You have granted me life and loving devotion, and Your care has preserved my spirit.
I. GOD THE ORIGINAL SOURCE. Job appeals to his Creator, and recognizes the Divine Source of all he is and all he has. The prologue shows that Job had always been a devout man, not forgetful of God. But his frightful losses and troubles brought home to him the thought of his relations to God with a vividness never before experienced. Job is now face to face with God. Huge calamities have swept away all intermediate interests, and over the wreck of his wasted life he looks straight to God his Maker. Terrible hours of distress reveal the deeper facts of life, as the earthquake exposes the granite foundations of the hills. Tragedy destroys superficiality. Those who have been through the raging waters el trouble are best able to perceive the Divine Source of all things.
II. GOD'S PRIMAL GIFTS.
(1) This can only come from God. The chemist may analyze the component elements of our bodily frame, but the subtle life-principle can never be caught in his crucible. The engineer may construct a most delicate machine, but he can never breathe life into it. God is the one Source of life.
(2) This is essential to all else. Here we are at the first and most fundamental gift. Men may bury treasures with the dead, but the silent sleepers in the tomb can never touch one of the gifts that rust and moulder by their side. We must live if we are to own or use anything. We must have the spiritual life in order to enjoy the gospel blessings.
2. Favour. Life is itself a favour. It is never deserved; yet it is good to live. But with life God gives other favours. Even Job in his desolation did not forget this fact, as some seem to forget it when they murmur against Providence, and complain of the world as though everything were working for the misery of man. Greater than all earthly favour is the grace of Christ, the favour shown to fallen man in the redemption of the race by the sacrifice of God's Son.
III. GOD'S CONTINUED GOODNESS. Job acknowledges that his very breath is continued by God's care. God does not merely create once for ell; he preserves his creatures. If he were to withdraw his hand for one moment, they would cease to be. That we arc alive now is a sign that God is now good to us. Present existence is a proof of present providence. Therefore our thanksgivings should be fresh; not the withered flowers of yesterday, but the new blossoms of to-day, with the dew still upon them. Daily renewed mercies call for daily renewed praises. We have not to look far for God, searching the annals of antiquity, inquiring of the deeds of old-world history, or scraping together the geologic records of the rocks. God is with us in the new sunrise, in each day's life and blessing.
IV. GOD'S ASSURED CASE. It cannot be as Job supposes. His remonstrance is natural to him, but it is needless. If God has made and preserved us, it is impossible that he should be turned against us. His past and present favours are proofs of his unchanging love. Though he smites, he cannot hate. Though he withdraws his smiling countenance, he does not remove his supporting baud. Creation and preservation are prophecies of redemption and salvation. - W.F.A.
Thy visitation hath preserved my spirit.
Christian Observer.Job addresses God as his Creator, Preserver, and Benefactor; he seems to ask, why, knowing his frailty, He laid upon him such burdens as those which he was called upon to bear. He appears to have felt some difficulty in reconciling the past mercies of God with His present afflicting dispensations. Yet, amidst all, he acknowledges that his Creator doubtless had wise, though to him unknown, reasons for His dispensations. "These things," said he, "Thou hast hid in Thine heart." They were planned in Thine infinitely wise, holy, and beneficent, though unsearchable counsels. "I know this is with Thee." To me, indeed, it is a source of trouble and perplexity; but to Thee it is plain. And then, as though glancing at the righteousness of God's law, on the one hand, and, on the other, at the sinfulness of mankind generally, and in particular at his own personal transgressions, with a sense of the imperfection of his best obedience, he adds, "If I be wicked, woe unto me; and if I be righteous, yet will I not lift up my head. I am full of confusion; therefore see mine affliction, for it increaseth."
I. First, then, we have JOB'S ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF HIS INFINITE OBLIGATIONS TO GOD. "Thou hast granted me life and favour, and Thy visitation hath preserved my spirit."
1. The blessing of creation. "Thou hast granted me life." He does not attribute his existence to chance, or necessity; but speaks of it expressly as a grant from the Almighty; a grant bestowed for the most wise, benevolent, and momentous purposes. Practical atheism is at all times too common, even among many who profess and call themselves Christians. How few, comparatively, are accustomed, like Job, constantly to refer their being to God; with a deep impression of what they owe to Him; with a practical conviction that they are not their own; and with a due sense of their obligation to live to His glory. Yet it is certain that an habitual feeling of reverence towards God as our Creator, though not the whole of religion, is a necessary and indispensable part of it. The Gospel of Christ, in pointing out to us other truths, essential to be known by us as fallen and guilty creatures, does not overlook, but on the contrary uniformly takes for granted and displays this first natural and unalterable bond of union between the Creator and His creatures. The grant of life was the first benefit we were capable of enjoying, and it opened the way to all that followed.
