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There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job.
The character of Job
There are serious and devout persons who regard the Book of Job as a work of imagination, and refer it to the age of Solomon. They point out that the subject discussed is precisely that which agitated the mind of Solomon, and that nothing but a wide contact with the Gentile world could have admitted a subject or a scene so remote from ordinary Jewish thought. Luther says, “I look upon the Book of Job as true history, yet I do not believe that all took place just as it is written, but that an ingenious, learned, and pious person brought it into its present form.” The poetical character of the work is manifest, and this poetical character must be taken into full account in any attempt to explain the contents. That is admissible in poetry which would not be proper in prose. Poetry may suggest, prose should state. Whether the poem be historically based or not, there is certainly set before us a very distinct and well-marked individuality. It is not possible for us to understand the discussion in the book until we are adequately impressed with the character of the hero, because the whole turns, not as is usually assumed, upon his patience, nor upon his absolute innocence, but upon his religious sincerity and moral uprightness. Job is presented in the characteristics of his conduct, his attractions, and his repulsions. “Perfect and upright.” “Fearing God.” “Eschewing evil.” A man may be delineated very minutely; a photograph in words may be presented of his features, his bodily form, his gait, his tone of voice, and even of his qualities of mind and disposition, and yet no adequate idea of him may be conveyed to the minds of others. Genius is shown in some brief, sententious striking off of the essential peculiarities, the things in which the man stands out from other men. This hand mark of genius is on the description that is given of Job. It is brief, but it differentiates him precisely. We feel that we know the man.
I. It presents the characteristics of his conduct. Our Lord taught--what reason also affirms--that a man’s life and doings form the proper basis of any judgment that is made concerning him. “By their fruits ye shall know them.” That ground of judgment is universally acknowledged to be quite fair. We ought to be willing to lay our life and conduct open before our fellow men, and to say, “Judge me according to my integrity.” Many, even religious men, prefer to say, “Judge me according to my professions.” The world is right in persisting in judging us by our conduct. And it may be questioned whether, on the whole, its judgment is harsh and unfair. It does not look for perfection in us, but it does expect to find that ours is a higher standard of honesty and charity than theirs. We would like to be described by our beliefs. Our Lord was described by His doings. “He went about, doing good.” It says much for Job that he can be set before us in the light of his conduct. He was a sincere, upright, kind, and good man. How are we to explain these words, “perfect and upright,” as descriptions of human life and conduct? The word “perfect” has in Scripture this idea in it. The thought of the absolutely perfect is cherished in a man’s soul, and he is ever trying to work his thought out into his life and conduct. Taking the two words together, “perfect” refers to the ideal in the man’s mind; and “upright” describes the moral characteristic of his human relationships. And we may glorify our Father in heaven by cherishing high ideals, and by bringing forth, in our daily life, much fruit of common honesties, common purities, and common charities, and so grow towards the standard of the perfect.
II. It presents the characteristic of his attractions. Tell us what a man loves, and we can tell you exactly what the man is. Everyone is disclosed by his favourite pursuit. Do you love truth and goodness? Then a blessed revelation is made concerning you. The Godward side of your nature is alive, healthy, and active. But is it the same thing to say of Job that he “feared God,” and to say that he “set his love on God”? Yes. A man can never worthily love, if he does not fear,--fear in the deeper sense of respect, admire, and reverence. Fear and love grow together, and grow so like each other that we find it difficult to tell which is fear and which is love. Job, on the side of his attractions, was drawn to God. The purity of the waters that lie full in the face of the sun is drawn out, and caught up by invisible forces into the sky, by and by to serve ends of refreshing on the earth. And all the noblest and best that is in a man may be drawn out by the invisible forces of Divine love and fear, if the soul do but lie open to God, the Sun of Righteousness.
III. It presents the characteristic of his repulsions. “He eschewed evil.” The word employed is vigorous, but not exactly refined. We cannot pronounce it without discerning its precise meaning. “Escheweth” means, “finds it nauseous, and spits it out.” The clean is repelled from the unclean, the kindly from the cruel, the gentle from the passionate, the pure from the vicious. A good man is characterised by an acute sensitiveness to everything that is evil. What then was the leading idea of Job’s life? It was a life lived in the power of principle. Some central idea ruled it, gave it unity, steadied it. He believed that, in righteousness, Divine communion may be enjoyed. He saw that God, happiness, truth, peace, the only worthy idea of living, all belong to righteousness. So his conduct was right. “Righteousness tendeth unto life”; and “God blesseth the generation of the righteous.” Whatever may happen to this man, we may be sure that God was on his side. God declared him to be a pure, upright, and sincere man. (Robert Tuck, B. A.)
Job, the model of piety
Job must have lived not very long after the Deluge. Somewhere between the time of Noah and of Abraham. Five things in this model which we shall do well to imitate.
I. Job was a model of home piety (1 Timothy 5:4). Some persons pretend to be very good and pious when among strangers, but they are not careful how they act at home. If we are really trying to be good Christians, and to love and serve God, then home is the place in which we should let our religion be seen. It should make us more respectful and obedient to our parents, and more kind and loving and gentle to our brothers and sisters, and to all about us in the home, than those are who do not profess to be Christians. Job’s sons were in the habit of having social gatherings at each other’s houses. When their feasting was over, their father was accustomed to gather them all together for special religious services, when he prayed that God would forgive them if any of them had said, or thought, or felt, or done anything that was wrong while the feasting was going on. It was in this way that Job was a model of piety at home.
II. Job was a model of intelligent piety. He lived so long ago that we could not expect him to have had very clear views about the character of God, and the way to serve Him. But he had. It is wonderful how much he knew about these things. He lived before any part of the Bible was written. But he got his knowledge from the God of the Bible. We get our knowledge from the Bible. If we come to the Bible to find out what true piety is, and how we are to serve God, we shall understand this matter as Job did, and our piety, like his, will be intelligent piety.
III. Job was a model of practical piety. His piety did not show itself in what he said only, but also, and mainly, in what he did. He carried his religion with him wherever he went (chap. 29). We have some examples of good Christian men and women who are like Job in this respect. But there ought to be many more of the same kind. If, from the example of Job, we look up to the example of Jesus, we shall find them both very much alike in this respect. When Jesus “went about doing good,” He was making His piety practical.
IV. We have is joe a model of patient piety. The apostle James says, “Ye have heard of the patience of Job.” This is the first thought that comes to us when the name of Job is mentioned. Think of his terrible calamities. We should have been tempted to say some very bitter things against the providence of God for permitting so great and crushing an affliction to come upon us. But Job said nothing of the kind. All he did is told thus: “Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head.” This was the way in which people in that Eastern country were accustomed to express their feelings when in great sorrow. But what a much more wonderful model of patience was Jesus! The patience of Job was beautiful at the beginning, but it did not last. He got discouraged, and said some very impatient things. He failed in his patience before he got through his trials. And so it is with all the examples of piety and patience that we find among our fellow creatures. They fail, sooner or later. The example of Jesus is the only perfect one.
V. Job was a model, or example, of rewarded piety. When Satan said, “Does Job serve God for nought?” he meant to say that Job was selfish in his religion, and only served God for the pay or profit he expected from it. But he was mistaken here. Job knew that there was a reward to be found in the service of God. But this was not the only thing he thought of in that service. “In keeping God’s commandments there is great reward.” All who serve God as faithfully as Job did will find themselves richly rewarded. (R. Newton, D. D.)
The character of Job
1. Beginning with the opening verses, we are led to contemplate Job in his family relations; in his tender solicitude for the spiritual welfare of his children, causing the light of daily worship to shed its rays upon the domestic tabernacle,--his house a church, and himself the ministering priest at its altars. This whole passage brings out in strong relief the depth of Job’s personal piety, and his fervent intercessions for his family. “According to the number”--that is, according to the needs, and necessities, and particular circumstances of them all, the ungovernable pride and passion, perhaps, which he had observed in one son, the worldly spirit and pleasure seeking which he knew to be the besetting sin of another. One by one, each son’s infirmities and temptations shall have its remembrance in a pious father’s prayers. The whole scene brings out an example of that household piety which is the strength of nations, the seed of the Church, the best conservator of God’s truth in the world, and that on which the Almighty has declared shall ever rest His heavenly benediction. “For I know him,” it is said of Abraham, “that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord to do justice and judgment.” Thus, for his exemplary character and conduct in all the relations of home life, we can understand why it is witnessed of Job that he was a perfect and an upright man.
2. Again, in the entire submissiveness of his will to the Divine will, we see a reason why it should be witnessed of Job that he was “a perfect and an upright man.” His preeminence in this virtue of patient resignation we find recognised in the Epistle of St. James, who, after bidding us “take the prophets for an example of suffering affliction and of patience,” cites, as worthy of special imitation, the “patience of Job.” Nor have we need to go further than this first chapter for evidence of the patriarch’s absolute and beautiful self-abasement. For we see a man before us who is a very wreck of wrecks--under the pressure of bodily suffering unexampled. And yet, amidst the wild and wasting havoc, no murmur of rebellion escapes his lips, neither does any hard thought of God find any place in his heart. Still, as we know, it was not always thus with Job. This model of suffering patience was at times tempted to expressions of almost blasphemous impatience--imprecating darkness upon the anniversary of his birth, as a day not worthy to be joined unto the days of the year, or to come into the number of the months. It was the yielding to this temper of mind which drew forth against him the stern and just reproof of Elihu, “Should it be according to thy mind?” Is it for thee to say how God should correct, and when God should correct, and in what measures He should correct? Art thou a competent judge of what the Almighty may have in view in His corrective dispensations; or whether shall tend to promote them, this form of chastening or that? “Should it be according to thy mind?” No doubt this form of insubmissiveness is often to be found in God’s children when lying under His Fatherly corrections. Chastening, we know, we must have; and chastening we expect. But, as with Job at the time of this reproof being administered to him, there is often a disposition in us to dictate to our heavenly Father in what form the chastening should come. Under any great trial there is a constant tendency in us to say, “I could have borne any trial rather than this.” Far otherwise was it with Job--at least, when he was in his better moods: He desired to be conformed to the will of God in all things. He had no selective submissions, taking patiently the thorn in the flesh one day, and withstanding proudly the angel in the path of the vineyards the next; now bowing in all lowliness under the imposed yoke of the Saviour, and now refusing to take up his appointed cross. Job knew that submission to the Divine will was not more the discipline of life than it will be the repose and bliss of immortality. “In all this Job sinned hot, nor charged God foolishly.” In the yielded captivity and surrender of every thought to the will of God, he would vindicate his claim to be considered “a perfect and an upright man.”
3. Furthermore, among personal characteristics of Job justifying the honourable mention made of him in our text, we naturally include the strength and clearness of his faith. As a grace of character, no virtue stands higher than this in the Divine esteem. It was that royal gift from above which procured for Abraham the distinguishing title of “the Friend of God.” And there are points of resemblance between his faith and that of this perfect and upright man in the land of Uz. Both were beforehand of their dispensation in their views of the doctrine of an atoning sacrifice; both, with a clearness of vision beyond that of men of their own age, saw the day of Christ; saw it, and were glad. Even in those family burnt offerings recorded in this first chapter, there was, on the part of Job, a distinct act of faith. He saw in that sacrifice and oblation a type of the coming propitiation; saw his own sins and his sons’ sins laid on that slain victim, and believed that they were blotted out in the cloud that curled up from that sacrificial fire. This, indeed, was the only answer to be returned to his own question--the question which had perplexed him, as well as thousands of minds besides: “How should man be just with God? How should God and man come together in judgment?” Clearly in no way except by means of that Divine and ineffable mystery so beautifully foreshadowed in his own striking language: “Neither is there any daysman betwixt us that might lay his hand upon us both.” And then see how this strong and eagle-eyed gaze into the far-off future comes out in the nineteenth chapter, when describing his faith in the God-Redeemer, the Divine and everliving Mediator. Job knew, as well as David knew, that, in the higher sense for which a Redeemer is needed, “no man can redeem his brother, or make atonement unto God for him; for that it cost more to redeem their souls: so that he must let that alone forever.” See, then, how great is Job’s faith. This Redeemer, who can do for us what no created being could do--living, and all through the ages, ever living--must be Divine. Yet not Divine only; for He is my kinsman, of the same race and blood with me, bound over by Divine appointment to do for me the kinsman’s part. Mystery of mysteries! yet shall my faith embrace it. “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” And this faith, in Job’s case, like all true faith, was an intensely practical thing; a working factor in the shaping of his whole life and character. See how this comes out in the thirteenth chapter. Things are at their worst with Job. The taunts and reproaches of his so-called friends had irritated him beyond endurance, and he spake unadvisedly with his lips. And no wonder. “Hold your peace,” he says to them. “Let me alone, that I may speak, and let come on me what will. It does seem as if God had set me for His mark; the looming wrath cloud does seem as if it would discharge itself upon me every moment. Yet think you that on this account I am going to doubt my God, distrust my God, see shadow of change in the Unchangeable? Nay, verily; though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” Oh! wonder we to find it written of such an one, “That man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God”?
4. One other aspect of Job’s character remains to be taken, as supplying a reason for the high commendation of the text; I mean that view of his life which brings him before us as a man of prayer; a man of devout and heart-searching communion with his own spirit; a man able to bear anything rather than the thought of estrangement, and coldness, and a cloud of fear and unlove coming for a moment between his soul and God. Take a few passages only from his book, showing the intense fervour of these spiritual longings: “Oh! that I knew where I might find Him; that I might come even unto His seat! Oh! that one might plead for a man with God, as a man pleadeth for his friend! Oh! that I were as in months past; as in the days when God preserved me; as I was in the days of my youth, when the secret of God was upon my tabernacle!” “That man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God.” Still, we must be careful that these searchings of heart are not carried too far; are not, in the hands of Satan, made an occasion of driving us from our hope. We must not forget that the occasional intermission of our spiritual comforts is often a part of a necessary sanctifying discipline. It is possible that God sees us depending too much on these tokens of His favour, this abiding of His secret upon our tabernacle, Insensibly we had come to look upon those happy experiences as our righteousness; we had almost made a Christ of them, to the disparagement of the a insufficiency of His atonement, and to the casting of a shadow on the glory of His Cross. But this must not be. In all our self-examinations we must not shrink from looking back, and must not be afraid to look within. But if we can honestly discern in ourselves the signs of present desires after holiness, and yet are disquieted and cast down, then, instead either of looking back or looking within, we must look out and look up; out of self, up to Christ; out of the light upon the tabernacle, up to the light of heaven; out of all thought, of what we may have done or not done for Christ, up to the grateful contemplation of what Christ has done for us. (Daniel Moore, M. A.)
A good man in great prosperity
I. A good man. He was “perfect.” Not sinless, but complete in all the parts of his moral and religious character; he did not attend to one class of duties to the exclusion of others, cultivate one attribute of virtue regardless of the rest. He was complete. All the parts of the plant of goodness within him grew simultaneously and symmetrically.
1. In relation to his general conduct he was “upright.” He pursued the straight road of rectitude, turning neither to the right nor left hand; he did what his conscience believed was right, regardless of issues.
2. In relation to his God he was devout. He “feared God,” not with a slavish fear,--his fear was a loving reverence. He was far removed from all irreverence of feeling, he was profoundly religious. God filled the horizon of his soul, he looked at all things in their relation to the Divine.
3. In relation to evil he was an apostate. He “eschewed evil”; he departed from it; he hurried from it as from the presence of a monster. However fashionable, gorgeously attired, institutionally and socially powerful, he loathed it, and fled from it as Lot from Sodom.
4. In relation to his family he was a priest. “He offered burnt offerings.” He interposed with God on their behalf; he was a mediator between his own children and the great Father of spirits. Like a good father he sought the moral cleansing of his children and their reconciliation to the Eternal.
II. Here is a good man very prosperous.
1. He was prosperous as a father. “There were born unto him seven sons and three daughters.” In ancient times, to be destitute of children was esteemed a great calamity: the greater the family the greater the parental blessing. Things have changed now: here in our England, a large family is regarded as a terrible infliction. What greater blessing in this world can a man have than a large number of loving hearts to call him father?
2. He was prosperous as a farmer. The stock here described has been estimated to amount in our money to the sum of £30,000. Here, and now, this is a good fortune, but yonder, and then, it stood for at least fifty times the amount.
3. He was prosperous as a citizen. “For this man was the greatest of all the men in the east in those days, no doubt, men whose names would strike awe into the soul of the populace, but Job was the greatest of them all. Elsewhere he describes the power which he wielded over men. “When I went out to the gate through the city, when I prepared my seat in the street! the young men saw me, and hid themselves,” etc. (Job 29:7-8).
In conclusion, two remarks--
1. That a good man in great prosperity is what antecedently we might have expected to find everywhere in the world.
2. That a good man in great prosperity is not a common scene in human life. Generally speaking, the best men are the poorest, and the worst men hold the prizes of the world. (Homilist.)
Job’s life of prosperity
Now let us judge this life from a point of view which the writer may have taken, which at any rate it becomes us to take, with our knowledge of what gives manhood its true dignity and perfectness. Obedience to God, self-control and self-culture, the observance of religious forms, brotherliness and compassion, uprightness and purity of life, these are Job’s excellences. But all circumstances are favourable, his wealth makes beneficence easy, and moves him to gratitude. His natural disposition is towards piety and generosity; it is pure joy to him to honour God and help his fellow men. The life is beautiful. But imagine it as the unclouded experience of years in a world where so many are tried with suffering and bereavement, foiled in their strenuous toil, and disappointed in their dearest hopes, and is it not evident that Job’s would tend to become a kind of dream life, not deep and strong, but on the surface, a broad stream, clear, glittering, with the reflection of moon and stars, or of the blue heaven, but shallow, gathering no force, scarcely moving towards the ocean? No dreaming is there when the soul is met with sore rebuffs, and made aware of the profound abyss that lies beneath, when the limbs fail on the steep hills of difficult duty. But a long succession of prosperous years, immunity from disappointment, loss, and sorrow, lulls the spirit to repose. Earnestness of heart is not called for, and the will, however good, is not braced to endurance. Whether by subtle intention or by an instinctive sense of fitness, the writer has painted Job as one who with all his virtue and perfectness spent his life as in a dream, and needed to be awakened. He is a Pygmalion’s statue of flawless marble, the face divinely calm, and not without a trace of self-conscious remoteness from the suffering multitudes, needing the hot blast of misfortune to bring it to life. Or, let us say he is a new type of humanity in Paradise, an Adam enjoying a Garden of Eden fenced in from every storm, as yet undiscovered by the enemy. We are to see the problem of the primitive story of Genesis revived and wrought out afresh, not on the old lines, but in a way that makes it real to the race of suffering men. The dream life of Job in his time of prosperity corresponds closely with that ignorance of good and evil which the first pair had in the garden eastward ill Eden while as yet the forbidden tree bore its fruit untouched, undesired, in the midst of the greenery and flowers. (Robert A. Watson, D. D.)
Job may be called “the first of the Bible heathens.” He was not a Jew, he was one “outside the pale of the visible Church.” The problems of the book are of interest to man as man, and not as either Jew or Gentile. There is no allusion in the book to Jewish traditions, customs, or modes of thought,. The sacrifices mentioned are primitive, not Mosaic. There is a striking breadth and universalism in its pictures of life, manners, customs, and places. There is a variety about the local colouring that we find in no book that is undoubtedly Jewish in its origin. There is a marked absence of the strong assertion of God as Israel’s God which we elsewhere find. The picture of Satan is very different from that which we have elsewhere in Scripture. Many considerations point to the very high antiquity of Job’s time,--such as his own great longevity; the primitive and patriarchal simplicity of life and customs; the reference to sacrifices, but to neither priest nor shrine; the fact that the only form of idolatry spoken of is the very primitive one of the worship of the sun and moon; and the total silence of the history to such striking and momentous events as the destruction of Sodom, and the giving of the law. When or by whom the book was written we have not sufficient evidence to warrant even a guess. The presence of the book in the Canon ought to be a standing marvel to those who can see in the Old Testament only a collection of Jewish literature, a store house of national thought, history, poetry, or theology. The book stands by itself, sublime in its solitariness, suggestive in its isolation. Not less remarkable is the book if regard be had to its literary character, its poetic elevation, its dramatic daring, its full-blown magnificence of imagery. Carlyle says, “There is nothing written, I think, in the Bible or out of it, of equal literary merit.” The form is essentially dramatic. The problem presented is one phase of the world-old and worldwide one of human suffering. It is the most inscrutable side of the mystery that is presented and treated--the suffering of a righteous man; not of one made righteous, purified, by the discipline of pain, but righteous prior to the assault of affliction. There is brought before us a figure of piety and fame, public repute and private virtue. Then follows the charge of selfishness, preferred by the accuser, and the Divine permission that he be put to the test. The working out of this test, its effect upon him and upon his friends, constitute the body of the drama. The theory of the friends is this; in this life pain is proportioned to sin, and joy to righteousness; suffering to transgression, and reward to innocence. It makes no provision for a mystery of suffering; all pain, whilst it may be made to be disciplinary or corrective in its consequence by being rightly used, and by learning what it is fitted to teach, is yet, in its primary character, penal. When, therefore, you see suffering, you may be sure there has been sin. Job indignantly repels this explanation of his sufferings. He touches the very borders of blasphemy in his declarations of innocence, and his demands that the Almighty should show why He causes him thus to suffer. As the argument develops, the parties change places. The friends, at first calm, dispassionate, and even, from their standpoint, considerate and forbearing, deteriorate. They lose temper in presence of what they deem to be Job’s obstinacy and sinful determination not to admit his sins. Their theory is not broad enough to cover all the facts of the case: this they feel, and naturally they become irritated and irritable. The episode of Elihu may be passed by as not essential to the development of the drams,. In a few sentences may be stated the position which is assumed by the Divine voice. He ends the controversy, but not by explaining the difficulties which had perplexed them all. He asks, Is it the Creator God of this universe that man dares to arraign at his bar, and is it of Him that he dares to demand a self-vindication? The true attitude of man ought to be one of confidence in the God whose works proclaim Him to be infinitely great and wise. Man is crushed out of the last semblance of self-complacency. The effect of this self-manifestation by the Almighty, and of the revelation of what His own real image is, strikes Job into nothingness. But whatever had been his faults, those of his friends had been deeper and deadlier. Their presumption had been more than his. So the Almighty vindicates the sufferer, and condemns, though He spares the mere theologians, who set their own orthodoxy as higher than His charity, and a human theory above a Divine sympathy. (G. M. Grant, B. D.)
In the land of Uz.
God’s servants in unfavourable surroundings
I. God hath His servants in all places, in the worst places. There was never any air so bad but that a servant of God might breathe in it. Here God had a choice piece, even in the land of Uz, a place of profaneness; here was Bethel in Bethaven, a house of God in a land of wickedness. Lot dwelt in Sodom, Joseph in Egypt.
II. It is a great honour and a high commendation to be good, and do good amongst those that are evil.
III. Grace will preserve itself in the midst of the greatest opposition. It is such a fire as no water can wholly quench or put out. True grace will keep itself sound and clean among those who are leprous and unclean; it is such a thing as overcomes all the evil that is about it. As all the water in the salt sea cannot make the fish salt, but still the fish retains its freshness; so all the wickedness and filthiness that is in the world cannot destroy, cannot defile true grace; that will bear up its head, and hold up itself forever. (J. Caryl.)
Perfect and upright.--
The perfection of the saints
There is a two-fold perfection ascribed to the saints in this life; a perfection of justification, a perfection of sanctification. The first of these, in a strict sense, is a complete perfection. The saints are complete in Christ, they are perfectly justified; there is not any sin left uncovered nor any guilt left unwashed in the blood of Christ, not the least spot, but is taken away. His garment is large enough to cover all our nakedness and deformities. Then there is a perfection of holiness or of sanctification.
1. The saints even in this life have a perfect beginning of holiness, because they are begun to be sanctified in every part (1 Thessalonians 5:23). When the work of sanctification is begun in all parts, it is a perfect work beginning.
2. They are likewise perfect in regard of their desires and intendments. Perfect holiness is the aim of the saints on earth; it is the reward of the saints in heaven. The thing which they drive at here, is perfection, therefore they themselves are called perfect.
3. He was perfect comparatively, comparing him with those who were either openly wicked or but openly holy; he was a man without spot, compared with those that were either all over spotted with filthiness, or only painted with godliness.
4. We may say the perfection here spoken of is the perfection of sincerity. Job was sincere, he was sound at the heart. He did not act a part, or personate religion, but was a religious person. He was not gilded, but gold. When Job bought or sold, traded or bargained, promised or covenanted, he stood to all uprightly. As a magistrate he gave to all their due. (J. Caryl.)
Grace the best of blessings
The first thing which God takes notice of is His grace.
