Job 4:1


However misapplied to his particular case may have been the speeches of Job's friends, there can be no dispute concerning the purity and the sublimity of the great truths for which they here appear as spokesmen. If not well directed to Job, they may be well directed to us. Each of the friends represents a certain aspect of the truths which relate man to God. In the speech of Eliphaz the main position taken is that man, in his ignorance and sinfulness, must be silent in presence of the all-just and all-holy God.

I. COMPARISON OF PAST WITH PRESENT EXPERIENCE. (Vers. 1-6.) Job is reminded of what he was, and asked to account for what he is.

1. The appeal to memory. A bright, a radiant memory it was. He had been the director of many - "guide, philosopher, and friend" to young and old in the perplexities of life. Again, he had been the comforter of the sorrowful and the weak; had strengthened the hands that hung down and the feeble knees: had led in straight paths the feet of those who erred. It is a beautiful picture of an amiable, benevolent, God-like career. He had not, like many, to look back upon a barren waste, a selfish and misspent life, but upon one filled with "deeds of light." Thanks to God if any man can turn in the hour of despondency to memories so fair and green!

2. Expostulation with his present mood. How is it, then, now that pain and grief have touched his own person, that he is so utterly cast down? Why not apply the medicine and the balm for your own disease and hurt which were found so healing in the case of others? If the remedy was ever good for them, 'twas because it was first good for you. If the counsel and the comfort you were wont to offer to the sick and sad had not been proved by you, it was of no avail to press them upon others. But if they accepted it and were blessed, why can you not now prescribe for your own malady'? "Physician, heal thyself. Sink in thyself, then ask what ails thee at that shrine!"

3. Appeal to the power of religion and to the consciousness of innocence. The sixth verse would be better rendered, "Is thy religion [fear of God] not thy confidence? thy hope the innocence of thy ways?" Religion is a great mainstay in all the storms of the soul. So long as a man can say, "It is the Lord: let him do what seemeth him good," he has a support which nothing can move. But so also is conscious integrity a grand spring of comfort, because of hope "hops that reaps not shame." To sow the seeds of virtue in health and activity is to reap the harvest of hope in illness, enforced idleness, in weakness, and in death. Hope is the kind nurse of the ailing and the old; and why is Job without the angelic ministry of her presence now? Let us put these questions of Eliphaz to ourselves.

II. INFERENCES FROM SUFFERING. (Vers. 7-11.) These Eliphaz proceeds to draw, Job still remaining silent at his first appeal. The inference is that there has been guilt to account for these great troubles. And the inference is justified by an appeal to the great teacher, experience.

1. General experience proves that calamity points to guilt. As a rule, it is not good men who sink, nor upright hearts that are utterly overwhelmed. There are, or seem to be, exceptions of which the philosophy of Eliphaz takes no account. But, indeed, how slight are upon the whole these seeming exceptions to the grand moral rule! As in grammar, so in life, the exceptions may be found, on closer examination, only to enlarge and illustrate our conception of the rule.

2. The teaching of experience is supported by that of nature. (Ver. 8.) The laws of nature are constant. Every reaping implies a previous sowing, every harvest is the offspring of the early labour of the year. Therefore - this is the rigid reasoning of Eliphaz - this trouble of his friend implies a previous sowing in the fields of sin. It is the rough, broad statement of a sublime principle in the government of God. It is given without exceptions, but it will be time enough to look at the exceptions when we have first mastered the rule.

3. Pictures from nature, which illustrate this moral law. (Vers. 9, 10, 11.) Nature flashes back her light upon those truths which we have first learned from experience and conscience. Two such pictures are here sketched. One is that of the violent blast from heaven, which breaks the rotten tree, hurls the dry leaves into the stream, scatters the worthless chaff. Such is the fate of the worthless man, the mind devoid of principle and therefore of vitality and worth. The other picture - and it is less familiar, and perhaps still more powerful - is that of the fierce lion, toothless, vainly roaring, perishing at last for lack of prey, its young ones all dispersed l Such, again, is the fate of the bold, bed man. To this end his devouring lusts have brought him. The appetite for sin continuing to the last - the food of appetite, nay, the very power to enjoy, at last withdrawn. Where, in the compass of so few lines, can we find so powerful an illustration of the wages and the end of sin? Side by side with this powerful image we may place some other pictures in which Scripture represents the doom of the unprincipled and godless man. He is like the chaff before the breeze, like the juniper in the desert, unwetted by the refreshing dew of heaven, like the tree all flourishing to-day, to-morrow feeling the stroke of the woodman's axe, or like the dross which is consumed in the furnace where the true gold brightens, like the rapidly burning tow, or like a dream when one awakes - an image, the unreality of which is destined to be discovered and scorned. - J.









