Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Wherefore, Job, I pray thee, hear my speeches, and hearken to all my words.Job 33:1
Why is it that the just must endure such suffering on earth? The book of Job does not solve this perplexing question. On the contrary, this very book is the Song of Songs of scepticism, and in it the loathsome serpents of doubt writhe and hiss out their everlasting 'why?' How was it that, at the return from Babylon, the pious Commission of the Temple Archives, over which Ezra presided, admitted this book into the canon of the Holy Scriptures? I have often asked myself this question. My belief is that these Divinely enlightened persons did so, not from any lack of intelligence, but simply because, in their sublime wisdom, they saw that doubt was deeply rooted and grounded in human nature, and that it is not to be suppressed by any silly device, but must undergo its own appropriate cure.... This poison could not be spared from the Bible, the great medicine-chest for the family of mankind. Yes, just as man when he suffers must weep out his sufferings, so must he also think out his doubts when he feels that he is cruelly disappointed in his claims to earthly happiness.
Reference.—XXXIII. 6-33.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlii. No. 2453.
Must not what is called 'Revelation' be simply either Anticipation, or Suggestion, or Confirmation? Some favoured and highly strung natures tell us that they have arrived at this confirmation by 'spiritual discernment,' and can feel not the shadow of a doubt about the matter.... The truth, they say, was revealed to them, 'borne in upon their souls,' vouchsafed to them in a sudden gleam of light, 'in a dream, in a vision of the night,' and so on; and the moment it thus flashed upon them, it wrote itself upon their mental framework by its own illumination. What is this phraseology but simply a more lofty and excited, or more poetical way of saying (as we often hear contemplative thinkers of soberer temperaments say) that the conception suddenly occurred to them, flashed upon them, and was instinctively recognized at once as the true solution of the problem which had exercised their minds so long? And what in reality is this instantaneous recognition—this εὕρηκα cry—but the proof that the mind was capable of the discovery, and had long been on the brink of it?
—W. Rathbone Greg, Miscellaneous Essays, pp. 264, 265.
Reference.—XXXIII. 14-18.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlii. No. 2453.
It would be a poor result of all our anguish and our wrestling if we won nothing but our old selves at the end of it—if we could return to the same blind loves, the same self-confident blame, the same light thoughts of human suffering, the same frivolous gossip on human lives, the same feeble sense of that Unknown towards which we have sent forth irrepressible cries in our loneliness.
—George Eliot, Adam Bede (chap. VII.).
The Ministry of Interpretation
We shall always need a ministry of interpretation, a discriminating, highly intellectual, most penetrative ministry, that sees the little things as well as the great things, the coupling nexus, the filament, the plasm, the thing that is not yet a thing but will be a thing by and by in the out-throwing of all the purpose and issues of Divine providence. Nine hundred and ninety-nine of us therefore will do well to listen, to attend, to obey.
I. 'An interpreter,' that is emphatically what the Bible is. The Bible is the interpreter of God; the Bible has but one subject, all other subjects are cognate to it; they are, however, but collateral and minor; he only who keeps company with the Apostles, the minstrels, and the prophets can really interpret God.
The Bible shirks no great subject, it invites the soul to the discussion of the highest themes, it is not afraid to go into the cemetery and interpret the graves into resurrections; it is an infinite succour and a most tender strength.
II. Experience is the best commentator on the Bible. Salvation is not of grammar or of criticism. The great discussions do not turn upon points of etymology, syntax, or prosody. Every man is an interpreter of the Bible if he has rich and deep and varied experience; he can make the Bible prove itself. Never believe any man upon any subject who has not deep personal experience in relation to it. Mere intellectual expertness is becoming quite a nuisance; we want the voice of the heart, especially upon those subjects which concern the heart, and to other voices we cannot listen.
III. Jesus is the interpreter of God. He gathered us round His knee, so to say, and told us that God's real name was Father. We said, not like our father? Yes, was the gracious reply, like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that love Him. But not like some fathers? No, because some fathers are not fathers, they do despite to the genius of fatherhood; they are brutes, ruffians, cruel wicked persons, to whom the name father ought never to be given; but because there are these evil specimens of degenerate fatherhood the inner genius and spirit of fatherhood cannot be touched; that fatherhood means tenderness, love, law, sympathy, the large righteousness which melts into tears or burns into blossom. There is no interpreter of God equal to the Son of God.
—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. 1. p. 180.
References.—XXXIII. 23, 24.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. XV. No. 905. XXXIII. 24.—Ibid. vol. xliii. No. 2505. XXXIII. 27-29.—C. Perren, Revival Sermons, p. 303.
Take courage, say the happy to those in sorrow and trouble; are there not many mansions even here? seasons in their course; harvests in their season, thanks be to the merciful ordinances that mete out sorrow and peace, and longing and fulfilment, and rest after the storm. Take courage—say the happy—the message of the sorrowful is harder to understand. The echoes come from afar, and reach beyond our ken. As the cry passes beyond us into the awful unknown, we feel that this is, perhaps, the voice in life that reaches beyond life itself. Not of harvests to come, nor of peaceful home hearts do they speak in their sorrow. Their fires are out, their hearths are in ashes, but see, it was the sunlight that extinguished the flame.
—Miss Thackeray in Old Kensington.
Reference.—XXXIII. 29, 30.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix. No. 1101. XXXIV.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlvi. No. 2670. XXXIV. 29.—Ibid. vol. xiii. No. 737. XXXIV. 31, 32.—Ibid. vol. xxii. No. 1274. XXXIV. 32.—J. Vaughan, Sermons (9th Series), p. 21. XXXIV. 33.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlvi. No. 2670. Ibid. vol. xlix. No. 2834.
Behold, now I have opened my mouth, my tongue hath spoken in my mouth.
My words shall be of the uprightness of my heart: and my lips shall utter knowledge clearly.
The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.
If thou canst answer me, set thy words in order before me, stand up.
Behold, I am according to thy wish in God's stead: I also am formed out of the clay.
Behold, my terror shall not make thee afraid, neither shall my hand be heavy upon thee.
Surely thou hast spoken in mine hearing, and I have heard the voice of thy words, saying,
I am clean without transgression, I am innocent; neither is there iniquity in me.
Behold, he findeth occasions against me, he counteth me for his enemy,
He putteth my feet in the stocks, he marketh all my paths.
Behold, in this thou art not just: I will answer thee, that God is greater than man.
Why dost thou strive against him? for he giveth not account of any of his matters.
For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not.
In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed;
Then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction,
That he may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man.
He keepeth back his soul from the pit, and his life from perishing by the sword.
He is chastened also with pain upon his bed, and the multitude of his bones with strong pain:
So that his life abhorreth bread, and his soul dainty meat.
His flesh is consumed away, that it cannot be seen; and his bones that were not seen stick out.
Yea, his soul draweth near unto the grave, and his life to the destroyers.
If there be a messenger with him, an interpreter, one among a thousand, to shew unto man his uprightness:
Then he is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom.
His flesh shall be fresher than a child's: he shall return to the days of his youth:
He shall pray unto God, and he will be favourable unto him: and he shall see his face with joy: for he will render unto man his righteousness.
He looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not;
He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light.
Lo, all these things worketh God oftentimes with man,
To bring back his soul from the pit, to be enlightened with the light of the living.
Mark well, O Job, hearken unto me: hold thy peace, and I will speak.
If thou hast any thing to say, answer me: speak, for I desire to justify thee.
If not, hearken unto me: hold thy peace, and I shall teach thee wisdom.