The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
Then Job answered the LORD, and said,After the Storm
What does it all come to? We have been much excited by the process, what is its consummation? Is the end worthy of the beginning? Is the literary structure well put together, and does it end in domes and pinnacles worthy of its magnitude and original purpose? Or is this a lame and impotent conclusion? Let us deal frankly with the facts as they are before us.
It is difficult to avoid the feeling of some disappointment as we come to the conclusion of the Book of Job. On first reading, the last chapter seems to be the poorest in all the work. If the writer was a dramatist, he seems to have lost his cunning towards the close. This chapter appears, when first looked at, to have been written by a wearied hand. The writer seems to be saying, I would I had never begun this drama of Job: parts of it were interesting enough to me, but now I have come to sum it all up I find a want of glory; I have not light enough to set above the whole tragedy; I thought to have ended amid the glory of noontide, and I find myself writing indistinctly and feebly in the cool and uncertain twilight. Should any man so express himself he must vindicate his position by the chapter as it stands at the close of the Book of Job. Is Job alive? Did we not expect him to go down under the cataract of questions which we had been considering? Does he not lie a dead drowned man under the tremendous torrent? To what shall we liken the course of Job? Shall we say, A ship at sea? Then verily it was a ship that never knew anything but storms: every wind of heaven had a quarrel with it; the whole sky clouded into a frown when looking upon that vessel; the sea was troubled with it as with a burden it could not carry, and the lightnings made that poor ship their sport. Did the ship ever come into port? or was it lost in the great flood? Shall we compare Job to a traveller? Then he seems to have travelled always in great jungles. Quiet, broad, sunny, flowery roads there were none in all the way that Job pursued: he is entangled, he is in darkness, the air is rent by roars and cries of wild beasts and birds of prey. It was a sad, sad journey. Is there anything left of Job? The very weakness of the man's voice in this last chapter is the crowning perfection of art. If Job had stood straight up and spoken in an unruffled and unhindered voice, his doing so would have been out of harmony with all that has gone before. It was an inspiration to make him whisper at the last; it was inspired genius that said, The hero of this tale must be barely heard when he speaks at last; there must be no mistake about the articulation, every word must be distinct, but the whole must be uttered as it would be by a man who had been deafened by all the tempests of the air and affrighted by all the visions of the lower world. So even the weakness is not imbecility; it is the natural weakness that ought to come after such a pressure. Old age has its peculiar and sweet characteristic. It would be out of place in youth. There is a dignity of feebleness; there is a weakness that indicates the progress and establishment of a moral education. Job, then, is not weak in any senile or contemptible sense; he is weak in a natural and proper degree.
Let us hear every word of his speech. What a deep conviction he has of God's infinite majesty—"I know that thou canst do every thing." These words might be read as if they were the expression of intellectual feebleness. They are the words of a shattered mind, or of undeveloped intellect; they are more like a repetition than an original or well-reasoned conviction. "I know that thou canst do every thing,"—words which a child might say. Yet they are the very words that ought to be said under the peculiar circumstances of the case. There must be no attempt to match God's eloquence; that thunder must roll in its own heavens, and no man must attempt to set his voice against that shock of eloquence. Better that Job should speak in a stifled voice, with head fallen on his breast, saying, "I know that thou canst do every thing." He said much saying little. He paid God, so to say, the highest tribute by not answering him in the same rhetoric, but by contrasting his muffled tone with the imperious demands that seemed to shatter the air in which they were spoken. Who can be religious who does not feel that he has to deal with omnipotence? Who can be frivolous in the presence of almightiness—in the presence of him whose breath may be turned towards the destruction of the universe, the lifting up of whose hand makes all things tremble. Without veneration here is no religion. That veneration may be turned into superstition is no argument against this contention. Not what may be done by perverting genius, but what is natural and congruous is the question now before the mind. There should be a place, therefore, for silence in the church: "The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him." We may not stare with audacity. If we catch any hint of the light of his garment, it must be by furtive glances. See, then, Job overpowered, convinced at least of omnipotence, assured that he has to deal with almightiness. That assurance will determine all that he says afterwards. But omnipotence is, so to say, objective; it is outside of us, beyond us, something to be looked at, perhaps admired, perhaps appealed to in servile tones.
Is there no attribute of God which corresponds with this but looks in the other direction? Job has discovered that attribute, for he adds "and that no thought can be withholden from thee." The God of Job's conception, then, was first clothed with omnipotence, and secondly invested with omniscience. Job is now upon solid ground. He is no dreaming theologian. He has laid hold of the ideal God in a way which will certainly and most substantially assist him. If omnipotence were the only attribute of God, we should feel a sense of security, because we could exclude him from the sanctuary of our being; we could keep him at bay; we could do with him as we could do with our nearest and dearest friend,—we could look loyalty and think blasphemy. Who can not smile, and yet in his heart feel all the cruelty of murder? But here is a God who can search thought, and try the reins of the children of men; from whose eye nothing is hidden, but who sees the thought before it is a thought, when it is rising as a mist from the mind to shape itself into an imagining, a dream or a purpose. There is not a word upon my tongue, there is not a thought in my heart, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether. God is a searcher of hearts. God uses this word "search" again and again in talking to Job: Hast thou searched the depths of the sea, the treasures of the hail, the hiding-place of wisdom? hast thou penetrated it, taken away fold after fold, and probed the infinite secret to its core? A wonderful revelation of God is this, which invests him with the attribute of searching, piercing to the dividing asunder of the joints and marrow. There is nothing hidden from the eye of God. "All things," we read in this book, "are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do." God is all secret: to God secret is impossible. The thing we have hidden in our hearts lies under the blaze of noonday burning light Is it nothing to have come to this conclusion on practical grounds as Job has done? We may come into religious conceptions in one of two ways: we may be instructed in them, they may be communicated to us by the friendly voice of father or teacher or pastor, and we may hold them with some realisation of their sacredness; or we may be scourged into them, driven into our religious persuasions and conclusions; we may be caused to flee into them by some pursuing tempest: when that is the case, our religion cannot be uprooted, for it is not something we hold lightly or secure by the hand; it is part of our very souls, it is involved in our identity. So there is a difference between intellectual religion and experimental religion; there is a difference between the Christianity of the young heart and the Christianity of the old heart: in the first instance there must be more or. less of high imagination, ardent desire, perhaps a touch of speculation, perfectly innocent and often most useful; but in the case of the experienced Christian all history stamps the heart with its impress; the man has tested the world, and has written "lie and vanity" on its fairest words; he knows that there is something beyond appearances, he has been afflicted into his religion, and he is now as wrought iron that cannot be bent or broken; the whole process has been completed within himself, so that suggestion and fact, conjecture and experience, joy and sorrow, high strength and all-humbling affliction, have co-operated in the working out of a result which is full of sacred trust, and which is not without a certain stimulus to pure joy.
So what was supposed to be weakness was in reality strength. The subduing of Job as to his mere attitude and voice, is the elevation of Job as to his highest conceptions and experiences. What a thorough conviction he had of his finite condition!—"Things too wonderful for me, which I knew not" It is something to know that there are some spaces we cannot reach. The eye can do more than the hand. The hand would sometimes follow the eye, but it follows it at an immeasurable distance. The eye sees the fair blue arch of summer, but the spoiling hand cannot stain that fair disclosure of God's almightiness. The mind is the better for knowing that it is pursued by a law of trespass. Imagination is none the worse, but all the better, for seeing written here and there all round the horizon: No thoroughfare—No road—Private. What if we could see everything, handle everything, explain everything? Who would not soon tire of the intolerable monotony? It is the surprise, the flash of unexpected light, the hearing of a going in the tops of the trees, the shaking of the arras, that makes one feel that things are larger than we had once imagined, and by their largeness they allure us into broader study, into more importunate prayer. "Things too wonderful for me"—in providence, in the whole management of human history, in the handling of the universe—that easy, masterly handling by which all things are kept in attitude and at duty,—that secret handling, for who can see the hand that arranges and sustains all nature? Yet there nature stands, in all security and harmony and beneficence, to attest that behind it there is a government living, loving, personal, paternal. Is it not something to know, then, that we are not infinite? It is easy to admit that in words. Nothing is gained, however, by these easy admissions of great propositions in metaphysics and theology. We must here again, as in the former instance, be driven into them, so that when we utter them we may speak with the consent and force of a united life. We accept the position of creaturedom, and must not attempt to seize the crown of creatorship.
What dissatisfaction Job expresses with mere hearsay in religious inquiry! "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear." That is superficial. There is nothing in it that can profoundly and savingly affect the life. Who has not heard thousands of sermons, and forgotten them by the easy process of turning aside from their appeals and practically disobeying them? Yet, who has heard aright—heard with his soul, heard with his unblunted and undivided attention, heard with the eagerness of men who must hear or die? Alas, there is but little such hearing. Even when the Scripture is read in the public assembly, who can hear all its music, who can reply to its sweet argument? Is there not much mere hearsay in religion? We may hear certain truths repeated so frequently that to hear anything to the contrary would amount to a species of infidelity. In reality, there may be no infidelity in the matter at all, for what we have been hearing may be all wrong as we shall presently have occasion to note. There is a mysterious, half-superstitious influence about repetition. Things may be said with a conciseness and a frequency which claim for the things said a species of revelation. Hence many false orthodoxies, and narrow constructions of human thought and human history, because other things do not balance with what we have always heard. But from whom have we heard these things? It may be that the fault lies in the speaker and in the hearer, and that the new voice is not a new voice in any sense amounting to mere novelty, but new because of our ignorance, new because we were not alive to our larger privileges.
"But now," Job continues, "mine eye seeth thee." "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear" is equal to, I have heard of thine omnipotence: "but now mine eye seeth thee" amounts to a balancing of the omniscient power of God. Man is allowed to see something of God, as God sees everything of man. The vision is reciprocal: whilst God looks we look,—"mine eye seeth."
"Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." No man can imagine light. Looking upon the grey landscape before the sun has fully risen, a man says—I can imagine what it will be when the sun shines upon it He is wrong. No man can imagine sunlight. He can do so in a little degree; he can imaginatively increase the light that is already shining, but when the sun, so to say, chooses to come out in all the wizardry of his power, touching and blessing what he will and as he will, he startles the most diligent devotee at his altar with new displays of unsuspected splendour. So it is, only in infinitely higher degree, with the living God. Could we but see him even in his goodness, it should be unto us like glory; were his glory to pass before us, we should never see it more, for we should be blinded by the excess of light.
