“As we apprehend God’s grace, we have ever lower thoughts of self and higher thoughts of Christ. The work of repentance is deepened daily in the believer’s heart.”
“”If ye, then, be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above,
where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.” (Col.3:1)
THE BOOK OF JOB gives us the saga of a saint in patriarchal days the
account of his trials through which he was to learn the common lesson
according to the common calling that we are a dead and risen people.
Although Job came before Abraham, he did not come before this lesson,
for it had been taught from the beginning; Adam and Abel, and the line
of Seth through Enoch and Noah, had already learned it. And Job, after
them, is set down to the same lesson, only engraved in deeper and darker
The Book of Job exhibits a soul set to learn through trials and sorrows
the common lesson, the power of our calling; that our hopes are neither
in this world nor from the flesh, but in living position with the Lord Jesus
Christ—beyond all that is here.
The events themselves are deeply touching, but they are all ordinary,
or such as are “common to man.” Thieves carry off his oxen and
asses. Lightening destroys his flocks. A high wind blows down his
house and kills his children. And, at last, a sore disease breaks out on
his body from head to foot.
Each of these might have happened to his ungodly neighbor as well
as to him. In the mere matter of these afflictions, there was nothing
that distinguished him as a child of God. They were not the sufferings
of a martyr. but still they were all under the exactest inspection and
measured control of his heavenly Father, all in the way of appointment
and of discipline flowing from heavenly interests and divine relationships.
Resurrection has from the beginning been an article of the faith of God’s
people; and being such, it was also the lesson they had to learn and to
experience–the principle of their life out of death. The Genesis fathers
had learnt the lesson, Moses learnt it, David was in the power of it,
the whole nation of Israel were taught it, again and again.
The Lord Jesus, “the Author and Finisher of our faith,” in His day, realised
this lesson to all perfection. And each of His growing ones is set down
to it every day, that we may “know Him, and the power of his resurrection,
and the fellowship of his sufferings being made conformable unto his
death.” (Phil. 3:10)
The leading purpose of the Book of Job sets forth a child of resurrection,
in early patriarchal days, learning the lesson of resurrection–life out of death.
His confession tells us that the resurrection was understood by him as a
doctrine, while the whole account tells us that he had still to know the
reality of it in his life. It was an article of his faith, but not yet the principle
of his life.
And a sore trial it was to him, hard indeed to learn and digest. He did not like
(and which of us does?) to take the sentence of death into himself, that he
might not trust in himself, nor in his circumstances in life, nor his condition
by nature—but in God who raises the dead. “I shall die in my nest” (Job 29:18)
was his thought and hope. But he was to see his nest rifled of all with which
nature had filled it, and with which circumstances had adorned it.
This honored and cherished saint had to learn the power of the calling of
all the elect, practically and personally–the life of faith, or the lesson of
resurrection. And it may be a consolation for those of us who know our-
selves to be little among them, to read in the records which we have
of them that all have not been equally apt and bright scholars in that
school; and that all, in different measures, have failed in it as well as
made progress in it.
How unworthily of it, for instance, did Abraham behave; how little like a
dead and risen man, a man of faith, when he denied his wife to the
Egyptian. Yet how beautifully did he carry himself, as such, when he
surrendered the choice of the land to his younger kinsman, Lot.
We are encouraged and consoled to know that our present lesson, as
those who have died and whose life is hid with Christ in God, has been
the lesson of the elect from the beginning–that on many a bright and
hallowed occasion they matriculated in that lesson to the glory of their Lord;
that at times they found it hard, and at times failed in it. This tale of the
soul is well known to us. Only we, living in New Testament truth, are
learning the same lesson in the still ampler page and after the clearer
method in which it is now taught us in our death and resurrection with
the Lord Jesus Christ.
There is some difference (and distance) between a righteous and devoted
believer. The measure of devotedness may be said to be according
to the energy one is exercising as being dead and risen with Lord Jesus.
At the beginning of his history, Job was a righteous man. He was well
spoken of again and again, in the very face of his accuser. But he was
not yet a devoted man. Accepted he was as a sinner who knew his
living and triumphant Redeemer; godly and upright beyond his fellows,
but as to the life that wrought in his soul, he was not a dead and risen
Such also was the writer of Proverbs 20:1-9. He was godly and of a
lowly, self-judging spirit. He makes a good confession of human
blindness and depravity, of the unsearchable glories of God, the
purity and preciousness of His Word, and of the security of all who
trust in Him.
He was a man of God and walked in a good spirit, but he was not a
devoted man. He did not know how to abound and how to suffer need.
He dreaded poverty lest he should steal, and riches lest he should
deny God. He was not prepared for changes. Neither was Job. But
Paul was. He surrendered himself to the Lord Jesus, as they had not.
He was ready to be “emptied from vessel to vessel.” He was instructed
both to be full and to be hungry. He could do all things through Christ
See that devoted man, that dead and risen man in the closing chapters
of Acts (20 to 28). He is in the midst of a weeping company of brethren
at Miletus, and in the bosom of a loving Christian household at Tyre.
But were those able to detain him? No. Even there he carried a heart
thoroughly surrendered to the Lord Jesus Christ.
He could not be held, and on from thence he goes, along the coast of
Syria up to Jerusalem and then for two long years, apart from the brethren,
in perils by sea and land, under insults and wrongs, a single heart and
devoted affection bearing him through all. Mere righteousness will
not take such a journey. There must be that singleness of eye to the
Lord Jesus, that principle of devotedness which reckons upon our
death and resurrection in Him.
Job was righteous but he was not prepared for such shifting scenery as
this. He loved the green spot and the feathered nest. Changes come,
and changes are too much for him. But God, in the love wherewith He
loved him as his heavenly Father , puts him in school to learn the lesson
of a child of resurrection–to be a partaker of His holiness, the holiness
not merely of a right or pure-minded man, but the holiness that suits
the call of God, the holiness of a dead and risen man; one of the pilgrim
family, one of God’s strangers in the world. (Heb. 12:9,10)
Job was chastened to be partaker of such a holiness as this. Not that
trials and troubles, like this, are essential to the learning of this lesson.
A very common method it is with our heavenly Father in His love and
wisdom. But Paul set himself daily to learn and live that lesson,
without the instructions of griefs and losses in either body or estate. (Phil.3)
A dead and risen believer will have neither his springs nor his objects here.
His principles of action will be found in the Lord Jesus. He is taken out
of all the advantages and adornings of the flesh into the righteousness
and life of God in Christ–and then, livingly and practically, progresses
up the hill, having in spirit left the low level of the world. He has taken leave
of the course of the world. He has taken leave of the plain beneath, and
has ascended in spirit above–hid with Christ in God.
He lets the world know that it could never provide him with his object. In
the midst of its kingdoms and delights he is a stranger still. He can, like
his Master, hide the glory to which God has appointed him and be nothing
in the present scene here below. Abraham did not tell every Canaanite
whom he chanced to meet that he was the heir of the country.
–J.G. BELLETT (Selections from the Patriarchs)
The circumstances in which we learn most are those which most expose our weaknesses. As a rule we are placed in circumstances which demand that which we are most defective in. We are set in such and such situations, not because we can handle them, or behave in them better than anyone else; but on the contrary, because we need to be invigorated by grace in the defects which they are fitted to expose. They disclose to us where we need grace, so that constantly we are failing where we are expected to excel. We are put there to cast us on the Lord, and to teach us that we can do nothing of ourselves.
If we could excel there, we should glory in our success, but when we find that we are placed in the very circumstances that, perhaps, more than any others expose our weakness, we then see that we have no hope of being able to stand or succeed, unless we obtain grace to do so. I am not placed where I could excel most, but subjected to those difficulties in which I can best know my need of grace, and best learn dependence.
If I could get on without grace, I should grow elated with myself. But when I find that unless the Lord maintains me I shall surely fail, then I am humbled as to myself while at the same time deepened in dependence which the demand of my circumstances has, in a way, forced on me; and having learned the blessing of dependence, instead of regretting the difficulties which made it necessary to seek help, I am the more cheered and encouraged to go on in them.
For learning or service every one is placed where there is demand on him. The boy at school is not in the easy circumstances of home or the playground. The horse in harness is not in the ease of being in the stable or at grass.
The situations we are subjected to are the ones in which we can best learn and be most useful. It is not because we have nothing to learn or nothing to do for others. If we had naught to learn, there would be no difficulty in the lessons required of us every day. The fact that there is difficulty in them proves that we are not proficient, and that it is necessary that we should be subjected to that which discloses to us what we require to learn, or to draw from us what we can render.
Your weakness is exposed that you may acquire strength, and having received of the Lord, you will then be called on to render unto others — to comfort others, as you have been comforted of God; so that whether learner or servant, you are always set in circumstances where there is exaction, and not ease. If the learner were to keep at the same lesson always he might feel his difficulty over, but so would his learning be over.
Are you learning? Are you useful? Whenever you are either, you will find that you are in exacting circumstances, and therefore not those where you are most at home and at your ease; but the more you turn them to profit, the more you are learning of grace, and the more useful you are in sharing what you have acquired.