You have granted me life and favor, and your visitation has preserved my spirit.…
Job addresses God as his Creator, Preserver, and Benefactor; he seems to ask, why, knowing his frailty, He laid upon him such burdens as those which he was called upon to bear. He appears to have felt some difficulty in reconciling the past mercies of God with His present afflicting dispensations. Yet, amidst all, he acknowledges that his Creator doubtless had wise, though to him unknown, reasons for His dispensations. "These things," said he, "Thou hast hid in Thine heart." They were planned in Thine infinitely wise, holy, and beneficent, though unsearchable counsels. "I know this is with Thee." To me, indeed, it is a source of trouble and perplexity; but to Thee it is plain. And then, as though glancing at the righteousness of God's law, on the one hand, and, on the other, at the sinfulness of mankind generally, and in particular at his own personal transgressions, with a sense of the imperfection of his best obedience, he adds, "If I be wicked, woe unto me; and if I be righteous, yet will I not lift up my head. I am full of confusion; therefore see mine affliction, for it increaseth."
I. First, then, we have JOB'S ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF HIS INFINITE OBLIGATIONS TO GOD. "Thou hast granted me life and favour, and Thy visitation hath preserved my spirit."
1. The blessing of creation. "Thou hast granted me life." He does not attribute his existence to chance, or necessity; but speaks of it expressly as a grant from the Almighty; a grant bestowed for the most wise, benevolent, and momentous purposes. Practical atheism is at all times too common, even among many who profess and call themselves Christians. How few, comparatively, are accustomed, like Job, constantly to refer their being to God; with a deep impression of what they owe to Him; with a practical conviction that they are not their own; and with a due sense of their obligation to live to His glory. Yet it is certain that an habitual feeling of reverence towards God as our Creator, though not the whole of religion, is a necessary and indispensable part of it. The Gospel of Christ, in pointing out to us other truths, essential to be known by us as fallen and guilty creatures, does not overlook, but on the contrary uniformly takes for granted and displays this first natural and unalterable bond of union between the Creator and His creatures. The grant of life was the first benefit we were capable of enjoying, and it opened the way to all that followed.
2. But to the benefit of creation Job adds that of preservation. "Thy visitation hath preserved my spirit." The same Almighty hand that formed and animated the human frame, sustains it amidst the perils to which it is every moment exposed. We do not live by chance, any more than we were at first formed by chance. One moment's absence of that Divine visitation which preserves our spirit, would suffice to plunge us back — we know not whither; all our capacities for happiness, all our hopes for this world, and those brighter expectations which, as Christians, we cherish beyond the grave, would be utterly extinguished. This powerful and unceasing visitation of the Creator preserves all things in their appointed rank and order; and to it we are indebted for our continued capacity for partaking of the blessings to which our creation introduced us.
3. To sum up the whole, Job adds the mention of that Divine "favour" without which our creation and preservation had been but the commencement and prolongation of misery. How thickly, how interminably do His benefits cluster around us! By night and by day, in infancy and in manhood, in childhood and old age, in our personal and social relations, in our families and in the world, in sickness not less than in health, in adversity not less than in prosperity, He pours into our cup blessings infinitely beyond our deservings. And here opens before us the most wonderful of all proofs of His favour. Here beams upon us the stupendous revelation of the redemption that is in Christ. Here we behold why even the sinner, to whom, as a sinner, no Divine approbation can be exhibited, is yet spared and crowned with so many benefits, in order that he may turn to the God whom he had forsaken, seek the mercy which he had despised, and be won by the long-suffering which he had perhaps profanely made a motive for a continuance in his sins. Whether we consider the awful magnitude of our guilt, or the costly nature of the sacrifice made to atone for it, or the freeness and amplitude of the pardon bestowed upon us; we shall see that this was indeed the climax of Divine favour; to which our creation and preservation were but preparative; and the issue of which, to all who humbly avail themselves of it, will be an eternity of happiness in the world to come.
