Bildad began with a rebuke to Job for talking so much, Job 8:2. Job makes no answer to that, though it would have been easy enough to retort it upon himself; but in what he next lays down as his principle, that God never perverts judgment, Job agrees with him: I know it is so of a truth, Job 9:2. Note, We should be ready to own how far we agree with those with whom we dispute, and should not slight, much less resist, a truth, though produced by an adversary and urged against us, but receive it in the light and love of it, though it may have been misapplied. “It is so of a truth, that wickedness brings men to ruin and the godly are taken under God’s special protection. These are truths which I subscribe to; but how can any man make good his part with God?” In his sight shall no flesh living be justified, Ps. 143:2. How should man be just with God? Some understand this as a passionate complaint of God’s strictness and severity, that he is a God whom there is no dealing with; and it cannot be denied that there are, in this chapter, some peevish expressions, which seem to speak such language as this. But I take this rather as a pious confession of man’s sinfulness, and his own in particular, that, if God should deal with any of us according to the desert of our iniquities, we should certainly be undone.
I. He lays this down for a truth, that man is an unequal match for his Maker, either in dispute or combat.
1. In dispute (Job 9:3): If he will contend with him, either at law or at an argument, he cannot answer him one of a thousand. (1.) God can ask a thousand puzzling questions which those that quarrel with him, and arraign his proceedings, cannot give an answer to. When God spoke to Job out of the whirlwind he asked him a great many questions (Dost thou know this? Canst thou do that?) to none of which Job could give an answer, Job 38:1-39:30 God can easily manifest the folly of the greatest pretenders to wisdom. (2.) God can lay to our charge a thousand offences, can draw up against us a thousand articles of impeachment, and we cannot answer him so as to acquit ourselves from the imputation of any of them, but must, by silence, give consent that they are all true. We cannot set aside one as foreign, another as frivolous, and another as false. We cannot, as to one, deny the fact, and plead not guilty, and, as to another, deny the fault, confess and justify. No, we are not able to answer him, but must lay our hand upon our mouth, as Job did (Job 40:4, 5), and cry, Guilty, guilty.
2. In combat (Job 9:4): “Who hath hardened himself against him and hath prospered?” The answer is very easy. You cannot produce any instance, from the beginning of the world to this day, of any daring sinner who has hardened himself against God, has obstinately persisted in rebellion against him, who did not find God too hard for him and pay dearly for his folly. Such transgressors have not prospered or had peace; they have had no comfort in their way nor any success. What did ever man get by trials of skill, or trials of titles, with his Maker? All the opposition given to God is but setting briers and thorns before a consuming fire; so foolish, so fruitless, so destructive, is the attempt, Isa. 27:4; Ezek. 28:24; 1 Cor. 10:22. Apostate angels hardened themselves against God, but did not prosper, 2 Pet. 2:4. The dragon fights, but is cast out, Rev. 12:9. Wicked men harden themselves against God, dispute his wisdom, disobey his laws, are impenitent for their sins and incorrigible under their afflictions; they reject the offers of his grace, and resist the strivings of his Spirit; they make nothing of his threatenings, and make head against his interest in the world. But have they prospered? Can they prosper? No; they are but treasuring up for themselves wrath against the day of wrath. Those that roll this will find it return upon them.
II. He proves it by showing what a God he is with whom we have to do: He is wise in heart, and therefore we cannot answer him at law; he is mighty in strength, and therefore we cannot fight it out with him. It is the greatest madness that can be to think to contend with a God of infinite wisdom and power, who knows every thing and can do every thing, who can be neither outwitted nor overpowered. The devil promised himself that Job, in the day of his affliction, would curse God and speak ill of him, but, instead of that, he sets himself to honour God and to speak highly of him. As much pained as he is, and as much taken up with his own miseries, when he has occasion to mention the wisdom and power of God he forgets his complaints, dwells with delight, and expatiates with a flood of eloquence, upon that noble useful subject. Evidences of the wisdom and power of God he fetches,
1. From the kingdom of nature, in which the God of nature acts with an uncontrollable power and does what he pleases; for all the orders and all the powers of nature are derived from him and depend upon him.
