Eliphaz returns to the attack, but with observations that are at first strangely pointless and irrelevant, e.g. on the unprofitableness of man to God (verses l, 2), and on the slight importance of Job's case (verse 3). After this weak prelude, however, there is more vigour in his assault. In verses 4-9 he directly charges Job with a number of specified sins, and in verses 10, 11 declares his sufferings to be the consequence of them. He then proceeds to accuse him of denying God's omniscience (verses 12-14), and, alter some not very successful attempts to retort on him his own words (verses 15-20), finally recurs to his favourite devices (see Job 5:17-26) of exhorting Job to submission and repentance, and promising him restoration to God's favour and a return of prosperity (verses 21-30).
Job 22:1, Job 22:2
Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said, Can a man be profitable unto God? Job had said nothing upon this point; but perhaps Eliphaz thinks his complaints and expostulations to imply a higher value in man, and a greater claim to consideration at God's hands, than can rightly be challenged. Certainly God does not depend on man for profit or advantage of any kind. Neither our wisdom nor our goodness "extendeth to him." As he that is wise may be profitable unto himself; rather, truly he that is wise is profitable unto himself; i.e. to himself only, and not to God. Man's intelligence and researches can add nothing to God's knowledge.
Is it any pleasure to the Almighty, that thou art righteous? As "our goodness extendeth not to God," and as his all-perfect happiness knows neither increase nor diminution, we cannot he said to advantage him by our goodness. Still "good works, which are the fruits of faith, and follow after justification, are pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ;" and God himself condescends to say that he "takes pleasure in his people," "in them that fear him" (Psalms 147:11; Psalms 149:4). Or is it gain to him that thou makest thy ways perfect? Of course, the "gain" is to the man himself, and not to God. He saves his soul alive. God has one more worshipper in the courts of heaven, one more voice added to the choir which hymns his praise for evermore, But what is one drop added to an ocean?
Will he reprove thee for fear of thee? rather, Is it for thy fear of him that he reproveth thee? Surely not. If he reproves thee, it must be because thou fearest him not. The fact of thy reproof is sure evidence of the fact of thy guilt. Will he enter with thee into judgment? rather, that he entereth with thee into judgment (see the Revised Version).
Is not thy wickedness great? Judging from the greatness of Job's punishment, Eliphaz concludes, logically from his premisses, that his wickedness must be commensurate. He must have been guilty of almost every form of ill-doing. And thine iniquities infinite? literally, and is there not no end to thine iniquities? These general conclusions seem to Eliphaz to justify him in proceeding to the enumeration of details.
For thou hast taken a pledge from thy brother for nought; i.e. thou hast lent to thy brother on pledge, without reasonable cause, when thou weft rich enough to need no security (comp. Nehemiah 5:2-11). And stripped the naked of their clothing. When thy brother, on borrowing from thee, pledged his raiment, thou didst retain it, and so didst leave him to shiver all night without covering (see Exodus 22:26, Exodus 22:27). We may, perhaps, gather from this that the Mosaic Law on the subject was founded on an anterior custom widely prevalent in SouthWestern Asia.
Thou hast not given water to the weary to drink. To give water to the thirsty was regarded in the East as one of the most elementary duties of man to man. The self-justification of the dead in the Egyptian Hades contained the following passage: "I gave my bread to the hungry, and drink to him that was athirst; I clothed the naked with garments; I sheltered the wanderer" ('Ritual of the Dead,' ch. CXXV. § 38). The same claim appears continually on Egyptian tombs. "All men respected me," we read on one; "I gave water to the thirsty; I set the wanderer in his path; I took away the oppressor, and put a stop to violence". In the proverbs assigned to Solomon, "which the men of Hezekiah copied out" (Proverbs 25:1), the duty was declared to be one owed even to enemies (see Proverbs 25:21, "If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink"). Isaiah notices it as praiseworthy in the Temanites (Eliphaz's people), that they "brought water to him that was thirsty' and prevented with their bread him that fled" (Isaiah 21:14). Jael is praised for going further than this: He asked water, and she gave him milk; she brought forth butter in a lordly dish" ( 5:25). And thou hast withholden bread from the hungry. Later on Job absolutely denies this, as well as many of the other charges. "If I have withheld," he says, "the poor from their desire, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail; or have eaten my morsel myself alone, and the fatherless hath not eaten thereof," then let mine arm fall from my shoulder-blade, and mine arm be broken from the bone" (Job 31:16-22).
But as for the mighty man, he had the earth; literally, as for the man of arm; i.e. the man strong of arm. Job's retainers are probably meant, whom Eliphaz supposes to have been allowed by Job to oppress the poor, and have their own way in the world. This charge was doubtless as baseless as the others (comp. Job 29:16, Job 29:17). And the honourable man dwelt in it; of the accepted man—"the favoured man," i.e. those of whom Job approved and whom he favoured.
Thou hast sent widows away empty. Job, on the contrary, declares that he "caused the widow s heart to sing for joy" (Job 29:13). The sin of oppressing widows was one of which Job deeply felt the heinousness. He is certainly a priori not likely to have committed it (Job 1:1; Job 4:3, Job 4:4), and the prejudiced testimony of Eliphaz will scarcely convince any dispassionate person to the contrary. And the arms of the fatherless have been broken; i.e. the strength of the fatherless has been (by thy fault) taken flora them. Job has allowed them to be oppressed and ruined. The reply of Job is, "When the ear heard, then it blessed me; and when the eye saw, it gave witness to me: because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him" (Job 29:11, Job 29:12; see also Job 31:21, Job 31:22).
Therefore snares are round about thee. As Bildad had threatened (Job 18:8-10), and as Job himself had acknowledged (Job 19:6). And sudden fear troubleth thee (comp. Job 3:25; Job 7:14; Job 13:21, etc.).
Or darkness, that thou canst not see. Job had complained of the "darkness" that was "set in his paths" (Job 19:8), meaning probably his inability to discover the cause of his afflictions. And abundance of waters cover thee. The comparison of severe affliction to an overwhelming flood is very common in Scripture (see Psalms 42:7; Psalms 69:1-3, Psalms 69:14, Psalms 69:15; Psalms 124:4, Psalms 124:5; Lamentations 3:54, etc.). So Shakespeare speaks of "a sea of troubles."
Is not God in the height of heaven? From taxing Job with definite open sins, Eliphaz proceeds to accuse him of impious thoughts and principles. He does not acknowledge, Eliphaz says, either the majesty or the omniscience of God. Here he has, at any rate, some tangible ground for his reproaches. Job's words have been over-bold, over-venturesome. He has seemed to forget the distance between God and man (Job 9:30-33; Job 10:2, Job 10:3; Job 13:3, etc.), and to call in question either God's omniscience or his regard for moral distinctions (Job 9:22, Job 9:23; Job 21:7-13, Job 21:23-26). Hence Eliphaz is enabled to take a high tone and ask, "Hast thou forgotten that God is in the height of heaven, far up above all us poor wretched mortals? Dost thou need to be reminded of this? He is above the stars, and yet behold the height of the stars, how high they are! Even they are infinitely above men, yet how far below him!" (comp. Job 35:5).
And thou sayest, How doth God know? Job had not said this in so many words, but, by equalizing the godly and the wicked (Job 9:22; Job 21:23-26), he might be supposed to mean that God took no note of men's conduct, and therefore had not a perfect knowledge of all things. The psalmist implies that many men so thought (Psalms 10:11; Psalms 73:11; Psalms 94:7). Can he judge through the dark cloud? rather, through the thick darkness. God was supposed to dwell remote from man, in the highest heaven, and, according to many, "clouds and darkness were round about him" (Psalms 97:2)—he "dwelt in the thick darkness" (1 Kings 8:12)—he "made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him was waters, and thick clouds of the skies" (Psalms 18:11). The imagery was, no doubt, at first used in reference to man's inability to see and know God; but when men became familiar with it, they turned the metaphor round, and questioned God's ability to see and know anything about man. Job had not really ever shared in these doubts; but it suits Eliphaz's purpose to malign and misrepresent him.
Thick clouds are a covering to him, that he seeth not (see the comment on the preceding verse); and he walketh in the circuit of heaven; or, on the circumference of the heavens. The heavens are regarded as a solid vault, outside which is the place where God dwells.
Hast thou marked the old way which wicked men have trodden? rather, Wilt thou keep the old way' etc.? (see the Revised Version). Eliphaz assumes that it is Job's intention to cast in his lot with these persons whose prosperous wickedness he has described in the preceding chapter (verses 7-15). And this notwithstanding Job's final protest, "Be the counsel of the wicked far from me" (verse 16). He calls the mode of life pursued by these wicked persons "the old way," either with allusion to the seed of Cain before the Flood, who "corrupted their way" (Genesis 6:12), or perhaps with reference to the descendants of Nimrod after it.
Which were cut down (rather, swept or snatched away) out of time; i.e. before their time, prematurely. Whose foundation was overflown with a flood. Some suppose an allusion to the general destruction of mankind by the Noachian Deluge; but perhaps no more is meant than that the supports of the wicked are ordinarily loosened and carried away by a flood of calamity. No single event need be referred to.
Who said unto God, Depart from us (comp. Job 21:14). Eliphaz tries, though with no very great success, to turn Job's words against him. And, What can the Almighty do for them? i.e. and ask what the Almighty can do for them. A change from the second to the third person, without any change of subject, is not unusual in Hebrew. The wicked renounce God, and bid him depart from them—conduct which they justify by asking what good he could do them if they acted otherwise. The idea is the same as that of Job 21:15, though not expressed so pointedly. What Eliphaz thinks to gain by echoing Job's words is not very apparent.
Yet he filled their houses with good things. The "he" is emphatic ( הוּא). Translate, Yet it was he that filled their houses with good things; and comp. Job 21:16, where the prosperity of the wicked is said not to have proceeded from themselves. But the counsel of the wicked is far from me; or, but let the counsel of the wicked be far from me. Again, Job's words in Job 21:16 are echoed, perhaps that Eliphaz may show himself to be at least as pious as Job.
The righteous see it, and are glad; i.e. "the righteous see both the short-lived prosperity (Job 22:18) and the ultimate destruction (Job 22:16) of the wicked, and rejoice over them. especially over the latter" (comp. Psalms 58:10; Psalms 107:40-42; Proverbs 11:10). And the innocent laugh them to scorn (comp. Psalms 2:6). Scorn and derision are the just portion of the wicked, and in Old Testament times even saints did not scruple to pour them out on those who deserved them. But the gospel spirit is different.
Whereas our substance is not cut down. It is best to take these as the words of the righteous in their triumph over the wicked; but they can scarcely bear the interpretation given them in the Authorized Version. The clause is not really negative but affirmative, and the word קִים. does not mean "substance," but "adversary." Translate, Surely they that rose up against us (or, our adversaries) are cut off; and compare the Revised Version. The "adversaries" of the righteous are the "wicked men" who have been "snatched away before their time," and have had their "foundation overflown with a flood" (Job 22:16). But the remnant of them the fire consumeth; rather, and the remnant of them hath the fire consumed (see the Revised Version). The "fire" here, like the "flood" in Job 22:16, is a metaphor, and therefore not to be pressed. All that is essential is that the wicked are destroyed. Over this the "righteous" and the "innocent" rejoice.
At this point a transition occurs. Eliphaz turns away from reproaches, open or covert, designed to exhibit Job as an example of extreme wickedness, and falls back on those topics which were the main subjects of his first exhortation (Job 5:8-27), viz. an earnest appeal to Job to return to God, to repent and amend (verses 21-23) and a lavish outpouring of promises, or prophecies, that in that case he should be delivered from all his troubles, should recover his wealth and prosperity, obtain of God all that he should pray for, succeed in all his enterprises, and be able to help and ease others, even those who might be guilty in God's sight (verses 24-30).
Acquaint now thyself with him (i.e. God), and be at peace; or, make, I beseech thee' a trial of him, and be at peace; i.e. risk everything, throw thyself upon his mercy, and so make thy peace with him. To do so is well worth thy while, for thereby good shall come unto thee. It is a question what sort of "good" is meant. If we are to explain the "good" of this passage by Job 22:24, Job 22:25 exclusively, Eliphaz will become a mere utilitarian, and he will be rightly characterized as "selfish and sordid" (Cook)—an anticipation of the Mammon of Milton. But there seem to be no sufficient grounds for singling out Job 22:24, Job 22:25 from the rest of the passage, and regarding them as forming its key-note. The "good" which Eliphaz promises to Job includes, besides "the gold of Ophir" and "plenty of silver," such things as "delight in the Almighty," and confident trust in him (verse 26), God's hearing of his prayers (verse 27), the shining of light upon his path (verse 28), his own payment of his vows (verse 27), his giving assistance to the poor and needy (verse 29), and even his deliverance of the guilty by the pureness of his hands (verse 30); so that other besides material considerations are clearly taken into account, and the worldly prosperity which Eliphaz promises forms a part only of the good result which he anticipates from the patriarch making his peace with the Almighty.
Receive, I pray thee, the law from his mouth; or, receive now instruction from his mouth. The supposition of some commentators, that the "Law of Moses" is intended, is negatived by the entire absence from the Book of any allusion to the details of the Mosaic legislation, as well as by the primitive character of the life depicted in the book, and the certainty that no one of the interlocutors is an Israelite. The Hebrew תּוֹרה, without the article prefixed, is properly "instruction," and is only to be assumed as meaning "the Law" when the context shows this meaning to be probable. The "instruction" to which Eliphaz here points, and which he regards as instruction from God's mouth, is probably the teaching of religious men, such as himself, which he considered to have come from God originally, though, perhaps, he could not have explained how. And lay up his words in thine heart. This is a mere variant of the preceding clause, and adds no fresh idea.
If thou shalt return to the Almighty. Eliphaz, like Bildad in Job 8:5, and Zophar in Job 11:13, taxes Job with having fallen away from God, almost with having apostatized. All his prophecies of future prosperity rest upon the assumption that Job, having fallen away, is now about to turn to God, repent of his misdoings, and be again received with favour. Thou shall be built up; i.e. "restored, re-established! Thou shalt put away iniquity far from thy tabernacles (comp. Job 11:14, where Zophar implies that Job's tents have ill-gotten gains concealed in them).
Then shalt thou lay up gold as dust; rather, then shalt thou lay thy treasure in the dust; i.e. hold it in slight esteem, because of its abundance. And the gold of Ophir (literally, and Ophir) shall be to thee as the stones of the brooks,. "Ophir" stands, no doubt, for untold wealth, being the great gold- producing country (see 1 Kings 9:28; 1 Kings 10:11; 1 Kings 22:48, 1 Chronicles 29:1-30 :41; Psalms 45:9; Isaiah 13:12).
Yea, the Almighty shall be thy defense; rather, thy treasure. The word is the same as that used in the first clause of Job 22:24, It properly signifies "ore." The general meaning of the passage seems to be, "However rich thou mayest be in the precious metals, thy true treasure—that which thou wilt value most—will be the Almighty himself." And thou shalt have plenty of silver; or, and he shall be previous silver unto thee (see the Revised Version).
For then shalt thou have thy delight in the Almighty. God shall no longer be a terror and alarm to thee, as he is at present (Job 7:17-20; Job 9:17, Job 9:34; Job 10:15-17; Job 13:21; Job 19:6-13, etc.), but a source of rejoicing and joy. Thou shalt have blessings at his hands instead of sufferings, rewards instead of punishments. Therefore shalt thou delight in him, and shalt lift up thy rites unto God; i.e. "shalt turn towards him, like the sunflower towards the sun, end bask in the light of his countenance.''
Thou shalt make thy prayer unto him, and he shall hear thee. Now Job prays, but is not heard; he asks for death, but it does not come; he begs for a respite from suffering, but it is refused him; he beseeches God to enter into argument with him (Job 9:32-34; Job 10:2), but God vouchsafes no answer. Let him follow Eliphaz's advice, "return to the Almighty" (verse 23), humble himself in the dust, repent and "put away his iniquity" (verse 23), and then, Eliphaz promises him, all shall be changed—God will become gracious to him, will listen to him, and grant his requests, will remove his heavy hand, and crown him with mercy and loving-kindness. Then, he adds, thou shalt pay thy vows. Thou shalt have wealth enough, and strength enough, to pay any vows that thou hast made, which now in thy afflicted state thou canst not do. Vows are part of natural religion, and were widely prevalent over all the East in ancient times. The performance of vows, which was strictly enjoined in the Mosaic Law (Deuteronomy 23:21), must at all times have been felt as obligatory by the natural conscience.
Thou shalt also decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee. Whatever thou resolvest on, i.e; God shall ratify with his authority, and bring to pass in due time for thy benefit—a promise which has certainly "a touch of audacity" about it (Cook). David is less bold, but intends to give the same sort of encouragement when he says, "Delight thyself in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart; commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass (Psalms 37:4, Psalms 37:5). And the light shall shine upon thy ways. Job had complained of the "darkness" by which his path was shadowed (Job 19:8). Eliphaz promises that this cause of complaint shall be removed. Job's way shall be "made plain before his face." A bright light shall illumine it—a light that shall ever "shine more and more unto the perfect day" (Proverbs 4:18).
When men are cast down, then thou shalt say, There is lifting up; rather, when men cast down' and thou shalt say, Let there be lifting up; i.e. when oppressors have cast a man down, and thou appealest to God, and prayest for his lifting up, then he (i.e. God) shall save the humble person. God shall hear thy, prayer, and the oppressed person shall be rescued and saved.
He shall deliver the island of the innocent; rather, he shall deliver even him that is not innocent (see the Revised Version). It is now generally admitted that אי in this place is for אין, as in 1 Samuel 4:21; Proverbs 31:4. The meaning seems to be that God will deliver, at Job's prayer, even guilty persons, who will be delivered by the pureness of Job's hands. Eliphaz thus prophesies his own deliverance and that of his two friends from God's wrath at the intercession of Job, as actually came to pass afterwards (see Job 42:7-9).
Eliphaz to Job: the third colloquy: the second controversy: 1. A fallacious syllogism.
I. A SOUND PREMISS. That God's government of mankind is entirely disinterested, his judicial retributions not being affected by considerations of personal benefit or hurt arising from the conduct of his creatures.
1. Not by expectation of advantage. (Verses 2, 3.) Here is:
2. Not by fear of damage. (Verse 4.) Eliphaz appears to mean that God has as little reason to dread loss from man's wickedness (Job 35:6) as to expect gain from his godliness, and therefore no need to defend himself against man by either punishing him with undeserved calamities, or weakening him through unmerited rebukes. The sentiment may remind us
(1) of man's weakness, which can do nothing against God, who sits enthroned in heaven far beyond the reach of man's puny arm;
(3) of God's greatness, which remains unaffected by all the conspiracies of men and devils against his throne, his Law, his grace, his Person;
II. THE MISTAKEN INFERENCE. That Job was a sinner.
1. The inference appeared obvious.
2. The inference was wrong. Since
1. That the best saint has no more claim on God's grace and favour than the worst sinner.
2. That God's salvation of sinful men can in the case of none be of work and merit, but in the case of all must be of faith and grace.
3. That, as a special mark of condescension and kindness, God is pleased to accept and reward the services of his people as if they had been profitable unto himself.
4. That if God has no need of man's righteousness, man has infinite need of God's.
5. That, notwithstanding God derives no advantage from the piety of his creatures, he commands all men to make their ways perfect,
6. That, though God never reproves men out of fear, he sometimes does out of love.
7. That good people's piety is sometimes better than their logic.
Eliphaz to Job: 2. A false accusation.
I. A CHARGE OF FLAGRANT IMMORALITY.
1. Generally preferred. (Verse 5.) All sin may be justly characterized as great, being committed against a great God, a great Law, great light, great love, great obligations, and great penalties; and every man's iniquities may be styled "without an end," i.e. numberless, since David says of his, "They are more than the hairs of mine head" (Psalms 40:12); but Eliphaz designs to represent Job's wickedness as exception ally flagrant in comparison with that of ordinary sinners, and a fortiori of such good people as Bildad, Zophar, and himself (cf. Luke 18:11), and Job's crimes as not only already beyond computation, but, probably, as even then not terminated (Carey).
2. Specifically detailed. More abominable wickedness can scarcely be imagined.
3. Plausibly constructed. The charge preferred by Eliphaz had this mark of truthfulness, that the crimes specified were such as a rich and powerful prince might naturally have been supposed to commit. Men's vices as well as their virtues usually adjust themselves to external surroundings as well as to internal dispositions. All men have their characteristic and besetting sins, while there are other forms of wickedness which they cannot commit. A person may shun burglary and yet perpetrate forgery. He who cannot steal a purse may yet appropriate an inheritance. A man may avoid the vulgar sin of drunkenness and yet fall into the greater wickedness of whoredom.
4. Ostensibly proved. Eliphaz could point to Job'8 calamities as evidence that what he had alleged was true. That calamity had been
(1) sudden in its coming, it had caught him like a snare; it was
5. Wholly imagined. It was purely a creation of the Arabian seer's fancy. Not only did Job declare it untrue, but Eliphaz himself must have known it to be baseless (cf. Job 4:3, Job 4:4). Either Eliphaz had allowed his excited and wrathful imagination to beguile his judgment, which was not like a seer, or he had taken up a slanderous report against Job, in spite of his better knowledge, which was not like a saint. But passion can disperse piety and confound reason, while malice will constrain even good people to believe lies. Envying and strife are the parents of confusion and every evil work (James 3:16).
II. A CHARGE OF PRACTICAL ATHEISM.
1. The import of this form of infidelity. It denies not the existence, but the overruling providence of God—in this respect differing from theoretical atheism. It places the Supreme at an infinite distance from the universe which he has called into being, setting him "in the height of heaven," banishing him, as it were, beyond the stars, where "he walketh in the circuit of the heavens," wrapped about by "clouds" which "veil him that he seeth not," alike ignorant of, and unconcerned about, anything that transpires in this lower sphere, and, of course, never interfering in any way with "the work of his hands," which, like a perfect piece of mechanism, goes without inspection or repair—in all this contradistinguished from pantheism, which believes in a God at hand, but at the same time confounds the Creator with his works. Practical atheism says, "The Almighty was once here present, but he has withdrawn ages ago; nature reigns, and all physical phenomena are the necessary result of mechanical laws" (Pearson on 'Infidelity,' Job 3:1-26.).
2. The antiquity of this form of infidelity. This was the creed of the men of the antediluvian world, "the old way of the wicked, who were cut down out of time" (i.e. before their time), "whose foundation was overflown by a flood" (literally, "a river poured out was their firm foundation")—"a strong but suitable expression, referring probably to Noah's flood" (Umbreit). Though not the faith of Job, it was that of some of Job's contemporaries (Job 21:14), as afterwards of some of David's (Psalms 10:11) and Asaph's (Psalms 73:11), and at a later time of many Hebrews before and during the exile (Isaiah 29:15; Ezekiel 8:12). Among Greek philosophers it was the teaching of Epicurus and the atomists. The French encyclopaedists, the English deists of the last, and the Comtists of the present century, all concur in this opinion. It is the latest finding of modern materialistic science.
3. The origin of this form of infidelity.
4. The wickedness of this form of infidelity. Were there no indications of God's overruling providence discernible, such amazing incredulity might in part at least be excusable. But proof in abundance existed which these atheists might have studied had they been willing, for "he had filled their houses with good things." So Paul told the men of Lystra that God had never left himself without a witness (Acts 14:17), and the Athenians that he was not far to seek, or find, from any one who looked upon the world with open eye and honest mind (Acts 17:26-28). Hence such infidelity is criminal, and to be held in abhorrence by all good men, as well as by Eliphaz and Job (Job 21:16).
5. The find doom of this form of infidelity. In opposition to Job, who maintained that men of atheistical principles flourished and were happy all their lives, Eliphaz contends that their common fate is rather that of the sinners who were engulfed by the Deluge (verse 16); which fate, though often
(1) invisible to them, coming on them at the moment when they are saying, "Depart from us," as it did on the infidels of Noah's day (Luke 17:26, Luke 17:27), is
1. That good men may tell lies.
2. That saints should be chary in preferring charges against one another.
3. That no cause can be permanently advanced by an untruth.
4. That atheism is an old sin, and is commonly associated with immorality.
5. That neither distance nor darkness can hide from God.
6. That the Almighty can do more for, or against men, than unbelievers imagine.
7. That God's goodness does not always lead the ungodly to repentance.
8. That they who now scorn the righteous will eventually be scorned by the righteous.
9. That God must reign until all his adversaries are overthrown.
Eliphaz to Job: 3. An uncalled for exhortation.
I. THE PATHWAY OF PENITENCE.
1. Acquaintance with God. The word points to such an intimate knowledge of God as might be secured by dwelling with him on familiar terms in the same house. The meaning is that Job required, as a first step towards temporal and spiritual recovery, to disabuse his mind of the obviously false impressions of the Divine character which he entertained, and to get to know God as he really was in the excellence and beauty of his Person. Ignorance of God—of his character as a God of love; of his purpose as a purpose of salvation; of his Gift, Christ Jesus, the outcome of his grace; of his gospel, which contains a free invitation to fallen sinners—is the fruitful cause of unbelief and sin (Ephesians 4:18), as, on the other hand, a thorough appreciation of God's Name and character as revealed in Christ invariably leads to repentance and faith (Psalms 9:10). Such acquaintanceship with God can only be realized in and through Christ, who, as the "Image of the invisible God" "dwelt among us'" that men might see his glory; that, so to speak, God might become familiarized to man; that man might be able to get on speaking terms with God, and so come to understand God better than he had ever done before (John 14:7, John 14:9).
2. Reconciliation to God. The second clause, though sometimes read as consecutive, may be taken as jussive, and as intimating the second step in the sincere penitent's return. There naturally rises out of a better acquaintance with God a laying aside of enmity towards him, or a making friends with him. Already God is reconciled to the sinner (2 Corinthians 5:18); or rather, he has objectively and legally set the sinful world in a state of reconciliation towards himself, i.e. he has turned away his judicial wrath from the world, so that now nothing prevents the instantaneous establishment of "peace," friendship, at-one-ment, between God and man, except man's own disinclination and enmity. The publication of God's reconciling work is the message of the gospel (2 Corinthians 5:19); the invitation addressed to man to discontinue hostility against God, to lay down the arms of rebellion, to live no more in a state of war against God, but o! amity and peace with God, constitutes the ministry of reconciliation.
3. Instruction from God. Accepting God's gracious offer of forgiveness and salvation, and entering with him into a covenant of friendship, the penitent must next submit his seal to the Divine teaching (verse 22). God's Law, first written on the tablets of the heart (Romans 2:15); afterwards promulgated from Sinai (Exodus 20:1); at a subsequent period amplified, illustrated, and enforced by the prophets (Hebrews 1:1); in the fulness of the times exemplified in the Person, character, and work of Jesus Christ (John 3:2; Hebrews 1:2); now reaches its find stage when engraven on the renewed heart by the Holy Ghost (2 Corinthians 3:3; Hebrews 8:10). To this Law God requires submission as one of the imperative conditions of enjoying his friendship; and this submission must be
4. Holiness before God. Equally does the grace of repentance involve a hearty forsaking of sin and a steadfast resolution after new obedience (verse 23). This sentiment is a repetition from Bildad's second oration (Job 11:14; vide homiletics), but is nevertheless true. No man really returns to God who continues to adhere to sin (Isaiah 55:7). If a man does return to God, he will "cease to do evil, and learn to do well" (Isaiah 1:16). Conversion means death to sin, but life to righteousness (Romans 6:6-22). Follow holiness is the all-comprehensive precept of the gospel (Hebrews 12:14). The Christian life is essentially an upward progress towards personal purity. This is assuredly the grand lesson of the grace of God that bringeth salvation (Titus 2:11, Titus 2:12).
