Job Chapter Nine
Job acknowledges God's justice. (1-13) He is not able to contend with God. (14-21) Men not to be judged by outward condition. (22-24) Job complains of troubles. (25-35)
Commentary on Job 9:1-13
(Read Job 9:1-13)
In this answer Job declared that he did not doubt the justice of God, when he denied himself to be a hypocrite; for how should man be just with God? Before him he pleaded guilty of sins more than could be counted; and if God should contend with him in judgment, he could not justify one out of a thousand, of all the thoughts, words, and actions of his life; therefore he deserved worse than all his present sufferings. When Job mentions the wisdom and power of God, he forgets his complaints. We are unfit to judge of God's proceedings, because we know not what he does, or what he designs. God acts with power which no creature can resist. Those who think they have strength enough to help others, will not be able to help themselves against it.
Commentary on Job 9:14-21
(Read Job 9:14-21)
Job is still righteous in his own eyes, 1, and this answer, though it sets forth the power and majesty of God, implies that the question between the afflicted and the Lord of providence, is a question of might, and not of right; and we begin to discover the evil fruits of pride and of a self-righteous spirit. Job begins to manifest a disposition to condemn God, that he may justify himself, for which he is afterwards reproved. Still Job knew so much of himself, that he durst not stand a trial. If we say, We have no sin, we not only deceive ourselves, but we affront God; for we sin in saying so, and give the lie to the Scripture. But Job reflected on God's goodness and justice in saying his affliction was without cause.
Commentary on Job 9:22-24
(Read Job 9:22-24)
Job touches briefly upon the main point now in dispute. His friends maintained that those who are righteous and good, always prosper in this world, and that none but the wicked are in misery and distress: he said, on the contrary, that it is a common thing for the wicked to prosper, and the righteous to be greatly afflicted. Yet there is too much passion in what Job here says, for God doth not afflict willingly. When the spirit is heated with dispute or with discontent, we have need to set a watch before our lips.
Commentary on Job 9:25-35
(Read Job 9:25-35)
What little need have we of pastimes, and what great need to redeem time, when it runs on so fast towards eternity! How vain the enjoyments of time, which we may quite lose while yet time continues! The remembrance of having done our duty will be pleasing afterwards; so will not the remembrance of having got worldly wealth, when it is all lost and gone. Job's complaint of God, as one that could not be appeased and would not relent, was the language of his corruption. There is a Mediator, a Daysman, or Umpire, for us, even God's own beloved Son, who has purchased peace for us with the blood of his cross, who is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God through him. If we trust in his name, our sins will be buried in the depths of the sea, we shall be washed from all our filthiness, and made whiter than snow, so that none can lay any thing to our charge. We shall be clothed with the robes of righteousness and salvation, adorned with the graces of the Holy Spirit, and presented faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. May we learn the difference between justifying ourselves, and being thus justified by God himself. Let the tempest-tossed soul consider Job, and notice that others have passed this dreadful gulf; and though they found it hard to believe that God would hear or deliver them, yet he rebuked the storm, and brought them to the desired haven. Resist the devil; give not place to hard thoughts of God, or desperate conclusions about thyself. Come to Him who invites the weary and heavy laden; who promises in nowise to cast them out.
── Matthew Henry《Concise Commentary on Job》
 I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God
I know — That God is just in all his ways, that he doth ordinarily bless the righteous, and punish the wicked.
Before God — And I know that no man is absolutely just, if God be severe to mark what is amiss in him.
 If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand.
One — One accusation among a thousand which God shall produce against him.
 He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered?
He — He is infinitely wise, and searcheth all mens hearts and ways, and discovers a multitude of sins which mens short sighted-eyes cannot see; and therefore can charge them with innumerable evils, where they thought themselves innocent, and sees far more malignity than men could discern in their sins.
Mighty — So that whether men contend with God by wisdom or by strength: God will be conqueror.
Hardened himself — Obstinately contended with him. The devil promised himself that Job in the day of his affliction, would curse and speak ill of God. But instead of that, he sets himself to honour God, and speak highly of him. As ill pained as he is, and as much as he is taken up with his own miseries, when he has occasion to mention the wisdom and power of God, he forgets his complaints and expatiates with a flood of eloquence on that glorious subject.
 Which removeth the mountains, and they know not: which overturneth them in his anger.
Who — He proceeds to give evidence of the Divine power and wisdom.
Removeth — Suddenly and unexpectedly.
They — The mountains, to which he ascribes sense and knowledge figuratively.
In anger — In token of his displeasure with the men that live upon them.
 Which shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble.
The earth — Great portions of it, by earthquakes, or by removing islands.
Pillars — The deep and inward parts of it, which like pillars supported those parts that appear to our view.
 Which alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea.
Who. … — A farther description of a black and tempestuous season, wherein the heavens seem to be brought down nearer to the earth.
Treadeth — Represseth and ruleth them when they rage and are tempestuous: for treading upon any thing, signifies in scripture using power and dominion over it.
 Which maketh Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south.
Ordereth — Disposeth them, governeth their rising and setting, and all their influences. These he names as constellations of greatest eminency; but under them he seems to comprehend all the stars, which as they were created by God, so are under his government. Arcturus is a northern constellation, near that called the Bear. Orion is a more southerly constellation, that rises to us in December. The Pleiades is a constellation not far from Orion, which we call the seven stars: by the chambers, (or inmost chambers, as the word signifies) of the south, he seems to understand those stars and constellations which are toward the southern pole, which are called inward chambers, because they are for the most part hid and shut up from these parts of the world.
 Which doeth great things past finding out; yea, and wonders without number.
Doth great things, … — Job here says the same that Eliphaz had said, chap. 5:9, and in the original, in the very same words, with design to shew his full agreement with him, touching the Divine perfections.
 Lo, he goeth by me, and I see him not: he passeth on also, but I perceive him not.
Goeth — He works by his providence in ways of mercy or judgment.
Passeth — He goeth from place to place: from one action to another: he speaks of God after the manner of men.
 Behold, he taketh away, who can hinder him? who will say unto him, What doest thou?
Taketh — If he determines to take away from any man his children or servants, or estate, who is able to restrain him from doing it? Or who dare presume to reprove him for it? And therefore far be it from me to quarrel with God, whereof you untruly accuse me.
 If God will not withdraw his anger, the proud helpers do stoop under him.
Helpers — Those who undertake to uphold and defend one another against him.
Stoop — Fall and are crushed by him.
 How much less shall I answer him, and choose out my words to reason with him?
How shall I — Since no creature can resist his power, and no man can comprehend his counsels and ways; how can I contend with him? Answer his allegations and arguments, produced against me.
 Whom, though I were righteous, yet would I not answer, but I would make supplication to my judge.
Tho' — Though I were not conscious to myself of any sin.
Would not — I durst not undertake to plead my cause against him; or maintain my integrity before him, because he knows me better than I know myself.
Supplication — That he would judge favourably of me and my cause, and not according to the rigour of his justice.
 If I had called, and he had answered me; yet would I not believe that he had hearkened unto my voice.
Yet — I could not believe that God had indeed granted my desire, because I am still full of the tokens of his displeasure; and therefore should conclude that it was but a pleasant dream, and not a real thing.
 For he breaketh me with a tempest, and multiplieth my wounds without cause.
Breaketh — Unexpectedly, violently, and irrecoverably.
Cause — Not simply without any desert of his, but without any special cause of such singular afflictions; and peculiar and extraordinary guilt, such as his friends charged him with.
 He will not suffer me to take my breath, but filleth me with bitterness.
Breath — My pains are continual, and I have not so much as a breathing time free from them.
 If I speak of strength, lo, he is strong: and if of judgment, who shall set me a time to plead?
If — If my cause were to be decided by power.
Is Strong — Stronger than I.
Judgment — If I would contend with him in a way of right.
Who — There is no superior judge that can summon him and me together.
 If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse.
Justify — If I plead against God mine own righteousness and innocency.
 Though I were perfect, yet would I not know my soul: I would despise my life.
Perfect — If I should think myself perfect, yet I would not know, not acknowledge, my soul; I could not own nor plead before God the integrity of my soul, but would only make supplication to my judge, I would abhor, or condemn my life, I would not trust to the integrity either of my soul and heart, or of my life, so as to justify myself before the pure and piercing eyes of the all-seeing God.
 This is one thing, therefore I said it, He destroyeth the perfect and the wicked.
This — In the other things which you have spoken of God's greatness, and justice, I do not contend with you, but this one thing I do, and must affirm against you.
He — God sends afflictions promiscuously upon good and bad men.
 If the scourge slay suddenly, he will laugh at the trial of the innocent.
Suddenly — If some common judgment come upon a people.
Laugh — God will be well pleased, to see how the same scourge, which is the perdition of the wicked, is the trial of the innocent, and of their faith, which will be found unto praise and honour and glory.
 The earth is given into the hand of the wicked: he covereth the faces of the judges thereof; if not, where, and who is he?
The earth — The dominion over it.
Into — Into their power. As good men are frequently scourged, so the wicked are advanced.
Faces — Meantime he covers the faces of wise and good men, fit to be judges, and buries them alive in obscurity, perhaps suffers them to be condemned, and their faces covered as criminals, by those to whom the earth is given. This is daily done: if it be not God that doth it, where and who is he that doth?
 Now my days are swifter than a post: they flee away, they see no good.
Now — What he had said of the calamities which God frequently inflicts upon good men, he now exemplifies in himself.
My days — The days of my life.
Post — Who rides upon swift horses.
See — I enjoy no good in them. Seeing is often put for experiencing either good or evil.
 They are passed away as the swift ships: as the eagle that hasteth to the prey.
Eagle — Which flies swiftly, especially when in the sight of his prey. See here how swift the motion of time is! It is always upon the wing, hastening to its period. What little need have we of past-times! What great need to redeem time, which runs out, runs on so fast toward eternity! And how vain are the enjoyments of time, which we may be deprived of, even while time continues! Our day may be longer than our sunshine: and when that is gone, it is as if it had never been.
 I am afraid of all my sorrows, I know that thou wilt not hold me innocent.
Afraid — I find all such endeavours vain; for if my griefs be suspended for a time, yet my fears continue.
Will not — I plainly perceive thou, O God, (to whom he makes a sudden address, as he doth also, verse 31,) wilt not clear my innocency by removing those afflictions which make them judge me guilty of some great crime. Words proceeding from despair and impatience.
 If I be wicked, why then labour I in vain?
I shall — I shall be used like a wicked man still.
Why — Why then should I comfort myself with vain hopes of deliverance, as thou advisest me.
 If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean;
If — If I clear myself from all imputations, and fully prove my innocency before men.
 Yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me.
Yet — God would prove him to be a most guilty creature, notwithstanding all his purity before men.
Abhor — I shall be so filthy, that my own clothes, if they had any sense in them, would abhor to touch me.
 For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment.
A man — But one infinitely superior to me in majesty, and power, and wisdom, and justice.
That — That I should presume to debate my cause with him.
Come — Face to face, to plead upon equal terms.
 Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both.
Days-man — Or, umpire.
Lay his hand — Order and govern us in pleading; and oblige us to stand to his decision. Our Lord Jesus is now the blessed days-man, who has mediated between heaven and earth, has laid his hand upon us both: to him the father hath committed all judgment. But this was not made so clear then, as it is now by the gospel, which leaves no room for such a complaint as this.
 Let him take his rod away from me, and let not his fear terrify me:
Fear — The fear and dread of his majesty and justice. Let him not deal with me according to his perfect justice, but according to his grace and clemency.
 Then would I speak, and not fear him; but it is not so with me.
Then — I would speak freely for myself, being freed from that dread, which takes away my spirit and courage.
It is not — I am not free from his terror, and therefore cannot plead my cause with him.
── John Wesley《Explanatory Notes on Job》
09 Chapter 9
Then Job answered and said.
Job’s answer to Bildad
Job was utterly unaware of the circumstances under which he was suffering. If Job had known that he was to be an example, that a great battle was being fought over him, that the worlds were gathered round him to see how he would take the loss of his children, his property, and his health, the circumstances would have been vitiated, and the trial would have been a mere abortion. Under such circumstances Job might have strung himself up to an heroic effort. If everything with us were plain and straightforward, everything would be proportionately easy and proportionately worthless. Trials, persecutions, and tests are meant for the culture of your strength, the perfecting of your patience, the consolidation of your hope and love. God will not explain the causes of our affliction to us, any more than He explained the causes of Job’s affliction to the patriarch. But history comes to do what God Himself refrains from doing. What course does Job say he will take? A point of departure is marked in the tenth chapter. Now he speaks to Heaven. He will speak in the bitterness of his soul. That is right. Let us hear what Job’s soul has to say. Do not be harsh with men who speak with some measure of indignation in the time of sorrow. We are chafed and vexed by the things which befall our life. Yet even in our very frankness we should strive at least to speak in chastened tones. Job says he will ask for a reason.
“Shew me wherefore Thou contendest with me?” Job will also appeal to the Divine conscience, if the expression may be allowed (Job 10:3). We must have confidence in the goodness of God. Job then pleads himself--his very physiology, his constitution (Job 10:8-11). What lay so heavily upon Adam and upon Job, was the limitation of their existence. This life as we see it is not all; it is an alphabet which has to be shaped into a literature, and a literature which is to end in music. The conscious immortality of the soul, as that soul was fashioned in the purpose of God, has kept the race from despair. Job said, if this were all that we see, he would like to be extinguished. He would rather go out of being than live under a sense of injustice. This may well be our conviction, out of the agonies and throes of individual experience, and national convulsions, there shall come a creation fair as the noonday, quiet as the silent but radiant stars! (J. Parker, D. D.)
Job’s idea of God
I. He regarded Him as just. “I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God?” His language implies the belief that God was so just, that He required man to be just in His sight. Reason asserts this; the Infinite can have no motive to injustice, no outward circumstance to tempt Him to wrong. Conscience affirms this; deep in the centre of our moral being, is the conviction that the Creator is just. The Bible declares this. Job might well ask how can man be just before Him? He says, not by setting up a defence, and pleading with Him; “if he will contend with Him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand.” What can a sinner plead before Him?
1. Can he deny the fact of his sinfulness?
2. Can he prove that he sinned from a necessity of his nature?
3. Can he satisfactorily make out that although he has sinned, sin has been an exception in his life, and that the whole term of his existence has been good and of service to the universe? Nothing in this way can he do; no pleading will answer. He must become just before he can appear just before God.
II. He regarded Him as wise. “He is wise in heart.” Who doubts the wisdom of God? The whole system of nature, the arrangements of Providence, and the mediation of Christ, all reveal His “manifold wisdom.” He is wise, so that--
1. You cannot deceive Him by your falsehoods; He knows all about you, sees the inmost depths of your being.
2. You cannot thwart Him by your stratagems. His purposes must stand.
III. As strong. “Mighty in strength.” His power is seen in the creation, sustenance, and government of the universe. The strength of God is absolute, independent, illimitable, undecayable, and always on the side of right and happiness.
IV. He regarded him as retributive. There is a retributive element in the Divine nature--an instinct of justice. Retribution in human governors is policy. The Eternal retributes wrong because of His instinctive repugnance to wrong. Hence the wrong doer cannot succeed. The great principle is, that if a man desires prosperity, he must fall in with the arrangements of God in His providence and grace; and wisdom is seen in studying these arrangements, and in yielding to them. (Homilist.)
But how should man be just with God.
With respect to the relation in which man stands with God, two considerations are essential: the one regarding ourselves, the other regarding our Maker. We are His creatures, and therefore wholly and undividedly His, and owe Him our full service. Our employing any part of ourselves in anything contrary to His wish, is injustice towards Him; and therefore no one who does so can be just with Him in this. But since our wills and thoughts are not in our own power, whatever we do, it is hopeless to endeavour to bring the whole man into the service of God. Such a perfect obedience as we confess we owe as creatures to our Creator, is utterly unattainable. Are we then to lower, not indeed our efforts, but our standard? Will God be satisfied with something less than absolute perfection? Since we are God’s creatures, we owe Him a perfect and unsinning obedience in thought, word, and deed. And God cannot be satisfied with less. If His holiness and His justice were not as perfect as His mercy and His love, He would not be perfect, or in other words He would not be God.
1. That man cannot be justified by the law--that is, by his obedience to the law, or the performance of its duties,--is clear from its condition, “This do, and thou shalt live.” It makes no abatement for sincerity; it makes no allowance for infirmity. Mercy is inadmissible here; it just asks its due, and holds out the reward upon the payment of it.
2. Neither can he be justified by a mitigated law; that is, by its being lowered till it is within reach.
3. Nor yet can he be absolved by the passing by of his transgressions through the forgetfulness (so to speak) of God; as if He would not be extreme to mark what was done amiss.
4. How then shall man be just with God? It must be in a way that will honour the law. Christ hath “magnified the law, and made it honourable”--
The mode of the sinner’s justification before God
How is man justified before God? We speak of man as he is now found in the world--fallen, guilty, and polluted. Man was made upright at the first. The first action of his nature, in its several parts, was in harmony with the laws pertaining to each, and so for a short time it continued. When I speak of the laws pertaining to each part, I mean those of matter and of mind, of body, sense, and intellect. God had laid a prohibition upon him, and to the observance of this He had promised His continued favour, and to the non-observance He attached the forfeiture of that favour. The trial here was not whether man would attain to the Divine favour, but whether he should retain it. The danger to be apprehended, for danger is involved in the very notion of a probation, was, that Adam might fall, not that he might not rise, as is the case with us, his descendants. How was Adam kept, as long as he stood in a state of acceptance before God; i.e., how Adam was justified, so far as the term justification can be predicated of him? He continued in the Divine favour as long as he obeyed the law. He was justified by works. There is nothing evil necessarily in the idea of justification by works. Conscience naturally knows of no other mode of justification, and where that is impossible, she gives the offender over to condemnation and despair. Conscience knows of no justification but that of works. When it is possible, the first, the obvious, and the legitimate, the natural mode of securing the Divine favour is by a perfect obedience, in one’s own person, to the Divine commands as contained in the moral law. How are Adam’s posterity justified? Not in the same way that he was. Their circumstances are so different. He was innocent, they are guilty; he was pure, they are impure; he was strong, they are weak. The Gospel mode of justification cannot be by works. But what is it positively? A knowledge of this subject must embrace two things, namely, what God has done to this end--to make justification possible; and what man does when it is become actual. It has pleased God to save us, not arbitrarily, but vicariously. He has not cancelled our sin, as a man might cancel the obligation of an indebted neighbour, by simply drawing his pen across the record in his ledger. This may do for a creature in relation to his fellows. We are told in Holy Writ that God the Father has given His Son to be a “ransom” for us, a “sacrifice for our sins,” a “mediator between Him and us,” the “only name under heaven amongst men whereby we can be saved.” The Father hath laid in His atoning death the foundation of our hopes, the “elect cornerstone” of our salvation. By the Holy Spirit and through that Son, He hath also granted to mankind, besides an offer of pardon, an offer of assistance, yea, assistance in the very offer. The mediatorship of the Spirit began the moment the Gospel was first preached to fallen Adam. So indeed did the Mediatorship of Christ, i.e., God began immediately to have prospective regard to the scene one day to be enacted upon Calvary. But the mediatorship of the Spirit could not be one moment deferred. In order to render the salvation of men subjectively possible, the Spirit must be actually and immediately given. What then is necessary on the part of man? This may appear to some a dangerous way of viewing the subject. I am not about to establish a claim of merit on the part of man. When a man is justified, as justification takes place on the part of God, there must be something correlative to it on the part of man--man must do something also. This great act of God must find some response in the heart of man. There must needs be, in a fallen, guilty, and polluted creature, emotions which were at first unknown in Paradise. Deep penitence befits him, pungent sorrow, bitter self-reproach, and utter self-loathing. If we look to the honour of God, or the exigencies of His moral government, we come to the same conclusion. As His honour requires that the obedient should continue obedient, so does it require that, having disobeyed, they should repent, and cease to be disobedient: it is, in truth, the Same spirit in both cases, only adapted to the adversity of the circumstances. If God should, in mercy, justify the ungodly, it must be in such a manner as shall not conflict with these first and manifest principles; and the Gospel, therefore, must have some contrivance by which men may attain to justification without impairing the Divine government, or degrading the Divine character, or thinking highly of themselves. What then is that contrivance? It is not the way of works. What suits Adam in Paradise cannot suit us, driven out into the wilderness of sin and guilt. We are inquiring, as the correlative to justice and law on the part of God is obedience on the part of man, what is the correlative to merely and atonement? it cannot be that self-satisfied feeling which belongs to him who has fulfilled the law. His present obedience, however perfect, could not undo past disobedience. The correlative to the Divine acts of justification cannot be human acts in obedience to law. “By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified.” But may not man be justified by obedience to a mitigated law? Is not the Gospel, after all, only the moral law with some abatements designed to bring it down to the level of our infirmity? This is the most plausible and deceptive supposition that could be made. It suits exactly man’s natural pride, his fondness for his idols, and has withal an air of mingled mercy and justice. But, however specious, it is utterly unfounded in reason or Scripture. It supposes the law, which we regard as a transcript of the Divine character, to be found faulty, and its requirements in consequence to be cut down to the true level. Neither the violation of the law, nor yet its observance in its original or any mitigated form, can be the ground of our justification before God, in our present state, what way then remains to this infinitely desirable object? Are we not shut up to the way of faith? “Being justified by faith.” Nothing that is morally good either precedes justification, or is simultaneously instrumental of it; all real good follows it. By faith we understand a reliance upon Christ as our atoning sacrifice, and the Lord our righteousness, for acceptance before God. It is reliance on another. There is no self-reliance or self-complacence here. This principle consults and provides for every interest involved in a dispensation of mercy to fallen creatures through a Divine Redeemer. It humbles the sinner. It exalts the Saviour. Holiness is promoted. If such then be the nature and tendency of faith, if it be the sole instrument of justification, and if it is only in a state of justification that man can render real and acceptable obedience, how earnest and ceaseless ought to be our prayer, “Lord, increase our faith!” (W. Sparrow, D. D.)
Atonement and modern thought
What extorted this cry from Job was a crushing consciousness of God’s omnipotence. How could I, the impotent creature I am, stand up and assert my innocence before Him? What prompts the exclamation now is something quite different. We have lost even Job’s sense of a personal relation to God. The idea of immediate individual responsibility to Him seems in this generation to be suffering eclipse. The prevailing modern teaching outside Christianity makes man his own centre, and urges him from motives of self-interest to seek his own well-being, and the good of the whole as contributory to his own. In the last resort he is a law unto himself. Such moral rules as he finds current in the world are only registered experiences of the lines along which happiness can be secured. They have a certain weight, as ascertained meteorological facts have weight with seamen, but that is all. He is under no obligation in the strict moral sense. The whole is a question of interest. Now we hold that all this is not true to fact. Obligation pressing upon us from without establishes an authority over us; and conscience, recognising obligation, yea, stamping the soul with an instinctive self-judgment, as it fulfils or refuses to fulfil obligations--these go with us wherever we go, into school, college, business, social relations, public duty. If we recognise our obligations, and conscientiously meet them, we secure our highest interests. But that by no means resolves obligation into interest. The two positions are mutually exclusive. If a man from mere self-interest were to do all the things which another man did from a sense of obligation, not a shadow of the peace and righteous approval of the latter would be his. The selfish aim would evacuate the acts of all their ennobling qualities. While the conscientious man would find himself by losing himself, the selfish man would be shut up in a cold isolation, losing himself--having no real hold on any other soul--because his aim all along has been to save and serve himself. But if this is the true view of life, we must accept all that flows from it. Let us trust our moral nature as we do that part of our nature which looks out to the world of sense. If I be really under obligation then I am free. Obligation has no meaning such as we attach to it, unless we pre-suppose freedom. If the moral is highest in me, if every faculty and interest of right is subject to its sway, then in simple allegiance to facts I must infer that the highest order of this world is a moral order. But once grant that, and you are in the region of personality at once. The moment you feel yourself under duty you know yourself a person, free, moral, self-conscious. You are face to face with a Divine Moral Governor, in whom all your lower moral obligations find their last rest, since He established them; and who, as your author and sustainer, has a right to the total surrender of your whole being. The supreme meaning of life for you is, meeting your obligations to your God. Being made by a God of holiness, we must suppose that we have been called into existence as a means of exemplifying and glorifying the right. The right is supreme over every merely personal interest of our own. We exist for the right. The man can be justified with himself only as he pleases God: With the consciousness of disobedience comes guilt, fear, estrangement. When this unfortunate ease ensues, as it has ensued in the ease of all, the first point is settling this question of right as between man and God. Before anything and everything else in religion, before sanctification, before even we consider in detail how our life is to be brought into union with God, comes the great question of our meeting and fulfilling the claims of God’s law. Atonement is our first and most pressing concern. The Bible commits itself to three statements about you. Take the last first. By the works of the law, or by your own actions, you cannot be counted a perfectly just man in God’s sight. Secondly, you cannot clear yourself of guilt for this result. Thirdly, you see the Bible occupies ground of its own, and you must judge it on its own ground Now consider the chief difficulty exercising men’s minds at this hour. We live in a practical rather than in a theoretical age. We say--How can a mere arrangement, such as the atonement, rectify my relations with God, separate me from sin, and secure my actual conformity to God’s will? Taking the Gospel way as it stands, I go on to show what a real root and branch all-round redemption and restoration it confers. Where men err is that they leave out of view the great personality of Christ. They forget that the redemption is in Him. (John Smith, M. A.)
