Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. OUTBURST OF INDIGNANT SCORN. (Vers. 1-3.) With bitter irony Job rebukes the assumption of these men to know better than himself concerning matters which belonged to the common stock of intelligence, and in which he was in no wise inferior to them. To claim superior knowledge over others is always offensive. To do so against a sick and broken man from the vantage-ground of health and prosperity is nothing less than a cruelty. And to make this pretension in matters of common tradition and acceptance, where all stand about on a level, is an insult to the sufferer's understanding.
II. INDIGNANT REMONSTRANCE AGAINST THE COURSE OF THE WORLD. (Vers. 4-6.)
1. Cruel inversions of life. Job, who in his just and innocent life, had hitherto stood in confidential relations with God, who had prayed and whose prayers had been heard, is now a butt for laughter and scorn. He calls now and God no longer hears (ver. 4).
2. The injustice of human opinion. (Ver. 5.) "Contempt belongs to misfortune, in the opinion of the secure." A true description of the opinion of the world. If "nothing succeeds like success; then nothing damns like failure in the common opinion of the unfeeling world. "It awaits those whose foot is slipping." As the herd of wolves turn upon the sick and fallen brute, so the thoughtless man tramples upon the man who is down. To those who are banded together by the tie of selfish pleasure only or convenience, the very sight of that which interferes for a moment with their content is hateful. How different the sanctified instincts of pity, compassion, and helpfulness which Christ has planted in his society, the Church! It is the mission of the Christian community to leaven with its principles the heartless mass of society. On the other hand, nothing succeeds like success; "restful dwellings" (ver. 6) and confident security are enjoyed by the wasters or desolators who by word and deed hold God in contempt, and think to make him bend to their purposes. The rude man of violence, who owns no law but that of the strong hand, thinks that where force is there is God, and all must bow to force as if to God. So he "taketh God in his hand;" he "imputes his power unto his god;" he sacrifices to his net, and burns incense unto his drag (Habakkuk 1:11, 16). His motto is like that of the impious warrior, "My right hand is god" (Virg., 'AEn. 10:773, "Dextra mihi deus"). - J.
I. UNIVERSAL EXPERIENCE TESTIFIES TO THIS - THAT CONTEMPT IS THE LOT OF MISFORTUNE. The testimony comes up from a thousand sufferers towards whom fortune has shown no favour. The wounds may be deep, the pangs of sorrow keen; dark desolation may encompass; but the joyful, the well-to-do, on whom the smile of prosperity rests, become incompetent to descend to the lowly lot. On such the tale of woe makes little impression. There is a sad, if not even natural, revulsion from the mere sight of suffering, and the step is easy from this to the bitter, scathing complaint, "Ah! he brought it all upon himself!' From Job's days downward the same has been ever seen. Prosperity seems to blind the eyes, to harden the heart, to withdraw the sympathies even from the friend overtaken in misfortune. It is an interruption to ease and felicity, to quiet and comfort. And Well-to-do resists as impertinent the appeals of the victim of misfortune; or, as here, takes up an accusation against him, and treats him as an offender. Everywhere the truth of this is seen. "He that is ready to slip with his feet is as a lamp despised in the thoughts of him that is at ease;"
II. IT IS NOT MORE GENERAL THAN IT IS WRONG. It is unworthy, unbrotherly, unneighbourlike. The great Teacher hit the evil with his hard words, and exposed for ever to the gaze of men the self-sufficiency of the prosperous one and his carelessness as to the condition of the sufferer. He passes by on the other side, indisposed to help the poor wretch lying in his blood, stript and sore. Pride fills the heart to overflowing that is well-nigh full of treasure. There is little room in it for sympathy and pity, and the tender communion of sorrow. He who is lifted up does not feel that the lot of him who is trodden down is any affair of his. He cannot be hindered on his way. Shame upon the heart that is so far forgetful of the common interest that it leaves the needy and sad, and finds itself absorbed in its own comfort! The curl of contempt upon the lip and the hard word upon the tongue - Job fathomed this depth, and in the bitterness of his soul rebukes the wrong.
