Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Surely there is a vein for the silver, and a place for gold where they fine it.Job 28:1
'In the centre of the world-whirlwind,' says Carlyle in the first part of Past and Present (chap. 11.), 'verily now as in the oldest days, dwells and speaks a God. The great soul of the world is just. O brother, can it be needful now, at this late epoch of experience, after eighteen centuries of Christian preaching for one thing, to remind thee of such a fact.'
Sans-culottism will burn much; but what is incombustible it will not burn. Fear not Sans-culottism; recognize it for what it is, the portentous, inevitable end of much, the miraculous beginning of much. One other thing thou mayest recognize of it: that it too came from God; for has it not been? From of old, as it is written, are His goings forth; in the great Deep of things; fearful and wonderful now as in the beginning: in the whirlwind also He speaks; and the wrath of man is made to praise Him.
Speaking in Sesame and Lilies of gold, the physical type of wisdom, Ruskin observes: 'There seems, to you and me, no reason why the electric forces of the earth should not carry whatever there is of gold within it at once to the mountain tops, so that kings and people might know that all the gold they could get was there; and without any trouble of digging, or anxiety, or chance, or waste of time, cut it away, and coin as much as they needed. But Nature does not manage it so. She puts it into little fissures in the earth, nobody knows where; you may dig long and find none; you must dig painfully to find any. And it's just the same with men's best wisdom. When you come to a good book, you must ask yourself, 'Am I inclined to work as an Australian miner would?'
Reference.—XXVIII. 1, 2, 5.—E. A. Askew, Sermons Preached in Greystoke Church, p. 233.
The Known and the Unknown
The Divine Speaker knows what He is talking about. We read in the fiftieth Psalm, 'I know all the fowls of the mountains'—I made their wings, I kindled the fire of their eyes, I know their power of sight and of flight: there is a way which no fowl knoweth, and there is a path which the vulture's eye hath not seen. Let us insert a word that will give emphasis to the expression: There is a path which even the vulture's eye hath not seen: the greatest eye, the eye that looks from horizon to horizon as if it were but a handbreadth in space; the eye that drinks in the morning and dares the noonday: even that eye has not seen all the paths which radiate from the throne of God.
I. It is something in our highest education to know the limitations within which we live.
Until we know all we should not pass judgment upon all. That would seem to be a sensible proposition; it would apply to physics and to commerce and to daily experience and to religion. If we would cany up some of our maxims from the market-place into the Church, we should often be surprised at the clear, sound rationalism, or best reason, of the Christian faith. A man must be God to deny God. It is not within our limited lips to throw a contradiction wide enough for the subject upon the infinite proposition that God is. There is a way which the fowl doth not know, there is a path which even the vulture's eye hath not seen; along that road and along that path when you are permitted to enter you may discover the sanctuary of God, the shekinah that lights the mornings of the universe. It is always distressing, if it were worth being distressed about, that ignorance should pronounce universal and final judgments.
II. One of the first conditions of true knowledge is to know that knowledge is limited. You begin your education most fruitfully and satisfactorily when you lay it down as a certainty that for the present some things are inaccessible and unknowable. Religion is the best economist of time. True piety is the least wasteful of all mental exercises: it knows what it can do, what it may do, what it ought to do, what it cannot do, what it is not expected to do.
III. The very keenest sight known to men requires assistance. That may be a very humbling confession, but it is in strict harmony with fact. Even the vulture's eye hath not seen every path, and even the human eye has not seen everything which it is supposed to have seen. Sometimes that wondrous organism, the human eye, has to buy itself a little piece of glass in order to see how to write a letter to a child.
IV. To know is the blessing. Not the quantity we know, but the fact that we can know—that is the distinguishing attribute of man. To know is better than knowledge; the power of knowledge is greater than the acquisition that is secured. The soul is greater than any education it can receive. The text is the answer to intellectual ambition. There is a point to stop at; there is a place to sit down because to attempt to advance would be to attempt an impossibility. The text is, secondly, an encouragement to beginners in spiritual inquiry. They may say to themselves, We are not expected to know everything; we are privileged to know a little, we can make certain advance and progress in the Divine kingdom, but we are severely limited, and beyond our limitation we have no responsibility. And, thirdly, the text imposes no limit of moral excellence. Where is there a text that says you are good enough, stand still? There is no such text. There is a text which says, 'Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ'. When we have obeyed that text fully, we may ask for another.
—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. 1. p. 10.
Reference.—XXVIII. 7, 8.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlix. No. 2862.
