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DAYS FEW AND EVIL
‘Of few days and full of trouble.’
There are two things connected with human life that Job grieves over: (1) the brevity of life, and (2) its sorrow.
I. The brevity of life.—‘He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down,’ or is ‘withered.’ There is hopefulness at the beginning; there is beauty in the opening life; there is much that predicts joy in the future of the child with his growing intelligence, and with his developing faculties. He comes forth into life opening his petals to the sun; while every day shows some new gleam of intelligence that never appeared before. Life becomes increasingly beautiful in its complexity as he, like a flower, claims kinship with the heavens, though the roots are in the earth. But like the flower, too, he is tender as he is beautiful, frail and delicate as he is prophetic—‘He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down.’ The disappointment—the contradiction to all hope and prophecy—is keen and sad. This figure is supplemented by another—‘He fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.’ The human heart protests against the thought of annihilation; indeed, all nature protests against it. There is no such thing in God’s physical universe. Even the cloud that comes and goes has not ceased. Here Job’s heart recoils at the thought of man coming and ceasing to be.
And what is the next step? Life, according to Job, being so transient and so disappointing, the very loveliness of the opening flower making the disappointment the more bitter, he asks God, ‘Dost Thou open Thine eyes upon such an one, and bringest me into judgment with thee?’
II. But here Job comes face to face with another fact. Life is the transient, troubled thing it is because of its sin.—He therefore asks in despair, ‘Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?’ Not one. Then follow other significant words, ‘Seeing his days are determined.… Turn from him, that he may rest,’ etc. In other words, Job asks God not to wither such a feeble transient thing as man with his glance; but to let him pass through his brief life and service as soon as possible, and then, like the weary hireling, rest. He prays that such a short, troubled, disappointing life should not be aggravated by God’s rebukes and judgments. If he were to last for ever, if there were a great future opening up before him, it were otherwise.
Job pleads that, seeing that man has no scope for liberty, he should have no burden of responsibility. It is the language of the human heart after all that we have here, although the words were wildly uttered in the dark; and God could understand all, and was patient with the man who uttered them. It is ever true that to the measure there is no liberty there should be no responsibility.
We have thus here the heart of man yearning for justice; finding false expression, it is true, and misrepresenting life all too gloomily; but yet the heart of a man who is as sincere as he is desperate. Brethren, I say it with reverence, God could and did understand and appreciate the sense of justice that underlay these mad, wild utterances. Job did not comprehend life. He did not understand the meaning of God’s dealing with him; but one thing he had mastered—the basis of eternal justice: namely, that where there is responsibility there should be liberty. The language here is, indeed, one of despair, and as such utterly unworthy of a man of faith; but it is not the language of blasphemy.
‘Such is the brief record of human life. We inherit the faults and foibles, the good and bad, of our ancestors. We get to the end of our life just as our experience is ripe and we are beginning to understand. For most of us the chalice of life is full of trouble. There is no knowing what a day may bring forth; and at any moment the clouds may be marshalled in the sky for a storm. But that is not all. “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” ’
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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Job 14". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13