Millions miss a meal or two each day.
Help us change that! Click to donate today!
This chapter, in which Job concludes the fourth of his addresses, is characterized by a tone of mild and gentle expostulation, which contrasts with the comparative vehemence and passion of the two preceding chapters. It would seem that the patriarch, having vented his feelings, experiences a certain relief, an interval of calm, in which, his own woes pressing less heavily upon him, he is content to moralize on the general condition of humanity.
Man that is born of a woman. In this fact Job sees the origin of man's inherent weakness. He is "born of a woman," who is "the weaker vessel" (1 Peter 3:7). He is conceived by her in uncleanness (Psalms 51:5; comp. below, Psalms 51:4), brought forth in sorrow and pain (Genesis 3:16) suckled at her breasts, placed for years under her guidance. No wonder that he shares the weakness of which she is a sort of type. Is of few days; literally, short of days. Length and shortness of days are, no doubt, relative; and it is difficult to say what term of life would not have seemed short to men as they looked back upon it. To Jacob, at the age of a hundred and thirty, it appeared that "few and evil had the days of the years of his life been" (Genesis 47:9). Methuselah, perhaps, thought the same. We all, as we come towards old age, and death draws manifestly near, feel as if we had only just begun to live, as if, at any rate, we had not done half our work, and were about to be cut off before our time. But would the case be seriously different if our tale of years were doubled? And fall of trouble (comp. Job 5:7).
He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down. Few similes are more frequently used in Scripture (comp. Psalms 103:15; Isaiah 28:1, Isaiah 28:4; Isaiah 40:6, Isaiah 40:7; James 1:10, James 1:11; 1 Peter 1:24), and certainly none could have more poetic beauty. Eastern flowers do not often last much more than a day. He fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not (comp. Job 7:2; Job 8:9; 1 Chronicles 29:15; Psalms 102:11; Psalms 109:23; Ecclesiastes 6:12, etc.). Shadows are always changing; but the shadows which flee away the fastest, and which Job has probably in his mind, are those of clouds, or other moving objects, which seem to chase each other over the earth, and never to continue for a single minute in one stay.
And dost thou open thine eyes upon such a one? Is it compatible with God's greatness, unchangeableness, and majesty to take any notice of so poor, weak, and unstable a creature as mortal man? The question has been often asked, and answered by many in the negative, as by the Epicureans of old. Job does not really entertain any doubt upon the point; but only intends to express his wonder that it should be so (comp. Psalms 8:4, and above, Job 7:17). And bringest me into judgment with thee? Especially astonishing is it, Job says, that God should condescend to try, pass judgment on, and punish so weak, worthless, and transitory a creature as himself.
Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one. It is scarcely true to say that "the fact of original sin is thus distinctly recognized". Original uncleanness and infirmity are recognized; but the uncleanness is material, and removable by material expiation (Le Job 12:2-8). It is rather man's weakness than his sinfulness that is here under discussion.
Seeing his days are determined. Job here returns to the consideration of the shortness of man's life. "His days are determined;'' i.e. they are a limited period, known to and fixed beforehand by God. They are not like God's days, which "endure throughout all generations" (Psalms 102:24). The number of his months are with thee. "With thee" means here "known to thee," "laid up in thy counsels." Thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass. "His bounds" are "the limit of his lifetime." The three clauses are pleonastic. One idea pervades them all.
Turn from him, that he may rest; literally, look away from him; i.e. "Cease to watch him and search him out so continually" (comp. Job 7:17, Job 7:18). "Then he will be able to have a breathing-time, an interval of peace and rest, before his departure from the earth." What Job had previously desired for himself (Job 10:20) he now asks for all humanity. Till he shall accomplish, as an hireling, his day. Hired labourers are glad when their day's work is over. So man rejoices when life comes to an end.
For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down. God's vegetable creation is better off, in respect of length of days, than man. Let a tree be cut down, it is not therefore of necessity destroyed. There is yet hope for it. The bare dry stump will sometimes put forth tender branches, which will grow and flourish, and renew the old life. Or, if the stump be quite dead, suckers may spring up from the root and grow into new trees as vigorous as the one that they replace (comp. Isaiah 11:1). Herodotus considered that all trees had this recuperative power, except the πίτυς, a species of fir (Herod; 6.37), and the traveller Shaw says that when a palm tree dies there is always a sucker ready to take its place. Pliny also observes of the laurel, "Viva-cissima est radix, ita ut, si truncus ina-ruerit, recisa arbor mox laetius frutificet" ('Hist. Nat.,' 1.15. § 30). That it will sprout again. That is, from the spool or stump. Some trees, as the Spanish chest. nut, if cut down flush with the ground, throw up shoots from the entire circle of the stomp, often as many as fifteen or twenty. And that the tender branch thereof will not cease. The vigour of such shoots is very great. In a few years they grow to the height of the parent tree. If they are then removed they are quickly replaced by a fresh growth.
Job 14:8, Job 14:9
Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground; yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant. After the stump is actually dead, suckers may be thrown up from the roots, if sufficient water be supplied to them; and these will put forth branches luxuriantly.
But man dieth. "Man" is here גבר, "the brave, strong man," not אדם or אנוֹשׁ, and the meaning is that man, however brave and' strong, perishes. And wasteth away; i.e. "comes to nought, remains no strength or vitality." Yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? "Where is he?" Job could not answer this question. He might say, "In Sheol." But where was Sheol, and what was Sheol? There was no written revelation on this subject, and no traditional knowledge on which dependence could be placed. The Hebrew notions on the subject were very vague and indeterminate; Job's notions are likely to have been still vaguer. There is no reason to believe that he had any exact acquaintance with the tenets of the Egyptians. He may have known the Chaldean teaching, but it would not have carried him very far. Doubt and perplexity beset him whenever he turned his attention to the problem of man's condition after death, and, excepting when carried away by a burst of enthusiasm, he seems to have regarded it as the highest wisdom, in matters of this kind, "to knew that he knew nothing." The question, "Where is he?" is an acknowledgment of this profound ignorance.
As the waters fail from the sea. The allusion seems to be to the actual desiccation of seas and rivers. Job, apparently, had known instances of both. A formation of new land in the place, of sea is always going on at the head of the Persian Gulf, through the deposits of the Tigris and Euphrates; and this formation was very rapid in ancient times, when the head of the gulf was narrower. The desiccation of river-courses is common in Mesopotamia, where arms thrown out by the Tigris and Euphrates get blocked, and then silted up. And the flood decayeth and drieth up; rather, and the river decayeth' etc. (see the comment on the preceding clause).
So man lieth down, and riseth not. This is not an absolute denial of a final resurrection, since Job is speaking of the world as it lies before him, not of eventualities. Just as he sees the land encroach upon the sea, and remain land, and the river-courses, once dried up, remain dry, so he sees men descend into the grave and remain there, without rising up again. This is the established order of nature as it exists before his eyes. Till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake. This order of things, Job believes, rightly enough, will continue as long as the heavens and the earth endure. What will happen afterwards he does not so much as inquire. It is remarked, ingeniously, that Job's words, though not intended in this sense, exactly "coincide with the declarations of the New Testament, which make the resurrection simultaneous with the breaking up of the visible universe" (Canon Cook). Nor be raised out of their sleep. If "the glimmer of a hope" of the resurrection appears anywhere in verses 10-12, it is in the comparison of death to a sleep, which is inseparably connected in our minds with an awakening.
Oh that thou wouldest hide me in the grave! literally, in Sheol, which here does not so much mean "the grave," as the place of departed spirits, described in Job 10:21, Job 10:22. Job desires to have God's protection in that" land of darkness," and to be "hidden" there by him until his wrath be past. It has been generally supposed that he means after his death; but Schultens thinks his desire was to descend to Sheol alive, and there remain, while his punishment continued, hidden from the eyes of men. That thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past. Job assumes that, if he is being punished for his youthful sins (Job 13:26), his punishment will not be for long—at any rate, not for ever; God's anger will at last be satisfied and cease. That thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me! How long he may have to suffer be does not greatly care. Only let it be "a set time"—a fixed, definite period—and at the end of it, let God "remember" him.
If a man die, shall he live again? The question is clearly intended to be answered in the negative. It is not a dispassionate inquiry, but an expression of hopelessness. Let a man once die, and of course he cannot live again. Were it otherwise, then, Job says, all the days of my appointed time will I wait; or, rather (as in the Revised Version), all the days of my warfare would I wait; i.e. I would patiently endure any sufferings in the larger hope that would then be open to me. I would wait till my change (rather, my renewal) come. The exact nature of the 'renewal'' which Job seems here to expect is obscure. Perhaps he is pursuing the idea, broached in verse 13, of his being conveyed alive to Hades, and looks forward to a furthur renewed life after he is released from that "land of darkness."
Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee; rather, thou shouldest call, and I would answer thee (see the Revised Version). In that case, when I quitted Hades, and renewed my life, thou wouldst assuredly summon me to thee, and I would respond to the summons. There would be sweet colloquy between us; for thou wilt (or, rather, wouldest) have a desire to the work of thine hands (comp. Job 10:8-11). Job assumes that God must love whatever he has created, and be drawn towards it by a secret, strong desire.
For now thou numberest my steps; rather, but now. Job, at this point, proceeds to contrast his actual condition with the ideal one which (in verses 13-15) his imagination has conjured up. God's actual attitude towards him he regards as one, not of protecting love, but of jealous hostility. His "steps" are observed, counted—every divergence from the right path is noted—a false step, if he makes one, is at once punished. Dost thou not watch over my sin? (comp. Job 10:14). Job's sins, he thinks, are watched for, spied out, taken note of, and remembered against him.
My transgression is sealed up in a bag (comp. Deuteronomy 32:34); i.e. God keeps account of all my transgressions. It is as if he put them all into a bag (compare "Put my tears into thy bottle," Psalms 56:8), whence they can be taken out and brought against me at any moment. They are "sealed up" in the bag for greater security. And thou sewest up mine iniquity. (So Ewald, Dillmaun, Canon Cook, and the Revised Version.) Others think the meaning to be, "Thou addest to my iniquity [continually];" i.e. by placing fresh sins to my account. (So Schultens and Rosenmuller.)
And surely the mountain falling cometh to nought. Job here resumes the lament 'over human infirmity, with which the chapter opens (verses 1-12); but he has, perhaps, in this passage, his own case mote distinctly presented to his consciousness. With the wealth of metaphor which characterizes his utterances, he compares the ruin of a prosperous man
(1) to the sudden collapse of a mountain;
(2) to the removal of a rock out of its place;
(3) to the wearing away of stones by the constant flow of streams; and
(4) to the destruction of alluvial tracts by floods.
Mountains collapse, either by volcanic agency, which is quite as much shown in the subsidence as in the elevation of the soil, or by landslips, which are most usually the results of heavy rains. And the rock is removed out of his place. Rocks are sometimes split by frost, and topple over when a thaw comes; at other times, heavy floods remove them from their accustomed place; occasionally earthquakes overturn them, and cause them to fall with a crash. There is also a removal of rocks to much greeter distances, by means of glaciers and icebergs; but of these Job is not likely to have known.
The waters wear the stones. The power of the soft element of water, by continual washing or dripping, to wear away the hardest stone, has often been noticed, and is a frequent topic in poetry. Deep ravines have been worn in course of time, through broad and lofty mountain ranges by rivers, the stone yielding little by little to the action of the water, until at last a broad chasm is made. So the continual wearing action of calamity often lays low the prosperous. Thou washest away the things which grow out of the dust of the earth; rather, as in the Revised Version, the overflowings thereof wash away the dust of the earth; i.e. "overflows of water, inundations, floods, not only make a way through rocks, but often carry off great tracts of rich soil, hurrying the alluvium down to the sea, and leaving in its place a marsh or a waste." And thou destroyest the hope of man. Even thus from time to time does God ruin and destroy the hopes of a prosperous man.
Thou prevailset for ever against him, and he passsth; rather, thou puttest forth thy power against him perpetually; i.e. thou art continually oppressing him, and crushing him by afflictions; and the consequence is that "he passes;" i.e. "he passes away, disappears, ceases to be." Thou changest his countenance. "Alterest," i.e, "its expression from cheerfulness to sadness, and its complexion from the hue of health to the sickly pallor of disease; settest the stamp of death upon it, and further dis-figurest it in the dreadful process of decay." And sendest him away. That is to say, "Thou removest him from the earth, dismissest him to Sheol, where thenceforth he remains?'
His sons come to honour, and he knoweth it not. The meaning seems to be, "If his sons come to honour, it is of no advantage to him; in the remote and wholly separate region of Sheol he will not be aware of it." The view is more dismal than that of Aristotle, who argues that the fate of those whom they have loved and left on earth will be sure to penetrate, in course of time (ἐπὶ τινα χρόνον)' to the departed, and cause them a certain amount of joy or sorrow ('Eth. Nic.,' 1.11). And they are brought low, but he perceiveth it not of them. Equally, in the opposite case, if his sons are brought low, he is ignorant of it, and unaffected by their fate.
But his flesh upon him shall have pain. The best rendering is probably that which is placed in the margin of the Revised Version, only for himself his flesh hath pain, and for himself his soul mourneth. Nothing more is intended than to negative the idea that the future condition of his children will seriously affect a man who is suffering under God's afflicting hand, either in this life or afterwards. He cannot but be occupied solely with himself. His own sufferings, whether of body or mind, win absorb all his attention.
Job to God: 2. The death-wail of humanity.
I. THE WAIL OF HUMANITY IN THE EAR OF GOD.
1. The constitutional frailty of man. Moses, in the Book of Genesis (Genesis 1:26; Genesis 2:7), sets forth the dignity of man (Adam) as the crown of creation (Psalms 8:6), as the handiwork of God (Job 10:8; Psalms 100:3; Isa 15:1-9 :12), as the image of his Maker (Genesis 9:6; Acts 17:29; 1 Corinthians 11:7). Job here supplies the companion picture of the misery of man by representing him as:
(1) Descended from woman, who was not only taken out of weak man, but is expressly declared to be the weaker vessel (1 Peter 3:7), and is the subject of a special doom of weakness in herself and offspring in consequence of having been first in the transgression (Genesis 3:16; 1 Timothy 2:14)—all which may be said to entail on the human race, as it were by a threefold necessity, the pitiable heritage of frailty.
(2) Sprung from the dust, out of which man emerged, and still emerges, like a flower (Psalms 103:15; Isaiah 40:6; James 1:10), and to which again, like the flower, he shall in due course return (Genesis 3:19); in the meanwhile, as he hovers between the cradle and the grave, his birthplace and his place of sepulture, being like the flower, a structure of exquisite loveliness and of admirable symmetry (Psalms 139:14), but after all delicate and tender as a flower, being, like it, only a handful of dexterously fashioned and beautifully painted dust.
(3) Insubstantial as a shadow, which is not so much a thing as the image and reflection of a thing, the projection on the ground of an opaque body whose dark form intercepts the light of heaven, a metaphor applied already by Bildad to man's days (Job 8:9; cf. Psalms 102:11; Psalms 144:4), but here with greater bohtness appropriated to depict the utter insignificance of man himself.
2. The extreme brevity of human life. The period of man's continuance on earth is sorrowfully exhibited as:
(1) Of definite extension (verse 5; cf. Job 7:1, Job 7:2). Uncertain in the eye of man himself (Ecclesiastes 9:11, Ecclesiastes 9:12), the hour of each one's departure from this sublunary scene is accurately known by God (Jeremiah 28:16), in whose hands are not only the souls of all living things and the breath of all mankind (Job 12:10), but their times as well (Psalms 31:15), to whose all-seeing eye the number of their months is as well known as the number of their hairs (Luke 12:7), who hath not only appointed the bounds of their habitation (Acts 17:26), but also determined their days, setting a bound to their goings on the face of the earth as effectually as he does to the waves of the sea (Job 38:11). And this doctrine of each man on earth having a predestined career is as philosophical as it is scriptural, the foreordination of the Almighty not interfering with the operation of natural laws and secondary causes. Nor is it contradicted by those texts of Scripture which seem to teach that the limit of man's pilgrimage is determined by purely accidental circumstances (Job 15:32; Job 22:16; Psalms 55:23; Ecclesiastes 7:17).
(2) Of short duration (verses 1, 2, 5, 6). Whether the expression, "of few days," literally, "curtailed as to days," contains an allusion to the fact that human life was shorter than it would have been had man continued innocent, or that in Job's time it was shorter than it had been i, the world's infancy, it is certain that an exceedingly impressive picture is presented by the phrases and images here employed, human life at the Longest being characterized as "months," then "days," and these only "few," and after that as "a day," as the brief season during which a flower blooms, as the short time during which the shadow runs. Contrasted with the age of the race, the duration of the earth, the lifetime of God, yea, contrasted with itself in prospective anticipation, the life of man, especially in the retrospect, is "but a handbreadth" (Psalms 39:5).
(3) Of quick transition. Coming forth like a flower, man has scarcely begun to bloom when he is cut down (cf. ' Henry VIII.,' Acts 3:0. sc. 2). The few days that God allots him to live refuse to linger, but hurry on, like the shadow on the dial, never hasting, never resting, but ever moving, moving, moving on.
"Tis but an hour ago since it was nine;
And after one hour more, 'twill be eleven;
And so, from hour to hour. we ripe and ripe,
And then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot.'
('As You Like It,' Acts 2:0. sc. 5.)
3. The intense severity of human sorrow. Besides being of few days, woman-born man is full of trouble, literally, "full of unrest," of inward commotion and of outward motion, its inevitable sequence and result. Though perhaps it is not true of any that their existence on earth is so completely "satiated with sorrow," that no interludes of joy remain, it is yet true of most that affliction forms a principal ingredient in their cup (Job 5:7), while of all it may be said that a considerable portion of their troubles springs from the spirit of unrest with which they are surcharged, and of which the primal cause is sin. "A few seem favourites of fate, in pleasure's lap caressed," though even these are not "likewise truly blest" in the highest sense of the expression.
"But oh! what crowds in every land
Are wretched and forlorn,"
through bodily disease, mental anxiety, domestic sorrow, through "man's inhumanity to man," through the fierce raging of inward passion, through the terrible cankerworm of sin!
4. The inherited corruption of man's moral nature. "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one?" (verse 4). Read as a wish, "Oh that a pure one could come from an impure!" (Delitzsch), the idea is the same, that purity is impossible to man because of his origin. Descended from woman, he brings with him into life a legacy of physical frailty, and, what is worse, of uncleanness. The language may perhaps be regarded as giving enunciation to the doctrine of original sin' i.e. of the hereditary corruption of human nature—a doctrine pervading Scripture (Genesis 5:3; Genesis 6:5; Genesis 8:21; Psa 51:5; 1 Corinthians 15:22; Romans 5:12-20; Ephesians 2:3); involved in the universal prevalence of sin (Job 11:12; Psalms 58:3; Revelation 22:15); presupposed in the necessity of regeneration (John 3:6); confirmed by the experience of God's people (Job 40:4; Psalms 51:5; Isaiah 6:5; Romans 7:14); and harmonizing with the all-pervading law of nature that like begets like.
II. THE APPEAL OF HUMANITY TO THE HEART OF GOD.
1. Deprecating judgment. "And dost thou open thine eyes upon such a one, and bringest me into judgment with thee?" (verse 3). A favourite idea with Job that the very frailty and sinfulness of man should have been his protection against the Divine inspection and judicial visitation, that it was scarcely worthy of the Divine Majesty to set a watch upon a creature so insignificant and feeble as man, or consistent with equity to arraign at his bar a being whose weakness was constitutional and hereditary. But that original sin or hereditary weakness does not destroy the consciousness of individual responsibility, is proclaimed by Scripture (Genesis 4:7; Exodus 32:33; Job 31:3; Ezekiel 18:4), attested by conscience, and believed by society. And, though man is frail, he is neither powerless for evil, nor unimportant as a factor in the history of earth. Hence he cannot safely be overlooked. Neither is he unjustly brought into judgment. Still God allows himself to be moved to compassionate forbearance by both a contemplation of man's frailty (Psalms 103:14), and a consideration of his inherited corruption (Genesis 6:3, Genesis 6:5).
2. Supplicating mercy. "Turn from him [literally, 'look away from him'], that he may rest, till he shall accomplish, as an hireling, his day" (verse 6). Considering that man has only a short day to live, Job entreats that that day may be mercifully exempted from such special sufferings as spring from a Divine marking and punishing of sin, in order that man, the poor hireling, may be able to perform his appointed task. On human life as a term of hard service, and man as a miserable hired drudge, see Job 7:1 (homiletics). The prayer tells us that no man can adequately execute the tasks assigned him by God on earth whose body is racked by pain and whose mind is tormented by spiritual fear. The soul that cannot look on God as a Friend, or upon whom God seems to look as an enemy, can never be at perfect rest (Isaiah 57:21). But he from whom God averts his face in the sense of not marking iniquity (Psalms 32:1), and much more upon whom God makes his face to shine in loving favour (Job 33:26; Psalms 89:15; John 16:22; Acts 2:28), possesses the true secret of happiness, and the noblest inspiration for Christian work In Christ the face of God is turned mercifully away from human sin, and compassionately towards human sorrow.
1. There is no room for pride of ancestry in man, since all alike are woman-born. 2 The lowly origin of man should impress the heart with humility.
3. Since man's days are so full of trouble, it is a mercy they are few; and since they are so few, man should study to be patient under trouble.
4. The swift approach of death should stimulate to diligence and promote heavenly-mindedness.
5. The heart of God can be touched with a feeling of our infirmities.
6. God will never open his eyes to judge their sins who first open their eyes to behold his mercy.
7. One special reason of our requiring mercy is our inherited corruption, since it proves that we are, root and branch, depraved.
Man as a flower.
I. IN HIS ORIGIN. He springeth from the ground.
II. IN HIS CONSTITUTION. He is composed of dust.
III. IN HIS STRUCTURE. His physical organism is as beautiful and delicate as that of a flower.
IV. IN HIS FRAILTY. He is as easily destroyed as a flower.
V. IN HIS EVANESCENCE. He is as short-lived as a flower.
VI. IN HIS END. Like a flower, he returns to the dust.
1. Lowly thoughts of self.
2. Care of the body.
3. Preparation for the end.
Job to God: 3. A glimpse into the life beyond.
I. "IF A MAN DIE, SHALL HE LIVE AGAIN?" No!
1. The voice of nature is against it. "For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again," etc. (verses 7-9). But nothing like this occurs in the case of man, of whom rather the cheerless proverb holds that, as the tree falls, so shall it lie (Ecclesiastes 11:3). Hewn down by the axe of death, or laid prostrate by age beneath the sod, there is in his decaying body no vital germ which can send forth tender sprouts. The earth contains no revivifying principle for him as for trees. The fine manly fellow, rejoicing in his vigorous health, begins to droop and to die; he gives up the ghost, or expires, and where is he? (verse 10). There is no subsequent resuscitation for him. No! Man's appropriate emblem is not the trees, but the streams and the lakes. When man dies, he disappears completely from the present scene, like the dried-up waters of a lake, or of a mountain torrent that have forsaken their accustomed bed.
2. The testimony of experience is against it. A phenomenon so stupendous as the return of a dead and buried man to life has never once been witnessed. With a terrible uniformity of sadness, each age has followed its predecessor to the tomb. And there are those who affirm that this dreary monotony has never been interrupted; that the sum of human experience is the same to-day as it was in Job's time; that "man lieth down, and riseth not" (verse 12); and that there is no reason to anticipate that it ever will be different, but much cause to conclude that for evermore it will continue the same (Ecclesiastes 1:9). But
(1) uniformity of past experience cannot with absolute finality determine future events in a world governed by Omniscient Wisdom and Infinite Power;
(2) in numerous instances already the principle of reckoning from past uniformity has been found to be unsafe, as e.g. the successive appearance of new species of living creatures on earth, according to either geological science or biblical revelation, the occurrence of the Deluge, the manifestation of Christ;
(3) in particular the uniformity of experience referred to, viz. of the non-return of men from their graves, has, on the evidence of human testimony, been broken at least once by the resurrection of Christ; and
(4) even had it not been broken once, such uniformity of past experience cannot be regarded as valid against the doctrine of a resurrection such as Scripture teaches, viz. a return of mankind to the earth, not successively at different times and in divers parts and parcels, but simultaneously in one united body.
3. The verdict of silence is against it. Not of true science, but of arrogantly talking, much asserting, materialism. What Job uses as beautiful similitudes (verses 7, 11, 18, 19) modern sages employ as scientific truth. Man, according to their findings, is of a piece with the great material world by which he is surrounded, in which there is continually going on a resistless process of disintegration and dissolution, before which he sooner or later succumbs, like the trees and the rocks, the mountains and the streams. To expect, therefore, that a dead man shall return to his place on earth is as unscientific as to anticipate that the alluvial deposits of the plain shall replace themselves upon the mountain's sides from which they have been taken, or that the shattered rock shall resume its station in the crevice out of which it has fallen, or that the water of a lake which has evaporated shall again cover its desiccated bed, or the fleecy cloud which has dissolved and been dispersed shall recombine itself upon the face of heaven.
II. "IF A MAN DIE, SHALL HE LIVE AGAIN?" YES!
1. The phenomena of nature suggest it. "There is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again." Why, then, should there not be hope of a man reviving from the bed of death? Why should not man have his springtime as well as the plants and flowers and roots? "Everything in nature is a sign of something higher and more living than itself, to follow in due course, and in turn announce a yet higher one; the mineral foretells the plant, the plant the animal, all things in their degree foretell mankind". Again, "The presignificance of animal forms and economy by plants extends to the whole of their organic functions, to many of their organs, even to their spontaneous movements, their habits and qualities". Many of the functions usually supposed to be characteristic of animals have a marvellous foreshadowing in vegetables, as e.g. the processes of eating and digesting food, the procreation and birth of offspring, the act of respiration and the repose of sleep. May it not, then, be maintained that the constantly recurring winter death, and spring revival of trees and plants and flowers, are prefigurements, not only of the sleeping and waking of animals generally, but also of the death and resurrection of man?
2. The instincts of humanity desire it. "Oh that thou wouldest hide me in Sheol!" etc. (verse 13). Job had not, indeed, perfect certainty on the subject of his returning from Hades, but in the deepest yearnings of his soul, which here flashed up into momentary brightness, he longed for such a revival as is implied in the resurrection. And the argument derived from this is that the existence of such a hope in the human soul renders probable at least the doctrine of a resurrection. "Intuition is worth volumes of logic". "Where in the plan of nature do we find instincts falsified? Where do we see an instance of a creature instinctively craving a certain kind of food in a place where no such food can be found? Are the swallows deceived by their instinct when they fly away from clouds and storms to seek a warmer country? Do they not find a milder climate beyond the water? When the may-flies and other aquatic insects leave their shells, expand their winos, and soar from the water into the air, do they not find an atmosphere fitted to sustain them in a new stage of life? Yes. The voice of nature does not utter false prophecies. It is the call, the invitation, of the Creator addressed to his creatures. And if this be true with regard to the impulses of the physical life, why should it not be true with regard to the superior instincts of the soul?".
3. The dignity of man demands it. "Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands" (verse 15). It was utterly inconceivable that God could be happy so long as man, the noblest specimen of his handiwork, whom his own hands had fashioned with tender care and infinite skill (Job 10:3, Job 10:9), upon whom, as it were, he had impressed the stamp of his own Divinity (Genesis 1:26), and whom he had set at the very apex of creation (Psalms 8:6), was lying mouldering in the dust; nay, by the very necessities of the case, God would yearn (grow pale with anxiety and wan with longing) after his absent creature and child, and, eventually breaking in upon the silence of the grave, would summon the unconscious sleeper to arise. "Do you suppose," Job virtually asks, "that if I yearn after God as I do, God does not likewise yearn after me; that if it would add to my felicity to see God in the flesh, and to talk with him as a man talketh with his friend, it would not likewise intensify his blessedness to have me in my complete manhood by his side?" And in this idea of the essential dignity of man as God's handiwork and God's child, we are warranted to find, if not a certain demonstration, at least a strong presumption that man will yet attain to an embodied life be:. end the grave.
4. The witness of revelation proclaims it. Like other parts of the gospel scheme, the doctrine of a resurrection was only gradually unfolded. In antediluvian times it may have been suggested to thoughtful minds by the translation of Enoch. In the Abrahamic period the hope of a better country, even an heavenly, was strong in pious hearts; but it is not certain that this implied more than a belief in immortality, or in a continuous existence beyond the grave, though the case of Job clearly shows that even then men had begun to speculate about the probability of a return to the embodied state alter death, and the practice of embalming among the Egyptians has been held to prove that such a doctrine had even then become a popular belief. In the age of David the hope of a resurrection burned brighter and clearer (Psalms 16:11; Psalms 17:15). Isaiah spoke of a rising of Jehovah's dead body, and of the earth casting forth her dead (Isaiah 26:19); Ezekiel, of an opening of the graves (Ezekiel 38:9, Ezekiel 38:18); Daniel, of an awaking out of sleep (Daniel 12:2). But not until the times of the gospel was the doctrine fully declared. Christ affirmed it (John 5:28, John 5:29); St. Peter proved it (Acts 2:25-32; Act 12:1-25 :34); St. Paul preached it (Acts 17:31) and wrote concerning it (Romans 8:11,Romans 8:12; 1 Corinthians 15:12-20).
5. The resurrection of Christ secures it. "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that sleep" (1 Corinthians 15:20). The resurrection of Christ being as certain a fact of history as his death, the resurrection of his people at least is conclusively established (John 14:19; Romans 8:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:14), and the question of Job finally answered.
1. The importance of using life well, since no man returns to the present scene.
2. The strong consolation which the saint finds in the hope of a resurrection.
Job to God: 4. Falling back into the darkness.
I. BROODING OVER HIS MISERY.
1. A sudden transition. Job's anticipation of the future resurrection-life was a momentary inspiration; not a calm, clear, steady light, diffusing a cheerful radiance within his soul, and shining on his onward progress to the grave, but a bright meteoric flash shooting up before his mind's eye, dazzling it for an instant by celestial splendours, and then plunging across the firmament of his soul into darkness. Like Moses on the summit of Mount Pisgah, looking out over Jordan towards the promised land; like Christ upon the snowy crown of Hermon, gazing far beyond the cross to the glory that was to follow, this great prophetic soul, with his vision clarified through suffering, having been set down by the grave's mouth, looked across the dark Hadean world, and descried the resurrection-life beyond. But, alas! like the Pisgah-glimpse of Canaan and the transfiguration-glory of Mount Hermon, the beatific vision was not of long duration. It was a momentary parting of the veil before the undiscovered country—nothing more. It came, it paused not, it passed, it vanished. The old stream of sorrowful emotion, out of which Job had been lifted for a season, as St. Paul was caught up into the third heaven, resumed its course. He was once more in the full current of his misery. Such transitions are not infrequent in the Christian life—from light to darkness, from joy to sadness, from peace to trouble, from delightful anticipations of heaven to sorrowful forebodings of impending disaster.
2. An extraordinary misconception. Losing sight of the light from beyond the tomb, he is once more a wretched creature whose steps are watched, and whose sins are marked by an angry Judge. God appears to be dealing with him as a criminal, lying in wait, as it were, to detect his sins, preserving a careful enumeration of them, storing them up in a bundle as legal documents; or, better, in a purse as money or precious stones, and sealing it to ensure their production on the day of trial—nay, for that purpose, sewing them up in a sort of interior scrip (Cox), or tying them up together (Fry, Good), or stitching on to them additional charges (Gesenius, Delitzsch). The experience through which Job here passes was not new to himself (Job 7:18; Job 13:27), and has sometimes been approximated to by believers under the Law (Psalms 38:1-4; Psalms 88:7, Psalms 88:16), though, in the case of Christians, it should for ever be impossible, proceeding as it does upon a total misconception of the character of God as revealed in Jesus Christ. Even under the Law such a picture as Job here sketches of the Divine treatment of a believing sinner should scarcely have been possible. As discovered to Moses, the character of Jehovah was "merciful and gracious" (Exodus 34:7); as known to David, "ready to forgive" (Psalms 86:5); as proclaimed by Micah, "delighting in mercy" (Micah 7:18) Much more as published by him who is the Image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15), and who came to declare the Father (John 1:18), it it essentially love. The only being whom God ever treated as a criminal on account of sin was his own Son (Isaiah 53:6, Isaiah 53:10; Romans 4:25; 2 Corinthians 5:21). In view of Christ's propitiatory work he dealt with men in a way of mercy even before the advent; since the sacrifice of Calvary God is in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing unto men their trespasses (2 Corinthians 5:19). Yet the language of Job is true in the case of sinners who are wilfully impenitent. Their iniquities are all observed by God, remembered by God, and, unless repented of and forgiven, will eventually be produced by God for their condemnation.
3. A strange contradiction. A moment before exulting in the thought that God's affection for him when dead would be so great as to require the resuscitation of his lifeless body (verse 15), Job now pictures the same God as a malignant Adversary and an angry Judge. The two conceptions will not hold together. A little calm logic would have enabled Job to see this; but men are seldom logical at the grave's mouth or in the grasp of an awakened conscience. It were well for Christians, and for men generally, to be distrustful of those representations of the Divine character which are cast up before the mind's eye by either the soul's fears or fancies. Pictures of the Deity evolved from the inner consciousness, whether by philosophers or theologians, are seldom congruous with one another, but are as variable as the passing moods of the changeful spirit. In the face of Jesus Christ alone can God be either fully or clearly seen; and there he is "without variableness, or shadow of turning."
II. DESPAIRING OF HIS LIFE. Job foresees nothing for him but the early extinction of that hope of life which has hitherto sustained him; and that for two reasons.
1. Decay appeared to be the universal law of nature. The most stable thinks on earth were incapable of resisting this inherent tendency to dissolution. Mountains. rocks, stones, the very soil, yielded to the well-nigh omnipotent forces of nature (verses 18, 19); how much less could weak and frail man overcome that all-pervading vim disintegrationis by which he was assailed, or escape that slow but inevitable destruction which engulfed all mundane things! "The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces," etc. ('Tempest,' Acts 4:0. so. 1).
2. God seemed to have decreed his destruction. The consideration of man's frailty, which might have been expected to move God to pity, in Job's estimation had rather stirred him to relentless severity. He had instituted laws against which even the most durable things of earth were unable to stand; "and," as if these same laws were not sufficient of themselves to accomplish his destruction, "thou destroyest the hope of man" (verse 19). The hope of eluding death is a delusion (Hebrews 9:27). But it God destroys man's hope of life, he mercifully supplants it, in the cause of believers, with a hope of immortality (1 Peter 1:3).
III. ANTICIPATING HIS DEMISE. This Job expected would be:
1. Irresistible. "Thou prevailest for ever," either overpowerest (Gesenius, Davidson, Carey) or seizest him (Delitzsch) "for ever" (verse 20). The struggle of life against death, represented as a contest of man with God, who always proves the Victor (Ecclesiastes 6:10), so that "no man hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit, neither hath he power in the day of death ' (Ecclesiastes 8:8), but from all men equally their breath is taken away, and they return to the dust (Psalms 104:29).
2. Speedy. "And he passeth'" literally, "he goeth'" i.e. into the unseen world. Notwithstanding all man's attempts to resist the decree of dissolution, not much is required to complete his subjugation. His removal is easily effected. Simply God speaks to him (Psalms 90:3), or breathes upon him (Isaiah 40:7), and he moveth on, his valour overcome, his wisdom defeated, his strength paralyzed, his noble form prostrated in stillness and decay.
3. Humiliating. "Thou changest his countenance." Time writes wrinkles on the brow, cute ploughs furrows on the cheek, affliction ages and enfeebles the most stalwart frame; but, O Death! for rudely marring and disfiguring the fair temple of the body, man accords thee the palm. Death, which is exaltation to the spirit, is degradation to the body. To the one the gateway of glory, it is also to the other, though only for a time, the door of dishonour.
4. Final. "Thou sendest him away," as it were into perpetual banishment. If the language implies that man continues to preserve a conscious existence after departing from the earth, it as emphatically bars the way against any return to the present life.
IV. REALIZING THE DISEMBODIED STATIC.
1. A complete severance from mundane things. When man vanishes from this mortal scene, not only does the place which knows him now know him no more for ever (Job 7:10; Job 20:1-29. '9; Psalms 103:16), but he himself has no more knowledge of the place. His connection with the world is completely at an end (Ecclesiastes 9:5). He returns no more to his house (Job 7:10), neither is he more concerned with the fortunes of his family (Verse 21). How far this correctly represents the Hadean world it is impossible to say. That disembodied spirits should retain the power of apprehending what transpires on earth is neither impossible nor inconceivable; and that they do may seem to derive countenance from Scripture (Luke 15:7; Luke 16:27; Hebrews 12:1). Still, it is doubtful if as many and potent arguments cannot be adduced against it; while it is certain that, even if departed souls are cognizant of mundane affairs, they will not be profoundly interested in such things as the temporal prosperity or adversity of their families.
2. An exclusive occupation with the interests of self. "But," or only, "his flesh upon him," or on account of himself, "shall have pain, and his soul within him," or on account of itself, "shall mourn" (verse 22). The dead man's body is regarded as a sentient creature suffering extreme physical tortures while undergoing the process of dissolution; the dead man's soul is depicted as filled with inconsolable sorrow on account of its unhappy lot. Scarcely removed from the conceptions entertained by heathen writers, such a picture as Job here outlines of the realm of departed saints is only true of the impenitent who die unsaved, but is as widely astray as possible from the truth concerning the spirits of just men made perfect, who, if they are occupied exclusively with their own affairs, do not bemoan an undone eternity, but exult in an exceeding, even an eternal, weight of glory, and who, if they do grieve over their absent bodies, lament not the pains they are suffering, but long for their emancipation from the power of death—"waiting for the adoption, even the redemption of the body" (Romans 8:23).
1. To think of God's mercy as beyond disputation.
2. To contemplate death's approach as inevitable.
3. To reflect more upon the glory of heaven than upon the gloom of the grave.
4. To keep the soul as much as possible disengaged from the affairs of time.
5. To seek for ourselves and children that honour which cometh from above.
6. To realize that a saint leaves all pain and mourning behind him when he enters the unseen world.
7. To thank God for all the light which has been shed around the grave and upon the future world by the gospel of Christ's resurrection.
I. A COMMON EXPERIENCE. It is not more true that man hopes, than it is that he sooner or later becomes acquainted with disappointment. Young and old, rich and poor, wise and unwise, have their unrealized expectations.
II. A DIVINE ARRANGEMENT. Blighted hopes are no more accidents than are buds that never fulfil their promise, They form part of the great world-plan which has been devised by Infinite Wisdom.
III. A SALUTARY DISCIPLINE. When God breaks a man's earthly ideas, it is that he may find nobler ones in heaven; that, turning away his heart from mundane things, he may seek those things which are above.
1. Thank God for earth's disappointments.
2. Seek to be possessed of that hope which fadeth not away.
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
1. Self-defence before God: 2. Plaint of the weakness and vanity of mankind.
Job's troubles are typical of the common doom of mankind—the "subjection, to vanity." And again (comp. Job 3:7; Job 7:1-5) he bursts forth into lamentation over the universal doom of sorrow.
I. HIS NATURAL WEAKNESS. (Verses 1-2.) His origin is in frailty; he is "born of woman." His course is brief, and full of unrest. He sees himself mirrored in all natural things that fleet and pass:
(1) in the flower of the field, briefly blooming, doomed to the speedy scythe;
(2) in the shadow, like that of a cloud, resting for a moment on the ground, then vanishing with its substance. "Man is a bubble," said the Greek proverb (πομφόλυξ ὁ ἄνθρωπος). He is like a morning mushroom, soon thrusting up its head into the air, and as soon turning into dust and forgetfulness (Jeremy Taylor). Homer calls man a leaf; Pindar, the "dream of a shadow."
II. HIS MORAL WEAKNESS. (Verses 3, 4.) On the natural frailty is founded the moral. And this poor, weak being is made accountable, dragged before the tribunal of God. And yet, asks Job, how is it possible that purity should be exacted of him? How can the product be diverse from the cause; the stream be of purer quality than the source?
III. REASONING AND EXPOSTULATION FOUNDED ON THESE FACTS. (Verses 5, 6.) If man, then, is so weak, and his life determined by so narrow bounds, were it not the part of Divine compassion and justice to give him some release and respite until his brief day of toil and suffering be altogether spent (comp. Job 7:17; Job 10:20)? It seems to Job, in the confusion of his bewildered thought, that God is laying on him a special and extraordinary weight of suffering, which makes his lot worse than that of the common hireling.
IV. FURTHER IMAGES OF DESPONDENCY. (Verses 7-12.) Casting his eye upon the familiar scenes of nature, it seems that all things reflect the sad thought of the transiency and hopelessness of man's fate, and even to exaggerate it.
1. Image of the tree The tree may be hewn down, but scions and suckers spring from its well-nourished root; an image used by the prophet to symbolize the spiritual Israel. The stump of the oak represents the remnant that survives the judgment, and this is the source whence the new Israel springs up after the destruction of the old (Isaiah 6:13). But when man is broken down and falls like the trunk of the tree, there is an end of him. This is undoubtedly a morbid perversion of the suggestion of nature. She by the sprouting scion teaches at least the great truth of the continuity and perpetual self-renewal of life, if she can tell no more.
2. Image of the dried-up waters. (Verse 11.) These forsake their wonted channels and flow in them no more (comp. Job 7:9). So, it seems to the eye of nature, man passes away in a mist from the earthly scene and leaves no trace behind.
3. Image of the abiding heavens. (Verse 12.) This is introduced, not in illustration of the transient life of man, but in contrast to it (comp. Psalms 89:29, Psalms 89:36, 87). The heavens appear eternally fixed, in contrast to the fluctuating scene below. They look calmly down, while man passes into the sleep of death, and into Sheol, whence there is no return. But when man rises into the full consciousness of his spiritual nature through the revelation of life and immortality, all seems passing compared with the life in God. The heavens shall vanish away like smoke, but God's salvation shall not be abolished. He that doeth the will of God shall abide for ever.—J.
Self-defence before God: 3. Dawning of a new hope.
The thoughts of the sufferer now carry him beyond the confines of the present life. He has just been speaking of Sheol, or Hades, as his destined end, and now the reflection occurs—What may happen then? It is the nature of thought to travel on and on, to know no bounds that it will not seek to overleap. It is perpetually asking, when one goal has been reached, for the after, the beyond. And in some such way must human thought have travelled towards the light of immortality, before the truth dawned by revelation on the world. Job evidently sees a glimmer of the truth, though it soon fades out, for want of definite knowledge, into darkness.
I. LONGING FOR CONCEALMENT IN HADES FOR A SEASON. (Verse 13.) The intense desire, so frequently repeated, for a respite, marks the extremity of intolerable anguish. And if the source of it be God's wrath, perhaps in time his heart will relent. Then let the appointed judgment be held, and the decision be made. At least may the wrath of God not pursue him into the darkness of the other world!
II. A FUTURE LIFE SUGGESTED. (Verse 14.) For if there is to be a future judgment, there must be a future life to be the subject of it. Perhaps this is the greatest question man can ask without the light of the gospel. But some preliminary answer is here suggested for a moment, though Job does not grasp it firmly, that the future life is guaranteed by the justice and the love of God. But it is observable how the very faintest thought of the possibility gives a new turn to feeling. Patience can only exist when there is hope. And Job feels he could patiently wait all the days of his earthly service were that hope assured. It awakens joy. A happy change must occur. The misunderstandings of the present will clear away. And with this is connected again the glimmering of—
III. THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF MAN'S ETERNAL RELATION TO GOD. The heart is made for God. How gladly, when he appears from out the clouds and darkness that surround him, will the heart respond to his call! God yearns for man. Man is his creature, his handiwork, his offspring. He cannot but regard man with tenderness, with eternal interest. Here again we find at the bottom of the patriarch's heart the germ of that faith which the bright rays of the gospel were to bring to flower (verse 15). The revolt of the heart from false views of God. The picture of One who numbers his steps, and has an eye only for his sins, is inconsistent with the filial consciousness of God (verse 16). Yet there may be insufficient knowledge or faith to overcome this prevailing mood of despair (comp. Job 10:8-12).—J.
Self-defence before God: 4. Relapse into despondent imaginations.
I. HE STILL ABOUNDS WITH VARIED FIGURES, THE VERY ELOQUENCE OF COMPLAINT. God has taken his sins and placed them as in a bag, sealed for safety of deposit, that they may be reproduced against him. He appears like an accuser who heaps up scandals and offences against the unhappy object of his wrath (Job 14:17).
II. IN THIS LIGHT OF PERSONAL EXPERIENCE HE FURTHER CONTEMPLATES THE CONDITION OF MANKIND.
1. The impossibility of resistance to their doom. (Job 14:18, Job 14:19.) Mountains and rocks are dissolved, hard stones are gradually dislocated, by the continuous action of water; their fragments are carried away by the flood. Much more must the feeble body of man give way at last. And so his mind must surrender the kindled light of God, which God destroys!
2. The overmastering power of God. (Job 14:20-22.) The mighty warrior overcomes the feeble resistance of his foe, and releases him only when he has set him before his face and given him a proof of his pre-walling three So God only releases man in death when all his beauty has passeth away, and there remains but the hideous corpse. In the lower world consciousness fails him; he knows nothing of the things of earth, joyous or sad; can render no help to the dear ones who survive him. In the lower world the dead man, without activity or energy, endures his bodily and mental pain in dreary solitude and stillness. So ends again this address with the gloomiest, most despondent outlook as to the other world, relieved only toe a moment by the fugitive hope of the life to come.
1. The heart has an instinct for immortality, derived from its revolt from extreme pain. Something within us tells us that we were not made to be eternally, irrecoverably miserable.
2. The truth of a future life comes in flashes upon the mind; for its retention we need the support of positive revelation.
3. The natural weakness and frailty of man is complemented by his spiritual power and greatness as partaker of an endless life.—J.
HOMILIES BY R. GREEN
Job 14:1, Job 14:2
Lessons from the brevity of human life.
These words are consecrated to a supreme moment. Chosen to be the words spoken at the side of the grave, "while the corpse is made ready to be laid in the earth," they hear a solemn and overwhelming testimony to a truth men are apt, in the heat of the day, to forget. So many are the duties and toils of men that the hurry of a short life is hardly noticed, save when, by enforced attention, the thoughts recur to it. The truth is established—man's life is short, it is sorrowful, its early promise is destroyed, it hurriedly passeth away, it lacks permanence and stability. What, then, is the proper course of conduct to pursue in such circumstances?
I. IT IS WISE TO BE DILIGENT IN THE FULFILMENT OF DUTY. Days lost cannot be recovered. The duty omitted cannot be afterwards attended to without intrenching upon some other. A watchfulness over the moments saves the hours. Diligence prevents waste, and the days are numbered. Diligence is imperative if life's large work is to be done in its little time. He learns the value of time who diligently applies himself to his work. And no one has any time to lose.
II. The brevity of life is AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO PATIENCE UNDER TROUBLE, The way is not long. The strength is taxed, but not for long. The lit e of "few days" is "full of trouble." Happily it is but for a "few days." Life is not stretched out beyond endurance. And the vision of immortality may gild the horizon as the light of a setting sun. All the future to the humble and obedient is bright, and the present weary march is not longer than can be borne, even by feeble human strength.
III. The brevity of human life may properly act as A SALUTARY CHECK AGAINST ENTERTAINING TOO HIGH AN ESTIMATE OF EARTHLY THINGS. The things of time have their importance—their very great and solemn importance. And he who has a just view of the future will be the more likely to place a just estimate on the present. But he will "sit loose" to things of time. He will remember he is but a sojourner. That the goods and possessions he now calls his own will soon be held by other hands. He will therefore see that he must not put so high a price upon the present as to barter away the future and more durable possessions for it. Life opens to him like a flower in its beauty; it "cometh forth like a flower' in its promise, but it "is cut down." It is vain to build too confidently on such a hope. It is unwise to live wholly for so uncertain a tenure, that fleeth as a shadow and continueth not.
IV. The brevity of human life MAKES IT NEEDFUL THAT MEN SHOULD LOSE NO OPPORTUNITY OF LAYING HOLD ON THE LIFE IMMORTAL. The true preparation for the life to come—the permanent and enduring life—is to occupy this present one with careful and diligent fidelity. Great issues depend upon it. The condition of the future; the attainment of character; the recorded history; the everlasting approval or disapproval of the manner in which life has beer held, which the eternal Judge will pass upon it, and which will be reflected in the solitudes of the individual conscience.—R.G.
Sad views of life.
If the tree be cut down, it springs again; but if man dieth, he wasteth away. Certainly, then, man's hope is not in this life. The dismal views given in these few verses demand the full assurance of the resurrection. This is a feature of the Book of Job. It presents a negative view of human life. There is always a demand to be met. Only the fuller teachings of the New Testament meet it. Consider this aspect of human life with its demand for supplementary views in order to completeness and satisfaction. The complementary character of subsequent revelations.
I. THE PRESENT LIFE OF MAN PRESENTS CHARACTERISTICS OF IMPERFECTNESS WHICH INDICATE THAT THIS CANNOT BE THE COMPLETE VIEW OF LIFE.
II. THE MORAL, SPIRITUAL, AND INTELLECTUAL CAPABILITIES WHICH ARE OBVIOUSLY BUT PARTIALLY CALLED INTO PLAY DEMAND OTHER CIRCUMSTANCES FOR THEIR FULL DEVELOPMENT, AND INDICATE THE INCOMPLETENESS OF THE VIEW OF LIFE WHEN. CONFINED TO THE PRESENT ONLY.
III. THE ASPIRATIONS OF MEN TOWARDS CONDITIONS THAT CANNOT BE ATTAINED IN THIS LIFE ARE A TESTIMONY TO ITS INCOMPLETENESS.
IV. THE IDEALS OF LIFE ARE SO FAR SUPERIOR TO THE REALIZATIONS, THAT THEY BECOME A CONSTANT PROPHECY OF SOMETHING BETTER AND HIGHER THAN THE PRESENT LIFE.
V. THE HOPE OF HIGHER CONDITIONS THAN THE PRESENT IS STRONGEST IN THE BEST AND PUREST SOULS.
VI. THE PAINFULNESS OF THE PRESENT WITH THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF CAPACITY FOR GREAT AND PURE ENJOYMENT A FURTHER EVIDENCE OF THE INCOMPLETENESS OF LIFE IF THE VIEW BE RESTRICTED TO THE PRESENT.
VII. ALL IS SATISFIED IN' THE SUBSEQUENT REVELATIONS, AND IN THE CALM ASSURANCE THEY GIVE OF THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD AND THE LIFE OF THE WORLD TO COME.—R.G.
The future life.
"If a man die, shall he live again?" The true answer to this solemn question is the only sufficient response to the sad wail of the previous verses. "There is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again,… but man dieth, and wasteth away." The answer cometh from afar. It is difficult to determine the measure of light that Job had on the question of the future life. Read in the light of our New Testament teaching, some of his phrases are full of hope; but we may have put the hope there. Generally it is the language of inquiry, and often of inquiry unsatisfied. Sometimes faith bursts through all doubt and gloom, and the confidence of a strong and assured hope takes the place of tremulous fear. Still the question rings in every breast; still the longing for a fuller life in which the ideals of the present may be reached prevails; still men go to the side of the dark river and look into the gloom, and hoping and half fearing ask, "If a man die, shall he live again?" The only satisfactory answer to this comes to us from the lips of the Redeemer, and that is wholly and entirely satisfactory. We mark—
I. THE EAGER, UNSATISFIED CRY OF MEN APART FROM DIVINE REVELATION.
II. THE PARTIAL UNFOLDING OF THE TRUTH IN THE EARLIER REVELATIONS.
III. THE PERFECT AND UNEQUIVOCAL REVELATION MADE BY JESUS CHRIST Of this last we may notice.
1. Christ's teachings all proceed on the assumption that there is a future life.
2. His teachings are constantly supported by an appeal to the future conditions of reward and punishment.
3. Very much of his teaching would be unmeaning and inexplicable in the absence of such future.
4. But he crowns all his teaching by himself becoming the Disputant, and affirming and demonstrating the future life. "But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed in the place concerning the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is not the God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to him."
5. He crowns all by the raising of the dead to life, and by the example of his own triumph over death. But Job had not this consolation, and he still abides in gloom, as must all who have not the perfect revelation of God.—R.G.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
Job 14:1, Job 14:2
The flower and the shadow.
I. WHERE IS A COMMON CHARACTER IN ALL HUMAN LIFE. Job seems to be suffering from exceptional troubles. Yet he regards his condition as typical of that of mankind generally. He turns from himself to "man that is born of a woman." We differ in external circumstances, possessions, honours; in bodily, mental, and moral characteristics. But in our fundamental constitution we are alike. The points of resemblance are more numerous than the points of difference.
1. All born of women come in the common descent from the first parents.
2. All are frail and short-lived.
3. All suffer from the troubles of lit e.
4. All sin.
5. All have Christ for their brother, able and willing to be also their Saviour.
6. All may enter the eternal life and dwell for ever in the love of God, on the same conditions of repentance and faith.
II. MAN SHARES THE CHARACTERISTICS OF NATURE. Job sees in nature types of human life. We are a part of nature, and the laws of nature apply to us. This fact should save us from amazement when trouble comes upon us. It is just in the course of nature. We have not been singled out for a miracle of judgment. It is not that God is writing bitter things against us in particular. Oars is part of the general experience of all nature. Our greatest evil, however, is not that which befalls us in the course of nature, but that which we bring upon ourselves unnaturally. There is something monstrous about sin. We feel a gentle pathos in natural sorrow, but we recognize a terrible tragedy, a dark and dreadful curse, in our self made sorrow of sin. That is infinitely worse than the lading of flowers and the fleeing of shadows.
III. NATURE SETS FORTH THE SAD SIDE OF LIFE.
1. Brevity. Man is "of few days." The age of nature is maintained by succession, not by continuance. The race goes on, the individual passes.
2. Trouble. "Full of trouble." "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together" (Romans 8:22). The advance of nature is through conflict and struggle.
3. Frailty. Man is born of a woman, "the weaker vessel" (1 Peter 3:7). The flower, which is the most beautiful thing in nature, is the most fragile. Crushed by a careless step, or nipped by frost, or withered by the very sun that drew out its life and painted its loveliness, it is yet the type of human life. The most exquisite flowers may be the most delicate, and the finest souls the most sensitive. The hot Southern sun quickly turns a garden into a desert. The same fate is found among the most cultivated and valued lives. The flowers are not saved by their beauty and fragrance. Some of the most precious lives are cut down in their prime. The scythe that mows the meadows cuts off the summer flowers in the height of their short-lived beauty. The rough, common fate of man is indiscriminate, laying low the best of men together with their less-valued companions.
4. Unreality. A mere shadow! and a moving shadow! What could be more unsubstantial and transient? Yet the frailty and changefulness of life make our human existence appear no more real.
CONCLUSION. Observe another side of the scene. The very melancholy of the picture suggests that it does not cover the whole field. Nature is not dissatisfied with her changefulness. The flowers do not bewail their untimely end. Man alone looks with sorrow on his fate. The reason is that he is made for something greater. The Divine instinct of immortality is in him. lie is more than a part of nature. A child of God, he is called to share a larger life than that of the natural world. The Christian who is cut down as a frail flower on earth will yet bloom as an immortal flower in Paradise.—W.F.A.
A clean thing out of an unclean.
Job seems to mean that man cannot transcend his origin. He comes from the frail, imperfect, human stock; how, then, can he be expected to manifest the traits of perfection and immutability? Job's question and the difficulty it contains may be applied in various ways.
I. EVOLUTION. We are not now concerned with the scientific aspect of the question of evolution. That must be determined by the men of science. But there is a religious aspect of it that calls for attention, because some are dismayed as though evolution had banished God from his universe. Now, if this idea of the world is set forth as a substitute for the theological conception of creation and providence, it is removed from its rightful sphere and made to trespass on a foreign domain, where it cannot justify the claims of its supporters. There it is confronted by Job's question, "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?" Evolution signifies a certain kind of progress. But the cause must be equal to the effect. It is contrary to the very law of causation that dead matter should produce life, and that the merely animal should produce the spiritual human being. For every elevation and addition a corresponding cause is needed. If the unclean ape were the ancestor of a saint, something must have been added that was not in the ape. Whence was this? It must have had a cause. Thus we may see that evolution requires the idea of the Divine, not only at the primal creation, but throughout the process.
II. HEREDITY. Men inherit their parents' characters. The man who is not the heir of any estate is yet perforce an heir of the most real kind of property. Now, the past of our race is stained with sin, steeped in iniquity. It is not to be supposed that the succeeding generations will be spotless. Moral guilt cannot be charged till the individual soul has chosen evil, and consented to sin in its own freedom. But the degradation of evil tendencies is in us from our birth. Men are shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin (Psalms 51:5).
III. REDEMPTION. This is offered by God. It cannot come from man. No sinful man could redeem his brethren. To do this would be to bring the clean out of the unclean. We must have a sinless Redeemer. Moreover, as sin has lowered the whole of life, there is need of a perfect Man to raise the type of the race. Even this would not be enough, for the great work is not to set an example, but to transform the world. None but God who created it can do this. Thus we need what we have in Christ—a sinless, perfect Man, who is also the only begotten Son of God.
1. In the individual man. He must first be regenerated. All prior attempts at goodness fail. Really clean words cannot come out of a foul heart. Clean deeds must spring from a clean soul. All the corrupt man's conduct is besmirched with the filth of his own inner life. He must be pure in heart in order to live a truly pure life. The sinner must have a new heart before he can live a new life.
2. In Christian work. He who would lead others from sin must first forsake sin himself. The reformer must be a reformed man. The missionary must be a Christian. To do good we must first be good.—W.F.A.
The day's work.
Job prays that at least God will turn aside from vexing his short-lived creature, and let him finish his day's work. Then he will be no more. This is a prayer of despair, and it springs from a one-sided view of life and providence. Yet it has its significance for us.
I. MAN IS GOD'S SERVANT. He is more than the hireling, for whom a hard master cares nothing so long as he can exact the full tale of work. Still, he is the servant. We are not our own masters, and we are not put into the world to do our own will. Our business is to serve.
1. To work. To live for a purpose. Idleness is sin. The man who needs not work to earn his bread should still work to serve his Master.
2. To obey. Our business is just to do God's will in God's way. It is not for us to choose; our duty is to follow the Master's orders.
II. MAN HAS AN ALLOTTED TASK. Each man has his own life-work. Some may be slow in discovering their peculiar vocation. With many this may not be at all what they would have chosen for themselves. Still, if the thought of duty is foremost, all may see that there is something that duty calls them to do. It gives us a great sense of confidence to discover this, and to fling all wild fancies aside in the single desire to accomplish our true life-task. Often the only rule is "Do the next thing;" and if we will but do it, that is just the one task God has called us to.
III. MAN HAS A DAY FOR HIS WORK.
1. A full day. There is the opportunity. God can never require what man is unable to perform. He does not seek the work of eternity from the creature of a day.
2. Only a day. There is no time to be lost. We have but one day for our day's work. If we waste the morning we shall have no second opportunity. This short season should be well filled. If the work is hard it is not interminable. Diligence and patience are becoming in a man who has but one short life for his work.
IV. MAN IS EXPECTED TO ACCOMPLISH HIS WORK. His business is not merely to sway his limbs and exercise his muscles, but to do something effective, to produce. We should all aim at a definite end in our life's work. The village blacksmith can enjoy his rest because
"Something attempted, something done,
Has earned a night's repose."
A busy life may be a fruitless one. But no life need fail of fruitfulness, inasmuch as the work to which we are all called is designed to lead to useful ends.
V. MAN CANNOT ACCOMPLISH HIS WORK WITHOUT GOD'S CO-OPERATION. Job prays that God will not hinder him. if, indeed, God did oppose a man in his life's work, that man would be certainly doomed to failure, it is hard enough to succeed in any case; it is impossible to do so when God is frustrating our efforts. No one can defeat Providence. But it is not enough to be let alone. Job desires that God will look away from him, for the look of anger blasts and withers. But we may pray that God will look upon us in favour and helpfulness. The greatest success in the world was accomplished by men who were "fellow-workers with God" (2 Corinthians 6:1-18.).—W.F.A.
Is there a life beyond the grave?
We have here one of the dim Old Testament speculations on the life beyond, that stand out in startling contrast to the prevalent obscurity and apparent indifference of ancient Hebrew thought in regard to the great future. This serves as a good starting-point from which to approach the more full Christian light on the resurrection.
I. THE CRAVING FOR IMMORTALITY IS INSTINCTIVE. The craving may be hidden by more pressing desires of the moment; it may even be crushed by despair. But it is not the less natural and instinctive. For when we come to ourselves and calmly reflect on life and its issues, we cannot be satisfied that death should end all. Then there wakes up in us a deep, insatiable hunger for life. The essential characteristic of this desire is its craving for more than the repose of a future that is rescued from the turmoil of this present time; its object is life. It is not enough for us that an end may come to our present troubles, That is all Job desired at first (see Job 3:1-26), but now a deeper thought stirs in his breast, and he thinks of the possibility of living again. Surely it is a miserable degradation of this instinct of immortality that represents the future blessedness as chiefly consisting in indolent repose.
II. NATURE DOES NOT SATISFY THE CRAVING FOR IMMORTALITY. Job turns to the analogies of nature. They are obscure and contradictory. The tree that has been cut down will sprout again from its roots. But is this life the fate of man? "Man giveth up the ghost, and where is he?" Has he any root remaining that can be quickened at the scent of water? Then if the tree sprouts again, there are other things in nature that cease altogether, e.g. the stream that is entirely dried up. May not man's fate be like these temporal things that come to an end? We look for analogies in the awakening spring, in the emerging of the butterfly from the chrysalis, in the return of day after night. These analogies afford but faint suggestions, little more than fanciful illustrations, Nature does point to the existence of an unseen universe, but she gives us little, if any, hints as to our share in the life beyond the present and the seen.
III. CHRIST SATISFIES THE CRAVING FOR IMMORTALITY. He has brought "life and incorruption to light through the gospel" (2 Timothy 1:10).
1. By his revelation of God. In Christ we see God as our Father. Such a God cannot mock us with a delusion, cannot plant an instinct in us for which there is no satisfaction. All other instincts have their objects provided. A good Father will not let this starve and pine into disappointment.
2. By his direct teaching. Christ said little about the future life, but that little was clear, unhesitating, emphatic. He made no mention of harps and palms, but he said, "I am the Resurrection, and the Life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live" (John 11:25).
3. By his own resurrection. He is "the Firstfruits from the dead" (1 Corinthians 15:20). One man has risen. This is enough to show that death does not end all.
4. By his saving grace. He not only reveals the life beyond. He gives the life eternal. A mere shadowy existence in Hades would be no boon; an existence of torment in Gehenna would be a curse. We want a full and glorious life. That is not ours by nature; it is the gilt of God (Romans 6:23); and it is received through Christ (1 John 5:11, 1 John 5:12).—W.F.A.
Job seems to think that God has sealed his transgression up in a bag, keeping it in reserve to bring out against him at some future judgment.
I. WE CANNOT TAKE BACK OUR SINS. They are ours before we have let them loose on the world. Then they pass out of our control. They may wander far in their mischievous effects, or they may be checked by the providence of God. But, in any case, they have passed away from us beyond all chance of recovery. The bag in which God puts our sins is sealed, and it is impossible for us to break the seals. We may well be on our guard against producing those evil things that we cannot hold in or suppress.
II. OUR SINS ARE WITH GOD. He has them in his bag. We may not have thought that he noticed our conduct, and we may not have considered that our wickedness was an offence against God. Yet God could not be indifferent to our violation of his laws. Our first dealings with our sins was in the privacy of our own hearts. When we next meet them they will be in God's possession, thoroughly examined by him, and ready to be used as he thinks fit in his judgment of us.
III. OUR SINS ARE RESERVED FOR THE FUTURE. We do not now see them; they are sealed up in God's bag. The judgment is not yet. Because it is delayed many men refuse to expect it, and grow indifferent to their guilt. But time will not alter it. We cannot expect future immunity because we enjoy present forbearance. How is the time for repentance. If the opportunities the present affords are neglected, can they be pleaded in extenuation of our guilt when at last we are called up for judgment?
IV. IT IS OUR IMPENITENCE, NOT GOD'S WILL, THAT CAUSES OUR SINS TO BE SEALED UP IN GOD'S BAG. In the dreadful anguish and perplexity of his soul, Job seemed driven to the conclusion that God was carefully treasuring up his sins out of a spirit of opposition to him. Such an idea is quite impossible to one who knows God as he is revealed in Christ. God cannot delight himself in retaining our sins. They are no treasures for him. He would much rather be rid of them. The seal that holds them is our hard heart.
V. THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST BREAKS THE SEAL OF SINS. Those sins that are still retained can yet be cast away, and the offer of forgiveness means that the bag may be opened. The past is not irreparable. Although it cannot be reversed, it may be forgiven and forgotten. Christ has taken the great bag of the world's sins as a heavy burden upon his own shoulders. He has carried it with him to the grave. He has left it there, buried with the dark, bad past, and he has risen without it in a new life, triumphant and redemptive. Now, the preaching of his gospel is the declaration that for every sinner who repents and trusts Christ the bag of sins is gone; it will be remembered no more. Those who dread the reappearance of their sins as witnesses against them may have a sure hope of escaping them in the atoning work of Christ.—W.F.A.
How waters wear the stones.
I. THE PROCESS. Job compares the process of providence to the action of the winter torrents in the wadys of a desert region. Few phenomena in nature are more striking to those who examine them than those of erosion. A small trickling stream cuts through a great hill, and makes a deep winding valley. Water constantly flowing over granite rocks smooths the hard stone and wears it away, eating its course through the most solid cliffs. The falls of Niagara are receding, and in front of them is seen an ever-lengthening chasm as the river continually cuts away the rock over which it pours. This process is compared by Job to the friction of time and trouble.
1. From apparently feeble causes. The water does not seem capable of effecting the marvellous results that are attributed to it. Slight causes may have great issues.
2. By slow degrees. The worst and the best things are both produced slowly. We cannot judge of the process by its immediate effects.
3. With irresistible force. We cannot resist time. The slow course of providence is a river that cuts through all opposition. It is impossible for man to succeed when he opposes God; for the very rock is worn by the waters that wash over it. Thus vain hopes perish. The worst troubles are not sudden blows, but wearing anxieties and gnawing griefs.
II. ITS LESSONS. Job drew from the process only a conclusion of despair, or at best an expostulation with God for bringing his irresistible might to bear on so feeble a creature as man. But other and wider conclusions may be inferred.
1. It is foolish to trust in our own hopes. They may be solid as granite, and yet time and disappointment may wear them away. The robustness of the hopes is no guarantee of their permanence. The sanguine man is not kept secure by his self-confidence.
2. We should examine the character of our hopes. Low hopes fail first. The stream runs through the valley, sparing the crags on the mountain-top, though these are exposed to all the fury of the gale, and only wearing those that lie in its sunken course. There is safety in elevation of character.
3. The failure of earthly hopes is designed to turn our mind to heavenly hopes. God does not frustrate every hope of man. Job's idea is the fruit of his despair. Foolish hopes are destroyed, and even innocent hopes, in some cases, in order that we may build higher and found our true hopes on the immovable rock of God's truth. The Rock of Ages is never worn by the waters of time or trouble.
4. The destroying process carries away much that we are glad to lose. It does not select the rich treasures and pleasant experiences of life. Job thought that God carefully sealed up his sin in a bag (verse 17), while he destroyed his hope as with the waters that wear the stones. But when a man truly repents, God washes away his sins, and gives him a good and enduring hope. Many troubles are worn away by the slow but sure erosion of the waters of time. Even while we fear them they are being lessened for us. God's destructive agencies are all directed by his supreme goodness. We need not fear the wearing waters if we are reconciled to the God who directs their course, and says to the flood, "Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed."—W.F.A.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Job 14". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26