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Can a man be profitable unto God?
The third speech of Eliphaz
Two general truths.
I. That the great God is perfectly independent of man’s character, whether right or wrong. “Can a man be profitable unto God, as he that is wise may be profitable unto himself? Is it any pleasure to the Almighty, that thou art righteous? or is it gain to Him, that thou makest thy ways perfect?”
1. He is so independent of it that He is not affected by it. No hellish crimes can lessen His felicity; no heavenly virtue can heighten His blessedness. He is infinitely more independent of all the virtues in heaven than the orb of day is independent of a candle’s feeble rays, more independent of all the crimes of hell than noontide brightness is of a mere whiff of smoke. He is not worshipped with men’s hands as though He needed anything. This fact should impress us--
(1) With the duty of humility. He is independent of the most righteous services of the highest intelligence in the universe. None are necessary to the carrying out of His purposes.
(2) With the benevolence of His legislation. Why does He lay down laws for the regulation of human conduct? Simply and entirely for our own happiness.
2. He is so independent of it that He will not condescend to explain His treatment of it. “Will He reprove thee for fear of thee? Will He enter with thee into judgment?” One great cause of Job’s murmuring was that God had sent punishment upon him without any explanation. For this Eliphaz here reproves him, and virtually says, “Is it not in the highest degree absurd to expect that the Maker should be willing to explain His doings to the creatures He has made?”
II. Man’s character is of the utmost importance to himself. “He that is wise may be profitable unto himself.” Eliphaz means to say that the wise and pious man is profitable to himself. To the man himself, character is everything. The wealth of Croesus, the strength of Samson, the wisdom of Solomon, and the dominion of Caesar are nothing to a man in comparison to his character. His character is the fruit of his existence, the organ of his power, the law of his destiny. It is the only property he carries with him beyond the grave. (Homilist.)
The independence of God
The question, “Can a man be profitable unto God?” requires, in order to its thorough discussion, that it be resolved into two,--Can anything which a man does be injurious to God? Can anything which a man does be advantageous to God? When human actions are considered in reference to the Almighty, their consequences it appears can in no degree extend themselves to one infinitely removed from all that is created. Not, indeed, that we must so represent the independence of God, as that it involves indifference to men, or totally disregards their actions. Scriptures declare that God is dishonoured by our sinfulness, and glorified by our obedience. But we glorify Him without actually rendering Him any service, and we dishonour Him without doing Him any actual injury.
I. Thy impossibility that men should be profitable unto God. Think of the greatness of God, how inaccessible He is, how immeasurably removed from all created being. Thinking of this, you can scarcely indulge the idea, that the services of any creature, however exalted and endowed, can be necessary to God. If you examine with the least attention, you must see that, supposing God injured by our sin, or advantaged by our righteousness, is the equivalent to supposing our instrumentality necessary in order to the accomplishment of His purposes.
II. The inferences which follow from this truth. Note the perfect disinterestedness of God in sending His own Son to die for the rebellious. It cannot be that God redeemed us because He required our services. The only account which can be given of the amazing interposition is, that God loves us; and even this evades, rather than obviates, the difficulty. Remember that, though you can do nothing for God, He is ready in Christ to do everything for you. (Henry Melvill, B. D.)
The doctrine of merit
It is a matter of no small moment for a man to be rightly informed upon what terms and conditions he is to transact with God, and God with him, in the great business of his salvation. St. Paul tells us that eternal life is the “gift of God.” Salvation proceeds wholly upon free gift, though damnation upon strict desert. Such is the extreme folly, or rather sottishness, of man’s corrupt nature, that this does by no means satisfy him. When he comes to deal with God about spirituals, he appears and acts, not as a supplicant, but as a merchant; not as one who comes to be relieved, but to traffic. This great self-delusion, so prevalent upon most minds, is the thing here encountered in the text; which is a declaration of the impossibility of man’s being profitable to God, or of his meriting of God, according to the true, proper, and strict sense of merit. Merit is a right to receive some good upon the score of some good done, together with an equivalence or parity of worth between the good to be received and the good done.
I. It is implied that men are naturally very prone to entertain as opinion or persuasion, that they are able to merit of God, or be profitable to Him. The truth of this will appear from two considerations.
1. It is natural for men to place too high a value both upon themselves and their own performances. That this is so is evident from universal experience. Every man will be sure to set his own price upon what be is, and what he does, whether the world will come up to it or no; as it seldom does.
2. The natural aptness of men to form and measure their apprehensions of the supreme Lord of all things, by what they apprehend and observe of the princes and potentates of this world, with reference to such as are under their dominion. This is certainly a very prevailing fallacy, and steals too easily upon men’s minds, as being founded in the unhappy predominance of sense over reason, No marvel then, if they blunder in their notions about God, a Being so vastly above the apprehensions of sense. From misapplied premises, the low, gross, undistinguishing reason of the generality of mankind, presently infers that the creature may, on some accounts, be as beneficial to his Creator as a subject may be to his prince. Men are naturally very prone to persuade themselves that they are able to merit of God, or be profitable to Him.
II. Such a persuasion is utterly false and absurd, for it is impossible for men to merit of God. Show the several ingredients of merit, and the conditions necessary to render an action meritorious.
1. That an action be not due; that is to say, it must not be such as a man stands obliged to the doing of, but such as he is free either to do or not to do, without being chargeable with any sinful omission in case he does not. But all that any man alive is capable of doing, is but an indispensable homage to God, and not a free oblation; and that also such an homage as makes his obligation to what he does much earlier than his doing of it, will appear both from the law of nature, and that of God’s positive command.
2. It should really add to and better the state of the person of whom it is to merit. The reason of which is because all merit consists properly in a right to receive some benefit, or the account of some benefit first done.
(1) God offers Himself to our consideration as a Being infinitely perfect, infinitely happy, and self-sufficient, depending upon no supply or revenue from abroad.
(2) On the other hand, is man a being fit and able to make this addition? Man only subsists by the joint alms of heaven and earth, and stands at the mercy of everything in nature, which is able either to help or hurt him. Is this now the person to oblige his Maker?
3. That there be an equal proportion of value between the action and the reward. This is evident from the foundation already laid by us; to wit, that the nature of merit consists properly in exchange; and that, we know, must proceed according to a parity of worth on both sides, commutation being most properly between things equivalent. Can we, who live by sense, and act by sense, do anything worthy of those joys which not only exceed our senses, but also transcend our intellectuals?
4. He who does a work whereby he would merit of another, does it solely by his own strength, and not by the strength or power of him from whom he is to merit.
III. This persuasion is the source and foundation of two of the greatest corruptions of religion that have infested the Christian Church. These are pelagianism and popery. Pelagianism is resolvable into this one point, that a man contributes something of his own, which he had not from God, towards his own salvation.
IV. Remove an objection naturally apt to issue from the foregoing particulars. Can there be a greater discouragement than this doctrine to men in their Christian course? Answer--
1. It ought not to be any discouragement to a beggar to continue asking an alms, and in doing all that he can to obtain it, though he knows he can do nothing to claim it.
2. I deny that our disavowing this doctrine of merit, cuts us off from all plea to a recompense for our Christian obedience from the hands of God. It cuts us off from all plea on the score of strict justice. But God’s justice is not the only thing that can oblige Him in His transactings with men. His veracity and His promise also oblige Him. (Robert South, D. D.)
Does religion enrich God
These withering questions were addressed to a humiliated man, with the object of crushing him more completely. Eliphaz was, of course, right in defending the justice of the Divine government. But was the argument he used--that man’s religion is a matter of indifference to God--a sound one?
I. Upon the surface, the questions admit of no answer but a negative. “Can a man be profitable unto God, as he that is wise may be profitable unto himself?” We cannot conceive of the Deity as other than perfect, self-contained and self-sufficient. His power is omnipotent, and His years eternal. What can man do to enhance such adorable perfections? Will the light of a candle add to the glory of the sunshine at midday? Will a single drop of water perceptibly increase the volume of the ocean? Our Christian activities do not enrich God, as the work of shop assistants enriches their employers. Nor do our religious offerings add to His wealth. All is already His, and of His own do we give Him. The gain is on our side; not God’s. We profit by our holiness of character, our Christian zeal, and our religious offerings. Nothing can be more sublimely ludicrous than the patronage which some men accord religion. They give to religious objects in the spirit of monarchs dispensing alms to the needy. They graciously allow their names to be printed as patrons of religious institutions.
II. Yet, looking at his words again, we feel that they must not be allowed to pass without qualification or amendment. They are true to a certain extent, and in that limited degree may be usefully employed. Eliphaz in his laudable attempt to exalt God above the deities of the heathen, who according to the conceptions of their worshippers were enriched or impoverished by their piety or the lack of it, elevated Him to a pinnacle of remoteness and indifference which He does not occupy. In his extremely proper endeavour to magnify God he belittled man, which is both unnecessary and wrong. Is it the case that religion is merely an insurance? Is godliness nothing more than prudence? Do our saintliest serve God only for what they can get? Well, religion is less attractive than it seemed if the struggles that won our admiration and the sacrifices that moved us to tears were only prompted by self-interest. It is an insufficient explanation. Again, is it true, as Eliphaz insinuates, that human righteousness gives no pleasure to God? It is a crushing suggestion. The Eternal is high above you and cares nothing for your little concerns, even for your small virtues and petty victories over sin! It is a crushing suggestion. And surely it is a fallacious one. We may take the good He has given us or we may leave it, He does not care! His eternal calm is unruffled, His ineffable completeness unbroken, by the fortunes of mortal men! “Can a man be profitable unto God? No, he that is wise is profitable unto himself. Is it any pleasure to the Almighty that thou art righteous? or is it gain to Him that thou makest thy ways perfect?” Oh, it is a repellent picture. We are prepared to hear that there is a fallacy in it.
III. Its effect is to demoralise and debauch man. And it really does not magnify God. While professing to exalt Him, it lowers Him. Is God too great to notice man? That is not real greatness which can only condescend to notice great affairs. The answer to it lies in the book which records it. We see the Almighty contemplating with satisfaction the uprightness of a man. We see Him defending that uprightness against the malicious insinuations of His own enemy and man’s, Satan. A better reply still is furnished by the teaching of Jesus. He revealed God. He was God. And in beautiful similitudes He spoke of the Divine concern for the soul of man and the Divine joy in its salvation. God, if we may reverently say so, has given His case away by the revelation of His fatherhood. We cannot argue upon the ground of majesty, but on this level we are at home. We know how a father hungers for the love of his child. So we can please God: we can wound Him. For love craves a return, and love lies bleeding from indifference. Jesus, yearning over Jerusalem, is the answer in the affirmative to the questions of Eliphaz. But the supreme answer lies not in the teaching of Jesus, convincing though that is, but in Jesus Himself. That answer is final. Is the moral condition of man of no concern to God? Then come with me to Bethlehem, to a stable behind the village inn. Is the soul of man uncared for by God? Then come with me to Calvary. Do you see that Man dying, amid throes of unutterable agony, on a cross of wood? (B. J. Gibbon.)
Is it any pleasure to the Almighty that thou art righteous?
God’s pleasure in man’s righteousness
To this Eliphaz we cannot take kindly. There is so much in him that reminds us of the Pharisee of our Lord’s day. With all his conscientiousness--and it is remarkable what sins against God and our brother are committed under the garb of conscientiousness--he seems to be one of those who “speak wickedly for God.” Looking at the argument of the Temanite in this chapter, it is, at best, a piece of sophistry. The words of the text seem humble words, so calculated to move us in the direction of self-repression; but we are not required to build humility upon a lie.
1. This verse is but an expansion of the thought contained in the previous verse, which reads thus, “Can a man be profitable unto God, as he that is wise may be profitable unto himself?” The force of this comparison tends to disarm criticism, for the least taught among Christian people can never think they are doing God the service they are rendering themselves. In those cases in which men think they are in some way doing God a splendid service, their presumption is its own condemnation. But such a thought does not enter Christian believing minds. What are they to say to the challenge of the next verse? Is there not something true within us that rises up against its merciless and terrible conclusion? A man may be far from as profitable to God as unto himself. He must feel that all the weight of obligation is on his side, since God alone is the source of all his goodness and power; and yet he may, I think he must, if he have a spark of the Divine life and light in him, resist so fearful and disheartening a conclusion as that God has no pleasure in his rectitude, and that he is all loss and no gain to God.
(1) Such a conclusion is most disheartening to endeavours after goodness. Practically carried into the inner life of men, it would be fatal to that goodness. There can be little faith in a goodness that is not nurtured by love and fed by willing cheerfulness. The difference between a Divine compulsion and the sort of thing called compulsion among men, is that the former is made up of affection, the other of necessity. A Divine compulsion, beginning with love, creates an obedience which becomes more and more congenial and native to the soul of the subject of it. We all need educating in virtue and goodness. Human nature has to be raised and sanctified by the energy of Divine grace. The “righteous” man is the creation of that Divine grace which comes to the aid of the struggling one in his contest with dark, evil forces. And the more successful will he be in that contest, the more clearly he discerns what that Divine force is which is helping him. Most discouraging is it to all endeavours after a better life that we should doubt the pleasure of the Eternal in those endeavours. If we do so, we misjudge our relation to the Infinite. It will be as new life to us when we learn to believe in the words of Jesus about the Father. Against the unfaith of men in this Divine Fatherhood, we have constantly to contend.
(2) Such a conclusion is also dishonouring to God. It is against the entire scope and tone of Divine revealings from age to age, up to the day when John, the latest seer of the New Testament, spoke of the God of love. It dishonours Him, because it takes away from Him some of those finer instincts which all men worthy of the name have. We take pleasure in endeavours to please us--else we are scarcely human. We allow for infirmity and frailty; and it were indeed a hard and cruel faith about God to deny Him such instincts. And surely God must be pleased with that work into which He throws most of His own pure soul and Spirit. The more of the Divine self in anyone, the truer and more complete the Divine satisfaction.
2. Consider what of truth we can find in these words.
(1) It would be vastly mischievous were we to come to look upon that righteousness as our own, and so try to sever the stream from the fount. It is ours only because it is God’s gift. All our righteousness is of God.
(2) There may be a high-mindedness in Christian service which finds needed correction in the thought that God is not so much served by us as we are served by Him.
3. We need to feel that all the weight of obligations is on our side. When we think of the Divine pleasure and gain, we cannot but think how beneficent that pleasure is. We cannot serve God without a recompense. Yet there are many who shrink from God, as though He were the receiver, instead of the Giver, of all good. They start back from duty as though it would be fatal to their joy. Nothing He commands but for your good. Nothing He orders but for your eternal delight. (G. J. Proctor.)
Is not thy wickedness great?
The charge against Job
I. Wrong in relation to man. In regard to the charge which he here brings against Job, it is worthy of note that whilst most expositors regard Eliphaz as speaking in his own name, others, amongst whom Dr. Bernard, regard him as indicating merely the charges which the Almighty might bring against him. What is the charge that he brings? It is Job’s flagrant inhumanity.
1. He was rapacious.
2. He was inhospitable.
3. He was tyrannical.
II. Wrong in relation to God. “Is not God in the height of heaven? And behold the height of the stars, how high they are! And thou sayest, How doth God know? Can He judge through the thick cloud? Thick clouds are a covering to Him, that He seeth not; and He walketh in the circuit of heaven.” His charge here against Job in relation to God, is a denial of the Divine inspection and superintendence of individual man. This error, which he falsely charges on Job, was the leading error of the old Epicureans, and the leading error of deists in all ages. If all men felt God to be in conscious contact with them, idolatry, immorality, dormancy of soul, could not exist. Many causes have been assigned for man’s tendency to regard God as remote, such as--
(1) The mediatory method of Divine operation. He does not deal directly with man.
(2) Man’s power of spontaneous action. He is left free, he does not feel the hand of God on the springs of his being.
(3) The unbroken regularity of natural laws. Nature shows no changes, indicates no interruption.
(4) The disorders of the moral world. But the grand cause is dread of God. Men have sinned, and their guilty consciences invest the Almighty with such attributes of vengeance that they turn away in horror from Him. The language of each man is, “Depart from me, for I desire not a knowledge of Thee.” Learn--
1. That in natural religion the ill-treatment of our fellow men is regarded as a great crime. There is no reason to believe that Eliphaz had any revelation from God but that which nature supplies; and yet in his language to Job he expresses in a strong and unmistakable manner his conviction, that to be, not only cruel, but even inhospitable to our fellow men is wicked. The obligation to be socially sympathetic, loving, and kind, the God of love has written on the human soul.
2. That men often denounce evils in others of which they themselves are guilty. Strong as was the implied denunciation of Eliphaz against unkindness in Job, was he not himself unkind in tantalising him now when he was overwhelmed with suffering, by charges that were utterly false? (Homilist.)
Our sins infinite in number and enormity
Eliphaz was led to ask this question by a suspicion that Job was a hypocrite. He was sure that Job was a wicked man, so he endeavoured to convince him that this was his character. The text is a proper question to be proposed to all who are ignorant of themselves. We must show the meanings which attach to the terms sin and wickedness in the Word of God. By wicked men the Scriptures mean all who are not righteous; and by sin a violation of the Divine law, which requires us to love God with all our hearts, and our neighbour as ourselves. This law branches out into various and numerous precepts, prescribing, with great minuteness, our duties towards all the beings with whom we are connected, and the dispositions which are to be exercised in every situation and relation of life; and the violation and disregard of any of these precepts is a sin. When we do not perfectly obey all God’s commands, in feeling, thought, word, or action, we sin.
1. The sin of our hearts, or of our disposition and feelings. The sins of this class alone are innumerable. Yet most men think nothing of them, if they do not gain expression in overt acts. But what the law of God and the Gospel of Christ principally require is right feelings and dispositions. What they chiefly forbid and condemn is feelings and dispositions that are wrong. If, then, we wish to know the number of our sins, we must look first and chiefly at the feelings and dispositions of our hearts. Then we shall soon be convinced that our sins are numberless.
2. The sinfulness of our thoughts. These are the offspring of the mind, as feelings are the offspring of the heart. Men’s characters are determined by their thoughts and purposes. If vain, foolish thoughts are sinful, who can enumerate his sins?
3. The sins of the tongue. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. If sin prevails in the heart, it will flow out through the lips. Of every idle word man shall give account. Every idle word then is a sin. Idle words are all that are unnecessary, and which do not tend to produce good effects. How innumerable then are the sins of the tongue.
4. Our sinful actions. Sins of omission and commission. If men’s thoughts, words, and feelings are numberless, so are their sins.
5. Our sins are infinite not only in number, but also in criminality. Every sin is, in fact, infinitely evil, and deserving of infinite punishment.
(1) Because it is committed against an Infinite Being, against God, a Being infinitely powerful, wise, holy, just, and good.
(2) Because it is a violation of an infinitely perfect law.
(3) Because it tends to produce infinite mischief.
(4) Because committed in defiance of motives and obligations infinitely strong.
1. If our sins are thus infinite in number and criminality, then, of course, they deserve an infinite or everlasting punishment.
2. God is perfectly right in inflicting an infinite punishment upon stoners.
3. If it is just to inflict infinite punishment upon impenitent sinners, God is bound by the strongest obligations to inflict it.
4. Hence we see why the atonement made by Christ was necessary. (E. Payson, D. D.)
Is not God in the height of heaven?
God brought near
Is there anything that can make God a present God? Bring Him from the height of heaven beyond the stars into conscious contact with the experience of daily life? There is. What? Philosophic reasoning. Correct reasoning on the subject must indeed convince man that if there be a God, He must be everywhere, and, therefore, ever at hand. But men may reach this conclusion, and yet practically regard their God as distant. Will natural science do it? True natural science must connect God with everything. Will scriptural theology do it? (Homilist.)
Hast thou marked the old way which wicked men have trodden?
The way of the wicked described
It is commonly remarked, how little advantage mankind make of each other’s experience. This is surely a striking proof of the folly and presumption of our nature. Eliphaz here is reasoning on the principle stated. Though he misapplied the admonition conveyed in his question, the admonition itself is important, for without marking this way of the wicked, how shall we have knowledge of it; and without knowing it, how shall we avoid it?
I. Some particulars concerning the way of the wicked.
1. The sameness, or oneness, of the way. There are, indeed, many different kinds of sin in which the wicked are living. But they are all turning their backs on the same objects; they are all proceeding in the same direction; they are all tending to the same end.
2. This way is the old way. Eliphaz so called it in the time of Job. It is a way as old as the fall of man.
3. It is a trodden way. This word gives the idea of a way which has been much used and frequented; a beaten road, in which many passengers are always to be found.
II. A more exact description of the way itself. By the wicked, in the Bible, are meant all who are devoid of an inward principle of godliness; who, whatever their lives and characters in the sight and judgment of the world may be, are yet in the sight of God without any practical fear and love of Him in their hearts. The way of the wicked is the way of practical ungodliness. Here men are all guilty. They forget God, and walk after the course of this world.
