There once was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. And this man was blameless and upright, fearing God and shunning evil.
I. A PICTURE OF COMPLETE HAPPINESS. There are internal and external elements of earthly bliss; and neither must be absent if that bliss is to be full and complete. First in importance is the internal element - the kingdom el God within the man. Yet a starved or stinted virtue, struggling with poverty and adversity, is a sight to kindle pity as well as admiration. Our moral sense is only thoroughly satisfied when we see goodness furnished with sufficiency of this world's means. The moral energies are cramped by extreme misery; they find in competence a stage upon which they can move with ease and grace, and put forth all their powers in harmonious development. The great master, Aristotle, taught that the secret of happiness lay in the rational and virtuous activity of the soul in the whole of its life. But he also insisted that a sufficient provision of external goods was essential to complete happiness, just as the equipping of the Greek chorus was necessary for the representation of a drama. Yet the inferiority of the external elements of happiness to the internal is indicated, not only by their coming second in the description of the sacred poet, but by the swift tragic sequel, the darkening of the scene, the sudden breaking up of house and home and fortune of the prosperous man. And here we are reminded of the saying of another illustrious Greek, Solon: "Call no man happy till the day of his death." The fate of Croesus, whose name was a synonym for worldly luck in the ancient Greek world, pointed the moral of that saying, according to the charming story of Herodotus, as Job's vicissitudes give point to it here. This world passeth; all that is external to us is liable to loss, change, uncertainty. Only the "sweet and virtuous soul, like seasoned timber, never gives." The ruins of a falling world leave the true man unshaken. Doing the will of God, united to him by conscious obedience and trust, he abides for ever. Thus, in the concise emphatic designation of Job's character, in the very first verse of the poem, its key-note is struck.
II. LINEAMENTS OF CHARACTER. Four words, like a few expressive touches from a master's pencil, place before us the character of the patriarch.
1. "That man was perfect." That is, he was sound (integer vitae, as the Roman poet says) in heart and life, blameless in the ordinary sense in which we use that word, free from glaring vice or gross inconsistency. We must bear in mind that general epithets like these, denoting attributes of human character, are derived from our experience of external objects. They are, therefore, figurative expressions, not to be used in an exact mathematical sense, which, of course, is inapplicable to such an object as human character. Perfect, as a sound animal is said to be; without blemish, like a snowy, sacrificial lamb; spotless, like a "garnered fruit," without "pitted speck." There are two aspects of perfection - the negative and the positive. Negative perfection is more the Old Testament view. It is when the character presents a blank on the side of those gross vices, those sins against honour and truth and every Divine and social bend, which incur the hatred or man and the displeasure of Heaven. The New Testament view brings out the positive side of "perfection." It is not only the life void of offence, but it is the completeness of the Christian man in those heavenly graces, that bright resplendent adornment of the sanctified character, which in the sight of God is of great price. But there are conditions of life in which there is comparatively little scope for the development o! character widely on the positive side. There is but a small circle of duties, employments, amusements, relations, in such circumstances as in the primeval and pastoral simplicity of Job. How different from this highly developed, widely and variously interesting modern life of ours! Where more is given, more will be required. But the example of Job consists in the simplicity and integrity with which he moved about in the sphere of his little sovereignty, and, with every facility for indulging passion, for infringing right, for encroaching on the happiness of others, kept himself white as the lily, nobly free from blame. Not that he was that insipidity of character, a merely correct man. Intense selfishness is often found in your correct men. We see from glimpses presently given us in the course of the poem that he was an actively good man. Here we may read the exquisite descriptions of his past life in ch. 29. and 31., forced from him in his self-defence. We look upon the picture of a man who is the pillar of his community, a light, a comfort,, a joy to dependents and equals alike. It is a picture which the thousands of our countrymen who are in the enjoyment of fortune, position, education, and influence in their respective neighbourhoods, may be invited to contemplate and to imitate. The Divine pleasures and the noble reward of a right use of wealth and position, form for multitudes of the great a field but little explored. Amidst the serious warnings of Scripture and of experience against the dangers of prosperity, let the pure example of Job stand out to remind the prosperous that they may make their means a help instead of a hindrance to the kingdom of heaven; may enslave the unrighteous mammon; in gaining much of this world, need not necessarily lose their souls!
2. He was upright. The idea is that of a right line. And the opposite image is conveyed by the word "froward," or "crooked," from the curved, deviating line. As the country-people say of an honest man," He acts straight," and as our fine old English word gives it, "straightforward." There is a certain mathematics of conduct. Never to depart from truth, even in jest; not to extenuate, nor to exaggerate, nor to be partial in our statements; not to add to nor take from facts; to "tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth;" to abstain from flattery on the one hand, and slanderous perversion on the other; to regard one's word as one's bond; to think and speak with others in that candour, that clearest light in which we ever commune with ourselves; to hate semblances and dissemblances, to get rid of duplicities and confusions; in all relations, to self, to God, to others, to be one and the same man; to avoid turnings and twistings in our route; to go straight to our ends, like an arrow to its mark; - this is the spirit, this is the temper, of the" upright" man. His character resembles the fine-drawn lines of a true work of art; while the "froward" man reminds us of the ill-drawn design, whose deformity no amount of overlaying and ornament can disguise.
