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Then answered Bildad the Shuhite, and said. Bildad the Shuhite has the second place in the passage where Job's friends are first mentioned (Job 2:11), and occupies the same relative position in the dialogue. We may suppose him to have been younger than Eliphaz and older than Zophar. He does little more than repeat the arguments of Eliphaz, stating them, however, more bluntly, and with less of tact and consideration. The chief novelties of his discourse are an appeal to the teaching of past ages (verses 8-10), and the employment of new and forcible metaphors (verses 11-19).
How long wilt thou speak these things? An exclamation like that of Cicero, "Quousque tandem?" One or two outbreaks might be pardoned; but to persist was to abuse the patience of his hearers. And how long shall the words of thy mouth be like a strong wind? literally, be a strong wind; i.e. have all the bluster and vehemence of a tempest, which seeks to carry everything before it by sheer force and fury. The address is rude and unsympathetic.
Doth God pervert judgment? This was, no doubt, what Job's words of expostulation might seem to imply. But he had never gone so far as to make the direct charge, and a true friend would have shrunk from taxing him with an impiety, witch could only be deduced from his speech by way of inference. It is our duty to put the best construction that we can on our friends' words, no less than upon their actions. Or doth the Almighty pervert justice? "Justice" is not altogether the same thing with "judgment." Judgment is the act, justice the principle which underlies or ought to underlie the act. It is, of course, impossible for God to pervert either. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25).
If thy children have sinned against him. Bildad assumes this absolutely; Eliphaz had only hinted at it (Job 10:4). Both presume to know what could be known only to the Searcher of hearts. And he have cast them away for their transgression; literally, and he have delivered them into the hand of their transgressions—abandoned them, that is, to the consequences of their wrong-doing. The allusion is, of course, to the fact recorded in Job 1:19.
If thou wouldest seek unto God betimes. Here we have again an echo of the words of Eliphaz (Job 5:8). There is a tacit assumption that Job has not had recourse to God, has not pleaded his cause with him or taken him into counsel; whereas all the evidence was the other way. Both when the first batch of calamities was reported to him (Job 1:14-19), and when the stroke of disease came (Job 2:10), Job cast his care on God, fell back on him, submitted himself to him unreservedly. "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord," he said in the one case; in the other, "What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" And make thy supplication to the Almighty; literally, make the Almighty gracious to thee."
If thou wert pure and upright. Job had asserted this, not in so many words, but substantially (Job 6:29, Job 6:30). We have God's testimony that it was true (Job 1:8; Job 2:3); not, of course, in the sense that he was absolutely free from sin, but in that qualified sense in which "just," and "righteous," and "pure," and "holy" can be properly used of men. Bildad implies, without boldly asserting it, that he does not believe Job to deserve the epithets, either absolutely or in a qualified sense. If he were so, Surely now he (i.e. God) would awake for thee. This is a common anthropomorphism (see Psalms 7:6; Psalms 35:25; Psalms 44:23; Psalms 59:4, Psalms 59:5; Isaiah 51:9). And make the habitation of thy righteousness prosperous; or, make peaceful the habitation wherein thy righteousness dwelleth; i.e. make peaceful the habitation wherein thou, a righteous man ex hypothesi, dwellest.
Though thy beginning was small; rather, were small. Bildad does not refer to the past, but to the present. Though, if God were now to set to work to prosper Job, his beginning would be slender indeed, yet what the outcome might be none could know. God might prosper him greatly. Yet thy latter end should greatly increase. Here, once mere, Bildad does but follow in the steps of Eliphaz (see Job 5:18-26), prophesying smooth things, as be had done. It is difficult to believe that either comforter put any faith in the prospect which he held out, or imagined that Job would really be restored to prosperity. Rather there is a covert sarcasm in their words. If thou weft indeed so free from guilt as thou claimest to be, then thou wouldst be confident of a happy issue out of thy afflictions. If thou art not confident of such an issue, it is because thou art conscious of guilt.
For inquire … of the former age. Put the matter to the test of experience—not the short-lived experience of living men, but the treasure of experience which has been handed down from generation to generation since the remotest times, and which is embodied in proverbs—the expression of the concentrated wisdom of antiquity. Search out and see what has in former ages been thought concerning prosperous men, like thyself, when suddenly cast down and afflicted. And prepare thyself to the search of their fathers. Go back, i.e; to the past age, but do not stop there—pursue thy researches further and further to their remote ancestors. Bildad implies that the records of these remote times have been, in some way or other, preserved, either in writings or by oral tradition. Writing was certainly known in Egypt and Babylonia from a time anterior to Abraham, and to the Hittites at a date not very much later. Books of advice and instruction embodied in proverbs, or moral precepts, were among the earliest, in Egypt certainly. See the "Instructions of Amen-em-hat." in the 'Records of the Past,' vol. if. pp. 11-16, and the 'Proverbs of Aphobis,' published by the Revelation Dunbar Heath. Bildad's speech is thought to indicate "special familiarity with Egypt."
For we are but of yesterday. "We," i.e. "of the present generation, old men though we may be, are but of yesterday; our experience is as nothing compared with the long, long experience of the past centuries, wherein the men of old "hived wisdom with each studious year," not, like ourselves, hurried and pressed by the shortness of the term to which life is now reduced, but having ample time for reflection and consideration in their long lives of five, six, seven, centuries (Genesis 11:10-17), which enabled them to give their attention to everything in its turn, and to exhaust all the experiences that human life has to offer. And know nothing; i.e. comparatively. Sir IsaActs Newton said that he felt like a child gathering shells upon the seashore, while the great ocean of truth lay unexplored before him. Because our days upon earth are a shadow (comp. Job 14:2; Psalms 102:11; Isaiah 40:6). So brief and fleeting that they can scarcely be called a reality.
Shall not they teach thee, and tell thee, and utter words out of their heart (see the comment on Job 8:8).
Can the rush grow up without mire? The word translated "rush" (גמא) is that which occurs also in Exodus if. 3: Isaiah 18:2 and Isaiah 35:7, as designating a plant common in Egypt, and which is only found in these four places. It is generally admitted that the "papyrus" is meant "a plant of the Cyperaceae' or sedge family, which was formerly common in Egypt". The chief peculiarity of the papyrus is its triangular stem, which rises to the height of six or seven, sometimes even of thirteen or fourteen, feet, and terminates in a bunch of thread-like flowering branchlets. The pith of these stems was the material of which the ancient Egyptians made their paper. The papyrus is a water-plant, and needs an abundant supply, but would often spring up out of any small pool which the Nile left as it retired, and, when the water failed from the peel, would rapidly wither away. A fine papyrus plant was on view, with other water-plants, in the circular greenhouse in Kew Gardens, towards the end of the season of 1890. Can the flag grow without water "The flag" (אחוּ) seems to be the ordinary sedge, or marah-plant. Like the papyrus, it would often spring up in all its greenness from a pool or pond left by the retiring river, and then in a few days, when the water was dried up, would wither away. Both images represent the prosperity of the wicked, and were probably proverbial.
Whilst it is yet in his greenness, and not out down. It grows and flourishes in a rich greenness up to a certain point; no one touches it; but the water fails from the root, and it fades, collapses, and is gone. It withereth before any other herb. The ground may be all green around it with ordinary grass and other herbs, since they only need a little moisture—the water-plant will collapse unless it has its full supply.
So are the paths of all that forget God. So, that is, do those proceed on their way by whom God has been forgotten, They spring up in apparent strength and lusty force; they flourish for a brief space; then, untouched by man's hand, they suddenly fade, fall, and disappear, before the mass of their contemporaries. Job is, of course, glanced at in the expression, "all that forget God," though it is the last thing that he had done. And the hypocrite's hope shall perish; or, the hope of the ungodly man shall perish (comp. Job 13:16; Job 15:34; Job 17:8, where the LXX. translates by ἀσεβὴς or παράνομος).
Whose hope shall be cut off; or, break in sunder (Revised Version). Here the second metaphor begins to come in. The ungodly, who has built up around him a house, and a body of dependants and friends, is like a spider which has spun itself a magnificent web, and thinks to find a defense in it. The moment it is put to the proof it breaks in sunder;" its delicate tracery is shattered; its fabric goes to nought. Job's house had gone to nought before his person was smitten, and, though it had once been so strong, in the hour of trial had lent him no support at all. And whose trust shall be a spider's web; literally, a spider's house. All the trust of the ungodly, in whatever it consists, shall be as fragile, as frail, as unsubstantial, as the filmy structure that a spider spins with such ears and skill, but which a wind, or a wasp, or an inconsiderate movement of its own may shatter to bits.
He shall lean upon his house, but it shall not stand: he shall hold it fast, but it shall not endure. A spider's web, once damaged, rapidly goes to pieces. It cannot be patched up. To "lean upon it" is to put its structure to a test which it is unable to bear. It cannot "stand" or "endure.'' The ease is the same with all the supports of the ungodly.
He is green before the sun. Bildad here introduces a third and more elaborate simile. The hypocrite, or ungodly man (Job 8:13), is as a gourd (Jonah 4:6), or other rapidly growing plant, which shoots forth at sunrise with a wealth of greenery, spreading itself over a whole garden, and even sending forth its sprays and tendrils beyond it (comp. Genesis 49:22)—lovely to look at, and full, apparently, of life and vigour. And his branch shooteth forth in his garden; rather, over his garden, or beyond his, garden.
His roots are wrapped about the heap, and seeth (rather, he seeth) the place (literally, house) of stones. This passage is very obscure The word gal, translated heap, means sometimes a spring or stream of water (Song of Solomon 4:12); and many of the best Hebraists regard it as having that meaning here (Buxtorf, Lee, Stanley Leathes, Revised Version). In this case we have to regard the rapidly growing plant as having its roots wrapped about the perennial spring, which was a not uncommon, and always a much-desired, feature of an Eastern garden. Thus nourished, it naturally increased and spread itself, and "was green before the sun." May we suppose that it "saw the house of stones," because the spring which nourished it gushed forth from the native rock so that its roots were in contact with both?
If he destroy him from his place; or, if he be destroyed. The verb seems to be best taken as impersonal. If he be destroyed in any way, suddenly or gradually, by a Divine stroke, or by human agency, or by the comparatively slow process of nature, in any ease the result is one, the flourishing plant is clean swept away, and the place of it knows it no more. Bildad's words are very dramatic and expressive. Then it shall deny him, saying, I have not seen thee. The place shall be ashamed of having ever nurtured anything so vile, and shall declare that it never held such a growth.
Behold, this is the joy of his way. Bitterly ironical—This is what his rapid and rampant greenery comes to; this is how his triumphant career ends! Utter destruction, disappearance, obliteration! And out of the earth shall others grow. The destruction leaves room for something better to follow—a sounder, healthier, and less short-lived growth.
Behold, God will not cast away a perfect man. Bildad winds up with words of apparent trust in, and good will towards, Job. God is absolutely just, and will neither forsake the righteous man nor uphold the wicked one. If Job is, as he says, true to God, upright, and (humanly speaking) "perfect," then he has only to go on trusting God; God will not leave him "till he fill his mouth with laughing, and his lips with rejoicing" (verse 21); then "they that irate him shall be clothed with shame, and their dwelling-place shall come to nought' (verse 22); but if, as we feel instinctively that Bildad believes, Job is not "perfect," but "an evil-doer," then he must expect no relief, no lull in his sufferings; he is obnoxious to all the threatenings which have formed the bulk of Bildad's discourse (verses 8-20)—be may look to being cut off, like the rush and the flag (verses 11, 12), crushed like the spider's web (verse 14), destroyed, and forgotten, like the rapidly growing gourd (Verses 16-19); he must look for no help from God (verse 20); but must be contented to pass away and make room for men of a better stamp (verse 19). Neither will he help the evil-doers; literally, neither will he grasp the hand of evil-doers; i.e. though he may support them for a while, he will not maintain them firmly and constantly.
Till he fill thy mouth with laughing, and thy lips with rejoicing. This is very elliptical. The full phrase would be, "God will not cast away a perfect man; therefore, if thou be such, he will not cast away thee, till he fill thy mouth with laughter, and thy lips with rejoicing," or "with shouting for joy."
They that hate thee shall be clothed with shame (comp. Psalms 35:26); and the dwelling-place (literally, tent, or tabernacle) of the wicked shall come to nought (literally, shall not be). The words are involved and obscure, because Bildad does not wish to make his meaning plain. He has to invent phrases which may cut both ways, and, while they seem directed against Job's enemies, may pain and wound Job himself.
Bildad to Job: 1. A bundle of mistakes.
I. UNJUSTIFIABLE REBUKE. "Then answered Bildad the Shuhite, and said." Even if on Job's part wholly deserved the admonition of Bildad was in itself worthy of censure, as being:
1. Impatient. "How long wilt thou speak these things?" It is due to every man who speaks in his defence, as Job did, to hear him patiently (Acts 26:3); much more if he speaks in affliction. Nay, patience towards all men is an eminent token of sincere religion (1 Thessalonians 5:14; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:24; Titus 3:2). Besides, they who rebuke others for impatience should not themselves be guilty of the same (Romans 2:21).
2. Unsympathetic. Throughout its entire length not a word indicates that Bildad cherished kindly feeling towards Job or pity for his deep distress. On the contrary, there is an amount of brutal plainness of speech that is hard to account for in a good man. Into whatever faults men may fall by their words or acts, their sufferings and sorrows should never fail to elicit our compassion (Job 6:14; Romans 12:15; Hebrews 13:3). Least of all should they rebuke other's sins who cannot feel for others' woes (Galatians 6:1; Titus 3:2, Titus 3:3).
3. Uncharitable. Bildad made no allowance for the anguish of spirit which had impelled Job to speak, but, like Eliphaz (Job 6:26), putting the worst passible construction on his words, contemptuously designated them as "these things," and characterized them as boisterous winds, vehement nothings, meaningless, but tempestuous, defying all restraints, overleaping all barriers, destroying all law and order in their course. "If sound speech that cannot be condemned" (Titus 2:8) be excellent in all, "speech always with grace, seasoned with salt" (Colossians 4:6); is a special ornament of Christians; and "if any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body" (James 3:2); yet, equally on the other, hand,, a charity that never faileth, that is not easily provoked, that "beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things" (1 Corinthians 13:4-8), becometh them that hear.
II. DOUBTFUL THEOLOGY. "Doth God (El) pervert judgment? or doth the Almighty (Shaddai) pervert justice?"
1. Absolutely, no! It is impossible to conceive that the Divine Being, in his moral government of the universe, could even by a hair's breadth transgress the bounds of rectitude.
(1) If he did, he could not be El-Shaddai, the All-powerful and All-sufficient Deity; since sin is essentially weakness and imperfection, and Omnipotence inconceivable except in alliance with immaculate purity and absolute integrity. Hence
(2) because of being El-Shaddai, not only has he no temptation to resort to inequitable dealings with his creatures, but the bare idea of "perverting justice" is impossible, is wholly unthinkable in connection with him, and even the faintest insinuation thereof infinitely false. (In this sense it is not clear that Job' as Bildad suggests, had charged God with perversion.) Only the equity of God's dealings is not always discernible by man. Though the Judge of all the earth cannot do otherwise than right (Genesis 18:25), the judged do not always perceive the justness of his decisions. Hereafter the entire course of the Divine procedure on earth will be vindicated in the presence of an assembled universe. Meantime that it is in perfect harmony with the eternal principles of truth and right is an article of faith and a fundamental axiom of reason.
2. Seemingly, yes. As understood by Bildad, it is doubtful if justice can be claimed for all God's dealings with his intelligent creatures on earth. By justice Bildad meant the principle of rewarding good men with good things, and bad men with evil things, upon the earth and in time. He contended that God could by no possible consideration be induced to depart from administering mundane affairs on this plain and simple principle. Accordingly, he argued that, if men sinned, God was shut up by the aforesaid principle to punish them in time; and, vice versa, that if men were seen to be afflicted, the inference was irresistible that they had transgressed—otherwise God would be guilty of perverting justice in visiting them with tribulation. Similarly, he reasoned that God was bound to crown righteous men with prosperity; and that they who enjoyed good things in this life were only reaping the reward of virtue; although he likewise contended that if a good man relapsed into wickedness, he could not escape retribution in the shape of temporal calamity, while, if he repented, he would as surely be conducted back to his former prosperity. Now not one of these dogmatic positions of the ancient sage was correct; and against them all Job vehemently protested. The theory that connects all suffering with sin, though popular (John 9:2; Luke 13:1-5), is fallacious. The doctrine that good things are invariably a reward of goodness will not stand the test of facts (Luke 16:25).
III. INAPT ILLUSTRATIONS.
1. The case of Job's children.
(1) The assumption. "If thy children have sinned against him." Outrageously unfeeling was it, even if it had been true, so to lacerate the heart of a bereaved parent. "The words of the wise may be as goads" (Ecclesiastes 12:11), but the words of the good should be as "an honeycomb, sweet to the soul and health to the bones" (Proverbs 16:24). "The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright" (Proverbs 15:2), and "a prudent man covereth shame" (Proverbs 12:16). Entirely unwarranted, it was likewise atrociously cruel. Bildad had no reason whatever to assume that Job's children had been guilty (in his sense) of wickedness against God. Job's "it may be" (Job 1:5) was not proof that "it was." In the general sense in which "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23), they had doubtless transgressed; in the particular sense that they had perpetrated positive offence against God evidence was completely awanting. Hence, because un-warrented, it was also heinously sinful. Bildad's imputation was an offence against the dead, against the living, against God.
(2) The inference. "So hath he cast them away for [or, 'delivered them over into the hand of their'] transgression." Superficially correct to the extent that all sin has a tendency to autonemesis—sooner or later it will avenge itself upon the perpetrator thereof (cf. Job 5:2), and that Job's children had been suddenly cut off by God (Job 1:19); but radically vicious in attempting to connect these two—the principle and the fact—as cause and effect, since the history explicitly discovers (Job 1:12) that the wickedness of Job's children was not the occasion of their destruction. They were cut off in pursuance of a divinely formed purpose to try Job. Yet this was no contravention of God's absolute justice, though on Bildad's principles it was quite inexplicable.
2. The case of Job himself.
(1) The underlying hypothesis, which was false, viz. that Job was not pure and upright, even in the sense meant by Bildad (verse 6), which Job was, having, like St. Paul, a conscience void of offence both toward God and toward men (Acts 24:16), and like St. Peter the answer of a good conscience toward God (1 Peter 3:21).
(2) The proffered counsel, which was good. What, To seek unto God; i.e. to make supplication unto him, to address him in prayer. Why? To make God gracious unto him, this beautiful idea being conveyed by the force of the reflex, hithpael of the verb (Davidson). When? Betimes; the verb signifying "to seek early,' i.e. first in time and first in importance (cf. Proverbs 7:15; Proverbs 8:17; Job 24:5). How? Earnestly; this also being implied in the verb "to seek."
(3) The promised blessing, which was doubtful. This was:
(a) Protection. The cause: "He will watch over thee," instead of" watching against thee" (Job 7:12). The effect: "And make thy habitation secure;" salute it with peace, and preserve it in safety (cf. Eliphaz's picture of the good man's house, Job 5:24; and contrast his cursing of the wicked man's abode, Job 5:8). The condition: "thy righteous habitation;" i.e. when thy habitation became the abode of a righteous man, God would pronounce it blessed and preserve it in peace.
(b) Prosperity. "Though thy beginning was small, yet thy latter end should greatly increase." Bildad had no guarantee beyond his own theory for the prediction that a return on Job's part to piety would be followed by a restoration to material prosperity.
1. "A soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger" (Proverbs 15:1). Bildad's success would have been greater had his language been milder.
2. Those who undertake the work of teaching others should both see that what they teach is true, and study to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Bildad was wanting in both of these respects.
3. A half-truth is sometimes as dangerous as a whole lie. Bildad's theology was of this sort.
4. Saints who are vehemently jealous for the Divine honour are often intensely unkind as well as unfair to their fellow-men. Bildad was as cruel towards Job as he was courageous in behalf of God.
5. Beware of sentencing those to perdition concerning whom God has not declared his mind. Bildad manifestly had no doubt as to the fate of Job's children.
6. It is man's duty to seek God betimes, whether the habitation of their righteousness prosper or no. Bildad's prediction must not be accepted as equivalent to God's promise.
7. The latter end of pens men, if not on earth, at least in heaven, will be one of greatness and glory combined. In this sense alone is Bildad's statement certainly correct.
Job 8:5, Job 8:6
The picture of a good man's home.
I. A PRAYING HOME. Where by both parents and children private and family devotion is observed.
II. A PIOUS HOME. Where such devotion is the outcome and expression of inward spiritual life.
III. A PEACEFUL HOME. Where the inmates enjoy the blessed calm of forgiveness, and dwell in love towards one another.
IV. A PROTECTED HOME. Where the eye of God continually rests upon the habitation and all who dwell therein.
V. A PROSPEROUS HOME. Where true spiritual riches are possessed, and as much temporal fortune is enjoyed as God's wisdom appoints.
Bildad to Job: 2. Wisdom from the ancients.
I. THE TEACHERS. The world's gray fathers, not the immediate predecessors of Job, Bildad, and their contemporaries, but the progenitors of these—their remote ancestors, who are here described as:
1. Early born. In contrast to the men of Job's time, who are characterized as being late born, literally, "yesterday;" i.e. of yesterday, as if ascending the stream of time meant the same thing as approaching the primal fountains of truth—a popular fallacy which the royal Preacher corrects (Ecclesiastes 7:10). Antiquity is no sure test of truth; novelty is no sure mark of error. Rather error has a tendency to array itself in a quasi-sanctity derived from age. Many respectable fallacies and popular delusions have descended item remote times. Yet truth that bears the stamp of successive generations is all the more valuable on that account.
2. Long-lived. In comparison with their successors, who are here depicted as a short-lived generation: "Our days upon earth are a shadow" (verse 9); the probability being that Bildad alluded to the remarkable longevity of antediluvian times, and of the patriarchal era immediately succeeding, as affording greater opportunity for making and collecting the results of observations than the brief span of human life at the period when Job and he flourished. Yet the long leisure enjoyed by the Macrobii is now more than counterbalanced by the appliances of modern civilization. So that the results gathered in an ephemeral and shadowy life may rest upon a broader basis of experience than those collected by primeval sages in the course of centuries. Still, were each age dependent on the amount of knowledge it could accumulate for itself, the world's advancement would be tedious, if not practically at a standstill. Hence the duty of recognizing our obligations to the past, and of transmitting to posterity, not diminished, but if possible augmented, the gathered stores of matured wisdom inherited from bygone generations.
3. Deep-thinking. As men who with powers fully exercised employed the leisure of centuries in observing the phenomena of Divine providence, in comparing their a priori theories with life's facts; in investigating the profound problems of religion, and, after carefully elaborating the results, crystallized them in brief, sententious maxims, apothegms, parables, "bearing the impress of deep thought, and often deeply trying experience" (Davidson), which were passed along from age to age for the instruction of succeeding generations, in contrast with whom the contemporaries of Bildad and Job, and indeed the short-lived sages of modern times "know nothing." Bildad's estimate of the relative values of ancient and modern thought subject to correction on the grounds above indicated.
II. THE TEACHING.
1. The proverb of the papyrus.
(1) The image. A papyrus plant (Cyperus papyrus, L.) a gome, so named from absorbing water, or a reed, an achu, like the Nile grass in Egypt (Genesis 41:2), springing up suddenly, not upon dry ground, but on river-banks, in marshes, upon the margin of canals, wherever there is water (verse 11), attaining to remarkable luxuriance even before it is ripe for the sickle, being the finest of all natural grasses (verse 12), then quickly disappearing, withering before any other herb, when once the fierce summer heats have licked up the scanty moisture which caused it to flourish (verse 12).
(2) The interpretation.
(a) The plant, an emblem of the ungodly man who lives in forgetfulness of God (verse 13). Forgetfulness of God, of God's existence (Psalms 14:1), of God's omniscience (Psalms 50:22), of God's character (Isaiah 51:13; Isaiah 64:5), of God's works (Deuteronomy 6:12; Psalms 78:10, of God's Word (Ecclesiastes 12:1; Hosea 4:6), the essence of ungodliness (Psalms 9:17; Ezekiel 22:12).
(b) The water, a symbol of that outward prosperity without which the hope of the ungodly cannot spring. A melancholy truth that wicked men, in whose thoughts God never is (Psalms 10:4), have sometimes a hope of eternal life. This not founded on a sure basis; on their own morality, ability, formality, or on some mistaken view they possess of the character of God, instead of on God's mercy, Christ's work, and the Spirit's grace; Commonly dependent on outward circumstances, and not derived from an inherent principle of spiritual life.
(c) The luxuriant verdure while the water lasts, a picture of the hypocrite's display of religion while things continue prosperous.
(d) The speedy withering when the water fails, a representation of the swift and utter collapse of the hypocrite's religion and its hope when, in the providence of God, the fostering element of material prosperity is withdrawn.
2. The proverb of the spider's web. (Psalms 78:14, Psalms 78:15.) Changing the simile, the wisdom of the ancients likens the hypocrite to a spider, and his hope to a spider's web, In respect of
(1) its construction, being deftly and dexterously, with much care and infinite elaboration, built up and fashioned;
(2) its intention, being designed, like the spider's web, for a habitation, a house for the soul in the day of trial and the day of death;
(3) its attenuation, being as unsubstantial as a thin cobweb spun from the insect's bowels, and like that fabricated mostly from the hypocrite's own imagination;
(4) its destruction, being easily cut asunder or detached from its main support, as the cobweb is by the lightest touch of broom or breath of wind; and
(5) its deception, as miserably disappointing the sinner who trusts in it, leans upon it, expects to find support from it, as the cobweb does the spider who clings to it in vain, finding no safety in the threads of his gossamer palace, but along with them being precipitated into dark and dreary overthrow.
3. The proverb of the climbing plant. (Psalms 78:16-19.) Disentangling the moral from the fable, we have here presented, under the similitude of a creeping plant, the fortunes of an ungodly man in five stages.
(1) Luxuriant prosperity; like the succulent plant swelling with sap in the sunshine, shooting forth leaves and branches over all the garden (Psalms 78:16), twining its roots about the heap of stone, "seeing the inside of stones (Carey), i.e. penetrating into the smallest interstices thereof, "living in the midst of flints" (LXX.), clasping and embracing the stony structure,—a striking image of exuberant and seemingly stable prosperity.
(2) Complacent satisfaction; looking down proudly upon his material fortune, as the plant upon its house of stones, regarding it as a solid structure which he has reared and in which he anticipates finding repose.
(3) Sudden destruction; being unexpectedly swallowed up, i.e, violently stricken down either by God (Delitzsch) or by it, the house of stones (David son); in the one case a monument of Divine retribution, in the other an example of the serf-destroying character of worldly prosperity—as the plant is, in an evil moment, torn up from its place among the stones.
(4) Public contempt; the former boon companions of the hypocrite in his prosperous days ignoring him, feeling ashamed of him, denying all acquaintance with him, as if the very ground where, the uprooted plant grew were to. disown, it. (cf. Job 18:18; Job 20:27). "Behold, thus endeth his blissful course"—a grimly ironical expression.
(5) Utter oblivion; the place left vacant by him in society being immediately filled, and himself completely forgotten; "others in succession springing up from the dust." What a sermon on the vanity of human greatness! The disappearance from the stage of time of one who has lived in affluence, grandeur, fame, but a momentary wonder, like the dropping of a stone into the calm bosom of a lake—a noise, a ripple, and then the stillness resumes its sway—
"Or like the snowfall in the river,
A moment white—then melts for ever."
III. THE MORAL.
1. A general principle. God will neither reject a righteous nor assist a wicked man (Psalms 78:20). A good man may be cast down, but he cannot be cast off (Psalms 94:14; 2 Corinthians 4:9). The character (1 Samuel 12:22; 1 Samuel 15:29; Job 23:13; Malachi 2:16; Malachi 3:6), the covenant (Deuteronomy 4:31; 1 Kings 8:23; 2 Kings 13:23; Psalms 111:5), the promise (Leveticus 26:44; Isaiah 54:9; Hosea 2:19; Romans 11:29; 2 Corinthians 1:20; Hebrews 10:23), the people (Genesis 24:27; Jos 23:14; 1 Samuel 12:22; 2 Samuel 23:5; Romans 11:2), of God, all combine to testify the impossibility of God's turning his back upon a truly pious man,—a thought fall of comfort for the Christian (John 10:28). Equally do they proclaim the doctrine that God cannot really, however appearances may declare the contrary, take a had man by the hand. Otherwise his Word would be falsified (Psalms 34:16), his purity tarnished (Habakkuk 1:13), his Godhead forfeited (1 John 1:5),—an idea fraught with warning for the wicked.
2. A particular application. This being so, on the hypothesis of Job's integrity, Job might with certitude reckon that God would not cast him off, hut interpose in his behalf, till prosperity once more dawned upon him, and his mouth was filled with laughing, and his tongue with rejoicing (verse 21); while the contrary portion would be allotted to all Job's enemies and God's, viz. shame and everlasting destruction (verse 22). What Bildad here affirms of the respective fortunes of the righteous and the wicked is only true when we take into reckoning the eternal futures of both, the everlasting happiness (Psalms 73:24; Isaiah 35:10; Daniel 12:3; Luke 10:20; Luke 12:32; Romans 2:7, Romans 2:10; Romans 8:18) of the saint, and the everlasting perdition of the ungodly (Matthew 25:46; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Revelation 21:8).
1. If it is wrong to over-estimate, it is also wrong to depreciate, the men and things of bygone days.
2. It is much safer in our reasonings to rest upon the results of experience than to build upon the speculations of fancy.
3. The brevity of life should stimulate to diligence in pursuit of knowledge.
4. The teachings of tradition, though not infallible, have a place and value of their own.
5. It is well that the tongue should only speak what the mind and heart have meditated and prepared.
6. Covet not material prosperity, which may exist without inward piety.
7. Beware of an appearance of religion which has no corresponding reality beneath.
8. The secret of soul-prosperity, as the source of spiritual vitality, is frequent meditation upon God.
9. The entire world of common things is full of parables of heavenly truth to them who can interpret the same.
10. It is possible to make a fair promise at the outset of a Christian profession, and yet eventually fall away.
11. The wicked man's joy must ultimately be exchanged for sorrow.
12. The sorrows of earth in the case of God's saints will be succeeded by the hallelujahs of heaven.
The hypocrite's hope.
I. A STARTLING DEFINITION. The hypocrite is:
1. An ungodly person. He has an outward pretence of piety, but in reality be is destitute of true religion.
2. A forgetter of God. It is not necessary that his impiety should take the form of flagrant wickedness. That might be easily detected, and would be altogether inconsistent with an appearance of godliness. It is enough that he simply forgets God.
II. AN AMAZING REVELATION. The hypocrite finds himself possessed of a hope, i.e. of God's favour and of eternal life; which hope is:
1. Like the papyrus, the fruit of his prosperity, wholly dependent on external circumstances.
2. Like the spider's web, a flimsy, unsubstantial edifice, deftly fashioned out of his own imagination.
3. Like the gourd, complacently self-satisfying.
III. A FEARFUL PREDICTION. The hypocrite's hope shall perish:
1. Like the papyrus, it may droop suddenly.
2. Like the spider's web, it may be destroyed violently.
3. Like the climbing plant, it will be blasted shamefully.
1. Examine well the grounds on which our hope of heaven rests.
2. Seek to be possessed of that good hope which comes through grace.
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
Shall not the Judge of all … do right?
The supposed attack of Job, by implication, upon the justice of God gives an opening for renewed admonitions and rebukes on the part of his friends. Bildad now comes forward and delivers a discourse full of noble faith, however its principles may be in this case misapplied. Rebuking the grievous complaints of Job as a wind, full of noise and emptiness (verse 2), he proceeds—
I. TO INSIST ON THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD. This is an axiom of his faith. God cannot do unrighteousness. It, is impious to admit the thought for a single moment into the mind. He insists on the inflexibility of God's rectitude. He will not bend right and duty (verse 3). There can be no twisting, deviation, compromise, with God. His path is ever a straight line. Bildad will therefore rather draw an unfavorable conclusion about his friend than allow the slightest shadow to be cast on the splendour of the Supreme. Job may be guilty, nay, probably is so; but there can be no probability of any failure of right in God. The principle may appear somewhat harshly and rigidly stated; and yet from the sincere, even if narrow and limited, point of view of Bildad no doubt he is in the right. Rather seek any explanation of suffering, or leave it in mystery, than bring a charge against the unbending righteousness of God.
1. Application to the past and present. Following out this reasoning, the fate of Job's sons would seem to point to the fact that they had committed a deadly sin. And so, too, Job's present sufferings lead to the inference that he is very far from pure. The terrible example of his sons should be his warning. Yet this is expressed with some kindliness and forbearance. It is put hypothetically: "if thy sons" (verse 4). Bildad, though rigid in doctrine, is not untender at heart—a kind of character we often see exemplified in life. But we have the lesson again and again from the conduct of these friends that friendship demands intelligence as well as heart. There is a missing link in Bildad's reasoning, which destroys its power in the present case.
2. Application to the future. There is hope for the sufferer if he will but betake himself in humility and repentance to God.
(1) There must be the seeking, striving, straining, agonizing effort of the whole soul to recover its lost treasure—peace with him.
(2) There must be prayer, the sincere expression of this desire (verse 5). In life and in thought there must be conversion from evil and towards him, the Good and the Holy, the Gracious, and the Forgiving. The result will be the recovery of the lost happiness.
(a) Innocence will be restored (verse 6); grand hope and promise of the eternal gospel—the crimson stain may be removed from the heart and the hand, past sins and iniquities may be remembered no more. The possibility of a renovation of which men are tempted in themselves to despair.
(b) Divine protection will be felt. God will watch over him (verse 6) or "awake for him." The Shepherd of Israel, who slumbers not, will guard him from evil by night and by day, in his going out and his coming in.
(c) Peace will be in his homestead—the peace which dwells with right and innocence. Over garden and orchard, on fields and barns, and around the hearth, will be felt brooding the nameless presence of the favour of God.
(d) There will be increase of prosperity (verse 7). The little one will become a thousand. The seed of right, germinating and producing, will grow to waving harvests of internal joy. of external good. Such are the cheering deductions from Bildad's high principles, the suggestions of his profound faith. The righteous God will be true to the righteous man. Sin is the only root of sorrow, virtue and godliness the only secret of abiding and eternal bliss.
II. APPEAL TO ANCIENT TRADITION.
1. The wisdom of the primeval fathers the guide of to-day. Bildad founds this upon the fact that:
(1) They lived to a greater age, according to the accepted tradition, than present men. They therefore knew better the abiding laws of life than we of lesser insight, who are of yesterday and brief-lived like shadows (verses 8, 9).
(2) Their wisdom was that of ripe conviction (verse 10). They did not speak at second-hand nor repeat by rote what they had learnt. Theirs was the wisdom of the heart. Contempt is expressed in several places in this book for mere lip-wisdom, the froth of the mouth as opposed to the genuine utterances of the mind (Job 11:2; Job 15:3; Job 18:2).
(3) There was therefore the stamp of sincerity on their wisdom. It came from men who had seen through life's illusions and cheats, and who had touched the foundation of things.
2. Specimens of ancient wisdom. (Verse 11, seq.) Here Bildad passes into citation of some old sayings, which condense the truths of life.
(1) The papyrus and the grass of the Nile. They cannot live without their proper element and nutriment of water; they quickly wither in its absence. So must it be with man where he is devoid of Divine grace (verse 13). A new figure is introduced in the "paths" of the forgetters of God—they are lost like a wind-swept tract in the desert (comp. Psalms 1:1-6.); and the hope of the unholy "goes under," disappears like the sun below the horizon's verge, to be seen no more.
(2) The spider's web (verse 14). He who trusts in his own strength or resources, without God, will have his confidence rent from him as the spider's web gives way at a slight touch or at the breath of the wind. The habitation which he thinks secure is but a gossamer thing; it cannot stand (verse 15).
(3) The creeping plant in its pride (verses 16, 17). Before the burning glow of the sun, full of sap, it spreads over the garden, fixing itself firmly among the stones, and proudly lording it, as it were, over them. But when God withdraws the water, it perishes, unpitied by the home which it adorned. The wicked is thus denied and forsaken by his own connections, when he would rely upon them. Such is the pleasure of his way, turned into the deepest misery. Others spring from his remains, like suckers from the overthrown tree; let them take warning by his fate (verses 18, 19). What powerful images of the nonentity of evil! It never really was—and, its semblance passing away, not a trace is left behind.
III. RECAPITULATION. (Verses 20-22.)
1. In the way of solace. God does not despise the innocent. This is a meiosis, a saying less than is meant. He regards, he tends, he loves them, feeds them with water in the desert, keeps them as the apple of his eye. His will is to make them happy—to bring smiles to the dejected lines of the mouth, and to fill it with the fruits of praise.
2. In the way of warning. He holds not fast the evil-doers' hand," and therefore when they stumble they are helpless. The enemies of the good man will see with shame that he is raised up from every fall (verse 22); and once more, in final reverberation of the thunder of menace, the tent of the wicked shall vanish and be no more!
1. The distinction between seeming and real prosperity—that which is for a time and that which is for ever.
2. Life by Divine grace, and recovery from seeming ruin. Death without Divine grace, and overthrow of seeming prosperity.—J.
HOMILIES BY R. GREEN
The Divine justice.
The words of Bildad, as of Job's other friends, are often marked by great beauty, and often embody principles of the highest practical value;, but they frequently err in their application. The judgment of the friends upon Job is based upon an error which the entire course of the book is designed to expose. Here a true principle is enunciated respecting the Divine justice; which is shown to manifest itself—
I. IS A STRICT INTEGRITY. (Verse 3.) "Doth God pervert judgment?"
II. IS A VIGOROUS PUNISHMENT OF INIQUITY. God gives the sinful up to the fruits of their wickedness (verse 4). But he shows both mercy and judgment.
III. IS A COMPASSIONATE FORGIVENESS OF THE PENITENT. And he exalts his just judgment—
IV. BY A GRACIOUS INTERPOSITION ON BEHALF OF THE PURE. (Verses 6, 7.) So that no cause of complaint could remain. The Divine justice is
(2) it is displayed in the punishment of vice; and
(3) in the certain reward of virtue, even if long delayed
(4) therefore may men without hesitation commit themselves
(a) to its present treatment, and
(b) to its final decisions.—R.G.
The unimpeachable character of the Divine judgment.
He rendereth to every man according to his works. His ways are equal.
I. HE THAT SINNETH IS PUNISHED. (Job 8:4.)
II. HE MERCIFULLY HEARETH THE PRAYER OF THE CONTRITE. (Job 8:5.)
III. HE BLESSETH THE RIGHTEOUS. (Job 8:6.)
IV. THOUGH HE CHASTISE, HE FINALLY REWARDETH THE UPRIGHT. (Job 8:7.)
To this all the former ages bear testimony, as the recorded or traditional sayings of the ancients bear witness.—R.G.
The hypocrite's hope.
Back to the testimony of the ages (Job 8:8-10) Bildad refers his suffering friend, to find there evidences of the security of the perfect man and the worthlessness of the expectation of the hypocrite. With beautiful figurativeness he illustrates these truths, and only errs in the covert implication that in hypocrisy is to be found the cause of Job's present sufferings. The hypocrite's hope vain and deceitful.
I. IT IS TEMPORARY. Passing away as the "rush without mire, or the reed without water." Quickly it grows up, but as quickly withers. The promise of it is vain. "While it is yet in its greenness, and not cut down, it withereth before any other herb."
II. IT IS UNSUBSTANTIAL AND UNTRUSTWORTHY. AS "the spider's web." It is weak, unworthy of any confidence. As the gossamer thread is broken by a touch or even a breath of wind, so his expectation is cut off by the most trivial incident. It has no firmness, no endurance, no permanence.
III. IT IS IMMATURE AND NEVER COMES TO PERFECTION. "It is green before the sun" With rapid haste it strides forth, but only with equal haste to fail. In its own judgment it is firm and enduring as a stone structure. With proud self-confidence so he prides himself. But it is that all may fall to ruin. The destroyer is at hand, even he who casts away.
IV. IT IS FORGOTTEN AND DISAPPOINTING, AND PASSES OUT OF MIND. Its very place denies it. "I have not seen thee." No greater joy or reward can the hypocrite's hope afford him. Disappointment is his lot. He sows the seeds of vanity; vanity he reaps. He leans upon a thread which a breath may break. Deceitful himself, his hopes are as the heart which gave them birth. They return to their own. He created them; they are as their maker. From this rude disappointment men may guard
(1) by sincerity of spirit,
(2) by basing their hopes upon a true foundation, for which nothing prepares them but
(3) a thorough honesty and cherished truthfulness.—R.G.
God's care of the perfect man.
To the Book of Job may all sufferers turn for consolation; for though Job is both covertly and openly reproached by his friends, yet through their words there shine many clear statements of truth, and many just reflections on the wisdom, the goodness, and the wise government of God. The Divine care of the upright is very strikingly affirmed. God's care of the perfect man is—
I. TENDER. God does not "cast away" nor despise him, but gently leads him by the hand, as he will not the evil-doers, helping him as none other can help. To that care we have learnt that we may commit ourselves, forasmuch as he careth for us. The Divine, pitiful, compassionate aid is given to meet the need of the frail man. Not therefore, rudely, or with rough and harsh, but with tender, treatment does help the perfect man. The Divine care for the upright is—
II. CONTINUOUS. He is faithful to them who put their trust in him- He disappoints the hope of the ungodly, but not that of the righteous. As the hypocrite trusted to a spider's web which had no strength, and to the unwatered flag which withered, so the perfect man finds in God a Rock of refuge, steadfast and unchangeable. He ever abides. The immutability of the Divine Name is one of the truest sources of consolation to the weary, the troubled, and sad at heart.
III. The Divine care for the perfect man is further A TRUE CAUSE OF JOY AND GLADNESS. He fills the "mouth with laughing" and the "lips with rejoicing." God gives songs in the dark night of affliction, and brings the true consolation to the sufferer, causing him to shout aloud for very joy. He is a Hiding-place and a Refuge. He is a Spring of water and a Shadow from the heat of the day. He inspires strength to the soul, as with bread he nourishes the body; and comfort to the spirit, as with wine he revives the drooping.
IV. The Divine care for the perfect man, in its retributive judgments, CASTS SHAME UPON HIS ENEMIES. Vindicating the character of his faithful one against the aspersion of his wicked foes, he causes "the dwelling-place" of that wicked one to "come to nought," and the wicked one himself to "be clothed with shame." Thus the Divine care is tender towards his befriended one the poor, frail, but faithful son of man—crowning him with honour and glory, making his crown to flourish, while clothing his enemies with shame and confusion of face.—R.G.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
Bildad the pedant.
Job's second friend appears as a pedant, quoting the authority of antiquity, and relying on the tradition of the ancients. His character is not extinct, and the mischief of his blunders is with us to-day.
I. THE POWER OF THE PEDANT. This man bases his influence on certain good qualities.
1. Experience. It is to be supposed that this is of some value. The garnered wealth of experience should be a great test of truth. The rule that has stood the strain of time appears to be confirmed in value. Ideas may be very captivating when they first flash out in their novelty, but some hidden flaw may make them utterly worthless. But the mellow maxim, ripened by years, and enriched with the juices of manifold experiences, comes to us with great claims on our confidence.
2. Humility. It seems to be more humble to trust to those who are older than ourselves, than to set up our own wisdom as a rival of theirs. Who are we that we should pretend to question the wisdom of the ages?
3. Reverence. On the other hand, the associations of antiquity command our reverence. We show respect to grey hairs, and we are moved to similar feelings in view of all signs of age. Coming out of a dim past, hoary with the years, ancient things acquire a certain sanctity. The grand minster, the ruined castle, the worm-eaten cabinet, the rare old book,—these things stifle our impertinent modern presumptions by the silent weight of their years. "I love everything that's old," says Goldsmith; "old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wine."
II. THE FOLLY OF THE PEDANT. This reverence for antiquity may be abused, and it is abused by the pedant, who assumes that all modern requirements are to be settled by some musty rule of the ancients. There are many errors in such a position-
1. Lack of discrimination. Pope writes—
"With sharpen'd sight pale antiquaries pore;
Th' inscriptions value, but the rust adore:
This the blue varnish, that the green endears—
The sacred rust of twice ten hundred years."
Time has brought down loads of rubbish on its stream as welt as some precious cargoes of ancient experience. Pedants mistake scum for cream.
2. Misinterpretation of the value of antiquity. The earlier times, as Bacon tells us, were really the childhood of our race, and we are the true ancients. It is absurd to bind the practice of the adult age by the tentative ideas of infancy. What has been tried through the centuries, and being in frequent use has stood the test of time, has thereby acquired a certain value. But mere antiquity only means an origin in more primitive and less advanced times.
3. The superstition of forms. The pedant delights in forms and rules and exact precedents. But there are no true precedents for scores of things. Indeed, no two occasions are exactly alike. Therefore no human maxims can be large enough to embrace all circumstances. Life cannot be bound by formal rules. We must learn to look facts in the face, and dare to discard ancient maxims when they are proved to be false. Antiquity is venerable, but truth is more venerable. God has given us consciences, and he has promised us the help of his Spirit. Our best guide is not an ancient rule, but the living Christ, who is ever in the midst of his people.—W.F.A.
The justice of God.
Bildad asks if it can be right for Job to complain as he does. Such conduct is an arraignment of the Divine justice. Human judges have been known to twist justice to suit their own purposes; this conduct was and is only too common in the East. But is it to be thought that God would act in this way? Surely the Judge of all the earth must do right (Genesis 18:25).
I. GOD'S JUSTICE IS GOOD AND DESIRABLE. It is the mistake of narrow, one-sided views to confine the idea of God's justice to his relations with sin and punishment, and to regard it solely as that which provokes his wrath. This mistake leads people t,, have a horror of the very notion of God's justice. They would be profoundly thankful if it could be blotted out of the list of his attributes. They regard it as solely inimical to them. Their supreme desire is to escape from its clutches. It is to them a most dreadful thing. How contrary is all this to the scriptural idea of the justice of God! In the Bible God's justice is welcomed with delight in contrast to the terrible injustice of man. It is God's righteousness, God's fairness, God's equal dealing. This must be good and desirable.
II. THE JUSTICE OF GOD IS NOT ALWAYS APPARENT. Sometimes he seems to show himself in the same light as the unjust judges of imperfect human society. We cannot see the equity of his dealings. He even seems to be perverting judgment. Good men suffer, and evil men prosper. This is the common complaint of the Old Testament saints in their trouble (e.g. Psalms 73:3). But how is it possible if God is just? There is not only an apparent negligence that lets wrong be done among men unchecked. God himself appears to pervert justice in his own providential dealings, sending calamities to the innocent, and heaping favours on the guilty. This obvious fact was forced on the notice of men, and it raised most perplexing doubts at a time when temporal good was assumed to be the right reward of moral good.
III. WE HAVE GOOD REASON TO TRUST THE JUSTICE OF GOD.
1. He is almighty. He has not the inducement to act unjustly that tempts the weak. Deceit and injustice are the refuges of feebleness. Cowards are unjust. Strength can afford to be magnanimous.
2. He is perfectly wise. He will not blunder into injustice, as the most immaculate human judge may do.
3. He is absolutely good. Our revelations of God's character should assure us that his justice must be without a flaw, even though all appearances are against it. The faith that will not bear a strain is worthless. If we cannot trust God when he seems to be acting hardly and unfairly, it is little that we trust him when we can see that all is going well. The goodness of God is our security; we must judge of events by what we know of God in Christ, not of God by what we appear to discover in events.
4. Justice is not always what we should expect. The principle must be simple and intelligible. We must believe that justice in God must be what we know as justice—only infinitely exalted. But the application of this justice may be beyond our conceptions. It may be just for God to do what looks to us now as unfair. Here we must trust and wait for the end.—W.F.A.
A small beginning a great increase.
With irritating admonitions—most galling in the cruel insinuation that Job's children had died on account of their sins—Bildad presumes to assure Job that if only he is pure God will be just, and will awake to deliver him, so that, though he has a small beginning, his end shall be very great. This was all based on a very false and unjust idea of Job, his past conduct, and his present duty. Nevertheless in itself it opened up a true view of the course of one who is restored to right relations with God.
I. THE CHRISTIAN MUST HAVE A SMALL BEGINNING.
1. In penitence. He must first humble himself in the very dust. No boasting can be admitted into the kingdom of heaven.
2. In childlikeness. We have to turn and become as little children if we are to enter God's kingdom. This implies humility, simplicity of heart, and the utter self abandonment of faith.
3. In spiritual experience. We can but begin the Christian life as babes in Christ. Our knowledge is small, our strength slight, our spiritual attainment most imperfect.
4. In enjoyment of blessings. We may begin in temporal adversity. There is no promise that the Christian shall be a rich and prospereus man in the world. But whatever the external condition may be, the enjoyment of the real fruits of Divine grace will be but small until the soul has grown into the capacity to receive more of the blessings they bring.
II. THE CHRISTIAN WILL HAVE A GREAT INCREASE.
1. On earth. The Christian life should be one of progress, and it will be if it is healthy. Growth is a law of life, and it is a law that applies to the Divine life in the soul. The healthy Christian will grow in grace; his knowledge will expand; his spirituality will deepen; his capacity for service will widen; his enjoyment of the blessedness of the vision of God will become richer and more intense.
2. In heaven. The best comes last. The great increase is in the "latter end; This is different from the experience of natural life, which reaches a climax in middle life, and then turns towards the decrepitude of senile decay. But there is no such decline for the spiritual life so long as it is healthy. That life knows no old age; it partakes of the unfading glory of the Eternal. For the aged Christian there shall be "light at eventide;" and when his sun has set on earth, it shall rise in heaven in the larger glory of God's eternal day.
III. GOD LEADS THE RACE FROM A SMALL BEGINNING TO A INCREASE. This is the case naturally in the population which has sprung from one pair of parents, until it has filled the earth with more than a thousand million souls, and which continues to increase at an unprecedented rate. The same is true of civilization and human progress. The law of human life on earth is one of advance and enlargement. Thus we are encouraged to look forward to the golden age. God is educating the race by the process of the centuries, and preparing it for great increase at the latter end. There was a grand advance beyond these Old Testament times when Christ brought in his gospel; the triumphs of the gospel speak of an enlarged increase. But the best is in store in the full coming of the kingdom of Christ. Therefore let us press forward in hope and an eager desire to do our part towards hastening the happy advent of the promised future.—W.F.A.
Lessons from history.
Bildad invites Job to consult antiquity and to attend to that which the fathers have searched out. Even this pedant may remind us that wholesome lessons are to be culled from the gardens of the past.
