Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth? are not his days also like the days of an hireling?Job 7:6; Job 7:9
Having gazed, in their brief fate, on a life that is no life at all, they disappear like a vapour, convinced alone of what each hath met in his whirling to and fro in all directions.
Although we have some experience of living, there is not a man on earth who has flown so high into abstraction as to have any practical guess at the meaning of the word life. All literature, from Job and Omar Khayyam to Thomas Carlyle or Walt Whitman, is but an attempt to look upon the human state with such largeness of view as shall enable us to rise from the consideration of living to the Definition of life. And our sages give us about the best satisfaction in their power when they say that it is a vapour, or a show, or made out of the same stuff with dreams.
—R. L. Stevenson in Æs Triplex.
Compare the touching lines of Lucretius (iii. 894 f.): 'Soon, soon thy happy home shall no more welcome thee, nor thy true wife; nor shall thy children run to catch the first kiss from thy lips, touching thy heart with a silent joy'.
Speaking in the Wrong Temper
Then he is sure to get wrong. He has already made the vital mistake of his whole harangue. He has given himself away; he is in the wrong mood; he is in the mood in which a man should shut his mouth. But that is the last miracle of grace. He will be eloquent enough, alas! too eloquent. Grief has a rhetoric of its own, but it should be spoken to one hearer who can understand it and pity it and forgive it. Have no fear of the eloquence; yet there is an eloquence to be feared. This Job will get wrong today; he has opened his speech in the wrong key; 'anguish' and 'bitterness,' what can these tell of the mystery of God and the tragedy of life? There are times when we should run away from ourselves.
I. You do not know what you have done for your house by much speaking to God in it. You may not have seen the answered prayer; your household is the larger and the lightsomer and the more homelike because of the prayers which you have prayed when you have shut the door and spoken to your Father in secret. The prayer has killed the bacilli. If a word from a human throat can change the colour of a natural or material substance, who can say out of the range of his boundless ignorance what may be done by a sigh, a cry to the living heart of the Infinite pity? Go on with your praying; pray without ceasing; you are changing the very form and fashion of the earth by it, you are enlarging the place of summer, you are enabling men to pull down their barns and build greater; for it was your prayer that made more golden the gold of the harvest-field, that made ruddier the redness of the rose, that made brighter the light of the garden.
II. Many persons have spoken not out of anguish and out of bitterness but out of prejudice, bigotry, ignorance. They have spoken when they ought to have been silent; they have mistaken a form for a power, an environment for a genius or a soul. They nave never been in the holy of holies, they talk about bark and shell and crust and phenomena—a word that has nearly been the death of them! They have not talked about soul, inmost meaning, ineffable intent, the yearning of the mother-pity of God.
III. Will God allow us to recall some of our words, to amend them, to expand them, to modify them? I take encouragement from the example of my Saviour: 'And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly'. We should not have thought that possible, but it was not only possible, but actual. There is a pressure heavier than the other pressure; there is a pressure that gouges, forces the life-blood out of you, the last drop, and turns it into a red word, a crimson syllable, a mighty speech with which to assail the heavens. There are second prayers that swallow up first prayers. We grow by praying. First give God an outline of our desire and our wish, and then we, gathering wisdom from experience, go back and amend by expansion our own prayer. 'He prayed again a second time.' Job may have done this. He spoke in anguish and spoke in bitterness, and complained because his grief was intolerable; perhaps by and by he calmed down, and saw the Divine movement from another standpoint, and beheld it with another mystery and interpretation of light upon it; and who knows what he said when that aurora glory beamed upon his trouble?
Let us learn, therefore, a lesson from Job not to speak in the anguish of our spirit or in the bitterness of our soul; and let us learn a lesson from the Psalmist, who says he has made God's Word the man of his counsel and turned the statutes of God into songs in the house of his pilgrimage. In the old, old time when the days were sunnier, they that loved the Lord spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard, and a book of remembrance was written. Read the history of the whole Church of Christ, and you will find that it was nourished upon the Bible, fed upon the Divine Word, and that it nestled itself in the bosom of God.
—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. I. p. 277.
References.—VII. 12.—Spurgeon, Sermons, No. 2206. VII. 16.—J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons (10th Series) p. 168.
It is good to get back and lie on the bosom of the eternal mother, the folds of whose garments are the high mountains, whose feet are set in the laughing ocean, and whose life is the life of the world;—to lie there, while the soul slips away from the sense of its own paltry joys and sorrows, from the narrow hopes and fears of the individual lot; to be made one with the glorious order of created things, the flesh and spirit no longer conscious of weary fightings and divisions; to dream of the everlasting mysteries of birth and growth, and of the fullness of strength and of the failing of strength, and of decay,—and of the mystery of transmuted force, of life again returning out of death, to begin once more the ceaseless round of existence anew; to dream of the mystery of night and morning, summer and winter, seedtime and harvest, rain and shine, while through all the countless ages the Eternal Wisdom and Goodness broods for ever over the broad bright land and sea. 'What is man, that Thou art mindful of him?' Get back, get back to the mother of all.
—Lucas Malet. The names of great men hover before my eyes like a secret reproach, and this grand impassive Nature tells me that tomorrow I shall have disappeared, butterfly that I am, without having lived. Or perhaps it is the breath of eternal things which stirs in me the shudder of Job? What is man—this weed which a sunbeam withers? What is our life in the infinite abyss?
References.—VII. 17.—G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 20. VII. 17, 18.—J. Keble, Sermons for Christmas to Epiphany, p. 170.
He can hinder any of the greatest comforts in life from refreshing us, and give an edge to every one of its greatest calamities. Who then can bear the thought of being an outcast from His presence, that is, from the comforts of it, or of feeling it only in its terrors? How pathetic is the expostulation of Job, when, for the tryal of his patience, he was made to look upon himself in this deplorable condition! Why hast Thou set me as a mark against Thee, so that I am become a burthen to myself?
—Addison in The Spectator (No. 571).
References.—VII. 20.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iii. No. 113. VII. 21.—Ibid. vol. xlvi. No. 2705. VIII. 7.—Ibid. vol. vi. No. 311.
As a servant earnestly desireth the shadow, and as an hireling looketh for the reward of his work:
So am I made to possess months of vanity, and wearisome nights are appointed to me.
When I lie down, I say, When shall I arise, and the night be gone? and I am full of tossings to and fro unto the dawning of the day.
My flesh is clothed with worms and clods of dust; my skin is broken, and become loathsome.
My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle, and are spent without hope.
O remember that my life is wind: mine eye shall no more see good.
The eye of him that hath seen me shall see me no more: thine eyes are upon me, and I am not.
As the cloud is consumed and vanisheth away: so he that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more.
He shall return no more to his house, neither shall his place know him any more.
Therefore I will not refrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.
Am I a sea, or a whale, that thou settest a watch over me?
When I say, My bed shall comfort me, my couch shall ease my complaint;
Then thou scarest me with dreams, and terrifiest me through visions:
So that my soul chooseth strangling, and death rather than my life.
I loathe it; I would not live alway: let me alone; for my days are vanity.
What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him? and that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him?
And that thou shouldest visit him every morning, and try him every moment?
How long wilt thou not depart from me, nor let me alone till I swallow down my spittle?
I have sinned; what shall I do unto thee, O thou preserver of men? why hast thou set me as a mark against thee, so that I am a burden to myself?
And why dost thou not pardon my transgression, and take away mine iniquity? for now shall I sleep in the dust; and thou shalt seek me in the morning, but I shall not be.