“MUSINGS WHILE IN THE HOLD”
MUSINGS CONCERNING THE SUFFERING AND THE MISERY
The Dark Side Of The Hold
“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 23:8-9).
“When I looked for good, then evil came unto me: and when I waited for light, there came darkness.” (Job 30:26).
“But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10)
The mysteries of Divine providence are of great depth. Surely, God’s ways are not the ways of man. “Who by searching can find out God?” “Who can find out the Almighty unto perfection?” (Job 11:7). “God thundereth marvelously with his voice; great things doeth he, which we cannot comprehend.” (Job 37:5).
The proof of man’s inability to comprehend the ways of God are illustrated in the extraordinary life of Job. Answer, if you can, why would God ordain such extensive sufferings in a man that He, Himself testified, “that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?” (Job 1:8). Why? Why? We might ask would the Very God of eternal love, compassion, righteousness, holiness, equity, and bowels full of tender mercies, willingly turn the epitome of human goodness and faithful obedience over to the power of Satan, to do with him whatsoever he desired? (Job 1:12, 2:3).
The Lord assured the wicked adversary that his aim and intention to destroy Job was without cause; yet, Job’s God sought not to prevent such happenings. (Job 2:3). Every time the Devil requested leave of the Lord to crush, torment, and disfigure Job, God granted him permission. (Job 2:6). Then the most unfathomable transaction of all intensified the misery. The Almighty God hid His face from faithful Job, shut out his prayers, and appeared not to impart, in these grueling days of incomparable devastation, one drop of His divine compassions. Answer how all these things could be, and you will have surpassed, yea! superseded by far, the holy brilliance of the Angelic Host, the inspired Prophets, and the chosen Apostles.
Sparing not His own Son to procure a perfect redemption is truly an awesome study. Jesus Christ the Lord was vicarious in every aspect of His life. His sufferings, trials, the death of death in His triumphant resurrection are all glorious wonders to ponder. As miraculous as all this was and is, we have grounds for understanding. Jesus Christ is the only acceptable sacrifice for the salvation of His people. Job on the other hand, as upright as he was, could not impute any saving spiritual properties to anyone. (Ezek. 14:14, 20). Why then, this enormous display of human suffering and loss? Everything was taken from him — children, perhaps grandchildren, even the source of his livelihood; only his wife was spared. (Job 2).
To try and explain this absorbing and compelling counsel of God is a task worthy of only the infinite. Suffice it to say, “that the God of heaven will do right.” All of His dealings are perfect and insurmountable. Such Holy orderings are not compatible with our earth-bound faculties.
“We cannot attain to a comprehension of all the wisdom of God. We cannot see how its several parts cohere with each other, or how they consist with the perfections of Him who designed it and who is conducting it. There is much that, to human view, seems to be at variance with a well-ordered administration. There is much that we cannot account for, much that we cannot understand. There are many things in the management of the world that completely baffle every attempt to unriddle them. We cannot see why they are, nor why God permits them, nor how He can consistently permit them. With our limited understandings and our restricted range of observation, we cannot pretend to fathom the bottomless deep, nor measure what has no bounds. We cannot, even by the most prolonged search or the most elaborate investigation, attain to a thorough understanding of God’s infinite designs. But the keenest insight and the most indefatigable application of the human faculties fail to discover the Wisdom that rules in all. The secret that resolves all mysteries, harmonizes all strife, reconciles all contradictions, and reduces this seemingly inextricable confusion to perfect symmetry and order is hidden in God’s mind alone.” (Job’s Triumph Over Satan, by William Henry Green).
“THEN, Job answered and said…. Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: On left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him.” (Job 23:1, 8-9).
Job saw nothing, perceived nothing, and beheld nothing from his God. The very desire of his hope and trust was hidden from his view and perception. This was compounded misery that only an ardent lover of Jehovah could endure.
“He expresses his desire after God, that he might know where he was, and come up to his seat: here he relates the various ways he took to find him, and his fruitless search of him.” (Jarchi).
Job’s wild statements, hard thoughts against God, and bitter complaints were the result of his acute bewilderment with regard to the Lord’s hidden face. He was sharply agitated by the relentless grief, and his soul was sifted like the wheat. Groan and howl ever so much, Job declared that all his noise was still less than the devouring strokes he received which blasted his very existence. (Job 23:1-3). “Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat! I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments.” (verses 3-4).
