Expositor's Bible Commentary
Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said,XXVII.
"MUSIC IN THE BOUNDS OF LAW"
Job 38:1-41OVER the shadowed life of Job, and the world shadowed for him by his own intellectual and moral gloom, a storm sweeps, and from the storm issues a voice. With the symbol of vast Divine energy comes an answer to the problem of tried and troubled human life. It has seemed, as time went by, that the appeals of the sufferer were unheard, that the rigid silence of heaven would never break. But had he not heard? "Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world." Job should have known. What is given will be a fresh, presentation of ideas now to be seen in their strength and bearing because the mind is prepared and made eager. The man, brought to the edge of pessimism, will at last look abroad and follow the doings of the Almighty even through storm and darkness. Does the sublime voice issue only to overbear and reduce him to silence? Not so. His reason is addressed, his thought demanded, his power to recognise truth is called for. A great demonstration is made, requiring at every step the response of mind and heart. The Creator reveals His care for the creation, for the race of men, for every kind of being and every need. He declares His own glory, of transcendent power, of immeasurable wisdom, also of righteous and holy will. He can afflict men, and yet do them no wrong but good, for they are His men, for whom He provides as they cannot provide for themselves. Trial, sorrow, change, death-is anything "disastrous" that God ordains? Impossible. His care of His creation is beyond our imagining. There are no disasters in His universe unless where the will of man divorced from faith would tear a way for itself through the fastnesses of His eternal law.
Eloah is known through the tempest as well as in the dewdrop and the tender blossom. What is capable of strength must be made strong. That is the Divine law throughout all life, for the cedar on Lebanon, the ox in the yoke, the lion of the Libyan desert. Chiefly the moral nature of man must find its strength. The glory of God is to have sons who can endure. The easy piety of a happy race, living among flowers and offering incense for adoration, cannot satisfy Him of the eternal will, the eternal power. Men must learn to trust, to endure, to hold themselves undismayed when the fury of tempest scours their world and heaps, the driven snow above their dwellings and death comes cold and stark. Struggle man shall, struggle on through strange and dreadful trials till he learn to live in the thought of Divine Will and Love, coordinate in one Lord true to Himself, worthy to be trusted through all cloud and clash. Ever is He pursuing an end conformable to the nature of the beings He has created, and, with man an end conformable to his nature, the possibilities of endless moral development, the widening movements of increasing life. Let man know this and submit, know this and rejoice. A dream life shall be impossible to man, use his day as he will.
Is this Divine utterance from the storm required by the progress of the drama? Some have doubted whether its tenor is consistent with the previous line of thought; yet the whole movement sets distinctly towards it, could terminate in no other way. The prologue, affirming God’s satisfaction with His servant, left us assured that if Job remained pure and kept his faith his name would not be blotted from the book of life. He has kept his integrity; no falsehood or baseness can be charged against him. But is he still with God in sincere and humble faith? We have heard him accuse the Most High of cruel enmity. At the close he lies under the suspicion of impious daring and revolt, and it appears that he may have fallen from grace. The author has created this uncertainty knowing well that the verdict of God Himself is needed to make clear the spiritual position and fate of His servant.
Besides this, Job’s own suspense remains, of more importance from a dramatic point of view. He is not yet reconciled to providence. Those earnest cries for light, which have gone forth passionately, pathetically to heaven, wait for an answer. They must have some reply, if the poet can frame a fit deliverance for the Almighty. The task is indeed severe. On one side there is restraint, for the original motive of the whole action and especially the approval of Job by his Divine Master are not to be divulged. The tried man must not enjoy vindication at the risk of losing humility, his victory over his friends must not be too decisive for his own spiritual good, nor out of keeping with the ordinary current of experience. On the other side lies the difficulty of representing Divine wisdom in contrast to that of man, and of dealing with the hopes and claims of Job, for vindication, for deliverance from Sheol, for the help of a Redeemer, either in the way of approving them or setting them definitely aside. Urged by a necessity of his own creating, the author has to seek a solution, and he finds one equally convincing and modest, crowning his poem with a passage of marvellous brilliance, aptness, and power.
It has already been remarked that the limitations of genius and inspiration are distinctly visible here. The bold prophetic hopes put into Job’s mouth were beyond the author’s power to verify even to his own satisfaction. He might himself believe in them, ardently, as flashes of heavenly foresight, but he would not affirm them to be Divine in their source because he could not give adequate proof. The ideas were thrown out to live in human thought, to find verification when God’s time came. Hence, in the speeches of the Almighty, the ground taken is that of natural religion, the testimony of the wonderful system of things open to the observation of all. Is there a Divine Redeemer for the faithful whose lives have been overshadowed? Shall they be justified in some future state of being when their bodies have mouldered into dust? The voice from on high does not affirm that this shall be; the reverence of the poet does not allow so daring an assumption of the right to speak for God. On the contrary, the danger of meddling with things too high is emphasised in the very utterance which a man of less wisdom and humility would have filled with his own ideas. Nowhere is there a finer instance of self-denying moderation for the sake of absolute truth. This writer stands among men as a humble student of the ways of God-is content to stand there at the last, making no claim beyond the knowledge of what may be learned from the creation and providence of God.
And Job is allowed no special providence. The voice from the storm is that which all may hear; it is the universal revelation suited to every man. At first sight we are disposed to agree with those who think the appearance of the Almighty upon the scene to be in itself strange. But there is no Theophany. There is no revelation or message to suit a particular case, to gratify one who thinks himself more important than his fellow creatures, or imagines the problem of his life abnormally difficult. Again the wisdom of the author goes hand in hand with his modesty; what is within his compass he sees to be sufficient for his end.
To some the utterances put into the mouth of the Almighty may seem to come far short of the occasion. Beginning to read the passage they may say:-Now we are to have the fruit of the poet’s most strenuous thought, the highest inspiration. The Almighty when He speaks in person will be made to reveal His gracious purposes with men and the wisdom of His government in those cases that have baffled the understanding of Job and of all previous thinkers. Now we shall see a new light penetrating the thick darkness and confusion of human affairs. Since this is not done there may be disappointment. But the author is concerned with religion. His maxim is, "The fear of God that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding." He has in his drama done much for human thought and theology. The complications which had kept faith from resting in true spirituality on God have been removed. The sufferer is a just man, a good man whom God Himself has pronounced to be perfect. Job is not afflicted because he has sinned. The author has set in the clearest possible light all arguments he could find for the old notion that transgression and wickedness alone are followed by suffering in this world. He has shown that this doctrine is not in accordance with fact, and has made the proof so clear that a thoughtful person could never afterwards remember the name of Job and hold that false view. But apart from the prologue, no explanation is given of the sufferings of the righteous in this life. The author never says in so many words that Job profited by his afflictions. It might be that the righteous man, tried by loss and pain, was established in his faith forever, above all possibility of doubt. But this is not affirmed. It might be that men were purified by their sufferings, that they found through the hot furnace a way into the noblest life. But this is not brought forward as the ultimate explanation, Or it might be that the good man in affliction was the burden bearer of others, so that his travail and blood helped their spiritual life. But there is no hint of this. Jehovah is to be vindicated. He appears; He speaks out of the storm, and vindicates Himself. Not, however, by showing the good His servant has gained in the discipline of bereavement, loss, and pain. It is by claiming implicit trust from men, by showing that their wisdom at its highest is foolishness to His, and that His administration of the affairs of His world is in glorious faithfulness as well as power.
Is it disappointing? Does the writer neglect the great question his drama has stirred? Or has he not, with art far more subtle than we may at first suppose, introduced into the experience of Job a certain spiritual gain-thoughts and hopes that widen and clear the horizon of his life? In the depth of despondency, just because he has been driven from every earthly comfort and stay, and can look only for miserable death, Job sees in prophetic vision a higher hope. He asks, "If a man die, shall he live again?" The question remains with him and seeks an answer in the intervals of suffering. Then at length he ventures on the presage of a future state of existence, "whether in the body or out of the body he cannot tell, God knoweth,"-"My Redeemer liveth; I shall see God for me." This prevision, this dawning of the light of immortality upon his soul is the gain that has entered into Job’s experience. Without the despondency, the bitterness of bereavement, the sense of decay, and the pressure of cruel charges made against him, these illuminating thoughts would never have come to the sufferer; and along this line the author may have intended to justify the afflictions of the righteous man and quietly vindicate the dealings of God with him.
If further it be asked why this is not made prominent in the course of the Almighty’s address from the storm, an answer may be found. The hope did not remain clear, inspiring, in the consciousness of Job. The waves of sorrow and doubt rolled over his mind again. It was but a flash, and like lightning at midnight it passed and left the gloom once more. Only when by long reflection and patient thought Job found himself reassured in the expectation of a future life, would he know what trouble had done for him. And it was not in keeping with the gradual development of religious faith that the Almighty should forestall discovery by reviving the hope which for a time had faded. We may take it that with rare skill the writer avoids insistence on the value of a vision which could appear charged with sustaining hope only after it was again apprehended, first as a possibility, then as a revelation, finally as a sublime truth disentangled from doubt and error.
Assuming this to have been in the author’s mind, we understand why the Almighty, speaking from the storm, makes no reference to the gain of affliction. There is a return upon the original motive of the drama, -the power of the Creator to inspire, the right of the Creator to expect faith in Himself, whatever losses and trials men have to endure. Neither the integrity of man nor the claim of man upon God is first in the mind of the author, but the majestic Godhead that gathers to itself the adoration of the universe. Man is of importance because he glorifies his Creator. Human righteousness is of narrow range. It is not by his righteousness man is saved, that is to say, finds his true place, the development of his nature and the end of his existence. He is redeemed from vanity and evanescence by his faith, because in exercising it, clinging to it through profoundest darkness, amidst thunder and storm, when deep calleth to deep, he enters into that wise and holy order of the universe which God has appointed, -he lives and finds more abundant life.
It is not denied that on the way toward perfect trust in his Creator man is free to seek explanation of all that befalls him. Our philosophy is no impertinence. Thought must have liberty; religion must be free. The light of justice has been kindled within us that we may seek the answering light of the sublime justice of God in all His dealings with ourselves and with mankind. This is clearly before the mind of the author, and it is the underlying idea throughout the long colloquies between Job and his friends. They are allowed a freedom of thought and speech that sometimes astonishes, for they are engaged in the great inquiry which is to bring clear and uplifting knowledge of the Creator and His will. For us it is a varied inquiry, much of it to be conducted in pain and sorrow, on the bare hillside or on the rough sea, in the face of peril, change, and disappointment. But if always the morale of life, the fulfilment of life bestowed by God as man’s trust and inestimable possession are kept in view, freedom is ample, and man, doing his part, need have no fear of incurring the anger of the Divine Judge: the terrors of low religions have no place here.
But now Job is given to understand that liberty has its limitation; and the lesson is for many. To one half of mankind, allowing the mind to lie inert or expending it on vanities, the word has come-Inquire what life is, what its trials mean, how the righteous government of God is to be traced. Now, to the other half of mankind, too adventurous in experiment and judgment, the address of the Almighty says: Be not too bold; far beyond your range the activities of the Creator pass: it is not for you to understand the whole, but always to be reverent, always to trust. The limits of knowledge are shown, and, beyond them, the Divine King stands in glory inaccessible, proved true and wise and just, claiming for Himself the dutiful obedience and adoration of His creatures. Throughout the passage we now consider this is the strain of argument, and the effect on Job’s mind is found in his final confession.
Let man remember that his main business here is not to question but to glorify his Creator. For the time when this book was written the truth lay here; and here it lies even for us. and will lie for those who come after us. In these days it is often forgotten. Science questions, philosophy probes into the reasons of what has been and is, men lose themselves in labyrinths at the far extremities of which they hope to find something which shall make life inexpressibly great or strong or sweet. And even theology and criticism of the Bible occasionally fall into the same error of fancying that to inquire and know are the main things, that although inquiry and knowledge do not at every stage aid the service of the Most High they may promote life. The colloquies and controversies over, Job and his friends are recalled to their real duty, which is to recognise the eternal majesty and grace of the Unseen God, to trust Him and do His will. And our experiments and questions over in every department of knowledge, to this we ought to come. Nay, every step in our quest of knowledge should be taken with the desire to find God more gloriously wise and faithful, that our obedience may be more zealous, our worship more profound. There are only two states of thought or dominant methods possible when we enter on the study of the facts of nature and providence or any research that allures our reason. We must go forward either in the faith of God or with the desire to establish ourselves in knowledge, comfort, and life apart from God. If the second way is chosen, light is turned into darkness, all discoveries prove mere apples of Sodom, and the end is vanity. But on the other line, with life which is good to have, with the consciousness of ability to think and will and act, faith should begin, faith in life and the Maker of life; and if every study is pursued in resolute faith, man refusing to give existence itself the lie, the mind seeking and finding new and larger reasons for trust and service of the Creator, the way will be that of salvation. The faults and errors of one who follows this way will not enter into his soul to abide there and darken it. They will be confessed and forgiven. Such is the philosophy of the Book of Job, and the final vindication of His servant by the Almighty.
Job 38:1 - Job 42:6THE main argument of the address ascribed to the Almighty is contained in chapters 38 and 39 and in the opening verses of chapter 42. Job makes submission and owns his fault in doubting the faithfulness of Divine providence. The intervening passage containing descriptions of the great animals of the Nile is scarcely in the same high strain of poetic art or on the same high level of cogent reasoning. It seems rather of a hyperbolical kind, suggesting failure from the clear aim and inspiration of the previous portion.
The voice proceeding from the storm cloud, in which the Almighty veils Himself and yet makes His presence and majesty felt, begins with a question of reproach and a demand that the intellect of Job shall be roused to its full vigour in order to apprehend the ensuing argument. The closing words of Job had shown misconception of his position before God. He spoke of presenting a claim to Eloah and setting forth his integrity so that his plea would be unanswerable. Circumstances had brought upon him a stain from which he had a right to be cleared, and, implying this, he challenged the Divine government of the world as wanting in due exhibition of righteousness. This being so, Job’s rescue from doubt must begin with a conviction of error. Therefore the Almighty says:-
"Who is this darkening counsel
By words without knowledge?
Gird up now thy loins like a man;
For I will demand of thee and answer thou Me."
The aim of the author throughout the speech from the storm is to provide a way of reconciliation between man in affliction and perplexity and the providence of God that bewilders and threatens to crush him. To effect this something more than a demonstration of the infinite power and wisdom of God is needed. Zophar affirming the glory of the Almighty to be higher than heaven, deeper than Sheol, longer than the earth, broader than the sea, basing on this a claim that God is unchangeably just, supplies no principle of reconciliation. In like manner Bildad, requiring the abasement of man as sinful and despicable in presence of the Most High with whom are dominion and fear, shows no way of hope and life. But the series of questions now addressed to Job forms an argument in a higher strain, as cogent as could be reared on the basis of that manifestation of God which the natural world supplies. The man is called to recognise not illimitable power only, the eternal supremacy of the Unseen King, but also other qualities of the Divine rule. Doubt of providence is rebuked by a wide induction from the phenomena of the heavens and of life upon the earth, everywhere disclosing law and care cooperant to an end.
First Job is asked to think of the creation of the world or visible universe. It is a building firmly set on deep-laid foundations. As if by line and measure it was brought into symmetrical form according to the archetypal plan; and when the cornerstone was laid as of a new palace in the great dominion of God there was joy in heaven. The angels of the morning broke into song, the sons of the Elohim, high in the ethereal dwellings among the fountains of light and life, shouted for joy. In poetic vision the writer beholds that work of God and those rejoicing companies: but to himself, as to Job, the question comes-What knows man of the marvellous creative effort which he sees in imagination? It is beyond human range. The plan and the method are equally incomprehensible. Of this let Job be assured-that the work was not done in vain. Not for the creation of a world the history of which was to pass into confusion would the morning stars have sung together. He who beheld all that He had made and declared it very good would not suffer triumphant evil to confound the promise and purpose of His toil.
Next there is the great ocean flood, once confined as in the womb of primeval chaos, which came forth in living power, a giant from its birth. What can Job tell, what can any man tell of that wonderful evolution, when, swathed in rolling clouds and thick darkness, with vast energy the flood of waters rushed tumultuously to its appointed place? There is a law of use and power for the ocean, a limit also beyond which it cannot pass. Does man know how that is?-must he not acknowledge the wise will and benignant care of Him who holds in check the stormy devastating sea?
And who has control of the light? The morning dawns not by the will of man. It takes hold of the margin of the earth over which the wicked have been ranging, and as one shakes out the dust from a sheet, it shakes them forth visible and ashamed. Under it the earth is changed, every object made clear and sharp as figures on clay stamped with a seal. The forests, fields, and rivers are seen like the embroidered or woven designs of a garment. What is this light? Who sends it on the mission of moral discipline? Is not the great God who commands the dayspring to be trusted even in the darkness? Beneath the surface of earth is the grave and the dwelling place of the nether gloom. Does Job know. does any man know, what lies beyond the gates of death? Can any tell where the darkness has its central seat? One there is whose is the night as well as the morning. The mysteries of futurity, the arcana of nature lie open to the Eternal alone.
Atmospheric phenomena, already often described, reveal variously the unsearchable wisdom and thoughtful rule of the Most High. The force that resides in the hail, the rains that fall on the wilderness where no man is, satisfying the waste and desolate ground and causing the tender grass to spring up, these imply a breadth of gracious purpose that extends beyond the range of human life. Whose is the fatherhood of the rain, the ice, the hoar frost of heaven? Man is subject to the changes these represent; he cannot control them. And far higher are the gleaming constellations that are set in the forehead of night. Have the hands of man gathered the Pleiades and strung them like burning gems on a chain of fire? Can the power of man unloose Orion and let the stars of that magnificent constellation wander through the sky? The Mazzaroth or Zodiacal signs that mark the watches of the advancing year, the Bear and the stars of her train-who leads them forth? The laws of heaven, too, those ordinances regulating the changes of temperature and the seasons, does man appoint them? Is it he who brings the time when thunderstorms break up the drought and open the bottles of heaven, or the time of heat when the dust gathers into a mass, and the clods cleave fast together? Without this alternation of drought and moisture recurring by law from year to year the labour of man would be in vain. Is not He who governs the changing seasons to be trusted by the race that profits most of His care?
At Job 38:39 attention is turned from inanimate nature to the living creatures for which God provides. With marvellous poetic skill they are painted in their need and strength, in the urgency of their instincts, timid or tameless or cruel. The Creator is seen rejoicing in them as His handiwork, and man is held bound to exult in their life and see in the provision made for its fulfilment a guarantee of all that his own bodily nature and spiritual being may require. Notable especially to us is the close relation between this portion and certain sayings of our Lord in which the same argument brings the same conclusion.
"Two passages of God’s speaking," says Mr. Ruskin, "one in the Old and one in the New Testament, possess, it seems to me, a different character from any of the rest, having been uttered, the one to effect the last necessary change in the mind of a man whose piety was in other respects perfect; and the other as the first statement to all men of the principles of Christianity by Christ Himself-I mean the 38th to 41st chapters of the Book of Job and the Sermon on the Mount. Now the first of these passages is from beginning to end nothing else than a direction of the mind which was to be perfected, to humble observance of the works of God in nature. And the other consists only in the inculcation of three things: 1st, right conduct; 2nd, looking for eternal life; 3rd, trusting God through watchfulness of His dealings with His creation."
