William Kelly Major Works Commentary
Then answered Eliphaz the Temanite, and said,Job Chapter 15
In this 15th chapter we have the second debate between Job's friends and himself. I shall take a view of the greater part of it, if the Lord will, in a general way tonight.
Although Eliphaz was the more grave and solid of his friends, they were all infected with the same fundamental mistake. That is an important thing for our souls. We are so apt to think that we never make any important mistake. Why should that be so? Are we so different from others? Are we not very liable to it? You must remember that this is a practical mistake; it is not merely a dogmatic one. There is no question of false doctrine of any kind here; but it is the application of truth to the soul; and it is of great moment to us that God has given us a very early book - Moses probably the writer of it; but the persons concerned are considerably before Moses. We see that from the very age of Job, and from all the circumstances.
There is no reference to the law of Israel; no reference to the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt; it always speaks of a particularly early time. Its great point is the dealings of God with man, and particularly with men of faith. It is not merely unbelieving man; with him it is always pretty much the same thing. His guilt may be aggravated; and, indeed, I have no doubt that there is no man now so responsible as those that hear the gospel - those that have Christianity in a living way presented to them. They are far more guilty and more to be pitied in one way than even the wild Tartars, or the subjects of that kingdom (Thibet) that seems now  about to be penetrated - that practically shut up and sealed kingdom which now is about to be opened, as far as we can see; surely a rather solemn consideration; for it would be hard to find another. No doubt, in the wilds and centre of Africa there may be many tribes that are unknown; but this is a very old civilization; and its rulers have managed to completely block out light from every source - to pursue their own devices to their own destruction. But God will not allow it to proceed further; and although we cannot look for much in the present state, many may go there as a matter of commerce, or a matter perhaps of politics, or a matter of ambition of one kind or another - still there may be children of God mixed up with them, and these, at any rate, can give a message from Christ.
However that may be, what I am drawing attention to is the interesting character of this book as the revelation to us now (and, of course, to the Old Testament saints long before us) of how God deals with pious men, and that for their souls' good, before there is any written revelation of God. For this is one of the very first books that ever was written, as I have previously remarked. Sometimes people forget that although Job appears far down in the Bible, it is the first book of a poetic character; the prose books all come before Job, carrying you down past the captivity to Babylon, and then returning from it; and then we go back to the poetic books, and the Book of Job is the first one. It answers, therefore, very much to Genesis; what Genesis is in the first portion of the Bible, Job is in the second. Then we have the Prophets; but it is the first of the poetic books that are not the Prophets.
Now as to the attack - for we cannot call it anything else - that is a serious thing. It is not merely in modern times that Christians have their differences. We see it is here radical - it belongs to the human spirit, and it may have a very good source; because we are, as no doubt Old Testament saints found themselves too, instinctively caring for one another. These friends of Job were exceedingly troubled as to the man to whom they had all looked up, and he was considered the most righteous of all men within their scope; and no wonder, God pronounced him so. They did not know that. It is a most important thing to make this remark, that we are in a very different position, for hearing all these debates, from Job himself. How little did Job know that all that came upon him was in consequence of what passed in the presence of God in heaven! - everything spoken in heaven about the child of God, even the trials! This was to be a peculiar trial, but it was all settled there; Job knew nothing about it. The raid of these Chaldeans, and those we call "Bedouins," and the like - all that was merely natural; and, no doubt, the tendency was to regard it merely as the trials of a righteous man and his family from natural causes.
No, beloved friends; it is not a mere natural cause to the believer; he is under the eye of God. He was so always; still more so now. Now we are brought into known relationship with God, and into the nearest relationship with God. We are put in the place of His own family; we are His own children, yea, sons of God, for this latter speaks of a dignity before others; that is to say, we are no longer novices, no longer babes in the nursery, as was the case with believers in the Jewish system. They had not arrived at age. The Christian now, if he knows what it is to be a Christian (a great many, alas! do not know, for they think themselves very much like believers of old, but that is a mistake), has far superior privileges; and it is one of the great means of Satan's hindering, to lead people not to understand the place they are brought into, and, consequently, their responsibility. However that may be, here we have these undoubted saints that were all at sea in regard to this terrible calamity, this blow after blow, tempest after tempest which blew away everything in which Job had once been so favoured. For God has pleasure in blessing His people not merely in spiritual things, but where we can bear it. You remember that word of the apostle John, where he wishes that Gaius might prosper as his soul prospered. If the soul does not prosper, adversity comes as a great mercy; but where the soul prospers we may be allowed to feel, and God has pleasure in showing, His goodness in everything - in family circumstances, yea, in everything, if it be for His glory. He is the judge of that. But there are continually things that, in the wisdom of God, are forbidden in this way or that way.
