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Job, in answer to Bildad, admits the truth of his arguments, but declines to attempt the justification which can alone entitle him to accept the favourable side of Bildad's alternative. Man cannot absolutely justify himself before God. It is in vain to attempt to do so. The contest is too unequal. On the one side perfect wisdom and absolute strength (verse 4); on the other, weakness, imperfection, ignorance. guilt (verses 17-20). And no "daysman," or umpire, between them; no third party to hold the balance even, and preside authoritatively over the controversy, and see that justice is done (verses 33-35). Were it otherwise, Job would not shrink from the controversy; but he thinks it ill arguing with omnipotent power. What he seems to lack is the absolute conviction expressed by Abraham in the emphatic words'" Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25).
Job 9:1, Job 9:2
And Job answered and said, I know it is so of a truth. "I freely admit," is; "all that has been said." God would not cast away a perfectly righteous man (Job 8:20); and, of course, he punishes evil-doers. But, applied practically, what is the result? How should man be just with God? or, before God? Apart from any knowledge of the doctrine of original or inherited sin, each man feels, deep in his heart, that he is sinful—"a chief of sinners." Bradford looks upon the murderer as he mounts the scaffold, and says, "But for the grace of God, there goes John Bradford!" Job has a similar conviction, that in the sight of God, righteousness, such as it is, shrinks away into insignificance, and is as nothing, cannot anyhow be relied upon. Such must be the attitude before God of every human soul that is not puffed up with pride or utterly insensate and sunk in apathy.
If he will contend with him; rather, if he should desire to contend with him; i.e. if, notwithstanding his knowledge of his own weakness and guilt, he should nevertheless be mad enough to desire to contend with God, then he will find that he cannot answer him one of a thousand. Of the charges which God might in his omniscience bring against him, he could not make a satisfactory reply to one in a thousand. It is not that Job admits any special guilt in himself; but such he feels to be the universal condition of humanity. "All have sinned in ten thousand ways, "and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength. The sense is strengthened if we omit "he is," and render, Wise in heart, and mighty in strength, who hath hardened' etc.? God's combination of perfect wisdom with infinite strength renders it hopeless for any man to contend with him. Who hath hardened himself against him; and hath prospered? Job fully admits the wisdom of all that Eliphaz (Job 4:17) and Bildad (Job 8:3-6) have said, or hinted, with respect to his inability wholly to justify himself. No one has ever taken this line of absolute self-justification, and prospered.
A magnificent description of the might and majesty of God, transcending anything in the Psalms, and comparable to the grandest passages of Isaiah (see especially Isaiah 40:21-24; Isaiah 43:15-20).
Which removeth the mountains, and they know not; which overturneth them in his anger. Earthquakes are common in all the countries adjoining Syria and Palestine, and must always have been among the most striking manifestations of God's power. There are several allusions to them in the Psalms (Psalms 8:8, Psalms 104:32). and historical mention of them in Numbers 16:32; 1 Kings 19:1; Amos 1:1; Zechariah 14:4, Zechariah 14:5; Matthew 24:7. Josephus speaks of one which desolated Judaea in the reign of Herod the Great, and destroyed ten thousand people ('Ant. Jud.,' Matthew 15:5. § 2). There was another in 1181, which was felt over the whole of the Hauran, and did great damage. A still more violent convulsion occurred in 1837, when the area affected extended five hundred miles from north to south, and from eighty to a hundred miles east and west. Tiberias and Safed were overthrown. The earth gaped in various places, and closed again. Fearful oscillations were felt. The hot springs of Tiberias mounted up to a temperature that ordinary thermometers could not mark, and the loss of life was considerable. The phrases used by Job are, of course, poetical. Earthquakes do not literally "remove" mountains, nor "overturn" them. They produce fissures, elevations, depressions, and the like; but they rarely much alter local features or the general configuration of a district.
Which shaketh the earth out of her place. This is a still more startling figure of speech; but comp. Psalms 46:2; Psalms 68:16; Psalms 114:4, Psalms 114:6. And the pillars thereof tremble. The earth is conceived of, poetically, as a huge edifice, supported on pillars (comp. Psalms 75:3), which in an earthquake are shaken, and impart their motion to the entire building. Rosenmuller's quotation of Seneca, 'Nat. Quaest.,' 6:20—"Fortasse ex aliqua parle terra veluti columnis quibusdam et pills sustinetur, quibus vitiatis et recedentibus tremit pondus impositum"—is apposite.
Which commandeth the sun, and it riseth not. A magnificent idea of God's power, and, of course, quite true. All the movements of the earth and of the heavenly bodies are movements which God causes, and could at any moment suspend. The sun only rises upon the earth each day because God causes it to rise. If he were once to intermit his hand, the whole universe would fall into confusion. And sealeth up the stars. Either covers them with a thick darkness, which their rays cannot penetrate, or otherwise renders them invisible. The idea is that God, if he pleases, can remove the stars out of man's sight, hide them away, seal them up.
Which alone spreadeth out the heavens (comp. Psalms 104:2; Isaiah 40:22). The heavens are regarded as spread out over the whole earth, like a curtain or awning over a tent, everywhere overshadowing and promoting it. This "stretching" or "spreading out" is felt to be one of the mightiest and most marvellous of the Creater's works, and is constantly put forward in Scripture as a special evidence of his omnipotence (see, besides the pasages above quoted, Isaiah 42:5; Isaiah 44:24; Isaiah 45:12; It. 13; Jeremiah 10:12). It adds to the marvellousness that God did it all "alone," or "by himself" (comp. Isaiah 44:24). And treadeth upon the waves of the sea; literally, the heights of the sea; i.e. the waves, which run mountains-high. God plants his feet upon these, to crush them in their proud might (comp. Psalms 93:5).
Which maketh Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades; literally, which maketh 'Ash' Kesil' and Kimah. The rendering of the LXX. (ὁ ποιῶν Πλειάδα καὶ Ἕσπερον καὶ Ἀρκτοῦρον), supported, as it is, by most of the other ancient versions and by the Targums, has caused the stellar character of these names to be generally recognized; but the exact meaning of each term is, to some extent, still a matter of dispute. On the whole, it seems most probable that 'Ash, or 'Aish (Job 38:32), designates "the Great Bear," called by the Arabs Nahsh, while Kesil is the name of the constellation of Orion, and Kimah of that of the Pleiades. The word 'Ash means "a litter," and may be compared with the Greek ἅμαξα and our own" Charles's Wain," both of them names given to the Great Bear, from a fancied resemblance of its form to that of a vehicle. Kesil means "an insolent, rich man" (Lee); and is often translated by "fool" in the Book of Proverbs 14:16; Proverbs 15:20; Proverbs 19:1; Proverbs 21:20, etc. It seems to have been an epitheton usitatum of Nimrod, who, according to Oriental tradition, made war upon the gods, and was bound in the sky for his impiety—the constellation being thenceforth called "the Giant" (Gibbor)' or "the insolent one' (Kesil), and later by the Greeks "Orion" (comp. Amos 5:8; and infra. Job 38:31). Kimah undoubtedly designates "the Pleiades." It occurs again, in connection with Kesil, in Job 38:31, and in Amos 5:8 The meaning is probably "a heap," "a cluster" (Lee); which was also the Greek idea: Πλειάδες, ὅτι πλείους ὁμοοῦ κατὰ μίαν συναγωγήν' (Eustath; 'Comment. in Hom. II.,' 18.488); and which has been also inimitably expressed by Tennyson in the line, "Like a swarm of dazzling fireflies tangled in a silver braid." And the chambers of the south. The Chaldeans called the zodiacal constellations "mansions of the sun" and "of the moon"; but these do not seem to be here intended. Rather Job has in his mind those immense spaces of the sky which lie behind his southern horizon; how far extending, he knows not. Though the circumnavigation of Africa was not effected until about B.C. 600, yet it is not improbable that he may have derived from travellers or merchants some knowledge of the Southern hemisphere.
Which doeth great things past finding out; yea, and wonders without number. An almost exact repetition of the words of Eliphaz in Job 5:9. The repetition may have been conscious or unconscious. Job may have meant to say, "My view of God embraces all that you can tell me of him, and goes further;" or he may simply have used words concerning the Divine unsearchableness which were common in the mouths of religious men in his time (comp. Psalms 72:18; and infra, Job 11:7).
Lo, he goeth by me, and I see him not. Near as God is to us, close as he comes to us, we cannot directly see him, or feel him, or perceive his presence. We know it by faith, we may feel it in our inmost spirits; but there is no manifestation of it to our senses. A sharp line divides the visible and invisible worlds; and this line, if it is ever crossed, is very rarely crossed. Job possibly reflects upon the pretension of Eliphaz to have had a physical consciousness of the visitation of a spirit (Job 4:15, Job 4:16), and asserts, with a tinge of sarcasm, that it is otherwise with him—the spirit-worm passes him by, and he receives no light, no illumination, no miraculous direction from it. He passeth on also. The same verb is used by Eliphaz (Job 4:15) in speaking of his spiritual visitation. But I perceive him not. Eliphaz perceived the presence of the spirit (Job 4:15, Job 4:16) and heard its voice (Job 4:16-21). Job seems to mean that he is not so favoured.
Behold, he taketh away; rather, he seizeth the prey (see the Revised Version). The expression is much stronger than that used in Job 1:21. Job seems to be smarting under the recollection of all that he has lost, and takes an aggrieved tone. Who can hinder him? (comp. Isaiah 45:9; Jeremiah 18:6; Romans 19:20). Who will say unto him, What doest thou? To have to do with such an irresistible Being, alone in his might, would indeed be terrible if, while absolutely powerful, unchecked and uncontrolled from without, he were not also absolutely good, and therefore controlled and checked by a law from within. This, however, Job, in his present mood, does not seem clearly to see.
If God will not withdraw his anger, the proud helpers do stoop under him. There is no "if" in the original; and the passage is best taken categorically: "God does not withdraw his anger;" i.e. the anger which he feels against those who resist him. "The helpers of Rahab do stoop [or, 'are prostrate'] under him." Rahab in this passage, and also in Job 26:12, as well us in Isaiah 51:9, seems to be used as the proper name of some great power of evil Such a power was recognized in the mythology of Egypt, under the names of Set (or Typhon) and of Apophia, the great serpent, continually represented as pierced by Horus. In the earlier Aryan myths there is a similar personification of evil in Vitre, called Dasiya, "the Destroyer," and at perpetual enmity with Indra and Agni. The Babylonians and Assyrians had a tradition of a great "war in heaven". carried on by seven spirits, who were finally reduced to subjection. All these seem to be distorted reminiscences of that great conflict, whereof the only trustworthy account is the one contained in the Revelation of St. John, "There was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels"—the "helpers" of the present passage—"and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven" (Revelation 12:7, Revelation 12:8). Job, it seems, had inherited one of such traditions, one in which the power of evil was known as Rahab, "the Proud One;" and he means here to say that God not only holds men in subjection, but also beings much more powerful than man, as Rahab and his helpers, who had rebelled and made war on God, and been east down from heaven, and were now prostrate under God's feet.
How much less shall I answer him? If he be the Lord of earth and heaven, if he rule the sun and the stars, if he tread down the sea, if he be impalpable and irresistible, if he hold the evil power and his helpers under restraint, how should I dare to answer him? How should any mere man do so? And choose out my words to reason with him? Job feels that he would be too much overwhelmed to choose his terms carefully, and yet a careless word might be an unpardonable offence.
Whom, though I were righteous, yet would I not answer. Even perfect righteousness, so far as possible in a creature, would not enable a non to stand up in controversy with him who "charges his angels with folly" (Job 4:18); and, moreover, to such righteousness Job does not pretend (see Job 7:20, Job 7:21). But I would make supplication to my Judge; rather, to mine adversary (see the Revised Version). Prayer is the only rightful attitude of even the best man before his Maker—prayer for mercy, prayer for pardon, prayer for grace, prayer for advance in holiness.
If I had called, and he had answered me. "It," that is, "I had challenged God to a controversy, and he had granted it, and bidden me to plead my cause at his bar, yet could I not suppose that he had really hearkened to me, and would allow me boldly to stand up before him and freely to challenge his doings. Such condescension on his part, such an abnegation of his supremacy, is inconceivable, and! could not have acted on it." Yet would I not believe that he had hearkened unto my voice; rather, yet could I not believe. It was not that he would not have wished, but that he would not have been able, to believe.
For he breaketh me with a tempest. "God," that is, "would not be likely patiently to hear my justification, and calmly to weigh it, when he is already overwhelming me with his wrath, breaking and crushing me (comp. Genesis 3:15, where the same word שׁוּף is used) with a very storm of calamity." The sentiment can scarcely be justified, since it breathes something of a contamacious spirit. But this only shows that Job was not yet" made perfect through sufferings" (Hebrews 2:10). And multiplieth my wounds without cause. A further assertion, not of absolute sinlessness, but of comparative innocence—of the belief that he had done nothing to deserve such a terrible punishment as he is suffering (comp. Job 6:24, Job 6:29).
He will not suffer me to take my breath. "He gives me no breathing-space," that is, "no time of relaxation or refreshment. My existence is one continual. misery." (comp. Job 7:3-6, Job 7:13-19). But filleth me with bitterness; literally, with bitter things' or bitterness (Hebrew, מַמְּר וֹרִים).
If I speak of strength, lo, he is strong. Still the idea is, "How can I contend with God? If it is to be a trial of strength, it is he who is strong, not I; if it is to be a suit, or pleading for justice, who will appoint me a day?" And if of judgment, who shall set me a time to plead? (comp. below, Job 9:33).
If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me. Since he could not wholly justify himself. "All men have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Job has already admitted the utterance of "rash words" (Job 6:3), and, at least hypothetically, that he "has sinned" (Job 7:20), and needs "pardon" for his "transgression" (Job 7:1-21:24). Job, if he tried to "justify himself," would have to acknowledge such shortcomings, such imperfections, such sins—at any rate, of infirmity—as would make his attempted justification a real self-condemnation. If I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse; rather, even were I perfect, it (i.e. my mouth) would prove me perverse; i.e. supposing I were actually perfect, and tried to prove it, my speech would be so hesitating and confused, that I should only seem to be perverse.
Though I were perfect, yet would I not know my soul: I would despise my life. The original is very elliptical and very obscure. The words run, I perfect—I know not myself—I abhor my life, which some explain as meaning, "Were I perfect, I should not know it myself; I despise my life under such conditions" (Stanley Loathes); others, "I am perfect" (i.e. guiltless of any plain offence), "but do not understand myself, and care not what becomes of me" (Canon Cook); others again, "Were I perfect, should I not know myself, and, knowing myself, despise my own life?" (Professor Lee). The Septuagint gives us no help, as it plainly follows a different reading. Probably our present text is a corrupt one.
This is one thing; rather, the matter is one' or it is all one. There is no difference, that is, between the case of the righteous and the wicked; all are alike sinful in God's sight, all equally "concluded under sin" (Galatians 3:22), and all consequently obnoxious to punishment at his hands (comp. Ecclesiastes 9:2). In a certain sense the statement is true, and corresponds with the argument of Romans 1-3.; but no account is taken here of God's gracious forgiveness of sin, much less of the general scheme of redemption, or the compensation for earthly sufferings in an eternity of happiness, on which the hope of the Christian rests. Therefore I said it; rather, therefore I say, with the Revised Version. He destroyeth the perfect and the wicked. As far as this world is concerned, it is undoubtedly true that calamities fall alike upon the just and upon the unjust. Death is the lot of all; trouble, suffering, grief, the lot of all (Job 6:7). Nor can it even be said that the wicked in this world suffer more than the good. Their sufferings are more the natural consequence of their actions, but do not seem to exceed in amount or severity the sufferings of the good. But this only shows that there must be a future life to redress the apparent injustice of the present one, and set the balance right.
If the scourge slay suddenly. Such a "scourge" as war, or pestilence, or famine, is probably meant. If one of these be let loose upon a land, and slay, as it always does slay, indifferently the good and the bad, the innocent and the guilty, what is God's attitude? Does he interpose to save the righteous? By no means. He looks on passively, indifferently. Job even goes further, and says, with an audacity that borders on irreverence, if it does not even overstep the border, He will laugh at the trial of the innocent. St. Jerome says, "There is nothing in the whole book harsher than this." It may, perhaps, be excused, partly as rhetorical, partly as needful for the full expansion of Job's argument. But it is a fearful utterance. (Professor Lee's attempt to explain the whole passage differently is scarcely a successful one.)
The earth is given into the hand of the wicked. As a further proof of God's indifference to the sufferings of the innocent, Job adduces the fact that, in the high places of the earth, are mostly set wicked persons, who oppress and persecute the righteous. This has probably been true, in the East at any rate, at all times. He covereth the faces of the judges thereof. God covers up the eyes of those who have to judge between the oppressors and the oppressed, so that they pervert judgment, and side with the oppressors. He does this, since he permits it to be done. Corrupt judges are among the perennial curses of the East. If not, where, and who is he? rather, If it be not he, who then is it? (see the Revised Version). Job argues that the established condition of things in human society must be ascribed to God, since (at least) he allows it. There is no one else to whom it can be ascribed.
Now my days are swifter than a post. Life slips away so fast that before it is well begun, it is ended. Job compares it to the swift passage of the trained runner, or messenger, who carried despatches for kings and other great personages in the olden times (see 2 Chronicles 30:6; Esther 3:13; Esther 8:10, Esther 8:14). Herodotus says of the trained runners employed by the Persians, "Nothing mortal travels so fast as these Persian messengers" (Herod; 8.98). There is abundant evidence of the employment of such persons in ancient Egypt. They flee away, they see no good. It seems to Job that his prosperity (Job 1:2-5) was only for a moment. He scarcely could look on it before it was gone.
They are passed away as the swift ships; literally, like the ships of reed. The allusion is probably to the frail reed vessels of the Egyptians, of which many ancient writers speak (see Theophrastus, 'Hist. Plant.,' 4.9; Pithy, 'Hist. Nat.,' 6.56; 13.11; Luean, ' Pharsalis,' 4.36, etc.). They were long, light canoes, formed generally of the papyrus plant, and propelled either by a single paddle or by a punting-pole. They were fiat-bottomed and broad, like punts, with a stem and stern rising considerably above the level of the water. Isaiah speaks of them as "vessels of bulrushes," in which "swift messengers" were sent by the nations peopling the banks of the Nile (Isaiah 18:1, Isaiah 18:2). The Euphrates boats described by Herodotus (1.194) were of an entirely different construction, and cannot be here intended. They consisted of a framework of wood, which was covered with skins, and then coated with bitumen, and resembled the Welsh "coracles." As the eagle that hasteth to the prey; or, as the eagle that swoopeth on the prey (Revised Version). Job's observation presents to him three types of swiftness—the trained runner upon the earth, the swift ships upon the waters, and the hungry eagle in the air. It seems to him that his life passes away as swiftly as any of these.
If I say, I will forget my complaint (comp. above, Job 7:13). Job represents himself as sometimes, for a moment, imagining that he might put aside his load of sorrow by not thinking of it. He tries, and says to himself, "I will forget," etc.; but in vain. The whole mass of his sufferings seems to rise up against him, and make even momentary forgetfulness impossible. I will leave off my heaviness; or, my black looks. And comfort myself (comp. Job 10:20 and Psalms 39:13, where the same verb is rendered "recover strength").
I am afraid of all my sorrows (see the comment on Job 9:27). I know that thou wilt not hold me innocent. The worst of all Job's sorrows is the sense of alienation from God, which his unexampled sufferings have wrought in him. Though unconscious of having deserved them, he still, not unnaturally, looks upon them as marks of God s displeasure, proofs that God does not regard him as innocent.
If I be wicked; rather, I am wicked; i.e. I am accounted so—I am already condemned. The extreme afflictions raider which I suffer indicate that God has passed sentence upon me, and awarded me my punishment. Why then labour I in vain? i.e. Why argue? Why seek to justify myself, since no result is likely to follow? Nothing that I can say will alter God's foregone conclusion.
If I wash myself with snow-water (comp. Psalms 51:7). If I should succeed in purging myself of all guilt, and establishing, so far as words can do it, my spotless innocence even then what advantage should I gain? Snow-water does not really cleanse what is defiled better than any other water, but a lively fancy might suppose it to do so. Job indulges in this fancy, but then checks himself, and adds a prosaic alternative. And make my hands never so clean; rather, and make my hands clean with lye. Lye, or potash, is the principal and most essential ingredient in soap. and the readiest and best detergent. If Job cleanses himself to the very utmost, "Cut bone?" he asks.
Yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch. Yet would God with ease undo his work, show his purity to be impure, his righteousness to be filthy rags, and thus, as it were, replunge him in the mire and clay from which he had sought to free himself, and hold him forth a more loathsome wretch than ever. And mine own clothes shall abhor me. So loathsome would he be that his very garments, stained and fouled by his disease, would shrink away from him and hate to touch him.
For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him; and we should come together in judgment (comp. Job 9:2-14). On one of two conditions only, Job thinks, could the contest be even between himself and God.
(1) If God, divesting himself of all his Divine attributes, became man;
(2) if some thirdsman could be found, some umpire or arbitrator, to preside over the contest, and decide it.
Neither condition, however, was (he thought) possible; and therefore no satisfactory judgment could take place. Recent commentators observe that the Christian scheme, which Job could not anticipate, provides almost a literal fulfilment of both conditions, since the God who is to judge us is "true Man," and is also a Mediator, or "Thirds-man," between us and the offended Father, with authority to make the final decision, 'the Father having committed all judgment unto the Son "(John 5:22), and" given him authority to execute judgment also'" for the very reason that he is "the Son of man" (John 5:27).
Neither is there any daysman betwixt us; literally 'judge' or arbitrator called a "daysman," since he appoints the day on which the arbitration is to come off. The LXX. renders by μεσίτης, "mediator." That might lay his hand upon us bosh. Moderate between us, that is; keep us both in cheek; assert an authority to which we must both submit.
Let him take his rod away from me; rather, who would remove his rod from me. Job means that it would be a part of the duty of the "daysman" to see that God's rod was removed from him before he was called upon to plead, so that he might not labour under so erect a disadvantage as his sufferings would place him under. And let not his fear terrify me; or, and would not suffer his fear to terrify me; i.e. would not allow Job to be placed under the disadvantage, either of pain or of fear, either of actual or prospective suffering.
Then would I speak, and not fear him. Job has imagined conditions which are impossible; and says that, under the circumstances which he has imagined, he would not fear to justify himself before God. The assertion is over-daring, and, as Schultens says, shows the patriarch to be no longer master of himself, but carried away by the force of overwrought feeling. But it is not so with me; i.e. "I am not in such a position as to enter on my justification." I am weighted by my sufferings, and also by my fears. I therefore decline the contest.
Job to Bildad: 1. Bildad's theology refuted.
I. AN IRONICAL CONCESSION. "I know that it is so of a truth." The doctrine propounded by Bildad (Job 8:3), that in God's dealings with mankind such a thing as either a perversion or miscarriage of justice was impossible, Job in a certain sense allows. Abstractly considered, the sentiment was one which Job cheerfully admitted. As expounded by Bildad, that the Divine government of the world was one of visible retributive justice, he expressly impugned its truth. Yet, in order to expose its fallacious character as well as to demonstrate its worthlessness, he is willing to proceed on the assumption of its truth-
II. A PERTINENT INTERROGATION. "How should man [literally, 'frail, perishable man'] be just," i.e. maintain his righteousness, establish his innocence, "with God?" Supposing, for the sake of argument, that such a sufferer possessed the inward, ineradicable conviction that he was innocent (i.e. free from notorious transgression): by what process could he vindicate his personal integrity so as to arrest the punitive hand of the Almighty? By none that would be availing, Job proceeds to show. In a profounder sense than is here employed, the question of the patriarch possesses a momentous significance for man. How shall man, the frail, sinful, and perishing, establish his righteousness before God? As in Job's case, so in every man's, the attempt to do so is a wild imagination, and can only result in failure, Not, however, because of the impossibility of establishing what really exists, as in Job's view, but because the thing, the righteousness, is not there to be maintained; all the world being in inward consciousness, as well as in outward fact, guilty before God.
III. AN EXTRAORDINARY SUPPOSITION. "If he will contend with him;" i.e. if the individual arraigned by Divine providence should propose to impeach the Divine equity, and even undertake to demonstrate his own innocence; or, as others interpret the pronouns, if God should be willing to enter into controversy with him, i.e. weak and imperfect man. According to the former explanation, the language is suggestive of sinful presumption; according to the latter, of gracious condescension; according to either, the subject of debate is not the question of man's sinfulness in general, but of man's guiltiness in respect of particular offences.
IV. A HOPELESS CONTENTION. On two grounds Job protests that any such litigation with the Almighty as to man's innocence of individual transgressions (much more, therefore, as to the question of man's sinful condition) would be unavailing.
1. Man's ignorance and frailty would disqualify him from replying to God's accusations. Infinite in subtlety and endless in succession, the charges that by such an assailant might be brought against him would simply confound and paralyze him. Overpowered by terror at the ineffable majesty of his Divine opponent, he would entirely lose command of his poor faculties, such as they were, and would be utterly unable to repel so much as one charge in a thousand, even were they all untrue (verse 3; cf. Psalms 130:3).
2. God's wisdom and strength would render it impossible for any one engaging in such an enterprise to escape unhurt. "Wise in heart, and.mighty in strength, who hath braved him and been successful?" (verse 4). The wisdom of the Almighty, which enables him to search the heart (1 Chronicles 28:9; Psalms 7:9), to understand the thoughts (Psalms 139:2), to know the works (Job 34:25), to consider the ways (Job 34:21), of men; and the power of the Omniscient, which secures that his counsel shall stand (Isaiah 46:10) and his purpose shall be fulfilled (Job 23:13, Job 23:14), clearly present a combination (Job 36:5; Job 37:23; Daniel 2:20), against which it is not only needless, but must for ever be positively ruinous, to strive.
1. It becomes good men to acknowledge and confide in the righteousness of God.
2. The higher man s ideas use of God s holiness and equity, the lower fall his thoughts concerning his own impurity and iniquity.
3. As them can be no unrighteousness with God, so neither can there be any righteousness with man.
4. Though it is hopeless to contend with God in argument, it is not so to wrestle with him in prayer.
5. The best attitude for a frail and sinful man to assume before God is that of self-abasement and penitence.
6. Man's ignorance and weakness are no match for God's wisdom and might.
7. God's wisdom and might have, for man's advantage, been deposited in Christ, who is the Power and the Wisdom of God.
A gospel outline.
I. A SUBLIME TRUTH. Them is no unrighteousness with God (Job 9:1), in either:
1. Permitting sin. (Psalms 92:5.)
2. Afflicting man. (Deuteronomy 8:5.)
3. Saving the penitent. (Romans 3:26; 1 John 1:9.)
4. Punishing the wicked. (Rom 3:5; 2 Thessalonians 1:6.)
II. A MELANCHOLY FACT. It is impossible for man to establish his righteousness before God (Job 9:2), his guiltiness being:
1. Declared by Scripture. (Psalms 143:2; Proverbs 20:9; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Isaiah 53:6; Romans 3:19, Romans 3:23.)
2. Attested by conscience. (Romans 2:15.)
3. Confirmed by experience. (Psalms 58:3; Ephesians 4:17, Ephesians 4:18; James 3:2.)
III. AN HUMILIATING DISCOVERY. That man is utterly unable to answer God's accusations against him (Job 9:3), in respect of either:
(1) their numbers, man's sins being as numerous as the hairs of his head (Psalms 40:12); or
(2) their character, being infinitely heinous in the sight of God (Proverbs 15:9; Isaiah 43:24; Jeremiah 44:4); or
(3) their proof, the evidence in support of God's charges being clear and overwhelming (Genesis 18:21; Jeremiah 17:10).
IV. A CHEERING EVANGEL. That salvation may be found by yielding to God (Job 9:4).
1. Nothing but hurt can arise from braving and opposing God (Isaiah 27:4).
2. Certain salvation springs from humble submission to God (Job 33:27; Psalms 76:9; Isaiah 27:5 ).
Job to Bildad: 2. The majesty of God depicted.
I. IN TERRESTRIAL PHENOMENA.
1. Overturning mountains. "Which removeth," i.e.. uprooteth or overtumeth, "the mountains, and they know not: which overturneth them in his anger" (verse 5). Whatever be the allusion intended, whether to the convulsions of nature which occurred at the Flood, or to those usually associated with earthquakes, the language suggests the absoluteness of God's control over nature, and in particular:
(1) The greatness of his power, which, being able to uproot and overthrow mighty hills through its resistless force, must be competent to do the most stupendous works—must, in fact, be an agency to which there can be no impossibilities. The only power resembling it on earth is that of faith (Mark 9:23), to which also is ascribed the ability to remove mountains (Mark 11:23).
(2) The suddenness of his power, the mountains being represented as overturned unexpectedly, in a moment, "without their knowing," which again reflects upon the vastness of that power which can effect so gigantic a feat without effort and without labour, so easily and naturally ("He toucheth the hills, and they smoker Psalms 104:32) that it is done instantaneously.
(3) The fierceness of his power, especially when it is put forth in judgment, the uprooting of the mountains being depicted as a terrible manifestation of the Almighty's wrath, concerning which the overturned hills seem to say, "Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him" (Nahum 1:6; cf. Habakkuk 3:6).
2. Convulsing the earth. "Which shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars," i.e. the internal foundations, "thereof tremble" (verse 6). Nothing is more seemingly stable than the solid globe (Psalms 119:90). Its original establishment was a sublime witness to the power and wisdom of its Creator (1 Samuel 2:8; Psalms 24:1, Psalms 24:2; Psalms 136:6; Jeremiah 51:15). Yet, by the mysterious forces treasured up within its dark retreats, the Almighty can make it tremble as if about to be dissolved (Psalms 104:32; Psalms 114:7), as he did at Sinai (Exodus 19:18; Psalms 68:8), and as once again he will do at the end of time (Hebrews 1:10; 2 Peter 3:10). The shaking of the earth is an emblem of Divine judgments (Isaiah 13:13).
II. IN THE WONDERS OF THE SKY.
1. Obscuring the sun. "Who commandeth the sun, and it riseth [or, 'shineth'] not" (verse 7). Alluding to both natural and supernatural obscurations of the solar light, of the former of which ordinary eclipses may be taken as illustrations, while the Egyptian darkness will constitute a sample of the latter.
(1) The sun is the most resplendent object in heaven. Here styled cherem, probably from its brilliant appearance (Delitzsch), or perhaps from its heat-giving properties (Gesenius). As such it is a silent witness to the great power of God (Genesis 1:16; Psalms 74:16; Psalms 136:7,Psalms 136:8; Jeremiah 31:35).
(2) The sun is ever obedient to the will of its Creator. There is no part of God's universe that is not under law. The greatest suns as well as the smallest atoms continually recognize his authority. The orb of day is equally obedient in rising and in setting (Ecclesiastes 1:5). As such, it is an eloquent teacher of obedience to man (Psalms 148:8).
(3) The sun is never wearied of its beneficent mission to shine. And it always shines, except when commanded not. As such, it is a preacher of diligence to the Christian, who is commanded to let his light shine (Matthew 5:16).
(4) When the sun is obscured or commanded not to shine, it is in judgment on the sins of man (Joel 2:31; Ames 8:9; Luke 21:25; Acts 2:20), as during the Egyptian darkness (Exodus 10:22) and at the time of the Crucifixion (Matthew 27:45). The darkened sun is an impressive and instructive emblem of the judgments God sends upon men and nations who neither value nor improve the light of truth and salvation they possess.
2. Concealing the stars. "And sealeth up the stars" (verse 7). The stars also are God's creatures (Genesis 1:16), and as such are obedient to his control. The vast number, immense magnitudes, and incredible velocities of the heavenly bodies, as unfolded by modern astronomy, impart to us loftier conceptions of the Creatofs power than were possessed by devout Hebrews. The Divine wisdom also is significantly displayed in the regularity of their movements, which secures that they never fail to swim out into the blue sea of the celestial firmament when the light of day has departed. Yet the ease with which the splendor of the midnight sky can be extinguished, by pouring over it the brilliance of day, or drawing round it the thick gloom of clouds, is no less striking as a visible display of almighty wisdom and power, and one which must have appeared to an Oriental, looking up into a Syrian sky, infinitely more solemnizing than it does to an Occidental, who only sees the stars shining with a dimmer lustre.
3. Bringing down the clouds. "Which alone spreadeth out the heavens" (verse 8). The reference is probably not to the original creation of the firmament (Genesis 1:6), but to the visible descent of storm-clouds upon the sea (Psalms 18:9-11). The poet represents the striking phenomena of cloud-land as another exhibition of almighty power. The modern scientist imagines, when he has predicted the advent and measured the velocity of the tempest, he has effectually disposed of the Hebrew poet's notion of supernaturalism in connection with the marvels of the sky. But the laws by which storm-clouds are built up and let down, swept along and finally dispersed, have not been spontaneously developed, or inherently possessed by, but externally imposed on, nature by him whose strength is in the clouds (Psalms 68:34), who employs them as his chariot (Psalms 104:3), and who when he pleases draws them across the face of heaven (Psalms 147:8).