III. WE TURN TO OTHER WORDS FOR THE CORRECTION OF THIS ERROR. True, Job by his irony accuses his severe friends, who transport themselves into accusers. In their hard words he traces the contempt of which he complains, and takes his lot with others who suffer like himself. He is not unmindful of the true Source of help. He is one who "calleth upon God." lie retains his integrity, and the consciousness of it gives him support even under this trouble. "The just upright man is laughed to scorn." But the assurance of his uprightness is a deep consolation. Here, then, are the true sources of help. The tested faith in God will find its reward, and the testimony of a good conscience is of price untold. By these Job is upheld, and by that strength which is secretly imparted to all faithful ones who call upon God, though it may seem as though they were abandoned and forgotten. If the "neighbour" mocketh, the righteous Judge does not mock; and though the trial is permitted and continued, a Divine and gracious end is reserved which Job lived fully to prove. - R.G.
I. IRONY IS TO BE FOUND IN SCRIPTURE. There is great variety in the style of Scripture. Almost every modification of language is to be found in the Bible, consecrated to some holy purpose. Even the faculty of humour is utilized, as in the incident of Balaam's ass (Numbers 22:28-30), and in St. Paul's recommendation that the woman who will not wear a veil had better complete the exposure of her head by being shorn (1 Corinthians 11:6). The prophets abound in irony. Christ used irony in the parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:16-20).
II. THERE IS A PLACE FOR IRONY IN DISCOURSE. Some evils can be best met just by being exposed. Now, irony is a method of showing a thing in an unexpected light, so that, while admitting all its claims, we make it apparent that those very claims are absurd. Slight failings will be best castigated with simple ridicule; more serious ones, if they are not great sins, with grave irony.
III. PRETENTIOUSNESS ESPECIALLY PROVOKES IRONY. Each of Job's three friends has now spoken. Though they were not alike in attainments nor in natural dispositions, they agreed in their dogmas and in their judgment of Job. A tone of conscious superiority and irritating censoriousness rings through all their speeches. This not only vexes Job; it prompts an ironical retaliation. It is dangerous to make grand pretensions. Humility is a great security, and when humility is lost, we lay ourselves open to attack on the ground of our assumptions. Pretentiousness does not only thus provoke ironical replies; it best meets its merited castigation by these replies, which humilitate it in a most unanswerable manner.
IV. IRONY IS A DANGEROUS WEAPON FOR A CHRISTIAN TO WIELD. It may be a lawful weapon- There are times when it can be used in the cause of righteousness with tremendous effect. But there is great danger lest the employment of it should destroy "the greatest thing in the world" - love. There is always a tendency to push it too far, and to go beyond wholesome rebuke in the direction of cruel scorn. This is distinctly unchristian. Moreover, as Job's friends did not understand him, possibly he did not understand them. If so, his irony may have been too severe for justice. We should be careful that we are in no error before we venture to use irony against our brother. Even then, zeal for righteousness should be tempered by brotherly kindness.
V. GOD DISPLAYS IRONY IN PROVIDENCE. The Greek tragedians saw irony in fate. Man's greatness was shown to be a very small thing, and his boasted success a mere bubble. The old classical idea was dark and hard, for it did not take into account the Fatherhood of God. But within God's infinite purpose of love there is room for irony. By the slow unrolling of the course of events, the boasting of the pretentious ends in confusion. God humbles his creatures in their pride and vanity, giving them sudden falls, by means of which they cannot but feel their helplessness and littleness. The monarch is choked by a fly. Such things are not done vindictively, or in scorn; but because we are mined by boasting and saved in our humiliation. Thus the ugly weapon of irony may prepare us for the healing grace of the gospel. - W.F.A.
Luke 23:34), though in much less perfect magnanimity, Job sees some excuse for the conduct of his censors. He finds that conduct to be an instance of a common rule of action, viz. that the prosperous despise the unfortunate.
I. WE CANNOT UNDERSTAND THE TROUBLE WE DO NOT SHARE. Job's vast woe was quite beyond the comprehension of his would-be sympathizers. They thought that they had fathomed its depths, and that they were in a position to adjudicate upon its merits. But they had scarcely skimmed its surface. They did not know what Job suffered; much less did they see why God had permitted him to be thus afflicted. The happy look flora their sunny homes on the dark abodes of misery, but they cannot understand the sorrows they have never tasted. They who have always had their wants satisfied simply do not know what hunger and thirst are. The unbroken family cannot conceive of the agony of bereavement
II. WE ARE TEMPTED TO DESPISE THE TROUBLE WE DO NOT UNDERSTAND. As We have not the faculty to dive into its mystery, it seems to us a shallow thing. Therefore, when the sufferers appear to make much of it, we are inclined to think that they are exaggerating it; that they are giving way to it in a cowardly weakness; that they are indecently demonstrative or even shamming hypocritically. The rich are too often ready to regard the very poor as whining impostors. They who have never felt the pangs of conscience look with contempt on the penitent's tears.
