Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. ACCUSATION OF JOB AS A GREAT SINNER. (Vers. 2-10.)
1. These questions taken together (vers. 2-5) form a syllogism (Zockler). The major premiss (vers 2, 3) expresses the thought: in God, the all-sufficing One, who is not affected by man's good or evil, the cause of Job's unhappiness cannot lie; the minor premiss shows that if Job himself bears the blame, this cannot possibly be because of his reverence for God (ver. 4); and the conclusion is drawn to the prejudice of the moral character of Job (ver. 5). "Does man bring profit to God? No, the man of sense profits himself." God needs nothing, and gains nothing, whether man's conduct be wise or foolish; therefore if he has acted wisely, man is but cousulting his own interest. "Is it an advantage to the Almighty, if thou art just? or a gain, if thou makest thy ways sound?' i.e. pure and free from blame and punishment. Therefore it cannot be selfish or arbitrary motives which determine God to afflict men. "Will he chastise thee for thy reverence, go with thee to judgment?" If the reason of your doom is to be found in yourself, can it be reverence to him for which he punishes you? It must be the very opposite. Then comes the conclusion, "Is thy wickedness not great, and of thy transgressions no end?" On the rigid principles of Eliphaz and his companions, no other conclusion can be drawn. "The things said are good, but they are carnally understood. For the wisdom of the flesh thinks that blessing outwardly belongs in this world to the godly, and to the ungodly, curses; but the truth teaches that the godly enjoy blessing in this life under the guise of cursing, life in death, salvation in seeming condemnation; but, on the contrary, the ungodly are cursed under the show of blessing, are dead while they live, are condemned though in seeming safety" (Brenz).
2. Enumeration of Job's supposed sins (vers. 6-10). They are the sins of the rich and powerful, such as Job had been. "For thou didst take a pledge of thy brother without cause," thine abundance rendering such measures against a poor neighbour unnecessary. Note the indignation with which the Bible ever treats sins against the poor and needy. "And stripped off the clothes of the naked," i.e. the ragged, the scantily clothed. Common humanity would forbid the taking of the last garment of such in pledge; and the Law of Moses strictly, prohibited it (Exodus 22:25,. sqq.; Deuteronomy 24:6, 10, sqq.) "Thou gavest... not the thirsty water to drink, and didst refuse the hungry bread;" comp. Isaiah 58:10, and the beautiful contrast in the words of Christ concerning giving the cup of cold water to the little one (Matthew 10:42). "And the powerful man [literally, 'the man of arm'], his was the land, and the man of consideration was to dwell in it." A picture, as the speaker supposes, true to the life of what Job had been. "Widows thou didst send empty away, and the arms of the orphans were crushed'" i.e. their rights and their resources, all that they could rely on (Psalm 37:17; Ezekiel 30:22). "Therefore snares are round about thee, and terror comes upon thee suddenly" (comp. Job 18:11; Proverbs 3:25). The truth of God's special care over widows and orphans, over the poor, the prisoners, and the oppressed is thus incidentally brought out with force. Sins against them are amongst the vilest that cry to Heaven (Sirach 35:14, 15, 18, sqq.).
II. WARNING OF FURTHER PUNISHMENT. (Vers. 11-20.)
1. "Or darkness that thou canst not see, and a flood of waters covers thee" - the night of woe and the deep misery which have come upon him in consequence of his sins (ver. 1). "Is not Eloah heaven-high?" - infinitely exalted - "and do but behold the head [or, 'highest'] of the stars, how exalted they are!" (ver. 12). Then how idle is every thought of the limitation of his power, and every doubt of the absolute justice of his doings! In vers. 13,14 Job's doubts of the justice of God's government are construed by the speaker as denials of God's knowledge of earthly things and his providence over mankind, like the Epicureans in ancient and the deists in modern times. "And thou sayest, What knoweth God? will he judge through the dark clouds? clouds are his covering, that he seeth not; and he walketh on the circumference of the heaven," deigning not to give heed to this little and insignificant earth. Similar expressions of ancient scepticism are found in Psalm 73:11; Psalm 94:7; Isaiah 29:15; Ezekiel 8:12. Its refutation is in the words of Jeremiah 23:23, sqq.. God is not afar off, but near to every creature - not far from every one of us (vers 27, 28; Acts 17.). To think that God is too exalted to attend to our mean affairs, is to set out on the road of unbelief, sin, and ruin. Rather, because God is so exalted, nothing is hidden from him. He is as manifest in the microscopic dust as in the planetary worlds. He knows our most secret deeds, our inmost feelings, our sufferings that most retire from the notice of others (Jeremiah 23:23, 24; Psalm 139:1, sqq.; Matthew 6:8; 1 John 3:20).
2. The overthrow of the godless. (Vers. 15-20.) "Wilt thou observe the way of the old world, which men of perdition trod?" - alluding, perhaps, to those before the Deluge (2 Peter 2:5). Swept away before their time, their foundation was poured away like a stream, so that they could not remain (ver. 16). These ungodly ones had said to God, "Depart from us;" had asked, "What can the Almighty do for us?" (ver. 17). Job had in the previous chapter (vers. 14, 15) put words like these into the mouth of the prosperous bad men; and now Eliphaz ascribes them to the subject of his description, to show Job that he approves up to a certain point of the representation he had made of the relation of external happiness to human guilt (Zockler). "And yet it was he that had filled their houses with blessing," giving the contrast between the sudden Divine judgments and the previous prosperous condition which suggested their exemption from punishment. "The counsel of the wicked be far from me!" exclaims the speaker (ver. 18), echoing Job (Job 21:16), as if to imply only one who, like myself, has no doubt of God's retributive justice, may dare thus to speak. The wish of the godly is that God may draw near, ever nearer, to him; that of the ungodly is always, "Remove, depart from us!" "They would willingly leave God his heaven, if he would only leave them their earthly comfort "(Starke). Ver. 19, the overthrow of the wicked is a subject of rejoicing even of derision, to the righteous and innocent, according to the proverb, "He laughs best who laughs last" (comp. Psalm 58:10, 11; Psalm 64:9, 20). Ver. 20 contains the words of triumph of the godly, "Verily, our adversaries are destroyed, and their remainder the fire has consumed." Contrast the spirit of Christ (Matthew 23:37; Luke 19:42, sqq.; James 5:19, 20).
III. EXHORTATION TO REPENTANCE AND PROMISE OF SALVATION. (Vers. 21-30.)
1. Exhortation. "Make friends with him, and be at peace" (James 4:8), "thereby blessing will come to thee ' (ver. 21); "Take instruction from his mouth" (Proverbs 2:6). "If thou returnest to the Almighty, thou wilt be built again; if thou put wrong far from thy tents, and lay in the dust the precious metal, and under the gravle of the brooks the Ophir gold" - getting rid of it as a worthless thing - "then will the Almighty be thy Treasure, and silver in heaps" (vers. 23, 25; see on this sentiment the New Testament passages, Matthew 6:20, 33; Matthew 19:21; Luke 12:33; 1 Timothy 6:16-19). God's grace builds up what sin destroys. To enjoy that grace is competency, is wealth. Deus meus et cranial (Psalm 73:25, 26). "Let thy heart rely on God, and thou mayest cast away thy gold, lose it without care; the Almighty remains thine inviolable Treasure; whilst, on the other hand, without him the most troubled watching and anxiety are of no avail" (vide Gerlach).
2. Promises continued. (Vers. 26-30) "Yea, then thou writ delight thyself, in the Almighty, and lift up thy face to God" (ver. 26), in the freedom of a conscience without guilt (Job 11:15; comp. Psalm 37:4; Isaiah 58:14). "If thou prayest to him, he will hear thee, and thy vows thou wilt pay" (Psalm 22:25; Psalm 50:14; Psalm 61:8; Psalm 65:2). The vow is looked at in the light of promise rather than of duty; God will always grant so much that thou canst fulfil all thy vows. "If thou resolvest on anything, it will come to pass, and light shall beam on thy way. If they [the ways] go downwards, thou sayest, Up!" - a cry of triumph and thanksgiving. "And to the cast down he gives help. He will deliver the not-innocent, and he is delivered by the cleanness of thy hands" (vers. 28-30). For the sake of thy innocence, which thou shalt have regained, God will be gracious to others who need atonement for their guilt. Little does the Pharisaic speaker dream that it is he who will receive the pardon at God's hands for Job's sake (Job 42:8). The "prayer of a righteous man availeth much." At his intercession evil-doers may be spared, and not visited with the merited punishment (Genesis 18:23, 24; Ezekiel 14:14, sqq.). - J.
I. ASSURED BY THE INVIOLABILITY OF THE DIVINE RIGHTEOUSNESS. The character of the Most High is the utmost refuge of the human thought. It is the basis of human confidence. That Name is absolutely unimpeachable. No difficulty in the Divine ways or in our interpretation of them can for a moment check our assurance of the Divine sanctity and justice. On this rock all hope is built. As now we repose on it, so in our thoughts of the future. The final as the present judgments of God are and can be only true and righteous. The sanctity of the Divine Name is the assurance of the unimpeachable rectitude of the Divine ways. The impartiality of the Divine judgments is therefore -
II. A GROUND OF CONFIDENT APPEAL BY THE UNJUSTLY ACCUSED. In calmness he may wait who knows himself to be unrighteously accused, slandered. It is hard to bear the unjust accusations of men, and all the more if we have no means at hand by which to vindicate ourselves. To the final adjudication we may safely appeal. There justice will be done. There the righteousness of the righteous shall shine out as the sun, or as the stars in the Black night. The human judgment errs; it is swayed by false words, by base motive, by ignorance, by want of integrity. But high above the imperfectness of the human rises the Divine judgment, calm and profound, pure as a sea of glass. To that judgment Job has again referred himself now in strong Confidence, now in fear; though, in moments of weakness, he has seemed to impugn it. The impartiality of the Divine judgment is -
III. A SOURCE OF TRUE COMFORT FOR TEE SORROWFUL. Ever there lies deep in the heart of the suffering the hope that some counterbalancing good shall follow. To the full round of scriptural teaching we are indebted for the clear light that we have on this subject. "There is a God that judgeth in the earth." "There is a reward for the righteous." Weeping may endure through life, and turn it into a long night, but a morning of joy breaketh, when tears shall be wiped away. Though men are tried, yet shall they come forth as gold purified in the fire. To the final Divine award, when God will render to every man according to his works, the patient sufferer may commit himself in calmness of hope. The impartiality of the Divine judgment stands in contrast to the error and imperfection of all human judgment. The human knowledge is partial, the human motives liable to be warped; therefore the human decisions are often unjust. Thus was it with Job. His friend accused him in severe terms. "Is not thy wickedness great? and thine iniquities infinite?" Then in severe words he names his offences, and adds," Therefore snares are round about thee, and sudden fear troubleth thee." Such was not the Divine judgment, as the sequel declares. Hence shines forth the lesson to the sufferer and the falsely accused, to abide calmly in hope of the righteous judgment of God. - R.G.
Job 22:2Job 22:2. Whether man can be profitable to God. Here is a question to which Eliphaz only expects a negative answer. Let us look at the grounds of the question, its difficulties, and the possible solution of it.
I. THE GROUNDS OF THE QUESTION. With many persons such a question never occurs. They do not dream of becoming profitable to God, nor do they wish to be of real service to him. Their only desire is that they may be profitable to them. Even in religion their great idea is to save their own souls. When they think of God at all, it is to consider what they may get from him for their own advantage. Any idea of sacrificing themselves to God and rendering him disinterested service has never dawned upon their consciousness. But when a true Christian spirit is aroused in the heart of a man, he must look beyond himself; he must desire to show his gratitude to God by some act of service; he must wish in some way to be profitable to God. It will be a pain to him to find that he can only receive bounties from God and can never render him any return. Thus there will arise within him an earnest question as to whether indeed he can do anything that will really be useful to God.
II. THE DIFFICULTIES OF THE QUESTION. These come from two main sources - from man's littleness, and from God's greatness.
1. Man's littleness.
(1) In knowledge. How can we discover what will be profitable to God? Have not men often done for religion what has really neither pleased God nor helped his cause?
(2) In power. We are limited, imperfect, feeble creatures. All We have is directly derived from the goodness of God. How, then, can we find means with which to give him beck any service?
(3) In goodness. Sin mars all we touch. Our sacrifice is defiled, our service is corrupt. We do not approach him with clean hands and pure hearts. How, then, can he accept our service?
2. God's greatness. It would seem that our slight service would be simply lost in the vast sea of Divine activities. It would be like a drop of water added to the ocean. Indeed, it would be no real addition; for God is infinite, his resources are boundless. He can do all things without an effort. Therefore he cannot need our service.
III. THE POSSIBLE SOLUTION OF THE QUESTION. Even if we cannot find this we should believe that it exists, because God calla us to serve him, and he would not do so if effective service were impossible. He could not desire us to waste our strength in work which was exhausting to ourselves and yet not useful to him, while we were simply aiming at serving him in obedience to his command. That would be a cruel mockery. Therefore we must believe that God does account our service profitable. Further, there are some ways in which we can see that it is so.
1. Through the love of God. The parent is delighted to receive the small ministries of his child, though he does not absolutely need them, and though they may really cost him more in first furnishing the means and then helping the accomplishment, than they are worth when regarded from a commercial standpoint. But love adds a value of its own. God delights to receive the service of his children. He waits for it and makes it valuable by the condescension which gives it a place in his plans.
2. By helping our fellow-men. We serve God when we serve our human brothers. Though in the infinity of his resources he does not lack anything, they lack many things. Yet God rejoices in what benefits any of his creatures. Thus we may become profitable to God by being profitable to our neighbours (Matthew 25:40). - W.F.A.
I. THIS IS NATURAL. God has made us mutually dependent on one another. In social order there is an interchange of service, and the general life of the community is simply maintained by people helping one another. The cases of extreme distress are those in which the reciprocity breaks down because the hungry and helpless can make no return for what they receive. Still they are part of the body, and if "one member suffer, all the members suffer with it" (1 Corinthians 12:26). The "solidarity of man" is such that the needy are naturally dependent on others for maintenance.
II. THIS IS SIMPLE. Only water and bread are here referred to. These are the most necessary things; but they are also the most accessible. A poor man who cannot give the smallest coin to a beggar may yet offer a cup of cold water. Of course, true sympathy will lead us to desire to help up to the utmost of our powers. But a very great amount of distress might be alleviated without a proportionate expenditure of money; e.g. penny, halfpenny, and even farthing dinners for children give an assistance far beyond what their cost suggests.
III. THIS IS UNCONDITIONAL. At least the one condition is need. We have not to consider merits when we relieve extreme distress. Water to the thirsty and bread to the starving should be given at the mere sight of extreme need, though the recipients are quite undeserving. This we admit by our poor-law. As soon as the immediate and pressing needs are supplied, other and more difficult questions must be considered. If we go further we may pauperize the objects of our charity. It is necessary, therefore, to consider character and methods of help suited to lift, not to degrade, the recipients. Here most complicated problems arise. But the primary help is simple and unconditional.
IV. THIS IS CHRIST-LIKE. Our Lord took pity on the world's sore need. He did not consider whether he could find "deserving cases." He offered his salvation to the most undeserving. Need, not merit, was the call that brought him from heaven. The most undeserving are really the most needing of help, not indeed with lavish doles of charity that will keep them in idleness, but, after the first necessaries are supplied to maintain life itself, by a kind of assistance that will raise them and better them. How to give this help is a most difficult question. We cannot do better than to follow our Lord's example. He raises where he helps. The grace of Christ never pauperizes the soul.
V. THE NEGLECT OF THIS IS A GREAT SIN. Eliphaz was unjust in accusing Job of such a sin. In the eyes of the Oriental, often dependent on casual hospitality for life itself in the desert, to refuse water and bread to the needy was a gross wrong. You may kill your enemy with the sword, but you must not deny him water to drink and bread to eat when he comes to you as a guest. Christianity widens and deepens the obligation. Though in various forms suited to the various circumstances of the world as we find it, brotherly helpfulness is always expected of Christ's people. It is taken as a service rendered to himself. The neglect of it is a reason for rejection at the great judgment (Matthew 25:41-46). - W.F.A.
I. A SUPPOSITION OF THE DIVINE IGNORANCE OF HUMAN AFFAIRS. "How doth God know?" "Thick clouds are a covering to him, that he seeth not." Thus ignorance or folly perverts the right and the good. Either the judgment or the moral character is at fault. Men sin in forgetfulness that the Divine eye is upon them. "Thou God seest me" is a hedge of fire to prevent from evil-doing. How great a departure from right reason is the foolish supposition that, because God is not seen, therefore he seeth not! So the Divine is measured by the human. Only godlessness - the indifference of the soul to God - can lead men to such perversions. The pure, they who, communing with the pure One, are changed into his image, see God. They discern his eye. t is the light and the joy of their life. The evil with darkened eye seeth not. A cloud of ignorance covers him, as a cloud of mystery the Most High.
II. This ignorance is further perverted into A SUPPOSITION OF THE INCOMPETENCY OF THE DIVINE JUDGMENT. "Can he judge through the dark cloud?" Thus the blind falls into the pit of error. One fault follows another in quick succession. The faulty view which shuts God out from his own world, which thinks of him as too far exalted above human affairs to take knowledge of them, must needs complete itself in denying the Divine judgment of human actions. It is the perilous perversion of ignorance and of sin - the blindness of mind which springs from a hardness of heart The moral sensibilities being blunted, moral truth is not apprehended. Spiritual things are foolishness to the unspiritual; he cannot discern them. The heart loving evil bribes the conscience into doubt as to the judgment upon evil, and finally wins it over to a denial of it. God cannot judge. So does the frail, ignorant, foolish creature judge of the Creator, and thus assumes to itself what it denies to its Maker. Mark
(1) the error,
(2) the folly,
(3) the wickedness,
(4) the danger, of this. - R.G.
I. THE APPARENT DIFFICULTY OF IT. It may not be asserted that God does not know all, and yet people act as though they could hide from God. In distress and loneliness it sometimes seems as though God could not know whet were the troubles of his children, or he would not permit them to be so grievously tried. The vastness of the universe raises the same difficulty. Many things are covered up, and it is not easy for us to believe that he can "judge through the thick cloud."
II. THE REAL TRUTH OF IT. If God is the infinite Being whom we know him to be, all difficulties will vanish before him. We may not be able to conceive of the method by which he comes to know all things; but this is not wonderful, for that method itself must have an infinity about it quite beyond our comprehension. On the other hand, God frequently gives startling evidence that he sees in secret and knows all things. He surprised Hagar by discovering her in the desert (Genesis 16:13). Achan's stolen booty could not be hidden (Joshua 7:16-21). Our own lives must bear witness to the searching knowledge of God. At first, perhaps, his treatment of us may have seemed to go on without any regard to our requirements, but that was only because we were short-sighted and superficial; for when we have been able to look back over a long stretch of life, have we not been surprised again and again at observing how wonderfully God has wrought just the very thing that was needed to bring out what was best in the end?
III. THE CONSEQUENCES DEPENDENT ON IT.
1. It is vain to try to hide from God He sees through the thickest cloud. Thus we only waste our efforts when we try to make a darkness that shall shut off the piercing gaze of God. He knows all now. He does not need to wait for the future revelation of the judgment-day. Already all hypocritical pretences are perfectly open and apparent to him.
2. It is foolish to distrust God's wisdom. We see a little corner of life; he has the whole field of it before him. Therefore he must have vastly greater materials for his judgment than we possess for ours. It is not to be wondered at that his decision often differs from ours. But if his ways are not as our ways and his thoughts not as our thoughts, the simple explanation is that his ways and thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah Iv. 8, 9).
3. It is well to seek God's guidance. When we follow his lead we are conducted by One who knows the end from the beginning. Our difficulties arise from partial lights and intercepted views. We see enough to lead us astray. But the perfect, all-penetrating knowledge of God invites us to renounce our prejudices and look up for the indications of God's guiding hand. These may be given to us
(1) in the course of events;
(2) in the admonitions of conscience;
(3) in the teachings of Scripture;
(4) in the life, the teaching, and the example of Jesus Christ.
Browning says -
"Our times are in his hand
I. THE WAY OF RECONCILIATION.
1. The search for the knowledge of God. "Acquaint now thyself with him." The knowledge of God is the basis of peace and the encouragement to it. It is the knowledge that comes of the heart turning to God. To such a heart God turns and manifests himself. Mere intellectual search is insufficient. God is known, as he is seen, by the heart.
2. Receiving teaching from him. The acceptance of his holy Law as the law of the returning life, hiding his words in the heart, taking them up into a loving recognition of them, - this is the way of all true peace and blessedness.
3. The putting away iniquity. This, the true repentance, is a departure from evil
4. A return of the soul wholly to God. This is the true conversion. From this issues the utmost good which Eliphaz points out in describing -
II. THE FRUITS OF PEACE.
1. The restoration of prosperity. "Thou shalt be built up." The blessing of God upon the human life is the highest pledge of true prosperity. Thou shalt lay up gold as dust," may not be a definite promise of riches to every returning one, but it indicates the true effect of righteousness. God will be to him his true gold.
2. Divine protection. "The Almighty shall be thy Defence."
3. A confident and joyous approach to God. "Thou shalt have thy delight in the Almighty." How greatly is the character of life raised by its purer fellowships! The soul brought to find its delight in the highest good is blest indeed.
4. The free access of prayer; and the pledge of a favourable response, "Thou shalt make thy prayer unto him, and he shall hear thee."
5. Prosperity and joy. "Thou shalt also decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee: and the light shall shine upon thy ways." Thus shall it come to pass that he who was "cast down" shall be lifted up, and the lowly shall be saved. Thus the guiltless shall be rescued, and he who has pure hands shall be delivered. The way of the sinner's approach to God is as of old - it is the path of humility, of repentance, of lowly confession, of faith - the heart's whole trust in the Lord and in his word of grace. And the fruits of righteousness are now as always - peace and assurance and blessing. - R.G.
I. HOW PEACE SPRINGS FROM THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD.
1. From the characteristics of knowledge. There is a restfulness about all knowledge. Vague apprehensions and surprising alarms dog the footsteps of ignorance. We cannot walk tranquilly in a dark night through regions of unknown dangers. Even the knowledge of painful truths is less disturbing than uncertainty about them. When we know the worst the fever of anxiety is allayed, although the lethargy of despair may have taken its place. The higher knowledge induces patience, calmness, strength.
2. From the nature of God. Here is the wonderful truth that comes to the troubled soul like a gospel of peace. Our hard thoughts of God are erroneous. They spring from a complete misconception as to his nature. We have thought him indifferent, or stern, or vindictive. These ideas were born of our own ignorance. If we had but known him we could not have held such views Of his nature. The more we do know him the more we see that his true name is Love. His purposes are gracious. Afar off they appear hard; on a near acquaintance the beauty and goodness of them is made evident to us.
3. From the needs of our soul. We cannot be at peace till we know God. The severance from God is a great cause of unrest. The knowledge of God is life eternal, and we are cut off from that life while we hold aloof from God.
II. HOW THE PEACE-GIVING KNOWLEDGE OF GOD IS ACQUIRED.
1. By some effort. We have to acquaint ourselves with God. We do not know God in our condition of sin and sorrow. The world iS in ignorance of God. A deep gloom hangs over a large part of heathendom through mistaken beliefs about malignant deities. Christians need to escape from hard thoughts of God. Our despondency, our limited views, our weakness, our consciousness of sin, all make it hard for us to know God in his perfect goodness.
2. Through revelation. In acquainting ourselves with God we have not to feel after him if haply we may find him. He has spoken to us. The Scriptures enlighten us and dispel needless fears as they make known the mercy of the Lord that endureth for ever. The greatest distress is sometimes felt by people dwelling too much in the region of subjective religion. Thus they imagine hard things about God that are contrary to his revelation of himself.
3. In Christ. He is the supreme Revelation of God, and he has come to bring "peace on earth." To see Christ is to know God as favourable to us. He is "our Peace."
4. By means of reconciliation. This further thought is implied in the notion of acquainting ourselves with God. We are estranged by sin, which hides from us the vision of the love of God. We must turn to God submissively, and make practical acquaintance of him by yielding ourselves to his will. Then the intimacy of spiritual communion will be "the peace of God that passeth all understanding." - W.F.A.
I. THE NATURE OF THE TREASURES. "Law," or "instruction," and "words." These treasures are not, material things. Gold and jewels are not the most precious things. Good thoughts are worth more than diamonds. God's words are of the greatest value on several accounts.
1. Their truth. All truth is precious; Divine truth - truth about God and spiritual things - is most valuable.
2. Their bearing on life. God's words are not concerned with abstract truth. They throw light on duty. They show us the way of salvation.
II. THE SOURCE OF THE TREASURES. The Law is from God's mouth. He originates the commandment; he conveys the instruction; he teaches the truth. God's revelation is the original source of all truth, for we can only know nature in so far as God reveals it to us through its phenomena and by means of the faculties he has given to us.
1. The original Source. God made the Law, impressed the truth on nature, inspired the ancient prophet, gave the hearing ear.
2. The immediate Source. We can only receive the truth of God when the Spirit of God brings it home to us. Thus it comes from God to each individual.
III. THE RECEPTION OF THE TREASURES. We have to receive the Law and the words of God.
1. They are not in us by nature. Or, if it may be said they are with us in our pristine stare of nature, we have lost them through sin, and we need to recover them.
2. They must be received willingly. We can keep them out; therefore we are urged to open the door and let them in. The best revelation fails before unwilling ears.
IV. THE PRESERVATION OF THE TREASURES.
1. To be laid up. God does not favour us with a flash of revelation for the use or the enjoyment of a moment. The truth is given for a permanent good.
2. In the heart.
(1) The thought. It is useless to hear, if we do not comprehend and consider.
(2) The memory. "The hoarded memories of the heart" are stores for use in after-years.
(3) The affections. We need to love God's truth and make it part of our very being by embracing it in our deepest affections.
V. THE USE OF THE TREASURES. They are not buried in oblivion, nor are they kept only for show, like the Crown jewels at the Tower. In the heart they are at the source of the life, and they are there to inspire and influence the whole man. God's Law is to be written on the fleshy tablets of the heart, that there it may live and rule. This treasure within purifies the soul and guides the conduct. - W.F.A.
I. THE RETURN.
1. To God. All sin is departure from God; and repentance is a return to God. As the fall is from personal relations, so the recovery is a renewal of personal relations. When the sinner comes to himself, he sees that his one hope is to "arise and go unto" his Father. Thus the very Being against whom he has sinned is sought for pardon and restoration. Now, it is not possible to mend our ways without thus coming back to God. His power and presence are the inspiration of the new life. The very thought of God as the Almighty is a help in this return. Although we are first moved by perceiving his goodness and mercy, we are conscious that we are helpless in ourselves and need heavenly aid to regenerate our souls. Thus the invincible power of God, which was our terror while we remained impenitent, becomes our hope as soon as we repent.
2. From sin, taking the last clause of the verse as a condition of God's help. We must put away iniquity from our tabernacles if we are to expect God's restoring mercies.
(1) Sin must be rejected. We cannot return to God and retain our sin. That must ever remain at a distance from him. Therefore we can only return by cutting our-solves off from it, and leaving it behind. It is necessary to abandon the practice of sin as well as to regret the past sin.
(2) Sin must go from the home - from the "tabernacles." Private sin must be abandoned; though now curtained in secret, it may not be harboured any longer. Cherished sin must go. Habitual sin must be cast out. It is easy to renounce the strange sin that only touches us now and again. The difficulty is with the besetting sin - that which dwells in the tabernacles. Yet this too must go.
II. THE RESTORATION. The returning penitent is to be "built up."
1. On fulfilling the conditions. He must return to God; he must renounce sin. There is's foolish notion that God's goodness will blot out the consequences of sin without these conditions being fulfilled. To do so weald be to outrage justice as well as to fly in the face of nature, We cannot have the rewards of grace without first accepting its inward influences. Forgiveness is not merely the cancelling of penalties; that is but an incident of the transaction; in itself it is a very personal thing, and until the personal reconciliation in which it consists is accomplished, only the lowest views of God's government could lead us to look for the external advantages.
2. In personal recover. The sinner himself is to be built up. Sin breaks a man down - breaks down character, reputation, faculty, energy. The fallen life is a broken life. Now, the first act o! Divine restoration touches the nature of the sinner himself. He is lifted up from the dust and set on his feet. Like a ruined building, shaken down by the earthquake, he is built up again, that he himself - and not merely his belongings - may be strong and beautiful. Thus the restored penitent is made a temple for the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, a fortress to keep out future invasions of evil, a palace in which the fairest graces of the kingdom can be nourished, a hospital and asylum for the sick and miserable, a school of new thoughts and enterprises, a home of prayer and love.
3. In external prosperity. It is only too likely that poor Eliphaz thought exclusively, or at all events quite disproportionately, of this when he spoke of Job being built up again. The patriarch's ruined fortune could be restored. This is not the chief part of a Divine restoration. Still in some way - though not always in restored wealth - it does follow that the outer as well as the inner life is favoured by a penitent return to God. - W. F. A.
I. RENUNCIATION THE CONDITION OF TRUE WEALTH. We do not get the best riches by grasping, but by giving. Sacrifice, not selfishness, is the source of the highest prosperity. We must renounce in order that we may attain. This principle is exemplified in various ways
1. Typified in nature. The farmer must not store his wealth in his granary if he would increase it. He must commit the seed to the earth, cast it away and bury it, in order that he may receive more in return.
2. Practised in commerce. We rarely meet with the old-fashioned miser and his bags of gold. In our day the money-worshipper lays out his wealth so that, like Shylock, he may make it "breed."
3. Taught by Christ. Our Lord showed in his parables of the talents and the pounds that the gifts of God were to be used, expended profitably, and that they should have more who had traded with what they first received. He led to deeper truths when he told the young man who desired eternal life to sell all he had and give to the poor, promising that he should then have treasure in heaven (Mark 10:21), and when he promised his disciples that there was no man who had renounced home and family for his sake and the gospel's, but he should receive a hundredfold now in this time, and in the coming age eternal life (Mark 10:29, 30). Here we see that mere renunciation is not enough. It will not do merely to pour the money into the sea, nor to sell all one's goods and give to the poor, unless we also follow Christ.
4. Proved by experience. It is found with surprising gladness that to give up all for Christ is to be rich indeed, while to Cling greedily to earthly possessions is to be miserably disappointed in the end.
II. GOD THE SOURCE OF TRUE WEALTH. It is not that God will give us new riches in exchange for what we have given up. We shall find our wealth in God himself. He is to us all we need.
1. A defence. Riches are valued for what they will purchase. In the last resort they are chiefly prized because they can ward off evils. To keep hunger, pain, and death from their doors, men will give up any amount of wealth. Nations spend vast sums in their defensive arrangements. Europe is now an armed camp, with armies maintained at an enormous cost, simply in order that each country may be safe from invasion by its neighbours. Now, God is the true Defence of his people, better than any armaments that money can maintain.
2. A store of vast possibilities of good. Gold ore and silver bars are the precious metals in an elementary state. They thus represent value that may be employed in various ways. God is our most elemental wealth.
(1) He is as a treasure to the soul that possesses him, as gold and silver are precious in themselves. It is a great mistake to seek God only for what he gives, forgetting that he is better than all his gifts.
(2) Still, he is the Source of all other good, as gold and silver are means for purchasing innumerable things. Through God we may own all things. St. Paul says to Christians, "All things are yours." - W.F.A.
I. THE INTERIOR EXPERIENCE. "Delight in the Almighty."
1. God gives joy. As we have but to acquaint ourselves with God to be at peace (ver. 21), so we have but go appreciate his intentions go see that he does not wish us to be in distress.
2. This joy is in himself. We have to learn by experience how this is the case, for no words can express it. "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard,... the things which God hath prepared for them that love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9). But Christian experience shows how real this Divine joy is.
(1) The joy of pardon. The soul has been estranged from God, darkened with the gloom of the wrath of Heaven; now the cloud is broken up and God smiles forgiveness.
(2) The joy of love. This is mutual - the soul loving God in exchange for his love.
(3) The joy of trust. No fear need disturb the soul that is at peace with God. Its confidence is a source of deep gladness, because it dispels the most terrible alarms.
(4) The joy of service. It is a happy thing to be working for God, especially when we perceive that we can be "fellow-workers with God." He is the inspiring energy of all our work.
(5) The joy of communion. To be walking with God is itself a joy. The blessedness of the pure in heart who enjoy the vision of God is deeper than any earthly delight.
II. THE SPIRITUAL ATTITUDE. "And shall lift up thy face unto God."
1. Confidence. While we fear and distrust God we cannot look up to him. We rather shrink from his gaze and hide ourselves, like Adam and Eve in the garden. We may even cry go God for help without daring go look up, like the publican in Christ's parable (Luke 18:13). It is happy for the soul when the shame of sin and the fear of doubt are removed by the forgiving love of God, so that the child can look quite naturally and confidently into the face of his Father.
2. Contemplation. To lift up the face to God is go gaze upon him as well as to submit go his gaze. This is no vision of the eye of sense, for God is Spirit, and must therefore be always invisible to the bodily eye. But the spirit of man may contemplate the Divine Spirit. Theology tries to do this, but theology consists of purely intellectual conceptions. There is a deeper contemplation of sympathy which is only possible go the soul that is in living communion with God.
3. Expectation. Our contemplation should be an act of pure worship in which we forget ourselves, rejoicing only in the beauty of God's goodness. Yet personal wants will make themselves felt, and when they do, there is no one more ready or able to supply them than our Father in heaven. Therefore it is natural to look to him for help in prayer, patience, and hope.
(1) Prayer, because the help should be sought from God;
(2) patience, because it may not come immediately; and
(3) hope, because it can be anticipated with the assurance that God will not disappoint his children.
4. Beatification. The face that is lifted up-to God is illumined by the glory of God. His light falls upon it and glorifies it. There is a great blessedness springing directly from communion with heaven. If we looked up more, our countenances would be brighter. CONCLUSION. Observe that these blessings follow a penitent return to God, and are conditioned by it. "Then thou shalt have thy delight," etc., pointing back to ver. 23. - W.F.A.
I. PRAYER IS AN ELEMENT OF PROSPERITY. It is not only a condition on which prosperity is given; it is a part of the prosperity itself. Trouble drives us go prayer; but happiness cannot let us dispense with it. It is possible for one go be too miserable, too depressed, too hopeless, go pray. The best praying seems to need an element of joyous confidence. When it springs from this happy condition it enhances the joy of it. It is a very low and selfish notion that leads people to economize their prayers, and reserve them for times of dire necessity. Surely it should be a happy thing for the child go talk with his Father!
II. PRAYER EXPECTS AN ANSWER. We may pray without looking for any reply - pray because we cannot contain ourselves in silence, because the strong feelings of the soul will burst out into utterance. Then there may be a certain relief in the mere opening of the floodgates of emotion. But this is not the chief end of prayer. Further, we may just confide our case to God, consoled by the thought that he hears, even though we do not believe that any help is possible. Thus comfort is sought in the silent sympathy of a friend to whom the burdened soul can pour out its griefs. Still, the chief end of prayer is not reached in this way. It is difficult to carry on a one-sided conversation with an auditor who makes no reply, who does not even give us a sign that he hears or is at all interested in what one says. Prayer would languish and perish if God did not answer it. This he will not now do in an audible voice, nor always by such evident tokens that we can have no doubt that what he has done is in response to the cry of his children. Yet all who are in the habit of praying can bear witness to the fact that God hears prayer, and replies often in the most surprising and unmistakable way.
III. THE PRAYER THAT IS TO BE ANSWERED MUST BE SINCERE. Cain's sacrifice was rejected. The Pharisee's prayer could not reach heaven. We cannot pray to God effectively until we renounce sin and return to him. Then the prayer must be a real, inward, spiritual act. Such prayer is not valued by the correctness of its phraseology; much less is it estimated quantitatively by the time it occupies and the number of its words. The one essential quality is reality. The simple reason why many so-called prayers are not answered is that they are not really prayers at all. They do not come out of a worshipper's heart. Therefore they cannot reach the ears of God, and incline him to respond to them. If all such pretended prayers were left out of account there would be leas scepticism and more glad confidence that God does hear prayer. - W.F.A.
I. THE DUTY AND JOY OF UPLIFTING THE FALLEN.
1. The duty. We are by nature members of one family, because our descent from a common parentage makes us all brothers and sisters. But Christianity has strengthened the ties of nature. There is no Christian duty so obligatory as that of following our Lord in his greatest work - that of seeking and saving the lost. Whether it be sin or sorrow that has east one of our brothers down, his very distress, apart from all questions of merit or attraction, calls upon us to aid him.
(1) Now this aid must be practical. We must do what we can to lift the cast-down.
(2) It must be encouraging. The helper is represented as crying, "Up!" A cheering word may go far to give courage and hope. We have to help people to help themselves. Depressing preaching does little good. There are plenty of things to discourage. People want hopeful encouragement.
2. The joy. This action of lifting up those who are cast down appears as part of the blessedness of the restored servant of God. It is not a heavy penance for the sinner; it is a happy occupation for the saint. It cannot but involve toil and pain, and often disappointment. Yet it is really a much happier work than self indulgent pleasure-seeking. It contains the very joy of God, who is blessed in giving and loving.
II. THE EXPERIENCE WHICH ENABLES US TO LIFT UP THE FALLEN. The glorious and Christ-like work of saving the fallen is promised to a man who is himself restored.
1. Experience of misery. He who has been cast down knows what it is to be cast down. The lessons of adversity teach sympathy. Thus we may explain some of the mystery of sorrow. It is a school for the training of sympathy. Even the experience of sin may be turned to good in this way. It must always be best not to have fallen. Still, though original innocence cannot be recovered, God may mitigate the sad consequences of sin in the penitent by making him a helper to the tempted and the fallen, whose condition his own terrible experience enables him to understand.
2. Experience of recovery. While suffering with others we may sympathize with them, but we cannot do much to aid them. While ourselves living in sin we can only exert a baleful influence on others. Therefore the first step is to be ourselves restored to God and the life of Christian holiness. Then the joyous consciousness of redemption is an inspiration for seeking to bring to others the same privilege. Thus Christians can preach the gospel with a force that-no unfallen angel can command. The greatest argument for urging man to accept it is that what God has done for one, he can and will do for another. The greatest motive for sacrificing ourselves to save our brother-men is that Christ gave his life to save us. - W.F.A.