Job 23:10


I. GOD'S KNOWLEDGE.

1. The fact. Job has just been owning his difficulty in finding God. He searches in all directions, forward and backward, on the left hand and on the right, and he cannot discover God (vers. 8, 9). But although it is so hard for him to attain to a knowledge of God, he is quite certain that God knows him. We are known by God before we think of acknowledging him, and when we are bewildered with the mystery of life all is clear and open to God.

2. Its scope. God knows the way that his servants take.

(1) Past experiences. He knows what we have had to contend with, and why our lives have been vexed and tried.

(2) Present circumstances. At the very moment when we have some new difficulty to face, some new height to climb, or some new snare to avoid, God is with us, perfectly understanding the whole situation.

(3) Future scenes. One step is enough for us, because God knows all that lies before us. Although our way may seem to be leading to impossible regions, he who sees the end from the beginning can lead us through.

3. Its consequences. If God knows our way, we have not to travel, like Columbus, over untried seas. The whole route has been mapped out by God. We cannot be lost if he who knows our way is our Guide. Gordon's favourite passage from Browning shows the right spirit of one who trusts this truth -

"I go to prove my soul.
I see my way as birds their trackless way.
I shall arrive! What time, what circuit first,
I ask not; but unless God send his hail
Or blinding fireballs, sleet or stifling snow,
In some time, his good time, I shall arrive.
He guides me, and the bird. In his good time."

II. MAN'S DISCIPLINE. Job is now confident that when God has tried him he will come forth as gold.

1. Its source. The suffering man holds to the idea that his trouble comes from God. All along he has not perceived Satan's share in it. Therefore his faith is the more remarkable. He is right to some extent, because his trouble is only what God permits. God may not be the direct agent of a person's affliction. This may come from the cruelty of men or from other undetected causes. Yet it is all within the restraint of God.

2. Its process. Job perceives that he is being tried by God. This is the first time that he has given evidence of holding such an ides. Hitherto he has been simply dismayed and distressed at the problem of suffering. He has had no theory to oppose to his friends' orthodox notion that it is the merited punishment of sin. That that notion was wrong, experience and observation have made him see quite clearly. But hitherto he has not been able to supply an alternative idea. Now there dawns on him a perception of the disciplinary purpose of suffering. The husbandman purges the vine-branch because it is fruitful (John 15:2). The father chastises his son because he loves him (Hebrews 12:6). God tries his servant, not to punish him, but because he values him.

3. Its aim. That the sufferer may come forth as gold. Job will have his innocence vindicated. A deeper result than vindication, however, is the perfecting of the soul through suffering. The fire not only tests, it refines.

4. Its success. The end aimed at will be attained. The assurance of this lies in the previous thought of God's knowledge. He does not need to assay the soul in order to discover for himself whether it is of true gold. He knows the worth of his servants. He adapts their discipline to their requirements. It seems disproportionate, but it is suitable; for God knows the way of his people; therefore he will bring them forth as gold. - W.F.A.









But He knoweth the way that I take.
A Christian in trouble should seek comfort in himself. His chief comfort lies in his relation to God. Only sincerity Godward makes such a statement as this possible.

I. THE GOOD MAN'S WAY.

1. It is the way He chooses for me.

2. It is the way of obedience to His will.

3. It is the way His Son trod.

4. It is the way of self-sacrifice for others.

II. GOD'S KNOWLEDGE OF THE GOOD MAN'S WAY.

1. He knows it; for He knows all.

2. He knows it with a sympathetic interest.

3. He knows it when the path is darkest and roughest.

4. He knows whither it leads.

III. THE OUTCOME OF A GOOD MAN'S TRIALS.

1. God sees the discipline to be essential.

2. He fixes its limits.

3. He guarantees the beneficial result.

4. This will be precious and bright in its end.

(I. E. Page.)

? — Job could not understand the way of God with him; he was greatly perplexed. But if Job knew not the way of the Lord, the Lord knew Job's way. Because God knew his way, Job turned from the unjust judgments of his unfeeling friends, and appealed to the Lord God Himself.

I. DO YOU KNOW YOUR OWN WAY? So far as your life is left to your own management, there is a way which you voluntarily take, and willingly follow. Do you know what that way is? Do you know where you are going? "Of course," says one, "everybody knows where he is going." You are steaming across the deep sea of time into the main ocean of eternity: to what port are you steering? The main thing with the captain of a Cunarder will be the getting his vessel safely into the port for which it is bound. This design overrules everything else. To get into port is the thought of every watch, every glance at the chart, every observation of the stars. The captain's heart is set upon the other side. His hope is safely to arrive at the desired haven, and he knows which is the haven of his choice. He would not expect to get there if he did not set his mind on it. What is it you are aiming at? Are you living for God? or are you so living that the result must be eternal banishment from His presence? If you answer that question, allow me to put another: Do you know how you are going? In what strength are you pursuing your journey? Is God with you? Has the Lord Jesus become your strength and your song? Are there any here who decline to answer my question? Will you not tell us whither you are going? Is anyone here compelled to say, "I have chosen the evil road"? The grace of God can come in, and lead you at once to reverse your course. But are you drifting? Do you say, "I am not distinctly sailing for heaven, neither am I resolutely steering in the other direction. I do not quite know what to say of myself"? But can you say, "Yes, I am bound for the right port"? It may be that your accents are trembling with a holy fear; but none the less I am glad to hear you say as much.

II. Secondly, IS IT A COHORT TO YOU THAT GOD KNOWS YOUR WAY? Solemnly, I believe that one of the best tests of human character is our relation to the great truth of God's omniscience. It is quite certain that God does know the way that you take. The Hebrew may be read, "He knoweth the way that is in me"; from which I gather that the Lord not only knows our outward actions, but our inward feelings. He knows our likes and dislikes, our desires and our designs, our imaginations and tendencies. The Lord knows you approvingly if you follow that which is right. God knows your way, however falsely you may be represented by others. Those three men who had looked so askance upon Job, accused him of hypocrisy, and of having practised some secret evil; but Job could answer, "The Lord knoweth the way that I take." Are you the victim of slander? The Lord knows the truth. The Lord knows the way that you take, though you could not yourself describe that way. Some gracious people are slow of speech, and they have great difficulty in saying anything about their soul affairs. Another great mercy is, that God knows the way we take when we hardly know it ourselves. There are times with the true children of God when they cannot see their way, nor even take their bearings. Once more, remember that at this very moment God knows your way. He knows not only the way you have taken and the way you will take, but the way you are now choosing for yourself.

III. Thirdly, DO YOU MEET WITH TRIALS IN THE WAY? Out of the many here present, not one has been quite free from sorrow. I think I hear one saying, "Sir, I have had more trouble since I have been a Christian than I ever had before." These troubles are no token that you are in the wrong way. Job was in the right way, and the Lord knew it; and yet He suffered Job to be very fiercely tried. Consider that there are trials in all ways. Even the road to destruction, broad as it is, has not a path in it which avoids trial. Then, remember, the very brightest of the saints have been afflicted. We have, in the Bible, records of the lives of believers. Trials are no evidence of being without God, since trials come from God. Job says, "When He hath tried me." He sees God in his afflictions. The devil actually wrought the trouble; but the Lord not only permitted it, but He had a design in it. Besides, according to the text, these trials are tests: "When He hath tried me." The trials that came to Job were made to be proofs that the patriarch was real and sincere. Once more upon this point: if you have met with troubles, remember they will come to an end. The holy man in our text says, "When He hath tried me." As much as to say, He will not always be doing it; there will come a time when He will have done trying me.

IV. Fourthly, HAVE YOU CONFIDENCE IN GOD AS TO THESE STORMS? Can you say, in the language of the text, "When He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold"? If you are really trusting in Jesus, if He is everything to you, you may say this confidently; for you will find it true to the letter. This confidence is grounded on the Lord's knowledge of us. "He knoweth the way that I take": therefore, "when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold." This confidence must be sustained by sincerity. If a man is not sure that he is sincere, he cannot have confidence in God. If you are a bit of gold and know it, the fire and you are friends. Once more he says, "I shall come forth as gold." But how does that come forth? It comes forth proved. It has been assayed, and is now warranted pure. So shall you be. After the trial you will be able to say, "Now! know that I fear God; now I know that God is with me, sustaining me; now! see that He has helped me, and I am sure that I am His." How does gold come forth? It comes forth purified. O child of God, you may decrease in bulk, but not in bullion! You may lose importance, but not innocence. You may not talk so big; but there shall be really more to talk of. And what a gain it is to lose dross! What gain to lose pride! What gain to lose self-sufficiency! Once more, how does gold come forth from the furnace? It comes forth ready for use. Now the goldsmith may take it, and make what he pleases of it. It has been through the fire, and the dross has been got away from it, and it is fit for his use. So, if you are on the way to heaven, and you meet with difficulties, they will bring you preparation for higher service; you will be a better and more useful man; you will be a woman whom God can more fully use to comfort others of a sorrowful spirit.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

Homilist.
I. THAT THE GREAT GOD WAS FULLY COGNISANT OF HIS INDIVIDUAL TRIAL. "He knoweth the way that I take." Wherever I am, at home or abroad, in solitude or society, "He knoweth," etc. He knows the way I take — the way my thoughts take, my feelings take, my purposes take. But what support is there in the knowledge of this fact?

