To him that is afflicted pity should be showed from his friend; but he forsakes the fear of the Almighty.
Job tells his friend that he has gone to work in a wrong way, and one which might have had most disastrous results, the opposite of those he aimed at. Eliphaz honestly intended to bring Job to God in contrite submission, but his harsh and unwise conduct was only calculated to drive the troubled man from God in wild despair. He should have chosen the "more excellent way' of sympathy.
I. THE SECRET OF THE REDEEMING POWER OF SYMPATHY.
1. By giving strength to endure. The soul that stands alone may sink down to despair. But "two are better than one." As we help to bear one another's burdens, we lift the crushing load that drives to rebellion.
2. By softening the heart. The danger of. great calamity is that it will smite the heart to hardness. The most fatal effect is produced when all traces of suffering are passed, because the very faculty of feeling is frozen to death. Now, here sympathy has a saving efficacy. The tears that are sealed up in solitude burst forth at the sight of a friend's tears.
3. By revealing the love of God. There is danger lest great trouble should make men doubt God's love, and even come to regard all love as a pretence and a delusion. The world then seems very black and cruel. But a brother's kindness begins to dispel the error. It shows that the world is not wholly hard and cruel and selfish. This kindness is but a spark from the great fire of God's love. From the sympathy of our brother we are led up to the sympathy of our Father, out of which it springs. If there were more human charity in the world there would be more faith in God. Atheism is a product of the despair which sympathy would cure.
II. THE EXERCISE OF THE REDEEMING POWER OF SYMPATHY,
1. In God. Our sympathy is but a copy of God's sympathy. His method is to save by love. His goodness leads us to repentance. While we scold, God pities; while we blame, he forgives; while we reject, he invites. He saves the sinner by loving him.
2. In Christ. Christ's great redemption is a work of sympathy:
(1) In its origin. It was sympathy that led to the advent of Christ. This was the ruling principle of his life on earth. This, too, brought him to the cross. He could not save himself, because he would not abandon his sinful, sorrowing brethren.
(2) In its application. Christ saves men now individually through his sympathy. We have first to see that he understands us, loves us, feels with us. Then he lays hold of us and lifts us up.
3. In men. We, too, have to save by our sympathy. The old method of repression, rebuke, and repudiation has failed miserably; its fruits are only hatred and despair. It is time we resorted to God's method, to Christ's method. We must understand men if we would help them, feel with them if we would restore them. So long as we will not show sympathy with our brethren in their trouble and temptation, we cannot save them from their sin and despair. Lowell says -
"Far better is it to speak
One simple word, which now and then
Shall waken their free nature in the weak
And friendless sons of men." W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: To him that is afflicted pity should be shewed from his friend; but he forsaketh the fear of the Almighty.