Job here takes fresh hold, fast hold, of his integrity, as one that was resolved not to let it go, nor suffer it to be wrested from him. His firmness in this matter is commendable and his warmth excusable.
I. He entreats his friends and all the company to let him alone, and not interrupt him in what he was about to say (Job 13:13), but diligently to hearken to it, Job 13:17. He would have his own protestation to be decisive, for none but God and himself knew his heart. “Be silent therefore, and let me hear no more of you, but hearken diligently to what I say, and let my own oath for confirmation be an end of the strife.”
II. He resolves to adhere to the testimony his own conscience gave of his integrity; and though his friends called it obstinacy that should not shake his constancy: “I will speak in my own defence, and let come on me what will, Job 13:13. Let my friends put what construction they please upon it, and think the worse of me for it; I hope God will not make my necessary defence to be my offence, as you do. He will justify me (Job 13:18) and then nothing can come amiss to me.” Note, Those that are upright, and have the assurance of their uprightness, may cheerfully welcome every event. Come what will, bene praeparatum pectus—they are ready for it. He resolves (Job 13:15) that he will maintain his own ways. He would never part with the satisfaction he had in having walked uprightly with God; for, though he could not justify every word he had spoken, yet, in the general, his ways were good, and he would maintain his uprightness; and why should he not, since that was his great support under his present exercises, as it was Hezekiah’s, Now, Lord, remember how I have walked before thee? Nay, he would not only not betray his own cause, or give it up, but he would openly avow his sincerity; for (Job 13:19) “If hold my tongue, and do not speak for myself, my silence now will for ever silence me, for I shall certainly give up the ghost,” Job 13:19. “If I cannot be cleared, yet let me be eased, by what I say,” as Elihu, Job 32:17, 20.
III. He complains of the extremity of pain and misery he was in (Job 13:14): Wherefore do I take my flesh in my teeth? That is, 1. “Why do I suffer such agonies? I cannot but wonder that God should lay so much upon me when he knows I am not a wicked man.” He was ready, not only to rend his clothes, but even to tear his flesh, through the greatness of his affliction, and saw himself at the brink of death, and his life in his hand, yet his friends could not charge him with any enormous crime, nor could he himself discover any; no marvel then that he was in such confusion. 2. “Why do I stifle and smother the protestations of my innocency?” When a man with great difficulty keeps in what he would say, he bites his lips. “Now,” says he, “why may not I take liberty to speak, since I do but vex myself, add to my torment, and endanger my life, by refraining?” Note, It would vex the most patient man, when he has lost every thing else, to be denied the comfort (if he deserves it) of a good conscience and a good name.
IV. He comforts himself in God, and still keeps hold of his confidence in him. Observe here,
1. What he depends upon God for—justification and salvation, the two great things we hope for through Christ. (1.) Justification (Job 13:18): I have ordered my cause, and, upon the whole matter, I know that I shall be justified. This he knew because he knew that his Redeemer lived, Job 19:25. Those whose hearts are upright with God, in walking not after the flesh but after the Spirit, may be sure that through Christ there shall be no condemnation to them, but that, whoever lays any thing to their charge, they shall be justified: they may know that they shall. (2.) Salvation (Job 13:16): He also shall be my salvation. He means it not of temporal salvation (he had little expectation of that); but concerning his eternal salvation he was very confident that God would not only be his Saviour to make him happy, but his salvation, in the vision and fruition of whom he should be happy. And the reason why he depended on God for salvation was because a hypocrite shall not come before him. He knew himself not to be a hypocrite, and that none but hypocrites are rejected of God, and therefore concluded he should not be rejected. Sincerity is our evangelical perfection; nothing will ruin us but the want of that.
2. With what constancy he depends upon him: Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him, Job 13:15. This is a high expression of faith, and what we should all labour to come up to—to trust in God, though he slay us, that is, we must be well pleased with God as a friend even when he seems to come forth against us as an enemy, Job 23:8-10. We must believe that all shall work for good to us even when all seems to make against us, Jer. 24:5. We must proceed and persevere in the way of our duty, though it cost us all that is dear to us in this world, even life itself, Heb. 11:35. We must depend upon the performance of the promise when all the ways leading to it are shut up, Rom. 4:18. We must rejoice in God when we have nothing else to rejoice in, and cleave to him, yea, though we cannot for the present find comfort in him. In a dying hour we must derive from him living comforts; and this is to trust in him though he slay us.
V. He wishes to argue the case even with God himself, if he might but have leave to settle the preliminaries of the treaty, Job 13:20-22. He had desired (Job 13:3) to reason with God, and is still of the same mind. He will not hide himself, that is, he will not decline the trial, nor dread the issue of it, but under two provisos:—1. That his body might not be tortured with this exquisite pain: “Withdraw thy hand far from me; for, while I am in this extremity, I am fit for nothing. I can make a shift to talk with my friends, but I know not how to address myself to thee.” When we are to converse with God we have need to be composed, and as free as possible from every thing that may make us uneasy. 2. That his mind might not be terrified with the tremendous majesty of God: “Let not thy dread make me afraid; either let the manifestations of thy presence be familiar or let me be enabled to bear them without disorder and disturbance.” Moses himself trembled before God, so did Isaiah and Habakkuk. O God! thou art terrible even in thy holy places. “Lord,” says Job, “let me not be put into such a consternation of spirit, together with this bodily affliction; for then I must certainly drop the cause, and shall make nothing of it.” See what a folly it is for men to put off their repentance and conversion to a sick-bed and a death-bed. How can even a good man, much less a bad man, reason with God, so as to be justified before him, when he is upon the rack of pain and under the terror of the arrests of death? At such a time it is very bad to have the great work to do, but very comfortable to have it done, as it was to Job, who, if he might but have a little breathing-time, was ready either, (1.) To hear God speaking to him by his word, and return an answer: Call thou, and I will answer; or, (2.) To speak to him by prayer, and expect an answer: Let me speak, and answer thou me, Job 13:22. Compare this with Job 9:34, 35, where he speaks to the same purport. In short, the badness of his case was at present such a damp upon him as he could not get over; otherwise he was well assured of the goodness of his cause, and doubted not but to have the comfort of it at last, when the present cloud was over. With such holy boldness may the upright come to the throne of grace, not doubting but to find mercy there.
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