Job 12-14

The tone of extreme dogmatism so noticeable in Zophar's utterance, no doubt prompted Job to begin his reply on a very sarcastic note. His words, "No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you," have almost passed into a proverb, to be used against the dogmatism of self-conceit. He claimed to have understanding equal to his friends, and in verse 5 he reminded them that he, who was in this slippery place, shone like a warning lamp, only to be despised by those who were in easy and comfortable circumstances, as his friends were.

In verse 6 Job challenged the main position that his friends had taken. They asserted that God always rewards the pious with earthly prosperity and visits disaster upon the head of the wicked. He maintained that it was not so, but that there were cases when robbers prospered and those who provoked God were secure. In proof of this he referred to what could be seen in the lower creation -beasts, birds and fishes. He alluded, we suppose, to the disorder that the sin of man has introduced even there, so that the weaker meet with disaster and destruction from the stronger, and all this by the permission of God. Just as the mouth tastes meat so had his ear tried their words, and found them worthless.

From verse 13 to the end of this chapter Job reviewed the ways of God in His dealings with men. He acknowledged that "wisdom and strength" are His as well as "counsel and understanding." Yet he felt that God's exercise of these wonderful qualities were full of mystery. Again and again those who are great and wise-counsellors, judges, kings, princes-are spoiled and overthrown. He lived in days when, after the flood, nations had come into being. He had seen such increased and then destroyed. Men, who had been so wise as to become chief among the people, suddenly lose their understanding and grope in the dark without a light, or stagger like a drunken man. Now why was this?

Eliphaz had based his condemnation of Job on what he himself had observed. Well, Job too had powers of observation, and he had seen all these things of which he had just spoken, as he affirmed in the opening verses of Job 13. He did not claim to be superior to his friends, but at any rate he was not their inferior, yet he acknowledged that God's dealings mystified him, being far above and out of his sight. So, as verse 3 indicates, what he desired was to speak to the Almighty and reason with God, rather than spend his time in reasoning with his friends.

Still, there his friends were, and we can see that by this time Job had been goaded into retorts of a more biting kind. What he wanted was truth for his mind and healing for his body. They were only "forgers of lies," and "physicians of no value." He counselled them to hold their peace and listen to what he had to say; and up to verse 13 he continued in this strain. He felt they had talked as though speaking on God's behalf, and in so doing had misrepresented Him. In this, no doubt, Job judged rightly.

In verses 14-19, God, rather than his friends, is before the mind of Job. We can discern two conflicting elements. On the one hand, there was a remarkable spirit of faith, which led him to take all that had transpired from His hand and not concern himself with the agents of the disasters, which had stopped short of his death. He had desired to die, and if God should answer this request and slay him, he would not lose confidence but still trust in Him. This indeed was excellent, but at the same time Job revealed his very weak spot in his determination to "maintain," or "defend" his own ways before Him. So we see that in a true saint very real faith in God may exist, and yet be marred by a very determined measure of self-esteem. This it is, which gives such great value to this remarkable book, since the flesh in us, who are saints today, is just the same as it was in Job some four thousand years ago.

Thus it is, that Job proclaimed that God would be his salvation and that ultimately he would be justified. But in verse 20 he more definitely addressed himself to God. He accepted his sorrows as being from the hand of God and asked that His hand might be removed from him, so that he might stand before Him on easier terms. Verse 23 shows that directly Job felt himself to be before God he acknowledged iniquity and sins. He wished to know how many they were, since he felt, as the succeeding verses reveal, that the retribution he was suffering went beyond his real deserts. He was like a man with his feet in the stocks, and thus an easy target for those who wished to throw things at him.

As we read his words, we cannot but feel the pathos of them, and are not surprised at his cry of lamentation, which opens Job 14. In the far-off days of Job human life was perhaps three times longer than it is today; yet it was after all "of few days," and then it was "full of trouble," just as it is today, so that viewed in the light of the eternal God, he is but like a fading flower or a fleeting shadow. Job was conscious of this as regards himself and so he knew he could not stand the Divine inspection, nor stand before Him in judgment. Moreover he knew that he was not clean in the sight of God, and he was sure no one could produce the clean out of the unclean.

The Authorised Translation in verse 4, puts the word thing, in italics. Darby's New Translation inserts rather the word, man. This is another of the tremendous questions that Job asks, and this time he answers it-quite rightly too. No man can accomplish it in himself, and much less achieve it for others. Moreover, when we turn to the New Testament, we find that God does not propose to do it. The error that troubled the Galatians was the idea that the law had been given to clean men up, and hence even Christians had to put themselves under it and accept circumcision as the sign of it, in order to lead clean lives. The emphatic word correcting this is, "In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation" (Gal. 6: 15). The believer is not the "old man" cleaned up. He is newly created in Christ, with a nature which in its essential character "cannot sin," as affirmed in 1 John 3: 9.

Man being of few days, his life in this world must terminate in death, and the time when he goes is determined by God, as verse 5 states. But, what then? Job felt he was just like an hireling filling out his day, and he wished that God would give him rest until the end came. But again, what then?

We have to pass on to verse 14 before we find him actually stating the third tremendous question that filled his mind, but evidently it was in his mind as he commenced his argument in verse 7. He did not know how a man could be "just," or "right" with God. He knew that no man could produce that which is clean out of that which is unclean. And now comes the question, "If a man die, shall he live again?" As yet, on this point, no clear and decisive light was shining before him, and in his heart.

This being so, he started to reason the matter out. He took the analogy of a tree, which had been felled, when for long its root had been in the earth. He had seen the years pass so that the stump that was left had begun to decay. Yet a change had come. Something had happened, an earth-tremor had perhaps cracked the rocks and opened up a fresh channel for water to reach its roots. Then, as a consequence, the dead tree had come to life and sprouted again. The hope of Job was that something like that lay before mankind.

Evidently it was more than a hope, for in verse 12 he infers that men will "awake," and "be raised out of their sleep," but that this would not come to pass, "till the heavens be no more." How true this is, as to the masses of mankind who die in their sins, we see when we read Revelation 20: 11-15. We must remember that the fact of there being a resurrection of the just a full thousand years before the resurrection of the unjust,had not come to light in the days of Job. Verse 13 makes it manifest that Job in his mind connected the fact of resurrection with the manifestation of God's wrath, from which he desired to be hid, and the rather to be remembered in mercy.

The words of Job in verses 14 and 15 are very remarkable. We may often have wondered how the faith of an Abraham embraced such things as are recorded in Hebrews 11: 10 and 16, seeing that in his day there was no public revelation of these heavenly things, as far as the Scripture record goes. So with Job here. He recognized that he had an " appointed time," when his "change" would come; that there would be a Divine "call," to which he would "answer," inasmuch as he was a "work" of God's hands. In thus speaking he was taught of God, as we can see in the light of the New Testament.

We pause to ask if we have ever thanked God in any adequate way that we walk in the light of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead? Have we ever given sufficient weight in our souls to the statement of the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 1: 10, which in the New Translation reads, "Our Saviour Jesus Christ, who has annulled death, and brought to light life and incorruptibility by the glad tidings." Immortality is not the word here. That the soul of man survived death, and resurrection lay ahead, was believed in Old Testament times, as Job's words here show, and as the Lord made plain in controversy with the Sadducees of His day. What was not made known was that for the saint resurrection will mean entrance upon a new and incorruptible order of things. This was demonstrated when our Lord rose from the dead. Hence we have .no need to discuss the matter and reason it out, as Job does here. The whole truth of it has been plainly revealed.

Thus Job had a certain measure of hope and expectation but, as the closing verses of the chapter show, all was for the moment swallowed up in the miseries of his present situation. Once more the speech of Job ends upon a note of gloom. His last word is "mourn."

There can be no doubt that the excellent men who lived before Christ did view death in that light. A striking exhibition of it is seen in the case of Hezekiah-read what he committed to writing, recorded in Isaiah 38: 9-14. The day had not yet dawned when a saint could look death full in the face and write of "having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better." Again we say, how great the privilege of living in this Gospel day!