The demand of human nature for the atonement
1. Our subject is the atonement, and facts in human nature which demand it. Religion can account for all its principles and doctrines by an appeal to the facts of our being. The doctrine of reconciliation with God through the atoning death of Jesus is confessedly the chief and, in some respects, the most obscure doctrine of the Christian religion. Nevertheless, belief in its general features is essential to any honest acceptance of the Gospel. Without discussing obscurities, I wish, in aid of faith, simply to point out how true it is to all the facts of human nature.
2. “How should man be just with God?” It is not a question that is raised by recent ethical culture or by the progress of man in moral development, as some have thought. It is as old as the human soul, as ancient as the sense of sin, as universal as humanity, and is heard in all the religions. Beneath the burning skies of primeval Arabia this mighty problem is debated by an Arab sheik and his three friends. First--
3. I affirm, as a matter of Christian experience, that all the necessary features and implications of the orthodox doctrine of the atonement are true to the facts of human nature. When I say the orthodox view, I mean that view in the highest form of its statement, the substitutional view, namely, that Christ’s death becomes an actual satisfaction to justice, to that sense of justice which exists in our own bosoms and in the bosoms of all intelligent creatures, and which, in the nature of things, must be a duplication of the sense of justice within the bosom of God Himself; that Christ’s sufferings and death become an actual satisfaction to justice for our sins that are past, when we accept it as such by faith. And the proof that it is a satisfaction, the evidence that it does take away the sense of demerit, the feeling that we owe something to justice, is that we are conscious it does. The philosophers have sometimes voted consciousness down and out by large majorities, but it refuses to stay down and out. It comes back and asserts itself. “A man just knows it, sir,” as Dr. Johnson said, “and that is all there is about the matter.” All that we Christians can do, all that we need to do, is to have the experience of it, and then stand still, and magnificently and imperiously declare that it does, for we feel it to be so. Men may tell us that it ought not to be so; we will rejoin that it is so. They may say that our sense of right and wrong is very imperfectly developed, or we could not derive peace from the thought that an innocent Being has suffered in our stead. Against our experience the world can make no answer. We aver that man feels his sin needs propitiation, and that, if he will, he may find that the death of Christ meets that need.
4. Let us go outside distinctively Christian experience, and note some facts in human nature which show its trend toward the atonement in Jesus.
“There is no power in holy men,
Nor charms in prayer, nor purifying form
Of penitence, nor outward look, nor fast,
Nor agony, nor, greater than them all,
The innate tortures of that deep despair
Which is Remorse without the fear of hell,
But all in all sufficient of itself
Would make a hell of heaven--can exorcise
From out the unbounded spirit the quick sense
Of its own sins, sufferings, and revenge
Now, recollect that this is poetry. In poetry we get the deepest philosophy--there the heart speaks. It has no voice but the voice of nature. Byron speaks true to nature when he declares not prayer, nor fast, nor agony, nor remorse, can atone for sin or satisfy the soul. Is there not in the confession of that volcanic spirit a fact which looks toward man’s need of Calvary? I take down my Shakespeare and open it at “Macbeth,” that awfulest tragedy of our tongue, matchless in literature for its description of the workings of a guilty conscience, to be studied evermore. Lady Macbeth--King Duncan having been murdered--walks in her sleep through her husband’s castle at night bearing a taper in her hands. “Physician: How came she by that light? Servant: Why, it stood by her; she has light by her continually; ‘tis her command.” As she walks, she rubs her hands. A servant explains: “It is an accustomed action with her to seem thus washing her hands; I have known her to continue in this a quarter of an hour.” Then Lady Macbeth speaks: “Yet here’s a spot. What! will these hands ne’er be clean?. . .Here’s the smell of the blood still; all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand!” Is there not something there which sounds like the echo of Job’s words in the desert: “I am afraid of all my sorrows”? Does not Lady Macbeth, walking at night and repenting of her crime and washing her hands in dreams from Duncan’s blood, look as if an accusing conscience and the sense of justice unsatisfied could make its own hell?
“I stood in silence, like a slave before her,
That I might taste the wormwood and the gall,
And satiate this self-accusing heart
With bitterer agonies than death can give.”
That seems to say to me that nothing will give the soul peace but atonement of some kind.
5. I think, therefore, that if you could bring Job and his three friends, and my acquaintance who stole in his youth, and Byron, and Shakespeare, and Coleridge here today, they would see eye to eye, and agree upon some things in the name of facts in human nature.
Who hath hardened himself against God, and prospered?
Hardened against God
This passage intimates--
I. That appeals are addressed by God to men in order to bring them into allegiance to Him. The conduct which is imputed to men is susceptible of explanation only as the existence of such appeals is assumed.
1. God has appealed to us by the instrumentality of conscience. Conscience is the testimony of secret judgment in the mind of a man as to the moral quality of his own thoughts and actions. The true dictates of conscience are conformable to the extensive principle of the Divine law; and the judgments of the one are substantially the judgments of the other.
2. By the instrumentality of providence, The events which happen under the superintendence of God in the temporal sphere, and affect the temporal interests of man, are intended always to speak powerfully on his behalf. This fact was recognised by Job, when he uttered the language before us.
3. By the instrumentality of revealed truth. All Scripture is profitable “for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction,” and for what belongs to righteousness.
II. Men treat the appeals of God with obdurate resistance. The text takes the case of men who “harden themselves against God,” indicating a habit which is heinous in its nature, and which is progressive in its influence. It is emphatically resistance, the surrender of the heart and life to objects against which God has pleaded, and the retention of the heart and life amidst indulgences which God has protested against, and which He has condemned. This resistance is introduced as voluntary. It is also introduced as continued. That continuance augments the guilt. Such resistance becomes more heinous and aggravated in proportion as the calls addressed by God are solemn and weighty. Resistance is also progressive in its influence. In proportion as it is continued in the indulgence, it exercises increasing power and authority over the soul. It becomes more steady, more settled, more confirmed--this being in accordance with what we know of the tendencies of all habits to strengthen and establish themselves.
III. Obdurate resistance to the appeals made by God exposes to fearful and fatal consequences. No human being placing himself in voluntary and continued opposition against God can escape final punishment and ruin. God will inflict upon those who harden themselves against Him temporal sorrow; and if their resistance be continued till the last, the irremediable loss of their souls. There will be a proportion between punishment and guilt. (James Parsons.)
Fatal issue of final impenitence
These words imply that there is such a thing as for a man so to harden himself as to contend with God.
I. Inquire wherein this hardness of heart consists.
1. The word signifies a spirit that is obstinate and incorrigible.
2. It is descriptive of a rebellious spirit, which discovers itself under the various dispensations of God, both in a way of mercy and judgment.
3. There is also a judicial hardness to which sinners are liable, in a way of righteous judgment for their iniquities. This is not owing to any defect in the Gospel, or in the dispensations of God towards us; but to the depravity of the human heart, which perverts the means of salvation into those of destruction.
II. Notice some of the instances in which this sin is still committed.
1. It appears in indulging hard thoughts of God, of His government and of His holy law; in esteeming Him as a hard master, and in considering sinful propensities as an excuse for sinful actions, though no one thinks of excusing the offence of others against himself on the ground of such a plea. The indulgence of such thoughts lead on to final impenitence.
2. It manifests itself in a rejection or dislike of God’s way of salvation.
3. Persisting in an evil course, amidst many convictions and fears, is another instance of this sort of depravity. Pharaoh knew that he was wrong, and yet he dared to persist.
4. This hardness of heart appears in the resistance that is offered to the hand of God in providence instead of being humbled under it.
5. Presumptuously tempting God, amidst the most affecting means of salvation, is another instance of this hardness of heart. It was thus with Israel in the wilderness.
III. The fatal issue of final impenitence. “Who hath hardened himself against Him, and prospered?”
1. The longer you continue in this state, the more hardened you will become, till at last you will be past feeling (Ephesians 4:19).
2. This also is the way in which God punishes men for their impenitence (Isaiah 6:8).
3. The end of this impenitence and hardness of heart is fearfully described by an apostle, and should warn us of our danger (Romans 2:5-9). (T. Hannam.)
Man hardening himself against God
Every act of sin hardens the heart of man, but the heat of blasphemy at once shows and puts it into the extremity of hardness. Man hardens himself against God four ways especially.
1. Upon presumption of mercy. Many do evil because they hear God is good. They turn His grace into wantonness, and are without all fear of the Lord, because there is mercy so much with the Lord.
2. The patience of God, or His delays of judgment, harden others. Because God is slow to strike, they are swift to sin.
3. Gross ignorance hardens many.
He that knows not what he ought to do, cares not much what he doth. None are so venturous as they who know not their danger.
4. Hardness of heart in sinning is contracted from the multitude of those who sin. They think none shall suffer for that which so many do. Man doth not grow hard at once, much less hardest; but when once he begins to harden himself, where he shall make an end he knows not. The first step is, the taking time and leave to meditate upon sin, and roll it up and down in the thoughts. A hard heart lets vain thoughts dwell in it. A holy heart would not let them lodge with it. A second step is, some tastes of pleasure and delight in sin. It proves a sweet morsel under his tongue. The third step is, custom in sinning. It argues great boldness to venture often. By the fourth step of hardness he comes to defend and maintain his sin.
5. The hard heart grows angry and passionate with those who give advice against sin; he is resolved; and a man that is resolved in his way is angry if he be desired to remove out of his way. He that is resolved to sleep, loves not to be awakened.
6. Hard hearts grow too hard for the Word. They are sermon proof; they can sit under the preacher, and hear from day to day, but nothing touches them.
7. The heart is so hard that the sword of affliction doth not pierce it; the man is judgment proof. Let God strike him in his person or estate, let God set the world afire about his ears, yet on he goes. He is like the man of whom Solomon speaks (Proverbs 23:34), who lies sleeping in a storm upon the top of the mast.
8. The hard heart sits down in the chair of the scorner. He derides the Word, and mocks at the judgments of God. (J. Caryl.)
Contenders with God
A gentleman came to me in the streets of Liverpool a few years ago, and told me of an incident in my father’s ministry, of which he was an eyewitness, many years before. “Your father,” he said, “was preaching on a then vacant spot of ground near where St. George’s Hall now stands. Directly opposite the place where he was standing, an ungodly publican, finding his business interfered with, came out and endeavoured to interrupt the proceedings, mimicking the preacher’s manner and gestures, and using very horrible language. I remember,” said the gentleman, “how solemnly your father turned round upon him, and said, ‘Take care, my friend, it is not me, but my Master that you are mocking, and remember you cannot mock God with impunity; take care lest you draw down upon your head His just vengeance.’ He afterwards announced that he would preach in the same spot the next Sunday afternoon, which he did; and as he gave out his text, you may imagine the feeling of awe that settled down upon the crowd as they saw a hearse draw up to the door of the public house, to carry away the corpse of that very man who one short week before had been defying God, and insulting His messenger.” (W. Hay M. H. Aitken, M. A.)
Which removeth the mountains.
God in nature
I. Its almightiness is overwhelmingly grand in its manifestations. “Removeth the mountains,” etc. The whole passage impresses one with the unbounded energy of God.
1. His almightiness should impress all with a sense of their utter insignificance.
2. His almightiness should impress the sinner with his impious hardihood.
II. Its almightiness is co-extensive with the universe. Job here touches every part of material nature--the earth, the sea, the heavens--and sees God working in all.
1. His universal agency explains all material phenomena.
2. His universal agency binds men practically to recognise Him in every part of nature. He is the Force of all forces, the Pulse of all life, the Spirit of all forms. (Homilist.)
Religious interest in nature
There are some who feel no interest in nature, others feel a mere commercial interest in it, others feel an artistic or scientific interest in it, but how few feel a religious interest in it--regard it as the product, the mirror, the organ, of the Infinite Mind. If I fear an artist, I care not for his pictures; if I fear an author, I feel no interest in his work. If men loved, instead of feared God, how beautiful nature would appear to them. The painting and poem of a father, how interesting to his child! (R. Venting.)
Which doeth great things past finding out.
Job’s idea of what God is to mankind
He regards the Eternal as--
1. In His works. “Which doeth great things past finding out.” How great are His works! great in their nature, minuteness, magnitude, variety, number. Ask the chemist, the astronomer, the entomologist, the physiologist, and the anatomist; and the more accurate and comprehensive their knowledge of the Divine workmanship is, the more ready will they be to acknowledge that “His works are past finding out, and wonders without number.”
2. He is inscrutable in His essence. “He goeth by me, and I see Him not; He passeth on also, and I perceive Him not.” I see His works, but I cannot detect the essence of the Worker.
II. As irresponsible. “Behold He taketh away, and who can hinder Him? Who will say unto Him, What doest Thou?”
III. As resistless. “If God will not withdraw His anger, the proud helpers do stoop under Him.”
1. God is an offendable Being. He is not an impassive existent, sitting at the head of the universe, utterly indifferent to the moral character of His creatures.
2. The proud have “helpers” and abettors. Were the whole universe to arm itself against Him, its opposition would be infinitely less than the opposition of the smallest insect to the eagle or the lion.
IV. As inexorable.
1. As uninfluenced by man.
2. As unapproached by human argument.
3. As too holy to encourage anyone to have confidence in his own virtues. Were the patriarch even a “perfect” man, he feels that to plead his virtues before a God so holy would not only be utterly useless, but impious and pernicious.
4. As utterly regardless of the moral distinctions of society. “This is one thing, therefore I said it. He destroyeth the perfect and the wicked,” etc. (verses 22-24). Here Job hits the main point now in discussion between him and his friends. Their position was that God dealt with men here according to their moral characters, and that Job suffered because he was wicked. The patriarch again refutes it, and asserts the broad fact that the perfect and wicked are treated alike. This is not the scene of retribution, it is the domain of discipline. (Homilist.)
So He goeth by me.
God passing by
These mighty saints of old may have had fewer books to read than we have in our day, but they had one glorious book, the volume of nature, whose ever-open pages, written within and without by the finger of God, were spread out before their wondering eyes. And they read carefully and devoutly the great truths about God these pages were always teaching them. God was passing by them in the grand panorama of His works which their eyes beheld. They dwelt chiefly in tents. They lived much in the open air, under the blue sky of those beautiful Eastern lands. They lived a simple, primitive life, with few wants and few cares. They had far more time than we have for holy thought and heavenly meditation on things spiritual and eternal. Many a sacred tradition may have floated down the quiet stream of time--of the revelation of God made to man, of His will and purpose concerning the race that had so sadly gone astray from Him. They knew that God had not finally abandoned the world and consigned it to utter destruction. They followed their flocks and herds all day in the wild, trackless desert, or in the fertile plain. They lived much of the time alone--and men who are much alone with God become terribly in earnest. They are away from man and all his little ways, and hold communion with God through His works. Men like Moses and Elijah and John the Baptist may be separated from their fellow men; but they are near to, and enjoy wondrous communings with the infinite and eternal God. God is passing by them in a thousand ways. They watch with eager eye every variation in the clouds and in the stars. They could see the glorious play of the forked lightning as it gleamed, in a thousand fantastic forms, on the bosom of the storm-cloud, resting on the distant mountain tops. In the storm God was passing by--that same God whose goings forth have been of old, from everlasting. They knew, it may be, little of the laws of electricity or of sound; but they could hear in the thunder, as it rolled from rock to rock, or shook the earth from pole to pole, the very voice of God (Psalms 29:3-8). These mighty saints may have had no formulated system of theology, where God was mapped out with all His perfections, with all the nicety and precision of a mathematical figure; but to them He was the omnipresent God. They saw some rays of His glorious presence reflected from every cloud. They heard His voice in every passing breeze. God was passing by then. God--the same God--is passing by us now. Whatever changes have come or yet may come to His universe, He Himself is unchangeable. In the glorious panorama of the heavens God is passing by us. In the noiseless tread of the seasons God is passing by. Spring and summer, seed time and harvest, autumn and winter, as they quietly come and quietly go, all tell the same story, “God is passing by.” In the regular succession of day and night, in every rising and setting sun, in every waxing and waning moon, God is near us and passing by us. In every national blessing and every national chastisement God is passing by. When the streams of earthly comforts flow full and strong around our life, and equally when these streams run low or dry, God is passing by us. When war, with all its accompanying desolations, its misery and agony and woe, is sweeping over a country, God is passing by. And no less surely is He passing by for us in our days of peace and our nights of quiet. God is ever near us, though we see Him not. In every beat of our pulse, in every throb of our heart, in every movement of our brain, God is there. He is about our bed and around our path. Above us, behind and before, we are flooded with the omnipresence of Deity as with the noonday sunshine. But because we see Him not with the bodily eye we forget that He is there. He passeth on also, but we perceive Him not. (James Carmichael, D. D.)
Man’s ignorance of God
1. That God is invisible in His essence, and incomprehensible in many of His actions. Man’s eye cannot see Him. Man’s understanding cannot comprehend what He doth.
2. As the Lord in His nature cannot be seen at all; so (such is the weakness of man, that) we cannot see Him fully in His Word or works. Thus we see men, but we seldom see God in the great transactions and motions of kingdoms. And we see Him least of all in the course of spiritual things, in His working upon our hearts. God works wonders in us, and we perceive Him not.
3. Man is not fit to sit as a judge upon the works and dealings of God. Shall we judge God in what He doth, when we cannot apprehend what He doth? A judge must have the full cognisance of the matter before him, how else can he pass sentence about it?
4. It should be matter of great humiliation to Us, that we see so little of God. (J. Caryl.)
Present though invisible
We are reminded of this profound spiritual truth by reading the following account of an occurrence which illustrates an impressive scientific fact touching the invisible. Photographs of the invisible are what M. Zenger calls two pictures which he took about midnight of 17th August from a window looking out upon the Lake of Geneva. They gave faint yet distinct images of the lake and of Mont Blanc, which could not be seen in the darkness. Mr. Bertrand remarks that invisibility is a relative term, the significance of which depends on the power of the observer’s eye. The photographs were taken with a light of very small intensity, and did not represent an invisible object. So sky photographs, taken in observatories, show stars which cannot be discerned by the most piercing vision. (Homiletic Review.)
Behold, He taketh away.
The conduct to which adverse dispensations should lead
Job was a sufferer. Of his property he was deprived; of his children he was bereaved; in his own person he was sorely afflicted. It would not have been strange had Job given way to murmuring and repining. Unsupported and uncomforted from above, what else can be expected from man when in deep distress, but the expression of uneasiness and fretful discontent? Some, indeed, attempt to bear up under adversity by hard-hearted callousness, and others by a prideful aversion to complain. Job felt what he endured, and he acknowledged what he endured, but his feeling and acknowledgment indicated calm submission.
I. The doctrine taught--the agency of God. His agency in providence. Not to be classed with chance or accident. It would be a mistake to represent God as exercising no providential superintendence, no control, no management, no rule. Some hold that God’s agency is general, not particular, not concerned with details. But great and little are not to God what they are to us. What it was no degradation to God to create, it can be no degradation to God to superintend. A particular agency on His part is the only intelligible notion of God’s agency in providence. The manner in which God’s agency, in the various dispensations of providence, is regarded respectively by the believer and by the unbeliever, constitutes one of the most marked distinctions between the characters of these two classes of person.
II. The lessons which this doctrine teaches.
1. Privation and loss are the doing of Him who neither does nor can do us any wrong. God is never arbitrary, never capricious, never unjust. He is essentially righteous. In no sense can He do that which is unrighteous. He cannot do it from ignorance, or from design.
2. Privation and loss are the doing of Him, all whose doings in reference to us are in accordance with what He Himself is--wise and gracious. Not only is He wise, but all-wise; actually, absolutely, yea, necessarily all-wise. His understanding is infinite. He is gracious. His nature is love. What a proof of this did He afford in devising a plan by which sinners might be rescued from the penal consequences of sin.
3. Privation and loss are the doing of Him who is able, and as willing as He is able, to educe, in our experience, good from evil. Out of the strait in which we are involved there may be no seeming way of escape. But is it irremediable by Him whose arm is full of might, who is equal to our support and deliverance, whatever be our condition? This subject calls for thankfulness; it should produce resignation; it should lead us to prepare for changes. (A. Jack, D. D.)
Who will say unto Him, What doest Thou?--
The Divine dispensations not to be questioned
In the cup of life there are many bitter ingredients. From the day we are born, till the day we die, there is an invariable mixture of joy and sorrow. The world is full of uncertainties. Its best satisfactions are neither substantial nor permanent Religion is not satisfied with directing our attention to second causes. It leads us above them to the First Cause of all things. It conducts us to God; and presents Him to us under the mild aspect of a Father, always mindful of our happiness; and who has given us so many proofs of this in nature, providence, and grace, as to merit our entire confidence and unreserved submission. There is much in the present state of things to perplex the understanding, as well as to wound the heart. I find in the revelation which religion has made to me another and better world, where my perplexities will be resolved, and my troubles cease. In ‘dines of sorrow, philosophy has no effectual help for us. Various and contradictory maxims may be urged upon us, and to all we must reply, with the ancient sufferer, “Miserable comforters are ye all.” But it is not in vain to direct our thoughts to God; to make an oblation of our wills to Him. There is too much disposition in mankind to disregard the providence of God; to overlook His agency in the occurrences of life. What would become of us if our life were an unmingled portion of good; if our day were never darkened with the clouds of adversity? Afflictions are intended as the instruments of good to us. Afflictions, rightly improved, are real blessings. (C. Lowell.)
Submission to Divine sovereignty
Job was afflicted not more for his own benefit than for the benefit of others. His discourses with his friends gave him a good opportunity of justifying the sovereignty of God, in the dispensations of His providence. The friends insisted that God treated every man according to his real character, in His providential conduct towards him; but Job maintained that God acted as a sovereign, without any design of distinguishing His friends from His enemies, by outward mercies and afflictions. In the preceding verses, he gives a striking description of Divine sovereignty.
I. It is the natural tendency of afflictions to make the friends of God realise and submit to His sovereignty. Afflictions always display the sovereignty of God. Whenever God afflicts His children, He gives a practical and sensible evidence that He has a right to dispose of them contrary to their views, their desires, and most tender feelings. Of all afflictions, those which are called bereavements, give the clearest display of Divine sovereignty.
II. Such a realising sense of the sovereignty of God in afflictions, has a natural tendency to excite true submission in every pious heart.
1. While they realise the nature of His sovereignty, they cannot help seeing the true ground or reason of submission.
2. God designs thus to bring His children to submission.
3. It has so often produced this desirable effect in their hearts. Apply the subject.
These words speak of three solemn and weighty truths.
I. The Lord’s sovereign agency. We see this in families, we see it in provinces, we see it in whole nations. We perceive prosperity or adversity--peace or discord--joy or misery--coming both to individuals and to communities without their knowledge, and often without their concurrence. The human race are subject to other influences besides their own. From the Bible we learn that the smallest, as well as the weightiest affairs, are under Christ’s supervision and control. Nothing arises in this our world by chance or by accident. The same sovereign agency is seen in the issues of life. The keys of the invisible world are committed to Christ’s sole custody. All second causes work out the sovereign will of the Great First Cause. It is He who fixes the precise moment for the removal of men by death from their busy occupations.
II. His irresistible might. This is the groundwork of the patriarch’s argument in the passage before us. Who can hinder Him? Shall the man of wisdom? Shall a parent’s love avert the threatening blow? Shall the tears of a wife? Shall the regrets of an admiring nation?
III. His unsearchable wisdom. The Almighty doeth all things well. From all eternity the Lord has had certain purposes to be accomplished. In some matters the wisdom of the Lord’s dealing is so palpable that we are compelled to acquiesce. At other seasons we are all in the dark. Then it is our privilege to exercise faith in the fatherly care and unfailing love of our Almighty Redeemer. (C. Clayton, M. A.)
Yet would I not believe that He had hearkened unto my voice.
Prerequisites to belief
It is hard to believe in that, some faint earnest of which we do not find in our own souls. A man cannot believe facts which are in the very teeth of his instinctive affinities and dispositions. The head hunters of Borneo would necessarily treat as fables the thousand and one humane institutions which are the products of Christian civilisation. A race of colour-blind barbarians, if such a race existed, would ridicule the idea of finding out the elements of which distant stars are fashioned by observing the bands and lines of colours disclosed by the spectroscope. There must be the beginning of vision in us if we are to receive the fairy tales of the microscopist and the astronomer. God can be made known to us only in these aspects in which we desire, however faintly, to be like Him. (T. G. Selby.)
If I justify myself.
The folly of self-justification
One of Rev. Murray M’Cheyne’s elders was in deep darkness and distress for a few weeks, but one Sunday after the pastor’s faithful preaching he found his way to the Lord. At the close of the service, he told Mr. M’Cheyne, who knew of his spiritual concern, that he had found the Lord. When he was asked to explain how this happy change had come about, he said, “I have been making a great mistake. I have always been coming to the Lord as something better than I was, and going to the wrong door to ask admittance; but this afternoon I went round to the sinner’s door, and for the first time cried, like the publican, ‘Lord, be merciful to me a sinner’; and, oh, sir, I received such a welcome from the Saviour!” Are any of our readers like the self-righteous Pharisee? Such have no room for the Saviour; for the Lord “came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
If I say I am perfect.
Our exact worth
A bright little fellow was on the scales, and being anxious to outweigh his playmate, he puffed out his cheeks and swelled up like a small frog. But the playmate was the wiser boy. “Oho!” he cried in scorn, “that doesn’t do any good; you can only weigh what you are!” How true that is of us bigger children, who try to impress ourselves upon our neighbours and friends, and even upon ourselves, and--yes, sometimes upon God Almighty, by the virtues we would like to have! It doesn’t do any good. You may impose upon your neighbour’s judgment, and get him to say you are a fine fellow--noble, generous, brave, faithful, loving; but if it is not true, you are a sham. “You can only weigh what you are.”
Not quite perfect
A London publisher once made up his mind to publish a book without a single typographical error. He had the proofs corrected by his own readers until they assured him that they were faultless. Then he sent proofs to the universities and to many other publishing houses, offering a prize of several pounds for every typographical mistake found. A few were discovered, and the book was published. It was considered a perfect specimen of the printer’s art. Six or eight months after publication the publisher received a letter calling his attention to an error in a certain line on a certain page. Then came another and another letter, until before the year was out half a dozen mistakes were found. St. Paul says that Christians are epistles read and known of all men; and it certainly does not require as much scrutiny as this to discover that we are not free from faults. We must look forward to the new edition of us that will be brought out in another world, revised and amended by the Author. (Quiver.)
A blow at self-righteousness
Ever since man became a sinner he has been self-righteous. When he had a righteousness of his own he never gloried of it, but ever since he has lost it, he has pretended to be the possessor of it.
I. The plea of self-righteousness contradicts itself. “If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me.” For the very plea itself is a piece of high and arrogant presumption. God hath said it, let Jew and Gentile stop his mouth, and let all the world stand guilty before God. We have it on inspired authority, that “there is none righteous, no, not one.” Besides, dost thou not see, thou vain and foolish creature, that thou hast been guilty of pride in the very language thou hast used? Who but a proud man would stand up and commend himself? But further, the plea of self-righteousness is self-contradictory upon another ground; for all that a self-righteous man pleads for, is comparative righteousness. “Why,” saith he, “I am no worse than my neighbours, in fact a great deal better; I do not drink.” Just so, but then all that you claim is that you are righteous as compared with others. Do you not see that this is a very vain and fatal plea, because you do in fact admit that you are not perfectly righteous;--that there is some sin in you, only you claim there is not so much in you as in another? Suppose now for a moment that a command is issued to the beasts of the forest that they should become sheep. It is quite in vain for the bear to come forward and plead that he was not so venomous a creature as the serpent; equally absurd would it be for the wolf to say that though stealthy, and cunning, and gaunt, and grim, yet he was not so great a grumbler nor so ugly a creature as the bear; and the lion might plead that he had not the craftiness of the fox. A holy God cannot look even upon the least degree of iniquity. But further, the plea of the self-conceited man is, that he has done his best, and can claim a partial righteousness. It is true, if you touch him in a tender place he acknowledges that his boyhood and his youth were stained with sin. A perfect righteousness you must have, or else you shall never be admitted to that wedding feast.
II. The man who uses this plea condemns the plea himself. Not only does the plea cut its own throat, but the man himself is aware when he uses it that it is an evil, and false, and vain refuge. Now this is a matter of conscience, and if I speak not what you have felt, then you can say I am mistaken. Men know that they are guilty. The conscience of the proudest man, when it is allowed to speak, tells him that he deserves the wrath of God.
III. The plea is itself evidence against the pleader. There is an unregenerated man here, who says, “Am I blind also?” I answer in the words of Jesus, “But now ye say we see, therefore your sin remaineth.” You have proved by your plea, in the first place, that you have never been enlightened of the Holy Spirit, but that you remain in a state of ignorance. A deaf man may declare that there is no such thing as music. A man who has never seen the stars, is very likely to say that there are no stars. But what does he prove? Does he prove that there are no stars? He only proves his own folly and his own ignorance. That man who can say half a word about his own righteousness has never been enlightened of God the Holy Spirit. But then again, inasmuch as you say that you are not guilty this proves that you are impenitent. Now the impenitent can never come where God is. Further than this, the self-righteous man, the moment that he says he has done anything which can recommend him to God, proves that he is not a believer. Now, salvation is for believers, and for believers only. The thirsty are welcome; but those who think they are good, are welcome neither to Sinai nor to Calvary. Ah! soul, I know not who thou art; but if thou hast any righteousness of thine own, thou art a graceless soul.
IV. It will ruin the pleader forever. Let me show you two suicides. There is a man who has sharpened a dagger, and seeking out his opportunity he stabs himself to the heart. Who shall blame any man for his death? He slew himself; his blood be on his own head. Here is another: he is very sick and ill; he can scarcely crawl about the streets. A physician waits upon him; he tells him, “Sir, your disease is deadly; you must die; but I know a remedy which will certainly heal you. There it is; I freely give it to you. All I ask of you is, that you will freely take it.” “Sir,” says the man, “you insult me; I am as well as ever I was in my life; I am not sick.” Who slew this man? His blood be on his own head; he is as base a suicide as the other. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Now my days are swifter than a post . . . as the swift ships.
Illustrations of life
I. The text teaches us the brevity of human life. “My days are swifter than a post.” They are as swift-footed messengers, as couriers, as the medium of communication from one province to another. They are “swifter than the swift ships”; than the “eagle hastening to his prey.” There are illustrations from earth, and sea, and sky. We often speak of the brevity of life; it is only now and then we are really impressed with the fact. Our days are brief as the preface to a new and undying life. Our days are brief as the period for the culture of our whole nature. How great a portion of the present life is necessary as the introduction to the remainder. Our physical nature requires growth and development. How slowly our mental faculties open themselves. The culture of our spiritual nature seems to demand a longer period than the present life, for it is the education of a nature that dies not; that will take with it all the training of earth. Our days are brief, when we think of the solemn realities with which they have to do. Our days are brief, because our destiny depends on them. On these days that pass so quickly, all the future hangs; these days give a colouring to a whole eternity.
II. The text teaches us the unsatisfactory nature of life. “They see no good.” “What shadows we are, and what shadows we pursue.”
1. Our days bear with them the freshness and joyousness of life. Our days rob us of the freshness and beauty of youth, and as they pass they carry with them all that we deemed most precious--friends, kindred, joys, hopes.
2. Life is unsatisfactory, because of the fragmentary and unfinished character of its work. God’s providence is in strong contrast with man’s.
3. If the present be all, life must be most unsatisfactory, for we can see no good.
III. Our text suggests to us the importance of life. Our days are as a post.
1. They carry with them the records and impressions of our minds. Thoughts for good or for evil must live--must live to be a blessing or a curse.
2. Our days carry with them the treasures of our hearts. What treasures the swift ships convey from one land to another; how they enrich one country with the wealth of others. Our days carry the wealth, the priceless affections of our nature. (H. J. Bevis.)
The fleetness of life
I. As a prophetic fact. Can it be that this short life is the end of our existence?
1. We quit this life with unwrought powers. The tree grows on until it exhausts its latent powers, and animals die not (unless they are destroyed) until they are worn out. But man has to quit this life just as some of his powers are beginning to bud, and others without measure undeveloped and unquickened.
2. We quit this life with unfulfilled plans.
II. As a terrific fact. To whom is it terrible? To all whose hearts are centred in this world.
1. That their wealth relatively becomes less valuable to them every day.
2. That eternity becomes relatively more awful to them every day.
III. As a cheering fact. To whom is it cheering? To those who, though they are in the world are not of the world, those who are born into the Divine kingdom of Christly virtues and imperishable hopes. (Homilist.)
If I say, I will forget my complaint.
Concerning Job’s sufferings
I. As too great to render any efforts of self-consolation effective. Three things are suggested.
1. A valuable power of mind. The power to alleviate sufferings. “If I say, I will forget my complaint.” Herein is the implied power. All have it. It is a remedial force that kind heaven has put within us. If he cannot quench the flame, he can cool it; if he cannot roll off the load, he by his own thoughts can make it comparatively light. He can go into a circle of ideas so engrossing and delectable as to experience transports of rapture in the dungeon or in the flames. What is pain but a mental sensation? And wherever that mental sensation may burn, its fires can be quenched in the river of noble thoughts and lofty aspirations.
2. A natural tendency of mind. What is it? The exertion of this mitigating power within us under suffering; an effort to “forget” the “complaint,” to “leave off” the “heaviness,” to “comfort.” Who under suffering does not essay this?
3. A sad defect in mind. “I am afraid of all my sorrows; I know that Thou wilt not hold me innocent.” Why did his mental efforts at self-consolation fail? Simply because he had not the inner sense of innocence. Though he always maintained that he was innocent of the sin of hypocrisy with which his friends charged him, he always felt that before the Holy he was guilty, and herein was the failure of his mind to mitigate his pain. He regards his sufferings--
II. As too deserved to justify any hope of relief.
1. He feels that no self-cleansing would serve him before God. “If I be wicked,”--or, as it should be, I am wicked,--“why then labour I in vain? If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean; yet shalt Thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me.”
2. He feels that there is no one to act as umpire between him and his Maker. “Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both.”
3. He feels that his afflictions were directly from God, and until they were removed there was no hope for him. “Let Him take His rod away from me, and let not His fear terrify me; then would I speak, and not fear Him: but it is not so with me.” (Homilist.)
If I wash myself with snow water.
An estimate of the morality that is without godliness
In the eyes of the pure God, the man who has made the most copious application in his power of snow water to the visible conduct, may still be an object of abhorrence; and that if God enter into judgment with him, He will make him appear as one plunged in the ditch, his righteousness as filthy rags, and himself as an unclean thing. There are a thousand things which, in popular and understood language, man can do. It is quite the general sentiment, that he can abstain from stealing, and lying, and calumny--that he can give of his substance to the poor, and attend church, and pray, and read his Bible, and keep up the worship of God in his family. But, as an instance of distinction between what he can do, and what he cannot do, let us make the undoubted assertion that he can eat wormwood, and just put the question, if he can also relish wormwood. That is a different affair. I may command the performance; but have no such command over my organs of sense, as to command a liking or a taste for the performance. The illustration is homely; but it is enough for our purpose if it be effective. I may accomplish the doing of what God bids; but have no pleasure in God himself. The forcible constraining of the hand may make out many a visible act of obedience; but the relish of the heart may refuse to go along with it. The outer man may be all in a bustle about the commandments of God; while to the inner man God is an offence and a weariness. His neighbours may look at him; and all that their eye can reach may be as clean as snow water can make it. But the eye of God reaches a great deal farther. He is the discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart; and he may see the foulness of spiritual idolatry in every one of its receptacles. The poor man has no more conquered his rebellious affections than he has conquered his distaste for wormwood. He may fear God; he may listen to God; and, in outward deed, may obey God. But he does not, and he will not, love God; and while he drags a heavy load of tasks, and duties, and observances after him, he lives in the hourly violation of the first and greatest of the commandments. Would any parent among you count it enough that you had obtained a service like this from one of your children? Would you be satisfied with the obedience of his hand, while you knew that the affections of his heart were totally away from you? The service may be done; but all that can minister satisfaction in the principle of the service, may be withheld from it; and though the very last item of the bidden performance is rendered, this will neither mend the deformity of the unnatural child, nor soothe the feelings of the afflicted and the mortified father. God is the Father of spirits; and the willing subjection of the spirit is that which He requires of us--“My son, give Me thy heart”; and if the heart be withheld, God says of all our visible performances, “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto Me?” The heart is His requirement; and full indeed is the title which He prefers to it. He put life into us; and it is He who hath drawn a circle of enjoyments, and friendships, and interests, around us. Everything that we take delight in, is ministered to us out of His hand. He plies us every moment with His kindness; and when at length the gift stole the heart of man away from the Giver, so that he became a lover of his own pleasure rather than a lover of God, even then would He not leave us to perish in the guilt of our rebellion. Man made himself an alien, but God was not willing to abandon him; and, rather than lose him forever, did He devise a way of access by which to woo and to welcome him back again. The way of our recovery is indeed a way that His heart was set upon; and to prove it, He sent His own Eternal Son into the world, who unrobed Him of all His glories, and made Himself of no reputation. If, after all this, the antipathy of nature to God still cleave to us--if, under the power of this antipathy, the service we yield be the cold and unwilling service of constraint--if, with many of the visible outworks of obedience, there be also the strugglings of a reluctant heart to take away from this obedience all its cheerfulness, is not God defrauded of His offering? (T. Chalmers, D. D.)
Washed to greater foulness
The similitudes of grief are here piled up in heaps, with what an old author has spoken of as the “rhetoric of sorrow.” Physical sufferings had produced a stain on Job’s mind, and he sought relief by expressing his anguish. Like some solitary prisoner in the gloomy keep of an old castle, he graves on the walls pictures of the abject despondencies which haunt him.
I. At the outset we observe that quickened souls are conscious of guilt. They know it; they feel it; and they blush to find that they are without excuse for it. All men are sinners: to most men, however, sin appears to be a fashion of the times, a necessity of nature, a folly of youth, or an infirmity of age, which a slight apology will suffice to remove. Not till men are quickened by Divine grace do they truly know that they are sinners. How is this? Some diseases are so insidious that the sufferers fancy that they are getting better, while in very truth they are hastening to the grave. After such manner does sin deceive the sons of men: they think they are saved when they are still unrenewed. How is this, you ask again? Few give themselves the trouble to think about these matters at all. Ours is an age in which men’s thoughts are keen upon politics and merchandise, practical science, and economic inventions. To natural ignorance we may attribute much of the ordinary indifference of men to their own sinfulness. They live in a benighted age. In vain you boast the enlightenment of this nineteenth century: the nineteenth century is not one whir more enlightened as to the depravity of human nature than the first century. Men are as ignorant of the plague of their own hearts today as they were when Paul addressed them. Hardly a glimmer of the humbling truth of our natural depravity dawns on the dull apprehension of the worldly wise, though souls taught from above know it and are appalled by it. In divers ways the discovery comes to those whom the Lord ordains to save. Sometimes a preacher sent of God lets in the dreadful light. Many men, like the false prophet Mokanna, hide their deformity. You may walk through a dark cellar without discerning by the eye that anything noisome is there concealed. Let the shutters be thrown open! Bid the light of day stream in! You soon perceive frogs upon the cold clammy pavement, filthy cobwebs hanging on the walls in long festoons, foul vermin creeping about everywhere. Startled, alarmed, horrified, who would not wish to flee away, and find a healthier atmosphere? The rays of the sun are, however, but a faint image of that light Divine shed by the Holy Spirit, which penetrates the thickest shades of human folly and infatuation, and exposes the treachery of the inmost heart.
II. We pass on to notice that it often happens that awakened souls use many ineffectual means to obtain cleansing. Job describes himself as washing in snow water, and making his hands never so clean. His expressions remind me of my own labour in vain. By how many experiments I tried to purify my own soul! See a squirrel in a cage; the poor thing is working away, trying to mount, yet he never rises one inch higher. In like case is the sinner who seeks to save himself by his own good works or by any other means: he toils without result. It is astonishing what pains men will take in this useless drudgery. In seeking to obtain absolution of their sins, to establish a righteousness of their own, and to secure peace of mind, men tax their ingenuity to the utmost. Job talks of washing himself “with snow water.” The imagery is, no doubt, meant to be instructive. Why is snow water selected?
1. The reason probably was, first, because it was hard to get. Far easier, generally, to procure water from the running brooks than from melted snow. Men set a high value on that which is difficult to procure. Forms of worship which are expensive and difficult are greatly affected by many, as snow water was thought in Job’s day to be a bath for kings; but, after all, it is an idle fashion, likely to mislead.
2. Besides, snow water enjoyed a reputation for purity. If you would have a natural filtered water gather the newly-fallen snow and melt it. Specimens yet remain among us of piety more than possible to men, religiousness above the range of mortals; which piety is, however, not of God’s grace, and consequently is a vain show. Though we should use the purest ceremonies, multiply the best of good works, and add thereto the costliest of gifts, yet we should be unable to make ourselves clean before God. You may wash yourself till you deny the existence of a spot, and yet you may be unclean.
3. Once again, this snow water is probably extolled because it descends from the clouds of heaven, instead of bubbling up from the clods of earth. Religiousness which can colour itself with an appearance of the supernatural is very taking with many. If I “make my hands never so clean,” is an expression peculiarly racy in the original. The Hebrew word has an allusion to soap or nitre. Such was the ordinary and obvious method anyone would take to whiten his hands when they were grimy. Tradition tells that certain stains of blood cleave to the floor. The idea is that human blood, shed in murder, can never be scrubbed or scraped off the boards. Thus is it most certainly with the dye of sin. The blood of souls is in thy skirts, is the terrible language of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 2:34). These worthless experiments to cleanse yourselves would be ended once for all if you would have regard to the great truth of the Gospel: “Without shedding of blood there is no remission The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.”
III. But as sure as ever quickened souls try to get purity in the wrong way, God will thrust them down into the ditch. This is a terrible predicament. I find, on looking at the passage closely, that it means “head over ears in the ditch.” Often it happens with those who try to get better by their own good works, that their conscience is awakened by the effort, and they are more conscious of sin than ever. The word here rendered “ditch” is elsewhere translated “corruption.” So in the sixteenth Psalm: “Neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption.” Language cannot paint abasement, reproach, or ignominy in stronger terms. “Thou shalt plunge me in the ditch.” Is it not as though God Himself would undertake the business of causing His people to know that by their vain ablutions they were making themselves yet more vile in His eyes? May we not regard this as the discipline of our Heavenly Father’s love, albeit when passing through the trial we do not perceive it to be so? “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” Perhaps the experience I am trying to describe will come to you through the preaching of the Word. Frequently our great Lord leaves a poor wayward soul to eat the fruits of its own ways, and this is the severest form of plunging in the ditch. While striving after righteousness in a wrong way, the man stumbles into the very sin against which he struggled. His empty conceit might not have been dislodged from its secret lurking place in his depraved nature without some such perilous downfall. Thus do we, in our different spheres, fly from this to that, and from that to the other. Some hope to cleanse away sin by a supreme effort of self-denial, or of miraculous faith. Let us not play at purification, nor vainly hope to satisfy conscience with that which renders no satisfaction to God. Persons of sensitive disposition, and sedentary habits, are prone to seek a righteousness of inward feeling. Oh, that it could turn from feeling to faith; and look steadily out of inward sensation to the work finished once for all by the Lord Jesus!
IV. By such severe training the awakened one is led to look alone to God for salvation, and to find the salvation he looks for. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Neither is there any daysman.
At this point of the poem we are seeing Job at his worst. He has become desperate under his accumulated miseries. In this chapter Job answers Bildad. He admits that God is just; but from His infinite justice, holiness, and power, he concludes that the best man has no hope of being approved by Him. His protest he clothes in the figure of a legal trial. God comes into court, first as plaintiff, then as defendant; first asserting His rights, snatching away that which He has a mind to claim, then answering the citation of the man who challenges His justice. In either case man’s cause is hopeless. If the subject of His power calls Him to account, He appears at the bar, only to crush the appellant, and, with His infinite wisdom, to find flaws in his plea. As we study, certain deep-lying instincts begin to take shape in cravings for something which the theology of the day does not supply. The sufferer begins to feel rather than see that the problem of his affliction needs for its solution the additional factor which was supplied long after in the person and work of Jesus Christ,--a mediator between God and man. As he sees it, plaintiff and defendant have no common ground. God is a being different in nature and condition from himself. If now there were a human side to God. If there were only some daysman, some arbiter or mediator, who could lay his hand upon us both, understand both natures and both sets of circumstances,--then all would be well. This desire of Job is to be studied, not as a mere individual, but as a human experience. Job’s craving for a mediator is the craving of humanity. The soul was made for God. Christ meets an existing need. Manhood was made for Christ. With Christ goes this fact of mediation. There is a place for mediation in man’s relations to God. There is a craving for mediation in the human heart to which Job here gives voice. One needs but a moderate acquaintance with the history of religion to see how this instinctive longing for someone or something to stand between man and God has asserted itself in the institutions of worship. This demand for a mediator is backed and urged by two great interlinked facts--sin and suffering. Job’s question here is, How shall man be just with God? He urges that man as he is cannot be just with God as He is. Let him be as good as he may, his goodness is impurity itself beside the infinite perfection of the Almighty. God cannot listen to any plea of man based on his own righteousness Again, this craving for a mediator is awakened by human experience of suffering; a fact which is intertwined with the fact of sin. We need, our poor humanity needs, such a daysman, partaker of both natures, the Divine and the human, to show us suffering on its heavenly as well as on its earthly side, and to flood its earthly side with heavenly light by the revelation. In Christ we have the human experience of sorrow and its Divine interpretation. Job’s longing therefore is literally and fully met. Despise not this Mediator. Seek His intervention. (Marvin R. Vincent, D. D.)
This passage is one whose difficulty does not arise from crudities of translation, but rather from the subtle sequences of passion-moved thought. It consists of a lament over the absence of an umpire, or daysman, between God and the sin-stricken soul, and a vehement longing for such a one. In the notion of an umpire, there are three general thoughts apparent at the outset. There is a deep-seated opposition between the two parties concerned: this is only to be removed by vindicating the right; and the result aimed at is reconciliation. How far does such arbitration differ from mediation? It is mediation, with the additional element of an agreement entered into between the opposing parties. A daysman is a mediator who has been appointed or agreed on by both. Let us see how these general thoughts are applicable to this cry of Job.
I. He is labouring under a sense of hopeless sin. This is not less true because it is not persistent through the Book of Job, but intermittent; sometimes lightly felt, at other times crushing. It is on that account only a truer exhibition of human character. Here the feverish sense of it is at its strongest.
1. He is “plunged in the ditch,” in the mire, in the “sewer”; so that his “clothes abhor him.” The mire is his covering: he is all sin!
2. In this state he is self-condemned. He cannot “answer God,” he cannot come into judgment with Him! That is probably the true meaning of these words, and not the common explanation, that he is afraid to answer God. God is not a man; He is not to be answered. He is Himself the judge; He must be right. That was not always Job’s spirit, it is true; but that is his spirit in the present passage.
3. Then again, he cannot put away his pollution. He cannot make himself pure. “If I wash myself in snow water, and make my hands never so clean (‘cleanse them with lye’), yet shalt Thou plunge me in the ditch.” Struggling to get free only shows one’s utter helplessness.
4. And why does he feel so helpless? What is it that reveals his sin to him? It is the character of God! God’s holiness! God’s law! He had not known sin but for that law. God’s requirement, God’s inspection of the soul after it has done its best, seems to “plunge it into the ditch.”
II. It is this sense of hopeless sin that has taught Job the need of a Mediator.
1. As yet he can find none. His words do not go the length of asserting that there is not a daysman between God and any man; they are confined to his own need at the present moment--“Betwixt us!” For him there is none, and that is his overwhelming trouble.
2. But there is a need. He longs (more than one of the Hebrew words bring out the longing) for an umpire who should mediate between him and God.
3. This mediator must be able to “lay his hand upon us both.” Not surely in the poor and irreverent sense (for it is both), that by a restraining hand of power he might control the action of the Almighty. The meaning is surely the simple one, that the umpire must be one who can reach both parties.
4. On the one hand we must do justice to God’s holiness. In the mediation that must be sacred. It must issue from the trial not less glorious than before.
5. And on the other hand, the mediator must confess and deal with the sin of man. He must neither conceal nor excuse it; but, admitting, and rightly measuring the fact, he must be able to deal with it so as to satisfy God and to save man.
III. The results of such mediation are indicated. Generally there is reconciliation, the removal of that state of enmity existing between the sinner and his God.
1. Specifically, there is pardon. “Let God take His rod away from me!” God’s punishment, whatever form it may assume, shall pass wholly away. “Thy sins be forgiven thee!” That would come from such a “daysman.”
2. Next there is peace “Let not His fear terrify me!” May I look up to God, the Omnipotent and the holy God, and say, I am not afraid; for I have been reconciled unto Him! The mediator has laid a hand upon both, has reached God’s holiness, and has reached my sin.
3. Then fear passes, and trust comes. “Then would I speak, and not fear Him.” There can be no communion with God till the daysman has cast out the fear which has torment. Till then I can neither speak to Him nor hear Him.
IV. We have in the New Testament the antithesis of this longing cry of Job. “The law (says Paul, Galatians 3:19-20) was ordained in the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one; but God is one.” And who is the other party? It is sinful man. And “Jesus is the Mediator of the new covenant” (Hebrews 12:24), “laying a hand on both,” mediating between two who have been long and sorely at variance; the “daysman betwixt us” and God, who “pleads as a man with God, as a man pleadeth for his neighbour” (Job 16:21). The need then of a mediator, as a spiritual necessity of the sinner who has come to look down into his own heart and to compare it with God’s holiness, is one of the strange teachings of the Book of Job. (J. Elder Cumming, D. D.)
The need of a daysman
There are two attributes of God--His might and His righteousness. The one a natural and the other a moral attribute. One manifested in creation, the other dimly discernible in the moral nature, that is, the conscience of man, and yet greatly needing a revelation to bring it home to man’s heart with awful reality and power. Job’s thoughts were evidently occupied in this chapter with both these attributes. But if we are asked with which he is most occupied, we must answer, not with the highest, not with the righteousness so much as with the power of God. These verses seem to show a two-fold feeling in Job’s mind, corresponding to the two attributes--the righteousness and the power of God; but the predominating feeling was that of the irresistible power of God. Job longed for something to bridge over the terrible chasm between the Creator and himself, and not for some thing only, but some living person, some “daysman, who should lay his hand upon them both.” Taken critically and historically, the word “daysman” seems to signify an “umpire.” If Job felt “the power of God” more than His righteousness, and his own weakness more than his guilt, this is precisely what he would want. He could not, he felt, contend with God himself; could not stand on a level with the Creator in this great controversy. He felt, therefore, his need of an umpire. But what is the difference between a “daysman” so explained and a mediator? The difference is not great, but such as it is, it corresponds to the difference between feeling the “power” and the “righteousness” of God. The feeling of wanting a mediator is the higher. A consciousness of guilt and inward corruption is a higher feeling than that of weakness; and the longing for a “Mediator” a higher longing than that for a “daysman.” (George Wagner.)
A Mediator between God and man
When no man could redeem his neighbour from the grave--God Himself found a ransom. When not one of the beings whom He had formed could offer an adequate expiation--did the Lord of hosts awaken the sword of vengeance against His fellow. When there was no messenger among the angels who surrounded His throne, that could both proclaim and purchase peace for a guilty world--did God manifest in the flesh, descend in shrouded majesty amongst our earthly tabernacles, and pour out His soul unto the death for us, and purchase the Church by His own blood, and bursting away from the grave which could not held Him, ascend to the throne of His appointed Mediatorship; and now He, the lust and the last, who was dead and is alive, and maketh intercession for transgressors, “is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God through Him”; and, standing in the breach between a holy God and the sinners who have offended Him, does He make reconciliation, and lay His hand upon them both. But it is not enough that the Mediator be appointed by God--He must be accepted by man. And to incite our acceptance does He hold forth every kind and constraining argument. He casts abroad over the whole face of the world one wide and universal assurance of welcome. “Whosoever cometh unto Me shall not be cast out.” “Come unto Me, all ye who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” “Where sin hath abounded, grace hath much more abounded.” “Whatsoever ye ask in My name ye shall receive.” The path of access to Christ is open and free of every obstacle, which kept fearful and guilty man at an impracticable distance from the jealous and unpacified Lawgiver. He hath put aside the obstacle, and now stands in its place. Let us only go in the way of the Gospel, and we shall find nothing between us and God but the Author and Finisher of the Gospel--who, on the one hand, beckons to Him the approach of man with every token of truth and of tenderness; and on the other hand advocates our cause with God, and fills His mouth with arguments, and pleads that very atonement which was devised in love by the Father, and with the incense of which He was well pleased, and claims, as the fruit of the travail of His soul, all who put their trust in Him; and thus, laying His hand upon God, turns Him altogether from the fierceness of His indignation. But Jesus Christ is something more than the agent of our justification--He is the Agent of our sanctification also. Standing between us and God, He receives from Him of that Spirit which is called “the promise of the Father”; and He pours it forth in free and generous dispensation on those who believe in Him. Without this Spirit there may, in a few of the goodlier specimens of our race, be within us the play of what is kindly in constitutional feeling, and upon us the exhibition of what is seemly in a constitutional virtue; and man thus standing over us in judgment, may pass his verdict of approbation; and all that is visible in our doings may be pure as by the operation of snow water. But the utter irreligiousness of our nature will remain as entire and as obstinate as ever. The alienation of our desires from God will persist with unsubdued vigour in our bosoms; and sin, in the very essence of its elementary principle, will still lord it over the inner man with all the power of its original ascendency--till the deep, and the searching, and the prevailing influence of the love of God be shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost. This is the work of the great Mediator. This is the might and the mystery of that regeneration, without which we shall never see the kingdom of God. This is the office of Him to whom all power is committed, both in heaven and in earth--who, reigning in heaven, and uniting its mercy with its righteousness, causes them to flow upon earth in one stream of celestial influence; and reigning on earth, and working mightily in the hearts of its people, makes them meet for the society of heaven--thereby completing the wonderful work of our redemption, by which on the one hand He brings the eye of a holy God to look approvingly on the sinner, and on the other hand makes the sinner fit for the fellowship, and altogether prepared for the enjoyment of God. Such are the great elements of a sinner’s religion. But if you turn from the prescribed use of them, the wrath of God abideth on you. If you kiss not the Son while He is in the way, you provoke His anger; and when once it begins to burn, they only are blessed who have put their trust in Him. If, on the fancied sufficiency of a righteousness that is without godliness, you neglect the great salvation, you will not escape the severities of that day when the Being with whom you have to do shall enter with you into judgment; and it is only by fleeing to the Mediator, as you would from a coming storm, that peace is made between you and God, and that, sanctified by the faith which is in Jesus, you are made to abound in such fruits of righteousness as shall he to praise and glory at the last and the solemn reckoning. (T. Chalmers, D. D.)
How is this daysman, Jesus Christ, constituted to hold this office? Job knew what were his real wants; he did not know how these wants were to be supplied, and yet he gives us in the context the whole constitution of the office of a daysman. In the depth of his woe, in the valley of his degradation, while he sat in dust and ashes, he sighed forth, “If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean; yet shalt Thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me. For He is not a mail, as I am, that I should answer Him, and we should come together in judgment. Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both.” Mark this context. Here the patriarch gives utterance to a full recognition of his guilt, of his consciousness of the wrath that had descended from heaven upon him, of the impossibility of his making himself just with God. He dwells in the ditch of corruption, and is self-abhorred; and God, whom he has offended, “is not a man” that he should answer Him, that they should come face to face, that they should reason together. “He is not a man as I am.” He looked upon God as the heathen looked upon Him,--as a God of Majesty, a God of holiness, a God of sublimity and of glory, inaccessible to man. God is not a man, that I should come near Him, said Job, and I have none to introduce me to Him. That was his misery--“God is not a man,” that I should speak to Him, and I have none to stand between myself and God to present my prayer to Him. Hopeless, hapless, wretched patriarch! What he wanted was a daysman betwixt the two to lay his hand upon them both. I have come here to tell you that that daysman is Christ--“the man Christ Jesus.” And what saith He? “Behold, I am according to thy wish in God’s stead; I also am formed out of the clay.” That is my plea, and that is my glory, that God has become a man as I am, and I now can answer Him. I now can come to Him face to face; I now can fill my mouth with arguments; I now can come, and by His own invitation reason with Him. He is “formed out of the clay”; thus is He the one between God and man; and He lays His hand upon us both. This is Jesus; therefore is He constituted a Mediator between God and man; and this He has attained by His atoning sacrifice. Atonement!--what is the meaning of that word? We pronounce it as one word; but it is really three words, “at-one-ment”; and that is its meaning. By reason of our sin, there are two parties opposed the one to the other; there is no clement of union, but every element of antagonism to part and keep us asunder. Christ is the atoning sacrifice, and His atonement is a complete satisfaction. This is because Christ, our daysman, is both God and man, both natures in one person. To be a mediator it is necessary to have power and influence with both parties. Christ, as our daysman, has power with God, for He Himself is God; and to obtain influence with man He became a man, and bare our sorrows and endured our griefs. He became as one of us, “sin only excepted.” Behold the sympathy of Jesus!--a participator in our sufferings, a sharer in our sorrows, and acquainted with our grief. It is true the majesty of God was unapproachable; no man could approach unto it; the spotless glory of that Presence was too dazzling for mortal sight to behold; His holiness was too pure to come into any contact with sin; the height of that glory was beyond what man had any power to attain unto. Then God in Christ came down to us. Oh, what grace! And whereas the Majesty of the Godhead was too august, He left it there upon His Father’s throne, and He wrapped Himself for a time in the familiar mantle of our humanity; He became a man as we are. Inasmuch as man could not approach unto God, Christ brought the Godhead to the level of our humanity, that He might raise the human race from death and sin to the enjoyment of the life of righteousness. This is the true dignity of man, that Christ has dignified him and elevated him to His Father’s glory. “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me upon My throne, even as I also have overcome, and am set down upon My Father’s throne.” This is the Daysman who lays His hand upon us both. Does not that span the gulf? You know a bridge, to be of use and service, must rest its springing arch upon one bank and upon the other. To stop midway spoils the bridge. The ladder that is lifted up must touch the place on which you stand and the place where you would be, So is Christ the daysman. He lays His hand upon both parties. With one hand He lays hold upon God, for He Himself is God, and with the other He stoops until He lays hold upon sinful man, for He Himself is man; and thus laying His hand upon both parties, He brings both to one--He effects an at-one-ment, and “God is in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.” Oh, blessed meeting! happy reconciliation! where mercy and truth met together, and righteousness and peace kissed each other! Again: a mediator for sin must suffer, and by his sufferings he must satisfy. Here, again, the necessity for this daysman to be both God and man. If He had been God only, He could not suffer, and if He had been man only, with all His sufferings He could not satisfy. He is God and He is man. As a man He suffers, and as a God He satisfies. Brethren, what think ye of this? He is the daysman betwixt us. And now we are able to contemplate God, not as the angry lawgiver only, but, through Christ, as “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and of great kindness.” Now we are in our Christian liberty, and in the adoption of sons enabled to look upon God, not as robed in thunder, not as though He were girt in indignation, not as clothed in dazzling light, that no man can approach unto, but I can look upon Him as a man like as I am, touched with the feeling of my infirmities--“in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” I see in Him not a master, but a brother; not an enemy, but a friend; not an angry judge, but a sympathising advocate, pleading for me. And what is His plea? Our innocence? Nay, nay, He knows we are sinners; He admits our sin, He admits it all; He offers not one single word of apology or extenuation for our fault; but He pleads His own righteousness, He pleads His own sufferings in our stead, and His death in our behalf. He is the substitute, and as such He is the daysman betwixt God and man. He lays His hand upon us both. (Robert Maguire, M. A.)
The sinner’s daysman
All that a sinner needs he may find in the Saviour.
I. The sinner needs a “daysman.” Nothing but a sense of sin will ever lead a man in reality to seek a Saviour.
1. Mark the situation in which the sinner stands before his God--a condemned criminal
2. The sinner cannot plead his own cause.
3. There are none around to befriend his cause.
II. A “daysman” is provided. The Gospel is called the “ministry of reconciliation.” It bears this name because it points to Jesus as the sinner’s “daysman.” He is fitted for the character He sustains, and He effectually discharges the office.
III. The importance of our seeking an interest in this “daysman.” He is not our “daysman” unless we have sought Him. We must come to Him, and it must be by faith. The interest in Him surely should be sought at once. (G. Hadley.)
The great arbitration case
The patriarch Job, when reasoning with the Lord concerning his great affliction, felt himself to be at a disadvantage and declined the controversy, saying, “He is not a man, as I am, that I should answer Him, and we should come together in judgment.” Yet feeling that his friends were cruelly misstating his case, he still desired to spread it before the Lord, but wished for a mediator, a middleman, to act as umpire and decide the case. But what Job desired to have, the Lord has provided for us in the person of His own dear Son, Jesus Christ. There is an old quarrel between the thrice holy God and His sinful subjects, the sons of Adam.
I. First of all, let me describe what are the essentials of an umpire, an arbitrator, or a daysman.
1. The first essential is, that both parties should be agreed to accept him. Let me come to thee, thou sinner, against whom God has laid His suit, and put the matter to thee. God has accepted Christ Jesus to be His umpire in His dispute. He appointed Him to the office, and chose Him for it before He laid the foundations of the world. He is God’s fellow, equal with the Most High, and can put His hand upon the Eternal Father without fear because He is dearly beloved of that Father’s heart. But He is also a man like thyself, sinner. He once suffered, hungered, thirsted, and knew the meaning of poverty and pain. Now, what thinkest thou? God has accepted Him; canst thou agree with God in this matter, and agree to take Christ to be thy daysman too? Art thou willing that He should take this case into His hands and arbitrate between thee and God? for if God accepteth Him, and thou accept Him too, then He has one of the first qualifications for being a daysman.
2. But, in the next place, both parties must be fully agreed to leave the case entirely in the arbitrator’s hands. If the arbitrator does not possess the power of settling the case, then pleading before him is only making an opportunity for wrangling, without any chance of coming to a peaceful settlement. Now God has committed “all power” into the hands of His Son. Jesus Christ is the plenipotentiary of God, and has been invested with full ambassadorial powers. If the case be settled by Him, the Father is agreed. Now, sinner, does grace move thy heart to do the same? Wilt thou agree to put thy case into the hands of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Man? Wilt thou abide by His decision?
3. Further, let us say, that to make a good arbitrator or umpire, it is essential that he be a fit person. If the case were between a king and a beggar, it would not seem exactly right that another king should be the arbitrator, nor another beggar; but if there could be found a person who combined the two, who was both prince and beggar, then such a man could be selected by both. Our Lord Jesus Christ precisely meets the case. There is a very great disparity between the plaintiff and the defendant, for how great is the gulf which exists between the eternal God and poor fallen man? How is this to be bridged? Why, by none except by one who is God and who at the same time can become man. Now the only being who can do this is Jesus Christ. He can put His hand on thee, stooping down to all thine infirmity and thy sorrow, and He can put His other hand upon the Eternal Majesty, and claim to be co-equal with God and co-eternal with the Father. Dost thou not see, then, His fitness? There cannot surely be a better skilled or more judicious daysman than our blessed Redeemer.
4. Yet there is one more essential of an umpire, and that is, that he should be a person desirous to bring the case to a happy settlement. In the great case which is pending between God and the sinner, the Lord Jesus Christ has a sincere anxiety both for His Father’s glory and for the sinner’s welfare, and that there should be peace between the two contending parties. It is the life and aim of Jesus Christ to make peace. He delighteth not in the death of sinners, and He knows no joy greater than that of receiving prodigals to His bosom, and of bringing lost sheep back again to the fold. Thou seest then, sinner, how the case is. God has evidently chosen the most fitting arbitrator. That arbitrator is willing to undertake the case, and thou mayest well repose all confidence in Him: but if thou shalt live and die without accepting Him as thine arbitrator, then, the ease going against thee, thou wilt have none to blame but thyself.
II. And now I shall want, by your leave, to take you into the court where the trial is going on and show you the legal proceedings before the great Daysman. “The man, Christ Jesus,” who is “God over all, blessed forever,” opens His court by laying down the principles upon which He intends to deliver judgment, and those principles I will now try to explain and expound. They are two fold--first, strict justice; and secondly, fervent love. The arbitrator has determined that let the case go as it may there shall be full justice done, justice to the very extreme, whether it be for or against the defendant. He intends to take the law in its sternest and severest aspect, and to judge according to its strictest letter. He will not be guilty of partiality on either side. But the arbitrator also says that He will judge according to the second rule, that of fervent love. He loves His Father, and therefore He will decide on nothing that may attain His honour or disgrace His crown. He so loves God, the Eternal One, that He will suffer heaven and earth to pass away sooner than there shall be one blot upon the character of the Most High. On the other hand, He so loves the poor defendant, man, that He will be willing to do anything rather than inflict penalty upon him unless justice shall absolutely require it. He loves man with so large a love that nothing will delight Him more than to decide in his favour, and He will be but too glad if He can be the means of happily establishing peace between the two. Let justice and love unite if they can. Having thus laid down the principles of judgment, the arbitrator next calls upon the plaintiff to state His case. Let us listen While the great Creator speaks. “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children.” The Eternal God charges us, and let me confess at once most justly and most truly charges us, with having broken all His commandments--some of them in act, some of them in word, all of them in heart, and thought, and imagination. He charges upon us, that against light and knowledge we have chosen the evil and forsaken the good. All this, calmly and dispassionately, according to the great Book of the law, is laid to our charge before the Daysman. No exaggeration of sin is brought against us. The plaintiff’s case having thus been stated, the defendant is called upon by the Daysman for his; and I think I hear Him as He begins. First of all, the trembling defendant sinner pleads--“I confess to the indictment, but I say I could not help it. I have sinned, it is true, but my nature was such that I could not well do otherwise; I must lay all the blame of it to my own heart; my heart was deceitful and my nature was evil.” The Daysman at once rules that this is no excuse whatever, but an aggravation, for inasmuch as it is conceded that the man’s heart itself is enmity against God, this is an admission of yet greater malice and blacker rebellion. Then the defendant pleads in the next place that albeit he acknowledges the facts alleged against him, yet he is no worse than other offenders, and that there are many in the world who have sinned more grievously than he has done. The sinner urges further, that though he has offended, and offended very greatly and grievously, yet he has done a great many good things. It is true he did not love God, but he always went to chapel. The defendant has no end of pleas, for the sinner has a thousand excuses; and finding that nothing else will do, he begins to appeal to the mercy of the plaintiff, and says that for the future he will do better. He confesses that he is in debt, but he will run up no more bills at that shop. What is the poor defendant to do now? He is fairly beaten this time. He falls down on his knees, and with many tears and lamentations he cries, “I see how the case stands; I have nothing to plead, but I appeal to the mercy of the plaintiff; I confess that I have broken His commandments; I acknowledge that I deserve His wrath; but I have heard that He is merciful, and I plead for free and full forgiveness.” And now comes another scene. The plaintiff seeing the sinner on his knees, with his eyes full of tears, makes this reply, “I am willing at all times to deal kindly and according to loving kindness with all My creatures; but will the arbitrator for a moment suggest that I should damage and ruin My own perfections of truth and holiness; that I should belie My own word; that I should imperil My own throne; that I should make the purity of immaculate justice to be suspected, and should bring down the glory of My unsullied holiness, because this creature has offended Me, and now craves for mercy? I cannot, I will not spare the guilty; he has offended, and he must die! ‘As I live, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but would rather that he should turn from his wickedness and live.’ Still, this ‘would rather’ must not be supreme. I am gracious and would spare the sinner, but I am just, and must not unsay My own words. I swore with an oath, ‘The soul that sinneth shall die.’ I have laid it down as a matter of firm decree, ‘Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.’ This sinner is righteously cursed, and he must inevitably die; and yet I love him.” The arbitrator bows and says, “Even so; justice demands that the offender should die, and I would not have Thee unjust.” The arbitrator, therefore, after pausing awhile, puts it thus: “I am anxious that these two should be brought together; I love them both: I Cannot, on the one hand, recommend that My Father should stain His honour; I cannot, on the other hand, endure that this sinner should be cast eternally into hell; I will decide the case, and it shall be thus: I will pay My Father’s justice all it craves; I pledge Myself that in the fulness of time I will suffer in My own proper person all that the weeping, trembling sinner ought to have suffered. My Father, wilt Thou stand to this?” The Eternal God accepts the awful sacrifice! Yes, sinner, and He did more than say it, for when the fulness of time came--you know the story. Here, then, is the arbitration. Christ Himself suffers; and now I have to put the query, “Hast thou accepted Christ?”
III. Let us now look at the daysman’s success.
1. For every soul who has received Christ, Christ has made a full atonement which God the Father has accepted; and His success in this matter is to be rejoiced in, first of all, because the suit, has been settled conclusively. We have known cases go to arbitration, and yet the parties have quarrelled afterwards; they have said that the arbitrator did not rule justly, or something of the kind, and so the whole point has been raised again. But, O beloved, the case between a saved soul and God is settled once and forever. There is no more conscience of sin left in the believer.
2. Again, the case has been settled on the best principles, because, you see, neither party can possibly quarrel with the decision. The sinner cannot, for it is all mercy to him: even eternal justice cannot, for it has had its due.
3. Again, the case has been so settled, that both parties are well content. You never hear a saved soul murmur at the substitution of the Lord Jesus.
4. And through this Daysman both parties have come to be united in the strongest, closest, dearest, and fondest bond of union. This lawsuit has ended in such a way that the plaintiff and the defendant are friends for life, nay, friends through death, and friends in eternity. What a wonderful thing is that union between God and the sinner! We have all been thinking a great deal lately about the Atlantic cable. It is a very interesting attempt to join two worlds together. That poor cable, you know, has had to be sunk into the depths of the sea, in the hope of establishing a union between the two worlds, and now we are disappointed again. But oh! what an infinitely greater wonder has been accomplished. Christ Jesus saw the two worlds divided, and the great Atlantic of human guilt rolled between. He sank down deep into the woes of man till all God’s waves and billows had gone over Him, that He might be, as it were, the great telegraphic communication between God and the apostate race, between the Most Holy One and poor sinners. Let me say to you, sinner, there was no failure in the laying down of that blessed cable. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
──《The Biblical Illustrator》