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JOB’S REPLY TO THE FRIENDS IN GENERAL
Job now alone in the field. Zophar, who should have followed Bildad, and to whom Job had given opportunity to speak, has apparently nothing to say. Job, therefore, after a pause, resumes his discourse, but in a different tone. Speaks more calmly, and even more solemnly. Declares, even with an appeal to the Almighty, that, notwithstanding all he still suffers at the hand of God, and however God seems to treat him as a guilty person, he is resolved, as a sincere and upright man, to maintain the integrity of his past life, and not, for the sake of bettering his condition, as his friends would persuade him, admit hypocritically the justice of their reasoning and of their charges against him. Declares His utter abhorrence of all ungodliness, oppression, and hypocrisy, and maintains, along with the friends, that however wickedness may appear for a time to prosper, it is certain, sooner or later, to end in misery and ruin.
Job represented (Job 27:1) as again “taking up his parable,” or “proverb”—a weighty, sententious discourse or saying, such as uttered by sages and prophets (Numbers 23:7; Numbers 24:3-15; Psalms 49:4; Psalms 78:2; Proverbs 1:16; Proverbs 26:7). In the New Testament used in the sense of extended similitude. The latter part of the chapter, from Job 27:11 to the end, from its connection and position, one of the most perplexing portions of the book.
I. Job’s resolution to maintain his innocence. Job 27:2.—“As God liveth, who hath taken away my judgment (has for some mysterious purpose, dealt with me contrary to the justice of my cause and the uprightness of my character, and who still refrains from declaring my innocence, or affording me an opportunity of pleading my cause before Him), and the Almighty who hath vexed (or ‘embittered’) my soul (with such severe afflictions); all the while my breath is in me, and the Spirit of God is in my nostrils (so long as I have life continued to me; apparent allusion to Genesis 2:7), my lips shall not speak wickedness nor my tongue utter deceit (in falsely and contrary to my conscience admitting myself to have been a secret and guilty transgressor). God forbid that I should justify you (in your erroneous reasoning, and your consequent charges against me, by acknowledging myself a wicked man); my heart shall not reproach me, so long as I live” (or, “doth not and shall not reproach me for any of my days,” as having at any time lived in the practice of secret ungodliness, or for now denying the truth concerning myself).
Job now speaks as victor in the controversy. More solemnly than ever declares his purpose to maintain his innocence, notwithstanding his present treatment. Gives his asseveration the form of an oath—“As God liveth.” Here, therefore, the controversy proper between him and his three friends takes end. Lawful in certain circumstances to appeal to God for the truth of what we affirm, and to confirm a holy righteous resolution by a solemn oath. So Luther, at the Diet of Worms: “Here I stand; I can do nothing else; so God help me.” “An oath for confirmation is an end of all strife.”
Job an illustrious example of a man suffering innocently, yet resolutely refusing to utter a single word contrary to his conscience. Thus confirms the testimony given of him by God Himself. Satan thus defeated and shown to be a lying slanderer in asserting that, if only sufficiently afflicted, Job would renounce his religion—would “curse God to his face.” Job thus eminently belonging to “the noble army of martyrs.” Would rather still underlie the false accusations of his friends, and suffer as an apparently wicked man the severities of his present distressing condition, than speak or act contrary to the dictates of his conscience, or deny what he knew to be true. Observe—
1. A truly good man will be driven by no sufferings, threatened or endured, absolutely to renounce his religion. Through the weakness of the flesh, extreme torture may force out a recantation, which by the strength of grace will speedily be withdrawn. Cranmer an example—holding over the flames the hand that signed the recantation, and exclaiming: “That unworthy hand!” “Torture me if you will; but whatever the weakness of my nature may force me in my suffering to confess contrary to the truth of Christ, I will recall as soon as the torture is withdrawn.”—An Early Female Martyr to her Persecutors. The spirit of the martyrs expressed in the language of the three godly youths in Babylon (Daniel 3:16-18).
2. The part of true piety to wait God’s own time for declaring our innocence, and to take no hasty measures for clearing our character or avoiding suffering and reproach. “Fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. Commit thy way to the Lord; trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass; and he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noon-day” (Psalms 37:5-8).
3. Lawful in certain circumstances strongly to declare the sincerity of our character and the integrity of our life. So Paul before the Sanhedrim: “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day” (Acts 23:1). Our own uprightness to be maintained on such occasions, as due—
(1) To God.
