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I rather believe that some of the mysteries of the clouds never will be understood by us at all. 'Knowest thou the balancings of the clouds?' Is the answer ever to be one of pride? The wondrous works of Him, Who is perfect in knowledge? Is our knowledge ever to be so?... For my own part, I enjoy the mystery, and perhaps the reader may. I think he ought. He should not be less grateful for summer rains, or see less beauty in the clouds of morning, because they come to prove him with hard questions.
Ruskin, Frondes Agrestes, p. 24.
These words were spoken by Elihu one of the five actors in the drama of the book of Job. Before he gave his opinion, two other opinions had been advanced as to the government of God. The first was that of Job's three critics Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. They represented God as very stem to the sinner. The second was that of Job. He said that the clouds of life were so unequally distributed as to lead to the conclusion that joy and pain were irrespective of goodness or badness. He thought that the clouds fell indiscriminately on the evil and the righteous. But Elihu steps forward with a third theory. He turns to Job and says: 'Admitting that the clouds fall equally on the evil and the righteous, how does that prove that the righteous suffer as much as the evil? Do you know the balancing of these clouds? Do you imagine that the same calamity falling on two men at the same time must mean the same amount of suffering? Do you not take into account the previous condition of the soul which meets it? Are you not aware that every calamity may be either aggravated or counterbalanced from within? Until you have learned this you are in no condition to measure the justice of God.' And of the three doctrines I agree with that of Elihu. Before I can judge of any calamity I must know whether there is anything to counterbalance it, to compensate it, to weigh against it. I have seen children playing in squalid lanes and wretched alleys, oblivious of the mean environment; they were blinded to the pain by their own buoyancy. I have seen the soldier unconscious of weary marches; he forgot fatigue in the ardour of his cause. I have seen the student pass hours without food and nights without repose; the inward fire burned up hunger and consumed the need of sleep. I have heard the martyr in the agonies of death cry to his fellow-sufferers, 'Be of good cheer: we shall kindle a torch that will never be extinguished!' In all these cases there was a counterbalancing of the cloud. Without the inward counterpoise the poverty would have repelled, the march exhausted, the abstinence killed, the martyrdom unmanned. But the cloud was balanced by a ray of glory.
G. Matheson, Messages of Hope, p. 208.
Things which, at some time, appeared to be dark afflictions, losses, trials, wrongs, defeated prayers, and deeds of suffering patience yielding no fruit are very apt, afterwards, to change colour and become visitations of mercy. And so where God was specially dark, He commonly brings out, in the end, some good or blessing in which the subject discovers that his Heavenly Father only understood his wants better than he did himself. God was dark in His way, only because His goodness was too deep in counsel, for him to follow it to its mark. It is with him as with Job, whose latter end, after he had been stripped of everything, was more blessed than his beginning.
One of the greatest of German teachers said some years ago: 'I see before my countrymen a deep abyss, but above it shines a bright light. Is it the dawn, or is it the evening twilight?' Shall we hesitate as to our answer now? The light has grown brighter since Neander put the question, and in that light may we work as it grows onward to the perfect day.
'Many a political leader during the last two years,' says a writer in the Spectator (8 Sept. 1906) on the Russian Troubles, 'has momentarily turned from his bright hopes and schemes to the painful contemplation of this black cloud on the horizon. For this danger there is a special word which is constantly in use and can be vaguely rendered as "despondency". The Speaker of the late Duma, speaking for others and not for himself, put the matter thus: "It is hard to work, when you never see your reward coming". It seems as though, when in the family of nations the sunshine of the world is divided up between the different children of hope, one child, Russia, is passed over at each distribution. At last comes the announcement, "and here is one sunbeam for Russia"; but the belated peasant only makes the bitterness more acute to the land which Gogol described as "the country forgotten by God". And thus, after a moment of hope, the darkness is again accepted almost as if it were the only thing natural.'
References. XXXVII. 21. E. H. Bickersteth, Thoughts in Past Years, p. 201. XXXVII. 23. J. Budgen, Parochial Sermons, vol. i. p. 133.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Job 37". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13