II. CONSIDER THE JUDICIAL RELATION IN WHICH HE DESCRIBES HIMSELF AS STANDING TOWARDS HIM AND HIS CONSCIOUS GUILT AND CONFUSION AT THE PROSPECT. We might have supposed that his expressive description of God's past mercies would have been succeeded by the warmest language of hope and confidence. And thus would it have been, had no obstacle interposed. The angels in heaven, in reviewing the benefits conferred upon them by their beneficent Creator, blend with their emotions of love and gratitude no symptoms of apprehension or alarm. They are not "full of confusion," while they survey the mercies of Him who "granted them existence and favour, and whose visitation preserves their spirit." The past manifestations of God's overflowing bounty are to them a pledge for the present; and the present for the future. But not so with man, when duly conscious of the ungrateful return which he has made for the bounties of his Almighty Benefactor. For every relationship involves certain duties; and most of all, the relationship of a creature to his Creator. The very bond of this relationship, on the side of man, was perfect love, confidence, and obedience. He had a law given him to obey, and he was bound by every tie to obey it. A creature, if guiltless, would not tremble for the consequences of his own conduct under such a law; but what are the actual circumstances of man? Job seems to exhibit them, in the text, under a threefold view. Supposing, first, a case which may be considered as the ordinary average of human character, "If I sin"; next, a case of peculiar atrocity, "If I be wicked"; thirdly, a case of unusual moral rectitude, "If I be righteous" — and in all these he shows the condition in which we stand before God.
1. "If I sin, Thou markest me and Thou wilt not acquit me from mine iniquity." No extraordinary degree of profligacy seems to be here supposed; nothing more is stated than what we all acknowledge to be applicable to ourselves; for who is he that sinneth not? Yet how stands our condition under this aspect? First we learn that God "marks us"; His omniscient eye is upon all our ways. "Thou wilt not acquit me." How fearful the condition of a creature thus exposed by his own sinful conduct to the just wrath of his Creator! Well might Job exclaim, "I am full of confusion." For who shall stand before God when He is displeased? Who shall stay His hand when it is stretched out to inflict punishment?
2. "If I be wicked, woe unto me." The degree of guilt marked by this expression seems to be more flagrant than that implied in the former. The conclusion in this case is therefore most clear; for if every sin is marked, if no iniquity is followed by acquittal, then woe indeed to the hardened, the deliberate transgressor!
3. "If I be righteous, yet will I not lift up my head." Job cannot here refer to perfect and unerring holiness of heart and conduct — for to such a degree of sanctity no human being can lay claim; if he could, he might justly lift up his head; but he doubtless speaks comparatively, taking man at his best estate; selecting the most moral, the most upright; then, in this most favourable case, showing the utter incompetence of man to stand justified in the sight of his Creator. So imperfect are our best actions, so mixed are our purest motives, that, far from challenging the rewards of merit, we must acknowledge ourselves, on an impartial survey, to deserve the punishment of our aggravated disobedience. At best we are unprofitable servants. "To us belongeth shame and confusion of face." The friends of Job thought that he wished to try this experiment; that he justified himself before God; but his affliction had taught him a lesson more suitable to his frail and fallen condition: so that, instead of lifting up his head, his language was, "Whom, though I were righteous, I would not answer; but I would make supplication to my Judge"; or, in the corresponding sentiment of the text, "See Thou mine affliction, for it increaseth."
III. CONSIDER HIS HUMBLE APPEAL TO GOD TO HAVE COMPASSION UPON HIM. He claims no merit; he proffers no gift. He had acknowledged God's mercies to him; and confessed his inability to stand before His justice. What, then, is his hope of escape? It is in substance the language of the publican, and of every true penitent in every age, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner." His affliction was increasing; nothing but despair lay before him; but in his extremity he applies, where none ever rightly applied in vain, to the infinite Source of mercy and compassion. "See Thou mine affliction." How excellent is the example which he here sets before us! In every exigency of life, or when weighed down with the burden of our sins before God, let us betake ourselves to Him who will compassionate our weakness, assuage our sorrows, and forgive our transgressions. Happy is it for us that He is not a God afar off, but is at all times, as it were, within reach of our humble petitions. Let us thus approach Him with the language of Job; with fervent acknowledgments of His goodness, and of our own ingratitude; of His infinite justice, and our own unrighteousness; with self-condemnation on the one hand, and a humble trust in His mercy in Christ Jesus on the other — and then will He look with pity upon our affliction, then will He pardon all our iniquities. For no sooner had Job practically acquired this just view of himself and of God; no sooner had he said, "I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth Thee: wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes"; than it is added, "The Lord turned the captivity of Job." And thus will He continue to be gracious to every sincere penitent, through the infinite merits of His beloved Son.
Parallel VersesKJV: Thou hast granted me life and favour, and thy visitation hath preserved my spirit.