Here, then, we find the patriarch once so eloquent abhorring himself in dust and ashes. That is a condition to which we must come before we can be right with God. Whilst we are mere controversialists, we can never be penitents; whilst we are "clever," we can never pray; whilst we think that there is one poor little rag upon our nakedness, God will not command the blessed ones to bring forth the white robe of adoption and restoration. We must be unmade before we can be re-made. We must be dead before we can live. Thou fool, that which thou sowest must die before it can bring forth fruit. That is the explanation of our want of real religion. We have never experienced real contrition for sin. We have never seen that we are sinners. If we could see that, all the other prayers of Scripture would gather themselves up in the one prayer—God be merciful to me a sinner! So long as we can ask questions we are outside the whole idea of redemption; by these questions we mean merely intellectual inquiries,—not the solemn moral inquiry, "What shall I do to be saved?" but the vain intellectual inquiry which assumes that the mind retains its integrity and is willing to converse with God upon equal terms. From the Pharisee God turns away with infinite contempt. We may know something of the full meaning of this by looking at it in its social relations. Take the case as it really stands in actual experience. A man has misunderstood you, robbed you; has acted proudly and self-sufficiently toward you; has been assured of one thing above all others, and that is that he himself is right whoever else may be wrong: he has pursued his course; that course has ended in failure, disappointment, mortification, poverty: he returns to you that he may ask favours, but he asks them with all the old pride, without a single hint that he has done anything wrong, or committed a single mistake. You cannot help that man; you may feed him, but he can never rise above the position of a mendicant, a pauper for whom there is no help of a permanent kind. He speaks to you as if he were conferring a favour upon you in asking for the bread he wants to eat. What must that man do before he can ever be a man again in any worthy sense? He must get rid of his pride, his self-sufficiency, his self-idolatry; he must come and say, if not in words yet in all the signification of spirit—I am a fool, I have done wrong every day of my life; I have mistaken the bulk, proportion, colour, value of everything; I have been vain, self-sufficient, self-confident; I have duped myself: O pity me! Now you can begin, and now you can make solid work: the old man has been taken out of him; the sinning, the offending Adam has been whipped out of him, and he comes and says in effect, Help me now, for I am without self-excuse, self-defence; my vanity, my pride are not dead only, but buried, rotten, for ever gone. Now you may open your mind, open your heart, open your hand; now you may buy a ring for his fingers and shoes for his feet; now you may bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; now he begins to be a son. But without this there is no possible progress. If we go to God and say that we are men of great intellect, men even of genius, we can understand thee, show thyself to us; we are equal to the occasion; if we have made any mistakes, they are mere slips, they have not affected the integrity of our character or the pureness of our souls; we will climb the range of creation; we will demand to exercise the franchise of our uninjured manhood. Nothing will come of such high demand. The heavens will become as lead when such appeals are addressed to them. We must come in another tone, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner! Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? "A guilty, weak, and helpless worm, on thy kind arms I fall." Father, I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make as one of thy hired servants. Now the house will be full of light, full of music; a house almost heaven.
We bless thy name, thou loving One, for thinking of our need of rest. Thou knowest our frame, thou rememberest that we are dust; thou hast set among the days one whose name is Rest. This is the Sabbath of the Lord. We hear thy voice saying unto us, Rest awhile. Thou dost cause us to rest that we may gather strength; thou dost not lull us into stupor; thou dost in sleep make us again, yea, thou dost create us in thine own image and likeness, so that when we come back from the land of forgetfulness we are ready for duty, for service, for suffering, and we expend the Lord's rest in doing the Lord's work. We bless thee for the Sabbath day. It is a day of triumph, the grave was robbed of its victory by the rising Christ He is not in the grave, he is risen: we behold the place where the Lord lay, but he himself has gone forth free for ever. Teach us the meaning of death; show us that we must all die, but that being in Christ we die into greater life; we do not die into darkness and extinction, we die into light and immortality. Jesus Christ brought this great truth to light in the gospel: now we say, O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? We triumph in the Lord's victory, we rise again in the Lord's resurrection. Help us to understand more of our relation to Jesus Christ; enable us to feel it more vitally; may we be in him, rooted, stablished, built up, yea may we be made one with the Son of God. Then shall Christ's triumph be ours, and the peace of Christ shall be our peace, and because he is in heaven we shall be very near him there. Fill us with all the fulness of Christ. In him dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily: may we partake of that fulness—fulness of God, fulness of Christ, fulness of life, and light, and love; yea, may Christ: overflow in us, so that we may the more abundantly and earnestly desire him, knowing how rich is his grace, and how tender the touch of his love. We bless thee for all sense of new life; thou art writing the story of the resurrection upon the face of the whole earth; every opening flower preaches the good news of rising again, every green little bud upon hedge and tree tells us that God liveth, and he will bring up, from the winter of our sorrow and sin and overthrow, the spring immortal, the spring of celestial beauty. Every morning preaches the gospel of resurrection, every night the old enemy is overthrown and buried, and new-born light shines upon all the awakening and rejoicing earth. May we not be beguiled from our faith by aught that men can say of nature misread and misunderstood; may we rather read the parable of divine action in nature, and see in every dawn, in every spring, in every new opportunity, a hint of recreation, and a guarantee of immortality. Help us to bring the power of an endless life to bear upon the action of the present day; then shall little things be made great, and things of no account shall stand up invested with importance. Every word shall fall into the music of Thine own utterance, and every aspiration shall lift us nearer thy throne. Pity those who have no Sabbath day, who toil, and wear themselves, and fall as victims under crushing anxieties; pity those who have no Eastertide, no vernal springtide, no occasion of realized life, in which death flees away, and the grave, ashamed of its emptiness, seeks to fill itself with flowers. Look upon those who are dying, and tell them that death is overthrown; may there be joy in the chamber of affliction, may there be triumph in the house of bereavement, may they who sit in darkness see a great light, and say, Christ the Lord is risen today, and his name is great in Zion. Amen.
