Job 31:1
I have made a covenant with my eyes. How then could I gaze with desire at a virgin?
Sermons
Guard the SensesGurnall, WilliamJob 31:1-32
Methods of Moral LifeJoseph Parker, D. D.Job 31:1-32
Solemn Assurances of InnocenceE. Johnson Job 31:1-40
The Consciousness of IntegrityR. Green Job 31:1-40
Job can discover no connection between his present sufferings and those well-founded hopes of his former life to which he has been referring; but there remains the assumption of his guilt as an explanation. In his intense longing for redemption he is led, in conclusion, to affirm in the most solemn and sacred manner his innocence, invoking the sorest punishments upon himself if his words are untrue. Thus, in effect, he makes a final appeal to God as his Judge. In this solemn assurance of innocence, he begins with that which is the root and source of sin - evil lust; he then touches on the sins proceeding from it, and explains the rule of life and the disposition of heart which rendered him incapable of the commission of such sins.

I. LUST RESISTED: THE HEART GIVEN TO VIRTUE. (Vers. 1-4.)

1. He had governed the eye and restrained its lust. He had guarded that noble organ, which may be either the avenue of purest pleasures or the tempter to most shameful vice. He had prescribed to the eye its conduct and its law. The eye seems almost as much the receptacle and scat of our passions, appetites, and inclinations as the mind itself; at least it is the outward portal to introduce them to the mind within, or rather the common thoroughfare to let our affections pass in and out. Love, anger, pride, avarice, all visibly move in those little orbs (Addison). It is not enough to watch over the heart, the inner citadel of the man, but all its avenues - the eye, the ear, the hand, the foot - must be guarded against the approach of sin.

2. He had referred himself in this to the judgment and the all-seeing eye of God (compare Joseph, Genesis 39:9; and Psalm 139:2, sqq.). The thought of men's knowledge is often a more powerful deterrent from actual crime; it is the thought of God which alone can sanctify and keep in safety the heart. Job rises above the mere commandments of the Law. Law forbids the desire of others' goods (Exodus 20:17; Deuteronomy 5:21) - a negative virtue; Christ carries us directly to God, and bids us be pure in heart that we may behold him. To live consciously in the eye of God is to have a pure and right direction for our own.

II. FIRST PROTESTATION: EVIL DESIRES HAVE NOT BEEN YIELDED TO. (Vers. 5-8.) He did not "go about with falsehood," nor did his foot hasten to deceit. May God, he says, pausing, weigh him in a just balance, and, instead of being found wanting like Belshazzar (Daniel 5:27), may his integrity be known and proved! Among the Greeks, Themis, or Dike, held the scales symbolical of judgment; the Arabs speak of judgment as the "balance of works." Every man's work, every man's character, shall finally be tried, proved, made known; and many that are last shall be first, and the first last. His steps had not turned out of the right way, the way marked out and appointed by God; no stain of ill-gotten wealth had cleaved to his hands (Psalm 101:5; Deuteronomy 13:17). Another imprecation, ratifying his assurances of innocence: "Then let me sow, and let another eat" - let another enjoy the fruit of his ill-spent, dishonest toil (comp. Job 27:16, 17; Leviticus 26:16; Deuteronomy 28:33; Amos 5:11); and let his shoots - the plants of the earth which he has set - be rooted out!

III. His PURE AND RIGHT CONDUCT IN DOMESTIC LIFE. (Vers. 9-15.)

1. His chastity. (Vers. 9-12.) He had not been befooled into any gross sin against the marriage-tie. He expresses the utmost detestation of such sin. "It would be a crime, and a sin before the judges." It would be as a devouring fire, resting not in its course until it had brought the criminal to the pit of hell, and all his property had been rooted out (comp. Proverbs 6:27, et sqq.; Proverbs 7:26, 27; James 3:6).

