So Job died, being old and full of days.
"Full of days." This form of speech, though not in common use amongst ourselves, is sufficiently familiar from our acquaintance with the language of Scripture (Genesis 25:8; Genesis 35:29; 1 Chronicles 23:1; 1 Chronicles 29:28). The propriety of this expression will not be questioned by those who have had even a moderate experience of human life — who are drawing near themselves to the term of their mortal existence; or who have seen their neighbours, each in his turn, relaxing his hold of life, worn out in mind and body, and at last "gathered to his people, being old and full of days." The expression implies —
1. A natural limit to our mortal life. A man may be said to die "full of days" when he has attained or passed the average duration of human life. It is only courtiers and flatterers who would dare to tell any man that they wish him to "live forever."
2. The failure of our natural powers, both of body and mind. Man is "fearfully and wonderfully made." All the parts of his constitution are accurately adjusted to each other, and to the work which they have to perform. The frame is constructed to last a certain time, and no longer. The wonder is, not that our natural powers and appetites should fail us at the last, but that they should serve us so long and so well as they do. Especially considering that we have not always used them well; sometimes imprudently, sometimes viciously, we have taxed them beyond their strength and worn out a machine which, if fairly used, would have performed twice the work that we have got out of it. But, whether well or ill used, it comes to the same thing in the end. Even while he lives, "man dieth and wasteth away." Every year that passes over the head of the old man, takes something from his remaining strength. His friends perceive it, if he does not himself. He stoops more than he did. He cannot walk as he used. His hearing or his eyesight is affected. The mind also partakes of the decay of the body. The memory drops her treasures. The judgment is dethroned from its seat. "Last scene of all...is second childishness and mere oblivion." Our aged friend is seen no more abroad. Even at home his infirmities continue to increase. At last he takes to his bed. There let us leave him; leave him in the hands of his Maker, and of that human love "strong as death," which will never quit his pillow so long as one office of affection remains unperformed.
3. Enough of anything is always better than too much. Fulness implies satiety. When a man has passed through all the stages of human life; has attained, in succession, the various objects and prizes which, at different periods in their course, men propose to themselves; has tasted of every kind of gratification which came in his way; has performed all the duties which belonged to his station and condition; has had his full share of the troubles and disappointments of life; has lived out his appointed time upon earth, and "accomplished, as an hireling, his day"; is it not a natural feeling which prompts him to say, "I would not live alway; let me alone, for my days are vanity"? Perhaps there is something yet unattained; some object for which he would wish to be spared a little longer. But when that is happily accomplished, what more has he to live for? But when we see aged persons planning fresh schemes, and proposing to themselves new objects, to the very verge of life as keen in the pursuit of wealth, pleasure, or honour, as if they were just beginning to live, or as if they were to live always — more like hungry guests sitting down to table, than full ones rising up from it — is there not something unnatural and almost shocking in such a perversion of feeling? Will such persons ever be "full of days"? ever have played out their part? ever retire with dignity from that post of life which they are no longer able with dignity to tread?
4. We Christians will never consent to call any man "full of days" merely because he has attained to a good old age, or because he is worn out in body and mind, or even because he has had enough of life and desires no more of it. We ask, not only whether he is willing, but whether he is prepared to die? Is his soul "full of days" — weary of her protracted sojourn in this land in which she is a stranger, and longing to enter upon a new, separate, and eternal state of being? We shall better be able to answer this question if we consider what constitutes preparation for death, in the Christian view of it. In this view, then, a man may be said to be "full of days" —
(1) When he has finished the work which God has given him to do. Has he been diligent in the business of his station, whatever that station may have been? Has he "provided for his own," for all who are in any way connected with him or dependent on him? Has he discharged all his social and relative duties? Has he "served his generation according to the will of God"? Has he made the most of those abilities and opportunities which he has enjoyed for doing good, for promoting the happiness or alleviating the misery of his fellow creatures? Has he endeavoured, both by his influence and example, to discountenance wickedness and vice, and to advance the cause of true religion and virtue in the world? And, lastly, does he take no merit, and claim no reward for his best services? not expecting to be thanked because he has done a few of the things that were commanded him; but even though he should have done all, ever ready to confess, "I am an unprofitable servant; I have done that which was my duty to do"?
(2) But preparation for death, in the Christian view of it, implies also a certain disposition of the soul in relation to God. Though we know little of the state of the soul after death, both reason and Scripture inform us that it enters into a nearer and closer connection with the Almighty than it was capable of while yet in the body. This is variously expressed by its "returning to God who gave it," appearing before God, meeting or seeing God. And we have an instinctive feeling, that whenever our souls shall depart from the body, they will, in some inconceivable manner, be brought into an immediate communication with the Author of their being, the God of the spirits of all flesh. For this event we ought to be training and fashioning our inner man from the beginning of our days to the end of them. And every man is "full of days" and prepared to die exactly in proportion to the progress he has made in this spiritual work, to the degree in which his soul is alive to and in communion with his God. This inward religion or life in the soul is, in fact, the great business of our lives. All the ordinances of religion, and all the exercises of devotion, have this end in view — to make the soul more and more independent of the body with which it is associated and the world in which it is placed, so that finally it may be able to exist in a state of separation from both. Who, then, can look upon a hoary head and a bent body without asking, What is the state of the soul which is enclosed in that venerable frame? Is that also chilled with age? Does that look downwards to the earth, and move slowly and feebly towards God? The body, we see, has done its work; has the inner man been equally active and diligent in those labours which are proper to it? Is this "old man, and full of days," also full of faith, full of prayer, overflowing with those holy affections and heavenward aspirations which are the fruits of faith and prayer? Has he lived all his life and all his days near to God, and has he regarded every event in his life and every addition to his days as a call to live still nearer, a warning voice saying to him, "Draw nigh to Me, and I will draw nigh to you"? And in the contemplation of that event, which cannot be far off, when his body "shall return to the earth as it was, and his spirit shall return unto God who gave it," is he able to say, "I have set God always before me; for He is on my right hand"? etc.
(3) There is one other qualification, without which let no Christian be called "full of days," or "prepared to meet his God." Does our aged friend, "being justified by faith," enjoy "peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ"? The saddest sight of all is the unconverted old man, the Christian in name, but in everything that belongs to Christian faith and Christian hope, incurable, ignorant, or irremediably reprobate. There can be no more momentous inquiry respecting the condition of any aged person than this — Has he made his peace with God? Does he believe in Him whom He hath sent? This is "fulness of days" in the highest and Christian sense of the words. This is not a mere weariness of life, a distaste for those duties which we can no longer perform, and those pleasures which we can no longer enjoy; but a deliberate conviction, shared alike by our reason and our feelings, that we are going to a better place — to a place where we shall be far happier than we now are, or have ever been; to a place where, in the presence and at the right hand of God, we shall find fulness of joy and pleasures for evermore.
(Frederick Field, LL. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: So Job died, being old and full of days.