Our Daily Homily, Job
Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned and renounced God in their hearts. Job 1:5 (R.V.).
TIMES of festivity are always full of temptation. The loins are relaxed, the girdle of the soul is loosed. Amid the general hilarity and the passing of the merry joke, words are said and thoughts permitted which are not always consistent with the character of God and his glorious kingdom and service. Job was not wrong, therefore, in supposing that his children might have contracted some defiling stain.
It necessary for some of us to move in society, and to attend festive gatherings. As the Lord went to the wedding feast, and accepted Simon's invitation, so must we. The sphere of our life lies necessarily in the world. But when we are entering scenes of recreation and pleasure we should be more than ever careful to put on our amour, and by previous meditation and prayer prepare ourselves for the inevitable temptation; and when it is all over, and the lights are down, we should quietly review our behavior under the light that streams from the Word of God. If we then are made aware of frivolous or uncharitable words, of jealousy because others have outshone us, or of pride at the splendor of our dress and the brilliance of our talk, we must confess it, and obtain forgiveness and restoration.
What a beautiful example is furnished by Job to Christian parents! When your girls are going among strangers, and your boys into the great ways of the world, and you are unable to impose your will upon them, as in the days of childhood, you can yet pray for them, casting over them the shield of intercession, with strong cryings and tears. They are beyond your reach; but by faith you can move the arm of God on their behalf.
A perfect and an upright man. Job 2:3
EVEN God spoke of Job as perfect. Not that he was absolutely so, as judged by the perfect standard of eternity, but as judged by the standard of his own light and knowledge. He was living up to all the requirements of God and man, so far as he understood them. His whole being was open and obedient to the Divine impulses. So far as he knew there was no cause of controversy in heart or life. Probably he could have adopted the words of the Apostle, "I know nothing against myself." He exercised himself to have always a conscience void of offence toward God and man.
Satan suggested that his goodness was pure selfishness; that it paid him well to be as he was, because God had hedged him around and blessed his substance. This malignant suggestion was at once dealt with by the Almighty Vindicator of the saints. It was as if God said, "I give thee permission to deprive him of all those favoring conditions, for the sake of which thou sayest he is bribed to goodness; and it shall be seen that his integrity is rooted deep down in the work of my grace upon his heart."
But the book goes on to show that God desired to teach Job that there were flaws and blemishes in his character which could only be seen by comparing it with the more perfect glory of his own Divine nature. His friends sought to prove him faulty, and failed; God revealed himself, and he cried, "Behold, I am vile, and abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes."
How often God takes away our consolations, that we may only love Him for Himself; and reveals our sinfulness, that we may better appreciate the completeness of his salvation!
Job opened his mouth, and cursed his day. Job 3:1
THAT is, the day of his birth. Probably there have been hours in the majority of lives in which men have wished that they had never been born. When they have stood beside the wreck of all earthly hope, or entered the garden of the grave they have cried, "Why died I not from the birth!" The reason for this is, that the heart has been so occupied with the transient and earthly, that it has lost sight of the unseen and eternal; and in finding itself deprived of the former, it has thought that there was nothing left to live for.
One of the greatest tests of true religion is in bearing suffering. At such a time we are apt, if we are professing Christians, to exert a certain constraint over ourselves, and bear ourselves heroically. We have read of people in like circumstances who have not shed a tear or uttered a complaining word; and we have braced ourselves to a Christian stoicism. "I am sure you cannot find fault with my behavior," said one such to me. And yet beneath the correct exterior there may be the pride and haughtiness of an altogether unsubdued self.
There is a more excellent way: to humble oneself under the mighty hand of God; to search the heart for any dross that needs to be burnt out; to resign oneself to the will of the Father; to endeavor to learn the lesson in the black‑lettered book; to seek to manifest the specific grace for which the trial calls; to be very tender and thoughtful for others; to live deeper down.
"Nearer, my God to Thee! ‑‑ Nearer to Thee!
E'en though it be a cross that raiseth me,
Still all my song shall be ‑‑ Nearer, my God, to Thee!
Nearer to Thee!"
But now it is come unto thee, and thou faintest. Job 4:5 (R.V.).
IT is much easier to counsel others in their trouble than to bear it ourselves. Full often the soul, which has poured floods of consolation on others, feels sadly in need of a touch, a voice, a sympathizing companion, as the chill waters begin to rise towards the knees, and the shadow of the great eclipse falls around. The fact of our having consoled so many others seems at such a moment to leave us the more solitary and lonesome. People have been so wont to be helped by as that they hardly dare approach us; besides, they suppose that all the fund of comfort from which we have succored others must be now available for us. What can they say that we have not said a hundred times? and if we have said it, of course we must know all about it; but they do not know how wistful the heart is to hear it said to us with the accent of a sympathetic voice and the touch of a ministering hand.
Ah, it will come unto thee at last. The pain and sorrow of life will find thee out. The arrow will at last fix itself quivering in thy heart. How wilt thou do then? Thou wilt faint unless thy words have sprung from a living experience of the love and presence of Jesus. Thou must have a better hope than "the integrity of thy ways," as suggested by Eliphaz. But there awaits thee the personal fellowship of Jesus, a brother born for the hour of trial. He is the never‑failing Friend, who sticketh closer than a brother. Put Him and his will and his choice between thee and thy sorrow, whatever it may be. Hide thee in his secret place, and under the shadow of his wings thou shalt enjoy sweet peace.
"Only heaven Is better than a walk
With Christ at midnight over moonlit seas."
He maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth and his hands make whole. Job 5:18
HAS this been your experience lately? Have you been made sore by the heavy scourge of pain, and wounded by the nails of the cross? Do not look at second causes. Men may have been the instruments, but God is the Agent. The cup has been presented by a Judas, but the Father permitted it; and it is therefore the cup that the Father hath given you to drink. Shall you not drink it? How much He must love you, to dare to inflict this awful discipline, which makes your love and trust, that He values so infinitely, tremble in the scale! "Despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him; for whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth."
But do not look back on what you have suffered; look on and up! As surely as He has made sore, He will bind up; as soon as He has wounded, his hands will begin to make whole. Consider the reparative processes of nature. So soon as the unsightly ruin or chasm yawns, nature begins to weave her rich festoons, to cover it with moss and lichen; let the flesh be punctured or lacerated, the blood begins to poor out the protoplastic matter to be woven into a new fabric. So when the heart seems bleeding its life away, God is at work binding up and healing. Think of those dear and tender hands, that fashioned the heavens, and touched the eyeballs of the blind, as laid upon you to make you whole. Trust Him; He loves infinitely, and will suffer none that trust in Him to be desolate.
We must be careful, however, that nothing on our part shall hinder the life of the Son of God from flowing through us, as the sap of the vine through every branch.
As a brook, as the channel of brooks that pass away. Job 6:15 (R.V.).
