Job 13
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Job proceeds to turn the tables upon these self-complacent friends, who are so disposed to moralize and find illustrations of their conceptions of the Divine righteousness at his expense. His friends, however, really do him a service; not, indeed, by manifesting the sympathy he craves, but by throwing him upon his own resources - still better, by throwing him upon his God. The tonic of opposition is sometimes far more needed in mental suffering than is the soothing draught of sympathy. The former braces, the latter enervates. It appears to be so now with Job. He rouses the forces of his soul, as the palm tree stirs up its vital energies beneath the weight attached to its branches; and he rushes upon the last cast. He will throw himself, regardless of consequences, upon the pity and justice of the Eternal. - J.

I. TRANSITION IN JOB'S ADDRESS. (Vers. 1-3.). He pauses for a moment before entering on a new course of thought. He asserts that his experience has not been without fruit. The eye the ear, the mouth (Job 12:11), are the physical symbols of living and actual experience. So St. John: "That which we have heard,... seen with our eyes looked upon, and our bands have handled" (1 John 1:1). And in no particular is their knowledge, in virtue of which they presume to lake so high ground, superior to his own.

II. RESOLVE. "To speak to the Almighty, to reason with God." It is a bold, yet a truly reverential and a believing resolve. It reminds us of Abraham pleading for the cities of the plain, It is founded on the firm apprehension of the moral attributes of God, which he cannot deny without denying himself. On this ground we may even venture safely. Boldly we may come to the throne of grace, and beseech God not to forsake the eternal throne of his holiness.

III. REJECTION OF THE INTERFERENCE OF HIS FRIENDS. (Vers. 4-6.) No sooner is the resolve taken to appeal to God than new strength comes to the heart. Job rises above the cloud of misconstruction that has gathered about him, like the tall cliff towering above the clouds, and looks down with scorn on these "forgers of lies," these "worthless physicians." It is his turn to be the instructor, and theirs to hold their peace.

IV. DENUNCIATION. (Vers. 7-9.) He proceeds severely to expose their errors, and to lay bare the root from which they proceed.

1. They seek to honour God at the expense of truth, which is a corrupt zeal; for the God of truth can only be honoured by truth in words and deeds.

2. They are moved by the instinct of flattery, and thus become partial, one-sided advocates for God. But God is not exalted by depressing man, nor honoured by injustice done to his creatures.

3. Their accusations of others show ignorance of themselves. And how would it be if scrutiny were now to be made into their lives? and would they dare to cast the load of guilt on the unhappy in his awful presence? They are reflections like these which are needed to check the uncharitable thought and bridle the censorious tongue.

V. MENACE. (Vers. 10-12.) These grave faults cannot be committed with impunity. God would punish them for their partiality. His majesty, on his appearance, will confound them. They will be treated as sinners, and all their memoranda their fine sayings, which they have got by heart rather than derived from deep experience (ver. 12), will be scattered like dust and fall to the ground like crumbling structures of clay. "For every idle word that men shall speak, they shall be brought unto judgment." Thus Job shakes himself free from his shallow counsellors before turning solemnly to God. LESSONS.

1. In casting responsibility on others we may be incurring greater responsibility ourselves.

2. We should hesitate to apply truth to others before we have first applied it to ourselves.

3. Self-knowledge fits us for the office of counsel; blindness to self exposes us to rebuke and judgment. - J.

Job's complaint is that there was nothing new in his friends' pretentious harangues. All their pompous airs of superiority and authority did not deceive the patriarch, and prevent him from detecting the essentially commonplace character of their ideas.

I. MOST SAYINGS ARE TRITE. It is not often given to a man to discover a new truth. Even when a person makes a remark that is original in him, i.e. that he has not derived from any other man, the probability is that some one else has said something very like it before. Too often, when a man is pretentious of novelty, what is fresh is only the garb of his notion. The newest extravagances in religion are generally only old heresies exhumed and magnetized into a semblance of life. It is foolish to think of astounding the world with our ideal. Even in Job's day people were weary of the little stock of notions that was in circulation among the most intelligent classes.

II. THE FUSSY REPETITION OF TRITE SAYINGS CAN DO NO GOOD. Job's three friends only vexed the sorrowing man by repeating what he knew as well as they. The same mistake is often made in foolish attempts at administering consolation. No sayings are so trite as those that treat of suffering and its uses. The very commonness of the lot of suffering, and the very obviousness of some of its circumstances, have made the stock precepts of sorrow very familiar to all of us. It is useless to go to a person in trouble and repeat them once more. It would be better to be silent. Silence might affect him as a most original novelty.


1. True. It is not to be supposed that men are generally the victims of delusions. One reason why certain sayings have become trite is that they have been proved by experience to be true. Had they been false they would have been discarded long since. No doubt there are venerable errors. Job's friends' trite sayings were so one-sided that the truth of them was lost by perversion; but still most trite sayings must have a considerable amount of truth in them to stand the test of time.

2. Important. The triteness is generally a testimony to the importance; for if the sayings were of slight moment they would have been neglected. The current use of them presupposes some value attached to them. The gospel of Christ has become a trite saying to many. Yet it is as true and momentous as ever.


1. Personal application. It is difficult to be in earnest with a trite saying. Such a saying tends to become a mere form of words. It wears like a coin that has lost its effigy and legend. "Truths," says Coleridge, "of all others the most awful and interesting, are too often considered as so true that they lose all the power of truth, and lie bedridden in the dormitory of the soul, side by side with the most despised and exploded errors." But he adds, "There is one sure way of giving freshness and importance to the most commonplace maxims - that of reflecting on them in direct reference to our own state and conduct, to our own past and future being."

2. Sympathy. The three friends applied the trite sayings to Job, but he would not take them home to himself. He justly considered that they did not apply to him in the way his friends supposed. They applied them without sympathy, and therefore without understanding Job. We may repeat very familiar words, and yet if the ring of sincerity and the tone of sympathy be in them they will still awaken interest. - W.F.A.

Job's friends were physicians of no value. They came to heal, but they only aggravated his complaint.


1. In dealing with sorrow. How rare is a truly helpful friend in a time of great sorrow! Many wellwishers try their hand at consolation, but most of them bungle painfully. We endure their visits of condolence because we do not wish to be ungrateful and disagreeable, but we are relieved when they have left us alone with our grief.

2. In treating sin. No human being can cure sin. Men may blame sin, but they cannot cast it out. Here is a disease that no medicine of man's can touch. But there is room for some action of ours. We ought to be able to bring the Divine remedy. Yet how often we fail to do so! How conscious we must be that our efforts are not reaching the sinner and really helping him!

3. In meeting social trouble. There are plenty of wild theorists, but none of them have been able to set right the disorganized state of society. Philanthropists too often show more zeal than judgment.


1. Ignorance of the state of the patient. If the doctor has not rightly diagnosed his case he is not likely to be successful in his treatment of it. We must understand those whom we would benefit.

2. Lack of skill in the use of remedies. The doctor must understand his drugs, or he will poison his patients. If we would benefit men we must first know them; then we must know the Divine medicine. They who do not apprehend the gospel of Christ themselves cannot be physicians of value to others. We must study truth as well as men; and we must go further, and be familiar ourselves with those great saving ideas which we would apply to others.

3. Absence of sympathy. Here was the secret of Job's friends' failure, although at first they seemed to have evinced the deepest sympathy. We can never help the miserable till we sympathize with them. The first essential to success in a mission among the poor is brotherliness. If this is wanting, the mission must fail though any amount of energy and money may be expended on it.

III. REMEMBER THAT THERE IS ONE PHYSICIAN OF INESTIMABLE VALUE. Christ fulfils all the requisite conditions. He knows us, for he is one of ourselves - tempted in all respects as we are, though without sin. He is familiar with the needed remedy, for he is one with God, and is perfectly at home among those great spiritual facts from which the cure of the world's evil must come. He, too, is full of sympathy. Of old he cured the sick because he was "moved with compassion." The great, tender heart of Christ beats in warm sympathy for all his brother-men. Now we have to see in experience that our good Physician is able to do what the physicians of no value have failed to accomplish. Christ is the Friend to help in sorrow; he alone can cure sin. Christ in the world brings the kingdom of heaven, and so corrects the social troubles. Christ as a living Saviour, as an active Physician now in our midst, can heal, and we know this because we see he does heal wherever he is trusted to do so. - W.F.A.

