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Job 13:1, Job 13:2
The first two verses of Job 13:1-28. are closely connected with Job 12:1-25; forming the natural termination to the first section of Job's argument, that all results, whether good or evil, must be referred to God. Job 13:1 is little more than a repetition of Job 12:9 and Job 13:2 of Job 12:3.
Lo, mine eye hath seen all this, mine ear hath heard and understood it. All the particulars mentioned concerning God's government of the world in Job 12:6-25 are derived by Job from his own experience. His eye has seen them or his ear has heard them. He is not indebted to others for information on these simple points, which he regards as necessarily impressed by their experience on all grown men (see Job 12:9).
What ye know, the same do I know also. Job's friends have claimed to instruct him and set him right, on the ground of their age and experience (Job 4:8; Job 5:27; Job 8:8-10), He protests that, in the matters on which they have lectured him, they have no advantage over himself—he knows all that they know—in truth, the knowledge is open to all (see Job 12:3). I am not inferior unto you. An exact repetition of the second clause of Job 12:3.
The second section of Job's argument is prefaced, like the first (Job 12:2-5), with a complaint with respect to the conduct of his opponents. He taxes them with the fabrication of lies (verse 4), with want of skill as physicians of souls (verse 4), with vindicating God by reasonings in which they do not themselves believe (verses 7, 8), and consequently with really mocking him (verse 9). Having warned them that they are more likely to offend God than to please him by such arguments as those that they have urged (verses 10-12), he calls on them to hold their peace, and allow him to plead his cause with God (verse 13).
Surely I would speak to the Almighty. It is not Job's wish to argue his ease with his three friends, but to reason it out with God. His friends, however, interfere with this design, check it, thwart it, prevent him from carrying it out. He must therefore first speak a few words to them. And I desire to reason with God. Compare God's own invitation to his people, "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord" (Isaiah 1:18), and again, "Put me in remembrance, let us plead together; declare thou, that thou mayest be justified" (Isaiah 43:26); which indicate God's gracious willingness to allow men to plead on their own behalf before him, and do their best to justify themselves.
But ye are forgers of lies. A harsh expression, indicating that Job was thoroughly exasperated. The lies which his friends had forged were, partly, misrepresentations of what he had said, as for example Job 11:4, but mainly statements, more or less covert, which implied that he had brought all his calamities on himself by a course of evil-doing (see Job 4:7, Job 4:8; Job 8:13, Job 8:14; Job 11:11, Job 11:14, Job 11:20). Ye are all physicians of no value. Job's friends had come to him to "comfort" him (Job 2:11), and act as physicians of his soul. But they had entirely failed to be of the least service. They had not even understood his case.
Oh that ye would altogether hold your peace! The friends had "held their peace" for seven days after their arrival (Job 2:13). Oh that they would have held it altogether! Their words had done nothing but exasperate and goad almost to madness. There is a mournful pathos in Job's entreates to them to be silent (comp verse 13). And it should be your wisdom. "Speech," it has been said, "is silvern, silence is golden." No doubt" there is a time for everything … a time to keep silence, and a time to speak" (Ecclesiastes 3:1, Ecclesiastes 3:7); nor is the rule of La Trappe altogether a wise one. But probably ten times as much harm is done in the world by speaking as by keeping silence. "Words for God" need especial care and caution. If they do not do good, the harm that they may do is incalculable.
Hear now my reasoning. As his friends have not kept silence, but have spoken, Job claims a right to be heard in his turn. If it be thought that he is somewhat impatient, it must be remembered that his opponents are three to one, all eager to catch him in a fault, and not very mild in their reprimands. And hearken to the pleadings of my lips. Job's "pleadings" are addressed, not to his friends, but to God, and are contained in verses 14-28 of the present, and the whole of the succeeding chapter.
Will ye speak wickedly for God? We are not to suppose that Job's friends consciously used unsound and untrue arguments in their disputations with him on God's behalf. On the contrary, they are to be regarded as convinced of the truth of their own reasonings—as brought up in the firm belief, that temporal prosperity or wretchedness was dealt out by God, immediately, by his own will, to his subjects according to their behaviour. Holding this, they naturally thought that Job, being so greatly afflicted, must be a great sinner, and, as they could not very plausibly allege any open sins against him, they saw in his sufferings a judgment on him for secret sins. "His chosen friends, as Mr. Froude says, "wise, good, pious men, as wisdom and piety were then, without one glimpse of the true cause of his sufferings, saw in them a judgment of this character. He became to them an illustration, and even (such are the paralogisms of men of this description) a proof of their theory that 'the prosperity of the wicked is but for a while;' and instead of the comfort and help that they might have brought him, and which in the end they were made to bring him, he is to them no more than a text for the enunciation of solemn falsehood", i.e. of statements which were false, though solemnly believed by them to be true. And talk deceitfully for him. "Deceitfully,'' because untruly, yet so plausibly as to be likely to deceive others.
Will ye accept his person? will ye contend for God? Job intends to accuse his opponents of leaning unduly to God's side, and being prepared to justify him in the teeth of reason and justice. This is like the conduct of a judge who should allow his decision to be biassed by favour towards one or the other party in a suit.
Is it good that he should search you out? "Are your motives in thus acting," Job asks his opponents, "so pure that they will stand the severity of God's judgment when he turns his scrutiny upon you' and searches out the grounds of your proceedings? Is not your real motive to carry favour with him because he is so great and powerful?" Or as one man mocketh another, do ye so meek him? You may impose on a man by so acting, but you will not impose on God.
He will surely reprove you, if ye do secretly accept persons. Even though it is his own person which you accept, his own cause that you unduly favour, he, as the God of truth, and Maintainer of right, will assuredly reprove and condemn you.
Shall not his excellency make you afraid! and his dread fall upon you? Will not the very excellency and perfection of God cause you all the more to fear, since they will be arrayed against you? God, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, who is no respecter of persons, and hates those who are respecters of persons, will by his very purity and truth be offended at your conduct, and induced to punish it,
Your remembrances are like unto ashes. The "remembrances" intended are probably the wise saws, embodiments of the ancient wisdom, on which Job's adversaries have relied in their disputations with him (Job 4:7, Job 4:8; Job 8:8-11, etc.). These Job declares to be mere dust and ashes—useless, worthless, such as the first breath of air wilt blow away. Your bodies to bodies of clay; rather, your mounds' or your defences (see the Revised Version). These defences, Job says—i.e, the arguments by which his opponents support their views—are no better than "defences of clay "—easy to batter down and destroy. The ancient defences of a town were usually either of stone, as at Khorsabad, or of crude brick faced with burnt brick, as at Babylon and elsewhere. But Job seems to be speaking of something more primitive than either of these—mere earthworks, like the Roman aggera, hastily thrown up and easy to level with the ground.
Hold your peace, let me alone, that I may speak; literally, be silent from me that I may speak; but our version gives the true meaning. Job repeats the entreaty with which he had bemoan (verses 5, 6). And let some on me what will. Job is prepared to face the worst. He feels, as he expresses it below (verse 19), that, if he holds his tongue, he must die. He must speak, and speak he will. After that, let God do as he may please—he will accept his punishment, if God thinks fit to punish him.
The appeal is now to God; but Job prefaces it by excusing his boldness (verses 14-19).
Wherefore do I take my flesh in my teeth! An obscure phrase, to be explained by the parallel in the second member of the verse. The general meaning is, "Why do I jeopardize everything—my body, taking it as it were between my teeth; and my soul, taking it as it were in my hand?" Neither idea will bear minute analysis; but the latter, at any rate, was known to the Greeks, and is common in English. And put my life in my hand (comp. Judges 12:3; 1Sa 19:5; 1 Samuel 28:21; Psalms 119:109).
Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him; rather, yet will I wait for him. The passage is one of the few in this book where there are two readings—לוֹ איחל and לאֹ איחל. Those who prefer the latter commonly render it, "I have no hope;" but it is pointed out by Canon Cook that there are reasons for regarding לֹא as an archaic form for לוֹ, which sometimes takes its place. If this be not allowed the reading לוֹ will have to be preferred, on the double authority of the versions and of the context. Job cannot possibly have said, in one verse, "I have no hope," and in the next, "He (God) shall be my Salvation." But I will maintain mine own ways before him; i.e. "I will maintain that they are right and good ways, not open to the imputations that my 'friends' have cast upon them" (Job 4:7, Job 4:8; Job 8:6, Job 8:20; Job 11:11, Job 11:14, Job 11:20).
He also shall be my Salvation. Whatever God does to him (Job 13:13), whatever burden he lays upon him, though he even "slay" him (Job 13:15), yet Job is sure that ultimately, in one way or another, God will be his Salvation. It is this determined trustfulness which at once gives Job's character its strength, and atones in a certain sense for his over-boldness in challenging God to a controversy. His heart is right with God. Though the secrets of the unseen world have been hidden from him, and the condition of man after death is a mystery on which he can only form vague conjectures, yet he is sure that in the end God will not fail him. For an hypocrite shall not come before him. If he were a hypocrite the case would be different; he would tremble before God, instead of feeling confident. But, knowing that he is honest and true, he is not afraid; he is bold to "come before him," and plead his cause before him.
Hear diligently my speech, and my declaration with your ears. A last appeal to his opponents to give him their full attention (comp. Job 13:6),
Behold now, I have ordered my cause; i.e. I have prepared my pleadings, and arranged them; I know what I am about to say. Also I know that I shall be justified. I am confident, i.e.' that tile cause, if it be fully heard, will be decided in my favour. It will appear that I have not brought my calamities upon myself by my own misdoings. Of justification, in the forensic sense, of imputed righteousness, with its concomitant ideas, Job, of course, knows nothing.
Who is he that will plead with me? Will God himself plead? Or will he depute some one, man or angel? Job is impatient that the pleadings should begin. For now, if I hold my tongue, I shall give up the ghost. Some translate, "For now shall I hold my peace and give up the ghost," which they explain to mean, "If God does implead me, I shall take refuge in silence, and straightway expire." But this seems an impossible conclusion, when all that Job has been aiming at and striving for since his opponents taxed him with wickedness has been that he might "speak to the Almighty, and reason with God" (verse 3). It is far simpler to keep to the translation of the Authorized Version, and understand Job to mean that things have now reached a point at which he must either speak or expire.
Only do not two things unto me. Before beginning his plea, Job has two requests to make of God.
(1) That he will put an end for a time to his bodily sufferings—suspend them, at any rate, while the pleading continues;
(2) that he will during the same space abstain from terrifying him mentally, as he had done on previous occasions (Job 6:4; Job 7:14; Job 9:14; see below, Job 9:21). Then will I not hide myself from thee; literally, from thy face (comp. Job 9:34, Job 9:35, "Let him take his rod away from me, and let not his fear terrify me: then would I speak, and not fear him ").
Withdraw thine hand far from me; i.e. "thy afflicting hand." Job views all his physical suffering as coming directly from the hand of God—momentarily caused by him, and therefore removable by him at any moment. He has no thought for secondary causes. And let not thy dread make me afraid. Job speaks here and elsewhere of spiritual terrors—those vague and impalpable fears which suggest themselves inwardly to the soul, and are tar more painful, far more dreadful, than any amount of bodily anguish. Unless he is free from these, as well as from physical pains, he cannot plead his cause freely and fully.
Then call thou, and I will answer. "Then"—when I am free from suffering, both mental and bodily—implead me, bring thy charges against me, and I will answer them. As Mr. Fronds observes, "Job himself had been educated in the same creed" as his comforters; "he, too, had been taught to see the hand of God in the outward dispensation". He therefore assumes that God will have a particular charge to make against him, in connection with each of the calamities that have come on him, and he is prepared to face these changes and confute them. At the same time, he is undoubtedly much confused and perplexed, not knowing how to reconcile his traditional belief with his internal consciousness of innocence. Or let me speak, and answer thou me. "Let me," i.e.' "take the initiative, if thou preferrest it so—let me ask the questions, and do thou answer."
How many are mine iniquities and sins? This is scarcely, as Professor Stanley Leathes represents it, "a deep confession of personal sin". It is more in the nature of a remonstrance. "These sins of mine, for which I. am so grievously punished, what are they? Name them. How many are there of them? Let me know exactly what they are; and then I can question my conscience concerning them." Make me to know my transgression and my sin. These words imply that lie does not know them at present. He knows of some infirmities and lighter misdoings of his youth (Job 13:26); but he knows of no such sins as are commensurate with his sufferings.
Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and holdest me for thine enemy? What is thy reason for withdrawing from me the light of thy countenance, and behaving towards me as though thou weft mine enemy? Job does not believe God to be his enemy. He knows that God will one day be his Salvation (verse 16); but he recognizes a present alienation, and desires to be made acquainted with the cause of it.
Wilt thou break a leaf driven to and fro? and wilt thou pursue the dry stubble? Job compares himself to two of the weakest things in nature—a withered leaf, and a morsel of dry stubble. He cannot believe that God will employ his almighty strength in crushing and destroying what is so slight and feeble. A deep sense of God's goodness and compassion underlies the thought.
For thou writest bitter things against me. The allusion seems to be to the ordinary practice in ancient law-courts of formulating a written acte d'accusation against supposed criminals. Keeping up the imagery of a court and pleadings, Job represents God as engaged in drawing up such a document against him. The "bitter things" are the charges which the acts contains. And makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth. Job, like David, has to acknowledge "sins and offences" committed in his youth (Psalms 25:6). In considering what the indictment against him can be, he can only suppose that these old and long-forsaken sins are being remembered and brought up against him, and that he is being punished for them. He does not exclaim against this as injustice; he feels probably that there is no statute of limitations respecting sins and their punishment; but it can scarcely have seemed to him consistent with God's goodness and mercifulness that the offences of his immature age should be visited upon him so bitterly.
Thou puttest my feet also in the stocks (comp. Job 33:11). The punishment is said to be still in use among the Bedouin Arabs. It was well known to the Israelites (Proverbs 7:22; Jeremiah 20:2; Jeremiah 29:26), to the Greeks (Herod; 9.87), and to the Romans (Acts 16:24). And lookest narrowly unto all my paths. Not allowing me to escape thee. Thou settest a print upon the heels of my feet; rather, upon the soles of my feet. The "print" intended is probably a mark which the stocks were in the habit of making.
And he. The change of person is very strange, but not unknown to the Hebrew idiom. It is impossible that any one but Job himself can be meant. As a rotten thing consumeth, as a garment that is moth-eaten. An allusion to the character of the disease from which he is suffering.
Job to Zophar: 4. A wounded soul at bay.
I. THE VOICE OF FIERCE RECRIMINATION. Transfixing on the spear-point of his remorseless logic the men who had mocked at his misery, and converted his very piety into a laughing-stock, with infinite scorn Job holds them up a spectacle to angels and to men, charging them with at least three most detestable offences.
1. Ignoring of facts. They had favoured him with their views of how God conducted the affairs of the universe, citing apothegms, quoting proverbs, and adducing similitudes carefully selected to bear out their peculiar dogmas and preconceived theories; but he too could string together wise saws extracted from the ancients, being in respect of traditionary lore not one whir behind them (verse 2), and he had done it (Job 12:6, Job 12:14-25). What is more, he had observed in the world around him exemplifications of everything he had advanced (verse 1); and, unless they had been as blind as moles and as senseless as the ass to whose offspring they had compared him, they too must have frequently perceived the same. But they had not been willing to discover anything inconsistent with their favourite dogma; or they had travelled through the world with their eyes shut and their ears closed; or they had not been at the trouble to reflect and compare. Inattention, or want of observation, inconsideration, or want of reflection, insincerity, or want of a genuine love for the truth, are three formidable barriers in the way of man's advancement in knowledge. The first is the fault of the careless, the second of the foolish, the third of the ungodly. Eye and ear, being the soul's best gateways for knowledge, should be kept continually open. But the testimonies and reports which enter by these gateways should be subjected to diligent inspection and careful comparison. The truth once found should never fail to secure admission into the inner chamber of the heart.
2. Forging of lies. Instead of patiently collecting and collating facts from the opened page of human history, and deducing therefrom conclusions as to the principle or principles of the Divine government, Job's friends first invented a theory, and then looked about for musty proverbs to support it. They were not philosophers or theologians at all, but simply theorists, inventors of sophisms, stitchers together of falsehoods, and fabricators of vanities (verse 4), who had endeavoured to construct a theodicy by mingling together a little bit of fact and a large amount of fancy, or by patching together a handful of ancient platitudes. Much of modern science, philosophy, and even theology, proceeds upon the principle here so severely castigated. The true Baconian method of induction, first to ascertain with minute accuracy, not a few, but, as far as possible, all the facts of the case before pronouncing judgment as to the formula which shall explain them, is the only safe guide to be followed in philosophical discussion, scientific research, or theological investigation. A formula that does not embrace every known fact, much more that is contradicted by any known fact, cannot be correct.
3. Accepting of persons. Passing on to a more serious indictment, Job charges them with abject and contemptible sycophancy; with taking God's side simply because they knew he was strong; with supporting his cause by means of arguments which were consciously insincere, and generally with playing the part of flatterers—a course of conduct which Job declares to be:
(1) Wicked in itself. "Will ye speak wickedly for God? and talk deceitfully for him?" (verse 7). To propound fallacious theories, least of all to do so knowingly and deliberately, never can be right, even though such theories are advanced in favour of God and religion. This is practically done when men attempt to buttress up Divine truth, advance the Divine cause, or vindicate the Divine character by means of sophistical arguments. But not even in this case does the end sanctify, the means.
(2) Unjust towards himself. "Will ye accept his person? will ye contend, for God?" (verse 8). To side with God in any controversy which he maintains with the creature never can be wrong considered in itself (Romans 3:4), but to do so without regard to the rights of that creature with whom God contends never can be right. Job complained that, in declining to believe his protestations of integrity, and in cruelly assuming without proof that he was guilty, his friends were practically showing partiality towards God, and behaving with unfairness towards him. But it never can be fight, in order to justify God, to perpetrate injustice against man.
(3) Displeasing to God. "Is it good that he should search you out? or as one man mocketh another, do ye so mock him?" (verse 9). Were God to investigate their conduct, he could not possibly extend to it his approbation. They would seem to him as persons who were attempting to jest with and deceive him, as men jest with and deceive their fellows. Their behaviour would be wholly abhorred by him whose patrons they had so presumptuous!y constituted themselves, since God never can approve of falsehoods or injustices even m support of his own cause, which stands in no need whatever of sophistries or patronage of any sort.
(4) Certain of exposure. "Shall it be well with you when he searches you out? or may you deceive him as a man is deceived?" No! verily. "He will surely reprove you, if ye secretly accept persons." And this in two ways; by confounding their persons: "Shall not his excellency make you afraid?" and exploding their doctrines: "Your remembrances," i.e. your memorable sayings, "are," or shall be, "like unto ashes;" literally, "shall be proverbs of ashes;" i.e. they shall be demonstrated to be as valueless and as easily effaced as similitudes traced upon the dust; "and your ramparts," i.e. the arguments behind which ye entrench yourselves, "shall be ramparts of clay," as easily broken through as mud wails.
II. THE VOICE OF OUTRAGED INTEGRITY.
1. An appeal from man to God. "Surely I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to reason with God!" (verse 3). So David, when the mouth of the wicked and the tongue of the deceitful opened against him, addressed himself to God in prayer (Psalms 109:2-4). Christ also, when his enemies gaped upon him with their mouths, sought refuge against their calumnies in holy intercourse with God (Psalms 22:2-21; Matthew 27:39-46; John 11:42). The example of both is commended to saints when similarly circumstanced (Psalms 55:22; Psalms 91:15; Philippians 4:6; 1 Peter 5:7), and has been frequently followed. Many who have been denied justice at the hands of their fellows have been constrained to appeal to the tribunal of the skies. It is a great mercy that such a court exists for suffering men, and that its door is never closed against the suit of a distressed saint (Psalms 34:15; 1 Peter 3:12; Luke 18:7, Luke 18:8). On the contrary, God's people are invited to repair to him in every time of trouble (Psalms 50:15; Psalms 62:8; Romans 12:12; Hebrews 4:16), when burdened by affliction, when overtaken by spiritual anxiety, when misunderstood by men. If we may not maintain our sinlessness before God (Psalms 69:5), we can at least uphold our integrity (Job 10:7; John 21:15, John 21:16; Romans 1:9). But whatever be our case, it will be by him both exactly appreciated and tenderly sympathized with.
2. A request for non-interference on the part of man. "Oh that ye would altogether hold your peace I and it should be your wisdom" (verse 5); "Hold your peace, let me alone, that I may speak" (verse 13). Job advances two reasons for desiderating silence on the part of his friends.
(1) It would greatly enhance their reputation for wisdom (cf. Proverbs 17:28). It is one mark of wisdom to know when to be silent; and it is better to he always silent than to utter heartless sophistries and pointless platitudes like those of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar.
(2) It would greatly facilitate his converse with God. In the soul's supreme moments of spiritual distress, few things are more irksome than the well-meant but almost always irritating admonitions and advices of good people. The ordinary mind fails to see that, as there is a joy, so also there is a sorrow, with which no stranger can intermeddle (Proverbs 14:10). Besides, the great controversy between God and the human soul must be fought out in solitude and in silence, like the struggle at the ford of Jabbok between the angel and Jacob (Genesis 32:24).
3. A determination to defend his cause with God.
(1) At all hazards. Job is prepared to go forward, "let come on him what will;" "to take his flesh in his teeth, and put his life in his hand;' to undergo death itself if need be. "Behold! he may slay me: I entertain no hope," i.e; of any other issue to the conflict: "yet will I maintain my ways before him." However this verse be translated (vide Exposition), it contains a threefold testimony—to Job's deeply seated consciousness of his own personal integrity; to Job's clear moral honesty, since a hypocrite would never have proposed to invite the Divine inspection of himself and his ways; and to Job's exalted heroism, which would rather brave death than dishonour, clinging to God with invincible fidelity in spite of overwhelming temporal disaster and mental anxiety; yea, in the face of death and dissolution—a sublime refutation of the Satanic calumny (Job 2:5).
(2) Yet not without hope. Job was inwardly persuaded that the ultimate result of his venture would be triumphant vindication and salvation. This conviction was grounded on the fact of his intense inward longing to stand face to face with God. His reasoning takes the form of a syllogism. It is impossible that a man conscious of hypocrisy should desire an interview with God. But such desire is the all-absorbing passion of my soul. Therefore I indulge the hope that! am not a hypocrite, and that he who now seems to be my Adversary will eventually prove my Salvation.
1. It is the delight of a good man, the sign of a wise man, and the duty of all men, to study the ways and works of God.
2. It is no sin to vindicate one's character when that is wrongly aspersed.
3. It requires a good cause to enable a weak man to speak with the Almighty.
4. It is not a fault in manners to reprove good men when they tell lies.
5. It is a fault in good men when they depart from the troth even by a hair's breadth.
6. It is infinitely wiser not to talk at all than to talk like a fool.
7. It is dangerous to summon allies from the devil's camp, even when fighting in the Lord's battles.
8. It is an insult to God to suppose that light and darkness, truth and error, sincerity and hypocrisy, righteousness and unrighteousness, Christ and Belial, can be confederates.
9. It is better to revere God's holiness on earth than to tremble before his glorious power in a future world.
10. It is a poor defence that even a good man finds in lies and deceptions.
11. It is preferable to part with life than with faith in God.
12. It is certain that, though a humble believer may be slam, he never can be lost.
Job 13:15, Job 13:16
Faith and assurance.
I. JOB'S FAITH. "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." Mark:
1. The Object of Job's faith. God, as the Justifier of the ungodly who believe, since Job did not claim to be sinless, and yet expected to be justified.
2. The trial of Job's faith. The intense sufferings, both physical and mental, through which he passed. The faith of God's people is commonly subjected to trial. Yet it is doubtful if any have ever experienced greater difficulties in the way of believing in God than Job did.
3. The intensity of Job's faith. "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." Job was determined that no amount of hardship should prevent him from confiding in the God of mercy and salvation; in which respect he is well worthy of imitation by Christ's followers.
4. The triumph of Job's faith. It was no mere boast on the part of Job that he would cling to God at all hazards, as it has often proved on the part of over-confident believers (e.g. Peter); but the issue of his trim established the sincerity of his words. His faith was often rudely assaulted, and sometimes appeared to tremble, but it was never overthrown.
II. JOB'S ASSURANCE. "He also shall be my Salvation" (verse 16); "I know that I shall be justified." Assurance of salvation is clearly possible, since it was enjoyed by Abel (Hebrews 11:3), Enoch (Hebrews 11:6), Abraham (Genesis 15:6), Moses (Exodus 15:2), David (Psalms 18:2), St. Paul (Philippians 1:21; 2 Timothy 4:8); it is also extremely desirable for the saint's usefulness, as much as for the saint's comfort, and in every instance in which it is possessed must be based, as Job's was, on:
1. Belief in the Divine testimony. Job knew that he would be justified, not because he was a sinless man, but because he trusted in God; and this is the first ground of assurance to an anxious soul. The sinner that believes is sure of salvation, because "he that believeth shall be saved;" and every one who trusts in him that justifieth the ungodly may with confidence affirm, "I know that I shall be justified."
2. Consciousness of personal sincerity. That is, if a man, after careful self examination, discovers in himself the tokens of true piety and Christian integrity, he is warranted to conclude that he has passed from death to life, and God will eventually prove his salvation. Job felt he was not a hypocrite, but a sincerely upright man; and hence he knew that God would not condemn him. St. John, in his Epistles, supplies marks by which a man may determine for himself whether or not he is a genuine Christian disciple.
1. That without faith there can be no assurance.
2. That wherever there is faith there ought to be assurance.
Job to God: resumption of the third controversy: 1. The pleading of a saint with Heaven.
I. PRELIMINARIES TO THE PLEADING.
1. Public audience invited. Job requests his discomfited friends to be silent spectators of the ensuing trial, and to attentively consider the defence he was about to offer (verse 17). Intended chiefly for the ear of God, it should yet contain nothing unfit for publication in the hearing of men. Conscious of sincerity, Job had nothing to conceal. Guilelessness is ever a mark of true saintship. "A man with a clear conscience can stand fearlessly before the whole world." Undaunted courage is also characteristic of the godly (Psalms 27:1; Proverbs 28:1; 1 John 3:21), who, however, unlike Job, are emboldened, not by a sense of their own integrity, but by a calm reliance on the righteousness of Christ (Isaiah 45:24, Isaiah 45:25; Isaiah 50:7-9; Romans 8:32-34).
2. Perfect readiness expressed. Job asserts (verse 18) that he had carefully arranged the several pleas he should urge in vindication of his outraged integrity. And in this Job's example may be followed with advantage. Neither saint nor sinner should irreverently and presumptuously intrude into God's presence without having first composed his heart and, as far as possible, arranged his thoughts (Ecclesiastes 5:2). No man is ready for reasoning with God in prayer until he knows both what he wants and how to plead for it.
3. Hopeful confidence entertained. "I know that I shall be justified" (verse 18). This was no presumption on the part of Job, who probably based his justification before God, in the strictly forensic sense of absolution and acceptance, not upon his own righteousness, but upon the free favour of God, through the merit of his Redeemer (Job 19:25); but merely that inward consciousness of personal integrity which a good man may justly rely on as evidence of a gracious state, and by which he may encourage his fainting spirit when about to appear before God, like Hezekiah (Isaiah 38:3), David (Psalms 26:1), St. Peter (John 21:17), St. Paul (Romans 9:1), and St. John (1 John 3:21). Of course, it would be presumption were a sinful man, standing on his own righteousness, to expect that he would be justified before God (Psalms 143:2; Romans 3:20). But, trusting in the great propitiatory sacrifice of him who is "the Lord our Righteousness," the guiltiest and most unworthy sinner may draw near to God with holy boldness (Hebrews 4:16; Hebrews 10:22), and with absolute assurance of acceptance and salvation (Hebrews 7:25; Romans 8:1), saying, "I know that I shall be justified."
4. Sinful impeachment challenged. "Who is he that will plead with me?" i.e. against me, contradicting and disproving what I now so fearlessly assert, viz. my personal integrity. If there is any, let him stand forth and establish his indictment. If be succeed in tarnishing my fair name, "I shall be silent, I shall give up the ghost," feeling that, honour gone, life itself can have no further charm for me. Many a one besides Job has felt that "good name in man and woman is the immediate jewel of their souls" ('Othello,' Acts 3:0. sc. 3), "the immortal part" of themselves (ibid; Acts 2:0. sc. 3), and that, that being lost, nothing worthy of possessing can remain (cf.'Richard II.,' Acts 1:0. sc. 1). Job's language reminds us of St. Paul's address to his accusers before Felix (Acts 24:16-21); and afterwards before Festus (Acts 25:11); also of the loftier challenge addressed by Christ to his countrymen (Isaiah 50:8; John 8:46). And though certainly believers cannot use the question as did Christ, and may sometimes have a difficulty in employing it in the sense of either Job or St. Paul, it is always open to them, as they keep their eyes on the cross, to exclaim, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" (Romans 8:33).
II. CONDITIONS OF THE PLEADING.
1. A cessation of his troubles. (Verse 21.) The hand of God a frequent biblical expression for affliction (1Sa 5:6, 1 Samuel 5:7; Psalms 32:4; Psalms 38:2; Isaiah 1:25), which is sent (Deu 8:5; 2 Samuel 7:14; Job 5:17; Psalms 94:12; Hebrews 12:6, Hebrews 12:7), guided (Job 33:17-19; Proverbs 3:11, Proverbs 3:12; Isaiah 48:10; Ezekiel 20:37), and removed (Psalms 50:15; Psalms 66:12; Zechariah 13:9; John 16:20; Matthew 5:4) by Divine wisdom and power. The fatherly chastisements of God are directly designed to refine and purify the saintly soul (Job 36:8, Job 36:10; Isaiah 48:10 : Hebrews 12:11), and to draw it near his footstool in penitence and faith, humility and love (Hosea 5:15; Hebrews 12:9). Yet, not unfrequently, one of the first effects of bodily affliction upon a good man, especially if it be severe, is to discompose his mind, disturb his heart, and generally unfit him for converse with God.—Notwithstanding the spiritual benefits folded up in tribulation, there can be no greater blessing, even with a view to the exercises of religion, than mens sans in sano corpore. Much of the spiritual depression experienced by Christians is traceable to extreme bodily infirmity, though sometimes happy invalids can say with St. Paul," When I am weak, then am I strong;" "Most gladly will I glory in infirmities, that the power of God may rest upon me." Then, if pious souls, groaning beneath the pressure of physical maladies and mental anxieties, find it hard to concentrate their thoughts upon Divine things, what must be the madness of those who delay the work of repenting and pleading with God for forgiveness and salvation till they are lying on a sick-bed, racked with pain, and perhaps trembling in the grasp of death?
2. A removal of his fear. (Verse 21.) The Divine character has a terrifying, as well as an attractive, side to sinful man. The glory of the Divine purity is so effulgent (Job 4:18), of the Divine justice so incorruptible (Job 9:2), of the Divine wisdom so ineffable (Job 9:4), of the Divine strength so overwhelming (Job 9:19), that the human spirit instinctively shrinks back in alarm. Burdened with guilt, tainted with pollution, lying under condemnation, it cannot hold up its head in the presence of such awful majesty, but, falling prostrate before the footstool of heaven's glorious King, exclaims, like Isaiah, "Woe is me; for I am undone!" (Isaiah 6:5); and like David,
"In judgment enter not with me, thy servant poor;
For why, this well I wet, no sinner can endure
The sight of thee, O God."
(Psalms 143:2, metrical version.)
And like St. Peter, "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord" (Luke 5:8). Job felt that, unless his mind were relieved from such paralyzing views of the overwhelming grandeur of his invisible Judge, it would be utterly hopeless to expect he could even state his case aright, much less win his cause. Hence already he had craved the interposition of a daysman, who should both take away God's rod and remove God's fear (Job 9:34) in order to enable him to speak; and to this he apparently again recurs. Happily such a daysman has been provided for us in Christ, in whom the anxious sinner may now behold, not only the rod of Divine punishment removed, but the greatness of the Divine glory veiled, so that one who desires to speak with God may do so without a fear, "whether God himself opens the cause, or permits him to have the first word."
III. CONTENTS OF THE PLEADING.
1. A bold interrogation. (Verse 23.)
(1) A valuable definition. Sin is 'avon, or perverse acting, a bending, twisting, or turning aside from the Divine Law; chattah, a false step, hence a failing, an error, a sin of weakness or infirmity; and pesha', a breaking away, hence deliberate and malignant wickedness. The first epithet describes the nature of sin—" it is any want of conformity unto or transgression of the Law of God;" the second points to the source of sin—human weakness (Jeremiah 10:23); while the third indicates the heinousness of sin—it is essentially rebellion against God (Romans 8:7). Or the three expressions may allude to different kinds of sin, palpable offences, venial imperfections, notorious crimes, of all which Job was supposed to be guilty.
(2) A candid confession. Whatever iniquities, sins, or transgressions Job had committed, God perfectly knew them, could reckon up their number and estimate their heinousness. Men often are unconscious of their faults, frequently forget their shortcomings, and can seldom realize the enormity of their wickednesses. But all these are patent to God's omniscient mind (Psalms 69:5; Psalms 73:23; Luke 16:15; Hebrews 4:13).
(3) A passionate supplication. That God would enable Job to understand the nature and enormity of those offences of which he had been guilty, and for which his friends alleged he was suffering. The prayer is admirably suited to and urgently needed by all, though not in the sense in which it was employed by Job. No man can attain to a clear discovery, of his own sinfulness, to an adequate estimate of the number of his misdeeds, to a just appreciation of their essential wickedness, except through Divine teaching. Such teaching God imparts through his Word (Psalms 94:12; Romans 7:9) and Spirit (John 16:8).
(4) An obvious implication. Job designed it to be understood that he himself was unconscious of any such offences, though of course he did not claim to be entirely innocent.
2. An inexplicable problem. (Verse 24.) Here is
(1) a painful experience, the sense of having lost the Divine favour, to a gracious soul the highest blessing attainable or even conceivable on earth (Psalms 30:5; Psalms 63:3);
(2) a common experience, realized by David (Isaiah 13:1; Isaiah 22:1), by Heman (Psalms 88:14), and by Christ (Matthew 27:46), as well as by many of Christ's followers since;
(3) a mysterious experience, not that God should hide his face and seem to withdraw his favour from a sinful soul, but that, having once admitted a repenting and believing sinner to his love, he should to all appearance cast him off—a course of conduct for which Job was perfectly at a loss to account; yet
(4) a needful experience, in the case of Christ to make him perfect as a Saviour, in that of Job, David, Heman, and others to make them perfect as saints.
3. A pathetic expostulation.
(1) The unworthiness of the Divine conduct in afflicting Job. Absolutely powerless and insignificant had Job become through his long-continued trouble, like a fallen leaf upon the way, agitated and tossed by every passing wind, or like the withered stubble of a corn-field, and yet the Almighty assailed him with the full force of his Divine artillery, as if he were some formidable opponent whom it required the battalions of omnipotence to crush (verse 25). To Job's mind it seemed wholly incongruous, entirely preposterous, completely unbecoming the Divine Majesty. So God's procedure in providence oftentimes appears to sense and reason unworthy of his greatness and glory; but faith, coming to the rescue, reminds the doubting heart that doeth all things well.
(2) The seeming injustice of God's conduct in afflicting Job. Conscious of innocence in his riper years, Job could only offer, as the solution of that perplexing enigma by which he was confronted, that God was going back upon the sins of his youthful days, although these had long since been repented of and forgiven (verse 26). But sin once forgiven is for ever forgotten (Isaiah 43:25; Micah 7:18, Micah 7:19). God never reproduces for punishment the transgression he has freely pardoned. Yet the iniquities of youth which have not been cancelled by Divine mercy have a strange power of self-resuscitation in riper years; and God often makes wicked men (e.g. the drunkard, the profligate), in accordance with the established and righteous laws of retribution, to inherit, or possess, or reap the hitter fruits in old age of the excesses and indulgences of youth. Hence the necessity of cultivating moral purity in youth, and the propriety in after-years of praying, "Remember not the sins of my youth" (Psalms 25:7).
(3) The extreme severity of God's conduct in afflicting Job, who was treated like a prisoner; whose feet were thrust into the stocks, as were those of Jeremiah 20:2; Jeremiah 29:6, and of Paul and Silas (Acts 16:24); whose steps were narrowly watched, lest he should either enjoy too much freedom or attempt to escape (cf. Job 10:14; and see homiletics on Job 7:12-21), and whose liberty was (according to one interpretation), restrained within narrow limits, by a boundary or circle drawn around the soles of his feet (Jeremiah 29:27), and that though he, the chained, inspected, and immured prisoner, was a poor miserable creature, lying rotting on an ash-heap like a garment that the moth gnaweth (Jeremiah 29:28).
1. The gratitude which saints and sinners both owe to God for the throne of grace.
2. The sublime fearlessness with which the guiltiest no less than the godliest may approach that throne.
3. The liberty which all enjoy to pour out their hearts before God.
4. The propriety of seeking a more intimate acquaintance with the reality and power of indwelling sin.
5. The sinfulness of supposing that God ever treats any of his creatures as enemies.
The knowledge of sin.
I. MAKE ME TO KNOW THE REALITY OF SIN, in case I should deny it and be deceived.
II. MAKE ME TO KNOW THE POWER OF SIN, lest, being taken unawares, I should become its slave.
III. MAKE ME TO KNOW THE HEINOUSNESS OF SIN, lest, making light of it, I should be led to glory in my shame.
IV. MAKE ME TO KNOW THE GUILT OF SIN, lest, being indifferent to its danger, I should, fail to seek escape.
V. MAKE ME TO KNOW THE PARDONABLENESS OF SIN, lest, doubting of God's mercy, I should sink into despair.
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
Man's injustice and the justice of God.
Job proceeds to turn the tables upon these self-complacent friends, who are so disposed to moralize and find illustrations of their conceptions of the Divine righteousness at his expense. His friends, however, really do him a service; not, indeed, by manifesting the sympathy he craves, but by throwing him upon his own resources—still better, by throwing him upon his God. The tonic of opposition is sometimes far more needed in mental suffering than is the soothing draught of sympathy. The former braces, the latter enervates. It appears to be so now with Job. He rouses the forces of his soul, as the palm tree stirs up its vital energies beneath the weight attached to its branches; and he rushes upon the last cast. He will throw himself, regardless of consequences, upon the pity and justice of the Eternal.—J.
Correction of the friends.
I. TRANSITION IN JOB'S ADDRESS. (Job 13:1-3.). He pauses for a moment before entering on a new course of thought. He asserts that his experience has not been without fruit. The eye, the ear, the mouth (Job 12:11), are the physical symbols of living and actual experience. So St. John: "That which we have heard,… seen with our eyes looked upon, and our bands have handled" (1 John 1:1). And in no particular is their knowledge, in virtue of which they presume to lake so high ground, superior to his own.
II. RESOLVE. "To speak to the Almighty, to reason with God." It is a bold, yet a truly reverential and a believing resolve. It reminds us of Abraham pleading for the cities of the plain, It is founded on the firm apprehension of the moral attributes of God, which he cannot deny without denying himself. On this ground we may even venture safely. Boldly we may come to the throne of grace, and beseech God not to forsake the eternal throne of his holiness.
III. REJECTION OF THE INTERFERENCE OF HIS FRIENDS. (Verses 4-6.) No sooner is the resolve taken to appeal to God than new strength comes to the heart. Job rises above the cloud of misconstruction that has gathered about him, like the tall cliff towering above the clouds, and looks down with scorn on these "forgers of lies," these "worthless physicians." It is his turn to be the instructor, and theirs to hold their peace.
IV. DENUNCIATION. (Verses 7-9.) He proceeds severely to expose their errors, and to lay bare the root from which they proceed.
1. They seek to honour God at the expense of truth, which is a corrupt zeal; for the God of truth can only be honoured by truth in words and deeds.
2. They are moved by the instinct of flattery, and thus become partial, one-sided advocates for God. But God is not exalted by depressing man, nor honoured by injustice done to his creatures.
3. Their accusations of others show ignorance of themselves. And how would it be if scrutiny were now to be made into their lives? and would they dare to cast the load of guilt on the unhappy in his awful presence? They are reflections like these which are needed to check the uncharitable thought and bridle the censorious tongue.
V. MENACE. (Verses 10-12.) These grave faults cannot be committed with impunity. God would punish them for their partiality. His majesty, on his appearance, will confound them. They will be treated as sinners, and all their memoranda, their fine sayings, which they have got by heart rather than derived from deep experience (verse 12), will be scattered like dust and fall to the ground like crumbling structures of clay. "For every idle word that men shall speak, they shall be brought unto judgment." Thus Job shakes himself free from his shallow counsellors before turning solemnly to God.
1. In casting responsibility on others we may be incurring greater responsibility ourselves.
2. We should hesitate to apply truth to others before we have first applied it to ourselves.
3. Self-knowledge fits us for the office of counsel; blindness to self exposes us to rebuke and judgment.—J.
Job's appeal to God.
I. DREAD OF THE RESULT OF THE APPEAL COMES UPON HIS MIND AT THE VERY MOMENT OF EXECUTING HIS RESOLVE. (Verses 13-15.) So with Moses (Exodus 33:20), with Manoah and his wife (Judges 13:22); so with Abraham pleading for the cities of the plain (Genesis 18:23, et seq.). It is the consciousness of weakness in the presence of omnipotence, of sinfulness in the presence of perfect holiness, which checks the spirit on the threshold of the unseen world and the unseen Presence. Over the door of an Eastern temple (as Spenser tells the story) there was an inscription, "Be bold," and over a second door repeated, "Be bold;" and again, "Be bold, and evermore be bold;" but last of all over the inner door was written, "Be not too bold." So fear and reverence chasten the confidence with which the believing child of God, in the full confidence of right, draws near to him.
II. TERROR LAID ASIDE. (Verses 15, 16.) There is solace to Job in the thought that he shall be able to speak forth his most sacred convictions before he dies (verse 15). But there is another and a nobler train of thought suggested here. His innocence will at last lead to his deliverance; for no unholy man dares appear before God; but he is not conscious of an unholy mind. Compare the noble fifteenth psalm.
III. DEMAND FOR A HEARING FROM HIS ADVERSARIES. (Verses 17-19.) In this brief challenge we see all the features of the demeanour of a sincere and upright soul in the hour of trial.
1. Undaunted courage.
2. Presentiment of victory.
3. Readiness for all opponents and for all consequences.
These are the arms which innocence furnishes, and in which the weakest and most defenceless may be arrayed as in a panoply.
IV. PRELIMINARY REQUESTS. (Verses 20-22.) Before proceeding with his appeal, Job makes two requests:
(1) that his pains may be assuaged;
(2) that he may not be terrified by the sudden visitation of God (comp. Job 9:34).
These he asks as the guarantees of the freedom of his speech. There is something deeply pathetic in this vacillation between confidence and fear—the confidence derived from the sense of innocence and right, the fear which the thought of the dread presence of the Divine must ever impress.
1. He who is most confident in the assurance of his innocence before man will be the most humble and timid in the presence of God.
2. Faith must finally overcome fear in every true heart.—J.
Self-defence before God: 1. The weak against the Strong.
I. THE CRY OF INJURED INNOCENCE. (Job 13:23.) He asks that he may have his sins enumerated and brought home to him, and that he may not thus ever be punished without the knowledge of the nature of his guilt.
II. SENSE OF THE SILENCE AND WITHDRAWAL OF GOD. (Job 13:24) God does not answer his challenge, and still his suffering continues, as if he were a foe to whom the Almighty deigns not to utter a word. The silence, the seeming deafness and dumbness of God before his creatures' pitiful cries, is more awful than all his thunder. Oh that he would but speak, in whatever accents! Man can never cease to agonize, to pray, to wrestle with the Unseen, until he extorts some response to the cry and craving of his heart.
III. PLAINT OF THE WEAKNESS OF SELF IN THE PRESENCE OF OMNIPOTENCE. (Job 13:25.) He has two vivid figures to represent this weakness:
(1) that of the leaf, driven to and fro by the wind, so feeble and vanishing a thing has his life become;
(2) that of the dry and worthless stubble; and yet God is against him as if he would drive and purge away every vestige of his existence. His fan is in his hand, and he is winnowing his floor from this useless chaff!
IV. SENSE OF THE AGGRAVATION OF HIS SIN. (Job 13:26.) In addition to his natural pains, he is loaded with the memories of long-past sins, which he had thought forgiven. The record of the sins of youth still seems to stand in the Divine book. Remembrance turns the past to pain. Men look indulgently on the "sins of youth," both in themselves and others. But here is a warning against these light views of transgression. The sowing of" wild oats" is certain, sooner or later, to be followed by a bitter harvest (comp. Psalms 25:7).
V. THE SENSE OF BEING FETTERED AND WATCHED. (Job 13:27.) He is like a criminal with his feet fastened in a block of wood, which he must carry with him wherever he goes. And all this power and violence, this watching and restraint, is put forth on one who is as helpless and broken as a worm-eaten, moth-gnawed garment (Job 13:28).—J.
HOMILIES BY R. GREEN
Faith in God bringing resignation.
"Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." Thus doth Job declare his unshaken affiance in God. He lifts his thoughts from the reasonings of his friends; he rises superior, at least for the time, to the oppression of his sufferings, and with a boldness that does him honour, and a confidence warranted by his belief in the Divine Name, he gives utterance to an expression of faith which has passed from lip to lip all through the ages, and has been a classical formula of faith for the saddest and most deeply afflicted amongst the children of men. How is the world indebted to them who, with a true heroism, declare their faith in the wisdom and goodness of the Lord!
I. FAITH IS NEEDED IN CONSEQUENCE OF THE MANY HEAVY TRIALS OF THE HUMAN HEART. External sources of help are often cut off. They altogether fall. There is no hand of strength, no word of power, no sufficient consolation. In bodily affliction the skill of the wisest may be set at nought. In the trials of life all help from outward sources may fail. The sorrow is too deep for an unaided heart to bear up under. Where shall the afflicted soul hide? There is help only in spiritual sources. God is the final goal of the afflicted spirit. "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit," is the ultimate utterance of the soul when all resources of help are cut off. But for this faith is needed—faith that apprehends the unseen and spiritual. The soul at Such times is borne up only by faith, and the faith that is needed is a supreme, lowly, unhesitating faith. Happy he who has it.
II. FAITH IS WARRANTED BY THE CHARACTER OF GOD. This is the one unfailing refuge. This, of all, is most worthy of trust. We cannot always trust the words of human kindness, even friendship. The good resolves may fail from inability to fulfil them. We may be mistaken. Our trust may rest on a deceitful foundation. Our staff may break and pierce our hand. But we always know that the character of God is unassailable. He has an assured ground of confidence who trusts in the Name of the Lord, whose repose is in the Divine character. Absolute goodness, perfect wisdom, infinite love,—these form the warrant of faith.
III. It is right and wise, therefore, THAT FAITH BE DECLARED. Let him who has learnt where the soul may find refuge and help declare it to others. Let him glorify God by his feeble tribute. It is his best, if his lowliest, offering. How great an indignity we feel if any one disputes our veracity! But he who confides in our word and character, even in times when both are aspersed, pays to us the highest tribute of friendship and of faith. So let us bring our humble offerings of trust, of thankfulness, and love—our spiritual gold, frankincense, and myrrh—and lay them at the feet of the everlasting King. Though be lay the heaviest burdens upon me, I will not doubt his goodness; though he treat me as a dog, yet will I cleave to him. "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him."
IV. Such a faith is SURE TO RE REWARDED.
1. It has its reward in the peace of mind which it brings. "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee." The driven sparrow finds its house, and the swallow its nest. The dove returns to the ark. When there is no rest for the wounded spirit, it turns and finds its rest in God. Here it hides and waits in an assured hope. Job was brought to the very earth; but the Lord, who seemed to be slaying him, raised him up and gave him an abundant reward.
2. A further reward is secured in the character gained.
3. And yet a further one in the final Divine approbation of the faithful, trusting, submissive, obedient servant. Such faith shall not lose its reward.—R.G.
The reasons for sorrow.
It has ever been a longing of the suffering heart of man to know why afflictions are permitted. Job is a striking example of the sufferer reduced to questioning. He makes his appeal for the reasons. "Wherefore hidest thou thy face?" Others have urged this inquiry. Even the Exemplar of all patient, submissive, trustful, obedient sufferers cried aloud, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" But the answer comes not to Job with the quickness he may have desired. Yet though he giveth none account of his ways, all may be assured his purposes are wise and good. In the light of later teachings we may read "the end of the Lord." That which we "endure" we know "is for chastening." This, then, is the answer in general to the cry, "Wherefore hidest thou thy face?" Then, as far as we can interpret the answer to the cry to which no answer is immediately given, we may say—
I. A reason for sorrow may be found in ITS FITNESS TO BE A TEST OF FAITH. That faith should be tested, and so developed and perfected, is an obvious propriety. But for such testing it would be a dead, inoperative faculty. As the wing of the young eagle is strengthened by the demands made upon it when borne aloft, and then committed to its own unaided effort, so faith grows in strength by every appeal made to it. It is here experience is gained. By this men grow. The heart is made acquainted with "the ways of the Lord." The exercised faculty becomes familiarized with its duties. It learns to bear a heavier strain. Each successful performance of duty leaves it better fitted to act in future. The strong faith is the faith that has berne the severe test.
II. A second reason may be found in THE NECESSARY DEVELOPMENT OF PATIENCE. The heroic fortitude of the soul that can endure "as seeing him who is invisible" is not gained with suddenness. By slow steps is this height reached. By slow accretions is this grace perfected. The man unaccustomed to discomfort is unwilling to leave his freedom and ease, and to undertake toilsome and painful service. Sorrow oppresses the soul, but it thereby develops that power by which the soul is upheld. The slothful, self-indulgent spirit is unfitted for hard toil; and the world needs the willing labourer. There is a schooling of the soul by self-denial, by fasting. The substitute for the self-imposed training is the divinely imposed trial. The trial of faith is very precious if it leaves the soul steadier in patient endurance. By such trained souls is the world's great work to be done.
III. SORROW PERFECTS THE SOUL IN A LOWLY SUBMISSION TO THE DIVINE WILL. "It is the Lord: let him do as seemeth him good," may be a defiant cry of rebellion: "Do thy worst;" or it may be a lowly, trustful, resigned committal of the life to the Divine purposes: "What he wills is best." The school of affliction is a hard school, but its patient scholars are well taught. And though "no affliction for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous, nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby."
IV. SORROW MAY BE THE MEANS OF EVOKING THE MOST SINCERE AND BEAUTIFUL EXAMPLES OF OBEDIENCE. The histories of human suffering present us with examples of consummate and unflinching obedience, rendered in unquestioning acquiescence in the Divine purpose and in the pure love of the heart. The highest point ever reached by the obedient spirit was that of our great Pattern, who, in the depth of darkest affliction and sorrow of soul, patiently reiterated the sublime expression of a wholly consecrated service, "Nevertheless not my will, but thy will, be done."—R.G.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
Job 13:1, Job 13:2
Job's complaint is that there was nothing new in his friends' pretentious harangues. All their pompous airs of superiority and authority did not deceive the patriarch, and prevent him from detecting the essentially commonplace character of their ideas.
I. MOST SAYINGS ARE TRITE. It is not often given to a man to discover a new truth. Even when a person makes a remark that is original in him, i.e. that he has not derived from any other man, the probability is that some one else has said something very like it before. Too often, when a man is pretentious of novelty, what is fresh is only the garb of his notion. The newest extravagances in religion are generally only old heresies exhumed and magnetized into a semblance of life. It is foolish to think of astounding the world with our ideal. Even in Job's day people were weary of the little stock of notions that was in circulation among the most intelligent classes.
II. THE FUSSY REPETITION OF TRITE SAYINGS CAN DO NO GOOD. Job's three friends only vexed the sorrowing man by repeating what he knew as well as they. The same mistake is often made in foolish attempts at administering consolation. No sayings are so trite as those that treat of suffering and its uses. The very commonness of the lot of suffering, and the very obviousness of some of its circumstances, have made the stock precepts of sorrow very familiar to all of us. It is useless to go to a person in trouble and repeat them once more. It would be better to be silent. Silence might affect him as a most original novelty.
III. TRITE SAYINGS MAY BE TRUE AND IMPORTANT.
1. True. It is not to be supposed that men are generally the victims of delusions. One reason why certain sayings have become trite is that they have been proved by experience to be true. Had they been false they would have been discarded long since. No doubt there are venerable errors. Job's friends' trite sayings were so one-sided that the truth of them was lost by perversion; but still most trite sayings must have a considerable amount of truth in them to stand the test of time.
2. Important. The triteness is generally a testimony to the importance; for if the sayings were of slight moment they would have been neglected. The current use of them presupposes some value attached to them. The gospel of Christ has become a trite saying to many. Yet it is as true and momentous as ever.
IV. PERSONAL APPLICATION AND SYMPATHY MAY REVIVE INTEREST IN TRITE SAYINGS.
1. Personal application. It is difficult to be in earnest with a trite saying. Such a saying tends to become a mere form of words. It wears like a coin that has lost its effigy and legend. "Truths," says Coleridge, "of all others the most awful and interesting, are too often considered as so true that they lose all the power of truth, and lie bedridden in the dormitory of the soul, side by side with the most despised and exploded errors." But he adds, "There is one sure way of giving freshness and importance to the most commonplace maxims—that of reflecting on them in direct reference to our own state and conduct, to our own past and future being."
2. Sympathy. The three friends applied the trite sayings to Job, but he would not take them home to himself. He justly considered that they did not apply to him in the way his friends supposed. They applied them without sympathy, and therefore without understanding Job. We may repeat very familiar words, and yet if the ring of sincerity and the tone of sympathy be in them they will still awaken interest.—W.F.A.
Physicians of no value.
Job's friends were physicians of no value. They came to heal, but they only aggravated his complaint.
I. CONSIDER WHERE WE MEET WITH PHYSICIANS OF No VALUE.
1. In dealing with sorrow. How rare is a truly helpful friend in a time of great sorrow! Many wellwishers try their hand at consolation, but most of them bungle painfully. We endure their visits of condolence because we do not wish to be ungrateful and disagreeable, but we are relieved when they have left us alone with our grief.
2. In treating sin. No human being can cure sin. Men may blame sin, but they cannot cast it out. Here is a disease that no medicine of man's can touch. But there is room for some action of ours. We ought to be able to bring the Divine remedy. Yet how often we fail to do so! How conscious we must be that our efforts are not reaching the sinner and really helping him!
3. In meeting social trouble. There are plenty of wild theorists, but none of them have been able to set right the disorganized state of society. Philanthropists too often show more zeal than judgment.
II. INQUIRE WHY THE PHYSICIANS ARK OF NO VALUE.
1. Ignorance of the state of the patient. If the doctor has not rightly diagnosed his case he is not likely to be successful in his treatment of it. We must understand those whom we would benefit.
2. Lack of skill in the use of remedies. The doctor must understand his drugs, or he will poison his patients. If we would benefit men we must first know them; then we must know the Divine medicine. They who do not apprehend the gospel of Christ themselves cannot be physicians of value to others. We must study truth as well as men; and we must go further, and be familiar ourselves with those great saving ideas which we would apply to others.
3. Absence of sympathy. Here was the secret of Job's friends' failure, although at first they seemed to have evinced the deepest sympathy. We can never help the miserable till we sympathize with them. The first essential to success in a mission among the poor is brotherliness. If this is wanting, the mission must fail though any amount of energy and money may be expended on it.
III. REMEMBER THAT THERE IS ONE PHYSICIAN OF INESTIMABLE VALUE. Christ fulfils all the requisite conditions. He knows us, for he is one of ourselves—tempted in all respects as we are, though without sin. He is familiar with the needed remedy, for he is one with God, and is perfectly at home among those great spiritual facts from which the cure of the world's evil must come. He, too, is full of sympathy. Of old he cured the sick because he was "moved with compassion." The great, tender heart of Christ beats in warm sympathy for all his brother-men. Now we have to see in experience that our good Physician is able to do what the physicians of no value have failed to accomplish. Christ is the Friend to help in sorrow; he alone can cure sin. Christ in the world brings the kingdom of heaven, and so corrects the social troubles. Christ as a living Saviour, as an active Physician now in our midst, can heal, and we know this because we see he does heal wherever he is trusted to do so.—W.F.A.
Speaking wickedly for God.
Here was the great fault and sin of the three friends. They affected to be God's advocates, yet they spoke wickedly. Thus they endeavoured to support their view of providence by uncharitable assumptions and theories that were not in accordance with the facts. Such conduct was culpable, displeasing to God, and most injurious to the true interests of religion.
I. THE TEMPTATION TO SPEAK WICKEDLY FOR GOD. This comes from the notion that the end justifies the means. If the object is to serve God, it is assumed that whatever process is employed must be right. Thus it has been a doctrine among the Jesuits that equivocal conduct which would be condemned in the work of the world is to be condoned when it is turned to the advancement of the Church. The apparently unselfish character of the action adds to the subtle deceptiveness of the temptation. What is said is not for our own sakes, but for the glory of God. Further, it is argued men have no right to complain, because the true servants of God will rejoice in what glorifies him; and they who are not of the Church are out of court, and can have no ground on which to plead a complaint. Yet even they might profit, it is further urged; if they were led to the Church by fraud, when once they were in, would they not bless the fraud that saved them? All this is but the sophistry of a temptation from the devil.
II. THE GREAT SIN OF SPEAKING WICKEDLY FOR GOD. This is peculiarly hateful to him, for he is a God of righteousness. Several points go to make up the exceeding badness of such conduct.
1. It destroys truth. If we may lie for God, truth itself is humiliated. The permission of mere equivocation which is intended to deceive lowers the standard of truth. This is a break-up of the rigorous moral law.
2. It is fatal to charity. The plea is that man must be sacrificed for the sake of God. But God has said, "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice." He will not accept the service that is rendered at the cost of cruelty to a brother.
3. It is dishonouring to God. His holy Name is dragged down to man's low conduct, and enlisted in the service of evil. What is done for his glory is supposed to carry his sanction. Thus the God of truth and love is made to appear as the champion of lies and hatred. This is a most abominable insult to God.
4. It is a miserable cloak for sin. It would seem that men would not think of speaking wickedly for God unless there were wickedness in their own hearts. It is true they may be foolish enough to imagine that their conduct will really minister to the Divine glory, and it is only fair to admit that people who are deluded by Jesuitical casuistry will do for the Church what they would not dream of doing for themselves. Thus these people are not really so bad as their conduct suggests. Still, unless they are utterly duped by their system, unless their consciences have been warped into a kind of moral insanity by their training—and it must be allowed that this is possible—we cannot but say that their action must spring from a low tone of morality. At all events, it must tend to produce this, must be distinctly degrading and demoralizing.
5. It is doomed to failure. Nothing more injures the cause of Christ than the unworthy conduct of his followers, especially when this pleads his glory as its excuse. Nothing so favours unbelief as the suspicion of want of candour in defenders of the faith. It is fatal to cling to a bad argument because of its tendency to support the right. We can only please and serve God when we follow truth and love. This is the method of Christ, who scorned all subterfuges, and chose the apparent failure of the cross rather than the triumphs of safe diplomatic policy.—W.F.A.
Sin revealed by God.
Job is in a sad perplexity. His friends accuse him of great sin as the cause of his great trouble, but his conscience does not echo their accusation. Can it be that he has sinned unconsciously, that God is really angry with him for some offence which he has not recognized?
I. IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO SIN UNCONSCIOUSLY. It is not to be supposed that a man could be as guilty as Job's friends assumed the patriarch to be, and yet possess the clean conscience that was the one mitigating condition in his terrible distresses. The glaring contradiction proved the error of the comforters. Moreover, nobody can sin unconsciously, because the evil deed that is done apart from consciousness possesses no moral character. A hypnotized person who killed another would not be a murderer, nor would one who did so in the delirium of a fever. To sin in ignorance is not really to sin at all. All sin lies in the motive, and the motive must be evil for the deed to be sinful. But we cannot have an evil motive without knowing it.
II. IT IS POSSIBLE NOT TO BE FULLY CONSCIOUS OF ONE'S SIN.
1. The guilt of it may be minimized. A man knows that he has done wrong, and this very knowledge sets him to work on the ingenious search for excuses. He puts his conduct in the best light, hides its more ugly features, hunts up extenuating circumstances, pleads weakness, necessity, custom, ulterior good, etc.
2. The fact may be ignored. We keep the door locked on the skeleton in the cupboard. We do not care to rake up ugly memories. We tread lightly over the weak places in our life's story. When this careful ignoring of sin has gone on for some time, conscience itself is soothed and charmed into peace.
III. IT IS MOST DESIRABLE THAT OUR SIN SHOULD BE REVEALED TO US. The revelation has many good results.
1. It leads to repentance. We never know how odious our sin is till we look at it in God's light. Hidden and forgotten sin is not repented of. Pride grows on the graves of buried sins. The sins must be exhumed and Scattered to the winds, if we are to take the humble ground of penitents.
2. It helps us to conquer tin. The sin that lives within us is not recognized in its deadly character till God reveals it to us. Thus our excuses for sin encourage the reign of sin. To destroy it we must see it in its true character.
IV. IT IS WELL TO PRAY THAT GOD WOULD REVEAL OUR SINS TO US.
1. He can, For he knows the sin better than we know it, and he is in close contact with our consciences. The awakened conscience perceives sin with a shock of horror, and it is the Spirit of God that awakens conscience.
2. He will at last. Sin cannot remain hidden for ever. The secrets of all hearts must be dragged to the light in God's great day of judgment. If we will not have our sin revealed to us now, it will be revealed to all then.
3. We should seek a revelation. Thus we may anticipate and prevent the future revelation. For the sin that is repented of and forgiven will never Be revived. Meanwhile the longer our sin is hidden the worse it is for us. It is a viper in the breast, poison in the blood, death in the heart. Sin itself, not its consequences, is our worst enemy. Therefore let us pray, not in the perplexity of Job's cruelly misjudged situation, but in the simple contrition of the psalmist, "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalms 139:23, Psalms 139:24).—W.F.A.
The hiding of God's face.
I. THE SORROWFUL EXPERIENCE. The thought that God's face is hidden is most distressing to Job. Let us see what he is thinking of, and why he is distressed. The unveiled countenance is a sign of favour; the veiled, or averted face, of displeasure. Therefore Job's word suggests an idea of God's withdrawal of favour. He explains himself by adding, "And holdest me for thine enemy." But Job means more than the withdrawal of manifested favours, as gifts of grace flowing from the bounty of God. God is more than his gifts. The light of God's countenance is better than the blessings of God's storehouse. The very smiting by God is itself a supreme source of life and gladness. As the plant blooms in the sunshine and grows pale and sickly in the dark, so the soul blooms in the light of God's love and fades into desolation when that is hidden. To some, indeed, the hiding of God's face is no trouble. They cannot exclaim with delight, like Hagar, "Thou God seest me." Such words are to them only the expression of a great terror. But souls that know and love God bask in the sunshine of his presence. To lose the consciousness of God's loving presence is to such souls the desolation of a Siberian winter, the darkness of a storm-girt night.
II. THE MYSTERIOUS CAUSE. The cause is a mystery. We may see it afterwards, or in regard to the experience of others. But, while we are passing through the great darkness, its meaning is hidden from us, and this is part of its deepest trouble. Even Christ, in the human limitations of his earthly sufferings, exclaimed, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46); and there came no reply like that which followed immediately on other words of Christ addressed to his Father in heaven (e.g. John 12:28). Still some hints of the cause may sometimes Be gathered up. If we are conscious of sin, this is sufficient. The only wonder is that God has not withdrawn his countenance before this. If we have lost our first love (Revelation 2:4) and have wandered from God, we may well look back with regret to the happier past; but we can scarcely be surprised at our present depression. Then we can say with Cowper
"Where is the blessedness I knew
When first I saw the Lord?
Where is the soul-refreshing view
Of Jesus and his Word?
"What peaceful hours I once enjoyed!
How sweet their memory still!
But they have left an aching void
The world can never fill."
Possibly, like the author of the Olney Hymns, we may Be suffering from morbid subjective feelings. It may be that God has not hidden his face, but that our eyes are dim with needless tears, so that we cannot see his gracious countenance.
III. THE LIGHT BEHIND. God may be hiding his face, but he has not changed it. The sun has gone behind a cloud, but it still shines. God has not turned his love into hatred when we can no longer see his kind countenance. He loves us in the dark as much as in the light. He has not withdrawn his face in hiding it. The veil does not increase the distance Between us and God; it only prevents us from seeing him, though he is really as near to us as ever. Nay, he may be most near when we cannot see him, We are warmed and vitalized by the sun even while it is hidden by the cloud. God does not cease to bless us when we cease to perceive him. Yet the greatest blessing is with the unveiled countenance. That blessing of the beatific vision is reserved for the pure in heart (Matthew 5:8).—W.F.A.
Suffering for the sins of one's youth.
Job is perplexed. He cannot see what he has done to merit such terrible troubles as he is now experiencing. It certainly seems to him that no recent conduct of his can be deserving the punishment from which, according to his friends, he is suffering. Can it be that long-forgotten sins of his youth are brought up against him, and that he is suffering from those old offences?
I. THE SINS OF YOUTH ARE NOT TO BE LIGHTLY IGNORED.
1. Because they were done in haste. Youth is thoughtless; still it has moral responsibility.
2. Because youth is inexperienced. Youth will not be judged by the standard of more enlightened years, but by its own light, which is sufficient to warn from sin.
3. Because of their distant past. Though they were committed long ago, if they have never been repented of, they stand in the record against us still. Time does not condone guilt.
4. Because of subsequent amendment. This is the strongest plea. Yet it will not stand. For the subsequent conduct was no better than it ought to have been. There were no "works of supererogation" in it that could serve as an atonement for past offences.
II. THE SINS OF YOUTH BEAR FRUIT IN AFTER-YEARS. They do so in this life. Disease and early decrepitude are the bitter fruits of youthful dissipation. If the golden opportunities of youth are wasted, the after-life must suffer. If opportunities of educational improvement are neglected in youth, it is impossible to make up for them in manhood. The young man who spends the best years of his life in idle pleasure-seeking instead of laying the foundation of his future work, is sure to come to a day when he will bitterly repent his folly. There is a unity in life. We cannot slice it into detached periods, having no connection with one another. The present is a product of the past, and the ultimate future will be a result of our whole life, not of the last moments of it. Future judgment deals with the deeds of the life, not with the mood of the death-bed.
III. SINS OF YOUTH MAY BE FORGIVEN. They cannot be undone. Some of their consequences are inevitable. Therefore the hope of pardon is no encouragement for folly and wickedness. Still, when a man repents and seeks the grace of God, his case is never treated in Scripture as hopeless. Though a certain loss and suffering may remain, God forgives and heals the repentant soul. Therefore it is foolish to forget or to defend a misspent youth. The only hopeful thing is to own it before God, and to show ourselves heartily ashamed of it. It is far better to give to God every hour of life; but if the early hours have been misspent—miserable as is the thought of them—it is possible to mend our ways, and enter the vineyard even at the eleventh hour. The right use of reflection on the sins of youth is to make a man humble, and to had him to sympathize with young men, and to try to warn them, lest they make the sad mistake which has thrown a shadow over all his subsequent life. For who that is converted in later age would not give all he has to go back and begin again, and so avoid the ugly, unchangeable past?—W.F.A.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Job 13". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19