AN APPRECIATION OF GOD’S PERSON AND SOVEREIGN WORKING IN OUR LIVES (HIS POWER AND HIS WISDOM) REMOVES ALL PRESUMPTION AND PRIDE
Francis Andersen: Job is satisfied. His vision of God has been expanded beyond all previous bounds. He has a new appreciation of the scope and harmony of God’s world, of which he is but a small part. But this discovery does not make him feel insignificant. Just by looking at ordinary things, he realizes that he cannot even begin to imagine what it must be like to be God. The world is beautiful and terrifying, and in it all God is everywhere, seen to be powerful and wise, and more mysterious when he is known than when he is but dimly discerned. The Lord has spoken to Job. That fact alone is marvelous beyond all wonder. Job has grown in wisdom. He is at once delighted and ashamed.
Merrill: Sometimes the best answers to life’s most baffling and troubling questions lie not in what God says but in who He is. When believers recognize that truth, they begin to see that God does not just know the answers but, in fact, is the answer. To know Him is to know all one needs to know. The rest may come later but is unnecessary for now (1 Cor. 2:9; 1 John 3:2-3).
John Hartley: Contritely confessing that he has spoken beyond his knowledge (vv. 2-3), Job submits himself to the God who has appeared to him (vv. 4-6). This short passage blends together many genres: a confession of God’s power and wisdom (v. 2), an admission of limited knowledge (v. 3), an invitation to dispute a case (v. 4), an acknowledgment of Yahweh’s appearing (v. 5) and a recantation (v. 6). . .
Filled with wonder and awe at Yahweh’s appearing, Job confesses his own unworthiness. His attention shifts from his concern for vindication to his need to prepare his heart before God. The integrity of Job’s faith shines brightly. He humbles himself before God because communion with God is more important to him than release from his affliction. It has not been wrong for him to complain even against God himself. Nor has it been wrong for him to swear an oath of innocence. But the zealous pursuit of a right eventually erects a barrier between God and the offended person. Therefore, when God makes himself known, the supplicant must surrender everything to God, including his just grievances, if he is to avoid sinning and to find God’s favor again. Thus Job renounces all personal claims that could be construed to put himself above God. In humility he glorifies God.
David Clines: This short speech, though longer than Job’s previous speech (40:4–5), obviously constitutes a single strophe. Its structure is threefold:
(1) Job acknowledges the omnipotence of Yahweh (v 2),
(2) he accepts that he has intruded into an area in which he has no competence
(v 3), and
(3) having heard Yahweh’s speeches, he abandons his case against God and
determines to resume his normal life (vv 4–6).
The second and third elements each begin with a quotation of words of Yahweh, to which Job responds. The first element does not begin with a quotation, and so may be seen as Job’s response to the divine speeches as a whole, which have just now concluded.
Thomas Constable: Job’s words reveal the changes that God’s revelations had produced in him. He was aware, as never before, that God had all power and all wisdom. This resulted in an attitude of awe and submission (v. 2). He saw that it was foolish for him to question God’s actions. God knew what He was doing, even though Job did not. . .
I believe that Job admitted sinning because he suffered, but he did not admit that he was suffering because he had sinned. Job forgot his cry for vindication since he had received something much better: a revelation of the person of God and renewed fellowship with God. He had lost all, but he had found God and was now content. He had stopped asking, “Why?” since he had come to know God. We do not need to know why if we know God. Or, to put it another way, “Knowing God is better than knowing answers.” This is one of the great lessons of this book.
Cyril Barber: In these verses Job repents of his stubbornness and pride, and finds peace and contentment in the knowledge that God accepts him. He has learned that God is not only in control of the world and everything in it, but also our lives. And His love for us, which far exceeds our comprehension, is undiminished by the harsh realities of life.
“Then Job answered the LORD, and said,”
I. (:2) CONFESSION OF DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY – TWO COMPONENTS
A. Confession of God’s Power
“I know that Thou canst do all things,”
John Hartley: Throughout his speeches Job has held firmly to his conviction that God is all-powerful. In his lamenting, however, he has questioned God’s consistent execution of justice in the face of numerous examples that seem to contradict the standard of justice. Nevertheless Yahweh’s words have reaffirmed Job’s conviction of his wise and judicious governance of the world.
B. Confession of God’s Wisdom
“And that no purpose of Thine can be thwarted.”
John Hartley: Job’s concession means that he believes that everything occurring on earth takes place within the framework of the divine wisdom. No hostile force, be it earthly or heavenly, prevents God from carrying out his purpose.
Elmer Smick: Job’s immediate response (v.1) shows that he understands clearly the thrust of the second divine speech. As I noted in the opening comments on that speech, the prologue (40:8–14) sets the tone—that God is all-powerful, especially as Lord over the moral sphere. He alone puts down evil and brings to pass his entire holy will. This, as I have tried to show, is the thought also of the climax (apex) of the Leviathan poem (cf. 41:11–12).
