I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God?…
I. THE HELPLESSNESS OF MAN IN PRESENCE OF HIS OMNIPOTENCE. (Vers, 1-3.) What avails right on one's side against him who has all heaven's artillery at his command? "It is idle to argue with the Master of thirty legions." Out of a thousand questions with which the Almighty might overwhelm my mind, there is not one which I could answer with the chance of a fair hearing. Indeed, this in a sense is true, as the thirty-eighth chapter will presently show. It is idle to argue with God concerning the constitution of things. But it is never idle to plead the right. This, God, by the very nature of his Being, by his promises, is bound to attend to. Job thinks of God as the Almighty and the All-wise (ver. 4), and he finds in this combination of attributes only reason for despair. He leaves out his justice; his faith in his love is suspended for a time. Hence he sees him only through the distorted dream of suffering, and his dark inferences are wrong.
II. DESCRIPTIONS OF THE ABSOLUTE POWER OF GOD.
1. In nature's destructive forces. Here he would rival and outvie Eliphaz in the sublimity of his pictures. The more terrible phenomena of nature are produced as evidences of a blind, tyrannic might: the earthquake (ver. 5), which topples over the giant mountains like a child's plaything, and rocks the solid foundations of the earth (ver. 6); the eclipse of sun and stars the universal darkness of the heavens (ver. 7), Here is the origin, according to some philosophers, of religion - man's terror in the presence of the vast destructive forces of nature. But it is the origin only of a part of religious feeling - of awe and reverence. And when man learns more of nature as a whole, and more of his own heart, he rises into loftier and happier moods than that of slavish fear.
2. In nature's splendour and general effect. The vastness of the "immeasurable heavens," and the great sea of clouds (ver. 8), the splendid constellations of the northern and the southern sky (ver. 9), lead the mind out in wonder, stretch the imagination to its limits, fill the soul with the sense of the unutterable, the innumerable, the infinite (ver. 10). This mood is happier than the former. It is one of elevation, wonder, delighted joy in the communion of the mind with Mind. It is stamped upon the glowing lines of the nineteenth psalm. But Job draws from these sublime spectacles at present only the inference of God's dread and irresistible power.
III. MANKIND ITSELF IN RELATION TO THIS ABSOLUTE POWER.
1. It is invisible and swift in its errand of terror (ver. 11). Sudden death by lightning, or by a hasty malady, naturally produces an appalling effect. Hence the prayer of the Litany.
2. It is irresistible. (Vers. 12. 13.) No human hand can stay, no human prayer avert, its overpowering onset. The monsters, or Titans ("helpers of Rahab"), were overcome, according to some well-known legend; how much less, then, can I resist with success (ver. 14)?
3. The consciousness of innocence is therefore of no avail. Supplication alone is in place before a Disputant who knows no law but his will (ver. 15). I cannot believe that he, from his height, would give attention to my cry (ver. 16). He is Force, crushing Force alone, guided only by causeless caprice (ver. 17); stifling the cry of the pleader in his mouth, and filling him with bitterness (ver. 18).
4. The human dilemma. Man in presence of an absolute Tyrant must always be in the wrong. If he stands on might, he is a fool; if he appeals to right, he has no court of all appeal - for who can challenge the Judge of heaven and earth? Right will be set down as wrong, innocence will be pronounced guilt (vers. 19, 20). We see, from this picture of Job's state of mind, that there is no extremity of doubt so dim as when man is tempted to disbelieve in the principle of justice as the law of the universe, which cannot be broken. The thought of God turns then only into one of unmitigated horror and despair. - J.
Parallel VersesKJV: I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God?