Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
But Job answered and said,Appearances
Let us see how oftentimes appearances are false. A great many things seem to be... and are not We think we see; we say, Seeing is believing: but it is not.
It does seem as though the Lord did hang the world or the earth upon nothing. But what if 'nothing' be greater than something? It would be like the Bible thus to educate us.
I. Now take an instance or two in illustration of the fact that the Bible often says things which it means to be taken in the contrary way. 'The children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness' (Matthew 8:12). Is it possible that the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness? It is not Then what are we to make of these words? Exactly what the Speaker intended us to make of them; He uses a figure of speech, He Himself is a living parable. That is what we forget; He did not make parables, He was Himself a Parable. What, then, if He always spake in parables? The apparent children of the kingdom, the persons who set up paper claims to be in the family; the persons who professed to be children, and so much professed it as to deny that any other were children except themselves. This was Christ's way of describing a life of hypocrisy and appearance only, a cloaked life, rottenness clad in purple, pestilence covered with a robe of silk; so-called, self-called children of the kingdom—oh, the mockery of that tone as He uttered the words!—shall be cast out into outer darkness.
II. Take another instance given by the Apostle Paul himself—1 Corinthians 1:21; 1 Corinthians 1:25—two instances almost in the same line—'the foolishness of preaching' and 'the foolishness of God'. Surely these terms are so startling as to be self-annotating. The meaning is so deeply concealed as to be to spiritual discernment patent and almost glaring. 'The foolishness of God;' that is to say, man looking upon the apparatus, says, The whole thing is absolutely impossible; that you should simply send forth men without swords, without purses, almost without sandals to their feet, and hardly a staff to his hand has the apostle, and he is going forth to pull down the empires that are of granite and gold and wrought iron. And he will do it. Things are not what they seem.
III. Then, again, we read in Job 26:11, 'The pillars of heaven trembled'. They did nothing of the sort; they looked as if they trembled. It was to indicate a great action on the other side of things; compared with the greater thunder, the immenser energy, it seemed as if the very pillars of heaven trembled, reeled, and would fall; the pillared firmament was rottenness, and earth's base built on stubble. Nothing of the kind. The geometry of the universe is perfectly safe. But it seemed as if it were so. Ay, that seeming will be the ruin of us all, if we do not take care. 'There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof is death.'
Dozens of these verses could be cited, and if they were set in consolidated array, they would all speak with one voice, saying in effect, Beware of appearances; beware of simulations; beware even of language that seems to be perfectly plain and clear; do not deceive yourselves by probabilities and by phantasmagoria of divers colour and action; always lay hold of the upper wisdom, and in the strength of that co-partnery read even the simplest document which a man sends to you; the signature may be right, but it may be subscribed to a document that is full of grammatical puzzle and contradiction; pray for the discerning mind, the penetrating soul, the all but infallible intuition and instinct.
—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. VII. p. 205.
The Voices of God
All the billows of trouble had swept over the heart of Job. His riches had taken wings and fled away; his physical strength had become as weakness itself until the grasshopper was a burden; his good name had vanished; the friends that at first praised him remained only to curse. And he bemoaned the silence of God in these hours of trouble. Sooner or later in life we all feel what Job felt—stars over us silent; graves under us silent; all the presences around about us—all are silent.
I. God's Effort to Speak to Us.—Now I suppose your scholars are right in thinking that some four thousand years have passed away since Job uttered that sentence, and men are a little inclined to believe that Job over-estimated the silence of God, and all our philosophers, and our poets, and our practical men are a little bit in danger in the hour of trouble of thinking that the silence is more marvellous than the speech. And perhaps when we come back again to larger knowledge we must think with Jesus Christ that it is the speech of God that is the wonderful thing—that instead of God being the silent one, He is the one Being who has worn His heart upon His sleeve, unrolled all His secrets, and syllables are spoken unto us by ten thousand thousand voices, and that it is man's ear that is deaf and does not listen to the sweetest voice that was ever heard, that it is man's eye which is blind to the marvellous writings that are yonder on pages of blue, that it is man's heart that is dead and utterly inert in the presence of One who is trying to speak unto His children in all these various voices.
II. Our Deafness—not God's Silence.—God is the world's great artist framing Himself forth in the landscapes. God is the world's great harvest-maker expressing Himself in the fruits and the flowers and the blossoms. God is the first great poet and philosopher and speaker. Patriots, martyrs, poets, statesmen and heroes—they all borrow their qualities and heroism from Almighty God, they dim the qualities in borrowing them from God. It is the pathos of God who is speaking that is manifest in our unwillingness to hear. We have forgotten about His voices.
III. God's Voice in Nature's Laws.—Law is simply God's way of doing things. The laws of Almighty God are around us, and they express His Divine will, so that when we come to study the great laws of Nature, we know that this is God speaking. When therefore we speak of the sciences we mean a copy of the laws of God. Geology copies God's handwriting on the pages of His rocks; astronomy copies God's handwriting and voice on the pages of His stars; physiology copies God's speech uttered through the human body; psychology—it is a copy of the laws of the human intellect; art—it is a copy of God's beautiful thoughts; tools—they are God's useful thoughts organized into terms of steel or iron or wood, and they give us these marvellous textures. These laws of nature through land and sea and sky, through all the fruits, through all that lends us beauty and truth—they are the voices of God speaking to us. We never can escape from Him. The angel of His goodness goes before us; the angel of His mercy follows after us. If we have a mind that is sensitive to His overtures of love, then the manifold voices of God in physical nature are, the marvellous fact and event of human life.
—N. Dwight Hillis, The Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxiv. 1908, p. 65.
'Science,' observes Herbert Spencer, 'realizes to us in a way which nothing else can, the littleness of human intelligence in the face of that which transcends human intelligence. While towards the traditions and authorities of men its attitude may be proud, before the impenetrable veil which hides the Absolute, its attitude is humble—a true pride and a true humility. Only the sincere man of science (and by this title we do not mean the mere calculator of distances, or analyser of compounds, or labeller of species; but him who through lower truths seeks higher, and eventually the highest)—only the genuine man of science, we say, can truly know how utterly beyond, not only human knowledge but human conception, is the Universal Power of which Nature, and Life, and Thought, are manifestations.'
'He dreamed of the grandeur and presence of God,' says Victor Hugo of Bishop Myriel in Les Misérables (chap, I.); 'of future eternity, that strange mystery; of past eternity, that even stranger mystery; of all the infinities that buried themselves before his eyes in all directions; and without seeking to comprehend the incomprehensible, he gazed at it. He did not study God; He was dazzled by Him.' Say what we can about God, say our best, we have yet, Israel knew, to add instantly: 'Lo, these are fringes of His ways; but how little a portion is heard of him!'
Most people with whom I talk, men and women even of some originality and genius, have their scheme of the universe all cut and dried—very dry, I assure you, to hear, dry enough to burn, dry-rotted and powder-pest, methinks—which they set up between you and them in the shortest intercourse.... The perfect God in His revelations of Himself has never got to the length of one such proposition as you, his prophets, state. Have you learned the alphabet of heaven and can count three? Do you know the number of God's family? Do you presume to fable of the ineffable? Pray, what geographer are you, that speak of heaven's topography?
—Thoreau, A Week on the Concord.
References.—XXVII.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xliv. No. 2557. XXVII. 2.—Ibid. XXVII. 5—A. G. Mortimer, The Church's Lessons, vol. i. p. 165.
How hast thou helped him that is without power? how savest thou the arm that hath no strength?
How hast thou counselled him that hath no wisdom? and how hast thou plentifully declared the thing as it is?
To whom hast thou uttered words? and whose spirit came from thee?
Dead things are formed from under the waters, and the inhabitants thereof.
Hell is naked before him, and destruction hath no covering.
He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing.
He bindeth up the waters in his thick clouds; and the cloud is not rent under them.
He holdeth back the face of his throne, and spreadeth his cloud upon it.
He hath compassed the waters with bounds, until the day and night come to an end.
The pillars of heaven tremble and are astonished at his reproof.
He divideth the sea with his power, and by his understanding he smiteth through the proud.
By his spirit he hath garnished the heavens; his hand hath formed the crooked serpent.
Lo, these are parts of his ways: but how little a portion is heard of him? but the thunder of his power who can understand?