(For we are but of yesterday, and know nothing, because our days on earth are a shadow:)
The two unquestionable truths that Bildad here expresses are the transitoriness and the intellectual poverty of our mortal life. We "know nothing." Bildad seems to indicate that our ignorance arises partly from the brevity of our life. We have no time to get knowledge.
1. We know nothing compared with what is to be known. This may be said of all created intelligences, even of those who are the most exalted in power and attainment. "Each subsequent advance in science has shown us the comparative nothingness of all human knowledge." — Sir R. Peel.
2. We know nothing compared with what we might have known. There is a vast disproportion between the knowledge attainable by man on earth, and that which he actually attains. Our Maker sees the difference.
3. We know nothing compared with what we shall know in the future. There is a life beyond the grave for all, good and bad, a life, not of indolence, but of intense unremitting action, — the action of inquiry and reflection.
I. IF WE ARE THUS SO NECESSARILY IGNORANT, IT DOES NOT BECOME US TO CRITICISE THE WAYS OF GOD. How often do we find some poor mortals arrogantly occupying the critic's chair, in the great temple of truth, and even suggesting moral irregularities in the Divine procedure.
II. DIFFICULTIES IN CONNECTION WITH A REVELATION FROM GOD ARE TO BE EXPECTED. Place in the hands of one deeply conscious of his ignorance, written with profundity of thought, and extensiveness of learning, and would he not expect to meet with difficulties in every page? How monstrous then it is for any man to expect to comprehend all the revelation of the Infinite Mind. The man who parades the difficulties of the Bible as a justification of his unbelief, or as an argument against its Divinity, is pitiably ignorant of his own ignorance. Were there no difficulties, you might reasonably question its heavenly authorship. Their existence is the signature of the Infinite.
III. THE PROFOUNDEST MODESTY SHOULD CHARACTERISE US IN THE MAINTENANCE OF OUR THEOLOGICAL VIEWS. It is the duty of every man to get convictions of Divine truth for himself, to hold these convictions with firmness, and to promote them with earnestness; but at the same time, with a due consciousness of his own fallibility, and with a becoming deference to the judgment of others. The more knowledge, the more humility. True wisdom is ever modest. Those who live most in the light are most ready to veil their faces.
IV. OUR PERFECTION IS TO BE FOUND IN MORAL QUALITIES RATHER THAN IN INTELLECTUAL ATTAINMENTS. If our well-being consisted in exact and extensive information of our great Maker and His universe, we might well allow despair to settle on our spirits. Few have the talent to become scientific, fewer still the means; but all can love. And "love is the fulfilling of the law"; and love is heaven.
V. THERE MUST BE AN AFTERLIFE AFFORDING OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE ACQUISITION OF KNOWLEDGE. We are formed for the acquisition of knowledge. If we are so necessarily ignorant, and there be no hereafter, our destiny is not realised, and we have been made in vain.
VI. WE SHOULD WITH RAPTUROUS GRATITUDE AVAIL OURSELVES OF THE MERCIFUL INTERPOSITION OF CHRIST AS OUR GUIDE TO IMMORTALITY. Unaided reason has no torch to light us safely on our way. Our gracious Maker has met our ease, He has sent His Son. That Son stands by you and me, and says, "Follow Me."
Parallel VersesKJV: (For we are but of yesterday, and know nothing, because our days upon earth are a shadow:)