Job Chapter Thirty-eight
God calls upon Job to answer. (1-3) God questions Job. (4-11) Concerning the light and darkness. (12-24) Concerning other mighty works. (25-41)
Commentary on Job 38:1-3
(Read Job 38:1-3)
Job had silenced, but had not convinced his friends. Elihu had silenced Job, but had not brought him to admit his guilt before God. It pleased the Lord to interpose. The Lord, in this discourse, humbles Job, and brings him to repent of his passionate expressions concerning God's providential dealings with him; and this he does, by calling upon Job to compare God's being from everlasting to everlasting, with his own time; God's knowledge of all things, with his own ignorance; and God's almighty power, with his own weakness. Our darkening the counsels of God's wisdom with our folly, is a great provocation to God. Humble faith and sincere obedience see farthest and best into the will of the Lord.
Commentary on Job 38:4-11
(Read Job 38:4-11)
For the humbling of Job, God here shows him his ignorance, even concerning the earth and the sea. As we cannot find fault with God's work, so we need not fear concerning it. The works of his providence, as well as the work of creation, never can be broken; and the work of redemption is no less firm, of which Christ himself is both the Foundation and the Corner-stone. The church stands as firm as the earth.
Commentary on Job 38:12-24
(Read Job 38:12-24)
The Lord questions Job, to convince him of his ignorance, and shame him for his folly in prescribing to God. If we thus try ourselves, we shall soon be brought to own that what we know is nothing in comparison with what we know not. By the tender mercy of our God, the Day-spring from on high has visited us, to give light to those that sit in darkness, whose hearts are turned to it as clay to the seal, 2 Corinthians 4:6. God's way in the government of the world is said to be in the sea; this means, that it is hid from us. Let us make sure that the gates of heaven shall be opened to us on the other side of death, and then we need not fear the opening of the gates of death. It is presumptuous for us, who perceive not the breadth of the earth, to dive into the depth of God's counsels. We should neither in the brightest noon count upon perpetual day, nor in the darkest midnight despair of the return of the morning; and this applies to our inward as well as to our outward condition. What folly it is to strive against God! How much is it our interest to seek peace with him, and to keep in his love!
Commentary on Job 38:25-41
(Read Job 38:25-41)
Hitherto God had put questions to Job to show him his ignorance; now God shows his weakness. As it is but little that he knows, he ought not to arraign the Divine counsels; it is but little he can do, therefore he ought not to oppose the ways of Providence. See the all-sufficiency of the Divine Providence; it has wherewithal to satisfy the desire of every living thing. And he that takes care of the young ravens, certainly will not be wanting to his people. This being but one instance of the Divine compassion out of many, gives us occasion to think how much good our God does, every day, beyond what we are aware of. Every view we take of his infinite perfections, should remind us of his right to our love, the evil of sinning against him, and our need of his mercy and salvation.
── Matthew Henry《Concise Commentary on Job》
 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said,
Lord — The eternal word, Jehovah, the same who spake from mount Sinai.
Answered — Out of a dark and thick cloud, from which he sent a tempestuous wind, as the harbinger of his presence. In this manner God appears and speaks to awaken Job and his friends, to the more serious attention to his words; and to testify his displeasure both against Job, and them, that all of them might be more deeply humbled and prepared to receive, and retain the instructions which God was about to give them.
 Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?
Counsel — God's counsel. For the great matter of the dispute between Job and his friends, was concerning God's counsel and providence in afflicting Job; which Job had endeavoured to obscure and misrepresent. This first word which God spoke, struck Job to the heart. This he repeats and echoes to, chap. 42:3, as the arrow that stuck fast in him.
 Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.
Gird up — As warriors then did for the battle.
 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.
Where — Thou art but of yesterday; and dost thou presume to judge of my eternal counsels! When - When I settled it as firm upon its own center as if it had been built upon the surest foundations.
 Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?
Measures — Who hath prescribed how long and broad and deep it should be.
Line — the measuring line to regulate all its dimensions.
 Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;
Foundations — This strong and durable building hath no foundations but God's power, which hath marvelously established it upon itself.
Cornerstone — By which the several walls are joined and fastened together, and in which, next to the foundations, the stability of a building consists. The sense is, who was it that built this goodly fabrick, and established it so firmly that it cannot be moved.
 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
Stars — The angels, who may well be called morning-stars, because of their excellent lustre and glory.
Sons of God — The angels called the sons of God, because they had their whole being from him, and because they were made partakers of his Divine and glorious image.
Shouted — Rejoiced in and blessed God for his works, whereby he intimates, that they neither did advise or any way assist him, nor dislike or censure any of his works, as Job had presumed to do.
 Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb?
Doors — Who was it, that set bounds to the vast and raging ocean, and shut it up, as it were with doors within its proper place, that it might not overflow the earth? Break forth - From the womb or bowels of the earth, within which the waters were for the most part contained, and out of which they were by God's command brought forth into the channel which God had appointed for them.
 When I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddlingband for it,
The cloud — When I covered it with vapours and clouds which rise out of the sea, and hover above it, and cover it like a garment.
Darkness — Black and dark clouds.
Swaddling band — Having compared the sea to a new-born infant, he continues the metaphor, and makes the clouds as swaddling-bands, to keep it within its bounds: though indeed neither clouds, nor air, nor sands, nor shores, can bound the sea, but God alone.
 And brake up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors,
Break up — Made those hollow places in the earth, which might serve for a cradle to receive and hold this great and goodly infant when it came out of the womb.
And set — Fixed its bounds as strongly as if they were fortified with bars and doors.
 Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days; and caused the dayspring to know his place;
Morning — Didst thou create the sun, and appoint the order and succession of day and night.
Since — Since thou wast born: this work was done long before thou wast born.
To know — To observe the punctual time when, and the point of the heavens where it should arise; which varies every day.
 That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, that the wicked might be shaken out of it?
That — That this morning light should in a moment spread itself, from one end of the hemisphere to the other.
Shaken — From the face of the earth. And this effect the morning-light hath upon the wicked, because it discovers them, whereas darkness hides them; and because it brings them to condign punishment, the morning being the usual time for executing judgment.
 It is turned as clay to the seal; and they stand as a garment.
It — The earth.
Turned — Is changed in its appearance.
By the seal — The seal makes a beautiful impression upon the clay, which in itself hath no form, or comeliness. So the earth, which in the darkness of night lies like a confused heap without either form or beauty, when the light arises and shines upon it, appears in excellent order and glory.
They — The men and things of the earth, whether natural, as living creatures, herbs and trees; or artificial, as houses or other buildings.
Stand — Present themselves to our view.
Garment — Wherewith the earth is in a manner clothed and adorned.
 And from the wicked their light is withholden, and the high arm shall be broken.
Withheld — That light which enjoyed by others is withholden from them, either by their own choice, because they chuse darkness rather than light; or by the judgment of God, or the magistrate, by whom they are cut off from the light of the living.
Arms — Their great strength which they used to the oppression of others.
 Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? or hast thou walked in the search of the depth?
Springs — Heb. the tears; the several springs out of which the waters of the sea flow as tears do from the eyes.
Walked — Hast thou found out the utmost depth of the sea, which in divers places could never be reached by the wisest mariner? And how then canst thou fathom the depths of my counsels?
 Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death?
Death — Hast thou seen, or dost thou know the place and state of the dead; the depths and bowels of that earth in which the generality of dead men are buried. Death is a grand secret? We know not when or by what means we shall be brought to death: by what road we must go the way, whence we shall not return. We cannot describe what death is; how the knot is untied between soul and body, or how the spirit goes "To be we know not what, and live we know not how." With what dreadful curiosity does the soul launch out into an untried abyss? We have no correspondence with separate souls, nor any acquaintance with their state. It is an unknown, undiscovered region, to which they are removed. While we are here in a world of sense, we speak of the world of spirits, as blind men do of colours, and when we remove thither, shall be amazed to find how much we were mistaken.
 Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth? declare if thou knowest it all.
Breadth — The whole compass and all the parts of it?
 Where is the way where light dwelleth? and as for darkness, where is the place thereof,
Dwelleth — Hath its constant and settled abode. Whether goes the sun when it departs from this hemisphere? Where is the tabernacle and the chamber in which he is supposed to rest? And seeing there was a time when there was nothing but gross darkness upon the face of the earth, what way came light into the world? Which was the place where light dwelt at that time, and whence was it fetched? And whence came that orderly constitution and constant succession of light and darkness? Was this thy work? Or wast thou privy to it, or a counsellor, or assistant in it?
 That thou shouldest take it to the bound thereof, and that thou shouldest know the paths to the house thereof?
Take it — Bring or lead it: and this it refers principally to the light, and to darkness, as the consequent of the other.
Bound — Its whole course from the place of its abode whence it is supposed to come, to the end of its journey.
Know — Where thou mayst find it, and whence thou mayst fetch it.
 Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail,
Treasures — Dost thou know where I have laid up those vast quantities of snow and hail which I draw forth when I see fit?
 Which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war?
Trouble — When I intend to bring trouble upon any people for their sins.
 By what way is the light parted, which scattereth the east wind upon the earth?
Distributed — In the air, and upon the face of the earth. This is variously distributed in the world, shining in one place and time, when it doth not shine in another, or for a longer time, or with greater brightness and power than it doth in another. All which are the effects of God's infinite wisdom and power, and such as were out of Job's reach to understand.
Which — Which light scattereth, raises the east-wind, and causes it to blow hither and thither upon the earth? For as the sun is called by the poets, the father of the winds, because he draws up those exhalations which give matter to the winds, so in particular the east-wind is often observed to rise together with the sun.
 Who hath divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters, or a way for the lightning of thunder;
Overflowing — For the showers of rain which come down orderly, and gradually, as if they were conveyed in pipes or channels; which, without the care of God's providence, would fall confusedly, and overwhelm the earth.
Lightning — For lightning and thunder? Who opened a passage for them out of the cloud in which they were imprisoned? And these are joined with the rain, because they are commonly accompanied with great showers of rain.
 To cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is; on the wilderness, wherein there is no man;
To cause — That the clouds being broken by lightning and thunder might pour down rain.
No man — To water those parts by art and industry, as is usual in cultivated places.
 To satisfy the desolate and waste ground; and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth?
To bring forth — Hitherto God has put such questions to Job, as were proper to convince him of his ignorance. Now he comes to convince him of his impotence. As it is but little that he can know, and therefore he ought not to arraign the Divine counsels, so it is but little he can do; and therefore he ought not to oppose Divine providence.
 Hath the rain a father? or who hath begotten the drops of dew?
Father — Is there any man that can beget or produce rain at his pleasure?
 Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?
Bind — Restrain or hinder them.
Pleiades — The seven stars, which bring in the spring.
Bands — By which it binds up the air and earth, by bringing storms of rain and hail or frost and snow.
Orion — This constellation rises in November, and brings in winter. Both summer and winter will have their course? God indeed can change them when he pleases, can make the spring cold, and so bind the influences of Pleiades, and the winter warm, and so loose the bands of Orion; but we cannot.
 Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons?
Bring forth — Canst thou make the stars in the southern signs arise and appear? Arcturus - Those in the northern.
His sons — The lesser stars, which are placed round about them; and attend upon them, as children upon their parents.
 Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?
Ordinances — The laws which are firmly established concerning their order, motion, or rest, and their powerful influences upon this lower world. Didst thou give these laws? Or dost thou perfectly know them? Canst thou - Manage and over rule their influences.
 Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds, that abundance of waters may cover thee?
Cover thee — Thy land when it needs rain.
 When the dust groweth into hardness, and the clods cleave fast together?
Mire — By reason of much rain.
 Wilt thou hunt the prey for the lion? or fill the appetite of the young lions,
Hunt — Is it by thy care that the lions who live in desert places are furnished with necessary provisions? This is another wonderful work of God.
 Who provideth for the raven his food? when his young ones cry unto God, they wander for lack of meat.
Raven — Having mentioned the noblest of brute creatures, he now mentions one of the most contemptible; to shew the care of God's providence over all creatures, both great and small. Their young ones are so soon forsaken by their dams, that if God did not provide for them in a more than ordinary manner, they would be starved to death. And will he that provides for the young ravens, fail to provide for his own children.
── John Wesley《Explanatory Notes on Job》
38 Chapter 38
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said.
The address of the Almighty
This sublime discourse is represented as made from the midst of the tempest or whirlwind which Elihu describes as gathering. In this address the principal object of God is to assert His own greatness and majesty, and the duty of profound submission under the dispensations of His government. The general thought is, that He is Lord of heaven and earth; that all things have been made by Him, and that He has a right to control them; and that in the works of His own hands He had given so much evidence of His wisdom, power, and goodness, that men ought to have unswerving confidence in Him. He appeals to His works, and shows that, in fact, man could explain little, and that the most familiar objects were beyond his comprehension. It was therefore to be expected that in His moral government there would be much that would be above the power of man to explain. In this speech the creation of the world is first brought before the mind in language which has never been equalled. Then the Almighty refers to various things in the universe that surpass the wisdom of man to comprehend them, or his power to make them--to the laws of light; the depths of the ocean; the formation of the snow, the rain, the dew, the ice, the frost; the changes of the seasons, the clouds, the lightnings; and the instincts of animals. He then makes a particular appeal to some of the mere remarkable inhabitants of the air, the forest, and the waters, as illustrating His power. He refers to the gestation of the mountain goats; to the wild ass, to the rhinoceros, to the ostrich, and to the horse (ch. 39). The ground of the argument in this part of the address is that He had adapted every kind of animal to the mode of life which it was to lead; that He had given cunning where cunning was necessary, and where unnecessary, that He had withheld it; that He had endowed with rapidity of foot or wing where such qualities were needful; and that where power was demanded, He had conferred it. In reference to all these classes of creatures, there were peculiar laws by which they were governed; and all, in their several spheres, showed the wisdom and skill of their Creator. Job is subdued and awed by these exhibitions. To produce, however, a more overpowering impression of His greatness and majesty, and to secure a deeper prostration before Him, the Almighty proceeds to a particular description of two of the more remarkable animals which He had made--the behemoth, or hippopotamus, and the leviathan, or crocodile; and with this description, the address of the Almighty closes. The general impression designed to be secured by this whole address is that of awe, reverence, and submission. The general thought is, that God is supreme; that He has a right to rule; that there are numberless things in His government which are inexplicable by human wisdom; that it is presumptuous in man to sit in judgment on His doings; and that at all times man should bow before Him with profound adoration. It is remarkable that, in this address, the Almighty does not refer to the main point in the controversy. He does not attempt to vindicate His government from the charges brought against it of inequality, nor does He refer to the future state as a place where all these apparent irregularities will be adjusted. (Albert Barnes.)
As Elihu’s eloquent discourse draws to a close, our hearts grow full of expectation and hope. The mighty tempest in which Jehovah shrouds Himself sweeps up through the darkened heaven; it draws nearer and nearer; we are blinded by “the flash which He flings to the ends of the earth,” our hearts “throb and leap out of their place,” and we say, “God is about to speak, and there will be light.” But God speaks, and there is no light. He does not so much as touch the intellectual problems over which we have been brooding so long, much less, as we hoped, sweep them beyond the farthest horizon of our thoughts. He simply overwhelms us with His majesty. He causes His “glory” to pass before us, and though, after he has seen this great sight, Job’s face shines with a reflected lustre which has to be veiled from us under the mere forms of a recovered and augmented prosperity, we are none the brighter for it. He claims to have all power in heaven and on earth, to be Lord of all the wonders of the day and of the night, of tempest, and of calm. He simply asserts, what no one has denied, that all the processes of nature, and all the changes of providence are His handiwork, that it is He who calleth forth the stars, and determines their influence upon earth, He who sendeth rain and fruitful seasons, He who provides food for bird and beast, arms them with strength, clothes them with beauty, and quickens in them the manifold wise instincts by which they are preserved and multiplied. He does not utter a single word to relieve the mysteries of His rule, to explain why the good suffer and the wicked flourish, why He permits our hearts to be so often and so cruelly torn by agonies of bereavement, of misgiving, of doubt. When the majestic voice ceases we are no nearer than before to a solution of the haunting problems of life. We can only wonder that Job should sink in utter love and self-abasement before Him; we can only ask, in unfeigned surprise--and it is well for us if some tone of contempt do not blend with our surprise,--“What is there in all this to shed calm, and order, and an invincible faith into Job’s perturbed and doubting spirit?” We say, “This pathetic poem is a logical failure after all; it does not carry its theme to any satisfactory conclusion, nor to any conclusion; it suggests doubts to which it furnishes no reply, problems which it does not even attempt to solve; charmed with its beauty we may be, but we are none the wiser for our patient study of its argument.” But that would be a sorry conclusion of our labour. And before we resign ourselves to it, let us at least ask:
1. Is it so certain as we sometimes assume it to be that this poem was intended to explain the mystery of human life? Is it even certain that a logical explanation of that mystery is either possible or desirable to creatures such as we are in such a world as this? The path of logic is not commonly the path of faith. Logic may convince the reason, but it cannot bend the will or change the heart. God teaches us,--Jehovah taught Job,--as we teach children, by the mystery of life, by its illusions and contradictions, by its intermixtures of evil with good, of sorrow with joy; by the questions we are compelled to ask even though we cannot answer them, by the problems we are compelled to study although we cannot solve them. And is not this His best way?
2. But if the “answer” of Jehovah disappoints us, it satisfied Job; and not only satisfied him, but swept away all his doubts and fears in a transport of gratitude and renewed love. Expecting to hear some conclusive argument, we overlook the immense force and pathos of the fact, that Jehovah spake to Job at all. What Job could not bear was that God should abandon as well as afflict him. It was not what God said, but that God did speak to him, brought comfort.
3. Still the question recurs: What was it that recovered Job to faith and peace and trust? Was there absolutely nothing in the answer of Jehovah out of the tempest to meet the inquest of his beseeching doubts? Yes, there was something, but not much. There is an argument of hints and suggestions. It meets the painful sense of mystery which oppressed Job. God simply says, we should not let that mystery distress us, because there are mysteries everywhere. Another argument is, Consider these mysteries and parables of Nature, and what they reveal of the character and purpose of Him by whom they were created and made. You can see that they all work together for good. May not the mystery of human life and pain be as beneficent? God does not argue with us, nor seek to force our trust; for no man was ever yet argued into love, or could even compel his own child to love and confide in him. Trust and love are not to be forced, but won. God may have to deal with us as we deal with our children. Not by logical arguments, which convince our reason, but by tender appeals which touch and break our hearts, our Father conquers us at last, and wins our love and trust forever. (Samuel Cox, D. D.)
The appearance of Jahve
As Job has at last exhausted all mortal powers in order to prevail upon God without defiance and without murmuring, and to behold the solution of the dark enigma, He who has so long been desired and entreated cannot longer withhold His appearance. He now appears at the right time, since an earlier appearance would either have been perilous to the man who was still insufficiently prepared for it, because it would then necessarily have been an angry and destructive response to the defiant or murmuring challenge of man, or else have been incompatible with the proper majesty of God, supposing it had been mercifully condescending and conciliatory, as if man in his ignorance could force such a gracious appearance by rebellion. But now, after the sufferer has tried every human means of prevailing upon God in the proper manner, and already, as conqueror over himself, endeavours without passionate feeling to obtain a higher revelation and final deliverance, this is granted to him at the right moment. It thus appears as if Jahve had so long delayed simply because He had from the beginning anticipated and known that such a brave sufferer as Job would not wholly lose himself, even in the utmost temptation and danger, but would triumphantly go forth from it with higher power and capacity, so as to be able to experience the awful moment of the revelation of a truth and glory such as had been previously never thought of. A revelation coming in this manner must be for Job a friendly and gracious one. (Heinrich A. Von Ewald.)
The revelation in the whirlwind
We are reminded by these words of the similar experience of Elijah when, in the midst of the grandest manifestations of nature, he was brought into direct contact with God. The Lord, we are told, was not in the mighty wind that passed before Elijah on Horeb. He did not choose the whirlwind as the symbol of Himself; because what Elijah required was not the display of God’s newer but the revelation of His love--not the stormy, but the gentle side of God’s nature. He Himself was a tempestuous spirit, an incarnate whirlwind. To such a stormy nature a lesson came to teach him the secret of his failure, and to show him that there were greater powers than those which he had employed, and a better spirit than that which he had displayed. He believed that the most effective way of freeing the land from its idolatry was by threatening and judgment. There was nothing in these judgments to appeal to Israel’s better nature--to convince them of their sin, and to rouse them to a sense of duty; and the Baal worship, which they were compelled by fear to renounce for a day, resumed its old spell over them when the storm subsided, and the sky became once more serene. But not thus did God reveal Himself to Job. He revealed Himself in the still, small voice to Elijah, because there was too much of the whirlwind in his own character, and in his work of reformation for Israel, and he needed to be taught the greater power of gentleness and love. He revealed Himself in the whirlwind to Job, because there was too much of the still, small voice in his own disposition and in his circumstances, and he needed to be stirred up by trials and troubles that would shake his life to the very centre. The lot of Job was at first extraordinarily prosperous. His nature became like his circumstances; his soul was at ease he lived upon the surface of his being; he was contented with himself and with the world. Job’s worship was practically a similar bargain of faith. He would offer sacrifice to God as a preventive of worldly evil, and as the safeguard of his prosperity. We know what happens in nature after a long continuance of sunshine and calm. It needs a storm to agitate the stagnant waters, and fill the foaming waves with vital air for the good of the creatures of the sea. And so the man whose prosperous life settles down upon the lees of his nature, and partakes of their sordidness, requires the storm of trial to purify the atmosphere of his soul, to rouse him from his selfishness, to brace up his energies, and to make him a blessing to others, and a grander and truer man in himself. It was for this reason that the overwhelming troubles that came upon Job were sent. “The Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind.” That Divine speech was entirely different from the arguments of Elihu and Zophar, Bildad and Eliphaz. There were no upbraidings in it; no replies to specious sophistries and short-sighted charges it seemed to ignore altogether the questions at issue; it appealed not to the intellect, but to the heart. He grew wiser the more he suffered; and the storm that purified his soul gave him a deeper insight into the mysteries of Divine providence, so that he could rise superior to the doubts of his own heart, and vindicate the ways of God to man against all the dishonouring arguments of his false friends. As a candle within a transparency, so the fire of pain illumined the truth of God to him, and made plain what before had been dark. He had lost everything which men of the world value, but he had found what was more than a compensation. And so God deals with us still. He speaks to different persons in different ways: to one who is self-sufficient because of his prosperity, by the loud roar of the whirlwind; to another who is despondent and depressed because of failure and blighted hopes arising from wrong methods of doing good, He speaks in the still, small voice, and assures him that fury is not in Him. The Divine method is ever by the still, small voice. God would prefer to deal with us in gentle, loving, quiet ways. Judgment is His strange work. God’s continued goodness to us too often leaves us careless and godless. The still, small voice speaking to us in the blessings of life with which day after day our cup is filled, is unheeded, and God requires to send His whirlwind to speak to us in such a way that we shall be compelled to hear. (H. Macmillan, D. D.)
Numerous instances might be cited where God manifested Himself out of a cloud. But as well in the dew drop, out of the calm and silent lake, as well as from the billowy ocean. In all ways He seeks to reach and impress men with His greatness and goodness. But I believe men are more impressed when in the pathway of the cyclone, where the ordinary provisions of safety are inadequate, and men lift up their voices, and implore the mercy of the great Jehovah.
I. The first thing to consider is, how easily the most innocent things may become harmful and dangerous. A child may sleep in the morning breeze. What is softer than the dewdrop as it releases the aroma of the fields that we drink in with so much pleasure? And yet with what terrific force it sweeps on when changed into the tornado and flood! How great, therefore, the power for destruction in the simplest. In the souls of men there are forces no less terrible than those in physical nature that, held by a slight restraint, keep in check vices, which, were they loose, would carry devastation into society.
II. The second principle teaches that destructive things may become beneficial. At first we shrink from the approaching storm, property is lost, homes destroyed, and yet we learn from viewing the scene of desolation that storms may be beneficial. Do we think of the poison in the atmosphere, and how the storm has taken it up and blown it away, giving us in its place a pure atmosphere? A few lives may be given to the tornado, but you and I have been given purer air. The soldier in the same manner dies for his country. These may be great mysteries. The storm may destroy much, but it blesses us all. The cyclones in the spiritual world strike us, but give us a better vision; they purify our spiritual atmosphere, and let us see nearer the world to which we are journeying.
III. The third teaching of the tornado is how the simple things become inscrutable. Man’s knowledge seems to extend to a certain point. God said to the sea: “Thus far shalt thou go and no farther.” But the storm may bring great blessings. We live in a little circle of light; we see but a few feet, and know not but the next step may be into infinite blackness; but if God is with us it does not matter. The three lessons, considered together, teach us that this world is an island in the midst of a great ocean. We are like the mariners on the lake--the more the storm rages the more lights will be turned toward the haven. We all need a refuge from the storm. Some seek it in the sciences and philosophy; but the only haven is in the arms of Jesus, where there is at least heaven, sweet, blessed heaven, for the burdened and weary. (George C. Lorimer, D. D.)
Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Ignorance of the world’s origin
God would impress on Job his utter ignorance of the world in which he lived, and his incompetency to interpret His moral administration. The moral is this--Be concerned, Job, for a moral trust in My character, rather than for a theoretical knowledge of My ways. In the text there is a Divine challenge in relation to the when and how of the origin of the world.
I. The when. His ignorance as to when He began His creation. “Where wast thou when I laid the foundation of the earth?”
II. The how. “Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?” Conclusion--The subject serves--
1. To rebuke all disposition to pronounce an opinion upon the ways of God.
2. To suggest that our grand effort ought to be to cultivate a loving trust in the Divine character, rather than to comprehend the Divine procedure. Comprehend Him we never can.
3. To enable us to appreciate the glorious services of Christianity. The question, “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?” confounds and crushes me. I feel powerless before it, it overwhelms me with a sense of my own insignificance. Christianity comes to my relief. It tells me that although I am insignificant, I am still a child, a beloved child of the Everlasting, and that it is not the will of my Father that any, even of His “little ones,” should perish; nay, that it is His good pleasure that I should have a kingdom. (Homilist.)
The insignificance of man as a creature
I. What is thine intellect to Mine?
II. What is thine age to Mine?
III. What is thy power to Mine?
IV. What is thy independence to Mine? He is--
1. Independent in being.
2. In action. This subject serves--
3. To enable us to appreciate the glorious service of Christianity. (Homilist.)
The creation of the world
I. Some leading ideas respecting the Divine work of creation. Notice--
1. The hoary and venerable antiquity of the work, and its entire independence of the power and wisdom of man. Many an upstart of yesterday imagines himself capable to investigate and define every subject. The questions of the text lead us to contemplate the creating work as mysterious and unsearchable.
II. The manner in which meditations on this work of creation may be most profitably conducted. Philosophers will afford delightful aid to the more studious observer of the universe. The grand philosophy is in the Bible, where resounds the voice of God Himself, describing His own operations. But there is still needed the specially illuminating influence of the Holy Spirit of God. This influence is to be sought by prayer, while the proper means are diligently used.
III. The important ends and uses to which meditations of this kind ought to be directed and applied. The agency of the Spirit is particularly manifest in sanctifying devout meditations to their proper end. By meditations properly conducted, a habit of spirituality is acquired, and an ability to bring the mind close to the contemplation of Divine things. Here is the porch of the temple of wisdom. There is the foot of the ladder, whereby the soul at length ascends to heaven. Nor is the utility of such meditations confined to the infancy of religious wisdom; it follows us up to the very gates of heaven, yea, into heaven itself. (J. Love, D. D.)
Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened?
The laying of the earth’s foundation stone
Our text brings before us a period long antecedent to the creation of man, when the first step was taken towards building up and furnishing this planet for the abode of its future inhabitants. The text brings before us the truth in a parable. The transactions of another sphere are represented in an image drawn from this, in order that our conceptions of the truth may be lively and intelligent. These parables are no mere plays of the fancy--they are founded upon real analogies. Earthly things are really a shadow of heavenly things. The ways of nature are a real type of the ways of grace. The dealings of men with one another are really and objectively a figure of God’s dealings with man. God here sets forth heavenly transactions under a figure, drawn from the laying of a foundation stone. To lay the first stone of a great building is in itself, however auspicious, a solemn event. The structure, whose foundations we are laying, will witness a great fluctuation of human interests, and be associated with some great and critical event, Suppose that the building be dedicated to the edification of man, or to the worship of the Most High God--a great seminary, for example, or a great church. Here our feelings of solemnity and awe would be far more largely tempered with joy. There is ground for rejoicing, inasmuch as the good which may reasonably be expected to result from the work which we are inaugurating, so vastly preponderates over the evil, which may be accidentally associated with it. The text carries us back to a period of thought, antecedent to the creation of man--to the period when the first substratum of the globe was laid--to the period, when by the operation of laws which it has taken man upwards of five thousand years to discover, this planet was poised in mid-air--a little ball in the midst of suns and systems innumerable, with infinite space stretching round it on all sides. Man existed not yet, nor the place of his habitation; but that intelligent and rational creatures existed, our text itself furnishes sufficient proof . . . Angels assisting at the foundation of the earth, and sending forth God’s high praises in jubilant strains of triumph--it is a grand subject of meditation. What were the grounds for their solemn rejoicing? Their knowledge of the earth’s destiny could not have been of a prophetic character. The earth might be regarded by them in reference either to its future inhabitants, or to God, or to the evil which had already found its way into the universe.
I. Its future inhabitants. It was to be the house of a great family, and the school of a great character.
1. It was designed for the abode of a race, and not merely of those two individuals who were first placed in solitude and innocence upon it; and the destinies of that race, as of the individuals composing it, would fluctuate.
2. It was to be the school of human character. Earth was to be a scene of probation and discipline. The creature who was to be formed upon it was to be susceptible of improvement and progress. If the creature have capacities for the infinite, while the sphere on which it moves is finite, this must prove that the sphere is only preparatory--an introduction to a higher stage.
II. To God. Earth was destined to be a temple of God, from every corner of which should ascend to Him continually the incense of praise--where He should signally manifest His glory, and develop His perfections.
III. To the strife with evil. Man should become a sinner, and alienate himself from God. Then arose this difficulty--How was this moral mischief to be repaired? (E. M. Goulburn, D. C. L.)
When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for Joy?
The song eternal
The mere creation of matter would be wonderful; but, to think that God put in that matter all that might be necessary for all that intelligent beings could desire, or think about, or need, for millions of years! God prepared the earth for millions of people upon it, and He prepared everything to meet their wants. These worlds have been long in being, but they have kept in motion all the time. And they keep time with each other; they have not come into collision. God marked out their pathway. I do not wonder the morning stars sang together, when they saw all this machinery set in motion. It is more wonderful as the ages roll on, for through all these years it keeps time, and the song is still sounding in the heaven. Shall we be less interested? The angels know God as their Creator, the wonderful God. They see His majesty, His power. But He comes near to us, and calls us children. Here our eyes see, our ears hear, and out hearts glow with admiration at what our Father has made--made for us. Sometimes, when I think of the heaven that He has given, just beyond all these worlds, I look through the worlds with joy, and I see something more glorious beyond; This song still goes on. The music is still rolling on over our heads. We do not hear it, but occasionally we get glimpses of the world that re-echoes with it . . . Christ was coming to suffer sorrow and death upon the earth. Why should the angels (at Bethlehem) be glad? If He came to suffer death, it was but to enter into His glory. The angels opened the doors, and welcomed Him up the pathway to the throne. The joy is perpetual. John had a vision of it in the Isle of Patmos. The angels sang at creation, and angels sang of dominion and glory; but there is a new song,--“Unto Him that loved us, and washed Us in His own blood,” etc. What a song! It is a song ever new, because there are new strains in it, new voices in it. (Bishop Simpson.)
The angels rejoicing at the creation of the world
Here is something that took place when our world was created, but not in our world. Heaven was the scene of it; and it is told us in order to carry up our thoughts to heaven, and make us better acquainted with it. In the text find--
I. Those spoken of in it. “Morning stars,” “Sons of God.” With a star we connect the ideas of brightness and beauty, but with a morning star, peculiar brightness and beauty. “My angels,” God says to us, “are morning stars.” Angels are not “sons” as the Everlasting Son is. They are called sons by mere grace and favour. The name shows the abundance of God’s love to them.
II. What these angels are said to have done. They sang. Singing is the language of happy feeling. They “sang together.” Here comes in the idea of union, harmony, oneness of feeling and joy, among these morning stars. God loves this oneness of feeling. They “shouted for joy.” This invests the figure with a sublimity and majesty.
III. The occasion for all this rejoicing. It was called forth by the creation of the world.
1. The joy of these angels was a joy of admiration. They sang together, because they were struck together with the beauty of the world.
2. It was a song of praise. Because the world discovered to them in every part of it the perfections of God. (C. Bradley, M. A.)
The joy of angels at the creation of the world
I. The persons, or beings, here spoken of. They must be the “angels,” those glorious spirits who were formed before the earth. For “sons of God” the Greek has, “all my angels”; and an ancient Jewish paraphrase has “all the armies of heaven.” The angels are called “morning stars” on account of their lustre, and the purity of their natures. In Scripture, persons of eminent stations are described as “stars.” They are called “sons of God,” because produced by Him, who is the Father of spirits, the Father of the whole family in heaven and earth. They may be so styled, because they resemble Him in their natures, partake of His Divine and glorious image; or they may be called His “sons” as men are.
II. What occasioned their joyful songs and shouts of praise?
1. The magnificence and beauty of the creation.
2. The glories of the Divine architect displayed in it.
3. They rejoiced on account of the uses for which the earth was designed. The angels are benevolent beings, and bear the image of God in love. Application--
Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further.
Drawing the line
Everybody draws the line somewhere or other.
1. The Lord Chancellor, speaking on the Burials Bill, remarked that we English people must draw the line as to the requirements of the religious ceremony in the churchyards of our country, by saying that it must be a Christian service. Every rational person will consent to that drawing of the line at the word “Christian,” by which I understand is meant a service which acknowledges God and a life beyond the grave.
2. We draw the line in giving evidence in Courts of Justice and in entering Parliament. A man cannot be believed and trusted unless he either takes an oath, or affirms that he will be truthful and faithful. It is absurd as well as insulting to an Englishman to make him swear that he is telling the truth; and I hope that, before long, in our courts of justice we shall simply affirm before giving evidence--“I promise, on my word of honour, to tell the truth.”
3. The line is also drawn in things of great social and moral importance. In questions of modesty. There are some books against which you have to draw the line of exclusion, and to say, “No, I draw the line at these books; they shall not enter my house.” It is right to draw the line somewhere. With all due deference to those who say, “To the pure all things are pure,” a line ought to be drawn in the admission of pictures to public exhibitions. A line ought to be drawn against such demoralising works of art, no matter if a prince were the artist. Draw the line too in your conversation. Do not join in any jokes or stories which go too far over the edge of modesty, but rebuke it in every shape and way. Modesty is woman’s sweetest glory, and man’s richest crown.
4. Draw the right line in the respect due one to another. Let us not respect a man for his money, but for his manhood.
5. Draw the right line in questions of religion. Not a line of intolerance and exclusiveness. Some people presumptuously draw a line around God’s heart; they encroach on the prerogative of God, saying that He cannot save every man. What a libel on God. (W. Birch.)
Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea?
or hast thou walked in the search of the depth?
What a fascination there is about a high tide! Passing through Manchester, I noticed that the railway company were running cheap trips to Blackpool, so that the people might witness the prevailing high tides. We love to see the triumphant march, to hear the shout of many waters. That there are similar tides “in the affairs of men” the greatest of poets noted long ago. Occasionally, or it may be only once, men are signally favoured by happy conjunctions of circumstances which send them bounding to a coveted haven. The politician achieves an extraordinary popularity, and exults that the flowing tide is with him; commercial men fondly recall years when the ships they sent for gold steadily and swiftly returned with propitious wind and wave. Usually the currents of life are sluggish. The spirit within us also has its spring tides, privileged periods when it transcends the dull levels of ordinary experience, when the billows of God lift it on high and it knows itself caught in irresistible currents of spiritual influence and grace. Most people know that oceanic tides are regulated by the sun and moon, and they know also that when these greater and lesser lights act in conjunction, as they do at new and full moon, the ebb and flow are each considerably increased, producing what we know as spring tides. The moon in her monthly revolution is at one time thousands of miles nearer the earth than she is at another; the sun also is nearer our earth in winter than in summer; and the highest tides are produced when the sun and moon both pull together at a time when each orb is in that part of its path nearest to the earth. The attraction of these orbs and their nearness to our planet have everything to do with the glorious tides we love to witness, although the crowd of trippers may not remember the firmamental cause. And thus the celestial universe governs the tides of the soul. We do not always remember the fact, but the eternal world acts directly upon our spirit, agitating it, setting in motion its faculties and forces, directing its currents to consequences of utmost blessing. There are hours and days when God comes specially near to us, as there are seasons when sun and moon approach near the earth, creating a majestic gathering of the waters. At those wonderful periods of spiritual visitation doubts are dissolved; we see clearly what at other times we miss or see but darkly; we conceive the thoughts and form the purposes which give new nobility to life. There is to the uninstructed mind much that is mysterious and inexplicable in the influence of the stars upon the tides which flow on our coasts, in consequence of the numerous complications--astronomical, meteorological, and geographical--which obscure the laws governing the tides. The greatest philosophers find it difficult, nay, impossible, to explain to the average man the wonderful phenomenon; and the action of the eternal world upon our spirit is a still greater mystery which none may comprehend or explain; but every spiritual man is assured of the fact, and has felt the rapture of extraordinary visitations of grace, when tides of spiritual influence surge through his heart and mind, making everything to live, move, and bloom. How precious are those days when God draws nigh to us, and our spirit is deeply moved! These rising and falling tides of emotion are in many ways most blessed. A soul like a duck pond is not the ideal state; our grandest days are those when mysterious effluences course through every artery of our being. They are days of purification. The mud and debris which would otherwise choke our rivers are cleansed by high tides. These high tides of blessing serve in another way; they free us from various injurious moods and habits which arise in ordinary life and which with ordinary grace we find almost impossible to overcome. Ways of thinking and acting, habits and associations that circumscribe us, that render us shallow, that may prove occasions of stagnation and shipwreck, are easily broken through and destroyed when a great tide of life surges through the soul. These days of spiritual effluxion are also days of power and attainment. What intellectual men strive after in vain during neap tides they reach splendidly in moments of inspiration. Pentecostal times are high-water marks, when the believer letting himself go is carried into higher, wider, and more satisfying experiences and attributes. These seasons of outpouring of love and grace, of pervading fulness, of vital influence penetrating the innermost recesses of the soul, are days of sweet and memorable delight. Andrew Bonar says, “I often cannot give praise or thanks in any words but those of such songs as ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty’!” These are the days of high tides. Blessed days when there is no surf, no mud bank, no weeds, no noxious sights or odours, but when, filled with the Spirit, everything evil is gone from us and everything human and temporal has become beautiful in the light of the Divine, as the tide racing up the beach turns the dull sand into yellow gold and the common pebbles into glittering gems. Let us beware lest in any way we impede the glorious flow when the Spirit comes in as a flood. Scientists teach that the observed tides do not correspond with the times of the moon’s setting, but that they are always behindhand by a greater or less interval. There is friction, such as is caused by currents flowing past the jagged edges of continents and islands, which more or less retard tidal action; and there is also the conflicting influence of contrary currents. And just so we may retard spiritual action by unbelief, worldliness, and unfaithfulness of life. Let us be sure that we get all that the great tides bring. All the purity they bring, until our soul is like the sea of the Apocalypse, glass mingled with fire. All the power they bring. Our scientists regret the wasted power of the tides, and anticipate the day when the energy now expending itself uselessly on our coasts will be utilised as a motive power. If we trifle away the strong, gracious impulses of God’s Spirit, our life will be bound in shallows and in miseries of weakness, depression, and failure; and many souls are so poor and unhappy because they have omitted to improve those precious visitations of extraordinary grace vouchsafed to all. We cannot tell when we shall be the subjects of these blessed and memorable visitations. Long experience and observation have enabled astronomers to overcome all the difficulties implied in solving the actual problem of the tides, and they put at the service of mariners and others accurate tables of tides and tidal currents, in addition to the times of high and low water for every part of the civilised world. But we cannot thus calculate the inflowing of the Divine tides upon the souls of men. All great artists and poets testify to the apparent arbitrariness of their inspiration. The heart is strangely warmed in an unexpected hour; the air suddenly becomes clear, and things unseen display themselves, with strong, commanding evidence. We cannot command these seasons; if we fail to improve them we cannot recall them. When “the set time to favour Zion” is come, there are unmistakable signs of the present Lord; when the “set time” to favour any soul is come, there are solemn and yet delightful agitations within that soul. Let us be tremulously alive to these tides which bear us out to God. If we are busy here and there, the Spirit will be gone and the infinite blessings of the full sea lost. (W. L. Watkinson.)
Have the gates of death been opened unto thee?
The gates of death
The allusion here is to the state which in the Hebrew is called Sheol, and in the Greek, Hades; which means the dark abode of the dead.
I. The mental darkness that enshrouds us. All the phenomena of the heavens, the earth, and the multiform operations of the Creator, referred to in this Divine address, were designed and fitted to impress Job with the necessary limitation of his knowledge, and the ignorance that encircled him on all questions; and the region of death is but one of the many points to which he is directed as an example of his ignorance. How ignorant are we of the great world of departed men! What a thick veil of mystery enfolds the whole! What questions often start within us to which we can get no satisfactory reply, either from philosophy or the Bible! I am thankful that we are left in ignorance--
1. Of the exact condition of each individual in that great and ever-growing realm. In general, the Bible tells us that the good are happy and the wicked miserable. This is enough. We would have no more light.
2. Of our exact proximity to the great realm of the departed. We would not have the day or the hour disclosed.
II. The solemn change that awaits us. “The gates” have not opened to us, but must.
1. The gates are in constant motion. No sooner are they closed to one, than another enters.
2. The gates open to all classes. There are gates to be only entered by persons of distinction.
3. The gates open only one way--into eternity.
4. The gates separate the probationary from the retributionary.
5. The gates are under supreme authority.
III. The wonderful mercy that preserves us.
1. We have always been near those gates.
2. Thousands have gone through since we began the journey of life.
3. We have often been made to feel ourselves near. In times of personal affliction; and in times of bereavement.
IV. The service christianity renders us.
1. It assures us there is life on the other side the gates.
2. It assures us there is blessedness on the other side the gates.
3. It takes away the instinctive repugnance we feel in stepping through those gates. “It delivers those who through fear of death are all their lifetime subject to bondage.” It takes the sting of death away, etc. (Homilist.)
The invisible gates
Nothing could well be conceived of as more truly sublime than the whole discourse of which the above quotation is a part. Job is convicted by the great Teacher both of ignorance and of weakness. How little did he know of the plans and workings of providence. Whithersoever he turned himself, he was surrounded with mystery. There was another state of being, too, over which clouds and darkness rested. It was a land from which no traveller had ever returned; a land of spiritual essences, and incorporeal natures alone. “Have the gates of death been opened unto thee?”
1. The metaphor suggests to us how ignorant we are of the period at which our mortal lives must terminate. Canst thou look into the secret chambers of the Almighty, and say which of the ten thousand ways of leaving this world, is the precise one thou shalt be under the necessity of taking? How often does the king of terrors take one and pass another by. The number of years we are to fill; the nature of the death we are to die; the spot where and the manner how; all are infallibly known to God; nay, were so long before we were born, or the earth itself was formed on which we dwell. From us these futurities are wisely and mercifully concealed. “Death’s thousand doors stand open” as the poet says, but through which of them we are to pass is only known unto Him who hath appointed to all flesh the bounds of their habitation.
2. The metaphor suggests to us that we are very much in the dark as to the nature of the invisible world. Canst thou clearly discern, through the opened gates, the condition of that world which lies beyond the present, the occupation of its inhabitants, the pursuits in which they are engaged, or the views they entertain? We know there is such a state. We are told it shall forever be well with the righteous, and ill with the wicked. But we are left very much in the dark as to particulars. Many curious and interesting questions naturally occur to a thinking and. Some think that from the moment the breath departs, all spiritual life and consciousness are suspended until the day of resurrection. But such a theory can easily be shown to be preposterous and untenable. All things go to prove that, as it is appointed unto all men once to die, so immediately after death cometh judgment, not the general judgment of the last day, but the particular judgment that shall pass on every individual.
3. The metaphor suggests that it becomes us to express ourselves with great caution when at any time we speak of the dead. There are two propositions of which we cannot be too confident.
1. The propriety of considering our latter end.
2. The folly of rash speculations upon the nature of the invisible world. What God has taught us, it becomes us diligently to ponder; what He has thought proper to conceal, let us religiously abstain from intermeddling with.
3. To see abundant cause of thankfulness to God for the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. What, but for this, must have been our future prospects? He who lay in mortal slumber in Joseph’s tomb has come back to tell that death shall be swallowed up in victory, and that they who believe on Him shall never perish. (J. L. Adamson.)
Gates of death
This world, and that which is to come, are thus scripturally connected on the border land. David came very near them once, yet broke out “Thou liftest me up from the gates of death.” Good Hezekiah into thanksgiving, said, “I shall go to the gates of the grave, using a more material form for the same idea. These “gates of death” spoken of in Job 38:17, Psalms 107:18, and Psalms 9:13, are synonymous with the “gates of hell,” spoken of by our Lord in Matthew 16:18, meaning the gates of Hades, or the vast regions of the unseen state. They are all at the terminus of life’s pilgrimage, and the believer who has passed through the “gates of righteousness,” spoken of in Psalms 118:19, when he approaches these amazing portals, may use the triumphant language of David, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors.” These gates, as John says, have names written thereon. Over the first is written--
1. Mystery. One pillar seems to rest on time, and the other on eternity, opening into the unknown, where from this side the deepest shadows lie; and some say, “There is nothing beyond”; others, “With what body do they come?” others, “What are their employments, company, and conditions?” and yet others, “Do they know us there, and can they visit us there?”
2. Change is written over another. To the most it opens as a surprise. On this side men say, “A man is dead,” and on the other, “A man is born.” As they go through, the old become young, the poor rich, the despised honourable, and the little great; so that all are not on the other side what they were on this.
3. Immortality is written upon the next, clearly read by the Christian, yet to the mass of mankind in the past, traceable only in shadowy hieroglyphics.
4. Infinity is another. Here all is rudimental--our works, successes, attainments, yet suggestive of immense possibilities, awakening curiosity, and animating to activity. Our field of action is here limited by the very conditions of our existence; yet with the barriers of sense removed, we shall have unlimited ideas of space, power, employment, knowledge, and progress.
5. Reward is the title of another, which will receive us into the presence of the King, saying, “My reward is with Me, and I will give unto every man as his work shall be”; rewards according to our works, and not for them, yet all the better because through the riches of His grace; every man in his own order, yet each compensated according to his capacity. There are those who shall be great in the kingdom of heaven, and others who shall be least. (J. Waugh.)
Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?
The treasures of the snow
I. The beauty of these “treasures.” The manifold pleasing forms shaped by the different objects on which it falls; the broad white coverlet of the expansive plain; the undulating hills; the mountain peaks, whose white vestures are seen afar off like interceding high priests. Suggesting to the spiritual eye the infinite resources at the command of the Creator, and the incomprehensible variety and fulness of moral splendours that lie folded up in His character and revelations.
II. The preserving and fructifying powers contained in these “treasures.” Their power to preserve vegetable life and make the soil richer for its temporary white shroud. Suggestions here arise of the Divine love and wisdom that visit the souls of men in the cold garb of sorrow and pain. The killing process is always one of pain in the human world; the analogy of which, without the pain, we have in the vegetable kingdom. The snow kills and destroys. So does pain and sorrow; but it kills only those influences that are opposed to the life and fruitfulness of after-growths. Are not the purposes of affliction equally beneficial? What a garden of spices has the heart become through some cold and biting winter’s visitation of sorrow!
III. There is, then, a purging and purifying power in these treasures of the snow. In moral and spiritual discipline we have seen this to be the case. But have we “entered into” the truth that lies still deeper, and is vital to all soul purifying? Where shall we look for the power to stay the death weeds of sin, and the world’s widespread guilt, if we discover it not in the power that is beautifully typified by the Psalmist in the snow? “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalms 51:7). God’s “treasures” of wisdom, and knowledge, and salvation, are locked up in Him who, in His love and humiliation, spread the mantle of His torn flesh over the world’s festering evil. And out of the death has come the world’s life--purity, peace, hope, radiant with celestial plumage.
IV. What silent forces belong to the snow! During the quiet hours of night, it falls--falls--falls--so softly, so stealthily, that its descent does not disturb even the invalid’s slumbers; but as we look out in the morning dawn we see broad acres covered with high heaps of compact snow. What busy hands and noisy machinery would be needed to convey a one thousandth part of what you see from your window, from one locality to another, within the same space of time that elapsed during its fall! And how would the chaste and fleecy material be spoilt by the transit, no longer pure as it came from its heavenly birthplace. The Church needs, with its soul eye, to “enter into” this lesson of the “treasures” of silent forces. The disciples of the Master have too long been making a great deal of noise in the discharge of their mission, and in many cases substituting the noise for the work. The true workers are a silent band who in much prayer and few words, with Christlike examples and little interest in verbal creeds, whose voices are seldom heard in the streets, and whose names are seldom announced in the papers, are, nevertheless, among the real moral and spiritual forces of the world.
V. Have we considered, in the hour of our great bereavements, the “treasures” of consolation suggested by the snow? What a springtide of immortal splendours will yet issue from the human seeds that lie covered over by the cold pall of death! In the light of the resurrection we sometimes feel very rich in the “treasures” of which death has made us conscious,--“the roses that are to come out of the snow.” (The Study.)
Hast thou seen the treasures of the hail?--
The treasures of the hail
This description would serve to impress upon Job the truth that all natural forces are rigidly under God’s control. There are no chance whirlwinds, or lightnings, or snow, or hail storms; all are in His hands. The forces that had stricken Job and his family to the ground were part of God’s well-ordered host. This being so, all these forces exist and act for the highest ends. They fight God’s battles, and are ministers of His glory. So we have a clear assertion of two truths.
I. The supernaturalness of physical forces. Modern science tends to habituate us to regard the world as a machine, the play of blind forces, requiring no explanation beyond its own nexus of causes and effects. Our text contains a far grander and more inspiring conception, telling us that the profoundest fact in creation is not “law,” but “life.” Natural laws are the expression of the Divine life, but do not exhaust it.
II. The ethical end of physical forces. They are God’s warriors, treasured up for the day of battle. And what does God fight for? That He may universalise the kingdom of love, that He may see in the world as in a perfect mirror His own image. Clearly, then, creation is not a dull round of cause and effect, perpetual motion without a meaning. Nay, it is all set in the kingdom of love. Love lights the stars, and speeds them on their way. The treasured snow and haft fight for the kingdom of love, or else they would cease to be treasured up. For everything that will not help to bring in the reign of love shall perish. The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain, waiting for the glory of the sons of God. (Anon.)
Against the day of battle and war.
War from heaven
In some parts of Scripture Jehovah is represented descending in clouds and tempests, and fixing for Himself in the air a tent or pavilion, where the elementary forces attend and receive commissions and arms for the service in which each meteor, or element, is to be employed (Psalms 18:1-50).
I. The treasures in the armoury of Jehovah.
1. Treasures of snow and hail. That vapour, ascending from the earth, and floating over our heads in the air, descends in small white flakes, is a sensible truth; but how the particles of vapour condense and adhere, how they assume the shape, and colour, and quality of snow, are questions too high for us, and must be resolved into the will and power of God. Hail, as a body of condensed vapour, is well known. Dreadful is the execution which it has done among the enemies of the Lord (Exodus 9:25; Joshua 10:11).
2. The air is the storehouse where snow and hail are collected and laid up. This magnificent fabric, the dimensions of which are unknown, is a glorious effect of the wisdom and power of the great Builder. Storey is founded upon storey, and sphere raised over sphere. At God’s command every exhalation appears, and without resisting His will, assumes the shape and fills the place which He hath appointed.
3. The treasures of snow and hail are under the care and direction of the Lord of heaven and earth. Over these His power is unlimited, and in and by these He doth whatsoever pleaseth Him.
4. These treasures are inaccessible to man. Are there secrets in the air which we cannot discover, and operations in that storehouse of vapour which we are not able to explain; then why do men of penetration stumble at mysteries in religion, or reject truths which God has revealed, because these are not comprehensible by reason? “Canst thou find out the Almighty to perfection?”
II. The time of trouble and the day of battle and war. There may indeed be trouble when there is not war, but a day of war is always a time of trouble.
1. Rebellion is the cause of these operations. The existence of rebellion “against the Lord, the God of the whole earth, cannot be denied. Enemies and rebels are the real characters of multitudes in this generation.
2. These operations are penal operations, or punishments of rebellion against the laws of His kingdom.
3. These operations of Divine wrath and power are just and holy proceedings against the rebellious.
III. The reservation of the snow and the hail in the treasures of the Lord. In the expression there is a greatness becoming the majesty of the Speaker, and the state and grandeur of the Sovereign. The following particulars will help us to understand the sublime expression which the Lord of all uses concerning His operations.
1. The vapour, which fills the treasures of the snow and the hail, is raised, collected, condensed, and stored by the power of God.
2. The treasures, which are filled and stored by the power of God, are poised and balanced by His wisdom. These wondrous works are executed according to a determined and preconceived plan.
3. The snow and the hail are detained in the treasures until the time of trouble, and the day of battle and war. Inferences--
To cause it to rain on the earth.
Rain and grace-a comparison
We shall work out a parallel between grace and rain.
I. God alone giveth rain and the same is true of grace. We say of rain and of grace,--God is the sole author of it. He devised and prepared the channel by which it comes to earth. He hath “divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters.” The Lord makes a way for grace to reach His people. He directs each drop, and gives each blade of grass its own drop of dew,--to every believer his portion of grace. He moderates the force, so that it does not beat down or drown the tender herb. Grace comes in its own gentle way. Conviction, enlightenment, etc., are sent in due measure. He holds it in His power. Absolutely at His own will does God bestow either rain for the earth, or grace for the soul.
II. Rain falls irrespective of men and so does grace. Grace waits not man’s observation. As the rain falls where no man is, so grace courts not publicity. Nor his cooperation. It “tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men” (Micah 5:7). Nor his prayers. Grass calls not for rain, yet it comes. “I am found of them that sought Me not” (Isaiah 65:1). Nor his merits. Rain falls on the waste ground.
III. Rain falls where we might least have expected it. It falls where there is no trace of former showers, even upon the desolate wilderness; so does grace enter hearts which had hitherto been unblest, where great need was the only plea which rose to heaven (Isaiah 35:7). It falls where there seems nothing to repay the boon. Many hearts are naturally as barren as the desert (Isaiah 35:6). It falls where the need seems insatiable; “to satisfy the desolate.” Some cases seem to demand an ocean of grace; but the Lord meets the need; and His grace falls where the joy and glory are all directed to God by grateful hearts. Twice we are told that the rain falls “where no man is.” When conversion is wrought of the Lord, no man is seen: the Lord alone is exalted.
IV. This rain is most valued by life.
1. The rain gives joy to seeds and plants in which there is life. Budding life knows of it; the tenderest herb rejoices in it; so is it with those who begin to repent, who feebly believe, and thus are just alive.
2. The rain causes development. Grace also perfects grace. Buds of hope grow into strong faith. Buds of feeling expand into love. Buds of desire rise to resolve. Buds of confession come to open avowal. Buds of usefulness swell into fruit.
3. The rain causes health and vigour of life. Is it not so with grace?
4. The rain creates the flower with its colour and perfume, and God is pleased. The full outgrowth of renewed nature cometh of grace, and the Lord is well pleased therewith. Application--Let us acknowledge the sovereignty of God as to grace. Let us cry to Him for grace. Let us expect Him to send it though we may feel sadly barren, and quite out of the way of the usual means of grace. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Wherein there is so man.--
Fertility of uninhabited part of the earth
A distinguished naturalist, who is a Fellow of the Royal Society, describes how such a mistaken idea was corrected in his experience. Once he was pushing his way through a dense and tangled thicket in a lone and lofty region of Jamaica. Suddenly he came upon the most magnificent terrestrial orchid, in full bloom, which he had ever seen. It was a noble plant, crowned with the pyramidal spike of lily-like flowers, whose expanding petals seemed to his ravished gaze the very perfection of beauty. Then he began to reflect how long that exquisite plant had been growing in a wild, unvisited spot, every season filling the air around with its glory, and yet it could never have met a human gaze before. “To what purpose is this waste?” he asks himself. But ere long the true reply entered his mind. “Speak not of waste! Can man alone admire beauty? Can man alone exult in it? Surely the eye of the Lord rests with delight on the perfect work of His hands, on the apt expression of His own sublime thought!”
Hath the rain a father?
The weather provider
Two ships meet mid-Atlantic. The one is going to Southampton and the other is coming to New York. Provide weather that, while it is abaft for one ship, it is not a head wind for the other. There is a farm that is dried up for the lack of rain, and here is a pleasure party going out for a field excursion. Provide weather that will suit the dry farm and the pleasure excursion. No, sirs, I will not take one dollar of stock in your weather company. There is only one Being in the universe who knows enough to provide the right kind of weather for this world. “Hath the rain a father?” (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
Who hath begotten the drops of dew?--
Dew is moisture dropped from the atmosphere upon the earth. During the daytime the earth both receives and returns heat; but after sunset it no longer receives, and yet it continues for a time to throw off the heat it has received. In a little while the grass, flowers, and foliage are quite cool; yet the atmosphere still retains the heat of the day, which, as the evening grows cooler, it gradually deposits on the earth beneath. This deposit is dew. How wise and wonderful are the ways of God! The effects of dew are like the influence we exert over one another.
1. Dew is powerful. There are some countries, or parts of them, whose vegetation almost entirely depends on the dew. Ahab was heavily punished when told that for three years there should be no rain, and the punishment was greatly increased by the withdrawal of the dew as well. Similarly the power we exert over one another is very great.
2. The dew is perfectly silent. So is influence. You cannot hear the sun rise, the snow fall, or the corn grow. The greatest powers in nature are silent. Our influence, be it sweet or sour, is slipping out from us every hour, and we are all making the world a better or a worse place for living in every day.
3. The dew is very precious. When Isaac gave his dying blessing to his boys, he prayed, “God give thee of the dew of heaven.” Even so influence, good influence, is very precious. I believe more good is wrought by quiet influence than by all the talking.
4. Last of all, let us remember, the dew soon passes away. Hoses complains that the “goodness of Israel goeth away as the early dew.” That is to say, the dew is quickly dried up unless absorbed by the flowers and grass, just as influence is soon forgotten unless obeyed. (J. C. Adlard.)
And the hoary frost of heaven, who hath tendered it?--In the 38th chapter of that inspired drama the Book of Job, God says to the inspired dramatist, with ecstatic interrogation, “The hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it?” God there asks Job if he knows the parentage of the frost. He inquires about its pedigree. He suggests that Job study up the frost’s genealogical line. A minute before God had asked about the parentage of a raindrop in words that years ago gave me a suggestive text for a sermon: “Hath the rain a father?” But now the Lord Almighty is catechising Job about the frost. He practically says, “Do you know its father? Do you know its mother In what cradle of the leaves did the wind reek it? ‘The hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it?’“ He is a stupid Christian who thinks so much of the printed and bound Bible that he neglects the Old Testament of the fields, nor reads the wisdom and kindness and beauty of God written in blossoms on the orchard, in sparkles on the lake, in stars on the sky, in frost on the meadows. (T. De Witt Talmage.)
Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?
Who can “bind” or “restrain” the light? The subject before us is the self-revealing power of the Gospel. Men may love darkness, but they cannot hide the advent of light, and can never be, in conscience and accountability, as if they had not seen the light. Evil men may wish the Christ out of the world, but they cannot hide His glory. All Christian light, whether its medium be teaching, or character, or life, or conversation, cannot be restrained. We cannot tell where influence reaches. It may leap forth long after we have finished our course. Men being dead, yet speak to us; facts in their history are disentombed, and we receive the light of their fidelity and heroism.
I. The light of Pleiades in a human sense. What the world wants is more light--the light of love. That sweetens all relationships, and is the only cement of all classes in our crowded communities. Love is the light of the universe. Let the rosy beams of affection shine in the character, its potent charm will be as irresistible as is the health-giving, gladdening light.
II. The light of the Pleiades in a Divine sense. Love is never impotent--never doubtful of its triumph. Our Saviour never distrusted the issues of the Cross. While men are questioning about Him, His influences are going forth. Sin, grief, and death are still here. But men cannot take Christ out of the world.
III. The light of the Pleiades in a historic sense. Light does not die. The great influence of the reformers will never be lost. You cart bind mere opinion; you can bind mere ecclesiasticism; you cannot bind the renewed Christlike soul.
IV. The light of the Pleiades in a personal influence sense. Words live long after their authors have uttered them. Deeds are vital long after great empires have passed away. Words and deeds go through the electric chain of schools, and families, and churches. None can bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades at home or abroad. (W. M. Statham.)
The Pleiades are a constellation, or group of seven stars, seen in the astronomical sign Taurus, making their appearance in the spring, and thence called spring signs, or tokens. The Hebrew term is expressive of beauty. In the text, the word translated “bind” signifies to compel or constrain. “Canst thou compel the sweet influences of the Pleiades, or loosen the bands of Orion?” (winter). Canst thou force forward the spring, and abruptly break up the rigidity of winter?
I. How absolute is the rule of the most high in the natural world. Can man alter the Divine dispensations, or so much as either hasten or delay them? Let us mark our absolute dependence, and humble ourselves before the Almighty Ruler.
II. He who rules in the kingdom of nature rules also in that of providence. The events of life are no less under His control than are the stars in their courses. Canst thou compel or retain the sweet influences of prosperity; or canst thou loosen the bands of adversity? All our comfort and satisfaction, whether of a bodily or mental kind, is received from Him; and, when He pleases, is in a moment wrested from us. Joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain, come and go at His command. It is true that men themselves, being free and intelligent creatures, do by their character and conduct modify and influence their fate and fortune; but this they do only in accordance with the laws of providence, How important it is that we should be earnest and faithful in improving the varying dispensations of providence which are successively appointed for our trial.
III. He who rules in nature and providence rules also in the kingdom of grace. If we look within, we shall find new proofs of our ignorance and weakness, and absolute dependence on the Author of our being. Can you loose the bands of guilt, or compel the sweet influences of pardoning mercy? God only can remit our offences; and the means He has employed for this end, in the incarnation, sufferings, and death of His own dear Son, afford the clearest demonstration of the foolishness of human wisdom, and the impotence of human power in this high concern. (H. Grey, D. D.)
Delightful influences of spring tide
The Pleiades are a well-known cluster of stars in the constellation of Taurus. The ancients were in the habit of determining their seasons by the rising and setting of certain constellations. The Pleiades were regarded as the cardinal constellations of spring. These seven stars appear about the middle of April, and hence are associated with the return of spring, the season of sweet influences. The Hebrew word is derived from a word signifying delights. The influences of spring are delightful in many ways--
I. As temporal ministries. These influences come to bring great blessings to man, as a tenant of the earth.
1. Supplies of food. They come to mollify the earth, fertilise the soil, germinate the seed out of which come the material provisions for man and beast.
2. Pleasures to the senses. Spring mantles the world with a thousand robes of beauty, all with endless variety of hue and shape.
3. Exhilarates the spirit. The influences of spring are delightful--
II. As Divine manifestations. Spring tide is a new revelation of God. It reveals--
1. The profusion of His vital energy. Every spot teems with a new existence, and every new life is from Him.
2. The wonderful tastefulness of God. Spring brings a universe of fresh beauties to the eye.
3. The calm ease with which He works. How quietly He pours forth those oceans of new life that are now rolling over the earth.
4. The regularity of His procedure. For 6000 years spring has never failed to come.
III. As instructive emblems.
1. Spring is an emblem of human life. Both have vast capabilities of improvement. Both are remarkably changeable. Both are fraught with fallacious promises.
2. Spring is an emblem of spiritual renovation.
Influence and power
The Pleiades was looked upon as the constellation of spring; Orion, of winter. “The sweet influences of the Pleiades” were the life forces which caused the grass to spring, the plant to grow, and the flower to bloom. “The bands of Orion” were made of ice. They only could bind the sweet influences of spring; spring only, at its return, could loose them. Nothing but silent influence is strong enough to overcome silent influence. The greatest forces in this world are those which work, like the warmth of spring and the cold of winter, in silence. There is, in every man’s life, spring and winter; and there is war between them. In this world good influence has all the time to do battle with bad influence. A legend says that after the battle of Chalons the spirits of the slain soldiers continued the conflict for several days. And after we are dead, the silent, invisible influences we have brought into being will continue their battle for good or evil. Theodore Parker spoke a great truth when, dying in Italy, he said, “There are two Theodore Parkers; one of them is dying in Italy; the other I have planted in America, and it will continue to live.” We have, in spite of ourselves, an immortality upon earth. So far from blotting us out, death often intensifies our personality. But in Christianity there is more than influence. “Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.” Influence is the sum total of all the forces in our lives--mental, moral, financial, social. Power is God at work. “All power is given unto Me in heaven and earth. Go ye therefore and make disciples, and lo, I am with you.” God does not delegate power. He goes along with us, and exerts that power Himself. Christian influences are not sufficient for the needs of the Church. The success of the Gospel at first did not depend upon influence. The only time the word is used in the Bible is in this text from Job. The apostles were not men of influence. Few disciples were made from the influential classes, and as soon as made, they lost by their faithfulness most of the influence they had before. Christ did not choose to become a man of influence. God hath chosen power rather than influence. Mere influence never converted a soul. The Spirit can, of course, use influences. Influence without the Spirit never saved anybody. We should seek power even at the expense of influence. There is such a thing as gaining and retaining influence over a person in such a way as to lose all power with God. And there is such a thing as losing influence while we gain power. Paul had a good opportunity for gaining influence with Felix by flattering him in his sins, and could have made a splendid impression for himself by such a course. But as he gained influence with Felix, he would have lost power with God. He chose power before influence, and “reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come” till Felix trembled under the hand of God. Paul and Silas did not have influence enough to keep them out of jail, but there was power enough with them to shake the old jail open. By a compromising course they might have pleased the authorities, and kept out of prison, but they would have lost all power. The disciples at Pentecost had little influence. They were the followers of One who had been crucified as a malefactor. The doctrines He preached were very unpopular. But they had power, and Christians with power can get along without much influence. If they had depended upon influence they would have set about the building of such houses and the establishment of such institutions as would have promoted it. All this would have taken time. Influences, like the forces of spring, work slowly. Power works suddenly. Not evolution, but revolution, was the effect of power at Pentecost. Not a word have I to say, let me repeat, against the use of all influences for good. What I insist upon is, that this world is not going to be converted by influences. (A. G. Dixon, D. D.)