III. WE MAY USE OUR OWN TROUBLE AS A MEANS OF STIMULATING OUR SYMPATHY WITH THE TROUBLES OF OTHERS. Possibly this is one reason why it is sent to us. We have been too narrow and selfish in our view of it, thinking it must be confined to some effect directly and solely beneficial to ourselves. But it may be largely intended to prepare us for our work in helping others in trouble. The widow can sympathize with the widow; the poor show most kindness to the poor. The experience of the prostration of a great illness enables a person to understand and help sick people. Thus sorrow is a talent to be used for the good of others, by being invested in sympathy.
IV. THE SORROWS OF CHRIST HELPED TO MAKE HIM A PERFECT SAVIOUR. If Christ understands anything, it is sorrow; for was he not "a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief"? Therefore the sufferer who is despised by his prosperous brethren can turn with assurance of sympathy to the Saviour of men. Christ not only understands sorrow, he knows how to use it. He converted his cross into a lever for raising a fallen world. He will help his suffering disciples to despise their own sorrows while sympathizing with the sorrows of others. Strong in his victory over sin, sorrow, and death, Christ for ever sanctifies suffering. While the superficial may despise it, true Christians can now see in it a means of heavenly grace. - W.F.A.
I. APPEAL TO THE LIVING CREATURES. (Vers. 7-10.) The beasts, the birds of the air, the earth with all its living growths, the creatures of the sea, - all bear traces of his skill, all receive from him their life and sustenance, all are subject to his omnipresent power (comp. Psalm 104:26-30).
II. APPEAL TO THE EXPERIENCE OF AGE. As the palate tries and discriminates between the different dishes on the table, so does the ear try the various opinions to which it listens, and selects the best, the ripest, as its guide (ver, 11). Long life means large experience, and largo experience gives the criterion of truth and the guide of life. Yet experience is but the book of common experiences. It fails us when we have to deal with the peculiar and the exceptional, which is the present situation of Job (ver. 12).
III. ELOQUENT DESCRIPTION OF THE POWER AND WISDOM OF GOD. (Vers. 13-25.) Here Job rivals and surpasses his friends. With repeated blows, as of the hammer on the anvil, he impresses the truth that the might and intelligence of the Supreme are irresistible, and before him all human craft and power must be reduced to impotence. The power and the wisdom of God alternately occupy his thought, appear and reappear in a variety of images. - J.
I. IN THE CONSCIOUS LIFE OF EVERY CREATURE. Even man, at the head of all, is conscious of the dependence of his life upon some power higher than himself. There is one Lord of life, Author of all life, Supporter of all. Every individual life declares "the hand of the Lord hath wrought this." In his hand alone is "the soul " - the life "of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind." He is the Creator and Preserver of every life.
II. IN THE INFINITE VARIETY OF LIFE. What an unlimited variety do we behold! The birds of the air, the beasts of the field, the fish of the sea, abound in a wide diversity of life. All speak of the infinite Creator, in whom are the possibilities of infinite life; who, of his own infinite resources, has created and made the whole. That the species vary according to the encircling conditions of their life does not detract from their testimony to the infinite and supreme Power. For the very existence of every life speaks of that Power. How great is he whose creative skill reveals itself in this unlimited variety!
III. NOT LESS TESTIMONY IS BORNE BY THE CONTINUOUS REPRODUCTION OF THE VAST VARIETIES. That age after age this power continues to bring forth, each after its own kind, is another testimony to the greatness of him "in whose hand is the soul of every living thing." The creation and preservation of the many species age after age speaks to the thoughtful mind of him who is the one Lord of all life, who by his omnipotent overruling preserves all in their order and in their continuance.
IV. BUT IN THE MARVELLOUS STRUCTURE OF THEIR BODIES ANOTHER TESTIMONY IS BORNE. How delicate are the organs of the body - the powers of sight, of hearing, of activity; the strength of one, the delicacy of the structure of another! How wonderful are the nerves of the body, conveying the impression from the outer world to the brain! Equally so the blood-vessels, and the hidden powers by which the bones are built up, and again the powers of nutrition gathering food from without and assimilating it to the body in all its parts. This is done without the knowledge and consent of the creature; for the creature, even man, knows not how it is done. it is above him; it speaks definitely and distinctly and loudly of God, "in whose hand is the breath of all mankind."
V. YET A FURTHER TESTIMONY IS TO BE SEEN IN THE ABUNDANT PROVISION MADE FOR THE SUSTENANCE OF ALL. Notwithstanding the vastness of the realm in which creature-life is found, and the variety of the forms of life, each having its own peculiar needs, yet he "satisfieth the desire of every living thing," Food is abundant for man and beast, and of the fowls of the air it is truly said, "he feedeth them." So the Divine work is seen on every side; and from all the varieties of conscious life one testimony arises to the great truth, "The Lord reigneth." On every work the truth lies clearly impressed, "The hand of Jehovah made this." - R.G.
I. NATURE REBUKES MAN'S IGNORANCE. Job refers his friends to nature in a tone of reproach. They ought to have known what nature was proclaiming. There are two grounds for this rebuke.
1. The wealth and fulness of nature's testimony to her Creator. Go where one may, nature is ready to speak for God. The beasts of the field, the fowls of the air, the creeping things on the ground, the fishes of the sea, all speak for the power and wisdom of their Maker. There is variety in this grand utterance of nature, yet there is unity. Many creatures, of diverse sorts, concur to bear witness to the same great truths. If we cannot understand the beasts, the birds may teach us; if the insects are an enigma, the fishes may instruct us. Though all these different voices of nature may not be sounding in our ears as once, we cannot be long out of the reach of some of them. Therefore -
"In contemplation of created things
2. The greater intelligence of man. "But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee" - as though those dull brutes knew what man had missed discovering. So the lord of creation is sent to be a pupil of his humblest subjects. Of course, to be prosaically accurate, it must be said that the beasts do not understand the lessons they teach; that only man can know God, and that the testimony of nature is unconscious. Still, the higher faculty of man makes it a shame that he should not know what nature is teaching in so many ways all around him.
II. NATURE REVEALS GOD'S PRESENCE.
1. By its constitution. The very variety of the creation bespeaks the mind and power of the Creator. For this variety is not confused, but orderly. There must be a sameness about the very disorder of chaos which is not seen in the cosmos. The various species of living creatures keep their several places in the scale of creation, fulfil their distinctive destinies and perform their separate functions. There is mind and purpose in the very variety of nature.
2. By its life. Nature is not a huge mosaic. If its variegated picture were motionless and changeless, we could not but admire the infinite skill with which it had been put together. The exhibition of stuffed specimens of dead animals in a natural history museum gives us abundant proof of the skill of the Creator. But the fields show us what no museum can reveal. In the great world of nature all is life and movement. Thus we have not the relics of an ancient Divine activity of God, like fossils of extinct animals, but the creatures in the very flush of life. And this life must be constantly maintained. Then by its very continuance it proclaims the presence of God. He is in nature, energizing in it every moment. In his hand is the soul of every living creature.
3. By its human connections. Man shares in the common life of nature. The hand that holds the soul of every living thing holds the breath of all mankind. "In him we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28). Therefore we have not only to lock around us on the animal creation. If we do but consider our own existence, we have daily evidence of the presence of God. The testimony of creation is designed to remind us of our own dependence on God. It is especially a good corrective of the subjective notions of a visionary. Job answers Eliphaz and his awful vision most aptly by appealing to the great living voice of nature. - W.F.A.
I. IN THE CONTRASTED POWERLESSNESS OF THE HUMAN OPPOSITION TO THE DIVINE WILL. (Ver. 14.)
II. IN THE CONTROL OF THE MIGHTY ELEMENTS OF NATURE. The very "waters" obey his behest (ver. 15).
III. IN COMPELLING EVEN THOSE THAT ERR AND THOSE THAT DECEIVE TO BE SUBSERVIENT TO HIS WILL AND PURPOSE. (Ver. 16.)
IV. IN CONFOUNDING THE WISDOM OF THE WISE. Leading "counsellors away spoiled," and bringing down the judge to the level of the fool (ver. 17).
V. IN HUMBLING KINGS AND PRIESTS AND MIGHTY MEN. (Vers. 18, 19.)
VI. IN RESTRAINING THE SPEECH OF THE ELOQUENT AND ROBBING THE AGED OF THEIR UNDERSTANDING. (Ver. 20.)
VII. IN CASTING CONTEMPT UPON THE HONOURABLE, AND MAKING THE STRONG TO TOTTER WITH WEAKNESS. (Ver. 21.) He giveth or taketh away wisdom and might as it pleaseth him, proving that he is wise and mighty above all; for these are his gifts to the children of men that have them.
VIII. HE FURTHER SHOWS THAT THE HIDDEN THINGS OF DARKNESS ARE OPEN TO HIS VIEW. He discovereth the secret works of evil. Even the thick shadow of death cannot hide from him (ver. 22).
IX. NATIONAL HISTORY IS EQUALLY UNDER HIS CONTROL. His power is over the nations; he enlarges or straitens as he pleases. He scatters or gathers as he will (ver. 23).
X. THE VERY CHIEFEST AMONG ALL THE PEOPLES OF THE EARTH ABE SUBJECT TO HIS SOVEREIGN SWAY. It is a little thing for him to remove the light of reason from them, confounding and Confusing them, and casting them into darkness and gloom. Elsewhere we learn why and when the Almighty deals thus with men. Job's purpose is to show that man is as nothing before him. In his highest honour, in his utmost wisdom, in his greatest strength, he cannot Contend with Jehovah. Over the individual life in all its various conditions, over the Combined lives of men in their national or political combinations, he is still supreme. And over the heavens and the earth he is Lord - even over all. This is Job's faith and his declaration. He can proclaim the supreme and absolute majesty of Jehovah as truly, and even more strikingly than his friends. - R.G.
I. DISCRIMINATION IS NEEDED. Note why.
1. Many voices claim a hearing. We are not left to a monotone of advice. A very Babel of tongues assails us. We are besieged on all sides by claimants for our belief. We live under a perfect rain of rival notions. Every theory pretends to be absolute truth; yet each novel theory gives the lie to its predecessor. In religion this is very painfully apparent. Not only do the great historic religions of the world compete for supremacy, but Christianity itself speaks to us in many voices. What are we to believe amid the conflict of the sects and parties, some urging to extreme sacerdotalism, others to evangelicalism; some contending for the ancient creeds, others favouring new lights? We must use discrimination, for it is childish folly to give our assent to the first voice that chances to attract our attention.
2. It is important to accept the purest truth. Truth is the food of the soul. We dare not play with its ideas in dilettante indifference. To be deluded is to be ensnared. We suffer by feeding on error. As we must distinguish between wholesome and unwholesome diet if we would be in bodily health, so we must distinguish between truth and error if we would be in spiritual health. There are even deadly poisons which look beautiful They must be detected and rejected if our souls are not to be killed.
II. DISCRIMINATION IS POSSIBLE.
1. We have a natural faculty of judgment. Job claimed to possess this, and he compared it with the natural discriminating ability of the palate. Our minds were made by God for use. If we weakly and indolently fail to employ them, and so become the slaves of any unscrupulous deceiver, we have only ourselves to blame for our ruinous error. While we have to walk by faith, we need first to use our reason in order to be assured of a good ground of faith. To deny the possibility of doing so is to play into the hands of the ultramontane Roman Catholics.
2. Our judgment can be enlightened by the Holy Spirit. We must be aware that we often err. The palate is not an infallible guide, for what is pleasant to the taste may be most unwholesome. There are sweet poisons. How shall we be able to avoid attractive errors? This question is most important, because our taste has been depraved; a vicious appetite has perverted the natural faculty of discrimination. But Christ has provided for the difficulty by promising the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth (John 16:13). Let us but be sure we are humbly depending on the Spirit of God, and we cannot err fatally - W.F.A.
I. THE WALL, OR HOUSE, OR CITY THUS DEMOLISHED CANNOT BE BUILT UP AGAIN. (Ver. 14.) Swept with the besom of destruction, it becomes the possession of the bittern and pools of water (Isaiah 14:23). The ruined walls of Babylon and her charred gates defy the weary toil of the people (Jeremiah 51:58); she sinks, and shall not rise from the evil that Jehovah will bring upon her (Jeremiah 51:64). Men may build, but he will throw down (Malachi 1:4).
II. THE PRISON-DOORS WHICH HE SHUTS NO MAN CAN OPEN. (Ver. 14.) He hath the key of David (Isaiah 22:22; Revelation 3:7). Vain all human bravery when the Lord hath determined to "deliver a man into the hand of his enemy" (1 Samuel 26:8). Yet there is a merciful aspect of this seeming harsh truth, as pointed out by St. Paul: "He hath shut them all up in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all" (Romans 11:32).
III. THE DRYING UP AND SENDING OF FLOODS. (Ver. 15.) As illustrated in the ancient story of Genesis 6. and 8., and of the drought in Elijah's time (1 Kings 17.). He shuts the heaven (1 Kings 8:35), arid he alone can give showers (Jeremiah 14:22).
IV. THE SUBJUGATION OF EARTHLY KINGS. (Ver. 18.) As illustrated in the carrying of Manasseh captive to Babylon (2 Chronicles 23.), and of Zedekiah (Jeremiah 52.). The thought is repeated in ver. 21, and further illustrations may be drawn from the cases of Pharaoh, of Saul, of Ahab.
V. THE DEPRIVATION OF SPEECH AND WISDOM. (Ver. 20.) Men's sagacity is turned to folly; their prudence is vain when it pleases him to put forth his power (comp. Isaiah 3:1-3). So in ver. 24, where we are reminded of the striking judgment upon Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4.).
VI. THE INCREASE AND DESTRUCTION OF NATIONS. (Ver. 23.) The rise and fall of empires and peoples is determined by constant laws. Obedience to law means increase and prosperity; violation of law, decay and ruin.
VII. CONFUSION AND BEWILDERMENT are evidences of the practical power of God (vers. 24, 25). Chaos, wandering, darkness, helpless vacillation, fall upon men and nations from time to time, because they have been unfaithful to the true light and the Divine leading. - J.
I. GOD'S WISDOM AND MIGHT ARE OVER ALL. We cannot fathom his thought; we cannot resist his arm. He will do what he thinks best whether we concur or not. The universe is under an irresistible Ruler. It is possible for us to question what God does, but we cannot answer him. We may rebel against his authority, but we cannot overthrow it. Therefore we should escape from our petty parochialism, and consider God's large world and universal rule, before we attempt to form any theory of life.
II. GOD'S SUPREME WISDOM AND MIGHT CONCERN OTHER INTERESTS THAN THOSE OF MAN. Our narrow views of God's government lead to false opinions about his action. We are tempted to fancy that all he does is solely with a view to its effect on ourselves. Thus we colour the universe with our egotism. But the Lord of all must have vast interests to consider of which we know nothing. What looks foolish to us because we cannot see the end in view - an end often quite outside ourselves, would appear in a very different light if we knew all God's far-reaching designs.
III. GOD'S WISDOM AND MIGHT ARE BOTH IN HARMONY WITH HIS GOODNESS. This is not so apparent in Job's representation of the Divine action as it must be to a Christian. The patriarch has fallen into the error of a one-sided view in combatting the narrow and erroneous opinion of his friends, and he has come to represent God too much as the irresponsible Oriental autocrat, whose only law is his will, but whose will may follow mere caprice, and may be free from all considerations of justice. Job would not say as much of God, but his description leans in this direction. Now, we know that the most supreme thing in God is not his might, nor is it his wisdom; it is his love (1 John 4:8, 9). Therefore, although we cannot understand his large purpose, that must be a good one. We see God in his irresistible might casting down kings and princes, leading clever people into scenes of bewilderment, apparently playing with all sorts of men as mere pawns. But this is only because we are short-sighted. The large purposes which include other worlds than ours do not exclude our world. God does not brush man aside as a nonentity when he goes forth to achieve his vast designs. One of God's greatest purposes is the redemption of man by the gift of his own Son (John 3:16). - W.F.A.
I. THE DECEIVER AND THE DECEIVED ARE HIS. (Ver. 16.) He can cause the spirit of the faithless prophet to be a lying spirit (1 Kings 22.), to be deceived in his oracles, and incur destruction (Ezekiel 14:9).
II. So THE JUDGES ARE MADE FOOLS. (Ver. 17.) In short, God hath made from time to time the wisdom of this world foolishness (1 Corinthians 1.), that no flesh might glory in his presence.
III. HE BRINGS NEW DISCOVERIES OF TRUTH TO LIGHT. (Ver. 22.) This is the revelation of God in history, and its page is full of illustrations. The calling of Abraham; the raising up of Moses; the deliverance of Israel; the elevation of David, the "rod out of his stem'" the lowly Messiah; the progress of the gospel and triumph over the wisdom of Greece and pride of Rome; the beginnings of the Reformation, - are but a few of the salient points in this providential history of the world. The whole description is fitted to teach:
(1) Humility in the sense of the feebleness of our power, the inferiority of our knowledge in presence of the power and wisdom of God.
(2) Reverence in the study of history and the observation of nature.
(3) Watchful and confident expectation of changes in the course of providence, by which iniquity will be overturned, the rule of falsehood be brought to an end, and the Divine kingdom be advanced in the world. - J.
I. HOW GOD DISCOVERS DEEP THINGS OUT OF DARKNESS. He has means of knowledge which are sealed to us, a key which unlocks the most secret chamber, an eye that can see down to the most hidden depths. He sees the skeleton in the cupboard. The mask of the hypocrite can never deceive him.
1. God sees inwardly. Man looks on the outward countenance, God on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). His indwelling Spirit sees as far as it influences, and it influences the inmost springs of our being.
2. God sees immediately. This results from his inward vision. We have to infer and draw conclusions by means of a chain of reasoning. God can dispense with this process. He sees everything; his knowledge is direct and intuitive.
3. God sees everywhere. Our vision is limited to a certain area. Even when we stand on the top of a mountain and endeavour to take in a great panorama of scenery, we can only look attentively at one part of the prospect at a time. But God's infinite gaze takes in all the facts of the universe at once.
II. WHAT DEEP THINGS GOD BRINGS TO LIGHT.
1. He discovers hidden sin. The nefarious design of the unscrupulous statesman concocted within the locked doors of the council-chamber, the dark plot of the little band of desperate conspirators, the ugly scheme of the robber horde, the fell purpose of the betrayer, are all quite known to God from the moment when the first black thoughts entered the minds of their originators. The sin which has once been committed is all known to God, though it may have been hushed up and kept from the observation of men. In the great day of judgment God will bring it to light.
2. He discovers hidden goodness. All that God brings out of its secret hiding-place is not evil. There are hidden treasures. Miners bring up precious minerals from the dark interior of the earth. The voyage of the Challenger was a means of bringing to light many wonderful works of God from the dim depths of the sea. God observes all hidden worth.
"The violet born to blush unseen" is perfectly well known to him. He also understands the innocence that is cruelly misjudged and condemned as guilt by men. Some day he will bring that to light, and vindicate the cause of every true martyr. III. THE CONSEQUENCES THAT RESULT FROM GOD'S DISCOVERY OF THE DEEP THINGS OF DARKNESS: He will rectify all wrong. He will give righteous judgments. The dark creatures of sin that are brought to light cannot be left out in the full blaze of the sun to befool the day with their obscenity. As we stamp on the unclean things that creep out of dark places when they are suddenly disturbed and crush them, so God must destroy the wicked when their evil is brought to light. The revelation can only be preliminary to the condemnation. Meanwhile the delusion which leads men to harbour their sin is fatal. Whatever excuse covers it is a lie. "For love of grace,
III. THE CONSEQUENCES THAT RESULT FROM GOD'S DISCOVERY OF THE DEEP THINGS OF DARKNESS: He will rectify all wrong. He will give righteous judgments. The dark creatures of sin that are brought to light cannot be left out in the full blaze of the sun to befool the day with their obscenity. As we stamp on the unclean things that creep out of dark places when they are suddenly disturbed and crush them, so God must destroy the wicked when their evil is brought to light. The revelation can only be preliminary to the condemnation. Meanwhile the delusion which leads men to harbour their sin is fatal. Whatever excuse covers it is a lie.
"For love of grace,