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Chapters 1 and 2
Chapters 4 to 31
Chapters 32 to 37
Chapters 38 to 42
Difference between Old and New Testaments as to knowledge of redemption and a Redeemer
The Chetubim, or Hagiographa, in which I do not now comprehend Daniel (though his book has a character distinct from the other prophets) form a very distinct and interesting part of divine revelation. None of them suppose an accomplished and known redemption, in the New Testament sense of the word, though like every blessing all is founded on it. In Job a single passage gives a particular application of the term: "I have found a ransom" (Copher). The Psalms recount we know, prophetically, the sorrows and sufferings in which it was accomplished.
But redemption by blood is known by faith, when accomplished, whether by the Jew or the Christian. Isaiah prophesies of Israel's recognition of it fully. There were also, as we know, shadows of it under the law. But the knowledge of eternal redemption is christian knowledge, or that of the Jews when they look on Him whom they pierced. Till Christ's death, the veil was unrent, the holiest unapproachable. There was knowledge more or less clear of a Redeemer — of a personal Redeemer to come; of God's favour towards those that walked with Him, and the confidence of faith in Him and in His promises. But there was no such knowledge of sin as led, God being revealed, to the consciousness of exclusion from His presence as a present state, nor of such a putting of it away as reconciled us fully and for ever to God by its efficacy, and brought us to Him.
The Poetical Books the divinely given expression of man's experience under God's government
The books we are treating of are not prophecies of God's
dealings or actings, save as the Psalms express future deliverance
by power and by God's judgments; but they are the divinely given
expression of man's thoughts and feelings under the government of
God,* and the explanatory revelation of God before redemption
is fully known. This process has mainly gone on in Israel; and
hence they are in the main the various expression of God's ways
with Israel. Still, what was carried out there, under revealed
conditions and prophetic communications in direct government, was
what was in principle true of God's ways everywhere, though there
specially displayed (the question of man's positive righteousness
being raised too there by the law, the perfect rule of life for
the sons of Adam).
The scope of the book of Job
The Book of Job affords us the example of the relationship of a godly man outside and doubtless before Israel, and God's dealings with men for good in this world of evil; but then it runs up, I doubt not, into a clear type of Israel in result Those ways are fully displayed in that people. And it is to be remarked that, when Job practically feels the impossibility of man's being righteous with God, he complains of fear and having no daysman between them; and Elihu, who takes up this ground in God's stead, explains not redemption but chastising and government. These things God wrought oftentimes with man (Job 33, 36).
Ecclesiastes: Can fallen man find happiness and rest in this world without redemption?
Ecclesiastes estimates this world under the same government, in its present fallen state, and raises the question whether by any means man can find happiness and rest there, with no trace of the knowledge of redemption. Nor is there any recognised relationship with God. It is always Elohim (God), never Jehovah, fearing God and keeping His commandments being the whole duty of man as such.
The standpoint of the Song of Solomon and of Proverbs
The Song of Solomon affords direct relationship with the Lord,
the Son of David, the ardent affections which belong to the
relationship with Christ; Proverbs, a guidance through the mixed
and entangled scene, and here all is on the ground of relationship
with Jehovah, God (Elohim) being only once or twice mentioned in a
way which does not affect this (see more fully note to page
24). But none place themselves on the ground of known
redemption. They do look for redemption by power. Hence, on the
contrary, Romans begins with the revelation of wrath from heaven,
not government, against all ungodliness, and unrighteousness where
truth was, against Gentile and Jew,* and brings in redemption,
personal justification, and righteousness — God's
righteousness. The case of Gentile and Jew is fully gone into, and
brought out as before God Himself, and wrath from heaven the
necessary consequence; complete redemption by blood for heaven,
and sovereign grace reigning through righteousness and giving us a
place with the Second Adam, the Lord from heaven, together with
the result for Israel hereafter. All is made clear in the light as
God is in the light — His eternal redemption, and heavenly
places, though finally earth will be blessed. But we are pilgrims
and strangers here. This is our place by redemption itself. To the
Abrahams and Davids it was so, by getting nothing of what was
promised, or else persecution under the government of God upon the
earth; so that under that order of things it was after all a
puzzle to both, though the final inheritance of the land, the
heir, and the judgment of the wicked, known by revelation, met the
puzzle in their minds.
Eternal relationship and present, known redemption unknown in the Poetical Books
But in Job, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, which express men's feelings
under it, this puzzle is fully manifested. Faith and confidence in
God may get over it, or persevere through it; prophetic
testimonies may meet it; but it is there, and this earth is the
scene of the reply of God, even if their faith might be sometimes
forced to rise above it, nourished by personal confidence in
God. But a present fixed eternal relationship with God even our
Father through redemption, in a wholly new scene into which we are
brought by that precious blood, whose shedding has glorified God
Himself, and reconciled us to Him, though yet in an unredeemed
body, — that was unknown. Much was learned, learned as to God,
and this was most precious. But the actual result for Job was more
camels and sheep, and fairer daughters; in the Psalms, judgment of
enemies, and deliverance through mercy that endured for ever, and
an earth set free under heaven's judicial rule; in Ecclesiastes,
as to the perception of the present effect of government, that man
must fear God, keep His commandments, and leave it there. Present
known redemption is nowhere found. And oh what a difference, an
unbounded difference, this makes! "As he is, so are we in
this world." He who redeemed us is gone to His Father and our
Father, His God and our God. Proverbs and the Song of Solomon
have, as I have said, another character, though referring to the
same scene: Proverbs, not man's feelings in the scene, but God's
guidance through it by the experience and wisdom of divinely
instructed authority;* and the Song of Solomon, the carrying
the heart quite out of it all, though still in it, not by known
redemption, but by devoted affection to Messiah, and of Messiah to
Israel, by the revelation He makes of Himself, indeed of His love
to them to beget it in Israel's heart.
These exercises of heart have their place in us now, for we are in the world; but in the consciousness of accomplished redemption and the present care of a holy Father, the perfection of whose ways, as seen in Christ, is the model of our conduct. We can take joyfully the spoiling of our goods, knowing in ourselves that we have in heaven a better and an enduring substance; and glory in tribulation, because it works its needed end, and the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost given to us. This is another case, and a blessed one it is.
I think these general remarks will help us to understand the books which are now about to occupy us. I turn to the books themselves.
Job, the upright and righteous man, put to the test; his exercises and God's dealings
After what I have said, the Book of Job will not require a long examination — not that it fails in interest, but because when the general idea is once laid hold of, it is the detail which is interesting, and detail is not our present object.
In the Book of Job we have one portion of those exercises of heart which this division of the holy book supplies. These are not joyful exercises, but those of a heart which, journeying through a world in which the power of evil is found, and not being dead to the flesh, not having that divine knowledge which the gospel furnishes, not dead as to one's self with Christ nor possessing Christ in resurrection, is not capable of enjoying in peace, whatever its own conflicts may be, the fruit of God's perfect love; but which struggles with the evil or with the non-enjoyment of the only real good, even while desiring to possess it; while, by the means of these very revelations, the light of Christ is cast upon these exercises, and the sympathy and entering of His Spirit in grace into them practically is touchingly developed. What is learned in them is what we are — not committed sins; that was not Job's case, but the soul itself is put before God.