Though He slay me, I will hope in Him. I will still defend my ways to His face.
Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him. Thus doth Job declare his unshaken affiance in God. He lifts his thoughts from the reasonings of his friends; he rises superior, at least for the time, to the oppression of his sufferings, and with a boldness that does him honour, and a confidence warranted by his belief in the Divine Name, he gives utterance to an expression of faith which has passed from lip to lip all through the ages, and has been a classical formula of faith for the saddest and most deeply afflicted amongst the children of men. How is the world indebted to them who, with a true heroism, declare their faith in the wisdom and goodness of the Lord!
I. FAITH IS NEEDED IN CONSEQUENCE OF THE MANY HEAVY TRIALS OF THE HUMAN HEART. External sources of help are often cut off. They altogether fall. There is no hand of strength, no word of power, no sufficient consolation. In bodily affliction the skill of the wisest may be set at nought. In the trials of life all help from outward sources may fail. The sorrow is too deep for an unaided heart to bear up under. Where shall the afflicted soul hide? There is help only in spiritual sources. God is the final goal of the afflicted spirit. "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit," is the ultimate utterance of the soul when all resources of help are cut off. But for this faith is needed - faith that apprehends the unseen and spiritual. The soul at Such times is borne up only by faith, and the faith that is needed is a supreme, lowly, unhesitating faith. Happy he who has it.
II. FAITH IS WARRANTED BY THE CHARACTER OF GOD. This is the one unfailing refuge. This, of all, is most worthy of trust. We cannot always trust the words of human kindness, even friendship. The good resolves may fail from inability to fulfil them. We may be mistaken. Our trust may rest on a deceitful foundation. Our staff may break and pierce our hand. But we always know that the character of God is unassailable. He has an assured ground of confidence who trusts in the Name of the Lord, whose repose is in the Divine character. Absolute goodness, perfect wisdom, infinite love, - these form the warrant of faith.
III. It is right and wise, therefore, THAT FAITH BE DECLARED. Let him who has learnt where the soul may find refuge and help declare it to others. Let him glorify God by his feeble tribute. It is his best, if his lowliest, offering. How great an indignity we feel if any one disputes our veracity! But he who confides in our word and character, even in times when both are aspersed, pays to us the highest tribute of friendship and of faith. So let us bring our humble offerings of trust, of thankfulness, and love - our spiritual gold, frankincense, and myrrh - and lay them at the feet of the everlasting King. Though be lay the heaviest burdens upon me, I will not doubt his goodness; though he treat me as a dog, yet will I cleave to him. "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him."
IV. Such a faith is SURE TO RE REWARDED.
1. It has its reward in the peace of mind which it brings. "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee." The driven sparrow finds its house, and the swallow its nest. The dove returns to the ark. When there is no rest for the wounded spirit, it turns and finds its rest in God. Here it hides and waits in an assured hope. Job was brought to the very earth; but the Lord, who seemed to be slaying him, raised him up and gave him an abundant reward.
2. A further reward is secured in the character gained.
3. And yet a further one in the final Divine approbation of the faithful, trusting, submissive, obedient servant. Such faith shall not lose its reward. - R.G.
Faith, like all Christian graces, is a thing of growth, and therefore capable of degree.
Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him
How often have these words been the vehicle of a sublime faith in the hour of supreme crisis! It is always matter of regret when one has to take away a cherished treasure from believing hearts. Now this verse, properly translated and rightly understood, means something quite different from what it has ordinarily been considered to mean. You will find in the Revised Version a rendering differing from the accepted one — "Though He slay me, yet will I wait for Him," it reads. So that instead of being the utterance of a resigned soul, submissively accepting chastisement, it is rather the utterance of a soul that, conscious of its own integrity, is prepared to face the worst that Providence can inflict, and resolved to vindicate itself against any suggestion of ill desert." Behold, He will slay me. Let Him. Let Him do His worst. I wait for Him in the calm assurance of the purity of my motives and the probity of my life. I await His next stroke. I know that I have done nothing to deserve this punishment, and am prepared to maintain my innocence to His face. I will accept the blow, because I can do no other, but I will assert my blamelessness." It is a lesson, not in the blind submissiveness of a perfect trust, but in the unconquerable boldness of conscious rectitude. There is nothing cringing or abject in this language. And this is in harmony with the whole tenor of the context, which is in a strain of self-vindication throughout. But, in order to understand the real sentiment underlying this exclamation, we must have a correct conception of the theory of the Divine action in the world common to that age. Job is thinking of Jehovah as the men of his time thought of Him, as the God who punished evil in this world, and whose chastisements were universally regarded as the evidence of moral transgression on the part of the sufferer. It is a false theory of Providence and of Divine judgment against which the patriarch so vehemently protests. He has the sense of punishment without the consciousness of transgression, and this creates his difficulty. "If my sufferings are to be regarded as punishment, I demand to know wherein I have transgressed." It is the attitude of a man who writhes under the stigma of false accusation, and who is prepared to vindicate his reputation before any tribunal. The struggle represented for us with so much dramatic power and vividness in this poem is Job's struggle for reconciliation between the God of the theologians of his day and the God of his own heart. And is not this a modern as well as an ancient struggle? Does not our heart often rise within us to resent and repel the representations of Deity that the current theology gives? Job had to answer to himself, Which of these two Gods is the true one? If the God of the theological imagination Were the true God, he was prepared to hold his own before Him. This Divine despot, as the stronger, might visit him with His castigations, but in his conscious integrity, Job would not blench. "Behold, He will slay me; I will wait for Him. I will maintain my cause before Him." Now, is this a right or a wrong attitude in presence of the Eternal Righteousness? Is there blasphemy in a man's maintaining his conscious innocence before God? As there was a conventional God in Job's day, a God who was a figment of the human fancy, dressed up in the judicial terrors of an oriental despot, so is there a conventional God in our own day, the God of Calvinistic theologians, in whose presence men are taught that nothing becomes them but servile submission and abject self-vilification. But is that view compatible, after all, with what the Scripture tells us, that man is created in the very image, breathing the very breath of God? We have been taught to imagine that we are honouring God when we try to make ourselves out as bad as bad can be. What are the strange phenomena produced by this conventional conception? Why, that you will hear holy men in prayer, men of inflexible rectitude and spotless character, describing themselves to God in terms that would libel a libertine. This was Bildad's theology. By a strange logic he fancied he was glorifying God by disparaging God's handiwork. He declares (Job 25:5
) that the very stars are not pure in God's sight though God made them, and then falls into what I may call the vermicular strain of self-depreciation. "How much less man, that is a worm and the son of man who is a worm?" We have to judge theologies by our own innate sense of right and justice; and any theology which requires us to defame ourselves, and say of ourselves evil things not endorsed by our own healthy consciousness, is a degrading theology, one dishonouring alike to man and to God his Maker. Job's inward sense of substantial rectitude, both in intention and in conduct, revolted against this God of his contemporaries who was always requiring him to put himself in the wrong whether he felt so or not. And Job obeyed a true instinct in taking up that attitude. God does not want us to tell Him lies about ourselves in our prayers and hymns. But I will venture to say that any attitude that is not truly manly is not truly Christian or religious. "Stand upon thy feet," said the angel to the seer. The fact is, the conscience of good or evil is the God within us, and supreme. What my conscience convicts me of, let me confess to; but let me confess nothing wherein my conscience does not condemn me, out of deference to an artificial deity. Let us dare to follow our own thoughts of God, interpreting His relation and providence towards us through our own best instincts and aspirations. This is what Jesus taught us to do. He revealed and exemplified a manly and man making faith, as far removed as possible from that slavish spirit which is so characteristic of much pietistic teaching. Christ said, Find the best in yourselves and take that for the reflection of God. Reason from that up to God, He says. "How much more shall your heavenly Father!" Bildad and the theologians of his school transferred to their conception of Deity all their own pettinesses and foibles, and consequently conceived of Him as a being greedy of the adulation of His creatures, jealous of a monopoly of their homage. One who could not bear that anybody should be praised but Himself, and who was pleased when they unmanned themselves and wriggled like worms at His feet. To think thus of God is at once to degrade Him and ourselves. Let us not be afraid of our own better thoughts of God, assured that He must be better than even our best thoughts. I say Job was the victim of a false theology. When he was left to his own healthier instincts he took another tone. In the early chapters of this book he is represented to us as one of the sublimest heroes of faith. Under a succession of the most appalling and overwhelming calamities that stripped him of possessions and bereaved him of almost all that he loved in the world, he rises to that supreme resignation to the Divine will which found expression in perhaps the noblest utterance that ever broke from a crushed heart, "The Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord." It is difficult to believe that it is the same man who rose to this sublime degree of submission who now adopts the semi-defiant tone of the words of my text — "Behold, He will slay me. I will wait for Him; I will maintain my cause before Him." The fact is that while it is the same mane it is not the same God. The God of the earlier chapters is the God of his own unsophisticated heart. In Him he could trust as doing "all things well." But the God of this later part of the story is the God of perverse human invention; not the Creator of all things, but one created by the imaginations of men who fashioned an enlarged image of themselves and called that "God." Job would not have wronged God if he had not had the wrong God presented to him. It was his would be monitors who had thought that God "was altogether such an one as themselves," who were guilty of this crime. And again, had Job himself been a Christian, had he possessed the ethical sense, and judged himself by the ethical standards that the teaching of Jesus created, he would not have adopted this attitude of proud self-vindication. For then, though his outward life might have been exemplary, and his social obligations scrupulously fulfilled, he would have understood that righteousness is a matter of the thoughts and motives, as well as of the outward behaviour. Judging himself by the moral standards of his time, he felt himself immaculate. It is pleasant to know from the last chapter, that before the drama closes Job comes to truer thoughts of God and a more spiritual knowledge of himself. He perceives that his heart, in its blind revolt, has been fighting a travesty of God and not the real God. Then, so soon as he sees God as He is, and himself as he is, his tone changes again. She accent of revolt is exchanged for that of adoring recognition, and the note of defiance sinks into a strain of penitential confession. "Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes."
Such was the determinate resolution of the venerable and pious Job. In the history of this good man three things are evident.
1. That all things are under the Divine control.
2. Piety and integrity do not exempt from trials.
3. All things eventually work together for good to them that love God.
I. THE SITUATION IN WHICH JOB WAS PLACED.
1. A great change had taken place in his worldly concerns. The day of adversity had come upon him.
2. But still Job's case was not yet hopeless nor comfortless. There was still the same kind Providence which could bless his future life. There were his children. News comes that they are all killed.
3. Where now shall we look for any comfort for Job? Well, he has his health. But now this is taken away.
4. There was one person from whom Job might expect comfort and sympathy — his wife. Yet the most trying temptation Job ever had came from his wife.
5. Still Job had many friends. But those who came to help him proved "miserable comforters." Every earthly prop had given way.
II. JOB'S DETERMINATION.
1. "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him."
2. Job might confidently trust in the Lord, because he had not brought his sufferings upon himself by his own neglect or imprudence.
3. Job's trust or faith was of the right kind. Trust in God implies that the depending person has an experimental knowledge of His power, wisdom, and goodness. Trust in God includes prayer, patience, and a reconciliation to the Divine will. Remarks —
1. What a wonderful example of patience and resignation we have in Job.
2. What decision of character and manly firmness are exemplified in the conduct of this good man.
3. How well it was for Job that he trusted and patiently waited to see the salvation of God.
To most persons there is some affliction which they account the extreme of trouble. The estimate of "particular troubles changes, however, with circumstances.
I. JOB'S MEANING. Trust in God is built on acquaintance with God. It is an intelligent act or habit of the soul. It is a fruit of religious knowledge. It is begotten of belief in the representations which are given of God, and of faith in the promises of God. It is a fruit of reconciliation with God. It involves, in the degree of its power and life, the quiet assurance that God will be all that He promises to be, and will do all that He engages to do; and that, in giving and withholding, He will do that which is perfectly kind and right. The development of trust in God depends entirely upon circumstances. In danger, it appears as courage and quietness from fear; in difficulties, as resolution and as power of will; in sorrow, as sub. mission; in labour, as continuance and perseverance; and in extremity, it shows itself as calmness.
II. IS JOB'S STRONG CONFIDENCE JUSTIFIABLE? We may not think all Job thought, or speak always as Job spoke; yet we may safely copy this patient man.
1. God does not afflict willingly.
2. God has not exhausted Himself by any former deliverance.
3. In all that affects His saints, God takes a living and loving interest.
4. Circumstances can never become mysterious, or complicated, or unmanageable to God. We must in our thoughts attach mysteriousness only to our impressions: we must not transfer it to God.
5. God has in time past slain His saints, and yet delivered them.
III. THE EXAMPLE JOB EXHIBITS. Job teaches us that it is well sometimes to imagine the heaviest possible affliction happening to us. This is distinct from the habitual imagination of evil, which we should avoid, and which we deprecate. Job teaches as that the perfect work of patience is the working of patience to the uttermost — that is, down to the lowest depths of depression, and up to the highest pitch of anguish. He teaches that the extreme of trial should call forth the perfection of trust. Our principles are most wanted in extremity. Job shows that the spirit of trust is the spirit of endurance. We may also learn that to arm ourselves against trial, we must increase our confidence. True trust respects all events, and all Divine dispensations. All — not a particular class, but the whole. All that happens to us is part of God's grand design and of God's great plan respecting us: Let me commend to you Job's style of speech. To say, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him." will involve an effort, but there is no active manifestation of true godliness without exertion. Even faith is a fight. It is one of the simplest things in spiritual life to trust, but often that which involves a desperate struggle. Ignorance of God's intentions may sometimes say to us, "distrust Him"; and unbelief may suggest, "distrust Him"; and fear may whisper, "distrust Him"; but, in spite of all your foes, say to yourself, "I will trust Him." The day will come when such confidence in God, as that which you are now required to exercise, will no longer be needed. In that day God will do nothing painful to you. He will not move in a mysterious way, even to you, and you will chiefly be possessed by a spirit of love; but until that day dawns, God asks you to trust Him.