(1.) When he pleases he alters the course of nature, and turns back its streams, Job 9:5-7. By the common law of nature the mountains are settled and are therefore called everlasting mountains, the earth is established and cannot be removed (Ps. 93:1) and the pillars there of are immovably fixed, the sun rises in its season, and the stars shed their influences on this lower world; but when God pleases he can not only drive out of the common track, but invert the order and change the law of nature. [1.] Nothing more firm than the mountains. When we speak of removing mountains we mean that which is impossible; yet the divine power can make them change their seat: He removes them and they know not, removes them whether they will or no; he can make them lower their heads; he can level them, and overturn them in his anger; he can spread the mountains as easily as the husbandman spreads the molehills, be they ever so high, and large, and rocky. Men have much ado to pass over them, but God, when he pleases, can make them pass away. He made Sinai shake, Ps. 68:8. The hills skipped, Ps. 114:4. The everlasting mountains were scattered, Hab. 3:6. [2.] Nothing more fixed than the earth on its axletree; yet God can, when he pleases, shake the earth out of its place, heave it off its centre, and make even its pillars to tremble; what seemed to support it will itself need support when God gives it a shock. See how much we are indebted to God’s patience. God has power enough to shake the earth from under that guilty race of mankind which makes it groan under the burden of sin, and so to shake the wicked out of it (Job 38:13); yet he continues the earth, and man upon it, and does not make it, as once, to swallow up the rebels. [3.] Nothing more constant than the rising sun, it never misses its appointed time; yet God, when he pleases, can suspend it. He that at first commanded it to rise can countermand it. Once the sun was told to stand, and another time to retreat, to show that it is still under the check of its great Creator. Thus great is God’s power; and how great then is his goodness, which causes his sun to shine even upon the evil and unthankful, though he could withhold it! He that made the stars also, can, if he pleases, seal them up, and hide them from our eyes. By earthquakes and subterraneous fires mountains have sometimes been removed and the earth shaken: in very dark and cloudy days and nights it seems to us as if the sun were forbidden to rise and the stars were sealed up, Acts 27:20. It is sufficient to say that Job here speaks of what God can do; but, if we must understand it of what he has done in fact, all these verses may perhaps be applied to Noah’s flood, when the mountains of the earth were shaken, and the sun and stars were darkened; and the world that now is we believe to be reserved for that fire which will consume the mountains, and melt the earth, with its fervent heat, and which will turn the sun into darkness.
(2.) As long as he pleases he preserves the settled course and order of nature; and this is a continued creation. He himself alone, by his own power, and without the assistance of any other, [1.] Spreads out the heaven (Job 9:8), not only did spread them out at first, but still spreads them out (that is, keeps them spread out), for otherwise they would of themselves roll together like a scroll of parchment. [2.] He treads upon the waves of the sea; that is, he suppresses them and keeps them under, that they return not to deluge the earth (Ps. 104:9), which is given as a reason why we should all fear God and stand in awe of him, Jer. 5:22. He is mightier than the proud waves Ps. 93:4; Ps. 65:7. [3.] He makes the constellations; three are named for all the rest (Job 9:9), Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and in general the chambers of the south. The stars of which these are composed he made at first, and put into that order, and he still makes them, preserves them in being, and guides their motions; he makes them to be what they are to man, and inclines the hearts of man to observe them, which the beasts are not capable of doing. Not only those stars which we see and give names to, but those also in the other hemisphere, about the antarctic pole, which never come in our sight, called here the chambers of the south, are under the divine direction and dominion. How wise is he then, and how mighty!
2. From the kingdom of Providence, that special Providence which is conversant about the affairs of the children of men. Consider what God does in the government of the world, and you will say, He is wise in heart and mighty in strength. (1.) He does many things and great, many and great to admiration, Job 9:10. Job here says the same that Eliphaz had said (Job 5:9), and in the original in the very same words, not declining to speak after him, though now his antagonist. God is a great God, and doeth great things, a wonder-working God; his works of wonder are so many that we cannot number them and so mysterious that we cannot find them out. O the depth of his counsels! (2.) He acts invisibly and undiscerned, Job 9:11. “He goes by me in his operations, and I see him not, I perceive him not. His way is in the sea,” Ps. 77:19. The operations of second causes are commonly obvious to sense, but God does all about us and yet we see him not, Acts 17:23. Our finite understandings cannot fathom his counsels, apprehend his motions, or comprehend the measures he takes; we are therefore incompetent judges of God’s proceedings, because we know not what he does or what he designs. The arcana imperii—secrets of government, are things above us, which therefore we must not pretend to expound or comment upon. (3.) He acts with an incontestable sovereignty, Job 9:12. He takes away our creature-comforts and confidences when and as he pleases, takes away health, estate, relations, friends, takes away life itself; whatever goes, it is he that takes it; by what hand so ever it is removed, his hand must be acknowledged in its removal. The Lord takes away, and who can hinder him? Who can turn him away? (Margin, Who shall make him restore?) Who can dissuade him or alter his counsels? Who can resist him or oppose his operations? Who can control him or call him to an account? What action can be brought against him? Or who will say unto him, What doest thou? Or, Why doest thou so? Dan. 4:35. God is not obliged to give us a reason of what he does. The meanings of his proceedings we know no now; it will be time enough to know hereafter, when it will appear that what seemed now to be done by prerogative was done in infinite wisdom and for the best. (4.) He acts with an irresistible power, which no creature can resist, Job 9:13. If God will not withdraw his anger (which he can do when he pleases, for he is Lord of his anger, lets it out or calls it in according to his will), the proud helpers do stoop under him; that is, He certainly breaks and crushes those that proudly help one another against him. Proud men set themselves against God and his proceedings. In this opposition they join hand in hand. The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, to throw off his yoke, to run down his truths, and to persecute his people. Men of Israel, help, Acts 21:28; Ps. 83:8. If one enemy of God’s kingdom fall under his judgment, the rest come proudly to help that, and think to deliver that out of his hand: but in vain; unless he pleases to withdraw his anger (which he often does, for it is the day of his patience) the proud helpers stoop under him, and fall with those whom they designed to help. Who knows the power of God’s anger? Those who think they have strength enough to help others will not be able to help themselves against it.