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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Job 1". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ job-1.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Job 1". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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The "Historical Introduction" to Job extends to two chapters. In the first we are given an account, firstly, of his outward circumstances—his abode, wealth, family, etc; and of his character (Job 1:1-5); secondly, of the circumstances under which God allowed him to be tried by afflictions (Job 1:6-12); thirdly, of the earlier afflictions themselves (Job 1:13-19); and, fourthly, of his behaviour under them (Job 1:20-22). The second chapter gives, firstly, the ground of his further trial (Job 2:1-6); secondly, the nature of it, and his behaviour under it (Job 2:7-10); and thirdly, the coming of his three friends to him, and their behaviour (Job 2:11-13). The narrative is characterized by remarkable simplicity and directness. It has a decided air of antiquity about it, and presents but few linguistic difficulties.
There was a man. This opening presents to us the Book of Job as a detached work, separate from and independent of all others. The historical books are generally united each to each by the you connective. In the land of Us. Uz, or Huz (Hebrew, עוּץ), seems to have been originally, like Judah, Moab, Ammon, Edom, etc; the name of a man. It was borne by a son of Nahor, the brother of Abraham (Genesis 22:21), and again by a son of Dishan, the son of Seir the Horite (Genesis 36:28). Some regard it as also a personal name in Genesis 10:23. But from this use it passed to the descendants of one or more of these patriarchs, and from them to the country or countries which they inhabited. The "land of Uz" is spoken of, not only in this passage, but also in Jeremiah 25:20 and Lamentations 4:21. These last-cited places seem to show that Jeremiah's "land of Uz" was in or near Edom, and therefore south of Palestine; but as Uzzites, like so many nations of these ports, were migratory, we need not be surprised if the name Uz was, at different times, attached to various localities. Arabian tradition regards the region of the Hauran, north-east of Palestine, as Job's country. The other geographical names in the Book of Job point to a more eastern location, one not far remote from the southern Euphrates, and the adjacent parts of Arabia Sheba, Dedan, Teman, Buz, Shuah, and Chesed (Casdim) all point to this locality. On the other hand, there is a passage in the inscriptions of Asshur-banipal which, associating together the names of Huz and Buz (Khazu and Bazu), appears to place them both in Central Arabia, not far from the Jebel Shnmmar. My own conclusion would be that, while the name "land of Uz" designated at various periods various localities, Job's "land of Uz" lay a little west of the Lower Euphrates, on the borders of Chaldea and Arabia. Whose name was Job. In the Hebrew the name is "Iyyob," whence the "Eyoub" of the Arabs and the "Hiob" of the Germans. It is quite a distinct name from that of the third son of Issachar (Genesis 46:18), which is properly expressed by "Job," being יוֹב. Iyyob is supposed to be derived from aib (אָיִב), "to be hostile," and to mean "cruelly or hostilely treated," in which ease we must suppose it to have been first given to the patriarch in his later life, and to have superseded some other, as "Peter" superseded "Simon," and "Paul" superseded "Saul." According to a Jewish tradition, adopted by some of the Christian Fathers, Job's original name was "Jobab," and under this name he reigned as King of Edom (Genesis 36:33). But this kingship is scarcely compatible with the view given of him in the Book of Job. The supposed connection of the name of Juba with that of Job is very doubtful. And that man was perfect. Tam (תָּם), the word translated "perfect," seems to mean "complete, entire, not wanting in any respect," It corresponds to the Greek τέλειος, and the Latin integer (comp. Horace, 'Od.,' 1.22. 1, "Integer vitro, scelerisque purus'). It does not mean" absolutely sinless," which Job was not (comp. Job 9:20; Job 40:4). And upright. This is the exact meaning of yashar (יָשָׁר). "The Book of Jasher" was "the Book of the Upright" (βιβλίον τοῦ εὐθοῦς, 2 Samuel 1:18). One that feared God, and eschewed evil; literally, fearing God and departing from evil. The same testimony is given of Job by God himself in verse 8, and again in Job 2:3 (comp. also Ezekiel 14:14, Ezekiel 14:20). We must suppose Job to have reached as near perfection as was possible tot man at the time.
And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters. The numbers three and seven, and their product, ten, are certainly sacred numbers, regarded as expressive of ideal perfection. But this does not prevent their being also historical. As Canon Cook observes, "Striking coincidences between outward facts and ideal numbers are not uncommon in the purely historical portions of Scripture". There are twelve apostles, seventy (7 × 10) disciples sent out by our Lord, seven deacons, three synoptic Gospels, twelve minor prophets, seven princes of Persia and Media, ten sons of Haman, three of Noah, Gomer, Terah, Levi, and Zeruiah, seven of Japhet, Mizraim, Seir the Horite, Gad, and Jesse (1 Chronicles 2:13-15), twelve of Ishmael, twelve of Jacob, etc. Our Lord is thirty (3 x 10) years old when he begins to teach, and his ministry lasts three years; he heals seven lepers, casts out of Mary Magdalene seven devils, speaks upon the cross seven "words," bids Peter forgive his brother "seventy times seven," etc. It is thus not only in vision or in prophecy, or in symbolical language, that these "ideal numbers" come to the front far more frequently than ethers, but also in the most matter-of-fact histories.
His substance also; literally, his acquisition (from קָנָה, acquirere), but used of wealth generally. Seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she-asses. Note, first of all, the absence of horses or mules from this list—an indication of high antiquity. Horses were not known in Egypt till the time of the shepherd-kings, who introduced them from Asia. None are given to Abraham by the Pharaoh contemporary with him (Genesis 12:16). We hear of none as possessed by the patriarchs in Palestine; and, on the whole, it is not probable that they had been known in Western Asia very long before their introduction into Egypt. They are natives of Central Asia, where they are still found wild, and passed gradually by exportation to the more southern regions, Armenia, Asia Minor, Syria, Palestine, Arabia. Note, secondly, that the items of Job's wealth accord with those of Abraham's (Genesis 12:16). Thirdly, note that Job's wealth in cattle is not beyond credibility. An Egyptian lord of the time of the fourth dynasty relates that he possessed above 1000 oxen and cows, 974 sheep, 2,235 goals, and 760 asses. Further, the proportion of the camels is noticeable, and implies a residence on the borders of the desert (see the comment on verse 1). and a very great household; literally, and a very great service, or retinue of servants. Oriental emirs and sheikhs consider it necessary for their dignity to maintain a number of attendants and retainers (except, perhaps, in feudal times) quite unknown to the West. Abraham had three hundred and eighteen trained servants, born in his house (Genesis 14:14). Egyptian households were "full of domestics," comprising attendants of all kinds—grooms, artisans, clerks, musicians, messengers, and the like. A sheikh, situated as Job was, would also require a certain number of guards, while for his cattle he would need a large body of shepherds, ox-herds, and the like. So that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east. The Beney Kedem, or "men of the east," literally, sons of the east, seems to include the entire population between Palestine and the Euphrates (Genesis 29:1; Judges 6:3; Judges 7:12; Judges 8:10; Isaiah 11:14; Jeremiah 49:28, etc.). Many tribes of Arabs are similarly designated at the present day, e.g. the Beni Harb, the Beni Suhr, the Bani Naim, the Bani Lain, etc. It would seem that the Phoenicians must have called themselves Beni Kedem when they settled in Greece, since the Greeks knew them as "Cadmeisns," and made them descendants of a mythic "Cadreus' (Herod; 5.57-59). The name "Saracens" is to some extent analogous, since it means "Men of the morning."
And his sons went and feasted. "Went and feasted" seems to mean "were in the habit of feastlng" (Rosenmuller, Lee). In their houses. Each had his own residence, and the residence was not a tent, but a" house." Job and his sons were not mere nomads, but belonged to the settled population. The same is implied by the "ploughing of the oxen" (verse 14), and indeed by Job's "yoke of oxen" in verse 3. Every one his day. Most commentators regard these feasts as birthday festivities. Each son in his turn, when his birthday arrived, entertained his six brothers. Others think that each of the seven brothers had his own special day of the week on which, he received his brothers at his table, so that the feasting was continuous. But this scarcely suits the context. And it is admitted that "his day" (in Job 3:1) means "his birthday." The celebration of birthdays by means of a feast was a very widespread custom in the East. And sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them. This by itself is sufficient to show that the feasts were occasional, not continuous. Constant absence of daughters, day after day, from the parental board is inconceivable.
And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about; rather, when the days of the feasting had come round; i.e. whenever one of the birthdays had arrived in due course, and the feasting had taken place. That Job sent and sanctified them. In the old world, outside the Mosaic Law, the father of the family was the priest, to whom alone it belonged to bless, purify, and offer sacrifice. Job, after each birthday-feast, sent, it would seem, for his sons, and purified them by the accustomed ablutions, or possibly by some other ceremonial process, regarding it as probable that, in the course of their feasting, they had contracted some defilement. It would seem by the next clause that the purification took place at the close of the day of festivity. And rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings. Burnt offerings were instituted soon after the Fall, as we learn from Genesis 4:4, and were in common use long before the Mosaic Law was given. The practice was common, so far as appears, to all the nations of antiquity, except the Persians (Herod; 1:132). According to the number of them all One, apparently, for each child, since each might have sinned in the way suggested. The offerings were clearly it. tended as expiatory. For Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts. Two wholly different meanings are assigned by good Hebraists to the expression ברך אחים. According to some, ברך has its usual sense, "to bless," and אלהים signifies "false gods," or "idols;" according to the others, who form the great majority, אלהים has its usual sense of "God," and ברך has the unusual sense of "curse". How the same word comes to have the two wholly opposite senses of "to bless" and "to curse" has been differently explained. Some think that, as men blessed their friends both on receiving them and on bidding them adieu, the word ברך got the sense of "bidding adieu to," "dismissing," "renouncing." Others regard the use of ברך for "to curse" as a mere euphemism, and compare the use of sacer and sacrari in Latin, and such expressions as "Bless the stupid man!" "What a blessed nuisance!" in English. The maledictory sense seems to be established by Job 2:9 and 1 Kings 21:10. By "cursing God in their hearts" Job probably means "forgetting him," "putting him out of sight," "not giving him the honour which is his due." Thus did Job continually; literally, as in the margin, all the days; i.e. whenever one of the festival-days occurred.
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord. By "the sons of God" it is generally admitted that, in this place, the angels are meant (so again in Job 38:7). The meaning of the phrase is probably different in Genesis 6:2. Angels and men are alike "sons of God," as created by him, in his image, to obey and serve him. Christ, the "Only Begotten," is his Son in quite a different sense. We may gather, perhaps, from this place and Job 2:1 that there are fixed times at which the angelic host, often sent out by the Almighty on distant errands, has to gather together, one and all, before the great white throne, to pay homage to their Lord, and probably to give an account of their doings. And Satan came also among them. The word "Satan" has the article prefixed to it השׂתן here and elsewhere in Job, as in Zechariah 3:1, Zechariah 3:2 and in Luke 22:31; Revelation 12:9. Thus accompanied, it is less a proper name than an appellative—"the adversary". In 1 Chronicles 21:1, without the article, it is undoubtedly a proper name, as in the New Testament, passim. Accusation of men before God is one of the special offices of the evil spirit (see Zechariah 3:1, Zechariah 3:2), who is "the accuser of the brethren, he that accuses them before God day and night" (Revelation 12:10). The accusations that he makes may be either true or false, but they are so often false that his ordinary New Testament name is ὁ διάβολος, "the Slanderer." The existence of an evil spirit must have been known to all who read or heard the story of the fall of man (Genesis 3:1-24.), and the descriptive epithet, "the Adversary," is likely to have been in use from a very early date. The notion that the Satan of the Old Testament is a reflex of the Persian Ahriman, and that the Jews derived their belief upon the subject from the Persians, is quite untenable. The character and position of Satan in the Hebrew system are quite unlike those of Ahriman (Angro-mainyus) in the religion of the Zoroastrians.
And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? God condescends to address the evil spirit, and asks him questions—not that anything could be added to his own knowledge, but that the angels, who were present (Job 1:6), might hear and have their attention called to the doings of Satan, which would need to be watched by them, and sometimes to be restrained or prevented. Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. Satan, therefore, is not himself, like the bulk of his evil angels, "reserved in everlasting chains under darkness to the judgment of the last day" (Jude 1:6). He searches the whole earth continually, never passing, never resting, but "going about," as St. Peter says (1 Peter 5:8), "like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour," waiting till the coming of the "thousand years," when an angel will "bind him with a great chain, and cast him into the bottom-less pit" (Revelation 20:1, Revelation 20:2). It will be a happy day for the earth when that time comes.
And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered? literally. Hast thou set thine heart on? equivalent to "Hast thou given thine attention to?" (comp. Isaiah 41:22; Haggai 1:5, Haggai 1:7). My servant Job; i.e. "my true servant, faithful in all that he does" (comp. Hebrews 3:5). It is a high honour to any man for God to acknowledge him as his servant (see Joshua 1:2; 1 Kings 11:13, etc.). That there is none like him in the earth; rather, for there is none like him (see the Revised Version). This is given as a reason why Satan should have paid special attention to his case, and is a sort of challenge: "Thou that art always spying out some defect or other in a righteous man, hast thou noted my servant Job, and discovered any fault in him?" A perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil (see the comment on verse 1).
Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Satan insinuates that Job's motive is purely selfish. He serves God, not for love of God, or for love of goodness, but for what he gets by it. Satan is too shrewd to endeavour, as Job's friends do later, to pick holes in Job's conduct. No; that is exemplary. But the true character of acts is determined by the motive. What is Job's motive? Does he not serve God to gain his protection and blessing? Similarly, in modem times, ungodly men argue that religious and devout persons are religious and devout with a view to their own interest, because they expect to gain by it, either in this world, or in the next, or in both. This is a form of calumny which it is impossible to escape. And bad men, who are conscious to themselves of never acting except from a selfish motive, may well imagine the same of others. It is rarely that such an insinuation can be disproved. In the present instance God vindicates his servant, and covers the adversary with shame, as the other adversaries and calumniators of righteousness will be covered at the last day.
Hast not thou made an hedge about him? i.e. "hedged him around, protected him, made a sort of invisible fence about him, through which no evil could creep." This was undoubtedly true. God had so protected him. But the question was not as to this fact, but as to Job's motive. Was it mere prudence?—tile desire to secure a continuance of this protection? And about his house; i.e. "his family"—his sons and daughters—the members of his household. And about all that he hath on every side. His possessions—land, houses, cattle, live stock of all kinds, furniture, goods and chattels. Thou hast blessed the work of his hands (comp. Psalms 1:3, where it is said of the righteous man. that "whatsoever he doeth, it shall prosper"). So it was with Job. God's blessing was upon him, and success crowned all his enterprises. "The work of his hands" will include everything that he attempted. And his substance is increased in the land. In the former clause we have the cause, God's blessing; in the latter the effect, a great increase in Job's "substance," or "cattle" (marginal reading). (On the final number of his cattle, see verse 3.)
But put forth thine hand now; literally, send forth thy hand, as a man does who strikes a blow (comp. Genesis 22:12; Exodus 3:20; Exodus 9:15, etc.). And touch all that he hath; or, smite all that he hath; i.e. ruin him, strip him of his possessions. And he will curse thee to thy face. Professor Lee translates, "If not, he will bless thee to thy face;" the LXX; "Surely he will bless thee to thy face;" Canon Cook, "See if he will not renounce thee openly." But the majority of Hebraists agree with the Authorized Version. Satan suggests that, if Job be stripped of his possessions, he will openly curse God, and renounce his worship. Here he did not so much calumniate, or lie, as show the evil thoughts that were in his own heart. No doubt he believed that Job would act as he said.
