Here, I. Job complains that he cannot understand the meaning of God’s providences concerning him, but is quite at a loss about them (Job 23:8, 9): I go forward, but he is not there, etc. Eliphaz had bid him acquaint himself with God. “So I would, with all my heart,” says Job, “If I knew how to get acquainted with him.” He had himself a great desire to appear before God, and get a hearing of his case, but the Judge was not to be found. Look which way he would, he could see no sign of God’s appearing for him to clear up his innocency. Job, no doubt, believed that God is every where present; but three things he seems to complain of here:—1. That he could not fix his thoughts, nor form any clear judgment of things in his own mind. His mind was so hurried and discomposed with his troubles that he was like a man in a fright, or at his wits’ end, who runs this way and that way, but, being in confusion, brings nothing to a head. By reason of the disorder and tumult his spirit was in he could not fasten upon that which he knew to be in God, and which, if he could but have mixed faith with it and dwelt upon it in his thoughts, would have been a support to him. It is the common complaint of those who are sick or melancholy that, when they would think of that which is good, they can make nothing of it. 2. That he could not find out the cause of his troubles, nor the sin which provoked God to contend with him. He took a view of his whole conversation, turned to every side of it, and could not perceive wherein he had sinned more than others, for which he should thus be punished more than others; nor could he discern what other end God should aim at in afflicting him thus. 3. That he could not foresee what would be in the end hereof, whether God would deliver him at all, nor, if he did, when or which way. He saw not his signs, nor was there any to tell him how long; as the church complains, Ps. 74:9. He was quite at a loss to know what God designed to do with him; and, whatever conjecture he advanced, still something or other appeared against it.
II. He satisfies himself with this, that God himself was a witness to his integrity, and therefore did not doubt but the issue would be good.
1. After Job had almost lost himself in the labyrinth of the divine counsels, how contentedly does he sit down, at length, with this thought: “Though I know not the way that he takes (for his way is in the sea and his path in the great waters, his thoughts and ways are infinitely above ours and it would be presumption in us to pretend to judge of them), yet he knows the way that I take,” Job 23:10. That is, (1.) He is acquainted with it. His friends judged of that which they did not know, and therefore charged him with that which he was never guilty of; but God, who knew every step he had taken, would not do so, Ps. 139:3. Note, It is a great comfort to those who mean honestly that God understands their meaning, though men do not, cannot, or will not. (2.) He approves of it: “He knows that, however I may sometimes have taken a false step, yet I have still taken a good way, have chosen the way of truth, and therefore he knows it,” that is, he accepts it, and is well pleased with it, as he is said to know the way of the righteous, Ps. 1:6. This comforted the prophet, Jer. 12:3. Thou hast tried my heart towards thee. From this Job infers, When he hath tried me I shall come forth as gold. Those that keep the way of the Lord may comfort themselves, when they are in affliction, with these three things:—[1.] That they are but tried. It is not intended for their hurt, but for their honour and benefit; it is the trial of their faith, 1 Pet. 1:7. [2.] That, when they are sufficiently tried, they shall come forth out of the furnace, and not be left to consume in it as dross or reprobate silver. The trial will have an end. God will not contend for ever. [3.] That they shall come forth as gold, pure in itself and precious to the refiner. They shall come forth as gold approved and improved, found to be good and made to be better. Afflictions are to us as we are; those that go gold into the furnace will come out no worse.
2. Now that which encouraged Job to hope that his present troubles would thus end well was the testimony of his conscience for him, that he had lived a good life in the fear of God.
(1.) That God’s way was the way he walked in (Job 23:11): “My foot hath held his steps,” that is, “held to them, adhered closely to them; the steps he takes. I have endeavoured to conform myself to his example.” Good people are followers of God. Or, “I have accommodated myself to his providence, and endeavoured to answer all the intentions of that, to follow Providence step by step.” Or, “His steps are the steps he has appointed me to take; the way of religion and serious godliness—that way I have kept, and have not declined from it, not only not turned back from it by a total apostasy, but not turned aside out of it by any wilful transgression.” His holding God’s steps, and keeping his way, intimate that the tempter had used all his arts by fraud and force to draw him aside; but, with care and resolution, he had by the grace of God hitherto persevered, and those that will do so must hold and keep, hold with resolution and keep with watchfulness.
(2.) That God’s word was the rule he walked by, Job 23:12. He governed himself by the commandment of God’s lips, and would not go back from that, but go forward according to it. Whatever difficulties we may meet with in the way of God’s commandments, though they lead us through a wilderness, yet we must never think of going back, but must press on towards the mark. Job kept closely to the law of God in his conversation, for both his judgment and his affection led him to it: I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food; that is, he looked upon it as his necessary food; he could as well have lived without his daily bread as without the word of God. I have laid it up (so the word is), as those that lay up provision for a siege, or as Joseph laid up corn before the famine. Eliphaz had told him to lay up God’s words in his heart, Job 22:22. “I do,” says he, “and always did, that I might not sin against him, and that, like the good householder, I might bring forth for the good of others.” Note, The word of God is to our souls what our necessary food is to our bodies; it sustains the spiritual life and strengthens us for the actions of life; it is that which we cannot subsist without, and which nothing else can make up the want of: and we ought therefore so to esteem it, to take pains for it, hunger after it, feed upon it with delight, and nourish our souls with it; and this will be our rejoicing in the day of evil, as it was Job’s here.