When the Gospel is Your Only Consolation

G. Campbell Morgan, the predecessor to Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones at Westminster Chapel in London, was one of the greatest preachers of his day. Towards the end of his ministry, he wrote a little volume called, The Answer of Jesus to Job. While the Book of Job is one of the oldest books of the Bible, perhaps the oldest, it is also a book which includes almost the whole scheme of salvation—though it has to be mined like the precious gold that it is in order to be found. There is much more in this book than just the struggles of an ancient person with his numerous trials. The Book of Job is, in a sense, a true theodicy—that is, a justification of the ways of God—even though God did not give an answer to Job’s questions in the book. For all of us, there are certainly questions that will not be answered by God until we enter eternity and even then we will be learning forever. Yet, there are some amazing answers to some of Job’s cries and questions given to us in the New Testament. This chapter will deal with some of those answers to Job by Jesus and the other writers of the New Testament.[1] And, in doing so, we hope to show how the gospel was Job’s only true hope through his trials.  

Job’s Cry for an Umpire

In Job 9:33, the patriarch cries out: “There is no umpire between us who may lay his hand on us both.” At the beginning of this chapter, Job was absorbed with the greatness and grandeur of God. Indeed, his brief words read like a prelude to the very answers God Himself will give Job in chapters 38 to 41 of this book. After referencing a few of the Lord’s attributes—His wisdom and omnipotence—Job then turns his attention to the mighty works of God. He “removes the mountains” (Job 9:5); He “shakes the earth” (Job 9:6); He “commands the sun not to shine, and sets a seal upon the stars” (Job 9:7); He “stretches out the heavens and tramples down the waves of the sea” (Job 9:8); He made “the Bear, Orion, and Pleiades” (Job 9:9); and, He does “wondrous works without number” (Job 9:10). In comparison, Job sees himself as incredibly small to such a great Being. There are many parts of Scripture that extol the greatness of God in His creation and providential government of the world. Psalm 8, written by David, covers the same twofold comparison of God’s greatness and man’s smallness, as G. Campbell Morgan wrote:

The Hebrew singer, David, had the same feeling from a slightly different angle when he said:

“When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers,

The moon and the stars which Thou hast ordained;

What is man that Thou art mindful of him?

And the son of man that Thou visitest him?”  

There we have the same double consciousness, that of the greatness of God , and the comparative littleness of man. There was a difference, however, in that David asked how can so great a Being notice so small a being; while Job’s was rather, How can so small a being have dealings with so great a Being.[2]

David’s consciousness of God’s greatness flowed from a heart that worshiped Him, while Job was still searching for the answer to his question: “But how can a man be in the right before God?” (Job 9:2). Job was trying to answer the question of how so small and insignificant a person—indeed a sinful person—could ever have fellowship with One so great as God. That is the great question that gnaws at the heart of all people and which the gospel alone answers. Job complains in this chapter that “He destroys the guiltless and the wicked” (Job 9:22) and that even washing himself with snow and cleansing his hands with lye (Job 9:30) would not be enough to be acceptable to God. Then, Job lets forth with an anguished cry: “There is no umpire between us who may lay his hand on us both” (Job 9:33). What Job sought in his desperation is exactly the remedy that the gospel provides. As 1 Timothy 2: 5, 6 says: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.” Job’s lamenting cry is the cry of everyman, as Morgan states:

It is indeed a great cry found in this ancient writing. Many centuries have gone since the book was written and that cry escaped the human heart. Nevertheless it is a cry of elemental human nature, and expresses an abiding need.[3]  

That elemental human need was eloquently expressed by Augustine in his Confessions: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” It is the greatest abiding need of every person to have this rest in the Lord God. Yet, Christ—the only Mediator between God and man—is too often stumbled over while men seek to find another way to God. There is no other way to God except through Christ and Job’s lamenting cry for an “umpire” has always been the plan of the Lord to bring us back to Him, as Mason states:

In truth—and this is the central secret of the Bible—it was the Lord’s own idea all along that both He and mankind should submit to binding arbitration: in other words, to covenant. It has always been His plan to make peace with the human race through a mediator, through someone who could “lay his hand upon us both” by being at one and the same time the Son of God and the Son of Man, a perfectly fair and impartial representative of each party. From our point of view, we may tend to presume that because the mediator, Jesus Christ, is Himself God, He must be biased in God’s favor. But this is surprisingly not the case. For Christ is not only God but man.[4]       

Job’s Question about Life and Death

When we turn to Job 14:14, we find the greatest man of the east asking another question which is a fundamental query of the human heart. It concerns life and death. Job asks: “If a man dies, will he live again?” The word ‘again’ is not in the text, but is added by the translators. So, Job’s question is: “If a man dies, will he live?” A few verses earlier, Job had asserted: “So man lies down and does not rise. Until the heavens are no longer, he will not awake or be aroused out of his sleep’ (Job 14:12). Then, in the rest of verse 14, Job says: “All the days of my struggle I will wait until my change comes.” John  Hartley comments on this passage:

The thought of a marker leads Job to ponder again the question “If a man dies, will he live again?” If God hides him in Sheol, there would have to be some way for him to be restored to earthly life. Although he has just discounted the possibility of personal resurrection, Job’s wish pulls him back to this possibility. He affirms that he would bear the days of his service, his time of undeserved suffering, in hope until his renewal would come, renewal means a new vigorous life in a restored body. The Hebrew root is the same one translated will sprout again in reference to a tree in v. 7b. Returned to life Job would have left his old, diseased body and be given a body of full vitality.[5]  

Job’s question is answered by Jesus in His exchange with Martha at the death of her brother, Lazarus, in John 11. Jesus said to her: “Your brother will rise again” (John 11:23). Martha replied, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” (John 11:24). Then, Jesus spoke those immortal words: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die” (John 11:25, 26). Job was certain that someday there would be a renewal of his body and that he would live again. What he wanted to know was whether he would live even if he died. That was the very question Jesus answered in his words with Martha when He said: “He who lives and believes in Me will never die.” Until Jesus spoke those words to Martha at Bethany in 30 A.D. there was no answer to Job’s question. As Morgan wrote:

We need carefully to observe the real meaning of Job’s question. In our translations we have introduced a word “again.” This is not what Job asked. It was not an inquiry as to whether a dead man should come back to life; but whether a man dead so far as the physical is concerned, still lives. If a man die, if the flower is cut off, is that man still alive? The question has not to do with a possible return to life, but is concerned with the idea of the continuity of life beyond what men call death.[6]   

After asking that question, Eliphaz accuses Job of “useless talk” (Job 15:3). Even the idea of a general resurrection of all people was considered vain babbling in Job’s days, but his real question went beyond a general resurrection—he wanted to know if death is the end of life or just the end of a man’s life on this earth.

Job’s Witness in Heaven

In response to Eliphaz’s second speech, Job states: “Even now my witness is in heaven, and my advocate is on high” (Job 16:19). The idea of a man having an advocate with the Lord—a witness in heaven—was a very advanced point of theology in Job’s days. Yet, we can see the faith of Job growing with each exchange with his friends. He alone was the one who had spiritual insight into the ‘good news’ of the Bible. His friends argued as monotheists, but not as trinitarians. They had no insight into the three persons in the Godhead. Yet, Job did. He knew that One of those Persons was his Advocate—his Witness in heaven. The New Testament confirms that point about Jesus. As 1 John 2:1 says—“And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Again, Hebrews 9:24 says—“For Christ did not enter into a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.” The One whom Job exclaimed as his advocate is clearly identified in the New Testament as Jesus Christ. The witness for Job is One who knows everything perfectly. He knows everything about Job that there is to know. That is what Job’s hope and consolation is. Job cannot explain things to his friends in a way that will be convincing. His friends are men who are limited in their knowledge. Their views about God and death and eternity and salvation are incomplete. It is useless to argue with people who do not know the whole truth and, indeed, cannot know it. Job knew that when he stands before the court of God that the Lord will rectify all injustices and will deal fairly but rightly with all situations. Yet, Job knew something more than that. He knew that his Witness knew all things—even the secret things of the heart—and He was also his Advocate. Therefore, the court of God did not frighten him because his Advocate is the only Redeemer of mankind. As Morgan wrote:

That is the point at which the final comfort of the conviction of this ultimate Tribunal is found in the Person of Jesus. If our fear is created by our own moral failure, we remember that it is at this point that Christ begins to deal with us. He Who entered within the veil, Who passed into the presence of God, there to appear for us, came by the way of the Cross. Let the holy and inspired language of Scripture be retained. He “entered by His own blood.” He who stands in the presence of God as my Witness, bears the scars that tell of suffering unto death, and testify that He is the Redeemer.[7]         

The trials of Job were teaching him step-by-step the importance of the gospel. The natural law written on his heart taught him the necessity of approaching God through blood sacrifices, but these trials were weaning him from any trust in his own righteousness for his salvation. Certainly, Job 32:1 is correct when that verse says: “Then these three men ceased answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes.” Yet, Job 42:8 is also correct when the Lord said to Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar that “you have not spoken of Me what is right, as my servant Job has.” Both statements are true. Job was righteous in his own eyes, but he was coming more and more to realize that he needed an Advocate, a Witness in heaven, to represent his plight. And his testimony to the gospel is wherein he spoke what was right about God. Job was subjectively aware that his trials were not the result of any sin or sins in his life and the whole book testifies the same—including the words of the Lord to Satan. Not everything that Job said about himself was true, though. He was not sinless. His motives were not always pure. He needed to realize that not only his sons, but also he could be guilty of cursing God in his heart. All of us are guilty of sins in thoughts, words, and deeds. The Lord only affirmed in the last chapter that what Job had spoken about Him was right. The Lord did not exonerate Job from all sin. For all sinners, the only cure for their transgressions is the gospel—the blood of Jesus, the righteous One. That is what Job came to see more and more clearly.    

[1] I am indebted to G. Campbell Morgan‘s book and this chapter will deal with the various subjects he covered in The Answer of Jesus to Job. I will also be referencing other writers on the ten questions Morgan covered.

[2] G. Campbell Morgan, The Answer of Jesus to Job (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock, 2013), 28.

[3] Ibid., 29.

[4] Mike Mason, The Gospel According to Job (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1994), 119-20.

[5] John E. Hartley, The Book of Job (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988), 236.

[6] Morgan, Ibid., 43.

[7] Ibid., 64.

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