I. THE PLANTS SPRING FROM WATER. Both of these plants grow in marshes or pools, and by the banks of rivers and canals. They both need an abundance of water. man can only live when nourished by the goodness of God. The Christian can only grow to maturity when planted by the unfailing streams of the river of life.
II. THE PLANTS FLOURISH LUXURIANTLY. This is one of the characteristics of succulent plants in moist soil. They grow rapidly and flourish greatly. So, as the goodness of God is no mere sprinkling of refreshment, but a great river with abundance of water, they who live upon it will not be in a meagre and stunted state, but will make great progress and will grow in grace.
III. THE FLOURISHING CONDITION OF THE PLANTS IS PROOF OF THE PRESENCE OF NOURISHING STREAMS. They may be so abundant and so rank in their growth as to hide the water from which they spring; but their very splendour of health and development is a certain sign that they are surrounded by plenteous streams. We know that their roots must be in the water because their stems and upper growth are so green and vigorous. So the existence of prosperity is a sign of Divine goodness. We cannot go so far as Bildad, and take it as a proof of God's approval, for God is gracious to bad men; but it is a proof of God's kindness. The spiritual flourishing of Christian people is a certain sign that they are drinking of the living waters. They may be reserved, and may not reveal to us the springs from which they draw, hiding the roots of their spiritual life. Still by their fruits shall we know them, and learn that they must be in vital relations with the Divine source of all spiritual experience.
IV. THE PLANTS FLOURISH FOR USEFUL END. The reed referred to by Bildad is an edible plant; and the papyrus is the material from which paper was anciently made. The prosperity which God gives to man is a talent to be used in the service of life. Spiritual growth should lead to spiritual productiveness. We receive grace from God in order that we may minister to the work of God.
V. WHEN THE WATER DRIES UP THE PLANTS WITHER. These plants are not like the thorns of the desert, which can endure a terrible drought without suffering seriously. They are distinctly denizens of watery places, and without water they must perish. Man's prosperity must cease when God ceases to bless him. He may ignore the Divine source of his good things, but he must fail if that source is stopped. The Christian more especially will suffer in his better life if he is deprived of the streams of grace. He is like the tree planted by the rivers of water. He in particular needs streams of grace if he is to flourish. He cannot thrive on his own goodly proportions. The most advanced Christian must go back and even utterly perish if he loses the constant supply of grace. We must be in Christ to live the Christian life. - W.F.A.
Can the rush grow up without mire?
I. First, then, THE HYPOCRITE'S PROFESSION: WHAT IS IT LIKE? It is here compared to a rush growing in the mire, and a flag flourishing in the water. This comparison has several points in it.
1. In the first place, hypocritical religion may be compared to the rush, for the rapidity with which it grows. True conversions are often very sudden. But the after-growth of Christians is not quite so rapid and uninterrupted: seasons of deep depression chill their joy; hours of furious temptation make a dreadful onslaught upon their quiet; they cannot always rejoice. True Christians are very like oaks, which take years to reach their maturity.
2. The rush is of all plants one of the most hollow and unsubstantial. It looks stout enough to be wielded as a staff, but he that leaneth upon it shall most certainly fall. So is it with the hypocrite; he is fair enough on the outside, but there is no solid faith in Christ Jesus in him, no real repentance on account of sin, no vital union to Christ Jesus. He can pray, but not in secret, and the essence and soul of prayer he never knew. The reed is hollow, and has no heart, and the hypocrite has none either; and want of heart is fatal indeed.
3. A third comparison very naturally suggests itself, namely, that the hypocrite is very like the rush for its bending properties. When the rough wind comes howling over the marsh, the rush has made up its mind that it will hold its place at all hazards. So if the wind blows from the north, he bends to the south, and the blast sweeps over him; and if the wind blows from the south, he bends to the north, and the gale has no effect upon him. Only grant the rush one thing, that he may keep his place, and he will cheerfully bow to all the rest. The hypocrite will yield to good influences if he be in good society. "Oh yes, certainly, certainly, sing, pray, anything you like." We must be ready to die for Christ, or we shall have no joy in the fact that Christ died for us.
4. Yet again, the bulrush has been used in Scripture as a picture of a hypocrite, from its habit of hanging down its head. "Is it to hang thy head like a bulrush?" asks the prophet, speaking to some who kept a hypocritical fast. Pretended Christians seem to think that to hang down the head is the very index of a deep piety.
5. Once more: the rush is well taken as an emblem of the mere professor from its bearing no fruit. Nobody would expect to find figs on a bulrush, or grapes of Eshcol on a reed. So it is with the hypocrite: he brings forth no fruit.
II. Secondly, we have to consider WHAT IT IS THAT THE HYPOCRITE'S RELIGION LIVES ON. "Can the rush grow up without mire? Can the flag grow without water?" The rush is entirely dependent upon the ooze in which it is planted. If there should come a season of drought, and the water should fail from the marsh, the rush would more speedily die than any other plant. "Whilst it is yet in its greenness and not cut down, it withereth before any other herb." The Hebrew name for the rush signifies a plant that is always drinking; and so the rush lives perpetually by sucking and drinking in moisture. This is the case of the hypocrite. The hypocrite cannot live without something that shall foster his apparent piety. Let me show you some of this mire and water upon which the hypocrite lives.
1. Some people's religion cannot live without excitement revival services, earnest preachers, and zealous prayer meetings keep them green; but the earnest minister dies, or goes to another part of the country; the Church is not quite so earnest as it was, and what then? Where are your converts? Oh! how many there are who are hothouse plants: while the temperature is kept up to a certain point they flourish, and bring forth flowers, if not fruits; but take them out into the open air, give them one or two nights' frost of persecution, and where are they?
2. Many mere professors live upon encouragement. We ought to comfort the feebleminded and support the weak. But, beware of the piety which depends upon encouragement. You will have to go, perhaps, where you will be frowned at and scowled at, where the head of the household, instead of encouraging prayer, will refuse you either the room or the time for engaging in it.
3. Some, too, we know, whose religion is sustained by example. It may be the custom in the circle in which you move to attend a place of worship; nay, more, it has come to be the fashion to join the Church and make a profession of religion. Well, example is a good thing. Young man, avoid this feeble sort of piety. Be a man who can be singular when to be singular is to be right.
4. Furthermore, a hypocrite's religion is often very much supported by the profit that he makes by it. Mr. By-ends joined the Church, because, he said, he should get a good wife by making a profession of religion. Besides, Mr. By-ends kept a shop, and went to a place of worship, because, he said, the people would have to buy goods somewhere, and if they saw him at their place very likely they would come to his shop, and so his religion would help his trade. The rush will grow where there is plenty of mire, plenty of profit for religion, but dry up the gains, and where would some people's religion be?
5. With certain persons their godliness rests very much upon their prosperity. "Doth Job serve God for nought?" was the wicked question of Satan concerning that upright man; but of many it might be asked with justice, for they love God after a fashion because He prospers them; but if things went ill with them they would give up all faith in God.
6. The hypocrite is very much affected by the respectability of the religion which he avows.
III. We have a third point, and that is, WHAT BECOMES OF THE HYPOCRITE'S HOPE? "While it is yet in its greenness and not cut down, it withereth before any other herb. So are the paths of all that forget God; and the hypocrite's hope shall perish." Long before the Lord comes to cut the hypocrite down, it often happens that he dries up for want of the mire on which he lives. The excitement, the encouragement, the example, the profit, the respectability, the prosperity, upon which he lived fail him, and he fails too. Alas, how dolefully is this the case in all Christian churches! Yet again, where the rush still continues green because it has mire and water enough on which to feed, another result happens, namely, that ere long the sickle is used to cut it down. So must it be with thee, professor, if thou shalt keep up a green profession all thy days, yet if thou be heartless, spongy, soft, yielding, unfruitful, like the rush thou wilt be cut down, and sorrowful will be the day when, with a blaze, thou shalt be consumed.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
TopicsBecomes, Budding, Cut, Dead, Dry, Flower, Grass, Green, Greenness, Herb, Plant, Quickly, Reed, Uncropt, Uncut, Whilst, Wither, Withereth, Withers, Yet
Outline1. Bildad shows God's justice in dealing with men according to their works.
8. He alleges antiquity to prove the certain destruction of the hypocrite.
20. He applies God's just dealing to Job.
Dictionary of Bible ThemesJob 8:11-12
LibraryTwo Kinds of Hope
'Whose hope shall be cut off, and whose trust shall be a spider's web.'--JOB viii. 14. 'And hope maketh not ashamed.'--ROMANS v. 5. These two texts take opposite sides. Bildad was not the wisest of Job's friends, and he gives utterance to solemn commonplaces with partial truth in them. In the rough it is true that the hope of the ungodly perishes, and the limits of the truth are concealed by the splendour of the imagery and the perfection of artistic form in which the well-worn platitude is draped. …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
The Beginning, Increase, and End of the Divine Life
Whether all Merits and Demerits, One's Own as Well as those of Others, Will be Seen by Anyone at a Single Glance?
The Hebrew Sages and their Proverbs
The Eternity and Unchangeableness of God.
Instruction for the Ignorant:
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