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Far from accepting Job's challenge, and grappling with the difficulty involved in the frequent, if not universal, prosperity of the wicked. Bildad, in his weak reply, entirely avoids the subject, and limits himself to briefly touching two old and well-worn topics—the might of God (verses 2, 3) and the universal sinfulness of men. On neither of these two points does he throw any fresh light. He avoids, however, the reckless charges of Eliphaz (Job 22:5-9) as well as the coarse menaces of Zophar (Job 20:5-29).
Job 25:1, Job 25:2
Then answered Bildad the Shuhite, and said, Dominion and fear are with him (i.e. with God). God is the absolute Sovereign of the universe, to whom, therefore, all created beings must perforce submit themselves. He is also terrible in his might, so that for their own sakes men should submit to his decrees. Through his active sovereignty, and the fear which he inspires, he maketh peace in his high places. The meaning may be that, through these high attributes, God maintains peace among the dwellers in the supernal regions; but beyond this there is a possible allusion to a time in which peace was disturbed, and the Almighty had to "make" it, or re-establish it, (On the subject of the "war in heaven," and the defeat and subjection of the rebels, see the comment on Job 9:13.)
Is there any number of his armies? (comp. Psalms 68:17, "The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels;" and Daniel 7:10, "Thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him;" see also 2Ki 6:16, 2 Kings 6:17; Matthew 26:53; Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 9:16). The number of the angels at any given time must be a definite one. But as there is nothing to limit the further exercise of creative power in this direction, the possible number is indefinite. And upon whom doth not his light arise? Upon what being among all the countless thousands whom he hath created, or will create, does not the brightness of his effulgence shine in such sort that they are illumined by him, and themselves shine with a mere reflected splendour?
How then can man be justified with God? If God's creatures have no brightness of their own, and, when they shine, shine only with a reflected radiance, then certainly can no man be justified by his own merits. "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Or how can he be clean that is born of a woman! (comp. Job 14:4, "Who shall bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one;" and the comment ad loc.).
Behold even to the moon, and it shineth not. Observe, i.e; all that is purely bright in creation, "even to the moon," the most purely bright object of all, and consider that in God's sight, compared to his radiance, it has no brightness—"it shineth not." Or turn your attention from the moon to the stars, rivals of the moon in purity and brilliance, and reflect that the stars are not pure in his sight. A sort of dusky veil overspreads them.
How much less man, that is a worm? and the son of man, which is a worm? (comp. Psalms 22:6). How much less can man be pure in God's sight? An undoubted truth, or rather, perhaps, a truism, but not to the point, for Job has never really maintained that he is without sin (see Job 7:20, Job 7:21; Job 9:2, Job 9:20, etc.). He has only maintained that his sins have not been of such a character as to account for his sufferings.
Bildad to Job: The greatness of God and the littleness of man: an old sermon reproduced.
I. THE GREATNESS OF GOD. To impress Job with suitable conceptions of the ineffable majesty of that Divine Being before whom he desired so confidently and, as it appeared to the speaker, so irreverently to come (Job 23:3-5), Bildad depicts God's dominion as:
1. Absolute in its character. "Dominion is with him" (verse 2); i.e. as it is with no other. Earthly potentates derive their sovereignty from him (Proverbs 8:15; 1 Peter 2:14). He also is the Fountain of authority for whatever principalities and powers exist in the heavenly places (Colossians 1:16). But dominion exists in God essentially, absolutely, permanently. The uncreated, underived, and governmental supremacy of God is exhibited in Scripture with singular lucidity and fulness (Genesis 14:19; Deuteronomy 10:14; 2Ki 19:15; 1 Chronicles 29:11; Psalms 95:3; Matthew 11:25; Revelation 19:6).