4. Walking on the billows. "And treadeth upon the waves [literally, 'the heights'] of the sea" (verse 8); i.e. upon the fierce mountainous billows. The two clauses are descriptive of a storm at sea, in which sea and sky appear to intermingle (Psalms 107:25, Psalms 107:26). As the wind, so the water; as the sky, so the sea; as the cloud, so the wave, recognizes the authority of God. The Divine power is usually exhibited as calming the troubled billows (Psalms 65:7; Psalms 89:9, Psalms 89:13). Here Jehovah is portrayed as exciting a tempest, bringing down his clouds, sending forth his hurricanes, raising the still waters into gigantic billows, lashing the quiet sea into a wild and tumultuous commotion, and then going forth in sublime sovereignty amidst the hurricane he has produced, walking calmly upon the crested heights of the ocean, causing his voice to be heard above the loudest roar of the storm,and at length saying, "Peace, be still!" So Christ visibly walked upon the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 14:26). Another picture of God's sovereignty over creation, another lesson of God's ability to be the confidence of them that are afar off upon the sea (Psalms 65:8).
III. IN THE CREATION OF THE STELLAR WORLD.
1. The constellations of the northern hemisphere. "Which maketh Arcturus, Orion, and the Pleiades [literally, 'who made']."
(1) 'Ash; identified with Ursa Major, the Wain, the Bear, an exceedingly bright constellation in the northern sky, the Hebrew term signifying (according to some) "the Nightly Watcher" because of its never setting (Schultens), or perhaps with greater probability being contracted from an Arabic root n'ash, meaning "bier," the three stars in the tail being designated "Daughters of the Bier" (Gesenius); cf. Job 38:32.
(2) Chesil; literally, "Fool," regarded by the Assyrians as the famous hunter Nimrod, styled by the Arabs "the Hero," and by the Chaldeans, "the Giant;" commonly allowed to be the splendid constellation Orion, which "stands like a great giant in the heavens south of Taurus and Gemini" (Carey).
(3) Chimah; literally, "Heap;" the well-known cluster of stars named "the Pleiades," a sparkling group compared by Persian poets to s bouquet formed of jewels (Delitzsch).
2. The constellations of the southern hemisphere. "And the chambers of the south;" i.e. the regions of the southern sky, which are completely veiled from view to us, and only occasionally discovered to Arabian spectators.
IV. IN THE PROVIDENTIAL GOVERNMENT OF THE UNIVERSE. The sentiment of Job 38:10, which almost verbatim repeats the utterance of Eliphaz (Job 5:10), may be viewed as a general description of the mighty power of God in upholding, as well as creating, the stupendous fabric he has summoned into being. Regarded in this light, it describes the operations of Divine energy as:
1. Great. He "doeth great things" (Job 38:10). Everything that God does (in creation and providence) may be characterized as great (Psalms 92:5; Psalms 111:2), as being the production of infinite power. The distinction between great and little, when applied to Divine acts, exists only in the human understanding. The creation of a solar system is as easy to Omnipotence as the construction of an atom, and the formation of the latter as much dependent on Divine power as the production of the former.
2. Wonderful. "He doeth wondrous things." The wisdom displayed in the Divine works is conspicuous to every intelligent observer (Psalms 104:24). The marvels of creation are fully equalled by the wonders of providence. The formation of a crystal, the structure of a flower, the organization of an animal, are examples of the former; the Deluge, the Exodus from Egypt, the Babylonish exile, the incarnation and death of Christ, illustrations of the latter.
3. Unsearchable. He doeth things "past finding out." Much as modern science has discovered of the secrets of Nature, there are vast realms lying unexplored around and beyond her, into some of which it is doubtful if she will ever be able to penetrate. Her ascertained results also make it probable that there are works of God into which she cannot sink the plummet of her finite understanding; as e.g. the nature of electricity and magnetism, the mystery of life in all its forms and gradations, the mode in which matter and mind act and react upon one another.
4. Numerous. He doeth "wonders without number." The exquisite variety and the apparently limitless number of God's works are impressive testimonies to the infinite power and matchless wisdom of the Creator.
1. There is no God like unto the God of the Christian (Exodus 15:11; Deuteronomy 33:26).
2. Nothing can transcend the power of God (Genesis 18:14; Jeremiah 32:17).
3. God is infinitely worthy of the reverence, confidence, affection, and obedience of his intelligent creatures (Psalms 89:7; Revelation 4:11).
4. It cannot but be dangerous to resist God's will (Nahum 1:6; Isaiah 40:24; Hebrews 12:29).
5. "If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Psalms 27:1; Romans 8:31).
Job to Bildad: 3. Creator and creature in conflict.
I. THE DIVINE ASSAILANT.
1. His mysterious movements. "Lo! he goeth by me, and I see him not: he passeth on also, but I perceive him not" (verse 11). The language, recalling Eliphaz's description of the shadowy spectre (Job 4:15), recognizes:
(1) The personality of God. The Divine Being is not an impalpable abstraction or a dead unintelligent force, but a living, thinking, self-conscious Intelligence. Such a Deity is as much a necessity of reason as a postulate of revelation.
(2) The activity of God. Not confounding the Creator and the creature as modern pantheism does, but ever maintaining a separation between the almighty Artificer of the universe and his works, biblical theology (both Hebrew and Christian) is also careful to avoid the error of deism, which, while believing in a Deity, removes him to a distance from his creation, setting him apart in cold, chilling isolation, amid the radiant splendours of a metaphysical perfection, and in particular interjecting between him and the realm of this sublunary sphere a gulf impassable by either him or man. Contrary to this, scriptural theism conceives God as an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent Intelligence, continually superintending the universe he has made, as being ever present and ever active in all parts and places of his dominion (Psa 130:1 -10; Jeremiah 23:23, Jeremiah 23:24; Ephesians 1:23; John 5:17).
(3) The nearness of God. In a sense that is very real, God is never far from any one of us (Acts 17:27). Behind the veil which hides the unseen Eternities from mortal vision he continually sits, beholding all that transpires on earth; seeing all things and all persons, but ever remaining himself unseen. The besetting God of the Hebrew psalmist (Psalms 139:5) is the God of all men. Were the veil to be uplifted, it would at once be seen that God is always at hand. Sometimes it is lifted; as e.g. to Abraham (Genesis 15:1), to Hagar (Genesis 16:13), to Jacob (Genesis 28:13). And sometimes it is lifted to the soul when it remains closed to the bodily eye. God's nearness to man received its highest and truest expression when the Eternal Word became incarnate and dwelt among us.
(4) The invisibility of God. Absolutely, i.e. in his uncreated essence, the supreme Deity must always remain invisible to and incomprehensible by man (Job 23:8; John 1:18; John 6:46; 1 Timothy 6:16; 1 John 4:12), if not also by all finite beings (Job 11:7; Job 37:23; Isaiah 14:15). Relatively, he may be said to be visible when the spirit can recognize the working of his almighty finger, and invisible when that working or the reason of it is hid. Job complains that, while he can distinctly apprehend God to be passing by him in the events of providence and the phenomena of his individual experience, he is quite unable to discern God himself, i.e. to understand either the mode or the purpose of his mysterious movements (cf. Job 11:7-9; Job 37:5, Job 37:23; Psalms 77:19; Nahum 1:3; Matthew 11:25).
2. His resistless power.
(1) Invincible. "Behold, he taketh away [or,' he assails'], who can hinder him [or, 'who shall repel him']?" (verse 12). Impossible for the human soul not to feel overpowered with a sense of weakness and utter defencelessness when God, by the hand of providence, or by the inward stroke of his Spirit, collides with it. It is, however, some mitigation to the soul's distress, when it is able to recognize that the hand which strikes it is really God's (1 Samuel 3:18; Psalms 39:9).
(2) Unchallengeable. Who will say unto him, What doest thou? (verse 12). The sovereignty of God in removing, as well as in bestowing, creature comforts, such as possessions, children, etc; is as plainly demon strated by experience as emphatically asserted in Scripture; and should be as cheerfully admitted by all as it was by Job (Job 1:21; Job 2:10) and by Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:35) God's sovereignty, however, does not mean mere arbitrary and imperious behaviour. When God rakes away (as also when he gives), he not only does what he has a perfect right to do, but the reasons present to his mind for doing it are such as cannot be impeached. God's power always acts for the best, being allied with infinite wisdom; only God explains not his motives to creatures; but saints are ever satisfied that he doeth all things well.
(3) Implacable. "Eloah restraineth not his anger" (verse 13); i.e. he never recalls it, never holds it in or turns it back until it has accomplished its purpose; but permits it, like a rising tide or sweeping hurricane, to carry all before it, so that "the proud helpers' (literally," the helpers of Rahab," i.e. "the helpers of pride," meaning probably either combinations of proud rebels, such as the antediluvians, or, "associates of the proud one," viz. the devil, or perhaps simply wicked men who, inspired by pride, think to interpose between the Almighty and the objects of his displeasure; such persons as are described in Psalms 73:6-9; but vide Exposition) "stoop under him." The mightiest combinations and confederacies of wicked men and devils are utterly helpless against God (Psalms 2:1-3; Psalms 83:5, Psalms 83:8; Jud Psalms 1:6). Their source, pride (Psalms 10:2 Psalms 10:4); their purpose, opposition to God (Psalms 12:3, Psalms 12:4); their end, destruction (Psalms 18:27; Proverbs 17:19; Isaiah 2:11; Isaiah 13:11).
3. His unanswerable charges.
(1) Because of man's weakness. "How much less shall I answer him, and choose out my words to reason with him?" (verse 14). A blessed thought that man is permitted to reason with God (Isaiah 1:16; Isaiah 43:26), if not about his innocence, at least about his pardon and salvation. Persons who avail themselves of such permission should study to find appropriate language in which to state their case. Well-chosen words, if required in addressing man (Ecclesiastes 12:10), are much more indispensable in wrestling with God. Yet they who stand forth to plead with God should be profoundly impressed with a sense of their own unworthiness and insufficiency (Genesis 32:10; Isaiah 6:5), and should accordingly be clothed with humility (2 Samuel 7:18).
(2) Because of God's greatness. "Whom, though I were righteous, I would not answer, but I would make supplication to my Judge" (verse 15). A glimpse into the better nature of Job. Though repudiating the calumnies of his friends, and sometimes defending his own innocence with language indicating an approach at least to self-righteous presumption, he here appears overpowered with such a sense of the Divine majesty as to lay him prostrate in silence and self-abasement before him Note the solemn relation in which God stands to all men—that of Judge; the character which the best of men bear in his sight—unrighteous; the summons which shall one day be addressed to all—to stand forth and answer for their sins; the attitude which all men should take towards God in view of that event—the attitude of supplication.
II. THE HUMAN COMPLAINANT.
1. Mistrusting the Divine condescension. Putting the case that he had summoned God into court, and that God had appeared, Job appears to conceive that a Being so infinitely exalted as he would not listen to the complaint of a frail mortal, or, if for a moment he did, would immediately break off in impatience and decline to listen further (verse 16). A total misrepresentation of the Divine character, contradicted alike by God's descriptions of himself (Isaiah 57:15, Isaiah 57:16; Psalms 91:15), and by the saints' experience of his grace (Psalms 34:6; Psalms 40:17; Psalms 86:13).