III. The end to which the way of wicked men leads. Our Saviour says, “It leadeth to destruction.” The end resembles that of the sinners in the days of Noah and Lot. Learn, that you may not be an open sinner, and yet you may be walking in the way of the wicked, as you live a mere sensual, worldly life, without any habitual regard to the will and glory of God. (E. Cooper.)
The history of wickedness
1. It is a history of ancient date. It is an old way--the “track of old.”
2. It is a history of terrible calamities. “Which were cut down out of time,” etc. There are personal, social, material calamities.
3. It is a history of practical atheism.
(1) A guilty conscience makes men dread God.
(2) Dread of God makes men hate Him.
(3) Hating God prompts men to repel Him.
4. It is a history liable to misinterpretation. Men make misapplication of the history of wickedness--
(1) When they conclude that God is indifferent in relation to the moral character of men.
(2) When they conclude that, because God does not punish wicked men at once, He will not punish them at all.
Yet this history has lessons of great significance.
(1) It teaches the vastness of man’s power.
(2) It teaches the greatness of man’s patience.
(3) It teaches the energy of human influence.
(4) It teaches the magnitude of Christ’s work. (Homilist.)
The way which wicked men have trodden
I. The way itself. Eliphaz calla it an “old way.” It is almost as old as the human race, or as the world which they inhabit. In the account of the conduct of the first sinner, we see selfishness, or Eve’s preference of herself to God. We see also pride, which produced discontent. We see sensuality, or a disposition to be governed and guided by her senses, and to seek their gratification in an unlawful manner. We see unbelief, a distrust of God’s Word, and a consequent belief of the tempter’s suggestions. She could believe the tempter’s falsehood. From the conduct of Adam and Eve at the close of the day, we may obtain further acquaintance with the way in which sinners walk. They exhibited sullen hardness of heart, impenitence, and despair of forgiveness. They expressed no sorrow, nor penitence, nothing like brokenness of heart. They made no confession of sin; they uttered no cries for mercy; they expressed no wish to be restored to the favour of their offended Judge. They displayed a self-justifying temper. They showed a disposition to reflect” upon God as the cause of their disobedience. In a manner precisely similar have sinners ever since acted.
II. Its termination. It leads to destruction. That it does so, we might infer from what has taken place in the world. Application--
1. Whether some of you are not walking in this way?
2. Should any of you be convinced that you are in this dangerous way, permit me to urge you to forsake it without delay. (E. Payson, D. D.)
The old way of the wicked
“Hast thou marked the old way?” Antiquity is no guarantee for truth. It was the old way, but it was the wrong way. It was an old way, but they who ran in it perished in it just as surely as if it had been a new way of sinning entirely of their own invention: antiquity will be no consolation to those who perish by following evil precedents.
I. The way. First, what it was. There is no doubt that Eliphaz is here alluding to those who sinned before the flood. He is looking to what were ancient days to him.
1. Now this way, in the first place, was a way of rebellion against God.
2. In the next place, the old way was a way of selfishness.
3. The old way was a way of pride. Our mother Eve rebelled against God because she thought she knew better than God did.
4. The old way which wicked men have trodden is a way of self-righteousness. If Abel kneels by the altar, Cain will kneel by the altar also. Beware, I entreat you, for this is the old way of the Pharisee when he thanked God that he was not as other men.
5. The old way which wicked men have trodden was, in the next place, a way of unbelief. Noah was sent to tell those ancient sinners that the world would be destroyed by a flood. They thought him an old dotard, and mocked him to scorn.
6. The old way which wicked men have trodden is a way of worldliness and carelessness and procrastination. What did those men before the flood? They married and were given in marriage till the flood came and swept them all away. Eliphaz says, “Hast thou marked the way?”
I want you to stop a little while, and look at that road again, and mark it anew.
1. The first thing I observe as I look into it is, that it is a very broad way.
2. Observe that it is a very popular road. The way downward to destruction is a very fashionable one, and it always will be.
3. It is a very easy way, too. You need not trouble yourself about finding the entrance into it, you can find it in the dark.
4. This old way, if you look at it, is the way in which all men naturally run. For all that, it is a most unsatisfactory road.
5. One thing more, across it here and there Divine mercy has set bars. The angel of mercy stands before you now, and bids you tarry. Why will ye die?
II. The end: “Which were cut down out of time, whose foundation was overflown with a flood.” The end of these travellers was not according to their unbelief, but according to the despised truth. They would not believe Noah, but the flood came. Remember this, then, unbelief will not, laugh as it may, remove one jot of the penalty. The flood, like the destroying fire which will come upon ungodly men, was total in its destructiveness. It did not sweep away some of them, but all, and the punishments of God will not be to a few rebels, but to all. It will find out the rich in their palaces, as well as the poor in their hovels. Moreover, it was a final overthrow. The text gives us two pictures, and these two may suffice to bring out the meaning of Eliphaz. First, he says, they were “cut down out of time.” The representation here is that of a tree with abundant foliage and wide-spreading boughs, to which the woodman comes. Such is the sinner in his prosperity, spreading himself like a green bay tree; birds of song are amongst his branches, and his fruit is fair to look upon; but the axe of death is near, and where the tree falleth there it must forever lie; fixed is its everlasting state. The other picture of the text is that of a building which is utterly swept away. Here I would have you notice that Eliphaz does not say that the flood came and swept away the building of the wicked, but swept away their very foundations. If in the next world the sinner only lost his wealth or his health, or his outward comforts of this life, it would be subject for serious reflection; but when it comes to this, that he loses his soul, his very self; then it becomes a thing to consider with all one’s reason, and with something more of the enlightenment which God’s Spirit can add to our reason. Oh that we would but be wise and think of this:
III. The warning: “Am I or am I not treading in that broad way?” “Ah!” saith one, “I do not know.” I will help thee to answer it. Are you travelling in the narrow way in which believers in Christ are walking? “I cannot say that,” say you. Well, then, I can tell you without hesitation that you are treading in the broad way, for there are but two ways. As for you who confessedly are in the old way, would you turn, would you leave it? Then the turning point is at yonder cross, where Jesus hangs a bleeding sacrifice for the sons of men. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Acquaint now thyself with Him, and be at peace.
Acquaintance with God
I. What it is, or implies.
1. The knowledge of God’s character and attributes. All true religion rests upon correct views of God’s character. Many persons assume that they naturally know God; but they do not feel the necessity of going to Scripture to learn the character of God. The mistake arises in part from not distinguishing carefully between the existence and the character of God. You must try your notions of God’s character and attributes by Scripture, and see whether they will stand the test.
2. But a man’s knowledge may be nothing more than an intellectual knowledge, whilst his heart may be alienated from Him. He may feel no delight in God’s character, and pay no heartfelt obedience to His will.
3. In real acquaintance with God, there is communion. This means participation in something (1 Corinthians 10:16). Communion also means intercourse, converse (Psalms 4:4). It is a wonderful thought, but it is true, that there can be, and is, communion between the eternal God and the believer’s spirit. You see some things which are implied in acquaintance with God, or knowledge of God’s character and attributes as revealed in Scripture, reconciliation of heart to Him, and communion with Him. The first requires the exercise of the understanding; the second, the surrender of the will; the third, purity of heart. What blessing is equal to this of acquaintance with God!
II. The results. “And be at peace.” With reference to Job. “Be happy again.” Eliphaz urges Job to acquaint himself with God, so that peace and joy may be restored again to his heart. To how many hearts may such words come home! Eliphaz speaks of other results. “Thereby good shall come to thee.” How much there is in that word “good!” No doubt Eliphaz thought of temporal blessings. Look at the blessings of the Christian. Sins blotted out; heart renewed; bondage changed into liberty; the power of sin broken; besetting infirmities overcome; his life made a blessing to others; death robbed of its sting. (George Wagner.)
Acquaintance with God
“Acquaint.” This is a very forceful word; it comes from an old Saxon root, from which we get the word “ken”--to know. The word “cunning” comes from the same root--cunnan, to know. Get to know God--to understand Him. One rendering of the text is, “Acquiesce in God”; another is, “Join yourself to God.” In the French Bible you will find that the translation is, “Attach yourself to God,” which is pretty nearly the same thing. Join yourself to Him; attach yourself to Him. Fall in, it seems to say, with His ways, and with His methods. (W. Williams.)
Acquaintance with God
I. Explain the nature of acquaintance with God.
1. It includes knowledge.
2. It includes friendship.
3. It includes communion.
4. It includes confidence.
II. Illustrate the benefits that result from it.
1. Peace--with God and in our own heart.
2. Good--temporal and spiritual.
3. Now--now or never. (G. Brooks.)
Acquaintance with God
I. Its nature. Men are not acquainted with God. They like not to retain God in their thoughts. Lay aside your enmity and your dread, and come and learn something of His mercy and loving kindness. Acquaint yourselves with--
1. His infinite holiness.
2. His perfect justice.
3. His boundless mercy.
4. His everlasting purposes.
II. Its benefits.
1. Peace. There is no true peace except from the knowledge of God.
2. Present and future good. Religion’s ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. Apply--
(1) The time of attaining it. Not tomorrow, but now.
(2) The means of obtaining it. Devout study of God’s Word.
Devout attendance at the Supper of our Lord. Intercourse with the Lord’s people. Perusal of good and devotional books. Ask continually for the gift of the Holy Spirit. (C. Clayton, M. A.)
The blessedness of acquaintance with God
I. The exhortation contained in the text. Naturally, we are ignorant of God; we are not at peace with God, but at enmity against Him. To acquaint ourselves with God, we must make ourselves acquainted with the revelation which God has made us respecting Himself and His will. We must make a heartfelt and experimental knowledge of Him the object of our unceasing pursuit. We must seek to be at peace with Him, by laying down our rebellion, asking pardon, and imploring the renewing and sanctifying influences of His Holy Spirit.
II. The promise with which this exhortation is enforced. “Good shall come unto thee.”
1. Thou shalt have that pardon and reconciliation which thou seekest.
2. Every temporal blessing which is really “good” for you shall be secured to you.
3. You shall be satisfied that God hears your prayers, and that His blessing rests upon your undertakings.
4. Your case shall serve as an encouragement to others to proceed in those steps which you have found to lead to such inestimable blessings.
5. Your example, and conduct, and prayers will have a tendency to do “good” to your country, and to bring down God’s blessing upon that.
6. The eternal good shall “come to them”--that complete deliverance from all evil, and that complete enjoyment of all “good,” which will be their portion forever. (John Natt, B. D.)
Acquaintance with God the best foundation for peace
I. The way of becoming acquainted with God. There are two kinds of knowledge--speculative and practical, or experimental--resting upon personal acquaintance. Of these two, the experimental is the only solid and satisfactory knowledge; and is as much superior to the ideal as the substance is to the shadow, as the sun in the firmament to a sun painted upon canvas, and as a living man to his picture. The reason of which is that ideal knowledge is not the perception of the things themselves present, but only the forming in our minds the images and pictures of things absent; whereas experimental knowledge is the real perception of the things themselves, present and acting upon us, and communicating themselves and their properties to us. The ideal knowledge which we have of God should excite us to endeavour after the experimental. A penitent sinner, who is sensible of God’s mercy in the forgiveness of his sins, who experiences the Divine favour in speaking peace to his soul, has a much better knowledge of the mercy, power, and goodness of God, than all the ideas of these attributes could give him as long as the world lasts. No ideal knowledge can give us either virtue or happiness. There are four ways of becoming acquainted with any person.
1. If he has written anything, to acquaint ourselves therewith. They are generally the truest and liveliest image of the mind.
2. If he be a great person, to get some opportunity of coming into his presence, and to do this as frequently and constantly as we may be permitted.
3. Readily to embrace all opportunities that are offered to us of eating at his table.
4. Living in the house, and conversing with him continually.
II. The advantages and happy effects of this acquaintance with God. These are the greatest and noblest human nature is capable of enjoying--peace and tranquillity of mind; happiness by the exercising and perfecting the noblest faculties of the soul, the understanding, and the will. The supreme happiness must consist in contemplating and possessing, in loving and enjoying the supreme Perfection, who is Beauty and Love itself, and “whom truly, to know is eternal life.” All happiness, consists in loving and possessing the object of our love. (V. Nalson.)
Acquaintance with God
The three friends of the patriarch Job often reasoned rightly, but on wrong principles and false assumptions. The best thing which natural religion can effect is the putting awful distances between man and God, the representing Deity as so sublimely inaccessible that the creature can only bow reverently down and adore from afar, with trembling of spirit, the mysterious Being who is the arbiter of his destinies. And it is not the province of revealed religion to take off anything from the mysteries of Godhead, nor to diminish that unmeasured separation which reason tells us must stretch between the infinite and the finite. Without bringing God down to our level, revelation shows man that he may be lifted up into communion with God Himself. Our text prescribes what we are bound to call familiarity with God. But the better I am acquainted with God, the more shall I find to wonder at. The precept, “Acquaint thyself with God,” would never have found a place amongst the dictates of natural religion. It is not the mere acknowledgment of the existence of God which will cause peace in the human soul. On the contrary, it may be given as a self-evident truth, that until Christ, and the scheme of redemption, through His precious death, are brought under review, the more God reveals Himself, the more will man be disturbed and distressed. Where our acquaintance with God is acquaintance with God in Christ, the closer the “acquaintance,” the greater will be our peace. (Henry Melvill, B. D.)
A Divine acquaintance
Two things no one will challenge.
1. That most men like to improve their acquaintance, to get familiar with such as show a higher social position, with a similar moral preference and taste to their own.
2. Any such acquaintance, to whom a man may “look up,” will be no small factor in giving shape and maturity to his character. The text indicates--
I. A distance, a variance of feeling, between heaven and earth. Here nonacquaintance is enmity. Man now is like to the disobedient child, Sin is nothing if it is not a perverted, a wronged, and a wronging relationship--a change on the one side from the natural to the unnatural. There is wrong relationship between heaven and earth. Sin is not only cruel in putting man at a hateful variance with his Divine Father, but it is murderously fatal. It has more than pain, there is peril of perdition.
II. Heaven desires the present and peaceful settlement of the difference.
1. Any estrangement between two who should be friends will always bring the most pain to the one who has the finest and most susceptible nature.
2. The initiative in seeking this readjustment has been taken by heaven. At the Cross He halts for audience and restoration. This He makes the one point for all negotiations--a witness of His love, and a challenge for others’ love and service.
III. This settlement, when effected, will certainly bring to man the highest blessedness. “Thereby good shall come unto thee.” Everywhere, with a fever of greed, men are seeking “good.” Sin pardoned is the true good.
IV. The attainment of this state demands the heartiest efforts of all men. Surely the dignity of this state makes a claim upon men. To be “at peace with God” will be the noblest, the safest, and the happiest of states. (Edwin D. Green.)
Acquaintance with God
I. Why we should acquaint ourselves with God. The fact is that our very salvation depends upon our knowledge of God and of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
1. That a better acquaintance with God will develop a more intense love for Him. We find a friend, and the more we study his traits of character and learn the true principles of his friendship, the more intense will become our love for him.
2. A closer acquaintance with God will develop in us a deeper work of grace. Grace and the knowledge of God are always associated in the Bible (Eph 4:15; 1 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 3:18).
3. In a closer acquaintance with God, our thoughts, and our words, and our very habits of life become assimilated unto the Divine Mind and ways.
4. With our acquaintance with God grows our delight in His service (Psalms 1:1-2; Psalms 119:35; Psalms 119:47; Psalms 119:92).
II. How shall we secure this acquaintance with God?
1. Through His Word.
2. We get acquainted with God by living much with Him in prayer.
3. By persistently submitting our wills to His will. Our friends delight to confer and counsel with us so long as they feel that we are putting their counsels to practical use.
4. We get better acquainted with God by carefully noting our experiences in life.
III. What must be the consequences of such an acquaintance with God? Such an acquaintance must result--
1. In a fixedness of purpose.
2. Proficiency in His service.
3. Constant peace and joy. (J. C. Jacoby.)
The peace of knowing God
The study of God’s nature in the page of revelation is oftentimes abused, so as to give a man not peace, but trouble. But we should be aware that this is not the necessary fruit, nay, that it never need be the consequence at all, of meditation on Gospel truth. Acquaint thyself with God. Thou knowest Him not aright by nature; thou art in need of diligent study, constant prayer, frequent meditation. Thy notions of God are far from being what they ought to be. Take pains to know Him as He is. To know that God made us, and at the same time to feel that we therefore owe to Him our own existence, this is to acquaint ourselves with God. To know of the gift of God’s Son as a Saviour from sin, and to know of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter and Sanctifier, this is to acquaint ourselves with God. Then thou shalt be at peace with God and with thyself. And “good shall come unto thee.” Both now and hereafter. (C. Girdlestone, M. A.)
Acquaintance with God
Peace--where does it dwell? There is peace in nature. But is there peace with man? Why has man no peace? Sin is the destroyer of your peace and mine. As sin is alienation from God, the recovery of that peace is only to be sought in deliverance from sin, and in a return to the knowledge and love of Him.
I. In what sense are we to acquaint ourselves with God? To what kind of knowledge does the text refer? Is it required for our peace that we should know Him “as He is”? Shall we strain our puny minds to span the countless ages of the eternity of the past? Surely eternity, self-existence, omnipotence, infinite and essential wisdom, holiness and love, these are depths which even angels can only “desire to look into.” Is it then to know Him in His counsels and ways--to understand His dealings in providence and grace? No. How often have His people to trust and not to trace! How seldom does He vouchsafe to show to them the thing that He does! How then shall man acquaint himself with God? “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” To know God as a reconciled Father in Christ, is saving, sanctifying, comforting, peace-speaking knowledge of God to your souls and mine. It is a knowledge which changes, warms, strengthens and cheers the heart.
II. By nature we are not thus acquainted with him. We are not talking of an intellectual, but, if I may say so, of a moral, a spiritual, knowledge. Sin must ever involve ignorance of God. The unrenewed heart cannot have the rich, experimental knowledge of the true child of God. Examine well, then, the character of your acquaintance with God, your religious knowledge.
III. The manner in which the more spiritual acquaintance is to be gained. Turn to the Bible. See in Jesus of Nazareth, “God with us.”
IV. The happy result promised as attendant upon this acquaintance with God. “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (John C. Miller, M. A.)
Peace and good by acquaintance with God
These are the words of a heathen thinker. The words are true in substance. They are wise, far-sighted words. This sage made a grand mistake in the application of this truth to his friend Job.
1. Is there such a thing among men as “peace”--a deep and true peace--without any acquaintance with God? Suppose the case of one possessing high intelligence allied with all the ordinary virtues of human life, but who lacks entirely any personal faith in God as a Person. It is useless to approach such men with arguments for the existence of God, or in favour of any of His attributes. For they are in a state which no abstract argument can well reach. We may take them on the side of the text, and ask, “How about peace?” Is his whole nature at peace? He says, “Yes; I have no fear, no trouble, except that which comes by ignorance or inattention to law. Life is not long. I shall soon be in the dust, and that will be an end of me. If we are to live again, we shall be prepared for it when it comes: why should we trouble about the matter now?” Is this answer true? I say it is not. If it be true, then it comes to this, that one man is essentially different from another man. Not merely circumstantially, but in very nature. Any peace a man may have may be calmness, indifference, but cannot be the same thing as comes into a soul, and flows through it, and down into its far depths, as the result of acquaintance with God. Suppose the case of those who have no doubt of the existence of God, but cannot be said, in any true sense, to be acquainted with Him. Are any such at peace? Again the answer is “No.” Indeed, such imperfect and partial knowledge of God is practically more disturbing and alarming than complete scepticism. Once allow His existence, and it is impossible ever to put that existence anywhere but in the primary place. If God exists, clearly our relations to Him, and His relations to us, are of first importance. Suppose one convinced of the Divine existence, and yet destitute of any true idea of the Divine character, what is the result? It may be this or that, according to temperament, or circumstances, but it never is “peace.” It may be a silent distrust, or a habitual alienation, or a more active antipathy, or an undefined dread, or an awful, but most uncheerful and uncomfortable sense of solemnity, or a settled despondency, or the falling shadow of a black despair; but it never is “peace.” Those who are imperfectly acquainted with God look at some of the attributes separately, but never at the centre and essence of the character, where all the attributes meet. They never see that “God is love.” The text literally means, “dwell with God.” Dwell with Him in the same tent or home. To come to God in Christ is to come home: to enter the tent of the Divine presence.
2. “Thereby good shall come to thee.” Good of every kind, and especially of the best kind. In fact, the state itself is the good begun. By far the greatest good that can be done to a man is the making of himself good. This is done by bringing him into intimate acquaintance and reconciliation and friendship with God. No man is good who avoids the society of God. The reconciled soul is the receptive soul, receptive of God, and of His truth and love. This “good” that comes is, in fact, nothing less than all the benefits and blessings of the Gospel. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)
Acquaintance with God
I. All counsels that a man may give, or his fellow receive, there is none so important as that of cultivating acquaintance with God. Acquaintance signifies more than a bare knowledge. Acquaintance with God is included in three particulars.
1. In a spiritual knowledge of the being of God.
2. In a union of will, and a union of way, with that of God.
3. In a perpetual communion with God.
II. Of all times, seasons, and opportunities, there is no time like the present to cultivate acquaintance with God. Consider--
1. That this matter is important.
2. That there is no time like the present time.
3. That the future is quite uncertain.
4. That the longer a man lives in sin, the farther he goes from God.
III. Of all the benefits which man receives, or God bestows, there are none like those blessings that follow acquaintance with God. “Good shall thereby come unto thee.”
1. All the good in nature.
2. All good in grace.
3. All the good in glory. How miserable must be the state of that man who has no acquaintance with God. (T. Jones.)
On acquaintance with God
I. The proper methods of acquainting our own selves with God.
1. The first step is to acquire a competent knowledge of His nature, His attributes, and His will. We need not commend an inquiry into the metaphysical essence of the Supreme Being. But a competent knowledge of the moral nature of the Deity is both possible and necessary to us. In nature, and in the Scriptures, God’s infinite wisdom and almighty power, His perfect purity and holiness, His justice and faithfulness, His goodness and mercy, His general and particular providence, His determined resolution finally to punish incorrigible wickedness, and to award sincere though imperfect obedience, are set forth with such plainness that the most moderate understanding may gain all requisite intelligence concerning His Divine nature and attributes. God’s will, and all that He requires from us, is laid down with equal plainness.
2. A sincere repentance of our past transgressions. This is a necessary consequence of the former step toward an acquaintance with God. The result of our inquiries will be, that He is a Being of the most perfect purity and holiness. All unreasonable and vicious conduct must be offensive in His sight. While we continue in impenitence, we have the greatest reason to be overwhelmed with terror and dismay. But the repentance must be sincere and universal, extending to all the particulars of our duty and God’s commands.
II. When we have acquired an acquaintance with God, we must be careful to preserve and improve it, by frequent prayer and devotion. Prayer and religious meditation is the proper food of our souls. This maintains that communion with God without which whatsoever is good in us will quickly languish and decay. (R. Richmond, LL. D.)
The advice of Eliphaz
This is all the three friends could, in substance, say. It is difficult to read the exhortation of another man. We are, indeed, apt to put into all reading our own tone, and thereby sometimes we may do grievous injustice to the authors or speakers whom we seek to interpret. One canon of good reading, however, may surely be this, that when a man so seer-like, so prophet-like as Eliphaz, concluded his controversy with Job, observing the suffering and the sorrow of the patriarch, he would be sure to drop his voice into the music of consolation, and would endeavour, whilst speaking words of apparently legal and mechanical preciseness, to utter them with the tone of the heart, as if in the very sorrow was hidden a gracious Gospel, and as if duty might, by some subtle power, be turned into the most precious of delight. All hortatory words may be spoken with too much voice, with too strong a tone, so as to throw them out of proportion in relation to the hearer, whose sorrow already fills his ears with muffled noises. Let us imagine Eliphaz--eldest of the counsellors, most gracious of the speakers--laying his hand, as it were, gently upon the smitten patriarch, and approaching his ear with all the reverence of affectionate confidence, and giving him these parting instructions. Then the exhortation becomes music. The preacher does not thunder his appeal, but utters it persuasively, so that the heart alone may hear it, and the soul be melted by the plea. May it not be so with us also? We do not need the strong exhortation, but we do need the consolatory appeal and stimulus. You may frighten a man by calling out very loudly when he is within one inch of a brink; the nearer the man is to the precipice, the more subdued, the less startling, should be your appeal: you might whisper to him as if nothing were the matter; you might rather lure his attention than loudly and roughly excite it; and then when you get firm hold of him bring him away to the headland as urgently and strongly as you can. May it not be that some hearts may be so far gone that one rude tone from the preacher would break up what little hope remains? Should we not rather sometimes sit down quite closely to one another and say, softly, “Acquaint now thyself with Him, and be at peace”? think of what all thy life comes to, poor soul, and see if even now, just at the very last, the flickering lamp cannot be revived, and made strong and bright: come, let us pray. Never regard the Gospel as having come roughly, violently, but as always coming like the dawn, like the dew, like music from afar, which, having travelled from eternity, stops to accommodate itself to the limitations of time. Still the exhortation has the strength within it. Speak it as you may, it is the strongest exhortation that can be addressed to human attention. When the tone is softened it is not that the law has given up the pursuit of the soul, has ceased to press its infinite claims upon the trespasser. Do not mistake the persuasion of the Gospel for the weaknesses of the preacher, and do not regard the errors of the preacher as implying in any degree defect on the part of his message. Eliphaz tells Job what he must do; let us read his bill of directions. “Acquaint now thyself with Him.” Here is a call to mental action. Job is invited to bethink himself. He is exhorted to put himself at the right point of view. Instead of dealing with social questions and personal details, the seer invites the smitten patriarch to betake himself to the sanctuary and to work out the whole solution in the fear and love of God. There are amongst ourselves questions that are supreme and questions that are inferior. Who would care for the inferior if he could solve the supreme, and fill himself with all the mystery of Deity? What are all our inventions, arts, sciences, and cleverest tricks, and boldest adventures into the region of darkness, compared with the possibility of knowing human thought--the power of removing the veil that separates man from man, and looking into the arcana of another soul? But this is kept back from us. We are permitted to dig foundations, to build towers and temples; we are permitted to span rivers with bridges, and bore our way through rocky hills; but we cannot tell what the least little child is thinking about. All other learning would be contemptible in comparison with an attainment so vast and useful. This is the explanation of men spending their days over crucibles, in hidden places, in darkened dungeons, seeking in the crucible for the particular Something that would dissolve everything that was hard, and reveal everything that was dark. This is the meaning of the quest in which men have been engaged for the Sangreal, the philosopher’s stone--that marvellous and unnamable something which, if a man had, he would open every kingdom and be at home in every province of the universe. You cannot kill that mysterious ambition of the human heart. It will come up in some form. It is the secret of progress. All this leads to the uppermost thought, namely, that if a man could acquaint himself with God, live with God, would not that be the very highest attainment of all? If he could enter the tabernacles of the Most High, and survey the universe from the altar where burns the Shechinah, what would all other attainments and acquisitions amount to? Yet this is the thing to be aimed at--grow in grace; grow in all life; for it means, in its fruition, acquaintance with God, identification with God, absorption in God, living, moving, having the being in God; taking God’s view of everything; made radiant with God’s wisdom, and calm with God’s peace. Assuming that to be a possibility, how all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory thereof, fade away into the dim distance! How grandly some of the old seers now and again touched the vital point; and how the ages have thrilled with their touch, knowing that at last they had left detail and cloud and mystification, and touched the very pulse of things. Here stands the great truth, the eternal verity: until we have acquainted ourselves with God, by means prescribed in God’s own Book, our knowledge is ignorance, and our mental acquisitions are but so many proofs of our mental incapacity. Eliphaz therefore lifts up the whole discussion to a new level. He will not point to this wound or that, to the sore, boil, or blain, to the withering skin, to the patriarch’s pitiful physical condition; he begins now to touch the great mystery of things--namely, that God is in all the cloud of” affliction, in all the wilderness of poverty, and that to know His purpose is to live in His tranquillity. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)
Peace through the knowledge of God
Here, if our received version is correct, Eliphaz hits upon one of the profoundest thoughts in religion, the significance and value of which each new step in the revelation of God to men has more and more disclosed. The principle is, that a more true and full knowledge of God is the cure for every phase of human unrest. Spiritual disquiet lies outside of God. He who does not know God as He is at all, lies open to every incursion of religious disquietude; whether through superstitious fear, or through conscience, or through doubt, or through passion, or through discontent, or through any other of the numberless and sometimes nameless alleys by which disturbance is forever assailing the souls of men. On the other hand, the more truly and the more fully anyone knows by acquaintance the personal God, the more is he rid of sources of inward dispeace.
1. Of what sort must our knowledge of God be? It is possible to know as a friend by personal intercourse, one whom we are by no means able fully to understand. A little child knows his father; but he does not comprehend, or embrace in his knowledge, the fulness of that father’s capacities. It is not through the intellect alone, or best, that the Infinite God is knowable by any creature. It is through the personal affections, through conscience, and through the spiritual faculty of faith. There are three stages to be observed in a man’s knowledge of God.
(1) Certain true notions respecting the Divine Being and His character must be presupposed, before I can approach Him with that personal approach which is the basis of acquaintanceship.
(2) Given a fairly correct notion of the almighty and righteous God, whose name is Love, the man must not suffer sin to hold him back from moral intercourse with God, else his knowledge will be only a knowledge about God, not a knowing of God. To worship, to love, and to obey, is the road to real acquaintance with Him.
(3) Such a moral acquaintanceship with God ekes out even the imperfection of our intellectual notions regarding Him. Much must forever remain that we cannot know. Intimacy with a good person breeds confidence, and confidence gives peace. Those who know God as a friend will put their trust in Him.
2. Show, by two or three instances, how God’s growing revelation of Himself to man has been followed in experience by a corresponding increase of peace in their souls. Take, for illustration, two items from the Old Testament manifestation of Jehovah to the Hebrew people, and two from the better revelation in His Son, which, as Christians, we enjoy.
(1) The fundamental truth, which it took nearly a thousand years to teach the chosen nation, is the unity of God. So entirely has this splendid truth taken possession of the modern world, Christian, Jewish, and Mohammedan--that we absolutely fail to conceive of the ancient heathen habit of thought on the subject. This doctrine of the unity of God brought a beginning of peace to the world’s heart.
(2) The unrest created by the heathen creed of many gods, with limited powers and overlapping provinces, was immensely increased by the selfish partiality, venality, and passionateness generally ascribed to the Divine character. To the gods were imputed the passions of men, and of very bad men, too; so that anything was worship which could be supposed to influence a fickle, corrupt, or facile will. This wretched degradation of deity bred dispeace of soul. It is impossible to know the secret mind of one who is unfair, or open to unrighteous influence. I cannot count on his friendship. But Jehovah is just, impartial, Consistent. What may be called God’s absolute integrity, embracing His truth or faithfulness; His justice, or the equality of His administration and its coincidence with law; and His unchangeableness, as one inaccessible to unfair influence--this is the grand moral discovery of the Old Testament. To such a God, upright men do not appeal in vain.
(3) Until God was pleased to make, through Christ, a further disclosure of Himself, we never could be perfectly at peace. Through all pre-Christian religions, and in the religion of every man still who has not acquainted himself with the Gospel of Christ, there ran, and there runs, some unquiet effort to solve the problem of atonement. The idea which rules them all, the only idea possible till God taught us better, is that man has to work on God through some means or other, so as to change repulsion or aversion into favour. This false and heathenish notion is still widespread among us. But it brings no peace. We can never be sure that our effort has succeeded. Expiation does not come by our successful efforts to work on Divine placability, or to deserve Divine grace, or to buy off or beg off Divine resentment. It is God’s own act, dictated by His sole charity, wrought by His sole passion.
(4) We are led still nearer to perfect peace by a more recent revelation, that of the Third Person. God is the Holy Ghost, who freely, gladly stoops to inform our warring and sin-sick souls. With infinite patience He stays by us while we fight or sin. God, the Third Person, broods like a dove of peace over the tumultuous chaos of a passionate heart, glimmers like a star of hope in our blackest night. With Him let us acquaint ourselves. Then we shall have the full repose that follows conquest. (J. Oswald Dykes, D. D.)
The highest knowledge and the greatest good
Ignorance of God is the secret of all opposition to God. It is impossible for any man to know God message to those who are ignorant of His name. Do not misjudge His character any longer. Do not blaspheme the name that you would bless, if you did but understand the God that it represents.
I. An exposition of the text. There are two or three translations of this sentence: “Acquaint now thyself with Him,” or “Acquiesce in Him”--surrender that will of yours. The first step to salvation is an absolute surrender of the will. Another rendering is, “Join yourself to God.” The French translation has it: “Attach yourself to God.” Fall in with His ways, and with His methods. This is particularly practical advice to us as Christian workers. But there is a special force in the Saxon word “acquaint,” from which we get the word ken, to know. Get to know God--to understand Him. Know Him intellectually, for this is the pioneer of all other blessings. We can only become acquainted with God as He reveals Himself. Become acquainted with Him morally. Yield your hearts to Him. Know Him socially by walking with Him. Know God the Son, as well as God the Father. Your acquaintance with Him must begin at the Cross. And know God the Holy Spirit, as a Sanctifier, Comforter, Teacher, yea, as an abiding, tender Guide, and as a Power to help us in our Christian work.
II. Enforce this exhortation. The text speaks to us individually. And it must be acquaintance with Him--with Himself.
III. The promise of the text. The first good is, “Thou shalt be established”; the second, “Evil shall be removed from thy dwelling”; the third is, delight in God, and an uplifted face. (W. Williams.)
Acquaintance with God
I. An acquaintance with God, the best support under afflictions. The exceeding corruption and folly of man is in nothing more manifest than in his averseness to entertain any friendship or familiarity with God. In all cases where the body is affected with pain or sickness, we are forward enough to look out for remedies. Yet notwithstanding that, we find and feel our souls disordered and restless, tossed and disquieted by various passions, and notwithstanding that we are assured from other men’s experience, and from our own inward convictions, that the only way of regulating these disorders is to call off our minds from too close an attention to the things of sense, and to employ them often in a sweet intercourse with our Maker, the Author of our being, and Fountain of all our ease and happiness; yet we are strangely backward to lay hold of this safe, this only, method of cure; we go on still nourishing the distemper under which we groan, and choose rather to feel the pain than to apply the remedy.
I. What this Scripture phrase implies. Wherein does the duty consist? We are prone by nature to engage ourselves in too close and strict an acquaintance with the things of this world, which immediately and strongly strike our senses. To check and correct this ill-tendency, it is requisite that we should “acquaint ourselves with God,” that we should frequently disengage our hearts from earthly pursuits, and fix them on Divine things. This is only general; it may be useful to mention some particulars wherein it chiefly consists. In order to begin and improve human friendships, five things are principally requisite--knowledge, access, a similitude of manners, an entire confidence and love; and by these also the Divine friendship, of which we are treating, must be cemented and upheld.
II. This is the only way to a perfect tranquillity and rest of mind. “And be at peace.” Honour, profit, and pleasure, are the three great idols to which the men of this world bow, and one or all of these are generally aimed at in every friendship they make; and yet, though nothing can be more honourable, profitable, or pleasing to us, than an acquaintance with God, we stand off from it, and will not be tempted even by these motives, though appearing to us with the utmost advantage, to embrace it. Can anything improve, and purify, and exalt our natures more than such a conversation as this, wherein our spirits, mounting on the wings of contemplation, faith, and love, ascend up to the first principle and cause of all things, see, admire, and taste His surpassing excellence, and feel the quickening power and influence of it? In what conversation can we spend our thoughts and time more profitably than in this?
III. The most proper season for such a religious exercise of our thoughts is when any sore trouble or calamity overtakes us. “Now,” when the wise Disposer of all things hath thought fit to pour out afflictions upon thee. At such times our soul is most tender and susceptible of religious impressions, most apt to seek God, to delight in approaching Him, and conversing with Him. The kind and chief design of God, in all His severest dispensations, is to melt and soften our hearts to such a degree as He finds necessary in order to the good purposes of His grace. We are, by nature, indigent creatures, incapable of ourselves to content and satisfy ourselves; and therefore are ever looking abroad for somewhat to supply our defects and complete our happiness. How can the pious sons and daughters of affliction better employ themselves than in looking up to Him that hath bruised them, and possessing their souls in patience? Let us, throughout the whole course of our lives, take care to make the thoughts of God so present, familiar, and comfortable to us here, that we may not be afraid of appearing face to face before Him hereafter. (F. Atterbury, D. D.)
The true source of peace of mind
Of all earthly comfort, the firmest basis and the principal constituent is peace of mind. Without this, neither power, nor riches, nor even life itself, can yield any substantial or lasting satisfaction. If our peace of mind be destroyed, all pleasure is destroyed with it. No sufficient remedy was discovered by the efforts of unassisted reason: we may therefore inquire what aid can be derived from Divine revelation.
1. To acquaint ourselves with God, in the sense in which our Scriptures teach, and require the acquaintance, we shall soon perceive to be no difficult task, if we engage in it with zeal and diligence, and take those Scriptures for our instructor and guide. Of the Supreme Being we certainly have not the faculties to comprehend the “Eternal power and Godhead.” The misfortune is, we attach ourselves so entirely to the business and the pleasures of our present state, that we are unwilling to turn our thoughts to the greater and better objects of our care. Hence negligence produces many of the effects and mischiefs of ignorance. We must not only make God the subject of inquiry and speculation; we must seriously reflect on the relation in which we stand to this Creator and Ruler of the world, and what His providence is doing every day. In the Bible such laws are prescribed for our conduct, as, if duly observed, would render human life a constant scene of virtue, piety, and peace. More than half our sufferings are the effect of our own misconduct. From the Bible we learn that our present state is the time and place of trial for our faith and conduct. When this life has come to an end, then each will be adjudged to an eternal allotment of happiness or misery, proportioned to his vice or virtue, to his piety or his profaneness. Even this is not the whole of our information and advantages. We are offered, upon our repentance and amendment, the pardon of our sins of error and infirmity, through the merits and mediation of a Redeemer.
2. Of this acquaintance with our God, the declared intention, and the promised effect, are to be at peace--at peace in our own minds. The perplexities of life can only be satisfactorily explained, and the afflictions of life patiently endured, by acquainting ourselves with God, and obtaining this acquaintance by the assistance of his own revelation. It is universally allowed that the human mind is never fully satisfied with what human life can bestow upon us. In the midst even of riches, authority, and honours, some want is still felt, something new is still sought, something better is still desired. Even when we know that we have offended God by the transgression of His laws, when our conscience afflicts us with the sense of guilt and the apprehension of its punishment--under these unhappy circumstances, and most especially under these, to acquaint ourselves with God is the only expedient for us to be at peace. It is, indeed, in the hour of calamity, under the pressure of affliction, that this acquaintance with our God is most necessary, and will most avail us. It is when accident or sickness or poverty has deprived us of worldly comfort or of worldly hope, it is then our trust in Providence, and that only, will support our sinking spirits, speak peace to our minds, and teach us that patient submission which must be at once our duty and consolation. It was under such circumstances that Eliphaz gave to Job the advice of the text. (W. Barrow, LL. D.)
God is worthy of confidence
Man became alienated from God by the apostasy, and consequently miserable; and peace was to be found again only by reconciliation with Him. There are two great difficulties in the minds of men. The one is, they have no just views of the character and government of God; and the second is, if His true character is made known to them, they have no pleasure in it, no confidence in it. Both these difficulties must be removed before man can be reconciled to his Maker. No small part of the difficulty will be removed if we can show him that the character of God is such as to deserve his confidence.
I. The liability to error on our part in judging of the character and government of God. The great evil in this world is a want of confidence in God--a want of confidence producing the same disasters there which it does in a commercial community and in the relations of domestic life. The great thing needful to make this a happy world is to restore confidence in the Creator--confidence, the great restorer of happiness everywhere. Now, man can never be reconciled to God unless this confidence shall be restored. In disputes between you and your neighbour, the great thing for you to do is to restore to his mind just confidence in yourself--to explain matters. This is what is to be done in religion. It is to convince men that God is worthy of confidence. Why should a man wish to cherish any hard thoughts of God without the shadow of reason? In our estimate of God, are we in no danger of being influenced by improper feelings? See four sources of danger on this point.
1. We are in danger of being governed in our views of God by mere feeling, rather than by sober judgment and calm investigation.
2. We are often in circumstances where we are in danger of cherishing hard thoughts of God. They may make us feel that His government is severe and arbitrary.
3. We always regard ourselves as the aggrieved and injured party. We do not allow ourselves to suppose it possible that God should be right and we be wrong.
4. Back of all this is the fact that We are not pleased with the character of God when it is understood. By nature we have no pleasure in God. All the views of the Divine character which are formed under influences like these are likely to be wrong.
II. The real difficulties of the case. Such as a man might find who would wish to see such evidence as would enable him to put unwavering confidence in God. There are many things which such a man cannot understand. Such as, that sin should have been allowed to come into the system formed by a holy God. That misery should come into the universe, and that death, with many forms of woe, has been commissioned to cut down one whole race. That the immortal mind should be allowed to jeopard its infinite welfare. That any should suffer forever. That since God can save men, and will save a part, He has not purposed to save all. These, and kindred difficulties, meet the mind when we think on this great subject. They are real, not imaginary difficulties.
III. The evidences that he is worthy of confidence. They are, God Himself as revealed; and the government of God as--
1. One of law.
2. Stable and firm.
3. The arrangements of this government tend to promote the welfare of His subjects.
4. They provide for the evils that arise from the violation of law.
5. In the plan of recovery none are excluded.
6. Those who know God’s character best are found to repose most confidence in Him. (A. Barnes, D. D.)
How good comes to man
These are strange words to be addressed to a man renowned for piety and integrity! Job and the Almighty were by no means strangers to each other. How comes it, then, that Eliphaz says to Job, “Acquaint now thyself with Him”? God appears to have given him over to Satan for the time being, because that evil spirit had alleged that the piety of Job was maintained only for selfish ends. Dr. Stanley Leathes says: “It may be presumed that Satan challenged the Almighty in the case of Job, and that the Almighty accepted his challenge. It must, however, be carefully noted that the reader only, and not the several characters in this discussion, is supposed to be acquainted with this fact: for had it appeared openly at any point of the argument, there would at once have been an end to the discussion, The several speakers were shooting arrows in the dark; the reader only occupies a vantage-ground, in the light afforded by a knowledge of the secret.”
I. The fact of estrangement.
1. The witness of conscience. That there is more unrest in the world than there is of peace and contentment, few would deny. What is the cause of the dissatisfaction? The popular replies are, “We work at such high pressure. There is so much competition in commercial life that daily toil becomes a daily struggle. There is too much worry, and too little recreation”; etc., etc. But are these replies satisfactory? As a matter of experience, does recreation make for contentment? Do our worries cease as our possessions increase? One thing we know, that humanity is adrift from its God. Unacquaintance with Him explains much of the joylessness and impotence in human life today.
2. The witness of the world. To the questions, “Why should there be so much mutual suspicion in men’s hearts? Why so much strife?” The world itself bears witness that it has turned away from its Creator and its King.
3. The witness of God Himself. If God calls, there is a need for the call; and He, with lament and sorrow, says to the children of men, “Turn ye, turn ye, for why will ye die?”
II. The estrangement may end. “Acquaint now thyself with Him.” But what things are necessary to a reconciliation that shall be both just and abiding? There are two ways in which sin may be dealt with. First, to condone it; secondly, to forgive it. The Almighty, being a God of Justice, cannot do the former. We see then that--
(1) Reconciliation is based on Divine pardon.
(2) Pardon is assured through the atonement of Christ.
III. The estrangement may end now. “Acquaint now thyself with Him.” But on certain conditions. And they are--
2. The forsaking of sin. (F. Burnett.)
How good comes to man
I. The results of this acquaintanceship, or the effects of reconciliation,--“be at peace; thereby good shall come unto thee.” What is this good which is as the gateway of peace? Is it a gift or an experience? How does it come? Am I but the passive object of the Divine pity? Have I to stand and wait, or to strive and obtain? The enriching of my life with good is God’s work; it is also my work. There is a human power in the Divine life. I must arise and return to the Father, ere He can receive me.
II. The possession of good is seen in contentment of mind. Discontent is more common than contentment. Is there no such thing as a righteous and justifiable ambition? Our text says that by making the acquaintance of God, we become the possessors of good. Material good or spiritual good? Both. The God who graciously invites my friendship, and offers His, is interested in my whole being. With the Bible--the story of man and his God--before us, and the testimony of men around us, we may reply that man, in making the acquaintance of God, is not a loser, but a gainer. Acquaintance with God has opened unto him the gates of peace and prosperity.
III. The possession of good is seen in an abundance of spiritual life. This life, that is life indeed, includes--
2. Joint-heirship with Christ.
3. Daily power for daily need. (F. Burnett.)
And lay up His words in thine heart.
What is meditation? It is thinking steadily, continuously, repeatedly, on a subject. Surely we can find time to think in this steady way, of your business, your family, your politics, your amusements even? Is it so impossible, then, to think thus of your God? How can you expect to grow in the knowledge of God if you never think of Him? It wants no learning, no singular vigour or acuteness, to think Christian thoughts; but it does want a Christian inclination: and if you have not that, do not blame the subject, but blame yourself. You may be sure that no man is better than he means to be. It is the seeker who finds. Idleness about one’s soul often goes side by side with industry in our affairs, and the same person who is careful and troubled about many lesser things, will be seen neglecting the one thing needful. In the way of meditation, we set up defences of piety, taking home common rules, and building them into our secret resolves. God blesses these exercises of meditation, that they may lead us on in goodness, so that what, we find true in thinking, we should make come true in acting. The rule runs, “In meditation strive for graces, not for gifts”; that is, do not aim at impressions and emotions only, but try to become a better person, and more Christian in life. Warnings--
1. Every light throws a shadow; every virtue is haunted by a counterfeit. Meditation should never lead the fancy into false familiarity with heaven. The good man is, in a humble way, a friend of God, and a child of God, but a child still in minority.
2. Turn the matter of salvation, as the saying is, “with a daily and nightly hand.” Thoughts come to us first as strangers; if received, they return as guests; if well entertained, they stay as members of the family, and end as part of our life and self. So bad thoughts grow into oppressors, and good ones into echoes and reflections of heaven. (T. F. Crosse, D. C. L.)
If thou return to the Almighty.
I. The nature of a true spiritual reformation is here set forth.
1. Reconciliation to God. Men in their unregenerate state are out of sympathy with their Maker. There is an estrangement of soul.
2. Practical regard to the Divine precepts. “Receive, I pray thee, the law from His mouth, and lay up His words in thine heart.” Put thy being under the reign of heavenly laws.
3. Renunciation of all iniquity. “Thou shalt put away iniquity far from thy tabernacles.” There is no reformation where sin is cherished, or where it is allowed to linger.
4. Estimating the best things as worthless in comparison with God. “Then shalt thou lay up gold as dust, and the gold of Ophir as the stones of the brook. Yea, the Almighty shall be thy defence, and thou shalt have plenty of silver.”
II. The advantages of a true spiritual reformation, as here set forth. Eliphaz says that if Job would only act out his counsel he should, enjoy signal advantages. “Thereby good shall come unto thee.” What is the good” he refers to? He specifies several things.
1. Restoration of lost blessings. “Thou shalt be built up.” All thy losses shall be repaired, and the breaches in thy fortune healed. How much Job had lost!
2. Delight in God. Job had been complaining of the Almighty; and his face was cast down in sadness.
3. Answer to prayer. Prayer is always answered where it leads to a submission to the Divine will; and true prayer always leads to this.
4. Realisation of purposes. Thou shalt form a plan or purpose, and it shall not be frustrated.
5. rower of usefulness. When men are cast down, thou shalt say, “Cheer up.” (Homilist.)
Standing right with God
“Thou shalt have plenty of silver.” But, first, the religion such a motive would produce would be worth little. Religion is not, in its nature, external. And the desire of the silver could only bring to an external conformity to the Divine commands. And, second, the motive cannot be urged. The statement of Eliphaz was grounded in a mistaken view of Divine Providence. Gold and silver are given and withheld as the sovereign Lord sees fit; and their distribution follows not the rules of holy obedience.
I. The hortatory portions or the text.
1. The belief of Eliphaz was, that Job was a great sinner; and he therefore urges the necessity of returning to God. He was mistaken in his particular views of Job.
2. Returning to God, we shall “acquaint ourselves with Him, and be at peace.” The expression implies knowledge and intimacy.
3. Thus standing right with God, a two-fold duty devolves on us.
(1) Due preparation for practice. “Receive the law from His mouth.” Acknowledge Him as supreme Lord.
(2) Practice itself. “Put away iniquity,”--have nothing to do with it personally: “from thy tabernacles,”--allow it not in the circle which thou governest.
II. Blessings shall come from this better than gold and silver.
1. “Good shall come unto thee.” God’s favour, the light of His countenance,--all that makes the true eternal good of the soul.
2. “The Almighty shall be thy defence”: against all real danger. A complete oversight and protection shall be granted thee.
3. “Thou shalt delight in the Almighty”: in the thought of what He is in Himself, and to thee; and in His consciously possessed favour.
4. Thou “shalt lift up thy face unto God.” Thou shalt not now be ashamed. Thou shalt have a holy, humble, but firm and joyful confidence. Sin makes the man afraid.
5. “Thou shalt make thy prayer unto Him, and He will hear thee.” There is permission to enjoy this highest privilege. Pray,--be heard.
6. Thy path shall be truly happy. “The light shall shine on thy ways.” Even providential obscurity shall make spiritual light more visible. (G. Cubitt.)
Returning to God by conviction and progress
In the return of a human soul to God there is decision arising from conviction,--a conviction forced upon the conscience, and will, and reason, and feelings of the heart and mind, from the unanswerable compulsory power of circumstances. With regard to religious conviction as a necessary step to our returning to the Almighty, we may steel our minds against it from many causes; one, say, from the formal custom of hearing sermons. For blended with this kind of hearing may be a self-comparison with the religious teacher himself, and the self-satisfaction which may arise from this comparison. There may stand in the way of this conviction the strong bias of early impressions, of local customs, and of deeply-rooted habits of thought and conception. We may look at religious duties through not only very limited mediums, and therefore partial, but through certain party-coloured ones, and so mistake the broad expansive and glorious character of God’s truth by the disfiguring and narrowing influence of bigotry, intolerance, and prejudice. When a man, however, steadily and fixedly sets the eye of his faith upon the Almighty, as the all-absorbing and exclusive end of his religious convictions and decisions, he returns to Him in the spirit of the prodigal. He returns to God with a humble heart, a humble faith, and a humble prayer. As a result of the return of the soul to the Almighty, it shall “be built up.” This points to a progress of religious life and experience. There is a power exerted, on man’s behalf above and independently of himself. It is “Thou shalt be built up,” not “Thou shalt build thyself up.” The spirit of man assuming the form of a building, in a moral and religious sense, becomes so after the manner of all other structures. It has its foundations in Christ; its gradual rise in the piling up, so to speak, of one virtue upon another, as stone upon stone. But as the earthly building is dependent upon the genius of the architect, so is the spiritual building dependent upon the wisdom and power of the Almighty. We may go where the castle or palace or temple once stood in noble splendour, in proud dignity, and in great strength, but now a crumbling ruin with wails gray with age, battered by the hand of time, or made spectral-like by fire, axe, and sword. But its remaining walls and columns and arches may be restored, strengthened, replenished, and built up again. So with the human soul, its original beauty and grandeur might be defaced by sin, and all its former promises of endurance might be broken by disobedience; but by the grace and mercy of God it may be built up once more. (W. D. Horwood.)
For then shalt thou have thy delight in the Almighty.
An outline of the devout life
These words can be raised to a higher level than that on which Eliphaz placed them, and regarded as describing the sweet and wonderful prerogatives of the devout life. So understood they may rebuke, and stimulate, and encourage us to make our lives conform to the ideal here.
I. Life may be full of delight and confidence in God. When we “delight” in a thing or person, we recognise that thing or person as fitting into a cleft of our hearts, and corresponding to some need of our natures. Without delight in God there is no real religion. The bulk of men are so sunken and embruted in animal tastes, and sensuous desires, and fleeting delights, that they have no care for the pure and calm joys which come to those who live near God. Above these stand the men whose religion is a matter of fear or of duty or of effort. And above them stand the men who serve because they trust God, but whose religion is seeking rather than finding, it is overshadowed by an unnatural and unwholesome gloom. He is the truly devout man who not only knows God to be great and holy, but feels Him to be sweet and sufficient; who not only fears, but loves. True religion is delighting in God. The next words, “Thou shalt lift up thy face unto God,” express frank confidence of approach to Him. The head hangs down in the consciousness of demerit and sin. But it is possible for men to go into God’s presence with a sense of peace, and to hold up their heads before their judge. There is no confidence possible for us unless we apprehend by faith, and thereon make our own the great work of Jesus Christ our Lord.
II. Such a life of delighting in God will be blessed by the frankest intercourse with him. Three stages of this blessed communion are possible. First a prayer, then the answer; and then the rendered thank offering. And so, in swift alternation and reciprocity, is carried on the commerce between heaven and earth, between man and God. The desires rise to heaven, but heaven comes down to earth first. Prayer is not the initial stage, but the second, in the process. God first gives His promise, and the best prayer is the catching up of God’s promise, and tossing it back again whence it came.
III. Such a life will neither know failure nor darkness. To serve God and to fall into the line of His purpose, and to determine nothing, nor absolutely want anything until we are sure that it is His will,--that is the secret of never failing in what we undertake.
IV. Such a life will be always hopeful and finally crowned with deliverance. Even in so blessed a life as has been described, times will come when the path plunges downward into some valley of the shadow of death. But even then the traveller will bate no jot of hope. The devout life is largely independent of circumstances, and is upheld and calmed by quiet certainty, that the general trend of its path is upward, which enables it to trudge hopefully down an occasional dip in the road. And the end will vindicate such confidence. Continuous partial deliverances lead on to, and bring about, final full salvation. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Delight in the Almighty
I. First, here is a desired position towards God. Many men forget God: He is no object of delight to them. Great numbers of men go a stage further: they believe in God, they cannot doubt that there is a Most High God who judgeth the children of men; but their only thought towards Him is that of dread and dislike. I am grieved to add that this principle even tinctures the thoughts of true friends of God: for when they bow before God it is not only with the reverence of a loving child, but with the terror of a slave; they are afraid of Him who should be their exceeding joy. God is still to them exceeding terrible, so that they fear and quake. Even though they are His children, they are not able to lift up their faces unto their own Father. Let us meditate a while upon what is here meant by delighting in the Almighty.
1. The man who experiences this delight is glad that there is a God. We delight to see God in the shadow of every passing cloud, in the colouring of every opening flower, in the glitter of every dewdrop, in the twinkling of every star.
2. To go a step further, the delight of the believer in his God is a delight in God as He really is; for there are in the world many false gods of men’s own manufacture. Remember that your own thoughts of what God is are far from being correct unless they are drawn from His own revelation. We would not tone down a single attribute, we would not disturb the equilibrium of the Divine perfections; but we delight in God in all those aspects of His character which are mentioned in His Holy Word.
3. Further, he that delights in God delights not only in God as He is, but in all that God does, and this is a higher attainment than some have reached. “It is the Lord,” said one of old, “let Him do what seemeth Him good.”
4. Practically put, this delight in the Almighty shows itself in the Christian when nothing else remains to him. If he be stripped of everything, he cries, “The Lord is my portion.” You will see this delight in God exhibiting itself in frequent meditations upon God “Delight thyself in the Lord.” This will give you pleasure in the midst of pain. This will show itself in your life, for it will be a pleasure to do anything to exalt the name of God. I call your attention to the special name by which Eliphaz describes the ever-blessed God: he says, “Delight thyself in the Almighty.” Is it not singular that he should choose a term descriptive of omnipotence as the paramount cause of the believer’s delight? God is love, and I can readily understand how one might delight himself in God under that aspect; but the believer is taught to delight himself in God as strong and mighty. What a mercy it is that there is a power that makes for righteousness! Surely, when you see omnipotence linked with righteousness and mercy, you will delight yourself in the Almighty. Think also of the Lord’s almightiness in the matter of the keeping, preserving, defending, and perfecting of all His people. Now, let us turn with intense satisfaction to the other expression used by Eliphaz: “Thou shalt lift up thy face unto God.” What does it mean? Does it not mean, first, joy in God? When a man hangs his head down he is unhappy. Does it not signify, also, that this man is reconciled to God, and clear before Him? How can he look up who is guilty? Does not our text indicate fearlessness? Fear covers her face, and would fain hide herself altogether, even though to accomplish concealment the rocks must fall upon her. May it not also signify expectation? “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.” Strive after this sacred peace: delight in the Almighty, and lift up your faces unto God.
II. When can we realise this?
1. First, a man can realise all this when he knows that he is reconciled to God.
2. Yet even this could not effect our delight in God unless there was something else; so there must be, in the next place, a renewed nature. Our old nature will never delight in God.
3. In addition to this, you will delight in God much more fully when the Spirit beareth witness with your spirit that you are born of God. The spirit of sonship is the spirit of delight in God.
We shall delight ourselves in God, and lift up our face when we do as Eliphaz here tells us.
1. First, when we live in communion with Him.
2. Then, further, we must, if we are to know this delight, lay up God’s words in our hearts (Job 22:22).
3. There must be added to this delight in the Word a constant cleansing of the way.” If thou return to the Almighty, thou shalt be built up, thou shalt put away iniquity far from thy tabernacles.” There must be purification of life, or there cannot be fellowship with the Lord.
4. In addition to this, there must be a constant trust. “Yea, the Almighty shall be thy defence, and thou shalt have plenty of silver” (Job 22:25). He who does not trust God cannot delight in Him. You cannot lift up your face to Him while you think Him untrue. A childlike confidence is essential to a holy joy.
5. Let us abide in continual prayer (Job 22:27). (C. H. Spurgeon.)
When men are cast down, then thou shalt say, There is lifting up; and He shall save the humble person.
The humble soul the peculiar favourite of heaven
I. Some account of lowliness and humility. Lowliness being a relative grace, we must consider it in a threefold view.
1. With respect to ourselves. It implies low and underrating thoughts of ourselves. It has in it even a self-abhorrence; but a singleness of heart in the discharge of duty, without vainglory, or pharisaical ostentation.
2. With respect unto others. This has in it a preferring of others above or before ourselves. A looking upon the gifts and graces of others without a grudge. And an affable, courteous carriage toward all.
3. With reference to God. It implies high and admiring thoughts of the majesty of God. When God discovers Himself, the man sinks into nothing in his own esteem. A holy fear and dread of God always on his spirit, especially in his immediate approaches unto the pretence of God, in the duties of worship. An admiring of every expression of the! Divine bounty, and goodness toward men in general, and toward himself in particular. A giving God the glory of all that we are helped to do in His service. A silent resignation unto the will of God, and an acquiescence in the disposals of His providence, let dispensations be never so cross to the inclinations of flesh and blood. The very soul and essence of Gospel humiliation lies in the soul’s renouncing of itself, going out of itself, and going into and accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as its everlasting all.
II. The humble soul is the peculiar favourite of Heaven. This is evident if we consider--
1. That when the Son of God was here in our nature, He shewed a particular regard unto such.
2. God has such respect unto the humble soul because it is a fruit of His own Spirit inhabiting the soul.
3. This is a disposition that makes the soul like Christ, and the liker that a person be to Christ, God loves Him aye the better.
III. Some marks by which you may try whether you be among the humble and lowly.
1. The lowly soul is one that is many times ashamed to look up to heaven under a sense of his own vileness and unworthiness. He is one that is many times put to wonder that God hath not destroyed him.
2. He is one that is most abased under the receipt of the greatest mercies and sweetest manifestations.
3. He is one that renounces the law as a covenant, and disclaims all pretensions to righteousness from that airth.
4. He is one that has high, raised, and admiring thoughts of Christ, and of His law-abiding righteousness. The humble soul is one that looks on sin as the greatest burden: that values himself of least, when others value him most; that is not puffed up with the falls of others: that is thankful for little, and content and desirous to know God’s will, that he may do it.
IV. Some motives to press and recommend this lowliness and humility of spirit. It assimilates the soul to Christ. It is the distinguishing character of a Christian. Consider how reasonable this lowliness and humility of soul is--whether we look to ourselves in particular or the evils of the land or day wherein we live. (E. Erskine.)
The ministry of fellow helpfulness
Poverty, anxieties, pain, suffering, oppressions, errors, sins, sadnesses, we move among these day by day. Be we high born or lowly, live we in palace or hut, these experiences greet us, and make their appeal to us. What is to be our bearing in relation to all this? How are We to conduct ourselves amid such surroundings? There are two courses open to us--the selfish and the sympathetic. We may shut ourselves up in a spirit of selfish isolation and say, “Other people’s affairs are nothing to me.” We have the power so to choose and act. Of course we take the consequences such conduct involves. That we cannot escape. There is, however, the truer, manlier, Christlier course of brotherly sympathy, kindly feeling, sympathetic helpfulness. Going among men cast down by their surroundings and tendencies, their sins and their sorrows, we may say even to those lowest down, “There is lifting up for you.” Such a bearing as this is in keeping with all the noblest instincts of our nature. A selfish, unsympathetic man is unnatural. He has got a twist. But we love the unselfish, the sympathetic, the helpful. This spirit and bearing religion ever enforces and promotes. It is a vital part of religion. A selfish Christian is a contradiction. The godly man should be an embodied Gospel of hope wherever he goes. The mission of the Lord Jesus lay along this line. He came to men as the great hope bringer. He has made the world transcendently richer by the hope inspirations that pervaded His teaching. Down through the ages, under the same inspiration, Christly men have moved among their follows as hope bringers. (Ralph M. Spoor.)
Delight in the Lord
These words describe the sacred pleasures of piety.
I. The sublimity of its nature. The saints delight--
1. In the saving knowledge of God.
2. In the present enjoyment of God.
3. In the future anticipation of God.
II. The Divinity of its origin. “In the Almighty.”
1. The Almighty is suited to our capacities.
2. The Almighty is adequate to our necessities.
3. The Almighty is durable as our existence.
III. The tendency of its influence. “Thou shalt lift up thy face unto God.” The effects which accompany spiritual joy, distinguish it from mere enthusiastic delusion, and demonstrate both the genuineness and efficacy of experimental religion in them that believe.
1. They exercise confidence in God.
2. They enjoy communion with God.
3. They maintain obedience to God. (Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Job 22". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Sixth Week after Easter