However, I do not go into that new; but here we have the fact that the two things perfectly coalesced in Job - that there was not a man upon earth that God had such pleasure in looking upon as Job, and yet such a man passing through deepest trial from God. It is a great difficulty with the Jews; they cannot understand it. They want to make out that Job was an imaginary being, because it seems so strange to them that after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, there should be a man outside Israel altogether that God had such a high opinion of - and he not a Jew! Yes. So there it was a great blow to their pride and their narrowness. Yet were they not all in fact outsiders? They would seem to have been in the Abrahamic line in one way; but they were not in the chosen line. You know that Abraham had other children; and they would appear to have been sprung from an Abrahamic line, but outside that particular covenant; and we have no reason to suppose that they had the sign and seal of that covenant which, of course, the Israelites have.
No; the point is God dealing with "man," and with man's heart and conscience. And what is more, it was not because of any particular evil. There was the radical mistake of Eliphaz which runs through his speech that I have just read tonight. He cannot rise above the thought that Job had seemed everything that was beautiful to our eyes and everybody's eyes, and he was blessed of God in an extraordinary manner. For he was, as is said, the greatest man in that part of the East. And now this utter reverse! this casting him down from what seemed his excellency! How could it be but that, as God is a righteous God, there must be some terrible iniquity there? So he also felt that if there was an iniquity, Job must be conscious of it; and yet not a word from Job! Not a sign that he was ashamed of himself, or that he had anything to be judged! There was fault in Job; but not the least of the kind they expected. The fault in Job was this, that Job had a good opinion of himself, and that Job had great pleasure in everybody's so highly respecting him. I wonder whether any of us have got that? I am afraid it is a very common thing. And there is just what people do not find out. They do not learn; they so little understand this wonderful mirror of the word of God. They do not understand that here is their own case.
However, I perhaps anticipate. But we find how very strong is the outburst of Eliphaz - a mild, grave, and serious man - for this he undoubtedly was. There is no need of our running down the three friends as if they were something very uncommon. They were very common indeed. Job rather was uncommon, yea, decidedly uncommon; and that is what made the example of Job so very pertinent to the object of God - that a man might be spotless in his way, that a man might be justly respected, but that when the man that is pious, God-fearing, prayerful and one so loved and valued and cried up as Job was - when he accepts it as his due, and has great pleasure in it, God is a jealous God, and will not allow that. And why not? Man is a sinner! And Job, even though he was now a believer, had sin in him, and self-judgment was wanting. If self-judgment had been duly exercised, Job would not have needed this trial. And there is another thing too; that when God does send a trial, the great call of man is to submit to it without a doubt, without a question, giving God credit for it that there is no undue severity. Now, on the contrary, Job felt a very great deal about it, and found fault with God, and thought that God was dealing very hardly indeed with him. Thus it is that the way in which this book has been sometimes treated for 1,500 years (perhaps more) is an entire fallacy.
What I refer to is this: that Job was considered to be a kind of type of Christ in his suffering. Nothing of the sort. Quite the reverse. Look, for instance, at Psalm 38 and Psalm 39. There you have not exactly Christ personally, but the spirit of Christ in the Israelite, and this will be accomplished in the future day, when there will be a remnant of Jews thoroughly marked by the spirit of Christ, which will follow after we are taken out of the way to heaven. They will pass through tremendous trial, and the remnant will have that spirit of Christ. Those Psalms are prophetically written for them. No doubt all was written for us. All the Bible was written for the Christian, and for his use, blessing and enjoyment. But it is not all about us. This is the mistake that many people make, that because it is all for our good and for our spiritual taste and enjoyment, therefore, we are the persons that are meant in it! Not so. There is just what was falsified - this trying to find the pattern of Christ in it! whereas the very point is the contrast shown by the rebellious spirit of Job. For there is that. He charges God with being his enemy, and with tearing him to pieces and casting him down, making him to be an object of mockery for everybody. Job imputes to God. Well, no doubt God had allowed all this to come to pass; it could not have been without it. But it was not God's, it was Job's own mistake; and it was Job also that had the most agonizing sense of that, because he could not bear the shame of his friends coming. He bore it all beautifully till his friends dawned upon the scene. A man when alone can bear; but when there are people that show no sympathy and no understanding, he breaks loose and lets out, and flings very improper language about his friends - perhaps they deserved it, but certainly, certainly not God. And his friends were alive to that. They could see that he spoke improperly about God; so that he put himself quite in the wrong there.
