IN Job we see what the pride of man's nature is, and in Job we also see what the superabundant grace of God is. Proud, stiff, hard, rebellious, presumptuous is every man by nature, without exception. Satan was in the great transgression when he tempted our first parents, and the seed or principle of this great transgression is in every child of Adam. Carnal enmity is in the mind, which is the root of that sin; and, therefore, if God will save a man, and he will save all his elect, then he must deal marvelously with him in order to set him apart for himself.
But now take notice that God hath set apart or marvelously separated for himself him that obtains mercy (Ps. 4:3), and I think this was exemplified in Job if ever it was under heaven; and God has left upon record his dealings with Job, and Job's conduct in it all; enough to show what is in man, and enough to show what God will do with his elect whom he loves; that is, show to them all inimitable long-suffering. His will is to break the pride of their power, and overcome their evil with his good. Man is born a wild-ass's colt (Job 11:12); but some among those wild asses are found to be redeemed with a lamb; and therefore their neck is not to be broken. This was a law of old, and this law is in force, and valid to this day. (Ex. 13:13) "Every firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb; and if thou wilt not redeem it, then thou shalt break his neck." Job's neck was not to be broken; only the destruction of the flesh was designed. He was delivered over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. Happy lot fallen into Job's lap! The whole disposing thereof was of the Lord. (Prov. 16:33) The elect of God shall not miss or come short of any good thing contained in the self- abasing covenant of grace, whether it be correction, or mercy, or loving-kindness; all shall be given. They have a right by covenant, by promise, by oath, by blood, to all this. All his know him not as yet, but he knows them. "I know my sheep;" and in due time they know him. God can and will be marvelous in his saints, and will compel them to say, "Marvellous are thy works, and that my soul knoweth right well." He will make all his people acknowledge that he hath dealt wondrously with them. (Joel 2:26) Job did foolishly in lifting up himself, and it was long before he was brought to lay his hand upon his mouth, and say, "I am vile;" but that is the certain spot to which all are brought whom God saves. "There is hope of a tree if it be cut down;" and there were hopes of Job's tree when God cut him down. They whom God afflicts in soul are the objects of his love, and he makes them pass through fire and through water before they come into the wealthy place (Ps. 66:12)) into which Job came at last, after he had been tried, as he himself by faith predicted. "When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold." But he had to pass through much affliction, and was refined as silver is refined, and tried as gold is tried. But the Lord knew what he was about to do with him, although he could not himself see which way it would turn. "The Lord hath his way in the sea, and his path in great waters; and his footsteps are not known," or understood by human reason. But what he does the sinner may not know now, but he shall know hereafter. A light shall shine upon his path, and by God's light he shall walk through darkness.
But darkness was now set in Job's path. (19:8) There was a sad reverse to all his former prosperity, when he washed his steps with butter, and the rock poured him out rivers of oil. But this affliction ended well; it profited him more than all his outward prosperity had done. The Lord knows the souls of his people in adversities; and in affliction they will seek the Lord. (Hos. 5:15; Ps. 31:7) This counsel was given to Job: "I would seek unto God, and unto God would I commit my cause," "who doeth great things past finding out; yea, and wonders without number." If others are ignorant of themselves, the chosen of God shall not be. He will reason with them, and show them what they are! (Amos 4:13) He declareth to a man what is his thought; that is, turns him inside out, discovers to him all his corrupt ways, and leads him into the chambers of imagery, one after another, saying, "Hast thou seen this? I will show thee greater abominations than these." Often does he deal with his elect in a way which perfectly baffles all human wisdom, and confounds them, as it did Job, who, we read, walked in the fear of God, and was now dealt with apparently as his enemy, as a sinner: "Behold, he counteth me for his enemy;" "Counteth me unto him as one of his enemies." This was the judgment of the flesh and unbelief; and all appearances seemed to justify Job's words; but it was not so. "I have wounded thee with the wound of an enemy" (Jer. 30:14), apparently. "I will meet thee as a bear bereft of her whelps, and 1 will rend the caul off their heart." God thrust him down, and down he went into the horrible pit, or pit of noise, in which we hear many voices; the voice of God in his law, the voice of conscience, the voice of the flesh, the voice of Satan, and the voice of the world (Ps. 71:11), saying, "God hath forsaken him." In this day of adversity the soul is called to consider. "All thy waves and thy billows are gone over me," said one. "Will the Lord cast off for ever?" or completely. "Does his promise fail for evermore?" It is hard at such a time to hold fast, or to keep what we have attained to. "Hold fast that which thou hast," is a counsel not easily complied with. Many disputings and many questionings arise, which cause the soul to despond and droop. Hence the path of a believer is called a warfare, a fight, a struggle; and the children of God find it to be so, for they are not all faith. There is unbelief in the heart which shows itself, at times, to the great distress and annoyance of the soul, which is ready to say, "If I had called, and he had answered, yet would I not believe that he had hearkened to my voice." (Job 9:16) Here is the voice of unbelief: "Deep calleth unto deep," for "he breaketh me with a tempest, and multiplieth my wounds without cause." God was come to try Job, and to show what he had done, and could do for him; but Job's thoughts were that he was come to destroy him. He could not see to the bottom of this dark dispensation. "He covereth himself with a cloud; so our prayer cannot pass through." (Lam. 3:44.) There is a cloud on the throne. "He hides himself, and who then can see or behold him?" The soul sits in darkness, and has no clear light or comfort. There are many tossings to and fro, when the soul is in such a state, and many sad conclusions does it draw.
By terrible things in righteousness" does God often answer his people. (Ps. 65:5) When the cry of Israel came up before God, we should have expected deliverance was at hand, and would come immediately; but a double tale of bricks was demanded, and the people were driven from the face of Pharaoh. We read of the Lord "waiting that he may be gracious;" that he bears long, and that deliverance is delayed, because he is a God of judgment. (Isa. 30:18) Waiting is not easy; it is not an easy posture; but he who has undertaken the cause of his people gives that grace of waiting and enduring which nature cannot afford or produce. But the God of all grace can, and he supplies the soul of his people with that grace which they stand in need of with an invisible hand, and upholds their soul in hope that deliverance will come at the fixed and appointed time. "It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord." (Lam. 3:26) Oftentimes hope seems ready to fail and give up the ghost; but some encouragement is given and light in a dark season. "The Lord will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish." (Prov. 10:3) He "knows how to succour them that are tempted," and they shall be holpen with a little help." This help is much needed, and therefore truly acceptable. God never altogether leaves or forsakes his people, though he may try them to the utmost: "The Lord trieth the righteous." And then we read of "the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried by fire." This trial is sharp, but profitable to the soul. This is a time to consider. The Lord calls us to a diligent search, to search his word, to examine ourselves, whether we he in the faith: "My spirit made diligent search." (Ps. 77:6) A time to cry to God. We are not to conclude upon every dismal feeling that all is gone, temptations are not meant to discourage, nor is our instability intended to dismay us. Temptations are the lot of God's family, and a feeling sense of our instability is intended to drive us from all confidence in the flesh. Satan labors hard at such a time to cause us to despond, because we are so weak and unstable. But all this in the end will do good. His fiery darts show us what an implacable enemy we have, and what need we have of divine power to keep us. We are left to feel our weakness, that we may trust in nothing short of the power of God, and we are led by degrees to know more and more of the excellent beauty and majesty, pity and power of the great God and our Saviour Jesus, which are not discovered all at once to the soul.
For it increaseth." There is no growth in grace without continual changes. We must be "emptied from vessel to vessel," and know what spiritual captivity means, otherwise we shall savor too much of the old cask, as Moab of old did, who was settled upon his lees, and at ease in the flesh; and therefore his taste remained in him, and his scent was not changed. As afflictions abound, so will consolation; and knowledge and stability are obtained, not only by an increasing tide of love and peace, but by the severe conflicts we have with our own flesh. What with the enemies of God, and with Satan, the enemy both of God and of man, changes and war were against Job. (10:17) The flesh cries out for ease; but the Lord is a man of war. (Isa. 42:13) "The Lord shall go forth as a mighty man; he shall stir up jealousy like a man of war;" and wherever he comes, he comes to fight against the sinner with the sword of his mouth, and make the elect sinner fight himself; and we may say with truth, "There is war in the camp." (Judg. 5:8) Perpetual war against, no peace with our flesh, no peace with Satan, none with the world; and oftentimes the Lord himself seems against us. He makes war upon all our corrupt notions of ourselves, and of himself, and makes his own word mighty to the pulling down of all strongholds of sin and Satan.
This war, though apparently against us, is in reality for us. God is come as a swift witness against us, that we may be condemned as men in the flesh, but "live according to God in the spirit." (1 Pet. 4:6) "I will fight against them with the sword of my mouth." (Rev. 2:16) This word is the word which cuts down all opposition in the sinner's heart; and this war increaseth. God will not lay on man more than is right, that "he should enter into judgment with him" (Job 34:23); for he will be justified, not only in his sayings, but also in his doings; and so Job found it in the end. He will have us to know that we are enemies, and to fall down before him, saying, God be merciful to me, a sinner." When this is obtained, and while experienced, there is no more contention. It is as long as we have a word in our mouth to reply against God that he fights against us. "I was dumb! I opened not my mouth." (Ps. 39:9) The Lord suffers some of his people to carry on a long war with him, but in the end he will always have the upper hand. Who ever fought against him and prospered? Shame and confusion of face is our lot as long as this war goes on. He shall fight, yea, and war. He " shall prevail against his enemies." (Isa. 42:13) But this is to make them friends, that the sinner may in the end come down and sit in the dust, and acknowledge himself a transgressor. "Only acknowledge thine iniquity that thou hast transgressed against me, the Lord thy God." (Jer. 3:13) How hard it is to bring a man to this acknowledgment. When he comes here, he hears no rebuke." "The proud he beholdeth afar off," and beholds this sinner afar until he is humbled to accept the punishment of his iniquity.