The last point is that which brings into closest parallelism the doctrine of Christ and that of the author of Job, and the resemblance is not accidental, but of such a nature as to show that both saw the underlying truth in the same way and from the same point of spiritual and human interest.
"Wilt thou hunt the prey for the lioness?
Or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,
When they couch in their dens
And abide in the covert to lie in wait?
Who provideth for the raven his food,
When his young ones cry unto God
And wander for lack of meat?"
Thus man is called to recognise the care of God for creatures strong and weak, and to assure himself that his life will not be forgotten. And in His Sermon on the Mount our Lord says, "Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye of much more value than they?" The parallel passage in the Gospel of Luke approaches still more closely the language in Job-"Consider the ravens that they sow not neither reap."
The wild goats or goats of the rock and their young that soon become independent of the mothers’ care; the wild asses that make their dwelling place in the salt land and scorn the tumult of the city; the wild ox that cannot be tamed to go in the furrow or bring home the sheaves in harvest; the ostrich that "leaveth her eggs on the earth and warmeth them in the dust"; the horse in his might, his neck clothed with the quivering mane, mocking at fear, smelling the battle afar off; the hawk that soars into the blue sky: the eagle that makes her nest on the rock, -all these, graphically described, speak to Job of the innumerable forms of life, simple, daring, strong, and savage, that are sustained by the power of the Creator. To think of them is to learn that, as one among the dependants of God, man has his part in the system of things. his assurance that the needs God has ordained will be met. The passage is poetically among the finest in Hebrew literature, and it is more. In its place, with the limit the writer has set for himself, it is most apt as a basis of reconciliation and a new starting point in thought for all like Job who doubt the Divine faithfulness. Why should man, because he can think of the providence of God, be alone suspicious of the justice and wisdom on which all creatures rely? Is not his power of thought given to him that he may pass beyond the animals and praise the Divine Provider on their behalf and his own?
Man needs more than the raven, the lion, the mountain goat, and the eagle. He has higher instincts and cravings. Daily food for the body will not suffice him, nor the liberty of the wilderness. He would not be satisfied if, like the hawk and eagle, he could soar above the hills. His desires for righteousness, for truth, for fulness of that spiritual life by which he is allied to God Himself, are his distinction. So, then, He who has created the soul will bring it to perfectness. Where or how its longings shall be fulfilled may not be for man to know. But he can trust God. That is his privilege when knowledge fails. Let him lay aside all vain thoughts and ignorant doubts. Let him say: God is inconceivably great, unsearchably wise, infinitely just and true; I am in His hands, and all is well.
The reasoning is from the less to the greater, and is therefore in this case conclusive. The lower animals exercise their instincts and find what is suited to their needs. And shall it not be so with man? Shall he, able to discern the signs of an all-embracing plan, not confess and trust the sublime justice it reveals? The slightness of human power is certainly contrasted with the omnipotence of God, and the ignorance of man with the omniscience of God; but always the Divine faithfulness, glowing behind, shines through the veil of nature, and it is this Job is called to recognise. Has he almost doubted everything, because from his own life outward to the verge of human existence wrong and falsehood seemed to reign? But how, then, could the countless creatures depend upon God for the satisfaction of their desires and the fulfilment of their varied life? Order in nature means order in the scheme of the world as it affects humanity. And order in the providence which controls human affairs must have for its first principle fairness, justice, so that every deed shall have due reward.
Such is the Divine law perceived by our inspired author "through the things that are made." The view of nature is still different from the scientific, but there is certainly an approach to that reading of the universe praised by M. Renan as peculiarly Hellenic, which "saw the Divine in what is harmonious and evident." Not here at least does the taunt apply that, from the point of view of the Hebrew, "ignorance is a cult and curiosity a wicked attempt to explain," that "even in the presence of a mystery which assails and ruins him, man attributes in a special manner the character of grandeur to that which is inexplicable," that "all phenomena whose cause is hidden, all beings whose end cannot be perceived, are to man a humiliation and a motive for glorifying God." The philosophy of the final portion of Job is of that kind which presses beyond secondary causes and finds the real ground of creaturely existence. Intellectual apprehension of the innumerable and far-reaching threads of Divine purpose and the secrets of the Divine will is not attempted. But the moral nature of man is brought into touch with the glorious righteousness of God. Thus the reconciliation is revealed for which the whole poem has made preparation. Job has passed through the furnace of trial and the deep waters of doubt, and at last the way is opened for him into a wealthy place. Till the Son of God Himself come to clear the mystery of suffering no larger reconciliation is possible. Accepting the inevitable boundaries of knowledge, the mind may at length have peace.
