I. OUTBURST OF INDIGNANT SCORN. (Vers. 1-3.) With bitter irony Job rebukes the assumption of these men to know better than himself concerning matters which belonged to the common stock of intelligence, and in which he was in no wise inferior to them. To claim superior knowledge over others is always offensive. To do so against a sick and broken man from the vantage-ground of health and prosperity is nothing less than a cruelty. And to make this pretension in matters of common tradition and acceptance, where all stand about on a level, is an insult to the sufferer's understanding.
II. INDIGNANT REMONSTRANCE AGAINST THE COURSE OF THE WORLD. (Vers. 4-6.)
1. Cruel inversions of life. Job, who in his just and innocent life, had hitherto stood in confidential relations with God, who had prayed and whose prayers had been heard, is now a butt for laughter and scorn. He calls now and God no longer hears (ver. 4).
2. The injustice of human opinion. (Ver. 5.) "Contempt belongs to misfortune, in the opinion of the secure." A true description of the opinion of the world. If "nothing succeeds like success; then nothing damns like failure in the common opinion of the unfeeling world. "It awaits those whose foot is slipping." As the herd of wolves turn upon the sick and fallen brute, so the thoughtless man tramples upon the man who is down. To those who are banded together by the tie of selfish pleasure only or convenience, the very sight of that which interferes for a moment with their content is hateful. How different the sanctified instincts of pity, compassion, and helpfulness which Christ has planted in his society, the Church! It is the mission of the Christian community to leaven with its principles the heartless mass of society. On the other hand, nothing succeeds like success; "restful dwellings" (ver. 6) and confident security are enjoyed by the wasters or desolators who by word and deed hold God in contempt, and think to make him bend to their purposes. The rude man of violence, who owns no law but that of the strong hand, thinks that where force is there is God, and all must bow to force as if to God. So he "taketh God in his hand;" he "imputes his power unto his god;" he sacrifices to his net, and burns incense unto his drag (Habakkuk 1:11, 16). His motto is like that of the impious warrior, "My right hand is god" (Virg., 'AEn. 10:773, "Dextra mihi deus"). - J.
But I have understanding as well as you.
Homilist.Now in these verses Job asserts his moral manhood, he rises from the pressure of his sufferings and the loads of sophistry and implied calumny which his friends had laid upon his spirit, speaks out with the heart of a true man. We have an illustration of independency of thought in religion, and this shall be our subject. A man though crushed in every respect, like Job, should not surrender this.
I. FROM THE CAPACITY OF THE SOUL.
1. Man has a capacity to form conceptions of the cardinal principles of religion. He can think of God, the soul, duty, moral obligation, Christ, immortality, etc.
2. Man has a capacity to realise the practical force of these conceptions. He can turn them into emotions to fire his soul; he can embody — them as principles in his life.
II. FROM THE DESPOTISM OF CORRUPT RELIGION. Corrupt religion, whether Pagan or Christian, Papal or Protestant, always seeks to crush this independency in the individual soul.
III. FROM THE NECESSARY MEANS OF PERSONAL RELIGION. Religion in the soul begins in individual thinking.
IV. FROM THE CONDITIONS OF MORAL USEFULNESS. Every man is bound to be spiritually useful, but he cannot be so without knowledge, and knowledge implies independent study and conviction.
V. FROM THE TEACHINGS OF THE BIBLE. The very existence of the Bible implies our power and obligation in this matter.
VI. FROM THE TRANSACTIONS OF THE JUDGMENT. In the great day of God men will have to give an account of their thoughts and words as well as deeds. Let us, therefore, have the spirit of Job, and when amongst bigots who seek to impose their views on us and override our judgment, let us say, "No doubt ye are the people, end wisdom shall die with you; but I have understanding as well as you."
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