If, then, their uncircumcised hearts be humbled," &c., says God, in Lev. 26:40-42, "then will I remember," &c. And what was this but a covenant of life and peace, a covenant of free grace to the worst of sinners? Here, then, is the discovery of free grace made; and God declares himself pacified; for all that they have comes by remembering his covenant made with his dear Son, that "by the blood of his covenant he would send forth his prisoners out of the pit." The Lord's way is very straight; it is we who make it crooked. "For the ways of the Lord are right," and into this path will he direct or guide the feet of his saints; that is, the path of peace (Luke 1:79); which path it is, indeed, as well as a path of life. Our ways are crooked. "Are not my ways equal?"
"Thou huntest me as a fierce lion." The Lord sometimes compares himself to a lion, sometimes to a moth, the most insignificant, and sometimes to the meanest of his creatures. To a moth, because it eats woollen garments; so does the curse eat the garment which the old Adam is clothed with, that is, his sheepskin. To a lion, because "a lion is the strongest among beasts, and turneth not away for any;" so the Lord Jesus is called "the Lion of the tribe of Judah," who will break all the bones of the sinner, as he did David's when he sinned against him: "Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice." He was breaking Job's bones at this time; but there came a time when these bones rejoiced and were set again, and Job was like a hart when the forgiveness of his sins was sealed home upon his heart. "All my bones shall say, Lord, who is like unto thee," "who forgivest all thy sins, and healest all thy diseases?" Hezekiah passed through the same discipline, and he says, "I reckoned till morning, that, as a lion, so will he break all my bones. From day even to night wilt thou make an end of me." And yet this ended not in the destruction of either soul or body, but in love to his soul God delivered him from the pit of destruction, and cast all his sins behind his back. Both Job and Hezekiah were beloved of God, although he dealt so hardly with them; but love was in all his secret dealings with them. Fatherly chastisement, not vindictive wrath, was their portion. God will beat them with a rod here, not with eternal stripes in hell. God delivered both from it, first by blood, and then by power. "These were redeemed from among men," therefore could not perish; and their redemption secured to them all this severe chastisement, because they were sons, not bastards, who are dealt with otherwise than sons are. Their portion, as sons, is rich, free, unmerited grace. They receive it because they are sons, and rejoice in their portion. They are children of the free woman, not of the bond. "You only have I known; therefore I will punish you for your iniquities." (Amos 3:2)
"And again thou showest thyself marvellous upon me." The word again signifies to return; and that may mean to alter his dispensations towards him. "Wilt thou not return and visit us, that thy people may rejoice in thee?" There is a time when the Lord favors his people with returnings of his presence, and they return to the day of their youth; and whatever Job might mean by this word now, so it was indeed that the Lord showed him marvelous kindness in his latter end. Job might mean, and very likely his unbelief suggested at the time, "God was multiplying his wounds," as he says, "without cause" (9:17); but whatever were Job's thoughts of the Lord towards him, the Lord had thoughts of peace, not of evil; and Job found this to be true in his latter end. His horn was now defiled in the dust, but it was to be exalted, and he was to be anointed with fresh oil.
As it was with Job, so it is with all the children of God. Marvelous loving-kindness is their lot and portion. If the Lord deal roughly with them, it is called "magnifying them and setting his heart upon them" (Job 7:17); and if he show love in this, how much more in pardoning iniquity! There the Lord appears in all his glory. "When the Lord shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory" (Ps. 1102:16); for love edifies or builds up, fatherly displeasure is designed to pull down. "I wound and I heal." Job was to be dealt marvelously with; and James says, "Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord, that the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy." His aim was to humble Job, he would not have let Satan roar upon him had he been humbled before; but he was delivered into Satan's hands that he might know how frail he was. Satan, the accuser, soon brought charges against him; and I cannot forbear thinking that Job concluded it was the Lord that did it all. It is true the Lord exhibited the hand-writing and put fresh terror in the law to condemn him; but Satan added to the misery. Satan is called "the accuser of the brethren;" and not without cause. But the Lord did not leave Job in his hands, neither will he the guiltiest wretch that rightly looks to the Lord Jesus to be saved. "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth." Job looked there, so did Jonah, so did Hezekiah; so do all the children of God in our time. "They looked unto him and were lightened, and their faces were not ashamed."
The Lord remembered Job, as it is said of Noah; and after he had humbled him, and discovered by Elihu the way which he takes with his own dear elect, he raised him up out of his affliction. To be greatly abased, is to be greatly exalted. Great terrors of conscience are the lot of those whom God would highly exalt. Therefore fear not to sink too low. The lower you sink, the higher you will rise; the deeper the affliction, the higher the joys; the lower the ebb, the higher the tide.
The Lord's dealings are not to be measured by human wisdom. He removed Job "out of a strait into a broad place wherein there was no straitness," and that which was set on his table was full of fatness. (Job 36:16) "God sets on high those that be low, that they which mourn may be exalted to safety." (Job 5:11)