Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
1. AS THEY AFFECT THE LIFE OF THE INDIVIDUAL FOOLISH ONE. "Wrath killeth and envy slayeth" him. By his folly he excites the wrath or the envy of others, or his folly leads him into deadly courses.
II. AS THEY AFFECT HIS LOT AND CONDITION. His prosperity, even if it begin, is but of temporary duration. If he take root, suddenly his habitation is cursed.
III. AS THEY AFFECT HIS FAMILY. His children are in danger - "far from safety." They are condemned by the judge sitting in the gate; are crushed, and are not found. "The seed of the wicked shall be cut off."
IV. AS THEY AFFECT HIS SUBSTANCE. He soweth, but a stranger reapeth his harvests; his toil may be productive, but a "robber swalloweth" his substance. Dark is the picture thus presented of the judgments which fall upon the ungodly, the foolish, and the vain. If Eliphaz intended this to be a reflection upon Job, it was unmerited and uncalled for. The Divine judgment upon Job was, "My servant Job, a perfect and an upright man." Eliphaz argued from the particular to the general. However true it may be that the foolish suffers, it is not equally true that every sufferer is foolish. This was the error in Eliphaz's mode of arguing. It is a common error. We know it may be said, "He whom thou lovest is sick." - R.G.
I. IT IS POSSIBLE FOR THE FOOLISH TO TAKE ROOT. "The foolish," in biblical phraseology, are worse than people of weak intellect; they are always regarded as morally degenerate. Their folly is the opposite to the wisdom of which the beginning is "the fear of the Lord." Though lacking in moral fibre as well as in mental stamina, such people still often contrive to achieve an astonishing amount of success in life.
1. They mall be favoured by circumstances. In this world men are not wholly dependent upon their own character and conduct. There is a general tide of prosperity that sweeps strong on its flood many who have had no hand in originating it. There is good fortune as well as misfortune, and the one is often as little deserved as the other.
2. They may be helped by Providence. God's grace is always greater than our deserts. He would win us by his goodness. The foolish man should see that this goodness of God is designed to lead him to repentance (Romans 2:4). Sometimes, however, the Divine temporal favour is in reality a method of judgment, a sunshine that ripens the effects of folly, so that they may appear in their fulness at the hastening harvest-time.
3. They may assist themselves. There is a kind of prosperity which good and wise men scorn, not being able to stoop to the degradation which leads to it. Then bad and foolish men step in, and, though grovelling in the dust, succeed in grasping some of the so-called good things of life. Much outward prosperity is not directly dependent on moral qualities. A man may be skilful in money-making without being either a saint or a philosopher.
II. ALTHOUGH THE FOOLISH MAY TAKE ROOT, THEY WILL NOT BEAR GOOD FRUIT. We may be surprised at their temporal prosperity, but it is only temporal. For a while they live and grow, not simply flourishing a moment like a plucked flower that must soon fade, but actually striking roots into the ground, and thus strengthening their position and drawing nourishment to themselves. Still, at best, it is only the rooting in the soil that is thought of. This is but the first stage. Eliphaz was quite right in his surmise that the last stage would be very different, although he was in error as to the time, circumstances, and character of the great denouement.
1. No good fruit will follow. The foolish stock can only bring forth fruit of folly; and if it grows luxuriantly, it will not bear any better products. Its size will only multiply and coarsen its natural issue. Let bad and foolish men advance unimpeded as far as possible in their earthly prosperity, yet of real soul-prosperity they will have none, for they have not in them the life from which this springs.
2. The flourishing prosperity will come to an end. These noxious plants must be finally rooted up if they are not struck down earlier by the thunderbolts of judgment. Rapid growth is no promise of long endurance. The mistake of the old world was to look for the judgment on earth. It may come here. But if it does not, it is certain to come hereafter; for God is wise and good and almighty. Therefore beware of the delusion of temporal insanity. Look to the end. Look to the quality of the success attained. Let this be what Christ approves; i.e. like his success, which was victory through the cross. Then a fruitful root will sprout out of a "dry ground" (Isaiah 53:2). - W.F.A.
I. IT IS AN INEVITABLE RESULT OF HIS EXPOSED CONDITION.
II. IT IS EVIDENTLY A PART OF THE PRESENT ORDER OF THINGS. But -
III. IT IS DUE TO THE DERANGEMENT OF THE RIGHT RELATIONS OF MAN TO HIS GOD, TO HIS NEIGHBOUR, TO THE WORLD AROUND. "Affliction cometh not forth of the dust; neither doth trouble spring out of the ground."
IV. IT IS GRACIOUSLY USED AS A MEANS OF SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE, CORRECTION, AND DEVELOPMENT. We now know that that which we endure is for chastening - for that culture which every wise father seeks to secure for his sons. And when the afflictions are "not joyous, but grievous," even then "God dealeth with us as with sons." He takes up the sad and dark and painful things of our life, and uses them as instruments for our discipline, "that we might be partakers of his holiness." Most assuredly we may know that "the peaceable fruits of righteousness" are yielded to them who patiently endure these afflictions when they are "exercised thereby." Let us, therefore, learn:
1. Not to be surprised if" trouble" overtakes us. We are born in a land where it is very plentiful.
2. To see to it that our afflictions come of our frailty, not of our folly.
3. Patiently to await the end, when he shall have wrought out his purpose, who maketh "all things work together for good to them that love him." - R.G.
I. TROUBLE DOES NOT COME CASUALLY AND WITHOUT DUE CAUSE. It is not like a weed that springs up by the wayside. This might seem to be the case, because it arrives so suddenly and so unexpectedly, and because there does not appear to be any rule that governs its advent at one place rather than another. But Eliphaz is rightly persuaded that it is not the effect of chance. We have good reasons for agreeing with him thus far.
1. All things are subject to law. Chance is only a name for our ignorance. When we do not see a cause we imagine that the event has happened casually. But as we pursue our inquiries further we find that there are no stray events outside the great bond of Divine order.
2. All things are arranged by Providence. Here is another answer to the doctrine of chance. Not only is there law; there is also a supreme Administrator of law. God's hand is unseen, but not a pawn moves unless his fingers are upon it; or if it be said that this leaves no scope for man's free-will, still it may be asserted that, the infinite mind of God seeing the whole game, the end from the beginning, he can always so arrange that ultimately his designs shall be fully executed.
II. TROUBLE COMES FROM WITHIN, NOT FROM WITHOUT. It does not spring out of the ground. Man is born to it. There is something in human nature that he disposes him to trouble. Just as the sparks fly up by nature, so the soul of man suffers by nature. It is an attribute of the human constitution to be subject to suffering.
1. Susceptibility to suffering is natural. The callous are the unnatural. The soul that never grieves is hard and dead. We are made to be sensitive to pain, just as we are made to hear sounds and see the light.
2. Trouble is born with us. Sin begets suffering. The sin of the parent descends in ca]amities on his children, who inherit the harvest of his misdeeds. The fall of man and the general sinfulness of the race ensure a certain amount of suffering to every innocent child who is born into the world. Nevertheless, do not take refuge with the fatalist. The trouble has a cause. Seek this and master it.
III. TROUBLE IS UNIVERSAL AND INEVITABLE. Some have more than others. There are men to whom the lines have fallen in pleasant places, yea, they have a goodly heritage. One such had been Job. But his hour of trouble came, and then it proved to be an hour of unprecedented calamity. Though men suffer differently, all suffer - if not in body or estate, yet in mind and soul; if not in sunny youth, yet in overcast manhood; if not in visible adversity, yet in inward distress. This does not mean that men are always suffering, nor that there is more pain than joy in life.
1. We should not be surprised at meeting with trouble. Many people irrationally imagine that they are to be exceptions to the universal experience. When painful facts reveal their delusion they are overwhelmed with amazement and disappointment. It would be better to be prepared to expect what is part of the common lot of man.
2. Trouble which cannot be avoided may yet be cured. The true resort should be neither to stoical indifference nor to impotent despair. There is no gospel in the assertion that trouble is universal. But there is a gospel which deals with the fact. Christ comes to give us power to utilize trouble as discipline, and ultimately to conquer it, so that "our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Corinthians 4:17). - W.F.A.
I. THE GREATNESS AND BENEFICENCE OF GOD. (Vers. 8-16.) Let men turn to him for comfort and for strength. It is a bright gem of description.
1. God is the Supreme. (Ver. 8.) Let men look no lower than to the Highest. With him is the final appeal. He is Judge of all the earth. Clouds and darkness are round about him; but justice and judgment are the habitation of his throne.
2. He is the great Worker. His scale and sphere of operation is vast, immeasurable, unsearchable (ver. 9). His mode of operation is wonderful, past finding out. "His way is in the sea, his path in the great waters, his footsteps who has known?" The grandeur and marvel of his deeds are seen:
(1) In nature. (Ver. 10.) One phenomenon is mentioned only as typical, in all important respects, of all the other tokens of his power in nature. It is the blessed gift of rain. For nothing in an Oriental clime speaks more powerfully to the senses and the feelings than this inestimable boon. Many other Scriptures witness this. First He gives the early and the latter rain;" "comes down like rain upon the mown grass," and "as showers that water the earth." 'Tis he who causes the refreshing showers to fall upon the fields of both the just and the unjust. The French peasants say, as they watch the rain failing on their vineyards, "Voici le vin qui descend du ciel!" "Here comes down the wine from heaven!" But what good things do not come down from heaven in the rain from the ever-blessing God?
(2) In human life. In this broad field, common experience gains many a lesson of the same kind. Not one of the traits in this exquisite description of which the intelligent observer cannot say, "This is true to life!" He is seen to be the Exalter of the lowly and the sorrowful (ver. 11). Who has not had brought home to him in many an instance the sense of this truth in the course of life? What tales of obscure and lowly worth rising into eminence; of deserted widows and orphans finding springs of help and succour marvellously opened to them in the hour of need can we not all tell? And we take delight in these narratives because they convince us that the constitution of life is not the mere mindless machinery which godless thinkers would make it out to be. We see that selfish craft and cunning are in the end disappointed and baffled (ver. 12). Lies and cheats do not prosper long. The proverbs of the world bear their witness; common experience stamps them with the mark of truth. And this, too, is no accident, but the result of the righteous operation of God. We see that men overreach themselves and fall by their own snares (ver. 13). "Vaulting ambition doth o'erleap itself, and falls on t'other side." And the sight gives us a deep pleasure, whatever pity we may feel for the victim of his conceit and folly, because here again we receive a communication of the will of God. We see self-confident men plunged into perplexity, infatuated, unable to steer their path aright, though the light is lull and clear about them (ver. 14). There is a judicial blindness to be observed in certain cases; so that those who, in the pursuit of passion or interest, have extinguished conscience, become at last unable to see even their own interest, and make suicidal mistakes. Here, too, is the finger of a higher Power.
3. The object of Divine operation. (Vers. 15, 16.) In both nature and human life it is one - to lessen suffering, to protect innocence, to deliver from violence and persecution.
II. THE BLESSING OF DIVINE CHASTISEMENT. (Vers. 17-27.) From the general evidences of the beneficence of God, we come down to one special and peculiar form of it, He is good to us in our pains as well as in our pleasures. His power is exercised to purify and chasten as well as to destroy. The recognition of this truth is one of the leading features of Scripture revelation. How different from the gloomy creed of the most enlightened heathen concerning suffering sent from heaven! He felt the wrath of his gods, but he never knew their blows as signs of a secret and remedial love. Where there is no belief in supreme righteousness, suffering must always be without relief. The blessedness here described is both internal and external.
1. Internal. The man is blessed
(1) who recognizes his sufferings as corrections. Then their worst bitterness passes; despondency is cheered; hope dawns in the heart. He is blessed
(2) who rejects not the warnings which they bring. He willingly takes the medicine, and submits to the direction of the heavenly Physician. But they aggravate their sufferings and inflame their ills who know they are being corrected, yet refuse to take the Divine hint for amendment; who are like the stubborn horse or ass chafing at the bit, resisting the guidance of the rein. He is blessed
(3) who yields himself up implicitly to the Divine treatment, suffers his evils to be expelled, his follies to be plucked up by the roots. He is blessed
(4) because he is thus brought into the deeper knowledge and fellowship of God. To know God as the Almighty Benefactor is one step in religion; to know him as the Almighty Chastiser is another and a higher. And this is never reached except through suffering, the deeper consciousness of sin, struggles with self, a higher purity, and a deeper peace.
2. External. The man at peace with himself and with God seems to bear a charmed life (ver. 19).
(1) Be defended from outward evils. (Vers. 20-22.) He passes through seas of trouble, and rides upon the crest of each advancing wave; passes through fire, and it hurts him not. The greatest outward calamities are mentioned, only to show how he rises superior to them all. "Famine." The histories of Elijah, of the widow of Zarephath, of the temptation of Jesus Christ, all illustrate the grand truth that man's strength is derived, not from bread alone, but directly from the Word and will of God. The truth is a general one. It is that expressed by St. Paul that, though the outward man perish, the inward man may be renewed day by day. "The power of the sword," "devastation," "famine," "wild beasts," form the catalogue of the ills most common and most dreaded in ancient times. None of these can harm the man who is reconciled to God. The truth again is general, and admits of a twofold application. In the first place, history is full of the providential escapes of good men, in which every discerning mind will see the hand of God. But there are exceptions. No law of nature is set aside. The sword of the foe, the tooth of the lion, is not blunted, nor is the body hardened against hunger. Good men, like others, perish from these causes. But here the truth applies in another way. The souls of the martyrs flee to the altar of heaven (Revelation 6:9). or are borne from the scene of suffering to that of rest, as Lazarus to the besom of Abraham. In either case they are unharmed and happy in God. But another evil, more keenly felt in more civilized times, is the "scourge of the tongue." Slander -
"Whose edge is sharper than the sword; whose tongue (2) He is favoured with outward good. (Vers. 23-27.) The stones that afflict the fields with barrenness, the devouring beasts, seem to be in secret pact with him and refuse to do him harm. This is poetry wrapping up truth. We are reminded of the beautiful ode of the Roman poet (Horace, 1:22), where, dwelling on the theme that innocence is its own protection, its own arms, he tells as of the weft that fled from him all unarmed in the Sabine wood. The whole picture is that of the quiet pastoral life which we love to associate with innocence and the protection of Heaven. There is comfort in his tent; when he visits his pastures, no head of cattle is missing (for this is perhaps the true meaning of the latter clause of ver. 24). Children and children's children spring up around him; till he comes to his end crowned with silver hair, like the ripe sheaf carried home to the garner. With this description compare the noble ninety-first psalm. Eliphaz emphatically declares (ver. 27) this to have been his experience. It was a picture drawn from life. We cannot doubt that it was realized in numberless instances in those early conditions of life; nay, it is so still. It hardly comes within the scope of such poetry to recognize the actual or seeming exceptions. And if we do not see the universal truth of the description of the good man's career, we must recollect that life is a far more complicated and many-sided affair with us. It is far more difficult to trace the connection of cause anti effect in the various courses of men. And we have this immense advantage over this early teacher - that we have a clearer view, a firmer belief of the extension of man's career into eternity. All that appears exceptional and opposed to the laws of life laid down by Eliphaz, we doubt not, will be compensated and redressed in a future state. - J.
(2) He is favoured with outward good. (Vers. 23-27.) The stones that afflict the fields with barrenness, the devouring beasts, seem to be in secret pact with him and refuse to do him harm. This is poetry wrapping up truth. We are reminded of the beautiful ode of the Roman poet (Horace, 1:22), where, dwelling on the theme that innocence is its own protection, its own arms, he tells as of the weft that fled from him all unarmed in the Sabine wood. The whole picture is that of the quiet pastoral life which we love to associate with innocence and the protection of Heaven. There is comfort in his tent; when he visits his pastures, no head of cattle is missing (for this is perhaps the true meaning of the latter clause of ver. 24). Children and children's children spring up around him; till he comes to his end crowned with silver hair, like the ripe sheaf carried home to the garner. With this description compare the noble ninety-first psalm. Eliphaz emphatically declares (ver. 27) this to have been his experience. It was a picture drawn from life. We cannot doubt that it was realized in numberless instances in those early conditions of life; nay, it is so still. It hardly comes within the scope of such poetry to recognize the actual or seeming exceptions. And if we do not see the universal truth of the description of the good man's career, we must recollect that life is a far more complicated and many-sided affair with us. It is far more difficult to trace the connection of cause anti effect in the various courses of men. And we have this immense advantage over this early teacher - that we have a clearer view, a firmer belief of the extension of man's career into eternity. All that appears exceptional and opposed to the laws of life laid down by Eliphaz, we doubt not, will be compensated and redressed in a future state. - J.
I. THE GREATNESS OF THE DIVINE POWER. He "doeth great things and unsearchable; marvellous things without number." Of these beautiful illustrations are to be found on every hand - in heaven, earth, the deep seas, in the processes of nature, in the government of men.
II. THE DIVINE BENEFICENCE. His rich gifts made freely to the seas of men. "He giveth rain upon the earth'" which is at once a precious gift and a symbol of all blessings in its abundance, diffusion, preciousness, freeness to all. "He is kind to the evil and the unthankful, and sendeth rain upon the just and the unjust."
III. THE DIVINE CONTROL OVER MEN. Especially illustrated in his dealing with the wicked. He takes compassion on the needy. "He setteth on high those that be low." He brings down the haughtiness of the foolish. He "disappointeth the devices of the crafty" - taketh the wicked in their own deceit.
IV. THE DIVINE PITIFULNESS FOR THE POOR is a further encouragement to men to find their Refuge in God. He guardeth the poor and the feeble. He sayeth him from the sword of their mouth, their cruel words and from the hand of the mighty. The Divine Help of the poor, men have sung in all ages. "So the poor hath hope; The poor committeth himself unto thee." In this Refuge he is safe. The day of his trouble passes away. A Divine hand, unseen, upholds him while the pressure is heavy. Of the poor, as of the sparrows, it must be said, "God feedeth them." If men knew the loving-kindness of the Lord, and his great pitifulness, they would put their trust in him more willingly, and would find help and comfort. - R.G.
I. INQUIRE WHAT IT IS TO SEEK UNTO GOD.
1. It begins with remoteness from God. We have lost God if we have to seek him, as we need not think of finding what we already possess and enjoy. God is lost by sin; but the sense of God's presence is often deadened by the oppression of sorrow and by the intrusion of worldly scenes.
2. It means an earnest effort of the soul. We are not to wait for God to come to us, but to "seek unto" him. This requires the mind and will. We have to be watchful to note any indications of his presence, and active in pressing forward towards him.
3. It implies that God can be found. It is useless to seek for that which is hopelessly lost or absolutely unattainable. If we seek, we must expect to find. This process would be folly in the eyes of the Agnostic. Now, the encouragement is that others have sought and found God. They have seen him, not with bodily vision, indeed, but with true spiritual experience. Job himself did seek God, and he found him at last; for he exclaimed, in a magnificent burst of thankful gladness, "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee" (Job 42:5).
4. It leads to confidence. It is useless to seek God out of mere curiosity. We have much to do with him when we find him. But first of all we must place entire confidence in him, confessing to him our sin and our sore need.
II. CONSIDER THE ENCOURAGEMENTS THAT INVITE US TO SEEK UNTO GOD. The author of the Book of Job is a great lover of nature. Scenes from the physical world, more especially in its majesty and grandeur, fill his spacious canvass in later stages. Here we come upon the first burst of that glory of nature which shines out with ever-increasing volume as we proceed through the book. This leads on to the wonderful deeds of providence. Notice some of the points to which Eliphaz calls attention.
(1) greatness - "doeth great things;"
(2) the mystery - "and unsearchable;" and
(3) the variety of God's works in nature - "marvellous things without number" (ver. 9).
Therefore he must be able to help us all in all kinds of trouble.
2. The graciousness of God in his milder works. This is illustrated by the phenomenon of rain (ver. 10). "He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass" (Psalm 72:6). Therefore "the bruised reed will he not break," etc. (Isaiah 42:3).
3. God's goodness to the lowly. He sets up on high those that be low (ver. 11). Therefore to be humiliated is to have a special reason for expecting his help.
4. His judgments in defeating the crafty (vers. 12-14). His very wrath brings mercy to the oppressed. The poor man cannot escape from his unjust oppressor; but God can bring deliverance. With him is the final court of appeal, and there right is always rendered, there the rich have no favour and the cunning no opportunity of cheating justice.
5. God's deliverance of the poor and helpless. He is "a just God and a Saviour" and he delights to reveal himself in the activity of grace redeeming and recovering his suffering children. With such manifestations of the power and goodness of God in nature and providence the troubled soul may well seek unto him for deliverance. - W.F.A.
I. A WISE CORRECTION. A good purpose will always be held in view. "Not willingly," "not for his pleasure," does he afflict. His aim is to promote our good - " that we may be partakers of his holiness."
II. A GRACIOUS CORRECTION. Mercy will temper it. "He remembereth we are but dust."
He will no load of grief impose III. A BENIGN CORRECTION. Happy fruits follow it. If he afflicts, he heals. He delivers in six, yea, seven troubles. He redeems the famishing from death. He hides from the scourge of the tongue. He screens from the stroke of destruction. He draweth men into good ways; then, when they please the Lord, he maketh even their enemies to be at peace with them. Beautifully is this illustrated: "Thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field; and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee." He who keeps the commandments of God is in harmony with the whole kingdom of God. This encourages to patience under trials. 1. It is the Lord's chastisement. 2. It is controlled and regulated by a Divine hand. 3. It has a wise and worthy end in view. 4. It cometh to its blessed fruition in the sanctity and perfectness of human character. - R.G.
III. A BENIGN CORRECTION. Happy fruits follow it. If he afflicts, he heals. He delivers in six, yea, seven troubles. He redeems the famishing from death. He hides from the scourge of the tongue. He screens from the stroke of destruction. He draweth men into good ways; then, when they please the Lord, he maketh even their enemies to be at peace with them. Beautifully is this illustrated: "Thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field; and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee." He who keeps the commandments of God is in harmony with the whole kingdom of God. This encourages to patience under trials.
1. It is the Lord's chastisement.
2. It is controlled and regulated by a Divine hand.
3. It has a wise and worthy end in view.
4. It cometh to its blessed fruition in the sanctity and perfectness of human character. - R.G.
I. THERE IS A HAPPINESS IN CHASTISEMENT. The sentence looks paradoxical. No chastisement can be pleasant while it is being endured, or it would cease to be chastisement. Where, then, does its happiness reside?
1. Chastisement is a proof of God's care. "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth" (Hebrews 12:6). Therefore to be chastised is to receive a token of God's love. Now, surely we ought to be willing to bear a good deal of suffering if we can only obtain so valuable a token as this. If God did not chastise us he would not be treating us as true sons (Hebrews 12:8). Our very immunity would thus be a proof of God's desertion of us - a most miserable and hopeless condition.
2. Chastisement is designed to effect purification. It may not lead to this end, and it will not do so unless we co-operate submissively and penitently. Eliphaz saw as much, and therefore, although he was applying these truths in an irritatingly, mistaken way, he, rightly enough from his standpoint, urged Job to seek God's mercy in penitence that he might thus benefit by his chastisement. To be purged from sin is better than to be made rich, comfortable, externally happy. It is true blessedness, though at first experienced amid tears of sorrow.
3. Chastisement leads to joy. Afterwards it brings forth the "peaceable fruit of righteousness." We count a man happy who is on the road to a great good. He may enjoy it already by anticipation. At all events, he is to be congratulated on his destiny, as one congratulates the heir of great estates. The Christian may be congratulated if he can say with St. Paul, "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18).
II. IT IS THEREFORE BOTH WRONG AND FOOLISH TO DESPISE CHASTISEMENT. It is wrong, because we ought to submit with humility to whatever comes from the hand of God; and it is foolish, because contempt will destroy the efficacy of chastisement, which needs to be felt if it is to be effective, and which blesses us through our humility and contrition. A proud and haughty bearing under chastisement defeats the ends of the gracious ordinance. We see here how diametrically opposite the enlightened Hebrew view of suffering is to that of the Stoic. Both views regarded pain as not the evil thing that most men took it to be; both demanded patience and courage from the sufferer. But Stoicism inculcated contempt for suffering. Thus it engendered Pharisaic pride. The scriptural idea - in the Old Testament as well as the New - is rather to lead us to attach more importance to suffering than the thoughtless give to it, not that we may magnify the sensations of distress, but that we may let the trouble have its full work in our souls.
1. We may despise the chastisement when we make light of it.
2. The contempt may be shown by denying its meaning or use.
3. It may also be experienced by rebelling against chastisement.
In this last case we do not regard the trouble as slight. But we do not reverence the holy purpose with which it is sent. Our wild resistance shows contempt for the character of our affliction. Christ is the model Sufferer, who deserved no chastisement, and yet who was "led as a lamb to the slaughter," and was thus made perfect through sufferings (Hebrews 2:10). - W.F.A.
I. WE ARE NOT NATURALLY IN LEAGUE WITH NATURE. This is a paradox in form, yet it is a transcript of experience. The experience is peculiar to man. All other things find their habitat congenial to them. Man alone discovers himself to be as an alien among foes - stones, weeds, vermin, beasts of prey, cruel winds, tempests, earthquakes, frustrating his designs. Two very different causes may account for this discord.
1. Our natural greatness. We are a part of nature, yet we are above nature. In our higher self we cannot be content to take our share with the beasts that perish. Our aspirations lift us out of agreement with the life that is lived by plants and animals.
2. Our sinful fall. We are meant to be above nature, ruling over it. By sin we have fallen below nature, and it has trampled on us. The master has become the slave and victim of his servant.
II. IT IS GOOD TO BE IN LEAGUE WITH NATURE. So Eliphaz implies by his promise to Job of this condition as a reward for contrite submission. The Bible nowhere teaches a Manichaean horror of nature. All God's works are good and deserve to be appreciated by us. Neither do we learn from Scripture to entertain a monkish horror of nature. The inherent innocence of every natural power and action is suggested by the biblical description of creation. Therefore we shall make a great mistake if we think we are to escape from the tyranny of nature either by flight or by warfare. We cannot escape from nature if we would. Though we crushed our nature, it would arise and reassert itself. But, supposing our flight or our warfare were successful, that we could absolutely leave or completely extirpate nature, we should only find our lives maimed and impoverished; for nature is part of us, and is intended to be our useful servant.
III. WE CANNOT FORM A SUCCESSFUL LEAGUE WITH NATURE BY DESCENDING TO THE LIFE OF NATURE. The sophistry of so-called naturalism tells us that we can. But it is deceptive, christening bestiality with the name of nature. The nature to be imitated is Wordsworth's nature, not Zola's. But Wordsworth's nature is the type and prophecy of the spiritual that is higher than nature. Merely to follow natural impulses is to become swinish, not human, partly because the lower impulses of nature are the most violent, and partly because we have aggravated those impulses by sin.
IV. SUBMISSION TO GOD MAKES NATURE IN LEAGUE WITH US. God is the Master of nature, and as we learn to do God's will, nature, which also ultimately does his will, turns to aid us. Physically, the forces of nature work for those who obey the laws of God in nature, and it is to be noted that to obey those laws is a very different thing from being a slave to natural impulses; e.g. the laws of health do not agree with the indulgence of appetite. Spiritually, our obedient submission to God compels the adverse forces of nature to work for our good as instruments of discipline. This was not sufficiently clear to Eliphaz, who made too much of temporal prosperity, and thought that to be the invariable lot of the good man. But the Book of Job reveals it. Thus nature ministers to man when man serves God. - W.F.A.
I. CONTENTMENT AND PEACE SHALL REIGN IN THE HOME. God quiets the hearts of his children, and though heavy trials assail them, he prepares rest and peace for them. In how many instances is this daily seen! The evil exhausts itself. God puts his hand upon it and arrests it. His exposed ones he leads back to safety and repose, and, as was fulfilled in Job's case, of which Eliphaz unconsciously predicts, he blesses them at last. Like worn veterans, they return at last to receive honour, acknowledgment, and rest. Precious are the final days of the truly tried; the life is matured, the character chastened and perfected, the experience of life is enlarged.
II. BLESSING SHALL ABIDE UPON THE OFFSPRING. "Thy seed shall be great... as the grass of the earth;" yea, even though half the sorrow were caused by that very seed. The Lord will lead the wanderers back, will punish and correct and reclaim. Many a one out of his stony griefs raises a Bethel. The testimony of godly fidelity on the part of the parent speaks in its silence to the offspring, and in the end produces its good results. Every godly man has the best ground for hoping that the blessing of the Lord will be also upon his offspring.
III. IN THE FULNESS OF AGE AND THE RIPENESS OF CHARACTER, LIFE SHALL CLOSE. So the tried one receives into himself, at last, the whole result of the Divine discipline. The history is complete, the work of the day finished, the journey ended, the character formed. All the history of life is written in the cultured, matured life; in the character gained; in the honour won. Faithful unto death, the struggling one receives the crown of life. In ripeness of judgment and attainment all the fruit of the patiently endured tribulation is found. The man is made. His pains, his perils, his watching and prayer, his diligence in duty and patience in suffering, all go to make up the perfected life which is his own to inherit. The exposed grain has grown through all dangers, has grown by all changes - in the heat and cold, the light and the darkness, the rain and the shine. "Thou shalt come to thy grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in in his season." Let every one search this out, hear it and know it for his good. - R.G.
I. LET US CONSIDER THE IDEA OF A COMPLETE LIFE,
1. The truth of the Old Testament idea. The Jews were no pessimists. They were far from the sickly Buddhist dream of Nirvana. With them life was sweet, and long life a blessing. Was not this a true and healthy conception? Life is a gift of God; it is a source of great natural joy; it is a precious talent, offering rich opportunities for service. It is good to live. Though it may please God to pluck the bud before it has opened, or to remove the blossom before it has matured the fruit, we should feel that there is a great blessing in his sparing a life for full, ripe fruit-bearing.
2. The supplement of New Testament revelation. The gospel has enlarged the scope and value of life. It has shown us that no human life can be complete in a brief earthly existence. It has promised life eternal for the fulness of being and of service. Now we can see that life is good and blessed indeed.
II. LET US OBSERVE THE BLESSEDNESS OF A RIPE LIFE. Old age is compared to a shock of corn. We have "first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear." This full corn ripens into the gold of harvest. In the perfect old age we see the corn come to maturity. It has attained all that it can attain. The discipline of life is for the maturing of souls. Old men should be richer in grace than young men, and a certain mellowness should mark the character of the aged Christian. Unfortunately, this is not always seen. Sometimes the beauty and enthusiasm of youth give place to a chill and narrow formalism. Instead of ripening, the soul withers. Instead of rich juices, it has the vinegar of cynicism. This is distinctly wrong. It points to a life's mistake and failure. But the possibility of so unfortunate an issue bids us all be on our guard against it. It warns us to avoid the danger, and it urges us to use the grace of God so that we may ripen and grow mellow.
III. LET US ANTICIPATE THE HARVEST INGATHERING OF A COMPLETE AND RIPE LIFE. The shock of corn is gathered in. This is necessary to preserve it; for if it were left on the field it would not in the dank autumn. An earthly immortality would be no blessing. But God calls his aged servants out of the world in which their service is complete and which can no longer minister to their further ripening. Yet the ingathering is not the end. The wheat is not heaped up to be burnt, but stored in the granary for food and for seed. God gathers his servants home in safety, sheltered from all storms and frosts of winter. Then the true purpose of their lives begins to be seen. All the rest was but the preparation for the harvest; and the harvest itself was only undertaken in view of future usefulness. The old man has not finished his life when he lays down his grey head to die. Then he is about to begin to live; then the largest fruitfulness of his soul's experience is about to be utilized. The harvest icy is the joy of the future. Souls are gathered home to God that they may minister to life and blessedness in ages yet unseen. - W.F.A.