2. Impeaching the Divine goodness. Describing the treatment he would meet at God's hands, Job insinuates that it would be the opposite of kind; that God would u break him with a tempest," "multiply his wounds without cause," "not suffer him to take his breath," "fill him with bitterness" (verses 17, 18). As a matter of fact, the words present a literal account of Job's sufferings, and the aspect in which they were beginning to look to himself. Conscious that his calamities were causeless so far as any wickedness on his part was concerned, which God also testified (Job 2:3), and unable to discern the secret purpose for which he was being subjected to such excruciating tortures, he can only fall back upon the hypothesis that God has turned to be his enemy. Faith would have kept him right; but Job's faith, though not extinguished, was at this time suffering an eclipse. Sense and reason always misinterpret God. God never treats either saint or sinner as Job describes, aimlessly or maliciously, but always with tender love and for the loftiest ends (Hebrews 12:6, Hebrews 12:10).
3. Challenging the Divine equity. Practically he represents God as stifling the creature's attempt to maintain his integrity by overpowering him with the dazzling magnificence of his Godhead; by rushing as it were into the open court of justice, and shouting to the poor bewildered appellant, "Is it a question of strength? Here am I. Is it a matter of right? Who will challenge me?" (verse 19). But this, again, was a distorted view of the Divine character. God has no need to be afraid of any investigation into his conduct, and just as little to apprehend that puny man could cure, it his infinite wisdom or overreach his almighty power.
4. Despairing of Divine acceptance. So hopeless does the contest seem to Job between a poor suffering creature like himself and a Being of infinite majesty like God, that he confesses the dire impossibility of being able to establish his innocence before the tribunal of the skies. God's insufferable glory would so confound and stupefy him, that even if he were innocent, his own mouth would condemn him; were he guiltless, it would betray him (verse 20); i.e. he would, through sheer terror and amazement (1 Peter 3:6), stumble out his own condemnation, and, conscious of his integrity, would yet confess himself guilty. What Job here asserts concerning his integrity or freedom from such transgression as Eliphaz and Bildad charged against him is certainly correct in the case of every one who would dare to maintain his moral purity in the sight of God. The clear revelation of God's majesty and holiness imparted to the awakened soul, when it appears as if standing face to face with God, renders it a hard task for man to uphold his sinlessness. If he attempted it, he would only stultify and condemn himself. Nay, he should not know his own soul (verse 21), but only thereby demonstrate his ignorance of himself (cf. 1 John 1:8).
1. It is impossible to entertain too exalted a conception of the great and holy God with whom we have to do.
2. It is quite possible, even for the best of men, to misconstrue God's dealings with the soul, and to regard him as an adversary who is really a Friend.
3. It is well to remember, in every appearance of conflict between the Creator and the creature, that all the right lies upon the side of the former.
4. The nearer saints advance towards perfection, the readier they are to acknowledge their imperfection.
5. A humble and self-abased spirit before God is quite compatible with the maintenance of one's blamelessness before men.
Job to Bildad: 4. The cries of a desparing soul.
I. MAINTAINING HIS INNOCENCE.
1. Attested by his conscience. "Though I were perfect;" or, better, "I am guiltless" (verse 21). Before God Job did not claim to be absolutely spotless, but merely to be free from such transgressions of the moral law as his friends insinuated he must have committed to render him obnoxious to those palpable tokens of Divine displeasure which had overtaken him. Against this, however, he protested as a wholly baseless aspersion of his character, declaring his determination to maintain his integrity at all hazards, ay, even should it cost him his life. Yet would I not know [literally, 'I know not, i.e. I value not, care not for] my soul. I would despise [or, I despise ] my life" (verse 21). Vehement asseveration such as this would, of course, have been out of place, and altogether unjustifiable, unless Job had had the clearest and most irrefragable evidence of his own innocence behind it. But this Job professed to have in the inner testimony of his conscience, which declared him to be what Jehovah himself had already affirmed him to be—"a perfect man and an upright, one that feared God and eschewed evil" (Job 1:8). It is by no means impossible tot a good man to have a conscience void of offence both towards God and towards men (Acts 23:1; Acts 24:16). Decisions registered before the court of conscience are always in accordance with truth. Conscience may be stupefied through sin, and prevented from delivering its testimony (Ephesians 4:19). It may even be perverted and constrained to call evil good (Acts 26:9). But where enlightened and free, it never fails to indicate the moral standing of the soul. Scripture distinctly recognizes the validity of the inner witness of conscience (Romans 8:16). And not unfrequently this witness is all that a good man can lean upon in times of adversity (e.g. Joseph, Genesis 39:21; Daniel, Daniel 1:8; SS. Peter and John, Acts 4:19; St. Paul, Tit 2:1-15 :17; cf. Shakespeare, 'Henry VIII.,' Acts 3:0. sc. 2). When it is so, the evidence of circumstance and appearance being all against him, he is fully warranted to rest upon it. If he trust it, it will support him.
2. Not disproved by his sufferings. The sole ground possessed by Eliphaz and Bildad for their calumnies was that Job had been overtaken by evil fortunes. But, besides repelling the charges themselves as contradicted by the clear verdict of his own conscience, he likewise repudiates the foundation on which they were based as diametrically opposed to the plain facts of history. So far from appearances being against Job, rightly interrogated they were rather in his favour. So far from God's dealings with men being strictly retributive, so that Job's guilt might warrantably be inferred from his misery, they were as nearly as possible the opposite. All experience showed:
(1) That God frequently confounded the righteous and the wicked in one indiscriminate overthrow. "This is one thing [literally, 'it is all one '], therefore I said [or, 'will say'] it, he destroyeth the perfect and the wicked' (verse 22). An incontrovertible fact, which wars, famines, pestilences, earthquakes, tempests, and other disastrous occurrences, sufficiently attest, which thoughtful observers in all ages have noted (Ecc 9:1-18 :23), and which has frequently perplexed the good (Genesis 18:24); but which, while it is not an injustice to the creature, even the righteous themselves being sinful, is as little an inequality on the part of the Creator, who, though not bound to justify his ways to sinful man, may yet have adopted this method of Divine government as best suited to meet the moral and spiritual improvement of mankind generally, to exercise the faith and develop the graces of the righteous, and to awaken within the soul a conviction of the necessity and certainty of a future state (Malachi 3:18; cf. Butler's Analogy,' Malachi 3:1-18.).
(2) That God was indifferent to the miseries of the righteous. "If the scourge slay suddenly, he will laugh at the trial of the righteous" (verse 23); first at their sufferings, and then at the inward temptations to unbelief and despair that these sufferings occasion. This, however, is inconceivable. God cautions men against judging one another simply by appearances. Much more is it necessary to avoid this mistake in judging of God. "God doth not afflict the children of men," much less his own children, "willingly" (Lamentations 3:33).
"Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face."
God laughs at the wicked and their machinations (Psalms 2:4); never at his people and their sorrows (Exodus 3:7; Matthew 23:37; John 11:35).
(3) That God seemingly extended favour to the wicked; first, generally, by promoting wicked men to positions of worldly influence and power: "The earth is given into the hand of the wicked' (verse 24); and second, particularly, by committing the administration of justice to the ungodly: "He covereth the faces of the judges thereof" (verse 24); i.e. so that, through ignorance and corruption, being unable to discern between right and wrong, they legalize oppression and robbery, "framing mischief by a law." That such anomalies exist is undeniable (Psalms 12:8). And Job means to say that he holds God responsible for them. "If it is not he that is the Author of them, then who is it?" God is the moral Governor of the universe (Exodus 9:29; Psalms 47:2, Psalms 47:7; Psalms 83:18). The civil magistracy is a Divine institution (Proverbs 8:15, Proverbs 8:16). God alone has power to prevent the perversion of his own ordinance (Psalms 75:7; Daniel 2:21). God is not in ignorance that his people are oppressed (Ecclesiastes 5:8). And God has distinctly promised to exercise righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed (Psalms 103:6). Hence nobody is to blame but God, says Job. The logic is good, but the theology is bad.
II. BEMOANING HIS LOT.
1. The impossibility of attaining to happiness.
(1) The fleetness of his days had rendered this beyond his ability. His past life had vanished with incredible velocity:
(a) like a quick-footed courier: "My days are [literally, 'were '] swifter than a post" (verse 25), or state-runner carrying letters and despatches, sometimes able, when mounted on dromedaries, to travel a hundred and fifty miles a day;
(b) like a fast-sailing ship, literally, "ships of reed," skiffs constructed of the papyros Nilotica' and celebrated for their swiftness, "a little pinnace that may serve to make sport and pastime on the water, which turneth nimbly here and there, and goeth away apace" (Calvin); and
(c) like a swift-flying eagle: "As the eagle that hasteth to the prey" (verse 26);—three images conveying an impressive picture of the brevity of man's existence on the earth.
(2) The vanity of his life was another cause of failure in reaching mundane felicity. His days had rushed by "without seeing good" (verse 25), or, "having seen no good;" which in Job's case was not correct, as prior to his affliction he had attained to a high degree of both temporal and spiritual prosperity. Men are prone to forget past mercies. "Out of sight, out of mind," is frequently exemplified among saints. Perhaps no lives exist that never see good. Yet the noblest thing in God's world is not to see, but to do, good. A life that does good may be short; it can never be wholly vain.
2. The impossibility of surmounting his sorrow. This also had. a double cause.
(1) The immovability of his misery. However frequently he might resolve to brighten up, the recollection of his pains made him shudder (verse 28). Nothing is more certain than that the burden of sorrow cannot be removed by simple resolution. No man can really brighten up in the midst of affliction unless he casts his burden on the Lord. But to the doing of this in Job's ease there seemed an insuperable barrier, viz.:
(2) The unchangeable determination of God to count him guilty. Reasoning from the standpoint of sense, Job regarded this as the natural deduction from his continued sufferings. Hence the hopelessness of trying to look bright. Had Job adopted David's resolution (Psalms 42:5, Psalms 42:11; Psalms 43:5), he might have overcome this tremendous heart-sinking of which he was conscious. How immensely more advantageous the position of Christians than that of Job or even David! Not only have they the clear consciousness of acceptance with God for Christ's sake to support them, but they have the plainest Scripture declarations that affliction is a proof of love and friendship rather than of hatred and enmity and the most earnest exhortations to rejoice in tribulation; yea, to rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4; James 1:2).
3. The impossibility of establishing his innocence. Because of:
(1) God's determination to make him cut guilty: "I have to be guilty" (verse 29). Same thought as above. It is certain that God is shut up by the necessities of his Godhead, His immaculate purity and incorruptible justice, to hold every man on earth, even the purest and most upright saint that lives, as guilty (Romans 3:19), but not in the sense here intended by Job. It is no pleasure to God to find men guilty. Certainly, he never makes an innocent man guilty; though, thanks to his mercy, he often treats a guilty man as innocent.
(2) Job's inability to overcome this determination. Plaints were useless: "Why do I labour in vain" (verse 29), in protesting my innocence, or trying to make it good? "If I wash myself with snow-water," supposed to be purer than common water, "and make my hands never so clean [literally, 'clean with lye or potash'], yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes should abhor me" (verses 30, 31); i.e. the best attempts at self-justification would be useless.
III. YEARNING FOR A DAYSMAN.
1. The necessity of such a daysman. Job craved an arbiter or umpire between himself and God, because of the unequal terms on which they stood. "He is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment ' (verse 32). For the same reason man requires a Mediator between himself, the feeble, sinning creature, and Jehovah, the infinitely powerful and immaculately pure Creator. And this want which Job so powerfully felt has been supplied by Christ, the one Mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5).
2. The work of such a daysman. Described as twofold:
(1) To act authoritatively for both parties in the contest. "There is not a daysman," or arbiter between us, "that might lay his hand upon us both" (verse 33); i.e. that might impose conditions upon both by the imposition of hands. This Christ is able to do in virtue of his twofold nature, being the Fellow of the Most High as well as the Son of man. Thus representing both parties, he can lay his hands on both. He can speak and act with authority for both.
(2) To remove the obstacles to man's coming into converse with God. These were, in Job's case, two—the terror of God's rod, and the terror of God's face: "Let him take away his rod from me, and let not his fear [i.e. his terrible majesty] terrify me" (verse 34). The same things prevent the free access of sinful man to God, viz. God's rod—not his providential afflictions, but his legal condemnations; and God's majesty, or the ineffable glory of his holy Godhead. And these have been removed by Christ; the latter by big incarnation, the former by his sacrifice.
3. The benefit of such a daysman.
(1) Man is able to approach God—not perhaps as Job, with conscious integrity: "Then would I speak, and not fear him; for not thus do I stand with myself," i.e. I am not conscious of anything to make me afraid (verse 35); but certainly, without alarm and with hopeful confidence; and
(2) God is able to enter into treaty with man.
1. There is a clear difference between maintaining one's blamelessness before men and asserting one's righteousness before God.
2. The character of God's heart is not always to be inferred from the dealings of God's hand.
3. Many things are permitted to occur in God's universe of which he does not approve.
4. The science of numbering our days is one that all mortals should learn.
5. The true value of life is not to be estimated by its length.
6. The best consolation in human sorrow is the enjoyment of Divine favour.
7. The finest and purest morality will not enable a man to do without a mediator.
8. No man can come to God except through Jesus Christ.
9. But in him and through him we have access by one Spirit to the Father.
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
Second reply of Job. The fearfulness of God's power.
Now, for the first time, Job admits the great principle for which Eliphaz and Bildad have contended, but in a bitter and sarcastic sense. True, he says, it is not for man to contend against God. But why? Because he is absolute Power, and hence there is no possibility of a flail mortal prevailing in his plea. His might is his fight. It is a dark conception of God to which Job's despair now drives him. He looks upon God simply as omnipotent Force, arbitrary and irresistible Will. Take the thought of power, and separate it from that of justice and of compassion, and we have the idea of an almighty Fiend rather than of a good and gracious Father. Yet the spark of true faith still lives, as we shall see, in the recesses of his awakened heart,—J.
God viewed as absolute and arbitrary Power.
I. THE HELPLESSNESS OF MAN IN PRESENCE OF HIS OMNIPOTENCE. (Job 9:1-3.) What avails right on one's side against him who has all heaven's artillery at his command? "It is idle to argue with the Master of thirty legions." Out of a thousand questions with which the Almighty might overwhelm my mind, there is not one which I could answer with the chance of a fair hearing. Indeed, this in a sense is true, as the thirty-eighth chapter will presently show. It is idle to argue with God concerning the constitution of things. But it is never idle to plead the right. This, God, by the very nature of his Being, by his promises, is bound to attend to. Job thinks of God as the Almighty and the All-wise (verse 4), and he finds in this combination of attributes only reason for despair. He leaves out his justice; his faith in his love is suspended for a time. Hence he sees him only through the distorted dream of suffering, and his dark inferences are wrong.
II. DESCRIPTIONS OF THE ABSOLUTE POWER OF GOD.
1. In nature's destructive forces. Here he would rival and outvie Eliphaz in the sublimity of his pictures. The more terrible phenomena of nature are produced as evidences of a blind, tyrannic might: the earthquake (verse 5), which topples over the giant mountains like a child's plaything, and rocks the solid foundations of the earth (verse 6); the eclipse of sun and stars, the universal darkness of the heavens (verse 7), Here is the origin, according to some philosophers, of religion—man's terror in the presence of the vast destructive forces of nature. But it is the origin only of a part of religious feeling—of awe and reverence. And when man learns more of nature as a whole, and more of his own heart, he rises into loftier and happier moods than that of slavish fear.
2. In nature's splendour and general effect. The vastness of the "immeasurable heavens," and the great sea of clouds (verse 8), the splendid constellations of the northern and the southern sky (verse 9), lead the mind out in wonder, stretch the imagination to its limits, fill the soul with the sense of the unutterable, the innumerable, the infinite (verse 10). This mood is happier than the former. It is one of elevation, wonder, delighted joy in the communion of the mind with Mind. It is stamped upon the glowing lines of the nineteenth psalm. But Job draws from these sublime spectacles at present only the inference of God's dread and irresistible power.
III. MANKIND ITSELF IN RELATION TO THIS ABSOLUTE POWER.
1. It is invisible and swift in its errand of terror (verse 11). Sudden death by lightning, or by a hasty malady, naturally produces an appalling effect. Hence the prayer of the Litany.
2. It is irresistible. (Verses 12, 13.) No human hand can stay, no human prayer avert, its overpowering onset. The monsters, or Titans ("helpers of Rahab"), were overcome, according to some well-known legend; how much less, then, can I resist with success (verse 14)?
3. The consciousness of innocence is therefore of no avail. Supplication alone is in place before a Disputant who knows no law but his will (verse 15). I cannot believe that he, from his height, would give attention to my cry (verse 16). He is Force, crushing Force alone, guided only by causeless caprice (verse 17); stifling the cry of the pleader in his mouth, and filling him with bitterness (verse 18).
4. The human dilemma. Man in presence of an absolute Tyrant must always be in the wrong. If he stands on might, he is a fool; if he appeals to right, he has no court of all appeal—for who can challenge the Judge of heaven and earth? Right will be set down as wrong, innocence will be pronounced guilt (verses 19, 20). We see, from this picture of Job's state of mind, that there is no extremity of doubt so dim as when man is tempted to disbelieve in the principle of justice as the law of the universe, which cannot be broken. The thought of God turns then only into one of unmitigated horror and despair.—J.
Rebellion of the conscience against this picture of terror.
A reaction comes; for the clear testimony of consciousness may be obscured for a time, but cannot be denied. In that clear consciousness, it seems that Job will turn against the injustice (as he thinks) of God, and boldly denounce it.
I. A GOOD CONSCIENCE LIFTS THE MIND ABOVE ABJECT FEAR.
II. IT IMPARTS CONTEMPT OF DEATH. (Verse 21.)
III. IT STIMULATES TO BOLDNESS IN PLEADING ONE'S CAUSE. We must think of Job, according to a leading conception of the book, as within his right in pleading against his (supposed) adversary as in a court. He argues, as again showing that God is merely an absolute Tyrant, that the innocent are punished along with the guilty (verse 22). There are two examples of this:
1. The scourge, or pest, which quickly sweeps away whole populations, making no discrimination between the good and evil, the hoary sinner and the helpless babe (verse 23).
2. The dominion of the wicked in the world. Their faces are covered; they do not distinguish between right and wrong. And who else can be the Cause of this but God (verse 24)?—J.
I. SELF-CONTEMPLATION IN REFERENCE TO THE PAST. His life has sped swiftly—like a courier, or the swift boat of the Euphrates or the Nile, or the swooping eagle (Job 9:25, Job 9:26), and without seeming prosperity. Here he perverts the history of the past; but memory as welt as reason is poisoned.
II. IN REFERENCE TO THE FUTURE. (Job 9:27, Job 9:28.) Hope has broken its wing. The effort to remove the gloom from his brow is useless, unless he could remove the weight frown his heart. That—the sense of the disfavour of God—comes roiling back from every effort, like the stone of Sisyphus.
III. THE VANITY OF MORAL ENDEAVOUR. (Job 9:29-31.) He feels himself as under an absolute decree of guilt which no earthly power can possibly remove. Should he use snow-water and lye, i.e. employ all means to justify himself, still his absolute Judge would plunge him back into a state of horrible pollution.
IV. THE INEQUALITY OF THE STRIFE BETWEEN MAN AND GOD. Were it between man and man, he has no doubt of the success of his cause.
V. THE WANT OF A COUNT OF APPEAL. (Job 9:32, Job 9:33.) There is no "daysman," or arbitrator, who can lay the hand of authority upon both of us, and, by determining the cause, bring the strife to an end.
VI. PASSIONATE APPEAL AND RESOLVE. The appeal is for freedom of speech (Job 9:34, Job 9:35; Job 10:1, Job 10:2). The last, or one of the last, boons that honourable men can be disposed to deny to the oppressed; one that God will never deny to his intelligent creatures. Yet Job, overcome by the dogmatism of his friends, seems to think it is now denied him. The resolve is that since life has now become a weariness and a disgust, he will give free way to words, regardless of consequences. In reviewing this wild complaint of an unhinged intelligence, we may learn the following lessons:
1. God is not to be thought of as absolute Power, but rather as absolute Justice and Love. The former is the conception of a demon, the latter that of the Father of spirits.
2. All sides and aspects of nature must be viewed as equally revelations of God.
3. Man is never weak when he has right on his side, and, though he seems to be crushed, he will be exalted for ever.
4. Darkness in the reason is no proof of the withdrawal of God's favour. Our subjection and personal sufferings do not affect the eternal objective realities. The clouds may hide, but cannot efface, the sun.
5. God is merciful to our misunderstandings, and detects the spark of faith in the heart of sufferers who may be unconscious of it themselves.—J.
HOMILIES BY R. GREEN
Man unable to answer to God.
Job resumes. He knows, as truly as does Bildad, that God doth not pervert justice. His work is always right, while man is erring, vain, and sinful. How shall the creature "answer" to the Creator? Were the Holy One to condescend to enter into controversy with his frail creature man, the poor sinner would be dumb. Out of the mouth, even of the guilty, God would extort the confession of his own righteousness, and by his manifested glory compel the proud and self-conceited one to acknowledge his own sinfulness and error. This confession finally comes from the lips of his faithful "servant Job." The present words are the first notes of that final triumphant confession. The inability of man to answer God arises—
I. FROM THE FACT OF THE ABSOLUTE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF THE DIVINE WAYS, Job acknowledges this; and this makes his own suffering lot, as the servant of God, so inexplicable both to himself and to his mistaken friends, who are bent, at all hazards, on finding an answer. It is possible for man to pretend an answer to God; and, with wicked boldness, to enter into contention with him. But, in presence of the perfectly holy work of the Most High, he must ultimately be silenced.
II. BUT MAN IS EQUALLY UNABLE TO ANSWER TO GOD BY REASON OF THE SINFULNESS OF HIS DOINGS. Even Job, commended of God, does not hide his sinfulness. On the lowest ground, it must be complained of man's work that it is imperfect. His best deeds, done with his utmost strength and with an intention as pure as he can summon, are but imperfectly done. The strength is but feebleness; the motive lacking in the highest qualities, and the performance but irregular. The unsteadiness of the human hand may be traced through all Therefore—
III. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR MAN TO MAINTAIN HIS OWN RIGHTEOUSNESS BEFORE GOD. The measure of moral apprehension left even in the most faulty is sufficient to convince every one in presence of the Divine holiness—the true standard—that he is verily guilty. Even Job, when he saw God, abhorred himself, repenting "in dust and ashes." In humility he confesses, "How should man be just with God?" If vain man, who is foolish enough at times to attempt any presumptuous work, should dare to "contend" with the eternal Ruler, it must only end in his utter defeat; for "he is wise in heart, and mighty in strength."
IV. THE HARDENING OF THE HEART TO APPEAR IN CONTENTION MUST ONLY END IN SHAME AND DISGRACE TO HIM. To this all experience bears witness; for who hath done so "and hath prospered"? Man is puny, ignorant, weak, vain, and sinful. How shall he appear in the presence of the Almighty, the All-wise, the Eternal? Lowliness and contrition describe the true attitude for man to assume before God. Then will he be gracious, and lift up him that is bowed down. But "if he withdraw not his anger, the proud helpers stoop under him."—R.G.
Job 9:15, Job 9:16
The true attitude of the afflicted.
Job makes a suitable reflection on the almightiness of Jehovah, seen in his control over the visible world. The lofty and deep-seated mountains, the very types of might and stability, he "removeth" without their knowing, and "overturneth in his wrath." He "shaketh" the whole "earth out of her place," and maketh the "pillars thereof to tremble." In the high heavens "he commandeth the sun, and it riseth not;" and "the stars" he "sealeth up" in darkness. The earth and the heavens obey him; and he "treadeth upon the waves of the sea." He doeth hidden and numberless things, and none can hinder him. Job, in view of this, and with a lowly recognition of his own powerlessness before the Lord of all, bows himself down in the attitude most becoming to the feeble, afflicted, and sinful child of man. It is—
I. AN ATTITUDE OF LOWLY HUMILITY. How becoming! How just! Let the creature bow low before the Creator. Let the feeble thing of a day humble himself before the Eternal and the Almighty. Let him who is powerless before the mountains and the sea, who cannot touch the stars, take his place in the dust, whence he is, in presence of him who by his power setteth fast the mountains; who by his word Created the heavens and the earth, and upholdeth all by his own unaided strength. Lowliness will be followed by—
II. AN ATTITUDE OF SELF-DISTRUST. Knowing himself as he only can who reflects on the greatness of the Most High, the wise, afflicted one will not trust to an arm of strength; but, in the painful consciousness of his own weakness, will commit himself to the strong Lord who is over all. Job knows, as every afflicted one, that his suffering holds him as in a net, from which he cannot break loose. He has no power. He is chained, held down. His own flesh triumphs over him. He is a prisoner to disease. In his helplessness, with self-distrustfulness he casts himself into the arms of God. He would not pretend to make answer, or to "choose out words to reason with him." His self-distrust is followed by—
III. PENITENCE—the one attitude of all the most becoming to man. In penitence he acknowledges his unrighteousness. And so deep is that penitence, that he declares, "Though I were able to establish my righteousness, yet I could not presume to answer." Penitence is the pathway to heaven's gate. He who lowly walks, walks surely. And God lifteth up them who thus bow themselves down. But he rises—
IV. TO THE ATTITUDE OF PRAYER. He lifts his voice to God. He makes his "supplication." He who is led to pray is led to the feet of him who casts away no needy suppliant. It is his high prerogative to hear prayer. Therefore all flesh, in their want, their sorrow, their sin, or with their songs of praise, come to him. Man's safety is here. The lowly, self-distrustful, humble penitent cannot raise his voice on high without the gracious response of the Divine mercy reaching him. To this men are driven
(1) by their sense of impotence;
(2) by the consciousness of sin;
(3) by the assurance of the Divine mercy.
Happy he who thus learns!—R.G.
The object desired by Job—and here he speaks for all sinful ones—is to obtain reconciliation with Jehovah, against whom he acknowledges himself to have sinned. He cries for a mediator, an arbiter, an umpire; one able to "lay his hand upon us both"—to bring us together, mediating between us.
I. THE NECESSITY FOR THIS ARISES:
1. From Job's consciousness of sin. In his prayer (verse 28) he confesses to God, "I know thou wilt not hold me innocent." "I am not innocent," is the first confession of guilt. "If I justify myself, my own mouth shall condemn me."
2. From Job's inability to "answer" to God. Of this he has made both complaint and confession. "Whom, though I were righteous, yet would I not answer" (verse 15). Fear and just humility seize him. "How much less shall I answer him?" (verse 14). Man cannot order his own cause before the eternal Judge. "He cannot answer him one of a thousand" (verse 3).
3. From their utter inequality. "He is not a man, as I am" (verse 32). They could not therefore "come together in judgment." How vain of poor, ignorant, feeble, sinful man to suppose that he can answer to God—that he can "appear before him!" How vain even to imagine himself justified and pure before him! Yet many "appear before" God in the presumptuous, self-excusing, self-justifying thoughts of their minds. All such self-justification condemned by Job's wise words and just views of things.
II. JOB'S CRY IS THE UNCONSCIOUS CRY OF THE UNIVERSAL HEART OF MAN FOR A MEDIATOR. Seen in all religious systems—the faith in the priest—the conscious ignorance of hidden spiritual verities. The uninterpreted apprehension of a spiritual world and government and future, and yet the inability to deal with these and to put one's self in a right attitude respecting them. This cry is heard in all lands, languages, and times. "Oh that there were a daysman!" This cry prepares for and anticipates the true Mediator.
III. THE RESPONSE TO THE UNIVERSAL NEED IN THE "ONE MEDIATOR BETWEEN GOD AND MEN." Happily "himself Man." God "hath spoken unto us in his Son"—no longer in prophets, but in a Son, who is at the same time "the effulgence of his glory, and the very image of his substance;" and yet "Man"—"bone of our bone." "God manifested in the flesh," and yet "in all things" "made like unto his brethren." Speaking with Divine authority to us in our language, and of heavenly things on our level And revealing within the compass of a human life, and by means of human acts and human sentiments, the thought and love and pitiful mercy of God. And representing us—doing what Job felt (and all have felt whose views were just) he could not do, "appear before the face of God for us." Now we "have our access through him in one Spirit unto the Father." If we cannot order our speech or our cause, he can. If we cannot answer one of a thousand, he can. For he is able, indeed, to "put his hand upon both."—R.G.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
The problem of justification.
It is very doubtful how far Job conceived of this great problem as it has presented itself to us since the time of St. Paul. The whole question was confused to his apprehension by the inexplicable perplexity of his situation and the grossly unfair insinuations of his friends. It appeared as though God were his Adversary, and it seemed hopeless to attempt to set himself right with One whose power was so vastly greater than his own. We have not Job's peculiar difficulties in regard to Divine providence. Yet to us the problem of justification is not less serious because we have been made to see the moral difficulties more closely. Let us, then, consider the Christian view of the problem of justification and its solution.
I. THE PROBLEM. The question which Job propounds is of a universal character. He does not ask how he, as one individual in special circumstances, can be justified; but his own case leads him to think of man generally. He feels that his difficulty is his share of a general difficulty of the race. What is this?
1. To be just with God is to stand right with God. The expression implies a certain relationship. It goes beyond subjective righteousness; it is more than internal holiness. It is a standing in right relations to God, in such relations as admit of his treating us as just men.
2. The character o/the relations depends on God's view of us. We may appear just in the eyes of men and yet not be just with God. He knows us as we are, and he can be deceived by no cloak of hypocrisy. Therefore we have to lay aside all shams and appearances when we come to consider the question of our justification before God.
3. Sin puts us all in wrong relations with God. We start with the fact that we need to be justified. The justification cannot be a clearing of our character from false imputations, as Job's was largely; for many accusations are true—we are guilty. Hence the tremendous difficulty of the problem.
4. It is unspeakably important that we should be in right relations with God. This is not a question of abstract dogmatics, but one of personal experience. It does not merely touch our feelings, and concern itself with our peace of mind; it is vital to our soul's salvation.
II. ITS SOLUTION. Job propounds the question as though no answer could be given. With him it is a case of despair. But Christ has brought an answer, which St. Paul has expounded in the Epistle to the Romans.
1. We cannot justify ourselves with God. It is necessary to see this first of all The Jews made the experiment with their Law, and failed. Many now make it, either by attempting to excuse themselves or by trying to better themselves. But they always fail.
2. God has made a method of justification. This is the great wonder of redemption, that our Judge provides our Advocate; that he who might condemn us finds a way by which we may be forgiven.
3. This justification is in Christ. (Romans 3:22.) Christ brings forgiveness of past sin and recovery to God. Thus he puts us in right relations with our Father.
4. It is realized by means of faith. (Romans 3:28.) When we put our trust in Christ, we receive from him the grace of pardon and renewal. The condition of faith is absolutely necessary. We must avoid the mistake of supposing that this is faith in our own state of justification, i.e. a believing ourselves to be justified. It is not that; but it is a personal trust and loyalty in relation to Christ himself.
5. This condition results in a real state of right relations with God. Justification is not a legal judgment, a mere pretence, affirming that we are what we are not. That would be a lie. It is an actual fact; a putting as in right relations with God. Thus it is the root and promise of righteousness.—W.F.A.
I. THE NEED TO BE JUSTIFIED. The burning necessity of justification lies at the root of Job's terrible agony. Yet even he does not feel it in its deep moral and spiritual significance, as it would have been felt by one who was conscious of sin rather than of undeserved suffering and unjust accusations. We cannot endure to be out of right relations with God. Though our lost state may not trouble us as yet, the time will come when we shall see its terrible and fatal character.
II. WE ARE TEMPTED TO JUSTIFY OURSELVES. The very need causes the temptation. Moreover, a self-flattering vanity urges us in the same direction. It is most painful and humiliating to have to own that we are sinners, deserving nothing but wrath and condemnation. When we feel ourself in danger, we are at once urged by very instinct to put ourselves in an attitude of self-defence.
III. WE MAY BE DELUDED INTO A MISTAKEN BELIEF THAT WE ARE JUSTIFIED. No delusions are so powerful as those which flatter us. It is so easy to put things in a favourable light to ourselves. While we are our own judges, every motive of self-esteem urges us to a favourable judgment. Then there comes in the terrible mistake of determining according to our feelings rather than according to objective reality, so that when we have argued or soothed ourselves into a comfortable assurance that all is well, that very assurance is regarded as a proof of the fact on which it is supposed to be grounded. But this may be a pure hallucination. It is possible to be justified before God and yet to be tormented with needless fears of condemnation, and it is equally possible to be still under condemnation while we fancy ourselves in a state of justification.
IV. SELF-JUSTIFICATION MUST FAIL. We cannot get outside ourselves or transcend our own experience. No lever by which a man can lift himself has ever been invented. We may make a fair show in the flesh, but we cannot change our own hearts. We have sinned against God; it is useless for us merely to forgive ourselves; we need God's pardon. If sin were not real, we might find a defence which would clear our reputation. But it is real, most terribly and unquestionably real. This fact makes self-justification impossible.
V. OUR OWN CONDUCT DEMONSTRATES THE DELUSION OF SELF-JUSTIFICATION, Job seems to think he is so hardly dealt with, and God so much greater than he is, that whatever he says in self-justification will be turned against him. That is a mistake, for God is just and merciful. But in a deeper sense God's words are true. We may say we are just, but our deeds belie our words. Nay, our very mouth, that proclaims our justice, denies it; for our words arc often sinful, ungenerous when they are not untrue.
VI. THE FAILURE OF SELF-JUSTIFICATION SHOULD DRIVE US TO GOD'S JUSTIFICATION IN CHRIST. We need not despair like Job, for we have a gospel to the unrighteous. Christ has brought a perfect justification, in pardon and renewal, for all who own their sin and trust his grace.—W.F.A.
The injustice of equality.
Job complains that the same doom is meted out to the perfect and the wicked; this seems to be unjust. Our modern complaints are of the injustice of the terrible inequalities of life. But Job's position suggests to us that justice is not simple equality. Equal dealing may be unjust dealing. To be fair to all, we must not treat all alike. Yet the injustice of equality is apparently a common thing in the experience of life, and even in the dispensations of Providence. Thus special providence seems to be lost, and one broad, rough treatment appears to serve for the greatest variety of people.
I. IT WOULD BE UNJUST TO TREAT ALL ALIKE. This much may be conceded if we think of the whole of life, not of external experience alone, nor only of this temporal and limited sphere of existence. To look for absolute equality is to ignore variations of requirements and distinctions of character. But if this be so, what are we to understand by the apparent disregard of those differences? The world is governed by general laws. Events have widespread influences. Calamities come in a swelling tide, not in a meandering stream, and when they sweep over the land, weeds and fruitful plants suffer from the same devastation.
II. NEVERTHELESS, GOD IS NOT THUS UNJUST. Job is mistaken.
1. We only see the outside of life. The events which are common to all alike are external. They are visible objects of superficial observation. But these events do not constitute the whole of experience. The blow that breaks stone only toughens iron. The calamity that is a crushing judgment to one man is a healing tonic to another. When a flood sweeps over a district it leaves behind very different effects; for while it only brings ruin to houses, it brings fertility to fields. So the trouble is only equal externally. If only we could follow it into the experience of different men, we should discover that the inequality has ceased, and that a different effect is produced according to character and condition. While it is a curse to one life, it is a blessing to another.
2. We only see the present experience. Now, and on earth, there seems to be a rough, indiscriminate treatment of men. Here the injustice of equality is too often seen. Bat we must wait for the end. In Job's case the end brought about a complete reversal of the whole course of events. Now God makes his sun to shine and his rain to fall on good and bad alike—favouring equally, as he sometimes chastises equally. But this equality will not continue after death. Wheat and tares grow together, but only until the harvest. There will be a great inequality of treatment, when the one is gathered into the barns, and the other is burned. Surely men should learn to bear the common troubles of life patiently, if they know that beyond them all there is more than compensation: there is fruitful increase, with richest blessings, for the true servants of God who endure patiently.—W.F.A.
Job 9:25, Job 9:26
The swift days.
Job compares his days to what is swiftest-on earth, the running messenger; in the sea, the boat of reeds; in the air, the eagle darting down on its prey. We must not look for a difference in the suggestiveness of these several illustrations. Gathered from every region of existence, they give great emphasis to the one significant fact of the brevity of life.
I. OUR DAYS ARE SWIFT IN COMPARISON WITH NATURE. The course of nature moves on slowly. Geology tells of innumerable vast ages of antiquity. Evolution presupposes an even longer stretch of time. By the side of the gradual movements of nature, our little days are swift and brief. Each man's life registers but a moment on the great dial of time. The old world rolls on, while we children of a day come and go in a rapid march of succeeding generations.
II. OUR DAYS ARE SWIFT IN RELATION TO OUR DESIRES. We crave for long experience. Extinction of being is a horror to us. There are within us great instincts of immortality. Thus, while we live our little earthly day, we are reaching forward to God's great eternity. We cannot be satisfied with an ephemeral existence.
III. OUR DAYS ARE SWIFT IN REGARD TO OUR POWERS. It takes us long to train those powers. Half a lifetime is not enough to perfect them. But before they are perfected, the shadows begin to lengthen and the melancholy afternoon is upon us. Surely, if God has given us faculties that take so long to develop, and that seem capable of great achievements if only they had full scope, it is sad that they should begin to wither as soon as they have reached maturity.
IV. OUR DAYS ARE SWIFT IN CONNECTION WITH OUR DUTIES. There is so much to be done and so little time to do it in. Our tasks grow upon us, and our opportunities are cramped and cut short. Do we not all plan out more work than we can ever accomplish? Thus we labour with a sad consciousness that we can never overtake our intentions.
V. OUR DAYS ARE SWIFT BY THE, SIDE OF OUR EXPECTATIONS. A child sees eternity before him. In his estimation, one year—a whole year—is a vast epoch. Even in later youth time seems to be an abundant commodity. There is little need to economize it, for have we not enough and to spare? Presently we are surprised to see how quickly its unheeded moments are slipping away from us. Every year it goes faster, till the silent stream has become a headlong torrent, and days fly past us with terrible speed.
VI. OUR DAYS ARE SWIFT IN THE LIGHT OF ETERNITY. Here is the explanation of the whole mystery. We are not creatures of a day, although our earthly life is so short. God has given us a spark of his own immortality. In view of that the largest earthly life is a fleeting shadow. Yet the ample leisure of eternity must not make us careless of the work of the day, for this day will never return. How valuable is time in the outer world! The messenger runs with swiftest paces, the little skiff darts about on the waters, the fierce eagle drops on its prey like a thunderbolt. Though eternity is long, let us hasten to use our glorious prospects as an inspiration for a like eagerness in making the most of our brief earthly days.—W.F.A.
Job 9:30, Job 9:31
Despair of purification.
Job is possessed by a terrible thought. He imagines that God is so determined to have him as an object of condemnation that nothing he can do can set him right; even if he makes himself ever so clean, God will plunge him back in the mire, God will overwhelm him with guilt. This is, of course, a wholly false view of God, though it is not altogether inexcusable with Job in his ignorance and awful distress.
I. GOD ONLY DESIRES OUR PURIFICATION. We may not be tempted to fall into Job's mistake, for we have more light, and our circumstances are far more hopeful than his were. Still, it is difficult for us to conceive how entirely averse to making the worst of us God is. He cannot ignore sin, for his searching glance always reveals it to him, and his just judgment always estimates it rightly. He must bring our sin home to us; for this is for our own good, as well as necessary in regard to the claims of righteous-neat. Thus he seems to be forcing out our guilt. But in doing so he is not plunging us into the mire, but only making apparent the hidden evil of our heart. The process is like that of a photographer developing a picture, like that of a physician bringing a disease to the surface. The result makes apparent what existed before, unseen but dangerously powerful.
II. IT IS HOPELESS TO ATTEMPT OUR OWN PURIFICATION. Here Job was right. We may wash ourselves, but we shall not be clean. Sin is more than a defilement; it is a stain, a dye, an ingrained evil. It is like the Ethiopian's skin and the leopard's spots; sin has become a part of the sinner's very constitution. Tears of repentance will not wash it out. Blood of sacrificed victims will not cleanse it away. Penance and good deeds will not remove it. We cannot undo the past, cannot do away with the fact that sin was committed. Therefore we cannot remove the guilt of our sin, nor its contaminating, corrupting influence from our consciences.
III. GOD PROVIDES PURIFICATION FROM SIN. We need not despair. Job is not only mistaken; the truth is the very opposite to what he imagines it to be. God himself, instead of aggravating guilt, has provided the only efficacious means for its removal. This was promised in the Old Testament: "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord," etc. (Isaiah 1:18). It is accomplished in the New Testament. Christ offered forgiveness of sin (Matthew 9:2). By his death on the cross he made that forgiveness sure to us. What no tsars or works of ours can do is effected by the blood of Christ, which "cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). That is to say, Christ's death is the great purifying sacrifice. When we trust in him the cleansing of guilt that is given, on condition of the perfect sacrifice, is ours. Our despair of purification outside Christ should only drive us to Christ that we may receive it.—W.F.A.
Job regarded it as unfair that his Judge and his Accuser should be one and the same Person, and he craved an umpire to come between. As a matter of fact, he was mistaken. His accuser was not his Judge. Satan was his accuser, and God was the great and just Umpire of the contest. Still, men have ever felt the need of one who should come between them and God, and assist them in coming to a right understanding with God. The feeling has arisen in part from a similar mistake to Job's, but also in part from a spiritual instinct. Leaving Job's misconception, what may we regard as the truth about this idea of the Daysman?
I. WE ARE AT FEUD WITH GOD IN OUR SIN. There is an ancient quarrel between the race and its Maker. Sin is more than disease; it is rebellion. It is more than a stain on our character; it is an offence against God. It is worse than a disarrangement of earthly relations; it is a wrong attitude towards Heaven. These unearthly characteristics of sin give to it a peculiar horror and make it a deadly danger. So long as we are living in sin we are God's enemies.
II. IT IS TIME THIS FEUD WERE BROUGHT TO AN END. It only widens while it is left unchecked. The longer we sin, the deeper our antagonism to God becomes. Thus we "treasure up wrath against the day of wrath." This is no matter of mere unseemliness and impropriety. It is a fearful wrong that the child should be fighting against his Father. It must bring ruin on the child and grief to the Father.
III. WE NEED A DAYSMAN TO SET US RIGHT WITH GOD. The Daysman is our Mediator. Now, the doctrine of mediation is not so popular as once it was. People say, "We want to go straight to God. He is our Father, we are his children. We want no one to come between us. We simply want to go straight home to God." There is much truth and rightness of feeling in this desire. If anything came between us and God, so as to hinder us, that would be a stumbling-block, an idol, and it would be our duty to remove it out of our way. Any abuse of sacraments, any tyranny of priestism, any person the most exalted, if even an angel from heaven, who came between so as to obstruct the way to God, would be an evil to be deplored and avoided. If even Christ stood in this position it would be our duty to forsake him. If Christianity meant a more difficult and roundabout way to God, it would be right to renounce Christianity, and to revert to a simpler theism. But the question is—What is the nearest way back to God? The exile desires to go straight home. You offer to show him on the route fine mountains, ancient cities, picturesque ruins, tie will have none of them. He only wants to go home by the most direct way. But alas! he is far from home, and between him and his home there is the broad ocean. How shall he cross it? Not the Mediator is to help us over the ocean that separates us from God. He is between us and God, not as a wall that divides, but as a door in the already existing wail, or as the bridge that crosses a chasm—not to separate, but to unite. We have a Daysman—Christ. Our nearest Way to God, our only Way, is through him (John 14:6).—W.F.A.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Job 9". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18