I. FAITH IS DIRECT KNOWLEDGE. It is a kind of intuition.
1. It does not depend, like scientific knowledge, on the testimony of the senses.
2. It does not rest, like judicial decisions, on the truthfulness of witnesses, and the consistency of evidence.
3. It is not founded, like mathematical convictions, on logical demonstration.
4. Intellect combines these together to reveal the soul to itself.
5. Faith thus perceives the wants of the soul, and the fitness of revealed truth to satisfy them.
II. FAITH ACTS ON A PERSON. Its object is God — Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
1. A person is more complex than any proposition, and offers to the soul an immense number of points of contact. It is an undeveloped universe.
2. A person is a profounder reality than a doctrine. Character is more steadfast than a theory.
3. God is the universe, and can sympathise with every soul. God in Christ is a universe of mercy to the sinner.
III. IT CONCERNS THE WEIGHTIEST DESTINIES OF THE SOUL AND IS ATTESTED BY CONSCIENCE.
1. It does not tolerate indifference.
2. It arouses the faculties to their utmost.
3. It comes in contact with revealed holiness. The soul cannot rest in evil. It requires truth and justice.Without these it is a lever without a fulcrum.
1. Faith gives rest without indifference.
2. It provides happiness without delusion.
()This is one of the supreme sayings of Scripture. It rises, like an Alpine summit, clear above all ordinary heights of speech, it pierces the clouds, and glistens in the light of God. If I were required to quote a selection of the sublimest utterances of the human mind, I should mention this among the first, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him." Methinks I might almost say to the man who thus spoke what our Lord said to Simon Peter when he had declared Him to be the Son of the Highest, "Flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee." Such tenacious holding, such immovable confidence, such unstaggering reliance, are not products of mere nature, but rare flowers of rich almighty grace. It is well worthy of observation that in these words Job answered both the accusations of Satan and the charges of his friends. Though I do not know that Job was aware that the devil had said, "Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast Thou not set a hedge about him and all that he hath?" yet he answered that base suggestion in the ablest possible manner, for he did in effect say, "Though God should pull down my hedge, and lay me bare as the wilderness itself, yet will I cling to Him in firmest faith." The arch-fiend had also dared to say that Job had held out under his first trials because they were not sufficiently personal. "Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath, will he give for his life. But put forth Thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse Thee to Thy face." In the brave words before us Job most effectually silences that slander by, in effect, saying, "Though my trial be no longer the slaying of my children, but of myself, yet will I trust in Him." He thus in one sentence replies to the two slanders of Satan; thus unconsciously doth truth overthrow her enemies, defeating the secret malice of falsehood by the simplicity of sincerity. Job's friends also had insinuated that he was a hypocrite. They inquired of him, "Who ever perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off?" They thought themselves quite safe in inferring that Job must have been a deceiver, or he would not have been so specially punished. To this accusation Job's grand declaration of his unstaggering faith was the best answer possible, for none but a sincere soul could thus speak. Will a hypocrite trust in God when He slays him? Will a deceiver cling to God when He is smiting him? Assuredly not. Thus were the three miserable comforters answered if they had been wise enough to see it. Our text exhibits a child of God under the severest pressure, and shows us the difference between him and a man of the world. A man of the world under the same conditions as Job would have been driven to despair, and in that desperation would have become morosely sullen, or defiantly rebellious! Here you see what in a child of God takes the place of desperation. When others despair, he trusts in God. When he has nowhere else to look, he turns to his Heavenly Father; and when for a time, even in looking to God, he meets with no conscious comfort, he waits in the patience of hope, calmly expecting aid, and resolving that even if it did not come he will cling to God with all the energy of his soul. Here all the man's courage comes to the front, not, as in the case of the ungodly, obstinately to rebel, but bravely to con. fide. The child of God is courageous, for he knows how to trust. His heart says, "Ay, Lord, it is bad with me now, and it is growing worse, but should the worst come to the worst, still will I cling to Thee, and never let Thee go." In what better way can the believer reveal his loyalty to his Lord? He evidently follows his Master, not in fair weather only, but in the foulest and roughest ways. He loves his Lord, not only when He smiles upon him, but when He frowns. His love is not purchased by the largesses of his Lord's golden hand, for it is not destroyed by the smitings of His heavy rod. Though my Lord put on His sternest looks, though from fierce looks He should go to cutting words, and though from terrible words He should proceed to cruel blows, which seem to beat the very life out of my soul, yea, though He take down the sword and threaten to execute me therewith, yet is my heart steadfastly set upon one resolve, namely, to bear witness that He is infinitely good and just. I have not a word to say against Him, nor a thought to think against Him, much less would I wander from Him; but still, though He slay me, I would trust in Him. What is my text but an Old Testament version of the New Testament, "Quis separabit" — Who shall separate? Job does but anticipate Paul's question. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation," etc. Was not the same spirit in both Job and Paul? Is He also in us? If so, we are men indeed, and our speech is with power, and to us this declaration is no idle boast, no foolish bravado, though it would be ridiculous, indeed, if there were not a gracious heart behind it to make it good. It is the conquering shout of an all-surrendering faith, which gives up all but God. I want that we may all have its spirit this morning, that whether we suffer Job's trial or not we may at any rate have Job's close adherence to the Lord, his faithful confidence in the Most High.
()This sentiment is founded on the belief that God is our sole strength and refuge; that if good is in any way in store for us, it lies with God; if it is attainable, it is attained by coming to God. Inquirers seeking the truth, prodigals repentant, saints rejoicing in the light, saints walking in darkness — all of them have one word on their lips, one creed in their hearts. "Trust ye in the Lord forever." There is another case, in which it is equally our wisdom and duty to stay ourselves upon God; that of our being actually under punishment for our sins. Men may be conscious that they have incurred God's displeasure, and conscious that they are suffering it; and then their duty is still to trust in God, to acquiesce, or rather to concur in His chastisements. Scripture affords us some remarkable instances of persons glorifying, or called on to glorify God when under His hand. See Joshua's exhortation to Achan. The address of Jonah to God from the fish's belly. It should not be difficult to realise the state of mind described in the text, and yet some find difficulty in conceiving how Christians can have hope without certainty, sorrow and pain without gloom, suspense with calmness and confidence. I proceed then to describe this state of mind. Suppose a good man, who is conscious of some deliberate sin or sins in time past, some course of sin, or in later life has detected himself in some secret and subtle sin, what will be his state when the conviction of his sin, whatever it is, breaks upon him? Will he think himself utterly out of God's favour? He will not despair. Will he take up the notion that God has forgiven him? He has two feelings at once — one of present enjoyment, and another of undefined apprehension, and on looking on to the day of judgment, hope and fear both rise within him.
()Job endured, as seeing Him who is invisible; he had that faith which has realised to itself the conviction that, somehow or other, all things are working together for good to them that love God, and which calmly submits itself without anxiety to whatever God sees fit to lay upon it. Faith comprehends trustfulness. It is the larger term of the two. None of us can have lived any length of time in the world without having, as part of our appointed trial, been visited with pain and sickness, with the loss of friends, and with more or less of temporal misfortune. How these chastisements have been borne by us, has depended upon how far we have taught ourselves to look upon them as a precious legacy from Christ our Saviour, as a portion of His Cross, as a token of His love. Looking back upon what, at the time, you considered the great misfortunes of your life, can you not now see the gracious designs with which they were sent? In this is there not a powerful argument in favour of trustfulness, and a most satisfactory evidence that "in quietness and confidence" will be our strength? In proportion as we have the Spirit of Christ, will be our desire to be made like unto Him in all things; and this resemblance can never be attained without a following of Him in the path of suffering, and a submission and trustfulness like His as we pass along it. There is, however, the danger of our endeavouring, by any movement of impatience, to lighten the burden which our Heavenly Father has laid on us; of taking matters, as it were, into our own hands, and so thwarting or making of none effect the merciful designs of providence towards us. We must take care that our passiveness and silence are the result of Christian principles. There is a silence which arises from sullenness, and a passiveness which comes from apathy or despair. Trials are sent us in order that when we feel their acuteness, we may raise our thoughts to Him who alone can lighten them, and bless them to us. We ought to feel that it is sin to doubt the gracious purposes of God towards us, or to receive them in any other than a thankful spirit. How mercifully we are dealt with we shall be the more ready to acknowledge, the more we reflect upon the manner of God's visitations towards us. But it is not in personal and domestic trials only that this spirit of trustfulness will be our safeguard and support. In all those perplexities which arise from our own position in the Church, and the Church's position in the world, and which would otherwise bewilder us, our trustfulness will come to our refuge. And there never was greater need of a trustful spirit among Churchmen than at the present time.
()Trust in God is one of the easiest of all things to express, and one of the hardest to practise. There is no grace more necessary, and when attained there is no grace more blessed and comforting. But if blessed when attained, it is difficult of attainment. It is no spontaneous growth of the natural mind, but implies a work of grace which the Holy Ghost can alone accomplish. It requires a deep realisation of the Divine presence, of the Divine wisdom, and of the Divine love. On our side there must be an active effort, and an utter renunciation of all trust on that effort, that simple looking out of ourselves which it is indeed most difficult to reconcile with the active instincts of the mind.
I. IT IS AMID SORROW AND TRIAL THAT TRUST CAN ALONE BE EXERCISED. No time here on earth is free from temptation and danger, and therefore no time here on earth can we cease to rely upon God. The very meaning of trust implies doubt within and danger without, the man who trusts, if we already knew everything, where would be faith? If we already possessed everything, where would be hope?