I. Gracious habits and spiritual blessings are the choicest of all blessings. If God has given a man grace, he hath the best and the choicest of all that which God can give. God hath given us His Son, and God hath given us His Spirit, and God hath given us the graces of His Spirit; these are the finest of the flower, and the honey out of the rock of mercy. Though you should not come to children, though you should not come to the other part of the inventory, to sheep, and camels, and oxen, and asses; if you are in the first part of the description, that you have a perfect heart, and upright life, and the fear of God in your inward parts, and a holy turning against every evil, your lot is fallen in a fair place, and you have a goodly heritage: they that have this, need not be discontented at their own, nor envious at the condition of any other; they have the principal verb, the one thing necessary.
II. Where one grace is, there is every grace. Grace is laid into the soul in all the parts of it, and there is somewhat of every grace laid into the soul. We have not one man one grace, and another man another grace; but every man hath every grace that hath any grace at all. All grace goes together. Particularly, this man was perfect. That is, he was sincere and plain hearted. Observe from hence--
1. It is sincerity that especially commends us unto God. As Job’s graces are preferred in his description, before his riches, so sincerity is preferred before all his other graces. Sincerity is that which makes us so acceptable and pleasing unto God.
2. Sincere and sound-hearted persons are in God’s esteem perfect persons. Truth of grace is our perfection here; in heaven we shall have perfection as well as truth. Further, in that upon this perfectness and plainness of heart, there is presently added uprightness:
Observe from thence--
1. Where the heart is sincere towards God, the ways are just and honest before men.
2. It is a great honour and an ornament unto our profession of godliness, to be just and upright in our dealings toward men. (J. Caryl.)
One that feared God.--
Here we have fearing God added to perfect and upright. Observe hence--
I. Moral integrity and moral honesty, without the fear of God, can never render us acceptable unto God. God delights in nothing we do, unless we do it in His fear. Not to wrong man because we fear God, is an argument of more than man.
II. Holy fear contains in it every grace we receive from God, and all the worship we tender up to God. Fear containeth faith, and fear containeth love too.
III. Holy fear keeps the heart and life clean. The fear of the Lord is clean (Psalms 19:1-14). Clean not only in itself, formally clean, but effective: it makes clean, and keeps clean the heart and life. Fear is an armed man at the gate, which examines all, and stops everyone from entering that is unfit. It stands as a watchman on the tower, and it looks every way, to see what is coming to the soul; if evil come, fear will not admit it. (J. Caryl.)
And eschewed evil.--
Hatred of evil
1. Godly persons do not only forbear sin, but they abhor sin. They have not only their hands bound from it, but they have their hearts set against it.
2. A godly man’s opposition of sin is universal; it is against all sin.
3. Godly persons do not only avoid the acts of evil, but all the occasions of evil. (J. Caryl.)
The upright eschew all evil
If sin be evil, and displease God, and deserve damnation, he that most fully and carefully avoideth it, is the honestest and the wisest man. You will not blame your child or servant for being loath to offend and disobey you even in the smallest matter. You like not him that offereth you the least abuse, so well as him that offereth you none. You had rather be well than have the least disease. You will not take a little poison, nor would you feel a little of hell. Why then should we not avoid the least sin so far as we are able? (R. Baxter.)
Revert sons and three daughters.--
Children a blessing
There are some who account their children but bills of charges; but God puts them upon the account of our mercies. (J. Caryl.)
His substance also was seven thousand sheep.--
A great estate
A question may here be raised, Why the Holy Ghost spends so many words, and is thus accurate in the setting forth of Job’s outward estate?
1. He is described to be a man of a very great estate, to the end that the greatness of his affliction might appear afterward. The measure of a loss is taken by the greatness of a man’s enjoyment. If a man have but little, his affliction cannot be great. After great enjoyments, want is greatest.
2. The greatness of his estate is set forth, that the greatness of his patience might appear.
3. It was to give all the world a testimony that Job was a thorough godly and holy man; that he was a man of extraordinary strength of grace. Why? Because he held his integrity, and kept up his spirit in the way of holiness, notwithstanding he was lifted up with abundance of outward blessings. To be very great, and very good, shows that a man is good indeed. Great and good, rich and holy, are happy conjunctions, and they are rare conjunctions. Usually riches impoverish the soul, and the world eats out all care of heaven; therefore Job was one of a thousand, being at once thus great in riches, and thus rich in goodness. How often do riches cause forgetfulness of God, yea, kicking against God? How often are they made the bellows of pride, the fuel of uncleanness, the instruments of revenge? How often do rich men contemn, despise, and oppress their weak and poor brethren? From the whole, take these observations.
We see here Job a holy man, very full of riches: thence observe--
1. That riches are the good blessings of God. To hold and possess great riches, is not evil; it is evil to set our hearts upon them.
2. Plain and honest dealing is no hindrance to the gaining or preserving of an estate. Honest dealing is no stop, no bar to getting. The nighest and the safest way to riches, is the way of justice. Woe to those, who by getting riches, get a wound in their own consciences.
3. In that Job, a man fearing God, was thus rich, thus great; see here the truth of the promises. God will make good His promise concerning outward things to His people (1 Timothy 4:8).
4. Here is another observation from this place: Job was frequent in holy duties; he was a man fearing God, he was much in the way of holy worship; he did not serve God by fits, or at his leisure, but “continually”; yet he was very rich. Time spent in holy duties is no loss, no hindrance to our ordinary callings, or to our thriving in them. The time we spend in spiritual duties, is time gained for secular. The time we spend in prayer, etc., whets our tools, and oils our wheels, promotes all we go about, and getteth a blessing upon all. (J. Caryl.)
And his sons went and feasted in their houses.
The family meeting and the family sacrifice
I. The festive meeting. “And his sons went,” etc.
1. It was a united family. There were no schisms in that body. The sons had all grown up, had their own houses, their own lands, and their own flocks and herds. Yet Ephraim did not envy Judah, and Judah did not vex Ephraim--without jealousies, without shyness, without any affected superiority, without mistrust. “Behold, how good and pleasant a thing it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” And what an evil thing it is where this unity is wanting.
2. It was a social family. “And called for their three sisters to eat and drink with them.” It is a noticeable feature of patriarchal life that great respect was always paid to the home courtesies. We claim it as one of the refining and beneficent results of Christianity that it has restored woman to her social place and dignity. And, as compared with her lower position in an immediately preceding age, no doubt it did. But the courtesies of the sisterly relation have never been observed more sacredly than by the patriarchs, who thus learned under the paternal roof the graceful attentions and refinements which should the better befit them for married life. We open a deep spring of elevating and softening influences when we establish among brothers and sisters a systematic regard to domestic courteousness. A young man is sure to grow up a churl--rude, half-humanised, unmannerly--who does not care to maintain a kindly and affectionate bearing toward a sister at home.
3. It was a convivial family. “And his sons went and feasted in their houses.” It was not then inconsistent with patriarchal manners to mark these family gatherings by a feast. Abraham made a feast at the weaning of Isaac; Isaac makes a feast to Abimelech and Pichol; and Laban made a feast on the occasion of the marriage of Jacob. God has clearly made some things for the service of man only, but He has as clearly made other things for his enjoyment, for his refreshment. The Psalmist tells us in one verse that the great Parent “caused the grass to grow for the cattle, and the herb for the service of man,” he tells us in the next verse that He causeth “wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make him of a cheerful countenance.” Only in the abuse consists the sin of these well-spread tables.
II. The family sacrifice. The seven days’ feasting were past. “And it was so when the days of their feasting were gone about, Job sent and sanctified them,” etc.
1. Job sent and sanctified his children; that is, bade them prepare themselves for a sanctifying ordinance. The most ordinary exercises of devotion are well preceded by a moment’s pause; it gives the soul time to attire itself for the Divine presence chamber--an opportunity to shake off the dust from our feet before approaching to speak with God upon the mount. The present was a great family occasion in Job’s household. There were mercies to acknowledge, shortcomings to bewail, responsibilities to renew, lessons to sanctify. What changes might pass over their domestic fortunes before the yearly feast came round! That cloud, now no bigger than a man’s hand, what may it not grow to? That sorrow, now lighting heavily on our neighbour, and on account of which we dare not even utter to him the customary kind words of the season, how soon may that sorrow be ours! God of the future, and of the unseen, and the unknown, how should a devout parent desire to roll on Thee the burden of these responsibilities! Avert them from our children and families we cannot, but if, like Job, we send and sanctify them, a year which is begun with prayer we may hope to conclude with praise.
2. Observe, too, they were grown-up sons on account of whom Job evinced solicitude. The fact may suggest whether in our day the filial and parental relations are kept up long enough. It seems to be too much taken for granted that the quitting of the home roof is the signal for the discharge of the parental responsibilities. “And he rose up early in the morning and offered burnt offerings.” Early in the morning, for this was a marked characteristic of the devotions of men of old time. Abraham, David, and Job seem to have thought that they who prevented the dawning of the day in their supplications would carry away the best blessings. God sitteth between the cherubim, waiting for prayer, and they who come first shall be heard first. “I love them that love Me, and they that seek Me early shall find Me.” “And offered burnt offerings.” How so, when as yet there was no written law, no order of priesthood, no ordinance or sanctuary? The answer suggests how far back, and how universally the day of Christ has been looked for. How much or how little Job understood of the moral scope of these burnt offerings does not appear.
Two features of Job’s practical religion come out here.
1. In making an offering he measured the amount by the greatness of his mercies.
2. His offerings were not thank offerings only, they were intercessory, and in this view they mark the beautiful individuality of a pious father’s prayers. (D. Moore, M. A.)
A merry Christmas
Our text gives us a very pleasing picture of Job’s family. He was a happy man to have had so many children all comfortably settled in life; for they all had houses, and each was able in turn to entertain the rest. Perhaps the soberness of age disqualified him for joining in their feasting, but he commended it, he did not condemn it.
I. The text, and that is festive; so we will ring a merry bell. I distinctly hear three notes in its merry peal.
1. It gives a licence to the righteous. They may meet together in their houses to eat and drink, and to praise God. The Puritans tried to put down the keeping of Christmas. God forbid that I should proclaim the annihilation of any day of rest which falls to the lot of the labouring man. Feasting is not a wrong thing. Job only feared lest a wrong thing should be made out of a right thing. These young people met in good houses, and in good company. Their feasting was a good thing, for it had a good intent; it was for amity, for cheerfulness, for family union. And at the feasting there was good behaviour. Good men of old have feasted. Abraham made a feast when his child was weaned. Shall I tell of Samson and his feasts, or of David, or of Hezekiah, or of Josiah? Feasting was even an essential part of Divine worship under the old law. There was the feast of trumpets, of tabernacles, of the passover, of the new moons, etc. And our Saviour countenanced a feast, and even helped to provide the guests for it. He was not Himself out of place at the wedding feast at Cana. And God has provided in His world not only enough for man’s need, but also abundance for man’s feasting.
2. It suggests a caution. Job said, “It may be.” Though they were good sons, they may have “blessed God too little in their hearts.” They may not have been grateful enough for their prosperity, and for the enjoyments God had given them. This caution is necessary, because there is no place free from sin. Wherever two meet together Satan is always a possible third. Because there is many a special temptation where there is a loaded table. More men have perished by fulness of bread than ever died by hunger. More have been drowned in the bowl than ever were drowned at sea. Because they who sit at table are but men, and the best of men are but men at the best.
3. It provides a remedy. Job sent for his sons as a father; he sanctified them as a preacher; he sacrificed for them as a priest. Our feasts should be sanctified by the Word of God and prayer.
II. What is in the text, and that is instructive; So we must ring the sermon bell. If Job found it right with a holy jealousy to suspect lest his sons might have sinned, how much more do you think he suspected himself. He who was so anxious to keep his children clean was himself more anxious that he might always fear his God and eschew evil. Then be careful, be watchful of yourself.
III. The text, that is afflictive; here we ring the funeral bell. Calamity came while the children were feasting. Between the table and the coffin there is but a step. Then do nothing that you would not willingly die doing. Be today what you would wish to be in eternity. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The patriarch Job and his children
The feasts mentioned were probably birthday festivities. The pious father, while he permitted these youthful festivities, knew the moral danger by which they were attended. So once a year, when the round of feasts was complete, he called the family together, and kept a feast unto the Lord. He “sanctified” them, that is, on this occasion he specially set himself and his children apart for God.
I. The danger to which Job’s children were exposed: the danger of sinning.
1. Youth is an age of ignorance and inexperience. Life is new. They have not proved its innumerable perils, its unfathomable deceits. They look at life through the medium of their own frank and buoyant and hopeful feelings. The more self-assured is the unthinking youth, the more likely he is to miss the narrow path of obedience and truth, and fall into temptation and snare.
2. In the age of youth the passions of human nature are most irregular and impetuous. Reason is too often dethroned, and lawless appetite usurps her seat.
3. In the age of youth evil example exerts its most pernicious influence. Man in all periods of his existence is an imitative creature, but more particularly so in the days of youth.
4. In the period of youth the great destroyer of the peace, and of the souls of men, is especially assiduous in his bad work.
5. This danger of sinning is never, perhaps, greater than on occasions of festivity, when luxury and gaiety reign.
6. What aggravates the evil of sin is its tendency to increase, so that a young sinner may go so far as to “curse God in his heart.” Dreadful as such a sin is, it is that towards which all other sins lead.
II. The deep and anxious concern of the patriarch lest his children should have fallen into this evil. His expressions indicate great anxiety, tender and heartfelt apprehension.
1. To sin against God must of necessity be a most odious and dreadful thing.
2. The consequence of sin is misery. The parent whose heart is right with God knows well that there is no calamity like the calamity of sin; no pang like the pang of remorse.
3. Not greater is the misery than is the deep dishonour which sin ensures.
III. The manner in which Job sought to deprecate, on behalf of his children, the great evil of sin. He had recourse to sacrifice--the only mode in which the guilt of sin can be cancelled, and its punishment averted. The father who felt it his duty to institute these solemn family atonements would accompany them with such faithful admonitions, such affectionate counsel, and such religious instructions, as the occasion would dictate, and as their wants required. Nor would these annual sacrifices be unaccompanied with earnest prayers and intercessions on behalf of his children. As parents we may plead in private for our children. We may give parental instructions in our customary family devotions. We may have, like this patriarch, special seasons of family consecration.
IV. The effect which the spirit and conduct of Job must have had upon the minds of his children. They could not behold the pious concern which their father manifested for their religious and eternal well-being; they could not behold the annual solemnities, which he instituted for their sake, unmoved. We may charitably hope that the effect upon them was beneficial; and that such a pious parent was rewarded by the piety and obedience of the children. The holy anxiety, the private and domestic intercessions, the kind and tender admonitions of pious parents, constitute, for their children, one of heaven’s loudest calls. Conclusion--To parents. Have you been sufficiently alive to the religious and eternal interests of your posterity? Ought we not to look to God, who knows all our need, for grace to fulfil, in a more effectual manner, the Christian parent’s part? (J. Bromley.)
Religion presiding over hospitality and social enjoyment
Job’s domestic felicity seemed secured by the solemn acknowledgment of the Divine authority with which it was accompanied, and by that godly jealousy with which the patriarch regarded his children, for which there was probably no more specific ground than the fatal tendency of human nature, especially in the fulness of prosperity, to forget the obligations of spiritual religion. At the close of their social meetings, he was wont to assemble the whole family for sacred exercises; and in conformity with the prescriptions of religion in that early period, to offer sacrifices for them all, and to renew the dedication of them to Jehovah, accompanying these acts with confession of sins and prayer for Divine grace. We do not know whether, in reference to his children, the calamity did not bear a character of righteous displeasure. The faith of Job would not have been fully tried if some doubt had not existed on this point; if the apprehensions of parental solicitude had not accompanied the sorrows of bereaved affliction. That social and convivial meetings are, on some occasions, allowable and becoming, few will be disposed to deny; nor can it, be supposed that religion, which prescribes mutual benevolence and affection, should prohibit mutual enjoyment. The Scriptures allude, with manifest approbation, to several occasions of festivity. In the Christian Church, though no festivals are prescribed, except of a spiritual kind, yet private hospitality, on suitable occasions, is abundantly commended. It is the folly and weakness of man that plants his enjoyments with dangers and snares,
1. If you would act a Christian part in your social intercourse and entertainments, it is manifest they must be conducted with such prudence and moderation as to exclude the idea of extravagance, vanity, and excess. Under the fair guise of hospitality, may not injustice sometimes be detected? Sinister and dishonest views may sometimes prompt an expensive show of hospitality, but perhaps a more ordinary motive is found in a principle of worldly ambition. The parade of wealth is sometimes assumed as a means of obtaining wealth. But no fortune, however ample, will justify a vain and expensive conviviality, or vindicate either extravagance or excess.
2. Our social entertainments should be attended with corresponding liberality to the poor. While the heart is expanded with the feelings of kindness, and warmed with the communications of hospitality, we should take care that the poor come in for a proportionate share of our fellow feeling, and that our social enjoyments be accompanied with a more express attention to the duties of feeding the hungry and clothing the naked.
3. Your social intercourse, if you would please God in it, must be so conducted as to be, not injurious, but subservient to the high ends Christians should ever aim at--their personal improvement, and the glory of their Heavenly Father. As a Christian should form no voluntary engagement on which it might not be permitted to ask the blessing of God, so should he act so as to invite this blessing. It becomes him who daily prays, “Lead us not into temptation,” to guard against those circumstances that would endanger his integrity and purity. (H. Gray, D. D.)
The banquet of Job’s children
Among the blessings of Job, his children are reckoned first. How his children were affected we cannot define so well as of their father, because the Holy Ghost saith nothing of them but that they banqueted, which doth sound as though He noted a disparity between Job and his sons. So it seems that Job’s sons were secure upon their father’s holiness, as many are upon their father’s husbandry. We do not see by any circumstance of the story that the sons abused their feasts. Their meetings tended to nourish amity. Why did God create more things than we need, but to show that He alloweth us needful and comfortable things? All the good things which were not created for need, were created for delight. If feasts had been unlawful, Christ would not have been at the feast in Cana. The story saith, “Job sent for his sons, and sanctified them, and sacrificed for them.” In which words the Holy Ghost showeth the pattern of an holy man and good father, which kept the rule that God gave to Abraham, to “bring up his children in the fear of the Lord.” Job goeth to the remedy. Albeit my children have not done their duties in all points, but offended in their feastings, yet I am sure that God will have mercy upon them and upon me, if we ask Him forgiveness.
1. The cause which moved Job to sacrifice for his sons. “It may be that my sons have blasphemed God in their hearts.” He was glad to see his children agree so well together; but he would have them merry and not sin, and therefore he puts them in mind every day while they feasted, to sanctify themselves. Job thought with himself, It may be that my sons have committed some scape like other men; I cannot tell, they are but men; and it is easy to slip when occasion is ready, though they think not to offend. It is better to be fearful than too secure. Blasphemy is properly in the mouth when a man speaks against God, as Rabshakeh did; but Job had a further respect to blasphemy of the heart, counting every sinister affection of the heart as it were a kind of blasphemy or petty treason. We may see this, that the best things may soon be corrupted by the wickedness of men; such is our nature, ever since Adam. It is good for man, so long as he liveth in this world, to remember still that he is amongst temptations. We must look upon our riches as we look upon snares, and behold our meats as we behold baits, and handle our pleasures as we handle bees, that is, pick out the sting before we take the honey; for in God’s gifts Satan hid his snares, and made God’s benefits his baits. One lesson Job’s action may teach us, to prepare ourselves before we eat the communion; that is, to sanctify ourselves and meats, as Christ did. We may also learn to suspect the worst of the flesh, and to live in a kind of jealousy of ourselves. When thou seest some selling in the shops, some tippling in the taverns, some playing in theatres, then think of this with thyself: it is very like that these men swallow many sins, for God is never so forgotten as in feasting and sporting and bargaining; then turn to thy compassion, and pray for them, that God would keep them from sin when temptation is at hand, and that He would not impute their sin to their charge. (H. Smith.)
The village feast
One of the greatest hindrances that religion finds is the false idea that it involves giving up all that makes life happy and enjoyable. We can never set forth too clearly that such an idea is wrong and unscriptural. Sin is the only thing to be given up; and in avoiding sin we do not cut off any part of true happiness; we increase it, by getting what alone can make any heart really happy--the joy and peace of a good conscience. Religion is not to make us sombre, morose, and dull, but is able to fit us to join in the pleasures of life, as those who, loving God most of all, are able also best to truly love their fellow men. Job did not join his children, yet he allowed their happiness. He was a wise man, and able to discern between youthful pleasures and youthful lusts. The knowledge of their happiness in sinless pleasures made him happy too. Yet notice how he acted. He helps them, and in the best way possible. He remembers them before the throne of grace. He dedicates even their feastings and joys by prayer and sacrifice to God. Fear filled the mind of Job lest “his sons should sin, and curse God in their hearts”; lest feasting and prosperity should cause them to forget God’s goodness. So it is specially on their feast day that Job remembers them at the throne of grace. Have you thus honoured God this morning, as the Giver of all good things? If not, learn a lesson from the patriarch. (Rowland P. Hills, M. A.)
Counteractions of excitement
The apprehension thus expressed arose out of a deep knowledge of human nature. The apprehension was lest a time of unusual excitement should produce irreligious effects. In the case of Job the usual dangers of wealth and prosperity were mitigated and counterbalanced to the greatest possible extent. But now those dangers were on a particular occasion aggravated by the temptations of excitement. The even tenor of life was interrupted by a season of special festivity. The good, experienced man saw in this new risks and new solicitations to evil. The text tells how he met these new dangers. Excitement involves some such dangers as these--
1. A temptation to be more than commonly hasty and perfunctory in our strictly religious duties. The flagging interest, more than the failing time, is the real danger for us.
2. The way in which the world at such times asserts its importance, and would persuade us of its alone reality. It is a difficult thing to live in this world as if really expecting and belonging to another. That which is at all times a difficult thing, becomes in times of special excitement a thing impossible with man, a thing possible only in the strength of God.
3. Times of excitement are apt to be also selfish times. When once our thoughts are more of pleasure than of duty, we must be selfish. We may be selfish about duties; we are almost sure to be so about pleasures. When God is forgotten, we may be almost sure it is self, and nothing better, that is remembered.
4. Excitement is too often made an excuse for utter idleness. At such times there is generally a considerable abatement made of your regular duties. Often those which remain are less well done than ordinarily.
5. Times of excitement are generally discontented times. You see what was the special fear of the good man spoken of in the text. “Cursed God in their hearts.” The moment we separate ourselves from God, we become impatient of Him.
6. Where such is the state of things within, there must be a condition, in the simplest sense, of terrific danger. Consider now God’s goodness to us in providing us with some special helps in times of special difficulty. You see what the resource described in the text was. It is not much that others can do for you in this matter. In the example here before us we must see rather a type of the heavenly than of any human intercession. The application of Christ’s one offering is still needed. At such times it is our bounden duty to pray. It is well, too, that we should rather force ourselves to an increased use of the means of grace than suffer that use to become more than commonly slack and infrequent. Good men at such times have found it necessary from time to time to set apart seasons for themselves of especial humiliation and prayer. How anxious and how difficult a thing is the restoration of the spiritual health! Then great reason have we to guard against its becoming impaired. (C. J. Vaughan, D. D.)
The priest-like father
The father is the family priest. Job was an Arab chief. In that Arabian home there was, what there ought to be in every British home, a father who, as he sees his children about him, feels himself called to be a consecrated priest unto God, a priest ordained by the laying on of hands, the hands of his own little children.
1. The first, quality of a priest is sympathy. One who can “have compassion,” because he knows life, and is able to sympathise. Sympathy means being able to know exactly what are the feelings of other people. Job had before him the question which comes to all parents, “How ought I to feel towards young people who are thirsting for pleasures which I have long lost the relish for?” Job’s children were fond of feasts and holidays, and it is clear that their enjoyments caused him anxiety. He felt that there are times when young life needs a very watchful eye. Youth has its special temptations. What young life is really doing--its thoughts, its faults, its dangers--these are things that a parent wants to know. The Christian father would sit within the very soul of his child if he could, and keep the crooked serpent out of that new Eden. Feeling the limit of his own power, the good man kneels and prays. What he cannot do God can do.
2. A priest was a director. The education of a child is done by the schoolmaster, but it is directed from the home. What is it that makes or mars every life? It is personal character. This makes the man or woman, and it is Christ that makes character. Here is the sphere for the priest-like father. These young holiday-loving people in the land of Uz daily saw their model in their own father. They lived under the shadow of a sublime example.