And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; literally, in thy hand, as in the margin. God withdraws his protection from Job's possessions; he does not himself take them away, as Satan had suggested (verse 11); but he allows Satan, who can do nothing without his allowance, to deal with them as he pleases. As God dispenses blessings through the angelic host (Psalms 91:11, Psalms 91:12; Hebrews 1:14), so he, sometimes at any rate, allows spirits of evil to be the ministers of his chastisements. Only upon himself put not forth thine hand. The person of Job was not to be touched as yet. He was to be injured only in his belongings. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord. Having obtained a permission which he thought would serve his purpose, Satan did not delay, but promptly departed, to take advantage of the permission given him. To be in the presence of God must be an intense pain to the evil one.
And there was a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house. One of the birthdays, the eldest brother's probably, had come round, and the ordinary gathering (see Job 1:4) had taken place—the feasting and drinking had begun, while the father, remaining in his own house, was perhaps interceding with God for his children, or anxiously considering the possibility that, in their light-hearted merriment, they might have put God away altogether from their thoughts, and So have practically renounced him, when the series of calamities began. How often calamity comes to us when we are least expecting it, when all seems quiet about us, when everything is prospering—nay, even when a high festival-time has come, and the joy-bells are sounding in our ears, and our 'hearts are elated within us! Job was, at any rate, spared the sudden plunge from exuberant joy into the depths of woe. It was his habit to preserve an even temper, and neither to be greatly exalted, nor, unless under an extremity of suffering, to be greatly depressed. He was now, however, about to be subjected to a fiery trial.
And there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were ploughing, and the asses (literally, the she-asses) feeding beside them (literally, at their hand). Note that, notwithstanding the festival, labour was still going on; there was no general holiday; the oxen were at work in the field, not perhaps all of them, but the greater number, for the ploughing-time is short in the Oriental countries, and the "earing" is all done at the same time. The bulk of Job's labourers were probably engaged in the business, and they had brought the asses with them, probably to keep them under their eye, lest thieves should carry them off, when the catastrophe related in the next verse occurred.
And the Sabeans (literally, Sheba) fell upon them, and took them away. The Sabeans were the principal people of Arabia in ancient times, and the name seems to be used sometimes in the general sense of "Arabs" (see Psalms 72:10, Psalms 72:15; Jeremiah 6:20). We may suppose that hem, either the general sense is intended, or, if the specific one, then that, at the date whereto the story of Job belongs, there were Sabeans in Eastern as well as in Southern Arabia, in the neighbourhood of the Upper Persian Gulf as well as in the neighbourhood of the Indian Ocean. The plundering habits of all the Arab tribes are well known. Strabo says that the Sabeans, even at the height of their prosperity, made excursions for the sake of plunder into Arabia Petraea and even Syria (Strab; 16.4) Yea, they have slain; rather, they slew, or they smote. The servants; literally, the young men; i.e. the labourers who were engaged in ploughing, and would be in duty bound to resist the carrying off of the cattle. With the edge of the sword. The lance is the chief weapon of the modern Bedouin, but it may have been different anciently. Or the expression used may merely mean "with weapons of war." And I only am escaped alone to tell thee. Professor Lee translates, "And I have hardly escaped alone to tell thee."
While he was yet speaking; literally, he yet speaking; ἔτι τούτον λαλοῦντος, LXX. The writer hurries his words to express the rapidity with which one announcement followed another (see Job 1:17, Job 1:18). There came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven. "The fire of God" is undoubtedly lightning (comp. Numbers 11:1-3; 2 Kings 1:10, 2 Kings 1:14; Psalms 78:21). This Satan, under permission, might wield, as being "the prince of the power of the air" (Ephesians 2:2): but there is, no doubt, something very extraordinary in a storm extending over the pastures occupied by nine thousand sheep, and destroying the whole of them (Cook) Still, it cannot be said that such a storm is impossible; and perhaps the damage done was not greater than that which followed on the seventh Egyptian plague (see Exodus 9:18-26). And hath burned up the sheep, and the servants; literally, the young men; i.e. the shepherds who were in attendance upon the sheep. And consumed them; literally, devoured them. Fire is often said to "devour" what it destroys. "The Egyptians," says Herodotus, "believe fire to be a live animal, which eats whatever it can seize, and then, glutted with the food, dies with the matter which it feeds upon" (Herod; 3.16). And I only am escaped alone to tell thee (see the comment on Job 1:15).
While he was yet speaking, there came also another (see the comment on Job 1:16). The exact repetition of a clause, without the alteration of a word or a letter, is very archaic (comp. Genesis 1:4, Genesis 1:8, Genesis 1:13, Genesis 1:19, Genesis 1:23, Genesis 1:31; and for another repetition, Genesis 1:10, Genesis 1:12, Genesis 1:18, Genesis 1:21, Genesis 1:25). And said, The Chaldeans; literally, the Casdim (כַשְׂדִים), which is the word uniformly used in the Hebrew where the Authorized Version has "Chaldeans" or "Chaldees." The native name seems to have been Kaldi or Kaldai, whence the Greek Χαλδαῖοι, and the Latin Chaldaei. It is very difficult to account for the Hebrews having substituted a sibilant for the liquid; but it was certainly done from the earliest period of their literature (Genesis 11:31) to the latest (see Targums, passim). Some derive the Hebrew Casdim from "Chesed," one of the sons of Nahor (Genesis 22:22); but Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees before Chesed was born (Genesis 22:20). And there is no evidence of any connection between Chesed, who was born at Haran, and the Babylonian Chaldeans. The Chaldeans were probably early settlers in Babylonia; by degrees they were pressed to the south, and gave the name of Chaldea to Lower Babylonia, or the tract nearest to the Persian Gulf (Strab; 16.1, § 66; Ptolemy, 'Geographia,' 5.20). From a remote date they were a settled and civilized people; but no doubt originally they had the same predatory instincts as their neighbours. Made out three bands. Professor Lee translates, "appointed three captains," which is a possible meaning of the words; but the weight of authority supports the rendering of the Authorized Version. And fell upon the camels. Perhaps the most valuable part of Job's possessions. Three thousand camels would be regarded as a splendid capture by any body of Oriental marauders. And have carried them away, yea, and slain the servants (literally, the young men, as in verse 16) with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee (compare the comment on verse 15).
While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said (see the comment on Job 1:16), Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house (comp. Job 1:13). It is a common proverb that "misfortunes never come singly." Shakespeare says they "come not single foes, but in battalions." Still, so overwhelming a series of calamities falling upon a single individual all in one day could not but strike those who heard of them as abnormal, and almost certainly supernatural. So Job's friends concluded (Job 5:17).
And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness; rather, from across the wilderness—a wind which began in the region lying on the other side of the wilderness, and sweeping across it, came with full force upon the inhabited tract where Job and his sons were dwelling. The desert winds are often very violent. Generally they are Laden with heavy clouds of fine sand, which cause intolerable discomfort and thirst; but when they sweep over a rocky and gravelly region, they are simply of extreme violence, without other distressing feature. They then resemble the hurricanes or tornadoes of the West Indies. We may reasonably connect this hurricane with the thunderstorm of verse 16. And smote the four corners of the house, and it fell. The "houses" of the East are not the solid structures of heavy timber, brick, and stone to which we of the West are accustomed, but light fabrics of planks and palisades, thatched mostly with reeds. Houses of this kind, when the rain descends, and the winds blow and beat against them (Matthew 7:6), readily fall. Upon the young men; rather, the young persons. Na'ar (נער) is of both genders in early Hebrew (see Genesis 24:14, etc.). And they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. Again, the calamity has a completeness which marks it as supernatural. The fall of a house does not usually destroy all the inmates.
Then Job arose. Not till the last calamity was announced did Job stir. The loss of his wealth little moved him. But when he heard that his children were destroyed, all of them "at one fell swoop," then he could endure no longer, but rose from the seat on which he was sitting, and showed forth his grief. First he rent his mantle, "the outer robe worn by men of rank" (Cook)—a customary sign of grief in the ancient world (Genesis 37:29, Genesis 37:34; Genesis 44:13; 1Ki 21:27; 2 Kings 19:1; Esther 4:1; Joel 2:13; Herod; 8.99; Livy, 1.13, etc.); then he shaved his head—another less usual but still not uncommon sign of grief, forbidden under the Law of the Jews (Le Job 21:5; Deuteronomy 14:1), but widely practised by the Gentiles (Isaiah 15:2; Jeremiah 47:5; Jeremiah 48:37; Herod; 2.36; 9.24; Plut.,'Vit. Pelop.,' § 34; Q. Gurt.,'Vit. Alex.,' 10.5, § 17). And fell down upon the ground, and worshipped. After giving vent to his natural grief, Job made an act of adoration. Recognizing the fact that adversity, as well as prosperity comes from God, and submitting himself to the Divine will, he "worshipped." How often has his act flashed across the minds of Christians. and enabled them, in their dark hour, to imitate him, and repeat his words, "The Lord gave," etc.!
And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither. There is some difficulty in the word "thither," since no man returns to his mother's womb (John 3:4), at death or otherwise. The expression must not be pressed. It arises out of the analogy, constantly felt and acknowledged, between "mother" earth and a man's actual mother (setup. Psa 129:1-8 :15). The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away. Job is here represented as knowing God by his name "Jehovah," though elsewhere the "great Name" appears once only in the words of Job (Job 12:9), and never in the words of his friends. The natural conclusion is that the name was known in the land of Uz at the time, but was very rarely used—scarcely, except in moments of excitement. Blessed be the Name of the Lord; literally, may the Name of Jehovah be blessed! The ermphatic word is kept for the last. According to Satan, Job was to have" cursed God to his face" (verse 11). The event is that he openly and resolutely blesses God. That the same word is used in its two opposite senses rather accentuates the antithesis.
In all this Job sinned not. It was only the commencement of the probation; but so far, at any rate, Job had not sinned—he had preserved his integrity, had spoken and done rightly. Nor charged God foolishly; literally, gave not folly to God, which is explained to mean either "did not attribute to God anything inconsistent with wisdom and goodness" (Delitzsch, Merx), or "did not utter any foolishness against God" (Ewald, Dillmann, Cook). The latter is probably the true meaning (comp. Job 6:6; Job 24:12).
The hero of the poem.
I. THE PATRIARCH'S NAME. Job.
1. Historical. Not fictitious, but real (Ezekiel 14:14; James 5:11). Even if the Book of Job proceeded from the brilliant Solomnnic period, the person of Job must be looked for in remote patriarchal times.
2. Significant. Meaning "Persecuted," or "Repenting,' if not better connected with a root denoting "joyous exultation." Scripture names are frequently suggestive of traits in character (e.g. Jacob, Peter, Barnabas) or points in history (e.g. Abraham, Israel, Benjamin, Samuel).
3. Illustrious. Allied to that of princes (Genesis 46:13; Genesis 36:33), like whom probably he was descended from the father of the faithful (Genesis 25:6). The piety, no less than the intellectual endowments, of ancestors sometimes reappears in their posterity.
4. Honoured. Commended by God (Ezekiel 14:14), extolled by St. James (James 5:11), immortalized by the Hebrew bard.
II. THE PATRIARCH'S COUNTRY. Uz.
1. Heathen. Though considerably civilized, as surviving monuments attest, the sons of the East were not embraced within the Abrahamic covenant, in which respect they fell behind the sons of Israel (Romans 9:4). For countries, as for individuals, the institutions of religion are a higher honour and a greater privilege than the blessings of civilization. Yet:
2. Not God-forsaken. If Job's countrymen, like Abraham's, were addicted to idolatry (Job 31:26-28). it is apparent that a remnant still adhered to the primeval faith of mankind. Probably no age or people has ever been wholly bereft of light from heaven or of the gracious influences of God's Spirit. In the darkest times and most idolatrous lands God has been able to find a seed to serve him (1 Kings 19:18; Romans 11:4, Romans 11:5).
III. THE PATRIARCH'S PIETY.
1. Perfect. Used of Noah (Genesis 6:9) and of Abraham (Genesis 17:1); describes the patriarch's religious character with reference to itself as
(1) complete, full-orbed, well-proportioned, thoroughly symmetrical, possessing all the attributes and qualities indispensable to spiritual manhood—an ideal after which Old Testament saints strove (Psalms 119:6) and New Testament believers aspired (Acts 24:16), and which by Christ (Matthew 5:48), Paul (1 Thessalonians 5:23), and by St. James (James 1:4) is propounded as the goal of Christian attainment; and as
(2) sincere, clear and transparent in motive, single and undivided in aim, pure and unmixed in affection, without guile, without hypocrisy, without duplicity—a quality again exemplified by David (Psalms 26:1), Zacharias and Elisabeth (Luke 1:6), Nathanael (John 1:47), St. Paul (2 Corinthians 4:2), and enjoined by Christ as a perpetual obligation (Colossians 3:22; 1 Timothy 1:5).
2. Upright. Defining Job's piety in its relation to the law of right, as that which was "straight," or without deviation (i.e. conscious; Ecclesiastes 7:20), in either thought or act flora the prescribed path of duty, and also distinguishing it from the "crooked ways" of the ungodly (Psalms 125:4, Psalms 125:5; Proverbs 2:15), against which saints are warned (Joshua 1:7; Proverbs 4:25, Proverbs 4:27), and which they strive to shun (Psalms 101:3; Hebrews 13:18).
3. God-fearing. Setting forth the aspect which Job's piety maintained towards God—an outlook not of dark, slavish terror, but of bright filial reverence and holy awe. such solemn and profound veneration as a contemplation of the Divine character is fitted to inspire (Psalms 89:7; Psalms 99:3), as Abraham cherished (Genesis 22:12), as is inculcated upon Christians (Hebrews 12:28), and as lies at the foundation of all true greatness (Psalms 111:10; Job 28:28; Proverbs 1:7).
4. Sin-hating. Completing the portrait of the patriarch's religious character by depicting the attitude in which it stood to moral evil, whether in himself or in the world around, which was not a position of indifference or neutrality, but of active and determined hostility—a necessary feature in the character of the good man as portrayed in Scripture (Psalms 34:14; Psalms 37:27; Proverbs 14:6; Ephesians 5:11; 1 John 3:3, 1 John 3:6).
IV. THE PATRIARCH'S ESTATE.
1. Extensive. It comprised seven thousand sheep, bespeaking him an opulent flockmaster; three thousand camels, implying that he acted as a princely merchant; five hundred yoke of oxen, pointing to a large farm; and five hundred she-asses, which were highly prized for their milk; while along with these it embraced "a very great household," or a multitude of servants, such as ploughmen, shepherds, camel-drivers, besides guards, overseers, traffickers, and scribes; from which it is certain that the patriarch could not have been an idler—thus showing that piety is not incompatible with great business activity, or the ordinary occupations of life necessarily detrimental to the culture of the soul (Romans 12:11).
2. Valuable. The different items of the above catalogue clearly show that Job was rich, material wealth being in his case allied with spiritual treasure, thus proving that, though good men are not always rich, as unfortunately rich men are not always good, it is yet by no means impossible to be both; witness Abraham (Genesis 13:2), IsaActs (Genesis 26:13, Genesis 26:14), Jacob (Genesis 32:10), Joseph of Arimathaea (Matthew 27:57).
3. Removable. As the event showed, and as is the case with the estate of every man, great or small, upon the earth (James 1:10, James 1:11; 1 John 2:17).