1. God's knowledge of the individual sufferer is associated with the profoundest love. "As a father pitieth his children," etc.

2. His knowledge is associated with an almighty capacity to help. The other sustaining fact of which he was conscious was —

II. THAT THE GREAT GOD WAS MERCIFULLY USING HIS TRIALS AS DISCIPLINE. "When He hath tried me." Why does He try by affliction?

1. Not that He has any pleasure in our suffering. "He doth not afflict willingly," etc. Nor —

2. That He may discover what is in our hearts. He knows all about us.But He does it —

1. In order to humble us on account of our sins.

2. In order that we may feel our dependence on Him.

3. In order that we may commit ourselves entirely into His keeping.

III. THAT THE GREAT GOD WOULD TURN HIS PAINFUL DISCIPLINE TO HIS ADVANTAGE. "I shall come forth as gold," etc. "Tribulation worketh patience," etc. But how does affliction benefit?

1. It serves to raise our appreciation of the Bible.

2. It serves to develop the powers of the mind. David's afflictions brought out some of the most brilliant of his psalms.

3. It serves to develop the spiritual life.

4. It serves to detach us from the world. It gradually breaks down the materialism in which the soul is caged, and lets it flee into the open air and light of spiritual realms.

(Homilist.)

When He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.
Essex Remembrancer.
The very life of religion is communion with God. Everything short of this is mere formality or superstition. Observe —

I. JOB'S DIGNIFIED APPEAL TO THE DIVINE KNOWLEDGE. Charged with being disingenuous and deceitful, Job meekly but firmly refers to Him who "tries the heart and the reins." "He knoweth the way that I take." This expression implies —

1. Consciousness of integrity. The way he took was the way of truth, in opposition to error, deceit, and falsehood; the way of holiness, in opposition to sin; the way of faith, in opposition to self-dependence.

2. A persuasion of Divine superintendency. "He knoweth." Job speaks of it as a fixed and settled principle in the Divine economy, that He knows, because He superintends, all the ways of His people.

3. Entire satisfaction with the Divine judgment. In the estimate which men form of our character, they may be misled by ignorance, or warped by prejudice. But with Him this is impossible.

II. JOB'S ENLIGHTENED VIEW OF THE DIVINE CONDUCT. "When He hath tried me." This refers either to that scrutiny which he so much desired, or to the affliction with which he was so painfully exercised. Apply this trial —

1. To your faith. So the apostle applies it. To believe that God designs mercy while He inflicts punishment, and to rest satisfied that He will fulfil His covenant, when He seems to be annulling it, is indeed a trial of faith.

2. To your love. That this should be strong and glowing, when your peace is undisturbed, is not surprising. The more painful and protracted the affliction, the more strong and decided the trial.

3. To your resignation. For the exercise of this feeling, affliction is absolutely necessary. It implies a state of things opposed to our wishes. Resignation is the yielding of a will subordinated to the will of God.

4. To the grace of patience. Patience waits for deliverance, and refers the time, the manner, and the degree, to Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will. For patience the name of Job has become proverbial.

III. JOB'S CHEERFUL EXPECTATION OF THE DIVINE GOODNESS. "I shall come forth as gold" proved, purified, and declared. Learn, from this subject —

1. The special design of all the diversified afflictions with which the people of God are exercised. Is it not a design of which you must cordially approve?

2. Your special duty in affliction. To commit your way, and, in the exercise of faith and resignation and patience, to refer your cause to Him.

3. What should be your special concern if delivered from affliction? To ascertain if the result correspond with the design.

(Essex Remembrancer.)

The greatness of the Book of Job, that which won for it from Carlyle the eulogium that it is the finest thing ever written with pen, consists in the clear light it throws upon human trial and its issues. It is a unique manual upon faith, not in a proposition, but in life itself, because life is in the hands of God and represents

"Machinery just meant

To give thy soul its bent,

Try thee, and turn thee forth sufficiently impressed,"

as Browning, with his glorious optimism, has said. It teaches us a faith as deep as life, and makes man a sovereign in the world by inspiring him with an indescribable trust in the order of things. To those who seriously study the drama of Job, nothing becomes more clear than the fact that it would be complete without its ending. Job might have died under his affliction. He might have succumbed after hearing the testimony embodied in my text. He would have passed to his rest a greater, stronger man than he was before his trials came upon him. He would have completed his career, bequeathing a healthier influence to posterity, leaving a more valuable legacy in the world, than he would have bestowed apart from trial. The Bible, with its high and healthy idea of manhood, recognises this fact, and sets it forth with great clearness. When dealing with the goods we come to possess and enjoy, it frequently reminds us that we brought nothing into the world, and will take nothing from it, except character; that the only legacy we can leave, determining its use according to our desires, is the legacy we leave through character. How true this is! We may be born to affluence only to live in idleness. We may amass wealth by toil, but we cannot control its uses among those who come after us. We have no determining influence in the matter. But it is different with the influence we radiate through character. The thoughts we think, the testimony we bear, the influences we exert, give us a hold upon life — a sovereignty therein that death cannot loosen. Browning, with fine spiritual insight, has called the world our university, and has thus signified that from stage to stage of our life we go towards the graduation of the soul. It is a Christian idea enforced by genius. In learning it we achieve the victory of spirit. Our soft and luxuriously materialistic age builds on happiness without that highest good of men and women. In any kind of adversity it cries out, where is God? and voices the cry of the fool. But the world is our university. Christ was crowned on the Cross, and we are all crowned as we share and accept the Cross. It is the condition of triumph. It is only when we are tried that we come forth as gold. Trial plays a large and beneficent part in life. It comes to us all very early.

1. It comes into the life of the young man and the woman just entering the world when their education is completed and their responsibility has begun. Up to the day of their departure from home their parents have fended for them, they have been nourished and protected and helped. They have received all the care bestowed upon them as a matter of course. And when they steer clear of the dear old home, the day which dawns upon them seems bleak and unpropitious. The mother's tenderness is left, the father's advice is eliminated; they enter a world of strangers. They realise that they must depend upon themselves. Clouds gather upon the sky of their imagination, although these may be dispersed by worth. And just because that fact is true, those launched may realise that their new day is making them. Before it has long dawned they may have proved upon the pulses of their experience that they have begun to think, that they know what prudence is, not by reading about it, but by developing the virtue; by trial they know what life is, not by dreaming about it, but by endeavouring it. That experience involves trial, yet it is that which is amply justified in its issue. It gives an air of decision to us. It calls our manhood and womanhood into a new dignity. But darker days follow, which must also be measured according to the standard of a worthy faith. There are, for instance, those days when the old home is broken up, when those at its head are called into the unseen, and a desolation is made around us; when they constitute a fellowship our imagination cannot picture, but our hearts must ever affirm. It is an indescribable loss to have to sacrifice the reverend members of a true home. And yet we are not to be pitied. In such conditions God opens up a new opportunity for us. He teaches us initiative. All the seriousness, all the wisdom, all the tenderness in our natures are evolved. We become ministers to men and women, not by choice, but by necessity. When this experience is granted to men and women, their thoughtful contemporaries remark that while God is making a desolation about them He is at the same time endowing them with grandeur of character. And again the words are verified, "He knoweth the way that I shall take; when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold." The trials to which I have alluded are entirely good. It is good that we should have to go out into the world and learn responsibility by fighting for ourselves. It is good that one generation should pass and another inherit the problems of its representatives. The forms of trial which I have noticed so far are altogether good; but there are other forms. Many have to battle with adversity; some have to bear the burden of sickness; others have to experience ingratitude, and yet the issue of these forms of trial is still good rather than evil. We may say so without any shallow optimism. There is benefit in adversity, in whatever form it may reach us. Shakespeare, with his clear insight and large outlook, has said, "Sweet are the uses of adversity." And Seneca has spoken words that deserve to be "written in gold on this point:" No man knows his own strength or valour but by being put to the proof. The pilot is tried in a storm, the soldier in a battle, the rich man knows not how to behave himself in poverty. He that has lived only in popularity and applause knows not how he would bear infamy and reproach. Calamity is the occasion of virtue, and a spur to a great mind. Very many times a calamity turns to our advantage, and great ruins have made way to great glories. Prudence and religion are above accidents, and draw good out of everything. Affliction keeps a man in use and makes him strong, patient and hardy. God loves us with a masculine love and turns us loose to injuries and indignities. He takes delight to see a good and brave man wrestling with evil fortune, and yet keeping himself upon his legs when the whole world is in disorder about him. No man can be happy that does not stand firm against all contingencies, and say to himself in all extremities, 'I should have been content if it might have been so and so, but since it is otherwise determined, God will provide better.'" How wise and strong these words of the Stoic are. It is a stern world in which we live, even although it is kind. The price of free rational life is suffering up to man; and even in humanity itself, through lower to higher natures; while the justification of suffering is progress. "What made you a Skald?" says a king in one of Ibsen's plays, to a poet. "Sorrow, sire," the Skald answered. Adversity only baffles us for the moment, and when we struggle with it, we find that we have been baffled to fight better. All the best men and women of whom we read in former generations, and all the best men and women we know in our own generation, have battled bravely with life, and have gained character in the struggle, have proved, upon the pulses of their experience, the wisdom of Shakespeare's words, that the uses of adversity are sweet. They have no quarrel with life. But there is another form of trial, that which comes to us through sickness, when it seems laid like a kind of fetter upon the mind. Our generation is resonant with the echoes of cheap pessimisms, and perhaps nothing is regarded as justifying these more than human suffering. Why does it exist in the world at all? Where is God? What is the good of life? So we read, so we hear. But the significant thing is that the people who so speak and write are not the sufferers themselves — not even when they have the gift of genius, with its great capacity for suffering. They show to us invariably, how sublime a thing it is to suffer and be strong. Who illustrated this fact better than the late Louis Stevenson, in his brave fight with encroaching death? He of all men had good reason to affirm that this is of all the worst possible world. Yet of this very tendency he writes in one of his inimitable essays: "We are accustomed, in these days, to a great deal of puling over the circumstances in which we are placed. The great refinement of many poetical gentlemen has rendered them practically unfit for the jostling and ugliness of life, and they record their unfitness at a considerable length. Young gentlemen, with three or four hundred a year of private means, look down from a pinnacle of doleful experience, on all the grown and hearty men who have dared to say a good word for life." Stevenson suggests that the pessimists of our day are not the children of sorrow, but rather epicures of their own emotions, who prate of a sorrow which they have not known. Sorrow is silent. Sorrow is a fast of God's own appointing, and when men and women really enter upon it, they can say with Christ, "Thy will be done." They know that God is trying them in order that He may turn them forth as gold. There is the trial of ingratitude. That seems hardest of all to bear. To do good and call forth evil instead of responsive sympathy. To love, but yet in vain: that nearly breaks the heart. So we say. But is it really so? Does it not really make the heart? The late Principal Caird, in his lectures on the fundamental ideas of Christianity, finds in the distinctive Christian doctrines sanction for the thought that "in the nature of God there is a capacity of condescending love, of boundless pity and forgiveness, yea, with reverence be it said, of pain and sorrow and sacrifice for the salvation of finite souls; a capacity which has been and could only be revealed and realised through the sorrow and sin of the world." It is profoundly true, man's need is God's opportunity. And it is true in human as in Divine relations. Those who bare vexed us most, those who have tried us in the hardest sense., have often enabled us to realise ourselves in a way we could not have done had they not crossed our path. And these testimonies are verified in the action of our Lord and His great apostle. It was when the agony of Gethsemane and the bitterness of the Cross were drawing near, when He knew that men had rejected Him, that our Lord said His Father loved Him because He laid down His life. It was of Israel, from which he was an outcast on account of his apostleship, and by whose representatives he was persecuted daily, that Paul said, "I could wish that myself were accursed for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites." Under the influence of these testimonies, and in the light of these facts, we learn that even the ingratitude which wounds love, makes man, and enables him to bear witness to that deepest and grandest element in his experience which Shelley recognised when he called him the Pilgrim of Eternity. And that also is growth. Under such experiences man is still tried, that he may come forth as gold. How much we owe to men who have been tried in life, and who have proved worthy under their tests! The lords of literature have been in the crucible of experience. Dante's immortal work is the epic of the Middle Ages, and is full of winged words and seminal thoughts which stimulate our spirits, and fructify in us still. It grew out of the experience of a man of sad, lone spirit, the son of mental pain. The lords of literature have been tried that they might come forth as gold. But these immortals are not the only beings who have been refined and perfected in the crucible of experience. We can find those who have benefited in this way in every walk of life. The picture of the radiant young man or woman full of unspoiled powers, and surrounded by unused opportunities is fascinating. But it pales before the picture of the man or woman fashioned more grandly in the stress of life; and sometimes when, in awful cases, ministrant men and women are needed, people who can say the right word to the anguished and give them peace, or who can lift the suffering out of pain, you shall note that they are those with faces lined with sufferings which are past, and full of peace that has been conquered. These are the final argument, that in the crucible of experience we are tried that we may come forth as gold. They stand round Christ, the Head of our humanity, and augment that river of life which, having its origin in His transcendent sacrifice, streams through our religion, our philosophy, our literature, and our life, and brings the healing of the nations. As we consider them, as the light of their witness falls across our path, faith in life is generated in our hearts. Thus in the power of God we rival nature. The heavens declare God's glory, and the firmament showeth forth His handiwork from season to season. The stars shine in winter and summer, before and after the storm. So they provoke the men and women who tell their number, and who weigh them, to behave. That is the role of the lords of life, and Christ came, and abides among us, that we might assume it and triumph therein. Life should not impoverish but enrich us. Through all its vicissitudes there should be abounding and abiding glory in the firmament of our experience.

(F. A. Russell.)

During the week that has passed since our service of last Sunday morning, more than one friend of mine has spoken to me about the teaching which was given from this pulpit. One of them half jocularly addressed me in this fashion: "Did I truly understand you to say that you could wish for your friends' adversity rather than prosperity? Because, if so, I cannot say that that is what I should wish for you, or, indeed, for any of human kind; and were I endowed with omnipotence I certainly should not employ what you call 'God's evil' as an experience for the righteous." My friend's statement contains a good deal of what is common or popular feeling in respect to that insoluble subject, the mystery of evil; but as his particular statement contains so much that the ordinary right living man feels to be a just statement of his perplexity in regard to God's dealings with him, I must return to that subject this morning. To begin with, I must say that my general statement that for my friends I could wish adversity rather than prosperity ought, perhaps, to be differently phrased. Then I am sure there would be no difference of opinion between me and anyone present. I would rather state it thus, — For my friend I could rather wish the fruit of adversity when adversity achieves its highest in the human soul. Let me put to you a rhetorical question, the answer to which will be in your mind and heart as I put it. Suppose you had to live your life over again, there is not one of you who would wish to live through just the same set of experiences as you have already had. You could wish that the dark days and the times of deep sorrow might not come again, but I am perfectly sure that you would wish you might have the results of those experiences, without the history. Then I think we are agreed to say that the best we could wish for our friend is that which we actually know from experience comes only hand in hand with adversity, that adversity succeeds in achieving the highest, though we might not wish for him the pain of the adversity itself. If I were endowed with omnipotence, my friend, your pathway would always be fair; and yet if adversity were the necessary price to pay, and if I knew it must be paid for making you the noble man you are, then I would let adversity come upon you with all its might. But the objection of my friend strikes deeper. It amounts to this — God's ways are inexplicable. It is the righteous and not simply the guilty that have to suffer as the world is now organised. We could understand His dealing if the inevitable sequence of wrong-doing were pain, but we fail to understand it when the righteous man suffers equally and indiscriminately with the guilty. Moreover, is it not often that God's sternness causes moral harm rather than moral good? I understand the feeling that is behind an utterance of that kind. It means this — If I were God I would make the world differently. There, I think, I have stated our friend's real meaning with perfect frankness. Now, allow me to say that when we talk about evil as an intruder, we are, in nine cases out of ten, obscuring the issue which is really present to our mind. Good has not yet come. Evil is relative, negative, primitive. Our experience of what is evil is our conception of an absent good, and the fact that we can see a thing is evil is in some way a promise of a coming good. Let us leave it there. Your generous impulse to say if you had the power evil would be excluded from the world, is really some sort of prophecy of what God intends to do. Now, there has never been given a good and sufficient answer to this urgent question of the human heart. It is the old, old theme, the theme from the Book of Job from which I have taken my text this morning. But I venture to think, though no complete answer has ever come, the answer is that submission to the will of God introduces us to a harmonious experience. Observe the theme of the book from whence our wondrous text is taken. Job, the central character, appears as a righteous man who is yet a sufferer; but he is not a sufferer for any worthy cause for which a man might be glad to suffer, nor apparently is he a sufferer giving any striking testimony on behalf of a noble cause. Many such testimonies have been given, and have robbed martyrdom of its agony. But Job is made a sufferer without seeing why, and is it any wonder that he feels that his suffering cannot be a punishment for his offences? He asserts his own righteousness, not in any arrogant fashion, and not as though God had no fault to find with him. He says, "This sternness in God's dealing with me cannot be the fruit of my own wrongly lived life." His friends defend God and say that Job is being righteously chastised; and the writer of the book, one of the oldest books in the Bible, has it before him to show that the righteous man, though afflicted, is more righteous than those who defend God's judgments upon him. Job's reply and its wonderful insight are expressed in the words of the text, "He knoweth the way that I take," what does human judgment matter to me? He knoweth the way that I have been living, uprightly, in the fear of God, dealing honourably with men. Then Job says that he had lived righteously, and his pain was in no sense his own desert. "He knoweth the way that I am taking with my life; when He hath tried me, my innocence shall shine out." I am not sure whether we are entitled to read into the text that Job's faith rose to a higher altitude there and affirmed that "as the outcome of what God hath done I shall be a better man, a deeper nature, nobler, stronger, wiser." Perhaps he did not mean that, but it is at least open to that interpretation to my that he did. "When He hath tried me, not only will my innocence shine out as gold and show that God is not punishing me, but rather fashioning me; not only will mine innocence shine out, but my nobleness will be beaten out and gained and won." Now we will never get any nearer to the solution of the problem of what we have called "God's evil," and which I now call "God's deeper good," than that. Here I pause to read to you an experience, the experience of a young man, it is true, but not, I venture to think, a crude one. Humanity at its highest, I mean its highest point of spiritual knowledge, has never got higher than this, which is from Mr. John Morley's Life of Gladstone, and the passage from which I quote is one of Arthur Hallam's letters written to his friend Mr. Gladstone when both were at Oxford. Mr. Morley, commenting on it lower down, says that of course it is a young man's way of looking at an old problem, but you will admit that he got very near the solution of the problem. "The great truth which, when we are rightly impressed with it, will liberate mankind, is, that no man has a right to isolate himself, because every man is a particle of a marvellous whole; that when he suffers, since it is for the good of that whole, he, the particle, has no right to complain, and in the long run, that which is the good of all will abundantly manifest itself to be the good of each. Other belief consists not with theism. This is its centre. Let me quote to this purpose the words of my favourite poet. It will do us good to hear his voice, though but for a moment." Then he quotes from Wordsworth's "Excursion" the lines well known probably to everyone as well as to myself —

"One adequate support

For the calamities of mortal life

Exists — one only: an assured belief

That the procession of our fate, howe'er

Sad or disturbed, is ordered by a Being

Of infinite benevolence and power,

Whose everlasting purposes embrace

All accidents, converting them to good."

I know not whether Mr. Morley could himself subscribe to that, but from words of his own, used later in the book, I almost feel that he could. He is speaking of Mr. Gladstone's view, I think, of the work of Napoleon, and comparing it with that of worthier servants of destiny. He says, "Our work is to use the part given us to use, to use the parts that go to make up the life, and to use them with a feeling of the whole." Now that is the point that I wish to emphasise most expressly in your hearing. We do not live for ourselves. I am quite of those who think that if God's only purpose in the disciplining of mankind were to produce noble character we might be fairly entitled to say to Him, "Then you might have produced it in some other way." God could. It is not beyond His power. God could make a noble man without sending him through the furnace. But if it be true that we are only a little corner in the life of the universe, living not our own, but the life of the whole, and if it be true that we are living, not simply for ourselves but for God, it adds a dignity to our conception of our destiny. And, though I preach confidently in this way an optimism, I trust I do not preach it superficially or crudely. I do not preach an optimism because I ignore the dangers and the possibilities of a pessimism, nor because I possess no acquaintance with the darker side of life, but the optimism of the Christ is mine. Did Jesus ever act or speak as though He would ignore the seamy side of existence? We lesser beings, following feebly and haltingly in the steps of Jesus Christ, must try to see with His eyes even from our Calvary when it comes, and it is not Calvary all the time, and to believe, nay to be sure that in our Father's hands are all our ways. God will care for the least as for the greatest. We are not only instruments in His hands, every one of us is also an end. I would add to this one or two reflections with which I close.

1. The first is that if you could see things as they really are, there would be no trouble, nor care, nor fear left in your experience. It is just because you cannot see that these things seem to dominate your life. Faith is eminently reasonable in that it lifts the soul to an altitude whence it can take a calm and wide view of existence as a whole. Faith is an approximation to seeing things as they are. Life to many of us seems like a dream. In a dream we take a distorted view of realities which in our waking life do enter into our experience, but not as we dream them. It is the limitation that makes the mystery, the limitation in greatest part it is which is the failure.

2. Then I would say also this — pain is not an end in itself. That is the mistake of asceticism. When it is misapprehended it crushes men and does them harm. Pain is simply a means to an end, and its culmination must be joy if God is just. Pain is not the end, it is only the beginning, it is the creaking of the door as it is opened into heaven. We are helping God, do not let us forget that for a moment, and our consciousness of helping Him begets a harmony here and now. We are not left unto ourselves all the time. Some of our best service is done by suffering. But lest I leave you with a morbid impression in your mind, I would remind you of this, that struggle and discipline and battle and defeat sometimes do not take interest from life at all, they add zest to it. We ought to be thankful that God gives us the opportunity of playing the hero, of being a man; and we feel somehow — although we cannot make it clear in syllogistic fashion, for there is something higher than logic — day by day, in the small things as well as in the great things of life, we feel somehow that the universe is rightly organised, and victory is made possible in Godlike fashion for the children of God. Now, before I close I want to make you feel that what I am saying is real — I know it is, but I never could demonstrate this, and never will be able to do it. When we get down to the deeper good we find it is always purchased, as the highest Christian experience is and always has been, by the willing acceptance of the Cross. Let every man say as he thinks of God's dealings with him today, "'He knoweth the way that I take,' and mean to take. I cannot see, yet I will be true. He knoweth all the time. He shall find me pure gold. I will be true to the best He has shown me, I will not fail my Heavenly Friend. 'Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.' And He will not destroy, 'for the Lord is mindful of His own.'"

(R. J. Campbell, M. A.)

1. The best saints have in them a mixture of dross.

2. Trials, and sometimes fiery trials, are necessary to separate the dross from the gold. God has various methods of trying mankind.

3. The prospect of being benefited and brightened by affliction, reconciles believers to the severest of trials. "Tribulation worketh patience." "Patience worketh experience." "Experience worketh hope." It may be that we are so often afflicted, because we have so much dross, that requires the fire, and many times a fierce fire, to separate it from the metal.

(S. Lavington.)

The afflictions of life, though often grievous enough in themselves, become much more so by that state of doubt and perplexity into which the mind of the sufferer is brought by them. He is tempted to despair, as thinking God has forsaken him; or to impiety, as imagining there can be no God who governs the world in wisdom and righteousness. In such a case, a wrong notion of human life is at the bottom of those desponding and murmuring thoughts, which arise in our hearts, on finding ourselves encompassed and oppressed by a larger share than ordinary of its cares and troubles. We look not forward as we ought to do. This life is no more than a preparation for another. There is no need to prove that this life is a state of trial. In general, we sink under temptation, because we do not sufficiently accustom ourselves to expect, and are therefore unprepared to encounter it. With this idea — that the present life is a state of trial — firmly impressed upon our minds, we should then stand armed for the fight, and by Divine assistance be enabled to overcome. Of the temptations or trials to which we are subject, some proceed from without, and others from within. The world endeavours at one time to seduce, at another to terrify us from the performance of our duty. Another source of trouble and uneasiness is that produced by the cross tempers, untoward dispositions, and other failings of those about us. Other trials have their origin from within, from the frame, or constitution either of body or mind. Either sickness or melancholy. Time would fail to enumerate all the different temptations that arise in our minds. They are as many and as various as our different passions and propensities, each of which will, at times, strive for the mastery, and all of which are to be kept, with a strong and steady hand, in due subordination and obedience.

(J. Horne.)

Homilist.
I. GOLD IS GENERALLY FOUND BURIED IN THE EARTH, mixed with sand or other material, and therefore requires to be dug out and separated from those materials. So Christians have been taken out from the elements of this world. They have been hewn from nature's quarry by the hammer of God's Word and made separate (Ephesians 2:1, etc.).

II. GOLD, THOUGH REGARDED AS A PURE METAL, HAS YET SOME DROSS IN IT. At the same time, there is not any metal more free from dross and rust than gold. Christians, though holy and precious to God, are not without sin; there is some dross of corruption in the best of them.

III. GOLD IS REFINED IN THE FIRE, by which it is rendered pure, solid, and strong. Christians are put into the fire, or furnace of affliction, to purge and to refine them from their dross (Zechariah 13:9; 1 Peter 4:12, 13; 1 Peter 1:7).

IV. GOLD IS PRECIOUS. It is esteemed the most valuable on earth. Hence things of very great value are in the Scriptures represented by gold. Christians are a precious people, the excellent ones in all the earth. God esteems them as His portion.

V. GOLD IS VERY PLIANT. You may bend and work it as you please. So are Christians. God having infused His grace into their hearts, they have hearts of flesh; and God, by putting them into the fire, makes them more resigned and teachable, while others rebel and repine.

VI. GOLD, THOUGH IT BE FREQUENTLY PUT IN THE FURNACE, LOSES NOTHING BUT THE DROSS. The fire purifies it and cannot destroy its precious nature. However fierce and raging the flames, gold retains its excellency. So the people of God endure the trial. They are not burned up or consumed in the furnace of affliction, though heated sevenfold.

VII. GOLD IS OFTEN FORMED INTO VESSELS for the pleasure, honour, and use of princes. So God forms His people for most excellent service — vessels of honour to hold the treasure of the Gospel, to communicate it to others (2 Corinthians 4:7), and are stewards of the Gospel.

VIII. TO OBTAIN GOLD, men endure much fatigue, losses, sacrifices, etc. So Jesus Christ endured great pain and loss for His people. He laid down His life for them.

IX. GOLD IS USEFUL. It is that by which we obtain what is essential for life, etc. So Christians are useful — in their families, neighbourhood, to the world at large. They seek the salvation of sinners and the glory of God. The purposes of God, in reference to the diffusion of His glory in the world, will not be affected without them.

(Homilist.)

Links
Job 23:10 NIV
Job 23:10 NLT
Job 23:10 ESV
Job 23:10 NASB
Job 23:10 KJV

Job 23:10 Bible Apps
Job 23:10 Parallel
Job 23:10 Biblia Paralela
Job 23:10 Chinese Bible
Job 23:10 French Bible
Job 23:10 German Bible

Job 23:10 Commentaries

Bible Hub
Job 23:9
Top of Page
Top of Page