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MAN’S TIME ON EARTH FIXED
Job 7:1. Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth? are not his days also like the days of an hireling?
THE precise connexion of these words is not very clear: nor, as far as the sense of them is concerned, is it of any great importance to inquire respecting it. It should seem that Job, having been reproved by his friend Eliphaz for expressing too strongly and too impatiently his wish for death to terminate his troubles, here vindicates himself by an appeal to him, that, if an hireling looks forward with comfort to the rest that awaits him after his labours, much more may he desire rest under his great and accumulated afflictions.
But, waving any further consideration of this, I will endeavour to shew,
What these interrogations import—
Wherever appeals are made to man in the inspired volume, we may be sure that the things asserted are true, and that they are deserving of particular attention. Those which present themselves to our notice in the text plainly imply,
That man’s time on earth is fixed by God himself—
[The time of our birth is fixed by Him who formed us in the womb, and breathed into our nostrils the breath of life. Our continuance, also, in life is fixed. No man can deprive us of life till our time is come; nor can any man protract his existence upon earth one moment, when the appointed period of his dissolution has arrived. “No man,” says Solomon, “hath power over the spirit, to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death: and there is no discharge in that war [Note: Ecclesiastes 8:8.].” No: “his days are determined, the number of his months are with God, who hath appointed his bounds, which he cannot pass [Note: Job 14:5.].” “Our times are altogether in God’s hands [Note: Psalms 31:15.];” and “all the days of our appointed time must we wait, until our change come [Note: Job 14:14.].”]
That during that time we have a work to do, and a warfare to maintain—
[The word, “our appointed time,” is, in the margin, translated “our warfare.” The same word occurs in the fortieth chapter of Isaiah, and is there translated, “warfare:” “Her warfare is accomplished:” and there the marginal reading is, “appointed time [Note: Isaiah 40:2.].” Without determining which is preferable here, we will include both. We have a work to do, even “as an hireling,” who labours in the field. To serve our God, and to seek the salvation of our souls, are the great ends of life. In this work we must engage, not as labourers only, but as soldiers also: for we have corrupt propensities, which must be mortified, and powerful adversaries that must be withstood. Our conflicts with these may well be called a “warfare;” for, indeed, we can never hope to overcome them, if we go not forth to the combat “in the strength of Christ, and put not on the whole armour of God [Note: Ephesians 6:10-18.].” The world with its temptations, the flesh with all its lusts, and the devil with all his wiles, are ever seeking to destroy us: and, unless we “fight manfully the good fight of faith [Note: 1 Corinthians 16:13. 1 Timothy 6:12.],” it cannot fail but that we must perish. During the whole period of our abode on earth this warfare must be maintained; nor must we ever put off our armour till our victory be complete. It cannot be supposed that God has sent us into the world merely to please and gratify ourselves, like the rich fool, who said, “Let us eat, drink, and be merry.” There is not an hireling who feels not that he has some work assigned him, nor a soldier who does not expect that he will have some conflicts to sustain: and every Christian must regard himself as invested with these characters, and, as of necessity, called to the performance of these duties.]
That, at the expiration of that time, God will give us a recompence according to our works—
[The hireling expects his pay, and the soldier his discharge, when they have completed the term for which they were engaged, and fulfilled the offices to which they were appointed. And we, also, may look forward, even as Moses did, to “a recompence of reward [Note: Hebrews 11:26.],” which our Divine Master will surely give to all his faithful servants. Doubtless, whatever be our labours or our conflicts, it is “not a reward of debt, but a reward of grace [Note: Romans 4:4.],” that we are to hope for: but still God has graciously pledged himself that “our labour shall not be in vain [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:58.];” and he would even esteem himself “unrighteous, if he were to forget the works and labours of love which we have performed for his name’s sake [Note: Hebrews 6:10.].”]
The import of the interrogations being sufficiently clear, let me point out,
What they suggest to every reflecting mind—
Whole volumes would not suffice for a full statement of this part of our subject. To mention only what is most obvious, they suggest,
That we should perform with diligence our appointed work—
[We expect a hireling or a soldier to do this. If they were unmindful of their calling, or loitered in it, we should account them worthy of reproof. But their offices, however important, are not to be compared with those which we have to discharge: theirs relate to time and to mortals like ourselves; but ours relate to God and to eternity. Let us, then, at the commencement of every day, ask ourselves, “What have I to do for God and for my own soul this day?” And “whatsoever our hand findeth to do, let us do it with all our might [Note: Ecclesiastes 9:10.].”]
That we should sustain with patience the trials that are allotted us—
[Trials there are in every situation of life, and especially in those which expose us to great fatigue and danger. No hireling or soldier expects to escape them. They are regarded as necessarily attached to the offices which such persons have to perform. And can we hope to escape them; we, whose work is so arduous, and whose warfare is so continued? We should be prepared for them, and have our minds fore-armed against them: and, bearing in mind who it is that has appointed them, and what he deserves at our hands, we should welcome every trial as a means of displaying our attachment to him, and of honouring that God whose servants we are.]
That we may look forward to our dismission from the body as a season much to be desired—
[This, perhaps, is the primary idea intended in the text. At all events, the hireling welcomes the rest and recompence which await him after the labours of the day, as the soldier does his discharge after a long and dangerous campaign. What then should we do, whose rest will be so glorious, and whose recompence so great? Can we think of the approbation of our God, and not pant for the time when we shall hear him say. “Well done, good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord?” Can we survey all the glory and felicity of heaven, and the crowns and kingdoms that await us there, and not long for the period when we shall be invested with them? St. Paul “desired to depart, and to be with Christ [Note: Philippians 1:23.],” yea, and “groaned in spirit” for the time, “when, the earthly house of this tabernacle being dissolved, he should possess a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:1-3.]. We, then, may exercise the same holy disposition; not, indeed, through weariness of life, but through desire of beholding our God face to face: our wish must be, “not merely to be unclothed (and freed from the storms and tempests of this present world), but clothed upon, that mortality may be swallowed up of life [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:4.].”]
In a review of this subject, what matter do we find,
[What if a hireling employed by us had performed his work, from day to day, as we have ours; of what reward should we account him worthy? Or, if a soldier in our army had discharged his duties as we have ours; what recompence would he receive at the hands of his commander? Yet, our zeal and diligence ought to have far exceeded those of the most industrious labourer and the most devoted soldier upon earth. Ah, Brethren, the very best amongst us has need to weep in the review of all his past life, and even of the very best day that he ever spent, and the best services that he ever rendered. But rise, I pray you, to your duty; and redeem, as much as possible, the time you have lost. What advice would you give to a man that was under sentence of condemnation, even though two or three months were yet to intervene before the execution of his sentence? Take that advice to yourselves, and follow it: and pray mightily to God, that your appointed time, whether it be short or long, may be so improved, as you will wish you had improved it, when you shall come to die.]
[Had we to perform our work in our own strength, or to “carry on our warfare at our own cost,” we might well despair. But it is not so. The Spirit of the living God is promised to us, to “help our infirmities;” and “he who has begun the good work in us has engaged to perfect it until the day of Christ [Note: Philippians 1:6.].” Count not, then, your difficulties or your dangers, as though they were too great for you to encounter. Only go forth in the strength of Christ, and you may say to all of them, “Who art thou, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain [Note: Zechariah 4:7.].” Your weakness, if only you feel it as you ought, should rather be an occasion of satisfaction than of despondency; since, “when you are weak, then shall you be strong; and Christ’s strength shall be perfected in your weakness [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.].” After all, who can tell how few your conflicts may be? Perhaps your appointed time is already so near a close, that you have but a few days or hours to live. Be this as it may, “let your loins be girt, and your lamps trimmed, as those that wait for the coming of their Lord; that, at whatever hour he shall come, he may find you watching.” “What I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Job 7". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28