The isolated group of the “Seven Stars,” from the singularity of its appearance, has been distinguished and designated by an appropriate name from the earliest ages. The learned priests of Belus carefully observed its risings and settings nearly two thousand years before the Christian era. By the Greeks it was called Pleiades, from the word pleein, to sail, because it indicated the time when the sailor might hope to undertake a voyage with safety. It was also called Vergiliae, from ver, the spring, because it ushered in the mild vernal weather, favourable to farming and pastoral employments. The Greek poets associated it with that beautiful mythology which, in its purest form, peopled the air, the woods, and the waters with imaginary beings, and made the sky itself a concave mirror, from which came back exaggerated ideal reflections of humanity. The seven stars were supposed to be the seven daughters of Atlas, by Pleione, one of the Oceanides--placed in the heavens after death. Their names are Alcyone, Merope, Main, Electra, Taygeta, Asterope, and Celaeno. They were all united to the immortal gods, with the exception of Merope, who married Sisyphus, King of Corinth, and whose star, therefore, is dim and obscure among her sisters. The “lost Pleiad,” the “sorrowing Merope,” has long been a favourite shadowy creation of the poetic dream. But an interest deeper than any derived from mythical association or classical allusion, is connected with this group of stars by the use made of it in Scripture. I believe that in the apparently simple and passing allusion to it in Job, lies hid the germ of one of the greatest of physical truths--a germ lying dormant and concealed in the pages of Scripture for ages, but now brought into air and sunlight by the discoveries of science, and developing flowers and fruit of rare value and beauty. If our translators have correctly identified the group of stars to which they have given the familiar name of Pleiades--and we have every reason to confide in their fidelity--we have a striking proof here afforded to us of the perfect harmony that exists between the revelations of science and those of the Bible--the one illustrating and confirming the other. So far as Job was concerned, the question, “Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades?” might have referred solely to what was then the common belief--namely, that the genial weather of spring was somehow caused by the peculiar position of the Pleiades in the sky at that season; as if God had simply said, “Canst thou hinder or retard the spring?” It remained for modern science to make a grander and wider application of it, and to show in this, as in other instances, that the Bible is so framed as to expand its horizon with the march of discovery--that the requisite stability of a moral rule is, in it, most admirably combined with the capability of movement and progress. If we examine the text in the original, we find that the Chaldaic word translated in our version Pleiades is Chimah, meaning literally a hinge, pivot, or axle, which turns round and moves other bodies along with it. Now, strange to say, the group of stars thus characterised has recently been ascertained by a series of independent calculations--in utter ignorance of the meaning of the text--to be actually the hinge or axle round which the solar system revolves. It was long known as one of the most elementary truths of astronomy, that the earth and the planets revolve around the sun; but the question recently began to be raised among astronomers, “Does the sun stand still, or does it move round some other object in space, carrying its train of planets and their satellites along with it in its orbit?” Attention being thus specially directed to this subject, it was soon found that the sun had an appreciable motion, which tended in the direction of a lily-shaped group of small stars, called the constellation of Hercules. Towards this constellation the stars seem to be opening out; while at the opposite point of the sky their mutual distances are apparently diminishing--as if they were drifting away, like the foaming wake of a ship, from the sun’s course. When this great physical truth was established beyond doubt, the next subject of investigation was the point or centre round which the sun performed this marvellous revolution: and after a series of elaborate observations, and most ingenious calculations, this intricate problem was also satisfactorily solved--one of the greatest triumphs of human genius. M. Madler, of Dorpat, found that Alcyone, the brightest star of the Pleiades, is the centre of gravity of our vast solar system--the luminous hinge in the heavens, round which our sun and his attendant planets are moving through space. The very complexity and isolation of the system of the Pleiades, exhibiting seven distinct orbs closely compressed to the naked eye, but nine or ten times that number when seen through a telescope--forming a grand cluster, whose individuals are united to each other more closely than to the general mass of stars--indicate the amazing attractive energy that must be concentrated in that spot. Vast as is the distance which separates our sun from this central group--a distance thirty-four millions of times greater than the distance between the sun and our earth--yet so tremendous is the force exerted by Alcyone, that it draws our system irresistibly around it at the rate of 422,000 miles a day, in an orbit which it will take many thousands of years to complete. With this new explanation, how remarkably striking and appropriate does the original word for Pleiades appear! What a lofty significance does the question of the Almighty receive from this interpretation! “Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades?” Canst thou arrest, or in any degree modify, that attractive influence which it exerts upon our sun and all its planetary worlds, whirling them round its pivot in an orbit of such inconceivable dimensions, and with a velocity so utterly bewildering? Silence the most profound can be the only answer to such a question. Man can but stand afar off, and in awful astonishment and profound humility exclaim with the Psalmist, “O Lord my God, Thou art very great!” (Hugh Macmillan, D. D.)
This cluster of stars--the Kesil of the ancient Chaldeans--is by far the most magnificent constellation in the heavens. Its form must be familiar to everyone who has attentively considered the nocturnal sky. It resembles the rude outline of a gigantic human figure. By the Greek mythologists, Orion was supposed to be a celebrated hunter, superior to the rest of mankind in strength and stature, whose mighty deeds entitled him after death to the honours of an apotheosis. The Orientals imagined him to be a huge giant who, Titan-like, had warred against God, and was therefore bound in chains to the firmament of heaven; and some authors have conjectured that this notion is the origin of the history of Nimrod, who, according to Jewish tradition, instigated the descendants of Noah to build the Tower of Babel. The constellation of Orion is composed of four very bright stars, forming a quadrilateral, higher than it is broad, with three equidistant stars in a diagonal line in the middle. The two upper stars, called Betelgeux and Bellatrix, form the shoulders; in the middle, immediately above these, are three small, dim stars, close to each other, forming the cheek or head. These stars are distinctly visible only on a very clear night; and this circumstance may have given rise to the old fable that (Enopion, King of Chios,--whose daughter Orion demanded in marriage,--put out his eyes as he lay asleep on the seashore, and that he recovered his sight by gazing upon the rising sun from the summit of a neighbouring hill. The constellation is therefore represented by the poets, as groping with blinded eyes all round the heavens in search of the sun. The feet are composed of two very bright stars, called Rigel and Saiph; the three stars in the middle are called the belt or girdle, and from them depends a stripe of smaller stars, forming the hunter’s sword. The whole constellation, containing seventeen stars to the naked eye, but exhibiting seventy-eight in an ordinary telescope, occupies a large and conspicuous position in the southern heavens, below the Pleiades; and is often visible, owing to the brightness and magnitude of its stars, when all other constellations, with the exception of the Plough, are lost in the mistiness of night. In this country it is seen only a short space above the horizon, along whose ragged outline of dark hills its starry feet may be observed for many nights in the winter, walking in solitary grandeur. It attains its greatest elevation in January and February, and disappears altogether during the summer and autumn months. In Mesopotamia it occupies a position nearer the zenith, and therefore is more brilliant and striking in appearance. Night after night it sheds down its rays with mystical splendour over the lonely solitudes through which the Euphrates flows, and where the tents of the patriarch of Uz once stood. Orion is not only the most striking and splendid constellation in the heavens, it is also one of the few clusters that are visible in all parts of the habitable world. The equator passes through the middle of it; the glittering stars of its belt being strung, like diamonds, on its invisible line. In the beginning of January, when it is about the meridian, we obtain the grandest display of stars which the sidereal heavens in this country can exhibit. The ubiquity of this constellation may have been one of the reasons why it was chosen to illustrate God’s argument with Job, in a book intended to be read universally. When the Bible reader of every clime and country can go out in the appropriate season, and find in his own sky the very constellation and direct his gaze to the very peculiarity in it, to which the Creator alluded in His mysterious converse with Job, he has no longer a vague, indefinite idea in his mind, but is powerfully convinced of the reality of the whole circumstance, while his feelings of devotion are deepened and intensified. The three bright stars which constitute the girdle or bands of Orion never change their form; they preserve the same relative position to each other, and to the rest of the constellation, from year to year, and age to age. They afford to us one of the highest types of immutability in the midst of ceaseless changes. (Hugh Macmillan, D. D.)
Interrogations humble pride
The probability is that Job had been tempted to arrogance by his vast attainments. He was a metallurgist, a zoologist, a poet, and shows by his writings he had knowledge of hunting, of music, of husbandry, of medicine, of mining, of astronomy, and perhaps was so far ahead of the scholars and scientists of his time, that he may have been somewhat puffed up. Hence this interrogation of my text. And there is nothing that so soon takes down human pride as an interrogation point rightly thrust. Christ used it mightily. Paul mounted the parapet of his great arguments with such a battery. Men of the world understand it. Demosthenes began his speech on the crown, and Cicero his oration against Catiline, and Lord Chatham his most famous orations with a question. The empire of ignorance is so much vaster than the empire of knowledge that after the most learned and elaborate disquisition upon any subject of sociology or theology the plainest man may ask a question that will make the wisest speechless. After the profoundest assault upon Christianity the humblest disciple may make an inquiry that would silence a Voltaire. Called upon, as we all are at times, to defend our holy religion, instead of argument that can always be answered by argument, let us try the power of interrogation. (T. De Witt Talmage.)
The “sweet influences” of life
My text called Job and calls us to consider “the sweet influences.” We put too much emphasis upon the acidities of life, upon the irritations of life, upon the disappointments of life. Ammianus Marcellinus said that Chaldea was, in olden times, overrun with lions, but many of them lost their power because the great swamps produced many gnats, that would get into the eyes of the lions, and the lions, to free themselves of the gnats, would claw their own eyes out, and then starve. And in our time many a lion has been overcome by a gnat. The little, stinging annoyances of life keep us from appreciating the sweet influences. And how many of these last there are t Sweet influences of home, sweet influences of the wife of friendship, of our holy religion. Of all the sweet influences that have ever blessed the earth those that radiate from Christ are the sweetest. (T. De Witt Talmage.)
Influence cannot be restrained
You are in no danger of overestimating your influence upon others. The real danger lies in the other direction. You influence others and mould their characters and destinies for time and for eternity far more extensively than you imagine. The whole truth in this matter might flatter you; it would certainly astonish you if you could once grasp it in its full proportions. It was a remark of Samuel J. Mills that “No young man should live in the nineteenth century without making his influence felt around the globe.” At first thought that seems a heavy contract for any young man to take. As we come to apprehend more clearly the immutable laws of God’s moral universe, we find that this belting of the globe by His influence is just what every responsible being does--too often, alas, unconsciously. You have seen the telephone, that wonderful instrument which so accurately transmits the sound of the human voice so many miles. How true it is that all these wonderful modern inventions are only faint reflections of some grand and eternal law of the moral universe of God! God’s great telephone--I say it reverently--is everywhere, filling earth and air and sea, and sending round the world with unerring accuracy, and for a blessing or a curse, every thought of your heart, every word that falls thoughtfully or thoughtlessly from your lips, and every act you do. It is time you awoke to the conviction that, whether you would have it so or not, your influence is worldwide for good or for evil. Which? (Peter Pounder.)
is as powerful as material gravitation, and if, as my text teaches, and science confirms, the Pleiades, which are 422,000 miles from our earth, influence the earth, we ought to be impressed with how we may be influenced by others far away back, and how we may influence others far down the future. That rill away up amongst the Alleghenies, so thin that you think it will hardly find its way down the rocks, becomes the mighty Ohio rolling into the Mississippi and roiling into the sea. That word you utter, that deed you do, may augment itself as the years go by, until rivers cease to roll, and the ocean itself shall be dried up in the burning of the world. Paul, who was all the time saying important things, said nothing more startlingly suggestive than when he declared, “None of us liveth or dieth to himself.” Words, thoughts, actions, have an eternity of flight. As Job could not bind the sweet influences of the Seven Stars, as they were called, so we cannot arrest or turn aside the good projected long ago. Those influences were started centuries before our cradle was rocked, and will reign centuries after our graves are dug. Oh, it is a tremendous thing to live. (T. De Witt Talmage.)
Canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons?
The fourth “canst”
To perceive what we can do, on the one hand, and what we cannot do, on the other, is to hold the key of success. Canst thou? The oft-repeated question is introspective. Inward to the thoughts, backward to the source. It is well to add that the word “canst” runs through the whole of this penultimate section of the Book of Job. The word is not absent from the earlier chapters; but as you approach the end, this and kindred queries, such as “Knowest thou?” “Hast thou?” etc., appear with ever-increasing frequency. To put it somewhat plainer, it is God revealing job to himself--both in what he can and cannot be or do, and then leading him to find rest and refuge in another, grander fact: “I know that Thou canst do everything” (Job 42:2). Our Bible abounds in pronouns: the “thou” of this verse is a sample. Oh! star-crowded sky, full of messages, full of God! thou art speaking to me, and thy words go right down into my heart. From every corner of that celestial map God’s heralds proclaim His Word. High up in the northern heavens the Seven Stars, brightest of which shineth Alcyone, speaking for north and eastern sky, and regarded as the centre of the solar system, saith to man: “Canst thou bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades?” Then, from the southern quarter, that large constellation, belted by three fixed stars, repeats God’s own question: “Canst thou . . . loose the bands of Orion?” The third “canst” is from the Zodiac, such it is believed we find in the Mazzaroth of the former clause of the text. Thus do we lead up to, and the better understand, the connection of the last of these “cansts.” Arcturus is a constellation familiar to us alike under the name of the “Plough,” or “Charles’s Wain.” Job makes reference to this along with the other groups in the ninth chapter. There he speaks of God as the Maker of these various luminaries, now that God is giving him further instruction on the very same matter. We may well ask the meaning of the words “Arcturus with his sons.” Mythology gives the answer. Arcturus is named from Arcas. Arcas had three sons. The constellation known as the Great Bear, and styled the glory of the northern hemisphere, has a star in the tail part called Arcturus, its very name meaning Bear Tail. It rises in the autumn, and is the precursor of tempest. The sons of Arcturus are placed in the group as three stars, somewhat similarly to Orion’s belt. Are you able to guide? That is what this fourth “canst” inquires. In doing so it reminds us of the regulative influences of life.
I. The regulative influences of life affecting a deep-seated human desire. This last “canst” appeals to us even more forcibly than each or all of the other three. In some particulars it includes them, for to guide is more or less to bind and loose, check and restrain, while leading out and urging on. But even when we have no great desire to restrain influences that are operative, or to loose those that are imprisoned, and bring them into play--we have the wish to guide, arrange, and direct those already and at present in action. In its own domain such desire is quite legitimate. Its absence, indeed, would be a surprise and disappointment. Have you the guiding power? I am sure you want to say yes. I am sure you have the hope that, aided by Divine wisdom and supported by Divine grace, you can make your way through life, well and wisely. Lovers of change are ever “idly busy,” seeking to rearrange the plans of others, and have their fingers in and over all that they can. Here they have no scope. Arcturus and his three sons have found place, and use, and movement in the seven lights of the Plough; guided by a Higher than thou, they can guide thee, but thou canst not guide nor interfere with them. Thou canst not guide Arcturus, but, high privilege! thou canst guide thyself, if, in the first instance, you submit to the over-guidance, overruling of God. “It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). The Lord of Arcturus is the Lord of His people, the Guide of His servants as well as the guide of His stars. God helps us that we may help ourselves, and that we may help others. He awakens in us those powers and faculties, crushed and stifled by sin. How then, through Him, in what way shall we guide ourselves? Training ourselves, and our powers. It is “ruling our spirit,” “bridling our tongue,” “mortifying our desires” (evil), etc. All these culminate in the one thought of self-control. Canst thou then guide thyself, and, in guiding, so strengthen and enrich that better selfhood that it may become a lodestar of influence? Guide myself, but not by narrow aims that end in self. Canst thou guide Arcturus and his sons? No. The world is all the better that you can’t. Canst thou help some poor family of earth’s sons to gain a footing or earn a living? Yes. The world is all the worse if you don’t. But if you do, if you help a brother up any rugged steep of trial or duty, or steer him onward through the cross currents of temptation, then not only do you benefit others, but you also fairly and fully gratify that altruistic longing, so inwrought as to be a part of our human nature and heritage.
II. The regulative influences of life viewed in their operation. We have noticed the fact that the stars we cannot guide are nevertheless guided--always, swiftly and surely, silently and well. Each fills its place or goes on its way. It requires great skill and accurate system in order to manage our railways. What far greater skill and more perfect system are required to guide the constellations--to protect from and to avert all the terrible collision and combustion that would otherwise occur! The fact is one, call it Providence, or let it be known as the gigantic machinery of life, or if you will--the age-long balancings, or pause over this phrase--the Eternal Thought. The ever-living, vigorous thought. Thought that thinks into effort, plans, purposes, leads and arranges, makes and moulds the universe, counts and carries the stars, creates and continues the life of man, rules and regulates by guiding, governing, and directing to its final goal--all that is, and all that is to be.
III. The regulative influences of life glorifying God in redeeming man. They are Christocentric--God incarnate. That is the first of a series of clearer explanations: their first translation into the mother tongue of human understanding and heart need. All that was anterior, and there was much, received its value from this nascent light; whether ornate ritual or inspired oracle, sacred bard or mystic seer. To economise, and at the same time best utilise our words, let us say that Blessed Life was the great antidote and corrective of all sin and selfishness, of all folly and meanness, all distortion and dishonour; while it furthered and fostered, guided, regulated, developed all that was worth being, because it had originally come from the Father. The Cross is in the sky, illumined and illumining. Illumined by the clear, silver starlight of the Eternal Providence, of that Providence its most comprehensive range, its farthest sweep, its largest provision. Of God’s mind the highest and deepest conception; of God’s thought the most sublime idea--this is the fight on the Cross. There is also the light from the Cross. It is the guide of the wandering. Our present purpose forbids the further tracing out in the Resurrection and post-Resurrection work of the Redeemer the almighty and regulative influences, the more advanced stages, through which the earth rolls onward into this ever-increasing light. Putting it all together, this is the conclusion of the matter. It is a great work to guide Arcturus, to support as well as to suspend “Charles’s Wain,” to regulate and maintain the sidereal system, to bind, or loose, or bring forth one, or any, of the heavenly bodies; but God has performed a greater work. God’s great work is this, to guide our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:79). (H. B. Aldridge.)
Canst thou send lightnings?
Lightning is not a thing of yesterday. Whether Job knew the philosophy of lightning, or the facts of science, as taught in modern times; or whether, when he spoke of “sending lightning,” he only uttered an unconscious prophecy of what was to be actualised in the future, we of course cannot positively say. Nature’s great laws and forces are the steeds of the Almighty. The degree of civilisation and progress attained by any people or nation is exactly indicated by the extent to which mere human power is supplemented or superseded by these great laws and forces, in the industries of the people. Since the days of Franklin, what marvellous progress has been made in the study of electricity, and how it has been utilised for the benefit of man. What marvels it has wrought in annihilating time and space! These constantly improving methods of human intercourse I shall use to illustrate the more perfect medium of communication between earth and heaven, a medium planned and perfected through the atonement of Christ. In Eden man had no need to send communications, or make requests known to a distant God. The terrible catastrophe of the Fall broke the bond of harmony between man and God; and by this fearful moral convulsion, man’s spiritual gravity was shifted, and turned the other way, and to some dread, unknown, infernal centre, downward weighed. God was no longer a magnet to attract, but a Being to repel. Continents of moral space and gloom lay between them, with neither power nor desire on the part of man to return, and as yet no medium of recovery announced. A medium of communication was announced in “the seed of the woman.” These, as the condition of approach to God, the blood of Calvary began to be typically poured forth, and flaming altars rolled their incense to the skies. On downwards, through the patriarchal dispensation, men held intercourse with God through the blood of the promised Saviour typically shed, in their sacrifices. The economy of Moses was afterwards instituted, during which time men held intercourse with God through the medium of divinely appointed priests. In the fulness of time Jesus came to open up new and living way to the Father.” Single-handed and alone, and in the face of the most terrible discouragements, He prosecuted and completed the work of laying this glorious line of intercommunication between earth and heaven. This new line was not in thorough working order until the day of Pentecost. Jesus Christ is the only medium through which fallen man can approach and hold fellowship with God. This glorious medium of intercourse is permanent and lasting, in every practical phase of its working. Now, after fully nineteen hundred years of trial, it abides as perfect and as serviceable as ever, equal to every emergency,--the joy of the present, and the hope of the future. It is one of the most perfect and wonderful spiritual devices in God’s moral universe. There are no delays or disappointments, as there often are with the electric telegraph. The great operator is always at His post, is never too busy to hear, is never confused, and is always ready to reply to every message. (T. Kelly.)
Man’s utilisation of electricity
Yes, we can. It is done thousands of times every day. Franklin, at Boston, lassoed the lightnings, and Morse put on them a wire bit, turning them around from city to city, and Cyrus W. Field plunged them into the sea; and whenever the telegraphic instrument clicks at Valentia, or Heart’s Content, or London, or New York, the lightnings of heaven are exclaiming in the words of my text, “Here we are!” we await your bidding; we listen to your command. What painstaking since the day when Thales, 600 years before Christ, discovered frictional electricity by the rubbing of amber; and Wimbler, in the last century, sent electric currents along metallic wires, until in our day, Faraday, and Bain, and Henry, and Morse, and Prescott, and Orton--some in one way and some in another way, have helped the lightnings of heaven to come bounding along, crying, “Here we are!” (T. De Witt Talmage.)
──《The Biblical Illustrator》