(2) To our neighbour.
(3) To ourselves. Our own righteousness of life valuable—
(1) As a fruit of Divine grace and the work of God’s Spirit in our hearts.
(2) As the evidence of our reconciliation and sonship to God.
(3) As an example to our fellow-men. Worthless as the ground of our justification before God. A twofold righteousness belonging to the believer—an imputed, and an inherent or personal one. The latter to be maintained for our justification before men; the former for our justification before God; viz., the righteousness of the man Christ Jesus, our Head and Representative, “the Lord our righteousness” (Isaiah 45:24-25; Jeremiah 23:6; Acts 13:39; Romans 3:20-24). Imputed righteousness to be held fast by a steadfast faith; personal righteousness by holy resolution, dependence on Divine grace, and, if need be, a fearless declaration.
4. Believers so to live that their hearts may not condemn them. “If our hearts condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God” (1 John 3:21).
5. Job in his suffering from false charges, and in the maintenance of his integrity under them, a type of the Messiah (Isaiah 53:8; Acts 8:33; Isaiah 50:5-9).
II. Declares his abhorrence of ungodliness, and his assurance of being one day justified. Job 27:7.—“Let mine enemy be as the wicked (or ‘mine enemy shall be &c.’), and he that riseth up against me as the unrighteous.” May be viewed either as in the form of a wish or of a declaration. As the former—strongly expresses his abhorrence of ungodliness. A godless character the worst thing he could wish to his enemy. Thus a form of the assertion of his integrity, without implying any evil wish against his enemies. As the latter—expresses the conviction that the day would come when those who now opposed him would appear to be the guilty party. This conviction ultimately realized, ch. Job 42:7-8. Observe—
1. Abhorrence of ungodliness to be deeply cherished, and on all due occasions to be boldly declared.
2. Sin to be regarded and avoided as the greatest evil, both to ourselves and others.
3. Certain that God’s faithful servants will not always underlie false charges (Isaiah 66:5; Revelation 3:9). A day at hand when “all shall be brought out in their blacks and whites.”—S. Rutherford.
4. A good man to be careful that his enemies are only the ungodly. A faithful follower of Jesus likely, sooner or later, to have the ungodly for his enemies and calumniators. A woe pronounced on the disciples when all men shall speak well of them; a blessing, when men shall revile them, and speak all manner of evil against them, falsely, for their Master’s sake. Christ Himself hated by the world, because He testified of it that its deeds are evil. His followers to imitate His example and partake of His experience (John 7:7; John 15:18-21; Matthew 10:24-25).
III. Gives his reasons for his abhorrence of ungodliness and hypocrisy, as well as a proof that his was not such a character (Job 27:8-10 Four things not found in a hypocrite or godless person, but which Job possessed—
(1) A good hope.
(2) A hearing with God.
(3) A holy joy in God Himself.
(4) A heart always to pray.
1. The hope of the ungodly, however prosperous in this world, doomed to disappointment. Job 27:8.—“For what is the hope of the hypocrite (or godless person), though he have gained (or, ‘when God cuts him off,’ as in ch. Job 6:9; Isaiah 38:12), when God takes away (or draws forth) his soul?” The hope of the prosperous hypocrite doomed to perish. Riches profit not in the day of wrath. The sinner may live to do evil “a hundred times,” but must, if impenitent, perish in the end. The rich fool in the Gospel cut off in the midst of his prosperity, and in the height of his hope. Dives taken from his sumptuous table, to cry in hell for a drop of water to cool his tongue. The Saviour’s problem for a worldly man,—What shall a man be profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? (Matthew 16:26). Solon’s maxim not far from the truth,—Call no man happy till his death. Observe—
(1) Our course of life to be constantly viewed in the light of eternity and a dying bed.
“Thrones will then be toys,
And earth and skies seem dust upon the scales.”
(2) A man is happy according to his character rather than his condition.
(3) The text an emphatic testimony to a future life. But for this, the case of the prosperous wicked might have the best of it. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, then are we of all men most miserable (1 Corinthians 15:19).
(4) A prosperous life often suddenly cut short by the stroke of death. Life in God’s hands. The thread cut off at His pleasure.
(5) The soul of the ungodly man forced to quit the body; that of the godly gladly departs from it. The wicked is driven away in his death. Body and soul must part; the question is, how?
(6) That hope only worth having that looks beyond the grave. “He builds too low that builds beneath the skies.”
(7) The gain of the world a poor compensation for the loss of the soul.
(8) Awful condition for a man to be suddenly called into eternity in the midst of his earthly enjoyments, and unprepared.
“How shocking must thy summons be, O death.
To him who is at ease in his possessions!
Who, counting on long years of pleasure here,
Is quite unfurnish’d for that world to come.”
(9) Gold able to procure entrance anywhere but into the kingdom of God.
(10) True wisdom to ask, What is my hope in the event of a sudden death? Reader, what is yours? Only faith in Christ’s blood and righteousness, confirmed by a life of love towards God and men, the only sure foundation of a geea hope. Christ our hope. Such hope the anchor of the soul amid the storms of life and “the swellings of Jordan.”
2. The prayer of the ungodly unheard in the time of trouble. Job 27:9—“Will God hear his cry, when trouble cometh upon him?” Two questions implied—
(1) Will the ungodly pray in time of trouble?
(2) Will God hear him if he does? A heart to pray not always found in time of trouble. The spirit to pray a gift from God. A prayerless life often followed by a prayerless death. Prayer, even if offered, in time of trouble not always heard (Proverbs 1:24-28; Isaiah 1:15). Acceptable prayer implies both repentance and faith. Both wanting in the prayer of the ungodly and the hypocrite. An acceptable time when God may be found and prayer heard;—and the contrary. A time when knocking at mercy’s gate will be followed by no opening (Matthew 25:11-12). He who will not pray when he might, perhaps cannot pray when he would, or is unheard when he does. To shut the door of our heart in God’s face, is the way to have the door of his heaven shut in ours. Observe—
(1) A time of trouble sure sooner or later to come upon each one.
(2) To pray in the time of trouble the language of nature. So the heathen sailors in the ship with Jonah (Jonah 1:5-6). In ordinary circumstances the Athenians prayed to their false deities, but in public distress to “the unknown God”
(3) The ungodly either not able to pray in time of trouble, or not heard if they do.
(4) The mark of a hypocrite to pray only when trouble comes upon him.
3. The ungodly has no delight in God. (Job 27:10)—“Will he delight himself in the Almighty?” The ungodly would have God’s gifts, but not Himself; the godly would rather have God than His gifts. A mark of grace to delight oneself in God. An unholy heart unable to delight in a holy God.
Delight in God
(1) A leading part in true piety. God desires not that we serve Him as a slave, but that we delight in Him as a child.
(2) God Himself the chief good to an intelligent creature. Everything in Him for such a creature to delight in. The source and centre of all good. “Of all Thy gifts Thyself the crown.” All the beauty, loveliness, and sweetness in the creature, in comparison with what is in God, only a drop compared with the ocean. Not to delight in God is either not to know Him or to be under the power of a nature that hates Him. They that know Him not only trust but delight in Him. The greatest misery, as well as sin, of an intelligent creature, not to delight in God. Not to delight in God is either to be ignorant of Him, or to declare that we see nothing in Him to delight in. If God, only as God, is such as to be supremely delighted in by unfallen intelligent creatures, much more is He, as a God in Christ, to be delighted in by fallen ones.
(3) God the delight of heaven. Hence no unregenerate or unholy person able to enter, or find enjoyment there if he could. To delight in God hereafter, we must first learn to delight in Him here.
(4) Delight in the creature only right when we first delight supremely in God. Delight in the creature instead of God, not only idolatry but insult.
(5) A sinner’s greatest delight often his greatest sin. The greater the delight in the creature to the rejection of God, the deeper the idolatry and the fouler the insult.
(6) A man’s character proclaimed by what he delights in. The sow delights in the mire, the crow in carrion, the cock in the dunghill, and the worm in corruption. The delight of the holy, in God; that of the unholy, in the creature. Important question—What do I delight in? God, or the creature?
(7) Delight in God not affected by outward circumstances. Often highest when outward circumstances are lowest.
(8) The mark of a godly man, that, when in deepest affliction, he can delight himself in God. Job’s case. Here apparently appealed to by Him as a proof of the sincerity of his piety.
4. The prayers of the ungodly are only casual and temporary. “Will he always call upon God?”
1. The ungodly man prays in sickness and trouble, but not in health and prosperity. Fitful prayers like smoke driven aside by the wind and never reaching the clouds. Answers to prayer often withheld to prove its faith and sincerity. Some pray only in the sunshine, others only in the storm; the believer prays always.
2. The ungodly man’s prayers not persevered in. Prayer, wanting the wings of faith, soon tires and comes to the ground. Prayer proves its sincerity by its continuance. Fallen nature prays; but only grace prays always. The hypocrite and unbeliever draws in his hand if not immediately filled. Many lose their prayers by not drawing the bow sufficiently for the discharge of the arrow. Successful prayer a bolt shot up into heaven. The believer stands knocking at God’s door, and waiting His own time of opening. Christ taught His disciples always to pray, and not “to faint” (Luke 18:1). Answers only promised to persevering prayer. He who prays successfully finds enjoyment in the exercise which brings him back to it. A man’s religion which is only by fits and starts wants the stamp of divinity. Prayer, without perseverance, not current at the gate of heaven.
Job able to stand both tests. Prayed both in prosperity and adversity, and persevered in his prayers.
IV. Declares his faith in the rectitude of the Divine government
1. Speak as one conscious of greater illumination than his pretentious friends. Job 27:11.—“I will teach you by the hand of God (or, concerning God’s dealings with men; and what is with the almighty (His purposes and procedure in regard to evil doers) I will not conceal.” Observe—Light given in order to be communicated. A good man constituted by God himself a teacher of others. Made a light in the world to hold forth the word of life (Philippians 2:15-16). Truth not to be concealed from selfish love of ease or slavish fear of consequences.
2. Yet appeals to their own observation, and professes only to communicate facts with which they themselves were already acquainted. Job 27:12.—“Behold, all ye yourselves have seen it.” His friends had already referred to the facts, but failed to make a right application of them. Their error not in respect to the facts, but the use of them; not in asserting that hypocrites and oppressors sooner or later suffer the punishment of their sins, but that Job, who was now suffering apparently at the hand of God, must be one of them. Job asserts the fact, but denies the inference. Maintains that all oppressors and bad men, sooner or later, suffer; but denies—
(1) That therefore all oppressors and bad men suffer in this life.
(2) That all that suffer are oppressors and bad men. Observe—
(1) Hearers themselves to be often appealed to for the truth of what is asserted. Appeals to the hearers’ own observation and experience often the most convincing argument. Hearers frequently do not so much require the knowledge of truths or facts, as the right use and application of them.
(2) The dealings of Divine Providence open to men’s view, and calling for observation and reflection.
3. Hence reproves them for their vain and useless arguments. “Why then are ye thus altogether vain?” (or “babble forth such vanities”?) Their vanity—
(1) In addressing Job as if ignorant of, or absolutely denying, the facts they so much insisted on in regard to the fate of the ungodly.
(2) In erroneously arguing from those facts that Job, who suffered so much, must be a bad man. That Job could maintain the facts as decidedly as themselves, a proof—
(1) That he was not the wicked man they had represented him to be.
(2) That he needed not their instruction on the subject.
(3) That they had only been vainly insisting on things which he himself admitted.
(4) That they had been one-sided in their views and representations. They had, therefore, poured forth their eloquence, whether original or second-hand, only “as one that beateth the air.”
(1) Preachers to see that in their discourses they are aiming at a right object, and employing right arguments in support of it.
(2) Preachers not to dwell on known and admitted truths without shewing the right use and application of them. Not enough to repeat that all who believe and come to Christ will be saved, but to endeavour to shew what it is to believe and come to Him, and how people may do so. Not sufficient to insist that Christ died for sinners, but to show how a man obtains a saving interest in His death.
V. Describes the lot of oppressors and of the prosperous ungodly. Job 27:13.—“This is the portion of wicked men with God, and the heritage of oppressors which they shall receive of the Almighty.” Seems to take up the language of Zophar (ch. Job 20:29). Observe—
(1) Faith and piety look to the end.
(2) Each man’s destiny faithfully meted out by the Almighty according to his character and conduct.
(3). The main question for a man—what shall I receive at the hands of the Almighty? Man kills the body; but the soul still in God’s hands.
The lot of the ungodly described in reference to—
1. Their children. Job 27:14.—“If his children be multiplied (or become great—a mark of propriety), it is for the sword (or they are doomed to the sword—shall fall in the siege or battle as threatened, Hosea 9:13), and his offspring shall not be satisfied with bread.” Misery often entailed on children by their parents’ sin, an acknowledged fact. “The seed of evil doers shall never be renowned”—a standing maxim. Children usually serve themselves heirs of their parents’ sufferings by practising their parents’ sins. Effects of the sins of parents often in this world more visible in the children than in themselves. Proof of a judgment to come and a future life. Effects from parents’ sins, suffered by children in this life, may be overruled by a gracious Providence for their benefit in the next. Contrast the text with what is stated of the children of the godly (Psalms 37:25-26). Job’s children neither perished by the sword nor suffered want of bread. Job 27:15.—“Those that remain of him (escaping the sword) shall be buried in death (immediately on their death as in a time of pestilence, or buried by the pestilence as the cause of their death); and his (or their) widows shall not weep” (as in an ordinary case of burial, the want of such funeral lamentation being with Orientals a grievous misfortune—“the burial of an ass,” Jeremiah 22:18-19).
2. Their possessions. Job 27:16.—“Though he heap up silver as the dust, and prepare raiment (another form of Oriental riches) as the clay; He may prepare it, but the just shall put it on, and the innocent shall divide the silver.” The answer to the question put to the rich fool: “Then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?” (Luke 12:20). The sinner’s wages earned to be put into a bag with holes. Himself often snatched away by death when expecting to enjoy his acquired possessions. In the Providence of God a good man often made to reap the benefit of a bad man’s gains. Insecurity and transitoriness the characteristics of the prosperous sinner’s earthly goods. Job 27:18.—“He buildeth his house as the moth (which is easily shaken out of the garment where it has made its nest, and which often devours its own house), and as a booth (or hut) which the keeper [of a vineyard] maketh” (intended only to last for the season, and to be taken down as soon the fruit is gathered).
3. His person. He is often—
(1) Carried off by a sudden and unexpected death. Job 27:19.—“The rich man shall lie down [at night on his bed of rest], but he shall not be gathered (or, according to another reading, ‘he shall not do so any more,’—he lies down for the last time); he openeth his eyes (or, as quickly as ‘one opens one’s eyes’—in the twinkling of an eye) and he is not” (is no more in this world, having been carried often by a sudden death during the night). Exemplified in the rich fool of the Gospel, and perhaps forming the foundation of the Saviour’s illustration: “This night thy soul shall be required of thee” (Luke 12:20).
(2) Seized with sudden fear of approaching judgment. Job 27:20.—“Terrors take hold on him as waters (suddenly overwhelming him like a mountain-torrent rushing down with widespread ruin); a tempest stealeth him away in the night (some judgment carrying him away like a sudden tornado, never dreaming of such an event). The east wind (the most vehement and destructive in Oriental countries) carrieth him away, and he departeth (no more to be seen), and as a storm hurleth him out of his place (his fancied paradise, where he expected to remain, and long enjoy his accumulated wealth.
(3) Visited with calamity from which he is unable to escape. Job 27:22.—“For God shall cast [His judgments] upon him, and not spare; he would fain flee out of His hand.” Unsparing sin prepares for unsparing judgment. Escape often sought only when too late. “The prudent foresecth the evil and hideth himself; the foolish passeth on and is punished.” “A fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
(4) Made the object of execration and abhorrence to his fellow-man. Job 27:23.—“Men shall clap their hands at him (in abhorrence of his character and joy at his fall), and shall hiss him out of his place” (as an object of execration and a nuisance to society). The most prosperous evil-doer made one day “an abhorrence to all flesh.” Some to leave their graves unto everlasting life; some “to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2; Isaiah 66:24). Observe—(i.) Power of faith and a good conscience to enable a man, while deeply suffering both outwardly and inwardly, calmly to contemplate and boldly to declare the consequences of a life of sin. (ii.) A godly man, however tried and afflicted, takes the part of God against evil-doers, however prosperous in this world. (iii.) Terrible consequences, sooner or later, to a life of worldliness and ungodliness. (iv.) The tinsel of worldly prosperity to be one day stripped off from the godless possessor of it. (v.) Awful madness to peril the destinies of eternity for the momentary pleasures of time.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Job 27". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent