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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Job 2

 

 

Verses 11-13

DISCOURSE: 452

FRIENDLY SYMPATHY ILLUSTRATED

Job 2:11-13. Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him. And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven. So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.

JOB in a second conflict had gained the victory: yea, though his wife acted as a confederate with Satan, and urged him to “curse God and die,” yet did he retain his integrity, and prove himself worthy of the character which God had given him. But the rumour of his unprecedented calamities had spread far and wide, and had caused all those who should have been a comfort to him to depart from him; insomuch that, having none to administer to his relief, he had “taken a potsherd to scrape himself withal.” But three of his aged friends, descendants of Abraham, though not of the chosen seed, still loved and honoured him; and feeling their incompetency, as individuals, to afford him all the instruction and consolation that the occasion called for, concerted a plan to visit him together, and to unite their efforts for his welfare. An account of their first interview is here set before us; and a most interesting account it is. In discoursing upon it, we shall be led to contemplate,

I. The nature of love—

[Love, as described by St. Paul [Note: 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.], and as summarily expressed by our blessed Lord [Note: Mark 12:31. Matthew 7:12.], is the acting in all things towards our neighbour as we would think it right that he, in a change of circumstances, should act towards us. It makes us to consider all men as members of one great body, and to participate with them in their feelings, as the different members of our own body would with each other [Note: 1 Corinthians 12:25-26.]. If any be afflicted, it prompts us to fly to their relief, and to concert the best measures in our power for their restoration to happiness. In the friends of Job we see the nature of love well exemplified: they did not feel indifferent about him, or run from him, as they did whose hearts were destitute of love; but they met together for the express purpose of participating and alleviating his sorrows. They did this, too, unsolicited, and unsought: it was the fruit of a divine principle within them, the voluntary expression of their own affectionate regards. This was a “love, not in word and in tongue, but in deed and in truth:” it was “a love without dissimulation:” and wherever true love exists, it will produce exactly the same dispositions, and stimulate, according to its measure, to the same exertions.]

In executing their benevolent plan, Job’s friends have shewn us,

II. The effects of sympathy—

[When they were yet at some distance from him, they saw him; but would not have recognised him at all, (so altered was he in his whole appearance,) if they had not been prepared for the change by the reports which they had heard concerning him. But the sight deeply affected them all; so that they burst forth into floods of tears, and rent their mantles, as expressive of their anguish, and sprinkled dust upon their heads towards heaven, as mourners were wont to do [Note: See this whole expression of sorrow exemplified in those who mourned over the destruction of Tyre; Ezekiel 27:30-31.]. On coming into his immediate presence, “they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights,” that is, a considerable part of each successive day [Note: See Luke 2:37 and Acts 20:31.]; and so overwhelmed were they with the sight of his melancholy condition, that none of them could give utterance to their feelings, or attempt to suggest any thing for his relief.

Those who have never known from their own experience how entirely the soul may be overwhelmed with sympathy, conjecture, that during all this time the friends of Job were harbouring suspicions which they did not dare to express. But this idea is very injurious to the character of those holy men, and directly contrary to the account given in our text: for their silence is expressly ascribed to the overpowering effect of their own sympathy at the sight of his unparalleled afflictions; “They spake not, for they saw that his grief was very great:” and to this cause it must be ascribed. We know, that as silence is the proper effect of great sorrow [Note: “Cur ζlevel loquuntur; ingentes stupent.”], (David says, “I am so troubled that I cannot speak [Note: Psalms 77:4.],”) so is it also of deep sympathy; such as the elders of the daughters of Zion experienced, when they saw their city and temple destroyed, their princes and people carried into captivity, the law of their God forgotten, and their prophets no longer favoured with visions from the Lord [Note: Lamentations 2:9-11.]. In a word, the effect of sympathy is, to make the sorrows of another our own; and to produce in our hearts those very feelings of grief and anguish, which the afflicted individual himself is called to sustain.]

The interview, thus illustrated, displays,

III. The excellence of true religion—

[The whole of true religion is comprehended under the term love: “Love is the fulfilling of the law [Note: Romans 12:8-10.].” Moreover, the sympathy before delineated, is the most unequivocal expression of love: “Pure religion, and undefiled before God and the Father, is this; To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction [Note: James 1:27.].” See then religion as exemplified in our text, how beautiful does it appear! A carnal mind would admire rather a sight of kings surrounded by their nobles: but God and his holy angels, I have no doubt, esteem such a sight as was exhibited on that occasion, as infinitely grander than all the pomp of courts, yea than of “Solomon in all his glory.” Never did our Lord himself appear more glorious, no not even on the mount of transfiguration, than when he was weeping with sympathy at the tomb of Lazarus, or with compassion over the devoted city of Jerusalem. So the sight of these aged men, assembled to mourn with, and to comfort, their afflicted brother, and expressing in such significant ways their overwhelming sorrow, was as noble and as interesting as can be seen on earth. And O, what would this world be, if every one possessed such a spirit as they evinced! Yet such is the tendency of true religion, which transforms us into the image of that God, whose name and nature is love.]

By way of improvement, we will,

1. Recommend to you the exercise of these dispositions—

[Behold these men, how amiable they appear in all the posture and habiliments of woe! And are they not a fit pattern for you to imitate? But you have a brighter pattern than they, even our Lord Jesus Christ himself; who, when he saw our fallen state, came down from heaven to seek and save us, yea, “though rich, for our sakes he became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich.” O, what marvellous grace was here! and still, “as our Great High-priest, he is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, having been himself in all things tempted like as we are, on purpose that he might succour them that are tempted.” If then the example of Job’s friends be not sufficient to commend to you these lovely dispositions, let me entreat you to seek “the mind that was in Christ.” As a further inducement to this, consider how soon you yourselves may need the compassion and the sympathy of others. There is no man so secure, but he is open to the assaults of trouble on every side. Would you then in trouble have any to sympathize with you? Know, that “he who would have friends must shew himself friendly [Note: Proverbs 18:24.];” and that you must sow the grain which you desire to reap. This is an argument used by God himself, who bids us to “remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them that suffer adversity, as being ourselves also in the body [Note: Hebrews 13:3.].” If any further motive be wanted, consider, that in the day of judgment the exercise of this disposition will be a very principal subject of inquiry, as evincing the sincerity of our love to Christ: and every act of love towards the poorest of his people will be acknowledged by him as a favour conferred upon himself [Note: Matthew 25:40.]. Let me then recommend the exercise of love and sympathy to all who would adorn their holy profession now, or be approved of their God in that great and awful day.]

2. Suggest some cautions in relation to it—

[Let not sympathy be shewn with the rich only, or with our own particular friends; but let it be extended to all who are in trouble, whether rich or poor, whether known or unknown [Note: Job 30:25.]. We deny not but that those who are nearly related to us have a superior claim; as they have also who are of the household of faith [Note: Galatians 6:10.]: but still we must, like the good Samaritan, account every man our neighbour, and gladly avail ourselves of every opportunity of pouring balm into his wounded spirit.

Again, wait not till you are called and summoned to the house of mourning; but go thither of your own accord, esteeming it “far better to go there, than to the house of feasting [Note: Ecclesiastes 7:2; Ecclesiastes 7:4.].” Let the principle of love in you be like a spring, ever ready to act, the moment that a scope for action is afforded it. “Look not every man on his own things only, but every man also on the things of others [Note: Philippians 2:4. with 2 Corinthians 11:29.];” and be ready on all occasions to “rejoice with them that rejoice, and to weep with them that weep [Note: Romans 12:15.].” This readiness to “bear one another’s burthens is a fulfilling of the law of Christ [Note: Galatians 6:2.].”

But lastly, be not hasty to offer advice to those who are bowed down with a weight of trouble. There is a sacredness in grief which demands our reverence; and the very habitation of a mourner must be approached with awe. A hasty effusion even of consolatory truths is offensive to one who is not prepared in a measure for the reception of them. The language of many is, “Look away from me; I will weep bitterly; labour not to comfort me [Note: Isaiah 22:4.]:” and to such, an obtrusive officiousness is disgusting. To such, the silent eloquence of sighs and tears is more consolatory than the most copious harangue. See that you yourselves feel deeply; and then you will neither fall into an officious impertinence, on the one hand, nor deem even a silent visit unserviceable, on the other: you will patiently wait for the most favourable season, and administer your instructions as the mourner is able to receive them.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Job 2:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/job-2.html. 1832.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, July 8th, 2020
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14
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