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Parker's The People's Bible Parker's The People's Bible
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Job 40". Parker's The People's Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ jpb/ job-40.html. 1885-95.
Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Job 40". Parker's The People's Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
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We have now come to the portion of the Book of Job which is known as the Theophany, or Appearance, that is to say, the appearance of the Divine Being. Let us set forth the sacred speech in its fulness and unity:
1. Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind [a voice without a form], and said,
2. Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?
3. Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.
4. Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth [or founded the earth]? declare if thou hast understanding.
5. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? [Intimating absolute order and law.]
6. Whereupon are the foundations [not the same word as in verse four] thereof fastened [or sunk]? or who laid the corner stone thereof;
7. When the morning-stars sang together [the stars preceded the earth], and all the sons of God [angels] shouted for joy?
8. Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb? [The ocean is personified as a new-born giant.]
9. When I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddling-band for it,
10. And brake up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors,
11. And said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed?
12. Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days [any day in thy little life]; and caused the day-spring to know his place;
13. That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, that the wicked might be shaken out of it? [Note the material and moral effects of light].
14. It is turned as clay to the seal [it is changed as seal-clay]; and they stand as a garment [all things stand out as a garment].
15. And from the wicked their light is withholden, and the high arm shall be broken.
16. Hast thou entered into the springs [weepings] of the sea? or hast thou walked in the search [vain search] of the depth?
17. Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death?
18. Hast thou perceived [comprehended] the breadth of the earth? declare if thou knowest it all.
19. Where is the way [the land] where light dwelleth? and as for darkness, where is the place thereof?
20. That thou shouldest take it to the bound thereof, and that thou shouldest know the paths to the house thereof?
21. Knowest thou it, because thou wast then born? or because the number of thy days is great?
22. Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail,
23. Which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war?
24. By what way is the light parted, which scattereth the east wind upon the earth? [ or, doth the east wind scatter itself over the earth?]
25. Who hath divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters [who hath riven a channel for the torrent of waters], or a way for the lightning of thunder [of voices];
26. To cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is; on the wilderness, wherein there is no man;
27. To satisfy the desolate and waste ground; and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth?
28. Hath the rain a father? or who hath begotten the drops of dew?
29. Out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it?
30. The waters are hid as with a stone [the waters are hardened like stone, and the surface of the deep is held fast], and the face of the deep is frozen.
31. Canst thou bind the sweet influences [fastenings] of Pleiades [a heap or group], or loose the bands of Orion [the fool or giant]?
32. Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth [some say the Zodiac; others, Jupiter or Venus] in his season? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons?
33. Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?
34. Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds, that abundance of waters may cover thee?
35. Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go, and say unto thee, Here we are?
36. Who hath put wisdom [the gift of discerning causes] in the inward parts [the kidneys are regarded in Hebrew physiology as the seat of instinctive yearnings]? or who hath given understanding to the heart?
37. Who can number the clouds in wisdom? or who can stay [cause to lie down] the bottles of heaven.
38. When the dust groweth into hardness [when the dust is molten into a mass], and the clods cleave fast together?
39. Wilt thou hunt the prey for the lion [lioness]? or fill the appetite of the young lions,
40. When they couch in their dens, and abide [sit] in the covert to lie in wait?
41. Who provideth for the raven his food? when his young ones cry unto God, they wander for lack of meat.
1. Knowest [this knowledge includes perception into causes] thou the time when the wild goats [rock-climbers] of the rock bring forth? or canst thou mark when the hinds do calve?
2. Canst thou number the months that they fulfil? or knowest thou the time when they bring forth?
3. They bow themselves, they bring forth their young ones, they cast out their sorrows. [Arab poets call infants and young children "pangs."]
4. Their young ones are in good liking [fatten], they grow up with corn; they go forth, and return not unto them.
5. Who hath sent out the wild ass free [whose speed exceeds that of the fastest horse]? or who hath loosed the bands of the wild ass?
6. Whose house I have made the wilderness, and the barren land his dwellings [salt waste which wild asses lick with avidity].
7. He scorneth the multitude of the city, neither regardeth he the crying of the driver [task-master].
8. The range of the mountains is his pasture, and he searcheth after every green thing.
9. Will the unicorn [ rather, a well-known species of gazelle] be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib?
10. Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? or will he harrow the valleys after thee?
11. Wilt thou trust him, because his strength is great? or wilt thou leave thy labour to him?
12. Wilt thou believe him, that he will bring home thy seed, and gather it into thy barn?
13. Gavest thou the goodly wings unto the peacocks [a mistranslation]? or wings and feathers unto the ostrich?
14. Which leaveth [not in the sense of forsaking, but in the sense of committing] her eggs in the earth, and warmeth them in dust,
15. And forgetteth that the foot may crush them, or that the wild beast may break them.
16. She is hardened against her young ones, as though they were not her's: her labour is in vain without fear;
17. Because God hath deprived her of wisdom, neither hath he imparted to her understanding.
18. What time she lifteth up herself on high [lashes the air], she scorneth the horse and his rider.
19. Hast thou given the horse strength? hast thou clothed his neck with thunder? [Suggesting the idea of vehement and terrific movement.]
20. Canst thou make him afraid [spring] as a grasshopper? The glory of his nostrils is terrible.
21. He paweth in the valley [he diggeth the plain], and rejoiceth in his strength: he goeth on to meet the armed men.
22. He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted: neither turneth he back from the sword.
23. The quiver rattleth against him, the glittering spear and the shield.
24. He swalloweth the ground [the space which separates the armies] with fierceness and rage: neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet.
25. He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.
26. Doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom, and stretch her wings toward the south?
27. Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest on high?
28. She dwelleth and abideth on the rock, upon the crag of the rock, and the strong place.
29. From thence she seeketh the prey, and her eyes behold afar off.
30. Her young ones also suck up blood: and where the slain are, there is she.
1. Moreover the Lord answered Job, and said,
2. Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him? he that reproveth God, let him answer it.
3. ¶ Then Job answered the Lord, and said,
4. Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth.
5. Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further.
6. ¶ Then answered the Lord unto Job out of the whirlwind, and said,
7. Gird up thy loins now like a man: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me.
8. Wilt thou also disannul my judgment? wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous?
9. Hast thou an arm like God? or canst thou thunder with voice like him?
10. Deck thyself now with majesty and excellency; and array thyself with glory and beauty.
11. Cast abroad the rage of thy wrath: and behold every one that is proud, and abase him.
12. Look on every one that is proud, and bring him low; and tread down the wicked in their place.
13. Hide them in the dust together; and bind their faces in secret.
14. Then will I also confess unto thee that thine own right hand can save thee.
15. ¶ Behold now behemoth [the hippopotamus], which I made with thee; he eateth grass [herbage] as an ox.
16. Lo now, his strength [his special characteristic] is in his loins, and his force is in the navel of his belly. [Unlike the hippopotamus, the elephant is mostly easily wounded in the belly.]
17. He moveth his tail like a cedar [not in size but in rigidity]: the sinews of his stones are wrapped together.
18. His bones are as strong pieces of brass [his bones are as tubes of copper]; his bones are like bars of iron.
19. He is the chief of the ways [the masterpiece] of God: he that made him can make his sword to approach unto him.
20. Surely the mountains bring him forth food, where all the beasts of the field play. ["He searches the rising ground near the river for his substance, in company with the animals of the land."]
21. He lieth under the shady trees [the lotus trees], in the covert of the reed, and fens.
22. The shady trees cover him with their shadow; the willows of the brook compass him about.
23. Behold, he drinketh up a river, and hasteth not: he trusteth that he can draw up Jordan into his mouth [he is steadfast if the Jordan boast upon his mouth].
24. He taketh it with his eyes: his nose pierceth through snares.
I. Canst thou draw out leviathan [crocodile] with an hook? or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down [sinkest his tongue in a noose]?
2. Canst thou put an hook into his nose? or bore his jaw through with a thorn?
3. Will he make many supplications unto thee? will he speak soft words unto thee?
4. Will he make a covenant with thee? wilt thou take him for a servant for ever? [The crocodile can be partially tamed.]
5. Wilt thou play with him as with a bird? or wilt thou bind him for thy maidens?
6. Shall the companions [Egyptian fishermen were called Fellows or Companions] make a banquet [traffic] of him? shall they part him among the merchants [Canaanites]?
7. Canst thou fill his skin with barbed irons? or his head with fish spears?
8. Lay thine hand upon him, remember the battle, do no more.
9. Behold the hope of him [the hope of man that the animal may be caught] is in vain: shall not one be cast down even at the sight of him?
10. None is so fierce that dare stir him up: who then is able to stand before me?
11. Who hath prevented me [made me a debtor], that I should repay him? whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine.
12. I will not conceal his parts, nor his power, nor his comely proportion.
13. Who can discover the face of his garment [who can lift up, as a veil, his outside covering]? or who can come to him with his double bridle [his double row of teeth]?
14. Who can open the doors of his face? his teeth are terrible round about [round about his teeth is terror].
15. His scales are his pride ["grand is the channeling of his shield-like scales"], shut up together as with a close seal.
16. One is so near to another, that no air can come between them.
17. They are joined one to another, they stick together, that they cannot be sundered.
18. By his neesings a light doth shine, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning [and were made a symbol of morning by the Egyptians],
19. Out of his mouth go burning lamps, and sparks of fire leap out.
20. Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, as out of a seething pot or caldron.
21. His breath kindleth coals, and a flame goeth out of his mouth.
22. In his neck remaineth strength, and sorrow is turned into joy before him.
23. The flakes of his flesh [even the parts of most animals which are loose and flabby] are joined together: they are firm in themselves; they cannot be moved.
24. His heart is as firm as a stone; yea, as hard as a piece of the nether millstone.
25. When he raiseth up himself the mighty are afraid: by reason of breakings they purify themselves [lose their presence of mind].
26. The sword of him that layeth at him cannot hold: the spear, the dart, nor the habergeon.
27. He esteemeth iron as straw, and brass as rotten wood.
28. The arrow cannot make him flee: sling stones are turned with him into stubble.
29. Darts [or clubs] are counted as stubble: he laugheth at the shaking of a spear.
30. Sharp stones are under him: he spreadeth sharp pointed things upon the mire.
31. He maketh the deep to boil like a pot: he maketh the sea like a pot of ointment.
32. He maketh a path to shine after him; one would think the deep to be hoary.
33. Upon earth there is not his like, who is made without fear.
34. He [coldly] beholdeth all high things: he is a king over all the children of pride [all beasts of prey].
The Theophany. I.
Let us admit that the Theophany is poetical; that will not hinder our deriving from it lessons that are supported by reason and vividly illustrated by facts. As an incident, the Theopany is before us, come whence it may. It inquires concerning great realities, which realities are patent to our vision. It does not plunge into metaphysics only, or rise to things transcendental; it keeps within lines which are more or less visible, lines which in many cases are actually tangible. Here, then, it stands as a fact, to be perused and wisely considered.
To such questions there ought to be some answer. They are a hundred thick on the page. If we cannot answer all we may answer some. God has not spared his interrogatories. There is no attempt at concealment. He points to the door, and asks who built it, and how to get into it, and how to bring from beyond it whatever treasure may be hidden there. It is a sublime challenge in the form of interrogation.
The thing to be noted first of all, is, that it purports to be the speech of God. That is a bold suggestion. The man who wrote the first verse fixed the bound of his own task.
"Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said " ( Job 38:1 ).
It was a daring line even for an author to write. He proposed his own end, and by that end he shall be judged. He himself assigned the level of his thought, and we are at liberty to watch whether he keeps upon the level, or falls to some lower line. A wonderful thing to have injected God into any book! This is what is done in the Bible, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." Whether he did so or not, some man said he did. That thought must be traced to its genesis. It is easy for us now, amid the familiarity of religious education, to talk of God doing this and that, and accomplishing great purposes, and consummating stupendous miracles. We were born into an atmosphere in which such suggestions and inquiries are native and familiar. There was a time when they had to be invented or revealed. Notice that God is supposed to have taken part in the colloquy. Now Job will be satisfied. He has been crying out for God; he has been telling his friends again and again that if he could but see God everything would be rectified almost instantaneously. Job has been mourning like one forsaken, saying, Oh that I knew where I might find him! Oh that God would come to me, and prefer his accusation against me in his own person and language! Now the aspiration is answered: God is at the front. Let us see what comes of the conflict.
Still we may dwell upon the sweet and sacred thought that God is taking part in human controversies, inquiries, and studies of every depth and range. He is a friend at least who suggested that God has something to say to me when all time is night, when all sensation is pain. If we could be sure that One takes part in human conversation if only by way of cross-examination, it would be something to know; at any moment he might change his tone. It is everything to feel that he is in the conversation. Whatever point he may occupy, whatever line of reply he may adopt, to have him, who is the beginning and the ending, in the intercourse, is to have at least a possible opportunity of seeing new light, and feeling a new touch of power, and being brought into more vivid and sympathetic relations with things profound and eternal. Why do we edge the Almighty out of life by describing his supposed intervention as the suggestion of poetry? What is this poetry, supposed to be so mischievous? Is it any more mischievous than a sky? What crimes has it committed? What is the indictment against poetry? By "poetry" we are not to understand words that meet together in sound and rhyme, but the highest reason, the sublimest philosophy, the very blossom of reason. Men suppose that when they have designated a saying or a suggestion as poetical, they have put it out of court. It is not so. A fable may be the highest fact. In a romance you may find the soul of the truest history; there may not be p solitary literal incident in the whole, and yet the effect shall be atmospheric, a sense of having been in other centuries and in other lands, and learned many languages, and entered into masonry with things hither unfamiliar. Sometimes we must use wings. Poetry may be as the wings of reason. But how good the poetry is which suggests that God is a listener to human talk, and may become a party to human conversation, and may at least riddle the darkness of our confusion by the darts of his own inquiries. Here is a case in point. Does he ask little questions? Are they frivolous interrogations that he propounds? Is the inquiry worthy of his name, even though that name be poetical? Is every question here on a level with the highest thinking? Judge the Theophany as a whole, and then say how far we are at liberty to excuse ourselves from the applications of its argument on the trivial ground that it is but poetry.
Who can read all these questions without feeling that man came very late into the field of creation? No deference is paid to his venerableness. The Lord does not accost him as a thing of ancient time as compared with the creation of which he is a part. Everything was here before man came: the earth was founded, the stars shone, the seas rolled in their infinite channels; the Pleiades were sprinkled on the blue of heaven, and the band of Orion was a fact before poor Job was born. It would seem as if everything had been done that could have been done by way of preparation for him! He brought nothing with him into this creation, not even one little star, or one tiny flower, or one singing bird: the house was furnished in every chamber for the reception of this visitor. This is scientific according to the science of the passing time. Has any one invented a theory that man came first, and furnished his own house, allotted his own stars, and supplied the face of the earth with what ornamentation he required? Is there anything here inconsistent with the marvellous doctrine of evolution? Contrariwise, is not everything here indicative of germ, and progress, and unfolding, and preparation, as if at any moment the consummation might be effected and God's purpose revealed in the entirety of its pomp and beneficence? Man is here spoken of as having just come into the sphere of things, and not having yet had time to know where he is, what is the meaning of the symbols that glitter from the sky or the suggestions that enrich the earth. A challenge like this would be quite inconsistent with a recent creation of the universe. How recent that creation would be at the time at which these inquiries were put! Now that astronomy has made us familiar with whole rows and regiments of figures, we speak of six or eight or ten thousand years as but a twinkling of the eye, but according to old reckoning how young would creation have been, if it had been created but six thousand years ago when this Theophany was written some three or four thousand years since as a matter of literary fact! Take off three or four thousand years from the supposed six, and then all the questions would be inappropriate and absurd as applied to a creation hardly finished. The speech seems to be spoken across an eternity. So that we have no fear of evolutionary figures or astronomical calculations; we have no apprehension arising from theories of growth, involvement, evolvement progress, consummation; on the contrary, the whole spirit and genius of the Bible would seem to point to age, mystery, immeasurableness, unknowableness. Everywhere there is written upon every creation of God Unfathomable. The Theophany, then, is worthy, in point of literary conception and grandeur of the opening line "Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind."
Not only does man come late into the field of creation, but, viewed individually, how soon he passes away! "Man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he?" We are of yesterday, and know nothing. The bells that announce our birth would seem to be interrupted by the toll of the knell that announces our decease. Thus God has great hold upon the whole race by the hold which he has upon the individual man. When the individual man enlarges himself into humanity, and speaks of the whole race, the speech is not without nobleness; but how soon the speaker is humbled when he is reminded that he will not have time to finish his own argument that long before he can reach an appropriate peroration he will be numbered with the generations that are dead. Thus we have greatness and smallness, abjectness and majesty, marvellously associated in the person of man. God seems to have taken no counsel with man about any of his arrangements of a natural kind. Man was not there to be consulted. Poor man! he was not asked where the Pleiades should shine; he was not invited to give an opinion upon the length and breadth of the sea; he was not asked how the rain should be brought forth, and at what periods it should descend in fertilising baptism upon the thirsty ground. He finds everything appointed, fixed, settled. Man is like the sea in so far as there seems to be a boundary which he may not pass "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further," and here shall thy pursuit become prayer, and thy strength assume the weakness of supplication. Be the author of the Theophany who he may, be he profound reasoner or winged and ardent poet, he keeps his level well. Let us be just to him, even if we approach him from an unbelieving or a sceptical point of view. The palm be his who wins it: honour to whom honour is due. The man who dreamed this Theophany never falls into a nightmare; his dream keeps on the wing until it alights at the very gate of heaven.
Judged in relation to all the universe which has been described, how inferior is the position which man occupies in creation! some of the questions are very mocking and most humbling: man is asked if he can fly; if he can send out lightnings, and cause the electricity to come and stand at his side and say, Here am I. He is put down, snubbed, rebuked. He is pointed to the beasts of the field, and asked what he can do with them: can he hire the unicorn? "Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib? Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? or will he harrow the valleys after thee? Wilt thou trust him, because his strength is great? or wilt thou leave thy labour to him? Wilt thou believe him, that he will bring home thy seed, and gather it into thy barn?" ( Job 39:9-12 ). What art thou? Gird up thy loins now like a man, and answer these questions. "Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook?... canst thou put an hook into his nose?... The sword of him that layeth at him cannot hold: the spear, the dart, nor the habergeon. He esteemeth iron as straw, and brass as rotten wood. The arrow cannot make him flee: sling stones are turned with him into stubble. Darts are counted as stubble: he laugheth at the shaking of a spear. Sharp stones are under him: he spreadeth sharp pointed things upon the mire. He maketh the deep to boil like a pot: he maketh the sea like a pot of ointment." What art thou? what canst thou do? where is thy strength? Disclose it. And as for thy wisdom, what is the measure thereof? Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? canst thou play with the stars? All these questions drive man back into his appropriate position. The argument would seem to be, Until you can understand these comparatively inferior matters, let other subjects alone: if you cannot explain the ground you tread upon, the probability is that you will not be able to explain the sky you gaze upon: if you know not yourself, how can you know God? And yet let us not be discouraged. If man has any superiority it must be in other directions. How great, then, must those directions be, how sublime in their scope and energy! Is man altogether overwhelmed by these inquiries? In a certain limited way he is; but does he not recover his breath, and return and say, After all, I am crowned above all these things? He does, but we must wait until he has had time to recover his breath or regain his composure. The questions come upon him like a cataract! they roar upon him from all points of the compass in great overwhelming voices, so that he is deafened and stunned and thrown down, and asks for time. Presently we shall see that man is greater than all the stars put together, and that although he cannot search the past to exhaustion he will live when the sun himself grows dim and nature fades away; he will abide in the secret of the Almighty, long as eternal ages roll. His greatness is not in the past but in the future. Hardly a star in the blue of heaven but mocks the recentness of his birthday: but he says that he will live when the stars shall all be extinguished. Greatness does not lie in one direction. Greatness may hardly lie at all in the past: "It doth not yet appear what we shall be." The Christian hope is that when Christ appears we shall be like him, that we shall see him as he is. We are not to be great as antiquarians but great as sons of God.
Here, then, is our opportunity: shall we arise and avail ourselves of it? the mischief is lest we should be tempted to follow out these inquiries in the Theophany as if our whole interest lay in the past. Into the past we can go but a little way. Who can tell the number of God's works, or find out the Almighty unto perfection? The oldest man amongst us is less than an infant of days compared even with some gigantic trees that have been rooted in the earth for a thousand years; they stand whilst man perishes; yea, they throw a shadow over a man's grave, and still grow on as if time meant them to be immortal. Our greatness, let us repeat, does not relate to the past, or to the past only; our opportunity is tomorrow the great morrow of eternity. So our song is, This corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality: death shall be swallowed up in victory; saints shall mock the tomb. How do we feel now? are we rebuked? are we humbled? The answer must be Yes, and No: we are very young compared with the creation of God, but all these things shall be dissolved, the heavens shall pass away with a great noise; the little eternity of the ages shall be swallowed up and forgotten, and all the eternity of God's love and fellowship shall open as in ever-increasing brightness. How is that glory to be attained? Here the gospel preacher has his distinctive word to deliver. "This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." The word may be disputed, but there it is; the word may occasion great mental anxiety, but it abides there a solemn and noble fact in the book. Why should it affright us? There is music in that gospel. Hear it again. "This is life eternal." A peculiar quality of life rather than a mere duration of life: "eternal" does not only point to unendingness but to quality of life "This is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." The mystery is a mystery of music; the mystery is a mystery of light: there is no confusion in the thought, but unsearchable riches, and the embarrassment is that of wealth not of poverty. So new we have two standards of judgment: the one the great outside creation, stars and seas, beasts and birds, hidden secrets of nature, undiscovered laws of the intricate economy of the universe; there we can know but little: and the other standard of judgment is the Son of God, of whom it is said, he created all things, was before all things, that in him all things consist, that he is Lord of all the stars, even of hosts; he shaped every one of them, flashed its light into the eye of every planet that burns, and rules them all with majesty as sublime as it is gracious. The Christian gospel says that he, "being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross," that he might give us eternal life. O creation! great, monotonous, hard, austere creation! we perish as to the mere matter of duration before the ages which measure the period of thine existence, but we mock thee, laugh at thee, despise thee, if thou dost challenge us with a view to the future: the past is thine, take it, and die in luxuriating upon it; the future is ours, and being in Christ we cannot die. This is our rational challenge, as well as our Christian appeal and comfort.
The exact amount of censure due to Job for the excesses into which he had been betrayed, and to his three opponents for their harshness and want of candour, could only be awarded by an omniscient Judge. Hence the necessity for the Theophany from the midst of the storm Jehovah speaks. In language of incomparable grandeur He reproves and silences the murmurs of Job. God does not condescend, strictly speaking, to argue with His creatures. The speculative questions discussed in the colloquy are unnoticed, but the declaration of God's absolute power is illustrated by a marvellously beautiful and comprehensive survey of the glory of creation, and His all-embracing Providence by reference to the phenomena of the animal kingdom. He who would argue with the Lord must understand at least the objects for which instincts so strange and manifold are given to the beings far below man in gifts and powers. This declaration suffices to bring Job to a right mind: his confesses his inability to comprehend, and therefore to answer his Maker ( Job 40:3-4 ). A second address completes the work. It proves that a charge of injustice against God involves the consequence that the accuser is more competent than he to rule the universe. He should then be able to control, to punish, to reduce all creatures to order but he cannot even subdue the monsters of the irrational creation. Baffled by leviathan and behemoth, how can he hold the reins of government, how contend with him who made and rules them all? Smith's Dictionary of the Bible.
The Theophany. II.
How far is it possible to read all the great questions contained in the Theophany in a sympathetic and gentle tone? May we not be wrong in supposing that all the questions were put as with the whole pomp and majesty of heaven? Has not the Lord a still small voice in which he can put heart-searching questions? Is there not a river of God, the streams whereof shall make glad his city? Is that river a great, boiling, foaming flood? Perhaps we may have been wrong in carrying the whirlwind into the questions. "Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind," but it is not said that the Lord answered Job like a whirlwind; even out of that tabernacle of storm God might speak to the suffering patriarch in an accommodated voice, in a whisper suited to his weakness. Let it be an exercise in sacred rhetoric to read the questions of the Theophany sympathetically, to whisper them, to address them to the heart alone. Unless we get the right tone in reading God's Book, we shall mar all its music, and we shall miss all its gospel. The people wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of the mouth of Jesus Christ; and the tone was often an explanation of what was spoken; there was something in the Man's way of stating what he had to say, which led hearers, otherwise hostile, to admit "Never man spake like this man." It seems, indeed, as if the questions should be spoken with trumpets and thunders and whirlwinds a thousand in number; and yet by so speaking them we should not reveal the majesty of God; we might reveal that majesty still more vividly and persuasively by finding a way of asking the questions which would not overpower the listener or destroy what little strength he had.
God does not hesitate to charge upon the patriarch and all whom he represented something like absolute ignorance: "Who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb?... Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail?" What hast thou done? What hast thou seen? We have only seen outsides what are called phenomena or appearances, aspects and phases of things; but what is below? "Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?" "Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea?" Thou hast sailed across the sea, but hast thou ever walked through its depths? Hast thou not rather been carried as by some mighty nurse from continent to continent, rather than been a spectator of the springs of the infinite flood? "Hast thou walked in the search of the depth?" The word "search" is full of meaning; it signifies a kind of quest which will not be satisfied with anything but the origin, the actual fountain and spring and beginning of things: it is not enough to see the water, we must know where the water comes from; we must search into the depth. It is not enough to see the hail that falls, we want to see the house out of which it comes, the infinite snow-house in which God has laid up his treasures of cold. May we not see the treasures of the hail? We are ever kept outside. God has always something more that we have not seen. "Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds, that abundance of waters may cover thee?" Thus we are reminded of our ignorance. Yet we are wise, limitedly wise; we are quite great as grubbers after phenomena; we come home every night laden with more phenomena. By some mysterious process the word "phenomena" seems to satisfy our appetite because it fills our mouth. But what are these phenomena? Have we found out everything yet? Let the most learned men answer, and they will say, We have found out nothing as it really is; we have just learned enough to correct the mistakes of yesterday, and enough to humble us in view of tomorrow; we are waiting for another revelation or discovery or acquisition; we have spent one century in obliterating the misrecorded phenomena of another. This is admitted by the men themselves. They demand justice at the hands of the Christian teacher, and they are the first to admit that they know nothing in its reality, in its interior condition, quality, and meaning. We are not now forcing an interpretation upon their words, but almost literally quoting them. What is it that you are now playing with? hand it to me: what is the name of it? A flute. Very good: I have heard it, now I want to examine it! Open it for me! Why don't you open it? What are you playing upon? It seems to be a grand, many-voiced instrument, what is the name of it? You answer me, It is an organ. Good: I like it; it touches me at a thousand points, and makes me feel as if I had a thousand lives: now open it; show me the music: I have heard it, I want to see it. You decline; in declining you are wise. Who destroys the instrument through which the music comes? Who would cut a little bird's throat to find out the secret of its trill? Hast thou seen the treasures searched the depths gone into the interior of things? Or art thou laden like a diligent gleaner with sheaves of phenomena, which thou art going to store in thy memory today for the purpose of casting them out tomorrow? What can we then know about God, if we can know so little about his sea, and the treasure-house of his hail, and the sanctuary of his thunder? It is the same with religious emotion and religious conviction. Take your emotion to pieces. You decline to take your flute to pieces; you smile at the suggestion that you should open every part of the organ and show me the singing angels that are closeted in the good prison: how then can I take this religious emotion to pieces? These deep religious convictions resist analysis; when we approach them analytically, they treat us as murderers. Men who exclaim against vivisection, and often justly, surely ought to be proportionately indignant with the men who would take souls, so to say, fibre from fibre, and perform upon them all the tricks and cruelties of analysis. Yet the universe is beautiful and profitable exceedingly. Even what we can see of it often fills our eyes with tears. Who has not been melted to tears by the beauty of nature, by the appealing sunshine, by the flower-gemmed fields and hills, by the purling streams and singing birds, and all the tender economy of summer? Men have sometimes been graciously forced to pray because things were so comely, beautiful, tender, suggestive; they could not be wild-voiced in the presence of such charms; even the rudest felt a new tone come into his voice as he spake about the mystic loveliness. Behind all things there is a secret, call it by what name you please: some have called it secret; others have called it persistent force; others have described it by various qualifications of energy; others again have said, It is a spirit that is behind things; others have whispered, It is a father. But that there is something behind appearances is a general belief amongst intelligent men. When one of the greatest of our teachers compares what is known to a piano of so many octaves, he only numbers the octaves which he can touch: who can tell what octaves infinite lie beyond his fingers? Who will say that any one man's fingers can touch the extremes of things? Were he to say so, we should mock him as he extended his arms to show us what a little span he has. Throughout the Theophany, then, God is not afraid to charge men with absolute ignorance of interior realities which may be spiritual energies.
Not only is man ignorant, he is powerless "Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades?" ( Job 38:31 ). Hark how he speaks of Pleiades as if the white sapphires were but a handful, and a child could use them! "Or loose the bands of Orion?" Answer me! "Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons? Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? canst thou set the dominion thereof in the the earth? Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds, that abundance of waters may cover thee? Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go, and say unto thee, Here we are?" ( Job 38:32-35 ). These questions admit of some answer. Surely we should be able to give some reply to interrogatories of this kind. Then how man's power is mocked "Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib?" Try him; reason with him; show thyself friendly to him: come, thou art learned in the tricks of persuasion and all the conjuring of rhetorical argument, try thy skill upon the unicorn "canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? or will he harrow the valleys after thee?" Make some use of him; make a domestic of him; make a slave of the unicorn: or trust him; put confidence in him; be magnanimous to the unicorn: "Wilt thou trust him, because his strength is great? or wilt thou leave thy labour to him?" Surely there is a mocking laugh running through all these particular inquiries, not a laugh of bitter mockery, but of that taunt which has a gracious meaning, and by which alone God can sometimes call us to a realization of our strength which is in very deed our weakness. Then when all the questions are answered so far, God says, "Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down?" Thou art very able and yet very feeble: come, let us see what thou canst do. Thou canst beat a dog, conciliate a unicorn; thou canst slay an ox, and stand over him like a butcher-conqueror, call the eagle back from heaven's gate; demand that he come; thou art a man, thunder at him: what is the result? Thou hast numerous trophies and proofs of thine ability, now put a thorn through the nostrils of leviathan, thrust a spear through the scales of the crocodile. Thou canst do something: thou canst not do everything. Do not understand, therefore, that weakness is power, or that power is all power; draw boundaries, lines, limits, and within these assert thy manhood and begin thy religion. Truly we are very powerless. Yet in some respects we are influential in a degree which warms our vanity. In the summer of 1886 there were shocks of earthquake in Charleston and in various other American cities. Why did the people not speak to the earthquake, and bid it be quiet? Surely they might have done that. Many of them were rich planters; many of them were gifted in the power of cursing and swearing and defying God. Look at them! Another shock, and the greatest buildings in the city are rent and dashed to the dust. Hear these men drunkards, swearers, blasphemers, worldly men begging black niggers on the open highway to pray! What a humiliation was theirs! Why did they not bind the earthquake, throw a bridle upon the neck of the infinite beast, put a bit in his mouth, and make him lie down and be still? See, they reel to and fro like drunken men! How powerless we are! And in these hours of powerlessness we know what a man's faith is worth. It is in such crises that we know what your intellectual speculations and fine metaphysical flourishings come to; it is then that we put our finger upon the pack of her mysteries, and say, Why don't you open this pack, and be quiet and comfortable whilst the heart is being shaken at its very centre? Not a metaphysician but would part with all the mysteries he ever knew if he could only be saved from the wolf that is two feet behind him. We are not sure that any metaphysician ever lived who would not be quite willing to go back to school again as an ignorant boy if the earthquake would only give over! Oh it rocks the town, it tears the mountains, it troubles the sea oh would it but be quiet! We would give money, fame, learning, and begin the world afresh: but we cannot live in this misery. When you see men boasting, and blaspheming and scorning the Church, and pouring contempt upon all the ordinances of religion, all you need desire by way of testing the reality of such ebullition and madness would be to see them under the influence of an earthquake: they would beg a dog to pray for them if they thought that the dog had any influence with Heaven. Are we to be led by these men and to take the cue of our life from them, and to say, How strong they are, how lofty in stature, how broad in chest, and how they breathe with all the vigour of superabounding life: they shall be our leaders, and not your praying men in the Church? Can the blind lead the blind? they shall both fall into the ditch. You cannot tell what a man is by any one particular hour of his experience; you must see him in every degree of the circle before you can fully estimate the quality which marks him as a man.
It is something to know that we are ignorant and that we are powerless. Much is gained by knowing the limits of our ability, and the limits of our knowledge. Let a man keep within the boundary of his strength, and he will be powerful for good: let him stretch himself one little inch beyond God's appointment, and he will be not only impotent but contemptible. Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves and strong ambition be stayed. "The Lord reigneth." We are but men; our breath is in our nostrils. We cannot see through one little sheet of paper; the tiniest leaf that grows in the field if put upon our eye would shut out the sun. Better let us be quiet, simple, watchful, humble, patient, receiving the divine revelation as the divine Giver may see fit to disclose it.
The great argument, then, is this: as there is so much in nature which thou hast not understood, there may be also much in human life and discipline thou hast not fully comprehended. It is the argument of analogy. It is the great argument of the philosophical bishop. There is no escape from it; certainly none within the limits of the Theophany. If we do not know the interior of a piece of wood, how can we know the interior of a thought? If we cannot pluck a flower, and keep it, how could we pluck the secret of God, and retain it as our own? Again and again we have seen that to pluck a flower is to kill it. However tenderly you may treat it, however you may feed it with water, protect it from all adverse influences, you have plucked the flower, and you have killed it Thou shalt not trespass in the divine province. We may walk through the garden of God, but may not pluck the flowers that grow in that holy paradise. Things are not made valuable to us simply by holding them in the hand. The sun would be no sun if we could inclose him within our own habitation: he stands away at an inaccessible distance; he can come down to us, but we cannot go up to him. O thou great hospitable sun, terrible yet genial, distant yet quite near, thou art a bright symbol of the God who made thee. As there are mysteries in nature, so there are mysteries in life. What is your thought? Where did it come from? How did your ideas originate? What is that thing you call your soul? Show it; describe it; trace its length; name its relations; what is it? Psychology has its holy of holies as well as theology. Do not imagine that all the mysteries cluster around the name of God. We must, then, accept the mysteries of life: they are many in number; they are very pressing and urgent, and often embarrassing and difficult; but they belong to the great system of God's government. Why should the good man have trouble? Why should the atheist have a golden harvest? Why should the blasphemer prosper and the suppliant be driven away as if by a pursuing and judicial wind from heaven? "My feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men. Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment." Ah me! my soul, wait thou patiently upon God. The mysteries of nature have their counterpart in the mysteries of life. But remember, in the second place, that as all in nature is under divine control, so is all in human life. There is a wise God over all, blessed for ever more. He comes down to us as a father, compassionate, tender, watchful, regarding every one of us as an only child, numbering the hairs of our head; he besets us behind and before; he is on the right hand and on the left, and he lays his hand upon us. We know it, for we have proved it in a thousand instances: our whole life is an argument in proof of the existence, government, and goodness of God. "Oh rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him." The day is very cloudy and the night is full of weary hours; the chariot-wheels of time and the soul's trouble roll heavily; morning after morning comes like one disappointment upon another. It requires a God-wrought faith, a very miracle of trust, to wait and not complain.
Is man, then, but a part of an economy; not an individual but part of a process; one amongst ten thousand other things? Is a man at liberty to say I have renounced my individuality; I fall into the great stream and current of what is called history; I have declined individual responsibility, and identified myself with the sum-total of things? How foolish would be this talk! Let us test that for one moment. Does Society recognise the impersonal creed? We must bring these creeds to practical tests. Suppose Society should say to all its members: Individual responsibility is gone; we are part and parcel of a stupendous economy, and we must just take our lot with the general movement: it is in vain that man after man should stand up and claim individual franchise or honour or influence or responsibility. Society never said so, and yet retained its security for any length of time. Does man himself recognise it in reference to his daily wants? Does he say: I am part of a general system of things, and therefore I do not trouble about what I should eat and what I should drink and wherewithal I should be clothed: all these are petty questions, minor and frivolous inquiries and concerns? Does man ever say so? But when he mounts his philosophic steed, then he becomes "part of a general economy," a shadowy gentleman, an impalpable nothing, a most proud humility. The doctrine will not bear practical tests. Man is always asserting his rights. Take part of his property from him, and you will destroy his creed. Occupy the seat for which he has paid, and tell him when he comes to claim it that he is part of a great system of things, belongs to a mysterious and impalpable economy, and say, "Why so hot, my little sir? Why not amalgamate yourself with the universe?" If these creeds will not bear testing in the marketplace and at the railway station, and in all the wear and tear, in all the attrition and controversy, of life, they are vanity, an empty wind. The Christian doctrine is Every one of us shall give account of himself to God: we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ. We cannot abandon our individuality socially, why should we abandon it religiously? We could not live by giving ourselves away into airy nothingness, then how can we live the better and nobler life by obliterating our personality and sinking like a snowflake on a river?
Here let us rest. God has spoken. His questions have been a multitude; they may have been thundered, they may have been whispered; now and then they may have risen into pomp and majesty and augustness, and yet now and then they may have come down into whisper and breathing and gentle speech. God's ministry is manifold. There is no monotony in the speech of God. He reveals himself to us as we are able to bear it. We cannot go to himself directly; we can go to his Son Jesus Christ, whom he hath made Lord of all things. We hail thee, Son of man, Son of God, and we do our own convictions injustice unless we hail thee as God the Son, and crown thee Lord of all.
The Theophany, As a Whole
We have been waiting for the answer of God to the tremble of Job and to the tumult occasioned by his friends. We became weary of the fray of words, for they seemed to have no legitimate stopping-place, and to bring with them no sufficient and satisfactory answer. At length God has appeared, and we have already said that the appearance of God upon the scene is itself the great answer. To have come into the action at all is to have revealed a condescension and a complacency amounting to an expression of profound and tender solicitude in regard to all that distressed and overwhelmed the life of the patriarch. If God had not spoken, his presence would have been an answer. To be assured that God draws nigh at any moment to troubled human life, is to be also sure that he will see the right vindicated: he will not break the bruised reed; he will not quench the smoking flax; nor will he allow others to break and to quench what he has lovingly taken within his fatherly care. But, as a matter of fact, God has used words, and therefore we are entitled to read them, and to estimate their value, and to consider their whole influence upon the marvellous situation which occasioned them. This is not the answer that we expected. If we had been challenged to provide an answer, our imagination would have taken a very different line from that which God adopted in his reply to Job and his comforters. But who are we that we should have imagined any answer at all? Better that we should have sat down in silence, saying, This is a trouble which puts away from its sacred dignity all words ever devised or used by man. Let man keep his words for mean occasions; let him not attempt to use them when God's hand it laid heavily upon one of his creatures: then silence is the true eloquence, mute grief is the wisest sympathy.
The answer overwhelms our expectations. It is greater than we had supposed it would be. We were not aware that such a sweep of thought would have been taken by the great Speaker and the divine Healer. Our way would have been more direct, in some respects more dramatic: we would have seen the black enemy lifted in mid-air, and blasted by the lightning he had defied; we might have imagined him slain upon the altar of the universe, and cast down into outer and eternal darkness, and Job clothed with fine linen in sight of earth and heaven, and crowned conqueror, and having in his hand a palm worthy of his patience. Thus our little expectations are always turned upside down; thus our little wisdom is proved by its littleness to be but a variety of ignorance: so does God make all occasions great, and show how wise a thing it would be on our part to refer all matters to his judgment, and not to take them within the limits of our own twilight and confused counsels. At the last it will be even so; the winding-up will be so contrary to our expectations: the first shall be last, and the last shall be first; and men shall come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and many who had attempted to force their way into the kingdom will be ordered back into the darkness which is native to their corruption. Let us learn from this continual rebuking of expectation that things all lie within God's power and wisdom, and that he will dispose them graciously and permanently, and vindicate his disposal by appeals to our own judgment and experience, in a larger world, where there is light enough to touch the problems of the past at every point.
In the next place, this is a terrible use to make of nature. Who could have thought that nature would be so used forced, so to say, into religious uses of the largest kind? The very stones cry out in hymns of praise to God; the whole heaven comes to vindicate the excellence of his wisdom and the completeness of his power. What can man do when Nature takes up the exposition of divine purpose and decree? Who can answer the whirlwind? Who can hold his breath in face of a tempest that leaps down from the clouds and makes the mountains shake by its tremendous energy? Who could look up when the stars put on all their light and blind the mortal vision of man? We are made afraid when we come into a realisation of this particular use of nature. We did not know that God had so many ministers who could speak tor him. We had been dreaming about the heavens, and wondering about the infinite arch, and talking about the beauty of the things that lay round about us; we had called the earth a garden of God, and thought of nature as a comforting mother and nurse: yet now when the occasion needs it all nature stands up like an army ten thousand times ten thousand strong, and takes up the cause of God and pleads it with infinite eloquence. If we have to be rebuked by nature in this way, who can stand for one moment? If a may may not utter a complaint lest the lightning blind him, who then dare, confess that he has a sorrow that gnaws his heart? If our disobedience is to be reproved by the rhythmic movement of the obedient stars, then who would care or dare to live? All things obey the Creator but man: "the heavens declare the glory of God"; night unto night uttereth speech; there is no disobedience in all the uproar of the seas; when nature is shaken she is not rebellious: but man strange, poor, weird, ghostly man can scarcely open his mouth without blasphemy, or look without insulting the heavens he gazes at, or think without planning some treason against the eternal throne. So God uses this great machine; so God hurls at us the stars that shine so placidly, and make the night so fair. Yet we must take care how we use nature: she is a dainty instrument; she resents some of the approaches we make when we intend to use her for illicit or base or unworthy purposes. We must beware how we press nature into our service. We must not appropriate nature to exclusive uses or to hint at the divisions and separations of men. Nature should be used otherwise. Better allow the great Creator to say how nature may be employed in illustrating religious thought, religious relations, and religious action.
But this is not the only use which is made of nature even by the Creator. At first we are affrighted, as we nearly always are in the Old Testament, but when the Creator speaks of nature in the New Testament he adopts quite a different tone. There is One of whom it is said, He made all things: he is before all things: by him all things consist: without him was not anything made that was made. It will be instructive to hear him speak of the uses of nature. Does he answer his hearers "out of the whirlwind?" Does he thunder upon them from the sanctuary of eternity? Hear him, and wonder at the gracious words which proceed out of his mouth Consider the lilies of the field how they grow: if God so care for or clothe the grass of the field, will he not much more care for and clothe you, O ye of little faith? Yet it would be unfair to the Old Testament if we did not point out that even there the gentler uses of nature are shown by the very Creator himself. When Jacob was cast down, when his way was supposed to be passed over, when all hope had died out of him, and every glint of light had vanished from his sky, God said to him, "Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things," the same God, the same nature; a weakened and discouraged man, yet nature in this case used to restore and comfort the soul that was overwhelmed. Thus God must use his armoury as he pleases. He can plead against us with great strength, he can overwhelm us, he can take away our breath by a whirlwind, he can blind us by excess of light; or he can so show the galaxy of heaven, and the whole panorama of the visible universe, as to heal us and comfort us, and lead us to say, He who keeps these lights in their places will not quench the smoking flax. Where is there a healer so gentle and compassionate, loving and sympathetic, as nature? Sometimes she seems to say to brokenhearted man, I was made for you; you never knew it until this hour: now I will heal you, and lead you to the altar, where you thought the fire had died out the altar which you thought God had abandoned. This appeal to nature is the higher and truer way of teaching. It brings a man out of himself. That is the first great conquest to be achieved. All brooding must be broken up; everything of the nature of melancholy or fixing the mind upon one point, or dwelling upon one series of events, must be invaded and dissipated. God would take a man for a mountain walk, and speak with him as they climbed the hill together, and watch him as the fresh wind blew upon his weary life, and revived him as with physical gospels; the Lord would take a man far out into the mid-sea, and there would watch the effect of healing influences which he himself has originated, and which he never fails to control: the man would be interested in new sights; he would feel himself in point of contact with great sweet nature; without knowing it, old age would be shed from his face, and he would ask youthful questions, and propose plans involving expenditure of hope and energy and confidence and faith of every degree and quality; and he who went out an old, bent-down, helpless man, would come back clothed with youth, having undergone a process almost of resurrection, being brought up from the dead, and set in new and radiant relation to all duty, responsibility, and labour. Here is the benefit of the Church. So long as men hide themselves in solitude they do not receive the advantage and helpfulness of social and Christian sympathy. The very effort of coming to the church helps a man sometimes to throw off his imprisonment and narrowness of view. There is something in the human touch, in the human face divine, in the commingling of voices, in the public reading of the divine word, which nerves and cheers all who take part in the sacred exercise. Solitude soon becomes irreligious; monasticism tends to the decay of all faculties that were meant to be social, sympathetic, reciprocal: "Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together": come into the larger humanity, behold the larger creation, and thus receive healing and comfort and benediction from enlargement of relation and sympathy. Never allow yourself to prey upon yourself. That act of self-consumption means everything that is involved in the words despair and ruin. Force yourselves into public relations; so to say, compel yourselves to own your kith and kindred, to take part in family life and in that larger family life called the intercourse of the Church in public worship, in public service and also know that God has made all nature to minister unto your soul's health, establish a large intercourse with mountain and river and sea, with forest and flower-bed, and singing birds, and all things great and lovely: some day you will need them, and they will be God's ministers to you.
This answer is a sublime rebuke to the pride which Job had once asserted during the colloquies. In chapter Job 13:22 , Job said, in quite a round strong voice, indicative of energy and independence and self-complacency, "Then call thou, and I will answer: or let me speak, and answer thou me." That tone needed to be taken out of his voice. Oftentimes the musical teacher says to the pupil, Your voice must be altogether broken up, and you must start again in the formation of a voice; you think now your voice is good and strong and useful, but you are mistaken; the first thing I have to do with you is to take your voice away, then begin at the beginning and cultivate it into an appropriate expression. Job's voice was out of order when he said, "Call thou, and I will answer," or, if it please thee, I will adopt another policy "let me speak, and answer thou me." Behold how complacent is Job! how willing to adopt any form of arbitration! how anxious to throw the responsibility upon another! He feels himself to be right, and therefore the other side may make its own arrangements and its own terms, and whatever they are he will boldly accept them! Every man must be answered in his own tone: "With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." If your challenge is so bold and proud, God must meet you on the ground which you yourself have chosen. "Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said " then comes the cataract of interrogation, the tempest of inquiry, in which Job seems to say, O spare me! for behold I am vile: what shall I answer thee? I will lay my hand upon my mouth: once have I spoken, but I will not answer; yea, twice, but I will proceed no further: O thou God of the whirlwind, give me rest; let me have time to draw my breath! But, poor Job, thou didst say to God, "Call thou, and I will answer: or let me speak, and answer thou me:" where is now thy boast, thy pride, thy vain talking? Thus does God humble us in a thousand ways. We pull down our barns and build greater, and behold in the morning they are without roof and without foundation and none can say where the solid structure stood. We say, "Let us build a tower which shall reach even unto heaven"; and we build it very high, and in the morning when we come to finish it, lo, there is not one stone left upon another. There is a humbling ministry in creation. Nature is full of rebuke, and criticism, and judgment; or she is full of comfort and suggestion, and religiou rapsable and most tender benediction.
How apt we are to suppose that we could answer God if we only had the opportunity! Could we but see him; could we but have an interview with him; could we but speak to him face to face, how we should vindicate ourselves! There was a man who once sought to see God, and he turned and saw him, and fell down as one dead. Sudden revelation would blind us. Let us not tempt God too much to show himself. We know not what we ask. What is the great answer to our trial? The universe. What is the great commentary upon God? Providence. What is the least profitable occupation? Controversy. Thus much have we been taught by our reading in the Book of Job. Where Job had a spiritual revelation a voice answering out of the whirlwind we have had personal example. We do not hear God or see God in any direct way, but we see Jesus, the Son of God, the Son of man, who also knows all the secrets of nature, for he was before all things, and by him all things consist: the universe is his garment; behold, he is within the palpitating, the living soul. O mighty One! when thou dost come to us in our controversies and reasonings, plead not against us with thy great power, but begin at Moses, and the prophets, and the Psalms, and in all the Scriptures expound unto us the things concerning thyself; and we shall know who the speaker is by the warmth that glows in our thankful hearts.