2. Awe-inspiring in its influence. "Dominion and fear are with him" (verse 2), the term "fear" defining the effect produced upon the creaturely imagination by the sublime majesty of the unnamed Deity, Bildad's omission of that Deity's name being a striking illustration of the precise import of his words. Reverential awe is the proper attitude for a creature to assume in presence of God (Deuteronomy 5:29; Deuteronomy 10:12; Jos 24:14; 2 Kings 17:36; Psalms 2:11); who should be feared by the inhabitants of earth generally (Psalms 33:8), by his redeemed ones especially (Exodus 15:11; Psalms 89:17), by such as would serve him acceptably (Hebrews 12:28), by those who would dwell with him continually (Revelation 11:18), by angelic hosts (Isaiah 6:2) and glorified saints (Revelation 15:4). This fear should be based on the majestical government of God, as Lord of heaven and earth.
3. Peaceful in its efficiency. "He maketh peace in his high places" (verse 2), i.e. "among the celestial beings immediately surrounding him" (Delitzsch); producing
(1) harmony instead of discord, quenching all symptoms of internal dissension, and, where internecine warfare may have broken out, restoring the contending combatants to a state of tranquil amity;
(2) reconciliation instead of estrangement, pointing probably to some sublime act of mediation by which the holy angels were confirmed in obedience; and
(3) subjugation instead of revolt, exhibiting his power so effectively against the rebel angels that they are completely prevented from working harm against his throne or empire, hut are kept in chains against the judgment of the great day. As God rules in heaven, so also does he reign on earth in and through Christ, who is our Peacemaker (Ephesians 2:14), having by his incarnation made peace (unity instead of division) between Jew and Gentile, by his cross produced at-one-ment (the reconciliation of both in one body unto God), and by his power will ultimately effect the complete subjugation of his foes (1 Corinthians 15:24 1 Corinthians 15:28).
4. Illimitable in its sway. "Is there any number of his armies?" (verse 3). The armies alluded to are
(1) the angels (Psalms 103:21), who are represented in Scripture as an innumerable (Psalms 68:17; Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 5:11) host, arrayed in military order (Daniel 4:35), whose shining legions are led on by the power of the supreme Creator (Psalms 104:4; Matthew 25:31), every individual member thereof being promptly obedient to that Creators will (Zechariah 6:5; Matthew 24:21; Hebrews 1:14).
(2) The stars, which also are in Scripture depicted as an army (Isaiah 40:26), are discovered by modern science to be immensely more numerous than ever entered into the mind of Bildad to conceive. Though not intended by Bildad, God's armies may be said also to include
(3) the creatures generally, which are all in his hand and under his control
5. Beneficent in its administration. "And upon whom cloth not his light arise?" (verse 3).
(1) The light of his material sun, whose cheering beams, created (Genesis 1:16) and directed by him, diffuse themselves abroad upon the face of earth (Psalms 19:6), awaking life, imparting health, producing beauty, inspiring joy, blessing all creatures animate and inanimate, rational and irrational, good and bad alike (Matthew 5:45). A sunless earth would be an arctic region of perpetual ice, a dismal chamber of horrors, a prison-house of misery, a cheerless sepulchre of death. Besides being signal demonstrations of God's creative wisdom and power, the making of light and the disposition of it in a central orb are striking tokens of his goodness.
(2) The light of his providential favour, in respect of which he is styled "the Father of lights" (James 1:17). The goodness of God, like the light of the sun, is freely flowing (James 1:5), far-extending (Psalms 33:5), all-enriching (Psalms 145:9), never-failing (Psalms 100:5). As the Divine beneficence blesses all God's terrestrial creatures, we may rest assured it does not forget his celestial armies of saints and angels.
(3) The light of his gracious truth, which is also set forth in Scripture under the emblem of light (Isaiah 2:5; Isaiah 9:2; John 12:35; 2 Corinthians 4:4), Christ, in whom that light is embodied (John 1:4; John 9:5), is characterized as the true Light (John 1:8, John 1:9), being designed for the saving illumination of the spiritually benighted, collectively and individually. The light of his gospel is destined to circle round the earth like the sun (Psalms 19:4; Romans 10:18).
6. All-transcending in its splendour. "Whom doth not his light surpass?" (Delitzsch), The resplendent Ruler of the numberless legions of heaven is One whose glory, i.e. as a personal Sovereign, outshines in radiance that of each and all of those beings of light over whom he reigns. These latter have no light they derive not from him, as the moon and planets have none they receive not from the sun, and Christians none that does not come to them from Christ, round whom they revolve like attendant satellites; and so the glory which the angels or other creatures have is as no glory by reason of "the glory that excelleth."
II. THE LITTLENESS OF MAN. With a painful lack of originality, Bildad, the master of ancient laws and popular traditions, quietly appropriates a sentiment which already Eliphaz had uttered (Job 4:17-21; Job 15:14 Job 15:16), and to which even Job had assented (Job 9:2; Job 14:4), that in comparison with so transcendently glorious a Being man must for ever be immeasurably insignificant and mean.
1. Guilty. "How then can man be justified with God?" (verse 4). The argument is a fortiori: If these radiant beings constituting God's celestial armies would never think of contending with him in order to establish the faultless purity of their characters, it is simply monstrous to suppose that a frail man, whose feebleness is the result of a depraved moral constitution, would ever succeed in securing acquittal before the bar of a holy God. The language implies
(1) that no man can be justified by works—a doctrine pervading both the Old and New Testaments (Job 9:2; Psalms 143:2; Isaiah 57:12; Romans 3:20; Ephesians 2:9; Titus 3:5);
(2) that if a man is to be justified, it must be by grace (Genesis 15:6; Psalms 32:2; Romans 3:24; Romans 5:21; Titus 3:7), i.e. without works and by faith; while it seems also to teach
(3) that the legal standing of the angels before the throne is not of works any more than man's—a doctrine of which obscure hints are believed to be found in Scripture.
2. Impure. "How can he be clean that is born of a woman?" (verse 4). In Bildad's estimation the moral defilement of man is
(1) involved in his origin, as being the child of woman—a sentiment in which Job (cf. Job 14:1, Job 14:4) and Eliphaz (Job 15:14) alike concur (cf. homiletics, 'in loc.);
(2) proved by his station: "Behold even to the moon, and it shineth not; yea, the stars are not pure in his sight: how much less, then, man?" (verses 5, 6). Bildad, soaring at a lower altitude than Eliphaz (Job 4:18), contrasts the glory of God with the purity of his highest creatures. The incomparable brilliance of an Oriental evening sky is attested by travellers; yet the pale, clear, silver whiteness of the moon's light, and the sparkling lustre of the starry orbs, become dimmed beside the insufferable radiance of the Divine glory (1 Timothy 6:16). The imperfection of the highest creatures being thus established, it follows that man, one of the lowest (physically considered), cannot be pure.
3. Feeble. "Man that is a worm, and the son of man that is a worm" (verse 6). Man is compared by Eliphaz to a dweller in a mud hut (Job 4:19), and by Job to a flower springing up from the soil (Job 14:2). He is here likened to a worm bred by putrefaction, i.e. a mean, despicable, and insignificant creature (Psalms 22:6), which he is
(1) in comparison with the rest of creation (Psalms 8:3, Psalms 8:4; Isaiah 41:24), but much more
(2) in comparison with the God of creation (Isaiah 40:22).
1. The claim God has on the reverential homage of his creatures.
2. The antiquity of the gospel doctrine of justification by faith.
3. The humility man should cultivate in thinking of himself.
4. The infinite condescension of him who is the Lord of all the armies of light in becoming a worm and no man.
5. The transcendent glory of Divine grace which contemplates the elevation of "man that is a worm, and the son of man that is a worm," to a position higher than the stars or the angels; yea, to a partnership in that very dominion (Revelation 3:21) which belongs to God.
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
The majesty of God and the weakness of man.
Leaving untouched the perplexing question of the prosperity of bad men, Bildad makes the point of his attack upon Job his assertions of innocence (Job 23:10-12). His object is to insist that, the distance between man and God being infinite, man cannot enter into controversy with God, nor can he be pure in his eyes. The address of Bildad consists mainly of repetitions from the previous discourses of Eliphaz (Job 4:17, sqq.; Job 15:14, sqq.)—descriptions of the majesty and sublimity of God. In reply, Job seizes the opportunity offered by his antagonist, and, after a few bitter words of self-vindication, proceeds to outvie and far surpass Bildad in his description of the greatness of God.