And Job finds the way of reconciliation:
"I know that Thou canst do all things,
And that no purpose of Thine can be restrained.
Who is this that hideth counsel without knowledge?
Then have I uttered what I understood not,
Things too wonderful for me, which I knew not."
"‘Hear, now, and I will speak;
I will demand of Thee, and declare Thou unto me.
I had heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear;
But now mine eye seeth Thee,
Wherefore I repudiate my words and repent in dust and ashes."
All things God can do, and where His purposes are declared there is the pledge of their accomplishment. Does man exist?-it must be for some end that will come about. Has God planted in the human mind spiritual desires?-they shall be satisfied. Job returns on the question that accused him-"Who is this darkening counsel?" It was he himself who obscured counsel by ignorant words. He had only heard of God then, and walked in the vain belief of a traditional religion. His efforts to do duty and to avert the Divine anger by sacrifice had alike sprung from the imperfect knowledge of a dream life that never reached beyond words to facts and things. God was greater far than he had ever thought, nearer than, he had ever conceived. His mind is filled with a sense of the Eternal power, and overwhelmed by proofs of wisdom to which the little problems of man’s life can offer no difficulty.
"Now mine eye seeth Thee." The vision of God is to his soul like the dazzling light of day to one issuing from a cavern. He is in a new world where every creature lives and moves in God. He is under a government that appears new because now the grand comprehensiveness and minute care of Divine providence are realised. Doubt of God and difficulty in acknowledging the justice of God are swept away by the magnificent demonstration of vigour, spirit, and. sympathy, which Job had as yet failed to connect with the Divine Life. Faith therefore finds freedom, and its liberty is reconciliation, redemption. He cannot indeed behold God face to face and hear the judgment of acquittal for which he had longed and cried. Of this, however, he does not now feel the need. Rescued from the uncertainty in which he had been involved-all that was beautiful and good appearing to quiver like a mirage-he feels life again to have its place and use in the Divine order. It is the fulfilment of Job’s great hope, so far as it can be fulfilled in this world. The question of his integrity is not formally decided. But a larger question is answered, and the answer satisfies meantime the personal desire.
Job makes no confession of sin, His friends and Elihu, all of whom endeavour to find evil in his life, are entirely at fault. The repentance is not from moral guilt, but from the hasty and venturous speech that escaped him in the time of trial. After all one’s defence of Job one must allow that he does not at every point avoid the appearance of evil. There was need that he should repent and find new life in new humility. The discovery he has made does not degrade a man. Job sees God as great and true and faithful as he had believed Him to be, yea, greater and more faithful by far. He sees himself a creature of this great God and is exalted, an ignorant creature and is reproved. The larger horizon which he demanded having opened to him, he finds himself much less than he had seemed. In the microcosm of his past dream life and narrow religion he appeared great, perfect, worthy of all he enjoyed at the hand of God; but now, in the macrocosm, he is small, unwise, weak. God and the soul stand sure as before; but God’s justice to the soul He has made is viewed along a different line. Not as a mighty sheik can Job now debate with the Almighty he has invoked. The vast ranges of being are unfolded, and among the subjects of the Creator he is one, -bound to praise the Almighty for existence and all it means. His new birth is finding himself little, yet cared for in God’s great universe.
The writer is no doubt struggling with an idea he cannot fully express; and in fact he gives no more than the pictorial outline of it. But, without attributing sin to Job, he points, in the confession of ignorance, to the germ of a doctrine of sin. Man, even when upright, must be stung to dissatisfaction, to a sense of imperfection-to realise his fall as a new birth in spiritual evolution. The moral ideal is indicated, the boundlessness of duty and the need for an awakening of man to his place in the universe. The dream life now appears a clouded partial existence, a period of lost opportunities and barren vainglory. Now opens the greater life in the light of God.
And at the last the challenge of the Almighty to Satan with which the poem began stands justified. The Adversary cannot say, -The hedge set around Thy servant broken down, his flesh afflicted, now he has cursed Thee to Thy face. Out of the trial Job comes, still on God’s side, more on God’s side than ever, with a nobler faith more strongly founded on the rock of truth. It is, we may say, a prophetic parable of the great test to which religion is exposed in the world, its difficulties and dangers and final triumph. To confine the reference to Israel is to miss the grand scope of the poem. At the last, as at the first, we are beyond Israel, out in a universal problem of man’s nature and experience. By his wonderful gift of inspiration, painting the sufferings and the victory of Job, the author is a herald of the great advent. He is one of those who prepared the way not for a Jewish Messiah, the redeemer of a small people, but for the Christ of God, the Son of Man, the Saviour of the world.
A universal problem, that is, a question of every human age, has been presented and within limits brought to a solution. But it is not the supreme question of man’s life. Beneath the doubts and fears with which this drama has dealt lie darker and more stormy elements. The vast controversy in which every human soul has a share oversweeps the land of Uz and the trial of Job. From his life the conscience of sin is excluded. The author exhibits a soul tried by outward circumstances; he does not make his hero share the thoughts of judgment of the evildoer. Job represents the believer in the furnace of providential pain and loss. He is neither a sinner nor a sin bearer. Yet the book leads on with no faltering movement toward the great drama in which every problem of religion centres. Christ’s life, character, work cover the whole region of spiritual faith and struggle, of conflict and reconciliation, of temptation and victory, sin and salvation; and while the problem is exhaustively wrought out the Reconciler stands divinely free of all entanglement. He is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. Job’s honest life emerges at last, from a narrow range of trial into personal reconciliation and redemption through the grace of God. Christ’s pure heavenly life goes forward in the Spirit through the full range of spiritual trial, bearing every need of erring man, confirming every wistful hope of the race, yet revealing with startling force man’s immemorial quarrel with the light, and convicting him in the hour that it saves him. Thus for the ancient inspired drama there is set, in the course of evolution, another, far surpassing it, the Divine tragedy of the universe, involving the spiritual omnipotence of God. Christ has to overcome not only doubt and fear, but the devastating godlessness of man, the strange sad enmity of the carnal mind. His triumph in the sacrifice of the cross leads religion forth beyond all difficulties and dangers into eternal purity and calm. That is through Him the soul of believing man is reconciled by a transcendent spiritual law to nature and providence, and his spirit consecrated forever to the holiness of the Eternal.
The doctrine of the sovereignty of God, as set forth-in the drama of Job with freshness and power by one of the masters of theology, by no means covers the whole ground of Divine action. The righteous man is called and enabled to trust the righteousness of God; the good man is brought to confide in that Divine goodness which is the source of his own. But the evildoer remains unconstrained by grace, unmoved by sacrifice. We have learned a broader theology, a more strenuous yet a more gracious doctrine of the Divine sovereignty. The induction by which we arrive at the law is wider than nature, wider than the providence that reveals infinite wisdom, universal equity and care. Rightly did a great Puritan theologian take his stand on the conviction of God as the one power in heaven and earth and hell; rightly did he hold to the idea of Divine will as the one sustaining energy of all energies. But he failed just where the author of Job failed long before: he did not fully see the correlative principle of sovereign grace. The revelation of God in Christ, our Sacrifice and Redeemer, vindicates with respect to the sinful as well as the obedient the Divine act of creation. It shows the Maker assuming responsibility for the fallen, seeking and saving the lost; it shows one magnificent sweep of evolution which starts from the manifestation of God in creation and returns through Christ to the Father, laden with the manifold immortal gains of creative and redeeming power.