Here Job does not return to the discussion with the leaders at the gate of verses 7-107“When I went out to the gate of the city,
When I took my seat in the square,
8The young men saw me and hid themselves,
And the old men arose [and] stood.
9“The princes stopped talking
And put [their] hands on their mouths;
10The voice of the nobles was hushed,
And their tongue stuck to their palate., but he describes his attitude towards those he was doing well. All those he benefitted listened to him (verse 2121“To me they listened and waited,
And kept silent for my counsel.
). They expected the solution to their need from him. That is what they were waiting for. His counsel would help them. When he had spoken, they were satisfied and did not need to ask any further (verse 2222“After my words they did not speak again,
And my speech dropped on them.
). His words were to them like the spring rain on thirsty ground (cf. Deu 32:22“Let my teaching drop as the rain,
My speech distill as the dew,
As the droplets on the fresh grass
And as the showers on the herb.). They waited for him with their mouths open, indicating a longing for what he would say (verse 2323“They waited for me as for the rain,
And opened their mouth as for the spring rain.
; cf. Psa 119:131131I opened my mouth wide and panted,
For I longed for Your commandments.
When he smiled at people, it enraptured them (verse 2424“I smiled on them when they did not believe,
And the light of my face they did not cast down.
). They could not believe that he was paying attention to them, and that in kindness. No matter how miserable they were, Job didn’t look worried, his face didn’t budge. He continued to smile at them, encouraging them that he would attend to their needs and provide for them. He had the means to do so.
He chose to join them on their path of misery, and to support them in it (verse 2525“I chose a way for them and sat as chief,
And dwelt as a king among the troops,
As one who comforted the mourners.). He was as it were their chief, their captain. This seems to be a position he had been given by those he had helped as an appreciation for a highly respected life. He behaved royally in everything he did. In that he is an example to us. We are a royal priesthood to proclaim the excellencies of God (1Pet 2:99But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for [God’s] own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;). Job has shown that.
Job has involved us in his nostalgia for the time when he was prosperous in all circumstances, when he was doing better. The question is whether this is in accordance with the wisdom he described so beautifully in the previous chapter. The wise Solomon, having become wise through harm and disgrace, says: “Do not say, “Why is it that the former days were better than these? For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this” (Ecc 7:1010Do not say, “Why is it that the former days were better than these?”
For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this.
At the same time, a warning is appropriate here. In judging what Job is saying about himself here, we must always exercise the greatest caution. Job is in unprecedented suffering and in that situation thinks back to the days of old. Who among us never thinks back to a time of untroubled joy in a time of great trial?
It is not wise to take what we have heard Job say in this chapter as haughty. By recalling these memories, he wants to relive that beautiful and pleasant past. Job is not hypocritical when he speaks of his exuberant behavior. He does not boast about it, but speaks out of despair.
It holds up a mirror to us. Doesn’t it happen among us that when someone talks about his good deeds, it comes close to bragging, that it borders on pride? Scripture warns us not to praise ourselves (Pro 27:22Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
A stranger, and not your own lips.). Paul is sometimes forced to say something about himself, about what he has suffered before the Lord (2Cor 11:16-3316Again I say, let no one think me foolish; but if [you do], receive me even as foolish, so that I also may boast a little.17What I am saying, I am not saying as the Lord would, but as in foolishness, in this confidence of boasting.18Since many boast according to the flesh, I will boast also.19For you, being [so] wise, tolerate the foolish gladly.20For you tolerate it if anyone enslaves you, anyone devours you, anyone takes advantage of you, anyone exalts himself, anyone hits you in the face.21To [my] shame I [must] say that we have been weak [by comparison]. But in whatever respect anyone [else] is bold—I speak in foolishness—I am just as bold myself.22Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I.23Are they servants of Christ?—I speak as if insane—I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death.24Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine [lashes].25Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep.26[I have been] on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from [my] countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren;27[I have been] in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.28Apart from [such] external things, there is the daily pressure on me [of] concern for all the churches.29Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern?30If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness.31The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.32In Damascus the ethnarch under Aretas the king was guarding the city of the Damascenes in order to seize me,33and I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and [so] escaped his hands.). He had to do so because his apostleship and thereby his Sender Jesus Christ was attacked. He didn’t like to do it, but he had to do it. And how does he do it? Instead of slapping himself on the chest, he says he speaks “as if insane” (2Cor 11:2323Are they servants of Christ?—I speak as if insane—I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death.).
There’s one more lesson we can learn. The hankering for the past because of the sweet memories of it, doesn’t help us overcome the current difficulties. It is also said: ‘Yesterday’s manna is not food for today.’ We can’t prey on past glory. Paul had praised in the past, but had given up all that for Christ (Phil 3:7-8,147But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.8More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.).
The only thing that helps us is that we regain sight of the fact that through faith in the Lord Jesus we stand in grace and that, as far as the future is concerned, we may exult in hope of the glory of God (Rom 5:1-21Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,2through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.). God even wants to teach us to exult in today’s tribulations (Rom 5:33And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;).