"Should a wise man utter vain knowledge," for they were quite aware that there was something very able in what Job said - they called that vain knowledge - "and fill his belly with the east wind?" No doubt he was exceedingly wrong. "Should he reason with unprofitable talk? or with speeches wherewith he can do no good? Yea, thou castest off fear, and restrainest prayer before God." Now he did nothing of the kind; Job always clung to God, always looked up to God, but he said, 'I cannot find Him; He has shut me out, occupying me with this agony that I am passing through, so that I cannot get at Him. I know if I could only get there I should find goodness and mercy.' It was no doubt very inconsistent; but that is always the case with poor man when he is not in the presence of God. That was one of the grand points that all had. Job was living, for a man of faith, too much in the good opinion of other people as well as in his own good opinion. There is where he was quite wrong. And there is where Christ and Christianity puts us in our true place if we are faithful - which is, that we have to face a hostile world; that we have to face not only a hostile world, but even, it may be, fellow Christians, who, if they are not faithful, are mad against any people that are; because it rebukes themselves. We have to bear that, and consequently here we are now in the truth of things suffering with Christ. That is what Christ suffered.
I am not speaking now of suffering for Christ. Suffering for Christ is where there is a decided break made. Perhaps we are cast into prison falsely, or it may be transported falsely, or executed falsely as martyrs and the like - that is suffering for Christ. But there is another kind of suffering that belongs to the Christian - suffering with Christ. For instance, suppose that there was a royal princess of England that was truly brought to God, and who entered really into the place of the Christian - why, what would be the case of that young princess? Always suffering. Why? Because every. thing that surrounded her would be contrary to what belonged to her soul and to her position. Why so? Because it is of the world, and of the world in its grandest shape, and consequently it would mark the contrariety. What is the place of the Christian? He is not of the world. How far not of the world? Why, like Christ. What did Christ do with the world? Where did Christ ever contribute one iota to what the world likes and values? Christ appeared to be the most useless of men for the world. He never made a speech upon science; He never contributed one lesson in learning or literature. He never gave a vote - if I may speak of voting or anything of that kind. He never did the slightest thing of that nature. He would not even judge a case, or arbitrate even when they wanted Him to judge in that informal way; consequently, there never was a person more completely outside the world while passing through it. That is where the Christian is. I say, therefore, that the higher you are up in the world the more you find the difficulty of being faithful. And that is suffering with Christ, where you feel it. There are some people who get through things easily. That is not to be admired; it is a kind of opiate - continually dramming oneself with opiates to drown feeling, and take everything quite comfortably, no matter what it is, and entirely losing sight of the fact that we do not belong to these things in which we take part.
Oh, beloved friends, that is not the way. Our call is to take part actively for Christ and according to Christ. Our call is to entire separation to the Lord. Supposing that there was a house on fire next door; it would be our business to immediately do all we could to help and save both life and property. That is not worldly; but it would be worldly to go into the Court and fight for our rights or to refuse to pay our dues if we are called upon to do so. All that is not only worldly, but it is rebellious. I know what they call themselves - "Passive Resisters" - but I do not understand that language. They are active resisters of the law; and if they had any sense of propriety they would pay their money quietly, or let people take their goods quietly, and so make an end. I only mention it now to show how completely God's children have lost the sense of what it is to be a Christian. I am speaking now practically. I might go further. I maintain that Christians have lost the doctrine of what a Christian is. It is not that there is a certain blessed standard that we all acknowledge to be what a Christian is, and that we fall sort, practically. I believe it will be found that they areas wrong about the standard as they are about the practice; and one thing I can say for myself, honestly and truly, that what has occupied me all my life, is cleaving to what I have found to be the Christian pathway and duty, and seeking to help others to see the truth and blessedness of it, and to act faithfully according to it. I am sure I have plenty to judge myself for; but I thank God for every trial and everything that has made nothing of me. And that is just what Job had to learn as to himself. He did not know that God was working all this for Job's own great good, even allowing also what was most repulsive to God - the disease, and the sweeping away of his family. This was all the devil's doing; but God allowed it for Job's good, and Job had not an idea of all that. If Job had understood the end that was coming, and had understood the beginning which was before all the trial, he would have lost a great deal of the blessing, and why? Because, then, as now, the child of God is to walk by faith.
People like to walk by sight, and that was the great fallacy that lay under all the speeches of these three friends. They looked at Job; they looked at what he was; and they look at what he now is in all this terrible crushing to the dust, and they said in effect, 'Well, God is a righteous God, and if there were not some dreadful thing behind all this, God would never have allowed it.' They were completely wrong, and Job was thoroughly right in saying, 'No, I know it is not so, and all your talk cannot get rid of the fact that you have most wicked men that are most flourishing, and you have pious men that are exceedingly suffering, in the world as it is now.' How is that? Because Satan is actively working here; because Satan is the one that men follow without knowing. They are slaves and captives of the devil; and those that are not slaves of the devil are the objects of his vengeance and hatred. God does not remove that; He does not put down Satan yet; he is allowed his way. And there never was a greater proof of it than his leading the world and the Jewish people to crucify their own Messiah, the Lord of glory. Was there any fault here? Here you have the crucial proof. Here was the absolutely sinless One and never such a sufferer.
