The Voice of Job

O that thou wouldst hide me in the grave, that thou wouldst keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldst appoint me a set time, and remember me! If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands.

— Job 14: 13-15

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.

Commentary

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)