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Job again takes up the discourse in this Chapter, and makes another appeal against the false reasoning of his friends. He contendeth, that the wicked sometimes prosper in this life, and therefore it is not less to be expected that the righteous should sometimes suffer: but in death they are alike.
(1) ¶ But Job answered and said, (2) Hear diligently my speech, and let this be your consolations. (3) Suffer me that I may speak; and after that I have spoken, mock on.
The man of Uz makes another attempt to win the kindness of his friends, that they might consider his case, at peculiarly needing commiseration. But if he cannot move them to this, he desires still to be heard; and if, after what he had further to say, they were still so harsh in their censures, that then they should mock on.
(4) As for me, is my complaint to man? and if it were so, why should not my spirit be troubled? (5) Mark me, and be astonished, and lay your hand upon your mouth. (6) Even when I remember I am afraid, and trembling taketh hold on my flesh.
Perhaps this part of Job's discourse is as interesting and important as any in the whole controversy. He first reminds his friends, that his eye is unto GOD. From him came his affliction, and therefore from him alone he looks for deliverance. He next intimates how very strange and singular his visitations had been: and how, from the greatest prosperity he had been, in a moment, thrown down to the very depth of misery. The very remembrance of what he once was, and what he was now brought to, he could not recollect but with trembling.
(7) ¶ Wherefore do the wicked live, become old, yea, are mighty in power?
Job in this verse reminds his friends of the very different state of the wicked. It is as if he had said, If according to your judgment, that my GOD is visiting me with such peculiar calamities, for some very heavy and peculiar transgressions, can you explain to me upon the same principles, how it is that the wicked have become old in their carnal prosperity, and continue, to the very close of a long life, prosperous in the world? The same enquiry hath occupied the minds of reflecting men in all ages. It is only the gospel of JESUS which gives a satisfactory answer. Jeremiah 12:1-3 .
(8) Their seed is established in their sight with them, and their offspring before their eyes. (9) Their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them. (10) Their bull gendereth, and faileth not; their cow calveth, and casteth not her calf. (11) They send forth their little ones like a flock, and their children dance. (12) They take the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ. (13) They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave.
Job gives, in these verses, a most masterly description of prosperous sinners: and every age of the Church affords numberless living examples, that the account is not heightened. Observe, what a view the man of Uz gives, in the first place, of their mirth. They are unvisited by affliction. The rod of GOD, as a kind father, is not felt by them. Observe the training of their children. What a melancholy picture is this of an ungodly house: They send them forth, to the dance. Alas! what thousands of graceless parents there are, in the present day, who do this, and are regardless of their children's eternal welfare. They take the timbrel and the harp (the same fashionable instruments which the frivolous make chief part of the education of our day); but not a word of taking the Bible, or the sweet sounds of the gospel of JESUS, for their little ones to be brought up in the knowledge of it: but the whole system tends to this end, how to excel in that, which the stage dancers and the lowest of animals excel in, as well as they! Observe in what striking terms Job describes the result of all this: they spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave. And who that looks round, and contemplates what is daily going on in the carnal world before their eyes, can require further evidence of the truth of this now, as well as in Job's days. Read what Asaph hath remarked to the same effect, and compare the scriptures together. Psalms 73:3-20 .
(14) Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. (15) What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto him? (16) Lo, their good is not in their hand: the counsel of the wicked is far from me. (17) ¶ How oft is the candle of the wicked put out! and how oft cometh their destruction upon them! God distributeth sorrows in his anger. (18) They are as stubble before the wind, and as chaff that the storm carrieth away. (19) God layeth up his iniquity for his children: he rewardeth him, and he shall know it. (20) His eyes shall see his destruction, and he shall drink of the wrath of the Almighty. (21) For what pleasure hath he in his house after him, when the number of his months is cut off in the midst? (22) Shall any teach God knowledge? seeing he judgeth those that are high. (23) One dieth in his full strength, being wholly at ease and quiet. (24) His breasts are full of milk, and his bones are moistened with marrow. (25) And another dieth in the bitterness of his soul, and never eateth with pleasure. (26) They shall lie down alike in the dust, and the worms shall cover them.
With what awful words does this part of Job's discourse open? And can we suppose that there were ever any men upon earth so abandoned as to use this language? It would be for the honour of human nature if there were not. But if in words the graceless do not so defy GOD, they do what is tantamount in actions, by which they despise him! How beautifully Job describes the fleeting vaporish continuance of the wicked man's prosperity, under the similitude of a candle, which is often put out! Life itself, if left like a candle to burn out, would not last long even then. But how often will a thief, as we call it, in the candle, put it out! How oft the fleeting of the oil will put it out! How oft by snuffing it, is it put out! And who shall say how often GOD, by the blowing of the wind of his anger in sickness, or sudden visitations, puts life out! And is this worthy to be called prosperity, even the most carnal gratifications of the ungodly, when exposed to such sudden, and everlasting danger every moment! The prophet Isaiah hath drawn a fine comparison between an old prosperous sinner in death, and the child of grace, called upon to enter glory; where he saith, the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner, being an hundred years old, shall be accursed. Isaiah 65:20 .
(27) ¶ Behold, I know your thoughts, and the devices which ye wrongfully imagine against me. (28) For ye say, Where is the house of the prince? and where are the dwelling places of the wicked? (29) Have ye not asked them that go by the way? and do ye not know their tokens, (30) That the wicked is reserved to the day of destruction? they shall be brought forth to the day of wrath. (31) Who shall declare his way to his face? and who shall repay him what he hath done? (32) Yet shall he be brought to the grave, and shall remain in the tomb. (33) The clods of the valley shall be sweet unto him, and every man shall draw after him, as there are innumerable before him. (34) How then comfort ye me in vain, seeing in your answers there remaineth falsehood?
In those verses Job makes his conclusion from what he had said; and though he foresees that those three friends would not join issue with him, yet he sets it down as an unquestionable truth, that the prosperity of the wicked becomes a sure argument that there is a day of account to follow; and as the sinner prospers in his iniquity, notwithstanding the eye of GOD is all along upon him, so assuredly there shall be a time when his miseries shall overtake him, when the day of retribution shall come. Hence, therefore, Job leaves them to infer, that the afflictions of the afflicted shall be recompensed, and the issue of their sorrows shall be, they shall have peace at the last. We cannot but admire the reasoning of Job in an age so remote from the gospel, when we find his belief bears so striking a conformity to all that the blessed religion of the LORD JESUS CHRIST hath assured, and established, concerning the final termination of the righteous and of sinners. Romans 2:7-10 .
READER! let us pause over the perusal of this chapter, and, for the moment, drop the recollection of both Job and his friends, to bring the subject itself a little nearer home, as it concerns the same circumstances here described in the present day in which we dwell.
If we look at human life as it appears in the great mass of men, what a confused state of affairs it seems! In the bulk, no doubt, as to outward things, the ungodly and the despisers of GOD are the most prosperous. They are as Job hath here described them. Hence if we allowed ourselves to reason from outside show, we should frequently pronounce the sinner happy, and the saint miserable. But what an erroneous calculation should we then make! To form a proper estimate even of the real enjoyment of prosperous circumstances, we must look within as well as without. We must follow the great man, or the rich man, into his retirement. We must see him according to what he feels and what he confesses, and not by what the world have concluded concerning his real happiness. And if we were to do this, we should discover many an aching heart in a fine house; and many a miserable man, who to the world looks gay and smiling. So that even in respect to the happiness of this life, the prosperous sinner hath not the best of it. And uniformly is it found, that they who follow the world, as well as they who follow CHRIST, must and do take up a cross; and sometimes a very heavy galling cross to such it is.
But whatever be the enjoyments of the sinner here, what can be the frothy unsatisfying pleasures of the whole carnal world, compared with that glory which shall be revealed? Oh! precious JESUS! in the recollection of thee and of thy presence, how doth everything sink to nothing in the view of the soul. Truly hast thou promised that, in this life, they that love thee shall inherit substance, and that thou wilt fill all their treasures. And solid, satisfying, and substantial, all thy mercies are. But who shall describe, or what heart shall conceive, the nature, the extent, the durableness, the vast joys which thou hast laid up for, and which thou art thyself to impart to, thy redeemed in glory! LORD! let a conviction of them continually warm my soul, and animate my heart; and do thou enable me, oh! thou bountiful LORD! so to pursue thee, in all the paths of grace here below, that I may at length attain to that glory which shall be revealed; to the everlasting enjoyment of the presence of GOD and the LAMB, and those unspeakable felicities which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man to conceive, but which are at thy right hand forevermore.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Job 21". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
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