I. HISTORY TEACHES BY EXAMPLE. Here we can see truth in the concrete. The ideas which we discuss in the abstract are embodied and at work in the living facts of history. We can study republicanism in ancient Greece, and monarchy in the Roman empire; the consequences of heathenism in the pagan world, and the fruits of Christianity in the story of the gospel and its triumphs; the power of the gospel in the romance of missions, and the weakness of man in the failure and ruin of ancient Churches. Here we see not lifeless arguments, but living men. Therefore much of the Bible is history; God's Word comes to us through man's life. We should pay more attention to men and facts.
II. HISTORY REVEALS THE ORIGIN OF INSTITUTIONS AND MOVEMENTS. Most of those which we have to do with took their rise in a more or less remote past. If we can trace them back to their source, we can better judge of their whole characters. Much attention is given to the childhood and youth of a great man by his biographer, for therein lies the secret of his after-life. It is well to trace back the Christian story, and see how God has been shaping his Church through the ages. Our religion is emphatically historical. It springs from facts, things done in the past. In this respect it is unique among the religions of the world. All the doctrines of Christianity are lessons of history; they all take their rise in the story of Christ and his cross. Yet we are not bound by pedantic rules and frivolous precedents. We find the origin of our faith in certain facts. The interpretation of those facts must grow with our advancing knowledge, and the application of their lessons must vary with changing circumstances.
III. HISTORY HELPS TO MATURITY OF JUDGMENT. If we are weak and lack independence of mind, it may weigh us down with the incubus of its precedents. This is how it affected Bildad with his veneration for the fathers, and this is how it affects those good Christian people who make the Church Fathers absolute authorities, when they should dare to trust a careful and devout interpretation of Scripture and the ultimate judgments of the Christian consciousness. Yet, on the other hand, there is a good use of the Fathers. The very variety of explanations of Christian doctrines in the past should teach us caution and a large wisdom in treating difficult subjects. The student of history will often know that some pretentious notion, flashed out on the world as a magnificent discovery, is but a thrice-slain error of ancient controversies. Old truth will endure the test of time. But standing on the experience of the ages, we should be able to reach forth to higher truth in the future, the more readily because we thus use the past.—W.F.A.
Job 8:11, Job 8:12
The rush and the papryus.
From history Bildad turns to nature, or rather to a traditional saying about nature—to an old proverb; possibly it has been suggested from Egyptian lore.
I. THE PLANTS SPRING FROM WATER. Both of these plants grow in marshes or pools, and by the banks of rivers and canals. They both need an abundance of water. man can only live when nourished by the goodness of God. The Christian can only grow to maturity when planted by the unfailing streams of the river of life.
II. THE PLANTS FLOURISH LUXURIANTLY. This is one of the characteristics of succulent plants in moist soil. They grow rapidly and flourish greatly. So, as the goodness of God is no mere sprinkling of refreshment, but a great river with abundance of water, they who live upon it will not be in a meagre and stunted state, but will make great progress and will grow in grace.
III. THE FLOURISHING CONDITION OF THE PLANTS IS PROOF OF THE PRESENCE OF NOURISHING STREAMS. They may be so abundant and so rank in their growth as to hide the water from which they spring; but their very splendour of health and development is a certain sign that they are surrounded by plenteous streams. We know that their roots must be in the water because their stems and upper growth are so green and vigorous. So the existence of prosperity is a sign of Divine goodness. We cannot go so far as Bildad, and take it as a proof of God's approval, for God is gracious to bad men; but it is a proof of God's kindness. The spiritual flourishing of Christian people is a certain sign that they are drinking of the living waters. They may be reserved, and may not reveal to us the springs from which they draw, hiding the roots of their spiritual life. Still by their fruits shall we know them, and learn that they must be in vital relations with the Divine source of all spiritual experience.
IV. THE PLANTS FLOURISH FOR USEFUL END. The reed referred to by Bildad is an edible plant; and the papyrus is the material from which paper was anciently made. The prosperity which God gives to man is a talent to be used in the service of life. Spiritual growth should lead to spiritual productiveness. We receive grace from God in order that we may minister to the work of God.
V. WHEN THE WATER DRIES UP THE PLANTS WITHER. These plants are not like the thorns of the desert, which can endure a terrible drought without suffering seriously. They are distinctly denizens of watery places, and without water they must perish. Man's prosperity must cease when God ceases to bless him. He may ignore the Divine source of his good things, but he must fail if that source is stopped. The Christian more especially will suffer in his better life if he is deprived of the streams of grace. He is like the tree planted by the rivers of water. He in particular needs streams of grace if he is to flourish. He cannot thrive on his own goodly proportions. The most advanced Christian must go back and even utterly perish if he loses the constant supply of grace. We must be in Christ to live the Christian life.—W.F.A.
The spider's web.
Bildad compares the hope of the impious to a spider's web, or rather, recalling sayings of antiquity, he quotes an old proverb to that effect. Let us consider the wisdom of this ancient saying by noting characteristics of the spider's web.
I. IT IS QUICKLY WOVEN. It is one of the most rapidly made fabrics in nature. It puts Jonah's gourd to the shame. Some men are very hasty in forming foolish hopes. With them the wish is father to the thought. They jump to conclusions that are favourable to themselves. But the sanguine temperament is no guarantee for permanent security. Because we believe readily, we do not believe the more safely.
II. IT IS DELICATE AND BEAUTIFUL TO LOOK AT. We cannot but admire the spider's web on a bright September morning, when it. is spangled with dewdrops. Its very delicacy of structure adds to the beauty of it. There is nothing coarse about it. Some people have a religion that is refined and delicate and beautiful. They despise the vulgar ideas of other people. Their spider's web is much more suitable to their superfine culture than the coarse hemp ropes of the religion of less cultivated people.
III. IT IS USEFUL FOR ITS NATURAL END. We have no right to complain that the spider's web does not sustain our weight when we lean upon it. It was not spun for such a purpose. But yet it serves its own proper end. It is an excellent ladder for its maker, and a perfect trap for his victims. Some of those grounds of hope to which foolish people trust are not utterly false and useless. For example, aestheticism taken for a religion is as a spider's web. Yet it is useful as a form of culture. Intellectualism is like another spider's web. While the superfine thinker is spinning his fanciful threads of thought, he is doing little for the business of life. Yet what he does may be good and true in itself, if only he would keep it in its right place.
IV. IT IS EXCESSIVELY FRAGILE. It is just the type of fragility. Therefore all its good points are useless when a man thinks of trusting his weight to it. You but mock the drowning man if you toss him the spider's web. He must grasp a substantial rope if he is to be saved. Now, Bildad rightly compares the hope of the impious to this web. It is fragile in the extreme.
1. It has no substance The man trusts
(1) to his own wisdom, which is folly in the eyes of God;
(2) to his goodness, which under God's searching glance is full of sin;
(3) to his prosperity, which cannot endure when the favour of God is withdrawn;
(4) to God's goodness, which indeed is a rock of refuge, only it is out of the reach of the impious, who only clutch at a shadow of it in their own fancy.
2. It is heavily tried. Here is a question of life and death. A man has to seek a security for his own soul and his eternal interests. The spider's web may stand slight tests, but not the strain those awful requirements put upon it. AEsthetics, intellectualism, and all other human ideas fail here. We want a strong means of deliverance, the gospel shows us that this is to be had in Christ for those who repent and trust him.—W.F.A.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Job 8". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28