2. But to the benefit of creation Job adds that of preservation. "Thy visitation hath preserved my spirit." The same Almighty hand that formed and animated the human frame, sustains it amidst the perils to which it is every moment exposed. We do not live by chance, any more than we were at first formed by chance. One moment's absence of that Divine visitation which preserves our spirit, would suffice to plunge us back — we know not whither; all our capacities for happiness, all our hopes for this world, and those brighter expectations which, as Christians, we cherish beyond the grave, would be utterly extinguished. This powerful and unceasing visitation of the Creator preserves all things in their appointed rank and order; and to it we are indebted for our continued capacity for partaking of the blessings to which our creation introduced us.
3. To sum up the whole, Job adds the mention of that Divine "favour" without which our creation and preservation had been but the commencement and prolongation of misery. How thickly, how interminably do His benefits cluster around us! By night and by day, in infancy and in manhood, in childhood and old age, in our personal and social relations, in our families and in the world, in sickness not less than in health, in adversity not less than in prosperity, He pours into our cup blessings infinitely beyond our deservings. And here opens before us the most wonderful of all proofs of His favour. Here beams upon us the stupendous revelation of the redemption that is in Christ. Here we behold why even the sinner, to whom, as a sinner, no Divine approbation can be exhibited, is yet spared and crowned with so many benefits, in order that he may turn to the God whom he had forsaken, seek the mercy which he had despised, and be won by the long-suffering which he had perhaps profanely made a motive for a continuance in his sins. Whether we consider the awful magnitude of our guilt, or the costly nature of the sacrifice made to atone for it, or the freeness and amplitude of the pardon bestowed upon us; we shall see that this was indeed the climax of Divine favour; to which our creation and preservation were but preparative; and the issue of which, to all who humbly avail themselves of it, will be an eternity of happiness in the world to come.
II. CONSIDER THE JUDICIAL RELATION IN WHICH HE DESCRIBES HIMSELF AS STANDING TOWARDS HIM AND HIS CONSCIOUS GUILT AND CONFUSION AT THE PROSPECT. We might have supposed that his expressive description of God's past mercies would have been succeeded by the warmest language of hope and confidence. And thus would it have been, had no obstacle interposed. The angels in heaven, in reviewing the benefits conferred upon them by their beneficent Creator, blend with their emotions of love and gratitude no symptoms of apprehension or alarm. They are not "full of confusion," while they survey the mercies of Him who "granted them existence and favour, and whose visitation preserves their spirit." The past manifestations of God's overflowing bounty are to them a pledge for the present; and the present for the future. But not so with man, when duly conscious of the ungrateful return which he has made for the bounties of his Almighty Benefactor. For every relationship involves certain duties; and most of all, the relationship of a creature to his Creator. The very bond of this relationship, on the side of man, was perfect love, confidence, and obedience. He had a law given him to obey, and he was bound by every tie to obey it. A creature, if guiltless, would not tremble for the consequences of his own conduct under such a law; but what are the actual circumstances of man? Job seems to exhibit them, in the text, under a threefold view. Supposing, first, a case which may be considered as the ordinary average of human character, "If I sin"; next, a case of peculiar atrocity, "If I be wicked"; thirdly, a case of unusual moral rectitude, "If I be righteous" — and in all these he shows the condition in which we stand before God.
1. "If I sin, Thou markest me and Thou wilt not acquit me from mine iniquity." No extraordinary degree of profligacy seems to be here supposed; nothing more is stated than what we all acknowledge to be applicable to ourselves; for who is he that sinneth not? Yet how stands our condition under this aspect? First we learn that God "marks us"; His omniscient eye is upon all our ways. "Thou wilt not acquit me." How fearful the condition of a creature thus exposed by his own sinful conduct to the just wrath of his Creator! Well might Job exclaim, "I am full of confusion." For who shall stand before God when He is displeased? Who shall stay His hand when it is stretched out to inflict punishment?
