Job 17:9

A later book declares "the path of the just is as the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day." So here the stability and progressive character of the righteous is assured.

I. PROGRESS IN VIRTUE IMPLIES A CAREFUL CHOOSING OF A GOOD WAY. It is characteristic of a righteous man that he has committed himself to a carefully chosen way. It is "his way." It describes a path and manner of life. It embraces his entire "conversation." He is not driven as with a wind and tossed from one course to another. One only path is before him, narrow it may be, and often hidden as a rugged mountain-path, demanding toil and watchfulness and effort to find it and to keep it. But this "his way" is chosen, and to it he has committed himself: He follows the path whithersoever it may lead him.

II. Progress in virtue on the part of a righteous man implies that HE PERSEVERES IN HIS CHOSEN AND WELL-SELECTED PATH. Fickleness and vacillation are not qualities of true righteousness; but patience in well-doing always marks the truly righteous one. The high character of virtue, the gravity of the interests involved in the practice of virtue, the strong motives of virtuous principle, together with the apprehension of the rewards of righteous doing, are all motives to perseverance' whilst to them is added the ministry of Divine grace. God helps the good and obedient and striving soul. Thus the inward principle of virtue, and the support which it gathers to itself, alike help to secure a steady progress. But steady progress in the path of virtuous living must issue in growth and perfectness of virtuous character.

III. Steady progress in virtue is MARKED BY INCREASING STRENGTH OF CHARACTER AND CONVICTION. The righteous man waxes "stronger and stronger." Holy principles gain a firmer hold upon his convictions. His life settles into a definiteness and stability of habit. He has greater power to resist evil; he has greater power over his own heart; he exerts a greater power over others around him. He is not moved from his integrity either by the fierce onslaughts of temptation or by the severities of trial. His life is pledged to a course of obedient living - to purity, truth, goodness. More and more he is established in his goings. He rises to greater brightness as the sun to greater strength. He gathers strength even from his afflictions. Deeper and deeper principles of holy living strike their firm roots into his whole spirit. He pursues his chosen and holy way undeterred by the many forms of temptation that assail him. In his righteousness he can "hold on his way," and with his "clean hands" he waxes "stronger and stronger" day by day. - R.G.

The righteous also shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger.
It may seem a work of supererogation to say anything upon such a subject as righteousness. But the subject labours under some obscurity. Many seem to think that righteousness in the Old Testament means something entirely different from righteousness in the New. We are enabled by the New Testament distinctly to recognise that which is in itself eternal truth in the Old Testament as well as the New. The righteousness of faith is grounded in the loyalty of the soul to God, and consists in the manifestation of this loyalty in words, in thoughts, and in deeds. Here, cleanness of hands is spoken of — singleness of intent, perfect simplicity of motive, There is no righteousness without this to some extent. The text speaks of the perseverance of such a man. "He shall hold on his way." Still, all promises concerning the moral nature must necessarily be conditional. It does not follow with a mechanical certainty that every righteous soul shall hold on his way. He has a way. It is not everyone in this world that has a way in the sense of the text. Some have no definite aim or way. Others have a way, but it is a wrong way. The righteous shall hold on his way. His way is before him, clear and plain, though steep. He has nothing to do but to keep on day by day in the Divinely appointed path, for every step brings him nearer to the goal. And the strength here spoken of is moral strength. It springs from energy of conviction, and grasp of faith, and fervour of resolution, and depth of emotion. They are of the new life, the sense of Divine life in the soul. If you will believe in God, do the right, and leave everything to Him, you also shall find that the righteous shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall wax stronger and stronger.

(J. A. Picton, M. A.)

