Can you bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or can you guide Arcturus with his sons?
To perceive what we can do, on the one hand, and what we cannot do, on the other, is to hold the key of success. Canst thou? The oft-repeated question is introspective. Inward to the thoughts, backward to the source. It is well to add that the word "canst" runs through the whole of this penultimate section of the Book of Job. The word is not absent from the earlier chapters; but as you approach the end, this and kindred queries, such as "Knowest thou?" "Hast thou?" etc., appear with ever-increasing frequency. To put it somewhat plainer, it is God revealing job to himself — both in what he can and cannot be or do, and then leading him to find rest and refuge in another, grander fact: "I know that Thou canst do everything" (Job 42:2). Our Bible abounds in pronouns: the "thou" of this verse is a sample. Oh! star-crowded sky, full of messages, full of God! thou art speaking to me, and thy words go right down into my heart. From every corner of that celestial map God's heralds proclaim His Word. High up in the northern heavens the Seven Stars, brightest of which shineth Alcyone, speaking for north and eastern sky, and regarded as the centre of the solar system, saith to man: "Canst thou bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades?" Then, from the southern quarter, that large constellation, belted by three fixed stars, repeats God's own question: "Canst thou...loose the bands of Orion?" The third "canst" is from the Zodiac, such it is believed we find in the Mazzaroth of the former clause of the text. Thus do we lead up to, and the better understand, the connection of the last of these "cansts." Arcturus is a constellation familiar to us alike under the name of the "Plough," or "Charles's Wain." Job makes reference to this along with the other groups in the ninth chapter. There he speaks of God as the Maker of these various luminaries, now that God is giving him further instruction on the very same matter. We may well ask the meaning of the words "Arcturus with his sons." Mythology gives the answer. Arcturus is named from Arcas. Arcas had three sons. The constellation known as the Great Bear, and styled the glory of the northern hemisphere, has a star in the tail part called Arcturus, its very name meaning Bear Tail. It rises in the autumn, and is the precursor of tempest. The sons of Arcturus are placed in the group as three stars, somewhat similarly to Orion's belt. Are you able to guide? That is what this fourth "canst" inquires. In doing so it reminds us of the regulative influences of life.
I. THE REGULATIVE INFLUENCES OF LIFE AFFECTING A DEEP-SEATED HUMAN DESIRE. This last "canst" appeals to us even more forcibly than each or all of the other three. In some particulars it includes them, for to guide is more or less to bind and loose, check and restrain, while leading out and urging on. But even when we have no great desire to restrain influences that are operative, or to loose those that are imprisoned, and bring them into play — we have the wish to guide, arrange, and direct those already and at present in action. In its own domain such desire is quite legitimate. Its absence, indeed, would be a surprise and disappointment. Have you the guiding power? I am sure you want to say yes. I am sure you have the hope that, aided by Divine wisdom and supported by Divine grace, you can make your way through life, well and wisely. Lovers of change are ever "idly busy," seeking to rearrange the plans of others, and have their fingers in and over all that they can. Here they have no scope. Arcturus and his three sons have found place, and use, and movement in the seven lights of the Plough; guided by a Higher than thou, they can guide thee, but thou canst not guide nor interfere with them. Thou canst not guide Arcturus, but, high privilege! thou canst guide thyself, if, in the first instance, you submit to the over-guidance, overruling of God. "It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jeremiah 10:23). The Lord of Arcturus is the Lord of His people, the Guide of His servants as well as the guide of His stars. God helps us that we may help ourselves, and that we may help others. He awakens in us those powers and faculties, crushed and stifled by sin. How then, through Him, in what way shall we guide ourselves? Training ourselves, and our powers. It is "ruling our spirit," "bridling our tongue," "mortifying our desires" (evil), etc. All these culminate in the one thought of self-control. Canst thou then guide thyself, and, in guiding, so strengthen and enrich that better selfhood that it may become a lodestar of influence? Guide myself, but not by narrow aims that end in self. Canst thou guide Arcturus and his sons? No. The world is all the better that you can't. Canst thou help some poor family of earth's sons to gain a footing or earn a living? Yes. The world is all the worse if you don't. But if you do, if you help a brother up any rugged steep of trial or duty, or steer him onward through the cross currents of temptation, then not only do you benefit others, but you also fairly and fully gratify that altruistic longing, so inwrought as to be a part of our human nature and heritage.
II. THE REGULATIVE INFLUENCES OF LIFE VIEWED IN THEIR OPERATION. We have noticed the fact that the stars we cannot guide are nevertheless guided — always, swiftly and surely, silently and well. Each fills its place or goes on its way. It requires great skill and accurate system in order to manage our railways. What far greater skill and more perfect system are required to guide the constellations — to protect from and to avert all the terrible collision and combustion that would otherwise occur! The fact is one, call it Providence, or let it be known as the gigantic machinery of life, or if you will — the age-long balancings, or pause over this phrase — the Eternal Thought. The ever-living, vigorous thought. Thought that thinks into effort, plans, purposes, leads and arranges, makes and moulds the universe, counts and carries the stars, creates and continues the life of man, rules and regulates by guiding, governing, and directing to its final goal — all that is, and all that is to be.
III. THE REGULATIVE INFLUENCES OF LIFE GLORIFYING GOD IN REDEEMING MAN. They are Christocentric — God incarnate. That is the first of a series of clearer explanations: their first translation into the mother tongue of human understanding and heart need. All that was anterior, and there was much, received its value from this nascent light; whether ornate ritual or inspired oracle, sacred bard or mystic seer. To economise, and at the same time best utilise our words, let us say that Blessed Life was the great antidote and corrective of all sin and selfishness, of all folly and meanness, all distortion and dishonour; while it furthered and fostered, guided, regulated, developed all that was worth being, because it had originally come from the Father. The Cross is in the sky, illumined and illumining. Illumined by the clear, silver starlight of the Eternal Providence, of that Providence its most comprehensive range, its farthest sweep, its largest provision. Of God's mind the highest and deepest conception; of God's thought the most sublime idea — this is the fight on the Cross. There is also the light from the Cross. It is the guide of the wandering. Our present purpose forbids the further tracing out in the Resurrection and post-Resurrection work of the Redeemer the almighty and regulative influences, the more advanced stages, through which the earth rolls onward into this ever-increasing light. Putting it all together, this is the conclusion of the matter. It is a great work to guide Arcturus, to support as well as to suspend "Charles's Wain," to regulate and maintain the sidereal system, to bind, or loose, or bring forth one, or any, of the heavenly bodies; but God has performed a greater work. God's great work is this, to guide our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:79).
(H. B. Aldridge.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons?