Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. A PICTURE OF COMPLETE HAPPINESS. There are internal and external elements of earthly bliss; and neither must be absent if that bliss is to be full and complete. First in importance is the internal element - the kingdom el God within the man. Yet a starved or stinted virtue, struggling with poverty and adversity, is a sight to kindle pity as well as admiration. Our moral sense is only thoroughly satisfied when we see goodness furnished with sufficiency of this world's means. The moral energies are cramped by extreme misery; they find in competence a stage upon which they can move with ease and grace, and put forth all their powers in harmonious development. The great master, Aristotle, taught that the secret of happiness lay in the rational and virtuous activity of the soul in the whole of its life. But he also insisted that a sufficient provision of external goods was essential to complete happiness, just as the equipping of the Greek chorus was necessary for the representation of a drama. Yet the inferiority of the external elements of happiness to the internal is indicated, not only by their coming second in the description of the sacred poet, but by the swift tragic sequel, the darkening of the scene, the sudden breaking up of house and home and fortune of the prosperous man. And here we are reminded of the saying of another illustrious Greek, Solon: "Call no man happy till the day of his death." The fate of Croesus, whose name was a synonym for worldly luck in the ancient Greek world, pointed the moral of that saying, according to the charming story of Herodotus, as Job's vicissitudes give point to it here. This world passeth; all that is external to us is liable to loss, change, uncertainty. Only the "sweet and virtuous soul, like seasoned timber, never gives." The ruins of a falling world leave the true man unshaken. Doing the will of God, united to him by conscious obedience and trust, he abides for ever. Thus, in the concise emphatic designation of Job's character, in the very first verse of the poem, its key-note is struck.
II. LINEAMENTS OF CHARACTER. Four words, like a few expressive touches from a master's pencil, place before us the character of the patriarch.
1. "That man was perfect." That is, he was sound (integer vitae, as the Roman poet says) in heart and life, blameless in the ordinary sense in which we use that word, free from glaring vice or gross inconsistency. We must bear in mind that general epithets like these, denoting attributes of human character, are derived from our experience of external objects. They are, therefore, figurative expressions, not to be used in an exact mathematical sense, which, of course, is inapplicable to such an object as human character. Perfect, as a sound animal is said to be; without blemish, like a snowy, sacrificial lamb; spotless, like a "garnered fruit," without "pitted speck." There are two aspects of perfection - the negative and the positive. Negative perfection is more the Old Testament view. It is when the character presents a blank on the side of those gross vices, those sins against honour and truth and every Divine and social bend, which incur the hatred or man and the displeasure of Heaven. The New Testament view brings out the positive side of "perfection." It is not only the life void of offence, but it is the completeness of the Christian man in those heavenly graces, that bright resplendent adornment of the sanctified character, which in the sight of God is of great price. But there are conditions of life in which there is comparatively little scope for the development o! character widely on the positive side. There is but a small circle of duties, employments, amusements, relations, in such circumstances as in the primeval and pastoral simplicity of Job. How different from this highly developed, widely and variously interesting modern life of ours! Where more is given, more will be required. But the example of Job consists in the simplicity and integrity with which he moved about in the sphere of his little sovereignty, and, with every facility for indulging passion, for infringing right, for encroaching on the happiness of others, kept himself white as the lily, nobly free from blame. Not that he was that insipidity of character, a merely correct man. Intense selfishness is often found in your correct men. We see from glimpses presently given us in the course of the poem that he was an actively good man. Here we may read the exquisite descriptions of his past life in ch. 29. and 31., forced from him in his self-defence. We look upon the picture of a man who is the pillar of his community, a light, a comfort,, a joy to dependents and equals alike. It is a picture which the thousands of our countrymen who are in the enjoyment of fortune, position, education, and influence in their respective neighbourhoods, may be invited to contemplate and to imitate. The Divine pleasures and the noble reward of a right use of wealth and position, form for multitudes of the great a field but little explored. Amidst the serious warnings of Scripture and of experience against the dangers of prosperity, let the pure example of Job stand out to remind the prosperous that they may make their means a help instead of a hindrance to the kingdom of heaven; may enslave the unrighteous mammon; in gaining much of this world, need not necessarily lose their souls!
2. He was upright. The idea is that of a right line. And the opposite image is conveyed by the word "froward," or "crooked," from the curved, deviating line. As the country-people say of an honest man," He acts straight," and as our fine old English word gives it, "straightforward." There is a certain mathematics of conduct. Never to depart from truth, even in jest; not to extenuate, nor to exaggerate, nor to be partial in our statements; not to add to nor take from facts; to "tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth;" to abstain from flattery on the one hand, and slanderous perversion on the other; to regard one's word as one's bond; to think and speak with others in that candour, that clearest light in which we ever commune with ourselves; to hate semblances and dissemblances, to get rid of duplicities and confusions; in all relations, to self, to God, to others, to be one and the same man; to avoid turnings and twistings in our route; to go straight to our ends, like an arrow to its mark; - this is the spirit, this is the temper, of the" upright" man. His character resembles the fine-drawn lines of a true work of art; while the "froward" man reminds us of the ill-drawn design, whose deformity no amount of overlaying and ornament can disguise.
3. God-fearing. This and the following epithet complete the representation of the two former. No man is "perfect" without being a fearer of God; none upright without departing from evil. Religion takes its rise in man's feeling of awe towards the vast unseen Power and Cause revealed through things seen. His conscience, by its exhortations, speaks to him of the righteousness of the unseen eternal Cause. All his experience inward and outward impresses upon him the sense of his absolute dependence. Obedience, active and passive, to the Eternal Will is the primary law revealed in the heart of man amidst Sinai-like thunders, over all the world, and in all times. Feelings like these constitute man's earliest and universal religion; Scripture designates them by this comprehensive expression, "the fear of God, the fear of the Eternal." It is no slavish feeling, if man be true to himself. It is not a blind terror, not a Panic inspiration. It is fear chastened and elevated by intelligence, by spiritual fellowship; it is unbounded respect, immeasurable reverence; it is ever on the way to become perfect love. The result of this genuine religion upon the character is to make us view all things in their relation to the unseen and the eternal. Thus life is dignified, lifted out of meanness, receives a certain significance and purport in its smallest details. Without religion we exist as animals, we do not live as men. The busiest career, the loudest reputation, the most splendid worldly success - what sense, what meaning, is there in it without the principle in the heart which consciously binds it to the unseen? "'Tis a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, but meaning nothing."
4. "Eschewed evil." Or, a man who departed from evil. This was the habit of his life. It completes what is given in the second trait. His rectitude, leading him in a direct line of conduct, delivers him from the bypaths of deceit, of transgression, the ways of darkness and of shame. Here, then, in these four words we have suggested the idea of complete piety, the picture of a constant and a noble life, standing "four-square to all the winds that blow." We see a spotless character, attended by a fair fame in the world; the secret foundation on which the moral structure rests is revealed to us, in a habit of principle, a heart full of the fear of God. We look upon the patriarch, moving in the pure air and the holy sunlight of Heaven's favour, blessed with the good will of men, and with all those hopes of the future which a past happiness inspires, little dreaming that his skies are so soon to be darkened, and the foundations of his earthly joy to be so violently shaken.
III. FEATURES OF EXTERNAL PROSPERITY. These, too, are briefly and suggestively sketched, and need not be dwelt upon at length. All the elements of a high prosperity and great position in that simple state of life are present.
1. His family. He had ten children, the sons more than twice as numerous as the daughters. Men felt in those times that a large family was a great blessing, one of the visible marks of Heaven's favour. Sons especially were a new source of wealth and importance to the household. Parents in our day are perhaps seldom in the habit of thanking God for large families. They are too ready to groan beneath the care, rather than to cheerfully admit the reality of the blessing. Yet how constantly do we see proofs of the happiness of large families, even in poverty! A rightly ordered household is the Divinest of schools. Character is so variously developed and in so many ways tried and educated in them. In the variety of this little world there is a fine preparation going on for activity and for endurance in the greater world. On the whole, there can be no question that large families are a great source, not only of happiness, but of riches of every kind. And the truth needs to be insisted on from time to time, when we hear the matter spoken of in terms of disparagement or pity. The full quiver is no object of pity in any time when men are obeying the laws of God in their social life. It is the solitary, and those who are doomed to lead a too self-centred existence, who need our pity.
2. His property. It consisted, we are told, in ample herds of cattle - sheep, camels, oxen, asses, and in a proportionate number of servants. All man's wealth is derived from the earth and its products in plants and animals. And it is a good thing to be reminded of this. We whose wealth is represented by mere symbols and figures for the most part have not the sense of our dependence brought home to us so vividly as he who leads the simple pastoral life of Job. There is health and blessing in the calling of the husbandman and the shepherd, living so near to Mother Earth, constantly reminded of their dependence upon her, of their power by diligence to extract comfort from her bosom. We all were once tillers and herdsmen and hunters; these are man's primeval occupations, and he must return to them again and again if he is to continue to prosper. Let us take the lesson that all sources of profit which are connected with the improvement of the earth are the healthiest that we can draw upon. To develop the earth and the mind of man - natural and spiritual cultivation - these are noble works and worthy pursuits. Let the emigration of the young and vigorous into the vast untilled tracts of the world be encouraged. There let them wed toil with nature, and build up scenes of comfort and happiness like that in which the patriarch dwelt.
IV. PIETY AMIDST THE TEMPTATIONS OF PROSPERITY. It was an ancient saying that a good man struggling with adversity was a sight for the gods. But how much more so a good man struggling with prosperity. For while adversity menaces our physical well-being, not less does prosperity endanger our spiritual health. It does not openly attack, it softens, it relaxes, it undermines. For ten men who can bear poverty is there one who can bear riches? What lovely spiritual blossoms spring out of the scant soil of outward misery, like the prisoner's flower between the stones of his dungeon! What moral emaciation, what leanness of soul, may attend the full purse, cower in the splendid mansion, lurk beneath the fine raiment of the worldly great! Even with true men, who are not to be easily overcome by outward temptations, it holds good, and they will own, in the beautiful words of Milton, that riches "slacken Virtue and abate her edge." We are not, indeed, to infer, because so much is said in the Gospel on the dangers of riches to the soul, that there are no dangers in poverty. But the truth is that the dangers of riches are more subtle, less obvious, being associated with pleasure, not with pain. Poverty stings, riches lull the soul. Misery may pervert the conscience; but luxury seems to put it to sleep. Our life is a struggle of the outward with the inward. The outward, in one form or other, threatens to get the better of us. On this great contest and agony the real interest of life, all its tragedy and poetry, depend. And if it kindles admiration, enthusiasm, awakens the sense of the sublime to see the victory of the soul over adversity, poverty, contempt, should it not equally delight our best feeling to see the victory of the soul over riches and prosperity? In the case of many, take away their surroundings, and they are nothing. The picture is worthless apart from the frame. Others are great in any circumstances. They do not make the man. It is the man who makes them interesting. They may change, they may be reversed; the man remains the same. It is such a moral hero of the tranquil scenes of peace that we are to contemplate in Job. His piety is well brought out in the contrast between the thoughtlessness of his children and his own seriousness (vers. 4, 5). They, in the heyday of youth and health and spirits, were wont on holidays or birthdays to meet and hold high festival in one another's houses. They give the type of the thoughtless cultivators of pleasure. Nor is it hinted that there was anything vicious in their pleasures. They loved the joyous pastimes of their season of life, and they took pleasure in one another's company - that was all. No hint is given that in the subsequent calamity they fell victims to the judgment of God upon their sins. They pass, with this brief mention, out of sight, and all the interest centres upon Job. What he felt and knew was that pleasure, however innocent, dulls, like riches, the soul towards God. Young people have been seen to remove the family Bible from its place in making preparations for a dance, as if conscious that there was something in the tree indulgence of the instincts of pleasure inconsistent with the presence of the solemn reminders of religion. But pleasure has already travelled beyond the limits of moderation, and entered the region of lawlessness, licence, and excess, when there can be a disposition to ignore, even for a moment, the holy influences of religion, the presence of God. In contrast, then, to the gay abandonment to mirth, the thoughtless devotion to the pleasures of the hour on the part of his children, we see in Job a mind which no distraction could divert from the constant sense of his relation to his God. A kindly father, he did not interfere to spoil his children's natural and innocent festivities on these special occasions of joy; but his thought followed them, with upliftings of the heart, and prayers for their preservation from those evils which may arise in the very midst of the scenes of highest social enjoyment, like serpents from a bed of flowers. Still, we need not assume excess or evil on the part of Job's children; the language merely suggests the anxiety of his mind lest such should be. It may be that the fear of God had entered their hearts too, and, restraining their enjoyment within due bounds, and inspiring thankfulness, allowed their festivals to be crowned with the favour of Heaven. One of our famed English writers, describing the scene at an old French peasant's house, when, after the labours of the day, before retiring to rest, the young people of the household joined in a cheerful dance, says he noticed some slight gesture, some uplifting of the eyes or hands, at a particular point, - "in a word, I thought I saw religion mingling with the dance!" A beautiful hint, for those who are perplexed with the problem how to unite religion with relaxation, to satisfy the instinct for amusement consistently with piety. There is no solution to be found for the problem except in the cheerful and loyal surrender of the heart to God, and the intelligent worship of him in all our activities, all our pleasures. It is a narrow or a spurious conception of religion which shuts us out from any genuine pleasures. The habitual recognition of our Creator in the use of this sensitive organization of body and mind which is his gift is the means of enhancing and at the same time hallowing every healthy pleasure of the body and the soul. One of the "fruits of the Spirit," one of the graces of the Christian life, one of the results of true piety, is "temperance," "moderation," or "self-control." We see this in Job. And we see the genuineness of his piety amidst prosperity in the anxiety he feels lest his children should have transgressed against this law of conduct (ver. 5). "It may be," he said, "that my sons have sinned, and said farewell to God - abandoned or forgotten him in their hearts." The next point is - piety manifested in ritual. Ritual, or cultus, has an important place in the history and development of religion. It is the outward presentation of religion, as symbolic of an inward reality. As cleanliness and neatness of person, propriety and gentleness of manners, have a certain value as an index of the inner man, so with the ritual and symbolic side of religion. It is a kind of language, and has the only value that language can have - that of meaning something. When it no longer has a meaning, it must pass away and be replaced by a more vital mode of expression. For both language and ritual are the changing element in religion; the inward and spiritual is the abiding and eternal. Now, we are here carried back to a time when the outward expression of piety was different and more elaborate than with us. Sacrifices of various kinds offered a most significant, powerful, varied medium of communication of the soul's penitences, devotions, aspirations to God. Here we have the ritual of penitence - the trespass offering. It is the devout longing for reconciliation to God, oneness with God, that is expressed, following on the sense of a rupture, or possible rupture, through carelessness or transgression of the soul's true relations to him. An account of such offerings under the Law of Moses will be found in Leviticus 4; Leviticus 6:17-23; Leviticus 7:1-10. And Job, rising early after each of these festivals, was wont to send for his children individually, that they might be present at the solemn sacrifice, and thus symbolically receive purification and absolution from the stain of guilt. Thus there rises before us, in this concluding trait of the character of Job, the picture of one who sought first the kingdom of God, and to be right with him - an example of paternal love and piety; of one who identified, like Joshua 24:15, his household with himself in the service of the Eternal. By the pleasing art of the sacred poet, our interest, our sympathy, is already powerfully drawn towards the hero of his story. The curtain falls on this bright life-scene as if with the good wishes and prayers of all spectators. May the shadow of Job never grow less! May his path be as the shining light, increasing to the perfect day! May he continue blessing and blessed in the bosom of his family and household, advance to "old age with honour, troops of friends," and come to his end in his season, as a shock of corn, fully ripe! - J.
I. THE PERSONAL CHARACTER OF THE HEAD OF THE HOUSE. In his spirit he is "perfect," not marked by moral flaw. As "a just man "he walks in his integrity. In his deportment and his dealing with men he is "upright." No crooked vagaries mar his character or conduct. Honesty, straightforwardness, sincerity, are the conspicuous virtues of this good man. Towards God he is reverent, devout, obedient. The foundation of all wisdom, as of all virtue, is present - he "fears God." Evil he "eschews," he avoids it. Such are the characteristics necessary in the head of a godly, happy household.
II. A second feature is seen in THE NUMBER OF THE MEMBERS OF THE FAMILY AND THEIR AFFECTIONATE RELATIONSHIPS. Each adds his own element of character, and the variety of those elements secures the completeness of the family life, while affection preserves its unity. Love is the bond of perfectness in the family as in all communities.
III. A further element is found in THE ABUNDANT POSSESSIONS, raising the family from want to affluence, and bringing within its reach all that could promote its comfort and enjoyment.
IV. Over the whole is cast the guard and the sanctity of HABITUAL RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCE. Declaring
(1) Job's faith in God;
(2) his reverent fear;
(3) his knowledge of the doctrine of redemption by sacrifice;
(4) his religious domestic discipline. In all these Job is a model for the head of a family. Most proper was it that such a man should be "the greatest of the sons of the East." Happy the nation whose greatest men are its best! Happy the people amongst whom the most observable are the most worthy of imitation. Such was Job, the subject of one of the most interesting, as of one of the oldest, examples of poetical, dramatic, religious writing. - R.G.
i.e. as he was in his true self.
I. THE OUTER MAN.
1. A man. Job first appears before us as a man.
(1) Only a man. Not a demi-god, not an angel. Frail as a man, feeble, and fallible.
(2) A true man. Diogenes went about with a lanthorn to search for a man. He need not have gone far if he had been in the land of Uz. Here was one who revealed the heroism of true manhood in the hour of most severe trial
(3) A typical man. Job is not called "the man," but "a man," one of a race. He is not named "the son of man." Only One could bear that title in its fulness of meaning. Job was an exceptional man indeed. But he was not unique. We are not to think of him as standing alone. The drama which is enacted in his experience is a type - though on a large scale - of the drama of human life generally.
2. A Gentile. Job was of "the land of Uz" - a Syrian or an Arab. Yet his story occurs in the Jewish Scriptures, and there he appears as one of God's most choice saints. Even in the Old Testament the Books of Job and Jonah show that all Divine grace is not confined to the narrow line of Israel God has now those whom he owns in heathen lands. To be out of the covenant is not to be renounced by God, if one's heart and life are turned heavenwards.
3. A marked individual. "Whose name was Job." This man had a name, and his history has made it a great name. Though one of a race, every man has his own personality, character, and career. The significance of a name will depend on the conduct of the man who bears it. Job - Judas: what opposite ideas do these two names suggest? What will be the flavour of our names for those who come after us?
II. THE INNER MAN.
1. A moral character.
(1) Inwardly true. This seems to he the idea of the biblical word "perfect." No one is perfect in our sense of the word. Certainly Job was not faultless, nor had he attained to the top of the highest pinnacle of grace. But he was no hypocrite. There was no guile, no duplicity, in him. He was true to the core, a man of moral simplicity, who wore no mask. Tests of trouble could not prove such a man false.
(2) Outwardly upright. This characteristic is a necessary consequence of the preceding one. No man can be inwardly true whose way of life is crooked. Truth in the inward parts must be followed by righteousness of couduct. Note what tremendous stress the Bible lays on plain integrity. There is no saintliness without it. Job was an honest man - true to his word, fair in his dealing, trustworthy, and honourable. Such is the man in whom God delights.
2. A religious character.
(1) Positively devout. "One that feared God" Thus Job had "the beginning of wisdom" Here was the secret of his moral integrity. The deepest moral characteristics of a good man rest on his religion. The interior life cannot be sound without this; for then, even if the second table of commandments may be kept, the first is neglected.
(2) Negatively opposed to sin. Sin is the opposite of devoutness. The religious man not only shuns it; he hates it. Though sometimes he weakly succumbs to it, yet he detests it. It is not enough not to sin, we must hate and loathe sin. - W.F.A.
I. THE PROSPERITY WAS SUBSTANTIAL.
1. A large family. This is always regarded in the Bible as a mark of prosperity. It is an unnatural social condition of congested populations that has led to the opposite idea in our own time. Certainly, where there are means for a livelihood, the family is a source of joy and influence, as well as wholesome self-sacrifice.
2. Great property. Job had more than the means for a livelihood. According to the estimate of a pastoral life, he was a very rich man, notoriously rich, and without an equal. Yet this man knew and feared God. It is therefore possible with God for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:26).
II. THE PROSPERITY WAS ENJOYED. Job's sons and daughters were feasting together. Here is a picture of happy family life in the midst of affluence. The jealousy and bitterness that sometimes poison the cup of prosperity were not known in Job's household. His family was united and affectionate. It was by no means ascetic; but we have no reason for thinking it ought to have been so. No reproach is urged against Job's sons and daughters for feasting together. There is a time for innocent enjoyment, and when this is taken temperately and gratefully, only superstitious fears can suggest the idea of a Nemesis. The motto Carpe diem is mean and execrable, because it carries with it an implied renunciation of duty.
III. THERE WAS A DANGER IN THIS PROSPERITY. Job feared lest his children might have renounced God in their hearts.
1. A danger of godlessness. This is serious in the mind of Job, though it did not show itself in unkind or unjust conduct to men. To forsake God is sin, even though a man pay his debts.
2. An internal evil. "In their hearts" There might be no open blasphemy; yet the hearts of the gay and careless young men and women might be alienated from God. Even this is sin.
3. An evil threatened by prosperity. It is remarkable that this is the very sin which Job is subsequently tempted to commit by the agonies of overwhelming calamities. Here he thinks that prosperity may induce it in his children, for that tempts men to be satisfied with earth, to be vain, proud, and self-complacent.
IV. JOB GUARDED AGAINST THE DANGER. The patriarchal religion made the father the priest of his household. So he must be always when he realizes his position. Parents lay up property for their children; it is more important that they should make provision for their children's spiritual welfare. They watch anxiously for symptoms of disease in them; much more should they be on their guard against the first signs of moral defects. Job's children were sanctified - ceremonially cleansed. Ours need to be truly dedicated to God by parental prayers. - W.F.A.
I. RELIGIOUS EXAMPLE.
II. RELIGIOUS INSTRUCTION.
III. RELIGIOUS GOVERNMENT OR DISCIPLINE.
IV. RELIGIOUS WORSHIP.
The Christian father, standing as the priest or representative of his family before God, has not to offer a sacrifice for the sins of his family, but may and should p/cad the one Sacrifice on behalf of all committed to his care. These the first conditions of a happy home. In Job's case the spiritual instincts of the father are excited on behalf of his family exposed to the evils of surrounding idolatry. The Christian father has equal cause to be watchful. Consider
(3) rewards, of faithful Christian parents. - R.G.
I. EVERY MAN'S LIFE IS AN OBJECT OF INTEREST IN HEAVEN. This is a sublime thought, powerfully suggested by the present passage, and full of comfort for every man who trusts in the goodness of God. "Every man's life a plan of God's" (see the powerful sermon of Dr. Bushnell on this subject). Even of men who do not consciously know God or own his providence, this is true. Their career is controlled by a mysterious direction; their mistakes or misdeeds overruled for good. Of Cyrus, for example, it is said, "I have called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me" (Isaiah 45:4).
II. BUT IN HOW PECULIARLY HAPPY A SENSE IS THIS TRUE OF EVERY GOOD MAN'S LIFE! His way is often entangled, perplexed, darkened to himself; but never so to God. From the bright scene of heavenly light and contemplation, where the map of every life is spread open to view, we are soon to plunge into gloom and sorrow by the side of the afflicted servant of God. But let us carry the memory of this glimpse of heaven through all the windings of the maze of grief which soon we are to tread in fancy, and may -no day follow in actual experience. Already let us take the lesson home - that the way of God's children is not hidden, their cause not passed over, by the Most High. Their steps are ordered by him. In their blindness they will be led by paths they have not known. They may seem to themselves exiled from joy, banished from light and love; but he will yet make darkness light before them, and crooked ways straight, and will never forsake them. For in the life of flower and bird even, much more in the life of man, there is a plan of God.
III. EVERY MAN'S LIFE THE OBJECT OF OPPOSING INFLUENCES: of good and evil, pleasure and pain, happiness and misery, heaven and hell. Nowhere is this grand secret of the mechanism of our being more distinctly disclosed than in this book. The presence of an evil influence, ever curious and busy about our life, is distinctly acknowledged; its origin left in mystery. We must recognize this dualism of influence on man's life without attempting to solve it. After all that has been thought and said on the subject, we can only acknowledge that it is a fundamental condition of our earthly existence. To ignore it, and try to live in some fool's paradise of extreme optimism, is to expose ourselves to disappointment and to danger; or to fall into the other extreme of a gloomy, desponding pessimism is to be unfaithful to that instinctive sense of God's goodness which is deep-seated in the heart. Scripture guides us in a middle course between these extremes - places before us, in equal distinctness, the two poles of thought, the opposing currents of influence; and this makes the practical duty manifest, to abhor the evil and cleave to the good, to fill the heart with reverence and trust for God, and to depart from evil in all its forms.
IV. THE SPIRIT OF ACCUSATION CONCERNED WITH GOOD MEN'S LIVES, This is the great characteristic of the evil spirit spoken of in various parts of Scripture. He is "Satan," that is, "the Adversary," one whose delight is in laying snares for men, seducing them from rectitude, and then slandering and accusing them before God. "The accuser of our brethren, who accuses them before our God day and night" (Revelation 12:10). Here, in the court of heaven, the radiant scene of Divine glory which is brought before our view, while the rest of the retinue of angels, "sons of God," are present to discharge their functions of praise and of service, the evil genius of men comes to enjoy the dark pleasure of detraction and spite. While those bright spirits habitually look on the bright side of things, upon the creation lit up by the smile of God, reflecting everywhere his wisdom and his power, Satan dwells upon the dark side of things - upon that frailty and corruptibility of man, which appears to be the only blemish in the fine picture of God's world. Note the restlessness of this spirit of accusation. To and fro he roams in the earth, seeking rest, but finding none. How true a picture is this of every human heart which has given way to evil, and has thus become a mirror of the dark spirit! How restless are all men who are ill at ease in themselves, because devoid of peace with their God! The hunger for mischief is the counterpart of the hunger for righteousness. They roam about, discontented, mad. dened at the sight of goodness and purity which they have lost; barking, snapping, biting, devouring, like beasts of prey - fastening upon noble reputations and dragging them to the ground, as the panther springs upon the noble stag of the forest. What need have we to be warned against the misery of allowing ourselves to become the servants of so dark a spirit, the agents of such malice! Whenever we find the rust of slander and backbiting gathering too easily on our tongues, whenever we find that the sight of good men's failures affords us more pleasure than that of their success and honour, we have need to look closely into the heart. We must be ill before we can enjoy these diseased pleasures. A soul in health towards God delights to see the reflection of that health in the faces and the lives of others. It is the misery of conscious sin which seeks relief in the sin of others. Whether in good or in evil, we cannot endure to be alone. The fulness of the heart's joy must have expression, and so must the burden of its unpardoned guilt - the one in words of charity to men and praise to God; the other in those of bitterness and blasphemy. But this scene sets before us a man who is to become the object, rather than the subject, of this malignant influence. Job is the victim, not the agent, of Satanic slanders. And it is well to consider here what there is in the constitution of our nature which lays us open to these diabolical attempts.
1. There is a weak side in the nature of every one. The sensuous side of nature presents a constant opening to attack. We can be easily bribed by bodily pleasures and frightened by bodily pains. Our affections too often expose us. We may be fortified on all sides; yet there is some postern door or secret entrance to the seat of will, which our wife, or little child, or besom friend is well acquainted with and has the key of, and can readily, at any hour of day or night, pass through. Our tastes, pursuits, circumstances, variously constitute sources of weakness. Some men appear richer toward God amidst poverty and struggle; with many comfort and competence seem to foster and beautify their piety. In the case of Job, an attack is suddenly made all along the line; he is assailed in all the weak points of humanity. And in this completeness of his trial, with the result, lies a main point of instruction in the book.
2. In the best of men there is a mixture of motives. A man chooses the right from principle - from the fear of God in his heart. But he has promises beforehand to stimulate and encourage his choice, and successes afterwards to confirm it. None long travels on the narrow way without discovering that it is not only the right path, but the wise one; not only the right and the wise path, but the path of happiness, honour, and peace. Therefore, at any given point in a man's course, it may be difficult to determine what is the ruling motive of good within him. Did he begin to be good because he believed beforehand that it would turn out well with him in this world? Does he persevere because he has discovered by experience that godliness is profitable for this life? or is the fear and love of the Eternal and his righteousness the greatest, deepest, secret of his career? Who can answer these questions? Can any observer from outside? Can the man himself answer these questions? No. Trial, judgment, the sifting by the winnowing-fan, the cleansing of the refiner's fire, can alone declare what sort of man he is to himself and to others. By trial the inferior and the superior motives are separated. "Experience worketh knowledge;" and all new knowledge is new power. Blessed, then, the man that endureth affliction. The fine old Greek proverb, in his case, παθήματα μαθήματα, comes true - "to suffer is to learn." Thus the very malignancy of his adversary, by the overruling of supreme wisdom and goodness, turns to his advantage; the calumnious foe becomes the unwilling friend. As the general feels grateful for an assault which has been severe, but in resisting which he has been taught a new lesson in war, so the faithful heart thanks God in the end for the permission of those trials which have called forth to the utmost and corroborated the holy energies within.
3. Every outwardly good deed, every outwardly good life, admits of a twofold explanation, until the real facts be known. This follows from the theory of motives. The most disinterested action, in semblance, may conceivably be referred, by a subtle analysis of motives, to some egotistic and more or less faulty motive. Here we have, in the theory of Satan concerning the piety of Job, an illustration of these laws. And the evil spirit, we may say, is within his right in insisting upon it, until the facts of experience shall refute him. It is trial alone which can, by its clear manifestation, refute the dark insinuations of our spiritual foes. Every man has two sides to his life - an outward and an inward. Does the inward correspond to the outward? Who can judge without proof? What all-silencing proof can there be but facts, stamped by suffering, written in blood and in fire? The Greeks had a saying that the character of a man was not to be known until he was placed in authority (Sophocles, 'Antigone'). Certainly that is one form of trial, through which Job had passed, gaining noble instruction. But it is a form of temptation far more severe to be cast down suddenly from previous influence and wealth, than to be suddenly raised to it. Our instinctive sympathy and pity towards those who have thus suffered teach us that it is so. And yet this is the trial for the chosen of God, for the selected specimens of his grace, the vessels of his holy fashioning. He will rebut and discomfit the slanders of the adversary and of all his followers, who love to scoff at the reality of goodness, to discount and depreciate and deny every human excellence, by subjecting his faithful ones to the last intensity of the furnace, that the truth and eternal reality of his work in the soul may be manifest to the eyes of all, both of the good and the evil.
V. LIFE, THEN, IS DIVINELY DELIVERED TO TRIAL. This is the teaching of this passage; it is the teaching of all Scripture. There is a precise permission from the sovereign will for evil to wreak its malice upon the good man. There is a distinction between the way in which good and evil respectively come upon us from the Divine hand. Good comes immediately, directly, fresh from the heart and love of him who is all goodness. But evil comes indirectly, through the dark and devious channels of evil and hostile wills. In blessing, in joy, God visits us in Person, his sunshine pierces through the windows of the soul unsought. But evil is only a licensed visitor to our dwelling, to our heart. And it is difficult to recognize behind the gloomy shape a controlling hand, a solicitous and loving eye. But it is one of the deep lessons of piety that we have all to learn - to say in affliction, "God permits this," as well as in joy, "God sends this." It may be learnt. In the low-stooping thunderous cloud, in the bursting rain and hail over our heads, we may feel the nearness of God, know his hand to be laid upon our conscience, his voice to be appealing to the inmost sense of our relation to him, which had perhaps slumbered beneath the bright and cloudless blue.
VI. GOD DOES NOT DELIVER LIFE TO DESTRUCTION, THOUGH HE MAY DELIVER IT FOE A TIME TO THE POWER OF EVIL. "He hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation." Jehovah says to Satan, "All that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand." Let us fix our attention on this antithesis: what a man has and what a man is. The stoic Epictetus dwelt, in his noble exhortations, on this contrast. There are things he says which are "within us," within our power, within the scope of our choice and control; other things which are "not within our power," over which our will has little or no control. The important matter, then, in self-government, is to be master of this inward sphere of thought, feeling) purpose. Then outward changes can work us no real harm. One who had duly imbibed these lessons said of his persecutors, "They may kill me, but they cannot hurt me.' But the aspect of this truth in the light of the Christian revelation is more winning than the cold and haughty self-reliance of stoicism. He who has given himself up to the love and guidance of a heavenly Father knows that his soul is safe, whatever the disease of his body or the sufferings of his mind. Cast down he may be, destroyed he cannot be, so long as he is held by the hand that sustains the world. "Wherefore let them that suffer in well-doing commit their souls unto him, as unto a faithful Creator."
VII. This passage shows us that THERE IS LIGHT IN HEAVEN WHILE THERE IS DARKNESS UPON EARTH. There is the silver lining behind the cloud of every earthly affliction; for the presence of eternal wisdom and love is there. All was soon to he darkness, dismay, and doubt for the mind of Job; but to him who sees the end from the beginning all was clear and full of meaning. The machinations of the devil will only serve to bring out the fidelity and patience of his chosen servant, who will live to see the "end of the Lord," that he is very pitiful and of tender mercy. Let us lift up our thoughts, in every season of personal or national depression) in every time of discouragement, when wickedness abounds, when the devil seems to be advancing his kingdom and the light of faith is waning, to that eternal, unquenchable light of the wisdom that cannot err, the will that evil never can defeat. Let us never forget that
"Blessing, not cursing, rules above,
I. ATTENTION IS INSTANTLY DIRECTED TO THE AGENT OF THE TRIAL. Satan - the adversary. All our knowledge of the spirit-world is derived from Holy Scripture. The teaching of Scripture concerning evil spirits is full, minute, consistent. No valid objection to the existence of evil spirits can be raised on the ground of our ignorance, or our unfamiliarity with the phenomena attending the action of evil spirits. It is impossible to remove the teaching concerning Satan from Scripture without doing so great violence to it as to derange the whole. To a revelation we come to be taught, not to cavil. But the story is pictorially and dramatically represented. Satan is throughout "the agent of probation" Satanic action is not prevented, but controlled by God. The spirit of Satan is revealed by the malignant accusation made against Job. He charges Job with selfishness; his motive to obedience is a false one; his integrity will not stand a severe test. Very significant is the representation of the allowed Satanic testing," All that he hath is in thy power."
II. ATTENTION IS DIRECTED TO THE NATURE OF THE TRIAL. It embraces the loss to Job of his substance, his servants, and his children. Wave after wave of sorrowful intelligence reaches him. Yet it is sudden. While one was "yet speaking, there came also another." It robbed the man of property, of his possessions; the man of honour, authority, and influence, of his servants; the tender father, of his family. How sad the change in his circumstances! How poignant his grief from the loss of his children How desolate the home! How suddenly the brightness of noon changed for the darkness of midnight! It would be difficult to conceive a picture of more severe trial. It was intense, widespread, irreparable.
III. ATTENTION IS DIRECTED TO THE TEACHING OF THE TRIAL.
1. The folly of depending too confidently on earthly happiness. Every condition of happiness present; every ground of hope for its continuance; yet how speedily destroyed!
2. The demand for other resources of blessedness than those found in the changeful conditions of the present life. The hand must not grasp earthly riches too firmly. All that is of earth fadeth: how needful to seek "durable riches"!
3. The whole surroundings and possessions of life may be made the occasions of the testing of virtue.
4. The necessity for such a view of one's life, and such a habit of obedience, as to be able to bow to the Divine will in the midst of our heaviest trials. - R.G.
I. SATAN IS AT LARGE. He was at large in the days of Job, and he is so now. The days have not yet come when Satan is to be completely bound and made quite powerless for harm. We need therefore to be watching, for when we are most off our guard he is most likely to appear.
II. SATAN IS IN MOTION. "Going to and fro in the earth." He is not always tempting us. He left Christ "for a season" after the great forty days' temptation (Luke 4:13). But if he leaves us for a time, it is to return again - no one can say how soon. One of his devices is to surprise us with novel temptations.
III. SATAN IS WATCHFUL. His eye was on Job. He had found that perfect and upright man, studied him, and laid deep plans for attacking him. Satan is indeed the old serpent, cunning and capable. There is no weak place in the armour that can possibly escape the vigilance of our horrible foe.
IV. SATAN IS SUBJECT TO GOD'S JUDGMENT. He appears in Job as privileged to present himself among the sons of God. The complete rebellion and utter fall of the prince of evil is not yet seen. But even where that is recognized, as in the New Testament, the Judge of all the earth must be able to call his rebellious creature to account.
V. SATAN IS NOW RESTRICTED BY CHRIST'S VICTORY. He cannot range at large so freely as before. Jesus Christ lived on earth, wrestled with him, and flung the foul fiend to the earth. Our Lord has bound the strong man, and robbed his house (Mark 3:27). It is true that the bondage is not yet complete. But the powers of evil are crippled wherever the light of Christ shines.
VI. SATAN'S RANGE DOES NOT EXTEND ABOVE THE EARTH. He wanders to and fro - in the earth. A wide range, but limited. Here we are tempted by the spirit of evil But no temptations can enter heaven. We have but to hold out faithfully through our earthly pilgrimage, and there will be rest from the assaults of our great enemy when we pass to the home of the victorious.
VII. SATAN'S RANGE SHOULD BE EQUALLED BY THAT OF THE MESSENGERS OF THE GOSPEL. If he thus wanders, so should the Christian missionaries. Wherever the bite of the serpent is found, there should the healing balm be sent. Sin is world-wide, so also are the grace and power of Christ. - W.F.A.
I. INWARD SANCTITY. Freedom from evil; "perfect" - wholeness, completeness of character; not to be supposed free from human frailty, but free from blemishes of character and conduct; a just man, having a well-balanced, self-controlled, law-abiding spirit.
II. UPRIGHTNESS. Conformed to that which is right; holding a right relation to God and man; correct and honourable in his dealings; a man of probity, truth, and honour. "One that feareth God."
III. REVERENCE TOWARDS GOD. Pious; fulfilling religious duties; devotional. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;" "the root of the matter" in Job.
IV. ABHORRENCE OF EVIL. Having fear of God, he stands aloof from everything on which the Divine disapprobation rests. A pure mind withdraws from foulness, as a charitable man from selfishness, and an upright man from baseness. Such a character is fitted to be a servant of God. On such the blessing of the Lord rests. But such are not exempt from trial. Even virtue must be tested. Into the hands of the dark agent of human probation even Job must be cast. This book reveals this truth, and illustrates and answers the difficulties suggested by it. - R.G.
I. TRUE RELIGION BRINGS GREAT REWARDS. As a matter of fact, Job was making the best of both worlds. While he was fearing and serving God, God was blessing and smiling upon him.
1. Religion often brings earthly prosperity. It is frequently true that "honesty is the best policy." God shows his love in very evident ways to many of his children, blessing them "in basket and store." When a good man is prosperous in business or home it is only right that he should acknowledge the kind hand from which all his happiness comes.
2. Religion always brings heavenly prosperity. It must be well with the soul that is near to God. He who owns Christ does most certainly possess a pearl of great price. Even the poor man in his adversity is rich with spiritual treasure when he has the love of God in his heart.
II. THE RELIGION WHICH DEPENDS ON REWARDS IS NOT TRUE. Job got much through his service of God, or rather along with that service; for all he had was of God's free grace, not of desert. But if he had only been religious in the spirit of the hireling, working for pay, his religion would have been rank hypocrisy. This is true of future as well as earthly rewards. It applies not only to the tradesman who goes to church that he may please church-going customers; it is true also of one who is a slave to "other-worldliness," and who behaves like a fanatical Mohammedan when he rushes forward to certain death in battle, inspired by the expectation of flying immediately to a paradise of houris. Self-seeking in religion is always fatal. It is natural to look forward to the rewards which God promises; but it is fatal to all devotion to make the pursuit of those rewards our chief motive. The true servant of God will say -
"And I will ask for no reward, III. IT IS POSSIBLE TO RENDER DISINTERESTED SERVICE TO GOD. The accuser did not believe this; he spoke with Satanic cynicism. There are people who pride themselves on being men of the world, and who deny that there is any such thing as disinterested generosity. Possibly the reason is that they judge all men by their own low standard; or that they have not the eyes to see the best side of life. With all their boasted keenness of vision there is a whole realm of noble living which is entirely beyond their ken. The Satan-spirit can never understand the Christ-spirit. Now, the great problem of the Book of Job lies in this. That book is to prove the falsity of Satan's base insinuation. It is to show to the astonished accuser that disinterested devotion is possible. It is to prove, in the extreme instance of Job, that a man may lose all the apparent rewards of religion, and yet not give up his religion; that he may suffer grievous adversity and yet not renounce his God. Job is a magnificent illustration of this truth. But behind Job is God, and the real secret is that God can and does inspire disinterested devotion. - W.F.A.
III. IT IS POSSIBLE TO RENDER DISINTERESTED SERVICE TO GOD. The accuser did not believe this; he spoke with Satanic cynicism. There are people who pride themselves on being men of the world, and who deny that there is any such thing as disinterested generosity. Possibly the reason is that they judge all men by their own low standard; or that they have not the eyes to see the best side of life. With all their boasted keenness of vision there is a whole realm of noble living which is entirely beyond their ken. The Satan-spirit can never understand the Christ-spirit. Now, the great problem of the Book of Job lies in this. That book is to prove the falsity of Satan's base insinuation. It is to show to the astonished accuser that disinterested devotion is possible. It is to prove, in the extreme instance of Job, that a man may lose all the apparent rewards of religion, and yet not give up his religion; that he may suffer grievous adversity and yet not renounce his God. Job is a magnificent illustration of this truth. But behind Job is God, and the real secret is that God can and does inspire disinterested devotion. - W.F.A.
I. GOD PERMITS TEMPORAL ADVERSITY.
1. It cannot come without his permission. Satan roams over the earth, longing for mischief; yet he cannot do any harm till he obtains leave from the court of heaven. It is some consolation in adversity to know that this has not fallen without God's observing it, nor even in spite of his will. That which he distinctly sanctions cannot be really bad. Therefore adversity is not the evil it appears to be.
2. God does not always inflict evil immediately. It is not God, but Satan, who smites Job. It would seem that God would never have done it, and that if Satan had not sought permission to hurt Job, Job's prosperity would have remained unshaken. This is not like the narratives of destroying angels sent forth by God to smite Jerusalem (2 Samuel 24:16) and to destroy the Assyrian host (2 Kings 19:35). In those cases the calamity was from God. Here it originates in Satan, though it is permitted by God. Possibly we may see a ray of light on the mystery of suffering in this fact, especially as a similar thing is seen in the New Testament, in the ease of the woman "whom Satan has bound" (Luke 13:16), and in the case of a person "delivered over to Satan" (1 Timothy 1:20). St. Paul's thorn in the flesh was not a messenger of God, but "a messenger of Satan ' (2 Corinthians 12:7). There are evils which God would not initiate, yet which it would not be well for him at once to restrain by force.
II. GOD LIMITS THE ADVERSITY HE PERMITS. Satan is permitted to lay hold on all that Job possesses, but not to touch the man himself. Thus the adversity is limited, and on various grounds.
1. According to necessity. It shall be no greater than is necessary to accomplish its object. God is lavish of mercies; he is parsimonious with afflictions - even in the case of the huge afflictions of a Job! But he is the Judge of how much trouble is necessary, and we cannot estimate it.
2. According to powers of endurance. God will not suffer us to be tempted beyond that we are able to endure (1 Corinthians 10:13). He knew Job when he pertained tremendous troubles to fall upon him. Those Titanic shoulders could carry a giant's load of calamity. Weaker souls are more gently dealt with.
III. THE ADVERSITY IS ONLY PERMITTED FOR THE SAKE OF A GREAT GOOD. To the casual observer it looks as though Job were merely delivered over for Satan to make diabolical sport with him, as the Philistines made sport with blind Samson. But God would not thus cruelly deal with any man. The fact is, Job is to prove a great truth to devils and angels, and ultimately to men also. The testing of his fidelity is a lesson for the universe. It shows that God inspires disinterested devotion. Now, Job was not aware of this purpose. Had he known it, the trial would have been frustrated. To him the series of calamities is an overwhelming mystery, and he is tried the more by its inexplicable character. We cannot see the purpose of our troubles. But there is a purpose. Possibly one explanation is, not that we are merely to suffer for our own soul's discipline, but, like Job, for the sake of lessons which, without our knowing them, may be taught to others by means of our experience. - W.F.A.
I. THE CALAMITIES. Their suddenness and unexpectedness. A bright holiday was selected by Providence for the discharge of those torrents of woe. The young people were making merry in their eldest brother's house - perhaps on his birthday - when the bolt out of the blue, without a moment's warning, struck. The imagination is powerfully affected by such contrasts. We do not pity ourselves or others so deeply when we have had time to prepare for the storm. The shock of the blow is broken when it finds us forewarned and forearmed. Men must all suffer at some time, and at some time must die; but the terror of the unlooked-for sorrow is as great as the joy of the unlooked-for blessing. But since there is a truth in the saying that "the unexpected always happens," how important to secure that only preparation for it which is within our power - a mind like Job's, fixed in principle, because fixed on God!
II. THERE WAS GRADATION IN THESE TROUBLES. They began in the inferior elements of life, and quickly rose to their climax in the superior. There was first the loss of property, in three distinct blows. First the oxen and the asses, then the sheep, and then the camels, were destroyed; and the whole of the herdsmen successively swept away. After the first loss, the instinct of Job would doubtless be to say, "Thank God for what is left;" and the same after the second; but the third cuts off these reflections, and strikes home the dreary conviction, "I am a ruined man!" Who can know but those who have suffered it what it is to lose a third or two-thirds of their worldly goods - much more to lose one's all? Shakespeare truly says that "'tis tenfold bitterer to lose than 'tis great at first to acquire." Still, a noble and loving soul, accustomed to find in affection life's choicest boon, will be consoled by the thought," My family is left me; and their redoubled tenderness and sympathy, and cares and hopes for them, will still make life worth living." But even this sentiment, if it rose in the mind of the ruined man, is blighted in the bud by the terrible news that his sons and daughters have all perished by a sudden and violent death. Thus did some hidden wrath seem to exhaust its vials of concentrated fury on his devoted head; and he who had basked so long in the sunshine is plunged into the darkness, without apparently a single beam of comfort or of hope from without. Nay, more; that his children should have been cut off in the blossom of their sins, in the very height of their mirth, hurried away without time for further expiation or prayer, seemed, alter all the father's earnest piety, as if Heaven had abandoned and doomed him.
III. We may notice, too, THE VARIETY OF THE SOURCES OF THESE AFFLICTIONS, The first came from the hand of men, from robbers, from men of violence and deceit. The second fell from heaven, in the form of devouring fire. The third, again, was a human outrage; and the fourth and most dreadful again from the tempestuous violence of heaven. For a just man to be the prey of injustice, to know that bad men gain at the expense of his loss, is a bitter experience; but to see mysterious, superhuman power, as it were, in alliance and compact with the wicked, is an awful aggravation.
IV. But WHAT IS THE EFFECT ON THE SUFFERER'S MIND? A glorious halo indeed surrounds him in this awful moment. Now is the time to see what there is in goodness, what is the real nature of faith; now or never the accuser must be abashed, and faint hearts must take courage, and God must be glorified. We learn from Job's behaviour that a true life in God is destined to triumph over all outward change and loss, over darkness, mystery, and death.
1. Faith. He believes in God. Not for a moment is his faith shaken. And his first instinct is to throw himself upon his God. He falls upon "the world's great altar-stairs which slope through darkness up to God." "Behold, he prays," and Satan already trembles for his wager. Oh, let us ever bend, reed-like, beneath the storm of Heaven-sent trial; not be broken like the rigid oak! He who can say from the heart, like the poor father in the Gospels (Mark 9:24), "Lord, I believe," shall presently find the floods abating, and a great calm around him.
2. Resignation. Our will has nothing to do with the supreme turns and crises of being. We did not come into this world, we ought not to attempt to go out of it, by an act of our own. We must be resigned to live or to die. A supreme will determines our coming and our going, our entrance and our exit, in this short scene of life. We did not determine the external condition in which we should be born. We all came naked into the world, and shall pass away taking nothing with us. Our bodily composition is earthy, and it must crumble back to earth. To her, the all-receiving mother of human-kind, we must each return. The deep sense of these relations is fitted to impress the habit of resignation. And, on the other hand, the transitoriness and weakness of our earthly estate should throw us upon the great spiritual realities. Resignation is not religious, self-renunciation is not complete, until we learn not only to give up earth and earthly will, but to cast ourselves on the bosom of the Eternal. He gives and he takes away the things that are no part of us, but only that he may hold ourselves, our souls, to him for ever.
3. Thanksgiving. What! thanks to God when he takes, as well as when he gives? Is this natural? is this possible? All is natural, is possible, to faith. For faith rests not upon what God does at this or that moment, but upon what he ever is. His action varies; in himself there is no variableness, nor shadow of a turning. Joy and sorrow, light and darkness, every possible phase of human experience, - these are the language of God to the soul. His meaning is one through all tones of his voice. Blessed, then, be the Name, not of the bestowing, health and joy imparting Father of light, Giver of every good and perfect gift; but blessed be the Name of the Eternal, true to himself in all his purposes, true to his children in all his dealings with them for their good.
"Blessed be the hand that gives,
I. THEY OCCUR AT A SEASON OF FESTIVITY. It was a feast-day, and Job's whole family was gathered together in his eldest son's house. Then of all times the affectionate father would be least prepared for ominous rumours of calamity. The thunderbolt fell from the cloudless blue sky. Without a note of warning, the fearful storm burnt in an overwhelming deluge. This is a lesson against trusting to prosperity, as though it contained a promise of its own certain continuance. But it is no unmerciful arrangement of Providence that the dark future is hidden from us. We are made sad because
"We look before and after." If we saw all the future, we could not endure the present. II. THEY OCCUR IN RAPID SUCCESSION. So closely do these calamities follow one upon another that, before the first messenger has told his tale, a second herald arrives with more evil news, followed as speedily by a third, and he after no more delay by the last, with his most dreadful message. It has often been noticed how troubles come in batches. In Job's case we can see the reason. One fearful power of malignity is behind the whole series. III. THEY COME FROM VARIOUS QUARTERS. Though Satan is the ultimate cause of all the calamities, he does not inflict any of them with his own hand. He keeps that hidden, and finds means to send emissaries from all quarters - Arabs from the south fall on the home farm; lightning from heaven smites the sheep on the downs; three robber-bands of roving Chaldees from the north swoop down on the caravan of camels that carries Job's wealth of merchandise; and, worse than all else, a hurricane from the desert smites and fells the house where Job's sons and daughters are feasting. Who can dwell in security when trouble may come in so many directions? It is impossible for the strongest man to fortify himself against it. None of us can do more than make reasonable preparations, which may all prove useless. But all may trust the providence of him who rules wind and storm and heart of man, and without whose permission not a hair of our head can be touched. IV. THEY ARE AGGRAVATED AS THEY PROCEED. The worst comes last. It is terrible for a rich man to see his wealth melting before his eyes in a few moments. This was Antonio's trouble when his fleet of merchandise was destroyed ('Merchant of Venice'), but it was not so fearful as Malcolm's, when all his children were murdered at once ('Macbeth'), or the late Archbishop Tait's, when one after another his children died of an epidemic of fever. Let the impoverished man be thankful if his family is spared to him. Note: 1. Possibly trouble is softened by coming with successive shocks. Each may drown the effect of its predecessor. 2. Job's trouble was only once surpassed - in Gethsemane. - W.F.A.
II. THEY OCCUR IN RAPID SUCCESSION. So closely do these calamities follow one upon another that, before the first messenger has told his tale, a second herald arrives with more evil news, followed as speedily by a third, and he after no more delay by the last, with his most dreadful message. It has often been noticed how troubles come in batches. In Job's case we can see the reason. One fearful power of malignity is behind the whole series.
III. THEY COME FROM VARIOUS QUARTERS. Though Satan is the ultimate cause of all the calamities, he does not inflict any of them with his own hand. He keeps that hidden, and finds means to send emissaries from all quarters - Arabs from the south fall on the home farm; lightning from heaven smites the sheep on the downs; three robber-bands of roving Chaldees from the north swoop down on the caravan of camels that carries Job's wealth of merchandise; and, worse than all else, a hurricane from the desert smites and fells the house where Job's sons and daughters are feasting. Who can dwell in security when trouble may come in so many directions? It is impossible for the strongest man to fortify himself against it. None of us can do more than make reasonable preparations, which may all prove useless. But all may trust the providence of him who rules wind and storm and heart of man, and without whose permission not a hair of our head can be touched.
IV. THEY ARE AGGRAVATED AS THEY PROCEED. The worst comes last. It is terrible for a rich man to see his wealth melting before his eyes in a few moments. This was Antonio's trouble when his fleet of merchandise was destroyed ('Merchant of Venice'), but it was not so fearful as Malcolm's, when all his children were murdered at once ('Macbeth'), or the late Archbishop Tait's, when one after another his children died of an epidemic of fever. Let the impoverished man be thankful if his family is spared to him. Note:
1. Possibly trouble is softened by coming with successive shocks. Each may drown the effect of its predecessor.
2. Job's trouble was only once surpassed - in Gethsemane. - W.F.A.
the triumphant victory of faith.
I. THE VICTORY OF FAITH HAS ITS FOUNDATION IN A RECOGNITION OF THE DIVINE SUPREMACY. "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away." To live in the abiding acknowledgment of the Divine supremacy is the first requisite in a pure and a triumphing faith. It sees all things to be God's. He is Lord of all. Job feared God, and he trusted in God. Fear supports faith as truly as it sanctifies love.
II. THE VICTORY OF FAITH IS PROMOTED BY REVERENTIAL DEVOTION. Even the keen pangs of sorrow did not prevent Job from lowly worship. He sought the Lord in the day of his calamity, and he was helped. One allows his affliction to withdraw him from God; but he is driven to despair, for there is no helper; and the poor smitten spirit cannot stand alone. Another is driven to God, and finds a Hiding-place and Rock of defence. When we make God our Refuge, he becomes our Strength. It is foolish to forget God in the time of our need. He can help us when all other help fails. He will not see his feeble creatures come to him with lowly prayer, asking his aid with heart sincere, and yet leave them to their own resources. He who before God confesses his want gains for himself the Divine riches.
III. THE VICTORY OF FAITH IS CONSISTENT WITH GREAT PAINFULNESS AND SORROW Job rent his mantle and shaved off his hair - Eastern methods of representing sorrow. The great Exemplar was "exceeding sorrowful, even unto death." He also "suffered" - was preeminently "a Man of sorrows." The godly in all ages have been put to the proof. "It came to pass that God did tempt Abraham." This is to be said of every son of Abraham.
IV. THE VICTORY OF FAITH IS THE LOWLY' BUT BECOMING TRIBUTE OF THE HUMAN HEART TO THE SUPREMACY, THE WISDOM, AND THE GOODNESS OF GOD.
V. THE VICTORY OF FAITH ENSURES THE UTMOST DIVINE APPROVAL; and, as this completed history is designed to show, ends in a final reward which hides the recollection of the toil and suffering by which it is attained. The great lesson of all: "Have faith in God." - R.G.
I. HOW JOB BEHAVED.
1. He mourned. This was natural, reasonable, and right. He would have been less than mall if he had taken his troubles without a pang. God loves the heart of flesh, not the stony heart; and the heart of flesh must needs feel great trouble very keenly. God's saint is not a stoic. But though Job mourned, he did so with calmness and self-restraint. He did not fling himself down in passionate grief. His rising, his rending his mantle - from neck to girdle, according to custom - his shaving his head, all indicate his marvellous self-possession. He goes through the dreary process of conventional mourning with unflinching decision. His calmness, however, only covers the depth of his sorrow. There is something terrible about that methodical process. The tragedy is sublime.
2. He worshipped. He did not renounce God. On the contrary, he blessed the Name of the Lord. He could not understand the meaning and end of his strange experience. But he knew God, and he never dreamed of doubting God. Moreover, his trouble drives him to God. He falls before God in adoration. The singular thing is that he is not seen praying for help. His trouble is beyond help, and he is not one to whine in weak misery. He loses himself in adoration of God. This is the great secret of fortitude - not to cry for deliverance, but to forget ourselves in God.
II. WHAT JOB RECEIVED. He spoke to God, or perhaps uttered a soliloquy, for the relief of his own heart, yet doubtless conscious of the sustaining presence of God. His words show his perfect reasonableness. There is nothing which makes people so unreasonable as trouble. Yet Job was not yet turned one hairs breadth from the line of truth and reason by his fearful calamities. It is a great security to see things as they are. Half our distress arises from our viewing them in false lights of passion and prejudice. If we are only calm enough to look about us, we may discover a strange revealing light in great calamities. They break through the conventional forms, and flash out facts.
1. Job saw his own littleness. In a moment he perceived that he had no natural right to all he had possessed. He had nothing when he entered the world; he could carry nothing out with him. Pride prepares for distresses which humility escapes. When we perceive how very small we are, we cannot be amazed at any loss which we may sustain.
2. Job recognized God's right. He who gives has a right to withdraw. All we have is on loan from God. This truth does not make our loss the less, but a perception of it calms the foolish, rebellious spirit, which is the source of our deepest misery. - W.F.A.
I. TO CHARGE GOD WITH WRONG IS A SIN. This was the sin to which Satan was tempting Job. The suggestion was that he should say that God was acting cruelly, unjustly, wrongly. Now, as this seems a natural inference from the events, why was it wrong for Job to follow it? The answer must be found in the truth that God is not known inductively by means of external phenomena.
"Judge not the Lord by feeble sense." He has made himself known by special revelations, and he is ever making himself more and more known in the voice of conscience. From these sources we know that the Judge of all the earth must do right. To doubt this is to forsake the higher light and to sink into culpable folly. To prefer a charge against God is worse than to doubt him. At least we might be silent. II. THE ABSENCE OF SIN CAN ONLY BE PROVED BY TRIALS. It is easy to hide sin from view in times of quiet. Then the base metal may shine as brightly as the pure gold. The fiery test reveals its worthlessness. The important question is as to whether we have a character that will stand fire. It is of little value for a man not to be sinning when he has no inducement to sin. His goodness then is at best a negative innocence, and very possibly it is only a slumbering of latent evil III. THE MOST DIFFICULT THING IS NOT TO SIN WHEN ONE IS MOST TEMPTED. There were many sins, doubtless, to which Job was not at all liable. It was little to his credit that he was not guilty of them. The point of interest was that "in all this," i.e. in this specially trying series of calamities, Job did not commit the particular sin to which they pointed, i.e. charging God with wrong. People pride themselves on their goodness in various directions; but this is of small importance if they fail when they are really tempted. IV. THE SECRET OF STANDING FIRE IS IN THE STRENGTH OF GOD. Now Job has the reward of his long devotion to God. Ver. 5 shows him a man of prayer in the days of prosperity; it shows him praying for his children in their need; thus Job was being prepared unconsciously for the evil day. When it came it found him ready, though it was quite unexpected, because it found him living near to God. When the whirlwind is about us it is too late to think of strengthening the tent-stakes. We need the inward strength of God, which comes by the slow growth of Christian experience, if we are to stand like the sturdy oak in the sudden swirl of calamities. - W.F.A.
II. THE ABSENCE OF SIN CAN ONLY BE PROVED BY TRIALS. It is easy to hide sin from view in times of quiet. Then the base metal may shine as brightly as the pure gold. The fiery test reveals its worthlessness. The important question is as to whether we have a character that will stand fire. It is of little value for a man not to be sinning when he has no inducement to sin. His goodness then is at best a negative innocence, and very possibly it is only a slumbering of latent evil
III. THE MOST DIFFICULT THING IS NOT TO SIN WHEN ONE IS MOST TEMPTED. There were many sins, doubtless, to which Job was not at all liable. It was little to his credit that he was not guilty of them. The point of interest was that "in all this," i.e. in this specially trying series of calamities, Job did not commit the particular sin to which they pointed, i.e. charging God with wrong. People pride themselves on their goodness in various directions; but this is of small importance if they fail when they are really tempted.
IV. THE SECRET OF STANDING FIRE IS IN THE STRENGTH OF GOD. Now Job has the reward of his long devotion to God. Ver. 5 shows him a man of prayer in the days of prosperity; it shows him praying for his children in their need; thus Job was being prepared unconsciously for the evil day. When it came it found him ready, though it was quite unexpected, because it found him living near to God. When the whirlwind is about us it is too late to think of strengthening the tent-stakes. We need the inward strength of God, which comes by the slow growth of Christian experience, if we are to stand like the sturdy oak in the sudden swirl of calamities. - W.F.A.