Weakness of all kinds is painful, inconvenient, and humiliating. So much indeed is power valued by us, that not a little of the world's hero worship has been the ardent adoration of strength in some one of its three principal manifestations, of either physical, or intellectual, or moral might. And all three have a glory, though not an equal glory. Intellectual power, by comparison with spiritual power, has had a large, and on the whole, a growing share of glory assigned to it. But physical force has had the most extensive sway in the world, and the longest reign. Look —

I. AT THE KIND OF STRENGTH AND PROGRESS THAT IS PROMISED IN THE TEXT TO THE RIGHTEOUS. Our text speaks of a strength whose greatest triumphs in this world are still future, as Christ's greatest triumphs in and over men are still future. It is a benign strength this that lies calmly resting on the sure promises and unchanging faithfulness of God. This kind of strength is moral and spiritual might, active, aggressive, victorious goodness. The strength of our text is the strength of right in vanquishing wrong, the strength of moral goodness in overcoming moral evil, both in its possessor and around him. This spiritual strength is counted weakness by the world, because its triumphs are not only like itself, spiritual, but they are often not immediate. Men who walk by sense, seeing not the things which are invisible, cannot wait God's time and way. And yet to conquer sin and self is man's best and greatest triumph. Every man's noblest battlefield lies within, not without himself; lies within, not without his fellow man. In harmony with the world's prevailing false idea of greatness, the idol gods, and the human heroes that men have made or chosen for themselves, have for the most part been powerful, but not goad. Look at the gods of the heathen. Superhuman in power always, but human, and almost infra-human, in character often. It is not moral and spiritual power, but grosser forms of power, that most people admire most. The suffering attitude of Jesus seemed to His contemporaries, and still seems to the eye of the natural man, the weakest of all Divine displays of power. And yet this in truth is not only the highest kind of power, but it is the mightiest in moral result. For the Cross of Christ is the very "power of God unto salvation." Here in the Cross of Christ we see more of the peculiar power of God "who is love," than anywhere else. Here lies the power of the Gospel. It is the revelation of God's rich grace and love to the evil. God instructs us to seek as our best personal attainment, the possession of a goodness so strong, and pure, and lofty, that evil from within, us and from without us shall flee away ashamed and vanquished before its overcoming and subduing power. This strength needs to be all the more diligently cultivated by us because it is not natural to us. In our fallen state we are spiritually weak. But this best kind of strength may be obtained. It is the life of God in the soul of man, and it re-creates in God's image the soul that it enters, and its presence becomes in part visible. The men in whom this life not only exists, but is abundant, by their very presence, both at rest and in action, exert a beneficent moral power and influence. These are the men from whose moral being a felt virtue goes forth that good men seek, and bad men shun. For there are men, every movement of whose mind creates currents of healthful, healing, spiritual influence, and such God-inspired men are strong. The text holds before us the encouraging prospect, that the really good man shall, by the inherent laws of goodness, go on his way, and become stronger and stronger in goodness, more and more successful in gaining victories over evil. Intellectual greatness we ought all profoundly to revere as one of God's best gifts to man; but we ought not to dishonour the Holy God and His moral image in man by an unholy worship of intellect as disjoined from goodness. How much even in the service of religion is talent often exalted above grace! View the text as a Divine direction, and also as a positive promise of success, to every renewed soul that is trying to make progress in the Divine life, and asks by what means he may become strong. An answer to this inquiry is much needed.

II. WHO ARE THEY THAT OBTAIN THE STRENGTH PROMISED IN THE TEXT? All do not. The man who would be strong and hold on his way must be in God's sense "righteous, and keep his hands clean."

1. The righteous, — the upright, honest, virtuous, pious. Our obligations to God and man not only lie near together, but at many points intersect and overlap each other. Righteousness is a name which covers over and enters into the whole web of human duty. The Bible name "righteous" denotes a well-defined class of men who are not now what they once were, but have been "born again." Our text does not speak of any man in his natural unrenewed state; but it speaks of man when under a supernatural tuition, of man the subject of Divine grace. Life comes before strength, and is more important. Get life, and strength will fellow.

III. THE LAWS THAT REGULATE THIS GROWTH OF STRENGTH. The reasons why the righteous grow stronger are both natural and supernatural. Note —

1. The operation of the natural law that the exercise of our faculties strengthens them. This is a law of the mind as well as a law of the body. The religion of the Bible perfectly harmonises with all Divine law. It is a reasonable service which yet rises above reason. Mature piety is ordinarily the ripened product of years well spent.

2. The righteous man who has clean hands holds on his way, and ever grows stronger through the ordinary operation of the great law of habit. Habit makes all things castor, and among others the most difficult Christian duties. The law of habit comes into action in favour of duty as well as in favour of sin.

3. The righteous man, and of clean hands, holds on his way, and waxes stronger and stronger by the teachings of experience.

4. The righteous man holds on his way, because religion is a life of which Christ is the source. But all life is much affected by food, climate, and exercise; and so is this higher life. Divine truth is the fit food of this life.

5. The great reason is that the righteous man's God and Father holds him up and strengthens him. And He is the living God. When others stumble and fall, the righteous man rises and stands upright, because God strengthens and upholds him. Clean hands, and such alone can lay a firm hold upon God, and lovingly constrain Him in His visits to leave a blessing behind Him. Polluted hands have no such power. The man who seeks and finds this Helper must hold on his way and grow stronger. The whole atmosphere of Scripture is strongly provocative of robust spiritual health. The Godward attitude continued in makes weak men to become strong, and strong men to become stronger and stronger.

(J. C. Macintosh.)

I. A CHARACTER SPOKEN OF. "Righteous." As persons who are taught to discard their own righteousness, and are clothed upon with the righteousness of another. Clad in that righteousness, they are taught to live "soberly, righteously, and godly in this present evil world."

II. THESE RIGHTEOUS ONES ARE DESCRIBED AS ON THEIR "WAY." There is but one way, and Jesus is that way — the way of acceptance with God, the way in which alone we can walk so as to please God. It is the only way of happiness, and may be a way of self-denial.

III. THE PROMISE. "Shall hold on." It is as positive as language can express it. He shall do it. Discouragements he may have, and shall have; trial of his patience, his hope, and his love — this he stands continually in need of, day by day, and hour by hour; through want of watchfulness he may slumber; through want of diligence he may stumble; withholding prayer, he ceases to fight; through self-confidence he may fall; but "the righteous shall hold on his way." It is the "mouth of the Lord that hath spoken it."

(J. H. Evans, M. A.)

What does "righteous" mean? We understand by it one in whom there is something more than a moral life; more than convictions of sin; more than religious impressions; more than sensations of joy arising from the Word of God; more even than one on whose mind there are certain influences of the Spirit; for the grace of God may enlighten the understanding, arouse the conscience, and move the affections, and yet with all this, the will may be unsubdued, and there may be no full and complete surrender of the heart to God. By the "righteous," then, we understand one who believes with the heart in Jesus. Nor is there any essential difference between the Old Testament and the New in this; for the righteous under the first dispensation, believed in a Saviour to come. The righteous now believe in a Saviour already come. A righteous man is one who trusts in a Redeemer; who, in a special sense, belongs to Christ, and in Christ to God. Of such an one the text speaks. It is a difficult way on which he holds his way. The word "his" refers to the righteous man, and yet it is God's way. The way which God has marked out for him; the way into which God has led him. It is no easy way. It is so narrow that you cannot carry the world with you along it; so steep, that if self-indulgent, you will never get up it; so rough, that if faint-hearted, you will fear the labour; and so long, that it requires much perseverance. But it is a happy way, the only happy way. It is a wonderful thing to see the righteous hold on his way; to see him out of weakness made strong, defeat changed into victory, his soul restored, his strength renewed. How are we to account for this triumph? The secret lies not in himself, but in God the Father who loved him, the Son who redeemed him, the Spirit who sanctifies him.

(George Wagner.)

The Christian is frequently compared to a traveller; but no traveller reaches his journey's end merely by starting upon the road. If it should be a journey of seven weeks' length, if he shall sit down after journeying six weeks, he certainly will not reach the goal of his desires. It is necessary, if I would reach a certain city, that I should go every mile of the road; for one mile would not take me there; nor if the city be a hundred miles distant, would ninety-nine miles bring me to its streets. I must journey all the length if I would reach the desired place. Frequently, in the New Testament, the Christian is compared to a runner — he runs in a race for a great prize; but it is not by merely starting, it is not by making a great spurt, it is not by distancing your rival for a little time, and then pulling up to take breath, or sauntering to either side of the road, that you will win the race: we must never stop till we have passed the winning post; there must be no loitering throughout the whole of the Christian career, but onward, like the Roman charioteer, with glowing wheels, we must fly more and more rapidly till we actually obtain the crown. The Christian is sometimes, by the apostle Paul, who somewhat delights to quote from the ancient games, compared to the Grecian wrestler, or boxer. But it is of little avail for the champion to give the foe one blow or one fall: he must continue in the combat until his adversary is beaten. Our spiritual foes will not be vanquished until we enter where the conquerors receive their crowns, and therefore we must continue in fighting attitude. It is in vain for us to talk of what we have done or are doing just now, he that continueth to the end, the same shall be saved, and none but he. The believer is commonly compared to a warrior — he is engaged in a great battle, a holy war. Like Joshua, he has to drive out the Canaanites, that have chariots of iron, before he can fully take possession of his inheritance; but it is not the winning of one battle that makes a man a conqueror: nay, though he should devastate one province of his enemies' territories, yet, if he should be driven out by-and-by, he is beaten in the campaign, and it will yield him but small consolation to win a single battle, or even a dozen battles, if the campaign as a whole should end in his defeat. It is not commencing as though the whole world were to be cleared by one display of fire and sword, but continuing, going from strength to strength, from victory to victory, that makes the man the conqueror of his foe. The Christian is also called a disciple or scholar. But who does not know that the boy by going to school for a day or two does not therefore become wiser? If the lad should give himself most diligently to his grammar for six months, yet he will never become a linguist unless he shall continue perseveringly in his classic studies. The great mathematicians of our times did not acquire their science in a single year; they pressed forward with aching brow; they burnt the midnight oil and tortured their brains; they were not satisfied to rest, for they could never have become masters of their art if they had lingered on the road. The believer is also called a builder, but you know of whom it was said, "This man began to build, but was not able to finish." The digging out of the foundation is most important, and the building up of stone upon stone is to be carried on with diligence; but though the man should half finish the walls, or even complete them, yet if he do not roof in the structure, he becomes a laughing stock to every passer-by. A good beginning, it is said, is more than half, but a good ending is more than the whole. Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

That master allegorist, John Bunyan, has not pictured Christian as carried to heaven while asleep in an easy chair. He makes Christian lose his burden at the cross foot, he ascribes the deliverance of the man from the burden of his sin, entirely to the Lord Jesus; but he represents him as climbing the Hill Difficulty — ay, and on his hands and knees too. Christian has to descend into the Valley of Humiliation, and to tread that dangerous pathway through the gloomy horrors of the Shadow of Death. He has to be urgently watchful to keep himself from sleeping in the Enchanted Ground. Nowhere is he delivered from the necessities incident to the way, for even at the last he fords the black river, and struggles with its terrible billows. Effort is used all the way through, and you that are pilgrims to the skies will find it to be no allegory, but a real matter of fact: your soul must gird up her loins; you need your pilgrim's staff and armour, and you must foot it all the way to heaven, contending with giants, fighting with lions, and combating Apollyon himself.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

The present life is the only scene of probation of man; if he should fail in the scene in which he is now placed, he fails forever. How encouraging, then, to be assured that he who has begun the good work will carry it on amid all the perils of our present state, until we reach the state where no danger can arrive.

I. THE CHARACTER OF THOSE WHO ARE HERE INTRODUCED. They have already commenced the course of the Christian life. The expression "clean hands" denotes their freedom from those pollutions which are connected with human nature in its unconverted state. The language further suggests an open and honest profession of their attachment to the ways of God and righteousness. The man who partakes of this character will necessarily be concerned that he may hold on his way, and wax stronger and stronger.

II. THE CONSIDERATIONS WHICH LED YOU TO SEPARATE YOURSELF FROM THE WORLD AND TO DEVOTE YOURSELF TO GOD. All these claims are now at hand, and possess all the claim they ever possessed. Hold on your way, and look to the exercise of that cleanness of spirit which every honest mind will be concerned to possess. Look to the exercise of purity of intention, to the testimony which God has connected with His Word, that it may come home to your heart, and work mightily there.

(R. Vaughan.)

I. THE PERSONS SPOKEN OF. The "righteous" are those who have "clean hands." The former term describes their state, the latter their character. Righteous is a forensic term. There can only be two ways of being righteous — either by never having sinned, or by being delivered, in some way or other, from the condemnation due to sin. The former applies to the angels. For fallen man another kind of righteousness must be devised, which is, the imputation of Christ's righteousness unto him.

II. WHAT IS SAID CONCERNING THEM? "Shall hold on his way." They are going onward in the way to heaven; in this way they meet many obstacles — as from false brethren, false teachers, false waymarks. There are obstacles both in the way of faith and of conduct. Nevertheless, they shall "hold on their way." This must necessarily follow.

1. From a consideration of the character of God. He is faithful and immutable.

2. From a consideration of the death of Christ. He died for us, not leaving it doubtful what effects would be produced by His death.

3. From a consideration of the nature and constitution of the covenant of grace. It is God's will that saints should have strong consolation, upon the ground of their final perseverance.

4. From a consideration of the nature of real conversion, and the work of God the Holy Spirit.

5. From a consideration of the intercession of Christ, which must be ever prevalent.

6. From a consideration of the nature of that principle which is implanted within them. It is an immortal principle; an "incorruptible seed."

(John Davies.)

Consider the character in the text.

I. HE IS RIGHTEOUS. The character in the text is right with God. Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.

II. HE IS HOLY. He has "clean hands." The hand is the instrument of action; it is moved by the heart — the pulsations of which are right, and so he can lift them up to God "without wrath or doubting." He is not afraid for God to see them, nor for Him to know the principles whence these actions emanate. A man has just as much religion in his business as he has in his closet; the same in the counting house as he has on his knees. There is no reason why labour should not be a psalm, and commerce a ritual in the best sense of the word. The time shall come when "holiness to the Lord" shall be written upon the bells of the horses; and then, whether men eat or drink, or whatever they do, they "do all for the glory of God."

III. HE IS PERSISTENT. "He shall hold on," etc. At an important period of his existence, Gibbon said of his prospects, "All is dark and doubtful." Of this character's future, all is bright and hopeful — "Glory, honour, immortality, eternal life," are in the future. "He shall hold on his way." The wind, and tide, and sea may be against the steamers which reach your port, but through the power of the steam within, they hold on their way. Outward circumstances may appear to be all against the character of the text; but by the power of the principle within he "holds on his way." This is a moral duty. Final perseverance is an article for the code, rather than for the creed. This is a law of the Divine life. The leaven is put in to leaven the whole lump. You must go on, or recede; you cannot stand still. The purest water that ever fell from heaven will corrupt if it be stagnant.

IV. HE IS GROWING. The Bible beckons you on to better things, and urges you to "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." This is also confirmed by experience. There is also a power in the habit of goodness. The more you exercise faith, the easier you can do so. The more you do for God, the more delightful becomes the exercise. In every conflict with hell in which you conquer, you learn the tactics of war, and become mightier for further engagements. What a bright vista opens before the soul which is morally right!

(G. Warner.)