3. God-fearing. This and the following epithet complete the representation of the two former. No man is "perfect" without being a fearer of God; none upright without departing from evil. Religion takes its rise in man's feeling of awe towards the vast unseen Power and Cause revealed through things seen. His conscience, by its exhortations, speaks to him of the righteousness of the unseen eternal Cause. All his experience inward and outward impresses upon him the sense of his absolute dependence. Obedience, active and passive, to the Eternal Will is the primary law revealed in the heart of man amidst Sinai-like thunders, over all the world, and in all times. Feelings like these constitute man's earliest and universal religion; Scripture designates them by this comprehensive expression, "the fear of God, the fear of the Eternal." It is no slavish feeling, if man be true to himself. It is not a blind terror, not a Panic inspiration. It is fear chastened and elevated by intelligence, by spiritual fellowship; it is unbounded respect, immeasurable reverence; it is ever on the way to become perfect love. The result of this genuine religion upon the character is to make us view all things in their relation to the unseen and the eternal. Thus life is dignified, lifted out of meanness, receives a certain significance and purport in its smallest details. Without religion we exist as animals, we do not live as men. The busiest career, the loudest reputation, the most splendid worldly success - what sense, what meaning, is there in it without the principle in the heart which consciously binds it to the unseen? "'Tis a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, but meaning nothing."
4. "Eschewed evil." Or, a man who departed from evil. This was the habit of his life. It completes what is given in the second trait. His rectitude, leading him in a direct line of conduct, delivers him from the bypaths of deceit, of transgression, the ways of darkness and of shame. Here, then, in these four words we have suggested the idea of complete piety, the picture of a constant and a noble life, standing "four-square to all the winds that blow." We see a spotless character, attended by a fair fame in the world; the secret foundation on which the moral structure rests is revealed to us, in a habit of principle, a heart full of the fear of God. We look upon the patriarch, moving in the pure air and the holy sunlight of Heaven's favour, blessed with the good will of men, and with all those hopes of the future which a past happiness inspires, little dreaming that his skies are so soon to be darkened, and the foundations of his earthly joy to be so violently shaken.
III. FEATURES OF EXTERNAL PROSPERITY. These, too, are briefly and suggestively sketched, and need not be dwelt upon at length. All the elements of a high prosperity and great position in that simple state of life are present.
1. His family. He had ten children, the sons more than twice as numerous as the daughters. Men felt in those times that a large family was a great blessing, one of the visible marks of Heaven's favour. Sons especially were a new source of wealth and importance to the household. Parents in our day are perhaps seldom in the habit of thanking God for large families. They are too ready to groan beneath the care, rather than to cheerfully admit the reality of the blessing. Yet how constantly do we see proofs of the happiness of large families, even in poverty! A rightly ordered household is the Divinest of schools. Character is so variously developed and in so many ways tried and educated in them. In the variety of this little world there is a fine preparation going on for activity and for endurance in the greater world. On the whole, there can be no question that large families are a great source, not only of happiness, but of riches of every kind. And the truth needs to be insisted on from time to time, when we hear the matter spoken of in terms of disparagement or pity. The full quiver is no object of pity in any time when men are obeying the laws of God in their social life. It is the solitary, and those who are doomed to lead a too self-centred existence, who need our pity.
2. His property. It consisted, we are told, in ample herds of cattle - sheep, camels, oxen, asses, and in a proportionate number of servants. All man's wealth is derived from the earth and its products in plants and animals. And it is a good thing to be reminded of this. We whose wealth is represented by mere symbols and figures for the most part have not the sense of our dependence brought home to us so vividly as he who leads the simple pastoral life of Job. There is health and blessing in the calling of the husbandman and the shepherd, living so near to Mother Earth, constantly reminded of their dependence upon her, of their power by diligence to extract comfort from her bosom. We all were once tillers and herdsmen and hunters; these are man's primeval occupations, and he must return to them again and again if he is to continue to prosper. Let us take the lesson that all sources of profit which are connected with the improvement of the earth are the healthiest that we can draw upon. To develop the earth and the mind of man - natural and spiritual cultivation - these are noble works and worthy pursuits. Let the emigration of the young and vigorous into the vast untilled tracts of the world be encouraged. There let them wed toil with nature, and build up scenes of comfort and happiness like that in which the patriarch dwelt.
