Spurgeon Verse Expositions - Job 23:1 - 23:17

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Spurgeon Verse Expositions - Job 23:1 - 23:17


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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:

Always remember, dear friends, that one of the great lessons of the Book of Job is this, — that we may never judge a man’s character by his condition. The best of men may have the most of suffering and of poverty, while the worst of men may prosper in everything. Do not imagine, because a man suddenly becomes very poor or a great sufferer, that therefore he must be a great sinner; otherwise, you will often condemn the innocent, and you will, at the same time, be guilty of flattering the wicked. Job’s friends had cruelly told him that he must be a hypocrite, or else he would not have lost his property, and have been smitten with such a remarkable sickness; so he appeals to God against their unrighteous judgment.

Job_23:1-2. Then Job answered and said, Even today is my complaint bitter: my stroke is heavier than my groaning.

“Although my groaning is heavy, yet it is not so burdensome as my griefs might warrant.”

Job_23:3. Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat!

“To his judgment-seat, that I might plead my cause, and vindicate my character even there.”

Job_23:4-6. I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. I would know the words which he would answer me, and understand what he would say unto me. Will he plead against me with his great power?

“Being the great God, will he silence me by a display of his omnipotence? Oh, no! he is too just to do that.”

Job_23:6. No; but he would put strength in me.

“He would help me to argue my case; he would deal fairly with me; he would not be like you so-called friends of mine, who sit there, and exult over my weakness and my griefs, and torture me with your cruel words.”

Job_23:7-10. There the righteous might dispute with him; so should I be delivered for ever from my judge. Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him: But he knoweth the way that I take:

“If I cannot find him, or see him, he can see me, and he knows all about me.”

Job_23:10. When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

This is beautiful faith on the part of Job. It is very easy for us to read these lines, and to say, “No doubt, tried men do come out of the furnace purified like gold;” but it is quite another thing to be ourselves in the crucible, and to read such a passage as this by the light of the fire, and then to be able to say, “We know it is true, for we are proving its truth even now.” This is the kind of chapter that many a broken heart has to read by itself alone. Many a weeping eye has scanned these words of Job, and truly blessed has that troubled one been who has been able to chime in with the sweet music of this verse: “He knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”

Job_23:11. My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined.

It is a great thing to be able to say that, as Job truly could, for we have the witness of the Spirit of God that Job was “perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.” It was not self-righteousness that made him speak as he did; he had the right to say it, and he did say it.

Job_23:12-13. Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food. But he is in one mind, and who can turn him?

“His mind is made up to chasten me; he means to afflict me again and again; so what can I do but yield to his will?”

Job_23:13. And what his soul desireth, even that he doeth.

There is, on Job’s part, a reverential bowing before the supreme power an acknowledgment of God’s right to do with him as he wills.

Job_23:14. For he performeth the thing that is appointed for me: and many such things are with him.

“More arrows to pierce me, more sorrows to grieve me.”

Job_23:15-17. Therefore am I troubled at his presence: when I consider, I am afraid of him. For God maketh my heart soft, and the Almighty troubleth me: Because I was not cut off before the darkness, neither hath he covered the darkness from my face.

He wished that he had died before those evil days had come upon him; and that is the way that a good man, an undoubted saint of God, is sometimes driven to speak. There are, perhaps, some who will say, “Then we don’t want to be children of God if that is how they are tried.” Ah! but that was only the sorrow of an hour. See where Job is now; think of what he was even a few days after he made this mournful complaint, when God had turned his sighing into singing, and his mourning into morning light. In the next chapter, Job speaks of those who were the reverse of himself, — wicked and ungodly men, who nevertheless prospered in this life.

This exposition consisted of readings from Job 23, 24.



We shall read, this evening, in the Book of Job. May the good Spirit instruct us during our reading!

Here we shall see Job in a very melancholy plight, grievously distressed in mind, and yet, for all that, holding fast to his God. We do not want any of you to get into this gloomy condition, but if you are in such a state as that, or if you ever should be, may you behave as well as Job did! It needs a deal of grace to travel all right in the dark, to keep in the good way when you cannot see it, to cling to God when you cannot even feel that he is near you; but the Lord can give grace even for such an emergency as that.

