Moreover Job continued his parable.
Points in Job’s parable
I. A solemn asseveration. “As God liveth.” The words imply a belief--
1. In the reality of the Divine existence. Whilst some deny this fact, the bulk of the race practically ignore it.
2. In the awfulness of the Divine existence. There is a sublime awfulness in the words, “As God liveth.”
3. In the severity of the Divine existence. “Who hath taken away my judgment, and the Almighty who hath vexed my soul.” As nature has winter as well as summer, so God has a severe as well as a benign aspect.
4. In the nearness of the Divine existence. “The spirit of God is in my nostrils. His breath is my life.”
II. A noble determination. “My lips shall not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit. God forbid that I should justify you: till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me; my righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go; my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live.” What does he determine?
1. Never to swerve from rectitude. “Till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me; my righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go.” Whatever happens to me, I will not play the false, I will not be insincere. No one can rob me of my integrity.
2. Never to vindicate wickedness. Job has so many times alluded to the prosperity of the wicked that he is apprehensive he may be suspected of envying their lot, and wishing to be in their place. Great is the tendency of some men to vindicate wickedness in connection with wealth and worldly power.
III. A weighty reflection. “What is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul? Will God hear his cry when trouble cometh upon him”? The writer reflects here upon the wicked men of wealth, and he concludes--
1. That in death they will have no hope.
2. That in trouble they will have no answer to their prayers or delight in God. Conclusion--
The Almighty hath vexed my soul.
A vexed soul comforted
The word “who” was put into this verse by the translators, but it is not wanted; it is better as I have read it to you, “The Almighty hath vexed my soul.” The marginal reading is perhaps a more exact translation of the original: “The Almighty hath embittered my soul.” From this we learn that a good man may have his soul vexed; he may not be able to preserve the serenity of his mind. There is a needs be, sometimes, that we should be “in heaviness through manifold temptations.” Even to rivers there are rapids and cataracts, and so, methinks, in the most smoothly flowing life, there surely must be breaks of distraction and of distress. At any rate, it was so with Job. It is also clear, from our text, that a good man may trace the vexation of his soul distinctly to God. It was not merely that Job’s former troubles had come from God, for he had borne up under them; when all he had was gone, he had still blessed the name of the Lord with holy serenity. But God had permitted these three eminent and distinguished men, mighty in speech, to come about him, to rub salt into his wounds, and so to increase his agony. Advancing a step further, we notice that, in all this, Job did not rebel against God, or speak a word against Him. He swore by that very God who had vexed his soul. See how it stands here: “As God liveth, who hath taken away my judgment, and the Almighty, who hath vexed my soul.” He stood fast to it that this God was the true God, he called Him good, he believed Him to be almighty; it never occurred to Job to bring a railing accusation against God, or to start aside from his allegiance to Him. Now go another step, and notice that this embittering of Job’s soul was intended for his good. The patriarch was to have his wealth doubled, and he therefore needed double grace that he might be able to bear the burden. When that end was accomplished, all the bitterness was turned into sweetness.
I. First, I shall speak upon a personal fact. Many a person has to say, “The Almighty hath embittered my soul.”
1. This happened to you, perhaps, through a series of very remarkable troubles.
2. It may be, however, that you have not had a succession of troubles, but you have had one trial constantly gnawing at your heart.
3. I hope that it has become saddened through a sense of sin.
4. It may be that this is not exactly your case, but you are restless and weary.
5. Beside all this, there is an undefined dread upon you. “The Almighty hath embittered my soul.”
II. From this personal fact of which I have spoken I want to draw an instructive argument, which has two edges.
1. If the Almighty--note that word “Almighty”--has vexed your soul as much as He has, how much more is He able to vex it! Now turn the argument the other way.
2. If it be the Almighty who has troubled us, surely He can also comfort us. He that is strong to sink is also strong to save.
III. Here is a healthful inquiry for everyone whose soul has been vexed by God.
1. The inquiry is, first, is not God just in vexing my soul? Listen. Some of you have long vexed Him; you have grieved His Holy Spirit for years. Well, if you vex God’s people, you must not be surprised if He vexes you.
2. Another point of inquiry is this: What can be God’s design in vexing your soul? Surely He has a kind design in it all. God is never anything but good. Rest assured that He takes no delight in your miseries. You forgot Him when everything went merry as a marriage peal. It may be, too, that He is sending this trial to let you know that He thinks of you.
3. May it not be also for another reason--that He may wean you entirely from the world? He is making you loathe it. I think I hear someone say, “As the Almighty hath vexed my soul, what had I better do?” Do? Go home, and shut to your door, and have an hour alone with yourself and God. That hour alone with God may be the crisis of your whole life; do try it! “And when I am alone with God, what had I better do?” Well, first, tell Him all your grief. Then tell Him all your sin. Hide nothing from Him; lay it all, naked and bare, before Him. Then ask Him to blot it all out, once for all, for Jesus Christ’s sake. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me.
It is the aim of all men to secure happiness. As to the course they think best adapted to secure this they differ most widely, and as to what constitutes real happiness the most different opinions are entertained, yet the desire for that which each considers to be happiness is universal. Physical courage is common enough all over the world, but moral courage is a rare phenomenon. Before the fear of being thought foolish, our moral courage relaxes and melts away as snow before the sun. If you make a stand for a principle, society regards you as some abnormal specimen of humanity. They are not the greatest martyrs who die a martyr’s death, but they who have the moral courage to live a martyr’s life for conscience and for duty. But the lack of moral courage is visible everywhere about us. It infests and poisons every trade and every profession; and moral cowardice abounds in the very last place where it should be met with--the Church. Whether deficiency in moral courage is with us a national failing or not, is difficult to determine. Undeniably there is a grievous want of it around us. Hardly anyone will go out of his way in the interest of abstract truth, or cry down and fight a wrong by which he does not suffer directly and personally. (D. P. Faure.)
Holding fast integrity
We cannot command the smiles of fortune or the friendship of men. But in defiance of every external event we may, with Job, “hold fast our integrity, and not let it go so long as we live.” To explain and recommend this excellent disposition I illustrate its influence upon taste, sentiments, and conduct, and the happy effects which result from it.
1. In opposition to prejudice and bigotry, it implies a prevailing love of truth. To rise entirely above the influence of prejudice is not allotted to human nature, in our present state of ignorance and imperfection. Integrity cannot secure the mind entirely from prejudices, but it will diminish their number and force, and dispose the man who is under its influence to renounce them when they are discovered. It redounds to the credit of a man’s understanding to have made choice of sound principles upon first deliberation. But it is no less an evidence of a manly and independent mind to relinquish the opinions it has already espoused, when they stand in opposition to the unchangeable laws of truth and righteousness.
2. In opposition to show and affectation, integrity consists in adhering to nature and simplicity. The manners of every individual must, in some degree, be formed upon the examples and fashions of the surrounding multitude. But this may be truly asserted, a man of integrity will not be the first to invent or imitate any custom that departs from simplicity and nature, and consists only in ceremony and false refinement. Through his predilection for simplicity, his religion will have nothing of affectation, but will be sincere and substantial. He does not assume the profession of it with any selfish end. He is but little solicitous about the praise of men. His attention is principally directed to the culture of inward piety and goodness.
3. Integrity implies a love of justice in opposition to fraud and dishonest dealing. The character I am describing, is superior to the influence of mercenary, grovelling motives. The man of deep-rooted integrity, by the irresistible and pleasing impulse of his heart, is at all times preserved from the most distant approach to fraud and dishonesty.
4. In opposition to disguise and hypocrisy, the character under review is open, bold, and pleased to be seen in its true colours. The consciousness of personal guilt engenders a suspicion of others, and makes the men who are tainted with it study the natural accomplishments of concealment and dissimulation.
Integrity is the surest road to truth. A man of integrity not only looks up through a clear medium to the bright rays of the divinity, but also in his own nature and temper he perceives genuine, though faint and imperfect, lineaments of the image of God.
Uprightness in life and death
“Till I die.” This thought pervades a large portion of this book. Sometimes as a welcome thought, “I would not live always.” At others, as a thing which is inevitable. “When a few years are come, then I shall go the way whence I shall not return.” To a Christian, death is a widely different thing from what it was to Job. Christ has abolished death. His disciples can say to death, “Where is thy sting?” Job resolves that his retrospect from his deathbed shall not reproach him with insincerity, unfaithfulness, falseness to his convictions.
I. All men will wish to die in love and charity with their neighbours.
1. When we are angry--perhaps vindictive--the reason is as much from the consideration of the future as out of resentment for the past.
2. Few men would speak words of anger--especially of resentful anger--if they thought they were last words.
3. It is a natural impulse, when bidding farewell to the world, to ask for pardon, and to grant it. All this is admirable and excellent. But--
II. It is equally desirable that men should be true and just and upright in both life and death.
1. Love without righteousness is no true love--does not really bless.
2. But difficulties in the way of strict fidelity.
Seems to be inconsistent with love and kindness. An error, but a very natural one. Hence we keep back words which honesty to our convictions would bid us speak.
3. No one can doubt, however, that a real friend is one who is perfectly sincere.
III. An important caution. (W. R. Clarke, M. A.)
Peace of conscience
In these words we cannot but observe what a mighty satisfaction the good man takes in the peace of his conscience, and the performance of his duty, and the steadiness of his resolution, never to be frightened out of it by any temptation or discouragement whatsoever. In the want of all the good things he had formerly abounded with, it was Job’s comfort to remember that he had enjoyed them innocently, and employed them faithfully. It was not for any notorious provocation of his God, or injury to his neighbour, that they were come upon him. He had confidence in his integrity, and boldly durst look up to God Himself, and maintain his ways before Him. Show the wisdom of this resolution, of holding fast our integrity; and never letting it go upon any prospect or temptation whatsoever. The tracks and footsteps of our duty are all along as plain and as legible as we can wish; and if we will but follow them, will lead us on as strait and as direct a path as we can go. So that the very windings and turnings through which unfaithfulness wanders, are enough to convince us that it mistakes its course, and instead of carrying us, as it pretends, a shorter way, is losing sight apace of happiness, and insensibly making on to misery. The first step of these men proceeds upon mistake. They falsely divide their duty from their interest, the two things in the world of all others most strictly inseparable. Every man is so far happy as he is virtuous, and miserable as he is vicious. Upon this foundation it is that the happiness of God Himself is conceived to stand. Had the devil himself but “held fast his integrity,” he had been happy still; nor can he ever destroy the happiness of man, but by persuading him to that by which he lost his own. God has given us a more secure possession of our integrity than of any one thing in the world besides that we can call our own. The wisdom of holding it fast, and never letting it go, will appear from the following considerations.
1. In parting with our integrity, we let go that, without which prosperity itself can never make us happy. There is not a greater mistake than the common notion of the happiness of the wicked in this life. How many false exceptions against Providence, and discouragements from virtue, has it sometimes started in the best of men! Even in the seeming equality of His distributions to the wicked and the good, God has made a very sensible distinction, and done abundantly enough to justify the conduct of His providence and the wisdom of our integrity. God punishes the wicked with those very blessings He admits him to partake of. “Envy not the glory of the sinner, for thou knowest not what shall be his end.” Nay, thou knowest not so much as how it fares at present with him.
2. Because we let go that which being once gone, affliction needs must render us insupportably miserable. Nothing is more certain in the life of a man than a share in the troubles that inseparably accompany it. Yet how few make any provision for what nobody can avoid. So long as the world runs smoothly on their side, on they travel, thoughtless and secure, never considering that though it is fair and sunshine now, the weather soon may change, and a storm they little dream of may break suddenly upon them. The wise man, who builds upon the sure foundations of his own integrity, stands unshaken and secure. Afflictions may dash and spend themselves upon him, but his hope and confidence “may not be removed, but standeth fast forever.” The spirit of a man will go a long way towards sustaining his infirmities.
3. He that lets go his integrity, parts with that which alone can avail him in the day of judgment. Whatever hopes a man may have of carrying on an interest in this world, by acting contrary to his duty, no man was ever weak enough to imagine it could be of any service to him in another. How bold and fearless will they who have kept their integrity stand before the dread tribunal, secure of being justified in their trial, and clear when they are judged. (Pawlet St. John, A. M.)
Holding fast our righteousness
Job had lost almost everything else, but he still held fast his righteousness. His wealth and his honour, his flocks and his herds, his sons and his daughters, his health and his home, had all been lost, but still he retained his integrity.
I. Righteousness is a man’s true treasure, and he should hold it fast at any cost, and never let it go. It is not the wealth which a man has, or the honour and greatness which he attains, or the success which he wins in business and professional life, which makes him truly rich, but the holy and Christlike character which he builds up. It is to the upright that there ariseth light in the darkness; it is those that have clean hands and a pure heart and that have not lifted up their soul unto vanity, that shall receive the blessing of the Lord. The promises of God and the blessings of His salvation are all attached to character, and not to the accident of birth or training, of position or wealth, so that character is the thing of value in the judgment of God. Nay, all other kinds of wealth will be left behind, and will find no place in the eternal world. For, as St. Paul reminds us, “We brought nothing into the world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” The gateway of death is so strait that before we can pass through we must be stripped of everything except our character.
II. But while righteousness is a man’s true treasure, this treasure is often assailed and put in jeopardy.
1. The manifold trials of life make it difficult to hold fast one’s righteousness.
2. Then, further, not only suffering but perplexity and doubt make it hard to hold fast our righteousness. These were the chief cause of difficulty in the case of Job. There are some who today find it hard to believe in God and freedom and immortality, and if these things be denied where is there any basis for righteousness of life?
3. Then, again, we must remember that there are manifold forms of temptation which assail men in their business and their pleasure, in their hours of leisure and their hours of toil, in the home and in the office, on Sundays and on weekdays.
III. But now let me remind you in closing that a man can hold fast his righteousness, however fiercely it may be assailed. We have heard so much in recent years of heredity and environment and solidarity that we are in danger of overlooking the power and prerogative of the individual will. We can abhor that which is evil and cleave to that which is good. We can resist the devil that he may flee from us; we can draw near to God that He may draw nigh unto us. (G. Hunsworth, M. A.)
My heart shall not reproach me so long as I live.
Of an unreproaching heart
I. The state of mind or heart which is necessary to prevent our being reproached by ourselves. As men are endowed with a sense of moral good and evil, of merit and demerit in their own affections and actions, they are by nature a law to themselves, and have the rule of right, and the standard of worth and excellence, engraved on their minds. They approve or condemn themselves according as they find their affections and actions to agree with the law of their nature. What are the worthy, amiable, and becoming affections, the prevalence of which constitutes that good state of heart which frees us from inward anguish and remorse, and all the pains of self-condemnation, and which gives us the delight, joy, and assurance which flow from the approbation of our consciences? They are such as these,--reverence, love, gratitude, dependence, submission, and resignation, with respect to the great Author and Governor of all things. Probity, truth, justice, meekness, and kindness toward men; a love of the public, and a regard to the common interest of the world; a moderation of our lower desires and passions; and a cultivation of the higher faculties. These dispositions have an intrinsic excellence and loveliness in them. As these virtues and dispositions prevail in very different degrees in the hearts of men, so the pleasure, satisfaction, and peace which they find in their reflections upon their inward frame, are likewise very different and unequal. Where the motions of the soul towards virtue are all free and lively, intense and vigorous, and withal uniform, permanent, and fixed, the man enjoys the most perfect satisfaction and peace.
II. The great importance of keeping our hearts always in this state. As the power of moral discernment, or our natural conscience of good and evil, is the principle of virtue, and the guide of life in us, so it is likewise the great cause and spring of our happiness. Integrity, or a sincerely and uniformly good frame of heart, must certainly be allowed to be the most felicitating, or the most replete with true happiness. This consciousness gives us a sense of our possessing an intrinsic solid dignity and merit, and being in a state the most becoming and honourable to rational agents. The pleasures derived from this source are permanent, and do not depend on any uncertain, external objects. A man who is calm and serene within, will be but little moved with those evils which are incident to everyone in the course of this frail, uncertain life. And these inward pleasures are also the life of all our other enjoyments.
III. Rules for attaining this state of heart.
1. Consider the several pursuits and actions in which we allow ourselves, whether they are really such as our consciences approve.
2. Frequently review and examine the state of our minds, that we may find out our defects, and know what progress we are making.
3. We should correct our errors, and make up our defects, as far as we can, by sincere repentance. And we should derive new strength to ourselves by the exercise of a serious and humble devotion.
1. See the inestimable value of integrity of heart, and the testimony of a good conscience.
2. See how groundless those fears and perplexities are, which so often disturb the minds of sincere persons.
3. See the presumption of those sinners who speak peace to themselves, when there is no foundation laid for peace to them, in the temper and disposition of their hearts. (J. Orr, D. D.)
For what is the hope of the hypocrite?
The character and hope of the hypocrite
I. The character of the hypocrite. By a hypocrite we understand not a self-deceiver, but a deceiver of others. To himself his real character is known, as it is also to God, the Judge of all; but it is hid from his fellow men, who are deceived by his plausible profession and fair speeches. The word implies that, like an ancient stage player, he acts under a mask, and personates a character which does not properly belong to him. The mask he wears is a form of godliness, and the part he acts is that of a religious man. His religion is only a counterfeit.
1. The hypocrite is a person whose outward conduct, upon the whole, is irreproachable in the sight of men.
2. His true character is far from coming up to the requirements of the Gospel. He is one whose heart is not right with God. His heart is unchanged, unrenewed, unsanctified, destitute of faith and humility, and without the love and fear of God.
3. The hypocrite does all his works to be seen of men. It is not God that he seeks to please. Self is the idol which he worships, and to which his incense is burned.
4. The hypocrite is partial and formal in his obedience. His obedience has respect only to some of the Commandments. The principle by which he is actuated is earthly and grovelling, leading him to seek only to have glory of men. Such a man has no portion in the life to come; he has no treasure in heaven.
II. The nature of his hope. Job takes for granted that the hypocrite may gain by his profession. He may, in many respects, succeed in obtaining the object of his wishes or the reward he covets. But what is his hope when God taketh away his soul? Consider--
1. The foundation on which his hope rests.
2. The author of his hope. Not God, but Satan.
3. The effects it produces.
Then let us examine ourselves by this test. There are some who do not go so far even as the hypocrite. Even he pays some deference to religion. What character do we bear? Let us beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Avoid hypocrisy and cultivate sincerity. Be Christians, not merely in name, but in reality. Build your hope on Christ alone, counting Him to be your greatest gain. (D. Rees.)
A warning to hypocrites
I. The fearful nature of religious hypocrisy. With all His mildness, gentleness, and compassion, we yet find Christ thundering against the hypocrite. There is a class of men who make a profession of religion which they know to be false. These are the persons whom the Redeemer denounces. A religious profession is undoubtedly an excellence, but this is the honest avowal of the religion that is already in the heart; taking care, that as the hypocrite hides his sins under a cloak, we should not hide our religion under a cloak, but should honestly avow that Saviour whom we profess to believe on in secret. Now that which is uttered and avowed before nil the world, because we have it in secret, is surely a different affair from a mere profession that is allied to an attempt to impose upon men, and setting the omniscience of God at defiance.
II. Vain are all warnings given to hypocrites, because hypocrisy hardens the heart. See the case of Judas. We ought to be made of glass, that every man may see what is our real character. We are more transparent than crystal before the eyes of the eternal God. The sin of false profession infatuates the mind, hardens the heart, and keeps a man always forming such false reasonings and conclusions that they lead at last to the most manifest overwhelming of him with his own crimes and with God’s judgment.
III. How vain are all the things on which the hypocrite places his hope when God arises to judgment. A man may accustom himself to falsehood until he makes lies his refuge, and can scarcely distinguish between the most gross imposition upon himself and sincere safe dealing. When men accustom themselves to a system of deceit, they get perfectly bewildered and know not that which a child would have known and expected.
IV. A life of hypocrisy is likely to end in a death of impenitence. The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination; the prayer only of the upright is God’s delight. We dare not think that a man, after living a life of hypocrisy, need only utter a few prayers and all is safe and well. True prayer is alone the prayer of true penitence. (James Bennett, D. D.)
The hypocrite’s hope
The teaching of the text may be summed up in this plain proposition--the hypocrite’s hope. How happy soever he may seem from it for a while, will leave him miserable when God shall take away his soul.
I. To whom the character of a hypocrite belongs. The word suggests, “one who acts in a play,” representing another person rather than his own. Transferred to religion, it is used to denote such as have put on a form of godliness, and would pass for saints, but are not in reality what they seem. The Hebrew word comes from one that signifies a cloud, as their wickedness is covered; or as they are painted over with another colour, hiding their natural one, that it may not be known. Thus an hypocrite is a real enemy to God, outwardly acting as one of His children. Open his character.
1. An hypocrite is one that pretends to have entirely devoted himself to God, when he has not, but divided his heart between God and the world; and so God has no interest in him at all. It is the whole heart God calls for, and He will have nothing less.
2. He is one that professes a regard to the will of God, as the reason, and to the glory of God as the end, of what he does in religion; when, in the meantime, he acts from other springs, and for lower and selfish ends.
3. He is one that takes more pains to appear outwardly religious than to be really so, between God and his own soul. A true Christian is as solicitous about his heart as about his life. But this is not the hypocrite’s concern. If he has a fair outside, he is little careful how matters stand within.
4. He is one that, in religious duties, puts God off with bodily service, whilst the heart is unengaged and left out.
5. He is partial and uneven in his obedience to God, and in his walk with Him.
II. Such may have a hope which they maintain as long as they live. It is strange that in souls so unsafe this hope should be so tong kept up. It is owing to such things as these--
1. To wretched ignorance of themselves, through neglecting to look into their own hearts.
2. To their not attending to the extent and spirituality of the law, as to what it requires of them, and how far they come short of obedience to it.
3. To the favourable apprehensions others may have of them.
4. To comparing themselves with open sinners, or more loose professors.
5. To the length they may go as to the attainment of what looks like grace.
III. What hypocrites may be said for a while to gain. It is supposed that some advantage they aim at, and may also reach.
1. By the part they act, they may gain more of the world.
2. They may gain the esteem and applause of men, and have the reputation of being eminently holy and religious.
3. They may gain a sort of peace in their own minds.
4. They may hereupon gain a smooth passage through the world, and an easy going out of it.
5. They may have a pompous funeral, and be well spoken of when they are dead.
IV. The vanity and emptiness of the hypocrite’s hope and gain, and the certainty and dreadfulness of his misery when God taketh away his soul.
1. What is the hope of the hypocrite? A hope without ground, without fruit; and a hope that will not hold before the Judge.
2. What is the gain of the hypocrite? It is unsuitable to his soul, his better part. It is bounded within this present life, and can accompany him no further. Then take up with no hope but such as will stand you in stead when God shall take away your soul.
The hypocrite’s hope
I. To whom the character in the text applies. To all those who, in the concerns of religion, act a different part to what they really are. Particularly it applies--
1. To those who pretend entire devotedness to God, while their hearts are divided (Psalms 12:2)
2. Who profess a regard to the will of God as the reason, and His glory as the end, of what they do in religion; while, at the same time, they act from other springs, and for lower and selfish ends (Matthew 6:1).
3. Who are more careful to appear outwardly religious, than to be really so between God and their own souls (Matthew 23:27-28).
4. Who put God off with bodily service, while the heart is not engaged in it (Isaiah 29:13; John 4:24).
5. Who are partial in their obedience to God, while the real Christian says Psalms 119:128.
II. The hope and the gain of such a character.
1. Their hope relates to a future state of blessedness.
2. It is groundless, without a solid foundation (Colossians 1:27).
3. It is fruitless. See the Christian’s hope, 1 John 3:3.
4. It will be cut off (Matthew 7:23).
And this false hope is generally owing--
1. To ignorance of themselves; their own hearts.
2. To want of attention to the extent and spirituality of the law of God (Romans 7:9).
3. The favourable opinion others have of them.
4. Comparing themselves with open sinners, or lukewarm professors (Luke 18:11).
5. The length they go, as to the exercise of what appears to be grace; abstaining from many sins; practising many religious duties, etc.
As to their acquisitions; they may gain--
1. More of this world.
2. The esteem and applause of men.
3. A false peace (Revelation 3:17).
4. A smooth passage through life.
5. A pompous funeral. But, behold--
III. The dreadful end of such; expressed in these words, “When God taketh away his soul.”
1. His soul, his immortal part, which he has deceived and ruined.
2. God will take it away; whose power there is no resisting; from whose presence there is no escape.
3. He will take it away; perhaps with violence (Proverbs 14:32), always in displeasure.
4. Take it away from present gains and hopes, to real misery, and to the greatest share of it. To all this he is continually liable, and at no time safe from it. While he is crying, Peace, peace, sudden destruction is coming upon him.
1. Seriously examine as to your own character. Judge yourselves, that ye be not judged.
2. Dread nothing more than the hypocrite’s hope, and frequently look to the foundation of your own.
3. Bless God if you can give a reason for the hope that is in you; but do it with fear and trembling; the final judgment is not yet over.
4. Do nothing to sink your hope, or fill you with overwhelming fear. Think often what you hope for, whom you hope in, and of the ground you hope upon; and thus prepare for the fruition of your hope in eternal glory. (T. Hannam.)
Will God hear his cry when trouble cometh upon him?
The privations of godnessness
I. He has no refuge in trouble. When “trouble cometh upon him” he cannot cry unto God with any hope of being heard and answered (Job 27:9)
. What shall we think of the man who, in the ordering of his life, does not take trouble into his account? He is like the captain who sets sail upon the sea without readiness for a storm, or the general who goes out into the open unprepared to meet the enemy. To be unprovided for it is to be cruelly negligent of one of our greatest needs. But what refuge has the godless man in trouble? Can he hide himself in God as in a sure rock? To the godly man the nearness (Psalms 23:4), the sympathy (Psalms 31:7; Psalms 103:13-14; Hebrews 4:15), and the delivering grace of God (Psalms 91:15; Psalms 138:7) are of priceless value. But the godless man only remembers God to be troubled by the thought that, having forsaken Him in prosperity, he cannot claim His succour on the dark day of adversity. Yet is there here one qualifying truth. It may be that trouble brings the unholy man to God in penitence, to Jesus Christ in faith and self-surrender. Then he may cry, and he will most surely be heard; but then he is a “godless” man no longer.
II. He has no hope in death. What is his hope “when God taketh away his soul”? As there is uncertainty as to the measure and the character of our trouble, so is there also as to the time of our death. But there is no uncertainty as to the fact of its coming.
III. He has no joy in God. “Will he delight himself in the Almighty?” Job evidently thinks that the true man might and should do that. It is an advanced and elevated thought. To delight in God--not merely to look for favours from Him, but to find our heritage in Him, in all that He is in Himself and in all that He is to us; in--
IV. He lives without the privilege of prayer. Will the godless man “call upon God at all times”? The value of prayer is two fold.
1. It is a constant source of blessing to our heart and life. To live in daily, even hourly communion with God must be a spiritual condition charged with highest good, must exert an elevating and purifying influence upon us of the finest order and of the greatest strength.
2. It is our one resource in special need. How great is the destitution of that man’s spirit, who, when his heart is breaking, cannot go unto Him who binds up the broken heart, and heals the wounded spirit! In the face of all these privations, what a poor thing is “the gain” of the godless. (The Thinker.)
Will he always call upon God?--
The hypocrite discovered
A hypocrite may be a very neat imitation of a Christian. He professes to know God, to converse with Him, to be dedicated to His service, and to invoke His protection; he even practises prayer, or at least feigns it. Yet the cleverest counterfeit fails somewhere, and may be discovered by certain signs. The test is here “Will he always call upon God?”
I. Will he pray at all seasons of prayer? Will he pray in private? Or is he dependent upon the human eye, and the applause of men? Will he pray if forbidden? Daniel did so. Will he? Will he pray in business? Will he practise ejaculatory prayer? Will he look for hourly guidance? Will he pray in pleasure? Will he have a holy fear of offending with his tongue? Or will company make him forget his God? Will he pray in darkness of soul? Or will he sulk in silence?
II. Will he pray constantly? If he exercises the occasional act of prayer, will he possess the spirit of prayer which never ceases to plead with the Lord? We ought to be continually in prayer, because we are always dependent for life, both temporal and spiritual, upon God. Always needing something, nay, a thousand things. Always receiving, and therefore always needing, fresh grace wherewith to use the blessing worthily. Always in danger. Seen or unseen danger is always near, and none but God can cover our head. Always weak, inclined to evil, apt to catch every infection of soul sickness, “ready to perish” (Isaiah 27:13)
. Always needing strength, for suffering, learning, song, or service. Always sinning. Even in our holy things sin defiles us, and we need constant washing. Always weighted with other men’s needs. Especially if rulers, pastors, teachers, parents. Always having the cause of God near our heart if we are right; and in its interests finding crowds of reasons for prayer.
III. Will he pray importunately? If no answer comes, will he persevere? If a rough answer comes, will he plead on? Does he know how to wrestle with the angel, and give tug for tug? If no one else prays, will he be singular, and pray on against wind and tide? If God answers him by disappointment and defeat, will he feel that delays are not denials, and still pray?
IV. Will he continue to pray throughout the whole of life? The hypocrite will soon give up prayer under certain circumstances. If he is in trouble, he will not pray, but will run to human helpers. If he gets out of trouble, he will not pray, but quite forget his vows. If men laugh at him, he will not dare to pray. If men smile on him, he will not care to pray.
1. He grows formal He is half asleep, not watchful for the answer. He falls into a dead routine of forms and words.
2. He grows weary. He can make a spurt, but he cannot keep it up. Short prayers are sweet to him.
3. He grows secure. Things go well, and he sees no need of prayer; or he is too holy to pray.
4. He grows infidel, and fancies it is all useless, dreams that prayer is not philosophical. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The hypocrite detected by his prayers
By the word hypocrite, Job meant everyone whose religion is merely nominal--i.e., every insincere and inconsistent professor--all who are not in practice what they are in profession. The emphasis in text place on the second question, “Will he always call upon God?” It is implied that he will sometimes; it is denied that he will always. So perseverance in prayer, the persisting in prayer under all variety of circumstances, is given as a test by which to try the sincerity, the reality of religion. The man whose religion is of the heart, prays always; any other, who has but the outside of religion, will pray, but not always, only on some contingency. There is an instinct in our nature which prompts man to prayer, even if you keep out of sight the tendencies derived from a Christian education. We may ask whether the mere formal prayers of those whose religion is a name, should be called prayers at all; for, unless the heart go along with the lip, there is undoubtedly nothing of acceptable petition. There must be true religion, the religion of the heart, religion ingrained in the inner man, before there can be the true calling upon God always. All prayer supposes a sense of wants to be supplied, and a consciousness that the supply must come from God. There may be a praying by fits and starts. Under particular circumstances, all men feel wants. There is not a habit of prayer, except as there is a constant sense of wants, requiring a constant supply. There is a close connection between the two parts of the text. It is because he does not “delight himself in the Almighty,” that the hypocrite or the formalist will not “always call upon God.” There is here a very broad and a very important difference between the real and the nominal Christian. With the gift, the nominal Christian is satisfied. Nothing can satisfy the real and sincere Christian but God Himself. (Henry Melvill, B. D.)
The hypocrite’s inconstancy in prayer explained
The term hypocrite, as here used, comprehends every insincere, self-deluding professor of religion, though not supposed to act a part for the purpose of imposing on others.
1. It is supposed that such a person may for a time observe the practice of prayer. Prayer, on certain occasions, appears to be almost all instinct of nature. But if prayer is the voice of nature in the hour of extremity, still more may it be expected from those who live under the light of revelation. As prayer is merely an instrumental duty, it may be more or less spiritual and earnest.
2. The chief want of the hypocrite is the want of constancy and perseverance in this sacred exercise. Consider why those who are unconverted in heart are thus essentially defective.
I. A melancholy fact expressed. That the hypocrite will not always, that is habitually, pray. He lives in the total neglect, if not of the external acts, yet certainly of the spirit of prayer. Desire impetuously moves in every channel but that which might lead him to heaven. Why?
1. Because his heart is not in the business of religion at all. Untouched, unsanctified, unrenewed.
2. Because he is experimentally a stranger to those views of the Divine character which render devotion a delight. “Will he delight in God?” Intimating that a man must delight in God, before he can habitually desire communion with Him.
3. Because the progressive influence of sin assumes a predominant and prevailing ascendency.
4. Because he is judicially resigned to hardness and impenitence of heart.
II. A solemn warning, tacitly presented.
1. Consider the danger and guilt of such a state. It is the symptom of something bad--omen of worse. It warrants most humiliating inferences as to our spiritual state. If we do not cry, we do not feel. Guard against the first symptoms. It inflicts a grievous loss; it is the forerunner of a heavy doom.
2. See how far the miseries of the ungodly extend. God will not answer their prayers in trial. “Because I called,” etc. Even in prosperous hours there is no security. In the fulness of sufficiency--straits. He looked for much, but, etc.
3. See how long the doom of the ungodly lasts. Forever. God takes away the soul.
4. Anticipate the fearful disclosures of the last day.
5. Contrast with them the Christian’s hope. (The Evangelist.)
There are often impressions of a religious kind made upon the mind which are of a very fleeting nature. This is often stated, and abundantly exemplified in Scripture. A melancholy catalogue. This is very natural, and to be expected.
1. The incentives to sin are not always equally violent, so that there is often a season for reflection.
2. A feeling of fear is occasionally awakened, and prompts to outward acts of devotion.
3. The conscience is sometimes roused into a kind of paroxysm, after the commission of some great sin, etc.
4. A species of sentimentality is sometimes cultivated, which fills up the intervals between gross worldliness.
5. In revenge upon the world which has disappointed them, men sometimes, for a season, practise austerity.
6. At stated sacramental seasons men are often unusually devout.
7. Under the most just views of Divine truth, some for a while act, and then fall away.
8. Affliction. As the test and sample of such religious declension, we shall at present look only to the habit of prayer.
The restraining of prayer is one of the first and surest indications of a departure from God. The restraining of prayer is one of the main causes of religious declension. But in the text, it is not spoken of as showing that the heart has backslidden from God, but that the individual is a hypocrite. The truth of this text may easily be made apparent. The hypocrite does not continue in prayer.
I. Because he has not the spirit of supplications.
1. The Spirit produces intensity in prayer.
2. In like manner, and for like reasons, He causes perseverance in prayer.
3. He who has not the Spirit, shows neither intensity nor perseverance.
II. Because he has no abiding sense of spiritual wants.
III. Because he neither understands nor values the blessings promised in Christ.
IV. Because by it human esteem cannot be always obtained.
1. The hypocrite is concerned about his standing among men (John 5:44).
2. Everything is trifling which affects it not.
3. Hence there is social, though often no secret prayer.
V. Because he does not find time and opportunities.
VI. Because God’s fellowship is not relished.
1. The believer--God. The hypocrite--ordinances.
2. Ordinances disliked, because they suggest God.
I will teach you by the hand of God.
God’s treatment of wicked men
Looking at Job’s lecture or address, we have to notice two things.
I. Its introduction. The eleventh and twelfth verses may be regarded as an exordium; and in this exordium he indicates two things.
1. That his arguments are drawn from the operations of God in human history. “I will teach you by the hand of God.”
2. That the facts of human history are open to the observation of all. “Behold, all ye yourselves have seen it.”
II. Its doctrine. The doctrine is this, that punishment will ultimately overtake wicked men, however much, for a time, they may prosper in the world. “He gives back,” says a modern writer, “to his three friends the doctrine which they had fully imparted to him.”
1. That great wickedness often prospers for a time in this life.
2. That though it may, it must be followed by terrible punishment. Conclusion--
This address of Job’s is worthy of the imitation of religious teachers.
Zophar’s missing speech
There has been much diversity of view in regard to the remainder of this chapter. The difficulty is that Job seems here to state the same things which had been maintained by his friends, and against which he had all along contended. This difficulty has been felt to be very great, and is very great. It cannot be denied that there is a great resemblance between the sentiments here expressed, and those which had been maintained by his friends, and that this speech, if offered by them, would have accorded entirely with their main position. Job seems to abandon all which he had defended, and to concede all which he had so warmly condemned. Dr. Kennicott supposes that the text is imperfect, and that these verses constituted the third speech of Zophar. His arguments for this opinion are--
1. That Eliphaz and Bildad had each spoken three times, and that we are naturally led to expect a third speech from Zophar; but, according to the present arrangement, there is none.
2. That the sentiments accord exactly with what Zophar might be expected to advance, and are exactly in his style; that they are expressed in “his fierce manner of accusation,” and are “in the very place where Zophar’s speech is naturally expected.” But the objections to this view are insuperable. They are--
The entire want of any authority in the manuscripts, or ancient versions, for such an arrangement or supposition. All the ancient versions and manuscripts make this a part of the speech of Job.
For this, however, he alleges no authority, and no reasons except such as had been suggested by Kennicott. Coverdale has inserted the word “saying” at the close of verse 12, and regards what follows to the end of the chapter as an enumeration or recapitulation of the false sentiments which they had maintained, and which Job regards as the “vain” things (verse 12) which they had maintained. In support of this view, it may be alleged--
Though he heap up silver as the dust.
I. The wicked hoarding their wealth. They “heap up silver as the dust.” As a rule, this is the grand work of wicked men on the earth. On it they concentrate all their energies; to it they devote all their time.
II. The hoarded wealth of the wicked coming into the hands of the good. “The just shall put it on, and the innocent shall divide the silver.”
1. This is partially taking place now every day. Wicked worldlings die, and the righteous get possession of their wealth.
2. This will be the case universally, one day. All the wealth amassed by wicked men shall fall into the hands of the Christly. If the wicked man is blessed with children, punishment may come from that quarter. The sword and famine may deprive him of them; and so desolate will he become that all his sorrowing friends shall be buried. If wicked men are blessed with great riches, their wealth shall fall into the hands of the good. “He may prepare it, but the just shall put it on.” That if the wicked man is blessed with houses they will not stand. (Homilist.)
Men shall clap their hands at him; and shall hiss him out of his place.
Hissed off the stage
This allusion seems to be dramatic. The Bible more than once makes such allusions. Paul says, “We are made a theatre or spectacle to angels and to men.” It is evident from the text that some of the habits of theatre goers were known in Job time, because he describes an actor hissed off the stage. The impersonator comes on the boards and, either through lack of study of the part he is to take or inaptness or other incapacity, the audience is offended, and expresses its disapprobation and disgust by hissing. “Men shall clap their hands at him, and shall hiss him out of his place.” My text suggests that each one of us is put on the stage of this world to take some part. What hardship and suffering and discipline great actors have undergone year after year that they might be perfected in their parts, you have often read. But we, put on the stage of this life to represent charity and faith and humility and helpfulness--what little preparation we have made, although we have three galleries of spectators, earth, and heaven, and hell! Have we not been more attentive to the part taken by others than to the part taken by ourselves, and, while we needed to be looking at home and concentring on our own duty, we have been criticising the other performers, and saying “that was too high,” or “too low,” or “too feeble,” or “too extravagant,” or “too tame,” or “too demonstrative,” while we ourselves were making a dead failure and preparing to be ignominiously hissed off the stage. Each one is assigned a place; no supernumeraries hanging around the drama of life to take this or that or the other part, as he may be called upon. No one can take our place. We can take no other place. Neither can we put off our character; no change of apparel can make us anyone else than that which we eternally are.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Job 27". The Biblical Illustrator. https://pro.studylight.org/
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