Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
rebuke of human ignorance.
I. INDIGNANT DENUNCIATION OF HUMAN COMPLIANT. (Vers. 1-4.) He terms Job's outpourings a "torrent of words," "vain talk," and impious "mockery," a scoffing; and Job himself is an idle "prater." Further, he stoutly sums up all Job's speeches as meaning shortly this: "My teaching is pure, and I am guiltless in God's eyes." Job, in fact, has stepped quite out of his place, in Zophar's opinion, laying down principles and doctrines instead of meekly and penitently suffering in silence. It is an unjust view, manifestly; and we should be warned against the danger, in pleading for God, of being unjust and unfair, hard and uncharitable, to our fellow-man. To fetter the tongue, to attempt to lay fetters on the free course of the mind, especially in its moment of sorrow, may be to inflict a cruel injury on a sensitive heart.
II. WISH FOR GOD'S APPEARANCE. (Vers. 5, 6.) He desires that God in the fulness of his revelation, in the complete disclosure of knowledge and truth, may convince Job how "doubly strong" is Wisdom in her nature and penetrating power (ver. 6). Here would Job learn that, so far from being unjustly punished, God has rather passed by much of his guilt, and punishes him far less than he deserves. Here two defects are contrasted.
1. Half-knowledge of God. This according, to Zophar, is Job's condition. He has but a partial understanding of God; and the little that he sees he misapplies, and so is led into perplexity and passion. Zophar, assuming guilt in Job, deems, and wrongly, that Job is tempted to think only of his innocence, and to overlook his great and hidden sins. In the end (ch. 38.), when God does manifest himself, Job does recognize that he is but a half-knower, but not that he is a hypocrite.
2. But there is, on the other hand, the assumption of knowledge on the part of the rebuking speaker which is not less a fault. This is, indeed, the error of all the friends, and it awaits the Divine answer. In seeking to remove the mote from Job's eye, they are unconscious of the beam in their own. These differences may be reconciled if we bear in mind the great saying of St. Paul, that we see but in part, and know but in part, and that all perplexities are solved by an absolute faith in the Divine love. We see again and again illustrated in Divine things the truth that "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing."
III. CHALLENGE TO HUMAN IGNORANCE: THE UNSEARCHABLENESS OF GOD. (Vers. 7-9.) All measures of vastness, all ideas of infinity, are called in to impress this thought. The might and the wisdom of God are high as the unscalable heaven, deep as the dark lower world (comp. Job 22:12; Job 26:6). The infinity of God embraces the whole earth, and reaches beyond; it is longer than the firm land, broader than the broad sea, so that before it there is nothing too lofty, too obscure, too remote. It is the fixed thought-embrace of the universe. Will mortal man, then, be guilty of the folly of quarrelling with God's wisdom and power, and so incur the full weight of his judgment? Rather let him be dumb, and open not his mouth, and say, "Thou hast done it."
IV. HUMAN IGNORANCE CONVICTED AND ABASHED BEFORE THE DIVINE JUDGMENT. (Vers. 10-12.) If God holds judgment with this supreme wisdom and power, then plainly man, be he never so stupid and obstinately ignorant of his guilt, must forthwith become conscious of it; and though he were furious and wild as a wild ass (comp. Job 39:5, 8), he must be subdued by that omnipotent power into tameness and docility. "The wild ass is now born as a man," converted by the terror of that moment of judgment. So speaks Zophar with caustic rebuke of what he considers the contumacy of Job. He seems to turn the language of Job, in Job 9:11, et seq to his own purpose. Thus the arrival of the Judge to execute judgment is in the rush of a rapid storm (ver. 10). He "passes bye" and thereupon follows the "shutting-up" or arrest of the accused, that he may not escape during the judgment; and then the "gathering together" of the people to hear the judgment.
V. WORDS OF HOPE AND PROMISE. (Vers. 13-20.) Severe as are the speeches of the three friends, they yet have a clear apprehension of the eternal gospel of God's mercy, and insist on the unfailing hope set before the true penitent in that gospel-1. Conditions.
(1) (Ver. 13.) The "direction," or "preparation," or setting straight, of the heart. This is the first thing. Crooked feelings, perverted principles, must be rectified. There must be sincere penitence. Happiness does not begin with the outward life to pass into the inward; the process is the reverse. And the restoration must be in the same order. If the inward life be purified, the outward will flow into peace.
(2) Along with this there must be the "spreading forth of the hands to God;" in other words, true prayer. The symbol is put for the thing signified, the rite for the reality. Very significant and beautiful was the Hebrew attitude of prayer. It expressed longing, urgency, the effort of the soul to seize and hold fast the unseen power and grace in time of need.
(3) (Ver. 14.) There must be the removal of all previous iniquity from the home as well as the heart. Every vestige and association of it must be swept away - all that might remind the soul of forbidden pleasures, and tempt it into renewal of its sin. It might be well for a man in the endeavour to make his repentance thorough and sincere, and might help his mind to form new associations, to renew the face of his dwelling from top to bottom, and cast out all articles of furniture, pictures, utensils, etc., that might bring up the thought of former evil. For some minds it would at least be a wholesome discipline. At all events, let nothing be left undone to cleanse the heart, the imagination, the inward chambers of the soul, in preparation for the coming of the gracious renewing, consecrating presence of the Divine Guest.
2. The consequences of return to God.
(1) Courage (ver. 15), fresh, calm, and strong. Referring to Job's complaint (Job 10:15) that he is compelled to bow his head in ignominy before the unworthy, his friend declares that he will be enabled to lift it up in the face of day. How serene the face, how clear the glance, how assured the step of the man who has no coward secret of ill in his heart, who by confession and repentance has made the mighty God his Friend!
(2) Oblivion of sorrow. (Ver. 16.) Is memory on the whole a greater blessing or torment? Alas! Job has lately found it to be the latter. The "remembering happier things" has proved his "crown of sorrow." Like a returning tide, it has cast his wrecked treasures at his feet. But on the turning of his heart to God these bitter memories shall be carried away, as on a flowing stream, till they pass out of sight and disappear. Thank God that we can remember; but thank God, too, that we can forget!
(3) A season of brightness. (Ver. 17.) Even if the darkness come, it will be comparatively light like the morning-exactly opposite to Job 10:22. For there is no darkness to him who has God as the Guest of his soul.
(4) Rest unbroken by danger (vers. 18, 19); cheerful hope in toil; the respect and homage of friends and suitors. For there is something magnetic in piety and goodness; it seems a kind of amber which attracts to itself. Such will be, ever are, the fruits of a heart free from guile, and at peace with God. Zophar's enthusiastic picture is fitted to kindle a love of virtue and piety; but its exclusion of the facts and relations of life renders it but partially true, like the maxims of his two friends. We must be content to feel that there is a truth, and a very deep and Divine truth, in this sequence, without denying that there are complications of this truth with others, as in the case of Job, which God and eternity can alone unravel.
VI. DARK PICTURE, IN CONTRAST, OF THE WICKED. (Ver. 20.)
1. The languor of vain longing. Their eyes waste and consume with watching and tears for a dawn that never comes (comp. Psalm 6:7).
2. Escape from the prima of their woe is denied.
3. Hope and life are together extinguished. - J.
I. SELF-COMPLACENCY APT TO BURY ITSELF IN A MULTITUDE OF WORDS. It would almost seem that the mere abundance of Job's answers to all the accusations raised against him excites his friend's retort. Yet how true is it that the self-complacent one, willing to justify himself, finds arguments in abundance! And, being on his defence, he is liable to view things with a prejudiced eye. The man "fall of talk" is in danger of burying truth in "the multitude of words." The greater need for guarding against the perils of exaggeration by how much many words are used. A strict watch necessary when the tongue runneth over.
II. SELF-COMPLACENCY SHOWN ESPECIALLY IN SELF-JUSTIFICATION. This the point of Zophar's accusation. This the constant danger. A man at peace with himself, rightly or wrongly believing in his own innocence, is most liable to justify himself. The lowly self-accused spirit is freed from this especial danger. Self-justification shows the standard by which life is judged to be a low one. As men rise in goodness, and so in their clearer discernment of the true nature of righteousness, they are bowed down in self-abasement. The self-justified has but a poor and very imperfect standard of right before his eyes. "Shall no man make thee ashamed?" Therefore -
III. SELF-COMPLACENCY HIDES THE JUDGMENT OF GOD FROM THE EYES. The man comes up to his standard. He is open to no more teaching. His "doctrine is pure;" he is "clean" - at least, in his own "eyes." Such a man in danger of perverting judgment. To close the eyes to the Divine judgment upon the life, even though that judgment be severe, is to do irreparable harm to the character. Let the true light shine, though it reveal faults of the gravest kind and bring down the pride of men to the very earth. Zophar may not intend to accuse Job of intentional lying, but he does accuse him of error. Men must err in their judgments if the standards by which they judge are false. The eye blinded by self-complacency cannot see that which, if clearly seen, would condemn.
IV. SELF-COMPLACENCY REBUKED BY AN ACCURATE VIEW OF THE DIVINE JUDGMENTS. To this Job was ultimately brought. We see him in the process - in the way. If God "speak," if he "open his lips," his words are sure to condemn. If he shows "the secrets of wisdom," then would appear his gracious forbearance, and, even in the case of the heavily afflicted, it would be revealed that he "exacteth less than iniquity deserveth." One day the clear light will shine, and not Job only, but every perplexed and suffering son of Adam, will see that the Lord is gracious and merciful, that he does not render to man the whole fruit of his evil doings. He remembers the frailty and error of men's judgments, and is patient and forgiving. - R.G.
I. HE IS ORTHODOX. Zophar entirely agrees with the main position of Eliphaz and Bildad. He accepts the doctrines of the visionary when they have been endorsed by conventional society, and he echoes the traditions of antiquity after he has ascertained that they are not regarded as obsolete in his time. He has not the spiritual individuality to be singular. He will always side with the majority. The fear of Mrs. Grundy is ever before his eyes. It is bad form to be a heretic. Conventionality is orthodoxy with this man, and conventionality is the rule of his life.
II. HE IS A MAN OF THE TIMES. He would rather despise the dreams of the visionary and the sayings of the pedant. He thinks himself a modern man. But he is no power in his day, for he is but the creature of his age. It is the duty of Christians not to follow the age, but to rule it. When the worldly Christian follows it, he enslaves himself, and does his best to subject the kingdom of heaven to the prince of this world. We ought to understand our times, sympathize with their need, use their advantages, work for their progress, but never be their creatures and drudges.
III. HE IS BLIND TO THE GREATEST TRUTH. The whole spiritual world is a nonentity to this man. Being religious and orthodox, he talks the language of Divine things; but his words are meaningless counters. The reality of those things is quite beyond his grasp. He thinks he knows men, but he only sees one side of the world. A whole hemisphere of human experience is turned away from his gaze. He is like a person on this world looking at the moon, seeing one side in varying phases, but never able to catch a glimpse of the other side of it. The truly spiritual, the generous, the mystical, are all obscure to him. We cannot know the best truth till we are liberated from the shackles of conventionality.
IV. HE IS CENSORIOUS. Zophar joins his two friends in their condemnation of Job. The man of the world thinks himself broad-minded. Very often he is not over-scrupulous on moral questions that touch his own interest. But no one can be harder in condemning those who transgress the customs of the circle in which he moves. His religion has no softening, sweetening influence on him. It only seems to make him sour and disagreeable. So-called Christians of this stamp are the greatest possible hindrances to the progress of the gospel. It is their conduct that makes so many people hate the Christian religion. - W.F.A.
I. THE OVERFLOW OF FEELING FINDS VENT IN A MULTITUDE OF WORDS. Speech is not all calculated and purposeful. Sometimes it is aimless and reckless. It is not always directed to the end of telling some fact or influencing some person. It may be just the irrepressible outcome of emotion. The most taciturn become eloquent when in a passion. Excitement needs a safety-valve. The swollen river must have a vent or it will overflow its banks. The hottest words do not always lead to the most violent actions; but the fire that burns under unnatural restraints is likely to burst forth at length in the most fearful conflagration. Let us be patient with the hasty, passionate words of souls that are deeply moved, not weighing them nicely, nor treasuring them up for future accusation.
II. PASSIONATE WORDS CANNOT BE UNDERSTOOD BY THE UNSYMPATHETIC. Zophar is vexed at Job's eloquence. One reason is that he cannot understand it. The man of the world is always angry with what he cannot comprehend. It annoys him to think that there may be more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in his philosophy. The highest poetry is to him but a multitude of words. He is wearied with 'The Faery Queene;' 'Paradise Lost' is tedious to him. Browning he regards as a juggler with language. Even in Scripture the deepest utterances of psalmist and prophet are but empty words. Christ spoke in brief sententious utterances, graphic if enigmatic; yet even Christ's discourses are but dead words to those who will not lend a sympathetic ear. We always misjudge our fellow-men when we do not sympathize with them; then the deepest utterances of their hearts are but "sound and fury signifying nothing." A Pilate could never understand the prayers of Gethsemane.
III. A MULTITUDE OF WORDS PROVOKES REPLY. Zophar is roused to answer Job with more asperity than he would have shown if the patriarch had maintained the dignified silence with which he had received his friends. This is unreasonable, unkind, wrong; still it is only what must be expected under the circumstances. The world will not be reasonable or kind in its treatment of us. Therefore it may be well for us to be on our guard against noisy opposition beyond what is inevitable. Self-restraint is a grace which brings its own reward. The abandon of passion is certain to lead to vexation of spirit.
IV. THE PATIENCE OF GOD ENDURES A MULTITUDE OF WORDS. He does not hear us for our much speaking. There is no virtue in long prayers (Matthew 6:7). But deep feeling will find expression in unceasing prayer. Then our Father listens with more patience than our friends, show to us. Job had good reason to be thankful that he could make his complaints to Heaven. God was more patient than Zophar. He is ever ready to listen to the cries of his children. - W.F.A.
I. IT IS NATURAL TO DESIRE A DIVINE VOICE. This desire springs out of our spiritual instincts. We cannot shake it off. It is almost universally felt among all races of men, and it becomes only deeper and more urgent with the progress of spiritual culture. The animals betray no signs of any such wish. We alone feel as orphans, as exiles from home; we alone crave a voice from heaven. This is but natural. The child longs to hear from his father. The perplexed looks for a guide, the sorrowful for a comforter, the wronged for an advocate. Will God come and solve the great riddle of existence?
II. IT IS UNREASONABLE TO EXPECT TO HEAR GOD'S VOICE WITH THE OUTWARD EAR. By our materialism we pervert the natural instinct that cries out for God. We Live so much in the body that we come to overvalue the experience of our senses. It seems to us that we should be better satisfied if we could hear God's voice sounding like the voice of our human friend. We forget that the senses may be subject to illusion. If we heard a voice as from heaven we could not be sure that it came from God. Moreover, it is not well that God should cut the knot and explain every mystery at once. We are not yet ready to receive all truth. It is good for our discipline that our patience should be tried, and that we should walk by faith.
III. GOD HAS SPOKEN. We listen for the thunder and ignore the still, small voice. But God is ever speaking to us in his Spirit through our consciences. He has given more explicit revelations of his truth through the inspiration of prophets and apostles. The circulation of the Bible is the going forth of God's voice. Christ is the incarnate Word of God. What Zophar wished for has in a measure appeared in Christ. The old craving for a Divine oracle is met in the best way by the advent of our Lord as "the truth" (John 14:6).
IV. GOD WILL SPEAK MORE FULLY AT THE END OF THE DAYS. God appeared at the end of Job's trials. A grand theophany in final judgment is promised us (Zechariah 14:4). Even in the light of the gospel many problems are still obscure. Christ did not bring the answer to every question when he appeared on earth. He brought sufficient light for saving knowledge, but he left us to walk by faith. Thus we may still crave the complete revelation, when God shall speak once more, vindicating the right and clearing the mystery of providence. Meanwhile. the nearer we walk to Christ the more of his voice can we hear, and the less perplexed shall we be; for he who follows Christ will not walk in darkness (John 12:35). - W.F.A.
