Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. INTRODUCTION: INDIGNANT CENSURE OF HIS FRIENDS AS MALICIOUS SUSPECTERS OF HIS INNOCENCE. (Vers. 1-5.) "How long will ye trouble my soul, and crush me with words?" "Ten times," he says, speaking in round numbers, i.e. again and again, have they slandered him by attacks on h-is innocence; they are not ashamed to deafen him with their revilings. It is true, he again confesses (Job 6:24), he has sinned, but his sin remains with him alone; he is answerable to God alone, not to their unfeeling judgment. Is it their desire to magnify themselves - to play the part of great speakers and advocates, and bring home to him his disgrace by ingenious pleas? Vanity and self-conceit are at the bottom of much censoriousness; and Job here lays his finger upon the moral weakness of his self-constituted judges.
II. LAMENT OVER THE SUFFERING CAUSED HIM BY GOD. (Vers. 6-12.) God has wronged him, and surrounded him with his nets, as a hunter takes his prey, depriving it of all means of escape (ver. 6). The sufferer cries out, "Violence!" but no answer is given; and there is no justice in response to his cry for help (ver. 7). His way is fenced in, and darkness is on his paths (ver. 8; comp. Job 3:23; Job 13:27; Lamentations 3:7, 9; Hosea 2:6). God has stripped him of his honour and of his fair esteem in the eyes of men, and taken away the crown from his head (ver. 9; comp. Job 29:14; Lamentations 5:16). "Honour ' and the "crown" are two expressions for the same thing (Isaiah 61:10; Isaiah 62:3). God pulls him down on every side, like a building devoted to destruction; roots out the hope of his restoration, like a tree (ver. 10). His warlike bands - wounds, pains, and woes of every kind - come on, and make their way against him as against a besieged fortress (vers. 11, 12; comp. Job 16:14). All this is a true description of the thoughts of the heart from which Divine help has been withdrawn. It is a sore conflict, none sorer, when the mind is driven in its agony to view God as an end my, treating us unmercifully, willing neither to hear nor to help. Job is tempted to think God unjust; one who promises the forgiveness of sins, yet does not remove the penalty; promises his presence to the suffering, yet seems not to be touched by our woes - nay, even to delight in them. "In so great and glowing flames of hell we must look to Christ alone, who was made in all things like to his brethren, and was tempted, that he might succour them that are tempted" (Brenz).
III. LAMENT OVER THE SUFFERING CAUSED HIM BY MAN. (Vers. 13-20.) In such crises we turn to friendship for solace. But to Job this is denied. In six different forms he mentions his kindred and friends, only to complain of their coldness and alienation (vers. 13, 14). His domestics, too (ver. 15), to whom he had doubtless been a kind master, are become strange to him. His servant does not answer when he calls so that he is obliged to change parts with him, and beg his help as a favour (ver. 16) His breath and diseased body make him offensive even to his wife, and sons, or "brethren' (ver. 17). The impudent little boys of the street, like those who mocked Elisha (2 Kings 2:23, sqq.), make a butt of him, indulging in sarcastic taunts when he rises to speak (ver. 18). His bosom-friends abhor him, and those whom he had loved - Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar - turn against him as violent opponents (ver. 19). His bones cleave to his skin and flesh, can be seen and felt through his emaciated flesh, and only the skin of his teeth, the thin film, has escaped the ravages of his fearful mainly. He can only just speak still, without his mouth being filled with boils and matter, as in the last stage of the disease (ver. 20) Friends often fail in the time of sorest distress; they are summer-birds, and pass away when the colder weather sets in. Men are liars, fickle as the wind. Their alienation is ascribed to God, because he has caused the distress; if he had not caused the distress, they would have remained. Here, again, we are reminded that the child of God may be called to be conformed to the image of the Saviour's sufferings. He knew what it was to be deserted by all men, even his dearest disciples and closest adherents. So we are to learn to build no confidence on man, but on the living God alone, whom faith can hold eternally fast.
IV. RISE TO A BLESSED HOPE IN GOD, HIS ONLY REDEEMER AND AVENGER. (Vers. 21-27.) This section is introduced by a woeful petition to his friends for compassion, "for the hand of God has touched him," alluding to the disease, which from its fearfulness was regarded as a stroke of God's hand; and is it not the office of friendship to lend its hand to heal or soothe (ver. 21)? Why, on the contrary, do they persecute him as God, assuming an authority that is superhuman, and so behaving unnaturally to him? They are not "satisfied with his flesh," continually piercing and ploughing it with the envenomed tooth of slander (ver. 22). The appeal seems to be in vain, and he turns once more to God (ver. 23, sqq.). Oh that his words were written down, inscribed in a book or roll, that those to come might read the fervent, repeated protestations of his innocence! That they were engraven with an iron pen, or cast with lead, so as to remain an indelible and eternal record! And, so long as there is a God, this wish for the perpetuation of his testimony cannot be in vain. It has been fulfilled. "In a hundred languages of the earth it announces to this day. to all peoples this truth: the good man is not free from sufferings, but in the consciousness of his innocence and in faith in God, providence, and immortality, he finds a consolation which suffers him not to fail; and his waiting for a glorious issue of God's dark leadings will certainly be crowned" (Wohlforth). Ver. 25, "And I know that my Redeemer lives." "Redeemer" is probably to be taken, not in the sense of blood-avenger, but in that of restorer of my honour avenger of my honour; but the two meanings are connected. "And as Last One will he rise upon the dust." God is here viewed as he who will outlive all, especially in contrast to Job, now sinking into death. He will rise, stand up for Job's defence and deliverance, on the dust in which he shall soon be laid. Ver. 26, "And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall behold Eloah." He is thinking of the time when he shall be treed from his wretched suffering and lacerated "flesh," and shall see God as a glorified spirit. Ver. 27, "Whom I shall behold for myself," i.e. in my own person, "and my eyes shall see, and not a stranger." "My reins be consumed within me," in longing after this glorious view. It is an expression of the desire of the deepest, tenderest part of the man for this high consummation. To discuss the different theological interpretations of this passage does not come within the scope of this part of the Commentary. Perhaps the best is that which steers between two extremes, and is adopted by many eminent expositors of the present day. It is that Job does not here express the hope of a bodily resurrection after death, but of a contemplation of God in the other world in a spiritually glorified state. It is the hope of immortality, rather than that of resurrection, to which he rises, with such clearness and definiteness, above that ancient Israelitish idea of Sheol, which he himself has admitted in earlier discourses. It is a glorious confession of faith - one that, in a fuller sense, may well be that of the catholic Church. And once more the property and power of faith are exhibited in all their lustre. It cleaves to life in the very jaws of death; believes in heaven, even when hell is yawning at its feet; looks to God as the Redeemer even amidst anger and judgment; detects beneath seeming wrath his mercy; sees, under the appearance of the condemner, the Redeemer. Faith is here the "substance of things hoped for" (Hebrews 11:1). The best consolation in the trouble of death is that Christ is risen from the dead, and therefore we shall rise (Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 15.). God gives more to his servant, who shows himself inspired by such firm confidence towards him, than he could ask or understand.
V. SOLEMN WARNING TO HIS FRIENDS TO DESIST FROM THEIR ATTACKS. (Vers. 28, 29.) "If ye think, How shall we persecute him? and (if ye think) the root of the 'matter is found in me" - that is, if you think the reason fur my sufferings is solely to be found in myself, in my sin - "be afraid of the sword," the avenging sword of God, "fur wrath falls in with the offences of the sword," which may mean either that wrath is a punishment of the sword, or that the punishments of the sword are with wrath - wrath overtakes them. "That ye may know there is a judgment!" They knew this already, and upon this expectation their own warnings had been founded. But Job gives the thought an application to themselves. "That you may know that Gas exercises judgment on all the offences of the sword, which you do not own nor fear in your case, and that he severely punishes them." Thus Job opens that wider view of the future, of that day of discrimination, when the first shall be last, and the last first - the innocent shall be justified, and the hypocrite exposed - which corrects the narrow dogmatism of the friends. God punishes many sins in this life; but many are reserved for the last judgment. Temporal suffering may be escaped, and yet sure punishment may be in store. On the other hand, temporal suffering may be innocently endured, but for the true servant of God there will be final acknowledgment and eternal honour. - J.
all. The great underlying teaching is the insufficiency of those views of human suffering which find its cause only in judgment upon wrong-doing. Job, the typical sufferer - typical for all future sufferers - undergoes the painfulness of being assailed by helpers who have but a partial and very imperfect view of all the circumstances of his case. And he appeals to them for ease. His cry to them is also a cry to Heaven for relief.
I. His appeal for pity is based ON THE GROUND OF THE WRONGFULNESS OF HIS ACCUSATION. Behold, I cry out of wrong." His friends have set themselves against him. They have become his judges rather than his consolers or vindicators. They "reproach" him and make themselves "strange" to him; they "magnify" themselves against him. They try to plead his reproach against him. It is the way of the imperfectly instructed human helper, and more and more clearly makes plain the necessity for a voice to be raised on behalf of the sufferer that shall be of one better instructed.
II. But the appeal is urged ON THE GROUND OF THE SEVERITY OF HIS SUFFERINGS Job acknowledges his affliction to be of God, and he most tenderly and touchingly refers to the several features of his suffering. He cries out of wrong; he has no impartial and just hearing. He is encompassed by darkness from which he cannot escape; his honour is beclouded; his substance is destroyed; his hope has perished; he is dealt with as an enemy; his acquaintances are estranged; he is forgotten by his best friends; he is treated with indignity in his own home; he is offensive even to his wife; even young children despise him and speak against him - "they whom I loved are turned against me." Through the severity of his disease he is wasted to a skeleton; his "bone cleaveth" to his "skin." Surely this is a call for pity. Yet professed friends can stand by and argue with such a sufferer, seeking to prove his guiltiness and affirming all this to be the just punishment of his sin.
III. He makes his further appeal to their pity ON THE GROUND OF FRIENDSHIP. "Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends!" It is reasonable to expect that professed friends will at least show pity to him for whom they have declared their great friendship.
IV. His final appeal to them is ON THE GROUND OF HIS AFFLICTION BEING THE STROKE OF GOD. "The hand of God hath touched me." Against the Almighty he cannot hope to contend. He is crushed under the Almighty's power. This lowly confession does not abate the calm inward assurance of personal integrity. But the solution of the mysterious Divine ways is wanting. He endeavours to abide in patience. But human sympathy should strengthen the sufferer under the pressure of the Divine hand, and not add to the already excessive weight of his calamities. "Why do ye persecute me as God?" To whom should a sufferer turn if not to his friends? How obvious the office of friendship at such a time:
1. To sympathize.
2. To seek to ease the burden of the sufferer.
3. To strengthen by kindness and pity. - R.G.
I. THERE IS A PRIVACY IN RELIGION. Each soul has to deal with God alone. Although we may help one another by sympathy, and although our internal religion must show itself in external conduct, still the roots and inner springs of religion are not for public Investigation. The breach of reserve on the deepest matters of the soul is like an offence against decency. The language of love is sacred, and is reserved for the ears of one only. When love has been wounded by wrong, the error is still a private concern, and one which strangers have no right to interfere with. No doubt there are ways in which our deepest experiences may be made serviceable to others. We ought to confess our faith, for the honour of Christ and for the encouragement of others. Too often a false shame keeps Christians back in this respect. We ought also to confess our faults one to another. But these faults are deeds in which we have injured one another. No one has a right to expose the secret sins of his brother, or to pry into the inner conflicts of his soul. The religion that is turned inside out in the light of day fades or coarsens. The roots that are dragged from their secret dwelling-place and exposed to the sun, wither and perish. The spiritual experience that is bandied by the multitude loses its finer character, if not its very life. We cannot help our brother by destroying his delicacy of feeling. Even if we think him too reserved, though it might be well for him to be more communicative, we cannot be justified in tearing down the veil which he has chosen to wear.
II. THERE MUST BE THE UTMOST OPENNESS WITH GOD IN RELIGION. Here the reserve ceases. Here the most retiring soul must be completely frank. God claims our confidence. To attempt to hide anything from God is foolish, for he knows all our most secret thoughts. But we need to go further, and make our confessions consciously and willingly. The reasons for reserve among men do not apply to our relations with God. As God knows all, so he rightly understands everything. He will never misjudge us. Moreover, his love secures his perfect sympathy with us. Man's prying curiosity subjects the quivering nerves of its victim to a process of vivisection; but God's searching gaze of love and sympathy heals and saves. It is necessary that we should receive this willingly if we are to profit by it. A foolish shyness of God leaves us without the cheering of his presence. It is always a bad thing when one has to say, as a son exclaimed of his lately deceased father whom everybody was praising, "It may be all true; but I cannot say, as I never knew him." It is not our Father's fault if we do not know him. He rewards confidence with an exchange of confidence. Now, our first and most necessary duty is to fling aside all reserve before God, to own that "we have erred and strayed from his ways like lost sheep," to confess ourselves utterly helpless and worthless, and, trusting our emptiness to him, to be ready to welcome tile fulness which he always bestows on his trusting children. - W.F.A.
I. IT MAY BE REALLY UNHEARD. That is to say, while of course God knows everything, he may not respond, may not heed. Why?
1. Because the cry is not addressed to the true God. The heathen priests on Mount Carmel screamed, "O Baal, hear us!" from morning till evening. "But there was no voice, nor any that answered" (1 Kings 18:26). Men have their false gods now, i.e. their false ideas of God. A god who ignores sin, a god who is only amiable compliance, is not the true God. One who addresses such a god will not be heard.
2. Because the cry is not true. It is a formal petition, not a heartfelt prayer. The words may be loud, but the soul is silent. Christ says, "When ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking" (Matthew 6:7).
3. Because the cry is not trustful. We may cry to God in wild despair; the prayer may be wrung out of an agony of the soul; it may be just the expression of a natural instinct; but it may carry with it no real confidence in God. The Divine response is according to our faith.
4. B cause the cry is not accompanied by penitence. If we hold to our sin we cannot be saved from our trouble. While we excuse ourselves before God we make his ear deaf to our call. Nothing so effectually seals the gates of prayer as an impenitent heart.
5. Because the pity sought from God is not given to a brother man. The prayer of the selfish is not heard. Every time we repeat the Lord's Prayer we remind ourselves that our trespasses are forgiven in proportion as we forgive those who trespass against us. This is the one, the only thing in the prayer that Christ selected for emphatic comment, adding, "If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:15).
II. IT MAY BE ONLY APPARENTLY UNHEARD.
1. Because there is no audible response. Our voice goes out into the silence. We strain our ears for one word of reply, but no sound reaches us. Though we spread out our hands and cry aloud, the calm heavens are still and apparently irresponsive. But, then, we are foolish if we expect an answer that shall be audible to our bodily ears, for God is a Spirit. Moreover, if we trust him, we should not think that he does not hear when he does not speak. Silence is not deafness.
2. Because there is no immediate relief. At present all seems as it was before we prayed. Does it not appear as though the cry had been wasted on the air? We have to learn patience. It may be well that the trial should last a little longer. In the end God will deliver his suffering children who trust themselves to him, but he may not give them sudden and immediate relief.
3. Because the response is not what we expected. God will not be dictated to. He will use his own judgment in his reply to us. He may give the very thing we ask for. But if that be not fitting he will reply in some other way. Assuredly he will reply. Therefore we must take a wider view of his action, and be prepared to receive God's response in new and unlooked-for forms. Instead of removing the trouble he may give strength to bear it, Instead of prosperity he may give peace. Then we have no right to think our cry lost and neglected. It is heard. - W.F.A.
I. GOD HAS A RIGHT TO FENCE UP OUR WAY. Job's complaint is sad, but it does not here indicate an injustice. It is hard to be checked and thwarted. Still God is our Master, and he has a right to choose our inheritance for us, setting us in a large place, or in a narrow way, as he thinks best. When we complain, we forget that our will is not the supreme arbiter of our destiny. If God stops our path we have to remember that we are on his land, and have no right of way across it. When, in his bounty, he sets us free to roam over his domain, this is a favour for which we may well give thanks; it is no privilege that we can demand. The opportunities of life, and our freedom to use them, are given by God; and he who gives may withhold.
II. GOD MAY FENCE UP OUR WAY TO PREVENT US FROM STRAYING. We blunder in the darkness. There are precipices over which we may fall, jungles in which we may become victims to prowling enemies, By-path Meadows that may lead us to Doubting Castle. Therefore God shuts us in. We are annoyed at the restraint, but it is for our soul's preservation. Liberty is not always good. God sees when it may be abused; then in his great mercy he withdraws it. Thus the ambitious man fails to reach the giddy height from which he would soon be flung headlong to ruin. Business does not bring one in the wealth that was expected, for God sees that money is becoming an idol. Mary delights are shut off, and a man looks over the fence with great envy towards them; but God knows that they would be poison and death to him.
III. GOD SOMETIMES FENCES UP OUR WAY FOR DISCIPLINE OR PUNISHMENT. We feel ourselves checked and hindered on every side. Our busy activity is stopped. Even our good designs are frustrated. We find it hard to account for such treatment. Possibly it is just the punishment of our sins. This has come not as direct pain and loss, but as hindrance and failure. We feel like the Egyptians when their chariot-wheels stuck in the bed of the sea. But it may be that the cause lies not so much in sin as in a need of wholesome discipline. Perhaps we can serve God better by patient endurance than by vigorous activity. Then what looks like failure is really the divinely chosen method of success. He fences up our way that we quay learn to serve by waiting.
IV. GOD WHO FENCES UP OUR WAY ALSO OPENS IT. The fence is but a temporary structure - not a wall. God checks us for a season that we may use our liberty, when it is restored, with the more enthusiastic energy. While he is fencing up one way he is opening out a new way. We wonder why we are hindered, but if we would but lift up our eyes we might see another path, leading us to a far more noble and Christ-like service than any the path that has been stopped pointed to. Meanwhile let us not complain that our way is hopelessly fenced up till we are quite brought to a standstill. Our fears are premature. The Norwegian fiord seems to be completely locked in by the mountains, and the ship appears to be making straight for the cliffs till a point is reached which suddenly reveals a new expanse of water. We must proceed with the duty within our power, and then the future will open out as we approach it. - W.F.A.
I. THE HAND OF GOD MAY HURT. His hand holds his children even in the depths of trouble (Psalm 139:10). It is a creative, sustaining, blessing hand. Yet it may also be used to smite and bruise. The coming of God is not always for the happiness of his children. He must chastise their sin and folly. Then the trouble is irresistible and overwhelming. It is the contemplation of the Divine source of his trouble that makes Job appeal to his friends as from the depths of an unfathomable misery.
II. GREAT EFFECTS ARE PRODUCED BY THE MERE TOUCH OF GOD'S HAND. Job does not say that God's hand had stricken him; he only complains that it had touched him. But that was enough to plunge him into an agony of soul. A touch of the "Traveller unknown" put Jacob's thigh out of joint (Genesis 32:25). God is so strong and great that his slightest action is irresistible, and pregnant with tremendous consequences. But if his touch is so powerful, how terrible must be his wrathful smiting! A man could not exist for one moment if God really roused himself in anger against him.
III. THE TOUCH OF GOD'S HAND SHOULD HOUSE OUR COMPASSION. The trouble is so great that all thoughts of blame should be swallowed up in a deep feeling of sympathy. Job here seems to reverse his previous conduct. Before this he had appealed from the unfairness of man to the justice of God. Now he appeals from the heavy hand of God to the brotherly compassion of a fellow-creature. Even if the contention of the three friends had been well founded, and Job had been the great sinner they assumed him to be, his sufferings were now so severe that all other thoughts should have been swallowed up in commiseration for them. It is only human to feel sympathy with suffering. The censure that hardens itself against the distresses that it regards as the just punishment of sin is harsh and cruel, and unworthy of any disciple of Jesus Christ.
IV. THE HAND THAT HURTS HEALS. Even the touch of chastisement is meant in love, and if it is received in a right spirit, it will be followed by quite another touch. We ought not to be afraid of the hand of God. As it has sheltered us from the first, so it will protect and save us at last. Job was ultimately blessed by the hand of God. We have God with us in Christ, and Christ's hands bear the nail-prints that tell of love unto death. When he touches us it is with a pierced hand. We may feel pain, but he felt more for us, and the record of his suffering is the pledge of the saving grace which he extends to all who truly seek him. When John was dismayed at his vision of the glorified Christ, the Lord laid his hand on him, and that gracious touch of sympathy dispelled his fears (Revelation 1:17). The healing touch of Christ is with us now, and it really conies from the same hand as that which hurts in our trouble. God only hurts to heal. - W.F.A.
Luke 24:27). The passage is an illustration of this progressive character of the revelation. Buried in the old Scriptures were "the things concerning" the Christ; but it was needful they should be "expounded." Even the prophets did not all know "what the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify." Thus unconsciously Job, with others, ministers to the faith of the world.
I. In Job's avenger, vindicator, or redeemer, is to be seen THE HIDDEN TYPE AND PROMISE OF THE UNIVERSAL REDEEMER. That for which one looked all may look. Not only the Vindicator of the innocent and the upright, but the "Justifier of the ungodly."
II. In the redemption of Job's honour may be hidden THE WORK OF HIM WHO SHALL BRING BACK THE FORFEITED HONOUR AND RIGHTEOUSNESS OF MEN. As the Person, so the work of the Divine Redeemer is here foreshadowed. The next of kin, to whom "the right of redemption belongs," shall restore the alienated possession. He who shall appear for Job shall spear on behalf of the sinful world, shall make intercession for the transgressors, shall vindicate by his own substitutionary offering the "justification" of "the ungodly."
III. In Job's vision of the appearance of his vindicator at the latter day upon the earth is to be seen THE HIDDEN PROMISE OF THE FINAL APPEARANCE OF THE WORLD'S REDEEMER for judgment, vindication, and salvation of him who "shall appear the second time without sin unto salvation."
IV. In Job's assured final vision of God, after the destruction of his body, lies THE COMFORTING PROMISE OF THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD; not in a frail body of flesh, liable to be torn, consumed, destroyed, but in "a spiritual body." So the Church in confident hope chants at the side of the tomb. Thus are the germs of the future and final revelation held in the earlier; thus is laid the ground for faith and thankfulness; thus is the suffering one cheered; thus shall patience and faith and untarnished integrity, though afflicted, be vindicated; and thus shall the faith of the justified ungodly find its vindication in him who is the Vindicator, the Saviour, the Redeemer of sinful, suffering man. - R.G.
I. THE DESIRE FOR WRITTEN WORDS. Job is about to set forth a great conviction. He thinks it so important that he would have it recorded in the state chronicle, even chiselled and leaded in the face of the rock, like some great historic inscription.
1. Conviction of truth. Job would not want a lie to be recorded against him for ever. It is natured to desire that the truth which we hold should be maintained.
2. Weight and importance. Many true words are but of limited and temporary interest. The ordinary talk of social intercourse certainly neither needs nor merits a permanent record. It is natural for it to disappear like the successive waves that break on the beach. But weighty words should endure. There are truths the discovery of which is a permanent boon to mankind. These truths should be carefully treasured and transmitted.
3. Craving for justice. Job is concerned with a personal feeling in his desire. If what he says makes no impression on his immediate circle, it may bring conviction to a wider area of less prejudiced persons, or to a later age.
II. THE USE OF WRITTEN WORDS.
1. Distinctness. Job's thought is clearly before us. The Scriptures afford a definite revelation. With written words we are not left to vague surmises. We do not only depend on the inward impulses of the Divine Spirit. The inner light may be very real and precious. But we are in danger of misinterpreting it if we neglect the written Word of the Bible.
2. Permanence. Job's great thought of the future life has permanence by being recorded in Scripture. It is fearful to think how the Christian truth would in all probability have been perverted and lost among the shifting currents of tradition if there had been no "New Testament" in which to preserve it. Now we can go back to the very fountain of the gospel. We can leave all the errors of the ages and take our stand on the pure teaching of Christ and his apostles; or if, as is only reasonable, we believe that the course of Christian thought has contributed to the development of the understanding of truth, still we can test that development, and distinguish it from the degeneration that mocks it, by keeping close to the New Testament. So long as the written words of revelation are in our hands there is a grand security for purity of doctrine.
3. Publicity. Job desired that the great, new truth he was about to utter should go abroad. No doubt his first wish was that it might lead to the justification of his misunderstood character. But much larger consequences follow. When the voice of the prophet is silent, his written word speaks to the ages and spreads far and wide to multitudes that could never have been affected by his personal presence. The Bible is a means of making God's truth widely known. That truth is not for an elect few of the initiated, but for mankind at large. Therefore it is our duty to do what we can to circulate the Divine Word. At the same time, let us not forget to pray for the enlightening Spirit to interpret this written Word to ourselves and to others; "for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life" (2 Corinthians 3:6). - W.F.A.
I. THE ASSURANCE OF THE GREAT HOPE. Job says, "I know." He is not vaguely feeling after truth. He has it, and he holds it firmly. How different is this great passage from Job 3:1 In what way can we account for the new triumphant tone of the sufferer? How does Job know that his Redeemer liveth, etc.?
1. By inspiration. This passage bears its own evidence to its Divine origin in its tone and spirit and exalted thought. The patriarch is carried out of himself. He is almost like St. Paul in the third heavens (2 Corinthians 12:2). Yet he is in no wild ecstasy; his tone is one of calm, solemn, glad assurance. The greatest truths of redemption and resurrection are from God.
2. Through the discipline of suffering. Job did not see all this at first. But sorrow has given him a marvellous power of intuition. It has trained him to see the highest truth. Thus God's revelation comes to the prepared soul. Suddenly the black clouds are rent asunder, and the much-suffering man looks right up to the eternal blue, while the very light of God illumines and transfigures his countenance.
II. THE GROUNDS OF THE GREAT HOPE. The living Redeemer. Job has a Goel, an Avenger, who will plead his cause and deliver him from his trouble.
1. Divine. Clearly he is thinking of God. He has no idea of another being who shall be his friend while God remains his persecuting Enemy. He flees from God to God. He knows that, though he cannot understand God's present treatment of him, he will be ultimately delivered if he trusts in God. Although it was not given to Job to see further in this direction, we now know that his great hope and prophecy is fulfilled in Christ, who has come to be the sinner's Goel, the great Redeemer of man.
2. Personal. Job says, "my Redeemer." Each must know Christ for himself. But all may know and own him. Christ not only redeems the innocent by vindicating them - which was what Job expected. We now see that he goes further, and redeems the guilty by saving them even from their sin and doom.
3. Living. The Redeemer lives, though for a while we do not see him, We have a living Saviour.
III. THE SUBSTANCE OF THE GREAT HOPE.
1. A future life. Though some suppose that Job is only thinking of the cure of his diseased skin and flesh, and a vindication of him in health during his earthly life, it is difficult to see how his words could be satisfied with this simple meaning. Taking them as prophetic of a future life when the worm-eaten body is left behind, we have a grand picture of the triumph of hope in Old Testament times. Here is the answer to Job 14:14. There will be a future life when the tabernacle of this body is laid aside.
2. A vision of God. Job had been longing to meet God. His prayer was lost in silence (ver. 7). God's hand was only upon him for chastisement. Now he foresees the great apocalypse.
(1) This is for the vindication of righteousness. God will then explain the mysteries and put an end to the wrongs of earth.
(2) This is itself a g, eat joy. The beatific vision is an adequate compensation for all the sufferings of earth.
IV. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE GREAT HOPE.
1. Apart from the earthly body. This is no trouble to Job. His body has become a loathsome, tormenting encumbrance. "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, neither doth corruption inherit incorruption" (1 Corinthians 15:50).
2. With personal identity. Job would not be content to be dissolved into the universe. The future life is one of personal existence. It must be linked by memory to the present life. Every one who knows Christ as his living Redeemer on earth will enjoy the personal fellowship of God in heaven. - W.F.A.
I. WE CANNOT UNDERSTAND A MATTER UNTIL WE DISCOVER THE ROOT OF IT. Job's friends were quite wrong; all their conclusions were invalid, all their accusations were unjust, all their admonitions were irrelevant, because they mistook the root and cause of Job's afflictions. Their conduct is a warning against judging with superficial knowledge. In their assurance of infallibility they inferred the existence of the root when they had not been able to see it. In all branches of knowledge we need to bore down to the root of our subject. The greatest task of science is the search for causes. The mere collection and classification of facts is but the first step. Real science aims at accounting for its facts. So in religion we are not content to receive certain impressions; we want to get behind and beneath them and find their roots. We must find the root of poverty and social trouble before we can understand these evils.
II. IT IS DIFFICULT TO DISCOVER THE ROOT OF A MATTER. The root is underground. It hides itself in darkness. Possibly it runs far for its nourishment, like that of the famous Hampton Court vine, which is said to reach to the river Thames. In human affairs it is very hard to find the roots, because men do not generally expose their inmost thoughts. History searches for causes, but it is a very tentative and precarious science. One historian will see, or thinks he sees, the cause of an event in something of which another denies the existence. We cannot even see the roots of the conduct of our daily acquaintances. In particular this difficulty is increased when there is lack of sympathy. A mean and selfish man can never discover the roots of generous action, and a noble-minded man is slow to suspect the roots of the conduct of a person of lower character. We must beware of the attempts of hot-headed philanthropy to cure evils the roots of which have not yet been discovered. Else we may do more harm than good.
III. THERE ARE EVILS WHICH ARE NOT ROOTED IN THE MAN WHO SUFFERS FROM THEM. This was the truth which Job's friends, blinded by prejudice, could not see. They assumed that the root was in Job, but their assumption was an error. Now, the admission of this idea should not only check hasty judgment; it should encourage faith and teach patience. The roots are much deeper than we suspect. We cannot understand providence, for we cannot see its roots.
IV. THE WORST EVIL IS THAT WHICH HAS ITS ROOT IN THE MAN WHO SUFFERS FROM IT. If Job's friends had been right, his position would have been far more dreadful than it was. Often we must confess to ourselves that we have brought trouble upon our own heads. Our folly or our sin is its primary cause. Then it is wholly our own. It is well to search ourselves and see if the root of the matter be in us. If it is, there is no hope of salvation while it remains there. To cut down the superficial growth will do no good. The deep-seated root will sprout again. Evil must be eradicated from the heart. We want a cure that goes to the root of the matter.
V. THE ROOT OF DIVINE GRACE IS A SURE SOURCE OF DIVINE LIFE, There are good things as well as evil things that have their roots in a man. The root of the better life may be in a man when we do not see it.
1. It is within the individual man. Otherwise the external grace is not his.
2. It may be hidden.
3. The growth above may be checked.
4. Still, if the root of the matter is in the soul, there must be some growth visible in the outer life. - W.F.A.
I. A UNIVERSAL BELIEF.
II. TESTIFIED BY THE CONSCIENCE.
III. NECESSARY ON ACCOUNT OF THE PRESENT INVOLVED CONDITION OF HUMAN AFFAIRS. Conditions are unequal; wickedness seems to triumph, and the wicked to prosper. The good suffer. The reward of faithful service is not attained. The Divine ways are not justified. Human conduct does not meet with due retribution.
IV. To BE DREADED BY THE UNFAITHFUL. V. ANTICIPATED BY THE RIGHTEOUS.
VI. LIFE TO BE HELD IN THE LIGHT OF A FUTURE JUDGMENT. - R.G.