Resources » Matthew Henry's Commentary » Job » Chapter 23 » Verses 13–17

Verses 13–17

Some make Job to complain here that God dealt unjustly and unfairly with him in proceeding to punish him without the least relenting or relaxation, though he had such incontestable evidences to produce of his innocency. I am loth to think holy Job would charge the holy God with iniquity; but his complaint is indeed bitter and peevish, and he reasons himself into a sort of patience per force, which he cannot do without reflecting upon God as dealing hardly with him, but he must bear it because he cannot help it; the worst he says is that God deals unaccountably with him.

I. He lays down good truths, and truths which were capable of a good improvement, Job 23:13, 14. 1. That God’s counsels are immutable: He is in one mind, and who can turn him? He is one (so some read it) or in one; he has no counsellors by whose interest he might be prevailed with to alter his purpose: he has no counsellors by whose interest he might be prevailed with to alter his purpose: he is one with himself, and never alters his mind, never alters his measures. Prayer has prevailed to change God’s way and his providence, but never was his will or purpose changed; for known unto God are all his works. 2. That his power is irresistible: What his soul desires or designs even that he does, and nothing can stand in his way or put him upon new counsels. Men desire many things which they may not do, or cannot do, or dare not do. But God has an incontestable sovereignty; his will is so perfectly pure and right that it is highly fit he should pursue all its determinations. And he has an uncontrollable power. None can stay his hand. Whatever the Lord pleased that did he (Ps. 135:6), and always will, for it is always best. 3. That all he does is according to the counsel of his will (Job 23:14): He performs the thing that is appointed for me. Whatever happens to us, it is God that performs it (Ps. 57:2), and an admirable performance the whole will appear to be when the mystery of God shall be finished. He performs all that, and that only, which was appointed, and in the appointed time and method. This may silence us, for what is appointed cannot be altered. But to consider that, when God was appointing us to eternal life and glory as our end, he was appointing to this condition, this affliction, whatever it is, in our way, this may do more than silence us, it may satisfy us that it is all for the best; though what he does we know not now, yet we shall know hereafter. 4. That all he does is according to the custom of his providence: Many such things are with him, that is, He does many things in the course of his providence which we can give no account of, but must resolve into his absolute sovereignty. Whatever trouble we are in others have been in the like. Our case is not singular; the same afflictions are accomplished in our brethren, 1 Pet. 5:9. Are we sick or sore, impoverished and stripped? Are our children removed by death or our friends unkind? This is what God has appointed for us, and many such things are with him. Shall the earth be forsaken for us?

II. He makes but a bad use of these good truths. Had he duly considered them, he might have said, “Therefore am I easy and pleased, and well reconciled to the way of my God concerning me; therefore will I rejoice in hope that my troubles will issue well at last.” But he said, Therefore am I troubled at his presence, Job 23:15. Those are indeed of troubled spirits who are troubled at the presence of God, as the psalmist, who remembered God and was troubled, Ps. 77:3. See what confusion poor Job was now in, for he contradicted himself: just now he was troubled for God’s absence (Job 23:8, 9); now he is troubled at his presence. When I consider, I am afraid of him. What he now felt made him fear worse. There is indeed that which, if we consider it, will show that we have cause to be afraid of God—his infinite justice and purity, compared with our own sinfulness and vileness; but if, withal, we consider his grace in a Redeemer, and our compliance with that grace, our fears will vanish and we shall see cause to hope in him. See what impressions were made upon him by the wounds of his spirit. 1. He was very fearful (Job 23:16): The Almighty troubled him, and so made his heart soft, that is, utterly unable to bear any thing, and afraid of every thing that stirred. There is a gracious softness, like that of Josiah, whose heart was tender, and trembled at the word of God; but this is meant of a grievous softness which apprehends every thing that is present to be pressing and every thing future to be threatening. 2. He was very fretful, peevish indeed, for he quarrels with God, (1.) Because he did not die before his troubles, that he might never have seen them (Because I was not cut off before the darkness, Job 23:17), and yet if, in the height of his prosperity, he had received a summons to the grave, he would have thought it hard. This may help to reconcile us to death, whenever it comes, that we do not know what evil we may be taken away from. But when trouble comes it is folly to wish we had not lived to see it and it is better to make the best of it. (2.) Because he was left to live so long in his troubles, and the darkness was not covered from his face by his being hidden in the grave. We should bear the darkness better than thus if we would but remember that to the upright there sometimes arises a marvellous light in the darkness; however, there is reserved for them a more marvellous light after it.