3. Above all, a priest is an intercessor. There is one Mediator, and yet all are mediators. Every one is a bridge over which some benefit is conveyed to his fellows. And the most sacred of mediators are father and mother. On the priest-like father’s heart are engraved the names of the household, for which he makes daily intercession. For these sacred home responsibilities, as for all other, the great preparation is the preparation of self. To give ourselves to God is the chief thing out of which all good influences come. Let us give ourselves to the habit of faithful prayer. The prayer and devotion of God’s people ennobles and safeguards life. (Samuel Gregory.)
Job’s fears for his children
In the text there are two parts.
I. Job’s fear, or jealousy, concerning his children. The persons suspected. His sons. His daughters are mentioned, but Job’s care specially concerned the sons, as responsible for the feast, and as more exposed to temptations of excess. But perhaps sons means children, and includes them all. Look at Job as another man than his children, and yet solicitous about them. Then we learn that a good and gracious heart is troubled about other men’s miscarriages as well as his own. The good man will try to restrain others by his admonitions; to expiate their sins by his prayers; to bewail their sins in his reflections. So should we do, upon sundry considerations.
(1) Out of respect to the honour and glory of God.
(2) Out of respect to the souls of our brethren.
(3) Out of respect to ourselves.
Consider Job in his relation as a father. His chief care was lest his children should offend God at their meetings and feastings.
(1) He did not find fault with the meeting itself
(2) He does not complain of the charge or cost of the meeting.
(3) He does not think wrongly of his not being invited.
This was his fear, lest his children should offend, and trespass against God. He was solicitous about the sins of his children. No doubt he had been careful to instruct his children. But there is no trust to be given either to good relationships, or good education, considered alone by themselves. See the reasons and occasions for Job’s fears.
(1) His love and affection for them.
(2) Their general corruption of nature.
(3) Their age and condition of life.
(4) Their employment, or the occasion of their present meeting--a feast.
There are great temptations at such scenes: to gluttony, drunkenness, and intemperance; to strife, contentions, and brawlings; to lascivious carriages and speeches; to atheism and forgetfulness of God. Satan is usually vigilant to improve such opportunities.
II. The particular matter of Job’s fear is, lest his children should “have cursed God in their hearts.” It may mean have blest (the word is barak) God in their hearts--that is, they may have sinned together with their blessing of God. This is usual, and it proceeds from that hypocrisy which by nature rests in men’s hearts; men are careful to have a good outside now and then, and to conform to some outward duties of religion, because they carry some speciousness with them, but the inward frame and disposition of spirit is little heeded or regarded by them. The expression admits of such an interpretation as this: though my sons have blest God in their hearts, they may have fallen into some occasional and actual miscarriage. There are said to be sins of three sorts.
(1) Sins of daily or frequent incursion, which, whilst we remain in the flesh, we shall never be freed from.
(2) Sins which, in an especial manner, wound the conscience.
(3) Sins of a middle nature between both; sins of a non-attendancy or neglect. Take the sentence negatively. “Have sinned, and have not blessed God,” or “Have sinned, and little blessed God.” Take it as “cursed God.” This need not be understood in the proper and aggravating sense but rather in the qualified and interpretative. There is a blaspheming God in the heart, and there is a blaspheming that does not reach so far. Learn--
1. It is a thing very commendable in a Christian to repent of sin, even unknown.
2. It is the care of a gracious person, not only to take heed of notorious sins, but also of the shadows and resemblances of it.
3. A good Christian has regard to his thoughts, as well as to his words and actions.
4. A godly man is tender of passing hard censure upon the persons or actions of other men. (T. Horton, D. D.)
On family worship
I. Considerations which recommend family worship. With respect to the Deity, it is due to Him, and it is pleasant to Him. Man is to worship his Maker in all the capacities and relations in which his Maker places him. As an individual, he offers to Him his private devotions. Communities, as such, bring to Him in public worship their gratitude and their prayers. And families living under the same roof, affected by the sins, interested in the wants, and blessed in the felicities of each other, owe a family sacrifice to the God of mercy, and Giver of their common safety and joys. Will it be said God has no need for such service? We have every reason to believe that this duty is peculiarly pleasant and acceptable to Him. It was from Abraham He resolved He would not hide anything He would do, because He knew the patriarch, that he “would command his children and his household after him, that they should keep the way of the Lord” (Genesis 18:19).
II. The effects of family worship upon the families in which it is performed.
1. It is favourable to good order.
2. It is calculated to promote and preserve amity and kind offices in the family.
3. And it brings the blessings of heaven. This duty will appear still more important and beneficial, if we advert to its uses to the individuals of whom families are generally composed.
(1) With regard to the pious part of them, it affords, next to the worship of the sanctuary, the most convenient and unexceptionable opportunity for that sociality in devotion which minds seriously impressed do very naturally and strongly desire. But all the members of the family are not religious. For those who are otherwise, family prayer may have the most beneficent operation.
4. Consider its influence upon the community as a whole. (Bishop Dehon.)
Regard for children’s spiritual welfare
There is not a father or a mother among us to this day to whom God has not often said, Hast thou, in this matter of thy children, considered My servant Job? No. We confess with pain and shame and guilt concerning our children, that Job here condemns us to our face. But we feel tonight greatly drawn, if it is not too late, to imitate Job henceforth in behalf of our children. We have not wholly neglected them, nor the Great Sacrifice in their behalf. But we have not remembered it and them together at all with that regularity and point and perseverance and watchfulness that all combined to make Job such a good father to his children, and such a good servant to his God. But if our children are still about us, and if it is not yet too late, we shall vow before God tonight that whilst they are still with us we shall not again so forget them. When they set out to go to school we shall look out of our windows after them, and we shall imagine and picture to ourselves the life into which they must all enter and cannot escape. We shall remember the streets and the playgrounds of our own schooldays, and the older boys and their conversations. And we shall reflect that the games and sports and talks of the playground will bring things out of our children’s hearts that we never see nor hear at home. And then, when they come the length of taking walking and cycling tours, and fishing and shooting expeditions; and, still more, when they are invited out to eat and to drink and to dance, till they must now have a latchkey of their own--by that time it is more than time we had done with all our own late hours, and had taken ourselves to almost nothing in this world but intercessory prayer. We shall not go with them to watch and to judge over our children: but we shall not sleep till they have all come home and shut the door to our hearing behind them. And we shall every such night, and in as many words, plead before God the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, for each several one of our own and our neighbour’s children. (Alexander Whyte, D. D.)
Of course, we confess overt acts of sin, and also secret sins, directly we are aware of them. But our unconscious sins are vastly more numerous than our conscious ones, just as the elevations beneath the ocean waves are much more numerous than those which rear themselves above the breakers as islets. For every one sin you know of, there are perhaps ten of which you are ignorant.
1. Let us understand how unconscious sins come into existence. Old habits assert themselves, in the heat of life, without our noticing them, as a man may unconsciously give a nervous twitch. Besides, our sensibilities are blunt, and permit sins to pass for want of knowing better, as a clerk in a bank may pass a counterfeit banknote for want of longer experience. Moreover, our standard is too low; we measure ourselves against our fellows, and not against the requirements of God. Then, too, though we may resist temptation, we can hardly do it without getting some stain.
2. Let us learn when unconscious sins are most to be dreaded. During times of feasting and holiday. Because we then give less time to devotion. Because we relax our self-watch. Because we are thrown into light and frivolous company. Job was always anxious after such times, and said, “It may be.”
3. Let us see how to deal with unconscious sins. They are sins. They will interrupt our communion. They will work a deadly injury to our spiritual life; for hidden disease is even more perilous than that which shows itself. They must be brought beneath the cleansing blood of Jesus. We need to ask many times each day, Lord Jesus, keep me cleansed from all conscious and unconscious sin. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
Moderate recreation lawful
1. It doth well become godly parents to give their children leave to take moderate refreshing and recreation one with another.
2. Parents must not cast off the care of their children, though they are grown up, though they are men and women.
3. Children that are grown up, or have houses and families of their own, ought yet to yield all reverence and submission to the lawful commands, counsels, and directions of their parents. Do you think you have outgrown obedience and honour to parents, when you are grown in years?
4. A parent’s main and special care should be for the souls of his children. The care of many parents is only to enrich their children, to make them great and honourable, to leave them full portions and estates, to provide matches for them; but for sanctifying their children, there is no thought of that.
5. He that is a holy person himself desires to make others holy too. Holy Job would have all his children holy.
6. The good which others do by our advice and counsel, is reckoned as done by ourselves. While we provoke others to goodness, that good which they do is set upon our account as if we had done it.
7. Holy duties call for holy preparation. Oh, come not to the sacrifice except you be sanctified! (J. Caryl.)
The early morning the best praying time
1. That it is God’s due and our duty to dedicate the morning, the first and best of every day, unto God (Psalms 5:3). We have a saying among us, the morning is a friend to the Muses: that is, the morning is a good studying time. I am sure it is as true that the morning is a great friend to the Graces; the morning is the best praying time.
2. That it is not safe for any to let sin lie a moment unrepented of or unpardoned upon their own consciences or the consciences of others. If a man’s house be on fire, he will not only rise in the morning, or early in the morning, but he will rise at midnight to quench it. (J. Caryl.)
1. That everyone is saved and pardoned by the special and particular actings of his own faith: every soul must believe for itself. Everyone must have a sacrifice.
2. That it is not enough for parents to pray in general for their children, but they ought to pray particularly for them. As parents who have many children provide portions according to the number of them all; and in the family they provide meat and clothing according to the particular number of them all: so likewise they ought to be at a proportionable expense in spirituals, to lay out and lay up prayers and intercessions, “according to the number of them all”; not only to pray in general, that God would bless their children and family, but even to set them one by one before God. The souls of the best, of the purest, though they do not rake in the dunghill, and wallow in the mire of sin, basely and filthily, yet they do from day to day, yea from moment to moment, contract some filth and uncleanness. Every man hath a fountain of uncleanness in him; and there will be ever some sin bubbling and boiling up, if not flowing forth.
3. A suspicion that we ourselves or others have sinned against God, is ground enough for us to seek a reconcilement for ourselves or others with God. If you that are tender parents have but a suspicion--if there be but an “It may be”--that your child hath the plague or taken the infection, will it not be ground enough for you to go presently and give your child a good medicine? And if Job prayed thus, when he only suspected his sons had sinned, what shall we say of those parents who are little troubled when they see and know their sons have sinned? It is safest to repent even of those sins we only fear we have committed. A scrupulous conscience grieves for what it suspects.
4. That we may quickly offend and break the law, while we are about things in their own nature lawful, especially in feasting. It is an easy matter to sin, while the thing you are about is not sinful; nay, while the thing you are about is holy. Lawful things are oftentimes the occasion of unlawful. (J. Caryl.)
Now there was a day.
A fatal day
1. That Satan observeth and watcheth his time to fasten his temptations most strongly upon the soul. He watcheth a day, “there was a day,” and there was not a day in the whole year upon which he could have done it with greater advantage than upon that day. As the mercies of God are exceedingly endeared to us by the season in which they come to us: When they come to us in our special need, how sweet is a mercy then! And as our sins are exceedingly aggravated, by the session and time wherein they are committed: What, sin upon this day? A day of trouble, a day of humiliation? So likewise the temptations of Satan and the afflictions which he brings upon the servants of God, are exceedingly embittered by the season; and he knows well enough what seasons will make them most bitter. And what can more imbitter a cup of sorrow than to have it brought us upon a day of rejoicing? If joy be troublesome in our sorrows, how troublesome is sorrow in the midst of our joys (Proverbs 25:20). Then Satan could never have found out such a time as this. Must he needs be afflicting the father when the children were a feasting? Could he find out no other time but this? blast his tears be mingled with their wine? Must the children’s rejoicing day be the father’s mourning day? Must Satan needs show his malice against the father, when the children were shewing their love one to another? Let us observe, then, this mixture of malice and cunning in Satan, in choosing his time. To carry a man from one extremity to another, puts him upon the greatest extremity: To make the day of a man’s greatest rejoicing to be the day of his deepest sorrows, this is cutting, if not killing sorrow. It were well if we could be wise in this respect to imitate Satan, to choose out our day to do good when there is greatest probability of success, as he chose out his day to do mischief.
2. That the fairest and clearest day of our onward comfort may be clouded and overcast before the evening. (J. Caryl.)
And Satan came also among them.--
In contrast to the Almighty we have the figure of the adversary, or Satan, depicted with sufficient clearness, notably coherent, representing a phase of being not imaginary but actual. He is not, as the Satan of later times came to be, the head of a kingdom peopled with evil spirits, a nether world separated from the abode of the heavenly angels by a broad, impassable gulf. He has no distinctive hideousness, nor is he painted as in any sense independent, although the evil bent of his nature is made plain, and he ventures to dispute the judgment of the Most High. This conception of the adversary need not be set in opposition to those which afterwards appear in Scripture as if truth must be entirely there or here. But we cannot help contrasting the Satan of the Book of Job with the grotesque, gigantic, awful, and despicable fallen angels of the world’s poetry. Not that the mark of genius is wanting in these; but they reflect the powers of this world, and the accompaniments of malignant human despotism. The author of Job, on the contrary, moved little by earthly state or grandeur, whether good or evil, solely occupied with the Divine sovereignty, never dreams of one who could maintain the slightest shadow of authority in opposition to God. He cannot trifle with his idea of the Almighty in the way of representing a rival to Him; nor can he degrade a subject so serious as that of human faith and well-being by painting with any touch of levity a superhuman adversary of men . . . Evidently we have here a personification Of the doubting, misbelieving, misreading spirit which, in our day, we limit to men, and call pessimism. (Robert A. Watson, D. D.)
Satan among the angels
This scene is not less perplexing than startling. Satan is beheld in some way among the angels of God. There is another parallel striking illustration of the dominion God holds, and of His mode of administration over the world of moral causes and evil consequences, in 1 Kings 22:19-22.
I. Can we in any way realise the scene? We may conceive the bright beings--Gabriel, Raphael, Michael, Uriel “circling the throne,” rejoicing each with his hymn of praise, reporting his work of love. These are the “chariots of the Lord”; these are they which “do His commandments”; they have each performed his own work, for the Bible beholds all the work of creation and providence carried on, not by dead laws, not eves by operating living principles--life stands behind all matter, using it as a veil or as a vehicle. “I,” might Raphael say, “directed the rolling planets, I stood by the axis of the young firmament, I heard the stars sing together, and I stand in Thy presence to report my obedience, and to bless Thee. And I, might Uriel say, have confirmed the doubting, I have steadied the steps of the straying; I passed by the couch of the dying, and I consoled.” “And I,” might Gabriel have said, “have prepared the earth for Thy approach; I have winnowed the winds and have diffused the light; and I have put thoughts into the hearts of men; and at Thy command I have broken up solitudes; I have set the solitary in families, and where I have gathered them into companies I have heard their songs to Thee; and I have come into Thy presence to report my obedience and to bless Thee.” And then there was seen a shadow, and it fell across the gold of the throne, and while it dropped from the seraph’s wing, it spread itself out even over the pavement of light; and when the voice from the central blessedness piercingly inquired, “Whence comest thou?” it was in a tone altogether unlike that of the other angels, the shadow rejoined, “From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.” And all this transaction, so suggestively given, I conceive still; I drop the more lofty conceptions of the book--I conceive the sons of God, each with his hymn and his work. I see the merchant who, the balances of trade in his hands, feels how much selfishness has still been, if not the main intention, still present--yet he goes and presents himself before the Lord. “Thou,” he says, “hast given all; behold my obedience; behold my contrition; behold me, and bless me.” Or the schoolmaster, or the minister, “I also am an angel or a messenger of Thine; my strength is from Thee, the light I bear is a candle kindled by Thee; I bring Thee my obedience, I have wrought for Thee, behold me, and bless me.” And then you can conceive one to whom all this is only a fitting subject for caricature, as you see all reality is, all enthusiasm is. Do you not see that which exposes itself most always as the weak side, is ever the strongest side of a character? So the jaunty sneerer comes; some cynical Horace Walpole or sardonic Voltaire, and, “Ah,” says he, “I have been looking at all these things, mocking--that is my way, not mending--‘I have been going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it.’“
II. Here, then, we have next the scriptural idea of Satan. Of course you will often have heard the passage I have read, spoken of as conveying a poetic description, that it is merely a highly sublime personification. Be that as it may, the doctrine of the text affirms the personality of Satan. The Holy Scriptures sketch the character of the Evil One; but they never permit us to hesitate as to the fact of his personality. He exists, not as an abstract idea, not as a blind force, not either as a mere quality, or the absence or negation of qualities in bodies or in persons. Elevate your conceptions to what is the ground of personality, what constitutes its difference from a mere thing. Personality is consciousness; it consciously works out its own character, and its powers are all collected and resolved in will. Now Scripture teaches us that such a being there is, immediately evil, and living only in and for evil. He is not merely a necessity in things; at any rate this is not the account of his origin; and it would be impossible to believe this without impeaching the infinite character, the unity, and goodness of God. Satan is positive, personal, although not absolute, evil. The response of the Evil One to his Almighty Questioner distinctly expresses--
1. Indifference. Indeed, the attributes of his personality are riveted and closely interlocked together; the one emanates from the other, “going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it.” This is the end, the passionless end of Ms character--indifference, the absence of all reality, contempt for all enthusiasm, contempt for all sentiment, studious repression of all that might be divine instinct, or delight in the works of the great God--such is Satan. What Satan is, you may detect in many a character, in many an essay, in which you are reminded how Satan comes among people still, “going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it.” See a man who has lost his sense of wonder, who boasts that nothing can take him by surprise, who has been living so fast you cannot overtake him by any sentiments or ideas that are noble--not the delicacy of a flower, not the calm, upheaving grandeur of the mountain, no holy life, no noble book, no spectacle of a stirring and absorbing passion; he goes to and fro in the earth, and sees nothing; his eyeglass sees us much as he sees. Look at that hard man who prides himself on seeing what men are, and using them; priding himself, too, that nobody ever did know him, that nobody ever did read him--he is “going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it.” Or the selfish manufacturer or merchant, who simply wrought for his own gains, like a buccaneer or Choctaw, who has prowled over society to find among men cogs for his machine, bricks for his mill, and to whom men anywhere are only as so many stones in the wall. And just as all these are manifestations of personality, so I conceive a vast and extended personality in that amazing conscienceless being, who seems to wrap this world round like a cold and dreadful mist, or withering blight and shade--Satan.
2. There is another attribute, although, certainly, the first is very greatly the result of this second--it is Unbelief. In the instance before us it assumes a shape we often notice now, manifests itself in disbelief in man. “Doth Job serve God for nought?” This, then, is a marked attribute of Satan--disbelief in God too; for to believe in God is not merely to apprehend His being and His absolute power.
3. Another characteristic is brought out as an attribute of Satan in this singular and ancient scene--Cruelty. I cannot but notice how most assuredly there is involved in it the immediate connection of Satan with, and his influence over, material interests and things; lightning and storm, disease and death, are shown here to be certainly related to him. It seems to me eminently reasonable, that in Scripture the universe is represented as governed by life. I know I shall be told of “forces” and “laws,” and I reply, I have looked at these things, and attempted a little to apprehend these things, and I believe in them. In any case, as we cannot account for the benevolent and general scheme of nature without one blessed and infinite over-ruling Presence, so it seems impossible to conceive the strangely ruptured condition of things without referring them back to some central agency of evil and sin.
4. Another characteristic feature brought out in the text is Limitation. While evil and Satan exist, they are conditioned by the sovereignty of God; God rules over evil in all its personalities and forms. Satan and the angels alike come into the presence of God. The faith of our fathers, indeed, was, that the devil was on the earth, having great power. It would provoke a smile on some lips to think of the real way in which they were wont to wrestle with the devil. I hear of nobody who places much faith in his power to injure us; we never pray as if he were by us in terrible might. Coldly our prayers ascend to God, as if He were not; and for the great Adversary, it is as if he were really dead. How different was Luther and his great foe, Duke George, for instance. “All the Duke Georges in the universe,” said he, “are not equal to a single devil, and I do not fear the devil.” The mighty-hearted Luther kept the battle heating in a constant tempest. You have read and know well his Table Talk, his life--that invisible world, how present to him! With Luther it was, then, evidently no sham fight, but a fearful hand-to-hand conflict; and all his praying and speaking most evidently went upon the principle, not only of a real belief in the power of darkness, but of his power also, by hearty prayer and faith in Christ, to rout and scatter it. And I, why do I venture to set before you this doctrine, as I believe it is, of Holy Scripture? Very greatly because I feel that we live in an age which is dangerously loosening its hold of great spiritual personalities. I cannot, indeed, form a very clear conception of attributes, excepting as they are embodied in persons. I can speak of theft, and I can define theft, but I cannot separate it from the action of a person; and I can speak of holiness, and define holiness, but it is nothing to me unless it is embodied in a person. We are in great danger of using fine-sounding epithets about God, and even about man, and losing the sense of personal relation. So to many who even profess and call themselves Christians, God is the sum total of the forces of the universe, the soul is a mode of matter, and Satan is a term for the empirical, partial, and evil drift of things, which in the course of ages may possibly sink into the tidal force of good, and so cease to be the necessity it looks at present. Manifestly the whole consequence of such negations is to annihilate responsibility, and to destroy the cheerful radiant freedom of the human soul everywhere. The personality of Satan stands over against the personality of God; limited, indeed, only permitted, and doomed by His sovereignty. Strangely, indeed, must Scripture have surrendered its intention, if its purpose is not to produce in us hatred and fear towards some tremendous ubiquitous person constantly seeking to have power over us--a malignant will, a power and an element in the universe, in the world, in the human heart--a power not of God, not good, adverse and hateful to God and goodness. (E. P. Hood.)
We have here a highly figurative representation of the Eternal and His spiritual kingdom. And a remarkable meeting of the great God and some of His intelligent creatures. The passage teaches concerning Satan--
I. That he has a personal existence. Acting as a person, he “goes to and fro in the earth.”
1. The personality of his existence is suggested by reason.
(1) As there are existences gradually sinking beneath man down to nothing, so there may be intelligent beings existing above man, up to the highest point of creatureship.
(2) As men have fallen and become rebels against God, there is nothing improbable in the supposition that there are beings above man who have done the same.
(3) As the fallen amongst men become the tempters of others, and this in proportion to their depravity and power, it is very probable that amongst the fallen ones above us there are leaders in wickedness. Because of this natural probability, almost all peoples in all lands have believed in an arch-fiend, a malignant “god of this world.”
2. The personality of his existence is confirmed by human history. It is almost impossible to account for the absurdities which men entertain, and the enormities which they perpetrate, without going up to some foul spirit who blinds the eyes and flames the passions of men.
3. The personality of his existence is declared in the Bible (Matthew 4:3; John 8:44; Acts 26:18; Ephesians 6:12; 1Th 3:5; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6; Revelation 12:10, etc.). He is called by different names, Satan, Devil, Old Serpent, Prince of the Power of the Air, Beelzebub, Dragon, etc.
II. He is an intruder into the sacred (1 Kings 22:19-23; Matthew 4:3). Wherever the sons of the Almighty assemble, Satan is amongst them; he is there to bias the intellect, and to pollute the feelings.
III. He is amenable to the eternal. Jehovah asks him concerning his movements, and concerning his opinions.
IV. He is a vagrant in the universe. Going to and fro implies--
V. He is a slanderer of the good. He slanders man to God, and he slanders God to man. He is diabolus, breaking the harmony of God’s moral universe by slander.
VI. He is a slave of the infinite. He can only act by permission. God uses him as His instrument. (Homilist.)
Temptation is the precursor of sin. There is a great tendency to forget the real nature of Satan; that he is a distinct being, governed by the same laws of motion and influence over matter by which other spiritual bodies are governed. Every strong impulse of evil is a direct assault, and indicates a personal appearance of the tempter, as decidedly as would the approach of any earthly assailant be marked by visible signs. Satan has a distinct personality and individuality, veiled only from us by the mist of our bodily being. There is a floating impression in men’s minds that evil is simply a principle inherent in themselves, of no very definite shape, and scarcely forming itself into a clear principle at all. We ought to be able to separate in our minds between the distinct and violent assaults of the tempter, and those slighter suggestions of evil which are the frequent movements of our own corrupt heart. A clear distinction between external assault and internal suggestion will go far to chase those doubts and apprehensions away, and tend to give health and vigour to the soul and conscience. Another benefit will arise from the ideas and pictures this idea of the personality of Satan will raise to the mind in the contest with evil. It reduces the conflict to a definite period, and a number of definite acts. The more real we make our struggle with evil the better. In our bodily condition it is easier to resist a person than an abstraction. We can more easily kindle within ourselves feelings of indignation, desire of superiority, and the like, when we realise personality in our foe. (E. Monte.)
1. That there is no place in the world that can secure a man from temptation, or be a sanctuary from Satan’s assaults. Cloisters are as open to Satan as the open field.