And it was so, that after the LORD had spoken these words unto Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath.The Exaltation and Death of Job
How God rebukes the wisdom of the wise! How God humiliates the very men who supposed that they were defending and glorifying him! How even Christian ministers may misrepresent God! We may be talking about religion without being religious. These are the thoughts which are excited by the circumstance that when all the comforters had exhausted their accusatory eloquence they had neither comforted Job nor pleased God. It is right The tone that is to comfort the world is not a tone of exasperation: when the world is really comforted in its inner heart it will be by music, by the singing of angels, by the reception of gospels, by communion with the loving God. How sad a thing is this, that men may suppose they are serving God at the very time they are angering him! How infinitely sad it is that a man may suppose he is preaching the gospel when he neither understands what he is saying nor feels it in all its pathos! Are there any critics so intolerable, so discouraging; to man, so unacceptable to God, as those who think they know all things, and can answer all questions, and rebuke all errors and infirmities, and sit in just judgment upon the whole race of mankind? They think they do God service; nay, they are sure of it; they affirm it with great emphasis; they suppose they are the men, and that wisdom will die with them: what if at the end they should argue themselves into a great divine wrath, and plunge themselves by their giddy logic into the very fire of divine judgment?
The three comforters surely spoke up for God nobly, with eloquence, and with great argumentative skill, and with signal critical ability; they did not hesitate to perform upon Job the whole process of vivisection; they were not kept back by any fear of wounding his feelings; they were exasperating preachers; they hurled at Job the largest missiles they could lift and throw: but where was their bowing down of heart, where their tender sympathy, where their desire to know the case in its reality and make the best of it? What if at the last the Christian preacher may have to apologise to the people whom he has been misleading for offering them false doctrine and false comfort! Did the comforters of Job ever say, Before we utter one word about this misery, let us pray? Was there any prayer in the whole process until Job began to pray at the end of the tumultuous colloquy? They began in high argument and in sonorous eloquence, and they hurled the commonplaces of their time at the wounded head of Job, but even Eliphaz the Temanite—eldest, and in some respects best, of the comforters—did not say, Let us put away all controversy, and come together in prayer without words—that mute wrestling agony of the soul which God will understand and not pass by with neglect. What is this gospel we have to preach, and about which some people know everything, and know most about it when they are most ignorant of its spirit? The gospel is not a mechanical arrangement, it is not a new device in theological geometry; we cannot tell whence it cometh, whither it goeth, in many of its effects; we should always be right, however, when we proclaim this doctrine, namely—"God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." That is a sentence which admits of no amendment. We ought to be careful how we enlarge it, for it seems already to cover the very firmament and to flush the whole horizon with infinite and tender colour. What if it be our business to proclaim a gospel rather than explain it? What if there be no explanation of the gospel at all but a great deliverance of it—a mighty, gracious, world-wide proclamation? It may come to pass that that may be the right thing after all. We get entangled amongst men's explanations. Men sometimes contradict one another in the very act of explaining what they believe to be the truth. What if it be so arranged that all we have to do is to take up the great music and repeat it, saying, God is love: the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost: the Spirit and the bride say, Come; let him that heareth say, Come; and whosoever will let him come? These words may be so repeated as to affect the heart as no other words can ever affect it. The fussy, intrusive, self-laudatory, and self-trustful intellect, so-called, may force its way to the front and say, What do you mean by "come"? and we may think it reasonable that the question should be asked and that explanation should be given: thus we may alter the terms which God has imposed upon us; thus we may contract into a human argument what was meant to be an infinite revelation. Salvation can never be by argument; otherwise only they who are mentally gifted could be saved. How few there are who could follow an argument! How many there are who could accept an assurance, a gospel! The argument is for the trained, the skilled, the so-called wise; an argument is the very heaven of the wise man—the man who is wise in letters and wise after the scale of this world's wisdom: he says he loves to argue. The gospel is not a mere argument of a mechanical or formal kind; it is a declaration that when man lost himself and could not recover himself—when there was no eye to pity and no arm to save, God's eye pitied and God's arm brought salvation; and if we trouble that revelation with little questions and criticisms, we may be pleasing our own intellectual vanity at the expense of losing the meaning of God's love. Surely there was nothing wanting on the part of Eliphaz and his two friends in the way of argument, controversy: they stood up to the line well, they acted like skilled controversialists; no sooner did Job speak than they answered him with a multitude of hard words; and if words went for anything, truly they overpowered the poor sufferer with their rough and urgent eloquence. Yet all the time they were but exasperating the God they intended to serve. In all these great things let us pray, let us whisper, let us keep closely to the word as it is written for us, and nearer and nearer still to the gracious Son of God, and add no word to his, for our additions are subtractions, and our explanations do but mystify what might to our hearts in their sincerity and simplicity have been clear.
At the very last Job prayed for his friends. Even Job was wrong so long as he argued. Argument has done very little for the world. It has divided families; it has distracted individual minds; it has broken the devout attention which ought to have been fixed upon vital points; it has appeared to be doing great service when it was only hindering the highest and widest progress of the soul. We are receivers, not associates with God; we are to open our hearts to receive the rain of his truth and love and blessing, and let that rain percolate through the whole being, and then express itself when working in harmony with the life in all that is beauteous and fruitful. "The Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends,"—as if to say, You are right; you have abandoned controversy, the clang and exchange of windy words; and you have begun to fall down at the altar, to clasp your hands and lift up your heart's eyes to heaven, and to pray: now all is yours that is of the nature of blessing and comfort and restoration. Let us pray for one another. Many have heard of the patience of Job who seem not to have heard of his prayer. What is this prayer? Is it an attitude? Is it a series of words? No; it is a condition of soul: not a word may be spoken, yet the mind may be deeply involved in the sacred engagement of prayer: it is the expectancy of the heart; it is the look which cannot be turned aside—that fixed, ardent, soul-gaze that means to take heaven captive. We do not pray when we use words; the fewer words we use the better: "When ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do; for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking." There is little or no speaking in words; there is but a hinting, a putting up of a sentence as a signal or an indication, a pointing to the blessing which the soul would like to possess. Thus all men can pray. A few only may be able to pray in audible sentences: but salvation is no more of rhetoric and grammar than it is of argument. We can pray always; it is a tear, a look, an ejaculation, a sigh; it is the very mystery of life. Let no man, therefore, say that he cannot pray simply because he has no gift of words. The less gift of words the better. Words have troubled the ages; words have hindered the truth. The true religious condition is a condition of heart, a quality of temper, spirit, disposition, union with the Son of God.
Some have thought that the after-life of Job was not sufficiently blessed considering all the process through which he passed. Have they sufficiently attended to the expressions which are used in this connection? Let us look at this one in particular:—Job 42:7, "my servant Job"; Job 42:8, "my servant Job"; Job 42:8, again, "my servant Job." Who can tell how these words were said? They are attributed to the divine lips, and they are not to be read by us with all the fulness of their emphasis and signification. When the Lord said, again and again and again, "my servant Job," who can tell what music was in his tone, what unction, what recognition, what benediction? The anthem closes upon its key-note: at the very first the Lord said "my servant Job"; at the end he says "my servant Job." It is possible for us to say, "Well done, good and faithful servant," and merely to utter these as so many syllables more or less beautiful; but when Jesus Christ pronounces the very same syllables they will mean heaven. Words are not the same in different mouths. Some men have no gift of emphasis, no gift of expression; their words are dissociated, they are unrelated, they are cold, they are not fused by that mysterious power of sympathy and affection which runs them into consolidated beauty and blessing. When the Lord says "my servant Job"—a word Job had not heard these many days—he forgets his sorrow, and springs as Mary sprang when the supposed gardener addressed her by her name. There was a gardener's way of speaking and a Christ's way: when the Son of God said "Mary," all the past came back instantly, and heaven came more than half-way down to inclose the resuscitated heart in its infinite security. There may, therefore, be a better ending than we had at first supposed. The chapter may not be wanting in the highest force of expression when we really look into its syllables, when we really listen to its palpitation.
"The Lord turned the captivity of Job"—took off his fetters, his manacles, and the devil-forged chain that was cast about him, and gave him liberty. Do not ask a free man what liberty means: ask an emancipated slave. "The Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before." This expression "twice as much" is arithmetical, and is but symbolic; it is in no sense literal. "Twice as much" means a million times as much multiplied by itself again and again. When God gives, he gives good measure, heaped up, pressed down, running over: "He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." So it may be with you, poor suffering friend: this is the month of trial, this is the year of testing, this is the period of affliction and baffling, of bewilderment and stupefaction: hold on; cease from mere argument in words; pray, look heavenward, hope steadfastly in the loving One, and at the end you shall have "twice as much"—as God interprets the word "twice."
"The Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning." There is a "latter end." By that all things must be judged. If you cut the life of Jesus in twain, you might accuse God of having exposed him to the utmost want, loneliness, and cruelty. We must not interfere with the divine punctuation of the literature of providence; we must allow God to put in all the secondary points, and not until he has put the full period may we venture to look upon what he has done and offer some judgment as to its scope and meaning. Let my latter end be like the good man's! He dies well; he dies like a hero; he dies as if he meant to live again: this is not dying, it is but crossing a little stream, the narrow stream of death,—a step, and it is passed, and is forgotten. "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his." God may do much in one day; he may clear up all the mysteries of a lifetime by one flash of light. Judge nothing before the time. Let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame—looking upon it as a necessary process, and regarding the end as the explanation of all that had gone before.
"In all the land were no women found so fair as the daughters of Job." In Old Testament times great truths had to be hinted by these outward manifestations or indications of the divine providence. God set beauty before the eyes of him who had suffered much, who had felt the burden of darkness. The name of the first was "Jemima," from the Arabic, dove, gentle bird; or, from another origin, day, day-bright,—the eye of the morning, the gleaming of a new dispensation. The name of the second, "Kezia"—cassia, a fragrant spice. He who had sat long amidst pestilence and rotteness and decay and death, had cassia sent to him from the gardens above. "The name of the third, Kerenhappuch,"—the horn of beauty, or the horn of plenty: a sign of abundance in the house. All the names were histories or commentaries or promises. Thus God blessed Job in a way Job could understand: he sent him back voices to sing in the house, and when the fair girls passed before him, tinted with the vermilion of nature, he said, This also cometh forth from the Lord of hosts, excellent in counsel, as well as wondrous in working. See God in your family, in that sleeping infant, in that opening mind, in those clinging hands, in those eyes that are quickened into the expression of prayer;—see God in the fields, in the sheep, and the oxen, and all the great abundance which is round about.