'The whole book of Job,' says Ruskin in his Lectures on Architecture and Painting (p. 79), 'appears to have been chiefly written and placed in the inspired volume in order to show the value of natural history, and its power on the human heart. I cannot pass by it without pointing out the evidences of the beauty of the country that Job inhabited.' Then, after pointing out it was an arable country (1:14), a mountain country (6:15-17), and a rocky country (8:16-17, 5:23), 'visited, like the valleys of Switzerland by convulsions and falls of mountains' (14:18, v. 9; 28:9), he concludes: 'You see, Job's country was one like your own, full of pleasant brooks and rivers, rushing among the rocks, and of all other sweet and noble elements of landscape. The magnificent allusions to natural scenery throughout the book are therefore calculated to touch the heart to the end of time.'
But there are a great many things in this world at least, that are not 'precious' at all: indifference and ease, which are burdens upon the life of the world; vanity, selfishness, and malice, which are its poison and pestilence. These things also are not unseen by Him: lurk they under ever so fair a disguise, the cloak of wisdom, the decencies of wealth, or the gloss of an untarnished name, He looks at them with
Divine sorrow and displeasure, and leaves them till they turn and look at Him. It is the shadow of His glance that falls on them; for evil ever hides itself and skulks before His holy face; and a man whose life and thought are only for himself feels hurt and flurried at the name of God, and helpless as in a strange land without an interpreter. But it is with a soft light and a tender meaning that 'His eye seeth every precious thing'; drawn thither by likeness and the affinity of love, and resting there with pure content. His perception singles out the jewels of the universe.... God, in the midst of a mixed universe, Lord of the eternal contest between good and ill, has an eye for 'every precious thing,' mingles with every noble strife; burns in the blush of holy shame, aspires in our heavenward aspirations, and weeps in our repentant tears.
Reference.—XXVIII. 10.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvii. No. 985.
Before quoting this passage in his Notes Upon Life (pp. 104f.), Sir Henry Taylor writes: 'Wisdom will have no hold on the heart in which joy is not tempered by fear. The fear of the Lord, we know, is the beginning of it; and some hallowing and chastening influences of fear will always go along with it. Fear, indeed, is the mother of foresight; spiritual fear, of a foresight that reaches beyond the grave; temporal fear, of a foresight that falls short; but without fear there is neither the one foresight nor the other; and as pain has been truly said to be the deepest thing in our nature, so it is fear that will bring the depths of our nature within our knowledge.'
The Moral Groundwork of Clerical Training
The idea of Wisdom fills a great place in the mind of the Old Testament. How to acquire wisdom; how wisdom will be rewarded; how the history of Israel and Israel's saints and heroes, is a long illustration of the power of wisdom: these are the topics of the book which bears its name. There are no allusions to the Law of Sinai, to the promises, to the history, to the worship of Israel, in the whole compass of the book. In this somewhat negative but very important manner, the writings of the Kochmah in the Old Testament are a direct anticipation of the Gospel. They name and centre in a word to which Christ alone has done justice; it is His Name from Everlasting—the Wisdom of the Father.
I. Where shall wisdom be found? Wisdom is here the Ideal according to which God created the world. When God thus gave outward form to Wisdom in creating the world, He also gave man the law by obeying which man corresponds to what he was meant to be in the archetypal world—and participates, after his measure, in wisdom. A comprehensive intellectual apprehension of the real nature of things is beyond man's mental grasp. He cannot without a revelation really contemplate things as they are—as they are seen by God: but he can correspond to the realities as God sees them by obedience to elementary moral truth—by fear of the perfect moral Being—by practical renunciation of evil. Dogmatic wisdom has its root and beginning in the culture of those moral and spiritual sensibilities which Scripture calls the 'fear of the Lord'.
II. If a theological college is to recognize the principle, that spiritual and theological wisdom must have a basis in conduct, in life, in conscience, it will be necessary for such an institution to develop at least two things: first, a system, secondly, a spirit or atmosphere. Not merely study, but prayer, meditation, if need be, confession, exercise, sleep, recreation, should, as far as possible, be ordered by rule. A house which has a religious purpose should be a house of rule; it should be governed by system. But system alone will not suffice. A theological college must develop a spirit—a moral and religious atmosphere—which will justify and interpret its system to those who live in it. A spirit which is earnest and practical tends insensibly to clothe itself with system.
—H. P. Liddon, Clerical Life and Work, p. 73.
Man's Highest Wisdom
Job 28:12; Job 28:28
Here we have a human question, and a Divine answer. Let us consider—
I. The Human Question.
(a) By whom was the question put? It was originally put by Job, a prince in the land of Uz.
(b) Under what circumstances was the question put? Here you have a man without a book, without a Bible, without even the fragment of a Bible, striving to solve the mysteries of being and of the universe.
(c) What is the purport of the question? The key to the long discussion in the book of Job may be found in the question which Satan, the great accuser, puts to God. 'Doth Job fear God for nought?' Satan suggests that Job's religion was selfish, that he was good simply because his goodness was marked by temporal blessings. He boldly asserts that if God would only withdraw these external blessings Job would cast off his allegiance, and curse God to His face. The question is thus distinctly raised, Can goodness exist irrespective of reward?
II. The Divine Answer is Manifold.
(a) Negative. The wisdom which surrounds the mystery of the Divine dealings man cannot obtain. Neither the living nor the dead, neither the visible nor the invisible, neither the occupants of the air, nor the earth, nor destruction can supply us with the wisdom which solves the mysteries of the works and ways of God with man upon the earth.
(b) Job now tells us that God alone possesses this wisdom. The darkness in which God enshrouds Himself may be bewildering to us, but it hides nothing from Him.
(c) We have God's solemn announcement that man's highest wisdom consists in reverent obedience to that great God who works these mysteries. The spiritual supernatural truth of Christianity cannot be apprehended by the intellect. If you cannot know the things by the medium of the bodily senses how then are they to be known? You must put yourself into harmony with God, love what He loves, hate what He hates.
—R. Roberts, My Closing Ministry.
Reference.—XXVIII. 12.—J. Vaughan, Semons (10th Series), p. 133.
What Money Cannot Buy
I have been much impressed of late with the way in which the Bible depreciates money. In this, as in most things, it is remote from the spirit of the world. The Word of God has often an almost contempt for money. Men make it an idol. The Bible esteems it as vanity. Something of this healthy disesteem of money would be a benediction to multitudes today when money is frequently held in supreme adoration.
Money and gems are held cheaply in the colloquy of which the text forms part. It appears that there are seven Hebrew words for gold, and no less than four of them appear in five verses of this dramatic chapter. The gold alluded to in the sentence before us is refined gold—gold, laid up in treasures. And heavenly wisdom, true religion, 'cannot be gotten' even for such 'gold'.
Delitzsch's rendering is, 'Pure gold cannot be given for it'.
I. Life's Most Excellent Things 'Cannot be Gotten for Gold'.—'Money answereth all things' the cynic affirms. And yet, though most men believe this, we frequently are disillusioned. When we come to reflect and observe, our estimate of what money can obtain is greatly modified. Not only is it true that some things cannot be bought with money, but it is also true that the best things of life defy purchase. They have no equivalent in finance. Gold has no relation to them. It is a fact easily observed that of many a noble thing it is true that 'it cannot be gotten for gold'.
II. The Greatest of all Things 'Cannot be Gotten for Gold'.—'Wisdom' is the immediate theme of the eloquent paragraph before us. This is but a title—one of a crowd of noble titles—of true religion. And we never can too fully familiarize ourselves with the truism that spiritual things have no material equivalent whatever.
III. It is Man's Blessedness that the Best 'Cannot be Gotten for Gold'.—Many purposes of good this serves. Let it be again and yet again insisted that it reveals the limitations of money. Men worship 'gods of gold'. They always have done, and till the end of the age they always will. Even the Christian Church is apt to exaggerate the functions of gold. The rich man is often a hero in the Church the poorest of all poor men founded. He gets his way. He may be coarse and vulgar, but he is obeyed. The complex and costly organization of many churches makes rich men a necessity. And innumerable evils follow. So that saints and sinners alike need to realize what money cannot buy.
God gives an opportunity to all in ordaining that the best 'cannot be gotten for gold'. Here is an equality of opportunity. Every man has a chance or the prize of life. The poor may achieve noble things. When Christ was here He had no money. The Apostles were forbidden to provide gold for themselves. Peter declared, 'Silver and gold have I none'. It is not along golden roads God's children pass to bliss. Thank God for beatitude for all men. All may of God partake. Heaven's conditions all may fulfil.
This should make the Gospel very attractive. Its demands are such as the poor can comply with. Its invitation is to all.
—Dinsdale T. Young, The Gospel of the Left Hand, p. 207.
Where Is Wisdom?
The answer to this question is given as the conclusion of one of the most eloquent and poetic descriptions discoverable.
I. Not in Intelligent Development.—The passage enables us to answer the question whether man can attain the highest wisdom, or, in other words, 'the highest state of excellence,' without a revelation from God. That there is such a revelation we Christians believe, and that the Bible contains such a revelation the answer to a question like this goes to prove. The attentive reader will observe that the sacred writer (Job xxviii.) employs terms of expression which show that he had an intimate knowledge of mining operations. The statement is made for the purpose of showing that man's faculties, his industry and enterprise, have been marvellously developed in regard to all physical phenomena. Knowledge and skill have been manifested by man for a far longer period than is consistent with some modern theories of his development. In very remote ages, at least 1000 years before Job, there were gold mines in Egypt. He reminds us that man, through the triumphs of his reasoning faculty, can scale the heavens, and penetrate into the hidden laws which govern the universe. But when man is thus set before us as possessing powers and capacities which may be said to conquer nature, how comes it to pass that intelligent development is not equalled by moral elevation? He is described as not having found wisdom. The want of wisdom in Scriptural language is to be in a state of folly, that state of the man who says in his heart 'There is no God,' or practically lives without any recognition of the claims of God to obedience. We may well ask, 'Have they no knowledge that work iniquity, not calling upon God?' Knowledge they may have, but not true wisdom.
II. Not in Wealth.—The question waits for an answer, 'Where shall wisdom be found, and where is the place of understanding?' Fallen, though intellectual, man has not found it. But has he power to procure, can he purchase it? An answer is given. He may acquire wealth, but he cannot put a price upon wisdom. He may have gold of Ophir, and jewels, and precious stones. The habitable earth may have been traversed, the depths of the ocean explored for his benefit. He may possess all that the diver or miner has collected, and that the merchant has transported over the seas, but he has acquired nothing which can give peace, nothing which he can keep, nothing which he can exchange for true wisdom. 'The price of it is above rubies.'
III. Where, then, is Wisdom?—But there is no room for despair. The Bible tells of man's restoration and renewal as well as of his origin and fall. Where is wisdom? 'God understandeth the way thereof.' And the point of importance is that 'the way thereof God has made known'. His own light has shone on the way thereof. Holy Scripture given by inspiration contains the statement that the wisdom which maketh wise unto salvation is connected with faith in Christ Jesus; that what is sometime shadow is elsewhere clearly manifested in the face of Him; that personified Wisdom is seen in the person of Christ; that in Him, Christ Jesus, are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; and, moreover, that the first discovery of these treasures that truly enrich, and sanctify, and save were made through the revelation of God; that the first light that shone out of darkness was seen in the promise that the 'seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent'; that after obtaining the knowledge of good and evil, man only learnt where true wisdom was to be found when God said to man, 'Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding'.
The book of Job is admittedly a difficult book. It relates to times contemporary with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is believed to have been written between the entry into and the exodus from Egypt. It has been conjectured that Moses was the writer of the book, owing, no doubt, to the similarity of some parts of the book to some parts of Genesis. But that is not the case. It is essentially an historical book, and Job is an historical personage. His name is wonderfully significant—Job, which means 'the assaulted one'.
I. Job's Character and Trial.—Now what do we know of Job's character? He is described by God Himself in the eighth verse of the first chapter. He was a 'perfect and an upright man; one that feareth God and escheweth evil'. Yet it was such an one that Satan was allowed to tempt and to afflict; yet in all this Job sinned not. Again, the tempter was allowed to afflict him, this time by assaulting his body. Yet 'in all this did not Job sin with his lips'. It is at this stage that Job's 'three friends' came on the scene, and the chapters from the third to the thirty-seventh are a record of the conversations that ensued between Job and his friends. They had not much cheer or encouragement to offer him, and their pessimism is remembered to this day in the homely phrase we apply to those who take dark views of life—that they are 'Job's comforters'. It is in the thirty-eighth and subsequent chapters that we see Job's vindication, when the Lord answered Job, turned his captivity, and blessed his latter days more than his beginning. The 'patience of Job' has been an object-lesson to the Christian Church in every age. What was its secret? Surely it is to be found in the words of the text.
II. The Fear of the Lord.—The text occurs in the answer made by Job himself to one of the three friends—Bildad the Shuhite—and it seems to have been an answer to Bildad's question (25:4), 'How then can man be justified with God?' Now 'the fear of the Lord' was essentially an Old Testament thought. We find it conspicuous, too, in the New Testament, but with a more glorious meaning, for the Gospel has shed its bright beams upon it. It was the theme of the song of the Blessed Virgin, 'His mercy is on them that fear Him'. We find St. Peter, too, laying it down as a command, 'Fear God; honour the King'. But, some one will ask, does not St. John say, 'Perfect love casteth out fear'; and that 'he that feareth is not made perfect in love'? Quite true; but the contradiction is only apparent, not real. There are two kinds of fear: (a) The filial fear, which fears to do a wrong against one who loves and is loved; and (b) servile fear, which trembles at the consequence of wrongdoing. It is the servile fear which love casts out.
III. What it Produces—Beyond all question we need at the present day a deeper realization of the fear of the Lord.
(a) A perfect faith.—We need the filial fear, which is not irreverent, but is based on the knowledge of the truth, and which leads to perfect faith. Job was a man who feared the Lord, and this led him to a life of perfect faith, so that he could say: 'Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him'.
(b) A godly wisdom.—This is 'the fear of the Lord' which Job declares to be 'wisdom'. The world is in search of wisdom today, but a large number of people want to find it apart from God.
(c) A relationship of Father and Son.—The fear of the Lord, again, brings us into right relationship with God. He is our Father; we are His children. Are we not reminded of this when we read, 'They that feared the Lord spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord and that thought upon His Name. And they shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels.'
(d) A departure from evil.—Once more the fear of the Lord promotes a departure from evil, for in this case 'wisdom' and 'understanding' are almost identical terms. 'To fear God and to keep His commandments' is described as the whole duty of man. If we fear the Lord as Job did, we shall, like him, examine ourselves, our thoughts, our words, our deeds. Nor must the Christian precept be forgotten—'Let every one that nameth the Name of Christ depart from iniquity'.
Man's Best Wisdom
Job in his calmer mood feels that he has attempted to deal with questions too high for him.
I. He forgets for a while his own pangs and sorrows; the pressure of God's heavy hand is withdrawn, and there rises before him a vision of that wisdom, which, as in the opening portion of the book of Proverbs, so here, and in later generations, as for instance in the age at which the 'Book of Wisdom' was written, embodied to the pious Jew the combination of the highest knowledge with the truest goodness.
II. And this, in his baffled and wearied, yet more tranquil frame, he feels to be beyond his reach. There is a touch at once of hopelessness and of cheering faith in his words. He dwells on the unapproachable, the inscrutable nature of true wisdom, in terms which the most enlightened Christian may in one sense fully echo.
III. 'We know that what we see forms but the outskirts of creation; that the power and the wisdom which rule this vast universe must lie beyond the reach, not only of our understanding, but also of our furthest speculation.' Yet we know also how much of God's nature, which was hidden from Job, has been revealed to us in Christ: that if we 'know in part' only yet in part we do know; and we may thankfully welcome and accept the vast revelations of that book of nature which we have received from the progress of human science.
IV. But when all this has been fully acknowledged, we still feel the force of Job's words, that there is something higher yet than any knowledge regarded as knowledge, whether it be scientific, or whether it be theological knowledge. The truest wisdom is 'to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God'.
—G. G. Bradley, Lectures on the Book of Job, p. 238.
Iron is taken out of the earth, and brass is molten out of the stone.
He setteth an end to darkness, and searcheth out all perfection: the stones of darkness, and the shadow of death.
The flood breaketh out from the inhabitant; even the waters forgotten of the foot: they are dried up, they are gone away from men.
As for the earth, out of it cometh bread: and under it is turned up as it were fire.
The stones of it are the place of sapphires: and it hath dust of gold.
There is a path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture's eye hath not seen:
The lion's whelps have not trodden it, nor the fierce lion passed by it.
He putteth forth his hand upon the rock; he overturneth the mountains by the roots.
He cutteth out rivers among the rocks; and his eye seeth every precious thing.
He bindeth the floods from overflowing; and the thing that is hid bringeth he forth to light.
But where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding?
Man knoweth not the price thereof; neither is it found in the land of the living.
The depth saith, It is not in me: and the sea saith, It is not with me.
It cannot be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof.
It cannot be valued with the gold of Ophir, with the precious onyx, or the sapphire.
The gold and the crystal cannot equal it: and the exchange of it shall not be for jewels of fine gold.
No mention shall be made of coral, or of pearls: for the price of wisdom is above rubies.
The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it, neither shall it be valued with pure gold.
Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding?
Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the fowls of the air.
Destruction and death say, We have heard the fame thereof with our ears.
God understandeth the way thereof, and he knoweth the place thereof.
For he looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven;
To make the weight for the winds; and he weigheth the waters by measure.
When he made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder:
Then did he see it, and declare it; he prepared it, yea, and searched it out.
And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.