(b) A New Understanding of Suffering
Job now knows, and we need to know, what God means by suffering. "My servant, Job." How these men must have opened their mouths and been surprised! The Lord says - and you notice how often He says it - "My servant, Job." If He had said: 'The man who used to be My servant,' they could have understood, but He says: 'He is My servant.' But what has he been doing?He has been suffering. Is that all? Yes, suffering. He suffered under the hand of God, suffered in the will of God, and in that way he has been serving God. He was God's servant before. God said to satan: "Hast thou considered My servant Job?" But there is a sense, it seems to me, in which the end of this book just concentrates on the fact that God says: 'This is the man that is serving. Not these preachers who are going around telling people what is right and what is wrong, what they ought to do, and all the theories of God's dealings with men, but the man who has been through the fire. He has been serving Me.' Everybody despised him. 'He used to be a servant of God, but look at him now, stripped of everything! He has nothing at all.' The children mock him, and everybody despises him. God says: "My servant," and the very people that mocked him and despised him had cause to thank God from the bottom of their hearts that Job was God's servant, for it would have been a bad day for them if he had not been.
Then Job found much more about suffering: how suffering brings you close to the Lord if it is taken in the right spirit. How much nearer to God Job was, and how much nearer to Job God was at the end of the book! And all he had done was to suffer. Suffering under God's hand brought that nearness, and it made Job a different man. That was one of the things Elihu said: "Who is a teacher like unto Him?" God had been teaching Job, and it is out of such a background that he could pray.
(c.) A New Conception of God
But I think that most of all it was out of a new conception of God that Job prayed like this. That was the value of his experience. He had known God before, and he had prayed before, but now he had a new conception of God altogether. He had been apt to treat God on equal terms. That comes out more than once, and he is charged with it - with considering God as though He were a man instead of realizing the utter transcendence of the Lord. "Behold, I will answer thee, in this thou art not just; for God is greater than man". You would not think that a man like Job needed to be told that, but he did. The Lord took him and said: 'Now, Job, you have got on wrong terms with Me. I want intimacy, yes, but not familiarity.' And that is the danger with us all. We mistake familiarity for intimacy. So the Lord suddenly turns on Job and says: "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?". That is a question. But Job had been treating God as if he had been there. That is one of the dangers. I know prayer has its realms - realms of executive prayer, realms of fellowship with God, but they are dangerous realms unless we realize, and have brought home to us in ever fresh power, how transcendent God is. This is the man who prayed: the man who sees how great God is.
(continued with # 51)