(ver. 9, with Job 42:5, 6): —

1. It is not possible to set out the salient features of Job's strength with even a slight approximation to completeness, without taking into account the immense energy he derived from his burning consciousness of unimpeachable integrity. Not that Job made no mistakes. He made many. He misconceived God's methods, misjudged God's heart, flung censures to right of him and censures to left of him, spoke rashly and petulantly. But never did he sink into an insincerity, or clothe himself with a sham; but maintained an unbroken consciousness of integrity of spirit and purity of heart. Integrity is power. Sincerity is a high form of human energy. Righteousness as a passion of the heart, and an element in character and life, is a manifest and undeniable source of imperial force. Wickedness is, in spite of seeming strength, actual imbecility.

2. Nevertheless, the closing picture of this hero, Job, is not that of a conqueror, but a confessor; not of an enthroned prince, but a kneeling penitent. This is not what we expected. The language of genuine sorrow and deep self-abasement loads his lips, and his far-shining integrity is not worth a moment's lip defence by the side of his failure to keep the law of God. Sincerity is good, but it is not sinlessness. Indisputable integrity of purpose, and inflexible honesty of heart, are jewels of unspeakable worth, but they will not atone for rash speech, misjudgment of God, and hatred of weak and faulty men. Be true, by all means; but think of Job's penitence, and remember that the heroic virtue of integrity and wholeness, superlatively good as it is, is not enough.

3. It is the special charm of Job's story that it exhibits this high-strung and strenuous integrity dwelling in the same spirit with the acutest penitence and throbbing self-loathing. We can recognise these qualities apart, and appreciate them in their singleness, but that they should blend in the same life, tenant the same spirit, and be sources of power to the same character, conflicts with our habitual thought. Yet the minds of culminating power in the vast brotherhood of the world's workers and redeemers, have not been more deeply marked by their persistent devotion to purity of thought, uncompromising fidelity to fact, and aspiration after perfection, than by their quivering sensitiveness to the smallness of their achievements, acute sense of personal fault, and prevailing consciousness — often attended by spasms of weakening pain — of absolute failure. The righteous Job in his penitence anticipates the Church of the first-born in heaven. It is fidelity to the clearest laws of advancing human life which marries in one and the same progressive spirit, inflexible consecration to reality and right, and deep and true penitence for failure and sin.

4. Whence came this penitential mood? What induced this change of feeling? The unexpected revolution is effected by the revelation of God to the eye of the soul. "Mine eye seeth Thee." He passes out of the realm of mere "hearsays" about God, to that of inward experience and actual communion. The eyes give fuller and clearer knowledge than the ear. Job knows God as he did not know Him before. The character of his knowledge is changed, heightened, vitalised, intensified, personalised.

5. Was not Job led to this renewing sight of God by the voice that addressed, startled, and overwhelmed him out of the whirlwind, forcing in upon his mind an oppressive and overwhelming conception of the creative and administrative power of the Almighty? Is not the ear the way to the spiritual eye, as surely as the sight of God is the way to repentance, and repentance the way to life?

6. Here, then, is one signal value of the knowledge of God, even of His immense power and greatness. It is the ground and spring of a true conception of ourselves, of our limitations and possibilities, our actual condition and ethical ideal.

7. Such God-inspired penitence swiftly vindicates itself in the pure sincerity and holy brotherliness it creates, and the reconciliations it effects between man and man, and man and his lot. Sin divides; repentance unites. Humbled before the Lord, Job becomes a priest. Set the tree of penitence in such a Divine soil, and it must bear this kind of fruit.

(J. Clifford, D. D.)

I remind you that while final perseverance is necessary, it is extremely difficult. The way itself renders if so. The way to heaven is no smooth-shaven lawn.

1. It is a rough road, up hill, down dale, across rivers, and over mountains.

2. Moreover, the road is long. It is a life-long road.

3. Besides that, the road is so contrary to fallen nature. It is a way of faith.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

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