Here was the great fault and sin of the three friends. They affected to be God's advocates, yet they spoke wickedly. Thus they endeavoured to support their view of providence by uncharitable assumptions and theories that were not in accordance with the facts. Such conduct was culpable, displeasing to God, and most injurious to the true interests of religion.

I. THE TEMPTATION TO SPEAK WICKEDLY FOR GOD. This comes from the notion that the end justifies the means. If the object is to serve God, it is assumed that whatever process is employed must be right. Thus it has been a doctrine among the Jesuits that equivocal conduct which would be condemned in the work of the world is to be condoned when it is turned to the advancement of the Church. The apparently unselfish character of the action adds to the subtle deceptiveness of the temptation. What is said is not for our own sakes, but for the glory of God. Further, it is argued men have no right to complain, because the true servants of God will rejoice in what glorifies him; and they who are not of the Church are out of court, and can have no ground on which to plead a complaint. Yet even they might profit, it is further urged; if they were led to the Church by fraud, when once they were in, would they not bless the fraud that saved them? All this is but the sophistry of a temptation from the devil.

II. THE GREAT SIN OF SPEAKING WICKEDLY FOR GOD. This is peculiarly hateful to him, for he is a God of righteousness. Several points go to make up the exceeding badness of such conduct.

1. It destroys truth. If we may lie for God, truth itself is humiliated. The permission of mere equivocation which is intended to deceive lowers the standard of truth. This is a break-up of the rigorous moral law.

2. It is fatal to charity. The plea is that man must be sacrificed for the sake of God. But God has said, "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice." He will not accept the service that is rendered at the cost of cruelty to a brother.

3. It is dishonouring to God. His holy Name is dragged down to man's low conduct, and enlisted in the service of evil. What is done for his glory is supposed to carry his sanction. Thus the God of truth and love is made to appear as the champion of lies and hatred. This is a most abominable insult to God.

4. It is a miserable cloak for sin. It would seem that men would not think of speaking wickedly for God unless there were wickedness in their own hearts. It is true they may be foolish enough to imagine that their conduct will really minister to the Divine glory, and it is only fair to admit that people who are deluded by Jesuitical casuistry will do for the Church what they would not dream of doing for themselves. Thus these people are not really so bad as their conduct suggests. Still, unless they are utterly duped by their system, unless their consciences have been warped into a kind of moral insanity by their training - and it must be allowed that this is possible - we cannot but say that their action must spring from a low tone of morality. At all events, it must tend to produce this, must be distinctly degrading and demoralizing.

5. It is doomed to failure. Nothing more injures the cause of Christ than the unworthy conduct of his followers, especially when this pleads his glory as its excuse. Nothing so favours unbelief as the suspicion of want of candour in defenders of the faith. It is fatal to cling to a bad argument because of its tendency to support the right. We can only please and serve God when we follow truth and love. This is the method of Christ, who scorned all subterfuges, and chose the apparent failure of the cross rather than the triumphs of safe diplomatic policy. - W.F.A.

I. DREAD OF THE RESULT OF THE APPEAL COMES UPON HIS MIND AT THE VERY MOMENT OF EXECUTING HIS RESOLVE. (Vers. 13-15.) So with Moses (Exodus 33:20), with Manoah and his wife (Judges 13:22); so with Abraham pleading for the cities of the plain (Genesis 18:23, et seq.). It is the consciousness of weakness in the presence of omnipotence, of sinfulness in the presence of perfect holiness, which checks the spirit on the threshold of the unseen world and the unseen Presence. Over the door of an Eastern temple (as Spenser tells the story) there was an inscription, "Be bold," and over a second door repeated, "Be bold;" and again, "Be bold, and evermore be bold;" but last of all over the inner door was written, "Be not too bold." So fear and reverence chasten the confidence with which the believing child of God, in the full confidence of right, draws near to him.

II. TERROR LAID ASIDE. (Vers. 15, 16.) There is solace to Job in the thought that he shall be able to speak forth his most sacred convictions before he dies (ver. 15). But there is another and a nobler train of thought suggested here. His innocence will at last lead to his deliverance; for no unholy man dares appear before God; but he is not conscious of an unholy mind. Compare the noble fifteenth psalm.

III. DEMAND FOR A HEARING FROM HIS ADVERSARIES. (Vers. 17-19.) In this brief challenge we see all the features of the demeanour of a sincere and upright soul in the hour of trial.

1. Undaunted courage.

2. Presentiment of victory.

3. Readiness for all opponents and for all consequences.

These are the arms which innocence furnishes, and in which the weakest and most defenceless may be arrayed as in a panoply.

IV. PRELIMINARY REQUESTS. (Vers. 20-22.) Before proceeding with his appeal, Job makes two requests:

(1) that his pains may be assuaged;

(2) that he may not be terrified by the sudden visitation of God (comp. Job 9:34).

These he asks as the guarantees of the freedom of his speech. There is something deeply pathetic in this vacillation between confidence and fear - the confidence derived from the sense of innocence and right, the fear which the thought of the dread presence of the Divine must ever impress. LESSONS.

1. He who is most confident in the assurance of his innocence before man will be the most humble and timid in the presence of God.

2. Faith must finally overcome fear in every true heart. - J.

Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him. Thus doth Job declare his unshaken affiance in God. He lifts his thoughts from the reasonings of his friends; he rises superior, at least for the time, to the oppression of his sufferings, and with a boldness that does him honour, and a confidence warranted by his belief in the Divine Name, he gives utterance to an expression of faith which has passed from lip to lip all through the ages, and has been a classical formula of faith for the saddest and most deeply afflicted amongst the children of men. How is the world indebted to them who, with a true heroism, declare their faith in the wisdom and goodness of the Lord!

I. FAITH IS NEEDED IN CONSEQUENCE OF THE MANY HEAVY TRIALS OF THE HUMAN HEART. External sources of help are often cut off. They altogether fall. There is no hand of strength, no word of power, no sufficient consolation. In bodily affliction the skill of the wisest may be set at nought. In the trials of life all help from outward sources may fail. The sorrow is too deep for an unaided heart to bear up under. Where shall the afflicted soul hide? There is help only in spiritual sources. God is the final goal of the afflicted spirit. "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit," is the ultimate utterance of the soul when all resources of help are cut off. But for this faith is needed - faith that apprehends the unseen and spiritual. The soul at Such times is borne up only by faith, and the faith that is needed is a supreme, lowly, unhesitating faith. Happy he who has it.

II. FAITH IS WARRANTED BY THE CHARACTER OF GOD. This is the one unfailing refuge. This, of all, is most worthy of trust. We cannot always trust the words of human kindness, even friendship. The good resolves may fail from inability to fulfil them. We may be mistaken. Our trust may rest on a deceitful foundation. Our staff may break and pierce our hand. But we always know that the character of God is unassailable. He has an assured ground of confidence who trusts in the Name of the Lord, whose repose is in the Divine character. Absolute goodness, perfect wisdom, infinite love, - these form the warrant of faith.

III. It is right and wise, therefore, THAT FAITH BE DECLARED. Let him who has learnt where the soul may find refuge and help declare it to others. Let him glorify God by his feeble tribute. It is his best, if his lowliest, offering. How great an indignity we feel if any one disputes our veracity! But he who confides in our word and character, even in times when both are aspersed, pays to us the highest tribute of friendship and of faith. So let us bring our humble offerings of trust, of thankfulness, and love - our spiritual gold, frankincense, and myrrh - and lay them at the feet of the everlasting King. Though be lay the heaviest burdens upon me, I will not doubt his goodness; though he treat me as a dog, yet will I cleave to him. "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him."

IV. Such a faith is SURE TO RE REWARDED.

1. It has its reward in the peace of mind which it brings. "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee." The driven sparrow finds its house, and the swallow its nest. The dove returns to the ark. When there is no rest for the wounded spirit, it turns and finds its rest in God. Here it hides and waits in an assured hope. Job was brought to the very earth; but the Lord, who seemed to be slaying him, raised him up and gave him an abundant reward.

2. A further reward is secured in the character gained.

3. And yet a further one in the final Divine approbation of the faithful, trusting, submissive, obedient servant. Such faith shall not lose its reward. - R.G.

I. THE CRY OF INJURED INNOCENCE. (Ver. 23.) He asks that he may have his sins enumerated and brought home to him, and that he may not thus ever be punished without the knowledge of the nature of his guilt.

