Then Job answered:
Oh, that I knew where I might find Him.
I. IT IMPLIES A PAINFUL SENSE OF DISTANCE FROM GOD. Men of no religion are far off from God, but this gives them no concern. The presence of Christ constitutes the believer's joy, and he mourns nothing so much as the loss of God's favour. Sad and comfortless as the state of distance from God must be to the believer, still he is painfully conscious of his own state, and crying like Job, "Oh, that I knew where I might find Him!" The occasions that most generally give birth to the complaint and cry in the text are such as these.
1. Bodily suffering, or the pressure of severe and long-continued outward calamities, may contribute to enfeeble the mind, and lead the soul to conclude that it is forsaken by its God. The dispensations of Divine providence appear so complex and difficult, that faith is unable to explore them, or hope to rise above them. The mind magnifies its distresses, and dwells on its own griefs, to the exclusion of those grounds of consolation and causes of thankfulness afforded in the many mercies that tend to alleviate their bitterness. In reality God is not more distant from the soul, though He appears to be so.
2. Another and more serious occasion of distance and desertion is sin cherished, long indulged, unrepented of, and unpardoned. This alienates the soul from God. Sin is just the wandering of the soul in its thoughts, desires, and affections from God, and God graciously makes sin itself the instrument in correcting the backslider. The righteous desert of the soul's departure from God, is God's desertion of the soul. God is really ever near to man. "He is not far from any one of us." But sin indulged, whether open, secret, or presumptuous, grieves the Holy Spirit, expels Him from the temple He loved, and cheered by His presence. Let us thank God that distance is not utter desertion. When the misery of separation and distance from God is felt, the dawn of restoration and reconciliation begins.
II. AS THE LANGUAGE OF EARNEST DESIRE. When "brought to himself" the backslider rests not satisfied with fruitless complaints, but the desire of his soul is towards his God. It is one thing to be conscious of distance from God, and quite another thing to be anxious to be brought near to Him by the blood of Christ. Conviction of guilt and misery is not conversion. What avails it, to know our separation from God, unless we are brought to this desire and anxiety, "Oh, that I knew where I might find Him!"
III. AS THE LANGUAGE OF HOLY FREEDOM. The text is a way of appeal by Job to God concerning his integrity. Though he had much to say in favour of his integrity before men, he did not rest on anything in himself as the ground of his justification before God. His language expresses a resolution to avail himself of the privilege of approaching the Most High with holy freedom and humble confidence, to present his petition.
IV. AS THE LANGUAGE OF HOPE. Job could expect little from his earthly friends. All his hopes flowed from another — an Almighty Friend. Those who wait on God, and hope in His Word, will surely not be disappointed. Then never give way to a rebellious spirit. Give not way to languor in your affections, coldness in your desires, indifference as to the Lord's presence or absence, or to feebleness of faith. Let the desires of your soul be, as David's, a "panting after God."
(Charles O. Stewart.)
I. In perhaps a wider sense than its original application in the passage of our text, these words of Job are as THE VERY SIGH OF THE HUMAN HEART, ASKING THE DEEPEST QUESTION OF LIFE. Men have always boon conscious of God, as Job was, sure that He was near, and sure also, like Job, that in Him would be the solution of every difficulty and the explanation of every mystery. The race has been haunted by God. St. Paul's words to the Athenians on Mars Hill are a true reading of history, and a true reading of human nature; that all men are so constituted by essential nature that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us. It is the deepest philosophy of human history. Even when men have no definite knowledge of God they are forced by the very needs of their nature, driven by inner necessity, to reach out after God. Though, like Job, when they go forward He is not there, and backward they cannot perceive Him. On the left hand and on the right hand they cannot see Him, yet they are doomed to seek Him, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him. Man is a religious being, it is in his blood; he feels himself related to a power above him, and knows himself a spirit longing for fellowship with the Divine. Thus religion is universal, found at all stages of human history and all ages; all the varied forms of religion, all its institutions, all its sorts of worship, are witnesses to this conscious need which the race has for God. Job may assent to Zophar the Naamathite's proposition that finite man cannot completely comprehend the infinite. "Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty to perfection?" But this assertion does not disprove the fact of which he is certain, that he has had fellowship with God, and has had religious experiences of which he cannot doubt. All forms of faith are witnesses to man's insatiable thirst for God, and many forms of unbelief and denial are only more pathetic witnesses still of the same fact. Many a denial of the Divine is just the bitter faith that He is a God that hideth Himself. When men come to consciousness of self they come also to consciousness of the unseen, a sense of relation to the power above them. The great problem of life is to find God; not to find happiness, not even by being satiated with that can the void be filled; but to find God; for being such as we are, with needs, longings, aspirations, we are beaten with unsatisfied desire, struck with restless fever, till we find rest in God. The true explanation is the biblical one, that man is made in the imago of God, that in spirit he is akin to the eternal Spirit, there is no great gulf fixed between God and man which cannot be bridged over. Man was created in the likeness of God, but was born a child of God. Fellowship is possible, therefore, since there is no inherent incapacity; there is something in man which corresponds to qualities in God. The conclusion, which is the instinctive faith of man, is that spirit with spirit can meet. God entered into a relation of love and fatherhood with man, man entered into a relationship of love and sonship with God. Certain it is that man can never give up the hope and the desire, and must be orphaned and desolate until he so does find God.
II. If it be true, as it is true, that man has ever sought God, IT IS A DEEPER FACT STILL THAT GOD HAS EVER SOUGHT MAN. The deep of man's desire has been answered by the deep of God's mercy. For every reaching forth of man there has been the stooping down of God. History is more than the story of the human soul seeking God; in a truer and more profound sense still is it the record of God seeking the soul. The very fact that men have asked with some measure of belief, though struck almost with doubt at the wonder of it, "Will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth?" is because God has dwelt with men, has entered into terms of communion. The history of man's attainment is the history of God's self-revelation. It is solely because God has been seeking man that man has stretched out groping hands if haply he might feel after Him and find Him. Faith has survived just because it justifies itself and because it embodies itself in experience. Religious history is not only the dim and blundering reaching out of man's intelligence towards the mystery of the unknown, it is rather the history of God approaching man, revealing His will to man, declaring Himself, offering relations of trust and fellowship. If Christ has given expression to the character of God, if He has revealed the Father, has He not consciously, conclusively, proved to us that the Divine attitude is that of seeking men, striving to establish permanent relations of devotion and love? He has also given us the assurance that to respond to God's love is to know Him, the assurance that to seek Him is to find Him, so that no longer need we ask in half despair, "Oh that I knew where I might find Him!" Prayer, trust, worship, self-surrender, never fail of Divine response, bringing peace and heart's ease. When to the knowledge that God is, and is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him, there is added the further knowledge that God is love, we receive a guarantee — do we not? — that not in vain is our desire after Him, a guarantee that to seek Him is to find Him. Ah, the tragedy is not that men who seek should have failed to find God, but that men should not seek, that men should be content to pass through life without desiring much, or much striving, to pierce the veil of mystery. It is man's nature to seek God, we have said, but this primitive intuition can be overborne by the weight of material interest, by the mass of secondary concerns, by the lust of flesh and the lust of eye and pride of life. A thousand-fold better than this deadness of soul is it to be still unsatisfied, still turning the eyes to the light for the blissful vision; to be still in want, crying to the silent skies, "Oh that I knew where I might find Him!" But even that need not be our condition. If we seek God, as we surely can, as we surely do, in the face of Jesus Christ, the true picture is not man lost in the dark, not man seeking God his home with palsied steps and groping hands. The true picture is the seeking God, come in Christ to seek and save the lost.
(H. Black, M. A.)
Homilist.The provision to satisfy this longing of the soul must involve —
I. A PERSONAL MANIFESTATION OF GOD TO THE SOUL. It is not for some thing, but for some person that the soul cries. Pantheism may gratify the instinct of the speculative, or the sentiment of the poetic, but it meets not this profoundest craving of our nature.
II. A BENEVOLENT MANIFESTATION OF GOD TO THE SOUL. For an unemotional God the soul has no affinity; for a malevolent one it has a dread. It craves for one that is kind and loving. Its cry is for the Father; nothing else will do.
III. A PROPITIABLE MANIFESTATION OF GOD TO THE SOUL. A sense of sin presses heavily on the race. So mere benevolence will not do. God may be benevolent and yet not propitiable. Does then our Bible meet the greatest necessity of human nature? Does it give a personal, benevolent, and propitiable God?
(Joseph Parker, D. D.)
1. Some there are who will confess at once that they are at times — not always, not often perhaps, but sometimes — troubled with speculative doubts about God's existence. So many thoughtful, earnest men around them seem to regard it as an open question whether the problems of nature may not be solved on some other hypothesis.
2. Others dislike controversy, and would rather not enter upon the question whether they have found God. These are Christians, and the first article of their creed is, "I believe in God."
3. Some are ready timidly to confess that again and again they have found their faith in God's presence fail them, when they have most needed it.
4. A happier group, by a well-ordered life of devotion, and daily attendance on the ordinances of the Church, are keeping themselves near to God. And yet even these may have a misgiving that they are growing too dependent on these outward helps for the sustaining of their faith. Job's words may well awaken an echo in all our hearts. "Oh that I knew where I might find Him!" There is comfort in the fact that holy men of old felt this same desire to find God in some deeper sense than they had yet attained to. If they felt it, we need not be unduly distressed if we feel it also. How then are we to seek to find God? Intellectually or otherwise? Not to mere intellect, but to a higher faculty, the moral and spiritual faculty. When we speak of knowing a thing intellectually, we mean that we know it by demonstration of sense or reason. When we speak of knowing a thing morally or spiritually, we mean that we either know it intuitively or take it on trust. We do not mean that the evidence in this latter case is less certain than in the former; it may be far more certain. Scepticism in religion is simply that failure of faith which is sure to result from an endeavour to grasp religious truths by a faculty that was never intended to grasp them. But how am I to know what is a Divine revelation, and what is not? He who is in direct correspondence with God, holding direct intercourse with God, will not need any further evidence of God's existence. If any here would find God, let him first go to the four Gospels, and try to see clearly there what Christ promises to do for him. Then let him take this promise on trust, as others have done, and act upon it. And if perseveres, he will sooner or later most surely find God.
(Canon J. P. Norris, B. D.)
I. THE CRY OF THE HUMAN SOUL AFTER GOD. Notice the object of the cry. It is for God. It goes straight to the mark, right over all lower objects and minor aims. He felt he had come to a crisis in his life, when none but God could avail. Give me God, and I have enough. When Job uttered this cry he unconsciously struck the keynote of universal desire. It is the cry of the human race after God. It is the instinctive cry of the human soul. Nature told men that there was a God, but it could not lead them to His seat. The sages went to philosophy for an answer, but philosophy said, "It is not for me." In view of this fruitless search, a question might be started, a question easier to ask than to answer, — Why did God keep Himself and His plans hidden from mankind so long? This is one of the secret things that belong to God. We cannot tell, and we need not speculate.
II. THE GOSPEL ANSWER TO THE TEXT. Christ in human form satisfies the longing of the human spirit. He is Immanuel, — God with us. You will find the Father in the Son, you will find God in Christ. This cry may come from a soul who has never known God at all, or it may come from one who has lost the sense of His favour and longs for restoration. In either case the cry can be answered only in Christ. Have you found God? If you will take Christ as your guide, He will lead you up to God.
(David Merson, B. D.)
I. THE NEED OF THE SOUL OF A PERSONAL GOD. The human soul ever cries for God. It never ceases in its cry, and is weary in its search and effort in seeking the absolute reality and good of life. The soul needs an object to commune with, and this it finds in a Divine personality, and nowhere else. The soul asks, Where is the living One? The soul needs security, and that is not to be found according to the language of conviction but in a personal God. The soul seeks unity, hence it seeks a personal God.
II. THE SOUL IN SEARCH AFTER A PERSONAL GOD. So near is the relation between conviction of the need of God, and the search after Him, that in the degree one is felt, the other is done. The soul is not confined to one place, or one mode of means in the search.
III. THE PERPLEXITY OF THE SOUL IN ITS SEARCH FOR THE PERSONAL GOD. The perplexity arises partly from the mystery of the object of search.
IV. THE SECRET CONFIDENCE OF THE SOUL IN THE PERSONAL GOD WHOM IT SEEKS. There is a general confidence in God's mercy and in His all-sufficiency.
I. THE SEARCH FOR GOD. Among the acts possible to man only, is that he alone can search for God. Strange are the contrasts which human nature exhibits. Language cannot describe the elevation to which man is capable of rising — the lofty self-devotion, the quest for truth, above all, the earnest search for God. Of all the many things men seek, surely this is the noblest, this search for God.
II. THE SEARCH FOR GOD UNAVAILING. This is an exclamation of despair about finding God. It seems to be Job's chief trouble that he cannot penetrate the clouds and darkness which surround his Maker.
III. THE SEARCH FOR GOD REWARDED. The deep, unquenchable craving of frail, suffering, sinful men to find their Maker, and to find Him their friend, is met in Jesus Christ.
(T. M. Herbert, M. A.)
I. WHO ARE THE CHARACTERS THAT EMPLOY THIS LANGUAGE?
1. The sinner under conviction.
2. Believers in distress.
3. Penitent backsliders.
II. POINT OUT WHERE THE LORD MAY BE FOUND.
1. In His works, as a God of power.
2. In providence, as a God of wisdom and goodness.
3. In the human breast, as a God of purity and justice.
4. In the ordinances of religion, as a God of grace. It is chiefly on the throne of mercy that He is graciously found.
III. FROM WHAT SOURCES YOU DRAW ARGUMENTS.
1. From His power.
2. His goodness.
3. His mercy.
4. His truth.
5. His impartiality.
6. His justice.The text is the language of sincere regret; restless desire; guilty fear; anxious inquiry; willing submission.
(J. Summerfield, A. M.)
(Joseph Parker, D. D.)
I. JOB'S CONDITION. "Even today is my complaint bitter: my stroke is heavier than my groaning." In some this murmuring and repining is a natural infirmity; they seem to be constitutionally morbid and querulous. In others this is a moral infirmity, arising from pride and unbelief and discontent, against which it becomes us always carefully to guard.
II. JOB'S DESIRE. "Oh that I knew where I might find Him! that I might come even to Iris seat!" He does not express the name of God. Here we see an addition to his distress; he was now in a state of desertion. God can never be absent from His people, as to His essential presence, or even as to His spiritual presence. But He may be absent as to what our divines call His sensible presence, or the manifestation of His favour and of the designs of His dealings with us. This greatly enhances any external affliction. For the presence of God, which is always necessary, is never so sweet as it is in the day of trouble. It is a sad thing to be without the presence of God; but it is far worse to be senseless of our need of it. The desire after God arises from three causes.
1. The new nature. Persons will desire according to their conviction and their disposition.
2. Experience. When they first sought after God, they felt their need of film
3. A consciousness of their entire dependence upon Him. They feel that all their sufficiency is of God. Observe, in the case of Job, the earnestness of his desire.
III. HIS RESOLUTION.
1. He says, "I would order my cause before Him." Which shows that the Divine presence would not overpower him, so as not to leave sense, reason, and speech.
2. He says, "I would fill my mouth with arguments." Not that these are necessary to excite and move a Being who is love itself; but these are proper to affect and encourage us.
3. He says, "I would know the words which He would answer me, and understand what He would say unto me." In general, a Christian wishes to know the Divine pleasure concerning him. You will attach little importance to prayer, if you are regardless of God's answer to it.
IV. HIS CONFIDENCE AND EXPECTATION. The power of God is great. Notice the blessedness of having this power employed for us. "He will put strength in me." How dreadful must it be for God to "plead against a man by His great power."
I. ANXIOUS TO FIND HOW HE CAN GET HIS CAUSE BEFORE GOD FOR ARBITRATION. Job illustrates what ought to be true of every man. We should be anxious to know what God thinks of us, rather than what men think of us. We should remember that One is to be our Judge who knows our heart, before whom, in the day of final assize, we are to appear for inspection, and whose recognition of our integrity will insure blessedness for us in the great hereafter.
II. WE DISCOVER JOB CALMLY CONFIDENT THAT GOD'S DECISION OF HIS CAUSE WILL BE JUST. He does not imagine for a moment that God will make mistakes concerning him, or that Omnipotence will take advantage of his weakness.
III. IN GREAT PERPLEXITY, BECAUSE HE SEEMS TO BE EXCLUDED FROM THE TRIAL WHICH HE SEEKS. The lament of this man here is painful and mysterious. Job's hope had been that God would appear somewhere. But all is night and silence. This is human experience caused by human infirmities. Life is a season of discipline, a season of education and evolution.
IV. WE FIND JOB CALM IN THE ASSURED WATCHFULNESS OF GOD OVER HIM, AND IN HIS CONFIDENCE OF ULTIMATE VINDICATION. Here is supreme faith in the all-knowing and finally delivering God. Job's faith is the world's need.
(Justin E. Twitchell.)
1. There is the feeling which is excited within us when we come preparedly into contact with what is Divine. The soul feels God's presence, however He may be named, and with whatever investiture He may be clothed. But then the understanding interprets the devout feeling Divine objects awaken, by representing God under such forms as its culture enables it to think out. God has appointed many objects through which He makes His revelation directly to the soul. Everything in the natural and moral world, which greatly surpasses man's comprehension or attainments, becomes the medium through which God speaks to the soul, touches its devout feeling, and so reveals Himself. You may say, "It is not feeling I want,, but a justification of my feeling; a reconciliation of my feeling with the facts science, history, and criticism have taught me." Nay, it is feeling, intense, irresistible feeling, of God's presence with us and in us that we need. No thinking can give you back the God you have lost; it is in feeling, the feeling awakened by coming into contact with God, that alone you can find Him. There is, however, one condition — a man must come with a pure heart, a free conscience, and a purpose set to do God's will.
I. THE DIFFERENT SPIRITUAL SENTIMENTS IMPLIED IN THIS HOLY EXCLAMATION. Here is —
1. A solemn appeal from the unjust censures of men, to the knowledge, love, and faithfulness of God, the supreme Judge. Apostasy from God hath rendered mankind very foolish and erroneous judges in spiritual matters. The more of God there is in any man's character and exercises, the more is that man exposed to the malignant censures, not only of the world at large, but even of Christians of an inferior class. For the weakest Christians are most forward to go beyond their depths, in judging confidently of things above their knowledge. Against assaults of this kind the children of the Most High have a strong refuge. The shield of faith quenches the fiery and envenomed darts of calumny, misrepresentation, and malice.
2. An intended bold expostulation with God, in respect of the strangeness and intricacy of His dealings with His afflicted servant. It is one of the hardest conflicts in the spiritual life, when God Himself appears as a party contending with His own children. Job could discover no special reason for God's severity against him. His faith naturally vents itself in the way of humble, yet bold expostulation.
3. A perplexing sense of distance from God. Renewed souls have such perceptions of God as are mysterious to themselves and incredible to others. When God seems to hide His face, an awful consternation, confusion, dejection, and anguish are the consequence. This situation is the more perplexing when, as was Job's case, there is felt a very great need for the presence of God, and when all endeavours to recover it seem to be vain. Then the conclusion is sometimes rashly drawn by the people of God, "My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God." But in all these afflictions of His people, the Lord Himself is afflicted.
4. Job's exclamation expresses most vehement desires after the spiritual presence of God.
5. What is particularly to be attended to is the nature of the access to God which Job desired. He was in pursuit of the most near and intimate communion with God.
II. BRING HOME THE WHOLE OF THESE SENTIMENTS.
1. Such instances of deep and sober spiritual exercise furnish a convincing proof of the reality of religion, and of the certainty of the great truths with which the power of religion is so closely connected.
2. The things which have been treated of give us a view of the nature as well as of the reality of religion.
3. Such characters as that of Job carry in them the condemnation of various classes of people.
4. This subject may be applied for the encouragement of the upright.
(J. Love, D. D.)
I. THE DEEP, PAINFUL, AND DISTRESSING FEELING WHICH THESE WORDS BRING BEFORE US. The language of the text is not the language of one possessing either a false security or a real and solid peace. There is a peace which disturbs the soul, a treacherous calm, the harbinger of the tempest. There is a rest which is not a healthy repose, but the torpor of one over whose members there is stealing the unfelt effects of that lifeless inactivity which so often precedes a second death. Those who are the victims of this fatal insensibility see no danger, and therefore fear no evil. They apprehend no change, and so prepare against no danger. How different is the state implied in the text! The mind, aroused from its carelessness, finds itself wretched and miserable, poor and blind and naked. It knows no peace; it has no comforter. "Oh that I knew where I might find Him!" is the language of such a spirit in the hour of its dimness and darkness and perplexity. The language is even more truly descriptive of the feeling of one who, having known the grace of God in truth, has lost his sense of the Divine favour, and walks in heaviness under the chastening hand and frowning countenance of his Heavenly Father.
II. THE ARDENT DESIRE. The first symptom of returning health and soundness in the mind is that restlessness which urges the soul to flee again unto its God. Satan has recourse to various artifices for the purpose of diverting the desires into another channel. When God is absent from you, do not rest until He return to you, as the God of your salvation.
III. HOLY RESOLUTION. "I would order my cause before Him." There is an important sense in which a sinner may order his cause before God; and there are irresistible "arguments" which he is authorised to advance, and which he is assured will be favourably received. Combined with self-abasement, there should be confidence in the mercy of that God to whom you so reverently draw nigh. Alas! how many there are who will not give themselves the trouble earnestly to desire and diligently to seek the Lord!
(Stephen Bridge, A. M.)
I. WHERE SHALL I FIND GOD? Where is His mercy seat? Whore doth He graciously reveal Himself to those who seek Him? I know that I may find Him in nature. The world, the universe of worlds, are the works of His hands. We may find Him in the Bible, in the secret place of prayer, and in my own heart.
II. HOW SHALL I APPROACH HIM? Sinner that I am, how shall I order my cause before a righteous and holy Judge? Prayer is the appointed method, the duty enjoined upon all, the universal condition of forgiveness and salvation. Why is prayer made the condition of the blessing? Because it is the confession of my need, and the declaration of my desire; the acknowledgment of my helpless dependency, and the expression of my humble trust in His almighty goodness. But all prayer must be offered through the mediation of God's beloved Son. And we must come with sincerity.
III. WHAT PLEA MUST I EMPLOY? Shall I plead the dignity of my rank, or the merit of my work, or the purity of my heart? I will plead His glorious name, and His unspeakable gift, and His great and precious promises. I will plead the manifestation of His mercy to others, and the numberless instances of His grace to myself.
IV. AND WHAT ANSWER SHALL I RECEIVE? Will God disregard my suit? No. "He will put strength in me." He will show me what is in my favour; suggest to my mind additional and irrefutable arguments. "I shall know the words that He will answer me."
(J. Cross, D. D.)
1. The abstract question of the possibility of any man being absolutely innocent in the sight of God is not raised here. Men are divided into two great classes — those who (however imperfectly) seek to serve God and do right, and those who live in selfishness and sin. The former class are called the righteous. In the relative sense, Job's claim as to his own character was true.
2. We are not to find in Job, as he is here exhibited, a model for ourselves when we are afflicted. Try to separate in Job's condition those things in which he was right from those things in which he was wrong. He was right —
1. In his consciousness of innocence.
2. In using his reason on the great problem of suffering.
3. In wanting to know God's opinion of him.
4. In his desire to be just before God.
5. In holding fast to his belief in God.
6. Job believed in justice as an essential element in the character of God, even though he did not see how God was just in the present instance.Job was wrong —
1. In his imperfect theory of suffering — wrong, that is, in the sense of being mistaken.
2. In his restless desire to know all the reasons for God's dealings with him.
3. In wanting to have God bring Himself down to a level of equality with him, laying aside His omniscience, and listening, as though He were only a human judge, to Job.
4. And Job was plainly wrong in his impatient fooling towards God (ver. 2).
(D. J. Burrell, D. D.)
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