One can almost hear the sobbing strains which fell from his lips. Vivid pictures fill the mind with respect to the broken body covered with running sore boils as he wailed with questions and grappled for answers. “Thine hands have made me and fashioned me together round about; yet thou dost destroy me. Remember, I beseech thee, that thou hast made me as the clay; and wilt thou bring me into dust again? Hast thou not poured me out as milk, and curdled me like cheese?” “I have sinned; what shall I do unto thee, O thou preserver of men? why hast thou set me as a mark against thee, so that I am a burden to myself?” “Wherefore then hast thou brought me forth out of the womb? Oh that I had given up the ghost, and no eye had seen me! I should have been as though I had not been . . .” (Job 10:8-10, 7:20, 10:18-19).
Verse 9: ” . . . he hideth himself, . . . I cannot see him.” To those that hunger for intimacy and continual fellowship with God, this hiding of His face is terrible. When the Lord is silent, there is a great annoyance to the soul. When He seems to hide His face and shuts the door on each enterprise, that is strange and baffling. However, when it appears that He is the initiator and propagator of the dismal dejection, that is heartache that eludes understanding. This is when the child cries for help and supplies, but there is no answer from God. The poor soul looks in every direction and studies all conditions, pleading with exasperated hopes, only to find, like the Father of hope, they too hide themselves from the staggering saint. The promises tell of great deliverance, but it does not come. These calamities increase the conflict which rages within the soul. The pitiful entreaties beg for mercies from God. Yet, the Lord is not perceived, nor can His presence be felt. The whole frame of man is both physically and spiritually rocked with disbelief, while God hides and grants no assistance.
Regardless of the thick darkness that surrounds the believer, he must keep his heart with all diligence. Knowing that for every man there is a divine purposes, a divine planner, a divine deliverer, and a divine fulfillment. God’s ways are awe-inspiring and unsearchable, marvelous things without number. (Job 5:9; Eccl. 3:11). He gives no answer to any of His matters, they are perfect and entire. (Job 33:13). Elihu said to Job: “Touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out: he is excellent in power, and in judgment, and in plenty of justice: he will not afflict.” (Not afflict arbitrarily or without divine cause.)
All advice from loved ones, good friends, or the sanctimonious show of piety like that of Job’s three friends needs to be taken with a grain of salt, for no man knows what is in the mind of God. Solomon has a decisive announcement for all who pretend to fathom the Lord’s dealings with other men. “Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea farther; though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.” (Eccl. 2:17).
It is not necessary to see, perceive, or understand God’s ways to believe Him. The Bible does teach, however, that those that come to Him must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. Men do not need a conclusive knowledge of His wonders to believe that He is eternally flawless. The comfort is found in this one fact. Whatever God brings to pass will always work out for the very best to those that love Him (Rom. 8:28), whether it be inexplicable suffering or exalted honor.
It is in the times of frightful trouble and indecision that the Lord seems to hide His face and stand afar off. (Ps. 10:1). How long will He do this is a fair question for those that ever seek to be near Him. (Ps. 13:1). It may very well seem like forever, and sincere saints quite naturally assume that His hidden face is the result of His displeasure towards them. (Ps. 89:46). Isaiah observed: “Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself . . .” He also understood that He was still his God nonetheless, and that there was no other Saviour beside Him. (Is. 45:15).
The hiding of God’s face only accentuates the seeker’s desire for a clear revealing. When the Lord’s face is noticeably hidden, it in many cases is because of sin. (Is. 1:15, 59:2, 64:7; Ezk. 29:23-24; Micah 3:4). This hiding is designed to bring about a sincere search and repentance in the hearts of those who are aware of His absence. (Ps. 51:1-4, 9, 12, 17).
Afflictions and oppressions also call for God to awake and arise to help those that hunger for His countenance. “Wherefore hideth thou thy face, and forgettest our afflictions and our oppression?” “. . . now will I arise, saith the Lord; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him.” (Ps. 44:24, 12:5). The hidden face of God will without fail cause thorough studies into the reason, or reasons why such is the case. The course is not finished until a solution is found. God will not start the one without securing the other. “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” (Phil. 1:6).
“When I looked for good, then evil came unto me: and when I waited for the light, there came darkness.” (Job 30:26).
“In former days he had brought sympathy to cheer others, but now when he looks for blessings for himself there is nothing but misery and unrest (25-27). He is dried up, helpless, fit only to keep company with the beasts of the desert (28, 29); his skin is shriveled up and his bones consumed by a raging fire within (30). What wonder then that all the music of his life has become a mournful dirge (31)?” (The Book of Job, by Edgar C.S. Gibson),
That Job was a Godly and benevolent man in his prosperity is well documented in Chapter 29. For one man to give so much to so many is a rare gift indeed. To expect no gain from man in the process of kindness is a Biblical principle. (Luke 67:35). But to be treated as the offscouring of the earth by those who benefited by his righteous acts was a rancid display of human depravity.
When God’s candle did shine unto Job and the Lord’s secret was his tabernacle, so commending was his presence that the young men hid themselves, and the aged arose and stood up when he came near. (Job 29:8). The greatest of men held their peace and refrained from talking because they knew they were in the presence of a highly favored man of God. (Job 29:9-11). He delivered the poor, he helped the fatherless and those that had no hope, he became their hope. He caused the widow’s heart to sing, he was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame. He was a wonderful protector to those who had no strength. To those round about him, his word was chief counsel. To all, Job was the man that was dressed in righteousness and his judgment was considered as the unction of God. (Job 29: 12-25).
We are apt to feel superior to the contemporaries of Job. Surely, we would have treated him with great respected even in his dark days. That is not likely. We would no doubt have treated him the way we treated Jesus Christ prior to conversion. But now they have me in derision. “Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.” (Job 30:2; Matt. 26:56).
I looked for good – evil came. “We looked for peace, but no good came; and for a time of health, and behold trouble!” (Jer. 8:15). Isaiah was most descriptive when he said: “Therefore is judgment far from us, neither doth justice overtake us: we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness. We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noon day as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men. We roar all like bears, and mourn sore like doves: we look for judgment, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far off from us.” (Is. 59:9-11). All of these miseries Isaiah said were caused by sins and iniquities. When God hides His face, the believer needs to seek God for the exact reasons why. As soon as the discovery is made, the tender child must then trust in the merciful God to deliver him from his darkness.
The evil and darkness that came upon Job, although he was not a sinless man, were a far different reason than stiff-necked rebellion. A faithful man can endure God’s absence but a short time, while rebels take very little notice until they are crushed with destruction.
“When I waited for light, there came darkness.” If Job was hoping for assistance from man, he was truly deceived. Just because one shows compassion to another never guarantees he will receive the same in return. Job’s fair-weather friends lasted no longer than his prosperity. When evil came upon Job, so did their heartless ridicule. As soon as his prospects appeared dim, their light of affection went out.
Satan’s charge was that Job served God for selfish motives. (Job 1:9-11; 2:4-5). In the case of Job this was false, and when all was taken from him, he still worshipped God. However, with Job’s friends, and most of us who say we trust God with our life, I fear we too are subject to our own profit in the attachment to the Lord. If we can clearly see that tomorrow is safe and there are a few coins in the coffer, we boast in our faithful God. When we are required to walk by faith, however, we stagger, stumble, and give a list of excuses as to why we lean on the arm of the flesh. There is more confidence given to institutions and organizations of men than we are willing to admit. All of those wicked trusts and unbeliefs are sinful excuses. You may offer an excuse for unfaithfulness, but you can never give a reason for it.
Job’s music had been replaced by a bitter wail. His skin was shriveled, the bones burned with fever, his days fill with tears and mourning, his bowels boiled. God, said Job, “hath fenced up my way that I cannot pass, and he hath set darkness in my paths.” (Job 19:8). Notice, Job never blamed man for his condition. All was ascribed to the Lord. He never sought deliverance from man. He trusted in God, yea, even when it seemed as if God was going to take him to the grave in his afflictions. “He hath destroyed me on every side, and I am gone: and mine hope hath he removed like a tree. He hath also kindled his wrath against me, and he counteth me unto him as one of his enemies.” (Job 19:10-11). Now would Job abandon God at such a time as this? No! a thousand times no. “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” (Job 13:15, 19:25-26). What is the conclusion of the whole matter? Is our faith written with holy ink, or do we walk by sight? A faith that does not trust God in all, at all times, in all circumstances, is spiritual adultery. It is characterized by unfaithfulness, and shows greater affection for the visible. What think ye?
“But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10). There were times when Job used harsh words in describing the Lord’s dealings with him. His wretched physical form and disgrace had left him empty. The anguish was so overwhelming that at one point it caused him to hope for death rather than live a life blighted and hollow. “Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul; Which long for death, but it cometh not; and dig for it more than for hid treasures; Which rejoice exceedingly, and are glad, when they can find the grave? (Job 3:20-22).
The profound sufferings were extensive and as a result easily lead the heart and mind of Job to great miscalculations and conclusions concerning the perfections and judgments of God. However, even in the pits of despair Job’s faith in God stood its ground. “But he knoweth the way that I take.” David had noted that “the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.” (Ps. 37:23). Jeremiah and Solomon agreed that God knows the ways of man. It is never easy for our robust and haughty flesh to accept, but the Scriptures clearly teach that it is not in man to direct his steps. If it is not in man to command his way, then it quite reasonably must be assigned to another. Faith receives this blessed truth and bows the head in humble adoration. “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.” (Jer. 10:23; Prov. l 16:9). Those that submit and embrace Divine Sovereignty understand that the times of man are in the hands of God. (Ps. 31:15).
The omniscience of God is subservient to no one. God is never surpassed by the deeds of man. His knowledge is perfect regarding all ways of all created beings or things. It has been well stated by another. “If God ever increased in knowledge, or had to be acquainted with any new intention of the creature, He would no longer be perfect in omniscience, and therefore could not be God.”
Psalm 139 is a faithful affirmation of the knowledge of God. He knoweth all — past, present and future. Every aspect of each deed is under His absolute control from eternity past to eternity future. There is no new counsel in the counsels of Jehovah.
“When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” Faith had now lead Job to ascertain that there was indeed a grand and glorious purpose in all he had been suffering. He now understood that when the Lord’s holy will was accomplished, he would come forth as gold. The dross would be purged, the will subdued, and the heart submissive to the sacred and perfect counsels of God.
The method the Lord has ordained for the perfecting of His saints is trials and afflictions. Much purging is essential to remove the dross and impurities from the vessels He has chosen. This is a Biblical absolute that the believer must keep close to his heart. God has chosen affliction, many afflictions for the redeemed in this life. These trials and sufferings will never give new life in Christ, but, because we have new life in Christ, we shall likewise have afflictions many. The wisdom of God for them should be received as impeccably holy and right. If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him. (2 Tim. 2:11-12). “Many are the afflictions of the righteous.” (Ps. 34:17). These afflictions are said by the Lord to be His purpose, and that they, by fire, will try His precious elect. “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:7). The Lord said I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction. (Is. 48:10). Peter said that the redeemed should not think fiery trials a strange thing. (1 Peter 4:12). The proving and trying are for refining. (Ps. 66:10; Is. 48:10; Mal. 3:3). “And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin.” (Is. 1:25).
Afflictions are not chance happenings or circumstances that just fall out as a matter of course. They are divinely ordained and the purpose is sanctified by Deity’s design. When afflictions, trials, and all manner of trouble come to the believer, they are for the purpose of purging and conforming. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Rom. 8:29).
Each and every transaction in the life of every man is the ordering of divine predestination. Why so many despise or shun this wonderful doctrine must be because they do not receive with conviction that God is the Lord of all affliction, as well as salvation. Man can do no more, or no less, than God has ordered. We cannot frustrate, disannul, delay, or cause God to fall short of His Holy appointments.
The promised outcome of fiery trials is that the redeemed will come forth as gold. Their sufferings will redound to praise, honor, and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:7). See also James 1:12. Paul, when writing to the Corinthians said “For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” (2 Cor. 4:15-17). Note these other verses: Job 5:17, 34:31; Heb. 12:11; 1 Peter 4:13; Hab. 3:17-19; 2 Cor. 6:10.
“When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”