2. We may note here the wonderful diligence of Satan.
3. That Satan is confined in his business to the earth. (J. Caryl.)
Satan deserves his name
Many have their names for nought, because they do nothing for them; like Laban’s images, which were called gods, though they were but blocks; but the devil deserves his names. He is not called a tempter, a liar, a slanderer, and an accuser, and a deceiver, and a murderer, and a compasser in vain; like St. George, which is always on horseback, and never rides; but he would do more than by his office he is bound to. Others are called officers because they have an office; but he is called an enemy because he shows his envy. Others are called justicers because they should do justice; but he is called a tempter because he practiseth temptation. Others are called pastors because they should feed; but he is called a devourer because he doth devour; and we call him a compasser because he doth compass. (Henry Smith.)
Another route that Satan on his active travels is exceedingly apt to take is for the despoiling of souls. It does not pay him merely to destroy the bodies of men and women. Those bodies would soon be gone anyhow; but great treasures are involved in this Satanic excursion. On this route he meets a man who is aroused by something he has seen in the Bible, and Satan says, “Now I can settle that for you: the Bible is an imposition; it has been deluding the world for centuries; do not let it delude you. It has no more authority than the Koran of the Mohammedan, or the Shaster of the Hindoo, or the Zend-Avesta of the Parsee.” He meets another man who is hastening towards the Kingdom of God, and says: “Why all this precipitation? Religion is right, but any time within the next ten years will be soon enough for you. A man with a stout chest like yours, and such muscular development, must not be bothering himself about the next world.” Satan meets another man who has gone through a long course of profligacy, and is beginning to pray for forgiveness, and Satan says to the man: “You are too late; the Lord will not help such a wretch as you; you might as well brace up and fight your own way through.” And so with a spite and an acuteness and a velocity that have been gaining for six thousand yours, he ranges up and down, baffling, disappointing, defeating, afflicting, destroying the human race. (T. De Witt Talmage.)
Satan compassing the earth
Compassing here doth signify tempting, and the “earth” doth signify all the people of the earth; as if he should say, “I come from tempting all men.” As Satan is here called a “compasser,” so he will compass your eyes with shows, and your ears with sounds, and your senses with sleep, and your thoughts with fancies, and all to hinder you from hearing while the articles are against him; and after I have spoken, he will compass you again with business, and cares, and pleasures, and quarrels, to make you forget that which you have heard. Therefore “take heed how ye hear.” Satan is an adversary compassing the earth; and therefore let the earth beware, like a city which is besieged with the adversaries. Three things I note wherefore the devil may be said to compass the earth.
1. Because he tempteth all men.
2. Because he tempteth all to sin; and
3. Because he tempteth by all means.
What doth he compass? “The earth.” This is the devil’s pilgrimage, from one end of the earth to the other, and then back again; like a wandering merchant which seeketh his traffic where he can speed cheapest. First of all creatures, Satan compasseth men; he compasseth all men, and he compasseth good men. If then the devil be such a busy-body, which meddleth in every man’s matter, let us remember what the wise man saith, “A busy-body is hated”; the devil is to be hated because he is a busy-body. As the serpent compasseth, so doth his seed; and therefore Solomon calls the ways of the wicked crooked ways. (H. Smith.)
My servant Job (verses 8, 11; and Job 40:4).
A three-fold estimate of a good man’s character
I. Job’s character as estimated by God. God regarded the character of Job. He estimated Job as “perfect.” Every part of his character contained the germ of completeness. He estimated Job as “upright.” His life was parallel with the commandments of heaven, and the precepts of truth. Job recognised carefully his domestic responsibilities. This perfection is alleged of human nature, “an upright man.” Note the blessedness of this character.
(1) Divine protection. A hedge about him.
(2) Business prosperity. “Substance increased in the land.”
II. Job’s character estimated by Satan. The Satanic test of character must he viewed in a two-fold aspect.
(1) As a subtle scheme to secure Job’s ruin.
(2) As a merciful messenger permitted by God to enhance the worth of Job’s life. The test was severe, but limited. He estimates that Job’s character was superficial, that underneath his garb of goodness there was a smouldering impiety, which only required outward circumstances to develop it into obstinate rebellion.
III. Job’s character estimated by himself.
1. He designates himself “vile.” True, his sorrows may have had a depressing effect upon him, and continued suffering have brought him under the influence of gloomy views. Perhaps he had circumstances as an index of his heart life, thinking that his trials were the infliction of wrath, rather than the chidings of love. However, it is evident that reverent humility was a great element in his piety. He had such lofty conceptions of God, His purity and justice, that, in remembrance of such an ideal of life, his own paled into absolute imperfection.
2. Job calls attention to his vileness.--“Behold!” This is somewhat unusual, as people try to conceal the miserable rottenness of their lives, either by a mock modesty or daring pretension.
3. Job takes the blame of his vileness--“I am vile.” He does not make his assumed pollution the result of original depravity; he does not attribute it to the despotism of circumstances, to the evil tendency of education, and the impurity of society. No; without palliation or excuse, he renders himself culpable. Ought we not to be shamed into honesty by the plain, bold confession of this good man? Job could afford to consider himself vile, when God thought him perfect. (Joseph S. Exell, M. A.)
1. That Satan’s main temptations, his strongest batteries are planted against the most eminent godly persons. Here God calleth Job His servant. And He calleth him so--
(1) By way of distinction or difference; My servant, that is, Mine, not his own. Many are their own servants, they serve their own lusts and pleasures; many are Satan’s servants. Some are the servants of men.
(2) My servant, by way of special right and property. So Job and all godly persons are called God’s servants.
(a) By election.
(b) They are God’s servants by the right of purchase.
(3) My servant, by way of covenant. Then again, we may further understand this, and all suchlike expressions: When God saith My servant, He doth as it were glory in His servant. God speaks of him as of His treasure; as a man doth of that which he glorieth in.
2. It is a man’s honour to be God’s servant, and God thinks Himself honoured by the service of man. When God speaks of His people by name, it noteth two things in Scripture.
(1) A special care that God hath over them.
(2) A special love that God hath to them (John 10:3).
3. That God doth take care of His elect children and servants in a special manner above all other men in the world. (J. Caryl.)
God’s testimony to the good
I. That God hath servants of all statures and degrees. All His servants come not to the like pitch, to the like height; here is one that is beyond them all, “My servant” Job--not a man like him upon the earth.
II. We ought not to set up our rest in low degrees of grace; or content ourselves to be like others in grace. Then see the character that God giveth of Job, A perfect and upright man, one that feareth God and escheweth evil.
1. God hath a perfect character of every soul. He knoweth fully and clearly what the tempers of your hearts and spirits are.
2. God will give to every man a testimony according to his utmost worth. God will not conceal any of your graces, or obscure your goodness, He will make it known to the world to the full, what you are. It is good for us to have our letters testimonial from God, to have our letters commendatory from heaven. It is not what a man saith in his own heart, what he flattereth himself: it is not what your neighbours or others flatter you, and say of you, but what God saith of you, what testimony He giveth of you. (J. Caryl.)
If I say to a person, “I will not receive you into my house when you come dressed in such a coat”; and I open the door to him when he has on another suit which is more respectable, it is evident that my objection was not to the person, but to his clothes. If a man will not cheat when the transaction is open to the world, but will do so in a more secret way, or in a kind of adulteration which is winked at in the trade, the man does not hate cheating, he only hates that kind of it which is sure to be found out; he likes the thing itself very well. Some sinners, they say, hate sin. Not at all, sin in its essence is pleasing enough; it is only the glaring shape of it which they dislike. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Satan considering the saints
How very uncertain are all terrestrial things! How foolish would that believer be who should lay up his treasure anywhere, except in heaven! Job’s prosperity promised as much stability as anything can do beneath the moon. He had accumulated wealth of a kind which does not suddenly depreciate in value. Up there, beyond the clouds, where no human eye could see, there was a scene enacted which augured no good to Job’s prosperity. The spirit of evil stood face to face with the infinite Spirit of all good. An extraordinary conversation took place between these two beings.
I. In what sense may Satan be said to consider the people of God? Certainly not in the usual Biblical meaning of the term “consider.” O Lord, consider my trouble. Consider my meditation. Blessed is he that considereth the poor.” Such consideration implies goodwill and a careful inspection of the object of benevolence with regard to a wise distribution of favour. In that sense Satan never considers any. If he has any benevolence, it must be towards himself; but all his considerations of other creatures are of the most malevolent kind. No meteoric flash of good flits across the black midnight of his soul. Nor does he consider us as we are told to consider the works of God, that is, in order to derive instruction as to God’s wisdom and love and kindness. He does not honour God by what he sees in His works, or in His people.
1. The consideration which Satan pays to God’s saints is upon this wise. He regards them with wonder, when he considers the difference between them and himself. A traitor, when he knows the thorough villainy and the blackness of his own heart, cannot help being astounded when he is forced to believe another man to be faithful. What grace is it which keeps these? I was a vessel of gold, and yet I was broken; these are earthen vessels, but I cannot break them! It may be that he also wonders at their happiness. He feels within himself a seething sea of misery. He admires and hates the peace which reigns in the believer’s soul.
2. Do you not think that he considers them to detect, if possible, any flaw and fault in them, by way of solace to himself? He considers our sinful flesh, and makes it one of the books in which he diligently reads. One of the fairest prospects, I doubt not, which the devil’s eye ever rests upon is the inconsistency and the impurity which he can discover in the true child of God. In this respect he had very little to consider in God’s true servant, Job.
3. We doubt not that he views the Lord’s people, and especially the more eminent and excellent among them, as the great barriers to the progress of his kingdom; and just as the engineer, endeavouring to make a railway, keeps his eye very much fixed upon the hills and rivers, and especially upon the great mountain through which it will take years laboriously to bore a tunnel, so Satan, in looking upon his various plans to carry on his dominion in the world, considers most such men as Job. He is sure to consider God’s servant, if there be “none like him,” if he stand out distinct and separate from his fellows. Those of us who are called to the work of the ministry must expect from our position to be the special objects of his consideration. If you are more generous than other saints, if you live nearer to God than others, as the birds peck most at the ripest fruit, so may you expect Satan to be most busy against you. Who cares to contend for a province covered with stones and barren rocks, and ice bound by frozen seas? But in all times there is sure to be a contention after the fat valleys where the wheat-sheaves are plenteous, and where the husbandman’s toil is well requited, and thus, for you who honour God most, Satan will struggle very sternly. He wants to pluck God’s jewels from His crown, if he can, and take the Redeemer’s precious stones even from the breastplate itself.
4. It needs not much wisdom to discern that the great object of Satan in considering God’s people is to do them injury. Where he cannot destroy, there is no doubt that Satan’s object is to worry. He does not like to see God’s people happy.
5. Moreover, if Satan cannot destroy a Christian, how often has he spoilt his usefulness! How is it that God permits this constant and malevolent consideration of His people by the evil one? One answer, doubtless, is, that God knows what is for His own glory, and that He giveth no account of His matters; that, having permitted free agency, and having allowed, for some mysterious reason, the existence of evil, it does not seem agreeable with His having done so to destroy Satan; but He gives him power, that it may be a fair hand-to-hand fight between sin and holiness, between grace and craftiness. Besides, be it remembered, that incidentally the temptations of Satan are of service to the people of God. An experimental divine remarks, that there is no temptation in the world which is so bad as not being tempted at all; for to be tempted will tend to keep us awake--whereas, being without temptation, flesh and blood are weak: and though the spirit may be willing, yet we may be found falling into slumber. Children do not run away from their father’s side when big dogs bark at them.
II. What is it that Satan considers with a view to the injury of God’s people? It cannot be said of him as of God, that he knoweth us altogether; but since he has been now nearly six thousand years dealing with poor fallen humanity, he must have acquired a very vast experience in that time, and having been all over the earth, and having tempted the highest and the lowest, he must know exceedingly well what the springs of human action are, and how to play upon them.
1. Satan watches and considers, first of all, our peculiar infirmities. He looks us up and down, just as I have seen a horse dealer do with a horse; and soon finds out wherein we are faulty. Satan knows how to look at us and reckon us up from heel to head, so that he will say of this man, “His infirmity is lust,” or of that other, “He hath a quick temper,” or of this other, “He is proud,” or of that other, “He is slothful.”
2. He takes care also to consider our frames and states of mind. If the devil would attack us when our minds are in certain moods, we should be more than a match for him: he knows this, and shuns the encounter. Some men are more ready for temptation when they are distressed and desponding; the fiend will then assail them. Others will be more liable to take fire when they are jubilant and full of joy; then will he strike his spark into the tinder. As the worker in metals knows that one metal is to be worked at such a heat, and another at a different temperature; as those who have to deal with chemicals know that at a certain heat one fluid will boil, while another reaches the boiling point much earlier, so Satan knows exactly the temperature at which to work us to his purpose. Small pots boil directly they are put on the fire, and so little men of quick temper are soon in a passion; larger vessels require more time and coal before they will boil, but when they do boil, it is a boil indeed, not soon forgotten or abated.
3. He also takes care to consider our position among men. There are a few persons who are most easily tempted when they are alone--they are the subjects then of great heaviness of mind, and they may be driven to most awful crimes; perhaps the most of us are more liable to sin when we are in company. In some company I never should be led into sin; into another society I could scarcely venture.
4. How, too, will he consider our condition in the world! He looks at one man, and says, “That man has property--it is of no use my trying such-and-such arts with him; but here is another man who is very poor, I will catch him in that net.”
5. Satan, when he makes his investigations, notices all the objects of our affection. I doubt not, when he went round Job’s house, he observed it as carefully as thieves do a jeweller’s premises when they mean to break into them. So, when the devil went round, jotting down in his mind all Job’s position, he thought to himself, “There are the camels and the oxen, the asses and the servants,--yes, I can use all these very admirably.” “Then,” he thought, “there are the three daughters! There are the ten sons, and they go feasting--I shall know where to catch them, and if I can just blow the house down when they are feasting, that will afflict the father’s mind the more severely, for he will say, ‘Oh, that they had died when they had been praying, rather than when they had been feasting and drinking wine.’ I will put down, too, in the inventory,” says the devil, “his wife--I dare say I shall want her,” and accordingly it came to that. You have a child, and Satan knows that you idolise it. “Ah,” says he, “there is a place for my wounding him.”
III. Satan considered, but there was a higher consideration which overrode. His consideration. In times of war, the sappers and miners of one party will make a mine, and it is a very common counteractive for the sappers and miners of the other party to countermine by undermining the first mine. This is just what God does with Satan. Satan is mining, and he thinks to light the fusee and to blow up God’s building, but all the while God is undermining him, and tie blows up Satan’s mine before he can do any mischief. Subtlety is not wisdom. All the while that Satan was tempting Job he little knew that he was answering God’s purpose, for God was looking on and considering the whole of it, and holding the enemy as a man holds a horse by its bridle.
1. The Lord had considered exactly how far He would let Satan go.
2. Did not the Lord also consider how He should sustain His servant under the trial? You do not know how blessedly our God poured the secret oil upon Jacob’s fire of grace, while the devil was throwing buckets of water on it.
3. In the next place, the Lord considered how to sanctify Job by this trial. Job was a much better man at the end of the story than he was at the beginning. Foolish devil! he is piling up a pedestal on which God will set His servant Job, that he may be looked upon with wonder by all ages.
4. Job’s afflictions and Job’s patience have been a lasting blessing to the Church of God, and they have inflicted incredible disgrace upon Satan. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Doth Job fear God for nought?
The devil’s sneer
There is very much distrust abroad, and unfortunately too much warrant for distrust, touching the sincerity of people in general. The devil has his fling at even one of the best of men here in this opening chapter of the drama of Job. As is readily seen, the implication in this question as to whether Job fears God for nought is that every mart has his price. It is assumed that the basis of all action is commercial. The law of the counting house or the market--so much for so much--it is taken for granted rules everywhere. If one is unusually patriotic or religious, or is enthusiastically devoted to any high ideal, it is for a consideration. Disinterestedness is a pretence or a dream. Deprive virtue of the reward which ordinarily waits on virtuous behaviour, and the reward which virtue is to itself, or which is found in being virtuous, will soon lose all its fascination and power. Investments made in the moral world, like investments made in the material world, are solely with a view to prospective dividends. This is the devil’s theory of human conduct. There it is,--the low, contemptuous estimate of virtue, the pessimistic view of human nature. One feels the chill there is in the tone of it. It is all a matter of cool calculation. The man may be everything that is claimed for him--devout, obedient, pure, true; but then--he is paid for it! This is the explanation of it all,--the man finds his account in this service or devotion. It is the yardstick view of things. It is the book balances which settle it. It is the ethics of the labour market--work so long as the remuneration is satisfactory--brought over into moral spheres--elevated into a standard with which to measure the sublime consecration to freedom and duty of men like William of Orange and Cromwell and Washington and Garibaldi. It is the matchless Livingstone, dying on his knees in the heart of Africa, reduced to the level of the tusk hunter or the man stealer who penetrates these same wilds for the material recompense he can find in the perilous adventure. Not so; verily, not so. There are other and higher motives in life than those which enter into the management of a peanut stand or a cotton factory or a railroad. Humanity has in it loftier capabilities, and these capabilities have frequent illustration in actual experience. Unquestionably a good many people are disposed to fall in with the devil’s estimate of the motives which govern conduct, and to consider even the worthiest of men incapable of rising above selfish considerations. The selfishness may be more refined in some instances than in others. It is still only a question of degree. It is selfishness all the same. It is this for that, so much for so much, doing things for what is in them. There are several explanations of this satanic tendency to look at all actions from the view point of selfish motives.
1. In the first place, with all that is dignified and commendable and noble in human nature, there is a disposition--possibly we might go further and say,--a predisposition--to judge the general conduct of our fellows in a spirit of detraction. From what we know of ourselves, from what we know of others in their confessed schemes, from envy, from jealousy, from a certain conceit of our own shrewdness in penetrating character, we easily drift into the habit of forming low estimates of the motives of men and women, and attributing their movements to influences and aims and desires which originate, not in the upper, but in the lower ranges of incitement. The multiplied warnings of Scripture against these harsh judgments and prejudgments and misjudgments show us what a bad aptitude there is in the heart for this kind of indulgence. We are prone to level down. In presence of a commendable action how fatal is the facility with which our nimble tongues fall to saying, “Certainly; but the thing was done just to catch votes, or to win the favour and patronage of the rich, or to please the populace.”
2. In the second place, there is, beyond all gainsaying, a vast amount of action among men whose secret spring is some sort of personal advantage or gain. Large numbers make unblushing confession of this. Of many who do not confess it, and only half realise it, perhaps, it is still true. Their only controlling thought is pleasure or profit or promotion. It runs through all they do. They choose their professions, they marry, they espouse causes, they join political parties, they enter clubs, they identify themselves with churches, all in a temper of self-interest--a self-interest which it is impossible to distinguish from selfishness. It is not a matter of injustice nor is it at all uncharitable to ascribe selfish and even sinister motives to this kind of folk.
3. In the third place, there is the consideration which Satan and those who coincide with him in his view of things may bring forward in support of the position taken by them on this question, and which admits of no successful disputing, namely, that fearing God--fearing God in the way of love and reverent loyalty--always does secure to one something worth having. Satan was right in his intimation that Job was getting a good deal--a good deal that was substantial and abiding--out of his fidelity. God never permits a man to do this thing: serve Him for naught. Never yet did a man come into the faith of God, and maintain the integrity of his soul before God and the world, without receiving something rich and rare in return for it. As the event proved, Job was getting something out of his serene and unfaltering trust and his upright conduct besides wife and children and houses and barns and cattle and servants and renown among his fellows--something which stood by him, and to which he could cling in all the darkness and under all the bitter bruising of the after days. We say often that virtue is its own reward. It is. It is often an unutterable satisfaction just to have the consciousness in one that he is sincere and clean and upright, and means to stand square on the truth and do his duty, come what will. But virtue has other rewards. It has rewards outside itself. Early and late, at home and abroad, at the hearthstone, in social circles, in business operations, in politics, honesty is the best policy. It pays to be pure. In the long run nothing else does pay. It is Gerizim and Ebal over again. On the side of righteousness are the blessings. On the side of unrighteousness are the curses. Hence it comes to pass that it is a nice psychological question, and one requiring not a little analytical skill, to run the knife in and turn it about in a way to distinguish between the stress of motives which look to the doing of right solely because it is right, and the doing of right out of consideration for what follows. One with as much dialectic cunning as Satan has can confuse almost anybody at this point. There is the fact of the waiting of the reward upon the conduct. Who shall say the conduct is not with an eye to the reward? At least the suggestion can always be made to seem plausible. Still, in spite of all in evidence to the contrary, and in spite of all appearances to the contrary, there is disinterestedness in the world. (F. A. Noble, D. D.)
This is the question which the infidelity of hell asks the fidelity of heaven. With the same underlying current of thought, not a few reason in our day. The only theory of life which some will recognise as at all philosophic is that which is based upon purely utilitarian principles. But the world, all that is best and noblest in the world, does not act from purely selfish motives. Not only humanity, but the very physical world itself protests against this dreary doctrine. God does not seem to have created the earth and visible heavens on those exalted “purely utilitarian principles” which commend themselves to some superfine intellects in the present dry. A certain class of thinkers charge the religious life with being based on the same principle. Religion is not objected to, it is only patronisingly relegated to a department of political economy. The question--the selfishness of religion--which I propose now to speak of, I shall deal with as a difficulty in an earnest Christian soul, which longs to get rid of it, rather than as the hostile idea of an avowed opponent. “Doth Job fear God for nought?” The answer expected is, of course, “No.” Therefore religion is selfish. Is this true of our Christian faith? There are some forms in which certain of its doctrines have been presented and enforced which would seem to sustain the charge. Has there not sometimes been too great a tendency to make our individual salvation the sole and exclusive object of the Christian life? In many manuals of devotion, e.g., Kempis’ “De Imitatione Christi,” and in books which treat systematically of the religious life, this is painfully apparent. And we have a lurking suspicion that such is what the Bible and the Church alike teach us. First let me speak of rewards and punishments. There is no doubt that Scripture and the Church lay stress upon the glorious life which the righteous shall inherit, and the unutterable woe which shall befall the wicked. Such teaching has still, and ever will have, its due place and power in the work of the ministry of Christ. It is, however, a small part of Christian teaching. If the exhortations and motives to Christian life were to begin and end here, there might be some colour of selfishness about it. But this is only a first step. It is, if you will, an appeal to men’s self-interest for a moment,--but only for a moment,--to lead them up afterwards to something infinitely purer and higher. A Christian lives on through such childish feelings to the full unselfish manhood in Christ Jesus. When we remember that self is the very root and essence of sin, it is not surprising that in the first stage of dealing with such a nature as man’s there should be an adaptation of the means employed to such a condition. To represent the hope of reward or fear of pain as the continually abiding and sole motive of the Christian life all through, is to ignore nine-tenths of the exhortations of the New Testament--is utterly to misrepresent and pervert the teaching of our Lord--is to deny the truth of countless Christian lives which we have read of or have seen. There is another thing of still more practical importance. There is no word which we use more frequently in religious phraseology than the word “salvation.” Is there not too great a tendency in many of us to always speak and think of that salvation as solely an escape from some future punishment? If we regard the atoning sacrifice of the Son of God as merely a means by which we are to escape some future pain, I do not know whether there may not be a strong tinge of selfishness in our faith. But there is a more awful thing than pain or punishment, there is sin It is to save us from sin that Christ died. If then the salvation be deliverance from sin, and if self be sin (for sin is ever the assertion of “I” against the all-good, all-loving God)--is it selfish to conquer self through the power of Christ--is it selfish to become so one with Christ as to have self crucified with Him, so that we no longer live unto self, but unto Him who died and rose again? There can be no real spiritual life until we learn to loathe sin--not merely the results of sin. Let us tell men, sin is your enemy; sin, here in your hearts; sin, which is robbing your life of all its joy and sweetness; sin, which is grinding like a hot chain into your very flesh. From that Christ died to save you. Is not this a pure, unselfish Gospel? “The Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins.” That power has actually been felt by many. Then there dawns on us gradually the new life; self is nailed to the Cross--to Christ’s Cross with Him--and henceforth it is not I that live, “but Christ that liveth in me”; not a calm, indifferent life, but a life of constant struggle against all sin and evil,--and yet a life in which self-sacrifice itself becomes easy, for I am “dead to sin, and living unto righteousness “ (T. Teignmouth Shore, M. A.)
Is man entirely selfish
Satan insinuates that the man who professes to serve God is, after all, only serving himself, and is making God nothing more than a convenience, a purveyor to his own selfish profit and pleasure. One object of the Book of Job is to prove that there is something genuine in man, especially when the grace of God has entered his heart. Satan puts his calumny into the form of a question. It is evident how he intended it to be answered. God has held up Job as a proof of His power to put true goodness into human nature; and the reply is that this seeming goodness is only self-interest. The man is religious because he makes a good thing out of religion. The accuser has a belief in the philosophy of selfishness. It is a faith not uncommon in our day. There are some who seek a foundation for it in argument, and wish to prove that all virtue is merely self-interest largely and wisely interpreted, which is true in this respect, that goodness and self-interest will, in the end, coincide, but very false if it is meant that goodness has its origin in taking this end into account. The Bible itself is quoted as sanctioning the idea that self-interest is, and ought to be, the spring of human action. Sin, it is said, is only self-interest unenlightened and wrongly directed, and true religion is a proper and wise regard to our own happiness.
I. Selfishness is not the essence of human nature as presented in the Bible. Satan denies that there is unselfishness in Job. He would imply that it is not in God’s power to create a disinterested love of Himself, even in a regenerate creature--that self-interest is the hidden worm at the root of everything, good or bad. Think--
1. Of the regenerate man, and see whether God’s plan of forming him proceeds on the principle of appealing to selfishness. It is granted that the Bible, all through, presses men with threatenings of punishment, and holds out to them promises of happiness to lead them to a new life. But this is to be remembered, that it begins its work with men who are sunk in sin, and that the essence of sin is selfishness. It must arrest and raise them by motives adapted to their condition, provided that these motives are not wrong, and enlightened self-interest, that is, self-interest which is consistent with the good of others is not wrong. The Bible is too bread and human not to bring all fair motives into exercise. So before the Gospel, and even with it, we must have Sinai’s word, “The soul that sinneth it shall die.” But to affirm that this is the final, or even the prevailing motive of the new life, is to mistake or misrepresent the Bible, which is constantly advancing from the domain of threatening and outward promise to that of free and unselfish love. Its strength of appeal from the very beginning lies in the mercy of God pardoning unconditionally. As a man rises into the knowledge of the Divine plan he seeks and serves God, not from the hope of what he is to receive from Him, but from the delight which he finds in Him--in the true, the pure, the loving, that dwell in the Father of Lights. If they still charge us with selfishness in seeking this, because it is our happiness, we confess we know not what is meant by the charge. We do not seek Him for the joy, we find the joy in seeking. God acts towards man on the principle of free, undeserved love, that He may form in him the spirit and image of His own action, creating a spring of self-sacrifice which flows back to God, and overflows to men. The Son of God, who knows what is in man, believed this possible. He made a John, a Paul, a Peter, a Stephen--hearts that drank of the cup of His self-sacrifice, and forgot themselves, and laboured, and suffered, and died, like Him, for the world’s good. It is certain that the Bible proceeds on the principle of creating unselfish action in the regenerate heart.
2. Even in the case of unregenerate men, the Bible does not affirm that the only law at work is one of utter selfishness. Though man is fallen, the elements of human nature are still there. They are not annihilated, neither are they demonised. The deep radical defect is Godward, that man has ceased to retain Him in his knowledge, and has expelled His love from his heart. There yet shines many a fair tint on human nature. Whatever unrenewed men may be to God, they perform to their fellow men, oftentimes, the most unselfish acts. They give, hoping to receive nothing again. Let us not think that we discredit the Gospel, by seeming to leave these fair features of humanity outside its regenerating circle, but let us rather widen that circle to embrace them, and believe that if there is anything glorious upon earth, or beautiful in humanity, we owe it to the power of Christ’s death, and the breadth of His intercession.
II. The results of belief in unmitigated selfishness. The first evident consequence in him who holds it is a want of due regard for his fellow creatures. With no belief in principle or goodness, he can cherish no reverence, and feel no pity. The next consequence is the want of any centre of rest within itself. Another effect is the failure of any real hold of God. The spirit, Satan, here, had no just views of a God of truth and purity and goodness.
III. Some means that may be adopted as a remedy by those who are in danger of falling into this faith. We should seek to bring our own life into close contact with what is genuine in our fellow men. Next to the cultivation of society and friendships among living men, we may mention the choice of books. Then, in judging humanity, we must beware of taking a part for the whole. The last means for removing the view that man is incapable of rising above self is to apprehend the Divine care of human nature. He who has studied the person of Christ, and laid his hand, however feebly, on the throbbings of that heart, will not be in danger of the view that self-love, utter and eternal, is part of the nature of man. (John Ker, D. D.)
Doth Job fear God for nought
I. The import of this insinuated sneer. It is chiefly interesting to us because the words are not yet dead. Satan’s agents imitate their master, and use the same arguments and the same sophistries. It is still a common device of the world to attribute good actions to evil motives. Sometimes men are said to be pious to obtain influence. If a person gives largely to church building, the world will hint that he wants to “get his name up.” If a handsome subscription is sent to any particular object, the donor “desires to see his name in print.” Sometimes men are said to be pious because of a far-seeing expediency. They are said to go to this or that church on account of the patronage they expect to receive. Tradesmen are accused of attaching themselves to the particular sect from which they hope to derive the greatest profit. How many a poor person exclaims, “Oh, if the squire had only to fight with hunger, he could not afford to be religious.”
II. The influence of this insinuated sneer. What a power there is in a covert insult! Even the devil’s speech was not without a terrific influence. It appealed even to the Almighty. He granted the arch-fiend the opportunity to try his theory and to prove his assertion. And all this bitter experiment recoiled upon poor Job. For weeks and months and years he was as molten gold in the devil’s crucible. He lost all he had. Do not let us run away with the idea that the wicked have no influence now. They are lords of the present world, and they can make the life of the righteous man very bitter for him, whether he be rich or whether he be poor. And God permits those influences to continue, in order that He may vindicate His people and manifest His own power and glory.
III. The unintentional truth of this insinuated sneer. Satan overreached himself after all. No man does serve God for nought. There is no such thing as entire self-abnegation in this world. Job proved in the end that his principles were sound. But what are religious principles after all? A determination to serve God because we are convinced that to serve Him is the best policy. We cannot divest religion of selfishness. The Scriptures teach us that we love Him because “He first loved us,” and because He has redeemed us, and promised us eternal life. An ideal, uninterested religion may be the attainment of heaven and the angels, but it cannot be of men. (Homilist.)
“Doth Job fear God for nought?” There is one Taskmaster for whom no labourer ever works in vain, whose wages are always punctually and fully paid, and with whom a faithful servant never feels even a passing shade of dissatisfaction. We always know that obedience to God never fails of its reward; that all work done for God ends in fit and full result; that to live with and for God is to live the noblest, the happiest, the peacefullest life possible to us. The text draws our attention to man’s motives. The Book of Job asks, in every variety of form, this question, Is there any connection to be traced between a man’s character and his earthly fate? Satan refers the indisputable obedience and piety of Job to God’s kindly and generous dealing with him. The question before us is this, Are disinterested love and service of God things impossible? The great contention of ethical principle is whether any human action is ever or can be performed without the more or less subtle impulse of self-interest. Some say that we serve God as we do our duty, as we love our children, as we sacrifice ourselves for our country, for the sake of what we can get by it. But this doctrine takes the light and the nobleness out of human life. We feel instinctively that it answers only to our meaner and commoner part: this thought cuts away our moral ideal leaves us nothing to aspire to, imprisons us forever in the baseness of what we are. We are reduced to this dilemma, that our noblest actions and affections can only exist when the mind is, as it were, hoodwinked and wilfully ignorant of their real character. But we make appeal to conscience. Is not your whole notion of moral life based upon the thought that the noblest actions are those from which the recollection of self is completely eradicated? A human life is acknowledged to rise in nobleness in proportion as the part of it which is occupied with self-regarding labours and interests grows less, and the part which we are accustomed to look upon as disinterested grows larger. In the quality of our less interested actions, we rise from the lower to the higher just in proportion as we painfully purge away from them the clinging taint of self. The purity and depth of love are measured precisely by this--whether the thought of self becomes more frequent and more prevailing, or silently and completely fades away. When there is undue anticipation of what is to be obtained in a future life, Christianity becomes nothing more or higher than the utilitarian philosophy upon an extended scale, and with coarser issues. St. Theresa saw in a vision a strange and awful woman, bearing in the one hand water, in the other fire. Asking her whither she went, she replied, “I go to burn up heaven, and to quench hell, that henceforth men may love God for Himself alone.” Is there nothing here which finds a ready echo in our noblest instincts? Do we not to a large extent create the difficulty which afterwards we try to resolve, by making the ideas of reward and punishment co-extensive with that of a future life? If heaven be a reward, we know that we have not earned it. To the common imagination heaven is nothing better or higher than a kind of Mahometan paradise, full of enjoyments less markedly sensual, yet which whoever is fortunate enough to pass its gates can enjoy without further preparation. If heaven be something loftier; if its central idea be a closer communion with God, a larger knowledge of His purposes, a fuller cooperation with His will, it assumes quite another aspect to the enlightened conscience. It is the better part of our present life indefinitely strengthened and purified and brightened. Heaven is purer love, larger trust, more perfect service. We do not “serve God for nought,” and yet just as little do we serve Him for what we can get by it. We are like little children with their mother. We loved her when we received everything from her, and assuredly loved her no less when she had no more to give and asked much from us. From the bounty of God we can never escape. He wins us first by His goodness; happy are we if at last we turn to Him for Himself. (C. Beard, B. A.)
The Satan puts at once into words a view of human springs of action, not confined to a single age. There is no such thing, he says, as “disinterested goodness.” Such a question, such a view, is not confined to evil spirits, or to the story of the man of Uz. The question had been raised when this book was written. It is one of the main questions, some have said, the main question of all, with which this book is meant to deal. But the view embodied in (the) Satan’s words is one which you may have heard whispered, or loudly spoken, now and here, as there and then. There is no such thing, you may be told, as a love of goodness for its own sake. There is always some ulterior aim, some selfish motive. Even religion, you will hear, even the religion of Christ, is a mere matter of selfish interest. It is nothing more, even when sincere, than a selfish device to escape from pain, and enjoy happiness hereafter. “Doth Job fear God for nought?” You see how far the words extend. They cover a wider range than that of the character of one child of Adam. They go down to the very springs of human nature; down to the very essence, and even the existence of goodness itself. “Can men and women care for goodness and mercy, or for truth, or for righteousness, for their own sake?” Nay, the arrow launched at Job flies farther, it is really pointed at God Himself. If (the) Satan is right., it is not only that there is no such thing as disinterested goodness, but God Himself is robbed of His highest and noblest attribute. If He can no longer win the hearts, and retain in joy and sorrow the reverential affection of those on whom He showers His benefits; if He can no longer inspire anything but a mercenary love, He may be all-powerful still, but there are surely those among our fellow creatures, whom some of us know, or have known, who must come before Him in our homage. Heaven and earth are no longer full of His glory. You see how vital the question which the challenge stirs, and how rightly it has been said, that in the coming contest, Job is the champion, not of his own character only, but of all who care for goodness, and of God Himself. The challenge is given and accepted; and power is granted to (the) Satan to test the good man, the “perfect and upright” Job, with the loss of that on the possession of which the accuser believes all his goodness to be based. Satan is not represented in this book as the suggester of evil to the human soul, nor as the fallen angel, his Maker’s foe. He is depicted as simply a malicious spirit, whose power for evil is rigidly limited by his Master, and the Master of the world. And such as he is, he goes forth to work His will. And once more the scene shifts to the land of Uz. (Dean Bradley.)
He himself has sunk into an evil condition, for he delights in making even good men seem bad, in fitting good deeds with evil motives. Self is his centre, not God; and he suspects all the world of a selfishness like his own. He cannot, or will not, believe in an unselfish, a disinterested goodness. (S. Cox, D. D.)
Is it selfish to be religious
Satan employs a base insinuation against the servant of the Lord. “Doth Job fear God for nought?” He cannot find room to accuse Job. There is no foothold for him in Job’s character; he cannot bring a railing accusation against him. So he imputes bad motives. He says that Job fears God for what he can get out of it. It is not to be wondered at that Satan employs such a weapon. What is true of Satan is true of all his sons. “Marvel not if the world hate you.” A treacherous heart accuses all of treachery. Job signally refutes the slander. Carey was offered by the government £1000 per annum if he would turn interpreter. He had nobler work than that. They raised the bribe--£5000 in the service of your country. No, he had nobler work than that. Yet Satan might have insinuated, “Doth Carey serve God for nought?” Although this was a base insinuation, Satan really made assertion of a blessed fact. He himself confesses, “Hast Thou not made a hedge about him?” etc. Godliness with contentment is great gain. We do not serve God for nought. He is not a Master who forgets to care for His servants, or treats His children ill. The poorest and meanest of God’s saints would bear glad testimony to the unmistakable fact that it is good to serve God; it has the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. (Thomas Spurgeon.)
The satanic insinuation
God’s challenge calls forth this reply from Satan. It is an insolent reply, in character with the speaker; but one which nevertheless reveals a great deal of keen insight.
1. Satan’s reply discloses his conception of Divine providence. “Hast Thou not made a hedge about him?” There are two ways of looking at the hedges, or limitations of life. Those who know of what use they are in protecting and guarding men, accept them gratefully. Those who know little of the uses of such limitations are often found to be impatient of them. Satan’s desire concerning every life is that there shall be no hedge about it.
2. Satan’s reply supplies his estimate of piety, that it is selfish. A literal translation would be, “Doth Job fear God gratis?” He suspects that there is no such thing as disinterested goodness. If Job’s piety had turned out to be selfish, the probability is that the piety of the best of us would prove equally selfish.
3. Satan’s reply expresses his estimate of Job. The mission of Satan, according to his own showing, had been that of a peripatetic critic. He had failed to tempt Job, so all he could do was, suggest a false and unworthy motive. When we deal with human motive, we deal with one of the most mysterious things in God’s world. Now, I do not expect a better theory of goodness from the devil than that at best it is selfish. No one can rise to a higher altitude than he himself occupies, and when anyone tells me that Christian motive is necessarily a selfish motive I know where he is living. I know the altitude he has reached. It is a law of life that the man who is incapable of an unselfish act is the greatest sceptic on God’s earth about the unselfishness of others. He can only grasp the possibility of being unselfish by being partaker of that exalted quality himself. On that principle, when Satan speaks about piety, I do not expect that he should see anything higher or nobler than selfishness in it. I know of nothing so satanic in life as to impute impious motives to godly men. That scepticism as to the possibility of disinterested piety gives me a glimpse into the depths of depravity in the heart of the being who is capable of uttering it. The denial of the possibility of disinterested piety reveals the saddest degradation on the part of the man who is capable of such a denial. There is no power that can save him except that which shall renew his whole nature; for there is no power that can redeem a man save as it makes him unselfish. After all, down deep in the heart of man, there is a profound belief in and admiration of unselfishness. Who are the great men of the past, even in the world’s estimation? The men who denied themselves for the sake of their fellows; great reformers, who suffered in order to uplift their fellows. We all instinctively feel keenly the charge of selfishness. We are all ashamed of being considered selfish. In this even those who profess to cling to the philosophy of selfishness are nobler than their creed. Let me remind you of the fact, that as long as we gather round the Cross, and recognise there the highest expression of a surrendering love for us, so long shall we believe in the possibility of self-denial and disinterested services, and our highest desire and aim shall be that the mind which was also in Christ Jesus may be in us. (David Davies.)
Is piety mercenary
I shall give you Satan’s sense in three notable falsities, which he twists up together in this one speech, ”Doth Job fear God for nought?”
1. That riches will make any man serve God; that it is no great matter to be holy when we have abundance; a man that prospers in the world cannot choose but be good. This Satan implies in these words, and this is an extreme lie (Deuteronomy 28:47). Abundance doth not draw the heart unto God. Yet Satan would infer that it doth. This might well be retorted upon Satan himself. Satan, why didst not thou serve God then? thou didst once receive more outward blessings from God than ever Job did, the blessedness of an angel.
2. There is this in it: “Doth Job fear God for nought?” Satan intimates that God could have no servants for love, none unless He did pay them extremely; that God is such a Master, and His work such as none would meddle with, unless allured by benefits. Here is another lie Satan windeth up closely in this speech; for the truth is, God’s servants follow Him for Himself: the very excellences of God, and sweetness of His ways, are the argument and the wages by which His people are chiefly moved to His service. God indeed makes many promises to those that serve Him, but He never makes any bargains with them: His obey Him freely. Satan makes bargains to hire men to his service (Matthew 4:9).
3. Then there is a third sense full of falsehood, which Satan casteth upon Job, “Doth Job fear God for nought?” that is, Job hath a bias in all that he doth, he is carried by the gain of godliness, not by any delight in godliness, thus to serve God. Job is mercenary; Job doth not seek the glory of God, but he seeks his own advantage.
Thus in brief you see the sense, I shall give you some observations from it.
1. It is an argument of a most malignant spirit, when a man’s actions are fair, then to accuse his intentions. The devil hath nothing to say against the actions of Job, but goes down into his heart and accuseth his intentions. Malice misinterprets the fairest actions, but love puts the fairest interpretation it can upon foul actions.
2. That it is an argument of a base and an unworthy spirit to serve God for ends. Had this been true of Job in Satan’s sense, it had indeed blemished all that he had done. Those that come unto God upon such terms, they are not holy, but crafty. As sin is punishment enough unto itself; though there were no other punishment: so to do good is reward enough unto itself. But here a question will arise, May we not have respect to our own good, or unto the benefit we shall receive from God? Must we serve God for nought in that strict sense, or else will God account nothing of all our services?
I shall clear that in five brief conclusions.
1. The first is this, There is no man doth, or possibly can serve God for nought. God hath by benefits already bestowed, and by benefits promised, outvied and outbid all the endeavours of the creature. If a man had a thousand pair of hands, a thousand tongues, and a thousand heads, and should set them all on work for God, he were never able to answer the obligations which God hath already put upon him. Therefore this is a truth, that no man can in a strict sense serve God for nought. God is not beholden to any creature for any work or service that is done unto Him.
2. Again, this is further to be considered. The more outward blessings anyone doth receive, the more he ought to serve God, and the more service God looks for at his hands.
3. In the third place, it is lawful to have some respect to benefits both received and promised by way of motive and encouragement to stir us up and quicken us, either in doing or in suffering for God (Hebrews 11:26; Hebrews 12:2).
4. Then reference unto benefit is sinful, when we make it either the sole and only cause, or the chief cause of our obedience. This makes anything we do smell so of ourselves that God abides it not.
5. Lastly, we may look upon them as fruits and consequences of holiness, yea, as encouragements unto holiness, but not as causes of our holiness; or we may eye these as media, through which to see the bounty and goodness of God, not as objects on which to fix and terminate our desires. (J. Caryl.)
Hast not Thou made an hedge about him?
(To children):--Satan held that Job was such a good man just because God took such special care of him. Now, Satan very often says that of good men; and some of us have been guilty of repeating it. We are so apt to think that God has made It hedge to protect other lives far more than our own, and that the best people are as good as they are because of some special protection which God has granted them. The word “hedge” denotes that which protects or guards. Why does the farmer raise a hedge all round his field? And God does this. He seeks to protect all our lives. There is many a hedge that we have hardly ever noticed, and certainly have never properly valued. God has given some of us a hedge in the example and teaching of good and pious parents; in the influence of good teachers; in the form of good companionships; in the discipline we have to undergo in the home, in the school, and in life. Sometimes a schoolmaster’s cane is a very useful hedge. A hedge not only shelters, it often keeps us from wandering. Sometimes we do not like hedges; we should like to see more of the country, and wander at will. God’s way of hedging us in is not always by sending us blessings which we are pleased to accept, but sometimes by sending us sorrow and trial. He thus keeps us in our places, guards us against going astray. That was the kind of hedge that Job did not like. The farmer sometimes plants thorns in his hedges, and we must not be surprised if God does. After all, a hedge may become a very lovely thing. What would the landscape often be without hedges? God makes the hedges along the country full of beauty, poetry, and song. And in our lives here, this is just what the Lord Jesus has done. The old Law of Moses was like a stone hedge. The hedges of the Lord Jesus are like our quick-set hedges. He makes His commandments sweet and welcome, and the ways of His testimonies full of delight. It is the love of Christ constrains us, and that is always a sweet constraint. (David Davies.)
God protects His people
1. That the protection God gives to His people and servants is the vexation of Satan, and of all his instruments.
2. That Satan, the father of lies, sometimes speaks truth for his own advantage.
3. That the people and servants of God dwell in the midst of enemies, in the midst of dangers.
4. That God Himself doth undertake the guarding and protecting of His people.
5. You see how far the hedge goeth, not only about his person and household, but about all that he hath. His meanest thing was hedged about. (J. Caryl.)
Thou hast blessed the work of his hands.
Success the outcome of the Divine blessing
1. That all success in business is from the blessing of the Lord. Satan speaks very good Divinity here; Thou hast blessed: it is from the Lord (Genesis 39:23). That whatsoever he did, the Lord made it to prosper. Working is our part, but prospering is the Lord’s part. Some take all to themselves, and thank their own labours, their own wisdom, policy, and parts; others ascribe all to their good fortune, etc. We see Satan himself here preacheth a truth that will confute them.
2. Everyone ought to be a man of employment. Everyone ought to have some business to turn his hand. God doth not love to bless those that are idle.
3. That the Lord delighteth to bless those who are industrious. It is seldom that there is an industrious hand, but there is a blessing of God upon it. Hence, as we find in one place, the diligent hand maketh rich (Proverbs 10:4; Proverbs 10:22).
4. The blessing of God where it falleth is effectual. If God doth but bless we shall increase, there is no question of it. Blessing and multiplying go together. The blessing of God is a powerful blessing. (J. Caryl.)
But put forth Thine hand now.
Conscious and unconscious hypocrisy
There are two kinds of hypocrisy in the world--conscious hypocrisy and unconscious. Of conscious hypocrisy it is not our intention to speak; we would fain believe that deliberate hypocrisy is as rare as deliberate atheism. We do not think that it was with conscious hypocrisy that Satan intended to charge God’s servant Job, or with knowingly serving the Lord for what he could gain by it. Had he been guilty of this his probation must have made it manifest. It was a more latent hypocrisy the tempter wished to detect. The accusation of the adversary had reference to unconscious hypocrisy, and this is not so rare in the world. The insinuation against the patriarch was, that there was a measure of hypocrisy in him unknown to his own soul; that there was some self-interest at the root of his service of which he was not aware; that he was not so honest as he thought himself, or as others thought him; and that his affliction would elicit these facts against him. It is true that, to some extent, men are not so good as they seem; that there is not a little unconscious hypocrisy in the world; that the characters of men depend, more than they are disposed to acknowledge, upon their circumstances; that many of us would not be so good as we are were our positions in life worse. We ought to have examined ourselves very narrowly, and be well assured of our spiritual estate, ere we think, still less affirm, that we should not be the same as they--in worse social positions--did we by some providential reverse change places with them. This unconscious hypocrisy is a danger to which we are all liable. (Alfred Bowen Evans.)
The ease with which God can destroy man’s estate
The extreme importunity of Satan to do mischief. It is a truth which Satan here speaks concerning the hand of God: that if God do but touch the highest and greatest estate in the world, it will fall to pieces quickly. (J. Caryl.)
He will curse Thee to Thy face.--
Trial the touchstone
1. Satan can only guess at the hearts of men. He would undertake and enter warranty with God that Job would blaspheme if God did but touch him, but he was deceived: Satan did but speak at a venture.
2. Affliction is the trial and touchstone of sincerity. When God doth afflict you, then He doth bring you to the touchstone, to see whether you are good metal or no; He doth bring you then to the furnace, to try whether you be dross or gold, or what you are. Affliction is the great discoverer. That unmasks us. Satan was not out in the thing. While religion and prosperity go together, it is hard to say which a man follows; but when once they are forced to a separation, where the heart was will soon be manifest The upright in heart are like Ruth,--whatsoever becometh of the Gospel, they will be sharers with it in the same condition. When zeal is kindled only with the beams of worldly hopes, when worldly hopes fail our zeal is extinct, and our endeavour is cut off with our expectation. (J. Caryl.)
Temptations of the afflicted
The hour of affliction is the hour of temptation. Satan loves to fish when the waters are troubled. He would bring us to hard thoughts of God by the hard things we suffer from God. “Touch him, and he will curse Thee to Thy face.” In such stormy weather some vessels are cast away. Faith is a special antidote against the poison of the wicked one. It can read love in the blackest of Divine dispensation, as by a rainbow we see the beautiful image of the sun’s light in the midst of a dark and waterish cloud. (G. Swinnock.)