David Clines: he is a mere mortal, unfitted by capacity or knowledge for the management of the universe; as he has said already, in comparison with Yahweh, he is of little account (40:4). So there is a concessive note here: he will not resist the divine move to put him in his place and to underline his creatureliness.
II. (:3) CONFESSION OF HUMAN PRESUMPTION AND PRIDE
A. (:3a) Pride
“Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?”
Tremper Longman: In v. 3a he quotes God’s statement (with some variation) that began his speeches (see 38:3). Job thus admits that he is indeed a person who has “hidden,” in the sense of obscuring, knowledge. He has not clarified matters by his questioning of God, but rather he has made the situation more difficult. In addition, he has not done so intelligently, but “without knowledge.”
Through God’s constant questioning, Job came to realize the limits of his wisdom and knowledge. He tried to claim a knowledge of the workings of the universe that were vastly beyond him. If he cannot even fathom the natural world (as God’s questions in chaps. 38–41 indicated, and Job’s quotation of God’s statement in v. 4 [see 38:3 again] evokes), how could he possibly pontificate about the moral universe?
David Thompson: Job was not in any position to instruct God concerning anything. Instead of demanding some confrontation with God, he should have asked God for instruction and guidance through the trials. Since God had sovereignly permitted these things to come into Job’s life, Job could learn from them.
Albert Barnes: He acknowledges that he “had” entertained and expressed such views of God as were in fact clothing the whole subject in darkness instead of explaining it. The meaning is, “Who indeed is it, as thou saidst, that undertakes to judge of great and profound purposes without knowledge? I am that presumptuous man?”
B. (:3b) Presumption
“Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand,
Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”
John Hartley: Having been confronted by the amazing way God has created the world, Job admits that matters are too wonderful for him to understand. He comes to realize that the divine wisdom is beyond the ability of any human being to grasp. In faith based on Yahweh’s words, Job acknowledges that Yahweh is true to justice in his governance of the cosmos. He expresses his submission to God’s sovereignty by recasting Yahweh’s opening accusation (38:2) into a self-judgment. This fact confirms that Job is responding to Yahweh’s speeches. In his complaints that God rules unjustly he admits that he has spoken beyond his knowledge and insight. He has approached the sin of hubris by claiming to have better insight than God into matters on earth. . .
His self-confidence has compelled him to defend his innocence vigorously. In his strong complaints against God, he has moved dangerously close to pride, i.e., being certain that he is able to judge God. Should Job persist in holding on to his avowal of innocence, he would sin by yielding to pride. But on becoming aware of the danger inherent in continuing to charge God with injustice, he humbles himself before God, conceding that he has misstated his case by speaking about things beyond his ability to know. In taking this path Job confirms that humility is essential for a vital relationship with God. With this concession Job demonstrates that he serves God for himself alone and not for any personal gain or benefit, not even his own justification. Yahweh’s confidence in his servant in the face of the Satan’s challenge has been completely vindicated.
David Clines: All Job has been speaking of are the principles on which the world is, or should be, governed; he thought they were pretty straightforward matters of justice and fairness, but the way Yahweh tells it, everything in the world is a marvel, and Job had better accept that justice and fairness too, like the structure of the physical universe, and the ways of Yahweh in rain and wind, are “marvels” beyond his comprehension or understanding. Redefining cosmic justice as a “marvel” puts it outside any realm that humans can access or have rights in. “A confession of ignorance is appropriate when man is faced by divine mysteries” (Dhorme), and Job has to confess that he knows nothing, understands nothing now that it is clear that justice is one of those “marvels” or divine mysteries.
Derek Kidner: John Calvin made the point, in the opening sentence of his Institutes of the Christian Religion, that all the wisdom we ever need to know is to be found in knowing God and knowing ourselves. That just about sums up what Job has learned in trial.
III. (:4-6) REPENTANCE THAT HUMBLES ONESELF IN SUBMISSION BEFORE GOD
A. (:4) Desire for Divine Instruction
“Hear, now, and I will speak;
I will ask Thee, and do Thou instruct me.”
Roy Zuck: Again Job quoted the Lord, this time citing God’s challenge at the beginning of each of His two speeches (38:3; 40:7): I will question you, and you shall answer Me. This quotation implied an admission that Job was unable to answer any of the Sovereign’s barrage of rhetorical questions. Job admitted to flunking God’s biology examinations.
Albert Barnes: Job was not now disposed to debate the matter, or to enter into a controversy with God. He was willing to sit down and receive instruction from God, and earnestly desired that he would “teach” him of his ways. It should be added, that very respectable critics suppose that in this verse Job designs to make confession of the impropriety of his language on former occasions, in the presumptuous and irreverent manner in which he had demanded a trial of argument with God.
