I would seek to God, and to God would I commit my cause:…
Conclusion of Eliphaz's address. His language suddenly changes into a gentler strain. It is like the clearing of a dark sky, revealing once more the deep blue; or the bend of a stream which has been flowing through a stern gorge, now broadening out into a sunlit lake.
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
Outvenoms all the worms of Nile; whose breath
Rides on the posting winds, and doth belie
All comers of the world - kings, queens, and states,
Maids, matrons - nay, the secrets of the grave
This viperous slander enters." From this fearful scourge the blessed man is hidden, protected. Good men are often attacked, but cannot be destroyed, by slander. They do not feel it as do the consciously guilty. They, in the beautiful words of the psalm, are kept "secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues." The slanderer does service to the upright man in the end by forcing him into a position of self-defence, or of silent dignity, which brings the true qualities of his character into a clearer light.
(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.
Parallel VersesKJV: I would seek unto God, and unto God would I commit my cause: