For when only a few years are past I will go the way of no return.
I. OUR GREATEST NEED IS TO BE RIGHT WITH GOD. What is the use of the flattery of man if God, the one supreme Judge with whom we have to do, condemns us? But, then, where is the mischief of man's censure when our Judge acquits us? Far too much is made of the opinion of the world, and far too little of the verdict of Heaven. We need to rise above the little hopes and tears of human favour to the great thought of God's approval. When we think first of that, all else becomes insignificant. The reasons for doing so should be overwhelming.
1. God knows all.
2. He is Almighty - able to bless us or to east us off.
3. He is our Father. And it is better for the child to stand well with his parent than with all the world.
II. WE HAVE TO OWN THAT WE ARE NOT RIGHT WITH GOD.
1. This is apparent in the experience of life. Job felt there was something wrong between him and God, though the foolish error of his friends had confused his mind, so that he could not see where the wrong lay. The dark shadows that creep between us and God, and hide from us the joy of heaven, are felt in experience. They certainly bear witness to some condition of error or evil.
2. This is also confirmed by the testimony of conscience. A voice within interprets the dark scene without. We learn from Job's distresses that calamities are not necessarily indicative of sin. But we must all own that nothing puts us so wrong with God as our own misconduct.
III. WE NEED AN ADVOCATE TO SET US RIGHT WITH GOD. We cannot represent our own case aright, for we do not understand ourselves, and our "hearts are deceitful above all things." We certainly do not know the mind and will of God. How, then, can we find our way back to him? A trackless desert lies between, and the night is dark and stormy. Even if we were before him we could not answer him "one of a thousand." Thus there is a general feeling among men that some mediator, intercessor, advocate, priest, is required.
IV. GOD IN CHRIST IS THE ADVOCATE WITH GOD THE FATHER. Job could not see as far as this; but he saw the essential truth, i.e. that God must provide the way of reconciliation. Only God can plead with God for man. Therefore we flee" from God to God." We escape from the lower experiences of the Divine in life which strike us as harsh, and even as unjust, to the higher vision of God which reveals him as all truth and goodness. We call upon God in his love to reconcile us with himself. This, the New Testament teaches, he does in Christ, who is the Revelation of God's love. "We have an Advocate with the Father," etc. (1 John 2:1). We want no human priest to plead our cause, for we have a great High Priest who "ever liveth to make intercession for us." When we truly pray in Christ's Name we have a right to trust that he will plead for us. By all the merits of his cross and Passion his pleading is mighty to prevail for the sinner's salvation. - W.F.A.
When a few years are come, then I shall go the way whence I shall not return.
I. IN WHAT RESPECTS WE CAN HAVE BUT FEW YEARS TO COME.
1. In comparison of the many years to which man's life did, at one time, extend.
2. In comparison of the years of the world that are past.
3. In comparison of the great work which we have to do, namely, our salvation and generation work.
4. In comparison of eternity.
II. WHY IS THE COMING, AND NOT THE GOING, OF THE FEW YEARS MENTIONED?
1. Because, that by the time they are fully come in, they are gone out.
2. Because that year will at length begin to come which we will never see the going out of.
III. WHEN THE FEW YEARS HAVE SENT US OFF, THERE IS NO RETURNING.
1. Men cannot come back (ver. 14).
2. God will not bring them back. Improvement —(1) That men seriously weigh with themselves that they are now a great step nearer another world than they were.(2) That they take a humbling back-look of their way, and consider the many wrong steps which they have taken in their past years.(3) That they renew the acceptance of the covenant, and lay down measures for their safety in another world.(4) Eternity is a business of great weight. The happiness of the other world is too great for us to be indifferent about it, and to be cheated out of it by Satan and our vain hearts.
(T. Boston, D. D.)
I. THE SHORTNESS AND FRAILTY OF HUMAN LIFE. "When a few years are come." Almost every image that could be thought of to denote transitoriness, fleetness, brief duration, sudden change, will be found in Scripture as an emblem of human life. Our days are represented as passing from us just as an eagle hasteneth to her prey, as the swift post flies on his errand, as the ships of Ebeh cleave a path through the waters, as the weaver's shuttle darts through the web, as the rolling clouds move in the air. Or again, our life is a flower clothed in glory for a day — a shepherd's tent, which on the morrow will be removed to some other place — a vapour, curling up for a moment into some beautiful shape, and then dissolving into nothingness — a shadow, flinging its bold outline across our path, and in an instant departing to leave no trace behind. But let us consider some of the senses in which this expression, a few years, may be taken. Thus it may be taken in a contingent sense with a sad reference to life's uncertainty, to the consciousness which should be present to all of us, that the invisible guiding hand which struck down our friend during the past year may be led to lay us low the next. In this view the word "few" may be taken in its most severe and absolute sense. It may mean three years, or two years, or even one, but it behoves the youngest, and the strongest, and most full of hope amongst us, to speak as Job spake. Every day throws fresh confusion into our calculated probabilities of life's duration. Death seems to be always finding some new door which we had left out of our account, and which we had not provided against; it seemed to be too remote a contingency to be numbered among human likelihoods. But commonly, the word "few" is used in some comparative sense. The labourers in the field of the Gospel are said to be few compared with the plenteousness of the harvest; they who find the way of life are said to be few compared with those by whom the way is missed; and so, in the text, the years of our life are said to he few, compared with the many things which have to be done therein, in order to fit us for a condition of immortality. The comparison comes natural to us. In all great works to be done, we almost intuitively consider as an element of the difficulty the question of time. The surprise of the Jews when they supposed our Lord to say that He would rebuild their temple after it was destroyed, was not that He should rebuild it, but that what it had cost forty-and-six years to accomplish, He should be able to do in three days. Well, the building up of the spiritual temple does not always require forty-and-six years, though it may require threescore years and ten. But whatever the unknown limit be, the years always seem to be getting shorter as that limit is approached; or as the work to be done in it remains in an unfinished state. The fact, as you perceive, cries aloud against the folly of all delayed repentances. To subdue the power of sin, to get disengaged from the ties of the world, to change the bias of an evil heart, and acquire a relish and taste for holiness, to become skilled in those higher acquisitions of the saintly life — how to wait, how to hope, how to be silent, how to sit still — oh, we want a long life for this! Grace may dispense with it sometimes, and does; as when our young righteous are taken away from the evil to come; and then the green blade is as fit for the garner as the shock of corn in its season. But in all cases where longer time is granted, longer time is required; and then, if a portion of these years be wasted, what arrearages of work are thrown forward to the remainder; and thus we fail to make any advance. We have everything to unlearn and undo. But again, I think the time that remains to us is described by the phrase "few years," because howsoever many they be, they will appear few when they are past. For the truth of this, I may appeal with confidence to the experience of the aged. You may have many years to live, but they will not appear many when you have lived them out. What the text seems to suggest is, that the duration of the future should be measured by the mind's estimate of the duration of the past. Assume, for example, that you have ten more years to live; to know whether this is a long time or a short time, measure it by what appears to you now the length of the last ten years. Something important and noticeable occurred about that time; realise the fact, that after a corresponding lapse for the future you will be no more seen. Such a method of measuring your length of days from the other end of the line cannot fail to leave upon the heart a salutary impression of the shortness of life. Wherefore, let us all calculate our length of clays according to Job's life table; let us reckon our years backwards, that is, not by what they are in prospect, but what they will seem in review. I note one other thought, which could hardly have been out of the patriarch's mind, when he spoke of his remaining years as few, namely, that they must be few — incomparable, and beyond all arithmetical reduction few — when compared with the life which was to succeed. This should be always an element in the Christian's computation of time. We shall never get at the true length of our years without it. If the apostle Paul, when writing to the Corinthians, had taken for his guidance any of our human calendars he would have said, "That light affliction which has been upon me for nearly thirty years"; but instead of this he recollects that time is not to be estimated by this standard at all. Length of service must be compared with length of reward — increase the one and you diminish the other, and this without limit; so that if the duration of the succeeding recompense become infinitely great, the duration of the service becomes inappreciably small. Who cares to be king for a day? Who for one morsel of meat would become another's servant for the rest of his life? Or, on the other hand, who would not endure sorrow for a night to he assured that he should enter upon a life of endless joy on the morrow? "Whence I shall not return."
II. THE IRREVERSIBLE ISSUES OF DEATH.
1. Here we should note the moral scope of the expression. Job is not to be understood as if he would exclude the possibility of his return to earth bodily to visit his friends, and renew his employments, to tell life's tale a second time — his design is manifestly to indicate the fixedness of his spiritual state when these few years of life shall have run out. His meaning is, I shall go to the place whence I shall not return for any of the available purposes of salvation, for repentance, for prayer, for making reconciliation. It is a place where all is determined, unalterable, final; where as each tree falls, so it lies; where he that is unjust is unjust still; where he that is holy will be holy still. He had used similar language in the 7th chapter. "As the cloud is consumed and vanisheth away; so he that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more." To which we may not unfittingly add that exhortation of the wise man, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest."
2. And now let me gather up some of the lessons of our subject. I speak to many who must take up the words of our text in their most literal sense. "When a few years are come, I shall go the way whence I shall not return." Your years to come must be few, because your years past have been many. Well, what have you been doing with those many? And your work, how stands it? Has your life been all wasted, all unprofitable, all of the earth, earthy? Have you made nothing of your day of grace and visitation? And yet your sun is going down. As thus — it should teach us to get our hearts fixed upon the true rest, while our few years are continued, and be gradually preparing for our final rest when these years are gone. Let our souls be staid on the right rest now. We know where it is, what it is, who it is says, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest"; rest from the buffetings of a changeful world, rest from the tossings of an anxious heart, rest from the accusations of an upbraiding conscience, rest from the suggestions of a desponding and fearful mind. Get skilled in the art of dying daily, of anticipating the summons to an eternal world.
(D. Moore, M. A.)
1. The actual span of life. Seventy years, and infantile tenderness is transformed into decrepitude, — the infant at its mother's breast becomes the man of hoary hairs, tottering beneath the pressure of infirmities, and sinking fast into the cold and silent grave.
2. The millions who die young. It is said that by far the greater number of human beings die in infancy. And how many die in youth!
3. The momentous objects to which we have to attend in this life. We came not into this world just to exist, or just to spend a mere animal life; we came to prepare for eternity, for our final and irrevocable destinations beyond these narrow confines. Here we have to repent, to seek an interest in Christ, to love, to serve, to glorify our Creator, to labour in His cause, to cultivate our faculties, to discipline our hearts, prior to our entrance upon a deathless state of existence beyond the tomb. All this to do, and yet so short a time for its accomplishment.
4. The momentous interruptions which we experience in our attention to these essential duties. What cares fill up this little life of ours! what sorrows, what temptations, what losses and crosses, to call off our attention from our grand concerns!
5. The uniform testimony of Scripture respecting it.
6. Its contrast with that dread eternity to which we haste. Our life beyond this present scene will be commensurate, in its duration, with the life of God, eternal as the throne on which He sits and sways the universe.
II. IMPROVE THIS FACT.
1. By meditating on the brevity of life; using whatever can aid you to impress your minds deeply with this solemn fact.
2. Take care not to waste life.
3. Improve life. "Seize the fleeting moments as they pass."
4. Ever keep in view the uncertainty of life.
5. Remember that these few years of your existence will soon be past.
6. Remember that there will be no return to this present world. Let us live while we live. Let us all keep the end of our journey in view. Let us learn to die daily. Let us seek an interest in the grace, and blood, and righteousness, and intercession of the blessed Redeemer.
Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.I. CONSIDER THE MOMENTOUS JOURNEY WHICH IS HERE ANTICIPATED. Under the figure of a journey, Job directs our attention to that important period, when the immortal spirit must quit terrestrial things, and our perishing bodies be consigned to the silent grave. This journey may be considered —
1. Solemn in its nature. There is an indescribable solemnity in death, even to the man who is best prepared for the event. The path is unexplored; at least, the experience of those who have gone is of very little benefit to survivors: to know what it is to die, we must enter the darksome vale. The journey is of a solitary description; we must perform it lonely and unattended; the tenderness of affection, and the pomp of equipage, are of very little avail in the hour of mortality.
2. Indisputable in its certainty.
3. Unknown in its commencement. The moment when we shall be called to begin this momentous journey is wisely hid from our view. Our passage to the tomb may be by slowly rolling years of gnawing pain; or by a sudden stroke we may be launched into eternity.
4. Important in its consequences. The hour of death terminates all possibility of spiritual improvement.
II. DESCRIBE THE EFFECT WHICH THIS ANTICIPATION OUGHT TO PRODUCE. The anticipation of a journey, so momentous in its nature and consequences, ought —
1. To elicit serious examination respecting our state of preparation. Man by nature is not prepared for this important event.
2. To excite just fear in those who are unprepared.
3. To stimulate the righteous to constant watchfulness.
4. It furnishes a source of consolation to the afflicted Christian. He looks forward with solemn delight to that period when he shall be called from this state of suffering and pain to the blissful regions of immortality. He considers the hour of dissolution as the time of his introduction to angelical society, heavenly employment, a fulness of felicity, the unveiled glories of his Redeemer, — and the whole eternal in duration.
(Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)I. Let us REALISE OUR INEVITABLE JOURNEY. I shall go the way whence I shall not return. Let us apply it each one to himself. The fact that all men are mortal has little power over our minds, for we always make a tacit exception and put off the evil day for ourselves. How the individuality of a man comes out in his dying hour! What an important being he becomes! Differences on the dying bed arise out of character and not out of rank. In death the financial element looks contemptible, and the moral and the spiritual come to be most esteemed. How did he live? What were his thoughts? What was his heart towards God? Did he repent of sin? The individuality of the man is clear, and the man's character before God, and now it is also evident that death tests all things. If you look upon this poor dying man, you see that he is past the time for pretences and shams.
II. Now, let us CONTEMPLATE ITS MEANING. Very soon we shall have to start upon our solemn and mysterious pilgrimage. Hence, if there is anything grievous to be borne, we may well bear it cheerfully, for it cannot last long. When a few years are come we shall be gone from the thorn and the briar which now prick and wound. Hence, too, if there is any work to be done for Jesus let us do it at once, or else we shall never do it, for when a few years are come we shall have gone whence we shall not return.
III. NOW, CONSIDER THE FACT THAT WE SHALL NOT RETURN — "When a few years are come, then I shall go the way whence I shall not return." To the occupations of life — to sow and reap, and mow; to the abodes of life — to the stoic and to the country house; to the pleasures of life. To the engagements of the sanctuary, the communion table, the pulpit, or the pew, we shall not return. We need not wish to return. What is there here that should either tempt us to stay in this world or induce us to return to it if we could? Still, I could suppose in a future state some reasons for wishing to return. I can suppose we might have it in our hearts, for instance, to wish to undo the mischief which we did in life. You cannot come back to carry out those good resolutions, which as yet are as unripe fruit. Neither can we come back to rectify any mistake we have made in our life work, nor even return to look after it, in order to preserve that which was good in it.
IV. And now let us ENQUIRE WHITHER WE SHALL GO? In some respects it happeneth alike to all, for all go upon the long journey. All go to the grave, which is the place of all living. Then, we shall all go forward in our journey towards resurrection.
( C. H. Spurgeon.).
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