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Job answers the second speech of Eliphaz in a discourse which occupies two (short) chapters, and is thus not much more lengthy than the speech of his antagonist. His tone is very despairing. He finds no help at all in the speeches of the "comforters" (verses 2-6), and turns from them to consider once more the dealings of God with him (verses 7-14). Next, he describes his own proceedings under his afflictions, and appeals to earth and. heaven, and God in heaven, to take up his cause and help him (verses 15-22). In Job 17:1-16. he continues much in the same-strain, but with an intermixture of the topics, which is somewhat confusing. In Job 17:1, Job 17:2 he bewails himself; in Job 17:3 he makes an appeal to God; in Job 17:4, Job 17:5 he reflects upon his "comforters;" in Job 17:6-9 he returns to himself and his prospects; while in the remainder of the chapter (Job 17:10-16) he alternates between reproaches addressed to his friends (Job 17:10, Job 17:12) and lamentations over his own condition (Job 17:11, Job 17:13-16).
Job 16:1, Job 16:2
Then Job answered and said, I have heard many such things. There was nothing new in the second speech of Eliphaz, if we except its increased bitterness. Job had heard all the commonplaces about the universal sinfulness of man, and the invariable connection between sin and suffering, a thousand times before. It was the traditional belief in which he and all those about him had been brought up. But it brought him no relief. The reiteration of it only made him feel that there was neither comfort nor instruction to be got from his so-called "comforters." Hence his outburst. Miserable comforters are ye all!
Shall vain words have an end? literally, as in the margin, words of wind; i.e. words which pass by a man "as the idle wind which he regards not." Will his friends never bring their futile speaking to a close? Or what emboldeneth thee that thou anwerest? rather, what provoketh thee? (Revised Version) Job had begged that his friends would be silent (Job 13:5, Job 13:13). He supposes that they would have complied with his wish if he had not provoked them, but professes an inability to see what provocation he had given. His last speech, however, had certainly not been conciliatory (see Job 12:1-3; Job 13:4, Job 13:7, etc.).
I also could speak as ye do: if your soul were in my soul's stead, I could heap up words against you. It is only too easy to heap up rhetorical declamation against an unfortunate sufferer, whose physical and mental agonies absorb almost his whole attention. If you were in my place and condition, and I in yours, I could moralize in your tone and spirit for hours. And shake my head at you. A Hebrew mode of expressing condemnation of a man's conduct (see Psalms 22:7; Isaiah 37:22; Jeremiah 18:16; Matthew 27:39, etc.).
But I would strengthen you with my mouth. The meaning is somewhat doubtful, and different renderings have been proposed. But the rendering of the Authorized Version is quite defensible, and is accepted by our Revisers. This gives the sense, "I, if I were in your place, would not act as you have acted, but, on the contrary, would do my best to strengthen you with words of comfort and encouragement." The moving of my lips should assuage your grief. (So Rosenmuller and our Revisers.) The words are a covert reproach of the three "friends" for not acting as Job declares that he would have acted if the positions had been reversed.
Though I speak, my grief is not assuaged: and though I forbear, what am I eased! As it is, nor speech nor silence are of any avail. Neither of them brings me any relief. My sufferings continue as before, whichever course I take.
But now. These words mark a transition. Job turns from complaints against his "comforters" to an enumeration of his own sufferings. He hath made me weary. God has afflicted him with an intolerable sense of weariness. He is tired of life; tired of disputing with his friends; tired even of pouring out his lamentations and complaints and expostulations to God. His one desire is rest. So I have seen in the piombi of Venice, where political prisoners were tortured by cold and heat, and hunger and thirst, for long weeks or months, and brought to despair, such scratchings as the following: "Luigi A. implora pace, Giuseppe B. implore eterna quiete." Job has entreated for this boon of rest repeatedly (Job 3:13; Job 6:9; Job 7:15; Job 10:18, etc.). Thou hast made desolate all my company. The loss of his children has desolated his household; his other afflictions have alienated his friends.
And thou hast filled me with wrinkles. So St. Jerome, Professor Lee, Dr. Stanley Leathes, and others; but the generality of modern commentators prefer the rendering, "Thou hast bound me fast," i.e. deprived me of all power of resisting or moving (comp. Psalms 88:8, "I am so fast in prison that I cannot get forth"). Which is a witness against me; i.e. a witness of thy displeasure, and so (as men suppose) of my guilt. And my leanness rising up in me heareth witness to my face; rather, my leanness rising up against me. This emaciation is taken as another witness of his extreme sinfulness.
He teareth me in his wrath, who hateth me; literally, his wrath teareth, and he hateth me. God treats Job as severely as if he hated him. That he is actually hated of God Job does not believe; otherwise he would long since have ceased to call upon him, and pour out his heart before him. He gnasheth upon me with his teeth (comp. Psalms 35:16; Psalms 37:12). Mine enemy (or rather, adversary) sharpeneth his eyes upon me; i.e. makes me a whetstone on which he sharpens his angry glances.
They have gaped upon me with their mouth. The "man of sorrows" of the Old Testament is, in many respects, a type of the "Man of sorrows" of the New; and, in the Messianic psalms, David constantly applies to Christ expressions which Job had used in reference to himself (see Psalms 22:13). They have smitten me upon the cheek reproachfully (comp. Micah 5:1; Matthew 27:30; Luke 22:64; John 18:22). They have gathered themselves together against me (see Psalms 35:15, and compare, in illustration of the literal and historical sense, Job 30:1, Job 30:10-14).
God hath delivered me to the ungodly. All that Job had suffered at the hands of wicked men, the gibes of his "comforters," the insults and "derision ' of "base men" (Job 30:1, Job 30:8-10), the desertion of many who might have been expected to have come to his aid, being by God's per-minion, is attributed by Job to God himself, who has "delivered" him up to these "ungodly" ones, and permits them to add to and intensify his sufferings. He was not so ruthlessly treated as his great Anti-type; he was not bound with thongs, or crowned with thorns, or smitten with a reed, or scourged, or crucified—even the smiting on the cheek, spoken of in verse 10, was probably metaphorical; but he suffered, no doubt, grievously, through the scorn and contumely that assailed him, through his friends' unkindness, and his enimies' insolent triumph, and the rude jeers of the "abjects'" who made him their "song" and their "byword" (Job 30:9). And turned me over into the hands of the wicked. Job speaks as if God had wholly given him up, made him over to the wicked, to deal with him exactly as they chose. This, of course, was not so. If the malevolence of Satan was limited by the Divine will (Job 1:12; Job 2:6); so, much more, would the malevolence of man be limited.
I was at ease (compare the picture drawn in Job 1:1-5). Job had been "at ease," tranquil, prosperous, happy. He had been almost without a care, when suddenly "trouble came." But he hath broken me asunder; rather, he brake me asunder (see the Revised Version). In the midst of his ease and tranquillity, God suddenly poured out his chastisements, and "brake Job asunder," i.e. destroyed his life, ruined it and broke it down. He hath also taken me by my neck, and shaken me to pieces; or, dashed me to pieces. And set me up for his mark; i.e. as a target for his arrows (comp. Deuteronomy 32:23; Job 6:4; Psalms 7:13; Psalms 38:2, etc.; Lamentations 3:12).
His archers compass me round about. God is represented, not as himself the shooter of the arrows, but as surrounding Job with a body of archers, who are under his command and carry out his will. So, generally, Scripture represents the judgments of God as carried out by interior agents (see 2Sa 24:16; 1 Chronicles 21:15; 2 Kings 19:35, etc.). He cleaveth my reins asunder, and doth not spare. The allusion is probably to Job's physical sufferings, which included severe pains in the lumbar region. He poureth out my gall upon the ground. The rupture of the gallbladder causes the contents to be sprit upon the ground.
He breaketh me with breach upon breach. As an enemy, when he besieges a town, crushes its resistance by means of "breach upon breach." so is Job crushed by one attack after another. He runneth upon me like a giant; i.e. with overwhelming force—a force that is quite irresistible.
I have sewed sackcloth upon my skin. Another transition. Job turns to the consideration of how he has acted under his severe afflictions. In the first place, he has put on sackcloth, not for a time merely, as ordinary mourners do, hut for a permanency, so that he may be said to have sewn it to his skin. There is, perhaps, also an allusion to the adhesion of the garment to his many sores. And have defiled my horn in the dust. "My horn" is equivalent to "my pride," "my dignity." Job, when he left his state, and put on sackcloth, and "sat down among the ashes" (Job 2:8), denuded himself of his honour and dignity, and as it were trailed them in the dust
My face is foul with weeping He has wept so much that his face is stained with his tears. And on my eyelids is the shadow of death. There is an awful shadow on his eyes and eyelids, portending death
Not for any injustice in mine hands; or, not that there is any violence in my hands (scrap. Isaiah 53:9, where the expression used of the Messiah is nearly the same). Job repudiates the charge of rapine and robbery which Eliphaz has brought against him (Job 15:28, Job 15:34). His hands have not done violence to any. Also my prayer is pure. Neither has he been guilty of the hypocrisy which Eliphaz has also charged him with (Job 15:34). His prayers have been sincere and genuine.
O earth, cover not thou my blood! There was a widespread belief in the ancient world that innocent blood, spilt upon the ground, cried to God for vengeance, and remained a dark blot upon the earth till it was avenged, or until it was covered up. Job apostrophizes the earth, and be-seethes it not to cover up his blood when he dies, as he expects to do, shortly. And let my cry have no place; i.e. let it have no hiding-place, but fill earth and heaven. Let it continue to be heard until it is answered.
Also now, behold, my Witness is in heaven; rather, even now (see the Revised Version). Job claims God for his Witness, looks to him for an ultimate vindication of his character, is sure that in one way or another he will make his righteousness clear as the noonday in the sight of men and angels (see Job 19:25-27, of which this is in some sort an anticipation). My record—or, he that vouches for me (Revised Version)—is on high—one of the so frequent pleonastic repetitions of one and the same idea.
My friends scorn me; literally, my scorners are my companions; i.e. I have to live with those who scorn me (comp. Job 30:1-13). But mine eye poureth out tears unto God. It is not to his "friends" or "companions," or "comforters," or any human aid, that Job turns in his distress. God alone is his Refuge. Forced by his woes to pass his time in weeping and mourning (see verse 16), it is to God that his heart turns, to God that he "pours out his tears." Hardly as he thinks God to have used him, bitterly as he sometimes ventures to complain, yet the idea never crosses him of looking for help or sympathy to any other quarter, of having recourse to any other support or stay. "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him" (Job 13:15), expresses the deepest feeling of his heart, the firmost principle of his nature. Nothing overrides it. Even "out of the depths" his soul cries to the Lord (see Psalms 130:1).
Oh that one might plead for a man with God! The original here is obscure. It may mean, Oh that he (i.e. God himself) would plead for a man with God! i.e. would become a Mediator between himself and man, plead for him, undertake his defence, and obtain for him merciful consideration. Or, nearly as in the Authorized Version, Oh that one might plead for man (i.e. mankind at large) with God! interest him on their behalf, and obtain a merciful judgment for them. The former rendering is to be preferred. As a man pleadeth for his neighbour; literally, as a son of man (or, as the Son of man) pleadeth for his neighbour. If we take the simpler rendering, "as a son of man," then the meaning is simply, "Oh that God would plead for man with himself, as a man is wont to plead for his fellow-man!" But if we prefer the other rendering, "as the Son of man," a Messianic interpretation will be necessary. (So Professor Lee and Dr. Stanley Leathes) But Messianic interpretations of passages that do not require them, and that have no such traditional interpretation, require extreme caution.
When a few years are come; literally, a number of years, which generally means a small number. I shall go the way whence I shall not return. This verse would more fitly begin the following chapter, which opens in a similar strain, with an anticipation of the near approach of death
Job to Eliphaz: 1. Unacceptable comfort and unassuaged grief.
I. UNACCEPTABLE COMFORT. Job characterizes the offered consolation of Eliphaz and his companions as:
1. In its nature common' place. "I have heard many such things." Not that Job imagined self-evident and obvious maxims could not be true, or objected to a good lesson because it was common, or was himself "one of those nicelings who are always longing for I wet not what novelties, and cannot abide that a man should tell them one tale twice" (Calvin), like the Athenians (Acts 17:21), and some Christians of whom St. Paul writes (2 Timothy 4:3); but that either he desired to rebuke the assumption of the friends, who had pretentiously styled their stale platitudes "the consolations of God" (Job 15:11), by discovering them to be exceedingly trite observations, or he wished to draw attention to the greatness of his misery which refused to be comforted by common means.
2. In its pertinence powerless. "Shall vain words [literally, 'words of wind'] have an end?" If Job meant, by designating Eliphaz's oration "words of wind," to repay him for the compliment contained in Job 15:2, most unquestionably Job was wrong, since good men should be meek (Galatians 5:23; 1 Corinthians 13:7; Ephesians 4:2), and meek men should rather hear reproach than resent it (1 Peter 2:20), being called thereunto by Christ's precept (Matthew 11:29), promise (Matthew 5:5), and example (1 Peter 2:21); but if Job simply designed to direct attention to the fact that a truth might be precious in itself as well as eloquently set forth, and vet possess no relevancy to the subject under consideration—whistling past it, in fact, like the idle wind—he gave utterance to a valuable remark. The public ear groans at the quantity of windy talk, irrelevant observation, impertinent argument, and pointless discussion to which it is obliged to listen. It is, however, a mistake to suppose that good people and religious literature enjoy a monopoly of this sort of wisdom. As much weak (Scottice "feckless") palaver may be heard in parliaments and scientific congress as in pulpits and sermons.
3. In its spirit irascible. "What emboldeneth [literally, 'goadeth'] thee that thou answerest?" Eliphaz had thrown off the somewhat calm and philosophic manner that had distinguished him in his first address, had given way to temper, and allowed the heat of his spirit to communicate a degree of sharpness to his tongue. Between the two, the tongue and the temper, there is an intimate connection. It is hard to pour forth floods of glowing eloquence when the soul is like an icicle; but equally it is a task for the wisest, when the whole inner man is on fire, to keep the conflagration from shooting out lambent flames, and emitting fiery sounds from the mouth. "It is good to be zealously affected in a good thing;" but "the discretion of a man deferreth his anger," "lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, back-bitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults," and because "the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God," while "an angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression."
4. In its utterance facile. "I also could speak as you do: if your soul were in my soul's stead, I could heap up words against you, and shake mine head at you." The allusion seems to be to the glibness with which Eliphaz and his copartners tossed their trite maxims from their tongues; which, says Job, is not a great thing after all, but, on the contrary, is rather a poor accomplishment, in which I myself could rival you. Fluent speech is a great ornament, as well as a powerful handmaid, to fine wisdom; but, as a substitute for wisdom, it is wholly contemptible. Nimble-tongued talkers should also remember that sometimes those hear them who could eclipse them at their own trade, but are restrained from doing so, if not by regard for their fellows, by respect for themselves.
5. In its character insincere. "I would strengthen you with my mouth, and the solace of my lips would soothe you." The same sort of consolation they offered him, he could with perfect ease present to them—mere lip-salve, comfort proceeding from the teeth outward. But of course he would not, as they very well knew who had been acquainted with his previous manner of life (Job 29:11-17), and had even been constrained at the outset to acknowledge (Job 4:3, Job 4:4). Sincerity, that becomes and is binding upon all in every situation of life, is specially required of sympathizers. That which comes not from the heart never finds its way to the heart. Comfort without honesty wants the first element of success (1 Corinthians 13:1), and is as hateful to God as it is distasteful to man (Proverbs 27:14).
6. In its result irksome. "Miserable comforters [literally, 'comforters of trouble'] are ye all." Instead of soothing, it annoyed; instead of healing, it wounded; instead of helping, it weakened. And no wonder, if its character was as above depicted.
II. UNASSUAGED GRIEF. Job declares that, much as his misery demanded right and effectual consolation, he was not able to find it in God, his friends, or himself.
1. No comfort from God. Not because God failed to appreciate his need of comfort (Genesis 21:17; Exodus 3:7; Isaiah 40:7), or that his case exceeded the Divine resources (2 Corinthians 1:3), or that the will on God's part was wanting to alleviate his sorrow (Psalms 103:13; Isaiah 27:8; Isaiah 42:3; Isaiah 66:13; 2 Corinthians 7:6); but that God sometimes, for wise and good purposes of trial and discipline, hides his face from afflicted saints (Isaiah 54:7, Isaiah 54:8).
2. No help from man. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar had only proved "comforters of trouble," broken reeds that pierce the hand of those who lean upon them. Job had not gone to them for consolation; it was they who had proffered comfort to him. But, in either case, the result would have been the same. Man's resources in the shape of sympathy are soon exhausted.
3. No ease from himself. If he spoke, his grief was not assuaged; if he remained silent, he experienced no alleviation (verse 6). Common woes are usually relieved by tears or talking; and great sorrows, at least by great souls, full-orbed, self-contained, self-sufficient men, can be restrained, if not abated, by silent endurance; but Job's misery refused to yield to any medicine. This should have moderated Job's indignation against his friends, since if he, who best knew his own trouble, was unable to find a crumb of comfort in it, it was worse than foolish to expect that men, who in a manner only spoke at a venture, would be successful in ministering to a malady which they did not understand.
1. That truths which seem original to ordinary minds are often recognized by wiser and better-informed persons as exceedingly trite and commonplace.
2. That well-meaning people sometimes bandy words with one another, and call each other bad names, like vulgar scolds and common sinners.
3. That it is no uncommon thing for men in trouble, whether saints or sinners, to meet with miserable comforters and physicians of no value.
4. That the three requisites for comfort are sincerity. sympathy, and sagacity.
5. That God can place the most capable of men in positions which shall reveal their insufficiency.
Job to God: resumption of the third controversy: 1. The sorrows of a weary man.
I. DIVINELY SENT. Whether directly addressed in the second person (verses 7, 8), or indirectly alluded to in the third (verses 7, 9, 12, 14), it is ever God to whom Job traces back his sufferings. It is faith's function, as well as faith's delight, to recognize God's hand in affliction as in felicity; but not seldom sense intervenes to misconstrue the end and motive of God's dealings with the saint, and to regard as indicative of anger and enmity what, rightly viewed, is rather symptomatic of affection and care (verse 17; Psalms 94:12; Proverbs 3:12; Hebrews 12:6; Revelation 3:19). From the first Job had connected his adversity with God's appointment (Job 1:21; Job 2:10). For a long time he had struggled bravely, against the eloquent representations of his friends, to maintain his confidence in God's affection, notwithstanding all untoward appearances. But now, under extreme pressure of misery, he is on the eve of giving way—talking quite openly of God as his enemy, whose wrath tears him and makes war upon him, and whose teeth sharpen themselves against him (verse 9). The stern facts which appear to shut him up to so reluctant an inference are three.
1. The inward testimony of his own consciousness. Though it would be wrong to say that this witness of an anguish-laden spirit expressed the maturely formed and definitely fixed judgment of the patriarch, it would yet be equally erroneous not to recognize that, for the moment, Job did believe that God had turned against him. Such a complete reversal of a good man's consciousness was exceptional; the result, not of affliction alone, however severe and protracted, but of Satanic influence and temptation. It discloses the extraordinary power the devil has to work upon the human spirit. If he can so handle "a perfect man and an upright," it is not at all surprising he should be able to lead captive at his will "silly women, laden with sins, led away with divers lusts" (2 Timothy 3:6), and even proud and imperious men who oppose themselves to the truth (2 Timothy 2:26). It reveals also how far a saint may go in a course of unbelief and backsliding without renouncing his integrity; and is fitted to suggest hope concerning many who are supposed to have lapsed entirely from the truth. It sheds a light upon the Divine Father's forbearance and mercy, that he can see a saint misconstrue his providences, and calumniate his character, and yet lay not his sin to his charge (Job 42:7).
2. The expressed judgment of his fellow-men. Eliphaz had cited, as one of the items in the sinner's doom, the desolation of his family (Job 15:34), and the obvious allusion to this remark in Job's language, "Thou hast made desolate all my household" (verse 7), seems to intimate that Job regarded the cruel verdict of his friends upon his case as substantially correct. He could see, from a comparison of his sad condition with the sentiments they had uttered, that they, as well as he, had arrived at the inference that God was against him.
3. The palpable witness of his misery. His emaciated body, his weary and pinched face, his feeble and wasting frame, all covered over with ulcers, seemed to rise up and tell him to his face that God was dealing with him as with a convicted criminal. According to the theology of the period, this was strong circumstantial evidence against the patriarch; but circumstantial evidence often lies. Here it notoriously did, as afterwards it did in the case of Christ, whose marred face was no proof that he was "stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted" (Isaiah 53:4). "A marred and meagre visage may testify to our grief, but not to our guilt" (Robinson).
II. EXTREMELY SEVERE.
1. Their variety. Almost every form of calamity was heaped upon the patriarch.
(1) Bodily distress; consisting of complete exhaustion of physical vigour (verse 7), unsightly enunciation of the countenance (verse 8), lamentable wasting of the once strong and goodly frame (verse 8).
(2) Mental anguish; occasioned by the overthrow of his family (verse 7), the alienation of his friends, who beheld in his miseries a witness to his condemnation (verse 8); the opposition and insolence of wicked men, to whose mercy God had apparently abandoned him, who gaped upon him with their mouths, rejoicing in his misfortune, smote him upon the cheek reproachfully, adding insult to enmity, and conspired against him, in order to complete his destruction (verse 10)—an experience which in all its parts was predicted of Messiah and fulfilled in Christ (cf. Psalms 22:12-21 with Matthew 26:59, Matthew 26:67; and Psalms 2:1 with Acts 4:25-27).
(3) Spiritual sorrow; arising, as above explained, from a sense of abandonment by God.
2. Their unexpectedness. Job had been at ease, prosperous and contented, fearing God and eschewing evil, when all at once misfortune leaped upon him, and God. seizing him, broke him in pieces. And this was an aggravation of the sufferers distress, that without apparent cause, and certainly without warning, he was hurled from the pinnacle of prosperity to the lowest depths of adversity; as the wicked will eventually be (Psalms 73:19), and as at any moment, though not for the same reason, the godly may be. Therefore let no one indulge in a vain confidence like David, that his mountain shall stand strong for ever (Psalms 30:6, Psalms 30:7); or like Job, that he shall die in his nest (Job 29:18); or like the daughter of the Chaldeans, that she shall be a lady for ever (Isaiah 47:7); but being forewarned, as the patriarch of Uz was not, let him also be forearmed.
3. Their violence. Job pictures the dreadful hostility of God against himself by means of three striking figures, in which he represents God as
(1) a mighty Hunter, with wrathful soul and gnashing teeth and flaming eyes (verse 9) pursuing a poor frail, timid creature with a pack of fierce and yelping curs (verse 10), to which the prey when caught is mercilessly thrown (verse 11);
(2) a gigantic Wrestler, strong in thew and sinew, seizing his antagonist by the neck, triumphantly holding him aloft in his clenched fist, and then furiously dashing him to the ground (verse 12); and
(3) a skilful Archer, who, tying up his helpless enemy to a post, makes his arrows whistle for a time round the wretch's head, so as to fill him with consternation without inflicting mortal injury, and then, having sported with him for a while, as a tiger might do with its prey, sends a shaft into a vital part (on the emptying of the gall-bladder, consult the Exposition), so that the miserable victim writhes in mortal agony.
4. Their degradation. The abject humiliation to which Job had been reduced by his sufferings is set forth in four particulars.
(1) The sewing of sackcloth upon his loins. Sackcloth, the symbol of mourning (Genesis 37:34; 1 Chronicles 21:16; Psalms 35:13; Jonah 3:5, Jonah 3:6), is here represented as not only put upon the patriarch's person, but sewed upon his skin; partly, perhaps, because of the ulcerous condition of his body, but partly also, it is probable, to indicate the depth of Job's abasement.
(2) The defiling of his horn with dust; the horn being the emblem of personal dignity and social honour (Psalms 132:17), and the meaning being that all Job's glory was completely tarnished and laid low. This is one of the expressly designed results of affliction; and they who defile their horns in the dust before God when overtaken by his chastisements have taken the first step towards the final exaltation of their horns (Psalms 89:17).
(3) The reddening of the eyes with weeping. Great grief makes strong men weep. Yet weeping for a sufficient cause is not unmanly. Examples: Abraham (Genesis 32:2), Joseph (Genesis 43:30), David (2 Samuel 18:33), Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:3), St. Paul (Philippians 3:13), Jesus (Luke 19:41; John 11:35).
(4) The shading of the eyelids with gloom; an indication of approaching death. Death makes the eyelid droop, and wraps the eye itself in darkness. It was an aggravation of Job's misery that it had brought him to the confines of the grave.
III. WHOLLY UNDESERVED.
1. His life had not been wicked. There had been no injustice, wrong, or evil deed of any kind in his hand, as his friends asserted. The hand being the instrument of action, clean hands are the symbol of an upright life (Job 17:9; Psalms 24:4). Where the hands are not clean the heart cannot be pure.
2. His devotions had not been insincere. Notwithstanding the imputations of his friends to the contrary (Job 15:4), his conscience told him that his prayer was pure. Genuine sincerity is one of the first requisites of devotion. "When thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are" (Matthew 6:5).
1. That the same God who makes a saint weak and weary beneath life's burdens can also impart strength and cheerfulness to bear them.
2. That one of the hardest works faith has to do is to oppose those representations of the Divine character and providence that are g yen by sense.
3. That, while the saint's calamities are not always sent in punishment of sin, they are mostly designed to produce within the saint a spirit of self-humiliation.
4. That God never abandons a saint to the ungodly, though he will yet deliver over the ungodly to perdition.
5. That, next to the comfortable shining of God's face upon a human soul, which Job at this time wanted, the best lodestar, while struggling over and through a sea of trouble, is the ineradicable conviction of one's own sincerity, the testimony of a good conscience before God.
I. WHEN ADDRESSED TO THE RIGHT OBJECT. God (Psalms 65:2). Not, however, the God of our imaginations, or the God of nature simply; but the God of revelation and the God of grace, the God who hath manifested forth his glory in the Person of Jesus Christ.
II. WHEN PRESENTED THROUGH THE RIGHT MEDIUM Jesus Christ, the one Mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5), the one Advocate for sinful men (1 John 2:1), the one High Priest over the house of God (Hebrews 7:25), the Daysman for whom Job longed (Job 9:33), the Redeemer to whom he looked forward (Job 19:25).
III. WHEN OFFERED IN THE RIGHT SPIRIT.
1. Sincerely (Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:8).
2. Humbly (Genesis 32:10; Isaiah 66:2; Luke 18:13).
3. Believingly (Matthew 21:22; Hebrews 11:6; James 1:6).
4. Holily (1 Timothy 2:8); i.e. with renunciation of sin (Proverbs 15:8; Proverbs 21:27; Proverbs 28:9; Psalms 66:18), and with kind and forgiving dispositions (Mark 11:25).
IV. WHEN ASKING FOR THE RIGHT THINGS. Things contained within the promises. These give to prayer a scope at once ample and sufficient.
1. Ample; since the promises are exceeding great and precious in their variety (2 Peter 1:4).
2. Sufficient; since they contain all things pertaining to life and godliness.
Job to God: 2. An appeal to God against God.
I. A SUBLIME INVOCATION. "O earth, cover not thou my blood, and let my cry have no place!" (verse 18).
1. The explanation of the language. The allusion seems to be to Genesis 4:10, where the blood of Abel is represented as crying to God from the ground for vengeance upon its destroyer; and Job, in the lofty consciousness of his innocence, while momentarily anticipating death, calls upon the earth not to drink up his blood, but to permit its cry to "urge its way unhindered and unstilled towards heaven without finding a place of rest." But the student may consult the Exposition.
2. The import of the language. It contains a declaration on the part of Job that, though about to perish, he was innocent; and, since he regarded God as the Author of all his sufferings, it was virtually an accusation of God as the Shedder of his innocent blood. The style of address here employed is certainly not one that a good man may with safety imitate.
II. A CONFIDENT APPEAL.
1. To what quarter? Not to his friends who had mocked him (verse 20), but to God himself who had assailed him, to whom nevertheless he clung as for dear life, and whom he describes by a threefold characteristic.
(1) His name; Eloah, the All-powerful Supreme, in contrast to man, to strong men and weak men alike, who are all at the best but dust; the mighty Maker of this universal frame, who giveth power unto the faint, and to them that have no might increaseth strength (Isaiah 40:29), and who hath revealed himself most graciously as a Refuge for the oppressed (Psalms 9:9; Deuteronomy 33:27; Jeremiah 16:19).
(2) His occupation; that of a Witness, an Eye-witness, whose eyes are in every place, beholding the evil and the good (Proverbs 15:3), as those of Christ, the faithful Witness, are in the midst of the golden candlesticks (Revelation 2:1); and in particular whose eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in behalf of them whose hearts are perfect toward him (2 Chronicles 16:9). The thought that God is a constant Eye-witness of everything on earth, and a silent Spectator of all that transpires within the deep places of the human heart, may fill the wicked with alarm, but is fraught with special comfort to the saint.
(3) His dwelling-place; the heights, or heaven. God has three dwelling-places—eternity, the Church, and the saint's heart (Isaiah 57:15); and he is never really absent from the third any more than from the second or the first. But when the saint, by reason of doubt, sorrow, or sin, cannot perceive him in the second or third, he may always find him in the first, seated on his high and glorious throne of grace.
2. In what spirit? Clearly
(1) with firm faith. "Behold, my Witness is in heaven;" the first personal pronoun pointing to the existence of appropriating faith. So David says, "The Lord is my Shepherd" (Psalms 23:1). And
(2) with confident expectation. "Behold!"—a note of triumph, as if a gleam of bright exultant hope had already begun to make sunshine in the sufferer's soul.
III. A FERVENT SUPPLICATION.
1. The earnestness of Job's prayers. They were:
(1) Persistent. His friends mocked him, accused him of impiety, insinuated that he had abandoned the habit of devotion; but, in spite of slander and misrepresentation, he continued "instant in prayer." Not fitful and intermittent devotion succeeds with God, but habitual and continual. Therefore pray without ceasing. It is a high mark of grace to be able to persevere in well-doing, and to keep on praying in face of opposition and ridicule from friends.
(2) Tearful. Job presented not cold, formal, and listless petitions to the throne of grace, but warm, urgent, and forceful entreaties. When the eye waters, the heart melts. It is the stream of penitential feeling, or the flood of believing desire, which, welling up from the soul's depths, sends liquid drops through the open gateway of the eye. David mourned after God with tears (Psalms 42:3). The father of the lunatic boy cried out with tears, "Lord, I believe" (Mark 9:24).
2. The burden of Job's prayers.
(1) That God would plead with himself in behalf of man; i.e. that he would vindicate Job against himself, by declaring him (Job) to be innocent, What Job here desired for himself has in a more exalted sense been done for all men by Christ, who through his cross has made intercession for the transgressors' not to demonstrate their sinlessness or integrity, but to establish their righteousness before God.
(2) That God would plead for the son of man against his friend; i.e. for Job against his friends, who wished to put him down as a hypocrite. This also God will do for all, if not here, in a future world. "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (Matthew 13:43).
IV. A PATHETIC REASON.
1. The brevity of life's term. "When a few years are come" (verse 22). The short period of life that still remained would soon be ended. Time flies with all, but especially with the dying.
2. The hopelessness of man's return from the tomb. "Then I shall go the way whence I shall not return (cf. Job 10:21).
1. That the God of faith alone is the true God.
2. That faith's God is found in the page of revelation and in Jesus Christ, not in the mere conceptions of the human mind.
3. That faith's God is the enemy of no man, but the Friend of all.
4. That the ear of faith's God is never heavy that it cannot hear, or his hand shortened that it cannot save.
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
Deep dejection and irrepressible hope.
In this reply Job refuses to make a direct rejoinder to the attack upon him; he is too utterly bowed down in his weakness. But—
I. The first part of his speech consists of A BITTER SARCASM UPON THE IDLE TALK OF HIS FRIENDS. (Verses 1-5.) Their speeches are useless. They mean to comfort (Job 15:11); but their reasonings produce an opposite effect on his mind. They should cease; there must he something ailing those who are thus afflicted with the disease of words. Words will not heal the broken bones nor soothe the wounded heart. Were it so, then Job could act the part of comforter as well as they, in the case of their affliction. Thus with scorn he repels their futile attempts to "charm ache with air, and agony with words," to "patch grief with proverbs."
Can counsel, and speak comfort to that grief
Which they themselves not feel; but, tasting if,
Their counsel turns to passion, which before
Would give preceptial medicine to rage,
Fetter strong madness in a silken thread,
Charm ache with air, and agony with words;
No, no; 'tis all men's office to speak patience
To those that wring under the load of sorrow;
But no man's virtue, nor sufficiency,
To be so moral when he shall endure
The like himself: therefore give me no counsel:
My griefs cry louder than advertisement."
II. Next, he relapses into a MELANCHOLY CONTEMPLATION OF HIS EXTREME MISERY. (Verses 6-17.)
1. The alternative of silence or of speech is equally unbearable. (Verse 6.) A healthy man can give vent to his feelings in talk; but no words suffice to check the flow of this immense grief. Would he do well to be silent? But, then, what grief would depart from him? None! There is no riddance either way. Speak or not, his suffering remains the same.
2. The instinct to pour forth his woe proves irrepressible, and he proceeds with the description of his terrible sufferings. (Verses 7-14.) His strength is exhausted. His house is desolate. His wrinkled and emaciated body is a spectacle to move his own pity. But still keener are the sufferings of his mind. The thought that God has inflicted this suffering, that he is, as he supposes, an object of the Divine wrath, fills his mind with intolerable gloom. And not only is God against him, but evil men seem to be employed as instruments of his wrath. They, envious of his former prosperity, and of his goodness, now gather around to heap every insult upon his head. Tracing again all to God, Job conceives of him under the image of a furious warrior, who has advanced against him in utmost violence, caused a shower of arrows to fall upon him, pierced him as with a sword, battered him into ruins as a strong wall is battered into breaches by the violence of the battering-ram.
3. His present condition. (Verses 15-17.) Humbling himself beneath the rod, he has adopted all the symbolic language of penitence and grief. He has put on the sackcloth; bowed his head to the dust; given himself to weeping until his eyes are heavy and his face is red. And all this "though there is no wrong in his hand, and his prayer is pure."
III. THE HEAVEN-PIERCING CRY OF INNOCENCE. (Verses 18-22.) So soon as in the course of these sad reflections Job once more recurs to the consciousness of his innocence, new courage is born to his heart; in his very exhaustion he can still cry to Heaven in the might of a confidence that will yet wring an answer from God. He calls upon the earth not to hide his blood, and may his cry have no resting-place. The allusion is to the ancient sacred custom of blood-revenge (Genesis 4:10, Genesis 4:11; comp. Isaiah 26:21; 2 Samuel 1:21). But the circumstances under which the desire net to die unavenged here appears are quite unusual As one persecuted, not merely by man, but far more by God, near to death, he maintains his innocence before man and God. Here is a seeming contradiction between the dark thoughts just expressed of God, and this profound faith in the invisible and just Judge. Grief is full of inconsistencies and contradictions, arising from the imperfection of the understanding. They cannot be solved by thought, only as here by faith. Thus we come to another moment of calm amidst this terrible tempest of grief—another break in the sky amidst these storms. The chapter leaves the deposit of a noble consolation at our feet.
1. The existence of the Witness in heaven. An all-intelligent Witness, a feeling Witness, an all-remembering Witness of innocent suffering, is our heavenly Father. There may be ever an appeal to him from the unfeeling conduct and the mocking observation of men.
2. The certainty of a just decision in the end. "If we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it." In all the sense of life's mystery, and the temptation to doubt whether God be perfectly good and kind, let Patience, supported by faith, have her perfect work. Let us "remember Job," and "consider the end of the Lord"—J.
HOMILIES BY R. GREEN
Sorrow without hope.
Unalleviated by the words of his friends, Job turns round upon them, and in painful, half-passionate words retorts upon them their incompotency to give him consolation. "Miserable comforters are ye all." He is driven almost to despair. The painful alternative of speech or silence is before him; but neither offers him any hope, and he is compelled to reflect upon his helpless condition. He is exhausted. The future presents no prospect of alleviation. He has sorrow without hope. Such sorrow distinguished—
I. BY ITS EXTREME PAINFULNESS. To endure pain of body or mind is hard enough, and many succumb to it. But if there be a gleam of hope the aching spirit clings to it and is upborne. When, however, no ray of brightness is apparent, when only the darkness of an undiminished sorrow is present, then is the painfulness of the circumstances in which the sufferer is placed heightened in a great degree. To suffer without hope of a termination is the very perfection of suffering. The poor heart searches for some avenue of escape, but none is present. It is thrown back again and again upon itself. This is extremest sorrow. To see only the long, unvaried line of suffering drawn out to the utmost future, and no break appearing, robs the soul of its one consolation in extreme trial—the hope of release. If a bound be put to sorrow it may be endured; but if no limit can be traced, and all probability of limitation be cut off, the case is desperate. The worst that can be said of any evil is—It is hopeless.
II. Sorrow without hope is AN EXCESSIVE STRAIN UPON THE ENDURANCE OF THE SUFFERER. To lose hope is to lose heart. The strong can bear up under the heavy burden, but the weak must yield. It is to add to the weight of the burden by every hour that elapses. Time, which so often comes to relieve the sorrowful, but brings a heavier load. The exhausted spirit bravely fighting against its oppressive surroundings is more and more driven to the conclusion that all effort is unavailing, and the added experience of every hour but confirms the assurance that there is no hope left. It is the severest of all strains that the spirit can be subjected to. It is the inevitable precursor of despair.
III. Such sorrow reaches a climax of severity when, as in this case, THE APPEAL TO GOD, THE GREAT HELPER, IS UNAVAILING. "He hath made me weary." He hath exhausted me. It is true a real help is in reserve for Job, but he does not know it. He suffers without hope. He has turned to man and found no relief. His cry to God is unavailing. If he "speak," his "grief is not assuaged.' His cry returns upon him. If he "forbear," still he is not "eased." The world is indebted to this sufferer for the painful experiment of which he is the subject. Now the world knows that in patient endurance and unswerving fidelity there is assured hope. The hand of help may be hidden, but it is there. God may seem to be inattentive to the sorrowful cry, but he is only testing and proving his faithful servant, and the severity of the test marks the measure of the final award. Hence may we learn
(1) that the apparent hopelessness of human sorrow is not a perfect representation;
(2) the wisdom of maintaining the spirit of hope, even when we seem to have no encouragement to do so;
(3) the certainty of a final relief and reward to the faithful.—R.G.
The severity of the Divine judgments.
The mystery of the Divine dealings is revealed in this book. The view from a human standpoint is given. Job and his friends see not the spiritual side of the whole transaction. The Divine purpose is hidden. Job knows not that it is "Satan" that has instigated all these afflictions. He knows not that God has given permission for his trial. Nor does he know the limitations put upon that trial, nor the final issue. The severity of the Divine judgments (so are they in Job's view) is represented in striking language.
I. AS A DELIVERING OVER TO THE UNGODLY. He is cast into the hands of the evil-doer.
II. As A DESTRUCTION OF EXTERNAL PROSPERITY. "I was at ease, but he hath broken me asunder."
III. As AN INFLICTION OF SEVERE PAINS. "He cleaveth my reins asunder."
IV. As A SUCCESSION OF REPEATED INFLICTIONS. "He breaketh me with breach upon breach." These judgments evoke from Job:
1. The lowliest humiliation. He bows in "sackcloth," and lays his "horn in the dust."
2. He pours out his soul in penitence, and his face is even "foul with weeping."
3. Over him hangs the gloom "the shadow"—"of death."
4. In the consciousness of integrity he makes his "pure" prayer to God. The interest of these few lines is very great in the general working out of the plot of the history. Happy he who in the midst of his sorrows can bow in lowly penitence under the severities of the Divine judgments, still retaining the assurance of his sincerity, and waiting the final award.—R.G.
Job 16:19, Job 16:20
The appeal of innocence to the highest tribunal.
Job now turns from man to God. He has the assurance of faith—the full assurance which faith gives- that God will requite the injured and justify the pure. Man's judgment is imperfect. He sees only the outboard circumstance; God looketh upon the heart. To him who knoweth all things Job turns; and to God his "eye poureth out tears." Before man can commit his cause to God with confidence the following is needful—
I. A THOROUGH CONVICTION OF THE INSUFFICIENCY OF HUMAN JUDGMENTS. Job had thoroughly proved this. Howsoever wise the sayings of his friends, or however just their reflections, Job knew that their accusations of him were unfounded, and that therefore their conclusions were unjust. Hence he turned from them to that "record" of his life which was "on high."
II. But this must be supported by A CONSCIOUS INTEGRITY. None can truly commit his cause to God who knows within himself that he is guilty. At the final bar he knows most assuredly that his sin will find him out. But he whose spirit bears him witness of his uprightness, as Job's did, and as the Divine judgments afterwards affirmed, may with calmness commit his way unto God. He knows that his true "Witness is in heaven." He shall bear testimony to Job's integrity, uprightness, and purity.
III. Further, AN UNHESITATING FAITH IN GOD'S RIGHTEOUS DEALINGS is needed in order to a calm committal of all to his arbitrament. Job, the "servant" of God, knew in whom he could confide. He feared God. On that fear faith builds with safety and assurance. A conception of God which is so low that it inspires no faith must preclude all loving, helpful hope in him.
IV. On such foundations may rest A CALM PATIENCE TO AWAIT THE FINAL DIVINE AWARD. The upright, sincere, but misunderstood sufferer leaves all to the final judgment. The "witness" and the "record" are "on high." To that tribunal which is also on high he appeals, and with the "scorn" of his "friends' breaking his already afflicted spirit he turns his tearful eyes "unto God." Self-assured integrity may always thus make its appeal to God, "the righteous Judge" to whose judgment-seat it is the highest wisdom of assailed innocence to appeal.—R.G.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
Job is able to rise above his foolish, narrow-minded friends, and look down upon them with good-humoured, pitying irony. So little do they understand him! So proudly do they trust in their empty words! And it is all a delusion. Job is almost ready to forget their impertinence as he turns to the far more important question of God's dealings with him. But first he gives them their true character. They are all "miserable comforters."
I. MISERABLE COMFORTERS FAIL FOR LACK OF SYMPATHY. This thought is continually recurring in the course of the dramatic dialogue. It is at the root of the whole controversy. All the elaborate argumentation of the three wise men is so much empty wind, because they lack the first condition of consolation. We can never be reminded too often that sympathy is the first and absolute condition of all mutual helpfulness. But how is it that well-meaning friends lack it? There can be but one answer. The enemy of sympathy is selfishness. While we think much of ourselves, our own opinions, position, conduct, we must fail in sympathy, and our attempts to help others must come to the ground without any good results. In visiting the poor, nursing the sick, raising the fallen, saving the lost, teaching children, sympathy is the primary requisite for success. Christ is the true Friend of the suffering, because Christ sympathizes profoundly with all sufferings. We make a mistake when, like Job's comforters, we try to console by offering advice. The sufferer wants not advice, but sympathy. Why should his misfortune give us a right to pose as his counsellors? He is more fitted to be our teacher, for he has been to the best of schools, the school of affliction.
II. MISERABLE COMFORTERS ADD TO THE GRIEFS WHICH THEY VAINLY TRY TO ASSUAGE. Thus Rousseau writes, "Consolation indiscreetly pressed upon us, when we are suffering under affliction, only serves to increase our pain and to render our grief more poignant." The reasons for this are not difficult to discover.
1. Disappointment. We expect something better from a friend. He should give us his sympathy, and if he fails to do so we feel ourselves to be unkindly treated, or at least we miss a comfort for which we were looking.
2. Weariness. The sufferer wants quiet. The look and tear of sympathy may console him, but many words are wearying to him. He is too full of iris own sad thoughts to find room for the ill-judged observations of untimely advisers.
3. Injustice. You cannot be just to a man without sympathy, because you cannot understand him till you enter into his deeper feelings. But nothing is more distressing than unjust treatment. Much of Job's greatest trouble came from this source.
III. WE NEED DIVINE GRACE TO HELP US TO BE TRUE COMFORTERS. Perhaps we shrink from the task, seeing its difficulties. We would avoid the house of mourning lest our bungling attempts at consolation should add to its sorrows. But this is not brotherly. The Christian duty is to "weep with them that weep" (Romans 12:15). To be true sympathizers we need to have self conquered by the grace of Christ. Perhaps one reason why some of us have much trouble is that we may be able to understand the trouble of other people, and so may become true comforters.—W.F.A.
Job does not know what to do; neither speech nor silence will assuage his grief. It appears to be incurable.
I. GREAT GRIEF SEEMS INCURABLE TO THE SUFFERER.
1. It cannot be measured. Feeling destroys the sense of proportion. Every one who suffers much is tempted to think himself the greatest of sufferers. A passion of emotion sweeps away all standards of comparison. The stormy sea appears to be unfathomable.
2. It excludes the thought of anything but itself. The black cloud shuts out the heavens and narrows the horizon. The world of sorrow is shrunken to the range of present, personal experience, Thus in overwhelming grief there is no room or power in the soul to conceive of a means of escape. The absorbing interest of pain will not allow a rival consciousness.
3. It is found to be irresistible. If a man thought he could conquer his grief or escape from it, surely he would not tamely submit to his torments unless he were a fanatic of asceticism. But if the pain cannot be set aside at once, it is difficult to believe that it will not endure for ever, for agony destroys the sense of time.
II. GREAT GRIEF MAY NOT BE CURABLE BY MAN. There are diseases that no medicine can heal, and sorrows that no human aid can touch. Grief naturally tends to endure by its own creation of a habit of grieving.
"Sorrow, like a heavy-hanging bell,
Once set on ringing, with his own weight goes:
Then little strength rings out the doleful knell."
Some sorrows are evidently incurable by man.
1. The loss of those greatly beloved. No human comforter could bring back Job's seven sons and three daughters from the dead. What word or work of man could touch his sorrow of utter bereavement? We know only too well that nothing on earth can make up for our greatest losses by death.
2. The discovery of a wasted life. When the old man comes to himself and finds that he has been living in a delusion, when he sees with bitter remorse that he has been squandering his years in folly and sin, what can man do to comfort him? The past can never be recovered.
3. The despair of guilt. If this is soothed by flattery and falsehood, a fatal mischief is done. But if the conscience is fairly roused, it cannot be thus soothed. To man sin is incurable.
III. GRIEF THAT APPEARS TO BE INCURABLE MAY YET BE ALL CURED BY GOD. No child of God should despair, for infinite love and almighty energy can know of no impossibility. The gospel of Christ offers complete cure.
1. Present peace.
(1) If the trouble is from sin, the peace is in pardon. All sin is curable by Christ, for "he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him" (Hebrews 7:25).
(2) If the trouble is from any other cause, the peace is in the love of God. This love, which also brings the peace of forgiveness, is itself an infinite consolation. It is better to be Lazarus with God than Dives with purple and fine linen.
2. Future blessedness. The dead will not return to us. But we shall go to them. Christ promises to his people a home in the great house of God. There "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes" (Revelation 7:17). The old wasted life cannot be given back in its pristine innocence. But the renewed soul may live a new life in God's eternity.—W.F.A.
Shattered when at ease.
This was Job's awful fate. All was calm when the thunderbolt fell and dashed him to the ground.
I. GOD GIVES TIMES OF EASE. This should be acknowledged even in the hours of suffering. Take life as a whole, and the intervals of ease are with most people much longer than the periods of trouble. Yet we are tempted to neglect them when giving the story of our life, and, like Jacob, to describe our days as "few and evil" (Genesis 47:9). Quiet times come from God quite as much as troublous times. It is an unjust view of providence to suppose that our ease comes from ourselves and the world, and only our trouble from God.
II. TIMES OF EASE WILL NOT ENDURE FOR EVER. It is needless to be anticipating future trouble. Christ bids us not be anxious for the morrow. But we should be prepared for trouble. The man who has insured his house against a fire need not be always dreaming that it is in flames. Having made a proper provision, he can set aside all thoughts of danger. We require to have just so much perception of the uncertainty of life as to lead us to make the requisite provision for a reverse of fortune. The storm may come. Where shall we be when it is upon us?
III. TIMES OF EASE ARE NOT IN THEMSELVES SECURITIES AGAINST TIMES OF TROUBLE. As they may give place to very different times, they cannot ward off the unacceptable succession. The great temptation of the rich man is to trust in his wealth for what it can never purchase. Seeing that its range is wide, he is in danger of missing its limits. So the prosperous man is tempted to trust to his good fortune, as though the mere occurrence of what is agreeable were a cause of the same in the future. But trouble comes from outside a man's circumstances, or from his own heart, which may be bankrupt while his estate is perfectly sound.
IV. TIMES OF EASE SHOULD HELP US TO PREPARE FOR TIMES OF TROUBLE. Joseph laid up stores during the seven years of plenty in preparation for the coming seven years of famine. The prudent man will always try to put something by for a rainy day. Old age must be provided for by the forethought of earlier years. Thrift is a duty a man owes to his family whom he ought to support, and to his neighbours to whom he ought not to become a burden. Higher considerations require the same method of conduct. These present calm days afford us good opportunities for spiritual preparation. It is rare indeed that a man has power and disposition to enter into the deeper religious experiences on his death-bed if he has not made himself acquainted with them during the days of health and strength. Then death may surprise us at any time, and the only safety is in being always ready. A good use of the long, quiet, prosperous summer-time of life should leave us prepared to meet whatever wintry storms it may please God to send us. If we have the peace of God in our hearts, the most shattering blows will not destroy it, and that peace even in trouble will be far more precious to us than the times of ease of the lotus-eaters, with whom it was "always afternoon," but who knew not the deeper blessedness of peace in sorrow.—W.F.A.
(last clause, "My prayer is pure").
Purity of prayer.
The impure prayer cannot be heard by God. It may be earnest, passionate, vehement, yet it must fall back rejected and confounded. Let us, then, consider in what purity of prayer consists.
I. REALITY. The prayer that is not felt and meant in the heart is an impure offering of hypocrisy. Though it be uttered in the becoming phrases of devotion, it is to God as the howling of blasphemous demons. If there be no other sin in our prayer, insincerity is fatal. But it is not easy to be always true and real, especially in public acts of devotion, when a multitude of people are expected to be joining in the same prayer at the same moment. If, however, the heart is set on truly seeking God, he will not count the wandering thought of casual distractions as a mark of insincerity. The spirit may be willing while the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41), and God looks to the heart. What is essential is a true purpose and effort to worship God, who is a Spirit, in spirit and i, truth (John 4:24).
II. PENITENCE. We are all sinners, and therefore can only come to God as suppliants confessing our sin. Any other method of approach is false to our character and deeds. In the parable of the publican and the Pharisee it is just the contrition of the publican that meets with God's approval. If we hold to our sin we cannot be received m our prayer. Though we may forget the ugly thing, or suppose that we have left it behind us, it is with us in the very house of God; it is even standing between us and God, a black and impenetrable barrier.
III. FAITH. We cannot pray purely till we trust God. The prayer of unbelief is a wild cry in the darkness wrung from a soul by its utter distress. Surely God will pity such a cry, and in his infinite compassion he will do what is possible to save his benighted child. But the strength of communion with God that comes in prayer is only possible when we can trust God as our Father and completely confide in him. It is by believing, by trusting God, that we win great blessings in prayer.
IV. SUBMISSION. If Our prayer is a self-willed mandate claiming certain things from God which must be just according to our mind, it is defiled by impurity. We have not to dictate to God what he is to do for us. Our duty is to lay our case before God and then to leave it with him. He must do what he thinks best, not what we demand. The pure prayer will be submissive, saying, "Not as I will, but as thou wilt."
V. UNSELFLSHNESS. Even in our submission we may still be selfish, for we may be convinced that it is best for ourselves that God should do with us what he thinks best, and may think of nothing else. Such prayers as "Bless me; save me; comfort me; fill me with good things," are narrow, and when they stand alone they are selfish. Christ's model prayer is in the plural number," Our Father give us," etc. We need to enlarge our petitions with intercession for our brethren, and to include the wants of the world in our prayers. The purest prayer is one that chiefly seeks the glory of God—Christ's prayer, "Father, glorify thy Name."—W.F.A.
Job 16:19, Job 16:20
The Witness in heaven.
Job turns from man to God. On earth he is misjudged, but in heaven there is One who sees all, and can witness both his woe and his integrity. More than this; he turns from God as the source of his calamity to God as his Saviour. Dr. S. Cox has pointed out that Job has here made a great discovery. He has found a higher God, a God of love, above the God who torments. Or rather, he has seen the true God above the false, conventional idea of God. To this God he appeals as his Witness in heaven.
I. THERE IS A WITNESS IN HEAVEN.
1. He is far above us. "In heaven." God is not to be confined to the narrow range of earthly experiences. He sits above the dust and din of the battle, above all the clouds and storms of earth. He is free from the passion, the limited vision, the personal prejudice of the immediate actors in the earthly scene. Though intimately associated with all we are and do, he is yet so great as to enjoy that detachment of mind which allows of fair and impartial judgment. He looks with other eyes than ours; from his high station he sees all things in their right proportion, and he takes in the whole panorama of existence.
2. He takes note of earthly things. A "Witness." God is not uninterested in earth, like an Epicurean divinity. He looks lute all human affairs, and they are all open to him Every human deed is done under the eye of God; even the darkest and most secret crimes are perfectly open to his all-penetrating scrutiny. He too sees things truly, as they are; and the greatest wrong and injustice is quite clear to him. God never misunderstands any of his children.
3. He can be appealed to. Job even calls God "my Witness." He feels that God is on his side, and he believes that he may call upon God to testify against the enormous wrong that is being done to him. God does not reserve his knowledge uselessly, like a student who is always learning, hut never employing what he acquires. We may appeal to God to come and speak and act for our deliverance, pouring out tears unto him.
II. THE WITNESS IN HEAVEN IS TRUE AND GOOD. It is useless to appeal to a false witness, or to one who will give an unfavourable version of what he sees. Satan was a witness of Job's life; but Satan's testimony was one-sided, suspicious, and as damaging as the facts could allow. Job appeals without fear to the supreme Witness, knowing that his testimony can be relied upon. Goodness and truth are supreme. The lower earthly experiences of God are contradictory and confusing. What we see in this world of nature and providence perplexes us with hard thoughts of apparent indifference, injustice, cruelty. Some have even supposed that the Creator of a world with so much evil could not be good. Browning's Caliban imagined, in his poor, dim, low-minded speculation, that his god Setebos made the world "out of spite." This was a common belief with the Gnostic sects. But Caliban, like the Gnostics, saw that there was a Supreme who did justly. The notion appears in modern times. Dr. Jessopp relates a conversation in which an old countryman said that Providence was always against him. This year it was the potato-disease, and last year the oats were blighted. But looking up, he added, "I reckon there's One above that will call him to account." The delusion is in separating the two divinities. We have to see that the one God appears in lower scenes of darkness and mystery, and also in the heights above as perfect love. Clouds and darkness are round his footstool But his countenance is gracious.—W.F.A.
Pleading with God.
Job still maintains the higher strain of thought which he took up when he appealed to his Witness in heaven. The one desire of his heart is to be right with God, and he is persuaded that only God himself can make him so.
I. OUR GREATEST NEED IS TO BE RIGHT WITH GOD. What is the use of the flattery of man if God, the one supreme Judge with whom we have to do, condemns us? But, then, where is the mischief of man's censure when our Judge acquits us? Far too much is made of the opinion of the world, and far too little of the verdict of Heaven. We need to rise above the little hopes and tears of human favour to the great thought of God's approval. When we think first of that, all else becomes insignificant. The reasons for doing so should be overwhelming.
1. God knows all.
2. He is Almighty—able to bless us or to east us off.
3. He is our Father. And it is better for the child to stand well with his parent than with all the world.
II. WE HAVE TO OWN THAT WE ARE NOT RIGHT WITH GOD.
1. This is apparent in the experience of life. Job felt there was something wrong between him and God, though the foolish error of his friends had confused his mind, so that he could not see where the wrong lay. The dark shadows that creep between us and God, and hide from us the joy of heaven, are felt in experience. They certainly bear witness to some condition of error or evil.
2. This is also confirmed by the testimony of conscience. A voice within interprets the dark scene without. We learn from Job's distresses that calamities are not necessarily indicative of sin. But we must all own that nothing puts us so wrong with God as our own misconduct.
III. WE NEED AN ADVOCATE TO SET US RIGHT WITH GOD. We cannot represent our own case aright, for we do not understand ourselves, and our "hearts are deceitful above all things." We certainly do not know the mind and will of God. How, then, can we find our way back to him? A trackless desert lies between, and the night is dark and stormy. Even if we were before him we could not answer him "one of a thousand." Thus there is a general feeling among men that some mediator, intercessor, advocate, priest, is required.
IV. GOD IN CHRIST IS THE ADVOCATE WITH GOD THE FATHER. Job could not see as far as this; but he saw the essential truth, i.e. that God must provide the way of reconciliation. Only God can plead with God for man. Therefore we flee" from God to God." We escape from the lower experiences of the Divine in life which strike us as harsh, and even as unjust, to the higher vision of God which reveals him as all truth and goodness. We call upon God in his love to reconcile us with himself. This, the New Testament teaches, he does in Christ, who is the Revelation of God's love. "We have an Advocate with the Father," etc. (1 John 2:1). We want no human priest to plead our cause, for we have a great High Priest who "ever liveth to make intercession for us." When we truly pray in Christ's Name we have a right to trust that he will plead for us. By all the merits of his cross and Passion his pleading is mighty to prevail for the sinner's salvation.—W.F.A.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Job 16". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19