Verses 1–7

Job is confident that he has wrong done him by his friends, and therefore, ill as he is, he will not give up the cause, nor let them have the last word. Here,

I. He justifies his own resentments of his trouble (Job 23:2): Even to day, I own, my complaint is bitter; for the affliction, the cause of the complaint, is so. There are wormwood and gall in the affliction and misery; my soul has them still in remembrance and is embittered by them, Lam. 3:19, 20. Even to day is my complaint counted rebellion (so some read it); his friends construed the innocent expressions of his grief into reflections upon God and his providence, and called them rebellion. “But,” says he, “I do not complain more than there is cause; for my stroke is heavier than my groaning. Even today, after all you have said to convince and comfort me, still the pains of my body and the wounds of my spirit are such that I have reason enough for my complaints, if they were more bitter than they are.” We wrong God if our groaning be heavier than our stroke, like froward children, who, when they cry for nothing, have justly something given them to cry for; but we do not wrong ourselves though our stroke be heavier than our groaning, for little said is soon amended.

II. He appeals from the censures of his friends to the just judgment of God; and this he thought was an evidence for him that he was not a hypocrite, for then he durst not have made such an appeal as this. St Paul comforted himself in this, that he that judged him was the Lord, and therefore he valued not man’s judgment (1 Cor. 4:3, 4), but he was willing to wait till the appointed day of decision came; whereas Job is impatient, and passionately wishes to have the judgment-day anticipated, and to have his cause tried quickly, as it were, by a special commission. The apostle found it necessary to press it much upon suffering Christians patiently to expect the Judge’s coming, Jas. 5:7-9.

1. He is so sure of the equity of God’s tribunal that he longs to appear before it (Job 23:3): O that I knew where I might find him! This may properly express the pious breathings of a soul convinced that it has by sin lost God and is undone for ever if it recover not its interest in his favour. “O that I knew how I might recover his favour! How I might come into his covenant and communion with him!” Mic. 6:6, 7. It is the cry of a poor deserted soul. “Saw you him whom my soul loveth? O that I knew where I might find him! O that he who has laid open the way to himself would direct me into it and lead me in it!” But Job here seems to complain too boldly that his friends wronged him and he knew not which way to apply himself to God to have justice done him, else he would go even to his seat, to demand it. A patient waiting for death and judgment is our wisdom and duty, and, if we duly consider things, that cannot be without a holy fear and trembling; but a passionate wishing for death or judgment, without any such fear and trembling, is our sin and folly, and ill becomes us. Do we know what death and judgment are, and are we so very ready for them, that we need not time to get readier? Woe to those that thus, in a heat, desire the day of the Lord, Amos 5:18.

2. He is so sure of the goodness of his own cause that he longs to be opening it at God’s bar (Job 23:4): “I would order my cause before him, and set it in a true light. I would produce the evidences of my sincerity in a proper method, and would fill my mouth with arguments to prove it.” We may apply this to the duty of prayer, in which we have boldness to enter into the holiest and to come even to the footstool of the throne of grace. We have not only liberty of access, but liberty of speech. We have leave, (1.) To be particular in our requests, to order our cause before God, to speak the whole matter, to lay before him all our grievances, in what method we think most proper; we durst not be so free with earthly princes as a humble holy soul may be with God. (2.) To be importunate in our requests. We are allowed, not only to pray, but to plead, not only to ask, but to argue; nay, to fill our mouths with arguments, not to move God (he is perfectly apprized of the merits of the cause without our showing), but to move ourselves, to excite our fervency and encourage our faith in prayer.

3. He is so sure of a sentence in favour of him that he even longed to hear it (Job 23:5): “I would know the words which he would answer me,” that is, “I would gladly hear what God will say to this matter in dispute between you and me, and will entirely acquiesce in his judgment.” This becomes us, in all controversies; let the word of God determine them; let us know what he answers, and understand what he says. Job knew well enough what his friends would answer him; they would condemn him, and run him down. “But” (says he) “I would fain know what God would answer me; for I am sure his judgment is according to truth, which theirs is not. I cannot understand them; they talk so little to the purpose. But what he says I should understand and therefore be fully satisfied in.”

III. He comforts himself with the hope that God would deal favourably with him in this matter, Job 23:6, 7. Note, It is of great use to us, in every thing wherein we have to do with God, to keep up good thoughts of him. He believes, 1. That God would not overpower him, that he would not deal with him either by absolute sovereignty or in strict justice, not with a high hand, nor with a strong hand: Will he plead against me with his great power? No. Job’s friends pleaded against him with all the power they had; but will God do so? No; his power is all just and holy, whatever men’s is. Against those that are obstinate in their unbelief and impenitency God will plead with his great power; their destruction will come from the glory of his power. But with his own people, that love him and trust in him, he will deal in tender compassion. 2. That, on the contrary, he would empower him to plead his own cause before God: “He would put strength in me, to support me and bear me up, in maintaining my integrity.” Note, The same power that is engaged against proud sinners is engaged for humble saints, who prevail with God by strength derived from him, as Jacob did, Hos. 12:3. See Ps. 68:35. 3. That the issue would certainly be comfortable, Job 23:7. There, in the court of heaven, when the final sentence is to be given, the righteous might dispute with him and come off in his righteousness. Now, even the upright are often chastened of the Lord, and they cannot dispute against it; integrity itself is no fence either against calamity or calumny; but in that day they shall not be condemned with the world, though God may afflict by prerogative. Then you shall discern between the righteous and the wicked (Mal. 3:18), so vast will be the difference between them in their everlasting state; whereas now we can scarcely distinguish them, so little is the difference between them as to their outward condition, for all things come alike to all. Then, when the final doom is given, “I shall be delivered for ever from my Judge,” that is, “I shall be saved from the unjust censures of my friends and from that divine sentence which is now so much a terror to me.” Those that are delivered up to God as their owner and ruler shall be for ever delivered from him as their judge and avenger; and there is no flying from his justice but by flying to his mercy.