and he owned 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, and a very large number of servants. Job was the greatest man of all the people of the east.
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.
In all this Job sinned not.
I. CONSIDER THE NATURE OF PIOUS RESIGNATION TO THE WILL OF GOD, in His afflictive dispensations towards us, as represented in what Job did upon the present occasion. The greatest favourites of heaven are often the subjects of the severest afflictions. Not only is affliction the common lot of all men, but adversity may be a greater token of the Divine favour and love than prosperity itself. Of Job it is said, "he arose"; that is, he did not sink under his afflictions so as to forget himself. He rose from his seat with all the dignity of true religion and heavenly composure of mind. He "rent his mantle." An outward sign, in Eastern countries, of great distress, or of indignation. Thus Job testified the greatness of his sorrow and the depths of his humiliation as a sinful creature. "Shaved his head," another expression of uncommon distress. "Tell down upon the ground," bowing lowly and prostrate before the Majesty of heaven, with entire submission to the Divine will. "And worshipped," not in appearance only, but in heart. So we see that pious resignation does not consist in the stupid insensibility of the hard hearted, nor in the monkish apathy of the Stoic; for there is neither virtue nor grace in bearing what we do not feel; and no chastening is for the present joyous, but grievous. People may suffer very much under their afflictions, and feel them very deeply, and be resigned to the will of God at the same time. Neither is an earnest desire to have our affliction removed inconsistent with the nature of holy submission. We may weep and mourn, and betray our inward distress by our outward emotions and conduct, and still be unfeignedly submissive to the will of God. External agitations are, in some cases, the almost unavoidable effect of strong natural affections. Insensibility, so far from being the ornament, is the disgrace of human nature.
II. A PECULIAR PRIVILEGE OF GOD'S PEOPLE UNDER HIS AFFLICTING HAND, WHICH IS EXHIBITED TO US IN WHAT JOB said. "Naked came!" etc. Here is an interpretation of the true state of his mind, as evidential of a most excellent frame of heart. It is recorded to teach us what is our duty as creatures, and what is our privilege as Christians, if indeed we be partakers of the saving grace of God. Every good thing we have is the undeserved gift of God, to be received with gratitude, thanksgiving, and love, and to be sanctified by the Word of God and prayer. It is not only our duty to justify the Lord in all His afflictive dispensations towards us; it is our privilege to praise God for them, and even bless Him for our afflictions. They will then prove unspeakable blessings to us.
III. A TESTIMONY BY THE HOLY GHOST HIMSELF CONCERNING THE GREAT EXCELLENCY OF PATIENT RESIGNATION. "In all this," etc. In all the behaviour of this servant of the Lord he acted not only like a man, but like a wise man, and like a holy man, a man of God. It was not his natural fortitude and courage, nor the strength of reason and argument that supported him, but the superior power of faith in. God, the nobler principle of Divine grace. He did not utter a repining word, entertain a hard thought, nor discover a fretful and impatient spirit. He neither arraigned the justice nor indicted the goodness of God, but acknowledged his own unworthiness and the Divine Sovereignty; confessed his obligations to his great Benefactor, and His undisputable right to do what He would with His own. Remember, then, that the Lord doth not willingly grieve nor afflict the children of men. Afflictions are always dealt out in number, weight, and measure. When the end in view is answered they will be removed. We should be more anxious to have our afflictions sanctified than taken away. Beware of the evil of impatience, murmuring, and discontent. Why should a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?
(C. de Coetlogon.)
I. CONSIDERING THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD. Many of the errors of mankind, both in opinion and practice, arise originally from mistaken notions of the Divine Being. It is frequently observed in common life, that some favourite notion or inclination, long indulged, takes such an entire possession of a man's mind, and so engrosses his faculties, as to mingle thoughts perhaps he is not himself conscious of with almost all his conceptions, and influence his whole behaviour. The two great attributes of our Sovereign Creator which seem most likely to influence our lives are His justice and His mercy. The justice of God will not permit Him to afflict any man without cause. Whether we suppose ourselves to suffer for the sake of punishment or probation, it is not easy to discover with what right we repine. If our pains and labours be only preparatory to unbounded felicity we ought to rejoice and be exceeding glad, and to glorify the goodness of God, who, by uniting us in the sufferings with saints and martyrs, will join us also in our reward. Since God is just, a man may be sure that there is a reason for his misery, and it will be generally found in his own corruption. He will therefore, instead of murmuring at God, begin to examine himself, and when he has found the depravity of his own manners it is more likely that he will admire the mercy than complain of the severity of his Judge. Then we may think of God not only as Governor, but as Father of the universe, a Being infinitely gracious, whose punishments are not inflicted to gratify any passion of anger or revenge, but to awaken us from the lethargy of sin, and to recall us from the paths of destruction. A constant conviction of the mercy of God firmly implanted in our minds will, upon the first attack of any calamity, easily induce us to reflect that it is permitted by God to fall upon us, lest we should be too much enamoured by our present state, and neglect to extend our prospects into eternity. Thus by familiarising to our minds the attributes of God we shall, in a great measure, secure ourselves against any temptation to repine at His arrangements, but shall probably still more strengthen our resolution and confirm our piety by reflecting.
II. BY REFLECTING ON THE IGNORANCE OF MAN. It is by comparing ourselves with others that we often make an estimate of our own happiness, and even sometimes of our virtue. He that has more than he deserves is not to murmur merely because he has less than another. When we judge so confidently of others we deceive ourselves, we admit conjectures for certainties, and chimeras for realities. No man can say that he is better than another, because no man can tell how far the other Was enabled to resist temptation, or what incidents might concur to overthrow his virtue. Let everyone, then, whom God shall visit with affliction humble himself before Him with steady confidence in His mercy, and unfeigned submission to His justice. Let him remember that his sins are the cause of his miseries, and apply himself seriously to the great work of self-examination and repentance.
(S. Johnson, LL. D.)
I. IN ALL OUR AFFAIRS THE MAIN THING IS, NOT TO SIN. It is not said, "In all this Job was never spoken against," for he was spoken against by Satan in the presence of himself; and very soon he was falsely accused by men who should have comforted him. You must not expect that you will pass through this world, and have it said of you in the end, "In all this no one ever spoke against him." Those who secure zealous lovers are pretty sure to call forth intense adversaries. The trimmer may dodge through the world without much censure; but it will seldom be so with an out-and-out man of God. Neither is it a chief point for us to seek to go through life without suffering, since the Lord's servants, the best of them, are ripened and mellowed by suffering. Remember, if the grace of God prevents our affliction from driving us into sin, then Satan is defeated. Satan did not care what Job suffered, so long as he could but hope to make him sin; and he was foiled when he did not sin. If you conquer him in your hour of grief, you conquer indeed. If you do not sin while under the stress of heavy trouble, God will be honoured. He is not so much glorified by preserving you from trouble, as by upholding you in trouble. He allows you to be tried that His grace in you may be tested and glorified. Remember, furthermore, that if you do not sin, you yourself will be no loser by all your tribulations. Sin alone can injure you; but if you remain steadfast, though you are stripped, you will be clothed with glory; though you are deprived of comfort, you will lose no real blessing. True, it may not seem a pleasant thing to be stripped, and yet if one is soon going to bed, it is of no great consequence.
II. IN ALL TIME OF TRIAL THERE IS SPECIAL FEAR OF OUR SINNING. It is well for the child of God to remember that the hour of darkness is an hour of danger. Suffering is fruitful soil for certain forms of sin. Hence it was needful for the Holy Spirit to give a testimony to Job that, "In all this he sinned not."
1. For instance, we are apt to grow impatient.
2. We are even tempted to rebellion against God.
3. We may also sin by despair. An afflicted on. said, I shall never look up again. I shall go mourning all my days." Come, if you are as poor as Job, be as patient as Job, and you will find hope ever shining like a star which never sets.
4. Many sin by unbelieving speeches.
5. Men have been driven into a kind of atheism by successive troubles. They have wickedly argued — "There cannot be a God, or He would not let me suffer so."
III. IN ACTS OF MOURNING WE NEED NOT SIN. Hearken: you are allowed to weep. You are allowed to show that you suffer by your losses. See what Job did. "Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped"; and "in all this Job sinned not." The husband lamented sorely when his beloved was taken from him. He was right. I should have thought far less of him if he had not done so. "Jesus wept." But there is a measure in the expression of grief. Job was not wrong in rending his garment: he might have been wrong if he had torn it into shreds. Do not restrain the boiling floods. A flood of tears without may assuage the deluge of grief within. Job's acts of mourning were moderate and seemly — toned down by his faith. Job's words also, though very strong, were very true: "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither." Job mourned, and yet did not sin; for he mourned, and worshipped as he mourned. Remember, then, that in acts of mourning there is not, of necessity, any sin.
IV. IN CHARGING GOD FOOLISHLY WE SIN GREATLY. "Job sinned not," and the phrase which explains it is, "nor charged God foolishly."
I. Here let me say that to call God to our judgment seat at all is a high crime and misdemeanour. "Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God?"
2. In the next place, we sin in requiring that we should understand God. What? Is God under bonds to explain Himself to us?
3. We charge God foolishly when we imagine that He is unjust. "Ah!" said one, "when I was a worldling I prospered; but ever since I have been a Christian I have endured no end of losses and troubles." Do you mean to insinuate that the Lord does not treat you justly? Think a minute, and stand corrected. If the Lord were to deal with you according to strict justice, where would you be?
4. Some, however, will bring foolish charges against His love.
5. Alas! at times, unbelief charges God foolishly with reference to His power. We think that He cannot help us in some peculiar trial.
6. We may be so foolish as to doubt His wisdom. If He be All-wise, how can He suffer us to be in such straits, and to sink so low as we do? What folly is this I Who art thou, that thou wouldst measure the wisdom of God?
V. TO COME THROUGH GREAT TRIAL WITHOUT SIN IS THE HONOUR OF THE SAINTS. There is no glory in being a feather-bed soldier, a man bedecked with gorgeous regimentals, but never beautified by a sear, or ennobled by a wound. All that you ever hear of such a soldier is that his spurs jingle on the pavement as he walks. There is no history for this carpet knight. He never smelt gunpowder in his life; or if he did, he fetched out his scent bottle to kill the offensive odour. Well, that will not make much show in the story of the nations. If we could have our choice, and we were as wise as the Lord Himself, we should choose the troubles which He has appointed us, and we should not spare ourselves a single pang. Who wants to paddle about a duck pond all his life? Nay, Lord, if Thou wilt bid me go upon the waters, let me launch out into the deep. The honour of a Christian, or, let me say, the honour of God's grace in a Christian, is when we have so acted that we have obeyed in detail, not forgetting any point of duty. "In all this Job sinned not" neither in what he thought, or said, or did; nor even in what he did not say, and did not do: I feel that I must add just this. As I read the verse through, it looked too dry for me, and so I wetted it with a tear. "In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly"; and yet I, who have suffered so little, have often sinned, and, I fear, in times of anguish, have charged God foolishly. Is not this true of some of you?
( C. H. Spurgeon.).
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