Lo, mine eye hath seen all this, mine ear hath heard and understood it.
The object of the writer of the book of Job is to discuss a question which, from its interest no less than its obscurity, has been the subject of debate and anxiety in all ages: What is the precise connection between sin and suffering?—a question which loses itself in turn in the still more mysterious inquiry, How could a God of love permit the existence of evil?
I. It was a doctrine of that age and country (a doctrine not without an element of truth, and one naturally growing up in a primitive form of life) that God proportioned a man's sufferings to the heinousness of his personal transgressions. If this doctrine were true in the case of Job, it plainly proved that he was a perfect monster of iniquity. But the author has already allowed us to see that this is not the fact, and therefore we must look upon the case of Job as a conclusive refutation of the popular Arabian theory.
II. Job's friends turn about everywhere within the narrow circle of their original syllogism, Personal suffering is the punishment of personal sin. Job suffers; therefore he has sinned. The doctrine is passed through different minds—through that of Eliphaz, the grave and dignified patriarchal chieftain, the man of practical wisdom and large charity; through that of Bildad, the man of precedent and tradition, distrustful of talent and apprehensive of change; through that of Zophar, the passionate and unreasoning conservative, narrow in his conceptions, bitter, and sometimes even coarse and offensive, in his invective. The minds are different, but the doctrine is the same. It is out of the terrible struggle thus produced in the heart of Job, as he storms forth for light and comfort out of this prison of condemnation, that the life and sufferings of the patriarch yield to us their instruction. Feeling out in the darkness, he discovers three particulars with respect to which it has become matter of imperative necessity that he shall get new light. (1) As to the meaning of human suffering. Job knew, not only through the teaching of his own experience, but through observation of the course of the world, that it was not only the guilty, but far more frequently the helpless, who suffered; it was not only the righteous, but very frequently at least the notoriously wicked, who prospered. Job urged these facts with a point and force which ought to have extorted concession from his adversaries. (2) As to the duration of human existence. Out of the dark night of Job's sorrow, there shone forth for him the bright dayspring of immortality. (3) As to the true character of God. In the disorder and divergence of his thoughts there would seem almost to arise for him the image of two Gods: the God of the old time and the God of the new, a duality involving that seeming contradiction between justice and love which only the sacrifice of the Cross could abolish. Hence there follows, from this peculiarity in his spiritual position, that striking resemblance between Job and the suffering Messiah which a man must almost be blind to overlook. By throwing on the type the light of the antitype we see the great lesson of Job's life, that God's justice is an attribute not merely which doles out gifts to the good, but which seeks to transform all men into its own likeness. Justice going forth in the message of the Cross and working in men the remorse of a just hatred of sin—that is the redeeming justice of our God and Father in Christ Jesus.
Bishop Moorhouse, Oxford Lent Sermons, 1869, p. 151.
I. The first trials by which God would win us back to Himself are often not the severest. Near as they touch us, they are most often without us. They reach not the soul's inmost self. God's very chastisement is a token to the soul that it is not abandoned.
II. Deeper and more difficult far are those sorrows wherewith God afflicts the very soul herself and in divers ways "makes her to possess her former iniquities." Manifold are those clouds whereby God hides for the time the brightness of His presence; yet one character they have in common, that the soul can hardly believe itself in a state of grace.
III. Faint not, weary soul, but trust. If thou canst not hope, act as thou wouldst if thou didst hope. Without Him thou couldst not even hate thy sin. Hatred of what in thyself is contrary to God is love of God. If thou canst not love with the affections, love with the will, or will to love. If thou canst not love as thou wouldst, do what thou canst. If thy heart seems to have died within thee, cleave to God with the understanding.
IV. "If He slay me, I will trust in Him." Not "although" only, but because He slayeth me. It is life to be touched by the hand of God; to be slain is, through the Cross of Christ, the pledge of the resurrection.
E. B. Pusey, Occasional Sermons, p. 41.
I. What did Job mean when he said, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him"? (1) Trust in God is built on acquaintance with God. (2) Trust in God is begotten of belief in the representations which are given of God, and of faith in the promises of God. (3) Trust in God is a fruit of reconciliation with God. (4) Trust in God involves the quiet assurance that God will be all that He promises to be, and that He will do all that He engages to do, and that in giving and withholding He will do that which is perfectly kind and right.
II. We may safely copy this most patient of men, and for the following reasons: (1) God does not afflict willingly; (2) God has not exhausted Himself by any former deliverance; (3) in all that affects His saints God takes a living and loving interest; (4) circumstances can never become mysterious, or complicated, or unmanageable to God; (5) God has in time past slain His saints and yet delivered them.
III. We learn from Job (1) that it is well sometimes to imagine the heaviest possible affliction happening to us; (2) that the perfect work of patience is the working of patience to the uttermost; (3) that the extreme of trial should call forth the perfection of trust; (4) that the spirit of trust is the spirit of endurance; (5) that true trust respects all events and all Divine dispensations.
S. Martin, Westminster Chapel Pulpit, 4th series, No. 8.
References: Job 13:15.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi., No. 1244; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 56; J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. iv., p. 117; Expositor, 3rd series, vol. iv., p. 291; F. E. Paget, Sermons on the Duties of Daily Life, p. 187. Job 13:22.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi., No. 1255.
Job 13:23There is a sense in which every one knows that he is a sinner. Every one admits it, just as he admits any abstract Scriptural truth. But a man of the world looks upon sin rather in its relation to himself and its relation to other people than in its relation to God—how it is ungrateful to God, how it grieves God, how it wounds Christ, how it offends the Holy Ghost. Neither does he measure sin by its true measurement, that whatever has not a pious motive, whatever does not give honour to God, whatever comes short of the glory of God, is sin. The practical question for us is this: How is the knowledge of sin to be attained?
I. It is the province of the Holy Ghost. He, and He alone, ever shows a man his sins. Therefore Christ spoke of it as the Spirit's first great office. "When He is come, He will reprove the world of sin."
II. By the Law is the knowledge of sin. The Law becomes the schoolmaster, which, convincing us of sin, leads, or rather drives, us to Christ.
III. The Gospel of Jesus Christ convinces us of sin. We often learn the extent of an evil by the intensity of the remedy which is used to relieve it. What a remedy was the death of the Son of God! What an unutterable evil then sin must be!
IV. There is a knowledge of sin by sin itself. Very frequently a man is first taught to read himself by one of his deeper falls. In order to know sin, we must (1) pray for more light to be thrown on our dark hearts; (2) leave the cold, uninfluential generalities about sin, and deal with some particular sin that has power over ourselves; (3) think of the holiness of God till all that is unlike Him begins to look dark; (4) believe in the love of Jesus to us: realise, if it be only in the smallest degree, that there is a power in Him, and that power is for us.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 6th series, p. 9.
References: Job 13:23.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. viii., No. 336; Ibid., Evening by Evening, p. 189; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., p. 151. Job 13:24.—T. Martineau, Hours of Thought, vol. i., p. 315. Job 13:24, Job 13:25.—R. Allen Davies, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 225. Job 13:26.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. vii., p. 129; Preacher's Monthly, vol. v., p. 97. Job 14:4.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. xiv., p. 37.
Job 13:26I. Shadows are suffered to fall on us, and to overcast a while the brightness of God's firmament, partly to show us what hell is, and to make us flee from it.
II. These afflictions, which are such a fiery trial to some of us, are in truth too often the shadows of our former sins.
III. We must bear in mind that these are departing shadows if only we are doing truth now and drawing nigh to Him who illuminates us with the brightness of His presence.
IV. Continuance in the good fight of faith, however overclouded for a time, "shall bring a man peace at the last."
G. E. Jelf, Make up for Lost Time, p. 233.
References: Job 14:1.—Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 70. Job 14:1, Job 14:2.—R. D. B. Rawnsley, Sermons in Country Churches, 3rd series, p. 130. Job 14:4.—Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes: Genesis to Proverbs, p. 124. Job 14:10.—D. G. Watt, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv., p. 260. Job 14:13-15.—G. Macdonald, Unspoken Sermons, 2nd series, p. 207.
What ye know, the same do I know also: I am not inferior unto you.
Surely I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to reason with God.
But ye are forgers of lies, ye are all physicians of no value.
O that ye would altogether hold your peace! and it should be your wisdom.
Hear now my reasoning, and hearken to the pleadings of my lips.
Will ye speak wickedly for God? and talk deceitfully for him?
Will ye accept his person? will ye contend for God?
Is it good that he should search you out? or as one man mocketh another, do ye so mock him?
He will surely reprove you, if ye do secretly accept persons.
Shall not his excellency make you afraid? and his dread fall upon you?
Your remembrances are like unto ashes, your bodies to bodies of clay.
Hold your peace, let me alone, that I may speak, and let come on me what will.
Wherefore do I take my flesh in my teeth, and put my life in mine hand?
Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.
He also shall be my salvation: for an hypocrite shall not come before him.
Hear diligently my speech, and my declaration with your ears.
Behold now, I have ordered my cause; I know that I shall be justified.
Who is he that will plead with me? for now, if I hold my tongue, I shall give up the ghost.
Only do not two things unto me: then will I not hide myself from thee.
Withdraw thine hand far from me: and let not thy dread make me afraid.
Then call thou, and I will answer: or let me speak, and answer thou me.
How many are mine iniquities and sins? make me to know my transgression and my sin.
Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and holdest me for thine enemy?
Wilt thou break a leaf driven to and fro? and wilt thou pursue the dry stubble?
For thou writest bitter things against me, and makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth.
Thou puttest my feet also in the stocks, and lookest narrowly unto all my paths; thou settest a print upon the heels of my feet.
And he, as a rotten thing, consumeth, as a garment that is moth eaten.