Job_23:1-2. then Job answered and said, Even to day is my complaint bitter: my stroke is heavier than my groaning.

Job admitted that he groaned, but he claimed that he had good reason for doing so; that, indeed, the source of his grief was greater than the streams of his grief, so that he could not, even with his groans and tears, express half the anguish that he felt.

Job_23:3-4. Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat! I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments.

Good men are washed towards God even by the rough waves of their grief; and when their sorrows are deepest, their highest desire is not to escape from them, but to get at their God. “Oh that I knew where I might find him!” Job wanted to spread out his whole case before the Lord, to argue it with him, to present his petitions to the Most High, and to find out from God why he was contending with him. It is all right with you, brother, if your face is towards your God in rough weather. It is all wrong with you, brother, if the weather be very calm, and your face is turned away from your God.

Job_23:5. I would know the words which he would answer me, and understand what he would say unto me.

I am not sure that Job would know and understand all that God said. the Lord says a great deal, even to men like Job, that they do not easily understand, and it is not for us to require that God should explain everything to us. He giveth not account of any of his matters. Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?” Our wisdom will be to plead with God our suit for pardon and for mercy, and to ask him at least to make us understand the way of salvation, that we may run in it, and be at peace with him.

Job_23:6. Will he plead against me with his great power?

“If I were to go to God, and urge my suit with him, would he crush me with the might of his majesty? Would he overwhelm me with his omnipotence?”

Job_23:6. no; but he would put strength in me.

Such was Job’s faith in God, that he was sure he would rather help him than hinder him: “He would put strength in me.”

Job_23:7-8. there the righteous might dispute with him; so should I be delivered for ever from my judge. Behold, I go forward, but he is not there;

“I look to the future, I try to forecast the clays that are yet to come, but I cannot see God there.”

Job_23:8. And backward, but I cannot perceive him:

“I remembered the days of old; I turned over the pages of my diary; but I could not find him there.” there are cases in which one who is a true child of God cannot for a while find his father. do not condemn yourself because you are in the dark; on the contrary, recollect then that there are many who fear the Lord, yet who walk in darkness, and have no light. Let all such trust in the name of the Lord, and stay themselves upon their God, and in due season the light will come to them.

Job_23:9. On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him:

If this is the case with you, be thankful that you want to see your God. Let your very desires after him, your anxiety because you miss him, and the sorrow of your spirit when you are, apparently, deserted by him, encourage you to believe that you are one of his children. Another woman’s child will not cry after you, dear mother; it is your own child that cries after you, and if you were not a child of God, you would not long and cry for the joy of his presence. If you were not his child, that presence would be no delight to you, it would be your dread.

Job_23:10. But he knoweth the way that I take:

Oh, what a mercy that is! “I cannot see him, but he can see me; my grief hath blinded mine eyes with floods of tears, but nothing blinds his eyes. Like as a father pitieth his children, so does he pity me, and regards me with the full observation of his gigantic mind: ‘ He knoweth the way that I take.’”

Job_23:10. When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

It is grand to be able to say that while you are in the fire. It is very easy to say it about another man who is in the furnace; but when you are in there yourself, then to say, “I shall come forth as gold,” is the sublimity of faith! It is a very simple matter to say, “If I were again put into the fire, I know I should come forth as gold;” but it is when the burning heat is melting you, when you seem yourself to be shriveled up in the crucible, and so little of you is left, then is the time still to say, “When the Lord hath finished his work upon me, when he hath thoroughly assayed me, I shall come forth as gold.”

Job_23:11. My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined.

You cannot talk like that in the time of trouble if you have not led a sincere, and upright, and gracious life. those battles into which men come in the Valley of Humiliation, are often brought about by their tripping when they are going down the hill. Our sins find us out at length; but if God enables us to walk uprightly, then we feel very confident, — not in our own uprightness, but in God’s love and grace.

Job_23:12-13. Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food. But he is in one mind, and who can turn him?

Job looks at his grief, and says concerning it, “It is according to God’s mind that I should have this grief, and who can turn him?” there may be times when God wills that his servant should be in trouble; and when God lets down the iron bar, who eau lift it up? When he shutteth up a soul in doubting Castle, how shall it escape until he wins its deliverance?

Job_23:13-15. And what his soul desireth, even that he doeth. For he performeth the thing that is appointed for me: and many such things are with him. Therefore am f troubled at his presence: when I consider, I am afraid of him.

Yet he longed for him. So, sometimes, we long for the presence of God, yet that presence strikes us with a solemn awe whenever We are favored with it. We ask to see our Lord, yet when we do see him, we have to say, with John, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead.” Or perhaps we are like Peter who, when the Lord Jesus was in his boat, fell down before him, and cried, “depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” the majesty of Christ’s pure presence was too much for poor imperfect Peter; so is it for us.

Job_23:16-17. for God maketh my heart soft, and the Almighty troubleth me: Because I was not cut off before the darkness, neither hath he covered the darkness from my face.

Now you see where you might be if you had Job’s experience. If you are not there, be very grateful; and if you are there, say, there is a better man than I am who has been this way before me. I can see his footprints on the sands of time, and I am encouraged by his example to trust my Lord in the darkest hour.” You are not the only man who has been in the coal- cellar; there have been better men than you in the dark places of the earth before now; therefore, still have hope, and be confident in God that in his own good time he will deliver you.



Job is in great physical pain through the sore boils that cover him from head to foot; he is still smarting under all the bereavements and losses he has sustained; and he is somewhat irritated by the hard speeches of his friends. We read, in the second chapter of this book, that “they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him.” “Job’s comforters,” even to this day, are regarded as those whose room is preferred to their company. As the result of all the trials through which Job was called to pass, there is, in this chapter, somewhat of bitterness. We need not wonder at it; the wonder is that there is not more. You ought, in estimating a man’s actions or words, to judge of his circumstances at the time. Do not take Job’s words by themselves; but consider in what condition he was; think what you would have done if you had been in his place, and you will not censure him, as you might otherwise have done.

Job_23:1-2. Then Job answered and said, Even to day is my complaint bitter: my stroke is heavier than my groaning.

He could not express all his pain. He felt that he did not complain too much. His stroke was heavier than his groaning. His words had bitterness in them; but he thought that they were justified by his affliction.

Job_23:3. Oh that I knew where I might find him!

Job longed to find his God; he wanted to come to him. He had been slandered by men; so he turns from the court of injustice below to the divine Court of King’s Bench above, where he is sure of a righteous verdict: “Oh that I knew where I might find him!”

Job_23:3. That I might come even to his seat!

To his mercy-seat, and even to his judgment-seat. Job was willing to appear even there.

Job_23:4. I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments.

He felt that he dared plead before God. He was not guilty of the things laid to his charge; so he would be bold to speak even before God’s judgment-seat. If Job had known a little more of God, as he did before his life ended, he might not have talked so glibly about ordering his cause before him, and filling his mouth with arguments. We remember how he afterwards spoke to the Lord, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Who among us would desire to come and argue our case with God without our heavenly Advocate?

Job_23:5. I would know the words, which he would answer me, and understand what he would say unto me.

He was willing to hear God’s side of the argument, patient and anxious to understand the mind of God with whom he desired to plead. So far so good. There are some who do not wish to know what God would say unto them; so long as they may express their own passionate desires, they have no ear and heart waiting to hear the voice of God. Very beautiful is the next verse:

Job_23:6. Wilt he plead against me with his great power? No; but he would put strength in me.

He has confidence in the Lord that, if he could have an audience with him, God would not use his power against him; but, on the contrary, would strengthen him in order that he might state his case. Do I speak to a troubled heart here? Come to God with your burden. He will not use his power against you; but he will help you to plead with him. Trembler, come and bow at his feet! He will not spurn thee, he wil1 lift thee up. Despairing one, look to the Lord! He will not turn his wrath upon thee; but he will help thee to plead with him. “Will he plead against me with his great power? No; but he would put strength in me.”

Job_23:7-9. There the righteous might dispute with him; so should I be delivered for ever from my judge. Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him.

Job had done his best to find his God. Forward, backward, to the right, and to the left, he had gone in all directions after him; but he could not find him. I know there are persons here tonight who are in that condition; and you will never rest, I hope, until you do find the Lord. He is not far from you. I trust that with many of you, tonight is the happy hour in which your long searching shall end in a delightful finding.

Job_23:10. But he knoweth the way that I take:

If I do not know his way, he knows mine. If I cannot find him, he can find me. Here is my comfort: “He knoweth the way that I take.”

Job_23:10. When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

Here the true Job comes to the front. You get the gracious man once more on his feet. He staggered a little; but he stands firm now: “When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” So will you, my tried sister, my afflicted brother. The trial of your faith is but for a time; there will come an end to this furnace-work; and when God has tried you, tested you, and taken away your dross, he will bring you forth, and you will be pure gold, meet for the Master’s use.

In the furnace God may prove thee,

Thence to bring thee forth more bright;

But can never cease to love thee:

Thou art precious in his sight:

God is with thee,

God thine everlasting light.”

Job_23:11. My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined.

Happy Job, to be able to say that, and to speak the truth; but there is a touch of self about it which we cannot quite commend. Be holy; but do not claim to be holy. Be thou steadfast before God, firm in thine obedience to him; but do not mention it; for thy hope lies somewhere else. Yet we cannot condemn Job for declaring that he had kept God’s way. His friends were pleading against him, so he felt that he must defend himself.

Job_23:12. Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.

Job was a happy man to be able to say that. I hope that many of you could say the same. If you were tried with great bodily pain and depression of spirit, you could say, through divine grace, “I have not turned away from God.” These are days when we want men of principle; men who can put their foot down, and keep it down, men who cannot be turned aside. They call this firmness, “bigotry.” It is, however, only another name for Christian manliness. If you dare to do right, and face a frowning world, you shall have God’s commendation, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Job_23:13. But he is in one mind, and who can turn him?

God has one mind, and he will carry out what he wills. It is vain for any man to think of turning him from his eternal purpose.

Job_23:13-14. And what his soul desireth, even that he doth. For he performeth the thing that is appointed for me: and many such things are with him.

You will find that men who are much tried fall back upon the granite foundation of the divine decree. God has ordained it, so they yield to it; they acquiesce in it because it is according to the eternal purpose of the Most High. Though we say little about it now, there may come a time when some of you will have to say, as Job does, “For he performeth the thing that is appointed for me: and many such things are with him.”

Job_23:1. Therefore am I troubled at his presence: when I consider, I am afraid of him.

It is a bad sign when a man of God becomes afraid of God. Yet is there a holy awe which may degenerate into a servile fear which hath bondage; but even this may be the foundation of a holy confidence which will keep us in obedience to the Lord.

Job_23:16. For God maketh my heart soft, and the Almighty troubleth me:

Are you saying that tonight? If so, I am glad you are here. I have, for many years, been compassed about with a large number of persons who come from the ends of England and Scotland, and from longer distances, too, in despair of soul, and seeking comfort; but I think that never in my life have I had more than I have had this week, persons unknown to me before, who are under conviction of sin, and feeling the hand of God heavy upon them. Hard tugs have I had to bring them out of Giant Despair’s Castle. The Holy Ghost alone can do this work; but he sometimes makes use of a sympathetic brotherly word to give light to those who are in the dark. I am praying that he may do so tonight; for there may be some here who say with Job, “God maketh my heart soft, and the Almighty troubleth me.”

Job_23:17. Because I was not cut off before the darkness, neither hath he covered the darkness from my face.

He wished he had died before he came to such trouble, or that by some means such trouble had been turned away from him. May the Lord, if he sends you Job’s trouble, send you Job’s consolation! May he glorify himself by your patient endurance, if he lays upon you his heavy hand!