"So Job died, being old and full of days." We cannot tell what these words meant to an Old Testament mind. "Full of days." They brought to him a sense of completeness. He was not satiated, but satisfied. He said, The circle is complete; I do not want another hour: now I have completed my career; praise God in eternity. All this was significant of the future. We have seen again and again how earthly things have been invested with religious meanings. Abraham was called to go out into a far country, and promised a land that flowed with milk and honey; and when he came near it he said—I do not want this; I want a country out of sight, a heavenly Canaan, a city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God: I am glad I was stirred up from my home, that I am come out, for travelling has done me good; but as the ground has enlarged and I have seen things more clearly in their right proportions and meanings, I do not want the earth; its rivers are too shallow, its oceans too small, its space is a prison: I want heaven. This comes of our training in things inferior and minor and preliminary, if we rightly accept that training. The man who starts with the promise that he shall have gold at the end, if that man should live well, and be industrious with a mind that is honest, when he comes to the gold he will say, There is something beyond this; I am thankful enough for it in the meantime, but is there not a fine gold, a gold twice refined? Is there not some spiritual reward? O clouds! open, and let me see what is above, for I feel that there, even in the great height, must be the gold that would satisfy me. I counsel thee to buy fine gold: seek wisdom; get understanding; for the merchandise of it is better than silver and better and richer than gold.
Then does Job simply die? The Hebrew ends here, but the Septuagint adds a very wonderful verse—"And Job died, old and full of days; and it is written that he will rise again with those whom the Lord raiseth." There needed some touch of immortality to complete the tragedy. Is there no immortality in the Old Testament? I hold that there is immortality in the very creation of man: to be a man is to be immortal. Where is it said, "The Lord made man rational"? any more than it is said, "God made man immortal"? Everything is said in this word—"In the image of God created he him." That is reason; that is responsibility; that is immortality; that is but minor divinity. Have we laid the right emphasis upon the word "man" when we read of his creation? It would be a most noticeable thing, amounting to a conviction of the righteousness and goodness of God, if the Gentiles knew the doctrine of immortality when the patriarchs and Jews had been denied the realisation of that opportunity. Long before Christ came, and in countries where the name of Christ had never been mentioned until within recent years, the doctrine of immortality was affirmed. Plato, the most spiritual of the philosophers, believed in life after death; Socrates with all his accumulated wisdom taught the doctrine of life after death; in the Indian philosophies we find the declaration of a belief in life after death: these Gentiles were groping in darkness, or in twilight at best: wondrous if Plato, Socrates, and some of the great heathen thinkers in other lands had discovered the doctrine of immortality which was hidden from the men who were specially chosen of God to be the custodians of the truth, the depositaries of the very principles of the Church. I take it therefore, rather, that the whole doctrine of immortality is assumed, as is the reason of man, as is the responsibility of man; that it is involved in the very constitution of man. It is not my belief that God made man mortal. He made man, as to his thought and purpose, immortal: for man was made in the image of his Maker. Whatever may have been the condition of Old Testament saints, there can be no doubt about the position of man now, for life and immortality have been brought to light in the gospel. Jesus Christ boldly proclaimed the great doctrine of life after death, and he brought life and immortality to light; he did not create a new epoch, introduce a new series of thoughts, but he threw light upon ancient obscurities, and showed what marvellous assumptions had underlain the whole scheme of history and providence. "This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." This is our joy—supreme, triumphant joy. "This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death, and that which shall be left shall be immortality, which being interpreted from the standpoint of Christ's cross means, not only longer life, but larger life, purer life, life consecrated to all high service, still finding its heaven in obedience, still finding its beginning and its ending in the eternal God.