Methinks I can almost forgive Eliphaz his hard censures of Job, which we had in the beginning of the chapter, though they were very unjust and unkind, for this good counsel and encouragement which he gives him in these verses with which he closes his discourse, and than which nothing could be better said, nor more to the purpose. Though he thought him a bad man, yet he saw reason to have hopes concerning him, that, for all this, he would be both pious and prosperous. But it is strange that out of the same mouth, and almost in the same breath, both sweet waters and bitter should proceed. Good men, though they may perhaps be put into a heat, yet sometimes will talk themselves into a better temper, and, it may be, sooner than another could talk them into it. Eliphaz had laid before Job the miserable condition of a wicked man, that he might frighten him into repentance. Here, on the other hand, he shows him the happiness which those may be sure of that do repent, that he might allure and encourage him to it. Ministers must try both ways in dealing with people, must speak to them from Mount Sinai by the terrors of the law, and from Mount Sion by the comforts of the gospel, must set before them both life and death, good and evil, the blessing and the curse. Now here observe,
I. The good counsel which Eliphaz gives to Job; and good counsel it is to us all, though, as to Job, it was built upon a false supposition that he was a wicked man and now a stranger and enemy to God. 1. Acquaint now thyself with God. Acquiesce in God; so some. It is our duty at all times, especially when we are in affliction, to accommodate ourselves to, and quiet ourselves in, all the disposals of the divine Providence. Join thyself to him (so some); fall in with his interests, and act no longer in opposition to him. Our translators render it well, “Acquaint thyself with him; be not such a stranger to him as thou hast made thyself by casting off the fear of him and restraining prayer before him.” It is the duty and interest of every one of us to acquaint himself with God. We must get the knowledge of him, fix our affections on him, join ourselves to him in a covenant of friendship, and then set up, and keep up, a constant correspondence with him in the ways he has appointed. It is our honour that we are made capable of this acquaintance, our misery that by sin we have lost it, our privilege that through Christ we are invited to return to it; and it will be our unspeakable happiness to contract and cultivate this acquaintance. 2. “Be at peace, at peace with thyself, not fretful, uneasy, and in confusion; let not thy heart be troubled, but be quiet and calm, and well composed. Be at peace with thy God; be reconciled to him. Do not carry on this unholy war. Thou complainest that God is thy enemy; be thou his friend.” It is the great concern of every one of us to make our peace with God, and it is necessary in order to our comfortable acquaintance with him; for how can two walk together except they be agreed? Amos 3:3. This we must do quickly, now, before it be too late. Agree with thy adversary while thou art in the way. This we are earnestly urged to do. Some read it, “Acquaint thyself, I pray thee, with him, and be at peace.” God himself beseeches us; ministers, in Christ’s stead, pray us to be reconciled. Can we gainsay such entreaties? 3. Receive the law from his mouth, Job 22:22. “Having made thy peace with God, submit to his government, and resolve to be ruled by him, that thou mayest keep thyself in his love.” We receive our being and maintenance from God. From him we hope to receive our bliss, and from him we must receive law. Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? Acts 9:6. Which way soever we receive the intimations of his will we must have our eye to him; whether he speaks by scripture, ministers, conscience, or Providence, we must take the word as from his mouth and bow our souls to it. Though, in Job’s time, we do not know that there was any written word, yet there was a revelation of God’s will to be received. Eliphaz looked upon Job as a wicked man, and was pressing him to repent and reform. Herein consists the conversion of a sinner—his receiving the law from God’s mouth and no longer from the world and the flesh. Eliphaz, being now in contest with Job, appeals to the word of God for the ending of the controversy. “Receive that, and be determined by it.” To the law and to the testimony. 4. Lay up his word in thy heart. It is not enough to receive it, but we must retain it, Prov. 3:18. We must lay it up as a thing of great value, that it may be safe; and we must lay it up in our hearts, as a thing of great use, that it may be ready to us when there is occasion and we may neither lose it wholly nor be at a loss for it in a time of need. 5. Return to the Almighty, Job 22:23. “Do not only turn from sin, but turn to God and thy duty. Do not only turn towards the Almighty in some good inclinations and good beginnings, but return to him; return home to him, quite to him, so as to reach to the Almighty, by a universal reformation, an effectual thorough change of thy heart and life, and a firm resolution to cleave to him;” so Mr. Poole. 6. Put away iniquity far from thy tabernacle. This was the advice Zophar gave him, Job 11:14. “Let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacle. Put iniquity far off, the further the better, not only from thy heart and hand, but from thy house. Thou must not only not be wicked thyself, but must reprove and restrain sin in those that are under thy charge.” Note, Family reformation is needful reformation; we and our house must serve the Lord.
II. The good encouragement which Eliphaz gives Job, that he shall be very happy, if he will but take this good counsel. In general, “Thereby good shall come unto thee (Job 22:21); the good that has now departed from thee, all the good thy heart can desire, temporal, spiritual, eternal good, shall come to thee. God shall come to thee, into covenant and communion with thee; and he brings all good with him, all good in him. Thou art now ruined and brought down, but, if thou return to God, thou shalt be built up again, and thy present ruins shall be repaired. Thy family shall be built up in children, thy estate in wealth, and thy soul in holiness and comfort.” The promises which Eliphaz here encourages Job with are reducible to three heads:—
1. That his estate should prosper, and temporal blessings should be bestowed abundantly on him; for godliness has the promise of the life that now is. It is promised,
(1.) That he shall be very rich (Job 22:24): “Thou shalt lay up gold as dust, in such great abundance, and shalt have plenty of silver (Job 22:25), whereas now thou art poor and stripped of all.” Job had been rich. Eliphaz suspected he got his riches by fraud and oppression, and therefore they were taken from him: but if he would return to God and his duty, [1.] He should have more wealth than ever he had, not only thousands of sheep and oxen, the wealth of farmers, but thousands of gold and silver, the wealth of princes, Job 3:15. Abundantly more riches, true riches, are to be got by the service of God than by the service of the world. [2.] He should have it more sure to him: “Thou shalt lay it up in good hands, and hold that which is got by thy piety by a surer tenure than that which thou didst get by thy iniquity.” Thou shalt have silver of strength (for so the word is), which, being honestly got, will wear well—silver like steel. [3.] He should, by the grace of God, be kept from setting his heart so much upon it as Eliphaz thought he had done; and then wealth is a blessing indeed when we are not ensnared with the love of it. Thou shalt lay up gold; but how? Not as thy treasure and portion, but as dust, and as the stones of the brooks. So little shalt thou value it or expect from it that thou shalt lay it at thy feet (Acts 4:35), not in thy bosom.
(2.) That yet he shall be very safe. Whereas men’s riches usually expose them to danger, and he had owned that in his prosperity he was not in safety (Job 3:26), now he might be secure; for the Almighty shall be thy defender; nay, he shall be thy defence, Job 22:25. He shall be thy gold; so it is in the margin, and it is the same word that is used (Job 22:24) for gold, but it signifies also a strong-hold, because money is a defence, Eccl. 7:12. Worldlings make gold their god, saints make God their gold; and those that are enriched with his favour and grace may truly be said to have abundance of the best gold, and best laid up. We read it, “He shall be thy defence against the incursions of neighbouring spoilers: thy wealth shall not then lie exposed as it did to Sabeans and Chaldeans,” which, some think, is the meaning of that, Thou shalt put away iniquity far from thy tabernacle, taking it as a promise. “The iniquity or wrong designed against thee shall be put off and shall not reach thee.” Note, Those must needs be safe that have Omnipotence itself for their defence, Ps. 91:1-3.
2. That his soul should prosper, and he should be enriched with spiritual blessings, which are the best blessings.
(1.) That he should live a life of complacency in God (Job 22:26): “For then shalt thou have thy delight in the Almighty; and thus the Almighty comes to be thy gold by thy delighting in him, as worldly people delight in their money. He shall be thy wealth, thy defence, thy dignity; for he shall be thy delight.” The way to have our heart’s desire is to make God our heart’s delight, Ps. 37:4. If God give us himself to be our joy, he will deny us nothing that is good for us. “Now, God is a terror to thee; he is so by thy own confession (Job 6:4; 16:9; 19:11); but, if thou wilt return to him, then, and not till then, he will be thy delight; and it shall be as much a pleasure to thee to think of him as ever it was a pain.” No delight is comparable to the delight which gracious souls have in the Almighty; and those that acquaint themselves with him, and submit themselves entirely to him, shall find his favour to be, not only their strength, but their song.
(2.) That he should have a humble holy confidence towards God, such as those are said to have whose hearts condemn them not, 1 John 3:21. “Then shalt thou lift up thy face to God with boldness, and not be afraid, as thou now art, to draw near to him. Thy countenance is now fallen, and thou lookest dejected; but, when thou hast made thy peace with God, thou shalt blush no more, tremble no more, and hang thy head no more, as thou dost now, but shalt cheerfully, and with a gracious assurance, show thyself to him, pray before him, and expect blessings from him.”