5. Renunciation of all besides God. The genuinely contrite man must complete the evidence of his sincerity by abjuring everything in which he has formerly placed his trust, in particular his riches, even though these should happen to have been justly and honourably acquired, "laying down in the dust his gold, and placing among the pebbles of the brook the gold of Ophir" (verse 24); i.e. he must esteem them as absolutely worthless in comparison with religion—language which seems an anticipation of the sublime utterance of St. Paul (Philippians 3:7, Philippians 3:8). So Christ exhorted the rich young ruler to sell all that he had (Matthew 19:21), and called his disciples to leave all (Matthew 4:20). And so must saints still be willing to part with every treasure that might dispute with Christ the supreme affection and control of the heart (Matthew 10:37, Matthew 10:38; Matthew 16:24; Luke 14:26); in particular, neither trusting in uncertain riches (1 Timothy 6:11), nor attempting to serve God and mammon (Matthew 6:24).
II. THE REWARD OF PENITENCE.
1. Inward peace. The first effect of such a penitent return to, and reconciliation with, God would, according to Eliphaz, be deliverance from mental disquietude (verse 21, Authorized Version). Laying down its weapons of rebellion, and closing with the Divine overtures of pardon, the contrite soul would experience a holy calm, "a peace above all earthly dignities, a still and quiet conscience." True peace of mind is unattainable in sin and under condemnation (Isaiah 57:21). It is only possible as the result of acceptance with God (Job 33:26; Psalms 29:11). Hence it is described in the gospel as the first effect of justification (Romans 5:1), as the great, gift bestowed by Christ upon his people (John 14:27; John 20:19), and as the certain experience of every believer (Romans 8:6; Romans 14:17; Romans 15:13). It is also represented as s peace which the world can neither give nor take away (John 14:27), as a peace which passeth all understanding (Philippians 4:7), whether by a saint or by a sinner.
2. Outward good. The subsequent enumeration of blessings attendant on the lowly penitent almost leads to the surmise that Eliphaz was thinking mainly of spiritual good (verse 21). Yet it is certain that temporal enlargement was not excluded from his contemplation. Probably he intended both; and "good" in the widest acceptation of the term is promised to believing followers of God in both the Old and New Testaments (Psalms 34:10; Psalms 84:11; Romans 8:28). Even things that in themselves wear an adverse aspect are transformed into benefits for the child of God (Hebrews 12:11). St. Paul gives an inventory of the saint's "good" things (1 Corinthians 3:21). And these good things come to the saint without his labouring for them (Matthew 6:33), simply as the gift of God.
3. Domestic prosperity. The building up alluded to (verse 23), while capable of wider reference, may here be understood of family enlargement. Children are like olive plants about the table, i.e. noble sons and fair daughters; and to have many of them was a special mark of Divine favour under the Law (Psalms 128:3). Indeed, all right-thinking persons regard a numerous offspring as a blessing rather than a curse.
4. God for the soul's Portion. In exchange for the castaway gold and silver, Job is promised that which constitutes the true riches, via. the Almighty himself, who should be to him "gold from the mine, and silver of the brightest lustre" (verse 25). So God represents himself as his people's Portion (Jeremiah 10:16; Jeremiah 51:19), and as such he is claimed by his people (Psalms 16:5; Lamentations 3:24). His salvation also is depicted as the soul's true treasure (Luke 16:11). At this point the recitation of the penitent's reward may be said to culminate. The undermentioned benefits, though here exhibited as co-ordinate with the foregoing, are really nothing else than the unfolded contents of the last benefit recorded. The man who has God for a Portion will in consequence possess all the privileges that follow.
5. Delight in God's presence. Instead of sitting melancholy and dejected, sullen and gloomy, before God, like another Cain, he will be able to lift up a serenely joyous face to God as a father reconciled (verse 26), and will not only exult in his acceptance (Romans 5:2), but delight in his Portion, i.e. take pleasure in studying God's character as unveiled in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18), in learning God's will as revealed in the Bible (Isaiah 58:2), in obeying God's Law as promulgated in the gospel (Romans 5:1-21 :22), in enjoying God's society in every situation and phase of life (1 John 1:7).
6. Acceptance in prayer. Taking God as his Portion, Job should have
7. Success in his own undertakings. Job, or the penitent, would only need to "decree a thing" and it should be "established" unto him, so that" the light" of prosperity should shine on his ways (verse 28). The same promise is given to the Old Testament saint (Psalms 37:4 6) and the New Testament believer (Mark 11:22-24); and the promise was verified in the cases of Abraham's servant (Genesis 24:12), Nehemiah 1:11, Elijah (1 Kings 17:1; James 5:16-18), and others.
8. Helpfulness to others in their troubles.
1. That many a noble sermon is preached to the wrong hearers. The discourse of Eliphaz, though lofty in its conceptions and moving in its strains, was not adapted to the case of Job.
2. That men's creeds are sometimes better than those who hold them. The piety and spirituality of this exhortation stand at a higher elevation than the character of him who uttered it.
3. That more gospel light may be possessed by those outside the Church than those within suspect. Eliphaz's sermon sounds like an anticipation of New Testament teaching.
4. That there is only one way of salvation for all countries and all times. Eliphaz preached to his listener what St. John Baptist, St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. John proclaimed to their hearers, "Repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out."
5. That true happiness can be reached by none who do not first return to God. "There is no peace, saith our God, to the wicked."
6. That the pious poor man is richer than the godless millionaire. God is better as a Portion for the human soul than gold of Ophir.
7. That the royal road to all genuine success in life lies in establishing a friendship with Heaven. The man who delights in God shall have his desires granted, his prayers heard, and his plans fulfilled.
8. That the most influential men on earth are the truly pious. God's Israels have power with both God and man.
9. That the wicked world is more indebted to the Church of God than it imagines. God's saints and Christ's followers are the salt of the earth.
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
Censorious and uncharitable reasoning.
Eliphaz again takes up the word. He does not contest Job's position, that life presents many examples of the prosperity of the godless, and of the calamities of the godly, but he still maintains that only grievous sins, such as he proceeds to specify—oppression, hard-heartedness, injustice to his neighbours—could be the cause of his misfortunes and miseries (verses 2-10). He then proceeds to give an earnest warning against further indulgence in profane thoughts and words, because the fatal end of the wicked man, whatever his course may have been, can be no other than dreadful, like that of all wicked men from olden time (verses 11-20). Then comes an invitation to repentance and conversion, and to the enjoyment of the blessings promised to the penitent by God (verses 21-30).
I. ACCUSATION OF JOB AS A GREAT SINNER. (Verses 2-10.)
1. These questions taken together (verses 2-5) form a syllogism (Zockler). The major premiss (verses 2, 3) expresses the thought: in God, the all-sufficing One, who is not affected by man's good or evil, the cause of Job's unhappiness cannot lie; the minor premiss shows that if Job himself bears the blame, this cannot possibly be because of his reverence for God (verse 4); and the conclusion is drawn to the prejudice of the moral character of Job (verse 5). "Does man bring profit to God? No, the man of sense profits himself." God needs nothing, and gains nothing, whether man's conduct be wise or foolish; therefore if he has acted wisely, man is but cousulting his own interest. "Is it an advantage to the Almighty, if thou art just? or a gain, if thou makest thy ways sound?' i.e. pure and free from blame and punishment. Therefore it cannot be selfish or arbitrary motives which determine God to afflict men. "Will he chastise thee for thy reverence, go with thee to judgment?" If the reason of your doom is to be found in yourself, can it be reverence to him for which he punishes you? It must be the very opposite. Then comes the conclusion, "Is thy wickedness not great, and of thy transgressions no end?" On the rigid principles of Eliphaz and his companions, no other conclusion can be drawn. "The things said are good, but they are carnally understood. For the wisdom of the flesh thinks that blessing outwardly belongs in this world to the godly, and to the ungodly, curses; but the truth teaches that the godly enjoy blessing in this life under the guise of cursing, life in death, salvation in seeming condemnation; but, on the contrary, the ungodly are cursed under the show of blessing, are dead while they live, are condemned though in seeming safety" (Brenz).
2. Enumeration of Job's supposed sins (verses 6-10). They are the sins of the rich and powerful, such as Job had been. "For thou didst take a pledge of thy brother without cause," thine abundance rendering such measures against a poor neighbour unnecessary. Note the indignation with which the Bible ever treats sins against the poor and needy. "And stripped off the clothes of the naked," i.e. the ragged, the scantily clothed. Common humanity would forbid the taking of the last garment of such in pledge; and the Law of Moses strictly, prohibited it (Exodus 22:25,. sqq.; Deuteronomy 24:6, Deuteronomy 24:10, sqq.) "Thou gavest … not the thirsty water to drink, and didst refuse the hungry bread;" comp. Isaiah 58:10, and the beautiful contrast in the words of Christ concerning giving the cup of cold water to the little one (Matthew 10:42). "And the powerful man [literally, 'the man of arm'], his was the land, and the man of consideration was to dwell in it." A picture, as the speaker supposes, true to the life of what Job had been. "Widows thou didst send empty away, and the arms of the orphans were crushed'" i.e. their rights and their resources, all that they could rely on (Psalms 37:17; Ezekiel 30:22). "Therefore snares are round about thee, and terror comes upon thee suddenly" (comp. Job 18:11; Proverbs 3:25). The truth of God's special care over widows and orphans, over the poor, the prisoners, and the oppressed is thus incidentally brought out with force. Sins against them are amongst the vilest that cry to Heaven (Sirach 35:14, 15, 18, sqq.).
II. WARNING OF FURTHER PUNISHMENT. (Verses 11-20.)
1. "Or darkness that thou canst not see, and a flood of waters covers thee"—the night of woe and the deep misery which have come upon him in consequence of his sins (verse 1). "Is not Eloah heaven-high?"—infinitely exalted—"and do but behold the head [or, 'highest'] of the stars, how exalted they are!" (verse 12). Then how idle is every thought of the limitation of his power, and every doubt of the absolute justice of his doings! In verses 13,14 Job's doubts of the justice of God's government are construed by the speaker as denials of God's knowledge of earthly things and his providence over mankind, like the Epicureans in ancient and the deists in modern times. "And thou sayest, What knoweth God? will he judge through the dark clouds? clouds are his covering, that he seeth not; and he walketh on the circumference of the heaven," deigning not to give heed to this little and insignificant earth. Similar expressions of ancient scepticism are found in Psalms 73:11; Psalms 94:7; Isaiah 29:15; Ezekiel 8:12. Its refutation is in the words of Jeremiah 23:23, sqq.. God is not afar off, but near to every creature—not far from every one of us (Jeremiah 23:27, Jeremiah 23:28; Acts 17:1-34.). To think that God is too exalted to attend to our mean affairs, is to set out on the road of unbelief, sin, and ruin. Rather, because God is so exalted, nothing is hidden from him. He is as manifest in the microscopic dust as in the planetary worlds. He knows our most secret deeds, our inmost feelings, our sufferings that most retire from the notice of others (Jeremiah 23:23, Jeremiah 23:24; Psalms 139:1, sqq.; Matthew 6:8; 1 John 3:20).
2. The overthrow of the godless. (Jeremiah 23:15-20.) "Wilt thou observe the way of the old world, which men of perdition trod?"—alluding, perhaps, to those before the Deluge (2 Peter 2:5). Swept away before their time, their foundation was poured away like a stream, so that they could not remain (Jeremiah 23:16). These ungodly ones had said to God, "Depart from us;" had asked, "What can the Almighty do for us?" (Jeremiah 23:17). Job had in the previous chapter (verses 14, 15) put words like these into the mouth of the prosperous bad men; and now Eliphaz ascribes them to the subject of his description, to show Job that he approves up to a certain point of the representation he had made of the relation of external happiness to human guilt (Zockler). "And yet it was he that had filled their houses with blessing," giving the contrast between the sudden Divine judgments and the previous prosperous condition which suggested their exemption from punishment. "The counsel of the wicked be far from me!" exclaims the speaker (verse 18), echoing Job (Job 21:16), as if to imply only one who, like myself, has no doubt of God's retributive justice, may dare thus to speak. The wish of the godly is that God may draw near, ever nearer, to him; that of the ungodly is always, "Remove, depart from us!" "They would willingly leave God his heaven, if he would only leave them their earthly comfort "(Starke). Verse 19, the overthrow of the wicked is a subject of rejoicing even of derision, to the righteous and innocent, according to the proverb, "He laughs best who laughs last" (comp. Psalms 58:10, Psalms 58:11; Psalms 64:9, 20). Verse 20 contains the words of triumph of the godly, "Verily, our adversaries are destroyed, and their remainder the fire has consumed." Contrast the spirit of Christ (Matthew 23:37; Luke 19:42, sqq.; James 5:19, James 5:20).
III. EXHORTATION TO REPENTANCE AND PROMISE OF SALVATION. (Verses 21-30.)
1. Exhortation. "Make friends with him, and be at peace" (James 4:8), "thereby blessing will come to thee ' (verse 21); "Take instruction from his mouth" (Proverbs 2:6). "If thou returnest to the Almighty, thou wilt be built again; if thou put wrong far from thy tents, and lay in the dust the precious metal, and under the gravle of the brooks the Ophir gold"—getting rid of it as a worthless thing—"then will the Almighty be thy Treasure, and silver in heaps" (verses 23, 25; see on this sentiment the New Testament passages, Matthew 6:20, Matthew 6:33; Matthew 19:21; Luke 12:33; 1 Timothy 6:16-19). God's grace builds up what sin destroys. To enjoy that grace is competency, is wealth. Deus meus et cranial (Psalms 73:25, Psalms 73:26). "Let thy heart rely on God, and thou mayest cast away thy gold, lose it without care; the Almighty remains thine inviolable Treasure; whilst, on the other hand, without him the most troubled watching and anxiety are of no avail" (vide Gerlach).
2. Promises continued. (Verses 26-30) "Yea, then thou writ delight thyself, in the Almighty, and lift up thy face to God" (verse 26), in the freedom of a conscience without guilt (Job 11:15; comp. Psalms 37:4; Isaiah 58:14). "If thou prayest to him, he will hear thee, and thy vows thou wilt pay" (Psalms 22:25; Psalms 50:14; Psalms 61:8; Psalms 65:2). The vow is looked at in the light of promise rather than of duty; God will always grant so much that thou canst fulfil all thy vows. "If thou resolvest on anything, it will come to pass, and light shall beam on thy way. If they [the ways] go downwards, thou sayest, Up!"—a cry of triumph and thanksgiving. "And to the cast down he gives help. He will deliver the not-innocent, and he is delivered by the cleanness of thy hands" (verses 28-30). For the sake of thy innocence, which thou shalt have regained, God will be gracious to others who need atonement for their guilt. Little does the Pharisaic speaker dream that it is he who will receive the pardon at God's hands for Job's sake (Job 42:8). The "prayer of a righteous man availeth much." At his intercession evil-doers may be spared, and not visited with the merited punishment (Genesis 18:23, Genesis 18:24; Ezekiel 14:14, sqq.).—J.
HOMILIES BY R. GREEN
The impartiality of the Divine judgment.
Eliphaz knows of no tense for suffering but sin. Doubtless sin—transgression of Divine laws—does lie deeply buried in the causes of human suffering. This is the fruitful seed from which widespread harvests of suffering grow. But it is not within the power of man to fix on the actual offender. Suffering occurs in a thousand instances where not the sufferer but another is the offender. To charge home, therefore, upon every sufferer the cause of his sufferings is an error. Into this error Job's friends foil. But Eliphaz proclaims a great truth in affirming the judgment of God to be unbiassed. No unworthy motives move him in his decisions. They are true and righteous altogether. The impartiality of the Divine judgments is—
I. ASSURED BY THE INVIOLABILITY OF THE DIVINE RIGHTEOUSNESS. The character of the Most High is the utmost refuge of the human thought. It is the basis of human confidence. That Name is absolutely unimpeachable. No difficulty in the Divine ways or in our interpretation of them can for a moment check our assurance of the Divine sanctity and justice. On this rock all hope is built. As now we repose on it, so in our thoughts of the future. The final as the present judgments of God are and can be only true and righteous. The sanctity of the Divine Name is the assurance of the unimpeachable rectitude of the Divine ways. The impartiality of the Divine judgments is therefore—
II. A GROUND OF CONFIDENT APPEAL BY THE UNJUSTLY ACCUSED. In calmness he may wait who knows himself to be unrighteously accused, slandered. It is hard to bear the unjust accusations of men, and all the more if we have no means at hand by which to vindicate ourselves. To the final adjudication we may safely appeal. There justice will be done. There the righteousness of the righteous shall shine out as the sun, or as the stars in the Black night. The human judgment errs; it is swayed by false words, by base motive, by ignorance, by want of integrity. But high above the imperfectness of the human rises the Divine judgment, calm and profound, pure as a sea of glass. To that judgment Job has again referred himself now in strong Confidence, now in fear; though, in moments of weakness, he has seemed to impugn it. The impartiality of the Divine judgment is—
III. A SOURCE OF TRUE COMFORT FOR TEE SORROWFUL. Ever there lies deep in the heart of the suffering the hope that some counterbalancing good shall follow. To the full round of scriptural teaching we are indebted for the clear light that we have on this subject. "There is a God that judgeth in the earth." "There is a reward for the righteous." Weeping may endure through life, and turn it into a long night, but a morning of joy breaketh, when tears shall be wiped away. Though men are tried, yet shall they come forth as gold purified in the fire. To the final Divine award, when God will render to every man according to his works, the patient sufferer may commit himself in calmness of hope. The impartiality of the Divine judgment stands in contrast to the error and imperfection of all human judgment. The human knowledge is partial, the human motives liable to be warped; therefore the human decisions are often unjust. Thus was it with Job. His friend accused him in severe terms. "Is not thy wickedness great? and thine iniquities infinite?" Then in severe words he names his offences, and adds," Therefore snares are round about thee, and sudden fear troubleth thee." Such was not the Divine judgment, as the sequel declares. Hence shines forth the lesson to the sufferer and the falsely accused, to abide calmly in hope of the righteous judgment of God.—R.G.
Job 22:13, Job 22:14
The unseen eye.
God is exalted; he is "in the height of heaven." He is unseen by man, and therefore often forgotten. He is above, beyond; and the frail judgment perverts this great truth into—
I. A SUPPOSITION OF THE DIVINE IGNORANCE OF HUMAN AFFAIRS. "How doth God know?" "Thick clouds are a covering to him, that he seeth not." Thus ignorance or folly perverts the right and the good. Either the judgment or the moral character is at fault. Men sin in forgetfulness that the Divine eye is upon them. "Thou God seest me" is a hedge of fire to prevent from evil-doing. How great a departure from right reason is the foolish supposition that, because God is not seen, therefore he seeth not! So the Divine is measured by the human. Only godlessness—the indifference of the soul to God—can lead men to such perversions. The pure, they who, communing with the pure One, are changed into his image, see God. They discern his eye. t is the light and the joy of their life. The evil with darkened eye seeth not. A cloud of ignorance covers him, as a cloud of mystery the Most High.
II. This ignorance is further perverted into A SUPPOSITION OF THE INCOMPETENCY OF THE DIVINE JUDGMENT. "Can he judge through the dark cloud?" Thus the blind falls into the pit of error. One fault follows another in quick succession. The faulty view which shuts God out from his own world, which thinks of him as too far exalted above human affairs to take knowledge of them, must needs complete itself in denying the Divine judgment of human actions. It is the perilous perversion of ignorance and of sin—the blindness of mind which springs from a hardness of heart The moral sensibilities being blunted, moral truth is not apprehended. Spiritual things are foolishness to the unspiritual; he cannot discern them. The heart loving evil bribes the conscience into doubt as to the judgment upon evil, and finally wins it over to a denial of it. God cannot judge. So does the frail, ignorant, foolish creature judge of the Creator, and thus assumes to itself what it denies to its Maker.
Peace with God.
In clear words reconciliation with God is urged. "Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace." Ignorance of God casts men off from the highest good—from the fellowship of their truest and best Friend. Deep in the heart of the wicked enmity against God reigns. This is sin's utmost folly. Men are to be judged by their relation to a pure and true standard. The utmost condetonation lies buried in a repudiation of the highest goodness, the supreme righteousness, the purest benevolence. "What have we to do with thee?" was the expression of a purely devilish mind. The reconciliation of the human soul to God is the noblest and best work of philanthropy. Eliphaz points out—
I. THE WAY OF RECONCILIATION.
1. The search for the knowledge of God. "Acquaint now thyself with him." The knowledge of God is the basis of peace and the encouragement to it. It is the knowledge that comes of the heart turning to God. To such a heart God turns and manifests himself. Mere intellectual search is insufficient. God is known, as he is seen, by the heart.
2. Receiving teaching from him. The acceptance of his holy Law as the law of the returning life, hiding his words in the heart, taking them up into a loving recognition of them,—this is the way of all true peace and blessedness.
3. The putting away iniquity. This, the true repentance, is a departure from evil
4. A return of the soul wholly to God. This is the true conversion. From this issues the utmost good which Eliphaz points out in describing—
II. THE FRUITS OF PEACE.
1. The restoration of prosperity. "Thou shalt be built up." The blessing of God upon the human life is the highest pledge of true prosperity. Thou shalt lay up gold as dust," may not be a definite promise of riches to every returning one, but it indicates the true effect of righteousness. God will be to him his true gold.
2. Divine protection. "The Almighty shall be thy Defence."
3. A confident and joyous approach to God. "Thou shalt have thy delight in the Almighty." How greatly is the character of life raised by its purer fellowships! The soul brought to find its delight in the highest good is blest indeed.
4. The free access of prayer; and the pledge of a favourable response, "Thou shalt make thy prayer unto him, and he shall hear thee."
5. Prosperity and joy. "Thou shalt also decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee: and the light shall shine upon thy ways." Thus shall it come to pass that he who was "cast down" shall be lifted up, and the lowly shall be saved. Thus the guiltless shall be rescued, and he who has pure hands shall be delivered. The way of the sinner's approach to God is as of old—it is the path of humility, of repentance, of lowly confession, of faith—the heart's whole trust in the Lord and in his word of grace. And the fruits of righteousness are now as always—peace and assurance and blessing.—R.G.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
Whether man can be profitable to God.
Here is a question to which Eliphaz only expects a negative answer. Let us look at the grounds of the question, its difficulties, and the possible solution of it.
I. THE GROUNDS OF THE QUESTION. With many persons such a question never occurs. They do not dream of becoming profitable to God, nor do they wish to be of real service to him. Their only desire is that they may be profitable to them. Even in religion their great idea is to save their own souls. When they think of God at all, it is to consider what they may get from him for their own advantage. Any idea of sacrificing themselves to God and rendering him disinterested service has never dawned upon their consciousness. But when a true Christian spirit is aroused in the heart of a man, he must look beyond himself; he must desire to show his gratitude to God by some act of service; he must wish in some way to be profitable to God. It will be a pain to him to find that he can only receive bounties from God and can never render him any return. Thus there will arise within him an earnest question as to whether indeed he can do anything that will really be useful to God.
II. THE DIFFICULTIES OF THE QUESTION. These come from two main sources—from man's littleness, and from God's greatness.
1. Man's littleness.
2. God's greatness. It would seem that our slight service would be simply lost in the vast sea of Divine activities. It would be like a drop of water added to the ocean. Indeed, it would be no real addition; for God is infinite, his resources are boundless. He can do all things without an effort. Therefore he cannot need our service.
III. THE POSSIBLE SOLUTION OF THE QUESTION. Even if we cannot find this we should believe that it exists, because God calla us to serve him, and he would not do so if effective service were impossible. He could not desire us to waste our strength in work which was exhausting to ourselves and yet not useful to him, while we were simply aiming at serving him in obedience to his command. That would be a cruel mockery. Therefore we must believe that God does account our service profitable. Further, there are some ways in which we can see that it is so.
1. Through the love of God. The parent is delighted to receive the small ministries of his child, though he does not absolutely need them, and though they may really cost him more in first furnishing the means and then helping the accomplishment, than they are worth when regarded from a commercial standpoint. But love adds a value of its own. God delights to receive the service of his children. He waits for it and makes it valuable by the condescension which gives it a place in his plans.
2. By helping our fellow-men. We serve God when we serve our human brothers. Though in the infinity of his resources he does not lack anything, they lack many things. Yet God rejoices in what benefits any of his creatures. Thus we may become profitable to God by being profitable to our neighbours (Matthew 25:40).—W.F.A.
Help for the needy.
I. THIS IS NATURAL. God has made us mutually dependent on one another. In social order there is an interchange of service, and the general life of the community is simply maintained by people helping one another. The cases of extreme distress are those in which the reciprocity breaks down because the hungry and helpless can make no return for what they receive. Still they are part of the body, and if "one member suffer, all the members suffer with it" (1 Corinthians 12:26). The "solidarity of man" is such that the needy are naturally dependent on others for maintenance.
II. THIS IS SIMPLE. Only water and bread are here referred to. These are the most necessary things; but they are also the most accessible. A poor man who cannot give the smallest coin to a beggar may yet offer a cup of cold water. Of course, true sympathy will lead us to desire to help up to the utmost of our powers. But a very great amount of distress might be alleviated without a proportionate expenditure of money; e.g. penny, halfpenny, and even farthing dinners for children give an assistance far beyond what their cost suggests.
III. THIS IS UNCONDITIONAL. At least the one condition is need. We have not to consider merits when we relieve extreme distress. Water to the thirsty and bread to the starving should be given at the mere sight of extreme need, though the recipients are quite undeserving. This we admit by our poor-law. As soon as the immediate and pressing needs are supplied, other and more difficult questions must be considered. If we go further we may pauperize the objects of our charity. It is necessary, therefore, to consider character and methods of help suited to lift, not to degrade, the recipients. Here most complicated problems arise. But the primary help is simple and unconditional.
IV. THIS IS CHRIST-LIKE. Our Lord took pity on the world's sore need. He did not consider whether he could find "deserving cases." He offered his salvation to the most undeserving. Need, not merit, was the call that brought him from heaven. The most undeserving are really the most needing of help, not indeed with lavish doles of charity that will keep them in idleness, but, after the first necessaries are supplied to maintain life itself, by a kind of assistance that will raise them and better them. How to give this help is a most difficult question. We cannot do better than to follow our Lord's example. He raises where he helps. The grace of Christ never pauperizes the soul.
V. THE NEGLECT OF THIS IS A GREAT SIN. Eliphaz was unjust in accusing Job of such a sin. In the eyes of the Oriental, often dependent on casual hospitality for life itself in the desert, to refuse water and bread to the needy was a gross wrong. You may kill your enemy with the sword, but you must not deny him water to drink and bread to eat when he comes to you as a guest. Christianity widens and deepens the obligation. Though in various forms suited to the various circumstances of the world as we find it, brotherly helpfulness is always expected of Christ's people. It is taken as a service rendered to himself. The neglect of it is a reason for rejection at the great judgment (Matthew 25:41-46).—W.F.A.
I. THE APPARENT DIFFICULTY OF IT. It may not be asserted that God does not know all, and yet people act as though they could hide from God. In distress and loneliness it sometimes seems as though God could not know whet were the troubles of his children, or he would not permit them to be so grievously tried. The vastness of the universe raises the same difficulty. Many things are covered up, and it is not easy for us to believe that he can "judge through the thick cloud."
II. THE REAL TRUTH OF IT. If God is the infinite Being whom we know him to be, all difficulties will vanish before him. We may not be able to conceive of the method by which he comes to know all things; but this is not wonderful, for that method itself must have an infinity about it quite beyond our comprehension. On the other hand, God frequently gives startling evidence that he sees in secret and knows all things. He surprised Hagar by discovering her in the desert (Genesis 16:13). Achan's stolen booty could not be hidden (Joshua 7:16-21). Our own lives must bear witness to the searching knowledge of God. At first, perhaps, his treatment of us may have seemed to go on without any regard to our requirements, but that was only because we were short-sighted and superficial; for when we have been able to look back over a long stretch of life, have we not been surprised again and again at observing how wonderfully God has wrought just the very thing that was needed to bring out what was best in the end?
III. THE CONSEQUENCES DEPENDENT ON IT.
1. It is vain to try to hide from God He sees through the thickest cloud. Thus we only waste our efforts when we try to make a darkness that shall shut off the piercing gaze of God. He knows all now. He does not need to wait for the future revelation of the judgment-day. Already all hypocritical pretences are perfectly open and apparent to him.
2. It is foolish to distrust God's wisdom. We see a little corner of life; he has the whole field of it before him. Therefore he must have vastly greater materials for his judgment than we possess for ours. It is not to be wondered at that his decision often differs from ours. But if his ways are not as our ways and his thoughts not as our thoughts, the simple explanation is that his ways and thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah Iv. 8, 9).
3. It is well to seek God's guidance. When we follow his lead we are conducted by One who knows the end from the beginning. Our difficulties arise from partial lights and intercepted views. We see enough to lead us astray. But the perfect, all-penetrating knowledge of God invites us to renounce our prejudices and look up for the indications of God's guiding hand. These may be given to us
"Our times are in his hand
Who said, 'A whole I planned;'
Youth shows but half; trust God;
see all nor be afraid."
Peace from the knowledge of God.
Eliphaz has here stumbled on a great truth, which even his wrong-headedness cannot pervert, which is indeed a flash of Divine inspiration. Our unrest springs from our ignorance of God. If we did but know him, we should be at peace.
I. HOW PEACE SPRINGS FROM THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD.
1. From the characteristics of knowledge. There is a restfulness about all knowledge. Vague apprehensions and surprising alarms dog the footsteps of ignorance. We cannot walk tranquilly in a dark night through regions of unknown dangers. Even the knowledge of painful truths is less disturbing than uncertainty about them. When we know the worst the fever of anxiety is allayed, although the lethargy of despair may have taken its place. The higher knowledge induces patience, calmness, strength.
2. From the nature of God. Here is the wonderful truth that comes to the troubled soul like a gospel of peace. Our hard thoughts of God are erroneous. They spring from a complete misconception as to his nature. We have thought him indifferent, or stern, or vindictive. These ideas were born of our own ignorance. If we had but known him we could not have held such views Of his nature. The more we do know him the more we see that his true name is Love. His purposes are gracious. Afar off they appear hard; on a near acquaintance the beauty and goodness of them is made evident to us.
3. From the needs of our soul. We cannot be at peace till we know God. The severance from God is a great cause of unrest. The knowledge of God is life eternal, and we are cut off from that life while we hold aloof from God.
II. HOW THE PEACE-GIVING KNOWLEDGE OF GOD IS ACQUIRED.
1. By some effort. We have to acquaint ourselves with God. We do not know God in our condition of sin and sorrow. The world iS in ignorance of God. A deep gloom hangs over a large part of heathendom through mistaken beliefs about malignant deities. Christians need to escape from hard thoughts of God. Our despondency, our limited views, our weakness, our consciousness of sin, all make it hard for us to know God in his perfect goodness.
2. Through revelation. In acquainting ourselves with God we have not to feel after him if haply we may find him. He has spoken to us. The Scriptures enlighten us and dispel needless fears as they make known the mercy of the Lord that endureth for ever. The greatest distress is sometimes felt by people dwelling too much in the region of subjective religion. Thus they imagine hard things about God that are contrary to his revelation of himself.
3. In Christ. He is the supreme Revelation of God, and he has come to bring "peace on earth." To see Christ is to know God as favourable to us. He is "our Peace."
4. By means of reconciliation. This further thought is implied in the notion of acquainting ourselves with God. We are estranged by sin, which hides from us the vision of the love of God. We must turn to God submissively, and make practical acquaintance of him by yielding ourselves to his will. Then the intimacy of spiritual communion will be "the peace of God that passeth all understanding."—W.F.A.
God's words are here regarded as heart-treasures, to be received with eagerness and laid up with care. The ignoring of the "Torah," the ancient Law of Israel, by the author of Job is one of the striking features of the poem. It would seem that the poet wished to set the scene of his great drama of providence in the open field of nature, free from the disturbing influences of a special system of religion. But now he does just refer to the word "law," or "instruction." There is a larger law than that of Moses, a wider teaching than that of the Pentateuch. All God's words in nature, Scripture, conscience, and Christ are treasures to be received and guarded in the heart.
I. THE NATURE OF THE TREASURES. "Law," or "instruction," and "words." These treasures are not, material things. Gold and jewels are not the most precious things. Good thoughts are worth more than diamonds. God's words are of the greatest value on several accounts.
1. Their truth. All truth is precious; Divine truth—truth about God and spiritual things—is most valuable.
2. Their bearing on life. God's words are not concerned with abstract truth. They throw light on duty. They show us the way of salvation.
II. THE SOURCE OF THE TREASURES. The Law is from God's mouth. He originates the commandment; he conveys the instruction; he teaches the truth. God's revelation is the original source of all truth, for we can only know nature in so far as God reveals it to us through its phenomena and by means of the faculties he has given to us.
1. The original Source. God made the Law, impressed the truth on nature, inspired the ancient prophet, gave the hearing ear.
2. The immediate Source. We can only receive the truth of God when the Spirit of God brings it home to us. Thus it comes from God to each individual.
III. THE RECEPTION OF THE TREASURES. We have to receive the Law and the words of God.
1. They are not in us by nature. Or, if it may be said they are with us in our pristine stare of nature, we have lost them through sin, and we need to recover them.
2. They must be received willingly. We can keep them out; therefore we are urged to open the door and let them in. The best revelation fails before unwilling ears.
IV. THE PRESERVATION OF THE TREASURES.
1. To be laid up. God does not favour us with a flash of revelation for the use or the enjoyment of a moment. The truth is given for a permanent good.
2. In the heart.
V. THE USE OF THE TREASURES. They are not buried in oblivion, nor are they kept only for show, like the Crown jewels at the Tower. In the heart they are at the source of the life, and they are there to inspire and influence the whole man. God's Law is to be written on the fleshy tablets of the heart, that there it may live and rule. This treasure within purifies the soul and guides the conduct.—W.F.A.
The penitent's return and restoration.
I. THE RETURN.
1. To God. All sin is departure from God; and repentance is a return to God. As the fall is from personal relations, so the recovery is a renewal of personal relations. When the sinner comes to himself, he sees that his one hope is to "arise and go unto" his Father. Thus the very Being against whom he has sinned is sought for pardon and restoration. Now, it is not possible to mend our ways without thus coming back to God. His power and presence are the inspiration of the new life. The very thought of God as the Almighty is a help in this return. Although we are first moved by perceiving his goodness and mercy, we are conscious that we are helpless in ourselves and need heavenly aid to regenerate our souls. Thus the invincible power of God, which was our terror while we remained impenitent, becomes our hope as soon as we repent.
2. From sin, taking the last clause of the verse as a condition of God's help. We must put away iniquity from our tabernacles if we are to expect God's restoring mercies.
II. THE RESTORATION. The returning penitent is to be "built up."
1. On fulfilling the conditions. He must return to God; he must renounce sin. There is s foolish notion that God's goodness will blot out the consequences of sin without these conditions being fulfilled. To do so weald be to outrage justice as well as to fly in the face of nature, We cannot have the rewards of grace without first accepting its inward influences. Forgiveness is not merely the cancelling of penalties; that is but an incident of the transaction; in itself it is a very personal thing, and until the personal reconciliation in which it consists is accomplished, only the lowest views of God's government could lead us to look for the external advantages.
2. In personal recover. The sinner himself is to be built up. Sin breaks a man down—breaks down character, reputation, faculty, energy. The fallen life is a broken life. Now, the first act o! Divine restoration touches the nature of the sinner himself. He is lifted up from the dust and set on his feet. Like a ruined building, shaken down by the earthquake, he is built up again, that he himself—and not merely his belongings—may be strong and beautiful. Thus the restored penitent is made a temple for the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, a fortress to keep out future invasions of evil, a palace in which the fairest graces of the kingdom can be nourished, a hospital and asylum for the sick and miserable, a school of new thoughts and enterprises, a home of prayer and love.
3. In external prosperity. It is only too likely that poor Eliphaz thought exclusively, or at all events quite disproportionately, of this when he spoke of Job being built up again. The patriarch's ruined fortune could be restored. This is not the chief part of a Divine restoration. Still in some way—though not always in restored wealth—it does follow that the outer as well as the inner life is favoured by a penitent return to God.—W. F. A.
Job 22:24, Job 22:25
Rich in God.
The idea of these verses seems to be that if a man will give up his earthly riches, his jewels and gold of Ophir, God will be to him a Defence, and as gold ore and silver in bars.
I. RENUNCIATION THE CONDITION OF TRUE WEALTH. We do not get the best riches by grasping, but by giving. Sacrifice, not selfishness, is the source of the highest prosperity. We must renounce in order that we may attain. This principle is exemplified in various ways
1. Typified in nature. The farmer must not store his wealth in his granary if he would increase it. He must commit the seed to the earth, cast it away and bury it, in order that he may receive more in return.
2. Practised in commerce. We rarely meet with the old-fashioned miser and his bags of gold. In our day the money-worshipper lays out his wealth so that, like Shylock, he may make it "breed."
3. Taught by Christ. Our Lord showed in his parables of the talents and the pounds that the gifts of God were to be used, expended profitably, and that they should have more who had traded with what they first received. He led to deeper truths when he told the young man who desired eternal life to sell all he had and give to the poor, promising that he should then have treasure in heaven (Mark 10:21), and when he promised his disciples that there was no man who had renounced home and family for his sake and the gospel's, but he should receive a hundredfold now in this time, and in the coming age eternal life. Here we see that mere renunciation is not enough. It will not do merely to pour the money into the sea, nor to sell all one's goods and give to the poor, unless we also follow Christ.
4. Proved by experience. It is found with surprising gladness that to give up all for Christ is to be rich indeed, while to Cling greedily to earthly possessions is to be miserably disappointed in the end.
II. GOD THE SOURCE OF TRUE WEALTH. It is not that God will give us new riches in exchange for what we have given up. We shall find our wealth in God himself. He is to us all we need.
1. A defence. Riches are valued for what they will purchase. In the last resort they are chiefly prized because they can ward off evils. To keep hunger, pain, and death from their doors, men will give up any amount of wealth. Nations spend vast sums in their defensive arrangements. Europe is now an armed camp, with armies maintained at an enormous cost, simply in order that each country may be safe from invasion by its neighbours. Now, God is the true Defence of his people, better than any armaments that money can maintain.
2. A store of vast possibilities of good. Gold ore and silver bars are the precious metals in an elementary state. They thus represent value that may be employed in various ways. God is our most elemental wealth.
The joy of the Lord.
I. THE INTERIOR EXPERIENCE. "Delight in the Almighty."
1. God gives joy. As we have but to acquaint ourselves with God to be at peace (Job 22:21), so we have but go appreciate his intentions go see that he does not wish us to be in distress.
2. This joy is in himself. We have to learn by experience how this is the case, for no words can express it. "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard,… the things which God hath prepared for them that love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9). But Christian experience shows how real this Divine joy is.
II. THE SPIRITUAL ATTITUDE. "And shall lift up thy face unto God."
1. Confidence. While we fear and distrust God we cannot look up to him. We rather shrink from his gaze and hide ourselves, like Adam and Eve in the garden. We may even cry go God for help without daring go look up, like the publican in Christ's parable (Luke 18:13). It is happy for the soul when the shame of sin and the fear of doubt are removed by the forgiving love of God, so that the child can look quite naturally and confidently into the face of his Father.
2. Contemplation. To lift up the face to God is go gaze upon him as well as to submit go his gaze. This is no vision of the eye of sense, for God is Spirit, and must therefore be always invisible to the bodily eye. But the spirit of man may contemplate the Divine Spirit. Theology tries to do this, but theology consists of purely intellectual conceptions. There is a deeper contemplation of sympathy which is only possible go the soul that is in living communion with God.
3. Expectation. Our contemplation should be an act of pure worship in which we forget ourselves, rejoicing only in the beauty of God's goodness. Yet personal wants will make themselves felt, and when they do, there is no one more ready or able to supply them than our Father in heaven. Therefore it is natural to look to him for help in prayer, patience, and hope.
4. Beatification. The face that is lifted up-to God is illumined by the glory of God. His light falls upon it and glorifies it. There is a great blessedness springing directly from communion with heaven. If we looked up more, our countenances would be brighter.
CONCLUSION. Observe that these blessings follow a penitent return to God, and are conditioned by it. "Then thou shalt have thy delight," etc; pointing back to Job 22:23.—W.F.A.
The prayer that shall be hears.
This verse is one of a series that describe the happy results of the penitent return to God referred to in Job 22:23. Thus Eliphaz means that after we have returned in penitence to God our prayer will be heard. His principle is quite in accordance with the teaching of Scripture, though, as usual, his application of it to Job is unjust.
I. PRAYER IS AN ELEMENT OF PROSPERITY. It is not only a condition on which prosperity is given; it is a part of the prosperity itself. Trouble drives us go prayer; but happiness cannot let us dispense with it. It is possible for one go be too miserable, too depressed, too hopeless, go pray. The best praying seems to need an element of joyous confidence. When it springs from this happy condition it enhances the joy of it. It is a very low and selfish notion that leads people to economize their prayers, and reserve them for times of dire necessity. Surely it should be a happy thing for the child go talk with his Father!
II. PRAYER EXPECTS AN ANSWER. We may pray without looking for any reply—pray because we cannot contain ourselves in silence, because the strong feelings of the soul will burst out into utterance. Then there may be a certain relief in the mere opening of the floodgates of emotion. But this is not the chief end of prayer. Further, we may just confide our case to God, consoled by the thought that he hears, even though we do not believe that any help is possible. Thus comfort is sought in the silent sympathy of a friend to whom the burdened soul can pour out its griefs. Still, the chief end of prayer is not reached in this way. It is difficult to carry on a one-sided conversation with an auditor who makes no reply, who does not even give us a sign that he hears or is at all interested in what one says. Prayer would languish and perish if God did not answer it. This he will not now do in an audible voice, nor always by such evident tokens that we can have no doubt that what he has done is in response to the cry of his children. Yet all who are in the habit of praying can bear witness to the fact that God hears prayer, and replies often in the most surprising and unmistakable way.
III. THE PRAYER THAT IS TO BE ANSWERED MUST BE SINCERE. Cain's sacrifice was rejected. The Pharisee's prayer could not reach heaven. We cannot pray to God effectively until we renounce sin and return to him. Then the prayer must be a real, inward, spiritual act. Such prayer is not valued by the correctness of its phraseology; much less is it estimated quantitatively by the time it occupies and the number of its words. The one essential quality is reality. The simple reason why many so-called prayers are not answered is that they are not really prayers at all. They do not come out of a worshipper's heart. Therefore they cannot reach the ears of God, and incline him to respond to them. If all such pretended prayers were left out of account there would be leas scepticism and more glad confidence that God does hear prayer.—W.F.A.
Uplifting the fallen.
Accepting that rendering of the verse which takes the reference to the cast-down as not applying to Job himself or his affairs, but to other people and their troubles, we have here a fine turn given to the description of the happy estate of the returned and restored penitent. He is not only full of gladness, and enjoying many blessings by himself; he turns to others in their need and uplifts them.
I. THE DUTY AND JOY OF UPLIFTING THE FALLEN.
1. The duty. We are by nature members of one family, because our descent from a common parentage makes us all brothers and sisters. But Christianity has strengthened the ties of nature. There is no Christian duty so obligatory as that of following our Lord in his greatest work—that of seeking and saving the lost. Whether it be sin or sorrow that has east one of our brothers down, his very distress, apart from all questions of merit or attraction, calls upon us to aid him.
2. The joy. This action of lifting up those who are cast down appears as part of the blessedness of the restored servant of God. It is not a heavy penance for the sinner; it is a happy occupation for the saint. It cannot but involve toil and pain, and often disappointment. Yet it is really a much happier work than self indulgent pleasure-seeking. It contains the very joy of God, who is blessed in giving and loving.
II. THE EXPERIENCE WHICH ENABLES US TO LIFT UP THE FALLEN. The glorious and Christ-like work of saving the fallen is promised to a man who is himself restored.
1. Experience of misery. He who has been cast down knows what it is to be cast down. The lessons of adversity teach sympathy. Thus we may explain some of the mystery of sorrow. It is a school for the training of sympathy. Even the experience of sin may be turned to good in this way. It must always be best not to have fallen. Still, though original innocence cannot be recovered, God may mitigate the sad consequences of sin in the penitent by making him a helper to the tempted and the fallen, whose condition his own terrible experience enables him to understand.
2. Experience of recovery. While suffering with others we may sympathize with them, but we cannot do much to aid them. While ourselves living in sin we can only exert a baleful influence on others. Therefore the first step is to be ourselves restored to God and the life of Christian holiness. Then the joyous consciousness of redemption is an inspiration for seeking to bring to others the same privilege. Thus Christians can preach the gospel with a force that-no unfallen angel can command. The greatest argument for urging man to accept it is that what God has done for one, he can and will do for another. The greatest motive for sacrificing ourselves to save our brother-men is that Christ gave his life to save us.—W.F.A.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Job 22". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Lent