JOB complains of his three friends. He was glad when they first came to his side, as likely to yield him comfort in his sore distress. Instead of this, however, they began probing his heart and searching his life, to find the secret sin on account of which his heavy troubles had befallen him. Their philosophy was at fault. They held that special misfortune is always the result of special sin; and since there was nothing in Job's outward conduct to account for his awful sufferings, they felt that he was hiding some secret defection, which they urged him to confess. Job felt that in all this they cruelly misunderstood him, and compares them in these words to one of the desert streams that are choked with ice and snow in the time of the winter rains, but dwindle and dry up on the first approach of summer. And when the weary caravans come to their banks, lo, their bed is a mere heap of stones. "They come thither and are confounded."
Is it not so with human friendships? We hoped that they would quench the raging thirst of our souls; this hope increases when they draw nigh us in days of sorrow; but how often they fail us ‑‑ stones for bread, scorpions for fish, and scorching pebbles instead of water‑brooks. How great a contrast to the love and friendship of Jesus! Not like a brook that dries in the time of drought, but like a well of water springing up within the heart for ever. He does not merely give consolation and sympathy, but He is what He gives. He imparts Himself. His promise chases away our fears as his Spirit reminds us of the words, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Nothing gives Him greater joy than to be the perfect circle of which earth's friendships are broken arcs.
What is man . . . that thou shouldst visit him every morning? Job 7:17,18
GOD visits us with mercy every morning. Before we are awake He is at work in the world, baptizing it with dew, feeding the birds and wild things, taking pleasure in the jasmine and heliotrope, the honeysuckle, and the rose; and with all his care for his world, He does not forget man, whom He has placed there to be its tenant. There is no life so mean and abject, so suffering and wretched, that He does not visit in order to comfort and relieve it. No heart so forlorn that He does not knock at the door: no window so selfishly curtained and shuttered, at which He does not tap. "Open to Me!" the heavenly visitor entreats, "my love, my dove, my spouse!" Alas for us! that we keep the doors and windows closed to Him ‑‑ as the poor widow to a beneficent friend, who called to relieve her, but she mistook him for the rent‑collector.
But probably Job meant that God visits us in discipline, training, education. He is the watcher of men; not to detect their failures, but to discover opportunities of leading them on to richer, fuller experiences of his grace and life. Surely, as we consider all the time and pains which God has expended on us, we too may cry, with the patriarch, "What is man?" Man is more than we guess, else God would never take such time and pains with him. When a lapidary spends years over a single diamond, the most careless observer begins to appraise properly its intrinsic value.
Every morning God visits thee, with holy thoughts and warnings, with miracles and parables, with anticipations and forecasts ‑‑ oh, realize how much thou art to Him: give Him love for love, thanks and loving recognition, a child's welcome and trust.
If thou wert pure and upright, surely now he would awake for thee. Job 8:6
SO Bildad spoke, suggesting that Job was not pure and upright, since God did not appear to deliver him. The premises from which he argued were that God always delivers and prospers pure and upright men, and that therefore, if a man were not delivered and prospered, he was proved to be neither pure nor upright. The fallacy lay in the premiss. It is not universally true that God delivers his saints from adverse circumstances, or prospers them with outward good. There have been in all ages thousands of devoted servants of God who have been destitute, afflicted, and tormented; and there are thousands of such to‑day in prisons, in hospital wards, in every condition of privation and trial; but in none of these cases can there be the least imputation on the love and righteousness of God, nor necessarily on their fidelity and goodness.
God's arrangements for us are not governed by the superficial philosophy which would make material prosperity a sign of his favor, and adversity of his displeasure. There are many considerations beside. Our privations in the outward strengthen and ripen the inward. As the outward man decays, the inward is renewed day by day. We have to learn and manifest those passive virtues which can only mature in silence and sorrow. We must be taught to be largely independent of circumstances, and to find in God Himself the springs of unfailing supply. We must learn to carry the sentence of death in ourselves, that we may not trust in ourselves, but in the living God. We have to stiffer with and for others. All these things worketh God with us to make us partakers of his holiness. But amid all our sorrows, He is always awake for us.
Yet wilt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me. Job 9:31
WE shall never got beyond the need of using daily the Lord's prayer. He has bound by the conjunction and the prayer for forgiveness with that for daily bread, as though to teach us that we shall need the one as long as we need the other. At the end of the best day that we ever spent, when we are not aware of having consciously sinned in act, or speech, or thought, we shall still have need of the precious blood. We may know nothing against ourselves, yet we shall not be thereby justified; because He that judgeth us is our holy Lord, and the standard by which we are judged is his own perfect character. A piece of cambric looks extremely fine to the eye, but how coarse to the microscope! Sheep look white against the dark ground of the early spring; but how dark if there should be a fall of snow! Our characters seem stainless, only because we compare ourselves with ourselves, or with others.
But, when our eyes are opened to see God, to behold the whiteness of the great white throne, and we stand in the searching light of heaven, we are as those who have just emerged from a ditch. I heard the other day of a woman being proud of having lived without sin for ten years! So we deceive ourselves. No, at the best we are sinful men and women, needing constant cleansing; even though we may be kept from known sin by the grace of Christ. It was at an advanced period in the life of the great Apostle, and when he lived nearest God, that he realized himself to be the chief of sinners.
"I know not what I am, but only know
I have had glimpses tongue may never speak:
No more I balance human joy and woe,
But think of my transgressions, and am meek."
The land of darkness and the shadow of death. Job 10:21
THIS represented the highest thinking of that age about the future. There were gleams now and again of something more; but they were fitful and uncertain, soon overtaken by dark and sad forebodings. How different to our happy condition, for whom death is abolished, whilst life and immortality have been brought to light! The patriarch called the present life Day, and the future Night. We know that in comparison the present is Night, and the future Day. "The night is far spent, the day is at hand; let us put on the amour of light."
For us, too, there is something better. We wait for his Son from heaven; we look for that blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ. "As the waters of the sea are held between two mighty gravitations, the moon now drawing them towards itself, and the earth drawing them back again, thus giving the ebbing and flowing tide, by which our earth is kept clean and healthful, so must the tides of the soul's affection move perpetually between the cross of Christ and the coming of Christ, influenced now by the power of memory and now by the power of hope." It is said of the late Dr. Gordon: "Hardly a sermon was preached without allusion to the glorious appearing. Never a day passed in which he did not prepare himself for it, in which its hastening was not sought for with prayer." "Yet a little while [Greek, how little! how little!] and He that shall come will come." The attitude of every believer should be that of waiting: with loins girt and lamp burning, let us be ready to meet our Lord.
"The Best is yet to be,
The Last for which the First was made."
Canst thou by searching find out God? Job 11:7
THERE is but one answer to that question. No one can. The very angels veil their faces before the insufferable glory of his face.
"The firstborn sons of light
Desire in vain his depths to see;
They cannot reach the mystery,
The length, and breadth, and height.
Do not be surprised, then, if there should be matters in the Bible, in your own life, and in the Providential government of the world, which baffle your thought. Remember you are only a little child in an infant class, and it is not likely that you can comprehend the whole system of your instructor. God would cease to be God to us, if we by searching could find Him out.
But though we cannot find out God by the searching of the intellect, we may know Him by love. "He that loveth, knoweth God; for God is Love." There is a way of knowing God, which is hidden from the wise and prudent, and revealed to babes. Seek to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man. Let Christ dwell deep in your heart by faith. Take care to obey all his commandments, and then the Holy God will come into you, and abide. He will give you Himself, and you will know Him as a little child knows its parent, whom it cannot grasp with its mind, but loves and trusts and knows with its heart. We cannot find out God by searching, but we can by loving.
We can also find Him in the character and life of Jesus. He that hath seen Him hath seen the Father; why then ask to be shown the Father? "What is Thy name, O mystery of strength and beauty?" "Shiloh, Rest‑Giver," is the deep response.
Doth not the ear try words? and the palate tasteth its meat. Job 12:11 (R.V.).
THERE is no appeal from the verdict of our palate. We know in a moment whether a substance is sweet or bitter, palatable or disagreeable. Now, what the taste is to articles of diet, that the ear is to words, whether of God or man. More especially we can tell in a moment whether the fire of inspiration is burning in them. This is the test which Job proposed to apply to the words of his friends; and it would be well for all of us to apply the same test to Holy Scripture.
The humble student of the Word of God is sometimes much perplexed and cast down by the assaults which are made on it by scholars and teachers, who do not scruple to question the authorship and authority of large tracts of Scripture. We cannot vie with these in scholarship, but the humblest may apply the test of the purged ear; and it will detect a certain quality in the Bible which is absent everywhere beside. There is a tone in the voice of Scripture, which the child of God must recognize. This is the interesting characteristic in the quotations made in the New Testament from the Old. All the writers in the later Revelation detect the voice of God in the Old; to them, it is the Divine utterance through holy lips. Hearken, they cry, "the holy Ghost saith." God is speaking in the prophets, as He spake in his Son.
It is one of the characteristics of Christ's sheep that they know his voice, and follow Him, whilst they flee from the voice of strangers. Ask that the Lord may touch your ears, that they may discern by a swift intuition the voice of the Good Shepherd from that of strangers; and for grace to follow immediately He calls you.
Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him. Job 13:15
THIS was a noble expression, which has been appropriated by thousands in every subsequent age. In every friendship there is a probation, during which we narrowly watch the actions of another, as indicating the nature of his soul; but after awhile we get to such intimate knowledge and confidence, that we read and know his inner secret. We have passed from the outer court into the Holy Place of fellowship. We seem familiar with every nook and cranny of our friend's nature. And then it is comparatively unimportant how he appears to act; we know him.
So it is in respect of God. At first we know Him through the testimony of others, and on the evidence of Scripture; but as time passes, with its ever deepening experiences of what God is, with those opportunities of converse that arise during years of prayer and communion, we get to know Him as He is and to trust Him implicitly. And when that point has been reached and passed, nothing afterwards can greatly move us. Instead of looking at God from the standpoint of his acts, we look at his dealings with us and all men from the standpoint of his heart. Though He put us on the altar, as Abraham did Isaac, and take the knife to slay us, we trust Him. If we die, it is to pass into a richer life. If He seem to forget and forsake us, it is only in appearance. His heart is yearning over us more than ever. God cannot do a thing which is not perfectly loving and wise and good. Oh to know Him thus!
" Leaving the final issue In His hands
Whose goodness knows no change, whose love is sure,
Who sees, foresees, who cannot judge amiss."
All the days of my warfare would I wait, till my release should come. Job 14:14 (R.V.).
THE Lord Jesus has chosen us to be his soldiers. We are in the midst of a great campaign: let us endure hardness, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, and strive above all things to please Him (2 Tim. ii. 4). Amongst other things, let us be sure not to entangle ourselves in the affairs of this life. What purpose could a soldier serve who insisted on taking all his household goods with him on the march!
There is no pause in the warfare. We can never, like Gideon's soldiers, throw ourselves on the bank and quaff the water at our leisure. Every bush may hide a sharp‑shooter; every brake an ambuscade. It becomes us to watch and pray; to keep on our harness of amour; to be on the alert for our Captain's voice. We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the hosts of wicked spirits in the heavenly places; we need to be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might, and to take unto ourselves the whole amour of God, that we may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand.
But the release will come at last. When the soldier has fought the good fight, the time of his departure will come, and he will go in to receive the crown which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give in that day. "Come," said the dying Havelock to his son, "and see how a Christian can die." Sometimes it demands more of a soldier's courage to wait than to charge. Remember that long waiting on the field at Waterloo, when the day passed from morning to evening. If you can do nothing else, wait. Be steadfast, immovable: lying still to suffer, to bear, to endure. This is fighting of the noblest sort.
Thou restrainest prayer before God. Job 15:4
JOB'S friends were bent on discovering the cause of his sufferings in some secret failure and declension. This is why Eliphaz accused him so groundlessly. They did not know of those secret habits of intercession described in the first chapter. But this charge is eminently true of some professing Christians.
They restrain private prayer. ‑‑ The closet door is too seldom shut behind them, or it is kept shut for to brief a period. They do not give themselves time to get into the mid‑current of intercession and be borne forward by it whither it will. The voice of the Holy Spirit is barely able to assert itself amid the hubbub of voices within. They are so taken up with speaking of the Lord, or working for Him, that they slur over private audiences with Himself.
They restrain social prayer. ‑‑ Their minister never them in the gatherings for intercession on behalf of the work of the Church and the salvation of the lost. They forsake the assembling of themselves with the saints. Like Thomas, they are absent from the gathering in the upper room, and miss the smile of the Lord.
They restrain family prayer. ‑‑ Surely we ought to gather at least once a day around the family altar. Where Abraham pitched his tent he erected the altar. A prayerless home is apt to become a worldly and unhappy one. There is no such keystone to the arch of home‑life and home‑love, as the habit of family worship.
How foolish, how short‑sighted, how sinful, it is to restrain prayer! What wonder that your soul is famished when you fail to feed it, or impoverished when you neglect intercourse with heaven!
I was at ease, and He brake me asunder. Job 16:12 (R.V.).
THE other day, it was the Lord's Day morning, two sparrows fell from the leads of my church into the vestry, which has a lofty glass skylight. As soon as they had recovered from their astonishment at finding themselves prisoners, they flew up against this skylight as though to break through it to the open heaven, and then round and round the room. They were desperately afraid of myself and the verger, whom I had called, not realizing that we were as anxious as they to get them out again into the air. The only thing we could do to help them was to keep them from alighting to rest; so with long brooms and soft missiles we constantly drove them from every cornice and picture‑frame on which they alighted, till they fell exhausted, and with panting breasts, to the ground. Then we captured them and set them free. They might have said many a time, in the course of that encounter, "We were at case, and they brake us asunder; they also set us up for their mark." But if they could review that episode now, they would doubtless see that it was love which forbade them to rest anywhere in the vestry, because it desired to give them their fullest liberty.
So with Job. God would not allow him to rest in anything short of the best, and therefore He broke up his nest. Is not this the key to his dealings with you? Oh, believe that behind the perpetual change and displacement of your life God is leading you into the glorious liberty of his children!
"Therefore to whom turn I but Thee, the ineffable Name?
Builder and Maker Thou of houses not made with hands!
What? have fear of change from Thee who art ever the same?
Doubt that Thy power can fill the heart that Thy power expands?
There shall never be one lost good."
Yet shall the righteous hold on his way. Job 17:9 (R.V.).
WHEN the real life of God enters the soul, it persists there. Genuine religion is shown by its power of persistence. Anything short of a God-given faith will sooner or later fail. It may run well for a time, but its pace will inevitably slacken till it comes to a stand. The youths faint and are weary, and the young men utterly fall. The seed sown on the rock springs up quickly, and as quickly dies down and perishes. But where there is the rooting and grounding in God, there is a perpetuity and persistence which outlives all storms and survives all resistance.
You shall hold on your way because Jesus holds you in his strong hand. He is your Shepherd; He has vanquished all your foes, and you shall never perish.
You shall hold on your way because the Father has designed through you to glorify his Son; and there must be no gaps in his crown where jewels ought to be.
You shall hold on your way because the Holy Spirit has deigned to make you his residence and home; and He is within you the perennial spring of a holy life.
It is said that there was once a debate in heaven, as to which kind of life needed most of God's grace. That of a man who after a lifetime of gross sins was converted at the eleventh hour, or of a man that for his whole career had been kept from destruction. And finally the latter was agreed to be the most conspicuous miracle. And there is no doubt that this is so. Yet for this also shall God's grace avail: and He shall enable thee to hold on thy way till heaven open to thee.
The king of terrors. Job 18:14
SO the ancients spoke of death. They were constantly pursued by the dread of the unknown. Every unpeopled or distant spot was the haunt and dwellingplace of evil and dreadful objects. But the grave, and the world beyond, were above all terrible, and death the King of Terrors. It is difficult for us, who inherit centuries of Christian teaching, to realize how dark and fearsome was all the realm that lay under the dominion of death and the grave. What a shiver in those words, King of Terrors!
But for us how vast the contrast! Jesus has abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light. He has gone through the grave, and come again to assure us that it is the back door into our Father's house, with its many mansions. At his girdle hang the keys of death and Hades; none can shut the door when He opens it, and none open when He keeps it shut. He was Himself dead; but He lives for evermore, and comes to the side of each dying saint to escort him through the valley to his own bright abode.
There is something better. In the case of immense numbers, who shall be alive and remain when He comes again, death will be entirely evaded. "He that liveth and believeth in Him shall never die." They shall be caught away to meet the Lord in the air. Suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye, this mortal shall put on immortality, this corruptible incorruption. At his coming the grave shall be despoiled of its treasures, and death shall miss its expected prey.
"O death, where is thy sting! O grave, where is thy victory! Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
I know that my Redeemer liveth. Job 19:25
THOSE words express the deepest and most radiant conviction of believing hearts. "He lives, the great Redeemer lives!" Man did his worst; the nail, the cross, the spear, were bitter; but He liveth! Death stood over Him as a vanquished foe; but He liveth! Captain Sepulcher and his henchman Corruption held earnest colloquy together about the best method of detaining Him; but He liveth! He ever liveth: and because He continueth ever, He hath an unchangeable priesthood.
But it is not probable that his words meant all this to Job. The word translated "Redeemer " is Goel ‑‑ the nearest kinsman, sworn to avenge the wrongs of blood relations. This conception of the kinsman avenger has been always in vogue in the East, where the populations are scattered and migratory, and our system of law impossible. Beyond the heavens Job thought there lived a Kinsman, who saw all his sufferings, and pitied, and would one day appear on earth to vindicate his innocence and avenge his wrongs. He was content to leave the case with Him, sure that He would not fail, as his friends had done.
Beyond the sorrows and anguish of time he should yet see God; and he longed to see Him, that he might learn the secret purpose, which explained the sorrow of his lot. He had no dread of that momentous event, since his Goel would be there to stand beside him.
"Sudden the Worst turns the Best to the brave,
The black minute's at end!‑‑
And the Elements' rage, the fiend voices that rave,
Shall dwindle, shall blend,
Shall change, shall become, ‑‑ first a Peace out of Pain,
Then a Light, then thy breast."
This is the portion of a wicked man from God. Job 20:29
REPEATEDLY in reading this book we are reminded of the strong convictions entertained by thoughtful men among these Eastern peoples, of the sure connection between wrong‑doing and its bitter penalty. The friends of the sufferer express their opinions in cold‑blooded and unfeeling words; but we can detect their intense convictions beneath all ‑‑ that special suffering indicates the presence of special sin, and that all wickedness is sooner or later brought to light and punished.
We are less able to follow the track of God's providences in these crowded, hurrying days; but there can be little doubt of the connection between wrong‑doing and punishment. The law is immutable. As a man soweth, so shall be also reap. The triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the godless but for a moment. He shall disgorge his wealth; he shall suck the poison of asps in the remorse and bitterness of his soul; the heavens shall reveal his iniquity; and his descendants shall seek favor of the poor. These things are still to be seen among us, in the rise and fall of proud men and their families.
Let us go into the sanctuary of God, and consider their latter end; and as we contrast it with that of the poorest of his children, we shall find no reason to envy them. Even though no human tribunal sentence them, they carry the harpoon in their heart, and sooner or later it will bring them to a certain and awful doom. It cannot be otherwise whilst God is God. The psalmist said:
"I have seen the wicked in great power,
And spreading himself like a green bay tree;
Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not."
Shall any teach God knowledge? Job 21:22
WE cannot tell God anything He does not know already. The most fervent and full of our prayers simply unfold in word all that has been patent to his loving, pitying eye. This does not make prayer needless; on the contrary, it incites to prayer, since it is pleasant to talk with one who knows the whole case perfectly; and it is a relief to feel that God's answers depend ‑‑ not on the information we bring Him, or even on the specific requests we make, but ‑‑ on his infinite and perfect acquaintance with circumstances and conditions of which we are altogether ignorant.
"Your Father knoweth." Quicker than lightning is his notice of every transition in your inner life ‑‑ of your downsittings and your uprisings; of every thought in your heart; every word on your tongue; of the fretting of that inward cross; of the anguish of that stake in your flesh; of the enemy that, like a sword in your bones, reproaches you with the derisive challenge. "Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether." Yes, He knows it all, and loves you better than you know.
Do not presume to dictate to Him; do not dare to say that some other way would be better, some other lot more likely to develop your best self. He knows every track by which to bring sons to glory; and that He has chosen this one is a positive proof that it is the best, the one most adapted to your idiosyncrasies and needs. His ways are, higher than your ways, and his thoughts than your thoughts. You could not teach Him knowledge, or increase his love ‑‑ then trust both.
If thou return to the Almighty. Job 22:23
THESE words introduce a most exquisite picture of the blessings consequent on return to God. They do not fit the case of Job, to whom they were addressed, because he had not left God; and they sound strange as coming from the mouth of Eliphaz. Still they are full of sublime truth.
