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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Job 21

 

 

Verse 14-15

DISCOURSE: 472

CONDUCT OF SINNERS TOWARDS GOD

Job 21:14-15. Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?

AS in the speeches of Job’s different friends, so in his answers to them, we must ever bear in mind the ground of their controversy. This, as we have often before mentioned, was, A persuasion on their part that God in his providence would mark the characters of men by his dealings towards them; and that signal judgments of any kind were sufficient, without any other evidence whatever, to prove the pre-eminent wickedness of the person on whom they were inflicted. The different speakers indeed all wander occasionally from the point, and launch out into other topics; but all intended to keep this point in view, and to make it the ultimate object of their discourse. The friends of Job had maintained their side of the question with great confidence, and had driven him more immediately to vindicate himself in opposition to the implied charge contained in their arguments; but here he speaks less of himself, and directs his answer more clearly to the general question. He shews that multitudes of those who prospered in the world were altogether addicted to impiety; yea, that their very prosperity was made by them an occasion of more determined hostility to God [Note: “Therefore.”]: and yet God continued to prosper them both in life and in death, so far, at least, as to exempt them from any remarkable judgments either in the one or the other. The impiety of these persons, as described in our text, must not be interpreted literally, as if the words here used were uttered with their lips: they must be understood as marking rather the language only of their hearts and lives; and in this view they will be found to designate with equal truth the dispositions and habits of ungodly men in all ages.

In evincing this, we shall,

I. Confirm the assertion in our text—

The assertion itself is most humiliating, seeing that it lays to the charge of unconverted men these two enormous crimes; first, that they cast off all regard for God; and next, that they vindicate this conduct as reasonable and proper. Now that this is but too just a description of unregenerate men, we appeal,

1. To observation—

[What is the conduct of the generality, when the light of divine truth is set before them? Do they not shut their eyes against it? Even the public exhibition of it they do not like: but if a pious minister or friend speak personally to them in secret, they rather resent it as an insult, than accept it with gratitude; and by the aversion to holy things which they manifest, they, in effect, “say to God, Depart from us; we desire not the knowledge of thy ways” — — — If an attention to heavenly things be urged from a regard to duty and interest, the generality will deny that a life of godliness is either necessary or profitable. They conceive, that their time and talents are altogether their own, to be employed according to their own will and pleasure: and that all serious piety, and a life of communion with God, are sources rather of pain and melancholy than of peace and happiness — — —]

2. To experience—

[What does every man’s own heart declare? Let us all look Lack and see, What has been our conduct in relation to this matter? Have we desired the knowledge of God’s ways, as we have of the ways that lead to worldly honour and interest? Have we not, on the contrary, when God, by his providence, his word, his Spirit, has been knocking at the door of our hearts, said to him, Depart from me; I have other occupations and interests to attend to; Thou must wait for a more convenient season? If pressed by the exhortations of a faithful friend or minister, have we not vindicated ourselves as acting a wise and rational part; and asserted, (by our conduct at least,) that such a devotedness to God as was required of us was neither necessary nor desirable? Yes verily, we all have “hated the light [Note: John 3:19-20.],” have wished it to be withheld from us [Note: Isaiah 30:10-11.], have “rebelled against it,” when it has flashed conviction on our consciences [Note: Job 24:13.], and have determined to go on our own way, in spite of all God’s warnings and invitations [Note: Jeremiah 6:16-17; Jeremiah 44:15-17.]. By this resistance to God we have in fact denied his authority over us [Note: Exodus 5:2. Psalms 12:4. Jeremiah 2:31.], avowed ourselves his decided enemies [Note: Romans 8:7.], and lived without him in the world [Note: Ephesians 2:12.] — — —]

Let us now proceed,

II. To suggest some reflections naturally arising from it—

1. How marvellous is the patience and long-suffering of God!

[The conduct above described is not peculiar to men of an abandoned character; it is found in every child of man. There are indeed some persons comparatively religious. Of these it may be said, that they affect religion, and even glory in the distinction which they assume to themselves as persons fearing God and working righteousness. But, in truth, there are no people more decidedly hostile to the Gospel than those whom we now refer to. No man was ever more zealous for a certain kind of religion than Paul in his unconverted state; yet no man was ever a more bitter persecutor of the Church than he. And it is a fact, that, when the Jews at Antioch wished to expel Paul and Barnabas from their city, they could find no persons that would enter more cordially into their views, or more vigorously execute their designs, than “the devout women, whom they stirred up” to countenance and aid their proceedings [Note: Acts 13:50.]. “God’s ways,” whether of acceptance with him, or of obedience to him, are displeasing and irksome to the natural man; the one being too humiliating for him, and the other too strict and self-denying: and the contempt that is universally poured on those who “walk as Christ walked,” is itself the most unequivocal proof of the universality of our departure from God, and our hatred of his ways. How astonishing then is it, that God should bear with us a single hour! that he does not now retaliate upon us, as he will do at the day of judgment, and say, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels!” Let us then “account the long-suffering of God to be salvation;” and “let his goodness and patience and forbearance lead us to repentance.”]

2. What glorious tidings does the Gospel bring to our ears!

[It was fox such persons that the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world, and offered himself a sacrifice to the offended Majesty of heaven: “Whilst we were enemies, Christ died for us.” To such persons also are we sent, to offer them a free and full salvation: the extent or long continuance of their rebellion is no bar to the exercise of divine mercy towards them: “Whosoever cometh unto me,” says our Lord, “I will in no wise cast him out.” O ye who are convinced of your past iniquities, and are sensible of your need of mercy, hear what St. Paul affirms; “It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, even the chief.” Do not imagine that God is filled with resentment against you, as your earthly parents would have been, if you had so treated them: he is plenteous in mercy; and, if you will go to him, he will “give you his blessing liberally, without upbraiding.” If it be thought, that justice will require the execution of vengeance on such sinners as we; be it known, that his justice is satisfied by the atonement which Christ has offered; and that he can now be “just, and yet the justifier of all them that believe.”]

3. What a blessed change takes place in the great work of conversion!

[The inmost dispositions of the soul are changed by grace; so that he who lately said unto God, “Depart from me,” now desires his presence above all things, and pants after God as the hart after the water-brooks, and considers “his loving-kindness as better than life itself.” Now he “counts all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord.” Nor is it the principles only of the Gospel that he loves, but the precepts also; and the way of God’s commandments is as much approved as the way of salvation through a crucified Redeemer. Now he feels that “he is not his own, but, having been bought with a price, is bound to glorify God with his body and his spirit which are God’s.” Nor is it any longer a question with him, whether there is any profit in communion with God: he knows and feels that there is no employment under heaven so profitable; and that, in fact, there is no profit in any thing, not even in attending the ordinances or in reading the word of God, unless a blessing be brought down upon the soul by fervent prayer.

Shew ye then, Beloved, the truth of your conversion by the change of your dispositions, your tempers, your habits. If ye be indeed brought forth into marvellous light, “walk as children of the light and of the day.” And as some remains of your former corruption will yet be found in you, be daily putting off the old man, and be putting on the new, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Job 21:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/job-21.html. 1832.

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