Will God hear his cry when distress comes upon him?
What is the hope of the hypocrite? It is an appeal that can receive no satisfying answer. There is no hope for him, indeed; whatever he may imagine it to be, it is as a bubble that floats on the water for a short time, then bursts, and no trace is left of it. His confidence is placed on an unsafe foundation; he may build his expectations upon it, but the inevitable flood of time will wash it away. It is a vain, groundless, lost, disappointed hope. Job directs his inquiry into one channel - What is the hypocrite's hope as towards God? The earthly hopes of the hypocrite are not safe, though for a time he may prosper. But his hopes towards God are vain indeed. The hypocrite is estranged from God.
I. HE HAS NO HOPE IN GOD IN DEATH. When the righteous man filleth his bosom with sheaves, the hope of the wicked is found to be cut off. Beyond the grave all is darkness.
II. HE CANNOT TURN TO GOD IN TIME OF TROUBLE. When affliction falls upon the humble and righteous one, he whom he has sought to know and obey proves to be a reality to him. But the hypocrite has made God to be a sham. He has not known or obeyed him, or acted towards him as though he were a reality. To him, indeed, there is no God. How can he call on him in trouble whom he has denied in health?
III. HE CANNOT FIND IN GOD A SPRING OF JOY. He cannot delight himself in him whom he has represented to himself as an unreality. God has not been really G-d in the estimate of the hypocrite. The man who is himself conscious of being false makes all false around him. He does not live in a real but a deceitful world. He has deceived himself in respect of it.
IV. HE CANNOT CALL UPON GOD IN PRAYER. Thus the hope of the hypocrite perishes. It is vain. In the exigencies of life, when he most needs help, the false foundation which he has laid for himself fails him. The man who acts falsely towards God really acts falsely towards himself, and turns the most substantial grounds of hope into airy nothingness. - R.G.
i.e., every insincere and inconsistent professor — all who are not in practice what they are in profession. The emphasis in text place on the second question, "Will he always call upon God?" It is implied that he will sometimes; it is denied that he will always. So perseverance in prayer, the persisting in prayer under all variety of circumstances, is given as a test by which to try the sincerity, the reality of religion. The man whose religion is of the heart, prays always; any other, who has but the outside of religion, will pray, but not always, only on some contingency. There is an instinct in our nature which prompts man to prayer, even if you keep out of sight the tendencies derived from a Christian education. We may ask whether the mere formal prayers of those whose religion is a name, should be called prayers at all; for, unless the heart go along with the lip, there is undoubtedly nothing of acceptable petition. There must be true religion, the religion of the heart, religion ingrained in the inner man, before there can be the true calling upon God always. All prayer supposes a sense of wants to be supplied, and a consciousness that the supply must come from God. There may be a praying by fits and starts. Under particular circumstances, all men feel wants. There is not a habit of prayer, except as there is a constant sense of wants, requiring a constant supply. There is a close connection between the two parts of the text. It is because he does not "delight himself in the Almighty," that the hypocrite or the formalist will not "always call upon God." There is here a very broad and a very important difference between the real and the nominal Christian. With the gift, the nominal Christian is satisfied. Nothing can satisfy the real and sincere Christian but God Himself.
Will God hear his cry when trouble cometh upon him?
The Thinker.I. HE HAS NO REFUGE IN TROUBLE. When "trouble cometh upon him" he cannot cry unto God with any hope of being heard and answered (ver. 9). What shall we think of the man who, in the ordering of his life, does not take trouble into his account? He is like the captain who sets sail upon the sea without readiness for a storm, or the general who goes out into the open unprepared to meet the enemy. To be unprovided for it is to be cruelly negligent of one of our greatest needs. But what refuge has the godless man in trouble? Can he hide himself in God as in a sure rock? To the godly man the nearness (Psalm 23:4), the sympathy (Psalm 31:7; Psalm 103:13, 14; Heb. v. 15), and the delivering grace of God (Psalm 91:15; Psalm 138:7) are of priceless value. But the godless man only remembers God to be troubled by the thought that, having forsaken Him in prosperity, he cannot claim His succour on the dark day of adversity. Yet is there here one qualifying truth. It may be that trouble brings the unholy man to God in penitence, to Jesus Christ in faith and self-surrender. Then he may cry, and he will most surely be heard; but then he is a "godless" man no longer.
II. HE HAS NO HOPE IN DEATH. What is his hope "when God taketh away his soul"? As there is uncertainty as to the measure and the character of our trouble, so is there also as to the time of our death. But there is no uncertainty as to the fact of its coming.
III. HE HAS NO JOY IN GOD. "Will he delight himself in the Almighty?" Job evidently thinks that the true man might and should do that. It is an advanced and elevated thought. To delight in God — not merely to look for favours from Him, but to find our heritage in Him, in all that He is in Himself and in all that He is to us; in —(1) Our sense of His near presence with us; in(2) Our realisation of His close relationship to us as our Divine Father; in(3) Our keen appreciation of His watchful care of us, and of His acceptance of our every act of obedience and submission; in(4) Our joy in the fellowship we have with Him in His glorious work of redeeming love. Of course the godless man misses this mark entirely. He has no conception of it, much less any participation in it.
IV. HE LIVES WITHOUT THE PRIVILEGE OF PRAYER. Will the godless man "call upon God at all times"? The value of prayer is two fold.
1. It is a constant source of blessing to our heart and life. To live in daily, even hourly communion with God must be a spiritual condition charged with highest good, must exert an elevating and purifying influence upon us of the finest order and of the greatest strength.
2. It is our one resource in special need. How great is the destitution of that man's spirit, who, when his heart is breaking, cannot go unto Him who binds up the broken heart, and heals the wounded spirit! In the face of all these privations, what a poor thing is "the gain" of the godless.
Will he always call upon God?
I. WILL HE PRAY AT ALL SEASONS OF PRAYER? Will he pray in private? Or is he dependent upon the human eye, and the applause of men? Will he pray if forbidden? Daniel did so. Will he? Will he pray in business? Will he practise ejaculatory prayer? Will he look for hourly guidance? Will he pray in pleasure? Will he have a holy fear of offending with his tongue? Or will company make him forget his God? Will he pray in darkness of soul? Or will he sulk in silence?
II. WILL HE PRAY CONSTANTLY? If he exercises the occasional act of prayer, will he possess the spirit of prayer which never ceases to plead with the Lord? We ought to be continually in prayer, because we are always dependent for life, both temporal and spiritual, upon God. Always needing something, nay, a thousand things. Always receiving, and therefore always needing, fresh grace wherewith to use the blessing worthily. Always in danger. Seen or unseen danger is always near, and none but God can cover our head. Always weak, inclined to evil, apt to catch every infection of soul sickness, "ready to perish" (Isaiah 27:13). Always needing strength, for suffering, learning, song, or service. Always sinning. Even in our holy things sin defiles us, and we need constant washing. Always weighted with other men's needs. Especially if rulers, pastors, teachers, parents. Always having the cause of God near our heart if we are right; and in its interests finding crowds of reasons for prayer.
III. WILL HE PRAY IMPORTUNATELY? If no answer comes, will he persevere? If a rough answer comes, will he plead on? Does he know how to wrestle with the angel, and give tug for tug? If no one else prays, will he be singular, and pray on against wind and tide? If God answers him by disappointment and defeat, will he feel that delays are not denials, and still pray?
IV. WILL HE CONTINUE TO PRAY THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE OF LIFE? The hypocrite will soon give up prayer under certain circumstances. If he is in trouble, he will not pray, but will run to human helpers. If he gets out of trouble, he will not pray, but quite forget his vows. If men laugh at him, he will not dare to pray. If men smile on him, he will not care to pray.
1. He grows formal He is half asleep, not watchful for the answer. He falls into a dead routine of forms and words.
2. He grows weary. He can make a spurt, but he cannot keep it up. Short prayers are sweet to him.
3. He grows secure. Things go well, and he sees no need of prayer; or he is too holy to pray.
4. He grows infidel, and fancies it is all useless, dreams that prayer is not philosophical.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
(Henry Melvill, B. D.)
1. It is supposed that such a person may for a time observe the practice of prayer. Prayer, on certain occasions, appears to be almost all instinct of nature. But if prayer is the voice of nature in the hour of extremity, still more may it be expected from those who live under the light of revelation. As prayer is merely an instrumental duty, it may be more or less spiritual and earnest.
2. The chief want of the hypocrite is the want of constancy and perseverance in this sacred exercise. Consider why those who are unconverted in heart are thus essentially defective.(1) They want the Spirit of God, "which is the Spirit of grace and supplications."(2) The hypocrite does not delight in God. Those in whom we take delight we frequently approach; those in whose converse we find no pleasure, we avoid.(3) Hypocrites do not feel their wants. The poor in spirit, who feel their spiritual wants, are the true disciples of Christ.(4) Hypocrites neglect prayer because they cannot reconcile its exercise with the practice of sin. Sin repented is an urgent incentive to prayer; but sin indulged is the quenching of the spirit of prayer.(5) The prayers of the hypocrite tend to their own extinction. In such prayers there is no principle of vitality. Such a person merely wants to gain a smooth opinion of his state, a false peace. The hypocrite would have his wound healed slightly.
(R. Hall, M. A.)
The Evangelist.I. A MELANCHOLY FACT EXPRESSED. That the hypocrite will not always, that is habitually, pray. He lives in the total neglect, if not of the external acts, yet certainly of the spirit of prayer. Desire impetuously moves in every channel but that which might lead him to heaven. Why?
1. Because his heart is not in the business of religion at all. Untouched, unsanctified, unrenewed.
2. Because he is experimentally a stranger to those views of the Divine character which render devotion a delight. "Will he delight in God?" Intimating that a man must delight in God, before he can habitually desire communion with Him.
3. Because the progressive influence of sin assumes a predominant and prevailing ascendency.
4. Because he is judicially resigned to hardness and impenitence of heart.
II. A SOLEMN WARNING, TACITLY PRESENTED.
1. Consider the danger and guilt of such a state. It is the symptom of something bad — omen of worse. It warrants most humiliating inferences as to our spiritual state. If we do not cry, we do not feel. Guard against the first symptoms. It inflicts a grievous loss; it is the forerunner of a heavy doom.
2. See how far the miseries of the ungodly extend. God will not answer their prayers in trial. "Because I called," etc. Even in prosperous hours there is no security. In the fulness of sufficiency — straits. He looked for much, but, etc.
3. See how long the doom of the ungodly lasts. Forever. God takes away the soul.
4. Anticipate the fearful disclosures of the last day.
5. Contrast with them the Christian's hope.
1. The incentives to sin are not always equally violent, so that there is often a season for reflection.
2. A feeling of fear is occasionally awakened, and prompts to outward acts of devotion.
3. The conscience is sometimes roused into a kind of paroxysm, after the commission of some great sin, etc.
4. A species of sentimentality is sometimes cultivated, which fills up the intervals between gross worldliness.
5. In revenge upon the world which has disappointed them, men sometimes, for a season, practise austerity.
6. At stated sacramental seasons men are often unusually devout.
7. Under the most just views of Divine truth, some for a while act, and then fall away.
8. Affliction. As the test and sample of such religious declension, we shall at present look only to the habit of prayer.The restraining of prayer is one of the first and surest indications of a departure from God. The restraining of prayer is one of the main causes of religious declension. But in the text, it is not spoken of as showing that the heart has backslidden from God, but that the individual is a hypocrite. The truth of this text may easily be made apparent. The hypocrite does not continue in prayer.
I. BECAUSE HE HAS NOT THE SPIRIT OF SUPPLICATIONS.
1. The Spirit produces intensity in prayer.
2. In like manner, and for like reasons, He causes perseverance in prayer.
3. He who has not the Spirit, shows neither intensity nor perseverance.
II. BECAUSE HE HAS NO ABIDING SENSE OF SPIRITUAL WANTS.
III. BECAUSE HE NEITHER UNDERSTANDS NOR VALUES THE BLESSINGS PROMISED IN CHRIST.
IV. BECAUSE BY IT HUMAN ESTEEM CANNOT BE ALWAYS OBTAINED.
1. The hypocrite is concerned about his standing among men (John 5:44).
2. Everything is trifling which affects it not.
3. Hence there is social, though often no secret prayer.
V. BECAUSE HE DOES NOT FIND TIME AND OPPORTUNITIES.
VI. BECAUSE GOD'S FELLOWSHIP IS NOT RELISHED.
1. The believer — God. The hypocrite — ordinances.
2. Ordinances disliked, because they suggest God.
(1) (2) (James Stewart.)
(2) (James Stewart.)