V. THE PATRIARCH'S FAMILY.
1. Numerous. Under the Old Testament economy a large family was promised as a special recompense to the pious (Psalms 113:9; Psalms 127:4, Psalms 127:5; Psalms 128:1-4), and though an abundant offspring is not now a sign of grace or an evidence of religion, yet children are among the most precious of Heaven's gifts, and happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them.
2. Happy. Whether the entertainments they gave were birthday commemorations, or periodically returning religious festivals, or weekly banquets, they obviously formed a cheery and genial household. Innocent festivity is neither unbecoming nor irreligious, since it is not true that "man was made to mourn" (Burns), while it is true that God's people are commanded to rejoice evermore (Ecclesiastes 9:7; Psalms 100:1; Philippians 4:4).
3. Loving. If Job's family were mirthful, they were likewise harmonious and united. Few spectacles on earth are more beautiful than families whose members are endeared to one another by reciprocal affection (Psalms 133:1); and yet good men have often seen their households torn by unseemly strife; e.g. Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David.
VI. THE PATRIARCH'S SOLICITUDE.
1. Reasonable. Gaiety and merry-making, while innocent in themselves and sanctioned by religion, have a tendency to cause the heart to forget God. Those who frequent social banquets and indulge in the world's delicacies are apt to become lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God (2 Timothy 3:4); e.g. Solomon, Dives, Demas.
2. Becoming. As a pious man, Job could scarcely fail to be concerned about the behaviour of so many young people, especially while attending a feast. As a father, he was doubly constrained to have respect to their spiritual and eternal welfare. Even more is it the duty of a parent to train up his sons and daughters in the nurture and admonition of the Lord than to provide for their education and settlement in life (Ephesians 6:4).
3. Earnest. The father who could be at such pains and expense about the religious education of his children as Job appears to have heel was clearly in earnest, and might profitably be taken as a pattern by Christian parents. Contrast the parental negligence of Eli (1 Samuel 2:29).
4. Habitual. As Job's zeal was prompt, so likewise was it constant. The godly practice of Divine worship was maintained with unwearied regularity, week after week, or at least upon the close of every festive occasion. As a parent's responsibility for his children does not terminate with their childhood, so neither should his endeavours to promote their welfare cease with their arriving at the stage of manhood and womanhood.
1. God may have children outside the pale of the Church visible.
2. Prosperity and piety, though not commonly conjoined, are by no means incompatible.
3. God's people should aim at the possession of a piety which is "perfect and entire, wanting nothing."
4. Good men's families should themselves be good.
5. Pious parents should train their children in the fear of God and in the observance of his precepts.
I. AN ORIENTAL PRINCE.
II. A WEALTHY MAN.
III. AN EMINENT SAINT.
IV. A GODLY PARENT.
V. A SACRIFICING PRIEST.
Wealth and piety.
I. THEIR COMMON CHARACTERISTICS.
1. God's gifts; and therefore to be received with thankfulness.
2. Man's ornaments; and therefore to be borne humbly.
3. A Christian's talents; and therefore to be used with fidelity.
II. THEIR RECIPROCAL RELATIONS.
1. Wealth and piety are not necessarily incompatible.
2. Wealth and piety are often mutually destructive.
3. Wealth and piety may prove reciprocally helpful
III. THEIR COMPARATIVE EXCELLENCES.
1. Piety may be obtained by all; wealth can be secured only by a few.
2. Piety is useful to all; wealth is injurious to some.
3. Piety will abide with all; wealth can remain with none.
1. They that have piety can do without wealth.
2. They that have wealth cannot do without piety.
I. AN ANCIENT CUSTOM.
II. A PERMISSIBLE ENJOYMENT.
III. A NATURAL ACTION.
IV. A DANGEROUS OCCUPATION.
I. SHOULD PRECEDE THE BUSINESS OF THE DAY. Job rose up early in the morning.
II. SHOULD BE PERFORMED IN THE ASSEMBLED HOUSEHOLD. Job gathered all his sons to his devotions.
III. SHOULD BE CELEBRATED AFTER DUE PREPARATION. Job sanctified his sons by the customary ablutions.
IV. SHOULD BE INSPIRED BY FAITH IN THE ATONING SACRIFICE. Job offered up burnt offerings.
V. SHOULD BE ACCOMPANIED BY LIBERAL OBLATIONS. Job presented victims to the number of them all.
VI. SHOULD BE MARKED BY CONFESSION AND INTERCESSION. Job interceded for his children.
VII. SHOULD BE MAINTAINED WITH UNBROKEN REGULARITY. Job did so continually.
(1) The duty,
(2) the propriety,
(3) the need, and
(4) the value, of family worship.
The fundamental controversy of the poem.
I. THE OCCASION OF THE CONTROVERSY. The presence of Satan among the sons of God.
1. The celestial assembly.
(1) The beings composing it. Sons of God, i.e. angels (vide Job 38:7 and cf. Psalms 29:1), here styled "sons of Elohim," to indicate their nature, as deriving their existence from God (cf. Luke 3:38); their dignity, as enjoying an exalted rank in the scale of being (cf. Daniel 3:25); and their office, as serving in the capacity of ministers to the Supreme (cf. Psalms 82:6).
(2) The purpose of their gathering. "To present themselves before the Lord;" not to assist in the deliberations of the Infinite Mind Isaiah 40:13, Isaiah 40:14; Romans 11:34), but as ambassadors returning from their respective circuits to render account of their ministrations and to receive commissions for future execution. Even so must all God's intelligent creatures upon earth appear before the dread tribunal of the skies (2 Corinthians 5:10), and every one give an account of himself to God (Romans 14:12).
2. The unexpected visitor.
(1) The import of his name. "Satan;' the adversary, the calumniator, the accuser; not the evil genius of the later theology of the Jews, but the dark, sullen spirit of Divine revelation, who headed the revolt in heaven against the authority of God (Revelation 12:7-9), seduced our first parents into sin (Genesis 3:1-6; Genesis 2:1-25 Genesis 11:3), tempted Jesus Christ (Matthew 4:1), warred against him throughout his entire career on earth (Matthew 13:39; Luke 10:18; John 12:31), now ruleth in the children of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2), and fights against the children of light (Ephesians 6:11-16).
(2) The nature of his occupation. "Going to and fro through the earth, and walking up and down in it;" which points out his dominion—this lower world, i.e. conceived as alienated from God, and involved in moral and spiritual darkness (Ephesians 2:2; 1 John 5:19; Revelation 16:10); his activity,—though at present, in some cases, reserved in chains (Jud Romans 1:6), he is still permitted a large amount of liberty (1 Peter 5:8); his diligence,—he never intermits his business, but ever prosecutes his infernal errands, going to and fro, and walking up and down; his unrest, having, as afterwards Gain, fallen under a ban of wandering, which has doomed him to be always seeking rest, but finding none (Matthew 12:45), as ever since his children have been like the troubled sea which cannot rest (Isaiah 57:20, Isaiah 57:21).
(3) The object of his coming. If to present himself before the Lord with the other sons of God (Job 2:1), i.e. to report concerning his wicked machinations, his appearance, we may rest assured, was wholly involuntary and compulsory, which may remind us that Satan, no less than other creatures, is subject to Divine authority; that Satan's proceedings in the world are under the perpetual surveillance of the Almighty; and that Satan can neither travel further nor work longer than he receives express commission front Jehovah to do. But it is probable that the underlying motive of Satan's intruding upon Heaven's assembly was not to render an account of any mission with which he had been entrusted, but to prosecute his diabolic work of calumniating God's children who were yet on earth (cf. Revelation 12:10; Zechariah 3:1).
II. THE PARTIES TO THE CONTROVERSY. Jehovah and Satan.
(1) The self-existent and all-sufficient Deity (Exodus 3:14).
(2) The Lord of angels (Job 4:18).
(3) The Fear of saints (Genesis 31:42; Job 1:1).
(4) The Governor of the universe (Job 9:12; Job 34:13; Job 36:23; Job 41:11).
(1) The creature of God.
(2) The impersonation of evil.
(3) The adversary of Christ.
(4) The accuser of the brethren.
III. THE SUBJECT OF THE CONTROVERSY. The disinterested character of piety or religion.
1. The Divine challenge. "Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth?" The language of:
(1) Divine condescension, is not only noticing a creature, but stooping to converse with an adversary, yea, with a devil (Psalms 113:6).
(2) Divine observation, in particularizing Job by name, and dilating on his character, which demonstrates that God's knowledge of his people extends to such minute details as the names they bear, the professions they make, the characters they possess (Exodus 33:12; Isaiah 49:1; John 10:3).
(3) Divine admiration, in so commending Job's piety as to show that he took a holy pride in his servant's worth, as he ever does (Zephaniah 3:17).
(4) Divine affection, in so speaking of the patriarch as to evince that he was a special object of Divine regard, calling him "my servant," as Christ afterwards styled his followers "my friends" (John 15:14).
(5) And Divine protection, the question instinctively suggesting Jehovah's jealous care of his servant (Zechariah 2:8).
2. The Satanic answer. "Doth Job fear God for nought?" etc. Containing:
(1) A reluctant admission—that Job did fear God, and that, in respect of outward appearance at least of religion, he had attained to incomparable eminence. Saints should aim to possess a piety so conspicuous that, however aspersed, it cannot be contradicted, even by the devil.
(2) A base insinuation—that the piety of the patriarch proceeded from purely mercenary motives. See the malignity of Satan in attempting to depreciate what he finds it impossible to deny—an art in which Satan's servants are generally adepts.
(3) A momentous implication—the higher question of the efficacy of the plan of redemption and the sufficiency of Divine grace being practically involved in the standing or falling of Job, whose sincerity was impeached. In the devil's sermons there is always more than meets the ear (cf. Genesis 3:5).
(4) An audacious proposition—that God should bring the question in debate to an issue by experiments on the patriarch, as if God had doubts concerning the integrity of his servant, or as if, although he had, he was likely to subject that servant to the ordeal of suffering in order to please the devil! Verily there are no limits to the impudence of Satan!
(5) A rash prediction—that Job would forthwith, on the application of the touchstone of adversity, rebound to the opposite extreme and "curse God to his face," which he did not, showing that Satan's prophecies, like his promises, generally turn out lies.
IV. THE DETERMINATION OF THE CONTROVERSY. By the trial of the patriarch.
1. The Divine permission. "Behold, all that he hath is in thy power." A permission
(1) truly amazing when we consider by whom, to whom, and concerning whom it was given, how far it reached, and for what purpose it was designed; yet
(2) perfectly justifiable, since Job's possessions were more Jehovah's than the patriarch's (Psalms 24:1; Psalms 50:10-12; Exodus 19:5; Haggai 2:18; Ezekiel 18:4), as the patriarch afterwards recognized (Job 1:21), and might be disposed of as God pleased without the charge being incurred of doing wrong to his creature; and
(3) absolutely necessary, if the trial was to be so conducted that no loophole should remain for the least suspicion of its thoroughness and impartiality; though at the same time
(4) mercifully limited, only the patriarch's possessions being put into the adversary's power, and not his person as in the second trial (Job 2:7), God never suffering his people to be tried above that which they are able to bear (1 Corinthians 10:13), or more than is necessary.
2. The Divine limitation. "Only upon himself put not forth thine hand;" which reminds us
(1) that Satan has no power against a saint further than God permits (John 19:11);
(2) that God can set a bar to the malignity of Satan, as well as to the waves of the sea (Job 38:11) and the rage of man (Psalms 76:10);
(3) that God can east a shield around the persons of his people in the day of their calamity (Job 22:25; Psalms 91:1-7); and
(4) that God frequently protects his people against Satan's assaults when they are not aware.
1. That if Satan can find his way into the assemblies of God's sons in heaven, it need hardly surprise one to detect him amongst the congregations of God's children on earth.
2. That if so eminent a saint as Job did not escape impeachment by the devil, it will not be wonderful if lesser saints should be accused.
3. That if God permitted a Job to be put into the devil's power, as Christ allowed a Peter to be cast into Satan's sieve, it may almost be expected that ordinary Christians will also be subjected to trial.
4. That if God set a limit to Satan's power in dealing with his servant Job, he will not accord unlimited authority to the adversary when he comes to try those who are less able to withstand his assaults.
5. And that if Job was sustained when passing through the fiery ordeal, so will all who like Job are sincere in heart be upheld in the day of their calamity.
A sermon on Satan.
I. THE CHARACTER OF SATAN'S PERSON. The question implies:
1. The existence and personality of the spirit of evil.
2. His angelic nature.
3. His incessant activity.
4. His unwearied vigilance.
5. The restlessness of his wicked heart.
II. THE SPHERE OF SATAN'S ACTION.
1. Generally, the earth as opposed to heaven.
(1) the human heart;
(2) the human family;
(3) the Christian Church;
(4) the heathen world.
III. THE MODE OF SATAN'S WORKING.
1. By temptation.
2. By accusation.
1. The necessity of watchfulness.
2. The value of prayer.
3. The importance of putting on the Christian armour.
4. The advantage of Christian work.
Doth Job fear God for nought?
I. YES! God's servants are not hypocrites.
1. Those who serve God from mercenary motives do not truly serve him at all (Isaiah 1:13).
2. Those who serve God sincerely adhere to him when all creature-comforts are withdrawn (Habakkuk 3:17).
II. No I God's servants do not go unrewarded. Like Job, they are honoured with:
1. Divine attention (Psalms 33:18).
2. Divine approbation (Psalms 147:11).
3. Divine provision (Psalms 34:9; Psalms 111:5).
4. Divine protection (Psalms 85:9); cf. the Old Testament saints in the times of Malachi 3:16.
The first trial of the patriarch.
I. THE PREPARATION FOR THE TRIAL. The patriarch at the height of his prosperity. The season pitched upon for making an assault upon the patriarch was a day of:
1. Festive rejoicing; when the patriarch's family were convened at a banquet of unusual magnificence, "eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house;" such a sumptuous entertainment doubtless as became the firstborn to provide.
2. Busy industry; when the whole household of the patriarch was astir with unwonted activity: the ploughmen driving furrows through the soil with the assistance of the patient oxen, while the she-asses cropped the pastures in their vicinity; the shepherds tending the vast droves of sheep which spread themselves across the plain; and the camel-drivers going and returning with their caravans of costly merchandise.
3. Unmingled happiness; in which the patriarch, it may well be imagined, surveying his earthly lot, observing the loving unity and innocent gladness of his children, and beholding the fidelity and diligence of his servants, realized that his cup of terrestrial felicity was full and even overflowing.
4. Fancied security; in which not a cloud appeared in all the wide and clear horizon; not a shadow dimmed the brightness of the sky, not a speck of trouble anywhere could be detected to excite the patriarch's alarm. It was such a day as seldom falls to the lot of God's people on earth to enjoy; and the selection of that day above all others for casting down the patriarch from the pinnacle of his greatness and the summit of his felicity was doubtless craftily designed that the very loftiness of the patriarch's elevation might intensify the depth and severity of his fall.
II. THE MANAGEMENT OF THE TRIAL. The patriarch's prosperity overthrown.
1. The swiftly completed ruin.
(1) Sudden in its coming; the citadel of Job's integrity being more likely to be carried by a coup de main than by a leisurely and deliberate attack, inasmuch as to be forewarned is also to be forearmed, and dangers that men see they can usually adopt measures to avert.
(2) Universal in its sweep; the devil falling not a step behind, if he could not advance a step beyond, the Divine permission, with one terrible avalanche of disaster descending on the fair scene of the patriarch's prosperity, and leaving not a spot unvisited by his devouring rage.
