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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Job 8



Verses 8-14



Job 8:8-14. Inquire, I pray thee, of the former age, and prepare thyself to the search of their fathers: (for we are but of yesterday, and know nothing, because our days upon earth are a shadow:) shall not they teach thee, and tell thee, and utter words out of their heart? Can the rush grow up without mire? can the flay grow without water? Whilst it is yet in his greenness, and not cut down, it withereth before any other herb. So are the paths of all that forget God; and the hypocrite’s hope shall perish: whose hope shall be cut off, and whose trust shall be a spider’s web.

RELIGIOUS controversy is rarely carried on with that meekness and candour, which are necessary to render it profitable to the soul. Even in such a sacred subject as religion, the generality seek for victory rather than for truth, and put such a construction on the expressions of their adversary as to distort his sentiments and to calumniate his views. The friends of Job, though good men, were guilty of this to a very great extent. In the chapter before us, Bildad begins his reply with a most unjustifiable misconstruction of all that Job had spoken; and accuses him of having represented God as “perverting justice;” when Job certainly never intended to make so impious an assertion. But still we must remember, that the general sentiments of Bildad were just; and that, if Job had really been such a character as his friends imagined, the warnings which they suggested, and the advice which they gave him, were on the whole both salutary and good.

In order to enter fully into the meaning of the words before us, we must particularly bear in mind, that Bildad regarded the sons of Job as ungodly, and Job himself as hypocritical [Note: Compare Job 4:7-11; Job 5:3-5. with 8:4, 6.]. In this view, he designates the former as “forgetting God,” and the latter as having acted “the hypocrite” before him: and both the one and the other he compares to “a rush,” which, when deprived of water, withers in a very short space of time.

We shall consider this comparison,

I. In reference to those who manifestly “forget God”—

Here, as we have observed, we must keep in view the precise character which Bildad considered as belonging to the sons of Job—

[They were living in ease and affluence, happy in their family connexions, and blessed with an abundant measure of harmony in their domestic circle. The apprehension which their father had, lest his sons should by any means have been led to dishonour God in their mirth [Note: Job 1:5.], shews, that they were not, in his opinion at least, possessed of solid piety; whilst, on the other hand, it shewed, that they were not addicted to impiety. Now persons of this description are very numerous: “There is a generation,” says Solomon, “that are pure in their own eyes, but are not washed from their filthiness [Note: Proverbs 30:12.]:” they fill up their stations in life with credit to themselves, and with benefit to all around them: they are irreproachable in their character, as men of honour and integrity, of kindness and benevolence, of decency and decorum: and in all these respects they are, “like the rush in the mire, green and flourishing.”

In their prospects also and their expectations, they are happy. Not anticipating evil, they look forward to fresh gratifications, like travellers in a rich and fertile country. In early youth they form sanguine hopes of settling in the world; and then of advancing their rising families: and thus, having always some fresh object in view, they run their career of pleasure or ambition, and conclude that, at the termination of it, they shall stand as high in the approbation, of their God, as they do in the estimation of their ignorant fellow-creatures.]

In their end also an especial reference is made to them—

[Those of the foregoing character, whilst living in their proper element, the world, flourish; but when, through illness or misfortunes, they can no longer enjoy the world, like the rush or flag in a season of drought, they wither: they need “not be cut down” by great calamities; small trials suffice to rob them of all their verdure, and to reduce them to a very pitiful and drooping state. “In the fulness of their sufficiency they are in straits [Note: Job 20:22.]:” and they are compelled, however reluctantly, to inscribe on every created enjoyment, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.”

But, if we look to the period of their departure hence, we shall find the text yet more awfully verified in them: then indeed “all their hopes perish, even as a spider’s web.” We have a most remarkable illustration of their state in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man seems to have been much such a character as we suppose these to be: he “lived to the flesh rather than to the Spirit,” and “to himself rather than unto God.” This was the rich man’s sin; (we charge him wrongfully, if we accuse him of avarice or oppression;) and it is the sin of those we are now speaking of [Note: Romans 8:5; Romans 14:7-9 and 2 Corinthians 5:15.]: they “forget God:” they forget, that God is entitled to all their love, and to all the service which they can possibly render to him: they forget, that, as he is the Author, so he should be also the End, of their being; and that, “whether they eat or drink, or whatever they do, they should have a single eye to his glory.” The end of such a course is seen in the rich man; who was no sooner taken from his present enjoyments, than he was cast into hell, where he “lift up his eyes in torments, and entreated in vain for a drop of water to cool his tongue.” We find him too requesting that a messenger might be “sent to his five surviving brethren, to warn them, lest they also should come into the same place of torment:” for then he found, what during his life he would not believe, what must of necessity be the issue of such a life; he found, what all must find, (either now by faith, or hereafter by their own actual experience,) that “the wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the people that forget God [Note: Psalms 9:17.].”]

The comparison in our text will be found no less just, if we consider it,

II. In reference to those who make a hypocritical profession of serving God—

As under the former head we have kept Job’s sons in view, so here we must keep Job himself in view.

In Bildad’s opinion of him we find the true notion of a hypocrite—

[Job had maintained a high reputation for sanctity, and had shewn a great zeal for God’s honour in relation to others; but, as Bildad erroneously thought, had neglected to consult it himself, or to live agreeably to his avowed principles. This, though not the true character of Job, is a just description of many amongst ourselves: they profess to venerate religion, and shew much zeal in the propagation of it: they pretend also to feel deeply, when any depart from the good way, and bring a disgrace on their holy profession: but yet they are themselves under the dominion of some besetting sin. They are secretly indulging pride, envy, malice, covetousness, lewdness, or some other bosom lust: they do not live nigh to God in their secret chamber, or aspire after an entire conformity to his will: they are more anxious to appear religious, than to be so, and to be applauded of man, than to be approved of God.

Now these persons, whilst carried on by a conceit of their own superior knowledge of divine truth, and a desire of establishing a character for piety, are, like the flag in the water, green and flourishing: they seem extremely rapid in their growth; and are regarded, both by themselves and others, as persons of a higher order of being.]

But the hope of all such persons is most delusive–

[It rarely happens that a hypocrite continues long to deceive those who are acquainted with his private habits: he cannot maintain a consistency of character, for want of an inward principle of grace. Like the seed sown in ground where it “had no depth of earth,” or like the flag destitute of water, he withers away, and exposes both himself and religion to general contempt. For the truth of this we may appeal to the records of former ages; yea, “though we are of yesterday and know nothing,” as it were, we must have seen it but too frequently in our own day; that person of high expectation have declined from the right path, and “made shipwreck either of faith or of a good conscience.” As Lot’s wife was a monument in the Old Testament, so is Demas in the New: and similar monuments are yet found in every Church.

But let us follow the hypocrite also into the eternal world: what is his condition there? Alas! alas! however high he was in his own estimation or in that of others, he is now fallen indeed; and all his towering hopes are now swept away with the besom of destruction [Note: See Job 20:4-7.]. Even whilst he is here carrying on his deception, though it be unsuspected by himself or others, and though his hypocrisy be not in act, but in heart only, he is “treasuring up wrath for himself [Note: Job 36:13.]” against “the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Christ Jesus [Note: Romans 2:16.].” Possibly he may carry his confidence with him into the eternal world, and almost presume to expostulate with his Judge: but “he will say to them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity [Note: Matthew 7:22-23.]:” and then shall their state be so superlatively wretched, that they who sink the deepest into perdition are said to “take their portion with the hypocrites.”]

O that we might all learn from this subject,

1. The importance of piety—

[We are not disposed to undervalue the blessings of worldly prosperity, or domestic happiness: but in comparison of eternal blessedness we must needs say, that every thing in this world is only as the dust of the balance. Yet the highest ambition of parents for their children is, to see them precisely in the way that Job’s children were, all with separate establishments, living in sweet harmony with each other, and in the vicinity of their parents, where all as one family, may augment and enjoy the happiness of the whole. This state also is regarded by young persons of both sexes as the summit of their ambition. But even in this life we see how soon their gourd may be withered by a worm at the root: and after this life, nothing remains of it, but a fearful responsibility for every hour that has been spent in a forgetfulness of God. Indeed, indeed, however the ungodly may scoff at piety, there is nothing that deserves a thought in comparison of it. If the whole world be no adequate price for one single soul, it is madness to be bartering away our souls, as so many do, for the veriest trifles that can be presented to our view. To all then, and especially to the young, I would say, Remember God; “remember your Creator in the days of youth” or health; and let “the life which you now live in the flesh, be by faith in the Son of God, who loved you and gave himself for you.” But, if you are still disposed to hold fast your delusive expectations, go and sweep away a spider’s web, and then reflect, how suddenly, and irrecoverably, it is destroyed. Then say with yourself, Such is my hope, and such will ere long be the termination of it. “O consider this, ye that forget God, lest he tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver you [Note: Psalms 50:22.].”]

2. The danger of self-deception—

[All see how others deceive themselves; yet none, of whatever class, imagine themselves to be in any great danger of self-delusion. But St. James tells us, that we may “seem to be religious,” and persuade ourselves that we are so, and yet “deceive our own souls, and have our religion vain [Note: James 1:26.].” O remember, that we live in a deceitful world, and have an adversary whose wiles and devices are inconceivably subtle; and that our own “hearts also are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked:” and let the consideration of these things make you “jealous over yourselves with a godly jealousy.” Be not too confident that all is right with you; but say with Paul, “Though I know nothing by myself, yet am I not hereby justified; but he that judgeth me is the Lord [Note: 1 Corinthians 4:4.].” Yet, if you have “the testimony of your own conscience that with simplicity and godly sincerity you have your conversation in the world, you may rejoice in it [Note: 2 Corinthians 1:12.]:” only “rejoice with trembling [Note: Psalms 2:11.];” and, bearing in mind that “God requireth truth in the inward parts [Note: Psalms 51:6.],” beg of him to “search and try you [Note: Psalms 139:23-24.],” and to make you “Israelites indeed, in whom there is no guile.”]


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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Job 8:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.

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