Doth the eagle mount up at thy command?
Many years had a noble eagle been confined in such a manner that no one had seen it even attempt to raise a wing. It had been cherished and fed that it might be exhibited to visitors and friends. Perfectly subdued, unconscious now of its native power, it remained inactive, and apparently contented, oblivious of the heights it once could soar. But its owner was about to leave for a far country, never to return. He could not take the eagle with him. "I will do," said he, "one act of kindness before I go, which shall be remembered long after me." He unloosed the chain from the captive. His neighbours and children looked on with regret that they should see the eagle no more. A moment, and it would be gone forever! But no. The bird walked the usual round, which had been the length of his chain, looked tamely about, unconscious that he was free, and at length perched himself at his usual height. The gazers looked on in wonder and in pity. Brief, however, was their pity. The slow rustling of a wing was heard. It was projected from the body, then folded. Anon it moved again. At last, stretched to its full expansion, it quivered a moment in the air, then folded softly against its resting place. Now slowly and cautiously the eagle expanded the other, and stood at last upon his perch with both wings spread, looking earnestly in the blue sky above. One effort to mount, then another. The wings have found their lost skill and strength. Upward, slowly, still upward — higher and speedier he mounts his way. The eye follows him in vain. Lost to sight, far above tide mountain top he is bathing his cramped wings in misty clouds, and revels in his liberty. Hast thou, O child of God, been pinioned long to the cares and toils of earth, so that thy wings of faith and love have lost all power to rise? Long bound to earth, its hopes and visions, thou canst not shake thy wings at once. The heart tries to mount in prayer, but it tries in vain. Scenes of earth are floating still before the vision, and sounds of earth ring in the ears. But cease not thy efforts. Expand thy soul once more, if only for a little. Raise the wing of thought first — still more, raise it higher yet.

(Preacher's Lantern.)

The eagle is built for a solitary life. There is no bird so alone; other birds go in flocks — the eagle never, two at most together, and they are mates. Its majesty consists partly in its solitariness. It lives apart because other birds cannot live where and as it lives, and follow where it leads. The true child of God must consent to a lonely life apart with God, and often the condition of holiness is separation.

(A. T. Pierson.).

Moreover, the Lord answered Job, and said.
Its language has reached, at times, the "high-water mark" of poetry and beauty. Nothing can exceed its dignity, its force, its majesty, the freshness and vigour of some of its pictures of nature and of life. But what shall we say next? It is no answer, we may say, to Job's agonised pleadings. It is no answer to the riddle and problem which the experience and history of human life suggests, even to ourselves. Quite true. There is no direct answer at all. Even those partial answers, partial yet instructive, which have been touched on from time to time by speaker after speaker, are not glanced at or included in these final words. It is as though the voice of God did not deign to repeat that He works "on the side of righteousness." He only hints at it. Job is not even told the purpose of the fiery trial through which he himself has passed, of those in other worlds than his own who have watched his pangs. No! God reveals to him His glory, makes him feel where he had, gone wrong, how presumptuous he had been. That is all. He does not say, "All this has been a trial of thy righteousness: thou hast been fighting a battle against Satan for Me, and hast received many sore wounds." Nothing is said of the truth, already mooted and enforced in this Book, that suffering does its perfect work when it purifies and elevates the human soul, and draws it nearer to the God who sends or permits the suffering. Nor is any light thrown on that faint and feeble glimmer of a hope not yet fully born into the world, of a life beyond the grave; of a life where there shall be no more sorrow or sighing, where Job and his lost sons and daughters shall be reunited. The thoughts that we should have looked for, perhaps longed for, are not here. Those who tell us that the one great lesson of the whole book is to hold up the patriarch Job as the pattern of mere submission, mere resignation — those who search in it for a full Thodice, a final vindication, that is, and explanation of God's mode of governing the world — those, lastly, who find ill it a revelation of the sure and certain hope of a blessed immortality, can scarcely have studied either Job's language or the chapters before us today. One thought, and one only, is brought into the foreground. The world is full of mysteries, strange, unapproachable mysteries, that you cannot read. Trust, trust in the power, and in the wisdom, and in the goodness of Him, the Almighty One, who rules it. "Turn from the insoluble problems of your own destiny," the voice says to Job, and says to us. "Good men have said their best, wise men have said their wisest. Man is still left to bear the discipline of some questions too hard for him to answer. We cannot solve them. We must rest, if we are to rest at all, in the belief that He whom we believe to be our Father in heaven, whom we believe to have been revealed in His Son, is good, and wise, and merciful; that one day, not here, the riddle will be solved; that behind the veil which you cannot pierce, lies the solution in the hand of God."

(Dean Bradley.)

Homilist.
I. A DIVINE REPROOF THAT WAS EFFECTUAL.

1. Observe the reproof. "Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct Him?"(1) What is thy intellect to His? The glimmering of a glow worm to the brilliancy of a million suns.(2) What is thy sphere of observation to Mine? Thou art a mere speck in space. I have immensity under My eye.(3) What is thy experience to Mine? Thou art the mere creature of a day, observing and thinking for a few hours. I am from everlasting to everlasting.

2. Observe the effect. What was the effect of this appeal? Here it is. "Then Job answered the Lord, and said, Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer Thee?" etc.(1) A sense of moral unworthiness. "I am vile."(2) A resolution to retract. "I will proceed no further." He regrets the past, and resolves to improve in the future. This is what every sinner should do, what every sinner must do, in order to rise into purity, freedom, and blessedness.

II. A DIVINE COMPARISON THAT WAS SILENCING.

1. It is a comparison between himself and the Great Creator. "Gird up thy loins now like a man: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto Me." What is thy power to Mine? "Hast thou an arm like God?" What is thy voice to Mine? Canst thou speak in a voice of thunder? What is thy greatness to Mine? "Deck thyself with majesty," etc. What is thy wrath to Mine? "Cast abroad the rage of thy wrath." What art thou in My presence? The only effective way of hushing the murmurings of men in relation to the Divine procedure, is an impression of the infinite disparity between man and his Maker.

2. It is a comparison between himself and the brute creation. "Behold now behemoth." Study this huge creature, and thou wilt find in many respects thou art inferior to him. Therefore be humble, and cease to contend with Me.

(Homilist.)

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