Job is in great physical pain through the sore boils that cover him from head to foot; he is still smarting under all the bereavements and losses he has sustained; and he is somewhat irritated by the hard speeches of his friends. We read, in the second chapter of this book, that “they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him.” “Job’s comforters,” even to this day, are regarded as those whose room is preferred to their company. As the result of all the trials through which Job was called to pass, there is, in this chapter, somewhat of bitterness. We need not wonder at it; the wonder is that there is not more. You ought, in estimating a man’s actions or words, to judge of his circumstances at the time. Do not take Job’s words by themselves; but consider in what condition he was; think what you would have done if you had been in his place, and you will not censure him, as you might otherwise have done.
Job 23:1-2. Then Job answered and said, Even to day is my complaint bitter: my stroke is heavier than my groaning.
He could not express all his pain. He felt that he did not complain too much. His stroke was heavier than his groaning. His words had bitterness in them; but he thought that they were justified by his affliction.
Job 23:3. Oh that I knew where I might find him!
Job longed to find his God; he wanted to come to him. He had been slandered by men; so he turns from the court of injustice below to the divine Court of King’s Bench above, where he is sure of a righteous verdict: “Oh that I knew where I might find him!”
Job 23:3. That I might come even to his seat!
To his mercy-seat, and even to his judgment-seat. Job was willing to appear even there.
Job 23:4. I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments.
He felt that he dared plead before God. He was not guilty of the things laid to his charge; so he would be bold to speak even before God’s judgment-seat. If Job had known a little more of God, as he did before his life ended, he might not have talked so glibly about ordering his cause before him, and filling his mouth with arguments. We remember how he afterwards spoke to the Lord, “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.” Who among us would desire to come and argue our case with God without our heavenly Advocate?
Job 23:5. I would know the words, which he would answer me, and understand what he would say unto me.
He was willing to hear God’s side of the argument, patient and anxious to understand the mind of God with whom he desired to plead. So far so good. There are some who do not wish to know what God would say unto them; so long as they may express their own passionate desires, they have no ear and heart waiting to hear the voice of God. Very beautiful is the next verse:
Job 23:6. Wilt he plead against me with his great power? No; but he would put strength in me.
He has confidence in the Lord that, if he could have an audience with him, God would not use his power against him; but, on the contrary, would strengthen him in order that he might state his case. Do I speak to a troubled heart here? Come to God with your burden. He will not use his power against you; but he will help you to plead with him. Trembler, come and bow at his feet! He will not spurn thee, he wil1 lift thee up. Despairing one, look to the Lord! He will not turn his wrath upon thee; but he will help thee to plead with him. “Will he plead against me with his great power? No; but he would put strength in me.”
Job 23:7-9. There the righteous might dispute with him; so should I be delivered for ever from my judge. Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him.
Job had done his best to find his God. Forward, backward, to the right, and to the left, he had gone in all directions after him; but he could not find him. I know there are persons here tonight who are in that condition; and you will never rest, I hope, until you do find the Lord. He is not far from you. I trust that with many of you, tonight is the happy hour in which your long searching shall end in a delightful finding.
Job 23:10. But he knoweth the way that I take:
If I do not know his way, he knows mine. If I cannot find him, he can find me. Here is my comfort: “He knoweth the way that I take.”
Job 23:10. When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.
Here the true Job comes to the front. You get the gracious man once more on his feet. He staggered a little; but he stands firm now: “When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” So will you, my tried sister, my afflicted brother. The trial of your faith is but for a time; there will come an end to this furnace-work; and when God has tried you, tested you, and taken away your dross, he will bring you forth, and you will be pure gold, meet for the Master’s use.
“In the furnace God may prove thee,
Thence to bring thee forth more bright;
But can never cease to love thee:
Thou art precious in his sight:
God is with thee,
God thine everlasting light.”
Job 23:11. My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined.
Happy Job, to be able to say that, and to speak the truth; but there is a touch of self about it which we cannot quite commend. Be holy; but do not claim to be holy. Be thou steadfast before God, firm in thine obedience to him; but do not mention it; for thy hope lies somewhere else. Yet we cannot condemn Job for declaring that he had kept God’s way. His friends were pleading against him, so he felt that he must defend himself.
Job 23:12. Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.
Job was a happy man to be able to say that. I hope that many of you could say the same. If you were tried with great bodily pain and depression of spirit, you could say, through divine grace, “I have not turned away from God.” These are days when we want men of principle; men who can put their foot down, and keep it down, men who cannot be turned aside. They call this firmness, “bigotry.” It is, however, only another name for Christian manliness. If you dare to do right, and face a frowning world, you shall have God’s commendation, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Job 23:13. But he is in one mind, and who can turn him?
God has one mind, and he will carry out what he wills. It is vain for any man to think of turning him from his eternal purpose.
Job 23:13-14. And what his soul desireth, even that he doth. For he performeth the thing that is appointed for me: and many such things are with him.
You will find that men who are much tried fall back upon the granite foundation of the divine decree. God has ordained it, so they yield to it; they acquiesce in it because it is according to the eternal purpose of the Most High. Though we say little about it now, there may come a time when some of you will have to say, as Job does, “For he performeth the thing that is appointed for me: and many such things are with him.”
Job 23:1. Therefore am I troubled at his presence: when I consider, I am afraid of him.
It is a bad sign when a man of God becomes afraid of God. Yet is there a holy awe which may degenerate into a servile fear which hath bondage; but even this may be the foundation of a holy confidence which will keep us in obedience to the Lord.
Job 23:16. For God maketh my heart soft, and the Almighty troubleth me:
Are you saying that tonight? If so, I am glad you are here. I have, for many years, been compassed about with a large number of persons who come from the ends of England and Scotland, and from longer distances, too, in despair of soul, and seeking comfort; but I think that never in my life have I had more than I have had this week, persons unknown to me before, who are under conviction of sin, and feeling the hand of God heavy upon them. Hard tugs have I had to bring them out of Giant Despair’s Castle. The Holy Ghost alone can do this work; but he sometimes makes use of a sympathetic brotherly word to give light to those who are in the dark. I am praying that he may do so tonight; for there may be some here who say with Job, “God maketh my heart soft, and the Almighty troubleth me.”
Job 23:17. Because I was not cut off before the darkness, neither hath he covered the darkness from my face.
He wished he had died before he came to such trouble, or that by some means such trouble had been turned away from him. May the Lord, if he sends you Job’s trouble, send you Job’s consolation! May he glorify himself by your patient endurance, if he lays upon you his heavy hand!