A RICH find of spiritual instruction for the spiritual mind is provided in this wonderful book--a book which describes God's gracious dealings with a favored child of His. In it God's judgment is revealed against everything pertaining to Job's fleshly nature, and God's mercy is seen showered upon him in all the trials he endured as a son whom the Father had received. This is not peculiar to Job, for it is the lot of all who are found in the same family--loved by the same Father--redeemed by the same blood--justified in the same righteousness, and cared for with the same no small care. "He careth for you" is true in the experience of all whom the Lord teaches by His Word and Spirit to cast all their care upon Him--those who are taught and guided by the same Teachers, and all through the One Shepherd. (Eccle. 12:11) Here we see the glorious truth of the Trinity in Unity and Unity in Trinity. All that we can know of the Father as our Father, is in and by Jesus Christ, through the gracious blending of the glories of Godhead with the sympathies of manhood in the Person of the Covenant Surety, "THE WORD MADE FLESH," or, as we have been singing--
Here we are heirs of the same inheritance, and partakers of the same hope of possessing the same joy, the joy of the redeemed--the joy of heaven which is a Smiling God, Whose heart of love is revealed in the Face of Jesus Christ--Whose compassions flow to us in the blood of "the Lamb Which is in the midst of the throne."
Now Job was a participator in all these things; and that fact, those of us who are spiritually acquainted with his history can fully understand. He was a man very dear to His God--Father, Redeemer, and Comforter. In the midst of his deep trials and temptations he could say with confidence, "Thou hast granted me life and favour, and Thy visitation hath preserved my spirit." (Job 10:12) He delighted in those covenant blessings which God revealed to him in that Blessed One Whom he describes in the midst of that excruciating experience detailed by him in his 19 chapter, "I know that my Redeemer liveth--in my flesh shall I see God--Whom I shall see for myself--mine eyes shall behold, and not a stranger." Job knew this full well, for his Redeemer was his Persuader, and having the root of the matter in him he was abundantly satisfied with his hope, and the ground of it. May you and I be graciously kept in the same enjoyment. Some persons say that Job was a self-righteous man, but I am persuaded they know not what they are talking about. If God would graciously direct their minds to the consideration of self, they would find self-righteousness enough there. But as we are led to study the character of Job according to God's description of him, we shall come to a different conclusion concerning him, not that I would have you conclude for a moment that Job was wanting at all in self-righteousness. Why! Bless you! we are all self-righteous--every one of us. Look at us when we are left to the spirit of self-consideration; forgetful of what God has made us in Christ Jesus--there we are as self-righteous as we can be. Self-vindication is our natural spirit, and self-assertion frequently wearies and wounds those near and dear to us, and who are compelled to put up with us. Yes, we all are so when left to ourselves, and we desire not the company of the man who says he is not.
We will look at Job as he appears in this blessed Book. We are told that he is a myth. Learned wise-acres says so; but we do not believe them. The Holy Ghost says, "there was a man"--not a myth. See Ezek. 14:14, "Though these three men, Noah, Daniel and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD." "There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job." Then mark well the minute description given of him by the Holy Ghost, "that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil." (Job 1:1) He was perfect in the perfection of his Redeemer. He was upright in the uprightness of his Daysman. He was a God-fearing man, looking for God's delivering grace from evil and error every day of his life. Job was wonderfully rich--"the greatest of all the men of the east." This tells us that it is not sinful to be rich--that there is no evil in money, but in the love of it. See! "For the love of money is the root of all evil." (1 Tim. 6:10) Riches are God's bountiful bestowment according to 1 Chron. 29:12, "Both riches and honour come of Thee, and Thou reignest over all; and in Thine hand is power and might; and in Thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all." "If riches increase, set not your heart upon them." (Ps. 62:10) Mark you, I speak honestly when I say, I object not to the increase of riches; but I do pray God to keep me from hankering after them. Job's being rich placed him in the way of temptation, and when the stripping time came, he would, no doubt, feel it keenly. But with all his inward repinings he offended not with his tongue, but with grateful acquiescence cried, "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the Name of the LORD." (chap. 1:21) The Spirit of Jesus Christ dwelt blessedly in Job, and as the Faithful Witness to the everlasting covenant of grace He will not fail to encourage and confirm all those who are brought into spiritual association with the Christ of God in His sufferings and sovereignty.
While Job had to do with God direct he was all right. When he had to do with creatures like himself he was all wrong. In the experience of the soreness of his body and the solitude of his soul, his wife was no helpmeet to him. Listen to her--"Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die. But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What! shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this Job sinned not with his lips." (chap. 2:9,10) I am afraid I should have done so with mine. Then Job's three friends would come to comfort him, but comfort him they could not. They said many good things to him; but not one of them said the right thing. They thought they understood Job's case thoroughly--they knew nothing at all about it. Such is the case with many. They think they can advise, and counsel and comfort, while all they can do is to distress and distract. If there are any here whose minds are thus exercised with ideas of their own cleverness, I would in all solemnity ask the Blessed Spirit to teach them the true and right way. "The heart knoweth his own bitterness; and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy." (Prov. 14:10) There you see both sides of a gracious experience. Bitters mingling with the sweets. Sorrows alternating with the joys. Peace enjoyed in the midst of conflict. This is the experience of every trueborn child of God. Of the fleshly, freewill ravings of his friends Job was weary, and he hesitated not to tell them what he thought about them. He styles them "Miserable comforters--forgers of lies--physicians of no value--not fit companions for dogs."
These three have to retire when Elihu appears on the scene. There is much in the meaning of his name. Elihu means, "My God is He." He was the son of Barachel, "The son of the Blessed God." Some say he was Christ, I say he was not; but he is a striking representation of Him. Mark well the outpouring of his heart in reference to God's heart, and God's child Job. Notice his teaching throughout that thirty-third chapter where he sets forth Christ, the Messenger of the covenant--the Interpreter of the Father's will--the One Object of His people's affections--the Deliverer from the pit--the Ransom, Righteousness, and Resurrection of the saints. But with all this precious teaching Elihu must stand on one side "that God may be All in all." This is all through the mediation and intercession of Jesus, known by the teaching of the Holy Ghost. I do not say that the Father may be All in all, or the Holy Ghost All in all, but that God may be All in all. God in His Trinity--God in His Unity. In this Trinity there is not One afore or after Another. There is no first person, second person, or third person, the three are co-equal, co-eternal, and co-essential. Job had personally to do with God, though God appeared to him in the whirlwind. Have you ever had to do with Him there? I have, and shall have, no doubt, again and again, if God gives me long to live outside the gates of glory. "The Lord hath His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet." (Nahum 1:3) When Job had to do with God--God--God--Three in One and One in Three--when he beheld Him in His immaculate purity and impeccable perfection, he cried, "I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth Thee, wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:5,6) Job had heard strange things of God in the request of his wife, "curse God and die." He had heard great things of Him from Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. He had heard gracious things of Him from the heart and lips of Elihu. Now he sees Him, knows Him, and adores Him while his heart loathes self, and turns from man's foolish interference in salvation matters. This is the hallowed and hallowing spot in which every living child of God is found who obtains a glimpse of Him in His glorious gospel as revealed to the heart by the power of the Holy Ghost. Now in the midst of Elihu's utterances we find the words of the text, and very blessed words they are--
"Perfect in knowledge." Where is it? Who has it? What is it? It is the perception of all things with certainty, it is the clear and unmistakable acquaintance with everything through infinite space. Job had it not, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar gave lamentable evidence of their lack of it. Elihu directs attention to the Sole Possessor of it. It is a characteristic truth of the book of Job. Turn to chapter 37:16, "Dost thou know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of Him Which is perfect in knowledge?" The very thought of the immense weight of water contained in the clouds, held in the air without falling to the earth to the destruction of property and the discomfort of men, is a wonder too great for human comprehension. Yet we know that they appear in His purpose and display His power. As illustrations of His wisdom and prudence discovered in the spiritual experience of His exercised people, we sing at times these three blessed verses--
"When frowns appear to veil His face,
And clouds surround His throne,
He hides the purpose of His grace,
To make it better known."
"Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head."
"Often the clouds of deepest woe
A sweet love-message bear,
Dark tho' they seem we cannot find
A trace of anger there."
Whatever the nature of God's dark dispensations may be, hiding His smiling face from view, we shall never be justified in charging Him with want of love. Gracious consideration reveals itself all through this blessed narrative.
"Perfect in knowledge." Overwhelming, yet beautiful as we behold it here. In reading through the Book of God I love to notice every portion in which God's knowledge of me in all my ways, works, words and being, appears. We read something about it in the lesson this morning, that blessed and heart-searching 139th Psalm, a Psalm in which we are led by the Spirit into real heart exercise before Him Who understands all about us, and Who, in spite of all the discoveries of the vileness of the flesh, the world's evil influences over us, and the manifold temptations of the devil, is ever the same in His love and attachment to us. What a blessed thing it is for us to know that the love of our God can never be affected by any or all of the multitudinous failures, falls and faults of His tried and tempted children. Oh, no! The sins we feel and hate are mighty calls upon His forgiving grace. The flagrant falls of the saints recorded in Holy Scripture appear to enhance the care, attention, pity and compassion of Israel's Covenant God displayed to His people.
"Perfect in knowledge." This is graciously true in the experience of the living family of God. The Father of the family will have all His children instructed in this soul-comforting truth, that when He gave us to His Son in covenant before all worlds He knew all about us. "Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world;" (Acts 15:18) and to the end of the world. His works "are great sought out of all them that have pleasure therein;" (Ps. 111:2) and will be seen and acknowledged in them by those whom He teaches and blesses with spiritual enlightenment. Look at that verse at the end of John's gospel, "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one; I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written." That is questioned by the natural mind, and seems to be an exaggeration at times to the spiritually taught. But we know that by Him all things exist and subsist. By Him every grain of sand has its existence. Earth's huge rocky formations, the immense accumulations of sand and grit in solid masses are the productions of His infinite wisdom and consummate skill--the outcome of His glorious operations in creation and providence. Everything the earth contains or produces comes from His hand. "For the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof." (1 Cor. 10:26) Go to Covent Garden, or the Borough Market, and see there daily the marvelous provision for the sustenance of the teeming population around us. He gives--they gather. To each His hand conveys its appointed portion--the food of its allowance. Is this an exaggeration? Faith promptly answers, No. "The world itself could not contain the books that should be written" to tell of the works of Jesus' hand.
But as the gift of the Father to Christ He knows all about me. In the counsels of eternity, in the everlasting covenant of grace, He wrote my name in the Book of life, and there He has written everything that concerns me as His child. He has also a book of remembrance for all that fear Him and think upon His Name. This is a figure of speech setting forth God's eternal and unfailing memory which holds and retains everything respecting the weaklings of His family and the lambs of His flock. There He has our names, blessings, mercies, and supplies, immutably fixed. Let us trace something of this as described in the experience of God's people in His blessed Book. He knows all about our family affairs. This is seen in the case of Abraham, the father of the faithful. When God was about to enter into familiar conversation with him, He said, "I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him." (Gen. 18:19) When our Lord Jesus Christ wanted that awful persecutor of the church, Saul of Tarsus, He knew where to meet with him, and knew his name, for He cried, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me." (Acts 9:4) When he would have Ananias, the godly disciple at Damascus, to go with the message of delivering grace to Saul, He told him the name of the street where Saul dwelt, and the spiritual exercises of his soul, which Ananias found to be exactly true. When the Holy Ghost wants any child of the Father, He knows where to find him: and when He would guide him into the way of peace, into the way of peace that child must go. Sometimes the children of God would go into paths not designed, nor desired, when they cannot. Jonah to Tarshish--God takes him to Nineveh. Paul and Timothy would preach the word in Asia--the Holy Ghost forbad them. "They assayed to go into Bithynia; but the Spirit suffered them not." (Acts 16:6,7) He points the way when an heir of God must walk in it, and He will hinder altogether when the favored one would, according to the bias of his carnal mind, walk contrary to the mind of God as set down in His blessed Book.
"He that is perfect in knowledge." What a wonderful truth we have here. He knew all about us in our predestination to the adoption of sons so clearly revealed in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians. The will of God in Christ Jesus is there minutely described. "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will." (v5) "Having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself." (v9) Again, "In Whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him Who worketh all things after the counsel of His Own will." (v11) All things concerning me have a place in His eternal mind. When I retire from this pulpit, which way shall I turn? I do not know; but, "He knows." I am weak enough at times to say I will go in this or that direction when I have to learn afresh that my ways are His--not mine. He has taught me many salutary lessons, that I am not to be too hasty in my conclusions. I am not my own, and never shall be while I am down here, nor to the ages of eternity. Of Israel in Egypt He says to Moses, "I know their sorrows." (Exod. 3:7) You notice in the 33rd chapter where it is recorded that "the LORD spake to Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend," and said unto him, "Thou hast found grace in My sight, and I know thee by name." (v17) It is recorded of Jeremiah that God had early dealings with him. He says, "Then the Word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee; and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." (Jer. 1:4,5) Then notice His Covenant mindfulness to the people of His choice, "I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end." (Jer. 29:11) You notice also how God reveals His knowledge of the designs and devices of the enemies of His people in His message to Rabshakeh, "But I know thy abode, and thy going out, and thy coming in, and thy rage against Me." (Isa. 37:28) The rage of His foes and the repose of His friends are all at His command.
The Book of Psalms is well stored with this soul comforting truth. Turn to Psalm 1:6, "For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous; but the way of the ungodly shall perish." The way of life which is always upward and the way of death is ever downward are equally known by Him; but the former is His delight. Come with me to Psalm 37:18, "The LORD knoweth the days of the upright; and their inheritance shall be for ever." The ways and the days of His people are His constant concern and care, it matters not what the state of the days may be. It is our wisdom to "Consider the work of God: for who can make the straight which He hath made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him." (Eccles. 7:13,14) Here we are confirmed in the fact that there is no altering the course God has arranged for the spiritual education of His children. Things which are crooked to our weak sight will appear all the more crooked by our meddling. He teaches us to profit as He opens our understandings to see and acknowledge that His straight things can never be made crooked by the combined efforts of earth and hell. Mark this well, "We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not." (1 John 5:18) Satan cannot mar God's work. Man cannot hinder God's salvation. Dear William Gadsby delighted to say, "God's salvation God cannot mend, and devils cannot mar." God's perfect knowledge of His people in their perplexities is beautifully expressed by David in Psalm 142:3, "When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then Thou knewest my path." When the whirling billows of God's mysterious providence overpower us--when no small tempest lies on us, and all hope that we shall be saved is taken away--when we cannot lift a finger to help ourselves, His own arm works salvation, and brings us out of our distresses.
Notice again the experience of Job in that blessed, yes, blessed 23rd chapter of Job, "Behold, I go forward, but He is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive Him." We anticipate Him, but not according to His promise. We go back to pleasant memories, but a present help we find not. Ah! It was there the Lord blessed me with a sense of His goodness, gave me the cup of salvation, and encouraged me to ask Him for more and richer supplies of His heavenly grace. I go back to the old spot, "but I cannot perceive Him." He is not there at our will or bidding; but according to the good pleasure of His will He appears. "On the left hand where He doth work" in grace for others, there I go; "but I cannot behold Him" in His works of grace for me. "He hideth Himself on the right hand, that I cannot see Him." His covenant care and provision seems to be for everybody but for me. But look here, "But He knoweth the way that I take." The margin says, "But He knoweth the way that is with me." God knows every turn, circumstance, and influence affecting me in the way along which I must walk, or, by Him be carried. It is a blessed thing for me when with the servant of Abraham I can say, "I being in the way," and bless God for His gracious guidance to me and mine. (Gen. 24:27) In all this we see the Father's knowledge of all His children whose names are in the Old Family Register--the Blood-red Roll of God's elect--the Lamb's Book of life.
The Beloved Son is "perfect in knowledge." He knows every child of the Father given to Him before the foundation of the world. Of the lambs and sheep of His flock He could say, "I am the Good Shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine." (John 10:14) "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me." (John 10:27) He is fully acquainted with all their wanderings in the cloudy and dark day, (Ezek. 34:12) and in the time appointed by the Father He must, and will bring them to Himself--to His Father--to grace--to glory. He knew the movements and the exercises of Nathanael under the fig tree. (John 1:48) He saw Zacchaeus climb the sycamore tree, and on His arrival at the spot, "He looked up and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abide at thy house." (Luke 19:1-10) O what a blessed thought it is that Jesus knows all about His brethren and sisters who are so near and dear to Him. His knowledge of the poor Samaritan harlot is expressed in her words of adoring wonder, "Come, see a Man Which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?" (John 4:29) The knowledge of the experience of His disciples is perfect, and sweetly revealed in John 16:19, "Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask Him." Did you ever notice that? There is sweet encouragement in the knowledge of it to the poor child of God who is shut up in his feelings and longs to pour them out in suitable words at the throne of the heavenly grace. He knows and feels all their pent up sorrows.
But look at this fact in the glorious light of that precious Seventeenth of John. There our adorable Jesus appears to render an account of Himself, as the Father's Righteous Servant on the behalf of His people. He knew before all worlds in the everlasting covenant of grace what the gift of His people would cost Him--the sorrow of soul--the bitterness of spirit--the deep desertion--the agony and bloody sweat--the Gethsemane gloom--the darkness of Calvary--the fierce hatred of foes--the base ingratitude of friends, with you and me among them. Did you think at all when we sang these two searching lines this morning?--
"Ere He called me well He knew
What a heart like mine would do."
The Holy Ghost is "perfect in knowledge," and knows every corner, crevice, and secret place of the temple which He indwells, and where He abides, and is worshipped and glorified. He knows the things of God in us, and searches the deep things of God in the bitter, dark, distressing exercises of our hearts. (1 Cor. 2:10-12) But He has better things than these to discover. He reveals the glories of the kingdom and the beauties of the King--the sure things of the everlasting covenant, and the unspeakable Gift of the Father to His eternally loved children.
How blessed! The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost--the Covenant God of Israel "is with thee." His invariable promise to His people from generation to generation is, "Lo, I am with you alway." (Matt. 28:20) To Jacob He said, "Behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest." (Gen. 28:15) Of Joseph in prison we read, "The LORD was with Joseph, and showed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison." (Gen. 39:21) His promise to Moses is unmistakable, "Certainly I will be with thee," (Exod. 3:12) Mark well His word to Joshua, "The LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest." (Josh. 1:9) Forget not His promise to all Israel, "Fear thou not; for I am with thee." (Isa. 41:10) How delightful it is to dwell upon the many illustrations of God's faithfulness to His promise and fidelity to His people. When the three Hebrew children were cast into the burning, fiery furnace the Son of God was there to qualify the heat and cheer His loved ones. (Dan. 3:25) Are lions prepared to devour Daniel? Daniel says, "My God hath sent His Angel, and hath shut the lion's mouths, that they have not hurt me." (Dan. 6:22) Paul testifies again and again of the presence of his Master. When storms and tempests raged around him, he could say to his companions in tribulation, "There stood by me this night the Angel of God, Whose I am, and Whom I serve, saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer, for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me." (Acts 27:23-25) Precious faith! Look at Paul with martyrdom in view. He says, "All men forsook me--notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me." (2 Tim. 4:16-18)
"He that is perfect in knowledge is with thee." Listen to Him! "When thou passeth through the waters, I WILL BE WITH THEE; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee." (Isa. 43:2) Listen to the expression of the faith of a heart to which God thus discovers Himself, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for THOU ART WITH ME; Thy rod"--Thy purpose of grace--"and Thy staff"--Thy precious promises--"they comfort me." (Psalm 23:4) May the Lord bless you with His presence at all times, and make the precious name, EMMANUEL, your joy and stay in all time of your tribulation, in all time of your wealth, in the hour of death, and in the day of judgment. Amen.