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In this chapter Job first bewails his miserable fate, of which he expects no alleviation (verses 1-10); then claims an unlimited right of complaint (verse 11); and finally enters into direct expostulation with God—an expostulation which continues from verse 12 to the end of the chapter. At the close, he admits his sinfulness (verse 20), but asks impatiently why God does not pardon it instead of visiting it with such extreme vengeance (verse 21).
Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth? rather, Is there not a warfare (or, a time of service) to man upon earth? Has not each man a certain work appointed for him to do, and a certain limited time assigned him within which to do it? And thus, Are not his days also like the days of an hireling? Since the hireling is engaged to do a certain work in a certain time.
As a servant (or, a slave) panteth for the shadow; i.e. longs for the shades of evening to descend and bring the day to a close. The slavery of Job's time was probably not unlike that of captive races in Egypt, so graphically portrayed in the early chapters of Exodus. The captive, working from morning to night at exhausting labour, would long intensely for the night to arrive, when his toil would come to an end. The inference is not drawn, but clearly is—so Job may be excused if he longs for death, now that he has reached old age, and that the work of his life is manifestly ended. And as an hireling looketh for the reward of his work; rather, for his wages. The word used (פעל) has the two meanings of "work" and "the wages of work" (see Jeremiah 22:13).
So am I made to possess months of vanity. "Months of vanity" are "months of which he can make no use "—"months which are no good to him." It has been concluded from this theft some considerable time had elapsed since Job was stricken by his disease. But he is perhaps looking to the future as much as to the past, anticipating a long, lingering illness. Elephantiasis is a disease which often lasts for years. And wearisome nights are appointed to me. To one stretched on a bed of sickness, the night is always more wearisome than the day. It has no changes, nothing to mark its flight. It seems almost interminable. In elephantiasis, however, it is a special feature of the disease that the sufferings of the patient are greatest at night. "In elephantiasis ansesthetica" says Dr. Erasmus Wilson, "a sense of dulness and heat pervades the surface, and there are sensations of tingling and prickling, and of burning heat. While the integument is insensible, there are deep-seated burning pains, sometimes of a bone or joint, sometimes of the vertebral column. These pains are greatest at night; they prevent sleep, and give rise to restlessness and frightful dreams".
When I lie down, I say, When shall I arise, and the night be gone? So Gesenius, Rosenmuller, and Delitzsch. Others translate, "the night is long" (Dillmann, Renan), or "the night seems endless" (Merx); comp. Deuteronomy 28:67, "At evening thou shalt say, Would God it were morning!" And I am full of tossings to and fro. Professor Lee understands "tossings of the mind," or "distracting thoughts;" but it is more probable that tossings of the body are meant. These are familiar to every bad sleeper. Unto the dawning of the day. A little rest sometimes visits the tired eyelids after a long, sleepless night. Job may refer to this, or he may simply mean that he lay tossing on his bed all through the night, till morning came, when he arose.
My flesh is clothed with worms. The fons et origo mali in elephantiasis is a worm called filaria sanguinis hominid. It is a long, fine, thread-like creature, of a white colour, smooth; and devoid of markings. And clods of dust. This is rather poetical than strictly medical. The special characteristic of elephantiasis, from which it derives its name, is that the integument, or outer skin, is "formed into large masses or folds, with a rugose condition of the surface, not unlike the appearance of an elephant's leg". But the swellings do not contain clods of dust. My skin is broken, and become loathsome. A common feature in elephantiasis is the development and gradual growth of solid papules or tubercles in the skin. These enlarge as the disease progresses, and after a time soften and break up; an nicer is then formed, and a discharge follows of a virulent and loathsome character. Presently the discharge steps; the ulcer heals; but only to break out again in another place. In the Revised Version the passage is rendered, My skin closeth up, and breaketh afresh.
My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle. Though each day is a weariness, yet, on looking back upon my whole life, it seems to have come and gone in a moment (comp. Job 9:25). And are spent without hope. Job does not share in the hopes which Eliphaz has held out (see Job 5:17-27). He has no hope but in death.
O remember that my life is wind! (comp. Psalms 78:39). The wind is an image of all that is vain, shifting, unstable, ready to pass away (Job 6:1-30 :36; Proverbs 11:29; Ecclesiastes 5:16; Isaiah 26:18; Isaiah 41:9; Jeremiah 5:13, etc.). Mine eye shall no more see good. Another protest against the hopes flint Eliphaz has held out (see the comment on Job 7:6; and setup, Job 9:25). Job is still speaking of this life only, and not touching the question of another.
The eye of him that hath seen me shall see me no more; that is, I shall go down to the grave, and be no more seen upon earth. Neither friend nor enemy shall behold me after that. Thine eyes. God's eyes. God still sees him and watches him; this is a certain consolation; but will it last? Are upon me, and I am not. I am on the point of disappearing. Even now I scarcely exist.
As the aloud is consumed and vanisheth away. In mountainous countries one sees clouds clinging to a mountain-side, which do not float away, but gradually shrink, and at last wholly disappear. They are "consumed" in the strictest sense of the word—the hot rays of the sun drink them up. So he that goeth down to the grave; rather, to Sheol; i.e. to the lower world, the abode of the departed. What exactly was Job's idea of this world it is impossible to say, or whether it involved the continued separate identity of individual souls and their continued consciousness. In Isaiah's conception both seem certainly to have been involved (Isaiah 14:9-18), and perhaps in Jacob's (Genesis 37:35); but Job s creed on the subject can only be conjectured. It is certain, however, that both the Egyptians and the early Babylonians held the continuance after death of individual souls, their separate existence, and their consciousness. Shall come up no more. The Egyptian belief was that the soul would ultimately return to the body from which death separated it, and rein-habit it. But this belief was certainly not general among the nations of antiquity.
He shall return no more to his house. This is best taken literally. Men do not, after death, return to their houses and resume their old occupations. From the life in this world they disappear for ever. Neither shall his place know him any mere (comp. Psalms 103:16).
Therefore I will not refrain my mouth; rather, I moreover, will not refrain my lips; that is, "You may do as you like under affliction, I claim the right of complaining." Job has already pointed out that nature teaches the animals to complain when they suffer (Job 6:5). Why, then, should not he? Complaint is not necessarily murmuring; it is sometimes merely expostulation, which God allows (comp. Psalms 4:2; Psalms 77:3; Psalms 142:2, etc.). I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul. Extreme "anguish" and "bitter" suffering excuse complaints that would otherwise be, blare-able (comp. Job 6:2-4).
Job now begins his complaint, which is wholly addressed to God. The heads of it are:
(1) that he is confined and restrained, allowed no liberty (verse 12);
(2) that he is terrified by visions in the night (verses 13, 14);
(3) that he is not "let alone" (verse 16);
(4) that so much attention is paid to him (verses 17-19);
(5) that he is made a butt for God's arrows (verse 20); and
(6) that he is not pardoned, but relentlessly persecuted (verse 21).
Am I a sea, or a whale? rather, Am I a sea, or a sea-monster? Am I as wild and uncontrollable as the ocean, as fierce and savage as a crocodile or other monster of the deep? Do I not possess reason and conscience, by which I might be directed and guided? Why, then, am I treated as if I were without them? The sea must be watched, lest it break in upon the land; in Egypt there had been many such breaches, as the configuration of the coast, with its narrow belts of sand and its vast lagoons, shows; and crocodiles must be watched, lest they destroy human life; but is there any need that I should be watched, restrained, coerced, hedged in on every side (Job 3:23)? Am I so dangerous? Surely not. Some liberty therefore might have been safely given to me, instead of this irksome restraint. That thou settest a watch over me; or, a guard; i.e. a set of physical impediments, which leave me no freedom of action.
Job 7:13, Job 7:14
When I say, My bed shall comfort me, my couch shall ease my complaint. Sometimes, notwithstanding his many "wearisome nights" (Job 7:5), Job would entertain a hope of a few hours' rest and tranquillity, as, wearied and exhausted, he sought his couch, and laid himself down upon it, but only to be disappointed. Then thou scarest me with dreams, and terrifiest me through visions. Unpleasant dreams are said to be a symptom, or at any rate a frequent concomitant, of elephantiasis; but Job seems to speak of something worse than these. Horrible visions came upon him, which he believed to be sent directly from the Almighty, and which effectually disturbed his rest, making night hideous. Probably this was one of the modes in which Satan was permitted to try and test him.
So that my soul chooseth strangling; i.e. "so that I would prefer strangling to such horrid dreams," which are worse than any physical sufferings. Some see here a reference to suicide: but this is s very forced explanation. Suicide, as already observed, seems never even to have occurred to the thoughts of Job (see the comment on Job 6:8). And death rather than my life; literally, rather than my bones. Death, that is, would be preferable to such a life as he leads, which is that of a living skeleton.
I loathe it; rather, I am wasted away—"ulceratus tabesco" (Schultens). I would not live alway; rather, I shall not live alway. Let me alone; for my days are vanity; literally, cease from me; i.e. "cease to trouble me"—with, perhaps, the further meaning. "cease to trouble thyself about me;" for I am sufficiently reduced to nothingness—my life is mere vanity.
What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him? or, make so much of him—regard him as of such great importance (comp. Psalms 8:4). It seems, at first sight, an exalted idea of God to regard him as too lofty, too great, to be really concerned about so mean a creature, so poor a being, as man. Hence, among the Greeks, the Epicureans maintained that God paid no attention at all to this world, or to anything that happened in it, but dwelt secure and tranquil in the empyrean, with nothing to disturb, displease, or vex him. And the holy men of old sometimes fell into this same phase of thought, and expressed surprise and wonder that God, who dwelt on high, should "humble himself to consider the things in heaven and earth." "Lord," says David, or whoever was the author of the hundred and forty-fourth psalm, "what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him? or the son of man, that thou makest account of him? Man k like to vanity; his days are as a shadow that passeth away" (Psalms 144:3, Psalms 144:4). But all, except Epicureans, agree that God does, in fact, so concern himself, and a little reflection is enough to show us that the opposite view, instead of exalting, really degrades God. To bring conscious, sentient beings into the world—beings capable of the intensest happiness or misery, and then to leave them wholly to themselves, to have no further care or thought of them, would be the part, not of a grand, glorious, and adorable Being, but of one destitute of any claim to our admiration. And that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him? This strong expression is not used of God elsewhere. But it well expresses the extreme tenderness and consideration that God has for man, and the deep love from which that tenderness and consideration spring.
And that thou shouldset visit him every morning, and try him every moment? Our whole life is a probation, not merely particular parts of it. God "tries us every moment'" if not with afflictions, then with blessings; if not with pains, then with pleasures. He is with us all the day long, and all our life long, equally in his mercies and in his chastisements. But Job was probably thinking only of the latter.
How long wilt thou not depart from me? rather, Wilt thou not look away from me? (see the Revised Version). Job does not go so far as to ask that God should "depart from" him. He knows, doubtless, that that would be the extreme of calamity. But he would have God sometimes turn away his eyes from him, and not always regard him so intently. There is something of the same tone of complaint in the psalmist's utterance; "Thou art about my path, and about my bed, and spiest out all my ways" (Psalms 139:3, Prayer-book Version). Nor let me alone till I swallow down my spittle? Even, i.e; for the shortest space of time passible. A proverbial expression.
I have sinned. This is not so much a confession as a concession, equivalent to "Granting that I have sinned," or, "Suppose that I have sinned." In that case, What shall I do unto thee? or, What can I do for thee? How is it in my power to do anything? Can I undo the past? Or can I make compensation in the future? Neither seems to Job to be possible. O thou Preserver of men; rather, thou Observer of men. A continuation of the complaint that God's eye is always upon him. Why hast thou set me as a mark against thee? "A mark" (מפגע) is either "a butt," "a target for arrows," or else "an obstacle," "a stumbling-block," which God, by repeated blows, is removing out of his way. The latter meaning is preferred by Schultens and Professor Lee; the former by Rosenmuller and our Revisers. So that I am a burden to myself (comp. Psalms 38:4).
And why dost thou not pardon my transgression, and take away mine iniquity? Job feels that, if he has sinned, which he is ready to admit as possible, though he has certainly no deep conviction of sin (Job 6:24, Job 6:29, Job 6:30; Job 7:19), at any rate he has not sinned greatly, heinously; and therefore he cannot understand why he has not been forgiven. The idea that the Almighty cannot forgive sin except upon conditions, is unknown to him. Believing God to be a God of mercy, he regards him also, just as Nehemiah did, as a "God of pardons" (Nehemiah 9:17)—a belief which seems to have been instinctive with men of all nations. And it appears to him unaccountable that pardon has not been extended to himself. Like his "comforters." he makes the mistake of supposing that all his afflictions have been penal, are signs of God's displeasure, and intended to crush and destroy him. He has not woke up to the difference between God's punishments and his chastisements. Apparently, he does not know that "whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth," or that men are "made perfect through sufferings" (Hebrews 2:10). For now shall I sleep in the dust. Now it is too late for pardon to avail anything. Death is nigh at hand. The final blow must soon be struck. And thou shalt seek me in the morning, but I shall not be. The idea seems to be—God will relent at last; he will seek to alleviate my sufferings; he will search for me diligently—but I shall have ceased to be.
Job to God: 1. The soliloquy of sorrow.
I. A PATHETIC REPRESENTATION OF HUMAN LIFE. In contrast to the fascinating picture sketched by Eliphaz (Job 5:17-27), Job depicts human life in general, and his own sorrowful existence in particular, as:
1. A term of hard service. "Is there not an appointed time [literally, 'a warfare, a term of hard service'] on the earth?' like that of a mercenary soldier hired out for military purposes to a foreign despot; and "are not his days like the days of an hireling?" i.e. a hired slave who has been let out to some pitiless taskmaster; both of whom, the soldier and the slave, "pant for the shadow" on the dial, and "long for their wages," to give them a release from their heavy toils. The language suggests:
(1) That the period of human life is in every instance fixed, the Almighty having not only determined the bounds of our habitation (Acts 17:26), but the number of our months (Job 14:5), retaining in his own hand our times (Psalms 31:15), and measuring out our days (Psalms 39:4).
(2) That the allotted space of human life is in every instance designed to be a season of service, not of ease, enjoyment, or indulgence, but of labour, endurance, and fatigue; not always hard in the sense alluded to by Job, viz. exacting, oppressive, exhausting, pitiless, but ever hard in the sense of being earnest, arduous, and continuous. Life was never meant for idleness. If God promises strength for the day, he first assigns work to the day (Deuteronomy 33:25). Christ recognized that the day of life was designed for toil (John 9:4).
(3) That faithful work performed in time will in every instance meet with a just reward. As the hired soldier received his pay, and the slave obtained his wages, so will every one on earth be recompensed at last according to his works (Proverbs 24:12; Matthew 16:27; 2 Timothy 4:14). In particular every faithful labourer in Christ's vineyard will receive his "penny" (Matthew 20:9). The doctrine of heavenly rewards is not inconsistent with the idea of free grace (Hebrews 11:26; Hebrews 12:2).
(4) That good men may sometimes long to be released from their labours, not, however, like the bondman or the mercenary soldier, because they serve an exacting and alien taskmaster, who grinds them to the dust with oppression, but because, though not weary of their labours, they are weary in them, and would fain be at rest (cf. Paul, Philippians 1:2 : 3; 2 Timothy 4:6).
2. A heritage of incessant misery. As realized in the experience of Job, this misery was:
(1) Heaven-imposed in its origin; he having been made to possess (literally, "caused to inherit") it by compulsion, through the stern will of an unseen but relentless taskmaster, without himself having done anything to either originate or merit it. (verse 3)—a mode of representing human life which has a superficial truthfulness about it in so far as it asserts that affliction is the almost uniform experience of man on earth, that nothing enters into the composition of human history, either collectively or individually, without the expressly given sanction of God, and that no amount of wisdom or endeavour on the part of man will enable him to escape that particular earth-experience which by Divine wisdom and love has been assigned him as his inheritance, but is radically false in insinuating that God acts capriciously and tyrannically, and alleging that man neither shapes nor deserves his particular lot, since no fact is more apparent than that man, as a sinful being, deserves more affliction than he gets, and that, to a large extent at least, every individual is the master of his own destiny.
(2) Tedious in its continuance; Job characterizing his days of affliction as months of vanity; i.e. months which come without bringing relief to the sufferer, and go leaving nothing in their trail but disappointed hopes, each day seeming like a month in duration, and his sleepless nights as "nights of weariness," measured out to him one by one in slow and solemn regularity, each one appearing to interminably lengthen itself out as if it would never come to an end. Behold the subtle alchemy of grief, which can change the pace of time, and make that go with leaden feet which mostly flies with lightning wing.
(3) Painful in its character; arising from a combination of troubles not often meeting in the same individual.
(a) Extinction of hope by day; the absolute expiry of everything like expectation of betterment, which must have been a greater burden to the heart of Job than ever the elephantiasis was to his body: "We are kept alive by hope" (Romans 8:24); but within the soul of Job the principle of life was gone.
(b) Want of sleep by night. As sleep is one of God's best gifts to man (Psalms 127:2), restoring nature's exhausted powers, refreshing mind and body both (Ecclesiastes 5:12; Jeremiah 31:26; cf. Shakespeare, 'Henry IV.,' Part II. act 3. so. 1), so is the want of it one of the heaviest afflictions that can befall a sufferer, arising sometimes from excessive labour, as with Jacob (Genesis 31:40); sometimes from intense bodily pain, as in the case of Job (verse 5); sometimes from disturbed thoughts, as with Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2:1), Ahasuerus (Esther 6:1), and wicked men (Proverbs 4:16); the restless tossings to and fro of the body keeping time with the inward agitations of the mind.
(c) Bodily pain both day and night, springing from a loathsome malady, detailed (verse 5) as breeding worms in his flesh, covering his skin with earth-coloured scales, causing it to stiffen and emit a purulent discharge, and commonly believed to be elephantiasis (see homiletics on Job 2:7).
3. A period of exceeding"brevity." "My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle, and vanish without hope" (verse 8); i.e. they flee more rapidly than the shuttle passes backwards and forwards in the warp of the weaver's web, and vanish without hope of any to succeed them—i.e. of any days of happiness on earthman affecting emblem of the vanity and shortness of life.
II. A PITIFUL SUPPLICATION FROM HUMAN SORROW.
1. The Being addressed. "Oh, remember!" Though not named, God is meant. It is well, though not always necessary, to invoke God by name in our prayers; but certainly it is better to leave God's name out altogether than to introduce it too frequently into our devotions. That Job called on God in his calamity was a sign that his faith was not yet extinguished, and that he still retained his hold upon the God whom he had formerly professed to serve. It was likewise a more hopeful way of obtaining relief from, or support under, his troubles, since it is always better in our distresses "to cry to God than to complain to creatures" (Caryl).
2. The prayer presented. "Oh, remember!" As applied to God, the word signifies
(1) to take notice, to observe, to bear in mind (Psalms 78:39); hence
(2) to regard with pity (Psalms 132:1); and
(3) to interpose with help (Genesis 8:1).
God remembers when, so to speak, he allows an object to remain in the contemplation of his infinite mind so as to be suitably affected thereby.
Job desires that God would
(1) consider his case;
(2) commiserate his person; and
(3) commute his sorrow.
This, however, does not imply that God ever forgets his people (Isaiah 49:15), though he may sometimes appear to do so (Psalms 13:1); or fails to sympathize with them in trouble (Psalms 103:13; Isaiah 66:13), though afflicted saints may sometimes imagine so (Psalms 44:24; Isaiah 49:14); or is indisposed to succour them (1 Samuel 2:9; Psalms 31:23; Psalms 91:1), though he frequently, for wise and good reasons, delays his intervention (Exodus 14:13; Matthew 14:25; Matthew 15:23).
3. The plea offered. The irrevocableness of life which Job depicts by means of two impressive images, comparing his sorrowful existence to:
(1) A passing wind. "Oh, remember that my life is wind!" a breath, a puff of air (Psalms 78:39; Psalms 103:16)—an emblem suggestive of the frailty, the rapidity, and (more especially here) the irrevocability of life. Job interprets the metaphor with regard to himself by saying that when once he had departed this life:
(a) His eye should never more see good (verse 7); i.e. it should never more return to enjoy the things that constitute (or are supposed to constitute) earthly felicity (cf. the language of Hezekiah, Isaiah 38:11). Life's pleasures, opportunities, privileges, can only be enjoyed once. Yet good in the highest sense does not terminate with death. When a saint departs from this mortal scene he enters upon the chief good, the experience of nobler pleasures and loftier privileges than ever he possessed on earth (Job 19:27; Philippians 1:21).
(b) Men's eyes should never see him (verse 8); i.e. he should never more mingle in the society of the living, never more participate in the friendships and associations of time, having bid farewell to all companions and loved ones (cf. Ecclesiastes 9:9, Ecclesiastes 9:10)—an argument for living peacefully and lovingly amongst friends, companions, and neighbours, since we must soon be parted from them and they from us.
(c) Even God's eye should fail to see him (verse 8); i.e. God would not be able to do him good after he was dead, the present life being the only season in which man has an opportunity of receiving "gracious" visitation from God. It is too late to give a man a cordial when he is in his grave; and much more is it post horam to look for salvation when life is ended (2 Corinthians 6:2).
(2) A vanishing cloud. "The cloud dissolves and disappears" (verse 9). The metaphor is appropriate, as setting forth the unsubstantial, transitory, and irrevocable character of human life (cf. James 4:14). Like the cloud which is quickly dispersed (often by a gentle puff of wind), vanishing into a realm where human vision cannot follow it, so man goeth down into Sheol, the unseen abode of departed spirits. And as the scattered cloud never again gathers itself upon the face of heaven, so never more does man revisit the upper air when once he has descended into "that undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveller returns." In particular, he never again returns to his house, neither shall his place in the family circle, at the social banquet, on change, and in the public assembly, know him any more (verse 10). Though the doctrine of immortality and the hope of a resurrection am not here insisted on, it does not follow that they were unknown to either Eliphaz or Job (Job 19:26).
1. Since life, and especially the Christian life, is a war-service (1 Timothy 6:12), it becomes saints not unnecessarily to entangle themselves with the affairs of this world (2 Timothy 2:4), but to endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:3).
2. Since God will faithfully recompense his servants (Proverbs 12:14; Romans 2:10; 1 Corinthians 3:8), they whom he has hired should be faithful in the rendering of service to him (Romans 12:11; Ephesians 6:6, Ephesians 6:7).
3. Since the natural life of man, even when taken at its best estate, is altogether vanity (Psalms 39:5, Psalms 39:11), it is the part of wisdom to aspire after that life which will never disappoint (John 4:14), never know affliction (Revelation 7:16, Revelation 7:17), and never pass away (1 John 2:17).
4. Since it is certain that we must all go down into the grave (Job 30:23; Psalms 89:48; John 9:4; Hebrews 9:27), it becomes us to prepare for that event (Psa 39:4; 2 Kings 20:1; Philippians 1:21 : 1 Peter 1:17).
5. Since it is equally certain that we shall all come up again out of our graves (Job 19:26; Daniel 12:2; John 11:23, John 11:24; Acts 24:15), it is folly not to seek before we die the sure and certain hope of a glorious resurrection (Philippians 3:11).
Job to God: 2. The opening of the third controversy.
I. A DANGEROUS RESOLUTION.
1. The purport of it. To complain, not merely to repine against the misery of his lot, but to express his sense of Jehovah's cruelty in first afflicting him and then vouchsafing him no response to his solemn and pathetic appeal. If murmurings against one's outward estate are sometimes natural and even excusable, they are always perilous, even where not actually sinful. Those who begin by finding fault with their portion, generally end by reflecting on him by whom their portion has been bestowed. That Job did not curse God to his face, as the devil predicted, was a wonder, and was due more to grace than to himself. When the soul is in anguish it is better to be silent than to speak, to imitate David (Psalms 39:9) than to copy Job.
2. The spirit of it. With vehemence: "I will speak;" the tense expressing energy of language with passion: "In the anguish of my spirit;" with bitterness: "I will complain in the bitterness of my soul;"—all which were unwarrantable aggravations of his original offence, although Job, by commencing," I also," "I for my part," appeared to think he was not transgressing the bounds of right. And certainly language as vehement, extraordinary, and audacious can be quoted from other lips than Job's, language not usually blamed as sinful; e.g. Jeremiah's (Jeremiah 15:18). Still, men are prone to forget that, in contending with God, they have absolutely no "right," so called, and certainly none to address him with irreverent presumption or insinuate aught against his loving-kindness or justice.
3. The reason of it. "Therefore;" i.e. partly because his sufferings were great, and partly because his life was vanity, but chiefly because God was silent and did not condescend to listen to his prayer; not one of which reasons, nor even all of them together, were sufficient to justify his violent proposal. Great sufferings are no excuse for great complainings, since they are in themselves no more than man deserves, are always sent in love, and are capable, if accepted with meek submission, of yielding the highest good. So far from the transient and irrevocable character of life inducing querulous behaviour, it should prompt man to turn its golden moments to the best account; while God's silence cannot give man the right to murmur, since God ever knows the best time to speak, whether in vindication of himself or in answering his people (Psalms 1:3).
II. AN IRONICAL INTERROGATION.
1. The comparison made. Almost impertinently, surely unbecomingly, Job asks whether God regarded him as a sea or a whale; i.e. as a mighty conflux of waters, a fierce, heaven-assaulting ocean, or as a huge aquatic monster, a great and terrible dragon of the prime, of which he was afraid and upon which accordingly he required to set a watch. Job's intention was to say that surely God did entertain such a notion of the poor emaciated skeleton upon whom he was heaping such gigantic calamities. It was strangely irreverent, on Job's part. so to speak, and wholly untrue besides. God esteemed neither him nor any of his intelligent creatures as a sea or a monster. God never speaks depreciatingly of man, and man never should of himself. Nor does God ever treat man like a sea or a whale, but always with a due regard to his intelligent and moral nature, in which respect man should copy God in dealing with himself. Least of all can it be raid that God is ever afraid of man; the only being that man can really injure by his insubordination and wickedness is himself. Yet, though incorrect in the sense intended by Job, it is sometimes sadly true that the heart of man is as restless (Isaiah 57:20), insatiable (Ecclesiastes 1:7), violent (Jud Job 1:13), destructive (Joshua 24:7), noisy (Jeremiah 6:23), as the sea, and as ferocious and ungovernable as the great monsters it contains.
2. The proof given. As the turbulent ocean requires to be bounded and restrained, and leviathan to he held in chains, so, says the patriarch, with grim irony, "thou settest a watch on me." Job was right in still recognizing God's hand in his afflictions. Whatever be the second causes, the First Cause in all calamity that befalls a saint, as indeed in everything that happens, is God (Job 2:10; Isaiah 45:7; Amos 3:6). Yet he erred in his interpretation of God's purpose in these afflictions. God watches over seas and whales, and over suffering men and saints at the same time, i.e. always, and by the same right—the right of his Divine sovereignty; and in the same way, by sending his omniscient glance into every corner of the universe; but not in the same spirit, watching ever against seas and whales, but always over men and saints; or for the same purpose, in the ease of seas and whales to restrain them from doing damage in his world, in the case of men and saints to rejoice over them to do them good.
III. AN UNJUST ACCUSATION.
1. The charge. "Thou scarest me with dreams, and terrifiest me through visions" (verse 14). These dreams and visions, horrible shadows cast upon the background of his wakeful and excited imagination by the terrible disease from which he was suffering, were of a character entirely different from the dreams and visions depicted by Eliphaz (Job 4:13) as visiting the good man from God. In the distemper of his spirit, Job imputes them to God, whereas they ought to to have been properly ascribed to Satan. Had he simply desired, to recognize the Divine hand in his sufferings, his language would have been becoming and worthy of imitation; but if, as is more probable, he actually meant to charge God with being. the immediate Author of those pale phantoms and shadowy apparitions which banished sleep from his pillow and made him shiver with ghostly fear, he was surely verging on the borders of blasphemy. If not so heinous an offence as ascribing God's work to the devil (Matthew 12:24), imputing Satan's work to God is wholly without excuse.
2. The time. "When I say, My bed shall comfort me, my couch shall ease my complaint; then thou searest me with dreams." The best-founded expectations of man are not unfrequently disappointed. Even couches, formed for ease and comfort, often fail to impart them. They who most long for sleep's refreshment have sometimes the greatest difficulty in obtaining it. It is vain to look for comfort in affliction, or ease in the midst of pain, to either beds or couches, or any instrument whatever apart from the Divine blessing. The true Source of consolation for diseased bodies, distressed minds, and disturbed spirits, is God (Psalms 42:5; Psalms 147:3; Isaiah 25:4; Isaiah 51:3; Isa 66:5; 2 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:4; 2 Corinthians 7:6). And as God delights to visit his suffering people on their beds (Job 35:10; Psalms 41:3; Psalms 42:8; Psalms 77:6), so the devil seldom fails to shoot his sharpest arrows and muster his fiercest terrors during the night.
3. The result.
(1) A desire for immediate death. "So that my soul chooseth strangling," i.e. suffocation, a sensation of choking being frequently experienced in elephantiasis; "and death rather than my life," literally, "than my bones," i.e. than the emaciated skeleton I have become. Life in itself is not necessarily joyous and desirable. The amount of pleasure derivable from existence in large measure depends on its circumstances and conditions; and these may be so changed as to render existence a burden. Yet sufferers should rather bear their burdens than inordinately long for release (Job 14:14; Matthew 26:39), since it is "better to bear those ills we have than fly to others that we know not of;" since whatever be the weight of our affliction, it is God's will that we should bear it; and since God is able to bring even an emaciated skeleton back from the brink of the grave.
(2) A temptation to suicide, as some think. "So that my soul chooseth strangling" by external violence (cf. Nahum 2:12), yea, by a suicidal act (cf. 2 Samuel 17:23); to which the next words, "and death by these bones," are supposed to allude. Even if this were the correct interpretation (which is doubtful), it is satisfactory that those who adopt it understand the suicidal temptation to have been rejected by the patriarch, who exclaims, "I loathe it;" i.e. I detest and repudiate with horror the idea of taking my own life. Suicide is an act of supreme cowardice, springing, except where reason is overthrown, from inability to endure suffering or shame; an act of supreme folly, since it can only plunge its deluded perpetrator into deeper suffering and more public shame; an act of supreme impiety, inasmuch as it arrogates to man a power that belongs to God alone.
(3) A prayer for at least temporary respite. "Let me alone; for my days are vanity;" meaning, "My life must soon be ended; therefore cease to harass me with dreams and visions; but vouchsafe to me a period of ease and comfort before I depart" (cf. Job 10:20, and vide homiletics).
1. The danger of too exclusive meditation on the vanity of life. It is apt, as in Job's case, to foster sinful thoughts concerning God.
2. The propriety of always keeping a bridle on the lips (Psalms 39:2). When Job removed restraint from his mouth he spoke in anguish, complained in bitterness, questioned with irreverence, accused with rashness, desired with vehemence, entreated with impatience.
3. The tendency of the human heart, especially when blinded by grief and agitated by passion, to misconstrue God's providential dealings with itself.
4. The certainty that good men may have much of the old unrenewed nature in them, lying unsuspected till occasion calls it forth. One would hardly have anticipated the outburst of temper which Job here displays.
5. The duty of thanking God for such common mercies as beds to sleep on and ability to use them. Many have beds who cannot sleep, and some would sleep who cannot find the beds.
6. The wickedness of, in any circumstances, undervaluing God's great gift of life. Life in the midst of suffering may often more glorify God than existence in the midst of ease.
7. The inexpediency of rashly concluding that one's days are vanity, since a man may be most useful when he least suspects it. Probably Job never served his age and generation so well as when passing through this terrible baptism of pain, sorrow, and temptation.
I would not live alway.
I. THE CRY OF BITTER DISAPPOINTMENT. Exemplified in the case of Elijah (1 Kings 19:4) and of Jonah (Jonah 4:8).
II. THE WAIL OF GREAT SORROW. Illustrated by the experience of Job.
III. THE VOICE OF REMORSEFUL DESPAIR. As with Ahithophel (2 Samuel 17:23) and Judas (Matthew 27:5).
IV. THE LANGUAGE OF AN AWAKENED CONSCIENCE. Witness the jailor of Philippi (Acts 16:27).
V. THE UTTERANCE OF FAITH. As employed by St. Paul (Philippians 1:23).
1. The necessity of departing from this life (Hebrews 9:27).
2. The importance of preparing for another (Itch. Job 11:10).
Job to God: 1. A remonstrance with Heaven.
I. THE DIVINE CONDUCT DEPICTED. As that of:
1. A Man-watcher. (Verse 20; cf. verse 12.) Concerning this Divine espionage may be noted:
(1) The object of it. Man (verse 17). Not some formidable opponent or powerful adversary, of whose movements the Almighty might reasonably be apprehensive, not some all-devouring ocean, or fierce ungovernable sea-monster (verse 12), but a poor, feeble, insignificant creature (enosh), a dull and spiritless hireling (soldier or slave), dragging out a term of hard service on the earth (verse 1), burdened with intolerable miseries (verse 3), whose days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle (verse 6), are even vanity (verse 16), and whose whole term of existence in this sublunary sphere is like a passing wind or vanishing cloud (verses 7-9), that melts away and never more returns.
(2) The character of it. Job supposes that this great Man-watcher whom he describes first attributes an extravagant importance to the feeble and insignificant creature whose portrait has just been sketched: "What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him?" (cf. David's language to Saul, 1 Samuel 24:14); then constitutes him an object of special, close, earnest, vigilant observation: "And that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him?" (cf. Psalms 8:4; Psalms 144:3; Hebrews 2:6); next treats him like a prisoner subjected to regular inspection, in case he should either escape from confinement or be guilty of hatching plots against his keeper: "And that thou shouldest visit him every morning;" and finally puts him severely to the proof, i.e. by the thumbscrews and stocks of affliction: "And try him every moment."
(3) The constancy of it. This terrible inspection Job represents, not as occasional or exceptional, which might have been tolerable, but as perpetual, without interruption and without cessations" every morning" and "every moment," the Divine eye never leaving him so long as to pin,nit him to swallow down his spittle.
(4) The purpose of it. Not to bless man, as David liked to think of the Divine guardianship (Psalms 8:4), but to curse him, to find out his faults, to detect his failings, to discover his sins. This horrible picture of the all-seeing, silent, never-sleeping eye of the Eternal always fixed on man with its cold, clear, cruel, calculating, gaze, never seeming to move, but ever there, in the daytime and in the night season, dogging him at every turn, is happily not true of the saint (Psalms 34:15; Psalms 37:32 :33; Psalms 121:1-8), though, alas it affords a fearfully vivid representation of the misery of the lost (Revelation 6:16, Revelation 6:17).
2. A Man-shooter. "Why hast thou set me as a mark against thee?" i.e. as a target to shoot at (cf. Job 6:4). Another outrageous impeachment of the Deity, implying that God, in afflicting Job, had been guilty of:
(1) Manifest favouritism, in passing by others and selecting him as the object of his attacks.
(2) Deliberate cruelty, in not merely sending a random or occasional shaft against Job, but in, so to speak, setting him up like a target, and taking calm and deliberate aim at his bosom.
(3) Deep malevolence, as if God took the same delight in directing his arrows against him, Job, that an archer might do in practising at a butt, or a soldier in sending a shaft against a foe.
(4) Unjustifiable hostility, since Job at least was quite unable to discern any cause for such extraordinary procedure.
3. A Man-oppressor. "Why hast thou made me an obstacle in thy way?" (according to another and perhaps a more exact translation); the idea being that Job was perpetually in God's path, and that God, hating him and feeling him a burden (according to another reading of the next clause), rushed against him as if to destroy him, and so get rid of him. But God never so feels toward any man. He may hate man's sin, but man himself he never hates. He may often find man, through sin, an obstacle in his path, but he never sets man up before him as an object of hostile assault.
II. THE DIVINE CONDUCT CHARACTERIZED. AS:
1. Unworthy. Job designs to hint that man's insignificance makes it wholly unbecoming, if not mean, on God's part to visit him with affliction; that such incessant vigilance as God exercises over man is altogether to attribute to him too much importance, that man, being so utterly frail and short-lived, it were nobler in God to permit him to enjoy his brief span of life in ease and comfort. A fallacious argument, since:
(1) No being that God has made is too insignificant for God to care for. He cares for sparrows (Matthew 10:29), and for oxen (1 Corinthians 9:9), and why not for man (Matthew 10:31)?
(2) If man is not too insignificant to sin, he cannot be too insignificant for God to keep his eye upon. The capacity of sinning gives man an importance in God's universe that he would not otherwise have possessed.
(3) Though man's life on earth be short, the consequences of his evil deeds may live behind him; hence the impossibility of God withdrawing his control of mundane things.
(4) The charge completely falls to the ground, since God watches over man, not in an evil sense, but in a good.
2. Unkind. Job's language sets forth the Divine conduct in a most offensive light, as never for a solitary instant looking away from man, or allowing him a moment's ease; but harassing him so incessantly that life becomes a burden, pursuing him so remorselessly that, do what he will, he can never get out of the Creator's way. Thank God, such a picture is only true of the impenitent. "The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth" (Psalms 34:16).
3. Ungracious. Granting that he had committed faults, and that the great Man-watcher had detected sin in his past life. "Why dost thou not pardon my transgression?" asks Job, "and take away mine iniquity?" An exceedingly natural question, not, however, because man is so insignificant a creature, and human life so evanescent, and sin so comparatively trifling, but because
(1) God is essentially merciful and gracious (Exodus 34:6);
(2) in the exercise of mercy God specially delights (Jeremiah 9:24; Isaiah 43:25; Ezekiel 33:11; Micah 7:18);
(3) the exercise of mercy is perfectly consistent with the other attributes of his Divine nature (Romans 3:25, Romans 3:26);
(4) mercy more than justice redounds to the glory of God (Romans 9:23; 2 Corinthians 4:15; Ephesians 1:6; James 2:13);
(5) mercy is more calculated to soften and subdue man than punishment;
(6) no one but God can pardon transgression or take away sin (Psalms 32:5; Psalms 103:3; Isaiah 43:25; Luke 5:21); and
(7) God has distinctly promised to pardon them that cast themselves upon his mercy (Romans 10:12, Romans 10:13; 1 John 1:9).
Yet in perfect harmony with all this, the awakened sinner may, like Job, be denied the sense or the outward sign of forgiveness (in Job's case the removal of trouble), because
(1) he does not ask m the right spirit, with humility and self-abasement (Psalms 32:5; Psalms 51:4, Psalms 51:11), asking that as a matter of right which can only be obtained as a gift of grace,—men who think they have a claim on God cannot be forgiven (Luke 18:14);
(2) he does not ask with the right plea, viz. in the Name of God (Psalms 106:8; Isaiah 43:25) or of Christ (John 14:13), but comes expecting to find favour on the ground of his own righteousness (Romans 9:32);
(3) he does not ask for the right purpose, his object being escape from sin's punishment rather than from sin itself (James 4:3);
(4) he does not ask with sincere faith, but staggers at the promise through unbelief—ever an insuperable barrier to forgiveness (James 1:6); and sometimes
(5) though he asks, God may have reasons for delay in granting the soul's request, as e.g. to test the soul's sincerity or earnestness, to complete the soul's penitential submission, to quicken and intensify the soul's faith, to heighten the soul's appreciation of Divine mercy when it comes.
4. Unwise. "For now shall I sleep in the dust," etc. Job meant to say that, if God had any thoughts of mercy toward him at all, it was unwise to delay putting them into execution. Burdened with misery and unpardoned sin as he was, he would soon be gone. The pressure of such calamities as he endured must soon crush him into his grave; and then, should God, relenting, seek him to extend to him kindness, lo! he should not be. A beautiful picture, that of the Deity relenting towards man (cf. Isaiah 54:6-10; Jeremiah 31:18-20); an impressive sermon, that sow is the day of grace for both God and man—for man to seek (2 Corinthians 6:2), and for God to grant salvation (John 9:4).
1. That the most maligned Being in the universe is God, even his own people not always speaking him fair.
2. That, however mean and insignificant in himself, ms, has been more magnified by God than any other of his creatures.
3. That even afflictions are a token of God's desire to exalt man, since only through them can he attain to purity.
4. That if man's miseries are a heavy burden to himself, man's sins are a heavier to God.
5. That if man's iniquities are not removed, the reason lies with man, and not with God.
6. That God's love to his people is unchanging; since, however he may seem to be angry with them, he is certain in the end to relent.
7. That God is grieved when men pass away from earth without experiencing his favour.
Lord, what is man?
I. THE INSIGNIFICANCE OF MAN.
1. In origin, allied to the dust.
2. In character' defiled by sin.
3. In experience' weighted with misery.
4. In duration, short-lived and evanescent.
5. In destiny' doomed to dissolution.
II. THE GREATNESS OF MAN.
1. Created in the Divine image.
2. Preserved by Divine care.
3. Redeemed by Divine love.
4. Renewed by Divine grace.
5. Immortalized by Divine life.
6. Crowned with Divine glory, already in Christ Jesus, and afterwards in them that are his.
1. Since man is so insignificant, be humble.
2. Since man is so great be good.
A sinner's inquiry.
I. A CONFESSION. My transgression, mine iniquity.
II. A RECOGNITION. Of:
1. The possibility of pardon.
2. The meaning of pardon—to take away sin.
III. AN INTERROGATION. "Why dost thou not take away mine iniquity?"
1. A question natural to ask.
2. A question easy to answer (see preceding homiletics).
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
The weakness of man's appeal to the clemency of God.
I. GENERAL VIEW OF MAN'S MISERY AND HIS OWN. (Job 7:1-5.) Man is compared to a hireling with an appointed time of service, the end of which is wearily and wistfully looked for. The ideas suggested are
(2) fatigue and exhaustion;
(3) intense longing for rest.
As the slave longs for the lengthening shadows of evening, the hired labourer for pay-time, so the oppressed sufferer, toiling beneath a load of pain, longs for the welcome end of death. He "would 'twere bedtime, and all well." Voluntary and moderate labour is one of the keenest delights of life; but forced and prolonged toll exhausts the very springs of enjoyment. Rest is the reward of moderate exertion, but to the excessive toiler or sufferer it is denied. We have a picture here of the extreme misery of sleeplessness, than which none can be more acute; the tossing through the wakeful hours of darkness, the mind travelling over and over again the same weary track of its melancholy contemplations. It may be appropriate here to think of the great blessing of sleep. Homer termed it "ambrosial." It was one of the great boons of Heaven to suffering mortals. It is "the season of all natures," as Shakespeare beautifully says. It is the preservation of sanity. Connected with this, the lesson of moderate exertion is one needed by many in these busy, striving days; and no less the fault of over-anxiety, and the duty of casting care upon God. on which the gospel insists so strongly. It is the life according to our true nature, and according to simple piety, which brings sound sleep by night, and healthy thought by day.
II. REFLECTION ON THE BREVITY OF LIFE, AND PRAYER. (Job 7:6-10.) The mood of self-pity continues. Then follows a lament on the shortness of life. It is compared to a weaver's shuttle, to smoke, to the vanishing of a cloud, as it is elsewhere compared (Job 9:25) to the hasty passage of a courier, or, in the well-known old story of English history, to the flight of a bird through a hall and out into the darkness again. We may compare the following plaintive passage from the Greek poet AEschylus:—
Ah! friend, behold and see
What's all the beauty of humanity?
Can it be fair?
What's all the strength? can it be strong
And what hope can they bear,
These dying livers—living one day long?
Ah! seest thou not, my friend,
How feeble and slow
And like a dream doth go
This poor blind manhood, drifted from its end?"
(Mrs. E. B. Browning's translation.)
We may draw from this passage the following lessons:
1. There is a constant sense of infirmity in human nature, and of the inexorable law of death.
2. The mind cannot submit patiently to this doom. Dear earthly affections (Job 7:8) cry out against it, and unconsciously witness for the immortality of the soul.
3. The thought of utter extinction cannot be endured by an awakened and elevated spirit (Job 7:10). These impotences and reluctances in the presence of decay and death are really tokens of immortality. We see them to be so in this instance, in an age when life and immortality were not brought to light.
4. The natural relief from all such sorrows and perplexities is in prayer (Job 7:7). The cry, "Oh, remember!" is not unheard by him who knows our frame and remembers that we are dust. There may be the clear consciousness of God where there is not the definite assurance of immortality. But a firm faith in him, when cherished and educated, leads ultimately to the conviction that the soul cannot perish.—J.
Fresh recourse to the relief of words.
The prayer seems, in this dark state of despondency, in vain; and Job's despair overflows all bounds and pours itself forth in a dark stream of thoughts and words.
I. SUFFERINGS MISUNDERSTOOD. One might suppose, he argues, from these intense oppressions, that he was some dangerous creature, who could not be chained down too closely nor be watched too narrowly (verse 12)—one to whom not a moment's rest must be given, that he may not in his freedom commit some terrible injury. But is he such a being? is he a sea, or a living monster of the deep, to be so sharply tormented and guarded by God? Just so, he says (Job 13:20, "Thou puttest my feet in the stocks, and watchest narrowly all my paths; thou settest a print upon the heels of my feet." Not even in sleep can he find rest—weakest and least dangerous of creatures though he be (Job 13:13, Job 13:14).
II. RASH RESOLVES OF DESPAIR. (Job 13:15, Job 13:16.) He will rather be stifled, or in any way court death, than longer carry about this living skeleton, this wretched body which consists only of bones (comp. Job 19:20). He has a disgust for life, will not live for ever, for he has already lived too long.
III. APPEAL TO THE JUSTICE OF GOD (Job 13:17-21.) After a renewed and passionate demand (Job 13:16) that God may give him at least a moment's rest, since his life is already as good as vanished, and cannot abide, his language becomes somewhat more tranquil and contemplative.
1. Questionings: the insignificance of man as an object of Divine regard. (Job 13:17-19.) We may compare the question of the psalmist (Isaiah 8:4). It is there suggested by the magnificence of the mighty heavens: what is man in comparison with that vast and brilliant aggregate of constellations? Here the question is suggested by the greatness of the sufferers misery. What worth can he possess either for good or for evil, that he should be made the object of this incessant Divine attention? The answer to these obstinate questionings is found in the gospel. There man learns that it is the greatness and the value of the soul which makes him the object of the Divine pursuit; and then he learns, above all, that that pursuit is not inspired by the vengeance of an irritated adversary, or the caprice of an unjust tormentor, but by the love of an eternal Father, who chastises men for their profit, that they may be partakers of his holiness.
2. Consciousness of guilt. (Job 13:20, Job 13:21.) For the first time there is a reference on the part of Job to the concealed cause of suffering—sin. But it is only a general consciousness of infirmity, and an admission that possibly there may have been unwitting error on his part. He cannot confess a special sin of which his friends suppose him guilty, but of which his conscience is free. The words are rendered by some, "If I failed in that which I do unto thee, Preserver of men, why," etc.? Thus deeper than the sense of sin, deepest conviction of all in his heart, is:
3. Instinctive trust in the goodness of God. His reasoning is as follows: It may be necessary that God should punish man for guilt; but is this to hold so strictly that every slightest omission is severely scrutinized and sorely punished by God? Surely man is neither so strong for resistance to error, nor so dangerous, that he should be treated so harshly and jealously? Why, if there has been some fault in the conduct of Job, as seen by those all-penetrating eyes, does God loose all his arrows against him like a hunter aiming at a fixed mark (comp. Job 6:4; Job 16:12), shooting at him the poisonous darts of disease and suffering till he can no longer endure himself? Why does not God rather pardon him before it is too late, as, alas! according to all appearance, it now is, as Job sees nothing before him but the grave? This is no conflict of an infidel or rebellious spirit against its Maker. It is the pleading of a true child with its Father in heaven. It is the struggle of the soul against the iron pressure of that which we have learned to call natural law. The individual suffers, is sometimes crushed by natural law, while the mass are benefited. But above law is God. And out of this long picture of troubled thought the truth will presently flash into splendour, that in that loving and holy will of a Father the soul, emancipated from the troubles of time, shall find its eternal rest.—J.
HOMILIES BY R. GREEN
The days of the hireling.
Job speaks from the depth of suffering, and as yet he has no clear light upon the Divine purpose concerning him. God, who is his true Refuge, appears to be his Enemy; and he likens his miserable days to those of the oppressed slave. This he urges as a justification of the longing for rest which he has expressed. For him there is no prospect of that rest but in the grave. It is the cry of bitter subjection.
1. THE COMPARISON OF HUMAN LIFE TO THAT OF THE HIRELING. It is an appointed lot. It is a lot of subjection. It is a life of toil and weariness. In Job's case the comparison is most apt. But his thought is especially upon the longing of the hireling for the close of the day. For this the toil, the heat, the weariness, prepare him. Job's condition is one of hard toil. He is weary even of his life. And his longing for the rest which death alone can bring is the precise point of his comparison. How often does life present no brighter or more beauteous aspect! Its many cares, its disappointments, its multiplied sorrows and keen, penetrating pains make life to many to be as the hard drudgery of the hireling. How many long for death as the hireling for night I In a true sense life is the life of a hireling, and the good Master who has sent us into his vineyard to toil will reward the faithful labourer with his sufficient hire.
II. THE AGGRAVATIONS OF JOB'S LOT. He is to his own view as one whose toil is a grievous one. He is more than weary; and his longing for the shadows of evening is justified by what seems to him to be the hardness of his taskmaster. Earnestly he "desireth the shadow;" for long "months of vanity" he is "made to possess," and "wearisome nights are appointed' to him. When the tired labourer lies down to rest in unconscious sleep, and to gain strength for the toil of the morrow, Job is "full of tossings to and fro." The dawn brings him no refreshment. The fevered night leaves him to encounter unprepared the enemy of the day. His poor afflicted body presents the saddest picture; "worms and clods of dust" clothe it, His "skin is broken;" his sores make his flesh "loathsome" to him, and his "days are spent without hope." From such a sufferer comes the word of complaining. It is little to be wondered at by one who remembers his own frailty. The picture of Job is a lesson for us, and, turning our thoughts from our own healthy life to the sufferings of the afflicted, let us learn our duty, and cherish:
1. The pitifulness of spirit which is due to all sufferers.
2. Their claim upon our help and sympathy.
3. The forbearance with which we should hear their complainings.
4. We also may, in our turn, become the sufferers, and need the comfort we now give to others.
Thus may each man see himself in every sufferer, and learn to give that consolation he himself so soon may need.—R.G.
The weariness of sorrow.
I. IN A DESIRE FOR THE CLOSE OF LIFE. (Job 7:2.)
II. As A CONTINUOUS DISAPPOINTMENT. (Job 7:3.)
III. As A CEASELESS RESTLESSNESS. (Job 7:4.)
IV. AS A REVOLT FROM THE PAINFULNESS OF ITS CIRCUMSTANCES. (Job 7:5.)
V. AS A CONDITION OF HOPELESSNESS. (Job 7:6.)—R.G.
The speedy flight of life.
In the multitude of his thoughts within him, Job glances at many of the painful aspects of life. His view is influenced by the condition of his spirit. With a longing for the grave, he nevertheless mourns over the rapid flight of his few days upon earth. Such a reflection every one may wisely make. Consider the expressive similes in which Job sees his hasty life represented.
1. His days are swifter than the weaver's shuttle (verse 6).
2. They are as the wind (verse 7).
3. They are as the glance of the eye (verse 8).
4. They are as the cloud which is consumed, and which vanisheth away (verse 9).
To what course of conduct should such a reflection lead? If life be so swiftly passed, can anything be done to abate its apparent evil? What is becoming to him whose days thus flee away?
1. A diligent and careful use and husbanding of time.
2. A concentration of attention on life's essential work, avoiding all frivolous occupations of time which rob the soul of its days and leave no residuum of blessing or benefit.
3. A careful guard against confining the pursuits of life to those things which can be attained only in this present world.
4. A just estimate of the value of immortality, and a due attention to the interests that relate to it.
5. A patient endurance of life's sorrows, seeing they will soon close; and a moderate absorption in life's pleasures, for they speedily pass away. Life is very brief, but it is long enough to enable every one to lay hold on eternal life, to prepare himself for that eternal life, and to do work that hereafter may be reflected upon with pleasure.—R.G.
The cry of despair.
Job is in the depth of his suffering. His heart is sore broken. He bursts forth with his loud complaint, which he can no longer restrain. His spirit seeks relief in its cry. Every cry is supposed to give relief. But the bitter cry of despair, coming up from the depths of excruciating sorrow, often marks the turning-point in the history of suffering. Its vanity and uselessness being made apparent, the soul returns to a calmer and more collected state.
I. THE CRY OF DESPAIR IS WRUNG FROM THE HEART ONLY IN ITS EXTREMEST SUFFERINGS. Brave and strong as the human spirit may be under suffering, there comes a moment when its strength fails. It reaches a climax of pain and anguish. It can hold out no more; and, in the passionate haste for relief, seeks it in its wild cry of despair. "I will speak in the anguish of my spirit."
II. THE CRY OF DESPAIR IS VAIN. It fails to give ease to the suffering flesh; and, though an expression of the soul's anguish, in itself it is powerless to relieve that anguish. It is liable to excite but to rebelliousness. It is as the struggle of one enclosed in a strong net; or as the folly of a child, in wild passion, kicking with bare foot against the stony rock.
III. THE CRY OF DESPAIR, BEING OFTEN, AS HERE, A CRY OF DEFIANT COMPLAINT, TENDS TO ROUSE THE SOUL TO WICKED REBELLIOUSNESS. There is no restraint put upon the agitated soul. It is let loose in unrestricted freedom to declare, not its calm judgment, but its uttermost complaint, goaded on by the severities of acute suffering. "I will not refrain my mouth."
IV. THE CRY OF DESPAIR SPRINGS FROM, AND AT THE SAME TIME PROMOTES, ERRONEOUS VIEWS OF LIFE AND ITS ISSUES. Job is so far led astray that he chooses "strangling and death rather than life:" So completely is his judgment in abeyance that he knows no other alternative. Possibly it is the aim of the poet to show that Job's knowledge of the future is insufficient to counteract the sorrows and evils of the present.
V. THE CRY OF DESPAIR IS DESERVING OF PITY. When the soul is driven by fierce affliction to such an extremity, it is a proper object for the most tender compassion and patient forbearance. As men are patient with the demented, so they have need to be with him who, by despair, is driven off from the balanced, calm judgment and just thought.
VI. IT IS NOT TO BE FORGOTTEN THAT THE CRY OF HUMAN DESPAIR PIERCES TO THE EAR OF THE ALMIGHTY, THE ALL-HELPFUL ONE. Even the sigh of a contrite heart is heard; so also the wail of despair. The human extremity is the Divine opportunity. Job will ultimately prove that God has not forgotten him.—R.G.
What is man?
The answer to this question must come from afar. No sudden or hasty conclusion must be made. The whole conditions under which life is held, the influence which life exerts, the final issue of life with all other considerations, must be regarded. Here frail, perishing man is seen to be magnified by God, who sets his heart upon him and visits him every moment. Why is so much made of life? "What must man be that thou takest such knowledge of him?" The answer is only to be found in a just view of the real greatness of human life. The human greatness is seen—
I. IN THE CAPABILITIES OF THE HUMAN MIND. All truth may be stored in it. It is exalted by its great capacities for knowledge, memory, reason, judgment, etc.
II. IN THE CAPACITY OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS. Every holy emotion may find a home in the human soul. Every lofty sentiment sweep across it as any strain across a lyre. All holy affections may be cherished. Man may know and love the highest objects of knowledge and affection. He may illustrate nobleness, patience, charity, faith, hope, gentleness—every grace.
III. HUMAN GREATNESS IS FURTHER SEEN IN THE WIDESPREAD INFLUENCE OF HUMAN ACTION. To-day the world is living in the light of the deeds of Job's life. The impulses of the deeds of past millenniums are felt to-day. A wide illustration possible.
IV. IN THE SKILFULNESS OF THE HUMAN HAND.
V. IN THE SUPREMACY OF MAN IN THE EARTH.
VI. IN THE DESTINY OF MAN, AND ESPECIALLY IN HIS ENDOWMENT OF IMMORTALITY. Although of earth, he aspires to heaven; though a child of time, he rises to eternity; though sinful, he can illustrate all holiness.
VII. THE HIGHEST EVIDENCE OF THE GREATNESS OF THE HUMAN LIFE SEEN IN THE INCARNATION, wherein the Divine life could manifest itself through the medium of the human. When life is thus duly estimated, and when it is known that the sorrows of life are used for its chastening and perfecting, then the answer is found to the question Ñ Why dost thou "try him every moment"? It is because life is so precious and so capable of culture and deserving of it, that he thus seeks to discipline, refine, instruct, and perfect it.—R.G.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
The days of a hireling.
Job compares himself to a mercenary in war and to a hired servant at work. As these men have little interest in what they are doing, partly because the masters who hire them take little interest in them, Job feels his life but a weariness, and longs for the term of his service to expire.
I. LIFE MAY APPEAR LIKE THE DAYS OF A HIRELING.
1. It involves hard toil. The lot of most men is not easy; but some find life a grinding servitude.
2. Its labour is often weary and unattractive. Many people have to work at uninteresting tasks, and only regard their labour as drudgery. There is neither pleasure in the work nor pride in the result of it. If men could all choose their lots, many of the most necessary industries would be entirely abandoned.
3. It is only undertaken for the sake of its rewards. Men work for wages, and, needing the wages, they endure the toil which they detest. This is not only true of what is called the wage-earning portion of the community. It applies also to many who seem to be their own masters, but whose work is undertaken solely for the remuneration which it brings in.
4. The supreme Muster is not seen to take interest in his servants. The laws of life are inexorable. There is no evading the rules of God's great factory in which we are all set to work. Men fall and die at their tasks without visible signs of compassion from their Lord. Thus faith is severely tried, and some weakly ones sink to low views of life and of man's relations to God.
II. IT IS NEITHER HELPFUL NOR RIGHT TO REGARD LIFE AS THE DAYS OF A HIRELING.
1. It is not helpful. Hireling service is never of any great value. The work that is only done for pay is apt to be done hastily if by the piece, and in a wastefully slow and slovenly fashion if by the hour. Until a man puts his heart into his task, he cannot put good work into it. No one can live a worthy life chiefly in the hope of its rewards. The service of God which is only undertaken that good things may be obtained from God is degrading and of little worth. The Christian who lives solely on the hope of heaven is spending a poor life on earth. We have to discover higher motives and to serve God joyfully and lovingly, because his service is delightful, and because we love him.
2. It is not right. The hireling idea of life is delusively suggested to us by a superficial view of facts and by a low tone in our own minds. But it is completely false, for God does not treat us as hirelings. He knows our frame, and remembers that we are dust. He is our Father, and he pities us as his children. And therefore we owe to him more than a hired servants drudgery—we owe filial obedience and the rich service of love. Now, when we have learnt to take right views of God and his service, the miserable, degrading idea of the hireling's lot drops off, and a much nobler and happier conception of life dawns upon us. Then the most common task ceases to be a piece of drudgery and becomes a labour of love. By a gracious law of providence it seems to be ordered that any duty which is undertaken conscientiously and heartily becomes interesting and even a source of pleasure. So while the hireling longs for the shadow that tells of the declining day and of the end of his task, the faithful Christian makes the most of his day of service, knowing "that the night cometh, wherein no man can work."—W.F.A.
The weaver's shuttle.
This is one of the many emblems of the brevity of life which carry a certain subtle suggestiveness of deeper meanings in spite of the minimizing pessimism that seems to be their sole prompting cause. The shuttle flies swiftly across the web. What does this fact suggest?
I. THE MELANCHOLY BREVITY OF LIFE. "The velocity of time," says Seneca, "is infinite, and is most apparent to those who look back." This is one of the most trite topics of conventional moralists. Yet it is one which each individual man feels with a startled shock of surprise when it comes directly home to him in experience. We say that life is short, but we do not believe it till we are reminded of the fact by ugly surprises. Then we feel that the flying shuttle, the melting shadow, the tale hastening to a close, are not more transitory than life. We are but creatures of a day in the light of God's eternity.
II. THE VANITY OF EARTHLY AMBITIONS. We lay our foundations, but we have not time to put the corner-stone on our cherished design before we are called hence. The tools drop from our hands ere we have accomplished our purposes. The mirage of life fades before its paradise has been attained. We start with great hopes, but our hairs are gray before we have begun to realize them, and we are in our graves before they are fulfilled.
III. THE FOLLY OF IMPATIENCE. Let us be fair. If the joys of life are fleeting, so also are its pains. Though our lot be hard, the hardship will not be long. Job seems to complain that, if life is so short, it is cruel to spoil it with trouble. It seems sad that so little a day should be robbed of its brief sunshine. But, on the other hand, if the day is one of pain and bitterness, may we not be thankful that the evening hasteneth on?
IV. THE DUTY OF UNSELFISHNESS. We make too much of our own individual lives, as though the world existed for ourselves. This is like the shuttle fancying that the loom belongs to it, and was made entirely to suit its convenience. Nay, it is worse: it is like the shuttle thinking the loom was made for one throw, one thread. We must learn to understand that we exist for a larger purpose. Slowly enough the great web of time is woven, though each throw of the shuttle is so swift. God is thinking of the whole.
V. THE MYSTERY OF A DIVINE PURPOSE. The shuttle knows not why it is flung across the threads. But it is working out an unseen design. The seemingly aimless and wasted throw is essential to the weaving of the pattern of the whole fabric. God has a purpose with each of our lives. Even the briefest life which is lived in obedience to God cannot be wasted. God's great loom will work it into his eternal design.
VI. THE NECESSITY OF A FUTURE LIFE. The animals are satisfied with their ephemeral existence. They have no melancholy reflections on the brevity of life. It is only to man that this earthly existence seems to be contemptibly short. Why? Because in his breast there dwells the instinct of immortality—an instinct whose very existence is a mute prophecy of its future satisfaction, since he who planted it will not disappoint it. The shuttle is not destroyed after its swift flight. This brief life carries us on to the endless ages of the Divine future.—W.F.A.
Job 7:9, Job 7:10
The vanishing cloud.
Job conceives of life as even more transient than the weaver's shuttle. It does not only pass swiftly away; it melts into nothingness, and ceases to be like the cloud that evaporates in the heat of the rising sun. The journey to the grave knows no return. Here we have the limited, melancholy view of death which was prevalent in Old Testament times, but which should be dispelled by the glorious doctrine of the resurrection which Christ has brought to light.
I. LOST TIME IS IRRECOVERABLE. We can never overtake the days that we have let slip by us in heedless idleness. A wasted youth is an irretrievable disaster; manhood cannot possibly go back and make up for the deficiencies of youth. At best we can but do the duties of to-day; it will be foolish to neglect these in attempting to pick up those of yesterday. A misused opportunity will never return. The memories of a happy and long-lost past may dwell with us as sweetest dreams, but they can never bring back the days of old. Joy, sorrows, busy scenes, quiet scenes,—all have melted away like the mountains and palaces of cloudland.
II. EARTHLY LIFE WILL NEVER RETURN. The pagan doctrine of metempsychosis finds no support in Scripture. We live but once on earth. Let us, then, make the best of this one earthly life; it is the only one we have. We might think we could afford to squander it a little recklessly if we had a dozen more lives to fall back upon. But we have no reserves. All our forces are in the field. We must win the battle at once or we shall be utterly undone. The duties, joys, sorrows, of life are with us this once. Let us use them in the highest possible service, that our one life may be a good life. Our dear ones are with us for one life only. Let us be patient with them and kind to them. When we have lost them we can never have them back to atone for our ungenerous treatment of them.
III. WE HAVE THIS ONE OPPORTUNITY OF PREPARING FOR THE FUTURE. We now know that death does not end all. But it ends the sowing-time, After death there is the harvest. What is sown in the present life must be reaped in the great coming age. If this life is misspent, it will go for ever, and we shall have no opportunity to come back to the world and make a better preparation for the great day of reckoning. We cannot buy oil for our vessels when the cry of the bridegroom's coming awakes the night.
IV. WE CAN LOOK FORWARD TO RISING TO A BETTER LIFE. It is foolish to take Old Testament texts as giving us a finality of truth. In their limitation they sometimes show us only the imperfection of the earlier knowledge. Job did not know the Christian revelation of redemption, though sometimes he seems to have caught glimpses of it. But we, knowing more, should have brighter hopes. Our guide is not Job in his despair, but Christ in his victory. We shall not rise on earth. But we can look forward to a resurrection-life in heaven, when we shall meet those long-lost but never. forgotten friends who have gone on before us.—W.F.A.
Scared with dreams.
This seems to be one of the symptoms of Job's terrible disease, elephantiasis. Sleep even does not give him rest from his sufferings. The bodily torments of the day only give place to horrible dreams and alarming visions at night.
I. DREAM-TERRORS ARE REAL IN EXPERIENCE. Look at the man in a nightmare, how he groans and shrieks! We smile at his fancied troubles. Yet to him, while he endures them, they are very real. We feel according to our subjective state, not according to our objective circumstances. Souls are tortured by day-dreams which have no better foundation than those of the night, yet are not their distresses the less acute. Superstition peoples the heavens with dream-fancies of horror. There are no corresponding realities. Yet the victims of superstition are in real agony. An enormous amount of terrible mental suffering seems to be experienced by the heathen in their superstitious terrors of malignant divinities. One happy result of Christian missionary work is to sweep away those gloomy dreams, and bring the peace and confidence of Christian daylight to the benighted regions of the world.
II. SOME OF OUR WORST DISTRESSES HAVE NO BETTER FOUNDATION THAN IDLE DREAMS. They are terrible so long as we are under their spell; but if we only knew they were but fancies of the diseased mind, we should be relieved of their incubus. Note some of these.
1. The idea that God is opposed to us. This was Job's thought. He thought that even his ill dreams came from God, and that it was God who was scaring him. The too common notion in religion was and is that God is averse to us, and that we have to do something to win his favour, whereas the Scriptures tell us that he loves us and seeks us to be reconciled to him, and that, instead of our needing to do something to make him gracious, he has given his Son to redeem us to himself.
2. The notion that our sins are incurable. People will not believe that holiness is possible; therefore of course they do not have it, because they have not the heart of hope to seek it. We scare ourselves with ugly dreams of our own irretrievably ruined condition. Our sin is not a dream, but our despair is one.
3. The terror of death. To the Christian this is but an idle dream. Death is no hideous Miltonic monster, but the servant of Christ, Dying is the advent of Christ to the soul that lives in Christ's service.
III. CHRIST HAS COME TO DISPEL IDLE DREAMS. We are troubled about God's dealings with us because we do not know him. We have but to acquaint ourselves with him in order to be at peace (Job 22:21). Christ reveals God in his Fatherhood. There are reasonable fears that are no dreams, but which spring from our consciousness of guilt. Often the dream is found in the illusion that ignores or excuses sin. Christ dispels that dream by revealing a dread reality, but only that he may lead us through repentance to pardon. Then all terrors of the night flee away in the glad daylight of God's love.—W.F.A.
Job 7:17, Job 7:18
The littleness of man.
These verses have been characterized as a parody on Psalms 8:5. While following the form of the psalmist's language, and proceeding on the same general thesis, they suggest a very different inference. The psalmist was amazed at the condescension of God in noticing man, and filled with wonder at the honour that is put on so puny a creature. But Job is here represented as expressing his dismay that God should stoop to try and trouble so small a being. There is no equality in the contest, and it appears to Job as though God were taking advantage of the weakness of his victim. In spite of Job's perplexity and shortsighted complaints, there are truths behind what he says. We must endeavour to disentangle these truths, and separate them from the illusions unworthy of the goodness of God with which they are confused.
I. GOD IS WRONGLY CHARGED WITH WHAT HE DOES NOT DO. We know from the prologue that it is not God, but Satan, who is the "watcher of men," in the sense of the spy who delights to pounce on a fault and to worry the miserable in their helplessness. Most of the sufferings of life do not come directly from the Divine will, but proceed from the injustice of other men, from our own faults and mistakes, and from "spiritual wickedness in high places." We must beware of the dualism which would give this evil an independent power over against God. Satan can only go as far as God permits him. Still, the evil is from Satan, not from God. It is sin, not providence, that brings the greatest trouble of life, and yet providence overrules that trouble for ultimate good.
II. THE SUFFERER IS TEMPTED TO MAGNIFY HIS OWN IMPORTANCE. Job's troubles were unique. But every sufferer is tempted to think that no one was ever troubled as he is. Feeling his own pain most intensely, he is inclined to make this the central experience of the universe, and to fancy that he is singled out for peculiar attacks of adversity. Job, however, generalizes, and regards himself as a specimen of mankind. Man himself seems unduly marked out for affliction. But no one is justified in coming to this conclusion till he knows how other beings are treated. It may be that man's hardships are but a part, and a fair part, of the hardships of the universe.
III. TO BE SPECIALLY TROUBLED IS TO BE MAGNIFIED IN IMPORTANCE. If it be so that man is specially singled out for affliction, no doubt a peculiar, though a most painful, importance is attached to him. Job becomes a great figure in Scripture through his troubles. Christ, crowned with thorns, is most significant on his cross. The sublimity of supreme sorrow is the inspiration of tragedy. Man is sometimes called out of his littleness by being made to suffer greatly. If God has a hand in all human sufferings—as God had in Job's, behind Satan—he is honouring man by condescending to permit him to receive exceptional trials.
IV. GREAT SUFFERING IS PERMITTED FOR THE SAKE OF GREAT GOOD. This is seen in the final outcome of Job's sufferings. They throw light on the higher life, and demonstrate the existence of disinterested devotion. The parody in Job is not so far from the original in the psalm. It is wonderful that God should permit human life to be honoured as the theatre in which the great tragedy of the conflict between evil and good is displayed. God is not stooping to torment men—like a giant torturing an insect—as to Job he appears to be doing with surprising effort. He is condescending to lead man on to greatness through suffering.—W.F.A.
Limits to forgiveness.
If he has done wrong, and deserves to suffer, yet Job wonders why God does not pardon him. Is his Master altogether implacable? Will he exact the last farthing? Taking Job's question in a wider sense, we may ask—Why is not God's forgiveness unlimited and immediate?
I. THE EXPECTATION OF UNLIMITED FORGIVENESS. This is based on the power and on the goodness of God.
1. His power. The leper prayed, "If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean" (Mark 1:40). Does not the saying apply to the cleansing from sin? Is God not able to purge sin completely out of the universe? For if he cannot do so, must we not say that God is limited, and therefore not Almighty, i.e. not God?
2. His goodness. He cannot wish to see evil continuing. His name is Love, and therefore he must desire the salvation of all. He is our Father, and it must be a pain to him to be separated from his children. Surely his goodness must incline him to universal pardon. His power would seem to make that possible. Therefore does it not seem reasonable to expect it?
II. THE EXPERIENCE OF LIMITED FORGIVENESS. The expectation is not realized.
1. The forgiveness is limited in extent. God's forgiveness is not freely bestowed on every sinner. There are multitudes who are still "in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity." Whilst the gospel is offered to all, very many people still perish in their sins. The universalism which would seem to spring from infinite power and love is not witnessed in actual life.
2. The forgiveness is limited intensively; i.e. those who are not forgiven are not freed from all trouble, neither do they find that sin no longer belongs to them. The first sense of Divine pardon is like a glimpse of heaven; but before long. the joy gives place to disappointment, as evil consequences of old sins are found to follow us still, and even those sins themselves do not appear to be utterly slain.
III. THE EXPLANATION OF THE LIMITS OF FORGIVENESS. God treats us as moral agents. Forgiveness is not simply the relaxation of penalties; it is personal reconciliation. Punishment is not vengeance, but chastisement required by love as much as by justice. Hence we may deduce the explanation:
1. Men have free-wills. God desires to save all, and can save all, yet some do not wish to be saved. Then God respects the liberty which he has conferred. It must be observed that, as pardon is personal reconciliation to God, many who would be glad of release from sufferings, hat who do not desire reconciliation, do not really wish for pardon.
2. Repentance is essential to forgiveness. It would be had in every way—hurtful to the sinner, as well as unjust—to forgive a man who did not repent of his sin. Indeed, the pardon would be a moral contradiction.
3. Forgiveness does not involve a removal of all the consequences of sin. The man who has wrecked health and fortune in sin does not become strong and rich by pardon. Natural consequences continue. Healing chastisements continue. Perhaps the penitent suffers because he is forgiven. God has not deserted him. He has visited him in love. Therefore it is a mistake to suppose' with Job, that great trouble is a proof that God does not pardon transgression.
4. Sin needs an atonement. It cannot be forgiven without a sacrifice which we have in Christ (Hebrews 10:12).—W.F.A.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Job 7". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24