B. (:5) Delight in Renewed Vision of God
“I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear;
But now my eye sees Thee;”
John Hartley: Now he has a far superior basis for faith – now my eyes have seen Yahweh! Hob had a direct encounter with the living God and heard him speak clearly. Yahweh veiled himself in a tempest, which resembles in many respects his appearance at Sinai (Exod. 19) so that Job was not consumed by his holiness. His presence, however, was so unmistakably real that Job could say now my eyes have seen you. His deepest longing – to behold his Redeemer with his own eyes – has been fulfilled (19:25-27). The vision of Yahweh overwhelms him, filling him with a sense of wonder and awe and reducing all his complaints to insignificance. In appearing to his servant, Yahweh vindicates Job’s integrity (Habel, OTL).
C. (:6) Despising All Pride and Presumption
“Therefore I retract,
And I repent in dust and ashes.”
Peter Wallace: The verb here, “ma’as,” means to reject, refuse, or despise. It is the word God used when he rejected Saul as king over Israel. It is commonly used when God is rejecting Israel – or when Israel is rejecting God! It normally requires a direct object, but here there is none: The simplest, most wooden translation of verse 6 would be: “Therefore I reject and I repent on dust and ashes.” So what does Job reject? If we take God’s speeches at face value, and therefore, if God is answering Job’s complaint, then when Job says “I reject” it would appear that he is saying, I withdraw my complaint!
Thomas Constable: The Hebrew word translated “retract” (v. 6) means to “despise” or “reject.” Job evidently not only withdrew his charges against God but also despised and rejected his attitude of pride.
Tremper Longman: In a word, he repents of the growing bitterness of his spirit and his accusations that God was unjust. He turns away from his earlier intention to bring charges against God for treating him unfairly.
Elmer Smick: Job’s integrity has been vindicated. Job does not need to repent over sins that brought on his suffering since his suffering is not the result of his sin. One should not, however, assume that Job has nothing to be sorry for. His questioning of God’s justice, for which God chided him in 38:2 (quoted in v.3), is enough to call forth a change of heart and mind.
Francis Andersen: Job could be expressing regret at his foolish words, uttered hastily and in ignorance – a fault deserving correction, but not a wickedness deserving punishment.
Roy Zuck: Having gained insight (v. 5) into God’s ways and character – His creative power and genius, His sovereign control, and His providential care and love – Job confessed his own unworthiness and repented. I despise myself means he rejected his former accusations of God spoken in pride. God had already rebuked Job for indicting, faulting, and discrediting Him (40:2).
Albert Barnes: The sense here is, that Job meant to give expression to the profoundest and sincerest feelings of penitence for his sins. From this effect produced on his mind by the address of the Almighty, we may learn the following lessons:
(1) That a correct view of the character and presence of God is adapted to produce humility and penitence; compare Job 40:4-5. This effect was produced on the mind of Peter when, astonished by a miracle performed by the Savior which none but a divine being could have done, he said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord;” Luke 5:8. The same effect; was produced on the mind of Isaiah after he had seen Yahweh of Hosts in the temple: “Then said I, Wo is me, for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the king, the Lord of Hosts;” Isaiah 6:5. No man can have any elevated views of his own importance or purity, who has right apprehensions of the holiness of his Creator.
(2) Such a view of the presence of God will produce what no argument can in causing penitence and humility. The friends of Job had reasoned with him in vain to secure just this state of mind; they had endeavored to convince him that he was a great sinner, and “ought” to exercise repentance. But he met argument with argument; and all their arguments, denunciations, and appeals, made no impression on his mind. When, however, God manifested himself to him, he was melted into contrition, and was ready to make the most penitent and humble confession. So it is now. The arguments of a preacher or a friend often make no impression on the mind of a sinner. He can guard himself against them. He can meet argument with argument, or can coolly turn the ear away. But he has no such power to resist God, and when “he” manifests himself to the soul, the heart is subdued, and the proud and self-confident unbeliever becomes humbled, and sues for mercy.
(3) A good man will be willing to confess that he is vile, when he has any clear views of God. He will be so affected with a sense of the majesty and holiness of his Maker, that he will be overwhelmed with a sense of his own unworthiness.
(4) The most holy men may have occasion to repent of their presumptuous manner of speaking of God. We all err in the same way in which Job did. We reason about God with irreverence; we speak of his government as if we could comprehend it; we discourse of him as if he were an equal; and when we come to have any just views of him, we see that there has been much improper boldness, much self-confidence, much irreverence of thought and manner, in our estimation of the divine wisdom and plans. The bitter experience of Job should lead us to the utmost carefulness in the manner in which we speak of our Maker.