Job Chapter Twenty-Three
This chapter begins Job’s reply to Eliphaz. In this reply he takes no notice of his friends, either because he saw it was to no purpose or because he liked the good counsel Eliphaz gave his at the close of his discourse. He appeals to God instead, begs to have his cause heard, and doubts not but to make it good, presents the testimony of his own conscience concerning his integrity. Job seems to be struggling between flesh and spirit, fear and faith throughout this chapter.
Read Job 23:1-7
v1-2. “THEN JOB ANSWERED AND SAID, EVEN TO DAY is MY COMPLAINT BITTER: MY STROKE IS HEAVIER THAN MY GROANING.”
Job starts out by justifying his own resentment of his troubles. Even today, I admit, my complaint is bitter; as bitter as the affliction, the cause of the complaint. His words are very similar to those of Jeremiah as he mourns the calamities that have befallen Judah.
Lamentations 3:19-20 “REMEMBERING MINE AFFLICTION AND MY MISERY, THE WORMWOOD AND THE GALL. MY SOUL HATH them STILL IN REMEMBRANCE, AND IS HUMBLED IN ME.”
v3. “OH THAT I KNEW WHERE I MIGHT FIND HIM! that I MIGHT COME even TO HIS SEAT!”
Job longs to come before God to plead his case at the heavenly throne. His soul is longing to recover the relationship he enjoyed with God before his affliction. It is the cry of a poor deserted soul, reflective of the wailing and gnashing of teeth described by Jesus that was the lot of those banned to outer darkness, or as we find in the Song of Solomon, as this poem describes Solomon’s search for God near the end of his life.
Song of Solomon 3:1-2 “BY NIGHT ON MY BED I SOUGHT HIM WHOM MY SOUL LOVETH: I SOUGHT HIM, BUT I FOUND HIM NOT. I WILL RISE NOW, AND GO ABOUT THE CITY IN THE STREETS, AND IN THE BROAD WAYS I WILL SEEK HIM WHOM MY SOUL LOVETH: I SOUGHT HIM, BUT I FOUND HIM NOT. THE WATCHMEN THAT GO ABOUT THE CITY FOUND ME: to whom i said, SAW YE HIM WHOM MY SOUL LOVETH?”
v4. “I WOULD ORDER my CAUSE BEFORE HIM, AND FILL MY MOUTH WITH ARGUMENTS.”
Job is so sure of his innocence in God’s sight, his integrity is totally intact in spite of the attacks made by his so-called friends; that he wishes to bring his cause before God and let him judge. His love for God is still so great that he feels that he could enter God’s judgment chamber with the same boldness that the Apostle John tells us we should have:
I John 4:17-18 “HEREIN IS OUR LOVE MADE PERFECT, THAT WE MAY HAVE BOLDNESS IN THE DAY OF JUDGMENT: BECAUSE AS HE IS, SO ARE WE IN THIS WORLD. THERE IS NO FEAR IN LOVE; BUT PERFECT LOVE CASTETH OUT FEAR: BECAUSE FEAR HATH TORMENT. HE THAT FEARETH IS NOT MADE PERFECT IN LOVE.”
v5-7. “I WOULD KNOW THE WORDS which HE WOULD ANSWER ME, AND UNDERSTAND WHAT HE WOULD SAY UNTO ME. WILL HE PLEAD AGAINST ME WITH his GREAT POWER? NO; BUT HE WOULD PUT strength IN ME. THERE THE RIGHTEOUS MIGHT DISPUTE WITH HIM; SO SHOULD I BE DELIVERED FOR EVER FROM MY JUDGE.”
Job is so sure of God’s judgment that he longs to hear words from him. He won’t plead against me with his great power but he will strengthen me. He knows that God will be as Malachi describes the judgment to come, because he knows that he is one of God’s jewels:
Malachi 3:17-18 “AND THEY SHALL BE MINE, SAITH THE LORD OF HOSTS, IN THAT DAY WHEN I MAKE UP MY JEWELS; AND I WILL SPARE THEM, AS A MAN SPARETH HIS OWN SON THAT SERVETH HIM. THEN SHALL YE RETURN, AND DISCERN BETWEEN THE RIGHTEOUS AND THE WICKED, BETWEEN HIM THAT SERVETH GOD AND HIM THAT SERVETH HIM NOT.”
Read Job 23:8-12
v8-9. “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:”
not understand the meaning of God’s providence.
Eliphaz had told him to acquaint himself with God but Job says I can’t
find him. He has this great desire to
appear before God, let God once and for all time put his troubles to rest but
he can’t find him; he’s searching diligently but to no avail.
v10. “BUT HE KNOWETH THE WAY THAT I TAKE: when HE HATH TRIED ME, I SHALL COME FORTH AS GOLD.”
Job seems almost contend with this thought. Even though God through his providence which Job does not understand is sending him trouble, trial and affliction he knows that God knows the way that he takes. He knows what kind of man Job is. He is putting Job through a refinery of spiritual fire, as it were, and he’s coming forth as the purest gold. We understand that better perhaps if we read:
Isaiah 48:10 “BEHOLD, I HAVE REFINED THEE, BUT NOT WITH SILVER; I HAVE CHOSEN THEE IN THE FURNACE OF AFFLICTION.”
v11. “MY FOOT HATH HELD HIS STEPS, HIS WAY HAVE I KEPT, AND NOT DECLINED. NEITHER HAVE I GONE BACK FROM THE COMMANDMENT OF HIS LIPS; I HAVE ESTEEMED THE WORDS OF HIS MOUTH MORE THAN MY NECESSARY food.”
My foot has held His steps, I’ve walked in the way of the Lord, not deviated, not turned aside, not turned back, but going forward always to the ultimate destination of man, God’s judgment. We must do likewise. Whatever difficulties we encounter living in the way of God’s commandments, whatever troubles we have to endure, we must never think of turning back to the world but continue our journey relentlessly to the end of our time. Job says he has held the word of God to be more dear to him that filling his stomach with physical food. How many of us can say that honestly?
Read Job 23:13-17
v13-14. “BUT HE is IN ONE mind, AND WHO CAN TURN HIM? AND what HIS SOUL DESIRETH, EVEN that HE DOETH. FOR HE PERFORMETH the thing that is APPOINTED FOR ME: AND MANY SUCH things are WITH HIM.”
Job shows us here that God’s counsel is immutable. He has no counselors to give him advice, or with whom he makes his decisions or discusses his purposes. He is one within himself and never changes his mind or alters his measures. He can be prevailed upon by prayer and has yielded to the fervent prayer of righteous men such as Abraham, David, and others. We can confirm this with the words of James:
James “CONFESS your
FAULTS ONE TO ANOTHER, AND PRAY ONE FOR ANOTHER, THAT YE MAY BE HEALED. THE
EFFECTUAL FERVENT PRAYER OF A RIGHTEOUS MAN AVAILETH MUCH.”
v15. “THEREFORE AM I TROUBLED AT HIS PRESENCE: WHEN I CONSIDER, I AM AFRAID OF HIM.”
Yet at the same time Job, because he does understand his relationship to God is at the same time afraid of Him. He’s troubled in his presence. Job has actually contradicted himself in this chapter. In verses 8 & 9 he was troubled by God’s absence, not in verse 15 he’s troubled by the meaning of His presence. He is indeed one whose spirit is troubled. He’s like Asaph in the psalm:
Psalms 77:2-3 “IN THE DAY OF MY TROUBLE I SOUGHT THE LORD: MY SORE RAN IN THE NIGHT, AND CEASED NOT: MY SOUL REFUSED TO BE COMFORTED. I REMEMBERED GOD, AND WAS TROUBLED: I COMPLAINED, AND MY SPIRIT WAS OVERWHELMED. SELAH.”
v16. “FOR GOD MAKETH MY HEART SOFT, AND THE ALMIGHTY TROUBLETH ME:”
Job’s heart is tender; it trembles at the word of God. This is meant as a fearful softness which feels everything that is present to be pressing and everything in the future to be a threat. Thus he’s troubled all the more.
v17. “BECAUSE I WAS NOT CUT OFF BEFORE THE DARKNESS, neither HATH HE COVERED THE DARKNESS FROM MY FACE.”
This tenderness of Job’s heart is come about because, he says, he did not die before all of this darkness came to him. Because he has lived through this darkness God has covered the darkness from his face, did not allow him to die instead of enduring his afflictions.