(3) Pitiless in its devastation; exempting only four domestics (not sons! which might have been a mitigation; but the devil's mercies are generally cruel), consigning all the rest to one overwhelming, remorseless destruction.
(4) Cunning in its contrivance; being effected not directly and immediately by the devil himself, but by natural agencies—Sabeans and Chaldeans, lightnings and hurricanes—so that it might appear to be the work of God's ordinary providence, and be ascribed by the stricken man to the Deity whom he served and adored.
2. The skilfully arranged report.
(1) Messenger following upon messenger, like Ahimaaz speeding after Cushi (2 Samuel 18:22), so that the full tale of misfortunes might not be declared at once, but with exquisite torture protracted to the utmost.
(2) Calamity heaped upon calamity; not a single messenger arriving with happy tidings, but each one with a heavier burden than his predecessor.
(3) Stroke descending upon stroke; not one speaker having the grace, like Ahimaaz when reporting Absalom's death to David, to mitigate the blow to the old man; but, like Cushi, each one with excruciating minuteness of detail dwelling on his tale of misery, and with something like selfish satisfaction emphasizing the fact of his own escape to be the bearer of the appalling news, not perceiving that that might only be an aggravation of the patriarch's distress; and with no interruption in the awful torrent of adversity, not so much as a moment to breathe in, but on and on in one incessant stream: "While he was yet speaking;" and, "While he was yet speaking;" and, "While he was yet speaking." Clearly if Satan's craft was conspicuous in his preparation for the trial, it was equally apparent is his management of the same.
III. THE ISSUE OF THE TRIAL. The patriarch's reception of the news.
1. With penitential sorrow; expressed in the symbolic actions of rending his garments (cf. Genesis 37:34; Jos 7:6; 2 Samuel 1:11; 2 Samuel 3:31) and shaving his head (cf. Isaiah 15:2; Isaiah 22:12; Jeremiah 7:29; Jeremiah 41:5; Micah 1:16); the first revealing the vehemence and intensity of the patriarch's emotion, and the second pointing to its calmness and moderation.
2. With pious resignation. Acknowledging:
(1) His originally destitute condition: "Naked came I out of my mother's womb;" so that his calamities had only set him where he was at first—an argument for contentment (1 Timothy 6:7).
(2) His prospective departure from the world: "Naked shall I return thither;" so that after all he had but experienced a little earlier what was certain to befall him in the end (cf. Ecclesiastes 5:15; Ecclesiastes 12:7; and 'Measure for Measure,' Acts 3:0. sc. 2)—an argument for submission.
(3) His entire dependence upon God for all the blessings of his earthly lot: "The Lord gave;" so that he himself could claim no absolute ownership in anything he had lost (1 Corinthians 4:7; James 1:17)—an argument for acquiescence.
(4) His devout recognition of the hand of God in his afflictions and losses: "The Lord hath taken away;" so that not only had he laid his hand upon him who had perfect right to do so, but in removing his possessions and children he had merely taken what was first his own—a fourth argument for resignation.
3. With lowly adoration. Falling on the ground and worshipping; thus giving the lie to Satan's calumny by retaining his steadfastness and maintaining his integrity; not cursing God to his face, but solemnly, reverently, and devoutly adding, "Blessed be the Name of Jehovah!"
IV. THE VERDICT ON THE TRIAL. The complete vindication of the patriarch. His triumphant passage through the appalling ordeal is:
1. Commended by God. The statement of the historian we must regard as but the transcript of the Divine judgment upon the trial: "In all this Job sinned not, neither charged God foolishly."
2. Admitted by Satan. This appears from Job 2:4, where, though the devil is prepared with an explanation of the cause, he is yet constrained to admit the fact of Job's steadfast allegiance to Jehovah throughout his first onslaught.
3. Recorded by the historian. So that wherever this ancient poem finds a reader there shall the courage and fidelity of the stricken patriarch be known and admired.
1. That if God has his times and seasons, and Christ has his hours, and man his opportunities for working, so also the devil has his days for his Satanic movements.
2. That the devil's assaults upon human virtue and Christian fidelity are always characterized by consummate wisdom as regards both the times and the instruments as well as the methods of attack.
3. That the power of Satan to injure man is well-nigh unlimited, at least when God permits.
4. That the most prosperous estate of man may, in a moment, be converted into the profoundest misery, as the brightest day may be followed by the darkest night.
5. That calamities seldom fall upon God's people singly and alone, are apt to be misconstrued as to their origin and design, but should never fail to lead the heart closer to God.
6. That God's people should in times of adversity remember their origin and prepare for their end.
7. That, whether suffering or rejoicing, saints should imitate the piety of Job, recognize God's hand in everything, and "in everything give thanks."
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
On the general teaching of the book.
For all earnest readers; for all who can think seriously, feel deeply; all who have in their own persons loved and lost; who have known life in its brightest and its darkest moods; all, again, who have that fine gift of sympathy which makes the pain and woe of humanity their own;—this book has a most powerful attraction, a profound charm. Here we have suffering through all the scale of human being; suffering tuned to music most plaintive, which strikes some response from the chords of every human heart. Here, too, we have reflection upon suffering, intense thought bent without fear and without reserve upon the great questions of Life. Who has not, in some weary, desponding hour, at some time or other, sighed forth, "What is the meaning of it all?" It is a question which seems to answer itself joyously, or rather to require no asking, in the brighter days of life. Nature and the heart of man smile upon one another with the reflection of the gladness of the Creative Mind when he saw that all his works were very good. But in many a midnight hour of mental darkness the question that we thought answered and set at rest forces its presence upon us, and demands an answer of our reason. And Reason," from wave to wave of fancied misery driven," loses her bearings; ignorant of the latitude, she knows not whither to steer for a port. This is the mood of Job. And relief comes at length, in an unexpected way, from the Source whence alone it can come. We are taught the great lesson of suffering—to wait and to hope. He who tarries in patience until he beholds the "end of the Lord" shall find an abundant reward of his faith and constancy.
I. THE ENIGMAS OF LIFE. Pain, loss, disease, exchanged for pleasure, gain, health, and riches. Man cannot understand this process. And he cannot willingly submit to what he does not understand.
1. He has an instinct for happiness, which he cannot deny without denying himself. He and all nature, he feels, and truly feels, were constructed for happiness. He is bound to work for this end, both in himself and others. The Creator (he is thus naturally taught to reason) must be a happy and happiness-loving Being, ever blessed, ever blessing. Thus, when a rebuff is given to these powerful and clear instincts, and their truth is suddenly extinguished, as it were, in the man's own bosom; when all the springs of natural joy are in a moment dried up like the summer torrent of the East;—what wonder that he should complain? Is he the victim of some radical deception? Are all his thoughts illusions? Whence came those instincts for happiness, which one
3. But Job, on the other hand, dares, with all the independence of the just thinker, of the man who cannot be untrue to the clearest light of his self-consciousness, to deny the application of this judgment to his case. He denies that his present sufferings point back to previous sins. Whatever be the solution of the problem, that, he knows, cannot be the true one. No deluge of religious commonplace shall move him from his fixed position, his conscious integrity of soul. No agony can wring from him an echo to the shallow cant of men who prate about suffering without really having suffered. Despite all that wife and friends can urge, he will not, cannot, desert the side of truth, or what he feels to be the truth. And in this experience truth does not condemn him; on the whole it acquits him. This is one of the most instructive lessons the entire poem yields us—to be true to ourselves, to follow the light within, let others scold and rebuke as they will. More frequently, no doubt, we need to apply this lesson in an humiliating way. If we are true to ourselves, we shall have to admit that we have brought our troubles upon ourselves by our own faults. But sometimes it may be otherwise. The link may be wanting which unites the effect to its cause. If we feel this to be so, we must have the courage to say so; and on the same ground upon which we ought to have the honesty to acknowledge the sinful origin when we have detected it. Job is an example of that manly simplicity of heart, that faithfulness to self, without which we cannot be genuine men, nor fair and tolerant to others. It does not follow, because a man stands by what his conscience or consciousness tells him, that his conscience is necessarily in the right. St. Paul pointed out this (Acts 26:9; 1 Corinthians 4:4). Still, a man must hold by conscience as the nearest oracle till he gets better light, which is certain in the end to come when needed.
4. Equally important, on the other hand, is the rebuke to cant, which this book so powerfully supplies. Cant is the habit of repeating secondhand opinions, of taking certain things for granted because they are commonly asserted, although we have no sufficient ground in our own experience of their truth. It is the habit of pretending feelings which we have not, because they are considered to be the correct feelings under certain circumstances. It is imitation in thought and affectation in sentiment. It attends on genuine thought and sincere emotion, as the shadow on the sun. No one will deny that the religious world is full of it. There is a fine illustration of it in the discourses of Job's friends, and rebuke of it in the manifestation of the Almighty at the end.
5. While we have a presentation of the great enigmas of life in the course of the poem, we have also an exposure of the perplexities of human thought and the vain attempts to solve them. The narrow dogma that all suffering is explained by guilt, on which, in one form or other, the friends of Job arc never weary of insisting, along with that grand principle, the strict justice of the Almighty, which, in their view, renders the dogma indisputable,—this is the only clue offered to guide the poor darkened sufferer out of the prison of his thoughts. But it fails to lead him to the light. And, indeed, how utterly inadequate are such partial principles, drawn from a very limited area of experience, when applied to measure the height, and depth, and length, and breadth of God's moral universe l Another great lesson, then, which this book reads us is that of modesty and silence—the need of the confession of failure and incapacity to penetrate the secrets of the Divine mechanism to the bottom. We see but in part and know but in part; cannot by searching find out God unto perfection. Higher than heaven this knowledge, what can we do? deeper than hell, what can we know? There are clear and undoubted revelations of his goodness which fill the heart with joy and stir the tongue to praise. There are other, mysterious, hints of himself in pain and sadness, which overwhelm the heart with awe and check the effusion of the lips. But since nothing can ever disprove, or justly be brought, on any pretence of reason, to the disparagement of his justice, wisdom, and love, let us adore in silence. Let our souls wait patiently for him, until he again appear, shining upon us with the brightness of noonday!
II. SOLUTION OF LIFE'S ENIGMAS.
1. The book appears intended to convey a solution of our mental trouble and doubt of mind, so far, that is, as any solution is possible. A complete solution is impossible; Scripture, philosophy, experience, all unite in declaring this. Could we know the secret of pain and evil, suffering and calamity, in all their forms, we should touch the very secret of life itself; and in touching that secret we should touch the secret of God's Being—nay, we should be as God. Humanity is another name for limitation; God is the Infinite. We live at points on the circumference of existence; he is the Centre. Is it not an absurdity when man refuses to learn and acknowledge once for all that in seeking to know too much he is travelling out of his bounds; in his impatience with enforced ignorance he is impatient of being what he is, and raises a quarrel against his Maker and against the scheme of things which can but end in his complete discomfiture and overthrow?
2. But there is some solution, although not a complete, not a positive and all-explaining one. There is a negative solution, which is very comforting to every true and pious heart. All suffering has not its root in personal sin. There may be intense suffering in the very bosom of innocence, as a frost or blight may settle on the purest rose of the garden. This point is clearly established by the Divine vindication of "my servant Job." He has not been singled out as a mark for the arrows of the Almighty because he is a peculiarly bad man. Rather the opposite is true. It is the good who are reserved for trial. It is the beloved of the Eternal whom he chastens, in order that it may be seen what power has faith in the soul of man, what enduring constancy of virtue, like thrice-proved gold, has every man who confides in the eternal rectitude and love.
3. Suffering is, then, consistent with the relative innocence of the sufferer. This is one result of Job's long trial. Suffering is consistent with the perfect goodness of God. This is another. He may give, and he is good; he may take away, still, blessed be his Name! He may replace blooming health by loathsome leprosy; cause the once soft-clothed, prosperous inmate of a wealthy home to sit in sackcloth, amidst ashes by a deserted hearth; yet still—
"Perfect then are all his ways,
Whom earth adores and heaven obeys."
Noble book! that gave, perhaps, to the ancient world the first hint of the solution of the mystery of pain, by detaching from it the hitherto inseparable association of a curse; which teaches men to believe that the Divine Author of all we suffer and all we enjoy is One ever-blessed God, and so dispels that dread Manicheanism so congenial to the natural mind; book, which contains in germ the gospel revelations concerning Divine chastisement and human sanctification, and the whole subjection of human nature to the mixed conditions of the present life in expectation of a glorious ultimate manifestation of the sons of God!
4. The riddle of human suffering, then, is not to be read, as men often superficially read it, in the light of some assumption which itself requires justification. It is and will remain an enigma. And like the statue of Isis so carefully veiled, the book impresses silence, silence! chiding the explications and solutions of our babbling tongues. The enigma of pain, of all that we call evil, is essentially the enigma of life itself. The key that will unlock the one will open also the other, and it lies ready to no human hand. This solution will not content an atheist or a materialist, perhaps. It will not be of any service to men who have not yet made up their minds whether to believe in a Will of perfect intelligence and justice, in a personal Author of this scheme of things. It is, indeed, the fatal flaw in all systems of unbelief or no-belief, that they can make nothing of evil. They cannot get rid of it, they cannot explain it away. It remains a disturbing element m every optimist view of life. Better man as you may in body and in mind, it will not disappear. It is a leaden weight upon the feet of all but the believer in the eternally wise and just God. Extremes meet; and alike to the enlightened rationalist and the darkened devotee of superstition, pain is a curse. But to the believer in God it is a part of the revelation of God. It is an aspect of the Shechinah. It is the dark side of that cloud whose edges are silvered with the eternal splendour. Darkness and light, the evening and the morning, the week of toil and the sabbath of rest, pain and pleasure, sadness and gladness, death and birth, time and eternity, short sowing and long reaping, acute but brief-lived trials, unending fruitions,—these are the conditions of human existence. To reconcile ourselves to them in and through the Author of them; not to fight against them, but loyally to accept them, and see that the end and meaning of all is reflected in the soul itself;—these are the lessons of the Book of Job. For there is no strength without trial; no wisdom without experience of both good and evil; no refinement without pain; no progress without self-dissatisfaction; nothing permanent or real that costs us nothing; no fellowship with the Eternal except by the initiation of suffering, by the endurance of the cross. To all who believe that the latter end of their life is to be made better than their beginning through the will of One who calls, adopts, and sanctifies men for himself, this book will be full of light and help. They will turn to its pages to remind their hearts that their Redeemer, their Vindicator, ever lives; that "blessing, not cursing, rules above, and that in it we live and move."—J.
Job's life and character.
The scene opens in all brightness, and the hero of this sacred poem stands before us bathed in the sunshine of earthly prosperity, and, better, crowned with the favour of God—a truly enviable man. We have in these few lines give, in brief, suggestive touches—
I. A PICTURE OF COMPLETE HAPPINESS. There are internal and external elements of earthly bliss; and neither must be absent if that bliss is to be full and complete. First in importance is the internal element—the kingdom el God within the man. Yet a starved or stinted virtue, struggling with poverty and adversity, is a sight to kindle pity as well as admiration. Our moral sense is only thoroughly satisfied when we see goodness furnished with sufficiency of this world's means. The moral energies are cramped by extreme misery; they find in competence a stage upon which they can move with ease and grace, and put forth all their powers in harmonious development. The great master, Aristotle, taught that the secret of happiness lay in the rational and virtuous activity of the soul in the whole of its life. But he also insisted that a sufficient provision of external goods was essential to complete happiness, just as the equipping of the Greek chorus was necessary for the representation of a drama. Yet the inferiority of the external elements of happiness to the internal is indicated, not only by their coming second in the description of the sacred poet, but by the swift tragic sequel, the darkening of the scene, the sudden breaking up of house and home and fortune of the prosperous man. And here we are reminded of the saying of another illustrious Greek, Solon: "Call no man happy till the day of his death." The fate of Croesus, whose name was a synonym for worldly luck in the ancient Greek world, pointed the moral of that saying, according to the charming story of Herodotus, as Job's vicissitudes give point to it here. This world passeth; all that is external to us is liable to loss, change, uncertainty. Only the "sweet and virtuous soul, like seasoned timber, never gives." The ruins of a falling world leave the true man unshaken. Doing the will of God, united to him by conscious obedience and trust, he abides for ever. Thus, in the concise emphatic designation of Job's character, in the very first verse of the poem, its key-note is struck.
II. LINEAMENTS OF CHARACTER. Four words, like a few expressive touches from a master's pencil, place before us the character of the patriarch.
1. "That man was perfect." That is, he was sound (integer vitae, as the Roman poet says) in heart and life, blameless in the ordinary sense in which we use that word, free from glaring vice or gross inconsistency. We must bear in mind that general epithets like these, denoting attributes of human character, are derived from our experience of external objects. They are, therefore, figurative expressions, not to be used in an exact mathematical sense, which, of course, is inapplicable to such an object as human character. Perfect, as a sound animal is said to be; without blemish, like a snowy, sacrificial lamb; spotless, like a "garnered fruit," without "pitted speck." There are two aspects of perfection—the negative and the positive. Negative perfection is more the Old Testament view. It is when the character presents a blank on the side of those gross vices, those sins against honour and truth and every Divine and social bend, which incur the hatred or man and the displeasure of Heaven. The New Testament view brings out the positive side of "perfection." It is not only the life void of offence, but it is the completeness of the Christian man in those heavenly graces, that bright resplendent adornment of the sanctified character, which in the sight of God is of great price. But there are conditions of life in which there is comparatively little scope for the development o! character widely on the positive side. There is but a small circle of duties, employments, amusements, relations, in such circumstances as in the primeval and pastoral simplicity of Job. How different from this highly developed, widely and variously interesting modern life of ours! Where more is given, more will be required. But the example of Job consists in the simplicity and integrity with which he moved about in the sphere of his little sovereignty, and, with every facility for indulging passion, for infringing right, for encroaching on the happiness of others, kept himself white as the lily, nobly free from blame. Not that he was that insipidity of character, a merely correct man. Intense selfishness is often found in your correct men. We see from glimpses presently given us in the course of the poem that he was an actively good man. Here we may read the exquisite descriptions of his past life in Job 29:1-25. and 31; forced from him in his self-defence. We look upon the picture of a man who is the pillar of his community, a light, a comfort,, a joy to dependents and equals alike. It is a picture which the thousands of our countrymen who are in the enjoyment of fortune, position, education, and influence in their respective neighbourhoods, may be invited to contemplate and to imitate. The Divine pleasures and the noble reward of a right use of wealth and position, form for multitudes of the great a field but little explored. Amidst the serious warnings of Scripture and of experience against the dangers of prosperity, let the pure example of Job stand out to remind the prosperous that they may make their means a help instead of a hindrance to the kingdom of heaven; may enslave the unrighteous mammon; in gaining much of this world, need not necessarily lose their souls!
2. He was upright. The idea is that of a right line. And the opposite image is conveyed by the word "froward," or "crooked," from the curved, deviating line. As the country-people say of an honest man," He acts straight," and as our fine old English word gives it, "straightforward." There is a certain mathematics of conduct. Never to depart from truth, even in jest; not to extenuate, nor to exaggerate, nor to be partial in our statements; not to add to nor take from facts; to "tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth;" to abstain from flattery on the one hand, and slanderous perversion on the other; to regard one's word as one's bond; to think and speak with others in that candour, that clearest light in which we ever commune with ourselves; to hate semblances and dissemblances, to get rid of duplicities and confusions; in all relations, to self, to God, to others, to be one and the same man; to avoid turnings and twistings in our route; to go straight to our ends, like an arrow to its mark;—this is the spirit, this is the temper, of the" upright" man. His character resembles the fine-drawn lines of a true work of art; while the "froward" man reminds us of the ill-drawn design, whose deformity no amount of overlaying and ornament can disguise.
3. God-fearing. This and the following epithet complete the representation of the two former. No man is "perfect" without being a fearer of God; none upright without departing from evil. Religion takes its rise in man's feeling of awe towards the vast unseen Power and Cause revealed through things seen. His conscience, by its exhortations, speaks to him of the righteousness of the unseen eternal Cause. All his experience inward and outward impresses upon him the sense of his absolute dependence. Obedience, active and passive, to the Eternal Will is the primary law revealed in the heart of man amidst Sinai-like thunders, over all the world, and in all times. Feelings like these constitute man's earliest and universal religion; Scripture designates them by this comprehensive expression, "the fear of God, the fear of the Eternal." It is no slavish feeling, if man be true to himself. It is not a blind terror, not a Panic inspiration. It is fear chastened and elevated by intelligence, by spiritual fellowship; it is unbounded respect, immeasurable reverence; it is ever on the way to become perfect love. The result of this genuine religion upon the character is to make us view all things in their relation to the unseen and the eternal. Thus life is dignified, lifted out of meanness, receives a certain significance and purport in its smallest details. Without religion we exist as animals, we do not live as men. The busiest career, the loudest reputation, the most splendid worldly success—what sense, what meaning, is there in it without the principle in the heart which consciously binds it to the unseen? "'Tis a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, but meaning nothing."
4. "Eschewed evil." Or, a man who departed from evil. This was the habit of his life. It completes what is given in the second trait. His rectitude, leading him in a direct line of conduct, delivers him from the bypaths of deceit, of transgression, the ways of darkness and of shame. Here, then, in these four words we have suggested the idea of complete piety, the picture of a constant and a noble life, standing "four-square to all the winds that blow." We see a spotless character, attended by a fair fame in the world; the secret foundation on which the moral structure rests is revealed to us, in a habit of principle, a heart full of the fear of God. We look upon the patriarch, moving in the pure air and the holy sunlight of Heaven's favour, blessed with the good will of men, and with all those hopes of the future which a past happiness inspires, little dreaming that his skies are so soon to be darkened, and the foundations of his earthly joy to be so violently shaken.
III. FEATURES OF EXTERNAL PROSPERITY. These, too, are briefly and suggestively sketched, and need not be dwelt upon at length. All the elements of a high prosperity and great position in that simple state of life are present.
1. His family. He had ten children, the sons more than twice as numerous as the daughters. Men felt in those times that a large family was a great blessing, one of the visible marks of Heaven's favour. Sons especially were a new source of wealth and importance to the household. Parents in our day are perhaps seldom in the habit of thanking God for large families. They are too ready to groan beneath the care, rather than to cheerfully admit the reality of the blessing. Yet how constantly do we see proofs of the happiness of large families, even in poverty! A rightly ordered household is the Divinest of schools. Character is so variously developed and in so many ways tried and educated in them. In the variety of this little world there is a fine preparation going on for activity and for endurance in the greater world. On the whole, there can be no question that large families are a great source, not only of happiness, but of riches of every kind. And the truth needs to be insisted on from time to time, when we hear the matter spoken of in terms of disparagement or pity. The full quiver is no object of pity in any time when men are obeying the laws of God in their social life. It is the solitary, and those who are doomed to lead a too self-centred existence, who need our pity.
2. His property. It consisted, we are told, in ample herds of cattle—sheep, camels, oxen, asses, and in a proportionate number of servants. All man's wealth is derived from the earth and its products in plants and animals. And it is a good thing to be reminded of this. We whose wealth is represented by mere symbols and figures for the most part have not the sense of our dependence brought home to us so vividly as he who leads the simple pastoral life of Job. There is health and blessing in the calling of the husbandman and the shepherd, living so near to Mother Earth, constantly reminded of their dependence upon her, of their power by diligence to extract comfort from her bosom. We all were once tillers and herdsmen and hunters; these are man's primeval occupations, and he must return to them again and again if he is to continue to prosper. Let us take the lesson that all sources of profit which are connected with the improvement of the earth are the healthiest that we can draw upon. To develop the earth and the mind of man—natural and spiritual cultivation—these are noble works and worthy pursuits. Let the emigration of the young and vigorous into the vast untilled tracts of the world be encouraged. There let them wed toil with nature, and build up scenes of comfort and happiness like that in which the patriarch dwelt.
IV. PIETY AMIDST THE TEMPTATIONS OF PROSPERITY. It was an ancient saying that a good man struggling with adversity was a sight for the gods. But how much more so a good man struggling with prosperity. For while adversity menaces our physical well-being, not less does prosperity endanger our spiritual health. It does not openly attack, it softens, it relaxes, it undermines. For ten men who can bear poverty is there one who can bear riches? What lovely spiritual blossoms spring out of the scant soil of outward misery, like the prisoner's flower between the stones of his dungeon! What moral emaciation, what leanness of soul, may attend the full purse, cower in the splendid mansion, lurk beneath the fine raiment of the worldly great! Even with true men, who are not to be easily overcome by outward temptations, it holds good, and they will own, in the beautiful words of Milton, that riches "slacken Virtue and abate her edge." We are not, indeed, to infer, because so much is said in the Gospel on the dangers of riches to the soul, that there are no dangers in poverty. But the truth is that the dangers of riches are more subtle, less obvious, being associated with pleasure, not with pain. Poverty stings, riches lull the soul. Misery may pervert the conscience; but luxury seems to put it to sleep. Our life is a struggle of the outward with the inward. The outward, in one form or other, threatens to get the better of us. On this great contest and agony the real interest of life, all its tragedy and poetry, depend. And if it kindles admiration, enthusiasm, awakens the sense of the sublime to see the victory of the soul over adversity, poverty, contempt, should it not equally delight our best feeling to see the victory of the soul over riches and prosperity? In the case of many, take away their surroundings, and they are nothing. The picture is worthless apart from the frame. Others are great in any circumstances. They do not make the man. It is the man who makes them interesting. They may change, they may be reversed; the man remains the same. It is such a moral hero of the tranquil scenes of peace that we are to contemplate in Job. His piety is well brought out in the contrast between the thoughtlessness of his children and his own seriousness (verses 4, 5). They, in the heyday of youth and health and spirits, were wont on holidays or birthdays to meet and hold high festival in one another's houses. They give the type of the thoughtless cultivators of pleasure. Nor is it hinted that there was anything vicious in their pleasures. They loved the joyous pastimes of their season of life, and they took pleasure in one another's company—that was all. No hint is given that in the subsequent calamity they fell victims to the judgment of God upon their sins. They pass, with this brief mention, out of sight, and all the interest centres upon Job. What he felt and knew was that pleasure, however innocent, dulls, like riches, the soul towards God. Young people have been seen to remove the family Bible from its place in making preparations for a dance, as if conscious that there was something in the tree indulgence of the instincts of pleasure inconsistent with the presence of the solemn reminders of religion. But pleasure has already travelled beyond the limits of moderation, and entered the region of lawlessness, licence, and excess, when there can be a disposition to ignore, even for a moment, the holy influences of religion, the presence of God. In contrast, then, to the gay abandonment to mirth, the thoughtless devotion to the pleasures of the hour on the part of his children, we see in Job a mind which no distraction could divert from the constant sense of his relation to his God. A kindly father, he did not interfere to spoil his children's natural and innocent festivities on these special occasions of joy; but his thought followed them, with upliftings of the heart, and prayers for their preservation from those evils which may arise in the very midst of the scenes of highest social enjoyment, like serpents from a bed of flowers. Still, we need not assume excess or evil on the part of Job's children; the language merely suggests the anxiety of his mind lest such should be. It may be that the fear of God had entered their hearts too, and, restraining their enjoyment within due bounds, and inspiring thankfulness, allowed their festivals to be crowned with the favour of Heaven. One of our famed English writers, describing the scene at an old French peasant's house, when, after the labours of the day, before retiring to rest, the young people of the household joined in a cheerful dance, says he noticed some slight gesture, some uplifting of the eyes or hands, at a particular point,—"in a word, I thought I saw religion mingling with the dance!" A beautiful hint, for those who are perplexed with the problem how to unite religion with relaxation, to satisfy the instinct for amusement consistently with piety. There is no solution to be found for the problem except in the cheerful and loyal surrender of the heart to God, and the intelligent worship of him in all our activities, all our pleasures. It is a narrow or a spurious conception of religion which shuts us out from any genuine pleasures. The habitual recognition of our Creator in the use of this sensitive organization of body and mind which is his gift is the means of enhancing and at the same time hallowing every healthy pleasure of the body and the soul. One of the "fruits of the Spirit," one of the graces of the Christian life, one of the results of true piety, is "temperance," "moderation," or "self-control." We see this in Job. And we see the genuineness of his piety amidst prosperity in the anxiety he feels lest his children should have transgressed against this law of conduct (verse 5). "It may be," he said, "that my sons have sinned, and said farewell to God—abandoned or forgotten him in their hearts." The next point is—piety manifested in ritual. Ritual, or cultus, has an important place in the history and development of religion. It is the outward presentation of religion, as symbolic of an inward reality. As cleanliness and neatness of person, propriety and gentleness of manners, have a certain value as an index of the inner man, so with the ritual and symbolic side of religion. It is a kind of language, and has the only value that language can have—that of meaning something. When it no longer has a meaning, it must pass away and be replaced by a more vital mode of expression. For both language and ritual are the changing element in religion; the inward and spiritual is the abiding and eternal. Now, we are here carried back to a time when the outward expression of piety was different and more elaborate than with us. Sacrifices of various kinds offered a most significant, powerful, varied medium of communication of the soul's penitences, devotions, aspirations to God. Here we have the ritual of penitence—the trespass offering. It is the devout longing for reconciliation to God, oneness with God, that is expressed, following on the sense of a rupture, or possible rupture, through carelessness or transgression of the soul's true relations to him. An account of such offerings under the Law of Moses will be found in Leviticus 4:1-35.; Leviticus 6:17-23; Leviticus 7:1-10. And Job, rising early after each of these festivals, was wont to send for his children individually, that they might be present at the solemn sacrifice, and thus symbolically receive purification and absolution from the stain of guilt. Thus there rises before us, in this concluding trait of the character of Job, the picture of one who sought first the kingdom of God, and to be right with him—an example of paternal love and piety; of one who identified, like Joshua 24:15, his household with himself in the service of the Eternal. By the pleasing art of the sacred poet, our interest, our sympathy, is already powerfully drawn towards the hero of his story. The curtain falls on this bright life-scene as if with the good wishes and prayers of all spectators. May the shadow of Job never grow less! May his path be as the shining light, increasing to the perfect day! May he continue blessing and blessed in the bosom of his family and household, advance to "old age with honour, troops of friends," and come to his end in his season, as a shock of corn, fully ripe!—J.
Counsels in heaven concerning ,man's life on earth.
I. EVERY MAN'S LIFE IS AN OBJECT OF INTEREST IN HEAVEN. This is a sublime thought, powerfully suggested by the present passage, and full of comfort for every man who trusts in the goodness of God. "Every man's life a plan of God's" (see the powerful sermon of Dr. Bushnell on this subject). Even of men who do not consciously know God or own his providence, this is true. Their career is controlled by a mysterious direction; their mistakes or misdeeds overruled for good. Of Cyrus, for example, it is said, "I have called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me" (Isaiah 45:4).
II. BUT IN HOW PECULIARLY HAPPY A SENSE IS THIS TRUE OF EVERY GOOD MAN'S LIFE! His way is often entangled, perplexed, darkened to himself; but never so to God. From the bright scene of heavenly light and contemplation, where the map of every life is spread open to view, we are soon to plunge into gloom and sorrow by the side of the afflicted servant of God. But let us carry the memory of this glimpse of heaven through all the windings of the maze of grief which soon we are to tread in fancy, and may -no day follow in actual experience. Already let us take the lesson home—that the way of God's children is not hidden, their cause not passed over, by the Most High. Their steps are ordered by him. In their blindness they will be led by paths they have not known. They may seem to themselves exiled from joy, banished from light and love; but he will yet make darkness light before them, and crooked ways straight, and will never forsake them. For in the life of flower and bird even, much more in the life of man, there is a plan of God.
III. EVERY MAN'S LIFE THE OBJECT OF OPPOSING INFLUENCES: of good and evil, pleasure and pain, happiness and misery, heaven and hell. Nowhere is this grand secret of the mechanism of our being more distinctly disclosed than in this book. The presence of an evil influence, ever curious and busy about our life, is distinctly acknowledged; its origin left in mystery. We must recognize this dualism of influence on man's life without attempting to solve it. After all that has been thought and said on the subject, we can only acknowledge that it is a fundamental condition of our earthly existence. To ignore it, and try to live in some fool's paradise of extreme optimism, is to expose ourselves to disappointment and to danger; or to fall into the other extreme of a gloomy, desponding pessimism is to be unfaithful to that instinctive sense of God's goodness which is deep-seated in the heart. Scripture guides us in a middle course between these extremes—places before us, in equal distinctness, the two poles of thought, the opposing currents of influence; and this makes the practical duty manifest, to abhor the evil and cleave to the good, to fill the heart with reverence and trust for God, and to depart from evil in all its forms.
IV. THE SPIRIT OF ACCUSATION CONCERNED WITH GOOD MEN'S LIVES, This is the great characteristic of the evil spirit spoken of in various parts of Scripture. He is "Satan," that is, "the Adversary," one whose delight is in laying snares for men, seducing them from rectitude, and then slandering and accusing them before God. "The accuser of our brethren, who accuses them before our God day and night" (Revelation 12:10). Here, in the court of heaven, the radiant scene of Divine glory which is brought before our view, while the rest of the retinue of angels, "sons of God," are present to discharge their functions of praise and of service, the evil genius of men comes to enjoy the dark pleasure of detraction and spite. While those bright spirits habitually look on the bright side of things, upon the creation lit up by the smile of God, reflecting everywhere his wisdom and his power, Satan dwells upon the dark side of things—upon that frailty and corruptibility of man, which appears to be the only blemish in the fine picture of God's world. Note the restlessness of this spirit of accusation. To and fro he roams in the earth, seeking rest, but finding none. How true a picture is this of every human heart which has given way to evil, and has thus become a mirror of the dark spirit! How restless are all men who are ill at ease in themselves, because devoid of peace with their God! The hunger for mischief is the counterpart of the hunger for righteousness. They roam about, discontented, mad. dened at the sight of goodness and purity which they have lost; barking, snapping, biting, devouring, like beasts of prey—fastening upon noble reputations and dragging them to the ground, as the panther springs upon the noble stag of the forest. What need have we to be warned against the misery of allowing ourselves to become the servants of so dark a spirit, the agents of such malice! Whenever we find the rust of slander and backbiting gathering too easily on our tongues, whenever we find that the sight of good men's failures affords us more pleasure than that of their success and honour, we have need to look closely into the heart. We must be ill before we can enjoy these diseased pleasures. A soul in health towards God delights to see the reflection of that health in the faces and the lives of others. It is the misery of conscious sin which seeks relief in the sin of others. Whether in good or in evil, we cannot endure to be alone. The fulness of the heart's joy must have expression, and so must the burden of its unpardoned guilt—the one in words of charity to men and praise to God; the other in those of bitterness and blasphemy. But this scene sets before us a man who is to become the object, rather than the subject, of this malignant influence. Job is the victim, not the agent, of Satanic slanders. And it is well to consider here what there is in the constitution of our nature which lays us open to these diabolical attempts.
1. There is a weak side in the nature of every one. The sensuous side of nature presents a constant opening to attack. We can be easily bribed by bodily pleasures and frightened by bodily pains. Our affections too often expose us. We may be fortified on all sides; yet there is some postern door or secret entrance to the seat of will, which our wife, or little child, or besom friend is well acquainted with and has the key of, and can readily, at any hour of day or night, pass through. Our tastes, pursuits, circumstances, variously constitute sources of weakness. Some men appear richer toward God amidst poverty and struggle; with many comfort and competence seem to foster and beautify their piety. In the case of Job, an attack is suddenly made all along the line; he is assailed in all the weak points of humanity. And in this completeness of his trial, with the result, lies a main point of instruction in the book.
2. In the best of men there is a mixture of motives. A man chooses the right from principle—from the fear of God in his heart. But he has promises beforehand to stimulate and encourage his choice, and successes afterwards to confirm it. None long travels on the narrow way without discovering that it is not only the right path, but the wise one; not only the right and the wise path, but the path of happiness, honour, and peace. Therefore, at any given point in a man's course, it may be difficult to determine what is the ruling motive of good within him. Did he begin to be good because he believed beforehand that it would turn out well with him in this world? Does he persevere because he has discovered by experience that godliness is profitable for this life? or is the fear and love of the Eternal and his righteousness the greatest, deepest, secret of his career? Who can answer these questions? Can any observer from outside? Can the man himself answer these questions? No. Trial, judgment, the sifting by the winnowing-fan, the cleansing of the refiner's fire, can alone declare what sort of man he is to himself and to others. By trial the inferior and the superior motives are separated. "Experience worketh knowledge;" and all new knowledge is new power. Blessed, then, the man that endureth affliction. The fine old Greek proverb, in his case, παθήματα μαθήματα, comes true—"to suffer is to learn." Thus the very malignancy of his adversary, by the overruling of supreme wisdom and goodness, turns to his advantage; the calumnious foe becomes the unwilling friend. As the general feels grateful for an assault which has been severe, but in resisting which he has been taught a new lesson in war, so the faithful heart thanks God in the end for the permission of those trials which have called forth to the utmost and corroborated the holy energies within.
3. Every outwardly good deed, every outwardly good life, admits of a twofold explanation, until the real facts be known. This follows from the theory of motives. The most disinterested action, in semblance, may conceivably be referred, by a subtle analysis of motives, to some egotistic and more or less faulty motive. Here we have, in the theory of Satan concerning the piety of Job, an illustration of these laws. And the evil spirit, we may say, is within his right in insisting upon it, until the facts of experience shall refute him. It is trial alone which can, by its clear manifestation, refute the dark insinuations of our spiritual foes. Every man has two sides to his life—an outward and an inward. Does the inward correspond to the outward? Who can judge without proof? What all-silencing proof can there be but facts, stamped by suffering, written in blood and in fire? The Greeks had a saying that the character of a man was not to be known until he was placed in authority (Sophocles, 'Antigone'). Certainly that is one form of trial, through which Job had passed, gaining noble instruction. But it is a form of temptation far more severe to be cast down suddenly from previous influence and wealth, than to be suddenly raised to it. Our instinctive sympathy and pity towards those who have thus suffered teach us that it is so. And yet this is the trial for the chosen of God, for the selected specimens of his grace, the vessels of his holy fashioning. He will rebut and discomfit the slanders of the adversary and of all his followers, who love to scoff at the reality of goodness, to discount and depreciate and deny every human excellence, by subjecting his faithful ones to the last intensity of the furnace, that the truth and eternal reality of his work in the soul may be manifest to the eyes of all, both of the good and the evil.
V. LIFE, THEN, IS DIVINELY DELIVERED TO TRIAL. This is the teaching of this passage; it is the teaching of all Scripture. There is a precise permission from the sovereign will for evil to wreak its malice upon the good man. There is a distinction between the way in which good and evil respectively come upon us from the Divine hand. Good comes immediately, directly, fresh from the heart and love of him who is all goodness. But evil comes indirectly, through the dark and devious channels of evil and hostile wills. In blessing, in joy, God visits us in Person, his sunshine pierces through the windows of the soul unsought. But evil is only a licensed visitor to our dwelling, to our heart. And it is difficult to recognize behind the gloomy shape a controlling hand, a solicitous and loving eye. But it is one of the deep lessons of piety that we have all to learn—to say in affliction, "God permits this," as well as in joy, "God sends this." It may be learnt. In the low-stooping thunderous cloud, in the bursting rain and hail over our heads, we may feel the nearness of God, know his hand to be laid upon our conscience, his voice to be appealing to the inmost sense of our relation to him, which had perhaps slumbered beneath the bright and cloudless blue.
VI. GOD DOES NOT DELIVER LIFE TO DESTRUCTION, THOUGH HE MAY DELIVER IT FOE A TIME TO THE POWER OF EVIL. "He hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation." Jehovah says to Satan, "All that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand." Let us fix our attention on this antithesis: what a man has and what a man is. The stoic Epictetus dwelt, in his noble exhortations, on this contrast. There are things he says which are "within us," within our power, within the scope of our choice and control; other things which are "not within our power," over which our will has little or no control. The important matter, then, in self-government, is to be master of this inward sphere of thought, feeling) purpose. Then outward changes can work us no real harm. One who had duly imbibed these lessons said of his persecutors, "They may kill me, but they cannot hurt me.' But the aspect of this truth in the light of the Christian revelation is more winning than the cold and haughty self-reliance of stoicism. He who has given himself up to the love and guidance of a heavenly Father knows that his soul is safe, whatever the disease of his body or the sufferings of his mind. Cast down he may be, destroyed he cannot be, so long as he is held by the hand that sustains the world. "Wherefore let them that suffer in well-doing commit their souls unto him, as unto a faithful Creator."
VII. This passage shows us that THERE IS LIGHT IN HEAVEN WHILE THERE IS DARKNESS UPON EARTH. There is the silver lining behind the cloud of every earthly affliction; for the presence of eternal wisdom and love is there. All was soon to he darkness, dismay, and doubt for the mind of Job; but to him who sees the end from the beginning all was clear and full of meaning. The machinations of the devil will only serve to bring out the fidelity and patience of his chosen servant, who will live to see the "end of the Lord," that he is very pitiful and of tender mercy. Let us lift up our thoughts, in every season of personal or national depression) in every time of discouragement, when wickedness abounds, when the devil seems to be advancing his kingdom and the light of faith is waning, to that eternal, unquenchable light of the wisdom that cannot err, the will that evil never can defeat. Let us never forget that
"Blessing, not cursing, rules above,
And that in it we live and move."
The invasion of trouble, and its first effect on Job.
The lessons on which we have been dwelling, and on which Job had doubtless deeply meditated in the leisure of his prosperous days, were now to receive the illustration of actual experience. A series of waves breaks in upon his peaceful home and heart, and, in the space of a few short hours, turns the smiling scene into utter desolation. We may notice in the story the following points: the calamities of Job, and their first effect upon his mind.
I. THE CALAMITIES. Their suddenness and unexpectedness. A bright holiday was selected by Providence for the discharge of those torrents of woe. The young people were making merry in their eldest brother's house—perhaps on his birthday—when the bolt out of the blue, without a moment's warning, struck. The imagination is powerfully affected by such contrasts. We do not pity ourselves or others so deeply when we have had time to prepare for the storm. The shock of the blow is broken when it finds us forewarned and forearmed. Men must all suffer at some time, and at some time must die; but the terror of the unlooked-for sorrow is as great as the joy of the unlooked-for blessing. But since there is a truth in the saying that "the unexpected always happens," how important to secure that only preparation for it which is within our power—a mind like Job's, fixed in principle, because fixed on God!
II. THERE WAS GRADATION IN THESE TROUBLES. They began in the inferior elements of life, and quickly rose to their climax in the superior. There was first the loss of property, in three distinct blows. First the oxen and the asses, then the sheep, and then the camels, were destroyed; and the whole of the herdsmen successively swept away. After the first loss, the instinct of Job would doubtless be to say, "Thank God for what is left;" and the same after the second; but the third cuts off these reflections, and strikes home the dreary conviction, "I am a ruined man!" Who can know but those who have suffered it what it is to lose a third or two-thirds of their worldly goods—much more to lose one's all? Shakespeare truly says that "'tis tenfold bitterer to lose than 'tis great at first to acquire." Still, a noble and loving soul, accustomed to find in affection life's choicest boon, will be consoled by the thought," My family is left me; and their redoubled tenderness and sympathy, and cares and hopes for them, will still make life worth living." But even this sentiment, if it rose in the mind of the ruined man, is blighted in the bud by the terrible news that his sons and daughters have all perished by a sudden and violent death. Thus did some hidden wrath seem to exhaust its vials of concentrated fury on his devoted head; and he who had basked so long in the sunshine is plunged into the darkness, without apparently a single beam of comfort or of hope from without. Nay, more; that his children should have been cut off in the blossom of their sins, in the very height of their mirth, hurried away without time for further expiation or prayer, seemed, alter all the father's earnest piety, as if Heaven had abandoned and doomed him.
III. We may notice, too, THE VARIETY OF THE SOURCES OF THESE AFFLICTIONS, The first came from the hand of men, from robbers, from men of violence and deceit. The second fell from heaven, in the form of devouring fire. The third, again, was a human outrage; and the fourth and most dreadful again from the tempestuous violence of heaven. For a just man to be the prey of injustice, to know that bad men gain at the expense of his loss, is a bitter experience; but to see mysterious, superhuman power, as it were, in alliance and compact with the wicked, is an awful aggravation.
IV. But WHAT IS THE EFFECT ON THE SUFFERER'S MIND? A glorious halo indeed surrounds him in this awful moment. Now is the time to see what there is in goodness, what is the real nature of faith; now or never the accuser must be abashed, and faint hearts must take courage, and God must be glorified. We learn from Job's behaviour that a true life in God is destined to triumph over all outward change and loss, over darkness, mystery, and death.
1. Faith. He believes in God. Not for a moment is his faith shaken. And his first instinct is to throw himself upon his God. He falls upon "the world's great altar-stairs which slope through darkness up to God." "Behold, he prays," and Satan already trembles for his wager. Oh, let us ever bend, reed-like, beneath the storm of Heaven-sent trial; not be broken like the rigid oak! He who can say from the heart, like the poor father in the Gospels (Mark 9:24), "Lord, I believe," shall presently find the floods abating, and a great calm around him.
2. Resignation. Our will has nothing to do with the supreme turns and crises of being. We did not come into this world, we ought not to attempt to go out of it, by an act of our own. We must be resigned to live or to die. A supreme will determines our coming and our going, our entrance and our exit, in this short scene of life. We did not determine the external condition in which we should be born. We all came naked into the world, and shall pass away taking nothing with us. Our bodily composition is earthy, and it must crumble back to earth. To her, the all-receiving mother of human-kind, we must each return. The deep sense of these relations is fitted to impress the habit of resignation. And, on the other hand, the transitoriness and weakness of our earthly estate should throw us upon the great spiritual realities. Resignation is not religious, self-renunciation is not complete, until we learn not only to give up earth and earthly will, but to cast ourselves on the bosom of the Eternal. He gives and he takes away the things that are no part of us, but only that he may hold ourselves, our souls, to him for ever.
3. Thanksgiving. What! thanks to God when he takes, as well as when he gives? Is this natural? is this possible? All is natural, is possible, to faith. For faith rests not upon what God does at this or that moment, but upon what he ever is. His action varies; in himself there is no variableness, nor shadow of a turning. Joy and sorrow, light and darkness, every possible phase of human experience,—these are the language of God to the soul. His meaning is one through all tones of his voice. Blessed, then, be the Name, not of the bestowing, health and joy imparting Father of light, Giver of every good and perfect gift; but blessed be the Name of the Eternal, true to himself in all his purposes, true to his children in all his dealings with them for their good.
"Blessed be the hand that gives,
Still blessed when it takes."
Oh that these songs, e profundis and e tenebris—"from the depth" and "the darkness"—might be heard more clearly, more unfalteringly, in all our public devotions as well as in all our private prayers! This offering of self to God in trust, submission, thanksgiving, is a" reasonable sacrifice." And as its savour ascends to heaven, it brings its peaceful answer back to the heart. The twenty-second verse reminds us by contrast, of the danger of sinning against God by reproaches and murmurs in our sorrow. "Job sinned not, and gave no offence to God," as the words may, perhaps, be better rendered. And after dwelling so much upon that temper which pleases our heavenly Father, let us enforce the lesson by reflecting on what we are so ready to forget—that he is justly displeased by indulgence in doubts of his existence or goodness, rebellion against the course of his providence, and the refusal of praise to his holy Name.—J.
HOMILIES BY R. GREEN
The typical conditions of domestic happiness.
This early Eastern poem, designed to throw light on the methods of the Divine discipline of men, opens with a pleasing picture of domestic felicity, presenting a typical example of happy family life. But Job is the central figure. It is the Book of Job. All has its relation to him. He is the one subject of the book. Not more truly is Job perfect than are the circumstances which surround him. All the elements of domestic happiness are present. They are seen in—
I. THE PERSONAL CHARACTER OF THE HEAD OF THE HOUSE. In his spirit he is "perfect," not marked by moral flaw. As "a just man "he walks in his integrity. In his deportment and his dealing with men he is "upright." No crooked vagaries mar his character or conduct. Honesty, straightforwardness, sincerity, are the conspicuous virtues of this good man. Towards God he is reverent, devout, obedient. The foundation of all wisdom, as of all virtue, is present—he "fears God." Evil he "eschews," he avoids it. Such are the characteristics necessary in the head of a godly, happy household.
II. A second feature is seen in THE NUMBER OF THE MEMBERS OF THE FAMILY AND THEIR AFFECTIONATE RELATIONSHIPS. Each adds his own element of character, and the variety of those elements secures the completeness of the family life, while affection preserves its unity. Love is the bond of perfectness in the family as in all communities.
III. A further element is found in THE ABUNDANT POSSESSIONS, raising the family from want to affluence, and bringing within its reach all that could promote its comfort and enjoyment.
IV. Over the whole is cast the guard and the sanctity of HABITUAL RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCE. Declaring
(1) Job's faith in God;
(2) his reverent fear;
(3) his knowledge of the doctrine of redemption by sacrifice;
(4) his religious domestic discipline. In all these Job is a model for the head of a family.
Most proper was it that such a man should be "the greatest of the sons of the East." Happy the nation whose greatest men are its best! Happy the people amongst whom the most observable are the most worthy of imitation. Such was Job, the subject of one of the most interesting, as of one of the oldest, examples of poetical, dramatic, religious writing.—R.G.
Job 1:4, Job 1:5
The sanctification of the home; or, parental priesthood.
Parentage involves authority, responsibility, power, and honour. It imposes special spiritual or religious duties; it demands right personal conduct, as an example; prudent discipline and careful instruction. It is the duty of a father to protect his family, not from temporal evils only, but from spiritual; to provide for their temporal and spiritual needs.
The religious duties of parents embrace—
I. RELIGIOUS EXAMPLE.
II. RELIGIOUS INSTRUCTION.
III. RELIGIOUS GOVERNMENT OR DISCIPLINE.
IV. RELIGIOUS WORSHIP.
The Christian father, standing as the priest or representative of his family before God, has not to offer a sacrifice for the sins of his family, but may and should p/cad the one Sacrifice on behalf of all committed to his care. These the first conditions of a happy home. In Job's case the spiritual instincts of the father are excited on behalf of his family exposed to the evils of surrounding idolatry. The Christian father has equal cause to be watchful. Consider
(3) rewards, of faithful Christian parents.—R.G.
The trial of the righteous man.
The central subject of this book is the trial of the righteous man. Job is acknowledged of God to be "a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil." Yet he is tried, and tried sorely, and by permission of God. The difficulty to be solved by the history of Job is—How can it come to pass that the righteous suffer? To what end is this permitted? The trial of Job is divided into two parts—the first is briefly recounted, it contains the main facts; the second part is extended. The discussion of the book relates to the whole.
I. ATTENTION IS INSTANTLY DIRECTED TO THE AGENT OF THE TRIAL. Satan—the adversary. All our knowledge of the spirit-world is derived from Holy Scripture. The teaching of Scripture concerning evil spirits is full, minute, consistent. No valid objection to the existence of evil spirits can be raised on the ground of our ignorance, or our unfamiliarity with the phenomena attending the action of evil spirits. It is impossible to remove the teaching concerning Satan from Scripture without doing so great violence to it as to derange the whole. To a revelation we come to be taught, not to cavil. But the story is pictorially and dramatically represented. Satan is throughout "the agent of probation" Satanic action is not prevented, but controlled by God. The spirit of Satan is revealed by the malignant accusation made against Job. He charges Job with selfishness; his motive to obedience is a false one; his integrity will not stand a severe test. Very significant is the representation of the allowed Satanic testing," All that he hath is in thy power."
II. ATTENTION IS DIRECTED TO THE NATURE OF THE TRIAL. It embraces the loss to Job of his substance, his servants, and his children. Wave after wave of sorrowful intelligence reaches him. Yet it is sudden. While one was "yet speaking, there came also another." It robbed the man of property, of his possessions; the man of honour, authority, and influence, of his servants; the tender father, of his family. How sad the change in his circumstances! How poignant his grief from the loss of his children How desolate the home! How suddenly the brightness of noon changed for the darkness of midnight! It would be difficult to conceive a picture of more severe trial. It was intense, widespread, irreparable.
III. ATTENTION IS DIRECTED TO THE TEACHING OF THE TRIAL.
1. The folly of depending too confidently on earthly happiness. Every condition of happiness present; every ground of hope for its continuance; yet how speedily destroyed!
2. The demand for other resources of blessedness than those found in the changeful conditions of the present life. The hand must not grasp earthly riches too firmly. All that is of earth fadeth: how needful to seek "durable riches"!
3. The whole surroundings and possessions of life may be made the occasions of the testing of virtue.
4. The necessity for such a view of one's life, and such a habit of obedience, as to be able to bow to the Divine will in the midst of our heaviest trials.—R.G.
The righteous man.
Righteousness as descriptive of human character illustrated in Job. A few words only used. The Divine description. Highest testimony. Generally "my servant,"—the most honourable distinction. There is no higher calling in life than to serve God. But Job stands in special distinction—he is unequalled amongst men. His is the typical example of righteousness till a Greater than he appears. "There is none like him in the earth." A truly honourable position to be the first man of one's age. Job has the special honour of this Divine judgment. Needful for us to know the elements of so exalted a character. They are stated. The righteousness of Job is displayed in—
I. INWARD SANCTITY. Freedom from evil; "perfect"—wholeness, completeness of character; not to be supposed free from human frailty, but free from blemishes of character and conduct; a just man, having a well-balanced, self-controlled, law-abiding spirit.
II. UPRIGHTNESS. Conformed to that which is right; holding a right relation to God and man; correct and honourable in his dealings; a man of probity, truth, and honour. "One that feareth God."
III. REVERENCE TOWARDS GOD. Pious; fulfilling religious duties; devotional. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;" "the root of the matter" in Job.
IV. ABHORRENCE OF EVIL. Having fear of God, he stands aloof from everything on which the Divine disapprobation rests. A pure mind withdraws from foulness, as a charitable man from selfishness, and an upright man from baseness.
Such a character is fitted to be a servant of God. On such the blessing of the Lord rests. But such are not exempt from trial. Even virtue must be tested. Into the hands of the dark agent of human probation even Job must be cast. This book reveals this truth, and illustrates and answers the difficulties suggested by it.—R.G.
The triumph of faith.
The trial in its great severity has fallen upon Job. His oxen and asses have been rapaciously torn away from him by the Sabeans; many of his servants have been slain with the edge of the sword; the fire of God has consumed the sheep and the shepherds who took charge of them; the camels the Chaldeans have stolen, and slain the camel-keepers; the house of the eldest son, in which Job's sons and daughters were feasting, has been smitten by a great wind, and it has fallen, crushing the young men beneath its ruins. Could greater calamities happen to any man? This picture of desolation is complete. Surely every quality of character is tested. What call for passionate, impatient complaining! What is Job s conduct in this hour? He presents the example of the triumphant victory of faith.
I. THE VICTORY OF FAITH HAS ITS FOUNDATION IN A RECOGNITION OF THE DIVINE SUPREMACY. "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away." To live in the abiding acknowledgment of the Divine supremacy is the first requisite in a pure and a triumphing faith. It sees all things to be God's. He is Lord of all. Job feared God, and he trusted in God. Fear supports faith as truly as it sanctifies love.
II. THE VICTORY OF FAITH IS PROMOTED BY REVERENTIAL DEVOTION. Even the keen pangs of sorrow did not prevent Job from lowly worship. He sought the Lord in the day of his calamity, and he was helped. One allows his affliction to withdraw him from God; but he is driven to despair, for there is no helper; and the poor smitten spirit cannot stand alone. Another is driven to God, and finds a Hiding-place and Rock of defence. When we make God our Refuge, he becomes our Strength. It is foolish to forget God in the time of our need. He can help us when all other help fails. He will not see his feeble creatures come to him with lowly prayer, asking his aid with heart sincere, and yet leave them to their own resources. He who before God confesses his want gains for himself the Divine riches.
III. THE VICTORY OF FAITH IS CONSISTENT WITH GREAT PAINFULNESS AND SORROW Job rent his mantle and shaved off his hair—Eastern methods of representing sorrow. The great Exemplar was "exceeding sorrowful, even unto death." He also "suffered"—was preeminently "a Man of sorrows." The godly in all ages have been put to the proof. "It came to pass that God did tempt Abraham." This is to be said of every son of Abraham.
IV. THE VICTORY OF FAITH IS THE LOWLY' BUT BECOMING TRIBUTE OF THE HUMAN HEART TO THE SUPREMACY, THE WISDOM, AND THE GOODNESS OF GOD.
V. THE VICTORY OF FAITH ENSURES THE UTMOST DIVINE APPROVAL; and, as this completed history is designed to show, ends in a final reward which hides the recollection of the toil and suffering by which it is attained. The great lesson of all: "Have faith in God."—R.G.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
The Book of Job opens with a description of its hero. The portrait is drawn with the few swift, strong strokes of a master-hand. We have first the outer man and then the inner—first Job as he was known to any casual observer, and then Job as he was seen by the more thoughtful and penetrating, i.e. as he was in his true self.
I. THE OUTER MAN.
1. A man. Job first appears before us as a man.
(1) Only a man. Not a demi-god, not an angel. Frail as a man, feeble, and fallible.
(2) A true man. Diogenes went about with a lanthorn to search for a man. He need not have gone far if he had been in the land of Uz. Here was one who revealed the heroism of true manhood in the hour of most severe trial
(3) A typical man. Job is not called "the man," but "a man," one of a race. He is not named "the son of man." Only One could bear that title in its fulness of meaning. Job was an exceptional man indeed. But he was not unique. We are not to think of him as standing alone. The drama which is enacted in his experience is a type—though on a large scale—of the drama of human life generally.
2. A Gentile. Job was of "the land of Uz"—a Syrian or an Arab. Yet his story occurs in the Jewish Scriptures, and there he appears as one of God's most choice saints. Even in the Old Testament the Books of Job and Jonah show that all Divine grace is not confined to the narrow line of Israel God has now those whom he owns in heathen lands. To be out of the covenant is not to be renounced by God, if one's heart and life are turned heavenwards.
3. A marked individual. "Whose name was Job." This man had a name, and his history has made it a great name. Though one of a race, every man has his own personality, character, and career. The significance of a name will depend on the conduct of the man who bears it. Job—Judas: what opposite ideas do these two names suggest? What will be the flavour of our names for those who come after us?
II. THE INNER MAN.
1. A moral character.
(1) Inwardly true. This seems to he the idea of the biblical word "perfect." No one is perfect in our sense of the word. Certainly Job was not faultless, nor had he attained to the top of the highest pinnacle of grace. But he was no hypocrite. There was no guile, no duplicity, in him. He was true to the core, a man of moral simplicity, who wore no mask. Tests of trouble could not prove such a man false.
(2) Outwardly upright. This characteristic is a necessary consequence of the preceding one. No man can be inwardly true whose way of life is crooked. Truth in the inward parts must be followed by righteousness of couduct. Note what tremendous stress the Bible lays on plain integrity. There is no saintliness without it. Job was an honest man—true to his word, fair in his dealing, trustworthy, and honourable. Such is the man in whom God delights.
2. A religious character.
(1) Positively devout. "One that feared God" Thus Job had "the beginning of wisdom" Here was the secret of his moral integrity. The deepest moral characteristics of a good man rest on his religion. The interior life cannot be sound without this; for then, even if the second table of commandments may be kept, the first is neglected.
(2) Negatively opposed to sin. Sin is the opposite of devoutness. The religious man not only shuns it; he hates it. Though sometimes he weakly succumbs to it, yet he detests it. It is not enough not to sin, we must hate and loathe sin.—W.F.A.
The dangers of prosperity.
This book proposes to give us a picture of extreme and probably unprecedented adversity. It is fitting that it should open with a scene of exceptional prosperity, to serve as a contrast to the dark scenes that follow. Moreover, the idea of the book is the better realized if we observe that the original prosperity is considered in its moral aspect, as concealing a possible temptation to sin.
I. THE PROSPERITY WAS SUBSTANTIAL.
1. A large family. This is always regarded in the Bible as a mark of prosperity. It is an unnatural social condition of congested populations that has led to the opposite idea in our own time. Certainly, where there are means for a livelihood, the family is a source of joy and influence, as well as wholesome self-sacrifice.
2. Great property. Job had more than the means for a livelihood. According to the estimate of a pastoral life, he was a very rich man, notoriously rich, and without an equal. Yet this man knew and feared God. It is therefore possible with God for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:26).
II. THE PROSPERITY WAS ENJOYED. Job's sons and daughters were feasting together. Here is a picture of happy family life in the midst of affluence. The jealousy and bitterness that sometimes poison the cup of prosperity were not known in Job's household. His family was united and affectionate. It was by no means ascetic; but we have no reason for thinking it ought to have been so. No reproach is urged against Job's sons and daughters for feasting together. There is a time for innocent enjoyment, and when this is taken temperately and gratefully, only superstitious fears can suggest the idea of a Nemesis. The motto Carpe diem is mean and execrable, because it carries with it an implied renunciation of duty.
III. THERE WAS A DANGER IN THIS PROSPERITY. Job feared lest his children might have renounced God in their hearts.
1. A danger of godlessness. This is serious in the mind of Job, though it did not show itself in unkind or unjust conduct to men. To forsake God is sin, even though a man pay his debts.
2. An internal evil. "In their hearts" There might be no open blasphemy; yet the hearts of the gay and careless young men and women might be alienated from God. Even this is sin.
3. An evil threatened by prosperity. It is remarkable that this is the very sin which Job is subsequently tempted to commit by the agonies of overwhelming calamities. Here he thinks that prosperity may induce it in his children, for that tempts men to be satisfied with earth, to be vain, proud, and self-complacent.
IV. JOB GUARDED AGAINST THE DANGER. The patriarchal religion made the father the priest of his household. So he must be always when he realizes his position. Parents lay up property for their children; it is more important that they should make provision for their children's spiritual welfare. They watch anxiously for symptoms of disease in them; much more should they be on their guard against the first signs of moral defects. Job's children were sanctified—ceremonially cleansed. Ours need to be truly dedicated to God by parental prayers.—W.F.A.
Here Satan appears in a very prominent and privileged position. He is the accuser rather than the tempter. At all events, he has a range of influence which suggests most terrible possibilities. We must remember that we are perhaps reading a symbolical drama, and must not take every line of it with dry literal exactness, as necessarily descriptive of actual historical events. Nevertheless, it suggests truths of great and lasting importance.
I. SATAN IS AT LARGE. He was at large in the days of Job, and he is so now. The days have not yet come when Satan is to be completely bound and made quite powerless for harm. We need therefore to be watching, for when we are most off our guard he is most likely to appear.
II. SATAN IS IN MOTION. "Going to and fro in the earth." He is not always tempting us. He left Christ "for a season" after the great forty days' temptation (Luke 4:13). But if he leaves us for a time, it is to return again—no one can say how soon. One of his devices is to surprise us with novel temptations.
III. SATAN IS WATCHFUL. His eye was on Job. He had found that perfect and upright man, studied him, and laid deep plans for attacking him. Satan is indeed the old serpent, cunning and capable. There is no weak place in the armour that can possibly escape the vigilance of our horrible foe.
IV. SATAN IS SUBJECT TO GOD'S JUDGMENT. He appears in Job as privileged to present himself among the sons of God. The complete rebellion and utter fall of the prince of evil is not yet seen. But even where that is recognized, as in the New Testament, the Judge of all the earth must be able to call his rebellious creature to account.
V. SATAN IS NOW RESTRICTED BY CHRIST'S VICTORY. He cannot range at large so freely as before. Jesus Christ lived on earth, wrestled with him, and flung the foul fiend to the earth. Our Lord has bound the strong man, and robbed his house (Mark 3:27). It is true that the bondage is not yet complete. But the powers of evil are crippled wherever the light of Christ shines.
VI. SATAN'S RANGE DOES NOT EXTEND ABOVE THE EARTH. He wanders to and fro—in the earth. A wide range, but limited. Here we are tempted by the spirit of evil But no temptations can enter heaven. We have but to hold out faithfully through our earthly pilgrimage, and there will be rest from the assaults of our great enemy when we pass to the home of the victorious.
VII. SATAN'S RANGE SHOULD BE EQUALLED BY THAT OF THE MESSENGERS OF THE GOSPEL. If he thus wanders, so should the Christian missionaries. Wherever the bite of the serpent is found, there should the healing balm be sent. Sin is world-wide, so also are the grace and power of Christ.—W.F.A.
Satan's suggestion is obvious enough. Job is religious; but Job is prosperous. Cast down his prosperity, and his religion will come down too like a house of cards.
I. TRUE RELIGION BRINGS GREAT REWARDS. AS a matter of fact, Job was making the best of both worlds. While he was fearing and serving God, God was blessing and smiling upon him.
1. Religion often brings earthly prosperity. It is frequently true that "honesty is the best policy." God shows his love in very evident ways to many of his children, blessing them "in basket and store." When a good man is prosperous in business or home it is only right that he should acknowledge the kind hand from which all his happiness comes.
2. Religion always brings heavenly prosperity. It must be well with the soul that is near to God. He who owns Christ does most certainly possess a pearl of great price. Even the poor man in his adversity is rich with spiritual treasure when he has the love of God in his heart.
II. THE RELIGION WHICH DEPENDS ON REWARDS IS NOT TRUE. Job got much through his service of God, or rather along with that service; for all he had was of God's free grace, not of desert. But if he had only been religious in the spirit of the hireling, working for pay, his religion would have been rank hypocrisy. This is true of future as well as earthly rewards. It applies not only to the tradesman who goes to church that he may please church-going customers; it is true also of one who is a slave to "other-worldliness," and who behaves like a fanatical Mohammedan when he rushes forward to certain death in battle, inspired by the expectation of flying immediately to a paradise of houris. Self-seeking in religion is always fatal. It is natural to look forward to the rewards which God promises; but it is fatal to all devotion to make the pursuit of those rewards our chief motive. The true servant of God will say—
"And I will ask for no reward,
Except to serve thee still"
III. IT IS POSSIBLE TO RENDER DISINTERESTED SERVICE TO GOD. The accuser did not believe this; he spoke with Satanic cynicism. There are people who pride themselves on being men of the world, and who deny that there is any such thing as disinterested generosity. Possibly the reason is that they judge all men by their own low standard; or that they have not the eyes to see the best side of life. With all their boasted keenness of vision there is a whole realm of noble living which is entirely beyond their ken. The Satan-spirit can never understand the Christ-spirit. Now, the great problem of the Book of Job lies in this. That book is to prove the falsity of Satan's base insinuation. It is to show to the astonished accuser that disinterested devotion is possible. It is to prove, in the extreme instance of Job, that a man may lose all the apparent rewards of religion, and yet not give up his religion; that he may suffer grievous adversity and yet not renounce his God. Job is a magnificent illustration of this truth. But behind Job is God, and the real secret is that God can and does inspire disinterested devotion.—W.F.A.
In Satan's power.
I. GOD PERMITS TEMPORAL ADVERSITY.
1. It cannot come without his permission. Satan roams over the earth, longing for mischief; yet he cannot do any harm till he obtains leave from the court of heaven. It is some consolation in adversity to know that this has not fallen without God's observing it, nor even in spite of his will. That which he distinctly sanctions cannot be really bad. Therefore adversity is not the evil it appears to be.
2. God does not always inflict evil immediately. It is not God, but Satan, who smites Job. It would seem that God would never have done it, and that if Satan had not sought permission to hurt Job, Job's prosperity would have remained unshaken. This is not like the narratives of destroying angels sent forth by God to smite Jerusalem (2 Samuel 24:16) and to destroy the Assyrian host (2 Kings 19:35). In those cases the calamity was from God. Here it originates in Satan, though it is permitted by God. Possibly we may see a ray of light on the mystery of suffering in this fact, especially as a similar thing is seen in the New Testament, in the ease of the woman "whom Satan has bound" (Luke 13:16), and in the case of a person "delivered over to Satan" (1 Timothy 1:20). St. Paul's thorn in the flesh was not a messenger of God, but "a messenger of Satan ' (2 Corinthians 12:7). There are evils which God would not initiate, yet which it would not be well for him at once to restrain by force.
II. GOD LIMITS THE ADVERSITY HE PERMITS. Satan is permitted to lay hold on all that Job possesses, but not to touch the man himself. Thus the adversity is limited, and on various grounds.
1. According to necessity. It shall be no greater than is necessary to accomplish its object. God is lavish of mercies; he is parsimonious with afflictions—even in the case of the huge afflictions of a Job! But he is the Judge of how much trouble is necessary, and we cannot estimate it.
2. According to powers of endurance. God will not suffer us to be tempted beyond that we are able to endure (1 Corinthians 10:13). He knew Job when he pertained tremendous troubles to fall upon him. Those Titanic shoulders could carry a giant's load of calamity. Weaker souls are more gently dealt with.
III. THE ADVERSITY IS ONLY PERMITTED FOR THE SAKE OF A GREAT GOOD. To the casual observer it looks as though Job were merely delivered over for Satan to make diabolical sport with him, as the Philistines made sport with blind Samson. But God would not thus cruelly deal with any man. The fact is, Job is to prove a great truth to devils and angels, and ultimately to men also. The testing of his fidelity is a lesson for the universe. It shows that God inspires disinterested devotion. Now, Job was not aware of this purpose. Had he known it, the trial would have been frustrated. To him the series of calamities is an overwhelming mystery, and he is tried the more by its inexplicable character. We cannot see the purpose of our troubles. But there is a purpose. Possibly one explanation is, not that we are merely to suffer for our own soul's discipline, but, like Job, for the sake of lessons which, without our knowing them, may be taught to others by means of our experience.—W.F.A.
Job's unparalleled calamities.
Everything is done to heighten and intensify the impression of Job's calamities. Let us note their salient features.
I. THEY OCCUR AT A SEASON OF FESTIVITY. It was a feast-day, and Job's whole family was gathered together in his eldest son's house. Then of all times the affectionate father would be least prepared for ominous rumours of calamity. The thunderbolt fell from the cloudless blue sky. Without a note of warning, the fearful storm burnt in an overwhelming deluge. This is a lesson against trusting to prosperity, as though it contained a promise of its own certain continuance. But it is no unmerciful arrangement of Providence that the dark future is hidden from us. We are made sad because
"We look before and after."
If we saw all the future, we could not endure the present.
II. THEY OCCUR IN RAPID SUCCESSION. So closely do these calamities follow one upon another that, before the first messenger has told his tale, a second herald arrives with more evil news, followed as speedily by a third, and he after no more delay by the last, with his most dreadful message. It has often been noticed how troubles come in batches. In Job's case we can see the reason. One fearful power of malignity is behind the whole series.
III. THEY COME FROM VARIOUS QUARTERS. Though Satan is the ultimate cause of all the calamities, he does not inflict any of them with his own hand. He keeps that hidden, and finds means to send emissaries from all quarters—Arabs from the south fall on the home farm; lightning from heaven smites the sheep on the downs; three robber-bands of roving Chaldees from the north swoop down on the caravan of camels that carries Job's wealth of merchandise; and, worse than all else, a hurricane from the desert smites and fells the house where Job's sons and daughters are feasting. Who can dwell in security when trouble may come in so many directions? It is impossible for the strongest man to fortify himself against it. None of us can do more than make reasonable preparations, which may all prove useless. But all may trust the providence of him who rules wind and storm and heart of man, and without whose permission not a hair of our head can be touched.
IV. THEY ARE AGGRAVATED AS THEY PROCEED. The worst comes last. It is terrible for a rich man to see his wealth melting before his eyes in a few moments. This was Antonio's trouble when his fleet of merchandise was destroyed ('Merchant of Venice'), but it was not so fearful as Malcolm's, when all his children were murdered at once ('Macbeth'), or the late Archbishop Tait's, when one after another his children died of an epidemic of fever. Let the impoverished man be thankful if his family is spared to him. Note:
1. Possibly trouble is softened by coming with successive shocks. Each may drown the effect of its predecessor.
2. Job's trouble was only once surpassed—in Gethsemane.—W.F.A.
Job 1:21, Job 1:22
We cannot but be struck with the magnificent calmness of Job after receiving the successive blows of unprecedented calamities. He is not stunned; he is not distracted. He possesses his soul in patience. With a singular dignity of bearing he is seen to be greater now in his calamity than ever he appeared when at the height of success.
I. HOW JOB BEHAVED.
1. He mourned. This was natural, reasonable, and right. He would have been less than mall if he had taken his troubles without a pang. God loves the heart of flesh, not the stony heart; and the heart of flesh must needs feel great trouble very keenly. God's saint is not a stoic. But though Job mourned, he did so with calmness and self-restraint. He did not fling himself down in passionate grief. His rising, his rending his mantle—from neck to girdle, according to custom—his shaving his head, all indicate his marvellous self-possession. He goes through the dreary process of conventional mourning with unflinching decision. His calmness, however, only covers the depth of his sorrow. There is something terrible about that methodical process. The tragedy is sublime.
2. He worshipped. He did not renounce God. On the contrary, he blessed the Name of the Lord. He could not understand the meaning and end of his strange experience. But he knew God, and he never dreamed of doubting God. Moreover, his trouble drives him to God. He falls before God in adoration. The singular thing is that he is not seen praying for help. His trouble is beyond help, and he is not one to whine in weak misery. He loses himself in adoration of God. This is the great secret of fortitude—not to cry for deliverance, but to forget ourselves in God.
II. WHAT JOB RECEIVED. He spoke to God, or perhaps uttered a soliloquy, for the relief of his own heart, yet doubtless conscious of the sustaining presence of God. His words show his perfect reasonableness. There is nothing which makes people so unreasonable as trouble. Yet Job was not yet turned one hairs breadth from the line of truth and reason by his fearful calamities. It is a great security to see things as they are. Half our distress arises from our viewing them in false lights of passion and prejudice. If we are only calm enough to look about us, we may discover a strange revealing light in great calamities. They break through the conventional forms, and flash out facts.
1. Job saw his own littleness. In a moment he perceived that he had no natural right to all he had possessed. He had nothing when he entered the world; he could carry nothing out with him. Pride prepares for distresses which humility escapes. When we perceive how very small we are, we cannot be amazed at any loss which we may sustain.
2. Job recognized God's right. He who gives has a right to withdraw. All we have is on loan from God. This truth does not make our loss the less, but a perception of it calms the foolish, rebellious spirit, which is the source of our deepest misery.—W.F.A.
Thus ends the first scene. Satan is completely defeated. His surmise is proved to he utterly false. God has permitted the hedge about Job to be broken through, and the destroyer has ravaged his possessions till the garden is turned into a desert. Yet the good man does not renounce God.
I. TO CHARGE GOD WITH WRONG IS A SIN. This was the sin to which Satan was tempting Job. The suggestion was that he should say that God was acting cruelly, unjustly, wrongly. Now, as this seems a natural inference from the events, why was it wrong for Job to follow it? The answer must be found in the truth that God is not known inductively by means of external phenomena.
"Judge not the Lord by feeble sense."
He has made himself known by special revelations, and he is ever making himself more and more known in the voice of conscience. From these sources we know that the Judge of all the earth must do right. To doubt this is to forsake the higher light and to sink into culpable folly. To prefer a charge against God is worse than to doubt him. At least we might be silent.
II. THE ABSENCE OF SIN CAN ONLY BE PROVED BY TRIALS. It is easy to hide sin from view in times of quiet. Then the base metal may shine as brightly as the pure gold. The fiery test reveals its worthlessness. The important question is as to whether we have a character that will stand fire. It is of little value for a man not to be sinning when he has no inducement to sin. His goodness then is at best a negative innocence, and very possibly it is only a slumbering of latent evil
III. THE MOST DIFFICULT THING IS NOT TO SIN WHEN ONE IS MOST TEMPTED. There were many sins, doubtless, to which Job was not at all liable. It was little to his credit that he was not guilty of them. The point of interest was that "in all this," i.e. in this specially trying series of calamities, Job did not commit the particular sin to which they pointed, i.e. charging God with wrong. People pride themselves on their goodness in various directions; but this is of small importance if they fail when they are really tempted.
IV. THE SECRET OF STANDING FIRE IS IN THE STRENGTH OF GOD. Now Job has the reward of his long devotion to God. Verse 5 shows him a man of prayer in the days of prosperity; it shows him praying for his children in their need; thus Job was being prepared unconsciously for the evil day. When it came it found him ready, though it was quite unexpected, because it found him living near to God. When the whirlwind is about us it is too late to think of strengthening the tent-stakes. We need the inward strength of God, which comes by the slow growth of Christian experience, if we are to stand like the sturdy oak in the sudden swirl of calamities.—W.F.A.