IV. PIETY AMIDST THE TEMPTATIONS OF PROSPERITY. It was an ancient saying that a good man struggling with adversity was a sight for the gods. But how much more so a good man struggling with prosperity. For while adversity menaces our physical well-being, not less does prosperity endanger our spiritual health. It does not openly attack, it softens, it relaxes, it undermines. For ten men who can bear poverty is there one who can bear riches? What lovely spiritual blossoms spring out of the scant soil of outward misery, like the prisoner's flower between the stones of his dungeon! What moral emaciation, what leanness of soul, may attend the full purse, cower in the splendid mansion, lurk beneath the fine raiment of the worldly great! Even with true men, who are not to be easily overcome by outward temptations, it holds good, and they will own, in the beautiful words of Milton, that riches "slacken Virtue and abate her edge." We are not, indeed, to infer, because so much is said in the Gospel on the dangers of riches to the soul, that there are no dangers in poverty. But the truth is that the dangers of riches are more subtle, less obvious, being associated with pleasure, not with pain. Poverty stings, riches lull the soul. Misery may pervert the conscience; but luxury seems to put it to sleep. Our life is a struggle of the outward with the inward. The outward, in one form or other, threatens to get the better of us. On this great contest and agony the real interest of life, all its tragedy and poetry, depend. And if it kindles admiration, enthusiasm, awakens the sense of the sublime to see the victory of the soul over adversity, poverty, contempt, should it not equally delight our best feeling to see the victory of the soul over riches and prosperity? In the case of many, take away their surroundings, and they are nothing. The picture is worthless apart from the frame. Others are great in any circumstances. They do not make the man. It is the man who makes them interesting. They may change, they may be reversed; the man remains the same. It is such a moral hero of the tranquil scenes of peace that we are to contemplate in Job. His piety is well brought out in the contrast between the thoughtlessness of his children and his own seriousness (vers. 4, 5). They, in the heyday of youth and health and spirits, were wont on holidays or birthdays to meet and hold high festival in one another's houses. They give the type of the thoughtless cultivators of pleasure. Nor is it hinted that there was anything vicious in their pleasures. They loved the joyous pastimes of their season of life, and they took pleasure in one another's company - that was all. No hint is given that in the subsequent calamity they fell victims to the judgment of God upon their sins. They pass, with this brief mention, out of sight, and all the interest centres upon Job. What he felt and knew was that pleasure, however innocent, dulls, like riches, the soul towards God. Young people have been seen to remove the family Bible from its place in making preparations for a dance, as if conscious that there was something in the tree indulgence of the instincts of pleasure inconsistent with the presence of the solemn reminders of religion. But pleasure has already travelled beyond the limits of moderation, and entered the region of lawlessness, licence, and excess, when there can be a disposition to ignore, even for a moment, the holy influences of religion, the presence of God. In contrast, then, to the gay abandonment to mirth, the thoughtless devotion to the pleasures of the hour on the part of his children, we see in Job a mind which no distraction could divert from the constant sense of his relation to his God. A kindly father, he did not interfere to spoil his children's natural and innocent festivities on these special occasions of joy; but his thought followed them, with upliftings of the heart, and prayers for their preservation from those evils which may arise in the very midst of the scenes of highest social enjoyment, like serpents from a bed of flowers. Still, we need not assume excess or evil on the part of Job's children; the language merely suggests the anxiety of his mind lest such should be. It may be that the fear of God had entered their hearts too, and, restraining their enjoyment within due bounds, and inspiring thankfulness, allowed their festivals to be crowned with the favour of Heaven. One of our famed English writers, describing the scene at an old French peasant's house, when, after the labours of the day, before retiring to rest, the young people of the household joined in a cheerful dance, says he noticed some slight gesture, some uplifting of the eyes or hands, at a particular point, - "in a word, I thought I saw religion mingling with the dance!" A beautiful hint, for those who are perplexed with the problem how to unite religion with relaxation, to satisfy the instinct for amusement consistently with piety. There is no solution to be found for the problem except in the cheerful and loyal surrender of the heart to God, and the intelligent worship of him in all our activities, all our pleasures. It is a narrow or a spurious conception of religion which shuts us out from any genuine pleasures. The habitual recognition of our Creator in the use of this sensitive organization of body and mind which is his gift is the means of enhancing and at the same time hallowing every healthy pleasure of the body and the soul. One of the "fruits of the Spirit," one of the graces of the Christian life, one of the results of true piety, is "temperance," "moderation," or "self-control." We see this in Job. And we see the genuineness of his piety amidst prosperity in the anxiety he feels lest his children should have transgressed against this law of conduct (ver. 5). "It may be," he said, "that my sons have sinned, and said farewell to God - abandoned or forgotten him in their hearts." The next point is - piety manifested in ritual. Ritual, or cultus, has an important place in the history and development of religion. It is the outward presentation of religion, as symbolic of an inward reality. As cleanliness and neatness of person, propriety and gentleness of manners, have a certain value as an index of the inner man, so with the ritual and symbolic side of religion. It is a kind of language, and has the only value that language can have - that of meaning something. When it no longer has a meaning, it must pass away and be replaced by a more vital mode of expression. For both language and ritual are the changing element in religion; the inward and spiritual is the abiding and eternal. Now, we are here carried back to a time when the outward expression of piety was different and more elaborate than with us. Sacrifices of various kinds offered a most significant, powerful, varied medium of communication of the soul's penitences, devotions, aspirations to God. Here we have the ritual of penitence - the trespass offering. It is the devout longing for reconciliation to God, oneness with God, that is expressed, following on the sense of a rupture, or possible rupture, through carelessness or transgression of the soul's true relations to him. An account of such offerings under the Law of Moses will be found in Leviticus 4; Leviticus 6:17-23; Leviticus 7:1-10. And Job, rising early after each of these festivals, was wont to send for his children individually, that they might be present at the solemn sacrifice, and thus symbolically receive purification and absolution from the stain of guilt. Thus there rises before us, in this concluding trait of the character of Job, the picture of one who sought first the kingdom of God, and to be right with him - an example of paternal love and piety; of one who identified, like Joshua 24:15, his household with himself in the service of the Eternal. By the pleasing art of the sacred poet, our interest, our sympathy, is already powerfully drawn towards the hero of his story. The curtain falls on this bright life-scene as if with the good wishes and prayers of all spectators. May the shadow of Job never grow less! May his path be as the shining light, increasing to the perfect day! May he continue blessing and blessed in the bosom of his family and household, advance to "old age with honour, troops of friends," and come to his end in his season, as a shock of corn, fully ripe! - J.
1. Beginning with the opening verses, we are led to contemplate Job in his family relations; in his tender solicitude for the spiritual welfare of his children, causing the light of daily worship to shed its rays upon the domestic tabernacle, — his house a church, and himself the ministering priest at its altars. This whole passage brings out in strong relief the depth of Job's personal piety, and his fervent intercessions for his family. "According to the number" — that is, according to the needs, and necessities, and particular circumstances of them all, the ungovernable pride and passion, perhaps, which he had observed in one son, the worldly spirit and pleasure seeking which he knew to be the besetting sin of another. One by one, each son's infirmities and temptations shall have its remembrance in a pious father's prayers. The whole scene brings out an example of that household piety which is the strength of nations, the seed of the Church, the best conservator of God's truth in the world, and that on which the Almighty has declared shall ever rest His heavenly benediction. "For I know him," it is said of Abraham, "that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord to do justice and judgment." Thus, for his exemplary character and conduct in all the relations of home life, we can understand why it is witnessed of Job that he was a perfect and an upright man.
There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job.
I. IT PRESENTS THE CHARACTERISTICS OF HIS CONDUCT. Our Lord taught — what reason also affirms — that a man's life and doings form the proper basis of any judgment that is made concerning him. "By their fruits ye shall know them." That ground of judgment is universally acknowledged to be quite fair. We ought to be willing to lay our life and conduct open before our fellow men, and to say, "Judge me according to my integrity." Many, even religious men, prefer to say, "Judge me according to my professions." The world is right in persisting in judging us by our conduct. And it may be questioned whether, on the whole, its judgment is harsh and unfair. It does not look for perfection in us, but it does expect to find that ours is a higher standard of honesty and charity than theirs. We would like to be described by our beliefs. Our Lord was described by His doings. "He went about, doing good." It says much for Job that he can be set before us in the light of his conduct. He was a sincere, upright, kind, and good man. How are we to explain these words, "perfect and upright," as descriptions of human life and conduct? The word "perfect" has in Scripture this idea in it. The thought of the absolutely perfect is cherished in a man's soul, and he is ever trying to work his thought out into his life and conduct. Taking the two words together, "perfect" refers to the ideal in the man's mind; and "upright" describes the moral characteristic of his human relationships. And we may glorify our Father in heaven by cherishing high ideals, and by bringing forth, in our daily life, much fruit of common honesties, common purities, and common charities, and so grow towards the standard of the perfect.
II. IT PRESENTS THE CHARACTERISTIC OF HIS ATTRACTIONS. Tell us what a man loves, and we can tell you exactly what the man is. Everyone is disclosed by his favourite pursuit. Do you love truth and goodness? Then a blessed revelation is made concerning you. The Godward side of your nature is alive, healthy, and active. But is it the same thing to say of Job that he "feared God," and to say that he "set his love on God"? Yes. A man can never worthily love, if he does not fear, — fear in the deeper sense of respect, admire, and reverence. Fear and love grow together, and grow so like each other that we find it difficult to tell which is fear and which is love. Job, on the side of his attractions, was drawn to God. The purity of the waters that lie full in the face of the sun is drawn out, and caught up by invisible forces into the sky, by and by to serve ends of refreshing on the earth. And all the noblest and best that is in a man may be drawn out by the invisible forces of Divine love and fear, if the soul do but lie open to God, the Sun of Righteousness.