The whole theory, then, of the three friends was a falsehood from beginning to end. Yet it is exactly what most people think to this day. They have an idea that there must be something very wrong where they see people passing through exceeding deep waters. Now there was something that Job had not got, and that was to measure himself in the presence of God; and God never stopped till He brought him into His presence. He interfered in the most remarkable way; but I must not anticipate. Eliphaz, after having let out strongly at Job, now falls back upon what was a very common feeling, especially of the former. Eliphaz was a man that strongly stood for the great value of experience. You know there are people that are very strong for experience, and accordingly, as to the great and good men that have been before - is that a standard? No one denies the honour due to elders, at least no person with any propriety. But Eliphaz used it in a wrong manner, and told Job, "Why, you are going against everything that has been held by the best of men that have ever been. Are you the first man; are you as old as the hills when you talk in such a manner as this, as if you knew better than any of these most excellent men, older than your father? and you set up in this way." Well, he carries on that for some time, and he comes to this; what it must be. "How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water? I will show thee, hear me; and that which I have seen I will declare." He meant Job particularly there. "I will show thee, hear me; and that which I have seen I will declare, which wise men have told from their fathers, and have not hid it." He looks therefore at old experience, and of the best of men, when men were not so bad as they were in his time. For that is quite true; man does get worse and worse, and even he had remarked it.
A famous poet that I used to read as a boy - a heathen poet - says the very same thing, that no generation had been so bad as the present one, which is going to bear children that will be worse than their fathers. At any rate they are not so bad as the people who think the world is going to get better, for these are most deplorably wrong. There will be a great change; but what will bring in that change will not be preachers, nor tracts, nor books, nor education; nay, not even the Bible, although that is the word of God. But the Bible demands more than this. It requires that men be born of God; and even in the case of people that are born of God they are called to judge themselves, just like Job, the very best of them. That is what he was brought to, and what he was most slow to come to. Therefore all this reasoning was entirely out of place, and the larger part of the chapter is description, that when a man is carrying on in this way it must be that he is always in dread of what is coming. Eliphaz was wrong about that. Job had no such thought. Job was quite sure if he could only find God that all would be right, and that He would speak to him, and God would do all that was good. But he knew that somehow or other God was dealing, in allowing all these terrible things to happen to him, why he did not know, and for what end he did not know.
Should a wise man utter vain knowledge, and fill his belly with the east wind?
Should he reason with unprofitable talk? or with speeches wherewith he can do no good?
Yea, thou castest off fear, and restrainest prayer before God.
For thy mouth uttereth thine iniquity, and thou choosest the tongue of the crafty.
Thine own mouth condemneth thee, and not I: yea, thine own lips testify against thee.
Art thou the first man that was born? or wast thou made before the hills?
Hast thou heard the secret of God? and dost thou restrain wisdom to thyself?
What knowest thou, that we know not? what understandest thou, which is not in us?
With us are both the grayheaded and very aged men, much elder than thy father.
Are the consolations of God small with thee? is there any secret thing with thee?
Why doth thine heart carry thee away? and what do thy eyes wink at,
That thou turnest thy spirit against God, and lettest such words go out of thy mouth?
What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?
Behold, he putteth no trust in his saints; yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight.
How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water?
I will shew thee, hear me; and that which I have seen I will declare;
Which wise men have told from their fathers, and have not hid it:
Unto whom alone the earth was given, and no stranger passed among them.
The wicked man travaileth with pain all his days, and the number of years is hidden to the oppressor.
A dreadful sound is in his ears: in prosperity the destroyer shall come upon him.
He believeth not that he shall return out of darkness, and he is waited for of the sword.
He wandereth abroad for bread, saying, Where is it? he knoweth that the day of darkness is ready at his hand.
Trouble and anguish shall make him afraid; they shall prevail against him, as a king ready to the battle.
For he stretcheth out his hand against God, and strengtheneth himself against the Almighty.
He runneth upon him, even on his neck, upon the thick bosses of his bucklers:
Because he covereth his face with his fatness, and maketh collops of fat on his flanks.
And he dwelleth in desolate cities, and in houses which no man inhabiteth, which are ready to become heaps.
He shall not be rich, neither shall his substance continue, neither shall he prolong the perfection thereof upon the earth.
He shall not depart out of darkness; the flame shall dry up his branches, and by the breath of his mouth shall he go away.
Let not him that is deceived trust in vanity: for vanity shall be his recompence.
It shall be accomplished before his time, and his branch shall not be green.
He shall shake off his unripe grape as the vine, and shall cast off his flower as the olive.
For the congregation of hypocrites shall be desolate, and fire shall consume the tabernacles of bribery.
They conceive mischief, and bring forth vanity, and their belly prepareth deceit.