II. THIS SURE CONFIDENCE IS NOT THE ATTRIBUTE OF ANY TRUST WHICH WE MAY PLACE IN ANY OBJECT. It is, indeed, the nature of trust to operate in times of difficulty; but yet the success with which it can do this depends ever upon the nature of that which is trusted — the foundation on which the house of trust is built. There are two arguments which single out God as the alone object of our trust. There meet in God all the attributes which deserve confidence. And they do not meet in any other; they are not to be found, even singly, in any other.
III. OUR TRIALS OUGHT TO MAKE OUR CONFIDENCE MORE DEEP AND CONSTANT. Has He not warned us beforehand of their existence? He has explained the very cause and reason why they are permitted — reasons to which the conscience and the experience of every believer will most deeply assent. Then let us pray for grace to hold fast our hope steadfast unto the end.
()The joy of the world ends in sorrow; sorrow with Christ and in Christ, yea, and for our sins, for Christ's sake, ends in joy. We have many of us felt how the world's joy ends in sorrow. We must not, would not, choose our suffering. "Any pang but this," is too often the wounded spirit's cry; "any trouble but this." And its cry may bear witness to itself, that its merciful Physician knows well where its disease lies, how it is to be probed to the quick, how to be healthfully healed. Job refutes Satan's lie. "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him." He holds not back his very, self. He gives up freely all which he is — his very
I. "Though He slay me." Oh, glorious faith of older saints, and hope of the resurrection, and love stronger than death, and blessed bareness of the soul, which for God would part with all but God, knowing that in God it will find all! yea, which would give its very self, trusting Him who took itself from itself, that it should find again (as all the redeemed will find) itself a better self in God. Till we attain, by His mercy, to Himself, and death itself is past, there is often need, amid the many manifold forms of death, wherewith we are encompassed, for that holy steadfastness of the patriarch's trust. The first trials by which God would win us back to Himself are often not the severest. These outward griefs are often but the "beginning of sorrows." Deeper and more difficult far are those sorrows wherewith God afflicts the very soul herself. A bitter thing indeed it is to have to turn to God with a cold, decayed heart; "an evil thing and bitter" to have destroyed ourselves. Merciful and very good are all the scourges of the All. Good and All-Merciful. The deeper, the more merciful; the more inward, the more cleansing. The more they enter into the very soul, the more they open it for the healing presence of God. The less self lives, the more Christ liveth in it. Manifold are these clouds whereby God hides, for the time, the brightness of His presence, and He seemeth, as it were, to threaten again to bring a destroying flood over our earthliness. Yet one character they have in common, that the soul can hardly believe itself in a state of grace. Hard indeed is it for hope to live when faith seems dead, and love grown cold. Faint not, thou weary soul, but trust! If thou canst not hope, act as thou wouldst if thou didst hope. If thou canst see nothing before thee but hell, shut thine eyes and cast thyself blindly into the infinite abyss of God's mercy. And the everlasting arms will, though thou know it not, receive thee and upbear thee.
()I never have delivered a discourse on trust in God but that someone has thanked me for it. Confidence in Him is a constant necessity, but there are always some in special need. To fail of this possession is like a captain's putting to sea without fresh water, or like a mother who should think of sending a son to college without a Bible in his trunk. There are sudden surprises in life, when trouble comes like a cyclone. All we can do is to coil the rope about the belaying pin and wait. Fair-weather faith is abundant, cheap and worthless. It is easy to trust God when the larder is full and the dividends large. Indeed, there is then danger of self-content and self-conceit. But we want a faith that will hold in the teeth of the tempest. The disciples did not doubt Christ's power when peace rested on the lake, but when the storm came they cried to Him, "Master, save! we perish!" That courage is worthless which blusters in the tent and retreats at the cannon's mouth. That amiability which is seen where there is no provocation, or that temperance which is maintained where no temptations assail, is of little merit. The trust spoken of in the text is a childlike faith. We can learn much from the trustfulness of a child. It feels its weakness, and puts confidence in the parent. If he betray it, he destroys the child's confidence. Absence of faith in God is infidelity. Unbelief is dry rot to the character. A little child is not anxious as to whether there will be food for the table, or a pillow for its tired head; he leaves it all to his parent. Much of the worry which nowadays results in softening of the brain and paralysis, is only borrowed trouble. Why take thought for the morrow? Our fears strangle our faith. The soul is nightmared. We grow choleric, and complain of God's treatment of us. We forget what is left to us. Some of you have camped out this summer, and learned how much you have at home is not absolutely needful. I said to a noble Christian merchant, who, by no fault of his, had suddenly become bankrupt, "Your decks have been swept clean by the gale, but did it touch anything in the hold?" The thought, he said, was a comfort to him. I was in a home of sorrow today, where the grief was peculiarly tender and sore, but there was the hope of heaven when the beloved went home. God sometimes strips us that we may be freer to run the race to heaven. The nobleness of this trust is to feel that Christ is left, though superfluous things are taken. The Bible is left, the Holy Spirit and heaven remain. No loss is comparable to the loss of Christ from the soul, yet men do not hang crape on the door, or even have a sleepless night at that loss. But anxiety for this is wholesome. To be forced to say with the poet —
"A believing heart has gone from me,"
is worse than to have a house burned, or a child die. Again, the childlike faith shown in the text is perfectly unsuspecting. See that beggar's babe clinging to the mother's rags that hardly cover it. Why should we, when in darkened paths, hesitate to trust our Heavenly Parent implicitly? He has pledged us all things, and doubt is an insult to Him. I stood on the heights of Abraham a few weeks ago, and recalled the victory of Wolfe, with thrilling emotion, but did not forget those steps, one by one, through dark, narrow, and precipitous paths, that led that gallant general to victory. You have your heights of Abraham to scale ere triumph crowns you. Each one has his trials. There is a skeleton in each closet, a crook in each lot. Character grows under these stages of discipline. Trust Him day by day. Live, as it were, from hand to mouth. Do present duty with present ability. Trust in God for victory, and be content with one step at a time.
()The measure of our being is the measure of our strength. He only is really strong who is strong in the Lord. He only who is strong in the Lord rises superior to circumstances. He whose soul is in his circumstances is weak in exact proportion as his heart is set upon surroundings. He who gives himself to the world gets nothing to self — to soul — in return. He who gives himself to God, though he may receive no objective blessing, gets God in return — finds a nobler self — saves by losing. Neither worldly splendour, nor state of our bodily health, affords any criterion to the state of our soul. We are prone to think adverse things are necessarily punitive. But the trials of Christians are disciplinary.
I. JOB'S WORDS ARE AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL. They afford insight into the state of Job's heart, and they tell us what he had been. Trials not only show character; they reveal history. When we see a man standing morally erect in circumstances the most dire that ever fell to the lot of mortal, we cannot doubt that we have insight into his history. Job had trusted in God, had lived near to Him in the past, and so he is strong, and rises above circumstances in the adverse present. Character is not formed by one effort of will, no, nor by ten, fifty, or five hundred.
II. THESE WORDS ARE EDUCATIONAL. They teach us that the child of God lives by faith. There are people who assume, perhaps they really experience a species of trust in God so long as all goes well with them. When the possessions of the self-complacent man are lost, we look in vain for evidences of contentment, thankfulness, philosophic bearing. The child of God does not regard his relationship to God as simply commercial. The professor only may calculate upon the advantage which, in a worldly sense, his religion is likely to bring. The child of God has no such thoughts. Christianity is commercial in the sense that to get we must give; yet it is not commercial, as we understand the word, for he who gives most of self to Christ, thinks least about what he receives in return. The child of God bases his trust upon the last contingency. Like a crane, a waggon, or a barge, some men can bear only a certain strain. The truth is that the pruning knife is never welcome, and we always think its edge would have been less keen had that been taken which is left, and that left which is taken. But Job could base his trust upon the very last contingency.
III. THESE WORDS ARE PROPHETICAL.
1. With respect to this life. What a man is at any time is an index to what he will be. Our daily procedure goes upon the supposition that our present character indicates our future. The present indicates the future if we continue in the same track.
2. With respect to a future life. There is a slaying which is not slaying. The child of God shall never die.
()The friends of Job have their counterparts in every age of the world. Whenever men are in trouble, there are those who undertake the task of comforting, without any qualifications for it. They lack sympathy. When it is expected that they will minister comfort, they bring forth all the stock sentiments which those who are not in trouble squander upon those who are: the respectable commonplaces which, like ready-made garments, do not in reality fit any, because they are meant to fit all. No wise man will needlessly proffer himself as a comforter. The more wise he is, the more profoundly he will shrink from intruding upon the sanctity of an afflicted soul. The difference between Job and his friends is exactly this, that he had gone down to first principles, and they had not. You can trace beneath all his utterances a something which enables him to withstand all their poor, superficial talk. What that something was is set forth in the text. It was a trust in God, i.e., God's character, which not even the most crushing stroke of Divine power could destroy. You will never understand the meaning of faith unless you remember that it is identical with trust. If we would understand how trust at last reaches an uncalculating perfection, consider how trust builds itself up in regard to an earthly benefactor or father. It begins with kind acts. Some one does something very generous and disinterested towards us. The child becomes aware of the ever-present care and self-denying goodness of the parent. One act, observe, does not usually furnish a rational ground of trust. Only when that act of kindness is followed by others does settled trust arise. Hence trust is, in fact, confidence in the character of another. The child, after long experience of the father's love, acquires such faith in the parent's character that it can trust even when he acts with seeming unkindness. There are cases in which even one action would command the homage of our hearts. It is by one transcendent act of love that Christ has fixed forever His claim. He has given Himself for us. However we reach it, this trust is for the man an all-powerful factor ever after. Once it is placed beyond question that God loves us, then we will not allow any subsequent chastening, any "frowning providence" to shake our faith in His unchanging love. Trust such as this is eminently rational. It rests on evidence. We have proved God worthy of our heart's confidence. The trust which is first built up of benefits received gradually becomes uncalculating. The highest reverence and devotion towards God is disinterested. Self, or what self may win or miss, fades out of view. The words are felt to be exaggerated in expressing the joyful and absolute self-forgetfulness of him who is dwelling in the presence of Infinite Perfection. A heart at one with God, knowing no will but His, perfect in its trust, carries within it peace and heavenly mindedness wherever it may abide in this wide universe; while a heart distrustful of God, swept by gusts of passion and self-will, lacking the one feeling which alone gives stability, can find heaven nowhere. Remember that faith may be genuine even when it is feeble. Small hope for you and me if it were not so. But to the faith which I have been describing all faith must approximate: so far as faith falls short of it, it is imperfect; and if we do not aim at the highest, we shall be only too likely to remain without faith in any degree.
()Faith is the reliance of the heart on God. On the one hand, it is not any mere operation of the understanding. On the other hand, it is not any assurance about our state before God. There are, perhaps, two chief ways in which we may arrive at the assurance that we are children of God. The one is looking to Christ; the other is the examination of Scripture, to see what are the marks of God's children. When faith is true, there are many degrees and stages in it. We may have a faith which can just touch the hem of Christ's garment, and that is all that it can do; and if it does this it is healing, because it is true. But there is a wide difference of degree between this infancy of faith and its manhood. It requires a strong faith to look beyond and above a frowning providence, and to trust in God in the dark. It is the Word of God, and not the dispensations of providence, which is the basis on which faith rears her column, the soil into which she sinks her roots; and resting on this she can say with Job, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him." But it is very important to distinguish between two things which many, and especially young Christians, often confound together, that is, faith and feeling. Changeful as we are in every way, there is no part of us so subject to change as our feelings — warm one day, and even hot, how cold and chilled they are the next. If we walk, not by feeling but by faith, then, when all around us and all within us is dark, we shall still cling to God's faithful Word; we shall feel that it is we who change, and not God.
()When a soul is able to declare that, even under the smiting, ay, even under the slaying of God, it is able still to trust in Him, everyone feels that soul has reached a very true and deep, sometimes it must seem a rare faith in Him. Yet men must have attained this before they can be in any complete or worthy way believers in God. Merely to trust Him when He is manifestly kind to them, is surely not enough. The words of the text might be said almost in desperation. It is a question whether a faith thus desperate is faith at all. There is something far more cordial about these words of Job. They anticipate possible disappointment and pain; but they discern a hope beyond them. Their hope lies in the character of God. Whatever His special treatment of the soul may be, the soul knows Him in His character. Behind its perception of God's conduct, as an illumination and as a retreat, always lies its knowledge of God's character. The relations of character and conduct to each other are always interesting. Conduct is the mouthpiece of character. What a man is declares itself through what he does. Each is a poor weak thing without the other. Conduct without character is thin and unsatisfying. Conduct is the trumpet at the lips of character. Character without conduct is like the lips without the trumpet, whose whispers die upon themselves, and do not stir the world. Conduct without character is like the trumpet hung up in the wind, which whistles through it, and means nothing. It is through conduct I first know what character is. By and by I come to know character by itself; and in turn it becomes the interpreter of other conduct. To know a nature is an exercise of your faculties different from what it would be to know facts. It involves deeper powers in you, and is a completer action of your life. When a confidence in character exists, see what a circuit you have made. You began with the observation of conduct which you could understand; through that you entered into knowledge of personal character; from knowledge of character you came back to conduct, and accepted actions which you could not understand. You have made this loop, and at the turn of the loop stands character. It is through character that you have passed from the observation of conduct which is perfectly intelligible into the acceptance of conduct which you cannot understand, but of which you only know who and what the man was who did it. The same is true about everyone of the higher associations of mankind. It is true about the association of man with nature. Man watches nature at first suspiciously, seeing what she does, is ready for any sudden freak, or whim, or mood; but by and by he comes to know of nature's uniformity. He understands that she is self-consistent. Same is true about any institution to which at last man gives the direction of his life. We want to carry all this over to our thought of God, and see how it supplies a key to the great utterance of faith in the text. It is from God's treatment of any man that man learns God. What God does to him, that is what first of all he knows of God. If this were all, then the moment God's conduct went against a man's judgment, he must disown God. But suppose that the man, behind and through the treatment that God has given him, has seen the character of God. He sees God is just and loving. He goes up along the conduct to the character. Through God's conduct man knows God's character, and then through God's character God's conduct is interpreted. Everywhere the beings who most strongly and justly laid claim to our confidence pass by and by beyond the testing of their actions, and commend themselves to us, and command our faith in them by what we know they are. Such a faith in the character of God must shape and influence our lives.
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