2. "If I be wicked, woe unto me." The degree of guilt marked by this expression seems to be more flagrant than that implied in the former. The conclusion in this case is therefore most clear; for if every sin is marked, if no iniquity is followed by acquittal, then woe indeed to the hardened, the deliberate transgressor!
3. "If I be righteous, yet will I not lift up my head." Job cannot here refer to perfect and unerring holiness of heart and conduct — for to such a degree of sanctity no human being can lay claim; if he could, he might justly lift up his head; but he doubtless speaks comparatively, taking man at his best estate; selecting the most moral, the most upright; then, in this most favourable case, showing the utter incompetence of man to stand justified in the sight of his Creator. So imperfect are our best actions, so mixed are our purest motives, that, far from challenging the rewards of merit, we must acknowledge ourselves, on an impartial survey, to deserve the punishment of our aggravated disobedience. At best we are unprofitable servants. "To us belongeth shame and confusion of face." The friends of Job thought that he wished to try this experiment; that he justified himself before God; but his affliction had taught him a lesson more suitable to his frail and fallen condition: so that, instead of lifting up his head, his language was, "Whom, though I were righteous, I would not answer; but I would make supplication to my Judge"; or, in the corresponding sentiment of the text, "See Thou mine affliction, for it increaseth."
III. CONSIDER HIS HUMBLE APPEAL TO GOD TO HAVE COMPASSION UPON HIM. He claims no merit; he proffers no gift. He had acknowledged God's mercies to him; and confessed his inability to stand before His justice. What, then, is his hope of escape? It is in substance the language of the publican, and of every true penitent in every age, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner." His affliction was increasing; nothing but despair lay before him; but in his extremity he applies, where none ever rightly applied in vain, to the infinite Source of mercy and compassion. "See Thou mine affliction." How excellent is the example which he here sets before us! In every exigency of life, or when weighed down with the burden of our sins before God, let us betake ourselves to Him who will compassionate our weakness, assuage our sorrows, and forgive our transgressions. Happy is it for us that He is not a God afar off, but is at all times, as it were, within reach of our humble petitions. Let us thus approach Him with the language of Job; with fervent acknowledgments of His goodness, and of our own ingratitude; of His infinite justice, and our own unrighteousness; with self-condemnation on the one hand, and a humble trust in His mercy in Christ Jesus on the other — and then will He look with pity upon our affliction, then will He pardon all our iniquities. For no sooner had Job practically acquired this just view of himself and of God; no sooner had he said, "I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth Thee: wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes"; than it is added, "The Lord turned the captivity of Job." And thus will He continue to be gracious to every sincere penitent, through the infinite merits of His beloved Son.
I. It is by the visitation of the Lord that OUR NATURAL LIVES AND TEMPORAL BLESSINGS ARE PRESERVED TO US. The continuance of all things is of God, to whom belong the issues from death. By His providence our various circumstances are appointed to us.
II. To the visitation of God WE OWE ALL OUR SPIRITUAL LIFE. By the Holy Spirit the immortal soul is enlightened, regenerated, and preserved unto the heavenly kingdom. These gracious visitations act upon our inner nature in various ways, and through a diversified instrumentality. Afflictions, means of grace, are Divine visitations. God's judgments and mercies are efficient only as He by His Spirit and blessing shall make them so.
III. THE USE TO MAKE OF THIS DOCTRINE.
1. It is a doctrine full of godly consolation and encouragement. Our salvation does not depend on our own unaided powers.
2. The subject has a dark as well as a bright side. It is of alarming import to the careless. If He withdraw His grace, what will become of their resolutions? Be it yours then to "know the day of visitation."
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. Well, I think that we ought to thank God that we have lived at all. I know the pessimist version of the psalm of life is that, "'Tis something better not to be." Perhaps it would have been something better if that gentleman had not been, better, I should think, for his wife and family if they had not had to live with such a miserable creature. But the most of us thank God for our being, as well as for our well-being. We count it something not to be stones, or plants, or "dumb, driven cattle." We are thankful to be intelligent beings, with powers of thought, and capable of mental and spiritual enjoyment.
2. But we also thank God that we have lived on in spite of many perils.
3. I am addressing some from whom our text asks for gratitude because they are alive notwithstanding constitutional weakness. Perhaps from a child you were always feeble.
4. Now think of the sin which might have provoked God to make an end of such a guilty life. "Thou hast granted me life." But if we can say this in a higher sense, "Thou hast granted me life," spiritual life, how much greater should our gratitude be! I could not even feel the guilt of sin, I was so dead; but Thou hast granted me life to repent.
II. The second blessing of this heavenly charter is DIVINE FAVOUR: "Thou hast granted me life and favour." Have you ever thought of the many favours that God has bestowed upon you, even upon some of you who as yet have never tasted of His grace?
1. What a favour it is to many to be sound in body!
2. I cannot help reminding you here of the great favour of God in the matter of soundness of mind.
3. I speak to many here to whom God has also given a comfortable lot in life.
4. Some here, too, some few, at any rate, have been favoured with much prosperity.
5. And I may say tonight that, in this congregation, God has given you the favour of hearing the Gospel; no mean favour, let me remind you.
6. Still, putting all these things together, they do not come up to this last point, that many of us have received the favours of saving grace: "Thou hast granted me life and favour."
III. The last blessing of the charter, upon which I shall be a little longer, is DIVINE VISITATION: "Thy visitation hath preserved my spirit." Does God ever come to man? Does He not? Yes; but it is a great wonder: "What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? And the son of man that Thou visitest him?"
1. He visited you, first, with an arousement and conviction of sin.
2. After that first experience, there came visitations of enlightenment and conversion.
3. Perhaps since then you have had visitations of another kind. You have had chastisement, or you have had affliction in the house. God's visitations are sometimes very unwelcome.
4. But then, we hate had other visitations, visitations of revival and restoration. Do you not sometimes get very dull and dead?
5. The best of all is, when the Lord visits us, and never goes away; but stays with us always, so that we walk in the light of His countenance, and go from strength to strength, singing always, "Thy visitation never ended, daily continued, preserves my spirit."
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
II. A SOLACE FOR DARK NIGHTS: "And these things hast Thou hid in Thine heart: I know that this is with Thee." There is another interpretation of this verse, quite different from the one that I am going to give you, but I do not think that Job ever could have meant what some people think he did. I believe that, when he said, "These things" — that is, life, favour, and God's gracious visitation, — "These things hast Thou hid in Thine heart: I know that this is with Thee," that he meant, first, that God remembers what He has done, and will not lose His pains. "'Thou hast granted me life and favour'; Lord, Thou hast not forgotten that; Thou hast hidden that in Thine heart, Thou rememberest it well. Since Thou hast done this for me, and Thou dost remember that Thou hast done it, therefore Thou wilt continue Thy mercy to me, and not lose all the grace and goodness which Thou hast already bestowed upon me." Even if you have forgotten all that God has done for you, God has not forgotten it. Many children forget all the kindness and love of their mother, but the mother remembers all that she did for her children in the days of their helplessness, and she loves them all the more because of what she did for them. "Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end." But, next, I think that the words, "And these things hast Thou hid in Thine heart: I know that this is with Thee," have this meaning, that God sometimes hides His favour and love in His heart, yet they are there still. At times, it may be that you get no glimpse of His face, or that you see no smile upon it. The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; therefore, O tried child of God, learn what Job here teaches us, that these things are still hidden in the heart of God, and that eternal love holdeth fast to the objects of its choice. "I know that this is with Thee," said Job, so the last thing I want you to learn from his words is that God would have His people strong in faith to know this truth. Job says, "I know that this is with Thee." I speak to many persons who say that they are Christians, and who perhaps are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, and one of their clearest evidences is that they are very happy. True religion makes people happy, it is a perennial fountain of delight. But do not set too much store by your emotions of delight, because they may be taken from you, and then where will your evidences be? God's people sometimes walk in darkness, and see no light. There are times when the best and brightest of saints have no joy. If your religion should not, for a time, yield you any joy, cling to it all the same. You see, God does not give you faith in order that you may merely run about in the meadows with it all among the fair spring flowers. I will tell you for what purpose He gives you faith; it is that you may put on your snow shoes, and go out in the cold wintry blasts and glide along over the ice and the snow. Only have faith in Him, and say, "My God, Thy will towards me to give me life, and favour, and preservation, may be hidden, but it is still in Thine heart, 'I know that this is with Thee.'" Now I must leave these things with you. You who know and love the Lord will seek a renewal of His visitations tonight; and as for you who do not know Him, oh, how I wish that you did!
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
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