Job 1:2


This book proposes to give us a picture of extreme and probably unprecedented adversity. It is fitting that it should open with a scene of exceptional prosperity, to serve as a contrast to the dark scenes that follow. Moreover, the idea of the book is the better realized if we observe that the original prosperity is considered in its moral aspect, as concealing a possible temptation to sin.

I. THE PROSPERITY WAS SUBSTANTIAL.

1. A large family. This is always regarded in the Bible as a mark of prosperity. It is an unnatural social condition of congested populations that has led to the opposite idea in our own time. Certainly, where there are means for a livelihood, the family is a source of joy and influence, as well as wholesome self-sacrifice.

2. Great property. Job had more than the means for a livelihood. According to the estimate of a pastoral life, he was a very rich man, notoriously rich, and without an equal. Yet this man knew and feared God. It is therefore possible with God for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:26).

II. THE PROSPERITY WAS ENJOYED. Job's sons and daughters were feasting together. Here is a picture of happy family life in the midst of affluence. The jealousy and bitterness that sometimes poison the cup of prosperity were not known in Job's household. His family was united and affectionate. It was by no means ascetic; but we have no reason for thinking it ought to have been so. No reproach is urged against Job's sons and daughters for feasting together. There is a time for innocent enjoyment, and when this is taken temperately and gratefully, only superstitious fears can suggest the idea of a Nemesis. The motto Carpe diem is mean and execrable, because it carries with it an implied renunciation of duty.

III. THERE WAS A DANGER IN THIS PROSPERITY. Job feared lest his children might have renounced God in their hearts.

1. A danger of godlessness. This is serious in the mind of Job, though it did not show itself in unkind or unjust conduct to men. To forsake God is sin, even though a man pay his debts.

2. An internal evil. "In their hearts" There might be no open blasphemy; yet the hearts of the gay and careless young men and women might be alienated from God. Even this is sin.

3. An evil threatened by prosperity. It is remarkable that this is the very sin which Job is subsequently tempted to commit by the agonies of overwhelming calamities. Here he thinks that prosperity may induce it in his children, for that tempts men to be satisfied with earth, to be vain, proud, and self-complacent.

IV. JOB GUARDED AGAINST THE DANGER. The patriarchal religion made the father the priest of his household. So he must be always when he realizes his position. Parents lay up property for their children; it is more important that they should make provision for their children's spiritual welfare. They watch anxiously for symptoms of disease in them; much more should they be on their guard against the first signs of moral defects. Job's children were sanctified - ceremonially cleansed. Ours need to be truly dedicated to God by parental prayers. - W.F.A.







While he was yet speaking there came also another.
I. MANY AGENTS ARE WATCHING FOR OPPORTUNITIES TO INJURE US, BUT ARE RESTRAINED BY THE POWER OF GOD. These may be divided into the visible and invisible. There are the invisible, those fallen spirits, of whose apostasy and active malignity so much is said in Scripture. Here you will see how the devil first tried to take away Job's character for sincerity and virtue, then to insinuate that he was no better than a mercenary hypocrite, then to suggest that if he was but deprived of his outward possessions he would soon prove himself to be a downright blasphemer. Have we any reason to suppose it is otherwise with respect to us? Is not Satan still injuriously active? There are visible foes of our interests and of our peace. Man is not only alienated from God, but also from his fellow creatures. You especially ought to consider the debt you owe to God's restraining and preserving mercy. Persecution is perfectly natural to depraved man. It is providence which throws chains upon his black and malignant passions.

II. THE CREATURES CAN BE READILY CONVERTED BY GOD INTO THE AUTHORS OF OUR INJURY OR DESTRUCTION. It is so with the very elements of nature themselves. So with our social connections. "A man's foes may be those of his own household." Thus it is also with our secular possessions: they may prove curses rather than blessings.

III. THE EXTERNAL DISPENSATIONS OF GOD'S PROVIDENCE ARE NOT INFALLIBLE CRITERIA BY WHICH TO FORM OUR ESTIMATE OF HUMAN CHARACTER. Prosperity is not, for it often happens that the horn of the wicked is exalted, and that they flourish like a green bay tree. Adversity is not an unequivocal test. Learn —

1. Our obligations to the protecting care of God.

2. What an illustration has been supplied of the precariousness of that tenure by which all earthly things are held.

(John Clayton.)

Homilist.
The question discussed in the Book of Job is this — Is it possible for man to be actuated by disinterested love for his Maker? Observe the tests to which Job was subjected.

I. HE WAS 'TRIED CIRCUMSTANTIALLY. Though bereft of everything, Job does not throw off his allegiance to heaven, nor shriek curses into the ears of the infinite. Desolate he says — "Blessed be the name of the Lord."

II. HE WAS TRIED CONSTITUTIONALLY. Satan asks — Let me act on him? He is smitten with a loathsome disease. Does his faith stand this?

III. HE WAS TRIED THEOLOGICALLY. His friends denounced him as a sinner. His nature rebelled. For many a long day he was tortured in his deepest convictions, the tenderest nerves of his soul. Does his loyalty to heaven then give way; does his trust in the Almighty die out? Here, in Job, is the question settled for all time, that the human soul is not essentially selfish. It can "fear God for nought."

(Homilist.)

Job and affliction have long been associated together in our minds. Next to the "man of sorrows," Job was perhaps the most afflicted of the servants of God. The principle of substitution at once explains the sufferings of the one, but to account for the sufferings of the other seems at first sight more difficult. The Book of Job is the most ancient of all the books of inspiration, and is entirely independent of them. Job's history is not linked with that of the people of God, nor does it advance in any way the manifestation of the purposes of God. As resulting from the fall, and as stamping the Divine curse upon creation, affliction is the common lot of mankind. Affliction, in one shape or another, is the special portion of God's people. God is the author of the afflictions of His people. We are apt to ascribe it to second causes, and to lose sight of the great first cause. God has a design in affliction.

I. THE DESIGN OF GOD IN THE AFFLICTIONS OF THE WICKED.

1. He intends to punish the wicked by affliction. But He designs also to awaken them, to arrest their attention, and to show them the nothingness and vanity of all things here. How blessed is that affliction which brings the prodigal back to his father's house, however severe it may be.

II. THE DESIGN OF GOD IN AFFLICTING HIS OWN PEOPLE.

1. To try the genuineness of their faith. The apostle speaks of the "trial of our faith." In all his trial Job's faith was found genuine, and to the praise and honour of God; Job never does anything which is inconsistent with his being a child of God. Some, when they are put into the furnace of affliction, prove themselves to have been but hypocrites.

2. To discover the latent corruption of their hearts. When a man is first converted he little thinks how much evil there still remains behind! But the trial comes, and then unbelief arises in its former strength. Rebelliousness rages in every region of the soul. Unsubdued passions resume their strength, and he is utterly dismayed at the fearful scene. Job, who was the most patient of all men, then showed impatience. In the days of his prosperity he seemed to be perfect, but affliction showed what was in his heart.

3. To purify and to sanctify them. God puts us into the furnace to purge us from the dross — to make us holy and spiritually minded — to make us seek those things which are above.

4. To call into exercise the graces of the Spirit. There is a great tendency even in the people of God to spiritual sloth and slumber. They have grace, but their grace is not in lively exercise. Their movements are sluggish and lifeless. By affliction God awakens us to a sense of our high responsibilities, and calls forth into exercise our dormant graces.

5. To enhance the value of true religion. What can sustain you when trial and trouble, in various forms, has come upon you, but real, heartfelt piety? What else could have supported Job in his unparalleled and complicated afflictions?

6. God afflicts His people also in order to manifest His own glorious attributes. The great object in all that God does is to manifest His own glory. Learn —(1) That God has a purpose in all that He does.(2) Be encouraged by contemplating the case of Job. You are not standing alone in affliction.(3) Do not only look forward to the time of your deliverance from affliction, but look unto God for His grace, not only to sustain you, but to make that affliction minister to your happiness.

(A. S. Cannon.)

Among the mysteries of God's providence there is perhaps no mystery greater than the law by which suffering is meted out in the world. It is not a mystery that sin should bring forth sorrow; it is not a mystery that pain, disease, and death should be the fruit of man's fall. The conscience of men in all ages — the heathen as well as the Jewish and Christian — has acquiesced in the justice of that moral constitution of things by which sin becomes chastisement and suffering the expiation of guilt. The really difficult problem is not the problem of suffering in the abstract: it is the problem of the meting out of suffering on any theory; it is the problem why the innocent are called upon to suffer, whilst the guilty too often escape. This is a problem which comes before us in the Book of Job. Job is a righteous man, living in the fear of God, and eschewing evil. He is a man of large wealth and possessions, but he does not spend his wealth in selfish gratification. He is charitable to the poor, hospitable to the stranger, bountiful to all. He was not only the greatest of all the men of the East — he was the best. But in a moment the sky of his prosperity is overcast; blow follows blow with fearful rapidity. On what principle of justice is such a man made to suffer? Here is a man exemplary in life, devout, pure, charitable, of sterling integrity, earnest piety, and sincere faith in God; Why is he crushed with this awful suffering? Contrast with this the tragedy of "Prometheus," written by AEschylus. Prometheus has been the benefactor of mankind. He has entered into a sublime conflict with Zeus, the supreme being, for the good of the race. He is crushed by his adversary and he dies with defiance on his lips. The conception is grand, but the chief element of grandeur lies in the fact that it is power, and not righteousness, which sits on the throne, and rebellion against supreme power which is not supreme right must always be grand. The struggle in the history of Job is far nobler. He knows that the God he worships is not supreme power only, but supreme righteousness also. This it is that makes his trial so hard. With him the difficulty is to reconcile the God of his conscience and his faith with the God who is ruling the world. On the throne of the universe sits one who, judging by the facts of life, is not absolutely righteous. The struggle in the drama of Job is not the defiance of power, it is not the arrogant assertion of self-righteousness: it is the confession of ignorance of self, and ignorance of God; it is the submission of the sorely tried man to the revelation of that God whose revelation he had longed to see. The problem is that of innocent suffering. What is the solution of it? Three answers are given.

1. That of the three friends. Though representing three different types of character, all concur in one thing — they all hold the same theory of the Divine government, and on the strength of that theory they all condemn Job. God is just, and therefore God rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked. If a man suffers, he suffers because he deserves it. Job may be upright, but he must be cherishing some secret sin, and it is this which has called down on him the vengeance of the Most High. This is their compendious system of theology. But it breaks down. It is not large enough to cover the facts. Centuries of teaching could not root out of men's minds the obstinate belief that suffering is the measure of sin; but the sufferer himself repudiates it. The righteousness of God is the fundamental article of God's creed; but then comes his cruel perplexity. Job does not maintain absolute freedom from sin. For a moment he is tempted to take refuge in blind submission. But in his inmost heart he cries out, "God must be righteous." And so to the very last word he uttered he refused to be convinced of direct sin as the cause of his suffering. We know that Job is right, bat he still needed to learn the greatest lesson of all, that his very righteousness was not his own. He is right in maintaining his own innocence against his friends, right in holding fast his integrity, right in trusting God through all, right in appealing to Him to declare his righteousness when it seems to be hidden.

2. Another theory of suffering is given by Elihu. He is angry with Job for his obstinacy; and with the friends, because they have failed so completely to vindicate the righteousness of God. Elihu represents a younger theology. God's purpose in chastisement He declares to be the purification of His servant. If He puts those whom He loves into the crucible, it is to purge away their dross, to cleanse them from past sins, and to keep them from failing in the future. Here, certainly, is a step in advance. To see a purpose of love in affliction is to turn it into a blessing. Job accepts in silence this interpretation of suffering.

3. But the mystery of suffering is not fully explained even when this purifying power is assigned to it. There is a suffering which is not even for the salvation or purification of the individual soul, but for the glory of God. In the prelude Satan tells God to His face that His servants serve Him not from disinterested motives or sincere affection, but in the spirit of the hireling, from the lowest and most mercenary, considerations. "Doth Job fear God for nought?" This is the challenge given, and it is one that strikes at the nature of God Himself. It means that he is incapable of inspiring a genuine, disinterested affection. God accepts the challenge. Job has to learn that suffering comes, because God is honoured in the trial of His people; and surely no more noble part can be assigned to man than to be the champion of God.

(Bishop Perowne.)

Pleasure and pain, happiness and suffering, are elements of creaturely experience appointed by God. The right use of them makes life, the wrong use of them mars it. They are ordained, all of them, in equal degrees, to a good end; for all that God does is done in perfect love as well as in perfect justice. It is no more wonderful that a good man should suffer than that a bad man should suffer: for the good man, the man who believes in God and therefore in goodness, making a right use of suffering, will gain by it in the true sense; he will reach a deeper and a nobler life. It is no more wonderful that a bad man, one who disbelieves in God, and therefore in goodness, should be happy, than that a good man should be happy, the happiness being God's appointed means for both to reach a higher life. The main element of this higher life is vigour, but not of the body. The Divine purpose is spiritual evolution. That gratification of the sensuous side of our nature for which physical health and a well-knit organism are indispensable — paramount in the pleasure philosophy — is not neglected, but is made subordinate to the Divine culture of life. The grace of God aims at the life of the spirit — power to love, to follow righteousness, to dare for justice's sake, to seek and grasp the true, to sympathise with men and bear with them, to bless them that curse, to suffer and be strong. To promote this vitality, all that God appoints is fitted — pain as well as pleasure, adversity as well as prosperity, sorrow as well as joy, defeat as well as success. We wonder that suffering is so often the result of imprudence. On the ordinary theory the fact is inexplicable, for imprudence has no dark colour of ethical faultiness. He who by an error of judgment plunges himself and his family into what appears irretrievable disaster may, by all reckoning, be almost blameless in character. If suffering is held to be penal, no reference to the general sin of humanity will account for the result. But the reason is plain. The suffering is disciplinary. The nobler life at which Divine providence aims must be sagacious no less than pure, guided by sound reason no less than right feeling. And if it is asked how, from this point of view, we are to find the punishment of sin, the answer is, that happiness as well as suffering is punishment to him whose sin and the unbelief that accompanies it pervert his view of truth, and blind him to the spiritual life and to the will of God. The pleasures of a wrong-doer who persistently denies obligation to Divine authority and refuses obedience to the Divine law are no gain, but loss. They dissipate and attenuate his life. His sensuous or sensual enjoyment, his delight in selfish triumph and gratified ambition, are real, give at the time quite as much happiness as the good man has in his obedience and virtue, and perhaps a great deal more. But they are penal and retributive nevertheless, and the conviction that they are so becomes clear to the man whenever the light of truth is flashed upon his spiritual state. On the other hand, the pains and disasters which fall to the lot of evil men, intended for their correction, if in perversity or in blindness they are misunderstood, again become punishment, for they too dissipate and attenuate life. The real good of existence slips away while the mind is intent on the mere pain or vexation, and how it is to be got rid of.

(Robert A. Watson, D. D.)

This sincere, right-hearted man must be passed through the entire round of human troubles. If any usual form of human sorrow is left untried in the case of Job, then the problem of the book is not yet fully solved. According to this poet author, the calamity of human life is three fold.

I. TROUBLE AFFECTS A MAN THROUGH HIS POSSESSIONS. The case of Job is quite a model of the troubles that can come to a man through his possessions. He had scarcely time to take breath after hearing one mournful tale before another messenger of woe burst upon him, and the climax of his woe seems utterly heartbreaking. How is it that these changes of circumstances came to press on this man as troubles? Nothing really hurts us save as it affects the mind, and different things affect us differently according as they reach the various parts of our mental and spiritual nature. What part of us, then, is touched by these outward calamities which deprive us of the things that we possess? There is in our nature the desire of acquisition, and its satisfaction is the source of very many of our pleasures. The hurt to the mind which follows on losing our possessions takes its highest form in the loss of our children and friends. So far, however, as such troubles are concerned, our manhood ought to be great enough to enable us to deal with them, and we have no overwhelming admiration for the man who can see all his possessions go and yet maintain his integrity and keep his hold on God.

II. TROUBLES MAY COME TO A MAN THROUGH HIS BODY. We could not easily overestimate the relation which health and bodily vigour bear to a bright, hopeful spirit and a cheery, active faith. A vast proportion of the doubts and fears and inward struggles of men have their secret source in conditions of the beds, failure at the springs of vitality, or the presence of insidious disease. The secret relations of the body and the spirit are very mysterious. Consequently you come nearer to a man, you touch him to the quick, you put his spirit to a far higher test, when you bring calamity in upon his body. From the descriptions given it is probable that Job's disease was what Eastern travellers know as elephantiasis, because the extremities of the body swell enormously, and the skin becomes as hard as the elephant's hide. It is hard to bear when disease is painful; harder still when it is prostrating; harder still when it is disfiguring and loathsome; harder still when it involves social disabilities. And Job's was all this. Can a man so suffer and keep hold of God? These calamities which come through our bodies affect other parts of our nature, and in some senses higher parts. The love of life. The desire of pleasure. The faculty of hope. All these are struck back, pressed down, forbidden to speak, and it is their inward wrestling which makes the bitterness of such trouble-times. But if affliction only reached these two things, our possessions and our bodies, we should not be able to call the testing sublime. Something would still be wanting.

III. TROUBLE AFFECTING A MAN THROUGH HIS MIND. For this greater testing the outward troubles of Job were but the approach and preparation. These new trials were of a kind, and came in such a way, as was most likely to cause mental confusion. The visit of the friends, and their bad theology and false accusations, were the very things to awaken the inner conflicts of the soul. They offered forms of truth which roused his resistance. They presented creeds, in their grave and formal way, which Job felt were too small to meet his case. They started doubts in his mind which almost swelled into the agony of despair. Job's mental anguish took one particular form. The facts of his condition were brought into conflict with the formal creed of his day, the creed in which he himself had been brought up. That creed declared that suffering was the exact and necessary accompaniment of every sin; and that great calamity betokened great sin. Job feels sure that this must somehow be wrong. The creed would not fit his case. Scripture provides us with other illustrations of this highest and most imperilling form of human trouble. But the most sublime example is found in the Lord Jesus Himself. Bodily sufferings He had, but no man knows what the Lord has borne for him until he can enter into the spiritual conflict of Christ's temptation, and the infinitely mysterious inward distress of Gethsemane and Calvary. We are not alone in these agonies of soul. Not alone while the struggle is being waged, not alone in the blessed victory it may be given us to win. We, too, with Job, may hold fast our integrity. Two things need a passing notice. Observe how the mental struggle was intensified by the influence of the foregoing outward calamities. The loss of all he possessed had humbled him. Grief at the loss of his children had oppressed him. Long-continued suffering of body had wearied him, and now the very spirit was weak. And observe also, that in such times of strain a man may very nearly fail and yet hold his integrity. Sometimes a man is, for a moment, smitten down. Job sometimes fails, and talks foolishly. He seems as if, in his desperation, he set his righteousness against God's. But from the very borderland of infidelity and despair Job comes back to the trust and the rest of the child heart that finds the Father in God.

(Robert Tuck, B. A.)

To whom God hath given strong shoulders, on him, for the most part, He layeth heavy burdens. And so we are come to the second main division of the chapter, which is the affliction of Job; and that is set forth from this ver. 6 to the end of ver. 19. And lest we should conceive it to have come upon him by chance, it is punctually described four ways.

1. By the causes of it (ver. 6, 7, etc.).

2. By the instruments of it (ver. 15, 16, etc.).

3. By the manner of it (vers. 14, 15, 16, etc.).

4. By the time of it (ver. 13).

(J. Caryl.)

God puts His servants sometimes into these experiments that He may test them (as He did Job), that Satan himself may know how true-hearted God's grace has made them, and that the world may see how they can play the man. Good engineers, if they build a bridge, are glad to have a train of enormous weight go over it. When the first great exhibition was built they marched regiments of soldiers, with a steady tramp, over the girders, that they might be quite sure that they would be strong enough to bear any crowd of men, for the regular tramp of well-disciplined soldiers is more trying to a building than anything else. So our wise and prudent Father sometimes marches the soldiery of trouble right over His people's supports, to let all men see that the grace of God can sustain every possible pressure and load.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

When he thinks we are at the weakest, then he cometh with the strongest assaults. If Satan had sent Job word of the death of his children first, all the rest would have been as nothing to him. We observe in war, that when once the great ordnance are discharged, the soldiers are not afraid of the musket: so when a great battery is made by some thundering terrible judgment upon the soul, or upon the body, or estate of any man, the noise and fears of lesser evils are drowned and abated. Therefore Satan keeps his greatest shot to the last, that the small might be heard and felt, and that the last coming in greater strength might find the least strength to resist it.

(J. Caryl.)

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