Job 1: 6-12, 2: 3-7, 42: 7-10.
by G.A. Lucas
EVERY one should appreciate the importance of discipline; it is most essential for our spiritual education. A man dies for lack of discipline, Prov. 5: 23, and we see from Hebrews 12, what is in mind in this. The chastening of God is said to be to the end, that we might be partakers of His holiness, that is, the quickening of priestly instincts and feelings is definitely in the mind of God in His discipline of us as sons. We are constituted priests as having the Holy Spirit, but every one of us who is frank in his heart before God, knows how much it is necessary to go through the school of discipline, in order that we may learn to be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and distinguish in our hearts between good and evil, between holiness and the reverse.
It is important to look at the discipline of the saints from the divine side; it is no arbitrary matter. If we understood the forces engaged in Heaven over this matter of discipline, its importance in our estimation would be increased, and we should see what is behind it. The book of Job shows that the discipline of the saints has its origin in Heaven.
If we could look into Heaven and see what is transpiring there, it would give us the key to these movements. In Luke 13, there is a woman bent double; she could not look into Heaven, she was under the influence of Satan, bent eighteen years. She was a true saint, a daughter of Abraham, but bent double. Her outlook would be an entirely earthly one, for she could not see beyond what was down here. In this state, she would not see beyond the trouble itself, hence Satan had power over her. The Lord, however, laid His hands upon her, and she was immediately made straight, and glorified God. She was able to look into Heaven, the seat of divine operations, and as liberated, she glorifies God.
The Holy Spirit in this great book of discipline, undertakes at the beginning to show us from the point of view of Heaven, the forces involved in the discipline of the saints. Discipline does not necessarily come because the saints are walking in unrighteousness; it may be the reverse. Job is spoken of as "perfect and upright," and God says to Satan: "Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?" as if God would say: ‘There is one of My saints, one I can take pleasure in’; just as the Lord Jesus says to Simon in Luke 7, ''Seest thou this woman." But Satan says: ‘He has good cause to fear Thee, see how Thou hast blessed him, hedged him in and blessed the work of his hands’! It is very choice to my heart that Satan is forced to attribute everything that is good as coming from the hand of God to His saints. But now Satan says, ‘Put him through discipline, touch his property, and see if he will not curse Thee to Thy face’. And so, God, as knowing His own workmanship, and as supreme in the seat of absolute authority, allows Satan a clearly defined measure of power to afflict him. If we only saw the great end in view, and how God would refine us through discipline, perhaps we should seek the grace of Christ a little more, so that we should be sustained through it, for He serves us in infinite grace so that our faith should not fail under it.
Satan is the instrument used, but his power is limited. God defines how far he shall bring trouble on His people. Job saw the loss of his house, his property, his children, yet not a word against God did he utter. "In all this, Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly." What do you think that meant to God, to have a man like that, disciplined, but his faith not failing; losing all that men would normally call dear, yet never uttering a foolish word against God! Personally, I feel greatly challenged by it. How many of us would stand up to such a test? No wonder God says in Ezekiel, "Though Noah, Daniel, and Job, . . ." thus classing him with the greatest in the testimony. That is what God thought of Job, as educated through His discipline—a holy man, a priest—and this is how he acquired his greatness.
But the matter of discipline is continued. Satan appears before God again, and God says: "Hast thou considered My servant Job . . . still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst Me against him to destroy him without cause." In our discipline, we often underestimate the depth of divine feelings stirred by the discipline of the saints. There were depths of divine feelings here, for God felt what His servant was passing through, so He says, ‘You may touch his body, but not his life’. We know how severe the discipline was. His wife said, ‘Curse God and die’; but he rebukes her as a foolish woman. What a trial that was, even his wife forsaking him! We know how his whole spirit broke out in bitterness at length. Why was that? In the most upright of the saints, in the most godly, there is a measure of self-righteousness and pride, pride that would hold us aloof from others, self-importance that spoils us for the service of God. All these things that Job did not previously realize were there, become manifest to his spirit. The point is this, that if there was nothing for Satan to touch, we would not go through discipline like this. Only the blessed Lord could say, "In Me he has nothing." There is something in each of us which the enemy can touch, and is allowed to touch, and it is by this that the purifying takes place, but God will see that a ministry is given to help us through. So, when the proper moment came, God sent Elihu, a man who could make the presence of God a very real thing to Job. We want a teaching which makes the presence of God a real thing to us.
I believe God has in mind to teach us of His majesty and glory as Creator through these things, because it is of great importance as underlying our apprehension of God in the sanctuary. An experience like this gives richness and tone to the service of praise. So, God Himself speaks to Job and says, “Where were you when the foundations of the earth were laid?” Job would think of the power of the Creator. He would begin to recognize that after all, he was only a creature and God is God. We begin to understand what a God He is, and how gracious He is to enter into relationship with us at all. God becomes increasingly greater in his estimation and he himself more humble, until at last Job says: “I repent in dust and ashes”. As Job is in this position, there is nothing in him that Satan can touch. What an end to arrive at under the discipline of God, that God has His true place in the heart, so that Satan cannot touch us! Empty or ambitious hearts are a tool-shop for the devil, the kind of tools Satan is glad to use to bring in disruptive influences among the saints, but when a man says: "I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes," discipline has done its work and there is nothing for Satan to work on.
Now Job is seen as a priest, and God says, ‘I can accept you’. A man like this becomes a priest; he can pray for the saints, and God can trust him with twice as much as he had before. How much can God really trust us with, spiritually and materially? As disciplined servants, God can trust us. A person really determines how much spiritual history he is going to make by the spirit in which he accepts discipline. There is no royal road to spirituality. It is largely acquired through discipline, and it is well for all of us to understand this from the youngest to the oldest. May we all, as disciplined of God, realize more fully the wonderful service of our great High Priest and the greatness of the sphere of glory thus opened up to us by the Holy Spirit!
London, March 1939
“Words of Grace and Comfort” 1940