2. His conduct towards his domestic slaves. He had not abused the rights of his menservants or maidservants. His relation to them was patriarchal, like that of Abraham to Eliezer of Damascus (Genesis 15:2; Genesis 24:2, et seq.). He felt that he and they, masters and slaves, were of one blood, the children of one Father, offspring of one Creator; how could he, were he guilty of sin against them, face the dread tribunal of God? "Have we not all one Father? Hath not one God created us?" (Malachi 2:10). Refer to St. Paul's exhortation to masters (Ephesians 6:9). The relations of masters and servants, employers and employed, have undergone vast changes since those ancient days. We all live under the equal protection of the laws of the land, and the general spirit of the law is to protect the weaker against the stronger, the poor against the encroachment of the rich. But in Christianity this relation receives a new meaning and sanctity by being brought under the great central relation in which we stand to Christ. And we have a beautiful example of the Christian treatment of the servant in St. Paul's Epistle to Philemon. To set our servants good examples, and to care for their moral and spiritual welfare, is the duty of a Christian master or mistress.

IV. HIS JUST AND COMPASSIONATE CONDUCT IN SOCIAL LIFE. (Vers. 16-23; comp. Job 29:12-17.) He did not refuse his interiors their wishes when it was in his power to gratify them; did not withhold what he had the ability to give, nor shut up his compassions towards his poor brother; did not leave the widow to languish in longing expectation of help. He had not eaten alone in solitary greed a rich repast, like Dives; he had shared his bread with the orphan. All his life long he had been a father to the fatherless, a support to the widow, thus seeking to follow and imitate the all-compassionate God; to reproduce his heavenly pity in a gentle life on earth Psalm 68:5) He had clothed the neglected and the poor, and earned their thanks and blessing. In his capacity as ruler and judge he had not lifted up his hand with the purpose of violence; he had not perverted his great influence in the gate, or place of justice, to do them wrong. Forced to self-defence, he sets the seal of a most solemn imprecation upon his testimony concerning the past. And, further, he again sets forth the deep religious ground on which all his conduct to his neighbours was built. It was the fear of God, which is the beginning of all piety, the root of all morality, the great deterrent from sin. It was' therefore, morally impossible for him to have committed the sins laid to his charge (ver. 28).. Here from the ancient patriarchal world shines out upon us a picture of those social virtues which are essentially the same in every age and every land. These are the primal duties which gleam aloft like stars, or adorn the earth like flowers. Our duties to our inferiors in wealth and status are an essential part of Christian piety. We are to do good when we can hope for nothing again. The poor cannot recompense us, but we shall be recompensed at the resurrection of the just (Luke 14:14; Matthew 25:36). Much converse with the weak and the lowly produces simplicity of heart, and chastens our feverish ambition to shine among our equals or superiors.

"Far other aims our hearts will learn to prize,
More bent to raise the wretched than to rise." Compare the whole picture of the village pastor in Goldsmith's ' Deserted Village.' The contemplation of these pictures, in the poet's description or in actual life, sweetens the heart, calms our thoughts; above all, we are thus led to dwell with still more delight on the sacred picture of him who went about doing good, the Divine Type of all compassion and condescension.

V. JOB'S INWARD LIFE: THE FINER CONSCIENTIOUSNESS. (Vers. 24-40.) He proceeds to mention several sins of a more depraved and base character, defending himself against the charge of complicity with them.

1. The lust of gold. (Vers. 24, 25.) He had not put his trust in riches. The deadliness of the sin of covetousness has been among the lessons of all moralists, sacred and profane. The "accursed hunger for gold," the "root of all evil;" "Thy money perish with thee;" "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee;" "Take heed, and beware of covetousness;" are sayings that occur to us all. This is really the most fruitful source of all the darker crimes and sins, because there is no passion so unsocial, so anti-social. Men lose their souls to save their pelf. "Covetousness is the alpha and omega of the devil's alphabet; the first vice in corrupt nature which moves, and the last which dies." It is an "immoderate desire and pursuit of even the lawful helps and supports of nature." "Holding fast all it can get in one hand, and reaching at all it can desire with the other." "It has enriched its thousands, and damned its ten thousands."

2. Idolatry and blind worship of power. (Ver. 26, et sec.) As he had kept his heart with all diligence in presence of the temptations of gold, so he had watched against the inducements of false religion. In presence of the glorious objects of nature, the worship of which so extensively prevailed in the East, and at one period probably over the whole world, he had refrained from throwing towards them the kiss which was the gesture of reverence. For his heart had been touched with true reverence for its alone worthy Object, the God who is a Spirit; and to have declined to these beggarly elements would have been a crime against conscience, a practical infidelity, a denial of the God above. If we have ever been taught and trained in a spiritual faith, we cannot lapse into mere formalism - a confusion of the external symbol with the living reality - without a denial of our spiritual conscience, a turning of the light within us into darkness. To bow before the mere power and beauty revealed in nature, ignoring God as the Author both of nature and of the moral law: or to make worship a mere sensuous enjoyment rather than a spiritual exercise; are subtle temptations of our time analogous to those of Job. Our view of Nature is only religious when we seek through her sensuous medium for the supersensuous, the moral, the Divine (compare Mozley's noble sermon on "Nature").

3. Hatred of enemies. (Ver. 29, et seq.) He had lived in the light of a most lofty morality. The general principle of ancient morality was, "Love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy," among both Jews and Gentiles. "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," was the maxim of the savage justice of the early times. Even the great Aristotle says, in his 'Ethics,' "They who are not enraged when they ought to be, seem to be weak creatures; to endure insults and neglect one's friends is the part of a slave" ('Eth. Nic.,' 4:5). "The first duty of justice," says Cicero, "is to injure no one, unless provoked by a wrong ('Off.,' 1:7). Let us contrast with this the gentle morality of Heaven. The Law of Moses ordained that if a man should meet his enemy's ass or his ox going astray, he should surely bring it back to him again (Exodus 23:4). Men were not to avenge, nor bear any grudge against others, but to love their neighbours as themselves (Leviticus 19:18). Especially do we find this doctrine preached in the Book of Proverbs, Say not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the Lord, and he will save thee" (Leviticus 20:22); "Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thy heart be glad when he stumbleth" (Leviticus 24:17); "If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink" (Leviticus 25:21). Job had not defiled his mouth with curses imprecating death upon his foes. Nor had his morality been negative merely, which is all that many seem able to conceive of one's duties to one's neighbours. He had been hospitable and generous (vers. 31, 32). The "people of his tent," the inmates of his dwelling, had never to complain of scant fare, of short commons, at his table. He did not leave the stranger to pass the night in the street, but opened his doors to the wanderer.

"No surly porter stood in guilty state,
To spurn imploring famine from the gate....
His house was known to all the vagrant train
He chid their wanderings, but relieved their pain." Compare the stories of Abraham's hospitality at Mature. Lot's at Sodom, of the old man at Giheah (Genesis 18. [Hebrews 13:2]; Judges 19:15, et seq.). Among peoples who led an unsettled, wandering life, hospitality necessarily became one of the foremost of duties to one's neighbour; and there are many Arab popular anecdotes of Divine punishment of the inhospitable. Wetstein says that while exploring the lake Ram, the fountain of the Jordan, the Bedouins asked him if he had not heard of the origin of the lake; and related that many centuries ago a flourishing village once stood there. One evening a poor traveller came while the men were sitting together in the open place of the village, and begged for a supper and lodging. They refused; and when he said he was starving, an old woman reached out to him a clod of earth, and drove him from the village. The man went to the village of Nimra hard by, where he was taken in. The next morning a lake was found where the neighbouring village had stood. The conditions of modern life are different. The place of hospitality in the scale of social duties is changed. But for all who have enough and to spare of this world's goods, there remains open a wide field of Christian beneficence and of refined culture in the practice of a sincere and discriminating hospitality. The model lesson on this subject is in Luke 14. It is a deep lesson that no man is poorer for all the expense of love. It is the habit of needless hoarding that empties the heart. When the affections are centred on the granary, or the counting-house, or the bank, or the fields, the man's wealth is imaginary, not real. Real wealth lies in the power of self-sufficiency for our outward condition, and of having something over for others. "Use hospitality without grudging;" "God loveth a cheerful giver." "The world teaches me that it is madness to leave what I may carry with me; Christianity teaches me that what I charitably give while I live I may carry with me after death; experience teaches me that what I leave behind I lose. I will carry with me by giving away that treasure which the worldling loses by keeping; and thus, while his corpse shall carry nothing but a winding-sheet to his grave, I shall be richer underground than I was above it" (Bishop Hall).

4. Hypocrisy and concealment of sins. (Vers. 33-40.) The way of man (or of "Adam") is to hide guilt, and bear a hypocritical front. The motive of such concealment is suggested in ver. 34 - the fear of the great multitude, or of the nobler families who were one's equals and associates. So may a guilty conscience lay a weight upon the tongue; as in Plutarch's story of Demosthenes, who, having taken a bribe, refused to speak in the assembly, appearing there with his throat muffled up, and complaining of a quinsy; whereupon one cried out," He is not suffering from a throat-quinsy but from a money-quinsy." "Garments once rent are liable to be torn on every nail and every brier, and glasses once cracked are soon broken; such is a good man's name, once tainted with just reproach. Next to the approbation of God, and the testimony of my own conscience, I will seek for a good reputation among men; not by concealing faults lest they should be known to my shame, but by avoiding all sins that I may not deserve it. It is difficult to do good, unless we be reputed good" (Bishop Hall).

5. Renewed protestations. Would that he had one to hear this his assurance of innocence! He is thinking of God, and he desires his judicial interference in his favour. "Behold, there is my handwriting; let the Almighty answer me." As if he should say, "Here is the original of my justification, with my signature attached. This is my documentary defence; let the Almighty try it, and let his judgment be given" On the other hand, would that he had the accusation, the statement as it were of the prosecution against him (ver. 35). He here thinks of God as his Accuser, and longs to know what he has against him! Had he this document, he would bearit like a mark of honour upon his shoulder (for the idea, comp. Isaiah 9:4; Isaiah 22:22), or like a diadem for his head. Such is the triumphant consciousness of innocence. He would declare to God the number of his steps - would conceal nothing, but confess all to him. He would approach him like a prince, with stately step and unabashed port, as becomes one whose conscience is clear (ver. 37). Lastly, by some additional light of memory now flashing on his mind at the close of his protestation, he gives a special example of his freedom from the guilt of blood. His had been no life containing deeds like that of Ahab to Naboth (1 Kings 21:1). No such fearful crime was the cause of his sufferings. "If my land cries against me " - for revenge, because of some crime against a former possessor - "and its furrows weep; if I have wasted its power, its fruit and produce, without payment, and blasted the life of its possessor," by violence, "instead of wheat let thorns spring forth, and instead of barley stinking weeds." That consciousness of God's omniscience, which strikes terror into the secret sinner, is a comfort to the heart of the sincere child of God. The daybreak frightens the robber, but cheers the honest traveller. Thou that art sincere, God sees that sincerity in thee which others cannot discern; yea, he often sees more sincerity in thy heart than thou caner discern thyself, This may uphold the drooping spirits of a disconsolate soul when the black mouths of men, steeled with ignorance and prejudice, shall be opened in hard speeches against him. How severely, though blindly, do they judge of men's hearts! But here the sincere soul may comfort itself when on the one hand it can reflect upon its own integrity, and on the other upon God's infinite infallible knowledge, and say, "Indeed, men charge me with this and this, as false-hearted and a hypocrite, but my God knows otherwise" As Daniel, by trusting in God, was secure from the mouths of the lions, so thou, by having faith in and drawing comfort from God's omniscience, mayest defy the more cruel mouths of thy persecutors. When a man is accused of treason to his prince, and knows that his prince is fully assured of his innocence, he will laugh all such accusations to scorn. It is thus with God and a sincere heart. In the midst of all slanders he will own thee for innocent, as he did Job, when his friends, with much specious piety, charged him with hypocrisy. Wherefore commit thy way to the all-seeing God - to that God who is acquainted with all thy ways; who sees thy goings out and thy comings in, and continually goes in and out before thee, and will one day testify and set his seal to thine integrity. Comfort thyself in the consideration of his omniscience, from whence it is that God judgeth not as man judgeth, but judgeth righteous judgment; and hold fast thy integrity that lies secret in the heart, whose praise is of God, and not of man (South). - J.







I made a covenant with mine eyes.
Set a strong guard about thy outward senses: these are Satan's landing places, especially the eye and the ear.

( W. Gurnall..)

