William Kelly Major Works Commentary
Moreover Job continued his parable, and said,Job Chapter 29
This is the beginning of Job's last argument. The friends were quite silenced; he now makes his final confutation; and, indeed, it is more an appeal than an argument, for he rises above all that they had been pleading and insinuating.
Here he gives us in chapters 29-31 a very interesting pouring out of his feelings. The first of these chapters reviews his early days of prosperity, and we can see the very great complacency that he had in all that grace had wrought in him. But, alas! there was another thing that ought not to have been. He took pleasure in his good character. He was therefore in spirit too much of a Pharisee. "I thank thee that I am not as other men." It was not but that there was great grace in Job, and that there was a very admirable character sustained; but why should he talk about it? why should he think upon it? why should he not think of the source of all the blessing? Why should he not be boasting in the Lord - instead of an implied boasting in himself? There was the very thing that God had a controversy with. And we see that up to this time Job had not got to the bottom of that which God was ferreting out. Satan had completely disappeared. He is always defeated with the children of God. He may appear to gain a battle, but the campaign is always against him; and so it is very marked in the case of Job.
But the second of these three chapters looks at his downfall; that is the great topic that is in it. He bemoans his terrible state; and up to the present he could not withhold the expression that he thought God dealt hardly with him, and was arbitrary. He could not understand His ways in the slightest degree; nor did he take in the motive that God had - the gracious purpose. In short, he had not reached the end of the Lord, because he had not done with himself. That is the real secret of it.
And the next chapter - the last of his appeal - is a most impassioned setting himself before God, and implicating judgments on himself. So thoroughly was his conscience good, that he goes over all the various snares of a man, and especially a man of position and wealth like Job; because that always increases the danger, and always makes the difficulty more. There is no greater mistake than to suppose that poverty is the hard place in which to serve God. On the contrary, it is when people are no longer poor, and no longer feel the need of continual dependence upon God - when they begin to be independent - for the world is not ashamed to call it that. I am sorry to say that Christians even drop into the language and the spirit of the world. Job calls solemn judgments upon himself - looking at the various snares - if he had been guilty in this or that or the other and so on - and the upshot of it all is that "The words of Job are ended."
We have no more of Job now in the way of self-defence. We shall find a very interesting new speaker on which I may say a few words on chapter 32 tonight. But now, first of all Job says: "Oh; that I were as in months past." Now it is always a bad sign when people look back to dwell on the past. Are people not to grow? Are children of God merely to be occupied with the immense favour of God? No doubt it is very true that one is plucked out of the teeth of Satan; but what is that compared with the positive knowledge of God? It is a great thing for us; but is not the knowledge of God infinitely greater than merely the action of divine grace in rescuing a poor wretched sinner? It is an admirable thing for the sinner always to feel it; but it is a sad thing when he looks back to it as the brightest of all things. Why, that means he has been making no progress at all; it means that he has been all these years afterwards looking back upon that as the divine moment. Surely divine life ought to be a growing enjoyment; and the more so as you know of Christ and of God - I am speaking now to Christians, of course.
But even for Job God never left himself without witness - and God always met the souls that really walked with Him. Who can doubt but that Enoch walked with God, and do you suppose that Enoch looked back at the first glimpse he had of God, and would say he knew God by that? No, far from it, and shame on all people who talk such language. I do not deny that it is the language of many a Christian, but that is the most sorrowful thing now - that Christians forget what it is to be a Christian. They only think of the moment of becoming a Christian, and they seem to think that that is the great thing. No doubt it is passing the border, but it is certainly not going into the brightness beyond it. Where is the feast; where is the joy of the Father; where is the best robe, and all the other accompaniments? Is that nothing? Well, that was after. And that is what in an image presents us with the positive place of blessing. The "grace wherein we stand" - not merely the grace that rescued us, but the grace wherein we stand. It is a continual place of grace to be enjoyed more and more as we learn more of God and judge ourselves. But there is where Job failed. Job admired himself. And so he looks back. "Oh, that I were as in months past." God was going to do far better. It is true that Job went through very severe sifting, but that was all for his good; and more than that, it was for your good and my good, and the good of every believer that has ever profited by this book since God had it written down. It was meant for the blessing of all. It was not intended that there should be perhaps another man to go through the same. God has His economy of good; God has His reserve of grace; God was pleased that one should have had a very broad back to bear the trial. We have heard of the patience of Job; but that is the very thing wherein he broke down, so that he became impatient at last even with God. And the reason was because he was not yet an utterly broken man - he was given to knowing about himself.
Oh, how very rarely one finds a saint of God even now what every saint of God ought to be; but it is a rare thing even among Christian people. "As in the days when God preserved me; when His candle shined upon my head, and when by His light I walked through darkness; as I was in the days of my youth." Why, that is a strange thing - "my youth." No getting on with God in his maturity or in his old age! What was Job about? "When the Almighty was yet with me, when my children were about me." Was not He with him then? That is just what he did not see or know. "Whom He loveth He chasteneth"; and that is one of the great lessons of the Book of Job. I admit it was terrible chastening. And that is where the friends were all wrong; it was so terrible that they thought it was retributive, and that it was impossible for a person to suffer to such an extreme degree unless he had been extremely wicked. And what made it worse was that he looked so good, and therefore they thought he must be a hypocrite. There they were completely wrong; and the consequence was that they had to go down lower than Job, and that Job had to pray for them that they might be spared. And this he did. But, however, I anticipate what we will have another day.
"When I washed my steps with butter" - of course it is not literal - "and the rock poured me out rivers of oil." You see that petroleum is an old affair in this world! "When I went out to the gate through the city, when I prepared my seat in the street! The young men saw me, and hid themselves; and the aged arose, and stood up." All that was exceedingly pleasant to Job. And we are apt to think so too - there is nothing, men say, that succeeds like success, and there is not a more wicked maxim or one more entirely contrary to God; nothing more thoroughly denying that we are now in the place of suffering, and of being despised and rejected for Christ's sake. But that is a worldly maxim, and it is just what the world delights in. Men will praise you if you do well to yourself, that is, if you are successful - make a good fortune, and have nice dinner parties, and so on. "The princes refrained talking, and laid their hand on their mouth."
Now one of the beautiful features about Job was that he did not pretend to be noble, and he did not seek to be a prince. He was like a king in the nobility of his character - what a king ought to be - he was truly noble in his ways; and all that would have been admirable if he had not said or thought; for that is the important point. "Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth." It does not mean that other people do not know it, but the wrong is that our left hand should know what our right hand does, i.e., we ought not to think about it. It is done to God; and it is merely returning a very little interest for the wonderful capital - for the spiritual capital that the Lord has put in our power.
Here you see it was not so. Job was highly pleased, and took great pleasure in the world thinking so much of him. "When the ear heard me, then it blessed me" - now he is looking at what you may call the objects of his kindness and love. For there was both kindness and love in Job. "And when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me." He was referring to the people that had been helped out of their manifold afflictions. "Because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him." And that was really true. God delighted in Job; that was all right; and he found at last that God did delight in him, but he did not find that till after the trial. He was buoyed up and raised above the ordinary occupations of men by the homage that was paid him and the perception of his exceeding kindness. All that lifted him up. Well, that is a very natural thing; but it is not spiritual; and it is the very thing that God was putting down severely in him; much more so than in a very inferior man. The greatest trials that God inflicts are upon the strongest, those that are able to bear them. Those that know most of His ways - they come in for it. And that was the case with Job.
"The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me; and I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy. I put on righteousness, and it clothed me" - that was very true, and he looked at his clothing too; - "my judgment was as a robe and a diadem." Yes, very pleased was Job. "I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. I was a father to the poor; and the cause which I knew not I searched out. And I brake the jaws of the wicked, and plucked the spoil out of his teeth. Then I said, I shall die in my nest." No, no; God was going to disturb that nice nest of his that was so warm and comfortable. "And I shall multiply my days as the sand." Why, he had been very desirous that God should cut short his days; for that was the only way that he saw out of all the trouble he was passing through. "My root was spread out by the waters, and the dew lay all night upon my branch. My glory was fresh in me, and my bow was renewed in my hand. Unto me men gave ear, and waited, and kept silence at my counsel. After my words they spake not again; and my speech dropped upon them. And they waited for me as for the rain; and they opened their mouth wide as for the latter rain. If I laughed on them, they believed it not" - it is too good to be true - "and the light of my countenance they cast not down. I chose out their way, and sat chief, and dwelt as a king in the army, as one that comforteth the mourners."
You cannot be surprised that the Jews were the first rationalists; they were the higher critics of a former day. They did not believe that it was a true story - the philosophic Jews - they did not believe that. How far it penetrated the synagogue generally we cannot say. I presume there were simple-hearted men that fully believed every word of it. But one of the great reasons why the Jews did not accept this history was that Job was not a Jew. "Oh! that cannot be; why, they are all dogs. Everybody but a Jew is a dog." And the idea that God did not say it of Abraham that he was of such integrity that there was nobody like him in all the earth - nor of Isaac, nor of Jacob! No, this they could not believe. They knew that it was of a patriarch of those days, and therefore they were dead set against the possibility of such a thing as God extolling one who was not of the chosen race, one of the family and of the nation that had the promise.
What is it that makes people higher critics? It is that they prefer their own thoughts to the word of God. That is what it is to be an unbeliever; and if it is carried out thoroughly you are an infidel; you are a lost man. I presume that these Jews fully held to the other books of the Bible. It is to be presumed so. Perhaps they did not like some others. I can understand their no more liking the prophecy of Jonah being given to a Gentile city than that Jonah liked to be the prophet sent there. He did everything to turn away from it; and when God told him to go east he went west. When he was told to go to Nineveh he took a ship at Joppa to go west - just in the very opposite direction.
Oh that I were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me;
When his candle shined upon my head, and when by his light I walked through darkness;
As I was in the days of my youth, when the secret of God was upon my tabernacle;
When the Almighty was yet with me, when my children were about me;
When I washed my steps with butter, and the rock poured me out rivers of oil;
When I went out to the gate through the city, when I prepared my seat in the street!
The young men saw me, and hid themselves: and the aged arose, and stood up.
The princes refrained talking, and laid their hand on their mouth.
The nobles held their peace, and their tongue cleaved to the roof of their mouth.
When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me:
Because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him.
The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me: and I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy.
I put on righteousness, and it clothed me: my judgment was as a robe and a diadem.
I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame.
I was a father to the poor: and the cause which I knew not I searched out.
And I brake the jaws of the wicked, and plucked the spoil out of his teeth.
Then I said, I shall die in my nest, and I shall multiply my days as the sand.
My root was spread out by the waters, and the dew lay all night upon my branch.
My glory was fresh in me, and my bow was renewed in my hand.
Unto me men gave ear, and waited, and kept silence at my counsel.
After my words they spake not again; and my speech dropped upon them.
And they waited for me as for the rain; and they opened their mouth wide as for the latter rain.
If I laughed on them, they believed it not; and the light of my countenance they cast not down.
I chose out their way, and sat chief, and dwelt as a king in the army, as one that comforteth the mourners.