II. SENSE OF THE SILENCE AND WITHDRAWAL OF GOD. (Ver. 24) God does not answer his challenge, and still his suffering continues, as if he were a foe to whom the Almighty deigns not to utter a word. The silence, the seeming deafness and dumbness of God before his creatures' pitiful cries, is more awful than all his thunder. Oh that he would but speak, in whatever accents! Man can never cease to agonize, to pray, to wrestle with the Unseen, until he extorts some response to the cry and craving of his heart.

III. PLAINT OF THE WEAKNESS OF SELF IN THE PRESENCE OF OMNIPOTENCE. (Ver. 25.) He has two vivid figures to represent this weakness:

(1) that of the leaf, driven to and fro by the wind, so feeble and vanishing a thing has his life become;

(2) that of the dry and worthless stubble; and yet God is against him as if he would drive and purge away every vestige of his existence. His fan is in his hand, and he is winnowing his floor from this useless chaff!

IV. SENSE OF THE AGGRAVATION OF HIS SIN. (Ver. 26.) In addition to his natural pains, he is loaded with the memories of long-past sins, which he had thought forgiven. The record of the sins of youth still seems to stand in the Divine book. Remembrance turns the past to pain. Men look indulgently on the "sins of youth," both in themselves and others. But here is a warning against these light views of transgression. The sowing of" wild oats" is certain, sooner or later, to be followed by a bitter harvest (comp. Psalm 25:7).

V. THE SENSE OF BEING FETTERED AND WATCHED. (Ver. 27.) He is like a criminal with his feet fastened in a block of wood, which he must carry with him wherever he goes. And all this power and violence, this watching and restraint, is put forth on one who is as helpless and broken as a worm-eaten, moth-gnawed garment (ver. 28). - J.

Job is in a sad perplexity. His friends accuse him of great sin as the cause of his great trouble, but his conscience does not echo their accusation. Can it be that he has sinned unconsciously, that God is really angry with him for some offence which he has not recognized?

I. IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO SIN UNCONSCIOUSLY. It is not to be supposed that a man could be as guilty as Job's friends assumed the patriarch to be, and yet possess the clean conscience that was the one mitigating condition in his terrible distresses. The glaring contradiction proved the error of the comforters. Moreover, nobody can sin unconsciously, because the evil deed that is done apart from consciousness possesses no moral character. A hypnotized person who killed another would not be a murderer, nor would one who did so in the delirium of a fever. To sin in ignorance is not really to sin at all. All sin lies in the motive, and the motive must be evil for the deed to be sinful. But we cannot have an evil motive without knowing it.


1. The guilt of it may be minimized. A man knows that he has done wrong, and this very knowledge sets him to work on the ingenious search for excuses. He puts his conduct in the best light, hides its more ugly features, hunts up extenuating circumstances, pleads weakness, necessity, custom, ulterior good, etc.

2. The fact may be ignored. We keep the door locked on the skeleton in the cupboard. We do not care to rake up ugly memories. We tread lightly over the weak places in our life's story. When this careful ignoring of sin has gone on for some time, conscience itself is soothed and charmed into peace.

III. IT IS MOST DESIRABLE THAT OUR SIN SHOULD BE REVEALED TO US. The revelation has many good results.

1. It leads to repentance. We never know how odious our sin is till we look at it in God's light. Hidden and forgotten sin is not repented of. Pride grows on the graves of buried sins. The sins must be exhumed and Scattered to the winds, if we are to take the humble ground of penitents.

2. It helps us to conquer tin. The sin that lives within us is not recognized in its deadly character till God reveals it to us. Thus our excuses for sin encourage the reign of sin. To destroy it we must see it in its true character.


1. He can, For he knows the sin better than we know it, and he is in close contact with our consciences. The awakened conscience perceives sin with a shock of horror, and it is the Spirit of God that awakens conscience.

2. He will at last. Sin cannot remain hidden for ever. The secrets of all hearts must be dragged to the light in God's great day of judgment. If we will not have our sin revealed to us now, it will be revealed to all then.

3. We should seek a revelation. Thus we may anticipate and prevent the future revelation. For the sin that is repented of and forgiven will never Be revived. Meanwhile the longer our sin is hidden the worse it is for us. It is a viper in the breast, poison in the blood, death in the heart. Sin itself, not its consequences, is our worst enemy. Therefore let us pray, not in the perplexity of Job's cruelly misjudged situation, but in the simple contrition of the psalmist, "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23, 24). - W.F.A.

It has ever been a longing of the suffering heart of man to know why afflictions are permitted. Job is a striking example of the sufferer reduced to questioning. He makes his appeal for the reasons. "Wherefore hidest thou thy face?" Others have urged this inquiry. Even the Exemplar of all patient, submissive, trustful, obedient sufferers cried aloud, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" But the answer comes not to Job with the quickness he may have desired. Yet though he giveth none account of his ways, all may be assured his purposes are wise and good. In the light of later teachings we may read "the end of the Lord." That which we "endure" we know "is for chastening." This, then, is the answer in general to the cry, "Wherefore hidest thou thy face?" Then, as far as we can interpret the answer to the cry to which no answer is immediately given, we may say -

I. A reason for sorrow may be found in ITS FITNESS TO BE A TEST OF FAITH. That faith should be tested, and so developed and perfected, is an obvious propriety. But for such testing it would be a dead, inoperative faculty. As the wing of the young eagle is strengthened by the demands made upon it when borne aloft, and then committed to its own unaided effort, so faith grows in strength by every appeal made to it. It is here experience is gained. By this men grow. The heart is made acquainted with "the ways of the Lord." The exercised faculty becomes familiarized with its duties. It learns to bear a heavier strain. Each successful performance of duty leaves it better fitted to act in future. The strong faith is the faith that has berne the severe test.

II. A second reason may be found in THE NECESSARY DEVELOPMENT OF PATIENCE. The heroic fortitude of the soul that can endure "as seeing him who is invisible" is not gained with suddenness. By slow steps is this height reached. By slow accretions is this grace perfected. The man unaccustomed to discomfort is unwilling to leave his freedom and ease, and to undertake toilsome and painful service. Sorrow oppresses the soul, but it thereby develops that power by which the soul is upheld. The slothful, self-indulgent spirit is unfitted for hard toil; and the world needs the willing labourer. There is a schooling of the soul by self-denial, by fasting. The substitute for the self-imposed training is the divinely imposed trial. The trial of faith is very precious if it leaves the soul steadier in patient endurance. By such trained souls is the world's great work to be done.

III. SORROW PERFECTS THE SOUL IN A LOWLY SUBMISSION TO THE DIVINE WILL. "It is the Lord: let him do as seemeth him good," may be a defiant cry of rebellion: "Do thy worst;" or it may be a lowly, trustful, resigned committal of the life to the Divine purposes: "What he wills is best." The school of affliction is a hard school, but its patient scholars are well taught. And though "no affliction for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous, nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby."

IV. SORROW MAY BE THE MEANS OF EVOKING THE MOST SINCERE AND BEAUTIFUL EXAMPLES OF OBEDIENCE. The histories of human suffering present us with examples of consummate and unflinching obedience, rendered in unquestioning acquiescence in the Divine purpose and in the pure love of the heart. The highest point ever reached by the obedient spirit was that of our great Pattern, who, in the depth of darkest affliction and sorrow of soul, patiently reiterated the sublime expression of a wholly consecrated service, "Nevertheless not my will, but thy will, be done." - R.G.

I. THE SORROWFUL EXPERIENCE. The thought that God's face is hidden is most distressing to Job. Let us see what he is thinking of, and why he is distressed. The unveiled countenance is a sign of favour; the veiled, or averted face, of displeasure. Therefore Job's word suggests an idea of God's withdrawal of favour. He explains himself by adding, "And holdest me for thine enemy." But Job means more than the withdrawal of manifested favours, as gifts of grace flowing from the bounty of God. God is more than his gifts. The light of God's countenance is better than the blessings of God's storehouse. The very smiting by God is itself a supreme source of life and gladness. As the plant blooms in the sunshine and grows pale and sickly in the dark, so the soul blooms in the light of God's love and fades into desolation when that is hidden. To some, indeed, the hiding of God's face is no trouble. They cannot exclaim with delight, like Hagar, "Thou God seest me." Such words are to them only the expression of a great terror. But souls that know and love God bask in the sunshine of his presence. To lose the consciousness of God's loving presence is to such souls the desolation of a Siberian winter, the darkness of a storm-girt night.

II. THE MYSTERIOUS CAUSE. The cause is a mystery. We may see it afterwards, or in regard to the experience of others. But, while we are passing through the great darkness, its meaning is hidden from us, and this is part of its deepest trouble. Even Christ, in the human limitations of his earthly sufferings, exclaimed, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46); and there came no reply like that which followed immediately on other words of Christ addressed to his Father in heaven (e.g. John 12:28). Still some hints of the cause may sometimes Be gathered up. If we are conscious of sin, this is sufficient. The only wonder is that God has not withdrawn his countenance before this. If we have lost our first love (Revelation 2:4) and have wandered from God, we may well look back with regret to the happier past; but we can scarcely be surprised at our present depression. Then we can say with Cowper

"Where is the blessedness I knew
When first I saw the Lord?
Where is the soul-refreshing view
Of Jesus and his Word?

"What peaceful hours I once enjoyed!
How sweet their memory still!
But they have left an aching void
The world can never fill." Possibly, like the author of the Olney Hymns, we may Be suffering from morbid subjective feelings. It may be that God has not hidden his face, but that our eyes are dim with needless tears, so that we cannot see his gracious countenance.

III. THE LIGHT BEHIND. God may be hiding his face, but he has not changed it. The sun has gone behind a cloud, but it still shines. God has not turned his love into hatred when we can no longer see his kind countenance. He loves us in the dark as much as in the light. He has not withdrawn his face in hiding it. The veil does not increase the distance Between us and God; it only prevents us from seeing him, though he is really as near to us as ever. Nay, he may be most near when we cannot see him, We are warmed and vitalized by the sun even while it is hidden by the cloud. God does not cease to bless us when we cease to perceive him. Yet the greatest blessing is with the unveiled countenance. That blessing of the beatific vision is reserved for the pure in heart (Matthew 5:8). - W.F.A.

Job is perplexed. He cannot see what he has done to merit such terrible troubles as he is now experiencing. It certainly seems to him that no recent conduct of his can be deserving the punishment from which, according to his friends, he is suffering. Can it be that long-forgotten sins of his youth are brought up against him, and that he is suffering from those old offences?


1. Because they were done in haste. Youth is thoughtless; still it has moral responsibility.

2. Because youth is inexperienced. Youth will not be judged by the standard of more enlightened years, but by its own light, which is sufficient to warn from sin.

3. Because of their distant past. Though they were committed long ago, if they have never been repented of, they stand in the record against us still. Time does not condone guilt.

4. Because of subsequent amendment. This is the strongest plea. Yet it will not stand. For the subsequent conduct was no better than it ought to have been. There were no "works of supererogation" in it that could serve as an atonement for past offences.

II. THE SINS OF YOUTH BEAR FRUIT IN AFTER-YEARS. They do so in this life. Disease and early decrepitude are the bitter fruits of youthful dissipation. If the golden opportunities of youth are wasted, the after-life must suffer. If opportunities of educational improvement are neglected in youth, it is impossible to make up for them in manhood. The young man who spends the best years of his life in idle pleasure-seeking instead of laying the foundation of his future work, is sure to come to a day when he will bitterly repent his folly. There is a unity in life. We cannot slice it into detached periods, having no connection with one another. The present is a product of the past, and the ultimate future will be a result of our whole life, not of the last moments of it. Future judgment deals with the deeds of the life, not with the mood of the death-bed.

III. SINS OF YOUTH MAY BE FORGIVEN. They cannot be undone. Some of their consequences are inevitable. Therefore the hope of pardon is no encouragement for folly and wickedness. Still, when a man repents and seeks the grace of God, his case is never treated in Scripture as hopeless. Though a certain loss and suffering may remain, God forgives and heals the repentant soul. Therefore it is foolish to forget or to defend a misspent youth. The only hopeful thing is to own it before God, and to show ourselves heartily ashamed of it. It is far better to give to God every hour of life; but if the early hours have been misspent - miserable as is the thought of them - it is possible to mend our ways, and enter the vineyard even at the eleventh hour. The right use of reflection on the sins of youth is to make a man humble, and to had him to sympathize with young men, and to try to warn them, lest they make the sad mistake which has thrown a shadow over all his subsequent life. For who that is converted in later age would not give all he has to go back and begin again, and so avoid the ugly, unchangeable past? - W.F.A.

The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database.
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