Therefore I am terrified in His presence; when I consider this, I fear Him.
I. THIS IS NATURAL IN GREAT DISTRESS. The soul is plunged into grief; like Jacob, the desponding sufferer exclaims, "All these things are against me" (Genesis 42:36). Then he comes to regard God as the Source of his misfortunes. God seems to be his Enemy, and any approach of God is regarded with apprehension, as bringing fresh trouble. We have to learn not to form our judgment of God in our darker moments. It is difficult to have any well-balanced opinion when we are plunged in deep distress. While the knife is in him it is possible that the patient may think the surgeon rough, cruel, even malignant. But he is not then in a fit state for forming an opinion.
II. THIS IS RIGHT IN THE GUILT OF SIN. The wonder is that people sin with so little reflection as to how God regards them, and that they are often quite ready to meet him without a thought of their great guilt. Thus it is said of a bad man's end, that "he died like a lamb"! As though his dull and senseless departure from this life were any guarantee of his spiritual state. But when conscience is roused, it shrinks from the searching gaze of God. Blind eyes may be turned to the sun, at which seeing eyes cannot glance without pain. It is not only that God can punish sin. There is a sense of shame in the thought that One so good and holy should ever see it. Then it is all a direct offence against him. When the sinner meets God, he encounters One whom he has grievously wronged. Lastly, as God is our Father, there is an especial ground of trouble in his rebellious children meeting him.
III. THIS MAY BE OVERCOME BY A BETTER ACQUAINTANCE WITH GOD. The fear should not be perpetual. Something is wrong, or it would not have arisen, and that which caused the fear can and ought to be removed. It is not well that any man should continue to live in a chill fear of God. In the New Testament God is so revealed that all terror of him may be dissipated.
1. As our Father. If we thought him hard and stern, we were unjust. Christ has revealed his true nature in his Fatherhood. Therefore the idea that God's presence is itself terrible comes from ignorance. Following the light of Christ, we discover that God is the home of our souls, and that no place is so safe, or so peaceful and happy, as where his presence is felt.
2. As our Redeemer. The just fear that arises from sin cannot be rightly expelled until the cause of it is removed. As God must be angry with sin, it would only be a dangerous deception that covered up and hid the thought of his wrath. But God himself has provided the best, the only right way of dispelling the fear of his presence by giving us a remedy for sin. Now, as it is he who sends the remedy, we have to know his intentions in order that we may no longer live in fear of him. The very fact that Christ was sent from heaven to save the world from sin shows how terrible the evil was; but it also shows how deep and strong the love of God must be - deeper than his wrath, outlasting his chastisements. - W.F.A.
When I consider, I am afraid of Him.
I. WITH RESPECT TO JOB'S APPREHENSION OF GOD'S DISPLEASURE AGAINST HIM. He declares his firm resolution never to let go his confidence in God, whatever became of him; but the presence which troubled him was the great appearance of God's displeasure.
1. What made Job so afraid of God when he considered, seeing he insists so much on his own integrity? Doth not this seem to lessen the comfort and satisfaction of a good conscience, when such an one as Job was afraid of God? We reply that mankind ought always to preserve a humble and awful apprehension of God in their minds. And that from the sense of the infinite distance between God and us. Moreover, the best of mankind have guilt enough upon them to make them apprehend God's displeasure under great afflictions. Job's friends insist much upon this, that God may see just cause to lay great punishments upon man, although they may not see it in themselves. But God may not be so displeased with such persons as lie under great afflictions, as they apprehend Him to be. This was the truth of Job's case. In the hardest condition good men can be cast into, they have more comfortable hopes towards God than other men can have. Two things supported Job under all his dismal apprehensions. The reflections of a good conscience in the discharge of his duties to God and man; and the expectation of a future recompense, either in this world or in another What apprehensions of God may we entertain in our minds, when even Job was "afraid of Him"? None ought to look upon God as so terrible, as to make them despair; and men ought to have different apprehensions of God, according to the nature and continuance of their sins.
II. WITH RESPECT TO JOB'S VINDICATION OF HIMSELF FROM THE UNJUST CHARGE OF HIS FRIENDS. As though he were a secret hypocrite, or a contemner of God and religion, under a fair outward shew of piety and devotion. Job declares the mighty value and esteem he had for the laws of God; and the fear of God in him came from the most weighty and serious consideration. Two things are implied —
1. That men's disesteem of religion doth arise from the want of consideration; from their looking on religion as a matter of mere interest and design, without any other foundation: and from the unaccountable folly and superstitious fears of mankind, which make them think more to be in it than really is. Although the principles of religion in general are reasonable enough in themselves, and the things we observe in the world do naturally lead men to own a deity, yet when they reflect on the strange folly and superstitious fear of mankind, they are apt still to suspect that men, being puzzled and confounded, have frighted themselves into the belief of invisible powers, and performing acts of worship and devotion to them. But this way of reasoning is just as if a man should argue that there is no such thing as true reason in mankind, because imagination is a wild, extravagant, unreasonable thing; or that we never see anything when we are awake, because in our dreams we fancy we see things which we do not. Application — The more men do consider, the more they will esteem religion, and apply themselves to the practice of it.Two things may be commended —
1. To consider impartially what is fit for men to do in religion.
2. To practise so much of religion as upon consideration will appear fitting to be done. God infinitely deserves from us all the service we can do Him. And we cannot serve ourselves better than by faithfully serving Him.
(E. Stillingfleet, D. D.)
1. What we know of God in His nature. We know how powerful a restraint is imposed on the most dissolute and profane, by the presence of an individual who will not countenance them in their impieties. So long as they are under observation they will not dare to yield to impious desires. There is nothing so overwhelming to the mind, when giving itself to the contemplation of a great first cause, as the omnipresence of God. It is not possible that the least item of my conduct may escape observation. The Legislator Himself is ever at my side. The more I reflect, the more awful God appears. To break the law in the sight of the Lawgiver; to brave the sentence in the face of the Judge; there is a hardihood in this which would seem to overpass the worst human presumption. It is not the mere feeling that God exercises a supervision over my actions, which will produce that dread of Him which Job asserts in our text. The moral character of God vastly aggravates that fear which is produced by His omnipresence. We suppose God just, and we suppose Him merciful, and it is in settling the relative claims of these properties that men fancy they find ground for expecting impunity at the last. However on a hasty glance, and forming my estimate of benevolence from the pliancy of human sympathies, I may think that the love of the Almighty will forbid the everlasting misery of His creatures, let me consider, and the dreamy expectation of a weak and womanish tenderness will give place to apprehension and dread. The theory that God is too loving to take vengeance will not bear being considered. The opinion that the purposes of a moral government may have been answered by the threatening, so as not to need the infliction, will not bear to be considered.
2. The connection between consideration and fear will be yet more evident, if the works of God engage our attention; His works in nature and in redemption. There is nothing which, when deeply pondered, is more calculated to excite fears of God than that marvellous interposition on our behalf which is the alone basis of legitimate hope. God in redemption shows Himself a holy God, and therefore do I fear Him.
(Henry Melvill, B. D.)
1. As to the ground and foundation of religion. That there is an essential difference between good and evil, man clearly discerns by the natural and necessary perception of his own mind and conscience. 'Tis not a man's particular timorousness of temper, nor tradition, nor speculation, that makes him see when he is oppressed or defrauded, that these actions are in their own nature unrighteous, and the person who is guilty of them worthy of punishment. Laws do not make virtue to be virtue and vice to be vice, but only enforce or discourage the practice of such things.
2. As religion and superstition differ entirely in their ground and foundation, so do they likewise in their effects. "By their fruits ye shall know them." Religion makes men inquisitive after truth, lovers of reason, meek, gentle, patient, willing to be informed. Superstition makes men blind and passionate, despisers of reason, careless in inquiring after truth, hasty, censorious, contentious, and impatient of instruction. Religion teaches men to be just, equitable, and charitable toward all men. Superstition puts men on undervaluing the eternal rules of morality.
(S. Clarke, D. D.)
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