Let us look at the kind of life Job says he lived, and in doing so let it be remarked that all the critics concur in saying that this chapter contains more jewels of illustration, of figure or metaphor, than probably any other chapter in the whole of the eloquent book. Job is therefore at his intellectual best. Let him tell us the kind of life he lived: whilst he boasts of it we may take warning by it; the very things he is clearest about may perhaps awaken our distrust. Job had tried a mechanical life — "I made a covenant with mine eyes" (ver. 1). The meaning of "a mechanical life" is a life of regulation, penance, discipline; a life all marked out like a map; a kind of tabulated life, every hour having its duty, every day its peculiar form or expression of piety. Job smote himself; he set before his eyes a table of negations; he was not to do a hundred things. He kept himself well under control; when he burned with fire, he plunged into the snow; when his eyes wandered for a moment, he struck them both, and blinded himself in his pious indignation. He is claiming reward for this. Truly it would seem as if some reward were due. What can a man do more than write down upon plain paper what he will execute, or what he will forbear doing, during every day of the week? His first line tells what he will do, or not do, at the dawn; he will be up with the sun, and then he will perform such a duty, or crucify such and such a passion . he will live a kind of military life; he will be a very soldier. Is this the true way of living? Or is there a more excellent way? Can we live from the outside? Can we live by chart, and map, and schedule, and printed regulation? Can the race be trained in its highest faculties and aspects within the shadow of Mount Sinai? Or is the life to be regulated from within? Is it the conduct that is to be refined, or the motive that is to be sanctified and inspired? Is life a washing of the hands, or a cleansing of the heart? The time for the answer is not now, for we are dealing with an historical instance, and the man in immediate question says that he tried a scheduled life. He wrote or printed with his own hand what he would do, and what he would not do, and he kept to it; and though he kept to it, some invisible hand struck him in the face, and lightning never dealt a deadlier blow. Job then says he tried to maintain a good reputation amongst men — "If I have walked with vanity, or if my foot hath hasted to deceit; let me be weighed in an even balance, that God may know mine integrity. If my step hath turned out of the way, and mine heart walked after mine eyes, and if any blot hath cleaved to mine hands; then let me sow, and let another eat; yea, let my offspring be rooted out" (vers. 5-8). That was a public challenge. There were witnesses; let them stand forth: there was a public record kept; let it be read aloud. This man asks for no quarter; he simply says, read what I have done let the enemy himself read it, for even the tongue of malice cannot pervert the record of honesty. Will not this bring a sunny providence? Will not this tempt condescending heaven to be kind, and to give public coronation to so faithful a patron? Is there no peerage for a man who has done all this? Nay, is he to be displaced from the commonalty and thrust down, that he may be a brother to dragons and a companion to owls? All this has he done, and yet he says, "My skin is black upon me, and my bones are burned with heat. My harp also is turned to mourning, and my organ into the voice of them that weep" (Job 30:30, 31). This is not what we have thought of Providence. We have said, Who lives best in the public eye will be by the public judgment most honourably and cordially esteemed: the public will take care of its servants; the public will stand up for the man who has done all he could in the interests of the public; slave, man or woman, will spring to the master's rescue, because of remembered kindnesses. Is Job quite sure of this? Certainly, or he would not have used such imprecations as flowed from his eloquent lips: — If I have done thus, and so, then let me sow, and let another eat; yea, let my offspring be rooted out: let my wife grind servilely unto another: let mine arm fall from my shoulder blade, and mine arm be broken from the bone. So then Job himself is speaking earnestly. Yet, he says, though I have done all this, I am cast into the mire, and I am become like dust and ashes: though I have done all this, God is cruel unto me, and He does not hear me: I stand up, and He regardeth me not: with His strong hand He opposeth Himself against me: He has lifted me up to the wind, and He has driven me away with contempt: He has not given me time to swallow down my spittle: I, the model man of my day, have been crushed like a venomous beast. Job, therefore, does not modify the case against God. He misses nothing of the argument and withholds nothing of the tragic fact. He makes a long, minute, complete, and urgent statement. And this statement is found in the Bible! Actually found in a Book which is meant to assert eternal providence and justify the ways of God to man! It is something that the Bible could hold within its limits the Book of Job. It is like throwing one's arms around a furnace; it is as if a man should insist upon embracing some ravenous beast, and accounting him as a member of the household. These charges against Providence are not found in a book written in the interests of what is called infidelity or unbelief; this impeachment is part of God's own book.

(Joseph Parker, D. D.)

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