III. IT PRESENTS THE CHARACTERISTIC OF HIS REPULSIONS. "He eschewed evil." The word employed is vigorous, but not exactly refined. We cannot pronounce it without discerning its precise meaning. "Escheweth" means, "finds it nauseous, and spits it out." The clean is repelled from the unclean, the kindly from the cruel, the gentle from the passionate, the pure from the vicious. A good man is characterised by an acute sensitiveness to everything that is evil. What then was the leading idea of Job's life? It was a life lived in the power of principle. Some central idea ruled it, gave it unity, steadied it. He believed that, in righteousness, Divine communion may be enjoyed. He saw that God, happiness, truth, peace, the only worthy idea of living, all belong to righteousness. So his conduct was right. "Righteousness tendeth unto life"; and "God blesseth the generation of the righteous." Whatever may happen to this man, we may be sure that God was on his side. God declared him to be a pure, upright, and sincere man.
(Robert Tuck, B. A.)
I. JOB WAS A MODEL OF HOME PIETY (1 Timothy 5:4). Some persons pretend to be very good and pious when among strangers, but they are not careful how they act at home. If we are really trying to be good Christians, and to love and serve God, then home is the place in which we should let our religion be seen. It should make us more respectful and obedient to our parents, and more kind and loving and gentle to our brothers and sisters, and to all about us in the home, than those are who do not profess to be Christians. Job's sons were in the habit of having social gatherings at each other's houses. When their feasting was over, their father was accustomed to gather them all together for special religious services, when he prayed that God would forgive them if any of them had said, or thought, or felt, or done anything that was wrong while the feasting was going on. It was in this way that Job was a model of piety at home.
II. JOB WAS A MODEL OF INTELLIGENT PIETY. He lived so long ago that we could not expect him to have had very clear views about the character of God, and the way to serve Him. But he had. It is wonderful how much he knew about these things. He lived before any part of the Bible was written. But he got his knowledge from the God of the Bible. We get our knowledge from the Bible. If we come to the Bible to find out what true piety is, and how we are to serve God, we shall understand this matter as Job did, and our piety, like his, will be intelligent piety.
III. JOB WAS A MODEL OF PRACTICAL PIETY. His piety did not show itself in what he said only, but also, and mainly, in what he did. He carried his religion with him wherever he went (chap. Job 29). We have some examples of good Christian men and women who are like Job in this respect. But there ought to be many more of the same kind. If, from the example of Job, we look up to the example of Jesus, we shall find them both very much alike in this respect. When Jesus "went about doing good," He was making His piety practical.
IV. WE HAVE IS JOE A MODEL OF PATIENT PIETY. The apostle James says, "Ye have heard of the patience of Job." This is the first thought that comes to us when the name of Job is mentioned. Think of his terrible calamities. We should have been tempted to say some very bitter things against the providence of God for permitting so great and crushing an affliction to come upon us. But Job said nothing of the kind. All he did is told thus: "Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head." This was the way in which people in that Eastern country were accustomed to express their feelings when in great sorrow. But what a much more wonderful model of patience was Jesus! The patience of Job was beautiful at the beginning, but it did not last. He got discouraged, and said some very impatient things. He failed in his patience before he got through his trials. And so it is with all the examples of piety and patience that we find among our fellow creatures. They fail, sooner or later. The example of Jesus is the only perfect one.
V. JOB WAS A MODEL, OR EXAMPLE, OF REWARDED PIETY. When Satan said, "Does Job serve God for nought?" he meant to say that Job was selfish in his religion, and only served God for the pay or profit he expected from it. But he was mistaken here. Job knew that there was a reward to be found in the service of God. But this was not the only thing he thought of in that service. "In keeping God's commandments there is great reward." All who serve God as faithfully as Job did will find themselves richly rewarded.
(R. Newton, D. D.)
2. Again, in the entire submissive. ness of his will to the Divine will, we see a reason why it should be witnessed of Job that he was "a perfect and an upright man." His preeminence in this virtue of patient resignation we find recognised in the Epistle of St. James, who, after bidding us "take the prophets for an example of suffering affliction and of patience," cites, as worthy of special imitation, the "patience of Job." Nor have we need to go further than this first chapter for evidence of the patriarch's absolute and beautiful self-abasement. For we see a man before us who is a very wreck of wrecks — under the pressure of bodily suffering unexampled. And yet, amidst the wild and wasting havoc, no murmur of rebellion escapes his lips, neither does any hard thought of God find any place in his heart. Still, as we know, it was not always thus with Job. This model of suffering patience was at times tempted to expressions of almost blasphemous impatience — imprecating darkness upon the anniversary of his birth, as a day not worthy to be joined unto the days of the year, or to come into the number of the months. It was the yielding to this temper of mind which drew forth against him the stern and just reproof of Elihu, "Should it be according to thy mind?" Is it for thee to say how God should correct, and when God should correct, and in what measures He should correct? Art thou a competent judge of what the Almighty may have in view in His corrective dispensations; or whether shall tend to promote them, this form of chastening or that? "Should it be according to thy mind?" No doubt this form of insubmissiveness is often to be found in God's children when lying under His Fatherly corrections. Chastening, we know, we must have; and chastening we expect. But, as with Job at the time of this reproof being administered to him, there is often a disposition in us to dictate to our heavenly Father in what form the chastening should come. Under any great trial there is a constant tendency in us to say, "I could have borne any trial rather than this." Far otherwise was it with Job — at least, when he was in his better moods: He desired to be conformed to the will of God in all things. He had no selective submissions, taking patiently the thorn in the flesh one day, and withstanding proudly the angel in the path of the vineyards the next; now bowing in all lowliness under the imposed yoke of the Saviour, and now refusing to take up his appointed cross. Job knew that submission to the Divine will was not more the discipline of life than it will be the repose and bliss of immortality. "In all this Job sinned hot, nor charged God foolishly." In the yielded captivity and surrender of every thought to the will of God, he would vindicate his claim to be considered "a perfect and an upright man."
3. Furthermore, among personal characteristics of Job justifying the honourable mention made of him in our text, we naturally include the strength and clearness of his faith. As a grace of character, no virtue stands higher than this in the Divine esteem. It was that royal gift from above which procured for Abraham the distinguishing title of "the Friend of God." And there are points of resemblance between his faith and that of this perfect and upright man in the land of Uz. Both were beforehand of their dispensation in their views of the doctrine of an atoning sacrifice; both, with a clearness of vision beyond that of men of their own age, saw the day of Christ; saw it, and were glad. Even in those family burnt offerings recorded in this first chapter, there was, on the part of Job, a distinct act of faith. He saw in that sacrifice and oblation a type of the coming propitiation; saw his own sins and his sons' sins laid on that slain victim, and believed that they were blotted out in the cloud that curled up from that sacrificial fire. This, indeed, was the only answer to be returned to his own question — the question which had perplexed him, as well as thousands of minds besides: "How should man be just with God? How should God and man come together in judgment?" Clearly in no way except by means of that Divine and ineffable mystery so beautifully foreshadowed in his own striking language: "Neither is there any daysman betwixt us that might lay his hand upon us both." And then see how this strong and eagle-eyed gaze into the far-off future comes out in the nineteenth chapter, when describing his faith in the God-Redeemer, the Divine and everliving Mediator. Job knew, as well as David knew, that, in the higher sense for which a Redeemer is needed, "no man can redeem his brother, or make atonement unto God for him; for that it cost more to redeem their souls: so that he must let that alone forever." See, then, how great is Job's faith. This Redeemer, who can do for us what no created being could do — living, and all through the ages, ever living — must be Divine. Yet not Divine only; for He is my kinsman, of the same race and blood with me, bound over by Divine appointment to do for me the kinsman's part. Mystery of mysteries! yet shall my faith embrace it. "I know that my Redeemer liveth." And this faith, in Job's case, like all true faith, was an intensely practical thing; a working factor in the shaping of his whole life and character. See how this comes out in the thirteenth chapter. Things are at their worst with Job. The taunts and reproaches of his so-called friends had irritated him beyond endurance, and he spake unadvisedly with his lips. And no wonder. "Hold your peace," he says to them. "Let me alone, that I may speak, and let come on me what will. It does seem as if God had set me for His mark; the looming wrath cloud does seem as if it would discharge itself upon me every moment. Yet think you that on this account I am going to doubt my God, distrust my God, see shadow of change in the Unchangeable? Nay, verily; though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him." Oh! wonder we to find it written of such an one, "That man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God"?
4. One other aspect of Job's character remains to be taken, as supplying a reason for the high commendation of the text; I mean that view of his life which brings him before us as a man of prayer; a man of devout and heart-searching communion with his own spirit; a man able to bear anything rather than the thought of estrangement, and coldness, and a cloud of fear and unlove coming for a moment between his soul and God. Take a few passages only from his book, showing the intense fervour of these spiritual longings: "Oh! that I knew where I might find Him; that I might come even unto His seat! Oh! that one might plead for a man with God, as a man pleadeth for his friend! Oh! that I were as in months past; as in the days when God preserved me; as I was in the days of my youth, when the secret of God was upon my tabernacle!" "That man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God." Still, we must be careful that these searchings of heart are not carried too far; are not, in the hands of Satan, made an occasion of driving us from our hope. We must not forget that the occasional intermission of our spiritual comforts is often a part of a necessary sanctifying discipline. It is possible that God sees us depending too much on these tokens of His favour, this abiding of His secret upon our tabernacle, Insensibly we had come to look upon those happy experiences as our righteousness; we had almost made a Christ of them, to the disparagement of the a insufficiency of His atonement, and to the casting of a shadow on the glory of His Cross. But this must not be. In all our self-examinations we must not shrink from looking back, and must not be afraid to look within. But if we can honestly discern in ourselves the signs of present desires after holiness, and yet are disquieted and cast down, then, instead either of looking back or looking within, we must look out and look up; out of self, up to Christ; out of the light upon the tabernacle, up to the light of heaven; out of all thought, of what we may have done or not done for Christ, up to the grateful contemplation of what Christ has done for us.
