Job 8-11

As Job closed his reply to Eliphaz, he made the confession, "I have sinned," realizing that God is the Observer of mankind. We might have expected that Bildad, as he began to speak, would have made some allusion to this, but he does not appear to do so. Instead he accused him of uttering words like the blowing of a strong wind, and, to maintain the rightness of all God's judgments, he insinuated that Job's children must have been cast away as the penalty of their transgression. This must have been a bitter stroke at Job, since he had so regularly offered sacrifice on their behalf. Nevertheless he advised Job that if only he would be upright and seek God, he would be blessed in his latter end.

In verses 8-10, Bildad revealed his own standpoint in the argument that was developing. He set great store by the accumulated treasures of human wisdom. Even in these remote times it was possible to search in the records preserved from even remoter times. If Eliphaz argued from his own observation-what he personally had seen,-Bildad argued from tradition-what could be learned from the records of earlier days. He distrusted a deduction from one's personal experience, since the days of a man upon earth are but "a shadow."

Hence in the rest of the chapter he summarized what tradition would teach, illustrating his point by things in nature, like the rush and the spider's web. He claimed that all history showed that God requited man according to his deserts. If evil, he is cut off. If good, he is prospered. To tell Job that, "the hypocrite's hope shall perish," was a cut this time not at Job's children but at Job himself.

This brought forth from Job the striking words recorded in Job 9. He began by acknowledging the rightness of God's disciplinary ways, but raised the all-important question, as to how a man could be right with God. In our day the pithy sentence, "Get right with God," has been used to awaken interest in the Gospel message. It might well provoke the reply, "Yes, but how is it to be achieved?" This is just the enquiry that Job made in verse 2, and the rest of the chapter reveals how earnest and sincere he was in asking it, for he suggested and examined four possible answers. Each suggestion commences with an, "If."

The first is of course verse 3. Supposing man adopts a defiant attitude and contends with God; what then? Disaster, and no justification! Sin has made mankind into rebels, hence to defy God is their first instinct. But Job saw how ruinous such an attitude would be. God is so infinitely great that no rebel can prosper, and down to verse 19 he continues this theme. The earth and the heavens with their constellations proclaim the Creator's greatness and glory.

At verse 20, Job suggested another possible answer, How could he be just with God? Well, could he justify himself? This would at least mean a forsaking of the defiant attitude and the tacit admission of being wrong, and thus needing to be justified. Self-justification is a very attractive proposition, yet Job only stated it to dismiss the idea as impracticable. He knew he had only to open his mouth to condemn himself. Moreover he who would justify himself before the searching eye of God must be able to establish his own perfection. Nothing short of that would satisfy, as verse 20 shows. He went on to assert that even if he were perfect God would judge and destroy him, for he only knew perfection as it is estimated according to human standards.

In verse 27, we find his third "If . . ." He could not defy the God of heaven nor could he justify himself: then should he give up hope, abandon his quest for the answer, and give himself up to the careless pursuit of enjoyment? Human nature has not changed, for many of us have pursued just the line of thought which Job disclosed here; only he immediately discarded the idea, realizing how vain it was. If we carelessly forget, God does not forget. The sinner will not evade the judgment of God by declining to face the question.

The fourth "If . . ." occurs in verse 30. Job has discarded three suggested answers to his question those of defiance, of self-justification, of careless forgetfulness. What about a course of self-improvement? Would that help in the solution of the question? He has only to state it, to reject it with equal decision. He knew that melted snow would give distilled water of the purest kind, having the greatest power of absorbing and removing defilement. The figure he used is most graphic. If he achieved something like this in his own character and life, what then? Why, God would plunge him in a dirty ditch as the only fit place for him. And even then, he himself, beneath his clothes, would be dirtier than they! The defilement was in himself and not in his surroundings. His rejection of the idea of achieving justification by a process of self-improvement could not be more decisive.

How evident it is that Job knew that he was a sinful creature before his holy Creator, and that he possessed in himself no means of getting right. That being so, his only hope was in the intervention of a third party; but no such third party, or "daysman," was known to him. His three friends could not act the part, nor could any other man, since the daysman must be great enough to lay one of his hands upon Almighty God, and gracious enough to lay the other upon poor diseased and sinful Job.

How pathetic are the words that close this chapter! If only there were an efficient intermediary, how different it would be; but, says Job, "it is not so with me." Have we ever thanked God with sufficient fervour that it is so with us? The fact is that though he may not have known it, Job was sighing for the advent of CHRIST. We can now rejoice in the "one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2: 5). By Him the ransom price was paid, so that it is possible for a man to be just with God.

But for Job there was no apparent answer to his question, so we are not surprised that Job 10 is filled with his further words of complaint and sorrow coupled with pathetic appeals to God. He had just said of God, "He is not a man, as I am," hence he was aware that he was as nothing before His holy eyes, that searched him through and through. In verse 2 he appealed to God to show him the reason why He contended with him by these disasters. In verse 6 he again admitted "iniquity" and "sin," yet in the next verse he said, "Thou knowest that I am not wicked," using this term evidently in the sense in which Eliphaz uses it when we come to Job 22: 15.

Yet, on the other hand, he knew that God's standards were far higher than his, and hence woe would come upon him if he were wicked, and that even if he were righteous he could not lift up his head in the presence of God. He was filled with confusion; his affliction increased; he again complained that he had ever been born, and as to the future he had no light. Death was to him as "a land of darkness," as we see in verses 21 and 22. We have to pass on to New Testament days to get such a word as that, "the true light now shineth" (1 John 2: 8).

Yet even today there are all too many who regard death as the taking of "a leap in the dark." And indeed it is that to them if the Christ, presented to them in the Gospel, be neglected or rejected. For such there is no excuse, whilst for Job there was every excuse. Again we affirm that the gloom of this excellent saint of Old Testament days should move us to much thanksgiving to God, who has brought us out of darkness into His "marvellous light."

In Job 11 we have the brief speech of Zophar, the third of Job's friends, and reading it, we note that his tone is a little more severe even than Bildad's was. Possibly he was irritated by the fact that Job had not accepted the charges and arguments of the other two, but it was overshooting the mark and unfriendly to charge him with a "multitude of words," of being "full of talk," of uttering "lies," and of mocking. Nor had he claimed to be "clean" in the sight of God. Zophar does not as yet reveal the standpoint from which he speaks, but he oracularly declared that Job really deserved from God's hands severer punishment than he was getting. Seeing that his suffering exceeded any other of which we have record, and that the discussion centred around God's disciplinary dealings in this life, and did not look into eternity, this again strikes us as harsh and dogmatic in the extreme.

From verse 7 onwards, however, he did say some striking things that have truth in them, as other Scriptures show. It is indeed true that man cannot by his searching find out God. It is equally true that man, being sinful, is "vain," or, "empty," or, "senseless," and is born like "a wild ass's colt." Zophar evidently felt that Job needed to recognize these things, without much consciousness of how they applied to himself. If the men of this twentieth century recognized them, it would puncture their inflated pride. They may find out means of destroying human lives by the hundred thousand, but they cannot find out God. He can only be found in Christ, who has revealed Him.

Zophar's final words of counsel (verses 13-20) also have truth in them. Verse 14 in the New Translation begins, "If thou put far away the iniquity which is in thy hand;" that is, he again assumes, like the others, that Job is after all an evil man, holding tight to his sins. Here he was wrong, though his counsel to put away evil and turn to God was good, and his description of the happy result of so doing was correct enough.