I. GOD'S MAJESTY; AND APPLICATION. (Verses 2-4.)
1. Absolute power, carrying with it overwhelming awe into the minds of his subjects—a power which has quelled the earlier discord of heaven and made peace in those heights—is associated with God (verse 2). He is "Lord of hosts," and those hosts are innumerable—the stars of heaven, the angels who inhabit and guide them (Job 15:15); and all the marvellous forces of nature—winds, lightnings, waves (Job 38:19-21; Psalms 104:4), which do his bidding (verse 3).
2. He is the absolute Light, from which all others are but reflected and derived. It is his garment and his glory (Psalms 104:2; Ezekiel 1:27, Ezekiel 1:28; 1 Timothy 6:16). It blesses and cheers all that lives (Matthew 5:45). No living creature is exempt from its all-pervading beams. Then how can a mortal be just with God? How can man, in his feebleness, enter into court and contend with absolute Power (comp. Job 9:2)? Thus the speaker would convict Job of folly. And then comes the second member of verse 4 leading to the second great thought of the speech: "How can he be pure that is born of a woman?"
II. GOD'S PURITY; AND APPLICATION. (Verses 5, 6.) The bright silver lustre of the moon seems pale, the stars are dimmed, when compared with the essential and eternal splendour of the Highest—to say nothing of man, the maggot, the worm! The stars are but the outer adornments of the palace and abode of God; and how, then, shall man, living on this dim spot that men call earth, think to meet God on equal terms and dispute with him? If he, like moon and stars, keeps to his rank and order, he may enjoy the benefit of God; if he attempts to travel beyond it, he will be crushed by the weight of the Divine majesty (Cocceius). The view of yonder glory reminds man of his sin and corruption. The celestial lustre is the sign of celestial purity in the inhabitants of heaven; his frailty and mortality are the evidence of his sin. The time has not yet come when, life and immortality being brought to light, man is conscious of the grandeur of his inward faith and of his spiritual destiny, when he refuses to be crushed by the dazzling might and splendour of the material universe because conscious of affinity to the creative thought.—J.
HOMILIES BY R. GREEN
If, in the course of Job's replies to his friends, he has sought to exculpate himself from all blame, and to aver his righteousness in the sight of God, he is now answered by a brief speech of his friend, "How can man be justified in the sight of God?" True, Job holdeth fast his integrity; true, he may be free from the accusations brought against him by his friends, who are unable in any other way to explain his suffering lot; yet, although he is so far clear, he shares the deep humiliation which attaches to all, of standing before the Divine throne a condemned criminal. He is unjust. Alas! the very "stars are not pure in his sight; how much less man, that is a worm?" This condemnation and inability of man to justify himself—
I. PUTS AN END TO ALL BOASTFUL SELF-CONFIDENCE BEFORE GOD. How shall the condemned and sinful even enter into controversy with the Most High? How shall the frail child of earth—earth-born and earthly—contend with God. Not Job only, but every one, must be silenced in presence of this truth, which has its witness in each man's breast.
II. IS A CAUSE FOR PENITENT HUMILIATION BEFORE GOD. Truly the place of man—sinful man—is the dust. How shall the unclean dare to draw nigh unto the Holy One? Human feebleness and imperfectness should be sufficient to put men as in the dust; but if sinfulness, if a sense of condemnation before God, be added to this, how much greater cause for self-abasement is there? In penitence man has ground of hope, for the Lord lifteth up the meek; but in presumed self-justification he can only meet with confusion.
III. IS A REASON FOR THE EAGER EMBRACE OF THE MERCY OF GOD IN CHRIST. Whither shall a sinner fly? Where is true safety for him? In the revelation of the mercy of God to the penitent sinner there is an assured hope. This graciousness on the part of the Most High holds out the utmost encouragement to the self-condemned to return; while the inability to justify himself is in itself the highest reason why the gracious overture of God should receive from man an eager response.
IV. IS A HIGH MOTIVE TO STRICTNESS OF LIFE. With how much carefulness and lowliness and effort ought not he to live who by his very nature is so prone to err! "The son of man, which is a worm," ought to seek to order his course before God with the utmost lowliness and care. A pensioner upon the Divine bounty, a criminal at the Divine bar, he has no warrant for rude self-assumption, but has need to seek, in patient, humble effort, to avoid deeper condemnation.—R.G.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
Peace in high places.
Bildad tries to overawe Job by presenting what is indeed a true idea of God, although, if he had known the patriarch, he would have seen that there was nothing in it that was likely to be accepted as a specific rebuke. Job had maintained his innocence, and had cried out for God to vindicate it: "Oh that I knew where I might find him!" Bildad replies that God is a great Ruler in the heavenly heights, maintaining peace among his angelic armies; how can man be justified with One so great? It is meant to be a rebuke to Job's presumption in appealing to so awful a Judge. Yet, if Job is innocent, why should he not dare to do so? Bildad is right in saying that God is so holy that none can stand before him without being abashed by shame. The unfairness is in making this truth a ground for accusing Job, not of the general evil of fallen creatures, but of exceptional enormities of guilt,
I. GOD RULES OVER ALL.
1. He is above all. We rise through the hierarchy of being from one stage to another, and at the head of all we find God. None can equal him, none can reach up to his might and holiness. Supreme in solitary perfection, he crowns the temple of being.
2. He includes all in his sway. His exaltation does not involve his separation from his creatures. On the contrary, it gives him a wide scope; from his exalted position he surveys the whole panorama of existence, and administers the affairs of the universe.
3. He exerts active influence over all. God is not an ornamental figure-head. He not only reigns, he rules. His government is absolute; not despotic, only because it is paternal.
II. GOD'S RULE IS A NECESSITY OF THE UNIVERSE. The worlds could not go on without it. Confusion and chaos would follow if he withdrew his hand.
1. It is needed in heaven. Even there it is God who keeps the peace. The best-tempered society needs order and government to save it from falling into confusion. Heaven would become a babel of disorder if no regulating power were supreme there. The highest intelligences and the purest spirits require a regulative influence to keep them all in harmony. However well its harps are tuned, and however perfect is its music, the celestial orchestra needs one great leader.
2. Much more is it needed on earth. If heavenly beings cannot live aright without Divine guidance and rule, much more is this the case with earthly creatures, who are weak, ignorant, and sinful. If God makes his rule felt in maintaining the perfect order of heaven, assuredly he must make it felt in rectifying the wild disorder of earth.
III. GOD'S RULE SECURES PEACE.
1. It maintains "peace in high places." There is peace above, though at present there may be confusion below. The heavens are calm, though the earth is storm-tossed. The changeless blue sky is above the shifting rack of clouds. Stars keep to their spheres. Angels perform their functions. The blessed dead are at rest. If we do but look high enough we shall see peace.
2. It will bring "peace on earth." When heaven touches earth the peace of heaven comes down among men. If God can keep peace among the greatest beings, surely he can establish it among puny mortals. He can reconcile all enmity or crush all opposition. Christ has come from the peace of heaven to be "our Peace" (Ephesians 2:14).—W.F.A.
The innumerable armies of God.
I. THEIR VAST NUMBERS. We can see no limit to the physical universe. The starry hemisphere dazzles us with its multitudinous splendour, but the telescope greatly increases our idea of its vastness, resolving fleecy mist into galaxies of worlds, and discovering distant suns invisible to the naked eye; and photography carries the process much further, and peoples the interstellar spaces of the telescope with hosts of still more remote stars. It is not reasonable to suppose that all these worlds are destitute of life, that our little planet is the solitary home of living creatures in a terrific desert of dead worlds. But if the material world be peopled, this may be but a small part of the universe. There may be other realms of existence unseen by the eye of sense; there may be material worlds that do not contain properties that can be detected by any of our five senses, although they are perceptible to the different senses of different orders of beings; and there may be creatures of God existing in regions that are not material, spirits that do not require what we understand by bodies. The revelation of Scripture gives us glimpses of inhabitants of other worlds than ours. It is reasonable to think that the great God rules over hosts of such beings.
II. THEIR ORDERLY ARRAY. They are armies, not mobs. As the physical universe is regulated by law and maintained in order, it is most probable that the same is true of the unseen universe. All that is revealed about God's heavenly hosts shows them to us in obedience to God's will. It is a human figure of speech that represents them as constituting armies. Milton's poetry, added to the visions of the Apocalypse, have impressed our imaginations with military conceptions of the angelic hosts. But we do not know what tasks may be laid upon those armies of God in subduing the evil of the universe. We may be sure that the vulgar thirst for glory, the pride of brute strength, and the cruel rage of bloodshed that characterize our hideous wars, cannot be found among the hosts of heaven. Therefore the military idea of the angels needs to be received with caution. We are directed rather to the higher warlike qualities, e.g. discipline and obedience joined to courage and strength.
III. THEIR DIVINE LIGHT. They all have their light from God. On what earthly multitudes does the sun rise every day l Yet there is light for all. But an infinitesimal proportion of the sunlight and heat is received by our world; by far the greater quantity of it is scattered through realms of space. God's light of love reaches all his creatures. There are no remote and dark regions of the universe that lie beyond his care. As there seems to be no end to the radiation of light when this is not hindered by obstructing objects, so no limit can be discovered to the radiation of God's love. Though the hosts of beings are innumerable, there is a share of God's goodness for each.
"Its streams the whole creation reach,
So plenteous is the store;
Enough for all, enough for each,
Enough for evermore."
Job 25:5, Job 25:6
The awe of God's holiness.
I. THE INCOMPARABLE HOLINESS OF GOD. This is a thought that cannot be described in human language. When conscience is aroused, some thrill of the awe of it may open our minds to its sublime meaning. We start from the conception of the absolute sinlessness of God. Not a spot of evil can be found on all he is or does. But holiness is more than negative freedom from sin. It is a real excellence, and on its positive side it expands into infinity. We do not know how far goodness may go. It is like light. No one can conceive how intense this may be; after a short time it becomes too brilliant for our eyes, and we are only blinded when we look at it; but it is conceivable that its intensity may be increased a thousandfold beyond the highest degree that we are capable of perceiving. There may be a brilliancy of light compared with which the glare of a tropical noon is as dull and gloomy as an English November. So there may be a holiness which in its positive character rises above all we can conceive or imagine of goodness into infinite regions of perfection. We can see no limit to the strength and depth of love. Human love may be strong as death. Yet compared to God's love it is but as a feeble, flickering flame lost in the full sunlight. No one can conceive how full and rich God's love is. All the attributes of the Divine holiness expand into infinity. Their greatness is immeasurable and inconceivable.
II. ITS OVERAWING INFLUENCE. It is as though the moon cannot shine before such a Divine light. Even that silver shield seems to be tarnished when set by the side of the brightness of God's holiness. The stars, which are far above the filth and corruption of earth, and move in heavenly spheres, do not seem to be pure in the light of God. This impression is natural, though of Course it is thrown into the form of poetic imagery. It leads to the humiliation of all human pride. If what is brightest looks dark in comparison with the splendour of God's holiness, what must man be in his sight? Now, it is possible to abuse these conceptions, as Bildad was doing. God does not make men out to be worse than they are. He does not blame his creatures for not being equal to himself. He does not judge them by his own perfection, but only by their capacities. There is also a foolish way of depreciating humanity. There may be much pride in the heart of a man who calls himself "a worm." Such language is only natural and right when it is wrung out of the soul by a deep consciousness of sin, and by an overwhelming perception of God's holiness. On the other hand, when this is the case, there is no ground for despair. The last stronghold of pride being abandoned, there is room for the mercy of God to come in. God's holiness is just the perfection of his love. The error has been in the separation of the two attributes. In the present day a shallow conception of holiness is tempting men to think lightly of sin, for it is the awe of God's holiness that impresses on us the feeling of our own guilt. Out of the humiliation thus produced springs our only hope—the hope of free pardon and gracious renewal. Then the holiness of God becomes our inspiration; we are called to be perfect, as our Father in heaven is perfect.—W.F.A.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Job 25". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany