Seeing the End of the Lord
E London, Paignton
Job happily realised the end of the Lord for himself in his lifetime, Jas. 5. 11, and humility, submission, obedience and endurance reaped their rich reward. To many of the Lord’s people, Job is virtually a closed book yet invaluable lessons are to be learned and great profit gained from Job’s experiences recorded at such length. In times of overwhelming trial he, though dead, yet speaketh, encouraging us to like faith and patience.
What, then, the reader may quite reasonably ask, is the meaning of the bitter trials through which Job passed? Did Job merit them and if not how can they be explained? It is clear that Satan had put in a request at a heavenly court that Job might be delivered into his hands, 1. 6 ff. This the Lord granted, for we read ‘all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand’, 1. 12. Thus a restricted liberty was granted to Satan. Ultimately Satan was even given permission to inflict sickness upon Job, 2.6. The terrible physical and psychological results are treated up to the end of chapter 37.
Doubtless many have been led to misconstrue and misunderstand the ways of the Lord with Job by reason of the sterling testimony concerning him. He was ‘perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil’, 1. 1. Even the Lord said to Satan ‘there is none like him in the earth’, 1.8. Many readers may be inclined to think that if a saint of Job’s moral and spiritual calibre knew such keen and bitter sufferings, who among us can hope for the protecting hand of our God to be over us shielding us from the terrible attention of the adversary?
Certainly no child of God can claim exemption from the realm of suffering, although many find the greatest difficulty in reconciling human and bodily suffering with the dealings of the Lord who is ineffable love and grace. On the other hand, many of God’s children have sought to be submissive to the Lord’s will for them and while bearing pain uncomplainingly they have learned the most precious and priceless lessons and enjoyed communion sublime in a way otherwise impossible. In what way does the book of Job help us in this matter?
It is always helpful in seeking to understand the purpose of any book of holy Scripture to discern the goal the Spirit of God has in view. For Job it was obviously the eradication, as far as this was possible, of Job’s own self-righteousness and self-confidence. We do not say this in a critical spirit. In so much there can be nothing but admiration for Job. Few saints in our day and generation acquit themselves as Job, even though such a fife of God-honouring testimony is the demand of our risen Lord. It may be quite reasonably supposed that Satan named Job because he was the greatest obstacle to him in the earth at that time. Job’s resistance to Satan’s onslaughts stirred more deeply his hatred whilst yielding pleasure to the Lord.
The Course Satan Employed
to tempt Job to dishonour his Lord should be noted. With Eve thoroughly deceived and Adam’s one act of disobedience, temptation by Satan came upon the whole race; seemingly to the adversary any subsequent stand for God could easily be overthrown, cf. 1. 11. Thus in the mystery of the ways of God Satan is allowed uncommon latitude in the substance with which the Lord had blessed Job, 1.12. The Sabeans, fire from heaven, the Chaldeans and a tempest were successively employed to reduce Job from affluence to poverty, 1.13-19. Job’s rejoinder to all these calamities was a ready witness and reverent worship: ‘Naked came I . . . , and naked shall I return . . . the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly’, 1. 21-22.
Yet again Satan presents himself before the Lord, 2.1-5. He is told ‘he is in thine hand; but save his life’, 2. 6. This time Satan makes sad inroads into Job's health, and the days that followed must have been physically trying in the extreme, 2. 8. Despite all this he still did not ‘sin with his lips’, 2. 10. His so-called friends did nothing to mitigate his sufferings but rather intensified them.
Even having said this much, little light seems to have been thrown upon the understanding of the book until we patiently arrive at chapter 32. 1. There Job’s three friends ‘ceased to answer’ him. What is the reason they give? They say ‘because he was
righteous in his own eyes’
Notice their taunt: ‘Is it any pleasure to the Almighty, that thou art righteous ... Or is it gain to him, that thou makest thy ways perfect?’, 22. 3. Something of the austere righteousness of Job may be detected in the words ‘The young men saw me, and hid themselves: and the aged arose, and stood up’, 29. 8. From the lips of Elihu we hear ‘For Job hath said, I am righteous: and God hath taken away my judgment’, 34. 5. Yet again he charges Job with ‘Thinkest thou this to be right, that thou saidst, My righteousness is more than God’s?’, 35. 2.
Still the question raised in chapter 9. 2 awaits solution; ‘how should man be just with God?’ But after all the painful cycles of discussion, the Lord answers Job out of the whirlwind, 38. 1. At long last the Lord brings Job to realise ‘Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth’, 40. 4. We hear him say ‘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’, 42. 5-6. It was not until this point was reached that Job was competent to pray for his friends. The Lord could then turn the captivity of Job and reward him with double that which he had at the first, 42. 10-17.
To co-operate with the Lord in gaining His end, the chastisement and discipline of the Lord must be met with the spirit of submission and discernment, leading the suffering soul to exclaim ‘It is the Lord: let him do what seemeth him good’, 1 Sam. 3. 18. ‘Behold we count them happy which endure. 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’, Jas. 5. 11. Self-righteousness is abhorrent to God, not only in the sinner (cf. Rom. 10. 3) but also in the saint. As the Father of our spirits, He still has His loving and all-wise ways with us, and in those exercised thereby there is produced the peaceable fruit of that righteousness which brings pleasure to His heart, Heb. 12. 4-11. Thus only is the objective of all discipline reached resulting in increased likeness to our glorious Lord.