(3.) That he should maintain a constant communion with God, “The correspondence, once settled, shall be kept up to thy unspeakable satisfaction. Letters shall be both statedly and occasionally interchanged between thee and heaven,” Job 22:27. [1.] “Thou shalt by prayer send letters to God: Thou shalt make thy prayer” (the word is, Thou shalt multiply thy prayers) “unto him, and he will not think thy letters troublesome, though many and long. The oftener we come to the throne of grace the more welcome. Under all thy burdens, in all thy wants, cares, and fears, thou shalt send to heaven for guidance and strength, wisdom, and comfort, and good success.” [2.] “He shall, by his providence and grace, answer those letters, and give thee what thou askest of him, either in kind or kindness: He shall hear thee, and make it to appear he does so by what he does for thee and in thee.” [3.] “Then thou shalt by thy praises reply to the gracious answers which he sent thee: Thou shalt pay thy vows, and that shall be acceptable to him and fetch in further mercy.” Note, When God performs that which in our distress we prayed for we must make conscience of performing that which we then promised, else we do not deal honestly. If we promised nothing else we promised to be thankful, and that is enough, for it includes all, Ps. 116:14.
(4.) That he should have inward satisfaction in the management of all his outward affairs (Job 22:28): “Thou shalt decree a thing and it shall be established unto thee,” that is, “Thou shalt frame all thy projects and purposes with so much wisdom, and grace, and resignation to the will of God, that the issue of them shall be to thy heart’s content, just as thou wouldst have it to be. Thou shalt commit thy works unto the Lord by faith and prayer, and then thy thoughts shall be established; thou shalt be easy and pleased, whatever occurs, Prov. 16:3. This the grace of God shall work in thee; nay, sometimes the providence of God shall give thee the very thing thou didst desire and pray for, and give it thee in thy own way, and manner, and time. Be it unto thee even as thou wilt.” When at any time an affair succeeds just according to the scheme we laid, and our measures are in nothing broken, nor are we put upon new counsels, then we must own the performance of this promise, Thou shalt decree a thing and it shall be established unto thee. “Whereas now thou complainest of darkness round about thee, then the light shall shine on thy ways;” that is, “God shall guide and direct thee, and then it will follow, of course, that he shall prosper and succeed thee in all thy undertakings. God’s wisdom shall be thy guide, his favour thy comfort, and thy ways shall be so under both those lights that thou shalt have a comfortable enjoyment of what is present and a comfortable prospect of what is future,” Ps. 90:17.
(5.) That even in times of common calamity and danger he should have abundance of joy and hope (Job 22:29): “When men are cast down round about thee, cast down in their affairs, cast down in their spirits, sinking, desponding, and ready to despair, then shalt thou say, There is lifting up. Thou shalt find that in thyself which will not only bear thee up under thy troubles, and keep thee from fainting, but lift thee up above thy troubles and enable thee to rejoice evermore.” When men’s hearts fail them for fear, then shall Christ’s disciples lift up their heads for joy, Luke 21:26-28. Thus are they made to ride upon the high places of the earth (Isa. 58:14), and that which will lift them up is the belief of this, that God will save the humble person. Those that humble themselves shall be exalted, not only in honour, but in comfort.
3. That he should be a blessing to his country and an instrument of good to many (Job 22:30): God shall, in answer to thy prayers, deliver the island of the innocent, and have a regard therein to the pureness of thy hands, which is necessary to the acceptableness of our prayers, 1 Tim. 2:8. But, because we may suppose the innocent not to need deliverance (it was guilty Sodom that wanted the benefit of Abraham’s intercession), I incline to the marginal reading, The innocent shall deliver the island, by their advice (Eccl. 9:14, 15) and by their prayers and their interest in heaven, Acts 27:24. Or, He shall deliver those that are not innocent, and they are delivered by the pureness of thy hands; as it may be read, and most probably. Note, A good man is a public good. Sinners fare the better for saints, whether they are aware of it or no. If Eliphaz intended hereby (as some think he did) to insinuate that Job’s prayers were not prevailing, nor his hands pure (for then he would have relieved others, much more himself), he was afterwards made to see his error, when it appeared that Job had a better interest in heaven than he had; for he and his three friends, who in this matter were not innocent, were delivered by the pureness of Job’s hands, Job 42:8.