So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord
The foe of foes
The enthusiasm of his malignity. No sooner does he receive permission than he begins in terrible earnestness. He does not seem to have lost a moment. Like a hungry vulture in a carrioned atmosphere, he pounces down upon his victim. Now he strikes at the cattle that were ploughing the field, and the she asses that were beside them. Then he slays the servants, then with a shaft of fire from heaven he burns up the “sheep and servants,” and then he breathes a hurricane through the wilderness, and levels to the dust the house which his children are revelling in the festive pleasures of family love, and destroys them all. Then he goes to the utmost point of the liberty which his great Master granted him. He could do no more with Job’s circumstances. He deprived him as in a moment of all his property and his children. He had no authority to go beyond this point at present. He had to wait for another Divine communication before he could touch the body of Job. He did his utmost, and did it with an infernal delight.
II. The variety of his agents.
1. Wicked men. He breathed his malign spirit into the men of Sheba, and they rushed to the work of violence and destruction. He inflamed the Chaldeans with the same murderous passions, and then “three bands fell upon the camels,” carried them away, and slew the servants, etc. Alas! this arch-fiend has access to human souls. “He worketh in the children of disobedience.” He leadeth them captive at his will.
2. Maternal nature. The great God gave him power over the elements of nature. He kindled the lightning, and made it consume the sheep and the servants. He raised the atmosphere into a tempest, levelled its fury against the house, and brought it down to the destruction of all within. With heaven’s permission this mighty spirit of evil can cause earthquakes to engulph cities, breathe pestilences to depopulate countries, create storms that will spread devastation over sea and land. “He is the prince of the power of the air.”
III. The celerity of his movements. How rapidly his fell strokes followed each other. Before the first messenger of evil had told the patriarch his terrible tale, another appeared. Whilst the first was “yet speaking,” another came; and whilst the second was yet speaking, came the third. The carriers of misery trod on the heels of each other. Why this hurry? Was it because this work of violence was agreeable to the passions of this foul fiend? Or was it because the rapidity would be likely so to shock Job’s moral nature as to produce a religious revulsion, and cause him to do what he desired him to do--curse the Almighty to His face? Perhaps both. Perhaps the celerity was both his pleasure and his policy. Trials seldom come alone.
IV. The folly of his calculations. What was the result of all this on Job? The very reverse of what Sarah had calculated. He “worshipped.” He did not curse. In his worship we discover three things:--
1. His profound sensibility.
2. His exalted philosophy.
3. His religious magnanimity.
How disappointed this arch-fiend must have been with the result. The result was the very opposite to what he had expected--to what he had wrought for. Thus it has ever been, and thus it will ever be. God may permit Satan to blast our worldly prospects, to wreck our fortunes, and destroy our friendships. But if we trust in Him He will not allow him to touch our souls to their injury. He only uses the fiend to try His servants. An old Welsh minister, in preaching on this text, is reported to have said that God permitted Satan to try Job as the tradesman tries the coin that his customer has tendered in payment for the purchased wares. He strikes it on the counter and hears it ring as rings the true metal, before he accepts it and places it in his drawer. The great Merchantman employed Satan to ring Job on the counter of trial. He did so--did so with all the force of his mighty arm, and in the Divine ear the moral heart of the patriarch vibrated as the music of Divine metal fit for the treasury in the heavens. (Homilist.)
God sets bounds to the afflictions of His people
1. It is not always an argument of God’s goodwill and love to have our motions granted. Many are heard and answered out of anger, not out of love. The children of Israel required meat for their lusts, and God gave it them.
2. That until God gives commission, Satan hath no power over the estates or persons of God’s people, or over anything that belongs unto them.
3. That which Satan and evil men desire sinfully, the Lord grants holily. The will of God and the will of Satan joined both in the same thing; yet they were as different as light and darkness, their ends were as different as their natures.
4. That God Himself sets bounds to the afflictions of His people.
5. That Satan is boundless in his malice toward the people of God. If God did not set him bounds he would set himself no bounds, therefore saith God unto him, only upon himself, etc. (J. Caryl.)
While he was yet speaking there came also another.
The calamities of Job
I. Many agents are watching for opportunities to injure us, but are restrained by the power of God. These may be divided into the visible and invisible. There are the invisible, those fallen spirits, of whose apostasy and active malignity so much is said in Scripture. Here you will see how the devil first tried to take away Job’s character for sincerity and virtue, then to insinuate that he was no better than a mercenary hypocrite, then to suggest that if he was but deprived of his outward possessions he would soon prove himself to be a downright blasphemer. Have we any reason to suppose it is otherwise with respect to us? Is not Satan still injuriously active? There are visible foes of our interests and of our peace. Man is not only alienated from God, but also from his fellow creatures. You especially ought to consider the debt you owe to God’s restraining and preserving mercy. Persecution is perfectly natural to depraved man. It is providence which throws chains upon his black and malignant passions.
II. The creatures can be readily converted by God into the authors of our injury or destruction. It is so with the very elements of nature themselves. So with our social connections. “A man’s foes may be those of his own household.” Thus it is also with our secular possessions: they may prove curses rather than blessings.
III. The external dispensations of God’s providence are not infallible criteria by which to form our estimate of human character. Prosperity is not, for it often happens that the horn of the wicked is exalted, and that they flourish like a green bay tree. Adversity is not an unequivocal test. Learn--
1. Our obligations to the protecting care of God.
2. What an illustration has been supplied of the precariousness of that tenure by which all earthly things are held. (John Clayton.)
The testing of Job
The question discussed in the Book of Job is this--Is it possible for man to be actuated by disinterested love for his Maker? Observe the tests to which Job was subjected.
I. He was ‘tried circumstantially. Though bereft of everything, Job does not throw off his allegiance to heaven, nor shriek curses into the ears of the infinite. Desolate he says--“Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
II. He was tried constitutionally. Satan asks--Let me act on him? He is smitten with a loathsome disease. Does his faith stand this?
III. He was tried theologically. His friends denounced him as a sinner. His nature rebelled. For many a long day he was tortured in his deepest convictions, the tenderest nerves of his soul. Does his loyalty to heaven then give way; does his trust in the Almighty die out? Here, in Job, is the question settled for all time, that the human soul is not essentially selfish. It can “fear God for nought.” (Homilist.)
The design of affliction
Job and affliction have long been associated together in our minds. Next to the “man of sorrows,” Job was perhaps the most afflicted of the servants of God. The principle of substitution at once explains the sufferings of the one, but to account for the sufferings of the other seems at first sight more difficult. The Book of Job is the most ancient of all the books of inspiration, and is entirely independent of them. Job’s history is not linked with that of the people of God, nor does it advance in any way the manifestation of the purposes of God. As resulting from the fall, and as stamping the Divine curse upon creation, affliction is the common lot of mankind. Affliction, in one shape or another, is the special portion of God’s people. God is the author of the afflictions of His people. We are apt to ascribe it to second causes, and to lose sight of the great first cause. God has a design in affliction.
I. The design of God in the afflictions of the wicked.
1. He intends to punish the wicked by affliction. But He designs also to awaken them, to arrest their attention, and to show them the nothingness and vanity of all things here. How blessed is that affliction which brings the prodigal back to his father’s house, however severe it may be.
II. The design of God in afflicting His own people.
1. To try the genuineness of their faith. The apostle speaks of the “trial of our faith.” In all his trial Job’s faith was found genuine, and to the praise and honour of God; Job never does anything which is inconsistent with his being a child of God. Some, when they are put into the furnace of affliction, prove themselves to have been but hypocrites.
2. To discover the latent corruption of their hearts. When a man is first converted he little thinks how much evil there still remains behind! But the trial comes, and then unbelief arises in its former strength. Rebelliousness rages in every region of the soul. Unsubdued passions resume their strength, and he is utterly dismayed at the fearful scene. Job, who was the most patient of all men, then showed impatience. In the days of his prosperity he seemed to be perfect, but affliction showed what was in his heart.
3. To purify and to sanctify them. God puts us into the furnace to purge us from the dross--to make us holy and spiritually minded--to make us seek those things which are above.
4. To call into exercise the graces of the Spirit. There is a great tendency even in the people of God to spiritual sloth and slumber. They have grace, but their grace is not in lively exercise. Their movements are sluggish and lifeless. By affliction God awakens us to a sense of our high responsibilities, and calls forth into exercise our dormant graces.
5. To enhance the value of true religion. What can sustain you when trial and trouble, in various forms, has come upon you, but real, heartfelt piety? What else could have supported Job in his unparalleled and complicated afflictions?
6. God afflicts His people also in order to manifest His own glorious attributes. The great object in all that God does is to manifest His own glory. Learn--
(1) That God has a purpose in all that He does.
(2) Be encouraged by contemplating the case of Job. You are not standing alone in affliction.
(3) Do not only look forward to the time of your deliverance from affliction, but look unto God for His grace, not only to sustain you, but to make that affliction minister to your happiness. (A. S. Cannon.)
Whom He loveth He chasteneth
Among the mysteries of God’s providence there is perhaps no mystery greater than the law by which suffering is meted out in the world. It is not a mystery that sin should bring forth sorrow; it is not a mystery that pain, disease, and death should be the fruit of man’s fall. The conscience of men in all ages--the heathen as well as the Jewish and Christian--has acquiesced in the justice of that moral constitution of things by which sin becomes chastisement and suffering the expiation of guilt. The really difficult problem is not the problem of suffering in the abstract: it is the problem of the meting out of suffering on any theory; it is the problem why the innocent are called upon to suffer, whilst the guilty too often escape. This is a problem which comes before us in the Book of Job. Job is a righteous man, living in the fear of God, and eschewing evil. He is a man of large wealth and possessions, but he does not spend his wealth in selfish gratification. He is charitable to the poor, hospitable to the stranger, bountiful to all. He was not only the greatest of all the men of the East--he was the best. But in a moment the sky of his prosperity is overcast; blow follows blow with fearful rapidity. On what principle of justice is such a man made to suffer? Here is a man exemplary in life, devout, pure, charitable, of sterling integrity, earnest piety, and sincere faith in God; Why is he crushed with this awful suffering? Contrast with this the tragedy of “Prometheus,” written by AEschylus. Prometheus has been the benefactor of mankind. He has entered into a sublime conflict with Zeus, the supreme being, for the good of the race. He is crushed by his adversary and he dies with defiance on his lips. The conception is grand, but the chief element of grandeur lies in the fact that it is power, and not righteousness, which sits on the throne, and rebellion against supreme power which is not supreme right must always be grand. The struggle in the history of Job is far nobler. He knows that the God he worships is not supreme power only, but supreme righteousness also. This it is that makes his trial so hard. With him the difficulty is to reconcile the God of his conscience and his faith with the God who is ruling the world. On the throne of the universe sits one who, judging by the facts of life, is not absolutely righteous. The struggle in the drama of Job is not the defiance of power, it is not the arrogant assertion of self-righteousness: it is the confession of ignorance of self, and ignorance of God; it is the submission of the sorely tried man to the revelation of that God whose revelation he had longed to see. The problem is that of innocent suffering. What is the solution of it? Three answers are given.
1. That of the three friends. Though representing three different types of character, all concur in one thing--they all hold the same theory of the Divine government, and on the strength of that theory they all condemn Job. God is just, and therefore God rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked. If a man suffers, he suffers because he deserves it. Job may be upright, but he must be cherishing some secret sin, and it is this which has called down on him the vengeance of the Most High. This is their compendious system of theology. But it breaks down. It is not large enough to cover the facts. Centuries of teaching could not root out of men’s minds the obstinate belief that suffering is the measure of sin; but the sufferer himself repudiates it. The righteousness of God is the fundamental article of God’s creed; but then comes his cruel perplexity. Job does not maintain absolute freedom from sin. For a moment he is tempted to take refuge in blind submission. But in his inmost heart he cries out, “God must be righteous.” And so to the very last word he uttered he refused to be convinced of direct sin as the cause of his suffering. We know that Job is right, bat he still needed to learn the greatest lesson of all, that his very righteousness was not his own. He is right in maintaining his own innocence against his friends, right in holding fast his integrity, right in trusting God through all, right in appealing to Him to declare his righteousness when it seems to be hidden.
2. Another theory of suffering is given by Elihu. He is angry with Job for his obstinacy; and with the friends, because they have failed so completely to vindicate the righteousness of God. Elihu represents a younger theology. God’s purpose in chastisement He declares to be the purification of His servant. If He puts those whom He loves into the crucible, it is to purge away their dross, to cleanse them from past sins, and to keep them from failing in the future. Here, certainly, is a step in advance. To see a purpose of love in affliction is to turn it into a blessing. Job accepts in silence this interpretation of suffering.
3. But the mystery of suffering is not fully explained even when this purifying power is assigned to it. There is a suffering which is not even for the salvation or purification of the individual soul, but for the glory of God. In the prelude Satan tells God to His face that His servants serve Him not from disinterested motives or sincere affection, but in the spirit of the hireling, from the lowest and most mercenary, considerations. “Doth Job fear God for nought?” This is the challenge given, and it is one that strikes at the nature of God Himself. It means that he is incapable of inspiring a genuine, disinterested affection. God accepts the challenge. Job has to learn that suffering comes, because God is honoured in the trial of His people; and surely no more noble part can be assigned to man than to be the champion of God. (Bishop Perowne.)
The mystery of pleasure and pain
Pleasure and pain, happiness and suffering, are elements of creaturely experience appointed by God. The right use of them makes life, the wrong use of them mars it. They are ordained, all of them, in equal degrees, to a good end; for all that God does is done in perfect love as well as in perfect justice. It is no more wonderful that a good man should suffer than that a bad man should suffer: for the good man, the man who believes in God and therefore in goodness, making a right use of suffering, will gain by it in the true sense; he will reach a deeper and a nobler life. It is no more wonderful that a bad man, one who disbelieves in God, and therefore in goodness, should be happy, than that a good man should be happy, the happiness being God’s appointed means for both to reach a higher life. The main element of this higher life is vigour, but not of the body. The Divine purpose is spiritual evolution. That gratification of the sensuous side of our nature for which physical health and a well-knit organism are indispensable--paramount in the pleasure philosophy--is not neglected, but is made subordinate to the Divine culture of life. The grace of God aims at the life of the spirit--power to love, to follow righteousness, to dare for justice’s sake, to seek and grasp the true, to sympathise with men and bear with them, to bless them that curse, to suffer and be strong. To promote this vitality, all that God appoints is fitted--pain as well as pleasure, adversity as well as prosperity, sorrow as well as joy, defeat as well as success. We wonder that suffering is so often the result of imprudence. On the ordinary theory the fact is inexplicable, for imprudence has no dark colour of ethical faultiness. He who by an error of judgment plunges himself and his family into what appears irretrievable disaster may, by all reckoning, be almost blameless in character. If suffering is held to be penal, no reference to the general sin of humanity will account for the result. But the reason is plain. The suffering is disciplinary. The nobler life at which Divine providence aims must be sagacious no less than pure, guided by sound reason no less than right feeling. And if it is asked how, from this point of view, we are to find the punishment of sin, the answer is, that happiness as well as suffering is punishment to him whose sin and the unbelief that accompanies it pervert his view of truth, and blind him to the spiritual life and to the will of God. The pleasures of a wrong-doer who persistently denies obligation to Divine authority and refuses obedience to the Divine law are no gain, but loss. They dissipate and attenuate his life. His sensuous or sensual enjoyment, his delight in selfish triumph and gratified ambition, are real, give at the time quite as much happiness as the good man has in his obedience and virtue, and perhaps a great deal more. But they are penal and retributive nevertheless, and the conviction that they are so becomes clear to the man whenever the light of truth is flashed upon his spiritual state. On the other hand, the pains and disasters which fall to the lot of evil men, intended for their correction, if in perversity or in blindness they are misunderstood, again become punishment, for they too dissipate and attenuate life. The real good of existence slips away while the mind is intent on the mere pain or vexation, and how it is to be got rid of. (Robert A. Watson, D. D.)
The three-fold calamity
This sincere, right-hearted man must be passed through the entire round of human troubles. If any usual form of human sorrow is left untried in the case of Job, then the problem of the book is not yet fully solved. According to this poet author, the calamity of human life is three fold.
I. Trouble affects a man through his possessions. The case of Job is quite a model of the troubles that can come to a man through his possessions. He had scarcely time to take breath after hearing one mournful tale before another messenger of woe burst upon him, and the climax of his woe seems utterly heartbreaking. How is it that these changes of circumstances came to press on this man as troubles? Nothing really hurts us save as it affects the mind, and different things affect us differently according as they reach the various parts of our mental and spiritual nature. What part of us, then, is touched by these outward calamities which deprive us of the things that we possess? There is in our nature the desire of acquisition, and its satisfaction is the source of very many of our pleasures. The hurt to the mind which follows on losing our possessions takes its highest form in the loss of our children and friends. So far, however, as such troubles are concerned, our manhood ought to be great enough to enable us to deal with them, and we have no overwhelming admiration for the man who can see all his possessions go and yet maintain his integrity and keep his hold on God.
II. Troubles may come to a man through his body. We could not easily overestimate the relation which health and bodily vigour bear to a bright, hopeful spirit and a cheery, active faith. A vast proportion of the doubts and fears and inward struggles of men have their secret source in conditions of the beds, failure at the springs of vitality, or the presence of insidious disease. The secret relations of the body and the spirit are very mysterious. Consequently you come nearer to a man, you touch him to the quick, you put his spirit to a far higher test, when you bring calamity in upon his body. From the descriptions given it is probable that Job’s disease was what Eastern travellers know as elephantiasis, because the extremities of the body swell enormously, and the skin becomes as hard as the elephant’s hide. It is hard to bear when disease is painful; harder still when it is prostrating; harder still when it is disfiguring and loathsome; harder still when it involves social disabilities. And Job’s was all this. Can a man so suffer and keep hold of God? These calamities which come through our bodies affect other parts of our nature, and in some senses higher parts. The love of life. The desire of pleasure. The faculty of hope. All these are struck back, pressed down, forbidden to speak, and it is their inward wrestling which makes the bitterness of such trouble-times. But if affliction only reached these two things, our possessions and our bodies, we should not be able to call the testing sublime. Something would still be wanting.
III. Trouble affecting a man through his mind. For this greater testing the outward troubles of Job were but the approach and preparation. These new trials were of a kind, and came in such a way, as was most likely to cause mental confusion. The visit of the friends, and their bad theology and false accusations, were the very things to awaken the inner conflicts of the soul. They offered forms of truth which roused his resistance. They presented creeds, in their grave and formal way, which Job felt were too small to meet his case. They started doubts in his mind which almost swelled into the agony of despair. Job’s mental anguish took one particular form. The facts of his condition were brought into conflict with the formal creed of his day, the creed in which he himself had been brought up. That creed declared that suffering was the exact and necessary accompaniment of every sin; and that great calamity betokened great sin. Job feels sure that this must somehow be wrong. The creed would not fit his case. Scripture provides us with other illustrations of this highest and most imperilling form of human trouble. But the most sublime example is found in the Lord Jesus Himself. Bodily sufferings He had, but no man knows what the Lord has borne for him until he can enter into the spiritual conflict of Christ’s temptation, and the infinitely mysterious inward distress of Gethsemane and Calvary. We are not alone in these agonies of soul. Not alone while the struggle is being waged, not alone in the blessed victory it may be given us to win. We, too, with Job, may hold fast our integrity. Two things need a passing notice. Observe how the mental struggle was intensified by the influence of the foregoing outward calamities. The loss of all he possessed had humbled him. Grief at the loss of his children had oppressed him. Long-continued suffering of body had wearied him, and now the very spirit was weak. And observe also, that in such times of strain a man may very nearly fail and yet hold his integrity. Sometimes a man is, for a moment, smitten down. Job sometimes fails, and talks foolishly. He seems as if, in his desperation, he set his righteousness against God’s. But from the very borderland of infidelity and despair Job comes back to the trust and the rest of the child heart that finds the Father in God. (Robert Tuck, B. A.)
Usually where God gives much grace, He tries grace much
To whom God hath given strong shoulders, on him, for the most part, He layeth heavy burdens. And so we are come to the second main division of the chapter, which is the affliction of Job; and that is set forth from this verse 6 to the end of verse 19. And lest we should conceive it to have come upon him by chance, it is punctually described four ways.
1. By the causes of it (verse 6, 7, etc.).
2. By the instruments of it (verse 15, 16, etc.).
3. By the manner of it (verses 14, 15, 16, etc.).
4. By the time of it (verse 13). (J. Caryl.)
The tests to which God puts His people
God puts His servants sometimes into these experiments that He may test them (as He did Job), that Satan himself may know how true-hearted God’s grace has made them, and that the world may see how they can play the man. Good engineers, if they build a bridge, are glad to have a train of enormous weight go over it. When the first great exhibition was built they marched regiments of soldiers, with a steady tramp, over the girders, that they might be quite sure that they would be strong enough to bear any crowd of men, for the regular tramp of well-disciplined soldiers is more trying to a building than anything else. So our wise and prudent Father sometimes marches the soldiery of trouble right over His people’s supports, to let all men see that the grace of God can sustain every possible pressure and load. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The severest temptation last
When he thinks we are at the weakest, then he cometh with the strongest assaults. If Satan had sent Job word of the death of his children first, all the rest would have been as nothing to him. We observe in war, that when once the great ordnance are discharged, the soldiers are not afraid of the musket: so when a great battery is made by some thundering terrible judgment upon the soul, or upon the body, or estate of any man, the noise and fears of lesser evils are drowned and abated. Therefore Satan keeps his greatest shot to the last, that the small might be heard and felt, and that the last coming in greater strength might find the least strength to resist it. (J. Caryl.)
The grand victory
This is the grandest scene that human nature has ever presented. The world had never seen anything to compare to it. The greatest conqueror that ever won his triumph in Rome was as a pigmy beside the giant.
I. The triumph of mind over matter. Job’s soul seems to soar above what is material. Things which were seen faded from his view, and things which were not seen grew bright and distinct. The dying Stephen saw the Lord Jesus in his vision. But Job was not a dying man. He was in full strength and vigour. It is possible, then, so to triumph over that which is seen and temporal, that even in this world heaven is a reality.
II. The triumph of principle over selfishness. Principle and selfishness are always antagonistic. There is a constant warfare going on between these in the universe, in the world, in the soul. Self is too often the victor. But in Job religious principle was supreme. He rose up and worshipped! Selfish human nature would have raved and cursed. The worldly man would have cursed his luck, cursed his foes, cursed the Chaldeans, and cursed everything. There does not seem to have been any struggle in the mind of Job. He seems, by constant patience and by the unceasing habit of giving principle the first place, to have been raised almost above strife and contention. There is a time when contest ceases. Sometimes self, after a few weeks or years, obtains the mastery, and then to self the man habitually yields. But we do occasionally find cases wherein principle is victor, and then homage is paid hereafter unquestioningly to its sovereignty.
III. The triumph of religion over worldliness. The world passed out of Job’s ken as a factor in his fate. Many would have said, What a strange combination of circumstances! What a terrible coincidence! What an unlucky man! “The Lord hath taken away.” Here is a pattern for causalists, who look to minor details instead of to the prime Ruler of all things. This is the true sphere of religion--to east out all else from a man’s life--all except God. Then, and then alone, has it triumphed over the world, and sin, and temptation.
IV. The triumph of Divine grace over the devil’s temptations. (Homilist.)
The humble saint under an awful rod
1. The best of men are often exercised with the sorest troubles. Job was a perfect and upright man, fearing God and eschewing evil. Those who are nearest God’s heart may smart most under His rod.
2. When things go best with us as to this world, we should look for changes. Presumption of continued prosperity is unwarrantable; for who can tell what a day may bring forth? If any man in the world had reason to promise himself a security from poverty and distress, surely it was this eminent servant of God. The Lord had blessed him with large possessions, and a numerous offspring. He could appeal to heaven as to the integrity of his conduct, that he had got his wealth without oppressing the poor or injuring his fellow creatures. Let us therefore take care how we say our mountain shall stand strong and cannot be moved, for who can tell what is in the womb of providence? This will, in a great measure, prepare us for the trial, if God should call us to it. On the other hand, we should be cautious how we sink under our burdens when the Lord is contending with us, and entertain gloomy apprehensions that deliverance is impossible. Our wisdom lies in the medium, between resting in and boasting of blessings, and limiting the power and goodness of God, as if He could not support us under trouble, or make a way for our escape.
3. The grace of God is given us, not to erase or destroy our natural passions and affections, but to correct, restrain, and purify them. Job arose, rent his mantle and shaved his head, and this before he set himself to worship. The grace of God is designed to regulate, refine, and spiritualise our natural affections, which, if left to themselves, are ready to run rote riot and excess.
4. Saints under trouble usually find that relief at the throne of grace, when pouring out their souls to God in prayer, which they meet with nowhere else.
5. Seriously to reflect on what we once were, in a state of infancy, and what we shall be when laid up in the grave, is a good means to reconcile our minds to afflictive emptying providences. Pride is the mother of discontent. Humility gives the sweetest relish to all our enjoyments, and prepares the mind with a becoming resignation to part with them at the will of our original Proprietor, who is the Sovereign Disposer of all things.
6. Good men desire to look beyond second causes to the hand of God in all their mercies and afflictions. Job mentions not a word of his own industry or care in obtaining, or of the Sabeans and Chaldeans in robbing him of his substance, but, the “Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away.” Means and instruments have their influence, but it is under a Divine agency or permission. Those which are best suited to promote a desirable end will certainly miscarry without His concurrence, and the most envenomed enemies of God and His people can do no more than He is pleased to suffer.
7. Satan, the accuser of the brethren, narrowly watches the saint when oppressed with affliction, and if anything can be pleasing to a spirit so completely miserable, it would be to hear him speak unadvisedly with his lips, and charge God foolishly. It is hard work, but how very reasonable! For a saint cannot be in that situation not to have much to bless God for. More and better is always left than is taken away, such as God Himself, His unchangeable love, the glorious Redeemer, the Holy Spirit, an everlasting covenant, the blessings of redemption and sanctification, with grace and glory. And who does not see that all the sufferings and losses of this world are not worthy to be compared with any one of these, much less than with them all! (S. Wilson.)
Right behaviour in times of affliction
1. That when the hand of God is upon us, it becometh us to be sensible of it, and to be humbled under it.
2. That in times of affliction we may express our sorrows by outward gestures, by sorrowful gestures.
3. That when God afflicteth us with sufferings, we ought to afflict ourselves, to humble our souls for sin.
4. That thoughts of blasphemy against God should be cast off, and rejected with the highest indignation. (J. Caryl.)
Afflictions turned into prayers
1. A godly man will not let nature work alone, he mixes or tempers acts of grace with acts of nature.
2. Afflictions send the people of God home unto God; afflictions draw a godly man nearer unto God.
3. That the people of God turn all their afflictions into prayers, or into praises. When God is striking, then Job is praying; when God is afflicting, then Job falls to worshipping. Grace makes every condition work glory to God, as God makes every condition work good to them who have grace.
4. It becometh us to worship God in an humble manner.
5. That Divine worship is God’s peculiar. (J. Caryl.)
Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither.
Job was very much troubled, and did not try to hide the outward signs of his sorrow. A man of God is not expected to be a stoic. The grace of God takes away the heart of stone out of his flesh, but it does not turn his heart into a stone. I want you, however, to notice that mourning should always be sanctified with devotion. “Ye people, pour out your hearts before Him: God is a refuge for us.” When you are bowed down beneath a heavy burden of sorrow, then take to worshipping the Lord, and especially to that kind of worshipping which lies in adoring God, and in making a full surrender of yourself to the Divine will, so that you can say with Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” It will also greatly alleviate our sorrow if we then fall into serious contemplations, and begin to argue a little, and to bring facts to bear upon our mind. “While I was musing,” said David, “the fire burned,” and it comforted and warmed him. Job is an instance of this kind of personal instruction; he has three or four subjects which he brings before his own mind, and these tend to comfort him.
I. The extreme brevity of life. Observe what Job says, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither.” We appear for a brief moment, and then we vanish away. I often, in my own mind, compare life to a procession. Well now, because life is so short, do you not see where the comfort comes? Job says to himself, “I came, and I shall return; then why should I worry myself about what I have lost? I am going to be here only a little while, then what need have I of all those camels and sheep? If my earthly stores vanish, well, I shall vanish too.” Further, Job seems especially to dwell with comfort upon the thought, “I shall return to the earth, from which all the particles of my body originally came: I shall return thither.” You recollect how the tribe of Gad and the tribe of Reuben went to Moses, and said, “If we have found grace in thy sight, let this land be given unto thy servants for a possession, and bring us not over Jordan.” Of course, they did not want to cross the Jordan if they could get all their possessions on the other side. But Job had not anything this side Jordan; he was cleaned right out, so he was willing to go. And, really, the losses that a man has, which make him “desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better,” are real gains. What is the use of all that clogs us here?
II. Job seems to comfort himself by noticing the tenure of his earthly possessions. “Naked,” says he, “came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither.” He feels himself to be very poor, everything is gone, he is stripped; yet he seems to say, “I am not poorer now than I was when I was born.” One said to me, the other day, “All is gone, sir, all is gone, except health and strength.” Yes, but we had not as much as that when we were born. We had no strength, we were too weak to perform the least though most necessary offices for our poor tender frame. Old men sometimes arrive at a second childhood. Do not be afraid, brother, if that is your case; you have gone through one period already that was more infantile than your second one can be, you will not be weaker then than you were at first. Suppose that you and I should be brought to extreme weakness and poverty, we shall neither be weaker nor poorer than we were then. It is wonderful that, after God has been gracious to us for fifty years, we cannot trust Him for the rest of our lives; and as for you who are sixty, seventy, or eighty years of age, what! has He brought you thus far to put you to shame? Did He bear you through that very weakest part of your life, and do you think He will now forsake you? Then Job adds, “However poor I may be, I am not as poor as I shall be, for naked shall I return to mother earth. If I have but little now, I shall soon have still less.” I want you to notice, also, what I think really was in Job’s mind, that, notwithstanding that he was but dust at the beginning, and would be dust at the end, still there was a Job who existed all the while. “I was naked, but I was; naked shall I return thither, but I shall be there.” Some men never find themselves till they have lost their goods. They, themselves, are hidden away, like Saul, among the stuff; their true manhood is not to be seen, because they are dressed so finely that people seem to respect them, when it is their clothes that are respected. They appear to be somebodies, but they are nobodies, notwithstanding all that they possess.
III. But perhaps the most blessed thing is what Job said concerning the hand of God in all things: “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” I am so pleased to think that Job recognised the hand of God everywhere giving he said, “The Lord gave.” He did not say, “I earned it all.” He did not say, “There are all my hard-earned savings gone.” What a sweet thing it is if you can feel that all you have in this world is God’s gift to you! A slender income will give us much content if we can see that it is God’s gift. Let us not only regard our money and our goods as God’s gifts; but also our wife, our children, our friends. Alas! some of you do not know anything about God. What you have is not counted by you as God’s gift. You miss the very sweetness and joy of life by missing this recognition of the Divine hand in giving us all good things richly to enjoy. But then, Job equally saw God’s hand in taking them away. If he had not been a believer in Jehovah, he would have said, “Oh, those detestable Sabeans! Somebody ought to go and cut to pieces those Chaldeans.” That is often our style, is it not,--finding fault with the secondary agents? Suppose my dear wife should say to the servant, “Where has that picture gone?” and the maid replied, “Oh, the master took it!” Would she find fault? Oh, no! If it had been a servant who took it down, or a stranger who removed it, she might have said something; but not when I took it, for it is mine. And surely we will let God be Master in His own house: where we are only the children, He shall take whatever He pleases of all He has lent us for a while.
IV. Job’s last comfort lay in this truth, that God is worthy to be blessed in all things--“Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Let us never rob God of His praise, however dark the day is. “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job means that the Lord is to be blessed both for giving and taking. “The Lord gave,” blessed be His name. “The Lord hath taken away,” blessed be His name. Surely it has not come to this among God’s people, that He must do as we like, or else we will not praise Him. God is, however, specially to be praised by us whenever we are moved by the devil to curse. Satan had said to the Lord concerning Job, “Put forth Thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse Thee to Thy face”; and it seemed as if God had hinted to His servant that this was what the devil was aiming at. “Then,” said Job, “I will bless Him.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The entrance and exit of life
1. That every man is born a poor, helpless, naked creature.
2. When death cometh, it shakes us out of all our worldly comforts and possessions.
3. The life of man is nothing else but a coming and a returning.
(1) That a godly man in his straits studieth arguments to acquit and justify God in all His dealings with him.
(2) That the consideration of what we once were, and of what at last we must be, may relieve our spirits in the greatest outward afflictions of this life. (J. Caryl.)
Infancy and after life
Job feels himself to be very poor indeed, everything is gone, he is stripped; yet he seems to say, “I am not poorer now than I was when I was born.” I had nothing then, not even a garment to my back but what the love of my mother provided for me. I was helpless then; I could not do anything for myself whatever. One said to me the other day, “All is gone, sir, all is gone save health and strength.” Yes, but he had not so much as that when he was born. David often very sweetly dwells upon his childhood, and still more upon his infancy; and we shall do well to imitate him. Suppose that you and I should be brought to extreme weakness and poverty, we shall never be weaker nor poorer than we were then. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Empty-handed departure from life
We have heard of a rustic who, when dying, put a crown piece into his mouth, because he said he would not be without money in another world; but then he was a clown, and everyone knew how foolish was his attempt thus to provide for the future. There have been stories told of persons who have had their gold sewn up in their shrouds, but they took not a penny with them for all their pains. The dust of great Caesar may help to stop a hole through which the blast blows, and the dust of his slave cannot be put to more ignoble uses. The two ends of our life are nakedness; if the middle of it should not always be scarlet and fine linen, and faring sumptuously every day, let us not wonder; and if it should seem to be all of a piece, let us not be impatient or complaining. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away.
The right attitude in time of trouble
It is an easy thing to smile when we are pleased, when our enterprises are successful, and our garners are filled with all manner of store. It is a far different thing to maintain a thankful spirit in the day of adversity, to “rest in the day of trouble,” It is no easy thing to contemplate, with an even mind, the reverses of human life. Yet the patriarch Job was able to meet the most afflicting changes with a holy composure, to own the hand and to bless the name of God in the cloudy as in the sunny day. In these words we have a clear statement of the providence of God in the affairs of human life, and an example of the true disposition and experience of a child of God.
1. The troubles of Job had fallen upon him four fold. Of each of the four great troubles which had befallen him, a natural cause had been reported. If Job could have anticipated the light of modern wisdom, he would, no doubt, have fixed his mind, and allowed it to rest, upon the instruments of his great affliction. In second causes men seek and find the potency of human events; but they “regard not the work of the Lord, neither consider the operation of His hands.” The conduct of Job is an instructive contrast to this, and an edifying example of the good and right way. He exclaims, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away.” It is no less strange than deplorable, that, in proportion as great discoveries in sciences and arts have wrought effects, there has been an evil and unreasonable heart of unbelief growing and spreading, and emboldening men to limit or deny the power of God to exercise a controlling influence in His own creation and in the affairs of men.
2. We have represented to us the true disposition and conduct of a child of God in the example before us. Job in deepest distress could say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Edward Meade, M. A.)
Right conduct under the smiles and frowns of God
I. Men ought to acknowledge God under the smiles and frowns of providence. God is the Creator, Preserver, and Governor of all things. He rules in the kingdoms of nature, providence, and grace. He controls all the views, purposes, and actions of men. No good nor evil can come to them but under His direction and by virtue of His influence. Since God guides all the wheels of providence and governs all secondary causes, all good and evil are to be traced up to His holy, wise, powerful, righteous, and sovereign hand.
II. Men ought to bless as well as acknowledge God under both the smiles and frowns of His providence. Job acknowledged that God had given and taken away, and then adds what was still more important, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
1. God never takes away any favours from mankind but what He meant to take away when He gave them. As He always has some purpose to answer by every good gift, so when that good gift has answered the purpose for which it was given, He takes it away, and not before. So that He acts from the same benevolent motive in taking away as in bestowing favours.
2. It becomes men to bless God in taking away as well as in giving peculiar favours, because the favours He continues are generally more numerous and more important than those He removes.
3. The afflicted always know that whatever personal evils God brings upon them, He constantly seeks the general good of the universe; and that all the sufferings they endure are calculated and designed to answer that wise and benevolent purpose.
4. The afflicted and bereaved have often reason to bless God, because the evils they are suffering are so much lighter than those that many others have suffered and are suffering. They are apt to think and say there is no sorrow like unto our sorrow.
5. Men should always bless God, because this is the only way to make all His dealings towards them eventually work for their good. There is an infallible connection between their feeling and acting right under Divine corrections, and their receiving spiritual and everlasting benefit from them.
1. This subject suggests the propriety of drawing near to God, and conversing with Him under His correcting hand. His providential dealings have a meaning and a voice, which the afflicted ought to hear and understand.
2. See the nature of true submission under the afflicting and bereaving hand of God. It is something very different from stupidity and insensibility under Divine chastenings. This is not submitting to them, but despising them, which is highly displeasing to God. (N. Emmons, D. D.)
Job recognising God’s hand
I. The words spoken imply a conviction of the doctrine of a particular providence. Many there are who, although they aver that God will not utterly leave an abandoned world, still deny the existence of a particular providence. Job saw the hand of God in all the afflictive dispensations under which he lay.
II. Although Job praises God for the giving of His mercies, still he recognises His hand in the taking of them away. Tell one who is healthy of the mercy of God in giving him his strength, and this he may readily acknowledge. But on the withdrawment of these mercies, how does he receive it?
III. These words Flow from the conviction of one who saw the Divine justice shining in all His acts. The real Christian is widely distinguished from the man of the world. The latter charges God foolishly as acting foolishly, but the former sees plainly that God is just and holy in all He does.
IV. Job recognised the Divine wisdom which superintended and controlled his sufferings, for a good end. These words, as well as recognising God’s dealings as wisest and best, whether in gain or in bereavement, are an answer to the voice of lying and temptation. Satan had been exceedingly busy, and wished to overwhelm the holy man with despair. He continually threw in gloomy thoughts and doubts of the care, and goodness, and wisdom of God. But Job was not to be moved by such words. (T. Judkin, A. M.)
The life of the true
I. The life of the true has the ordinary vicissitudes. Job had received children, cattle, and property from the Lord, and all had been now “taken away.” In the life of all men there is a constant receiving and losing. Health, pleasure, friendship, fame, property, these come and go. How much that we all once had has been taken away from us. The freshness of childhood, the buoyancy of youth, the circles of early friendships. These vicissitudes of life--
1. Remind us that this world is not our rest.
2. Urge us to rest on the Unchangeable.
II. The life of the true has an ennobling creed. Job felt that God was in all the receivings and losings of his life. “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away.” Some trace their vicissitudes to chance, and some to necessity, but Job to God. He recognised God in all the events of his life. This creed is--
1. Reasonable. If there be a God, He must be concerned in everything--the small as well as the great.
2. Scriptural. The Bible is full of it. Not a sparrow falleth to the ground without His notice.
3. Dignifying. It brings God in conscious proximity to man in his everyday life.
III. The life of the true has a magnanimous religiousness. “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” The language is that of pious exultation. This spirit is something more than submission to the Divine will under suffering--even something more than an acquiescence in the Divine will in suffering. It is exultation in the manifestation of the Divine will in all the events of life. It amounts to the experience of Paul, who said, “We glory in tribulation also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience, patience, experience,” etc. (Homilist.)
God’s dealing with Job
Let us consider God’s seemingly hard dealing with Job, notwithstanding He had once dealt so bountifully with him, that is, “The Lord hath taken away.” It is hard, no doubt, for a man to be born in poverty; and be obliged to struggle on in poverty and want all his life long; but still I should imagine it must be much easier for a man who had been born poor to be able to live in poverty, than for a man who had been born and reared up in plenty and luxury; for a man never misses what he never possessed. We have a striking instance of this in the history of the unjust steward. When that unfaithful man was about to be turned out of office, we find him absorbed for a time in private meditation and pondering over the terrible change that awaited him; and at last he was forced to give vent to his feelings in these words, “I cannot dig, and to beg I am ashamed.” A man of gentle birth, or a man who has been used to enjoy life, when he is suddenly reduced to poverty and want through some unforeseen and unavoidable misfortune, has not been used to the hardships that a poor man has been accustomed to bear, and therefore his want of experience makes the change so much the more intolerable for him. And I have no doubt but that it was the terrible change which came so suddenly upon him that made the young prodigal son in the Gospel, “who had wasted his substance with riotous living” in the far country, and “who would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat,” to cry out with a heavy heart and tearful eye, “How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!” Job was cognisant of the fact that the Almighty had delivered him into the hands of Satan to do what he would with him, provided he only spared his life; and therefore, instead of saying, “The Lord gave,” and Satan hath taken away, Job saith here, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away.” True it is that it was the Sabeans that had seized upon the oxen and the asses, and had taken them away, and had slain all the servants with the edge of the sword. It was true that it was a fire from heaven that had burned up and consumed all the sheep and the servants. It was true that the Chaldeans had fallen upon the camels, and carried them away, and had slain all the servants with the edge of the sword. It was only too true that a great wind from the wilderness smote the four corners of the house in which all his sons and daughters were feasting together, and buried them all beneath its ruins. But Job uttered not a word of complaint against any of these, for well he knew that all these were only instruments in the hands of Satan with the express permission of God, and that by these Satan was to prove his uprightness: hence Job still persists in saying, “The Lord hath taken away.” It was the same God that had dealt so bountifully with Job at first, that had now again stripped him of all that he had; and when the Almighty gave them unto Job at first, He made no conditions with him; He never promised him that he should have to keep his riches or property for any definite period, much less that he should have them absolutely and forever. Oh, no! and hence it was only just that God should do with His own things as seemed good unto Himself, and to all this just and righteous dealing of God’s Job agrees; and he confesses that in the text when he says, “The Lord hath taken away.” (H. Harris Davies, M. A.)
The Lord hath taken away
These words were not lightly uttered. They were said by one who, with mantle rent and head shaven, had fallen on the ground and worshipped. After all, it is not the praise of jubilant moments that is the truest, but that which is murmured low in the thick darkness, mixed with tears. It is all very fine to sing with the linnets in the sunshine, but to sing against the weather is finer. Everything around us looks mournful in the fall of the leaf--all is fading and vanishing, and the odour of death is in the damp air. Yet nature in her bright tints seems to say, “Isn’t it beautiful?” This decay is a happening fit and seasonable. And every fading and vanishing face is a bright advent. It is well, though it look ill to us; and it is always opportune, however bad it seems to us who remain. Believing in God and immortality as we do, it is the quite best thing for them. God in His wise government brings punctually the change of air which the soul requires. But what of us who are left?
I. Our true possession in those who are taken away remains untouched. The portion of the heart, that is the true possession--not what we see and hear. This affection is ours still. Death does but refine and sublime it. The dead are not gone from us, they are given to us as we never had them before. The ancient violin makers wrote of their work, making the wood speak, “Being dead, I sing more than when I was alive.” May it not be that the idealising touch of death reveals that which we had missed before? We can see now the beauty that was not able to shine out in them before. It is the real man we see now. Let us be bold and loving enough to imagine good when only evil is apparent.
II. The true-hearted and beloved are still with us as regards their influence. In this respect we have lost nothing, but perhaps gained something. Sometimes the pity is that one cannot escape from the influence of one’s ancestors, and get clear of the black drop in the blood which we inherit. But a brave, upright, holy life is more quickening in its effect when that life is over. The thought of such has had a restoring, wholesome, moulding influence. And let us not doubt for a moment that those who are taken away still live. They, not their influence only. I never doubt that. Extinction at death is altogether too poor and low as the solution of the mystery of humanity. To me it is an impossibility to believe that of the soul developed in long evolution; to think that is the end of the greatest work the great Creator ever made. To believe what some call nature, what I call God, should be so foolish and so wasteful as to throw away the only great thing, evolved at such tremendous cost--to extinguish the conscious soul, that subtle and wonderful essence which took the Creator ages to distil, is an impossibility to me. Death means life. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. (S. A. Tipple.)
Job’s gracious words
Although he was bereaved of every comfort, although his heart was pierced with many sorrows, although his patience was tried by the extremity of pain, and his ear stunned with the words of a foolish woman, Job still retained his integrity, and continued to look up with cheerful resignation to the hand that chastened him. The calamities which befell Job are a standing lesson, confirmed by the experience and observation of mankind in all ages, that this world furnishes no armour which is proof against the arrows of adversity; and that the more diversified are the comforts which any person enjoys, he is exposed to the greater variety of suffering in the days of darkness which may overtake him.
I. The words of Job discover a recollection of the goodness of God. Instead of searching for other causes of the distinguished prosperity which he had enjoyed, he says, with the simplicity and humility of a grateful spirit, “The Lord gave.” There is no portion under the sun precisely similar to that which was given to Job. But all we have we have received from the hand of God. If you accustom yourselves to remember the years of the right hand of the Most High, no change of situation will obliterate from your minds the good which you have received; and to be deprived will seem but another phase of the same Divine goodness.
II. The words of Job imply an acknowledgment that the Lord does not deal unjustly with the children of men when He takes away what He gave. The security and joy of possession may have produced a mistaken opinion of the good things of this world. But you do not find in Scripture any promise of their being continued to you. They are in their nature temporary. When they are bestowed in the largest measures, they cease not to be precarious. You cannot demand from the justice of your Creator that He should never take away from you anything that He gave. If He takes away you should, with Job, be disposed to bless His name.
III. The words of Job imply a conviction that the evil which the children of men receive is intended for their benefit. He represents it as proceeding from the same independent and unchangeable Being from whom they receive good. God rejoices over His creatures to do them good; but it is needful that He should sometimes afflict. In the sober solitude of affliction He corrects that giddiness with which continued prosperity often inspires frivolous minds, and His chastisements bring back to Himself those hearts which His indulgence had estranged. By touching something dear to those who are at ease in their possessions, He rebukes their former indifference about the distresses of others, and melts them into a fellow feeling of all the infirmities of the children of sorrow. Although the salutary effects are often counteracted by the foolishness of man, yet it has been understood in all ages that adversity is, by the appointment of nature, the season of recollection, and the school of virtue.
IV. The words of Job imply a belief that the benefit which the children of God derive from affliction is imparted to their souls with tenderness and grace. Attend then to the consolations of religion. The consolations are founded on the principle that all the sorrows of life are appointed by God. The same hand which, at one time, fills your houses with good things, at another time measures out the waters of affliction which you drink. Attend to the hopes which religion provides for the afflicted. But these hopes belong only to His dutiful children. If you honour the God of your fathers, if you enjoy with moderation what He gives, and serve Him with gladness of heart in the multitude of His goodness, He will revive you when you walk in the midst of trouble. The best preparation for adversity, then, is the sentiment of religion, habitually cherished by acts of devotion. (G. Hill, D. D.)
The mourner’s song
Atheism in sorrow is a night without a star.
1. Man cannot have any property apart from God.
2. Death is the assertion of God’s proprietorship.
3. Submission to Divine arrangements is the highest test of obedience.
4. Submission is most honourable to man, and most acceptable to God, when it rises into thankfulness.
In sorrow the soul finds its surest refuge in fundamental principles.
1. There is a God.
2. That God is careful of me.
3. By impoverishing me of other possessions, He is seeking to enrich me with Himself.
4. He will ultimately take me as well as my family and property.
5. If I can bless His name in the very sanctuary of affliction and death, what rapture shall I feel in the heaven of unclouded and undying love! He who submits most lovingly and reverently on earth shall sing most sweetly in heaven.
