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SECTION VII.—HISTORICAL SEQUEL TO THE DIALOG
This concluding chapter divides into two parts. In the first part (Job 42:1-6) Job makes his final submission, humbling himself in the dust before God. In the second (verses 7-17) the historical framework, in which the general dialogue is set, is resumed and brought to a close. God's approval of Job is declared, and his anger denounced against the three friends, who are required to expiate their guilt by a sacrifice, and only promised forgiveness if Job will intercede on their behalf (verse 8). The sacrifice takes place (verse 9); and then a brief account is appended of Job's after life—his prosperity, his reconciliation with his family and friends, his wealth, his sons and daughters, and his death in a good old age, when he was "full of days" (verses 10-17.). The poetic structure, begun in Job 3:3, is continued to the end of Job 3:6, when the style changes into prose of the same character as that employed in Job 1:1-22; Job 2:1-13; and in Job 32:1-5.
Job 42:1, Job 42:2
Then Job answered the Lord, and said, I know that thou caner do every thing; i.e. I know and acknowledge thy omnipotence, which thou hast set forth so magnificently before me in ch. 38-41. It is brought home to me by the grand review of thy works which thou hast made, and the details into which thou hast condescended to enter. I know also and acknowledge that no thought can be with-holden from thee; i.e. I confess also thy omniscience—that thou knowest even the thoughts of all created beings (comp. Psalms 44:21; Psalms 139:2; Hebrews 4:13, etc.).
Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? As these are nearly the words of God in Job 38:2, some suppose that they must be his words again here, and imagine a short dialogue in this place between Job and the Almighty, assigning to Job verse 2, the latter half of verse 8, and the whole of verses 5 and 6, while they assign to God verse 4 and the first clause of verse 8. But it is far more natural to regard Job as bringing up the words which God had spoken to him, to ponder on them and answer them, or at any rate to hang his reply upon them, than to imagine God twice interrupting Job in the humble confession that he was anxious to make. We must understand, then, after the word "knowledge," an ellipse of "thou sayest." Therefore have I uttered that I understood not. Therefore, because of that reproof of thine, I perceive that, in what I said to my friends, I "darkened counsel,"—I "uttered that I understood not," words which did not clear the matter in controversy, but obscured it. I dealt, in fact, with things too wonderful for me—beyond my compre-hension—which I knew not, of which I had no real knowledge, but only a semblance of knowledge, and on which, therefore, I had better have been silent.
Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak; I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me, Job refers to God's words in Job 38:3 and Job 40:7, and realizes the humbling effect which they had had on him. They made him feel how little he knew on the subject of God's works and ways, and how little competent he was to judge them. Hence he bursts into the confession-
I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear. Hitherto, i.e; I have had nothing but hearsay knowledge of thee; I have not known thee in any true sense; but now—now that thou hast revealed thyself—mine eye seeth thee; my spiritual eye is opened, and 1 begin to see thee in thy true might, thy true greatness, thy true inscrutableness. Now I recognize the distance which separates us, and feel how unreasonable it is that I should contend with thee, argue with thee, assume myself to be competent to pass judgment on thy doings. "Wherefore I abhor myself," etc.
Wherefore I abhor myself; or, I loathe my words (see the Revised Version). And repent in dust and ashes. Job was still sitting on the ash-heap on which he had thrown himself when his disease first smote him (Job 2:8). He had thrown himself on it in grief and de, pair; he will remain seated on it in compunction and penitence. His self-humiliation is now complete. He does not retract what he has said concerning his essential integrity, but he admits that his words have been overbold, and his attitude towards God one unbefitting a creature. God accepts his submission, and proceeds to vindicate him to his "friends," and to visit them with condemnation.
And it was so, that after the Lord had spoken these words unto Job. The "words" intended seem to be those of ch. 38-41; not any words in the earlier portion of this chapter. God heard Job's confession in silence, and, without further speech to him, addressed Eliphaz and his "friends." The Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends. The superior position of Eliphaz is here very strongly recognized—he alone is mentioned by name, he alone addressed directly. The precedence thus given to him accords with that which he holds, both in the earlier historical narrative (Job 2:11) and in the dialogue (Job 4:1; Job 15:1; Job 22:1). For ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath. Job had, on the whole, spoken what was right and true of God, and is acknowledged by God as his true servant. The "comforters," consciously or unconsciously, had spoken what was false. Even if they said what they believed, they ought to have known better.
Therefore take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams. (On the early and widespread prevalence of the rite of sacrifice,-see the comment upon Job 1:5.) (On the preference, for sacrificial purposes, of the number seven, see Leviticus 23:18; Numbers 23:1, Numbers 23:14, Numbers 23:29; Numbers 28:11, Numbers 28:19, Numbers 28:27; Numbers 29:2, Numbers 29:8, Numbers 29:36; 1 Chronicles 15:26 2 Chronicles 29:21; Ezra 8:35; Ezekiel 45:23, etc.) It is noticeable that "seven bullocks and seven rams" was exactly the offering of the Moabite king Balak, and his prophet Balaam, contemporary with Moses. And go to my servant Job. Humble yourselves before the man whom you have striven to abase and bring low. Go to him—make application to him, that he will be pleased to come to your aid, joining and assisting in the offering which I require at your hands. And offer up for yourselves a burnt offering. Do as Job had done for his sins (Job 1:5), "offer a burnt offering;" and then my servant Job shall pray for you. Present at your sacrifice, and sharing in it, he shall assume the highest priestly function, and intercede on your behalf. For him will I accept; literally, his face, or his person, will I accept. It is implied that, apart from Job, the three "comforters" would not have been listened to, much less have obtained pardon. Lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant Job (see the comment on the preceding verse).
So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went, and did according as the Lord commanded them; i.e. "went" to Job, and asked his aid and interposition, and obtained it. The Lord also accepted Job; i.e. looked favourably on Job's intercession, and for his sake pardoned those for whom he made his prayer. Job is thus a type of Christ, not merely in his sufferings, but also in his mediatorial character.
And the Lord turned the captivity of Job. The literal use of this phrase is common, the metaphorical use of it uncommon, in Scripture. Still, it is so simple a metaphor, and captivity so common a thing among ancient peoples, that it may well have been in general use among the nations of Western Asia from very primitive times. It signifies, as Professor Lee remarks, "a restoration to former happy circumstances.'' When he prayed for his friends. Perhaps his complete forgiveness by God was contingent on his own complete forgiveness of his "friends" (Matthew 6:12, Matthew 6:14, Matthew 6:15; Matthew 18:32-35); at any rate, his restoration immediately followed his intercession. Also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before; literally, added to all that had been Job's to the double (comp. verse 12).
Then came there unto him all his brethren. Job's "brethren," and his desertion by them in his misfortunes, had been mentioned in Job 19:13. Now these fair-weather friends flocked to him again, and professed affection and interest, ignoring probably, or excusing, their long absence and neglect. And all his sisters. One sex had behaved no better to him than the other. His nearest female relatives had failed to show themselves the "ministering angels" that they are commonly accounted, even when "pain and anguish" most "wrung his brow." And all they that had been of his acquaintance before. Job, like other wealthy and prosperous men had during the time of his prosperity had "troops of friends" (see Job 29:8-10, Job 29:21-25). When adversity swooped down they fell away. Now they had the effrontery to claim his acquaintance once more, and to come and be his guests; they did eat bread with him in his house. Nay, more, they bemoaned him, and comforted him over all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him, whereof the worst part was their own coldness and desertion (Job 19:13, Job 19:14, Job 19:19). Finally, to establish the renewed friendship, every man also gave him a piece of money, and every one an ear-ring of gold. The money given is said to have been a kesitah, which means probably a certain weight of silver, though whether a shekel or not is uncertain. The word belongs to the earlier Hebrew, being found only in Genesis 33:19; Joshua 24:32, and in the present passage. Ear-rings were commonly worn in the East by men as well as women, as appears from the Egyptian, Assyrian, and Persian sculptures.
So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning (comp. above, verse 10). The restoration of prosperity, prophesied by Eliphaz (Job 5:18 Job 5:26), Bildad (Job 8:20, Job 8:21), and Zophar (Job 11:13-19), but not expected by Job, came, not in consequence of any universal law, but by the will of God, and his pure grace and favour. It in no way pledged God to compensate worldly adversity by worldly prosperity in the case of any other sufferer; and certainly the general law seems to be that such earthly compensation is withheld. But, in combination with the instinct which demands that retributive justice shall prevail universally, it may be taken as an earnest of God's ultimate dealings with men, and a sure indication that, if not on earth, at least in the future state; each man shall receive "the deeds done in the body," according to that he hath done, whether it be good or evil. For he had (rather, and he had) fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she-asses. In every case the exact double of his original possessions (see Job 1:3; and comp. above, Job 1:12). We need not suppose, however, that either the round numbers, or the exact duplicity, are historical.
He had also seven sons and three daughters. The same number as previously (Job 1:2), neither more nor fewer.
And he called the name of the first, Jemima. The name "Jemima" is probably derived from yom (יוֹם), "day," and means "Fair as the day." And the name of the second, Kezia. "Kezia" (rather, "Keziah") was the Hebrew name of the spice which the Greeks and Romans called "cassia," a spice closely allied to cinnamon, and much esteemed in the East (see Herod; 3.110). And the name of the third, Keren-happuch; literally, horn of stibium—stibium being the dye (antimony) with which Oriental women have from a remote antiquity been in the habit of anointing the upper and lower eyelids in order to give lustre to the eye. The three names, according to Oriental notions, implied either sweetness or beauty.
And in all the land were no women found so fair as the daughters of Job. Beauty has always been highly valued in the East; and Job would feel himself highly favoured in having three beautiful daughters. It may have been on account of their great beauty that their father gave them inheritance among their brethren, which was certainly an unusual practice in the East.
After this lived Job an hundred and forty years. It has been concluded from this statement, combined with that at the close of verse 10, that Job was exactly seventy years of age when his calamities fell upon him; but this is really only a conjecture, since the statement that "God added to all that had been Job's to the double," does not naturally apply to anything but his property. We may, however, fairly allow that (as Professor Lee says) he "could scarcely have been less than seventy" when his afflictions came, having then a family of ten children, who were all grown up (Job 1:4). In this case, the whole duration of his life would have been 210 years, or a little more, which cannot be regarded as incredible by those who accept the ages of the patriarchs, from Peleg to Jacob, as respectively 239, 230, 148, 205, 175, 180, and 147 years. And saw his sons, and his sons' sons; i.e. his descendants—grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Even four generations. According to the Hebrew inclusive practice of reckoning, we may regard his own generation as included.
So Job died, being old and full of days. The lowest estimate places the occurrence of the afflictions of Job at the time when he was a little more than fifty ("Supponitur quinquagenario hand multo majorem fuisse Nostrum, quum conflictari coepit," Schultens). Thus his age at his death would be at least a hundred and ninety,
The conclusion of the drama.
I. THE SETTLEMENT OF THE THIRD CONTROVERSY BETWEEN JEHOVAH AND JOB. (Job 42:1-6.) This controversy, it will be remembered, arose out of the intensity of Job's sufferings and the perplexity of Job's spirit, which caused him on the one hand to form too favourable an opinion of his own, and on the other hand too unfavourable an opinion of God's, righteousness; to misinterpret the facts of providence almost as egregiously as, though in an opposite direction from, the friends; to misapprehend the fundamental principle of the Divine administration, which, if it was not strictly retributive justice, as the friends alleged, was still less a heartless indifference to human happiness, as Job occasionally seemed to insinuate, but, as Elihu maintained, a principle of grace; to misconstrue the purpose at which God aimed in his affliction, and, as a consequence, to recklessly charge God with partiality, injustice, and enmity. Accordingly this, the last controversy to emerge, was the first which required to be disposed of; and this is done by Job's unconditional surrender to Jehovah.
1. A clear recognition of the Divine supremacy, "I know that thou canst do everything, and that no thought can be withholden from thee." The conception of Jehovah's omnipotence and omniscience, of his infinite capability of elaborating plans and carrying them forward into execution, though not wholly unfamiliar to the mind of the patriarch, now stands out before his quickened imagination with a luminosity which was previously wanting. The contemplation of a wisdom that could fashion and a power that could govern such strange and wondrous monsters as behemoth (the hippopotamus, or Nile-horse) and leviathan (the crocodile or alligator), had enabled him to see that in the higher sphere of man also similarly elaborated thoughts, counsels, plans, might be formed by the Supreme, and even projected into actual realization. That Job's affliction was one such exquisitely fashioned thought of God had at last dawned upon the troubled soul of the patriarch.
2. A humble acknowledgment of sin. "Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge?" So Jehovah at the opening of the theophany had charged the patriarch with doing (Job 38:2); and to this at length the patriarch, with sorrow in his heart, assents. It is a sure sign that a man has entered on the path of penitence when he owns himself prepared not alone to admit his fault, but also to accept the rebukes of God (Leviticus 26:41). So David did when God reproved him for his great transgression in the matter of Uriah. And here Job with perfect frankness concedes that God's language concerning him, however severe, was not undeserved; that in speaking as he did about God and his transcendently glorious administration of mundane affairs he had simply been babbling in ignorance, talking about sublimities immeasurably beyond his conception. "Therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not."
3. An earnest desire for Divine illumination. A second time taking up the words of God (Job 38:3), Job, as it seems to us, applies them to himself. Formerly he had deemed himself qualified to answer God, so confident did he feel as to the fulness of his knowledge and the clearness of his convictions. On this assumption God had challenged him to stand forth and submit to examination. Now, however, Job has been brought to see what every one must be brought to see before he can be either wise or good, viz. his native ignorance, his mental and moral darkness, his comparative blindness, especially as regards the things of God. Hence, with the true spirit of a penitent, he exclaims, "Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me." So did Asaph confess his ignorance and supplicate instruction (Psalms 73:22). So David (Psalms 25:4), and either he or a later Hebrew poet (Psalms 119:12, Psalms 119:18, Psalms 119:19, Psalms 119:27, Psalms 119:33). God instructs not the wise in their own conceits; or, if he does, the first lesson he imparts is to show them their folly. Hence the words of St. Paul (1 Corinthians 3:18).
4. A penitential expression of self-abasement. The insight Job had gained from the Divine teaching had completely revolutionized his soul. From being proud and self-confident, he had become humble and subdued. Prostrate in the dust of contrition, he was full of spiritual self-loathing. "Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." Job felt ashamed of his behaviour in condemning God; he was not less ashamed of his own moral weakness and imperfection. Thus practically he confessed that, in the controversy he had waged with God, the right lay with God, the wrong with him.
II. THE SETTLEMENT OF THE SECOND CONTROVERSY BETWEEN JOB AND THE THREE FRIENDS. (Verses 7-9.) This controversy, as formerly explained (Job 2:11, homiletics), turned upon the relation existing between sin and suffering; the friends maintaining that suffering, in the Divine administration, was so invariably connected with sin by the principle of a strictly retributive justice, that it was always possible to estimate the amount of an individual's guilt by the depth of his calamity; while Job, on the other hand, not only rejected the application of such a principle to himself, but contended that many facts existed which were wholly irreconcilable with such a principle. On this controversy also Jehovah pronounces an authoritative verdict, to the effect that truth lay upon the side of Job rather than upon that of the friends, to whom accordingly he now, in turn, directs his address.
1. The imputation made. Eliphaz and his friends had not spoken concerning him that which was right, as Job had. They had erred in two ways—in presenting an erroneous view of the Divine dealings with mankind in general, and in maintaining it at the expense both of God and of Job. In order to make good their theory, they had alleged, in defiance of all evidence to the contrary, that Job was a wicked man, and that God was incensed against him with righteous indignation—both of which assertions were incorrect. Neither was God punishing Job, nor was Job a wicked man, but one whom all through the tremendous ordeal God recognized as his servant. And if Eliphaz and his friends had transgressed against God in misrepresenting the Divine character and ways, they had offended scarcely less by misjudging the character and ways of Job. If Job himself was not entirely free from blame in the views he was sometimes driven in anguish to express, it midst still be remembered that he was nearer the truth than they were, and that occasionally he was able to recognize the Divine justice and love in his tribulation.
2. The direction given. "Therefore take unto you now seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering." Interesting as showing the antiquity of sacrificial worship beyond the bounds of the Holy Land, this statement is also valuable. as pointing out the close correspondence as to fundamental ideas and prevailing forms between the worship observed in heathen countries and that subsequently practised in Israel. Here, as afterwards in the Mosaic cultus, the burnt offering is the appointed medium of pardon and acceptance, proclaiming to Job and his contemporaries, as later to Abraham's descendants, that without shedding of blood there is no remission, that reconciliation is impossible except upon the ground of an atoning sacrifice. Here, as afterwards, bullocks and rams are the animals selected for the sacrificial ritual, perhaps also for a like purpose, to typify the holy Lamb of God who should in the end of the ages become the world's Propitiation, while at the same time they suggested forcibly their own insufficiency (Hebrews 9:11-14; Hebrews 10:1-5)to cleanse the conscience from sin. Here also, as afterwards, the offering is directed to be presented through an officiating priest (in this case Job), to signify that no man can come to God except through the intervention of a Mediator. Thus the rudiments of the gospel may be said to have existed in that early age—the work of Christ being clearly symbolized, his great propitiation by the sacrificial victims, his heavenly intercession by the prayer of Job.
3. The encouragement offered. "My servant Job shall pray for you: for him [literally, 'his face or person'] will I accept." Having graciously constituted Job a Mediator between himself and the friends, Jehovah guarantees that if they will avail themselves of his services, he will be accepted, and of course they also in him. Here, again, it is impossible not to descry another shadow of the gospel. God, having constituted Christ a High Priest for ever, distinctly engages to accept all who through him supplicate his favour. Hence Christ says, "I am the Way: … no man cometh unto the Father, but by me;" and the writer to the Hebrews declares that "he is able to save unto the uttermost all them that come unto God through him."
4. The warning appended. "Lest I deal with you after your folly." That is to say, unless they fit d for refuge to this hope set before them, they could not escape the punishment their folly merited. If they complied with the Divine instruction, they were safe; if they declined, they would suffer. So likewise has the gospel its warbling. If sinful men flee to Christ, the one Mediator between God and man, they will certainly be delivered; if they do not, they shall just as certainly be destroyed.
5. The obedience rendered. "So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite went, and did according as the Lord commanded them." And in so doing they expressed their penitence—they tacitly acknowledged their offence; their faith—they acted precisely as the Lord had commanded; their humility—they sought the friendly offices of one whom they had regarded as an outcast; their submission—they acquiesced in the Divine verdict, though it had gone against them. In all this they show to sinful men a pattern of how the guilty should draw near to God.
III. THE SETTLEMENT OF THE FIRST OR FUNDAMENTAL CONTROVERSY BETWEEN JEHOVAH AND SATAN. (Verses 9-17.) It has been repeatedly explained (Job 1:9, homiletics) that controversy is here also ended by the action of God, who, by delivering his servant from the furnace of affliction and reinstating him in even more than his former prosperity, virtually pronounces judgment against the devil. Job has not been a fair-weather professor of religion, but an earnest and sincere follower of Heaven, clinging to his piety amidst the severest reverses, and not only serving God for nought, but adhering to him even when it seemed that God had cast him off. It was, therefore, useless to continue the experiment a moment longer. Accordingly it is stated, "The Lord also accepted Job." Four things are mentioned as giving unmistakable evidence el Jehovah's acceptance of his servant.
1. The cessation of his trial. "And the Lord"—that marks the Author of Job's deliverance—"turned the captivity of Job;" that describes its joy, it was like the coming home from exile; "when he prayed for his friends;" that specifies its time, when Job was interceding with Heaven in behalf of others.
2. The return of his prosperity. "Also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before;" "fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she-asses;" but only the same number of children as before—"seven sons and three daughters," perhaps because the former seven and three were not lost, but only gone before. They who lose all for God on earth will not be losers in the end. Job received twice as much as he had before. Christ's followers are promised "an hundredfold more in this world, and in the world to come life everlasting."
3. The sympathy of his friends. "Then came there unto him all his brethren, and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance before." During the time of his desolation they had deserted him, as he pathetically complained (Job 19:13-19), thinking him an object of Divine displeasure. Now they return with the first symptoms of returning prosperity. "And they bemoaned him, and comforted him over all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him." A little of this would have cheered him when in the depths; but, alas! then it was awanting. Let it not, however, be asserted that their display of sympathy was purely superficial, that in fact they were a company of hypocrites, since they at least offered a small token of their honesty in every one presenting him with gifts. "Every man also gave him a piece of money, and every one an earring of gold."
4. The happiness of his old age. Surrounded by a family of fair daughters and noble sons, as in the beginning of his days, and possessed of a constantly augmenting estate, the devout patriarch glided peacefully along the stream of life, till at length he reached the grave an old man and full of days, having lived after the cessation of his afflictions a hundred and forty years, and seen his sons, and his sons' sons, even four generations.
1. That only that piety is sincere which exalts God and abases self.
2. That no man can truly know himself until he has first known God.
3. That true repentance ever springs from a believing apprehension of God.
4. That God is deeply displeased with those who misrepresent either himself or his ways.
5. That a good man may commit many faults without forfeiting the Divine favour.
6. That the Law of Moses was not the first or the only shadow of the good things to come.
7. That from the first the sinful world possessed a way of salvation.
8. That the essential element in justifying faith is for all men the same, viz. obedience to the revealed will of God.
9. That God's people are commonly most blessed themselves when trying to promote the good of others.
10. That God will yet turn the captivity of all his suffering people, causing their night of sorrow to be followed by a morning of joy.
11. That God will not forsake his people who adhere to him.
12. That a peaceful old age in the bosom of a pious family is one of the choicest blessings a saint can enjoy on this side of heaven.
13. That notwithstanding God can give a saint on earth unspeakable felicity, it is better that the saint should ultimately die and go to heaven.
Job 42:5, Job 42:6
Hearsay and vision.
I. HEARSAY IS NOT VISION. Hearsay may be distinguished from vision two ways.
1. In respect of its nature. Hearsay, as the term signifies in common speech, is information received at second hand, by report, in contrast to that derived from personal observation and experience, which it is usual to describe as seeing. When applied to our knowledge of Divine things* the former may be understood as signifying all that instruction which comes to us from without, all that we receive from tradition, whatever is imparted to us by parents, teachers, ministers, that which we extract from catechisms, religious books, and even from our Bibles by our ordinary faculties of perception and reason—in short, everything commonly included in the phrase, "the letter of the truth;" the latter points to such a direct, personal, intimate acquaintance with God and truth as the soul obtains when, breathed on by that heavenly breath which, according to Elihu, is the source of all spiritual illumination, it looks outward and upward through the opened window of faith.
2. In respect of its effects. "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear," exclaims the patriarch; but what then? This hearsay knowledge left me a prey to serious misconceptions both as to thyself and myself—permitted me to fancy thee an unjust Judge, an inequitable Sovereign, an arbitrary Ruler, an implacable Foe; and myself a harshly treated and cruelly oppressed saint. And so for the most part that knowledge of God which is purely external, intellectual, dogmatical, has little power to change the heart and life, or even to conduct the mind to just conceptions of the character of God. But, on the other hand, when this hearsay has been transmuted into vision, and the soul has arrived at a truthful idea of the character of God as a Being all-powerful, holy, wise, just, and loving,l! immediately the self-righteous sinner is discovered prostrate in the dust, like Job, crying, "Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes;" like Isaiah in the temple, "Woe is me!" like St. Peter in his boat upon the sea of Galilee, "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord!"
II. HEARSAY MAY BECOME VISION. This may be held as proved by the ease of Job.
1. The manner of its transmutation. An experience similar to that of Job must take place in every instance in which a soul passes from a mere hearsay knowledge to a believing vision of God.
(1) As Jehovah came to Job in the whirlwind, and made to him a personal revelation of his character as a Being of awful majesty, ineffable wisdom, and infinite power, so must God with a like disclosure of himself approach the human soul. This God has done; not, however, "in rainbow wreath and robe of storm," but in the meek and lowly form of a sinless, suffering humanity—in the Person of Jesus Christ.
(2) As in Job's case there must have been a corresponding influence exerted on the mind of Job to enable him to apprehend the revelation given, so in that of all who attain to his position of spiritual Perception, "the eyes of the understanding must be opened."
2. The time of its transmutation. The season in which Job was honoured to receive the sublime theophany which exerted such a marvellous, subduing influence upon his soul, was one of intense bodily affliction, and deep mental and spiritual anxiety; and so mostly it is found that such are the seasons God selects for discovering himself and his grace to the soul. As Christ came to his disciples on the sea of Galilee when they were toiling in rowing, and said to them, "Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid," no does he still come to souls when they are tossed upon the sea of doubt and fear.
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
Job's answer and confession.
It Consists of—
I. THE HUMBLE ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF GOD'S POWER. (Verse 2.) God can do everything; and no "beginning," no germinating or budding thought, is hidden from him; he sees it alike in its origin, development, and end. Both the fearful forms of force in the animal life of nature, and the striking destinies of individual men, are constant proofs of the presence of him who governs the world in power and in justice.
II. AS ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF HIS OWN IGNORANCE AND WEAKNESS. (Verse 3.) Justly did God rebuke him in the question, "Who darkeneth counsel without understanding?" He has been passing judgment on matters he did not understand, drawing conclusions from imperfect premisses, dealing with things that are and must remain to us mysterious, as if they could be explained by the rules of a limited experience. [t is this haste, this childish impatience of suspense, which drives some into discontent and murmuring, others into unbelief and atheism. A haste to speak before our thought is ripe, a haste to judge before the materials of judgment are at hand,—these lead in human intercourse and in Divine relations to false positions, which must be sooner or later abandoned. But we see in Job—
III. THE EXPRESSION AND THE ACT OF PENITENT. (Verses 4-6.) Quoting (verse 4) the summons of Jehovah at the beginning of his discourses (Job 38:3 and Job 40:7), he gives the answer alone befitting and required. He had before heard of God, i.e. had had an indirect and imperfect acquaintance with God. There is a knowledge of God at second hand, which is insufficient to bring us to the sense of our true relations to him (comp. Psalms 48:9). We hear about God from the sources of early instruction, parents, teachers, pulpits, and books, and yet may thus not be brought into personal communication with God. In contrast to this is the personal vision of God. Not with the eyes of the body, but with the deeper view of the mind—the intellectual intuition, the contemplation of the Invisible through his creative manifestations (Romans 1:19, Romans 1:20). This immediate view of God produces at once a new view of sell. To see that God is infinite is to see that we are finite; to behold his perfection is to be sensible of our own imperfection; to acknowledge him to be in the right is to confess that our thoughts are wrong; to be amazed and enraptured with his glory is to loathe our own meanness. Yet these thoughts may exist in the mind, and yet be without result except that of conscious misery. But their tendency and their purpose are to produce repentance, as we see in the example of Job. And here we mark the traits of a true repentance. It is to" recall" the idle word, the impious thought; and it is to reverse the attitude of the mind from that of presumption and pride to that of submission and humility. So in dust and ashes, with pride abased, overcome by the Divine majesty, would Job offer those sacrifices which God does not despise (Psalms 51:1-19.). In returning to God he returns to his true spirit and attitude of patience. Out of this, by the provocation of his friends, he had allowed himself to be mused. But now hearing the rod, and who hath appointed it, kissing the hand that hath smitten, he waits in silence until the blessing of the Most High anew exalts the sincere penitent.—J.
Conclusion of the story.
I. THE DIVINE JUSTIFICATION OF JOB. (Job 42:7-10.) The cure of the inward sickness of the sufferer's spirit is followed here, as we often see in the course of life, by outward health and happiness.
1. The reproof of the friends. (Job 42:7.) Addressing Eliphaz, as their chief spokesman, Jehovah declares his displeasure that they have not spoken the truth concerning him. Not that they have spoken with wilful dishonesty, but that they have been in error. There has been a want of heart, and therefore a want of right thought. They have refused to receive the testimony of a brother's substantial innocence; have persistently tried to fix on him a guilt which did not exist. The habit of censeriousness, the habitual exclusion of charity from our feelings, vitiates and falsifies the whole course of our thought. The grave question arises, whether any intellectual error can in the end escape condemnation; whether the very definition of such error is not the thought arising from an evil state of heart. But Job, on the other hand, has spoken the substantial truth, and for the opposite reason. Again and again we have seen how his contention is for truth; and how, beneath all the irritation of his hasty words, there has been throbbing a heart true to God. And now comes the hour of recognition, as it ever will come for every faithful soul. What a blissful sound is there in those words of recognition and of pardon and of justification, "My servant Job"! What grace in the long-delayed, but now fully granted answer to the prayer (Job 16:21) that right may be done before God and his friends! But let us clearly grasp and retain the principle and the contents of this Divine judgment. The friends spoke ill, and Job spoke well. This is the Divine judgment. On what ground is it based? Their one point was this: affliction is the evidence of God's wrath, and of the afflicted one's guilt. And they were wrong. Job's insistence is that afflictions are not always the sign of the sufferer's guilt nor of the anger of God. And Job is right. And there remains the grand principle illustrated by the discourses of Jehovah, and on which this judgment rests, that affliction comes from the will of supreme power and justice. And this is so, although the reasons of affliction cannot by our imperfect intelligence be fully known. At the same time, the judgment on this great point at issue does not exclude the elements of truth and beauty to be richly found in the discourses of the friends; nor does it excuse the passion and the hasty speeches of Job.
2. Sacrifice for sin and intercessoty prayer. (Verses 8, 9.) The friends are directed to perform an act of worship, the character el which appears to point back to early times (comp. Numbers 23:1; Genesis 7:2, Genesis 7:3; Genesis 8:20, et seq.). All outward sacrifices were the visible expression of inward feelings, of thankfulness and joy, of reverence, and especially, as here, of the desire of the penitent to renounce his sin and be at one with his God. Blood was the most sacred symbol, because it was the expression of life. The life of the animal offered in sacrifice represents the life of the worshipper surrendered to God. Hence for us the deep significance of the "blood of Christ;" and the highest act of worship is the presenting ourselves, body, soul, and spirit, to God through Christ and his sacrifice; that is, with his spiritual sacrifice present to the eye of the spirit, as the ancient animal sacrifice was present to the bodily eye of the early worshipper. Then, on the other hand, sacrifice as divinely ordained is a language from God to us, as well as one on our part to God. It bespeaks the willingness of God to enter into relations of peace with man. It therefore announces the possibility of repentance and of forgiveness conditional upon repentance; and so calls man to turn, to be converted and healed. Thus regarded and used, the great Christian sacrament is a powerful means of grace, and is most appropriately resorted to at such great epochs of spiritual history as that here set before us. Again, the passage brings to notice the privilege of intercession. "Pray for one another, that ye may be healed" As the intercession of Abraham for Abimelech is honoured, so now is Job appointed a mediator and intercessor for those who have forfeited a measure of Divine grace, and thus the prophecy of Eliphaz (Job 22:30) is realized. We are encouraged in the New Testament to pray for one another. The great law of mediation runs through life (comp. Butler's 'Analogy'), and this is one of its illustrations. A value is justly attached to good men's prayers. How far this privilege extends, and what are its limits, we do not know. It belongs to spiritual laws, the operation of which cannot be fully verified in the field of experience. It is a truth revealed in the heart and for the heart; and the heart has reasons, as Pascal says, which reason knows not. Let us sacredly guard the oracles of the heart, and thankfully receive every ray of confirmatory light that actual experience affords. The song of a tiny bird by the wayside which brings us comfort, may be a messenger of God to the soul; and the prayer of our feebleness for those whom we know not otherwise how to assist may effect a far-working good, as may theirs for us. But what a beautiful touch is this in the narrative, "Jehovah turned the captivity of Job while he was praying for his friends"! For it points to the fact that amongst the best moments of our life are those in which we lose sight of self in thought for others; when we can forgive and forget the injuries we have received from others, and seek their good in deeds of kindness, in words of prayer.
II. RESTORATION OF OUTWARD PROSPERITY. (Verses 11-17.) "Twice as much as he had before." God takes away only to enrich, never to ruin and destroy, the faithful heart. He knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation; and as we have seen throughout the book the powers by which he leads souls to himself more nearly, so here we see his "end" (James 5:7-11; 1 Corinthians 10:13). The swallow-like friendship of men, vanishing as the winter of trouble draws on, returning when the sun of prosperity gains power once more, is contrasted with t he enduring, never-changing friendship of the eternal, one God. The life, then, the sufferings, the triumph and happy end of Job, are a type for all ages of the lot of the Christian, of the child of God. A harmony of the inward spirit with the outward surroundings is necessary to the completeness of life. This restored possession of wealth and honour is a happier state than his life's beginning, because it is a state more truly in relation to God. All that he has and enjoys he now possesses for God's sake. God is revealed in his gifts, and from his presence and love they derive their savour. Deus meus et omnia! "My God and my all!" is the motto of the heart purified and humbled by affliction. The darkness and the mystery pass away from the life when the great secret is discovered that in all outward changes "God is God to me." Here is a type of him who was humbled to the death of the cross, and who, because he, though a Son, learned obedience by the things he suffered, received a name above every name. What, then, have we to do, as followers of him, but to commit ourselves to God as to a faithful Creator; to receive what he assigns us humbly, and enjoy it thankfully, knowing that by denying us many things on which our hearts are set, he is doing us the greatest kindness in the world, which is to "keep us from temptation," and by keeping us from temptation, to "deliver us from evil," and by delivering us from evil, to prepare and fit us for all the good that can be desired, and for himself, the endless inexhaustible Fountain of it, "in whose presence there is fulness of joy, and at whose right hand there are pleasures for evermore"? To whom be ascribed all praise, might, majesty, and dominion for ever. Amen.—J.
HOMILIES BY R. GREEN
Job, chastened with severe afflictions, harassed by the biting words of incompetent teachers, and now by the Divine voice humbled into the very dust, makes his lowly confession unto Almighty God, and casts himself upon the Divine forbearance and mercy. The confession of this truly humble, lowly, contrite, and obedient heart embraces—
I. A JUST APPREHENSION OF THE DIVINE POWER. The ability of God to work all in all—to do whatsoever he pleaseth. "Now I know that thou canst do everything."
II. A LOWLY RECOGNITION OF THE DIVINE KNOWLEDGE. "No thought can be withholden from thee." Not only the visible works of the world are before the eye of the Almighty, but the very thoughts and intents of the mind (verse 2).
III. A BECOMING ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF PERSONAL IGNORANCE, ERROR, AND PRESUMPTION. (Verse 3.) Before God Job confesses his faults, though in presence of man he maintained his untarnished integrity. But he who may feel himself able to answer to his fellow may fall silent before the infinitely Holy One. Job's confession reveals—
IV. A LOWLY PENITENCE, which finds its expression in fervent prayer (verse 4). Job is willing to be taught of God. He abandons his own self-confident boasting. He is truly humbled. All this is produced by—
V. A VIVID PERCEPTION OF THE SUPREME NATURE OF GOD. He is not dependent for this upon the teachings of friends. "Now mine eye seeth thee." The true vision of God humbles the proudest heart. It is finally perfected—
VI. IN SELF-ABHORRENCE AND SINCERE REPENTANCE. This is the end of all When man has reached his lowest estate he may be lifted up. The whole course of Job's affliction with the whole teaching of the poem brings the sufferer in penitent, contrite humiliation to the footstool of Divine mercy. "In dust and ashes" Job repents, renounces all his claim to self-righteousness, and casts himself upon that God who has declared himself to be just, to care for his creatures, and to wait as with open ear to listen to the voice of their cry. Job is truly broken before God. All his pride is crushed. He is a lowly suppliant. He justifies God in his own self-condemnation.—R.G.
The Divine vindication of Job.
The poem ends in undimmed brightness. The great ends of suffering have been answered. Job has been put to the proof and tried, and he has been found faithful. God has permitted all the joy and light of his life to be wiped out. His faithful servant of whom it was said, "There is none like him in the earth," has been subjected to the severest tests; yet, according to the Divine assertion, he has spoken of God "the thing that is right." Now he who had appeared to be Job's enemy appears as his true Vindicator, and bears his witness and high testimony to Job's fidelity. The Divine vindication of Job embraces—
I. AN ASSERTION OF THE ERROR OF HIS ENEMIES. (Verse 7.) They had not spoken of God the thing that was right, and their unjust accusations of Job are found to have had no foundation in truth.
II. A TESTIMONY TO JOB'S RIGHTEOUSNESS. (Verses 7, 8.) As the heart is so the lips speak; and Job had spoken that which was right. To this Jehovah bears witness. But a higher testimony is forthcoming—
III. IN THE DECLARATION OF THE ACCEPTABILITY OF HIS PRIESTLY SERVICE. "Him will I accept." Even the self-assured teachers who could find so many faults with Job are now directed to bring their offering to him that he may intercede for them. It was the utmost humiliation of them (verse 9) and the utmost elevation of him. "The Lord also accepted Job."
IV. A further vindication is given IN THE SPECIAL MARKS OF THE DIVINE FAVOUR SHOWN TO JOB.
1. His affliction was removed. "His captivity was turned."
2. He was enriched with abundant possessions. "The Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before" (verse 12).
3. His friendships were restored (verse 11).
4. He was enriched by the tokens of sympathy and good will. "Every man also gave him a piece of money, and every one an ear-ring of gold."
5. His family joys were restored to him (verses 13-16).
6. His life was prolonged in honour and happiness (verses 16, 17). "So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning."—R.G.
The gathered lessons.
This remarkable book we close with the persuasion that whilst its separate statements are full of teaching, the whole idea is to be summed up in a few plain and obvious lessons; such as the following:—
I. THE GOOD MAN MAY RECEIVE TOKENS OF THE DIVINE BLESSING IN THE FORM OF HEALTH, HONOUR, AND FAMILY JOY.
II. THE GOOD MAN, THOUGH MAINTAINING HIS INTEGRITY, MAY LOSE HIS POSSESSIONS, HIS HEALTH, AND HIS FAMILY JOY THROUGH THE TESTINGS AND TEMPTATIONS OF SATAN.
III. THAT THE HONOR OF EVEN A GOOD MAN MAY BE TEMPORARILY OVERSHADOWED BY UNTOWARD CIRCUMSTANCES.
IV. THAT THE LOSS OF ALL THINGS, AND THE ENDURANCE OF SUFFERINGS BY THE FAITHFUL, ARE NOT ALWAYS TO BE INTERPRETED INTO TOKENS OF THE DIVINE DISPLEASURE.
V. THAT IT IS POSSIBLE FOR THE GOOD TO MAINTAIN THEIR INTEGRITY UNIMPAIRED AMIDST GREAT LOSS, PAIN, AND SORROW.
VI. THAT TO HIM WHO MAINTAINS HIS INTEGRITY AND RIGHTEOUSNESS IN THE TIME OF CALAMITY GOD WILL GIVE A FINAL TESTIMONY OF APPROVAL.
VII. THAT THE END OF AFFLICTION AND SORROW IS THE PURIFICATION OF THE CHARACTER, AND THE GLORY OF GOD.
VIII. THAT THE VINDICATION OF THE CHARACTER OF THE GOOD IS IN THE HANDS OF THE LORD.
So the Book of Job harmonizes with the general teaching of the entire Word of God. Its many beautiful, simple truths scattered in such profusion are as so many separate flowers; but the whole presents the appearance of a well-watered garden. The book has its place of high importance in that book which is for the education of the world. It has served its purpose as a medium for the revelation of important truths, and it has been made a means of blessing to thousands of afflicted ones who have "heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; how that the Lord is full of pity, and merciful" (James 5:11).—R.G.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
Job 42:1, Job 42:2
The confession of God's supremacy.
At last the end has come to the discipline of Job. He is brought to more than resignation—to a clear perception of the supremacy of God, and to a humble submission to it.
I. THE FACT OF GOD'S SUPREMACY. This is what Job has now come to see. God is supreme both in power and in wisdom.
1. In power. There is no resisting his might. He does as he will with the children of men. Even "the king of the children of pride" is one of his creatures, endowed with the might he has given, and subject to the laws he has imposed. All rebellion against God's will must be futile. It can be no better than dashing one's self against a granite cliff. But if God is so powerful when opposed to us, he is equally powerful as our Saviour. He uses his might to further what is good as well as to thwart what is evil. If he can cast the mighty down, he can lift. the helpless up.
2. In knowledge. There is thought in all the work of God. But God's thought also penetrates to all that we do. No excuses or subterfuges can enable us to elude his searching glance. He knows the hidden sin. But he also knows the hidden sorrow; and the misjudged sufferer is quite understood by God. Friends may calumniate, as they calumniated Job; but God knows all.
II. THE KNOWLEDGE OF THIS FACT. Job is now brought to see that God is supreme in power and knowledge. He may have admitted the truth in words all along. But he did not appreciate it until the end of his long trial. In his very natural but very foolish complaints he was virtually ignoring the great truth which he is now confessing. How, then, has he come at length to perceive it as by the flash of a new revelation?
1. Through suffering. Many lessons are being taught by the strange experience of Job; among them some are for his own benefit. Suffering opens our eyes to our own littleness and to the greatness of God.
2. By means of the works of nature. The great theophany, wherein God called to Job out of the whirlwind, led to a display of some of the grandest works of God, first in the physical forces of the universe, and then in the most wonderful creatures of the animal world. A study of nature should lead us to perceive both the power and the wisdom of God.
III. THE CONFESSION. It is one thing for God to be supreme, and another thing for man to know that he is. Yet a third stage is reached when the truth is-frankly admitted and openly confessed. It is our duty to confess the supremacy of God.
1. For the glory of God. We rob him of his own when we ignore his great power and wisdom. Worship, which acknowledges the greatness of God, and adores him, not only for might and knowledge, but also for righteousness and love, is a right and fitting exercise for all spiritual beings.
2. For our own guidance and assurance. The confession will help us to obey God. It will also aid us in the attempt to bear the strange distresses of life. When the confession advances beyond what Job saw, surely submission should be more perfect. If we are to be patient when we see that God is almighty and all-wise, we should be confident when we go on to see that he is just and merciful.—W.F.A.
The soul's experience of God.
This is a grand experience for Job to attain to. It is worth all the agony and mystery of his bitter affliction. Suddenly the black clouds break open and the glorious vision of God appears beyond them. Job now contrasts his new, direct seeing of God with his former hearsay knowledge.
I. A HEARSAY KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. This is what Job possessed in the old days. Not that he was without any religious experience in those prosperous times. But the shallowness of it in comparison with what he has now attained makes it look of little worth. Most of us begin in this way. We hear of God "by the hearing of the ear." This is especially true in a Christian country. Here we seem to breathe a Christian atmosphere, and Christian ideas float in upon us unsought. But the faint perception of God that is acquired in this way cannot be of very great value to us. Historical facts can only be known by testimony, and the facts of the gospel must reach us through "the hearing of the ear." But we have got a very little way when we have only come to understand and believe in the historical character of those facts. We are still only among the antiquarian relics at a museum. There is no life in such a knowledge, and it has little influence over us.
II. A PERSONAL VISION OF GOD. "Now mine eye seeth thee." Job had longed for a revelation of God; at length he has received one. But this was not in a vision like those of Jacob at Bethel or Moses at Horeb. It was not after the manner of the startling apparition that Eliphaz describes with so much pomp and self-importance (Job 4:12-21). It was the calm inward vision of spiritual experience, which is indeed an experience of God.
1. This has been brought about through trouble. In his great distress Job has been continually seeking God. His grief has strengthened his hold upon the unseen world by making him feel that world to be most real.
2. God has spoken and manifested himself, Religion is not a one-sided effort of man to reach after God. God descends to man, and the communion of God's Spirit with man's spirit is the deepest fact in religious experience.
3. This interior vision of God is what all our souls need. We have to go beyond the hearing of sermons to our own personal experience of God. Then we begin to understand him; then he becomes real to us; then we can say with Tsuler, "I am more certain of the being of God than I am of my own existence."
III. THE EFFECT OF THE NEW EXPERIENCE.
1. It leads to self-humiliation It is vain any longer to boast of our own rights and to make the most of ourselves. We cannot think of ourselves but with shame and. confusion of face in the light of the new vision of God. When once he manifests himself to us, he is everything.
2. It awakens repentance. In the light of God we not only see our littleness, we perceive our sire This vision had done for Job what all the harangues of his three friends had failed to effect. They had charged him falsely, and his pride had been hardened by their unjust accusations. God had not charged him at all, but the very vision of the Divine at once revealed his mistaken position to Job. He saw that he had been wrong in arraigning the justice of God. So it will ever be. We never know ourselves till we see ourselves in the light of God.—W.F.A.
The accusers accused.
Job is first dealt with; when he has Been brought to a right state of mind, God turns to the three friends. They have been permitted to play their Part without any interference on the part of God, and perhaps they have regarded his silence as a mark of acquiescence. Now their time has come.
I. THEY WHO ACCUSE OTHERS LAY THEMSELVES OUT TO BE ACCUSED. Even when they act innocently this is the case. The censor should be above reproach. His action shows that he is awake to moral considerations, that he is not unable to perceive them, that he sets a high value on them. Then he should apply them to himself. "Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things" (Romans 2:1). Further, the habit of censoriousness provokes accusations. It shows an unkind and a proud spirit. There is not the motive of compassion to lead us to pass lightly over his faults in the case of a censorious person, which influences us when we have to do with one of a modest and kindly disposition (Matthew 7:1-7).
II. GOD IS ANGRY WITH THOSE WHO ADVOCATE HIS CAUSE UNRIGHTEOUSLY. This was the great fault of the three friends. They represented themselves as God's champions, and professed to speak for God when they arraigned Job. Yet they spoke what was not right. God cannot hut be angry when he is thus misrepresented. He does not seek the low-toned homage of the courtier who cares only to propitiate his Master, regardless of right and truth. Some of the people who think themselves God's best friends will have a great deal to answer for when their just and righteous Lord calls them to account. No falsehood can please God, and least of all can one please him that professes to be uttered for his benefit. This is not a case in which the end justifies the means. It is most grievous in the sight of God, because it dishonours his Name. We cannot depend on unjust actions By representing them as beneficial to the cause of religion. A false theology is not redeemed by the pretext that it glorifies God.
III. THE TRUE REVENGE IS TO "HEAP COALS OF FIRE" ON MEN BY DEEDS OF KINDNESS. Job is fully and gloriously avenged. Not only is his innocence of the gross charges brought against him by his friends made clear, not only are they condemned by God, but Job is called upon to intercede for their pardon. Thus in the first place they are thoroughly humiliated, as Haman was when he was condemned to lead the horse of Mordecai Esther 6:9, Esther 6:10). But Job is far too magnanimous to triumph over their defeat, Even when he is interceding for them, we may be sure that his action betrays no pride. For has he not been repenting himself in dust and ashes (verse 6)? Assuredly Job's intercession was generous and heartfelt. He could afford to forgive when he had himself been graciously accepted by God. The best vengeance we can have on those who ill-treat us is to pray for them, not in hypocritical self-righteousness, but in true-hearted, unaffected kindness. This is Christ's method. He subdues his enemies by dying for them.—W.F.A.
The captivity turned.
I. THE REVERSAL.
1. A true reversal. Job's troubles have come to an end. That was a long avenue of fire which he was made to pass through; but the terminus was reached at last. Man may be "born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward" (Job 5:7); but he is not born to everlasting trouble. St. Paul writes of "our light affliction, which is but for a moment" (2 Corinthians 4:17). Present distress is not a presage of future evil. The very blackness of the clouds that gather about our heads in the dark hour prevents us from seeing the distant prospect where sunshine awaits those who are faithful in trial. There is room for hope, even if we see no light, for though trouble may be lengthy, love outlasts it; "the mercy of the Lord endureth for ever."
2. A Divine reversal. Satan inflicted the blows, though with the permission of God. It is God himself who brings back prosperity. Through whatever channels and instruments evil may come upon us, good comes from the hand of God. Satan simply disappears from the drama. His bold assertions are so absolutely refuted, and he is so completely discomfited, that he passes into oblivion. In the day of the Lord, God's action is everything.
II. ITS OCCASION. Why did the reversal come when it did? Why not earlier? Why not later? The note of time is significant. God reversed the fortune of Job "when he prayed for his friends."
1. In humility. Job was first brought very low. His fidelity had been severely tested, and it had stood the strain. Job did not "curse God and die." Satan's charge was abundantly refuted. Job was not serving God only for the profits accruing from religion. Disinterested devotion was proved to be possible. Yet Job was not faultless. At least there were advantages to be gained by discipline. It would have been cruel to have used him as an unconscious example for the settlement of a question with which he had no concern, like the victim of vivisection. This was not the case. Elihu showed how God trained and educated his children in the school of affliction. Job had been to that school, and there he had learnt humility and a true appreciation of the greatness of God, whom man cannot judge.
2. In kindness. Job bears no grudge against his three friends. He intercedes for them in genuine concern for their condition under the wrath of God. When he shows a forgiving spirit God is most merciful to him. This is not the formal return of payment; but it is a gracious reward, and it is a favour shown to one who is fit to accept it. For we are never so fit to receive good fortune as when we are chiefly occupied in kindly concern for others. Selfish prayers do not bring a blessing. We are most blessed when we forget ourselves in praying for others.
III. ITS EFFECTS. Job's fortune is doubled. God never blesses imperfectly. He does not simply mend and patch up the broken life. He heals and renews and blesses with superabundant kindness. Job's fortune was but external. This was according to the ideas of primitive time& Christ has led us to look for higher blessings. The Christian Job may never recover his property or his health; and yet in his afflictions he may receive his greatest heritage of blessing from Heaven. But whatever be the form of God's blessing, it is great and wonderful. The Christian has more than a Paradise regained. The second Adam brings a kingdom of heaven that is more precious than the lost Eden. The soul that has been tried by fire has a richer inheritance in God than it ever had in the old days of peace. The discipline of sorrow is the key to wonderful treasures of heavenly joy.—W.F.A.
The return of prosperity.
Job is now restored to the favour of God. The result is earthly prosperity. With our Christian light we know that this does not always follow, nor is it the best blessing. But as the portrait of Job is painted in the colours of his day, we must accept the lessons which it contains in sympathy with his age and circumstances. Let us, then, look at the ingredients of the new prosperity.
I. A REVIVAL OF OLD FRIENDSHIPS. We are horrified to have it brought distinctly before us on the last page of the book that Job had had brothers and sisters as well as other acquaintances during the whole time of his affliction; and yet they had discreetly retired from the unpleasant neighbourhood of the afflicted man. Now they reappear with his prosperity. This common experience of life is often commented on with some bitterness. But Job shows no bitterness. His grand soul forgets the previous unkindness In his own humility he ignores the faults of his brethren. With princely magnanimity he accepts their presents when he does not need them, though they had not thought fit to offer them him in the time of his dire necessity. This is the Christ-spirit. There is no true happiness in selfish isolation. Even though our acquaintances may not deserve much attention, it is a miserably selfish thing to throw them off. Generosity is a mark of genuine health of soul. The Christian must learn to be brotherly and to cultivate social sympathies.
II. A RECOVERY OF GREAT POSSESSIONS. Job is now richer than ever, and he is now more than ever fitted to hold wealth. He will receive it back with double gratitude. He will recognize more clearly that it all comes from the hand of God. Having himself suffered from hardships and troubles, he will be the better able to succour the afflicted. Therefore he can well be trusted with great wealth. It is not every good man to whom wealth would be a blessing, or who would make a good use of it. But when God gives temporal prosperity to one of his true servants, this should be accepted not only as a token of his kindness, but also as a trust. The talents are increased; so is the responsibility.
III. THE GIFT OF A NEW FAMILY. Property is a poor recompense to offer to the bereaved and desolate man. A true father values his children above all flocks and herds. Job is to be restored in all respects. And yet we cannot but feel that to have more children, but other ones, could not make up for the loss of the first family. Job's fatherly heart could not have been thus easily satisfied. All we can say is that the picture of the return of prosperity is made as complete as it could be. But we have a brighter prospect through Christ in again meeting the blessed dead, who are not lost, but who have only gone on before us.
IV. THE ENJOYMENT OF FULNESS OF LIFE. Job lives to a green old age. In his misery he had prayed for death; in his renewed prosperity life is a boon. The value of life depends on the use that is made of it. In Christ the poorest earthly life is rich; and the most unfortunate life is well worth living when it is given to God. But the Old Testament blessedness of long life is enlarged in the New Testament, and appears as the gift of eternal life—the greatest blessing enjoyed by God's redeemed children.—W.F.A.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Job 42". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent