aging his spirits; much work will be done by him of which the connoisseur may neither understand nor even be aware. So it is with Him Who refuses to put new wine into old wine-skins, for in His work He is making all things new.
To the earlier question, then, “What is the chief difference” by which a Just God favors one man who is wrong yet condemns another who is also wrong, comes this answer: the one man, Job, is wrong through ignorance and would know better if he could, while the friends of Job did not see themselves as ignorant but were sure, and therefore implacable, that they were right. When a man is wrong but his heart is right, God finds no offense in him—whatever his error, if his heart is right, which includes that he has an open mind amiable to change, the Lord will show him his error in due time and when shown he will, even though it cause within him a struggle, leave his former understanding and accept the new.
For this the Lord must oft times allow the tares to grow amidst the wheat; to pull them up early would injure the crop. Thus in Job's case He allowed injustice to flourish for what must have been to the wounded man an interminably long period of ever increasing agony. But Job was the wheat among the three tares, sown by the hater of our souls; he remained righteous in the eyes of God even though he was wrong concerning Him.
In the end, when God had probed him with questions, had opened his understanding, Job exclaims and admits his folly, “I have uttered what I did not understand.” I am not sure, even then, that he fully understood it. But that is itself a portion of God's purpose in allowing the catastrophe, perhaps even the entire purpose of it; for He would teach His child to trust Him:
“God does not tell Job why He had afflicted him: He rouses his child-heart to trust. All the rest of Job's life on earth, I imagine, his slowly vanishing perplexities would yield him ever fresh meditations concerning God and His ways, new opportunities of trusting Him.”
And I would finally address what is, as I suppose, a much overlooked fact concerning the account given in the book of Job. Namely, that we tend to see it, in the end, as a “just so” tale which has what we desire, a “happily ever after” ending. The final words uttered by Job in the account are “Therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
But Job had long before this sat himself down in the corpse of a burned out fire and flung the ashes over himself, a sign of mourning in his day. And here is the difference; in the former case he had mourned for himself and his misery; in the latter his mourning was for how badly he had misunderstood his God. And we note that he came to repent himself before, not after, God restored his people and goods to him. He did not repent as one who does so upon receipt of blessing; that one repents because of the good things of and from God rather than for God Himself apart from good things or, as with Job, for evil things brought to bear upon him.
We must have in mind, then, that yes—Job's account ended with a “happily ever after” resolve, but that is not often enough the case in life. Job came to trust God while his afflictions still bore down upon him; he listened to the unanswerable questions poised by God while his body was yet wracked with pain, covered in boils, the smoke still ascending from his burnt down lodging, the dirt covering his children's graves still mounded up fresh before his eyes, his wife still carping, his friends still accusing—in the midst of all this he came to trust God. He trusted God when everything which makes this life livable, desirable, was still stripped away from him.
God restored his good things to him in his lifetime; many there are who suffer in innocence during this life and are never compensated in this manner; they shall have all which is dear to them, if it be the best things for them, if not in this life then surely in the next; but they must trust God without regard to such benefits. They must trust God when the bottom drops from their world. Though He slay them, yet they must trust Him:
“Everything which we cannot understand is a closed book of larger knowledge, whose clasps the blessed perplexity urges us to open. That God knows is enough for me; I shall know, if I can know.”
There will always be that which we do not know in this life, for which we must trust God; and the more we come to know will be matched step for step by an increasing amount of things we do not, or cannot, know; thus, as life proceeds for us also our trust in God must ever increase. And to learn to trust God is more often worked out, by various degrees, through agony than through ecstasy...
The Child-Heart Roused
by Dave Roney
“—All the days of my appointed time I will wait, till my change come.”
(from Job 14:13-15)
I was like Peter when he began to sink.
To Thee a new prayer therefore I have got—
That, when Death comes earnest to my door,
Thou would'st Thyself go, when the latch doth clink,
And lead him to my room, up to my cot;
Then hold Thy child's hand, hold and leave him not,
Till Death has done with him for evermore.
(From “Diary of an Old Soul”)
“I know my Redeemer lives...Whom I shall see for myself... How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27)
It is as though the Lord held the Hound of Hell on a short leash, and allowed the mutt to maul His son, then jerked him back and in sternest voice commanded “Stay! For you may not take his life!” God and Satan both witness the events playing out, neither enters into the scenes, and Satan, held on the Divine leash, can only slaver and cringe as the pride by which he boastfully challenged God unravels before him; for he has done his worst and Job still clings to the blamelessness and uprightness which God had declared concerning him. And at some unrecorded point it is, I think, as though God dismisses the Devil, commanding him “Depart from Me; into the outer darkness with you!” And from old Apollyon is heard no more.
How are we to understand the integrity of the man Job? In the narrative he reveals a changing of mind and mood as though a blind man groping here and there to find what he cannot see; he thinks God unfair to him, then says there is no justice, in his misery he even comes to blame God, and yet nowhere does God condemn him; how is this? It is ever the same with God: He does not hold a man accountable for that which is impossible for him; He holds a man accountable for his faithfulness to the light he has. For all his life, Job was obedient to all he knew to be obedient and was seamlessly faithful to it, remained faithful in this his time of woe. To him who is faithful in little will be given more, and much, and through this terrible ordeal set upon Job, the Lord will reveal more of Himself to him than to any other man of his day. Let no man look at Job and think he should have, could have, done better with his suffering for he could not; he was doing the best any man ever could. And for this God did not condemn.
Nor does He condemn you, if and when you are caught in the jaws of your calamity and your suffering has to you become insurmountable, when you think Him unkind, or unfair to you, or unjust, when you shake your fist at Him in a backlash of anger and frustration. In such case you are in the place of Job; you would not think so of Him if you knew better, but your knowledge is then and thereby shown to be more of mind than heart, more of logic than love, more of opinions you have held, or traditions and doctrines taught, than of the express Truth in the face of Jesus. And God our Father is, as with Job, allowing your events and circumstances to work as a Fire within you, to purge from you all your dross, and to conform you to the image of His Son. It is often that He allows the shroud of darkness to envelop us, when we cannot see or sense His face (though He is never far removed, and His hand of Love is faithfully gripping us); His Light was always there, but often the glare of the world and self has dimmed our perception of it; it is in darkness that the Light shines brightest, when even the dimmest eyes are able to perceive it against the blackened backdrop, who then gain their sense of direction and begin to move toward the Source of Light, their Father.
We are the children of God, but O! such childish children we often are! What have we learned of our Lord? I think many of those reading these lines have learned Him wrongly, faithful to what they have been taught and have never questioned. Do we gauge His goodness by what we decide is His blessing in our lives and for our good? An entire movement within Christendom is telling us that God intends for His children to have health, wealth, and success now; that this is a proof of personal spiritual integrity and blamelessness, the seal upon the believer of God's approval. But God would bring us to Paul's great conclusion in the eighth of Romans, that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. “In this world, power,” says MacDonald, “is no proof of righteousness” —the power of station, of prosperity, of comeliness and health, of peace and safety; power manifested in every way which estranges our minds and hearts from the knowledge that “when I am weak, then am I strong.”
It is also needful to say that in some respects Job may serve as a model for us, but in others he cannot. Namely, that in the end God restored all that which Job had lost, which makes for a “happily ever after” ending to the poem. The final prosperity of the man can, then, be understood either in the things of God (His blessings) or in God Himself (the Blesser). I dare say that for every earthly “happy ending” such as was Job's there are multiplied millions of cases where the faithful children of God are stripped of possessions and health, of any future restoration in this life, of any hope for such, who are hated and savaged and martyred, of whom the world is unworthy; and God does not inform these as to why He allows such calamity and heartbreak to befall them any more than He did Job: “God does not tell Job why He had afflicted him; He rouses his child-heart to trust.”
Trust and obedience go hand in hand, but not always. There is an obedience which comes from discipline, and another which comes from a will set to do what is right, and yet another form of obedience which is bred of fear. But there is a yet higher, deeper, more profound form of obedience which comes from trust; it is the obedience of a small child who trusts his good father, obedience done willingly rather than by discipline, be it self-imposed or through external pressure; obedience where the child leaves off his opinion of what is right and readily accepts what his father tells and shows him is right; obedience where fear has no foothold but flees at the soft sounding footfall heralding that obedience which is bound up in the embrace of loving relationship. It is the trust based obedience of him who wills to do, rather than know, the will of The Will regardless of appearances: “The true child, the righteous man, will trust absolutely, against all appearances, the God Who has created in him the love of righteousness... Everything which we cannot understand is a closed book of larger knowledge, whose clasps the blessed perplexity urges us to open."
And what is here said to be the “clasp” of a closed book is in the opening quote (from the “Diary”) called the “the latch [that] doth clink.” And whether it be the living-death of torments or the dying-death of our bodies in this present life, in either case, and equally so, let us learn to face the one equally as the other and all which lies between, against all appearances, with a faith built upon growing waverless devotion, and loving trust in Him Who is ever Faithful. Neither Job nor we shall learn it in a day, but as a thriving process worked out in time, events, and circumstances. God will not often explain to us the why behind the dark what's of life; but what matters that to those who trust Him? “That God knows is enough for me; I shall know if I can know.” And if I cannot know, if I should never know, it is still enough for me; for with Job each of us can honestly, humbly, lovingly, trustingly say; “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him!”
When I look back upon my life nigh spent,
Nigh spent, although the stream as yet flows on,
I more of follies than sin repent,
Lest for offense than Love's shortcomings moan.
With self, O Father, leave me not alone—
Leave not with the beguiler the beguiled;
Besmirched and ragged, Lord, take back Thine own:
A fool I bring Thee, to be made a child.
(From the Poetic Works)