6. Out of this filial submission comes a doubling of the very possessions which were taken away. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)
God the subtractor
It sounds a Christian commonplace when we sing that all blessings flow from God. Existence itself, with its range of faculty and wealth of delight, becomes ours by the daily will of God, to be recalled and revoked at His good pleasure. For these unnumbered bounties and benefits we find it easy to bless the Lord who gives. But can we, as we lose them, one after another, also bless the Lord who takes away? How hardly we learn to trust in God the subtractor! Consider, for instance, how springtime belongs to us all to begin with--and bounding health and sunny spirits and the zest of being alive. In life’s April we are happy as with a singing of birds in the heart. But the season draws on when He who gave these boons of youth will take some of them, perchance most of them away. And so, too, we have hope granted us to begin with, and generous ambitions, and gallant dreams of what we will be and what we can do. These also are the gifts of God. It is an instinct with the young to gird themselves for the peaks and prizes of life, albeit we see only a few in each generation walking with tranquil breath about those high tablelands, for which we all secretly feel that we were born. And this is not because, as in a competition, some must be first. Real eminence is a region, not a pinnacle, and those who dwell there beckon us up to the ample spaces by their side. Yet the forlorn sense of limitation creeps over most men in middle age. You have measured your own powers by that time, and found the end of your tether. The God who kindled those brave hopes and plans is the God who quenches them one by one. Can we accept our limitation, and gain peace even in what seems defeat and failure, as we say quietly, The will of the Lord be done? Then again, how strangely God often gives a man his great opportunity. Once perhaps in a lifetime the door opens, and he may enter in and obtain his heart’s desire and win his fame and success. But it is not for always. The man himself may have no blame to bear. Yet the door shuts again as strangely as it opened, and God has taken the opportunity away. For the rest of his days that man will never go any farther. But when the roses fade out of your own garden, can you say as you stand among their dead petals, Blessed be the name of the Lord? Or think again of friendship, that golden gift of God, which is granted to most of us but for a season. How sadly our dearest friends divide and scatter, or more sadly we outlast their affection. For the bitterest losses and withdrawals of life there is no final or sufficient solution. We can but accept them in blind faith which falls back on the Inscrutable Will. The Lord hath taken away is “the last word that can be said. Nothing can go beyond it, and at times it is the only ground which we feel does not shake under our feet.” The Lord Himself is left. And in the hour of our utmost desolation it is He who whispers, “I am thy Youth, and thy Health, and thy Opportunity, and thy Success, and thy Consolation. I am thy Friend and thy Shield, and the whole inward nature lies parched and barren, when impulse flags and sickens, and desire grows languid, and the fountain of love seems shrunken and low. The holiest and most mysterious gifts of God--the touch of His awful presence, the solemn rapture of His communion, the clasp and embrace of His love--they are not with us always. When we say, The Lord gave, sometimes we must say also, The Lord hath taken away. Too many Christians fret and perplex and blame themselves when they sink below the high-water mark of some former experience of the Divine bounty. Yet from the nature of the case that must needs be. No pilgrim to Jerusalem may linger on the shining Mount of Transfiguration. It may be that our Lord’s warning against treasures on earth applies to the hoarding up even of spiritual experiences and emotions. The apostle’s word that we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can carry nothing out, may prove true at last concerning those inward possessions which even the saints have prided themselves on, and clung to and trusted in. God will bring our very faith to the bare simplicity of childhood, so that we may repose not in our creed, not in our fidelity, but in Himself alone. And thus it comes to pass with the Christian who has suffered the loss of all things, that he gathers grace to bless God even out of that very nakedness to which God has reduced his spirit. Yet the ultimate truth stands sure, that the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. He cannot tantalise His children with a mere loan of blessings which they must so soon lament. What He grants once He never reclaims absolutely and forever. When we confess that we look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come, we affirm more than bare immortality. We mean that the life to come shall realise and make perfect all that this life has come short of, and failed at, and left undone. Heaven for a Christian is the home prepared for his lost causes and unfinished labours and impossible loyalties. Christ Himself has taken charge of all our dead hopes, our ruined plans, our buried joys, our vanished years, our broken dreams. He has laid them away safe in His holy sepulchre. So the resurrection of the dead shall include the blossoming again of every fair thing that has faded and withered out of our hearts. The world to come shall renew all the fulness and glow and passion of existence which this world half bestowed and then extinguished. The time-worn disciple can feel at last detached and disengaged from everything save the Father’s perfect will. God has taken away so much from him that he has now so many hostages in Paradise. One after another his treasures have been lifted into heavenly places, until his heart is only waiting for the call to follow and regain them there. (T. H. Darlow, M. A.)
God giving and taking
All heaven must have kept holiday when this calm, intelligent, and believing utterance was made. Over against Cicero, with his culture, philosophy, and eloquence, when mourning as those who have no hope in the decease of a beloved daughter, may we gladly set the Chaldean patriarch who, in the deprivation of health, wealth, and children; in the swerving counsel of an uncongenial wife; in the oil of vitriol which self-righteous friends poured into his gaping wounds, could still honour God and possess his soul in patience. Successive inundations, which would have swept others into hell, only raised this grand old hero on their mountain billows to higher altitudes of faith, self-conquest, and endurance.
I. The nature of Christian resignation.
1. Implies belief in a wise and loving Providence.
2. Contentment with our allotments.
3. Calm yielding to the will of God. No retaliation, no resistance, and no flight, like Adam or Jonah, is attempted.
4. Deep sense of our mercies God leaves more than He takes. Lot’s property lost, yet family spared; himself saved. If Isaac must die, yet Ishmael lives. If Joseph is devoured, Benjamin and the other sons survive.
5. A strong confidence in God. “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”
II. The manner in which it is shown.
1. It is sincere (31).
2. It is cheerful (Job 2:10).
3. It is immediate (Job 1:20).
4. It is constant (Job 42:7-8).
III. Proofs of its reasonableness.
1. Perfections of God require it (Isaiah 40:26-31).
2. The Word of God demands it (James 5:11).
3. The honour of religion closely related to it (1 Peter 2:20).
4. The example of Christ sanctions it (Hebrews 12:3).
5. Our present and future felicity depends on it (1 Peter 5:10). (Homiletic Review.)
Submission to bereaving providences
The affliction and the patience of Job are set before us as an example, and there is scarcely any case that can occur but something in his complicated trials will be found to correspond to it. His afflictions were sent, not so much in consequence of any particular sin, as for the trial of his faith. However painful any affliction may be, while we are exercised by it, yet when it is over we often perceive that all was wise and good; at least, we see it so in others. In Job’s trials, a particular, God was glorified, Satan confounded, and the sufferer comes forth as gold. That which supported him under all was the power of religion, the value of which is never more known than in the day of adversity. This is the armour of God, which enables us to stand in the evil day; and having done all, to stand.
I. The spirit of submission under bereaving providences exemplified in the conduct of Job. There are several particulars in this case which serve to show the greatness and severity of Job’s affliction, and the aboundings of the grace of God towards him, which enabled him to endure it all with so much meekness and submission.
1. The degree of his afflictions. The objects taken away were more than were left, and seemed to leave him nothing to comfort him.
2. His trouble came upon him suddenly and unexpectedly, and completely reversed his former circumstances. It was all in one day, and that a day of feasting too, when everything appeared promising around him. Prosperity and adversity are like two opposite climates: men can live in almost any temperature, if but inured to it; but sudden reverses are insupportable. Hence it is we feel most for those who have seen better days when they fall into poverty and want.
3. Though Job was eminently pious, it is doubtful whether his children were so in any degree, and this would render the bereavement far more severe.
4. His submission also appears in a holy moderation which attended his griefs. A man of no religion would have been distracted, or have sunk in sullen despair. A heathen would have cursed his gods, and perhaps have committed suicide, being filled with rage and disappointment.
5. Amidst all his sorrow and distress he preserves a holy resolution to think well of God, and even blesses His holy name.
II. The principles on which Job’s submission was evidently founded. There is the patience of despair, and a submission to fate; but Job’s was of a very different description.
1. He considers all that befell him as God’s doing, and this calms and quiets his spirit.
2. He recollects that all he had was from the hand of God; that it was merely a gift, or rather lent for a time, to be employed for His glory.
3. He feels thankful that they were once given him to enjoy, though now they are taken from him. We may see reason to bless God that ever we had property or children or friends to enjoy, and that we possessed any of them so long as we did; though now, by the will of providence, we are deprived of them all.
4. Even when bereaved of every earthly comfort, he considers God as worthy of his gratitude and adoration. Job could bless the hand that took away, as well as the hand that gave; and this must have been a special act of faith. Reflections--
(1) How wise and how heedful to choose the better part, which shall never be taken from us.
(2) Afflictions, if not sanctified, will only tend to aggravate our guilt.
(3) The example of Job teaches us that a spirit of despondency and discontent in a time of trial is utterly inconsistent with true religion.
(4) While we admire the patience of Job, we cannot but abhor the unfeeling conduct of his friends. (J. Haman.)
This sentence is one of the pillars of Christian ethics, and represents one of the highest attainments taught by God’s revelation. If Job had said nothing else, this verse is sufficient to stamp him as one of the greatest of moral philosophers.
I. The facts here stated.
1. “The Lord gave.” Everything came from Him. He gave us life at first. He gives us every breath we draw, every meal we eat, every friend we value, every relative we love.
2. “The Lord taketh away.” It is practical infidelity to look upon our losses in any other light than we regard our gifts. He gives and He takes away the gift. And He has the right to do so.
II. The sentiment implied. It is this inward sentiment that makes the aphorism so precious and valued. The undercurrent which gives life to the dead body is resignation to the Divine will. This is what Job manifested, and it is the proper course for us.
1. It is a natural course. What He does is done in wisdom. Hence acquiescence is the proper and natural feeling to be displayed.
2. It is a wise course. To murmur and complain at trials is a source of still greater misery and unhappiness. Resignation, like the honey in the lion’s carcase, will bring us comfort in our sorrow. It promotes the highest Christian graces. It tranquillises the disturbed passions and calms the troubled soul. The highest form of resignation is that brought before us in the text--a feeling which will not only submit, but will bless the gracious hand that deals the blow, knowing that the blow is only dealt in love. (Homilist.)
Submission with praise to God on the death of hopeful children
I. Show what we are to understand by blessing God’s name at such times.
1. It does not exclude a becoming grief at the loss of near and dear relatives.
2. It supposes that we are far from thinking, and much further from speaking, hardly of God.
3. We are not to bless God for such strokes, in themselves considered. They may be called evils, as sin is the occasion or procuring cause of them.
4. We should bless God at such times, because we may be assured, if we are true believers, that He designs to do us good thereby, though we at present, perhaps, cannot see how.
II. Demonstrate the truth of the proposition. Or make it appear that it is our duty to bless God, not only when He gives, but also when He takes away. Most, I fear, are not so thankful as they ought to be for the favours which they daily receive from God. All are too apt to “forget His benefits.” It is God who both gives and takes away. And He is infinite in all perfections. Therefore He must know what is fittest to be done. God only takes what He freely gave, or rather lent us. He never told us we should always enjoy our relations, or that He would not call for them. If our deceased relations were truly religious, or made partakers of saving grace, God hath taken them out of a sinful, troublesome world, and at the time which He thought best. And though God hath taken them from us, He hath taken them to Himself.
III. The application.
1. Nothing is by chance.
2. How unbecoming to murmur against God.
3. How miserable must they be who do not eye the providence of God in their affections.
4. What an excellent thing is grace.
5. Let us be weaned from earthly friends.
6. This may reconcile us to the death of godly relations. (Joseph Pitts.)
Praise for resignation
Dr. Pierson says, concerning a German pastor, Benjamin Schmolke, that a fire raged over his parish and laid in ruins his church and the homes of his people. Then God’s angel of death took wife and children, and only graves were left, then disease smote him, and laid him prostrate, then blindness took the light of his eyes away; and under all this avalanche of ills Schmolke dictated the sweet hymn beginning with the verse--
“My Jesus, as Thou wilt!
Oh, may Thy will be mine;
Into Thy hand of love
My all I would resign.”
Music from the heart
“Blessed be the name of the Lord.” God is a wonderful organist, who knows just what heart chord to strike (says a famous preacher). In the Black Forest of Germany a baron built a castle with two lofty towers. From one tower to the other he stretched several wires, which in calm weather were motionless and silent. When the wind began to blow the wires began to play like an AEolian harp in the window. As the wind rose into a fierce gale, the old baron sat in his castle and heard his mighty hurricane harp playing grandly over the battlements. So, while the weather is calm and the skies clear, a great many of the emotions of a Christian’s heart are silent. As soon as the wind of adversity smites the chords the heart begins to play, and when God sends a hurricane of terrible trial you will hear strains of submission and faith, and even of sublime confidence and holy exultation, which we never could have heard in the calm hours of prosperity.
In everything give thanks
There are bitter mercies and sweet mercies; some mercies God gives in wine, some in wormwood. Now, we must praise God for the bitter mercies as well as the sweet: thus Job, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” Too many are prone to think nothing is a mercy that is not sweet in the going down, and leaves not a pleasant farewell on their palate, but this is the childishness of our spirits, which, as grace grows more manly and the Christian more judicious, will wear off. Who that understands himself will value a book by the gilt on the cover? Truly, none of our temporals (whether crosses or enjoyments) considered in themselves, are either a curse or a mercy. They are only as the covering to the book; it is what is writ in them that must decide whether they be a mercy or not. Is it an affliction that lies on thee? If thou canst find it comes from love, and ends in grace and holiness, it is a mercy, though it be bitter to thy taste. Is it an enjoyment? If love doth not send it and grace end it, it is a curse though sweet to thy sense. There are sweet poisons as well as bitter cordials. (W. Gurnall.)
In all this Job sinned not.
“In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.”
I. Consider the nature of pious resignation to the will of God, in His afflictive dispensations towards us, as represented in what Job did upon the present occasion. The greatest favourites of heaven are often the subjects of the severest afflictions. Not only is affliction the common lot of all men, but adversity may be a greater token of the Divine favour and love than prosperity itself. Of Job it is said, “he arose”; that is, he did not sink under his afflictions so as to forget himself. He rose from his seat with all the dignity of true religion and heavenly composure of mind. He “rent his mantle.” An outward sign, in Eastern countries, of great distress, or of indignation. Thus Job testified the greatness of his sorrow and the depths of his humiliation as a sinful creature. “Shaved his head,” another expression of uncommon distress. “Tell down upon the ground,” bowing lowly and prostrate before the Majesty of heaven, with entire submission to the Divine will. “And worshipped,” not in appearance only, but in heart. So we see that pious resignation does not consist in the stupid insensibility of the hard hearted, nor in the monkish apathy of the Stoic; for there is neither virtue nor grace in bearing what we do not feel; and no chastening is for the present joyous, but grievous. People may suffer very much under their afflictions, and feel them very deeply, and be resigned to the will of God at the same time. Neither is an earnest desire to have our affliction removed inconsistent with the nature of holy submission. We may weep and mourn, and betray our inward distress by our outward emotions and conduct, and still be unfeignedly submissive to the will of God. External agitations are, in some cases, the almost unavoidable effect of strong natural affections. Insensibility, so far from being the ornament, is the disgrace of human nature.
II. A peculiar privilege of God’s people under His afflicting hand, which is exhibited to us in what Job said. “Naked came!” etc. Here is an interpretation of the true state of his mind, as evidential of a most excellent frame of heart. It is recorded to teach us what is our duty as creatures, and what is our privilege as Christians, if indeed we be partakers of the saving grace of God. Every good thing we have is the undeserved gift of God, to be received with gratitude, thanksgiving, and love, and to be sanctified by the Word of God and prayer. It is not only our duty to justify the Lord in all His afflictive dispensations towards us; it is our privilege to praise God for them, and even bless Him for our afflictions. They will then prove unspeakable blessings to us.
III. A testimony by the Holy Ghost himself concerning the great excellency of patient resignation. “In all this,” etc. In all the behaviour of this servant of the Lord he acted not only like a man, but like a wise man, and like a holy man, a man of God. It was not his natural fortitude and courage, nor the strength of reason and argument that supported him, but the superior power of faith in. God, the nobler principle of Divine grace. He did not utter a repining word, entertain a hard thought, nor discover a fretful and impatient spirit. He neither arraigned the justice nor indicted the goodness of God, but acknowledged his own unworthiness and the Divine Sovereignty; confessed his obligations to his great Benefactor, and His undisputable right to do what He would with His own. Remember, then, that the Lord doth not willingly grieve nor afflict the children of men. Afflictions are always dealt out in number, weight, and measure. When the end in view is answered they will be removed. We should be more anxious to have our afflictions sanctified than taken away. Beware of the evil of impatience, murmuring, and discontent. Why should a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins? (C. de Coetlogon.)
Charging God foolishly
The two opposite states of prosperity and adversity equally require our vigilance and caution; each of them is a state of conflict, in which nothing but unwearied resistance can preserve us from being overcome. There is no crime more incident to those whose life is embittered with calamities, and whom afflictions have reduced to gloominess and melancholy, than that of repining at the determinations of Providence, or of “charging God foolishly.” They are often tempted to unseemly inquiries into the reasons of His dispensations, and to expostulations about the justice of that sentence which condemned them to their present sufferings. They consider the lives of those whom they account happier than themselves with an eye of malice and suspicion, and if they find them no better than their own, think themselves almost justified in murmuring at their own state. The unreasonableness of this may be seen by--
I. Considering the attributes of God. Many of the errors of mankind, both in opinion and practice, arise originally from mistaken notions of the Divine Being. It is frequently observed in common life, that some favourite notion or inclination, long indulged, takes such an entire possession of a man’s mind, and so engrosses his faculties, as to mingle thoughts perhaps he is not himself conscious of with almost all his conceptions, and influence his whole behaviour. The two great attributes of our Sovereign Creator which seem most likely to influence our lives are His justice and His mercy. The justice of God will not permit Him to afflict any man without cause. Whether we suppose ourselves to suffer for the sake of punishment or probation, it is not easy to discover with what right we repine. If our pains and labours be only preparatory to unbounded felicity we ought to rejoice and be exceeding glad, and to glorify the goodness of God, who, by uniting us in the sufferings with saints and martyrs, will join us also in our reward. Since God is just, a man may be sure that there is a reason for his misery, and it will be generally found in his own corruption. He will therefore, instead of murmuring at God, begin to examine himself, and when he has found the depravity of his own manners it is more likely that he will admire the mercy than complain of the severity of his Judge. Then we may think of God not only as Governor, but as Father of the universe, a Being infinitely gracious, whose punishments are not inflicted to gratify any passion of anger or revenge, but to awaken us from the lethargy of sin, and to recall us from the paths of destruction. A constant conviction of the mercy of God firmly implanted in our minds will, upon the first attack of any calamity, easily induce us to reflect that it is permitted by God to fall upon us, lest we should be too much enamoured by our present state, and neglect to extend our prospects into eternity. Thus by familiarising to our minds the attributes of God we shall, in a great measure, secure ourselves against any temptation to repine at His arrangements, but shall probably still more strengthen our resolution and confirm our piety by reflecting.
II. By reflecting on the ignorance of man. It is by comparing ourselves with others that we often make an estimate of our own happiness, and even sometimes of our virtue. He that has more than he deserves is not to murmur merely because he has less than another. When we judge so confidently of others we deceive ourselves, we admit conjectures for certainties, and chimeras for realities. No man can say that he is better than another, because no man can tell how far the other Was enabled to resist temptation, or what incidents might concur to overthrow his virtue. Let everyone, then, whom God shall visit with affliction humble himself before Him with steady confidence in His mercy, and unfeigned submission to His justice. Let him remember that his sins are the cause of his miseries, and apply himself seriously to the great work of self-examination and repentance. (S. Johnson, LL. D.)
Job’s first victory
They are indeed conquerors under trouble who are kept free from sin and provocation in their hour of trial. For this was Job’s victory, that in all this Job sinned not. Albeit troubles do suggest temptations to many sins; yet the great sin to be avoided by the godly under trouble is, misconstructing of God and His dealing. Misconstructions of God do both reflect upon the infinite wisdom and deep counsels of God in ordering the lots of His people. And they also do proclaim their own folly, in their want of skill to judge aright of God’s proceeding, and in following a course which may well vex themselves, but cannot profit them at all. Whatever advantage saints do give to Satan over themselves in an hour of trial, yet by the power of grace they may be enabled so to walk as may refute all his calumnies of them, and make him a liar; even as God in the issue will, once for all, wipe off all the aspersions which Satan casts upon His followers. As God doth always take notice of His people’s carriage so especially under trouble; and whoever so keep their feet in time of trial, they are observed and commended by God. Saints ought not to measure God’s approbation of their way under trouble by any present comfortable issue; seeing the Lord may take notice of and commend the integrity of those whom yet He seeth is not fit to deliver: for Job is here commended, while the trial is not only continued, but growing upon him. (George Hutcheson.)
Patient Job and the baffled enemy
That is to say, in all this trial, and under all this temptation, Job kept right with God. During all the losses of his estate, and the deaths of his children, he did not speak in an unworthy manner. The text speaks admiringly of “all this”; and a great “all” it was. Some of you are in troubles many; but what are they compared with those of Job? Your afflictions are molehills contrasted with the Alps of the patriarch’s grief. Ah, if God could uphold Job in all this, you may be sure that He can support you. “All this” also alludes to all that Job did, and thought, and said. If in patience he can possess his soul when all the arrows of affliction are wounding him, he is a man indeed. May we ourselves so live that it may be said of us in the end, “In all this he sinned not. He swam through a sea of trouble.”
I. In all our affairs the main thing is, not to sin. It is not said, “In all this Job was never spoken against,” for he was spoken against by Satan in the presence of himself; and very soon he was falsely accused by men who should have comforted him. You must not expect that you will pass through this world, and have it said of you in the end, “In all this no one ever spoke against him.” Those who secure zealous lovers are pretty sure to call forth intense adversaries. The trimmer may dodge through the world without much censure; but it will seldom be so with an out-and-out man of God. Neither is it a chief point for us to seek to go through life without suffering, since the Lord’s servants, the best of them, are ripened and mellowed by suffering. Remember, if the grace of God prevents our affliction from driving us into sin, then Satan is defeated. Satan did not care what Job suffered, so long as he could but hope to make him sin; and he was foiled when he did not sin. If you conquer him in your hour of grief, you conquer indeed. If you do not sin while under the stress of heavy trouble, God will be honoured. He is not so much glorified by preserving you from trouble, as by upholding you in trouble. He allows you to be tried that His grace in you may be tested and glorified. Remember, furthermore, that if you do not sin, you yourself will be no loser by all your tribulations. Sin alone can injure you; but if you remain steadfast, though you are stripped, you will be clothed with glory; though you are deprived of comfort, you will lose no real blessing. True, it may not seem a pleasant thing to be stripped, and yet if one is soon going to bed, it is of no great consequence.
II. In all time of trial there is special fear of our sinning. It is well for the child of God to remember that the hour of darkness is an hour of danger. Suffering is fruitful soil for certain forms of sin. Hence it was needful for the Holy Spirit to give a testimony to Job that, “In all this he sinned not.”
1. For instance, we are apt to grow impatient.
2. We are even tempted to rebellion against God.
3. We may also sin by despair. An afflicted on said, I shall never look up again. I shall go mourning all my days.” Come, if you are as poor as Job, be as patient as Job, and you will find hope ever shining like a star which never sets.
4. Many sin by unbelieving speeches.
5. Men have been driven into a kind of atheism by successive troubles. They have wickedly argued--“There cannot be a God, or He would not let me suffer so.”
III. In acts of mourning we need not sin. Hearken: you are allowed to weep. You are allowed to show that you suffer by your losses. See what Job did. “Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped”; and “in all this Job sinned not.” The husband lamented sorely when his beloved was taken from him. He was right. I should have thought far less of him if he had not done so. “Jesus wept.” But there is a measure in the expression of grief. Job was not wrong in rending his garment: he might have been wrong if he had torn it into shreds. Do not restrain the boiling floods. A flood of tears without may assuage the deluge of grief within. Job’s acts of mourning were moderate and seemly--toned down by his faith. Job’s words also, though very strong, were very true: “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither.” Job mourned, and yet did not sin; for he mourned, and worshipped as he mourned. Remember, then, that in acts of mourning there is not, of necessity, any sin.
IV. In charging God foolishly we sin greatly. “Job sinned not,” and the phrase which explains it is, “nor charged God foolishly.”
I. Here let me say that to call God to our judgment seat at all is a high crime and misdemeanour. “Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God?”
2. In the next place, we sin in requiring that we should understand God. What? Is God under bonds to explain Himself to us?
3. We charge God foolishly when we imagine that He is unjust. “Ah!” said one, “when I was a worldling I prospered; but ever since I have been a Christian I have endured no end of losses and troubles.” Do you mean to insinuate that the Lord does not treat you justly? Think a minute, and stand corrected. If the Lord were to deal with you according to strict justice, where would you be?
4. Some, however, will bring foolish charges against His love.
5. Alas! at times, unbelief charges God foolishly with reference to His power. We think that He cannot help us in some peculiar trial.
6. We may be so foolish as to doubt His wisdom. If He be All-wise, how can He suffer us to be in such straits, and to sink so low as we do? What folly is this I Who art thou, that thou wouldst measure the wisdom of God?
V. To come through great trial without sin is the honour of the saints. There is no glory in being a feather-bed soldier, a man bedecked with gorgeous regimentals, but never beautified by a sear, or ennobled by a wound. All that you ever hear of such a soldier is that his spurs jingle on the pavement as he walks. There is no history for this carpet knight. He never smelt gunpowder in his life; or if he did, he fetched out his scent bottle to kill the offensive odour. Well, that will not make much show in the story of the nations. If we could have our choice, and we were as wise as the Lord Himself, we should choose the troubles which He has appointed us, and we should not spare ourselves a single pang. Who wants to paddle about a duck pond all his life? Nay, Lord, if Thou wilt bid me go upon the waters, let me launch out into the deep. The honour of a Christian, or, let me say, the honour of God’s grace in a Christian, is when we have so acted that we have obeyed in detail, not forgetting any point of duty. “In all this Job sinned not” neither in what he thought, or said, or did; nor even in what he did not say, and did not do: I feel that I must add just this. As I read the verse through, it looked too dry for me, and so I wetted it with a tear. “In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly”; and yet I, who have suffered so little, have often sinned, and, I fear, in times of anguish, have charged God foolishly. Is not this true of some of you? (C. H. Spurgeon.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Job 1". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany