Christ in All the Scriptures
by A.M. Hodgkin
- IV. Christ in the Poetical Books
1. Job --
- In whatever aspect we look at it, the Book of Job is perhaps the most wonderful poem that has ever been written. Tennyson called it ''the greatest poem whether of ancient or modern literature.'' Luther regarded it as ''more magnificent and sublime than any other book of Scripture.''
The scene is laid in patriarchal times, and it is said to be the oldest book in existence. That Job was a real person is settled by Scripture itself. Through the prophet Ezekiel, God says of the land: ''Though these three men, Noah, Daniel and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls'' (Ezek 14:14,20).
The book is wonderful in the beauty of its language, in the wide sweep of knowledge it displays, in its scientific accuracy. It is wonderful in that it deals with the mystery of pain, and with the riddle of all times, ''Why do the righteous suffer?'' It lifts the veil of the spirit world, and teaches us both the extent and the limit of the power of Satan. It is wonderful in clearly revealing the fact of the resurrection, and, above all, in foreshadowing the mystery of redemption.
The language of the book is sublime in its simplicity. The pathos of Job's description of his sufferings has found an echo in countless souls who have been brought into God's crucible. As Elihu describes the gathering storm, we can see the clouds rolling up, the flashing of the lightning, and hear the roar of the thunder. Out of the midst of the storm God speaks.
- God's Book.
- Though the object of the Bible is not to teach science, its language is always abreast of the latest discoveries. This is nowhere more noticeable than in the Book of Job.
''He hangeth the earth upon nothing'' (Job 26:7). What could more accurately describe the poise of our world in space?
''Canst thou bind the sweet influence of the Pleiades?'' (38:31). Alcyone, the brightest of these seven stars, is actually, so far as it is known the pivot around which our whole solar system revolves. How mighty and at once how sweet must be its influence to hold these worlds in place at such a distance and to swing them round so smoothly!
''The morning-stars sang together'' (38:7). Only modern science has discovered that the rays of light are vocal, and that if our ears were more finely tuned we should hear them (see Psa 19:1-3).
''By what way is the light parted?'' (38:24). Could language more exact be employed even after the discoveries of the spectrum analysis?
Had Bildad been taught the chemical absorption of chlorophyll by plants from light, he could have used no [more exact] term than this: ''He is green (or, 'is full of juice') before the sun'' (8:16).
- The Mystery of Suffering.
- The Book of Job deals with the mystery of human suffering, especially the suffering of the righteous. Job's friends erred in thinking that all suffering is God's special judgment upon some special sin. ''Who ever perished, being innocent?'' (4:7) was the burden of all their consolation. They reckoned that Job's sin against God must be exceptionally great to account for such exceptional suffering. In this connection, it is important to remember Job's attitude towards God. He was one who, having access to Him through the blood of sacrifice (1:5), was walking with Him in integrity of heart and conformity of life.
God's own testimony of him was, ''There is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil'' (1:8). ''Of all men, he was the one most fitted to be entrusted with the service of suffering, being chosen as a pattern of the ways of God in the ages to come, for all His children in the service of trial.'' [quoted from The Story of Job, by Mrs. Penn-Lewis.] Job knew that his heart was true to God, and he could not accept the accusations of his friends. He shows them that their conclusion is false, and that the wicked often prosper in the world. ''They gather the vintage of the wicked'' (24:6). One of the elements of danger, in a course of sin, is that it is so often successful. The young man, who wins his first stake in gambling, is in far greater peril than the one who loses.
- Elihu, who had been listening to the argument of Job and his friends, sums up their discussion in two terse sentences: ''Against Job was his wrath kindled, because he justified himself rather than God. Also against his three friends was his wrath kindled, because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job'' (32:2,3). Elihu was a true messenger from God to Job, and brought out His gracious purpose in the chastisement of His children. Elihu's words prepare the way for God's own revelation of Himself which followed. Chastisement is the Key-note of this book. [cp. Heb 12:5-11]
- Spectators of the Conflict.
- But God has a deeper purpose in the suffering of His children than even their personal perfection. We have the clue in the words of Paul: ''To the intent that now, unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places, might be known by the Church, the manifold wisdom of God'' (Eph 3:10,11). An unseen cloud of witnesses is eagerly watching the conflict carried on in the arena of this little world. God is unfolding to the angels of light and to the hosts of darkness ''the eternal purposes'' of His grace in His dealings with His redeemed children on the earth. The adversary had challenged the integrity of Job in the council of heaven, and God's honor is in question. How little did Job realize the issues which hung upon his steadfastness, when he said, ''The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord'' [1:21]; and again, ''Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him'' [13:15]. How little the Church today realizes the issues which hang upon her faithfulness, or God would find among those who trust Him a larger number of saints whom He could trust.
- The Adversary.
- Both the extent and the limit of Satan's power are brought out in this book. He had power to bring up the hordes of hostile Sabeans and Chaldeans to carry off the oxen and the asses and the camels. He had power to manipulate the lightning to consume the sheep, to summon the wind to slay Job's children, and to smite Job himself with a terrible disease; for is he not the Prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience? [Eph 2:2]. And did he not bring against Paul a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet him? [2Cor 12:7]. But, on the other hand, he had no power at all, except in so far as God permitted him to break through the protecting hedge with which He had surrounded His servant (1:10). What comfort there is here for the child of God: no calamity can touch him except as his Father permits it; and He who has ''shut up the sea with doors,'' and said, ''Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further; and here shall thy proud waves be stayed'' (38:8-11), will never suffer us to be tempted above that we are able, or allow the furnace to be hotter than we can bear [1Cor 10:13].
We have, in the Book of Job, not merely the theory of suffering, but a living example of one of God's children placed in the crucible, and the effect of it upon his life. Because God trusted Job, He assigned to him the ministry of suffering. Because He loved him, He chastened him [Heb 12:6]. Even in the midst of his anguish, Job recognized that it is only the gold that is worth putting in the fire. Job, in his prosperity and uprightness and benevolence, was in danger of becoming self-confident, and not recognizing that he had only held his power and position in trust for God. But as God dealt with him, we see him broken (16:12,14; 17:11) and melted (23:10) and softened, so that he could say, ''The hand of God hath touched me'' (19:21); ''God maketh my heart soft'' (23:16).
- ''Now mine Eye seeth Thee.''
- But it was the vision of God Himself that completed the work and brought Job into the very dust. He had protested that he was prepared to reason with God over His strange dealings with him [eg. 10:2; 13:3]. But when God took him at his word and said, ''Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct Him?'' Job replied, ''Behold, I am vile (or, contemptibly mean [low, common] ); I will lay mine hand upon my mouth'' [40:1-4]. God continued to deal with him until Job was brought to the very end of himself, and cried out, ''I have uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. 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'' (42:1-6).
- God's ''Afterward.''
- God's chastened, softened servant is now ready to intercede at God's command for the friends who had so aggravated his woe. Before his own misery is relieved, he offers the appointed sacrifice which they have brought, and prays for them. As he does so, God turns the captivity of Job, and his prosperity returns to him, doubled in every particular. Twice as many sheep and camels and oxen and asses fell to Job's portion as before-- but only the same number of children, seven sons and three daughters. We have here the most beautiful intimation of the certainty of resurrection. Job's prayers had evidently been answered, and his sacrifices accepted, on his children's behalf [1:5], and the fact that he was only given the same number [of children] as before was God's assurance that those who had been taken were safe in His keeping, ''where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest'' (3:17).
- ''My Redeemer Liveth.''
- Job's vision of the future life had been obscure at first, for we find him asking the question, ''If a man die, shall he live again?'' (14:14). But with his affliction his faith grows, and he answers his own question in the glorious words: ''I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the dust: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself and on my side. Mine eyes shall behold Him and not a stranger'' (literal translation, Job 19:25-27). However dimly Job himself may have understood the Spirit-given words, what a vision of the future life we have here, what a prophecy of the coming Saviour, sounding forth in the earliest ages! Job sees Him as the Goel, the Kinsman Redeemer-- not a stranger; the One who, because He is the next of kin, has the right to redeem.
Again and again, in this book, we have the foreshadowing of the Saviour. We see Him in the accepted sacrifices which Job offered for his children as the book opens, and for his friends as it closes.
We see Him in Job's question, ''How shall man be just before God?'' [Job 9:2]. A question answered only in Him who has justified us ''by His blood'' (Rom 5:9).
- One Mediator.
- We see Him in the ''Daysman,'' the ''Umpire,'' [whom] Job longs for between him and God. ''For He is not a man, as I am, that I should answer Him, and we should come together in judgment. Neither is there any Daysman betwixt us, that might lay His hand upon us both'' (9:32,33). The need of the human heart has only been met in ''God our Saviour,'' the one Mediator between God and men-- Himself, Man-- Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all'' (1Tim 2:4-6, R.V.).
- A Ransom.
- Yet once more, we see Christ again, in the words of Elihu, ''Then He is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom'' (margin, ''atonement'') [Job 33:24]. The ransom prophesied by Elihu and the ransom proclaimed by Paul are one [1Tim 2:6]. ''Job had seen his Redeemer as the living One who would vindicate him in the day of His coming, but [He] let him now see Him as the ransom, the One who would be gracious to him, and deliver him from going down into the pit-- not on the ground of Job's integrity, but on the ground of His own shed blood as the price paid for the redemption of fallen man.'' [quoted from The Story of Job, by Mrs. Penn-Lewis.]
The next verse gives the result of this ransom. ''His flesh shall be fresher than a child's: he shall pray unto God, and He shall be favorable unto him; and he shall see His face with joy.'' Cleansing and communion resting on the ground of full atonement.
Yet once again, we see the Cross dimly foreshadowed in Job's sufferings. His sufferings were through the enmity of Satan. ''The suffering upright man pointed the way to the suffering sinless man-- the Man of Sorrows.'' [cp. Isa 53:3]. Job was wounded by his friends. He was ''the song and by-word'' of base men. ''They spare not to spit in my face... My soul is poured out upon me... my bones are pierced in me. He hath cast me into the mire, and I am become like dust and ashes. I cry unto Thee, and Thou dost not answer me'' (ch. 30).
How closely all this answers to the description of the suffering Saviour [cp. Psa 22]. But while Job complained and justified himself, the sinless Lamb of God was dumb before His shearers, and poured out His soul a sacrifice for our sins [Isa 53:7,12].