(Daniel Moore, M. A.)
Homilist.I. A GOOD MAN. He was "perfect." Not sinless, but complete in all the parts of his moral and religious character; he did not attend to one class of duties to the exclusion of others, cultivate one attribute of virtue regardless of the rest. He was complete. All the parts of the plant of goodness within him grew simultaneously and symmetrically.
1. In relation to his general conduct he was "upright." He pursued the straight road of rectitude, turning neither to the right nor left hand; he did what his conscience believed was right, regardless of issues.
2. In relation to his God he was devout. He "feared God," not with a slavish fear, — his fear was a loving reverence. He was far removed from all irreverence of feeling, he was profoundly religious. God filled the horizon of his soul, he looked at all things in their relation to the Divine.
3. In relation to evil he was an apostate. He "eschewed evil"; he departed from it; he hurried from it as from the presence of a monster. However fashionable, gorgeously attired, institutionally and socially powerful, he loathed it, and fled from it as Lot from Sodom.
4. In relation to his family he was a priest. "He offered burnt offerings." He interposed with God on their behalf; he was a mediator between his own children and the great Father of spirits. Like a good father he sought the moral cleansing of his children and their reconciliation to the Eternal.
II. Here is a good man VERY PROSPEROUS.
1. He was prosperous as a father. "There were born unto him seven sons and three daughters." In ancient times, to be destitute of children was esteemed a great calamity: the greater the family the greater the parental blessing. Things have changed now: here in our England, a large family is regarded as a terrible infliction. What greater blessing in this world can a man have than a large number of loving hearts to call him father?
2. He was prosperous as a farmer. The stock here described has been estimated to amount in our money to the sum of £30,000. Here, and now, this is a good fortune, but yonder, and then, it stood for at least fifty times the amount.
3. He was prosperous as a citizen. "For this man was the greatest of all the men in the east in those days, no doubt, men whose names would strike awe into the soul of the populace, but Job was the greatest of them all. Elsewhere he describes the power which he wielded over men. "When I went out to the gate through the city, when I prepared my seat in the street! the young men saw me, and hid themselves," etc. (Job 29:7, 8).In conclusion, two remarks —
1. That a good man in great prosperity is what antecedently we might have expected to find everywhere in the world.
2. That a good man in great prosperity is not a common scene in human life. Generally speaking, the best men are the poorest, and the worst men hold the prizes of the world.
(Robert A. Watson, D. D.)
(G. M. Grant, B. D.)
In the land of UzI. GOD HATH HIS SERVANTS IN ALL PLACES, IN THE WORST PLACES. There was never any air so bad but that a servant of God might breathe in it. Here God had a choice piece, even in the land of Uz, a place of profaneness; here was Bethel in Bethaven, a house of God in a land of wickedness. Lot dwelt in Sodom, Joseph in Egypt.
II. IT IS A GREAT HONOUR AND A HIGH COMMENDATION TO BE GOOD, AND DO GOOD AMONGST THOSE THAT ARE EVIL.
III. GRACE WILL PRESERVE ITSELF IN THE MIDST OF THE GREATEST OPPOSITION. It is such a fire as no water can wholly quench or put out. True grace will keep itself sound and clean among those who are leprous and unclean; it is such a thing as overcomes all the evil that is about it. As all the water in the salt sea cannot make the fish salt, but still the fish retains its freshness; so all the wickedness and filthiness that is in the world cannot destroy, cannot defile true grace; that will bear up its head, and hold up itself forever.
Perfect and upright.
1. The saints even in this life have a perfect beginning of holiness, because they are begun to be sanctified in every part (1 Thessalonians 5:23). When the work of sanctification is begun in all parts, it is a perfect work beginning.
2. They are likewise perfect in regard of their desires and intendments. Perfect holiness is the aim of the saints on earth; it is the reward of the saints in heaven. The thing which they drive at here, is perfection, therefore they themselves are called perfect.
3. He was perfect comparatively, comparing him with those who were either openly wicked or but openly holy; he was a man without spot, compared with those that were either all over spotted with filthiness, or only painted with godliness.
4. We may say the perfection here spoken of is the perfection of sincerity. Job was sincere, he was sound at the heart. He did not act a part, or personate religion, but was a religious person. He was not gilded, but gold. When Job bought or sold, traded or bargained, promised or covenanted, he stood to all uprightly. As a magistrate he gave to all their due.
I. GRACIOUS HABITS AND SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS ARE THE CHOICEST OF ALL BLESSINGS. If God has given a man grace, he hath the best and the choicest of all that which God can give. God hath given us His Son, and God hath given us His Spirit, and God hath given us the graces of His Spirit; these are the finest of the flower, and the honey out of the rock of mercy. Though you should not come to children, though you should not come to the other part of the inventory, to sheep, and camels, and oxen, and asses; if you are in the first part of the description, that you have a perfect heart, and upright life, and the fear of God in your inward parts, and a holy turning against every evil, your lot is fallen in a fair place, and you have a goodly heritage: they that have this, need not be discontented at their own, nor envious at the condition of any other; they have the principal verb, the one thing necessary.
II. WHERE ONE GRACE IS, THERE IS EVERY GRACE. Grace is laid into the soul in all the parts of it, and there is somewhat of every grace laid into the soul. We have not one man one grace, and another man another grace; but every man hath every grace that hath any grace at all. All grace goes together. Particularly, this man was perfect. That is, he was sincere and plain hearted. Observe from hence —
1. It is sincerity that especially commends us unto God. As Job's graces are preferred in his description, before his riches, so sincerity is preferred before all his other graces. Sincerity is that which makes us so acceptable and pleasing unto God.
2. Sincere and sound-hearted persons are in God's esteem perfect persons. Truth of grace is our perfection here; in heaven we shall have perfection as well as truth. Further, in that upon this perfectness and plainness of heart, there is presently added uprightness:Observe from thence —
1. Where the heart is sincere towards God, the ways are just and honest before men.
2. It is a great honour and an ornament unto our profession of godliness, to be just and upright in our dealings toward men.
One that feared God
I. MORAL INTEGRITY AND MORAL HONESTY, WITHOUT THE FEAR OF GOD, CAN NEVER RENDER US ACCEPTABLE UNTO GOD. God delights in nothing we do, unless we do it in His fear. Not to wrong man because we fear God, is an argument of more than man.
II. HOLY FEAR CONTAINS IN IT EVERY GRACE WE RECEIVE FROM GOD, AND ALL THE WORSHIP WE TENDER UP TO GOD. Fear containeth faith, and fear containeth love too.
III. HOLY FEAR KEEPS THE HEART AND LIFE CLEAN. The fear of the Lord is clean (Psalm 19). Clean not only in itself, formally clean, but effective: it makes clean, and keeps clean the heart and life. Fear is an armed man at the gate, which examines all, and stops everyone from entering that is unfit. It stands as a watchman on the tower, and it looks every way, to see what is coming to the soul; if evil come, fear will not admit it.
And eschewed evil.1. Godly persons do not only forbear sin, but they abhor sin. They have not only their hands bound from it, but they have their hearts set against it.
2. A godly man's opposition of sin is universal; it is against all sin.
3. Godly persons do not only avoid the acts of evil, but all the occasions of evil.
( R. Baxter.)
Revert sons and three daughters
His substance also was seven thousand sheep.
1. He is described to be a man of a very great estate, to the end that the greatness of his affliction might appear afterward. The measure of a loss is taken by the greatness of a man's enjoyment. If a man have but little, his affliction cannot be great. After great enjoyments, want is greatest.
2. The greatness of his estate is set forth, that the greatness of his patience might appear.
3. It was to give all the world a testimony that Job was a thorough godly and holy man; that he was a man of extraordinary strength of grace. Why? Because he held his integrity, and kept up his spirit in the way of holiness, notwithstanding he was lifted up with abundance of outward blessings. To be very great, and very good, shows that a man is good indeed. Great and good, rich and holy, are happy conjunctions, and they are rare conjunctions. Usually riches impoverish the soul, and the world eats out all care of heaven; therefore Job was one of a thousand, being at once thus great in riches, and thus rich in goodness. How often do riches cause forgetfulness of God, yea, kicking against God? How often are they made the bellows of pride, the fuel of uncleanness, the instruments of revenge? How often do rich men contemn, despise, and oppress their weak and poor brethren? From the whole, take these observations.We see here Job a holy man, very full of riches: thence observe —
1. That riches are the good blessings of God. To hold and possess great riches, is not evil; it is evil to set our hearts upon them.
2. Plain and honest dealing is no hindrance to the gaining or preserving of an estate. Honest dealing is no stop, no bar to getting. The nighest and the safest way to riches, is the way of justice. Woe to those, who by getting riches, get a wound in their own consciences.
3. In that Job, a man fearing God, was thus rich, thus great; see here the truth of the promises. God will make good His promise concerning outward things to His people (1 Timothy 4:8).
4. Here is another observation from this place: Job was frequent in holy duties; he was a man fearing God, he was much in the way of holy worship; he did not serve God by fits, or at his leisure, but "continually"; yet he was very rich. Time spent in holy duties is no loss, no hindrance to our ordinary callings, or to our thriving in them. The time we spend in spiritual duties, is time gained for secular. The time we spend in prayer, etc., whets our tools, and oils our wheels, promotes all we go about, and getteth a blessing upon all.
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