My soul is weary of my life.
On the causes of men’s being weary of life
A sentiment which surely, if any situation can justify it, was allowable in the case of Job. Let us examine in what circumstances this feeling may be deemed excusable; in what it is to be held sinful; and under what restrictions we may, on any occasion, be permitted to say, “My soul is weary of my life.”
I. As the sentiment of a discontented man. With whom it is the effusion of spleen, vexation, and dissatisfaction with life, arising from causes neither laudable nor justifiable.
1. This weariness of life is often found among the idle. They have so many vacant hours, and are so much at a loss how to fill up their time, that their spirits utterly sink. The idle are doomed to suffer the natural punishment of their inactivity and folly.
2. Among the luxurious and dissipated, such complaints are still more frequent. They have run the whole race of pleasure, but they have run it with such inconsiderate speed that it terminates in weariness and vexation of spirit. Satiated, weary of themselves, the complaint bursts forth of odious life and a miserable world. Their weariness is no other than the judgment of God overtaking them for their vices and follies. Their complaints of misery are entitled to no compassion. They are the authors of their own misery.
3. Then there are those who have embittered life to themselves by the consciousness of criminal deeds. There is no wonder that such persons should lose their relish for life. To the complaints of such persons no remedy can be furnished, except what arises from the bitterness of sincere and deep repentance.
II. As the sentiment of those in situations of distress. These are so variously multiplied in the world, and are often so oppressive, that assuredly it is not uncommon to hear the afflicted complain that they are weary of life. Their complaints, if not always allowable, yet certainly are more excusable than those which flow from the sources of dissatisfaction already mentioned. They are sufferers, not so much through their own misconduct, as through the appointment of Providence; and therefore to persons in this situation it may seem more needful to offer consolation than to give admonition. However, as the evils which produce this impatience of life are of different sorts, a distinction must be made as to the situations which can most excuse it.
1. The exclamation may be occasioned by deep and overwhelming grief. As of bereavement.
2. Or by great reverses of worldly fortune. To persons under such calamities, sympathy is due.
3. Continuance of long and severe disease. In this case Job’s complaint may assuredly be forgiven more than in any other.
III. As the sentiment of those who are tired of the vanity of the world. Tired of its insipid enjoyments, and its perpetually revolving circle of trifles and follies. They feel themselves made for something greater and nobler. In this view the sentiment of the text may sometimes be that of a devout man. But, however sincere, their devotion is not altogether of a rational and chastened kind. Let us beware of all such imaginary refinements as produce a total disrelish of our present condition. They are for the most part grafted on disappointed pursuits, or on a melancholy and splenetic turn of mind. This life may not compare with the life to come, but such as it is, it is the gift of God. One great cause of men’s becoming weary of life is grounded on the mistaken views of it which they have formed, and the false hopes which they have entertained from it. They have expected a scene of enjoyment, and when they meet with disappointments and distresses, they complain of life as if it had cheated and betrayed them. God ordained no such possession for man on earth as continued pleasure. For the wisest purposes He designed our state to be chequered with pleasure and pain. As such let us receive it, and make the best of what is doomed to be our lot. (Hugh Blair, D. D.)
Weariness of life and its remedies
There is a love of life which depends not upon ourselves at all, and which we cannot help feeling at all times. It is the pure instinct of our mortal nature. And life is well worthy of our estimation and care. And yet there is such a thing as weariness of life. Men may be ready to say, “My soul is weary of my life.”
I. From their own sinful abuse of life and its blessings. Mankind usually expect too much from the present life. Some try to find this unwarranted enjoyment in earthly things, by carrying every gratification to excess, by giving themselves wholly to the love of present pleasures. They of course experience disappointment in this vain and sinful pursuit, as God intended they should do. They become weary of themselves and weary of life; and all this purely owing to their own folly in perverting their way, and abusing the good gifts of God. Others desire only lawful gratifications, and seek them in an orderly manner. They propose even to themselves to be useful in life. They plan very wisely, and proceed very commendably in all respects but one, and that one is, that they are merely looking to the creature, and leaving God, in great measure, out of view. They seek their happiness more in the enjoyment of His gifts, than in making it their aim to please the gracious Bestower of them all. These also are disappointed. Their schemes misgive; or, if they succeed, they themselves do not find in them anything like satisfaction to their immortal nature. They begin to blame this world, to blame their fellow creatures, and to become weary even of life. So did Solomon, Ahab, and Haman. This weariness of life would not be blamable if it was seen to have the good effect of checking men’s immoderate expectations from present enjoyments. But it does not usually serve such salutary purposes. This weariness is one of man’s own creating. Men try to make the animal part of their nature supply the wants also of their spiritual part.
II. From their sorrows in life and from their loss or want of its blessings. When the objects of our care and affection are suffering distress, or are taken away from us, we must sorrow severely, and we are not forbidden to do so. But we are cautioned against being “overcome of much sorrow,” and there is danger of indulging even excusable griefs, till we become ready to say, “My soul is weary of my life.” Then “we” show that we are forgetting the use of these afflictions and sorrows, and we defeat the very end of these sorrows. The furnace of affliction is the refining of our souls.
III. From their inability to enjoy the blessings of life. Bodily pains, diseased and decaying health, not only cause distress to our natural feelings, they also disable us from discharging those duties in which we might find relief from many griefs and troubles of mind. In extreme agonies of pain, life cannot be felt as anything else than a burden. Many, though free from excessive bodily tortures, are nevertheless made to possess “months of vanity,” and have “wearisome nights.” To bear such trials without being weary of life is no easy duty. But it never can become anyone to express weariness of that life which God, in His wisdom, sees meet to prolong. The continued sufferer may have much to do, and much to learn. Be not weary of life while you are in the way of acquiring greater meetness for heaven.
IV. From spiritual desires of a better life and its better blessings. There is a weariness of life that flows from a powerful feeling of religion itself, which we are too much inclined to excuse, or even desirous to indulge. It is found in emotional young persons under first serious impressions; and in those who are occasionally visited with high satisfactions of a spiritual nature; and in those oppressed with the power of an evil nature, and witnessing much of the wickedness of the world. They are defeated in the good which they wished to accomplish, and they are distressed by the prevalence in their own hearts of the evil which they wished to overcome. They are ready to say with the Psalmist, “Oh that I had wings like a dove! then would I flee away, and be at rest.” But it is unwarrantable to prefer heaven to earth, merely for the sake of your own ease and gratification. To do so is more a token of selfishness than sanctification of spirit. (J. Brewster.)
Great music uncomplaining
In a charming essay on music, a recent writer has gathered up a great deal in one telling sentence. He speaks of the various moods of the world’s masterpieces of music--the romance, the sorrow, the aspiration, the joy, the sublimity expressed in them, and he adds that there is only one mood forever unrepresented, for, “Great music never complains.” At first, this seems too sweeping. We remember so many minor keys, so many tragic chords, in the best music. But, as we think over it longer, it becomes truer and truer. Great music has its minor keys, its pathetic passages, its longing, yearning notes; but they always lead on to aspiration, to hope, or to resignation and peace. Mere complaint is not in them. The reason, after all, is simple. Complaint is selfish, and high music, like any other great art, forgets self in larger things. The complaining note has no possible place in noble harmonies, even though they be sad. So, if we want to make music out of our lives, we must learn to omit complaint. Some young people think it rather fine and noble to be discontented, to complain of narrow surroundings, to dwell on the minor notes. But it is well to remember that the one thing to avoid in singing is a whine in the voice; and whining is perilously close to any form of pathos. “Great music never complains.” That is a good motto to hang up on the wall of one’s mind, over our keyboard of feeling, so to speak. The harmonies of our lives will be braver and sweeter the more we follow this thought. Without it, fret and discord will come, and mar the music that might be, and that is meant to be. (Christian Age.)
Do not condemn me.
The cry of penitence
I. This is the language of a sincere penitent. It expresses a dread of condemnation, and a fear of future punishment. This impression is awakened by--
1. The recollection of past sins.
2. By a sense of present suffering.
II. It implies that there are some persons whom God will certainly condemn. The sentence to “depart” will be pronounced by the righteous Judge, and it will be addressed especially to three classes of individuals. To the prayerless, the self-righteous, and those who live in the habitual practice of sin.
III. It directs us to the means by which this final sentence may be averted.
1. You must justify the character and conduct of God.
2. Make humble and sincere acknowledgment of your sinfulness.
3. Cheerfully acquiesce in the method of Divine mercy.
IV. It suggests some important motives to produce in our minds true and evangelical repentance.
1. The first class of motives is addressed to our fears.
2. From the strivings of the Spirit.
3. From the glorious dispensation under which we live. (Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)
Shew me wherefore Thou contendest with me.
The sweet uses of adversity
It needs but a short sight for us to discover that if God contendeth with man, it must be a contention of mercy. There must be a design of love in this. Address--
I. The child of God. Sometimes to question God is wicked. But this is a question that may be asked.
1. My first answer on God’s part is this: it may be that God is contending with thee, that He may show His own power in upholding thee. He loves to hear His saints tried, that the whole world may see that there is none like them on the face of the earth. What noble work is this, that while God is casting down His child with one hand, He should be holding him up with the other. This is why God contends with thee; to glorify Himself by showing to angels, to men, to devils, how He can put such strength into poor, puny man, that he can contend with his Maker, and become a prevailing prince like Israel, who as a prince had power with God and prevailed.
2. The Lord is doing this to develop thy graces. There are some of thy graces that would never be discovered if it were not for thy trials. Thy faith never looks so grand in summer weather as it does in winter. Love is too often like a glow worm, that showeth but little light, except it be in the midst of surrounding darkness. Hope itself is like a star, not to be Seen in the sunshine of prosperity, and only to be discovered in the night of adversity. It is real growth that is the result of these trials. God may take away your comforts and your privileges, to make you the better Christians.
3. It may be that the Lord contends with thee because thou hast some secret sin which is doing thee sore damage. Trials often discover sins--sins which we should never have found out if it had not been for them. The houses in Russia are very greatly infested with rats and mice. Perhaps a stranger would scarcely notice them at first, but the time when you discover them is when the house is on fire--then they pour out in multitudes. And so doth God sometimes burn up our comforts to make our hidden sins run out; and then He enables us to knock them on the head, and get rid of them. That may be the reason of your trial, to put an end to some long-festered sin; or to prevent some future sin.
4. We must have fellowship with Christ in His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death. Hast thou never thought that none can be like the Man of Sorrow, unless they have sorrows too? Think not that thou canst be like the thorn-crowned head, and yet never feel the thorn. God is chiselling you--you are but a rough block--He is making you into the image of Christ; and that sharp chisel is taking away much which prevents your being like Him. Sweet is the affliction which gives us fellowship with Christ.
5. It may be that the Lord contendeth with thee to humble thee. We are all too proud. We shall have many blows before we are brought down to the right mark; and it is because we are so continually getting up, that God is so continually putting us down again.
II. Address the seeking sinner. Who may be wondering that he has found no peace or comfort. Perhaps--
1. God is contending with you for awhile, because as yet you are not thoroughly awakened. Christ will not heal your wound until He has probed it to its very core.
2. God may be contending with you to try your earnestness.
3. Perhaps you are harbouring some sin.
4. Perhaps you do not thoroughly understand the plan of salvation. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The design of God in affliction
Good men who have excelled in a particular virtue have sometimes lamentably failed in its exercise--e.g., Moses, Peter, Job. The text refers to a season of heavy affliction. The spirit of Job was oppressed; his mind was harassed; it was full of confusion; and we wonder not that his language betrays the perplexity which he felt.
I. A good man has converse with God. In all circumstances, whether of ease or pain, of health or sickness, he thinks of his God, and highly estimates communion with Him. In affliction we speak to ourselves; we speak to our friends; but our best employment is converse with God. In our approaches to Him, He permits us to utter whatever interests our minds, to express the inmost feelings of our hearts.
II. A good man deprecates an evil. “Do not condemn me.” Job refers probably to the sentiment of his friends. They mistook his character. Job says to God, “Do not Thou condemn me.” No doubt Job had low views of himself in the sight of God. This applies to ourselves. Do we merit condemnation from God? What shall we plead in arrest of judgment? Nothing less than the mediation of Christ.
III. A good man solicits a favour. “Shew me wherefore Thou contendest with me.” “Afflictest” is a better word here than “contendest.” It is a warrantable request, a prayer full of propriety. Affliction is from God, and He has some design in it, which it is important for us to ascertain. Affliction is sent to convince of sin; to prevent sin; as a test of principles; to promote holiness; to advance our usefulness. What then do you know of converse with God, and how is the privilege improved? (T. Kidd.)
Is it good unto Thee that Thou shouldest oppress?
Job’s mistaken views of his sufferings
I. As inconsistent with all his ideas of his Maker.
1. As inconsistent with His goodness. “Is it good unto Thee that Thou shouldest oppress, that Thou shouldest despise the work of Thine hands?” I thought Thee benevolent and merciful, but in my suffering I feel Thee to be malign. There is a strong tendency in all men under suffering to regard the Almighty as anything but good.
2. With His justice. “And shine upon the counsel of the wicked.” Job saw wicked men around him, strong and hale in body, buoyant in animal spirits, and prosperous in worldly affairs, whilst he who was in his deepest heart in sympathy with right, and the God of right, was reduced to the utmost distress. He failed to see justice in this.
3. With His greatness. “Hast Thou eyes of flesh,” etc. I cannot reconcile the sufferings with which Thou dost afflict an insignificant creature like me with Thine omniscience and eternity.
II. As an unrighteous display of arbitrary power. “Thou knowest that I am not wicked,” etc. Job does not regard himself as absolutely holy. The Omniscient One knew he was not guilty of that hypocrisy with which his friends had charged him. Where, then, is the righteousness of his afflictions?
III. As contrary to what the Divine organisation and preservation of his existence led him to expect. In the eighth and two following verses he ascribes the formation of his body to God. He ascribes his sustentation as well. He seemed astonished that the God who thus produced and supported him should thus mar his beauty, destroy his health, and overwhelm him with misery. This is, in truth, a perplexity to us as well as to Job.
IV. As baffling all attempts to understand. “And these things Thou hast hid in Thine heart.” If there is a reason, it is in Thy heart shut up and hid from me, and I cannot reach it. The more he thought, the more was Job embarrassed with the mysteries of his being. Conclusion--
1. The greatness of man’s capability for suffering. To what inexpressible wretchedness and agony was Job now reduced, both in soul and in body.
2. The absoluteness of God’s power over us. We are in His bands, all of us.
3. The value of Christianity as an interpreter of suffering. Job’s great “confusion” in his suffering seemed to arise from the idea that unless a man was a great sinner there was no reason for great suffering. Afflictions to good men are disciplinary, not punitive. (Homilist.)
That Thou shouldest despise the work of Thine hands.
Man is the work of God
Job alludes to artificers who, having made an excellent piece, will not destroy or break it in pieces; they are very tender of their work, yea, they are apt to boast and grow proud of it. Man was the masterpiece of the whole visible creation. The Lord needs not to be ashamed of, neither doth He despise any part of His work, much less this, which is the best and noblest part of it. As the body, so the soul of man is the work of God’s hand. His power and wisdom wrought it, and work mightily in it. In regard of bodily substance, the most inferior creatures claim kindred of man, and he may be compared to the beast that perisheth; but in regard of the soul, man transcends them all, and may challenge a nearness, if not an equality with the angels. Take three cautions.
1. Be not proud of what ye are, all is the work of God. How beautiful or comely, how wise or holy soever ye are, it is not of yourselves.
2. Despise not what others are or have; though they are not such exact pieces, though they have not such excellent endowments as yourselves, yet they are what the hand of God hath wrought them, and they have what the hand of God hath wrought in them.
3. Despise not what yourselves are; to do so is a sin, and a sin very common. Men are ashamed to be seen as God hath made them; few are ashamed to be seen what the devil hath made them. Many are troubled at small defects of the outward man. They who come after God to mend His work, lest they should be despised, will but make themselves more despicable. (Joseph Caryl.)
Thine hands have made me.
Creation, the pledge of God’s guardianship
Though Job reached a wrong conclusion, he was arguing on a right principle. The patriarch’s argument is this--As we are the creatures, the workmanship of Almighty God, we may expect Him to take care of us, and that as God, any opposite conduct may justly excite surprise, and be thought at variance with the acknowledged fact that the Divine hands have “made us and fashioned us together round about.” This argument is susceptible of being wrought out into many and instructive shapes. The remembrance of our creation should animate us to expect supplies of grace and instruction. To the benevolence and goodness of God must be referred the production of the multiplied tribes of living things. God caused life to pervade immensity because, as He Himself is everywhere, He would that everywhere there should be objects of His bounty, beings with capacity and provision for enjoyment. Every creature may trace its origin to the benevolence of God, and therefore every creature might infer, from its having been formed, that its Maker was ready to satisfy its wants, yea, to fulfil its desires, so far as those desires might be lawfully entertained. What is creation to me, but a register of the carefulness of the Almighty in providing for my happiness during my sojourn here below? Shall I think it unlikely that God would take measures for my good in reference to that eternity on which I must enter at death? Job seems to reason that, in place of destroying him, God who had made might have been expected to save him. It is an argument from what had been done for him in his natural capacity, to what might have been looked for in his spiritual capacity. And Job’s reason is every way accurate. (Henry Melvill, B. D.)
Thy visitation hath preserved my spirit.
Acknowledgment of and appeal to God
Job addresses God as his Creator, Preserver, and Benefactor; he seems to ask, why, knowing his frailty, He laid upon him such burdens as those which he was called upon to bear. He appears to have felt some difficulty in reconciling the past mercies of God with His present afflicting dispensations. Yet, amidst all, he acknowledges that his Creator doubtless had wise, though to him unknown, reasons for His dispensations. “These things,” said he, “Thou hast hid in Thine heart.” They were planned in Thine infinitely wise, holy, and beneficent, though unsearchable counsels. “I know this is with Thee.” To me, indeed, it is a source of trouble and perplexity; but to Thee it is plain. And then, as though glancing at the righteousness of God’s law, on the one hand, and, on the other, at the sinfulness of mankind generally, and in particular at his own personal transgressions, with a sense of the imperfection of his best obedience, he adds, “If I be wicked, woe unto me; and if I be righteous, yet will I not lift up my head. I am full of confusion; therefore see mine affliction, for it increaseth.”
I. First, then, we have Job’s acknowledgment of his infinite obligations to God. “Thou hast granted me life and favour, and Thy visitation hath preserved my spirit.”
1. The blessing of creation. “Thou hast granted me life.” He does not attribute his existence to chance, or necessity; but speaks of it expressly as a grant from the Almighty; a grant bestowed for the most wise, benevolent, and momentous purposes. Practical atheism is at all times too common, even among many who profess and call themselves Christians. How few, comparatively, are accustomed, like Job, constantly to refer their being to God; with a deep impression of what they owe to Him; with a practical conviction that they are not their own; and with a due sense of their obligation to live to His glory. Yet it is certain that an habitual feeling of reverence towards God as our Creator, though not the whole of religion, is a necessary and indispensable part of it. The Gospel of Christ, in pointing out to us other truths, essential to be known by us as fallen and guilty creatures, does not overlook, but on the contrary uniformly takes for granted and displays this first natural and unalterable bond of union between the Creator and His creatures. The grant of life was the first benefit we were capable of enjoying, and it opened the way to all that followed.
2. But to the benefit of creation Job adds that of preservation. “Thy visitation hath preserved my spirit.” The same Almighty hand that formed and animated the human frame, sustains it amidst the perils to which it is every moment exposed. We do not live by chance, any more than we were at first formed by chance. One moment’s absence of that Divine visitation which preserves our spirit, would suffice to plunge us back--we know not whither; all our capacities for happiness, all our hopes for this world, and those brighter expectations which, as Christians, we cherish beyond the grave, would be utterly extinguished. This powerful and unceasing visitation of the Creator preserves all things in their appointed rank and order; and to it we are indebted for our continued capacity for partaking of the blessings to which our creation introduced us.
3. To sum up the whole, Job adds the mention of that Divine “favour” without which our creation and preservation had been but the commencement and prolongation of misery. How thickly, how interminably do His benefits cluster around us! By night and by day, in infancy and in manhood, in childhood and old age, in our personal and social relations, in our families and in the world, in sickness not less than in health, in adversity not less than in prosperity, He pours into our cup blessings infinitely beyond our deservings. And here opens before us the most wonderful of all proofs of His favour. Here beams upon us the stupendous revelation of the redemption that is in Christ. Here we behold why even the sinner, to whom, as a sinner, no Divine approbation can be exhibited, is yet spared and crowned with so many benefits, in order that he may turn to the God whom he had forsaken, seek the mercy which he had despised, and be won by the long-suffering which he had perhaps profanely made a motive for a continuance in his sins. Whether we consider the awful magnitude of our guilt, or the costly nature of the sacrifice made to atone for it, or the freeness and amplitude of the pardon bestowed upon us; we shall see that this was indeed the climax of Divine favour; to which our creation and preservation were but preparative; and the issue of which, to all who humbly avail themselves of it, will be an eternity of happiness in the world to come.
II. Consider the judicial relation in which he describes himself as standing towards him and his conscious guilt and confusion at the prospect. We might have supposed that his expressive description of God’s past mercies would have been succeeded by the warmest language of hope and confidence. And thus would it have been, had no obstacle interposed. The angels in heaven, in reviewing the benefits conferred upon them by their beneficent Creator, blend with their emotions of love and gratitude no symptoms of apprehension or alarm. They are not “full of confusion,” while they survey the mercies of Him who “granted them existence and favour, and whose visitation preserves their spirit.” The past manifestations of God’s overflowing bounty are to them a pledge for the present; and the present for the future. But not so with man, when duly conscious of the ungrateful return which he has made for the bounties of his Almighty Benefactor. For every relationship involves certain duties; and most of all, the relationship of a creature to his Creator. The very bond of this relationship, on the side of man, was perfect love, confidence, and obedience. He had a law given him to obey, and he was bound by every tie to obey it. A creature, if guiltless, would not tremble for the consequences of his own conduct under such a law; but what are the actual circumstances of man? Job seems to exhibit them, in the text, under a threefold view. Supposing, first, a case which may be considered as the ordinary average of human character, “If I sin”; next, a case of peculiar atrocity, “If I be wicked”; thirdly, a case of unusual moral rectitude, “If I be righteous”--and in all these he shows the condition in which we stand before God.
1. “If I sin, Thou markest me and Thou wilt not acquit me from mine iniquity.” No extraordinary degree of profligacy seems to be here supposed; nothing more is stated than what we all acknowledge to be applicable to ourselves; for who is he that sinneth not? Yet how stands our condition under this aspect? First we learn that God “marks us”; His omniscient eye is upon all our ways. “Thou wilt not acquit me.” How fearful the condition of a creature thus exposed by his own sinful conduct to the just wrath of his Creator! Well might Job exclaim, “I am full of confusion.” For who shall stand before God when He is displeased? Who shall stay His hand when it is stretched out to inflict punishment?
2. “If I be wicked, woe unto me.” The degree of guilt marked by this expression seems to be more flagrant than that implied in the former. The conclusion in this case is therefore most clear; for if every sin is marked, if no iniquity is followed by acquittal, then woe indeed to the hardened, the deliberate transgressor!
3. “If I be righteous, yet will I not lift up my head.” Job cannot here refer to perfect and unerring holiness of heart and conduct--for to such a degree of sanctity no human being can lay claim; if he could, he might justly lift up his head; but he doubtless speaks comparatively, taking man at his best estate; selecting the most moral, the most upright; then, in this most favourable case, showing the utter incompetence of man to stand justified in the sight of his Creator. So imperfect are our best actions, so mixed are our purest motives, that, far from challenging the rewards of merit, we must acknowledge ourselves, on an impartial survey, to deserve the punishment of our aggravated disobedience. At best we are unprofitable servants. “To us belongeth shame and confusion of face.” The friends of Job thought that he wished to try this experiment; that he justified himself before God; but his affliction had taught him a lesson more suitable to his frail and fallen condition: so that, instead of lifting up his head, his language was, “Whom, though I were righteous, I would not answer; but I would make supplication to my Judge”; or, in the corresponding sentiment of the text, “See Thou mine affliction, for it increaseth.”
III. consider his humble appeal to God to have compassion upon him. He claims no merit; he proffers no gift. He had acknowledged God’s mercies to him; and confessed his inability to stand before His justice. What, then, is his hope of escape? It is in substance the language of the publican, and of every true penitent in every age, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” His affliction was increasing; nothing but despair lay before him; but in his extremity he applies, where none ever rightly applied in vain, to the infinite Source of mercy and compassion. “See Thou mine affliction.” How excellent is the example which he here sets before us! In every exigency of life, or when weighed down with the burden of our sins before God, let us betake ourselves to Him who will compassionate our weakness, assuage our sorrows, and forgive our transgressions. Happy is it for us that He is not a God afar off, but is at all times, as it were, within reach of our humble petitions. Let us thus approach Him with the language of Job; with fervent acknowledgments of His goodness, and of our own ingratitude; of His infinite justice, and our own unrighteousness; with self-condemnation on the one hand, and a humble trust in His mercy in Christ Jesus on the other--and then will He look with pity upon our affliction, then will He pardon all our iniquities. For no sooner had Job practically acquired this just view of himself and of God; no sooner had he said, “I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth Thee: wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes”; than it is added, “The Lord turned the captivity of Job.” And thus will He continue to be gracious to every sincere penitent, through the infinite merits of His beloved Son. (Christian Observer.)
The Divine visitation
This is the grateful acknowledgment of Job amidst his accumulated trials. There were sentiments of gratitude intermingled with the expressions of grief. The use which Job made of the Divine protection was to plead with God for a continuance of His mercy, and to pray for the vindication of his own integrity.
I. It is by the visitation of the Lord that our natural lives and temporal blessings are preserved to us. The continuance of all things is of God, to whom belong the issues from death. By His providence our various circumstances are appointed to us.
II. To the visitation of God we owe all our spiritual life. By the Holy Spirit the immortal soul is enlightened, regenerated, and preserved unto the heavenly kingdom. These gracious visitations act upon our inner nature in various ways, and through a diversified instrumentality. Afflictions, means of grace, are Divine visitations. God’s judgments and mercies are efficient only as He by His Spirit and blessing shall make them so.
III. The use to make of this doctrine.
1. It is a doctrine full of godly consolation and encouragement. Our salvation does not depend on our own unaided powers.
2. The subject has a dark as well as a bright side. It is of alarming import to the careless. If He withdraw His grace, what will become of their resolutions? Be it yours then to “know the day of visitation.” (Anon.)
Living by the visitation of God
You have all heard the phrase, generally used by juries at a coroner’s inquest, when a man has died suddenly, “Died by the visitation of God.” No doubt some do thus die; but I want you to live by the visitation of God. That is a very different thing, and that is the only way in which we truly can live, by God’s visiting us from day to day, so preserving our spirit from the dangers that surround us. Live, then, by the visitation of God. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Three blessings of the heavenly charter
It is well sometimes to sit down, and take a grateful review of all that God has done for us, and with us, from our first day until now. We must not be like hogs under the oak, that eat the acorns, but never thank the tree, or the Lord who made it to grow. Here is poor Job, covered with sore boils, sitting on a dunghill, scraping himself with a bit of a broken pot, with his children dead, his property destroyed, and even his wife not giving him a word of comfort, and his friends acting in a most unfriendly manner. Now it is that he talks to his God, and says, “Thou hast granted me life and favour, and Thy visitation hath preserved my spirit.” You are very ill; think of the time when you were well. You are poor; remember when you washed your feet in milk, and your steps with butter, and had more than heart could wish. Only begin to praise God, and you will find that he who praises God for mercy will never be long without a mercy for which to praise Him! The first blessing of this heavenly charter is life: “Thou hast granted me life.”
1. Well, I think that we ought to thank God that we have lived at all. I know the pessimist version of the psalm of life is that, “‘Tis something better not to be.” Perhaps it would have been something better if that gentleman had not been, better, I should think, for his wife and family if they had not had to live with such a miserable creature. But the most of us thank God for our being, as well as for our well-being. We count it something not to be stones, or plants, or “dumb, driven cattle.” We are thankful to be intelligent beings, with powers of thought, and capable of mental and spiritual enjoyment.
2. But we also thank God that we have lived on in spite of many perils.
3. I am addressing some from whom our text asks for gratitude because they are alive notwithstanding constitutional weakness. Perhaps from a child you were always feeble.
4. Now think of the sin which might have provoked God to make an end of such a guilty life. “Thou hast granted me life.” But if we can say this in a higher sense, “Thou hast granted me life,” spiritual life, how much greater should our gratitude be! I could not even feel the guilt of sin, I was so dead; but Thou hast granted me life to repent.
II. The second blessing of this heavenly charter is Divine favour: “Thou hast granted me life and favour.” Have you ever thought of the many favours that God has bestowed upon you, even upon some of you who as yet have never tasted of His grace?
1. What a favour it is to many to be sound in body!
2. I cannot help reminding you here of the great favour of God in the matter of soundness of mind.
3. I speak to many here to whom God has also given a comfortable lot in life.
4. Some here, too, some few, at any rate, have been favoured with much prosperity.
5. And I may say tonight that, in this congregation, God has given you the favour of hearing the Gospel; no mean favour, let me remind you.
6. Still, putting all these things together, they do not come up to this last point, that many of us have received the favours of saving grace: “Thou hast granted me life and favour.”
III. The last blessing of the charter, upon which I shall be a little longer, is Divine visitation: “Thy visitation hath preserved my spirit.” Does God ever come to man? Does He not? Yes; but it is a great wonder: “What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? And the son of man that Thou visitest him?”
1. He visited you, first, with an arousement and conviction of sin.
2. After that first experience, there came visitations of enlightenment and conversion.
3. Perhaps since then you have had visitations of another kind. You have had chastisement, or you have had affliction in the house. God’s visitations are sometimes very unwelcome.
4. But then, we hate had other visitations, visitations of revival and restoration. Do you not sometimes get very dull and dead?
5. The best of all is, when the Lord visits us, and never goes away; but stays with us always, so that we walk in the light of His countenance, and go from strength to strength, singing always, “Thy visitation never ended, daily continued, preserves my spirit.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
A song and a solace
You see that Job is appealing to the pity of God, and this is the form of his argument: “Thou art my Creator; be my Preserver. Thou hast made me; do not break me. Thou art dealing very hardly with me, I am almost destroyed beneath the pressure of Thy hand; yet remember that I am Thine own creature. Weak and frail as I am, I am the creation of Thy hand; therefore, despise not Thine own work. Whatever I am, with the exception of my sin, Thou hast made me what I am; ‘tis Thou who hast brought me into my present condition; consider, then, O God, what a poor, frail thing I am, and stay Thy hand, and do not utterly crush my spirit.” This is a wise prayer, a right and proper argument for a creature to use with the Creator; and when Job goes further still, and, in the language of our text, addresses God not only as his Creator, but as his Benefactor, and mentions the great blessings that he had received from God, his argument still holds good: “Do not, Lord, change Thy method of dealing with me; Thou hast given me life, Thou hast shown me special favour, Thou hast hitherto preserved me; cast me not away from Thy presence, dismiss me not from Thy service, let not Thy tender mercies fail, but do unto me now and in days to come according as Thou hast done unto me in the days that are past.” I. First, then, let us use the former part of our text as a song for bright days: “Thou hast granted me life and favour, and Thy visitation hath preserved my spirit.” Whatever we have received that is good, has come to us from God as a matter of pure favour. Now, then, ye joyful ones, unite with me while we first bless God for granting us life. To a Christian man, life is a blessing; in itself, considered alone, it is a blessing; but to the ungodly man it may turn out to be a curse, for it would have been better for that man if he had never been born. But to a godly man like Job, it is a great mercy even to have an existence. I find that, in the Hebrew, this word “life” is in the plural: “Thou hast granted me lives”; and blessed be God, we who believe in Jesus have not only this natural life, which we share in common with all men, but the Holy Spirit has begotten in the hearts of believers a new life infinitely higher than mere natural life, a life which makes us akin to Christ, joint heirs with Him of the eternal inheritance which He is keeping for us in heaven. Let us praise God, then, for life, and especially for this higher life if it is ours. What a joy it is to live in this respect! Next, we have to praise God for granting us favour. I should be quite unable to tell you to the full all that is wrapped up in that word “favour.” Favour from God! It is a great word in the original, a word big with meaning, for it means the love of God. God loves immeasurably. The force and extent of true love never can be calculated; it is a passion that cannot be measured by degrees as the temperature can be recorded on the thermometer; it is something that exceedeth and overfloweth all measurement, for a man giveth all his heart when he truly loveth. So is it with God; He setteth no bound to His love. We might rightly paraphrase Job’s words, and say, “Thou hast granted me life and love.” Oh, what wondrous words to put together, life and love! Life without God’s love is death; but put God’s love with it, and then what a song we ought to send up to His throne if we feel that He has given us both spiritual life and infinite love. The word “favour,” however, means not only love; but, as we ordinarily use it, it means some special form of grace and goodness. If, at this hour, any one of you is a child of God, it is because God has done more for you than He has done for others. If there be a difference between you and others, somebody made that difference; and whoever made it ought to be honoured and praised for it. By the word “favour” is also meant grace in all the shapes which it assumes, so Job’s words might be rendered, “Thou hast granted me life and grace.” Now let us dwell, for a minute or two, on the third blessing of this Divine grant: “and Thy visitation hath preserved my spirit.” There is a wonderful range of meaning in those words, but Job no doubt first refers to the providence of God by which He makes, as it were, a visitation of all the world, and especially of His own people. Some of us have had very special providential deliverances; we will not mention them tonight, because they are too many. It has been well said, “He that watches providence shall never be without a providence to watch.” Oh, but that is only the beginning of the meaning of Job’s words, “Thy visitation hath preserved my spirit.” God hath visited those of us who are His people in other ways besides the watching of His providence. Let me mention some of them. He has visited some of us with correction, and we do not like that form of visitation. There are some, whom God will yet permit to be rich, who would not have been capable of managing so much money, to the Lord’s honour and glory if they had not for a while had to live on short commons. The very thing we regret most in providence will probably be that in which we shall rejoice most in eternity. There are other visitations, however, such as the visitations of consolation. Oh, how sweet those are to the soul when in trouble! Once more, how sweet are the visitations of God in communion!
II. A solace for dark nights: “And these things hast Thou hid in Thine heart: I know that this is with Thee.” There is another interpretation of this verse, quite different from the one that I am going to give you, but I do not think that Job ever could have meant what some people think he did. I believe that, when he said, “These things”--that is, life, favour, and God’s gracious visitation,--“These things hast Thou hid in Thine heart: I know that this is with Thee,” that he meant, first, that God remembers what He has done, and will not lose His pains. “‘Thou hast granted me life and favour’; Lord, Thou hast not forgotten that; Thou hast hidden that in Thine heart, Thou rememberest it well. Since Thou hast done this for me, and Thou dost remember that Thou hast done it, therefore Thou wilt continue Thy mercy to me, and not lose all the grace and goodness which Thou hast already bestowed upon me.” Even if you have forgotten all that God has done for you, God has not forgotten it. Many children forget all the kindness and love of their mother, but the mother remembers all that she did for her children in the days of their helplessness, and she loves them all the more because of what she did for them. “Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end.” But, next, I think that the words, “And these things hast Thou hid in Thine heart: I know that this is with Thee,” have this meaning, that God sometimes hides His favour and love in His heart, yet they are there still. At times, it may be that you get no glimpse of His face, or that you see no smile upon it. The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; therefore, O tried child of God, learn what Job here teaches us, that these things are still hidden in the heart of God, and that eternal love holdeth fast to the objects of its choice. “I know that this is with Thee,” said Job, so the last thing I want you to learn from his words is that God would have His people strong in faith to know this truth. Job says, “I know that this is with Thee.” I speak to many persons who say that they are Christians, and who perhaps are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, and one of their clearest evidences is that they are very happy. True religion makes people happy, it is a perennial fountain of delight. But do not set too much store by your emotions of delight, because they may be taken from you, and then where will your evidences be? God’s people sometimes walk in darkness, and see no light. There are times when the best and brightest of saints have no joy. If your religion should not, for a time, yield you any joy, cling to it all the same. You see, God does not give you faith in order that you may merely run about in the meadows with it all among the fair spring flowers. I will tell you for what purpose He gives you faith; it is that you may put on your snow shoes, and go out in the cold wintry blasts and glide along over the ice and the snow. Only have faith in Him, and say, “My God, Thy will towards me to give me life, and favour, and preservation, may be hidden, but it is still in Thine heart, ‘I know that this is with Thee.’“ Now I must leave these things with you. You who know and love the Lord will seek a renewal of His visitations tonight; and as for you who do not know Him, oh, how I wish that you did! (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Oh that I had given up the ghost!
The effects of Job’s sufferings
The patriarch had already in the previous verses expressed to the Almighty that his sufferings were--I. A sense of duty. Sense of obligation to the Supreme is an instinct as universal as man, as deep as life itself; but the patriarch, in wishing that he had never been, or that his first breath had been extinguished, had lost all feeling in relation to the wonderful mercies which his Creator had conferred upon him during the past years of his existence.
What were those mercies?
1. Great material wealth.
2. Great domestic enjoyment.
3. Immense social influence.
II. A love of life. Seldom do we find, even amongst the most miserable of men, one who struggles not to perpetuate his existence. But this instinct Job now seems to have lost, if not its existence, its power. Existence has become so intolerable that he wishes he had never had it, and yearns for annihilation. Two thoughts are here suggested.
1. There may be something worse for man than annihilation.
2. This annihilation is beyond the reach of creatures.
III. Hope of a hereafter. Hope for future good is another of the strongest instincts of our nature. “Thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts.” Indeed it is one of those powers within us that, like a mainspring, keeps every wheel in action. Man never is but always to be blest. Job seems to have lost this now. Hence his description of the future. “Before I go whence I shall not return, even to the land of darkness, and the shadow of death; a land of darkness, as darkness itself; and of the shadow of death, without any order, and where the light is as darkness.” He saw a future, but what was it?
1. Darkness. A starless, moonless midnight, a vast immeasurable abyss--“the land of darkness.” His hereafter was black, not a ray of light streamed from the firmament.
2. Confusion. “Without any order.” Small and great, young and old, all together in black chaos.
1. That great suffering in this world in the case of individuals does not mean great sin.
2. The power of the devil over man.
3. The value of the Gospel. This man had no clear revelation of a blessed future. Hence one scarcely wonders at his frequent and impassioned complaints. How different our life to his! (Homilist.)
A good man’s distempers
This passage teaches--
1. Saints’ highest fits of passion will not last, but mercy will reclaim them, and give them a cool of that fever.
2. As the fevers and distempers of saints may come to a very great height, so, ordinarily, that height or excess of them proves the step next to their cool.
3. Humble, sober prayer is a notable evidence and mean in calming distempered spirits; it is as the shower to allay that poisonous wind.
4. As man’s life is but uncertain and short, so the thoughts of this should make men employ their time well, and to be very needy and pressing after God, and proofs of Him.
5. Such as are excited with much trouble, and have their exercises blessed to them, will be sober, and esteem much of little ease, to get leave to breathe, or to comfort and refresh themselves a little, with a sight of God, or of His grace in them, and not their own passions which they ought to abhor.
6. The least ease, breathing, or comfort, under trouble, cannot be had but of God’s indulgence.
7. It is the duty of men to acquaint themselves with death beforehand; and especially in times of trouble they should study it in its true colours.
8. Death and the grave in themselves, and when Christ’s victory over them is not studied, and men are hurried away to them in a tempest of trouble, are very terrible, and an ugly sight, as bringing an irreparable loss as to any restitution in this life.
9. The consideration of the ugliness of death and the grave, doth call upon all to provide somewhat before they lie down in that cold bed, wherein they will continue so long, and somewhat that may light them through that dark passage. (George Hutcheson.)
And the shadow of death, without any order.
Death without order
While Job was under the bereaving hand of God, his thoughts were naturally turned upon the frailty of man, the shortness of life, and the gloomy scenes of mortality. The truth stated here is this--God discovers no order in calling men out of the world by death.
I. God discovers no order in sending death among mankind. Job believed that there is perfect order in the Divine Mind, respecting death, as well as every other event. In relation to God death is perfectly regular; but this regularity He has seen proper to conceal from the view of man. Though God has passed a sentence of mortality upon all mankind, yet He never discovers any order in the execution of it.
1. He sends death without any apparent respect to age.
2. Without any regard to men’s bodily strength or weakness.
3. Without any apparent respect to the place of their dying.
4. There is no order apparent in the means of death.
5. God pays no visible regard to the characters of men, in calling them off the stage of life.
6. God appears to pay no regard to the circumstances of men, in putting an end to their days.
7. Nor does He appear to consult the feelings of men.
II. Why does God send death through the world without any discernible order?
1. To make men sensible that He can do what He pleases, without their aid or instrumentality.
2. To make them know that He can dispose of them according to the counsel of His own will.
3. To convince man that he can do nothing without Him.
4. By concealing the order of death, God teaches mankind the propriety and importance of being constantly prepared for it.
Learn--If death is coming to all men, and coming without any order, then it equally concerns all to live a holy and religious life. And since God discovers no order in death, it becomes the bereaved and afflicted to submit to His holy and absolute sovereignty. This subject admonishes all to prepare without delay for their great and last change. (N. Emmons, D. D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Job 10". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany