But Job answered and said,…
(Ch. 6., 7.) We have seen that Eliphaz's counsels, though well-meant, were ill-timed. They were right words but not fitly spoken as to person, time, and place. They cause the poor sufferer to wince afresh instead of soothing his pain. The tumult of his spirit is now aggravated into a very tempest of woe. The human spirit is a thing of moods. We have watched the marvellous changes that pass over the surface of a lake beneath a tempestuous sky. And such are the rapid changes of pain that now pass over the mind of Job, relieved here and there by flashes of calmer reflection, of faith and hope. The picture is instructive, teaching us how feeble and unstable a thing is the human mind, and how deeply it needs to look out from itself for a sure support in the Eternal. Let us briefly take note of these moods. Not without profit shall we try to understand them if we thereby cultivate that deeper sympathy with our brethren in adversity which Job seemed to demand at the hand of his friends in vain.
I. THE EXPERIENCE OF THE IMMENSITY OF SUFFERING. (Vers. 1-14.) There are times when every nerve of the sensitive organization seems to be turned into a channel of pain; when the creature, instead of basking in the brilliant ether of unbounded joy, is submerged in a boundless ocean of misery. "All thy waves and billows have gone over me." It is with this feeling that Job exclaims, "Would that a term, a measure, a weight, might be applied to my sufferings!" A day, an hour, of such woe seems as an eternity!
II. THE FEAR OF SINNING WITH THE TONGUE. Ver. 3, which appears to mean, "Therefore my words idly bubbled," like the impatient cries and reproaches of little children against the parents whom they level But this is the only definite sin of which Job is conscious. And he prays that he may be delivered from it in this trying hour. So said the psalmist, "I will take heed to my ways, that I offend not with my tongue." Let Christians imitate this example. Let them bridle their tongues with holy reverence, and cast upon them as a spell the prayer of Jesus in the garden.
"Forgive these wild and wandering cries,
Forgive them when they fail in truth,
And in thy wisdom make me wise!"
III. THE NATURE AND ORIGIN OF HIS SUFFERINGS TRACED TO GOD. (Ver. 4.) It is his arrows which have fastened themselves with poisonous inflammation in his breast; his host of terrors that have beleaguered his soul. Though in such extreme moments it is hard to reconcile our sufferings with the goodness of God, it is well to hold firmly to the clue of Divine causation. That which has not come causelessly will not causelessly remain. This is the one crevice through which light steals into the dungeon: "God is in all I suffer."
IV. APOLOGY FOR HIS COMPLAINTS. (Vers. 5-7.) They are true to nature. God has given to all animals their natural voice of pleasure and of pain. And these voices express natural tastes and repugnances. The ox and the ass are silent at the well-filled stall. It is only when unsavoury food is offered that we hear the cries of complaint. And what an unsavoury mess is this which his friends would place before him, in their rigid application to him of the doctrine that his suffering witnesses his guilt!
V. DEATH CRAVED AS A BOON. (Vers. 8-13.) The very thought of it excites a frantic joy. Whereas Eliphaz had spoken of deliverance from death as one of the privileges of the blessed man, and of its lingering approach in a happy old age, Job would crave a speedy dismissal as the last boon which he feels entitled, in a clear conscience, to ask of God I "I have not denied the words of the Holy One; I shall not pass, an impenitent, rejected soul; grant me this last, this speedy favour, to die!" If such a state of mind excites our keenest pity, what shall we think of the condition of those Buddhists or pessimists among the heathen and ourselves, who have built a doctrine upon this horror-stricken mood, and teach that the highest good for man is absorption in some Nirvana of dreamless, unconscious nothingness? Truly, the gospel of Christ is the only remedy for these melancholy aberrations. M. Naville says that the impassioned earnestness of Lacroix, the great Indian missionary, which he had listened to in earlier years, was only fully understood by him when subsequent study had acquainted him with the gloomy beliefs of the Oriental world.
VI. CONFESSION OF UTTER WEAKNESS AND DESPONDENCY. (Vers. 11-13.) He has neither strength nor patience to look forward to the end which is to reward endurance. Sooner or later death must be the end; and why not sooner rather than later? But weakness cannot wring from his tortured breast the confession of a guilt which conscience refuses to own. He has not denied the words of the Holy One. His heart has been true to God. This consciousness is still a kind of strength in weakness, and enables him to ask this last boon at God's hands - a speedy death. - J.
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