There are three conditions. ‑‑ We must retrace the steps of our backsliding and wandering lives. We must put away unrighteousness from our home‑life and business engagements, so that the tent may be free from idols. We must be content to lay our most treasured possessions in the dust at God's feet for Him to deal with as He pleases.
There are four consequences. ‑‑ Whatever we give up for God, we shall find again in Him; He shall become our treasure. Prayer shall have new zest, new success; be full of delight; become the interchange of face‑to‑face fellowship. There shall be more certainty and permanence in our decisions and achievements. Our decrees shall stand, our work shall last, our path shall be illumined with light. Trouble and trial shall depress us for only a brief space, like the passing of an Atlantic breaker over a lighthouse rock, whilst a glad relief shall always follow close on disaster.
Let us ask for all this in our daily prayer. O God, be my precious silver; give me delight in Thee; hear my prayers; may I decree what Thou canst establish; let Thy light shine on my ways; lift me up above all my depressions and fears ‑‑ that I may stretch out a strong hand to those who are in trouble.
"Oh, strengthen me, that while I stand
Firm on the Rock, and strong In Thee,
I may stretch out a loving hand
To wrestlers with the troubled sea."
O that I knew where I might find Him, that I might come even to his seat! Job 23:3
POOR tempest‑driven man, he knew not that God was intimately near, nearer than breathing. There was no need for him to go forward and backward, on the right hand or the left. The Lord his God was nigh him, even in his heart; for his throne was pitched there on the sands of the desert, between Job and his pitiless accusers.
Thou needest not speak like this. Thou knowest where to find Him; thou canst find the way to his seat. He is to be found in Jesus, seated on the mercy‑seat; in that room where thou sittest reading these words; in that railway train or store. No need to ascend into heaven, or descend into the abyss. Thou couldst not be nearer God, if thou wert in heaven. True, the obscuring veil shall be then removed.
"And without a screen,
At one burst shall be seen,
The Presence in which we have ever been";
but the dropping‑ of the scales from our eyes will not make us nearer God than we are at this moment.
Now go to his seat, just in front of thee. Order thy cause before Him, and argue it. Wait to know the words with which He shall answer thee, and understand his reply. Only be sure that He will not contend against thee with his great power. Sometimes we are so bewildered and perplexed that we lose the realizing sense of God's presence; but there is no real difference. God is not really farther away; and nothing glorifies and pleases Him more than for us to go on speaking with Him as though we could see his face, and realize his embrace. Be still for a moment, and say, reverently and believingly: Lo, God is in this place.
Yet a little while, and they are gone. Job 24:24 (R.V.).
JOB here describes the insecurity of the wicked. He may have raged against the poor and innocent; but in a moment he comes down to Sheol, is hurried to stand before his Maker to receive his sentence. As he had treated the poor, so he is treated. As he had devoured the houses of the innocent, so he is devoured. "How are they become a desolation in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors. As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when Thou awakest, Thou shalt despise their image."
For those who fear God there is a greatly contrasted lot. They receive a kingdom that cannot be moved. Zion may be a desolation, and Jerusalem a wilderness; the holy and beautiful institutions in which their early religious impressions were made may crumble; but they are come to the heavenly Jerusalem. The removing of those things that are capable of being shaken only makes more apparent those which cannot be shaken.
Where do you build your nest? In the trees of this world, that sway in the tempest, or may be hewn down by the woodman's axe; or have you learnt to build in the clefts of the Rock of Ages? Is your treasure in human friendships, which may change or be cut in twain by the sharp shears of death; or is it in the love of God, the unchangeable and everlasting Lover of souls? Let us look off from ourselves; from that diseased introspection that so confuses and dims our life; from the old fears that made us tremble and the old matters of which we must speak no more. And let us look upward and forward to that near future, which is so much larger and better than the past has been, and where we shall attain more than the heights of our dreams.
How then can man be just with God? Job 25:4 (R.V.).
THIS is the question of the ages. Man knows that he is as a worm, and worse. For no animal, however humble, has consciously and determinedly broken the law of God, and defiled its nature.
Our first effort is to go about to establish a righteousness of our own. Repeated failure only aggravates our misery and chagrin, till we fall helpless at the foot of Sinai. Our vows are broken, the law of God lies shivered around us, the thunders and lightnings make us afraid. Then God in the Person of Jesus comes to our help. First, He meets and satisfies the demands of the broken law, so that it can ask no more. With his own hands He works out, and brings in, everlasting righteousness. And finally, He produces in us that faith by which his finished work is applied to our conscience and heart.
By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But we are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation. God is Himself the Justifier of the ungodly. "Whom He called, them He also justified." He takes off the filthy garments, and clothes us in change of raiment.
But the condition is faith. We must believe in Him who justifieth the ungodly. They who believe are justified from all things. Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. We are not saved by believing about his work, but in Himself. The Greek of John iii. 16 might be rendered, Whosoever even believeth into Him. The motion of faith is ever towards the heart of Him who died, and rose, and lives. Then through our faith the Spirit produces a holy character.
How small a whisper do we hear of Him! Job 26:14 (R.V.).
JOB in thought passes through the universe. Sheol stands for the grave and the unseen world; Abaddon, for Satan, or for the great reservoirs in which the destructive agencies of creation have their home. With a marvelous anticipation of the conclusions of modern science, he speaks of the world as pendant in space. He passes to the confines of light and darkness, rides on the wings of the wind, discourses of the clouds, skims the mighty surface of the sea. All this, however, he deems as the outskirts of God's ways. It is but a whisper compared to the mighty thunder of his glory and power. If this is a whisper, what must the thunder be! If this universe is but a flower on the meadows of God's life, what must not God Himself be!
Perhaps we know something more of the thunder of his power than Job could, because we have stood beneath Calvary and seen Jesus die, and He is the wisdom and power of God; yea, we have witnessed the exceeding greatness of his power, according to the working of the strength of his might, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead.
Who of us can fathom or understand the power of God? But what a comfort to know that it is an attribute of his heart. God is not power, but He is love, and his love throbs through and commands his power. Be reverent when you kneel before the great and mighty God; but believe that all his power is engaged on the side of his weakest, needist child. And more: cease not to wait upon God until He endue you with his mighty power, for service and for daily living. A Nasmyth hammer can break a nutshell without crushing or touching the kernel.
My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let go. Job 27:6
JOB had an ideal and clung to it. Have you such? A vision of what you may be, and, by the grace of God, will aim at being. Bishop Westcott says: ‑‑ "The vision of the ideal guards monotony of work from becoming monotony of life." Bitter indeed is life for those who have not seen the heavenly vision, or heard the calling upward of the voice that says, Come up hither. Any life looks more interesting and attractive when the light of our ideal falls on it, and we realize that every yard leads somewhere, and every step is one nearer the goal. So some one has suggested that "If we cannot realize our ideal, we may at least idealize our real."
But there are many hindrances, many adverse influences to combat, many suggestions that we should let go our ideal. We have so often failed, slipped where we thought we should stand, limped where we thought to overcome by wrestling. The crags are so steep, the encouragement we receive from fellow‑climbers so scant, the dissuasions and misconstructions ‑‑ like those Job had from his friends ‑‑ so many. But Jesus who inspired the ideal waits to realize it, if only you will open your heart and let Him enter. Do you hunger and thirst? then He will satisfy. He does not tantalize and disappoint the seeking soul.
"Have we not all, amid life's petty strife,
Some pure ideal of a noble life
That once seemed possible? It was. And yet
We lost it in this daily jar and fret,
And now live idle in a vague regret.
but still our place is kept, and it will wait.
Ready for us to fill it, soon or late:
No star is ever lost we once have seen ‑‑
We always may be what we might have been.
The deep saith, It is not in me: and the sea saith, It is not with me. Job 28:14 (R.V.).
In this sublime chapter the holy soul goes in quest of wisdom, which is the perfect balance of the moral and intellectual attributes of the soul; that knowledge of God, and life, and truth, which is only possible when the eyes of the heart have been enlightened to know; that radiancy of spirit which is enlightened and illuminated with God who is Himself the Light.
In a marvelous description of mining operations, which would arrest any company of miners in the world, if read from the Revised Version, Job declares it is not to be found in the deep. From one quarter of the universe after another, he receives the intelligence that it is not there. God alone has the secret; He only can communicate it, or give the disposition to appreciate and receive.
We must deal with God. Looking away from every other source of illumination and satisfaction, we must have close and searching fellowship with Him. Dr. Gordon was wont to say that evangelical faith consists not in a glance alone, but in a gaze. "We live in a very busy, perspiring time, when a thousand clamant calls assail us on every side; but we must have more time for visions if we would be well equipped for our tasks." Let us then turn from the quarters where we have been accustomed to draw our supplies ‑‑ broken cisterns, with uncertain and brackish water ‑‑ and let us come to God, the eternal source of life and peace. Love and rest we want, Thy love and rest, oh, give us! From men and things; from the mine, the deep, and the sea; from the murmur of human voices, and the crosslights of human interests, we come back to Thee, our Home.
Oh that I were as in the months of old! Job 29:2 (R.V.).
WE are irresistibly reminded of Cowper's sad complaint: ‑‑
What peaceful hours I once enjoyed!
How sweet their memory still;
But they have left an aching void
The world can never fill."
We are all prone to think that the earliest days were the best; and it is quite possible they were. But we must carefully distinguish between the exchange of the freshness and novelty of our first love for a deepening and maturing love, and the loss of love. The streamlet may not babble so cheerily, but there may be more water in the river. We lose the green Spring, but is it not better to have the intense light of Autumn in which the fruits ripen? There may not be so much ecstasy, but there may be stronger, deeper experience. We should not reckon our position in God's sight by our raptures, and count ourselves retrograding because they have gone; there is something better than rapture: the peace of a settled understanding and unvarying faith.
Still, if it be really so, that you have left the old place on the bosom or at the feet of Christ, that your love is cooling and your spirituality waning, I beseech thee, get back! Remember whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works. Jesus yearns to reinstate thee, and has permitted this restless longing for the past to come, that it may be with thee as in the months of old. Again his lamp shall shine above thy head, and the secret of the Lord shall be upon thy tent; thy steps shall be washed with butter, and the rock pour out rivers of oil; thy roots shall spread to the waters, and the dew shall lie all night upon thy branch.
I cry unto Thee, and Thou dost not answer me. Job 30:20 (R.V.).
IT may have seemed so to the sufferer; but there is not a cry that goes from the anguished soul which does not ring a bell in the very heart of God, where the Man of Sorrows waits, touched with the feeling of our infirmities.
I have sometimes gone to a telephone office, and have rung the bell, asking to be put in connection with my friend, but it has seemed impossible to get at him; either he has been engaged or absent, and one has found oneself speaking to a stranger, and the voice which replied has been unfamiliar. Thoroughly disappointed, one turns away. But this is never the case with God. And the comfort is, that He is most quick to succor those whose cry is lowest. As a mother goes about her work, she is less sensitive to the trains that thunder past, and the heavy drays, and the laughter of boisterous health, than to the stifled cry of her little invalid; and if there could be one thing more sure than another of awakening God's immediate response, it would be such broken cries as pain elicited from Job.
But the answer will come ‑‑ nay, it is on its way, timed to arrive in the fourth watch of the night. Perhaps the delay is the answer, because the heart needs to be prepared to receive the great gift when it comes. Perhaps, like the Syrophenician woman, you have to give Christ his right place as Lord, and take yours amongst the dogs. Perhaps the answer is coming all the time by one door, whilst you are looking for it through another; but you cannot and must not say that God is not answering. All the time you are crying, the answer is to your hand, awaiting your appropriation. Go to the post‑office for the letter: hasten to the landing‑stage for the ship ‑‑ it is in.
Mine integrity. Job 31:6
INTEGRITY is from the Latin word integrita, wholeness. It means whole‑heartedness. It is interesting in this chapter to see what, in Job's estimation, it involved.
v.1. Purity in the look.
v.7. Cleanliness of the hands.
v.13. Thoughtfulness for domestic servants and underlings.
v.16. Justice to the poor and the widow.
v.17. Willingness to share morsels, and to be a father to the fatherless.
v.19, 20. Clothing for the naked.
v.21. The refusal to depute to others help which one might render.
v.24.. The heart weaned from the love of gold.
v.26. Refusal to turn aside to idols.
v.29. Inability to rejoice at the destruction of those who had derided and hated.
v. 33. The frank confession of wrong‑doing.
It becomes us prayerfully to go over these items, and use them as the catechism of our soul; for if this was the standard of character for one who lived so many centuries before the full revelation of Christ, what should not our standard be! How impossible, however, it is to live like this from without! We must enshrine within us the blessed Spirit of God, who alone originates and maintains that perfect love to God and man which compared to Job's maxims is as the heart to the body. Law is given as the expression of God's will for the regulation of life: but it is impossible to keep the law till we have the love; and it is impossible to have the love until we have the Lord Jesus Christ, through the Holy Ghost.
There is a spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty giveth understanding. Job 32:8 (R.V.).
ELIHU had waited whilst the three elder men said all that was in their hearts. He now excuses his youth and demands audience, because so conscious that the breath of inspiration had entered his soul. Wisdom is not with age; but wherever the heart is freely open to God, He will make it wise. We have received not the spirit which is of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we may know.
George Fox tells us that though he read the Scriptures which spoke of Christ and of God, yet he knew Him not till He who had the key did open. "Then the Lord gently led me along and let me see his love which was endless and eternal, surpassing all the knowledge that men have in the natural state, or can get by history or books. I had not fellowship with any people, priests or professors, but with Christ, who hath the key, and opened the door of life and light unto me. His one message was the necessity of the Inner Light, the inward witness of the Spirit, his secret revelations of truth to the soul. "
This distinction needs to be deeply pondered. We have been trying to know God by the intellect, by reading the Bible intellectually, by endeavoring to apprehend human systems. There is, however, a deeper and truer method. "There is a spirit in man!" Open your spirit to the Divine Spirit as you open a window to the sunny air. Instantly God enters and fills. The Spirit witnesses with our spirit. The inbreathed life of God gives us light. We know by intuition, by fellowship with God, by direct vision, what the wise of this world could never discover.
If there be with him a messenger, an interpreter. Job 33:23
GOD is greater than man, and by his love seeks to hold man back from his purpose. Sometimes He comes in the visions of the night; sometimes in pain and sickness. But we are too dull to understand the inner reason of God's endeavors to deliver us from the brink of destruction; and therefore we need an interpreter, one among a thousand, to explain the meaning of his dealings, and to show us the way in which we should amend our ways. How often has the sick visitor, the minister, the friend, interpreted God's purpose, enabling us to see light in his light. There are few higher offices in this world than to act in this way between God and our fellows.
To perform this function, however, we need to understand two languages; the one of the throne, obtained from deep and intimate converse with our Father, while the other is man's native language of pain and sorrow. Each must be spoken perfectly before we can interpret: ‑‑
"And to the height of this great argument
Assert eternal Providence,
And justify the ways of God to man."
But, as Bunyan truly says, the best Interpreter is the Holy Spirit. As soon as the Pilgrim has passed the Wicket‑gate, he is conducted through the Interpreter's house by the Interpreter Himself. Are you perplexed as to the meaning of God's Word, the dealings of God's providence, the mystery of God's moral government? Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you through chamber after chamber, unfolding to you the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. They are for babes ‑‑ for the childlike and pure in heart. He will show you wondrous things out of his law.
He giveth quietness. Job 34:29
QUIETNESS amid the accusations of Satan. ‑‑ The great accuser points to the stains of our past lives, by which we have defiled our robes and those of others; he says that we shall fall again and again; he imputes evil motives to our holiest actions, and detects flaws in our most sacred services; he raises so great a hubbub that we can hardly hear another voice within our souls. Then the great Intercessor arises and saith, "The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: I have loved with an everlasting love, I have paid the ransom. So "He giveth quietness."
Quietness amid the dash of the storm. ‑‑ We sail the lake with Him still, and as we reach its middle waters, far from land, under midnight skies, suddenly a great storm sweeps down. Earth and hell seem arrayed against us, and each billow threatens to overwhelm. Then He arises from his sleep, and rebukes the winds and the waves; his hand waves benediction and repose over the rage of the tempestuous elements. His voice is heard above the scream of the wind in the cordage and the conflict of the billows. Peace, be still! Can you not hear it? And there is instantly a great calm. "He giveth quietness."
Quietness amid the loss of inward consolations. ‑‑ He sometimes withdraws these, because we make to much of them. We are tempted to look at our joy, our ecstasies, our transports, or our visions, with too great complacency. Then love, for love's sake, withdraws them. But, by his grace, He leads us to distinguish between them and Himself. He draws nigh, and whispers the assurance of his presence. Thus an infinite calm comes to keep our heart and mind. "He giveth quietness."
None saith, Where is God my Maker, who giveth songs in the night? Job 35:10
DO you have sleepless nights, tossing on the hot pillow, and watching for the first glint of dawn? Ask the Divine Spirit to enable you to fix your thoughts on God, your Maker, and believe that He can fill those lonely, dreary hours with song.
Is yours the night of doubt? ‑‑ A holy man tells us that once as he was sitting by the fire, a great cloud came over him, and a temptation beset him to think that all things came by nature; and as he sat still under it, and let it alone, a living hope arose in him, and a true voice said, "There is a living God who made all things." And immediately the cloud and temptation vanished away, and life rose over it all. His heart was glad, and he praised the living God. Was not this a song in the night?
Is yours the night of bereavement? ‑‑ Is it not often to such God draws near, and assures the mourner that the Lord had need of its beloved, and called "the eager, earnest spirit to stand in the bright throng of the invisible, liberated, radiant, active, intent on some high mission"; and as the thought enters, is there not the beginning of a song?
Is yours the night of discouragement and fancied or actual failure? ‑‑ No one understands you, your friends reproach; but your Maker draws nigh, and gives you a song ‑‑ the song of hope, the song which is harmonious with the strong, deep music of his providence. Be ready to sing the songs that your Maker gives.
"What then? Shall we sit idly down and say
'The night hath come; it is no longer day'?
. . . . . . . . .
Yet as the evening twilight fades away,
The sky is filled with stars, invisible to day."
Behold, God is mighty, and despiseth not any. Job 36:5
WHAT entrancing assurances are contained in this and the preceding sentence! To think that in all our wayfarings through this world One that is perfect in knowledge is always with us, and One that is mighty is pledged to bring us through! Nothing could be desired beside. This makes prayer new. It is a child's confidential whisper to the One who is attent to the lowest murmur, who cannot forget, who will not relinquish a purpose which He has formed though years pass, and who is able to do exceeding abundantly.
It is because God is so great that He despises none. If He were less than infinite, He might overlook. The boundlessness of his being has no ebb, fails of no soul He has made, and is as much at any one point as if He had no care or thought beside. In fact, those that man despises stand the best chance with God. Just because no one else cares for them, he must; just because no one else will help them, He will. This is necessary to his nature.
When a philanthropist adopts a certain lapsed section of the community, he does so because no one else will. It becomes a matter of honour with him that none of these, outcast by all else, should miss his help. And God has constituted Himself Champion, Guardian, and Saviour, of all who have no help from their fellows. Friendless, forlorn, helpless, despised, He recognizes and meets the claim of their urgent necessity. Bruised reeds, bits of smoking tow, half‑consumed fire‑brands, lost sheep, prodigal sons, waifs and strays, homeless, destitute, neglected ‑‑ these have a first claim on the Almightiness of the living God.
Men see not the bright light which is in the clouds. Job 37:21
THE world owes much of its beauty to cloudland. The unchanging blue of the Italian sky hardly compensates for the changefulness and glory of the clouds. Clouds also are the cisterns of the rain. Earth would become a wilderness apart from their ministry. There are clouds in human life, shadowing, refreshing, and sometimes draping it in blackness of night; but there is never a cloud without its bright light. "I do set my bow in the cloud! "
If only we could see the clouds from the other side where they lie in billowy glory, bathed in the light they intercept, like heaped ranges of Alps, we should be amazed at their splendid magnificence. We look at their under side; but who shall describe the bright light that bathes their summits, and searches their valleys, and is reflected from every pinnacle of their expanse? Is not every drop drinking in health‑giving qualities, which it will carry to the earth?
O child of God! If you could see your sorrows and troubles from the other side; if instead of looking up at them from earth, you would look down on them from the heavenly places where you sit with Christ; if you knew how they are reflecting in prismatic beauty before the gaze of heaven, the bright light of Christ's face ‑‑ you would be content that they should cast their deep shadows over the mountain slopes of existence. Only remember that clouds are always moving, and passing before God's cleansing wind.
"Green pastures are before me, which yet I have not seen;
Bright skies will soon be o'er me, where the dark clouds have been:
My hope I cannot measure, my path of life is free;
My Saviour hath my treasure, and He will walk with me."
Canst thou bind the cluster of the Pleiades? Job 38:31 (R.V.).
THE seven stars of the Pleiades always stand for the sweet influences of spring; Orion for the storm and tempest. In this sublime catechism, Jehovah asks Job if he has any control over the One or the other. As it is with the year, so with our life.
There are times when the PLEIADEs are in the ascendant. The winter is over and gone, the time of the singing of birds is come. Doves coo their love notes in the trees, and the flowers gem the soil. Days of hope, of radiant light, of ecstatic joy! Days in which God seems to be making a new heaven and a new earth within us! Days when our Beloved shows Himself through the lattice‑work, and says, "Come, my beloved!" Oh, tender influences of the Pleiades, we would that ye might ever stay, filling us with immortal youth! When God bids them shine, no one can bind them. When He gives joy, none can give sorrow. No mortal man can restrain the outburst of Nature's spring. You might as well stay the resurrection of the Son of God and his saints!
But ORION has his work as well. Storms come; the drenching rain veils the landscape; the mighty billows are lashed to fury. But all works for good. The blast in the forest snaps off dead wood. The rain fills up the wells. Frost pulverises the earth. When God binds Orion, man cannot unloose him; "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper." But when the Almighty unlooses Orion, like another Samson, he does his work of devastation, before which we must find refuge in the cleft of the Rock.
"God sendeth sun,
He sendeth shower,
Alike they're needful for the flower."
Knowest thou? Job 39:1
THE catechism of this chapter is designed to convince man of his ignorance. How little he knows of nature! Even though centuries of investigation and research have passed, there are still many questions which baffle us. And if we know so little of tile Creator's handiwork, how much less do we know of Himself, or the principles on which He acts!
The knowledge of God is not intellectual, but moral and spiritual. Things which eye saw not, and ear heard not, are made known to Love and Obedience. Let the Love of God be shed through the heart, and the will of God be the ruling principle of life, and there will be given a knowledge of God which the research of the investigator could never gain. "We have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we might know the things that are freely given us of God . . . they are spiritually discerned." Knowest thou?
Dost thou know the exceeding greatness of his power, which He wrought in the Resurrection of thy Lord ‑‑ that it is all around thee waiting to do as much for thee also; lifting thee, dead weight as thou art, to sit in the heavenlies?
Dost thou know the hope of his calling to a life within the veil, with the veil behind thee, and the light of the Shekinah ever on thy face?
Dost thou know the riches of his glorious indwelling, that He is prepared so to infill thee, that thou shalt partake of the very life wherewith He liveth and reigneth evermore?
Dost thou know the length, and breadth, and depth, and height, of the love that passeth knowledge; and Christ Jesus the Lord?
I am of small account; what shall I answer Thee? I lay mine hand upon my mouth. Job 40:4
WHAT a different tone is here! This is be who so vehemently protested his innocence, and defended himself against the attacks of his accusers. The Master is come, and the servant who had contended with his fellows takes a lowly place of humility and silence.
The first step in the noblest life, possible to any of us, is to learn and say that we are of small account. We may learn it by successive and perpetual failures which abash and confound us. It is better to learn it by seeing the light of God rise in majesty above the loftiest of earth's mountains. "When I was young," said Gounod to a friend, "I used to talk of 'I and Mozart.' Later I said, 'Mozart and I.' But now I only say 'Mozart."' Substitute God, and you have the true story of many a soul.
The next step is to choke back words, and lay the hand on the mouth. Silence and meditation! Not arguing or contending! Not complaining or murmuring! Not caviling or criticizing! But just being still ‑‑ still, that you may feel God near; still, that you may hear Him speak. "Take heed of many words," said George Fox; "keep down, keep low, that nothing may reign in you but life itself."
The greatest saints avoided, when they could, the society of men, and did rather choose to live to God, in secret. A certain one said, "As oft as I have been among men I returned home less a man than I was before. Shut thy door upon thee, and call unto Jesus, thy Beloved. Stay with Him in thy closet, for thou shalt not find elsewhere so great peace." How good it would be to lay our hands on our mouths rather oftener, whether in silence with our fellows, or in the hour of secret prayer!
Who then is he that can stand before Me? Job 41:10 (R.V.).
THE first catechism had been on Job's knowledge; now it turns on his power. The pivot of the one was, Knowest thou? of the other, Canst thou? If a man cannot stand before one of God's creatures, how much less before the Creator! If we dread the wrath of the enraged crocodile, what should not be our dread before the wrath of the Eternal? Canst thou stand before Him? Canst thou strive against Him, with any hope of success? Canst thou force thyself, unbidden and unfit, into the presence of the Most Holy? Thou couldst not intrude on an earthly sovereign; how much less on Him, in whose sight the heavens are not clean?
"Eternal light! eternal light!
how pure the soul must be,
When placed within thy searching light,
It shrinks not, but with calm delight
Can live, and look on Thee!"
But Jesus can make it possible. Through Him we draw nigh to God. We have boldness to enter into the Holiest of All by his Blood. We may, through Him, be able to say, with Elijah, "Thus saith Jehovah, before whom I stand." Jesus is the minister of the heavenly sanctuary, and in virtue of his office He is able to bring us into, and maintain us within, the Most Holy Place. He comes out to take its by the hand; and then, having fulfilled in us the good pleasure of his will, He brings us in and places us before the face of God for ever. Like Solomon's servants, we evermore stand before the king, see his face, and hear his words.
"The sons of ignorance and night
May dwell in the Eternal Light,
Through the Eternal Love."
Now mine eye seeth Thee: wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. Job 42:5,6
THIS is the clue to the entire book. Here is a man, who was universally known as perfect and upright, one that feared God, and eschewed evil; who abounded in beneficent and loving ministries to all who were in need; to whom respect and love flowed in a full tide. He was not conscious of any failure in perfect obedience, or of secret sin; indeed, when his friends endeavored to account for his unparalleled calamities by suggesting that there was some discrepancy between his outward reputation and inward consistency, he indignantly repelled the charge, and repudiated the impeachment.
But there were inconsistencies and failures in him that needed to be exposed and put away before he could attain to perfect blessedness and enjoy unbroken peace. If man could not discover them, and if Job were unconscious of them, they were, nevertheless, present, poisoning the fountain of his being; as a hidden cesspool, whose presence is undetected, may be doing a deadly work of undermining the health of an entire household. So God let the man into his presence; and, like Isaiah, Ezekiel, Peter, and many others, he at once confessed himself vile. The light of the great white throne exposes all unsuspected blemishes. Have you ever seen God! Oh, ask for that vision, that you may know yourself! In proportion as we know God, we abhor ourselves. Then Jesus becomes unspeakably precious. Through his death we pass into the true life, and begin to intercede for others. We never have such power for the blessing of the world as when we lie most humbly at the feet of God.