I. THE DIVINE NATURE AND THE DIVINE PURPOSES INFINITELY BEYOND THE POSSIBLE KNOWLEDGE OF MAN. How soon may a prudent reflection on either of these assure men that they "cannot attain unto" them! "High as heaven, deeper than hell," "longer than the earth," "broader than the sea," - these are the terms used by Zophar in his just description. As well may man attempt to touch the height of heaven, to reach to the depth of Hades, to stretch his arms to compass sea and land from the far cast to the distant west, as to pretend to comprehend, within the compass of his feeble and limited knowledge, an adequate estimate of the Divine nature, an adequate understanding of the Divine counsels, - "to find out God."
II. As the Divine Name is incomprehensible by man, and the Divine ways past his searching out, so is it equally BEYOND THE POWER OF MAN TO HINDER THE WORKING OUT OF THE DIVINE PURPOSE. In his ways God hides his wise design. He worketh towards a definite end. Men may oppose it in their folly or sinfulness, or seem to hinder it in their error. But like an onflowing tide it bears all before it. "Who can hinder him?" His work is an omnipotent work, as his Name is infinite. Against the might of God it is vain for feeble man to oppose his strength, or the energy of his will. The Divine "kingdom ruleth over all."
III. It is, therefore, utterly IMPOSSIBLE FOR MAN TO ESCAPE THE RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT OF ALMIGHTY GOD. Zophar would thus shut up Job unto self-abasement. Revealing his impotence before God, his inability so much as to know the Divine Name, or to grasp with his understanding the widespread ways of the Most High, he would compel Job to abasement - to a confession of guiltiness, to the wisdom of casting away his vain self-assurance, that of God he may be made wise. All these purposes are good in themselves, but the covert implication - God is angry with thee; God judgeth thee; "he seeth" thy "wickedness" - is harsh and erroneous. Like his brethren, he errs in the method of applying his good principles. Yet is it wise for all men
(1) to learn their impotence before God; to bow to the Divine ways;
(2) to assure themselves of the wisdom and goodness of the hidden purposes of God;
(3) to commit themselves in lowly reverential trust to the overruling power and government of God. Thus the intractable one shall become gentle, docile, and obedient - the "wild ass's colt" will become a man. - R.G.
I. GOD'S THOUGHT IS UNFATHOMABLY DEEP.
1. It must be so because God is infinite. If we could understand God completely, it would be clear that he was but as one of us. A dog cannot fathom the thought of a man, because the inferior being can never enter into the depths of the experience of one greater in faculty. No creature can measure the mind of the great Creator.
2. It is found to be so in experience. We are continually baffled by riddles of providence. We are puzzled to find our calculations false, and our explanations unsatisfactory. We fail to understand the object and meaning of God's mysterious dealings with us.
II. WE CANNOT BUT DESIRE TO FATHOM THE DEPTHS OF GOD'S THOUGHT. NO inquiry can be more intensely interesting. God is the Source and controlling Power of our lives, and everything depends on what he thinks about us. Therefore true theology is no idle study of the cloister; it is the most practical inquiry concerning what most intimately affects our vital interests in time and in eternity. But apart from personal considerations, the study of God is the study of what is highest, best, and most wonderful in the universe. Can any more lofty employment for the human intellect be found? Is it not grossly unnatural for the child not to care to know about his father? Surely it is wrong to check an inquiring soul in its search after God, even when it seems to go sounding on through dim and perilous ways.
III. MEN HAVE MADE FOOLISH CLAIMS TO HAVE FATHOMED THE DEPTHS OF GOD. Zophar did this even while appearing to honour the vastness and mystery of the Divine thought; for he assumed that he knew God's idea, and that this was just identical with conventional orthodoxy. His was the common error of extreme dogmatists. Creeds may be excellent as clear, concise confessions of belief; but the moment a finality is claimed for them they cease to be a help, and become a positive stumbling-block and hindrance to truth. We cannot define God; he escapes all the bounds of the largest words. When we attempt to draw a circle about him we tacitly assume that he is not an Infinite Being.
IV. OUR KNOWLEDGE OF GOD IS REAL, BUT PARTIAL. We cannot "find out the Almighty unto perfection. We cannot know God perfectly, cannot know all of God. We may know much of him. He is not represented in the Bible as the Unknowable, nor to Christians as the Unknown God." Indeed Christians can say, "We know that we know him" (1 John 2:3). Our knowledge is not merely a knowledge of our thought about him; and theology is not simply the science of man's religion. We know God truly, as far as our knowledge extends. Yet we know but a very little of God. Therefore let us learn humility, patience, faith. We can never know all, but we may know more. Therefore let us "follow on to know the Lord" (Hosea 6:3). - W.F.A.
I. THE METHOD OF REPENTANCE.
1. "Prepare thine heart." Give the heart its true direction - from evil towards God.
2. "Stretch out thine hands towards God" - in prayer - the true sign of repentance, the sign of lowly self-abasement, the very confession of sin, the opening of the heart with the lips to renounce evil, to sue for pardon. The hands stretched towards God is the human sign of return to him.
3. Put away iniquity. The actual renunciation of evil, forsaking and abandoning it with the heart and hands and voice lifted to God, is the certain and indubitable evidence of true repentance. No sorrow for sin becomes repentance until sin is by the sorrowing heart renounced. "If iniquity be in thine hand, put it far away."
II. THE ENCOURAGEMENT TO REPENTANCE.
1. "Then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot," i.e. of guilt. Thy heart, cleared of its guilt, shall be free and joyful.
2. And with consciousness of the Divine forgiveness thou wilt be able to look up without fear - "to lift up thy face" - to God.
3. Then sorrow shall be supplanted by peaceful joy. "Thou shalt forget thy misery." Thy grief shall leave no more trace than waters that flow by.
4. Then brightness shall dawn upon thy life, over its remainder shall be a time of gladness; "as the morning shalt thou be."
III. THE REWARD OF REPENTANCE. The encouragements to repentance are in themselves part of its reward, though that reward will be only truly, because only perfectly, found in the subsequent days of the life. Beautifully and cheeringly does this friend paint the rich prosperity of later days even to the overwhelmed sufferer. Although an error lurks beneath it all, which the teaching of the entire book is designed to correct; yet out of the bright encouragements, as out of an early morning, the full promise of blessing to the repentant arises. "Thou shalt be secure." The sense of security will take possession of the breast from which condemnation is removed. The assurance of the Divine forgiveness is a pledge of the Divine love, and the forgiven one hides in the God against whom in his folly he had sinned. Hope illumines the future, and his spirit, braced with holy courage, takes its rest in safety. He can lie down in peace and sleep, for he has gained a new trust in God. He defies his foes. Prosperity returns; "many make suit unto him: Such is the rich reward promised to Job by his friend, should he repent of his sin. True, as a great principle for human conduct it, however, lacks a correctness of application, for Job is not suffering for his sins. But every smitten one may learn the wisdom, the comfort, and the happy consequence of true repentance. - R.G.
I. THE PROCESS OF RETURNING TO GOD.
1. By a right condition of the heart. The heart is first to be set right. We can only return to God with our heart. The heart wandered; the heart must come back. Going to church is not necessarily going to Cod. Beginning to attempt good works is not always entering the kingdom of heaven. We must begin with inward and deeper things.
2. By a personal approach to God. The hands are to be stretched out to him. This is the posture of a suppliant. It is the attitude of prayer, but it signifies more than the offering of a petition; it suggests that the helpless man is stretching out to God for deliverance, that the penitent child is trying to get near to his Father. We cannot be saved while we remain at a distance from God as our sin and ruin consist in our departure from God, so our restoration is accomplished in our personal return to him.
3. By a repentant renunciation of sin. Sin must no longer dwell in our tabernacles. We cannot recover God while we retain sin. The repentance must not only consist in confession and sorrow. The sin itself must be cast off. Until we are willing to do this in heart and life no restoration is possible. It was wrong and unfair of Zophar to assume that Job needed to come to God as a penitent, for the suffering man had done this long before his troubles, and he was already a redeemed and honoured servant of God. But till we have thus actively repented we cannot be restored. Zophar's principle applies to all who have not yet forsaken their sins.
II. THE HAPPY RESULTS OF THUS RETURNING. Zophar must be blamed for the narrowness, the unspirituality, and the conventionalism of his picture. Restoration to God brings higher blessings than Zophar dreamed of naming, and, on the other hand, it does not always bring the swift and visible rewards which he portrayed with sympathetic eloquence. Yet we may gather some hints of the blessings of restoration even from the partial lights of his picture.
1. Freedom from guilt. The restored penitent will "lift up" his "face without spot." The old stain has gone. Confidence takes the place of the shame of sin.
2. Fearless steadfastness. "Yea, thou shalt be steadfast, and shalt not fear." An evil conscience is timorous. The cure of sin brings strength and stability.
3. Forgetfulness of the sad past. It will go like the waters of the winter torrent, that disappear and leave their stony course dry in the summer heat. The sorrow seems to be eternal while we have it. But not only is time a healer; forgiveness and restoration hasten the process.
4. A bright reputation. This was Job's old possession, but he seemed to his friends to have lost it. Sin tarnishes a good character. But forgiveness and restoration prepare for a new Christian character. The darkness gives place to bright daylight.
5. Perfect security. The restored man can lie down in peace, fearing nothing, for God is with him. - W.F.A.
Job 11:18 (first clause)
I. IT IS OF THE NATURE OF HOPE TO GIVE A SENSE OF SECURITY. If a man thinks himself safe, he will go forward confidently; if he expects he can win, he will throw his energy into what he is doing; if he is sure of victory, he will not shrink from the foe. When hope has faded out of a man's life, he may still pursue his course with the doggedness of despair; but his step has lost its elasticity and his eye its fire.
II. HOPE TENDS TO CREATE REAL SECURITY. The loss of confidence is itself a weakness. When we expect to fail, we prepare failure for ourselves. On the other hand, a calm, fearless progress makes for success. There is a foolish sanguineness which only dreams of the joys that are to drop into one's lap unsought and unearned. But a true and sensible hope will not be thus blind and indolent. It will be the inspiration of effort. If we have hopes of victory over sin and of a useful Christian life, we are spurred on to attempt to realize them. Hope is necessary in Christian work. A hopeless missionary is not likely to be very fruitful.
III. A BASELESS HOPE LEADS TO A FALSE SECURITY, Hope may be a mere snare. Possibly the sanguine man is living in a fool's paradise. His hope may be altogether without foundation, and if so, in trusting to it he will only sink down to ruin. We need to have a reason for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15). Safety is not proportionate to confidence. Although, as we have just seen, hope simply as a subjective feeling does tend to victory, yet if it is quite groundless, its tendency will not be strong enough to overcome tangible obstacles.
IV. CHRIST HAS GIVEN TO US A TRUE AND INSPIRING HOPE.
1. It is true. Christ does not content himself with soothing our fears and instilling a sense of restfulness and confidence. That would be a fatal course, like drugging a patient with morphia instead of curing his disease. But when Christ instils the feeling of hope, he does so by setting before us good reasons for hope. The Christian hope is based on the revelation of God's love, on the atoning work of our Lord, on his resurrection and triumph. He is our Hope (Colossians 1:27), and all that gives worth to him and his work gives weight to the Christian hope.
2. It is inspiring. The great hope of Christ is that sin shall be conquered and the kingdom of heaven come in power.
(1) This is inspiring to the individual. No one of us need be satisfied with a low tone of Christian life. It is open to all to rise to great heights of holiness and fruitful living. The hope is in Christ, not in ourselves; and his resources are unlimited, his riches unsearchable (Ephesians 3:8).
(2) This is also inspiring for the Church. The weary battle of the ages is destined to ultimate victory. Christ, not the devil, must triumph at last. Difficulties press upon us and discouragements grow thick around us, yet the cause of God cannot fail The promise of victory should inspire the hope which helps forward the accomplishment. - W.F.A.