There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.
After the days of his sons' feasting were over, Job offered sacrifices of atonement for them, lest in the midst of their enjoyment they might have sinned and cursed God in their hearts. He was afraid lest their pleasures had done them harm, and he wished, if it were so, to remedy it.
I. "It may be," said Job, "that my sons have cursed God in their hearts." The blasphemy of the heart is the natural child of prosperity where man is corrupt and God is pure. Prosperity makes a man feel strong in himself and confident, but it does not make him feel grateful, because, knowing God to be a holy God, and himself to be alienated from Him, he cannot think that his good things are God's gift, but rather that they are enjoyed in spite of Him. So then he learns to hate God; and the more he enjoys his earthly good things, the more he hates Him.
II. The first beginnings of this feeling are a sense of weari ness and impatience when any pleasure is interrupted, or for a short time deferred, by a call to offer up our prayers to God.
The two things seem to us unsuitable to one another. Whenever we find our duty dull, then the thought of God becomes dull to us also; we are in the first beginnings of cursing Him in our hearts.
III. If we believe that our pleasures are the gift of God, that God loves us, and that these, as well as all other things which we enjoy, are the fruits of His fatherly affection, then we need no sacrifice of atonement to sanctify our joys to us, and to save us from the punishment of inward blasphemy; all is atoned for, all is peace and safety; for we have received the Spirit of adoption, and cry, "Abba, Father," and the Spirit itself witnesseth with our spirit that we are the sons of God through Jesus Christ.
T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. vi., p. 93.
References: Job 1:5.—C. J. Vaughan, Memorials of Harrow Sundays, p. 385; Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 362; E. Monro, Practical Sermons, vol. i., p. 347. Job 1:6.—Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes: Genesis to Proverbs, p. 115.
Job 1:6-12I. The introduction of Satan into the scene before us illustrates the problem of the book of Job. This wonderful, and perhaps most human of all books, evidently discusses the problem of suffering, of evil in the world, especially in its relation to man; and Satan, as a malignant person, is seen to be the author of the evil which Job suffers. Satan appears here in the character in which he is constantly represented throughout the Bible; he is the accuser of the brethren; he is the adversary among the sons of God: he is among them, but he is among them to criticise and sneer; this is the name by which he is known, and all other names end in this; he is the adversary, Diabolus, "your adversary the devil."
II. The response of the evil one to his almighty Questioner distinctly expresses: (1) Indifference. This is the end, the passionless end, of his character. Indifference, the absence of all reality, contempt for all enthusiasm, contempt for all sentiment, studious repression of all that might be Divine instinct or delight in the works of the great God—such is Satan. (2) There is another attribute, although certainly the first is very greatly the result of the second; it is unbelief. He had no God-consciousness. Something, some Being even, of infinitely greater dimensions than himself, he was able to apprehend, but of the blessed and benignant character of this Being he was wholly unaware; for we know all things and all beings in some sense by our participation in their nature. (3) Another characteristic brought out as an attribute of Satan in this singular and ancient scene is cruelty. (4) Another characteristic feature brought out in the text is limitation. While evil and Satan exist, they are conditioned by the sovereignty of God; God rules over evil in all its personalities and forms. The personality of Satan stands over against the personality of God, but limited, only permitted, and doomed by His sovereignty.
E. Paxton Hood, Preacher's Lantern, vol. ii., p. 114.
References: Job 1:8.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xi., No. 623; A. M. Fairbairn, The City of God, p. 143.
Job 1:8-9Among the mysteries of God's providence there is perhaps no mystery greater than the law by which suffering is meted out in the world. It is not a mystery that sin should bring forth sorrow; it is not a mystery that pain, disease, and death should be the fruit of man's fall. The really difficult problem is not the problem of suffering in the abstract; it is the problem of the meting out of suffering on any theory; it is the problem why the innocent are called upon to suffer while the guilty too often escape; it is the problem why the purest, simplest of our race should drain the cup of sorrow whilst the ungodly have more than their hearts desire, and have neither affliction in their life nor pain in their death. This is the problem which comes before us in that grandest of poems, which has ever sounded the deeps of the human heart, the poem of Job. We have in this book the problem worked out, and three answers given.
I. First is the answer of the three friends who come to condole with Job in his affliction. One after another they repeat the same commonplaces of their creed—God is just, and therefore God rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked. If a man suffers, he suffers because he deserves it. The sufferer himself indignantly repudiates this belief. It is of no use to tell him he has been a hypocrite, an evildoer; he denies the accusation; he will be true to God and to the method of His justice so far as he knows it, but he must be true to his conscience; he will not say, "I am guilty," when he knows he is innocent.
II. But there is another theory of suffering, which approaches more nearly to the truth, which is also given in the book of Job. Elihu declares that God's purpose in chastisement is the purification of His servant. Here certainly is a step in advance. To see a purpose of love in affliction is to turn it into a blessing.
III. But the mystery of suffering is not fully explained even when this purifying power is assigned to it. The author of this sublime poem is made the instrument of revealing to us another purpose of affliction. There is a suffering which is not even for the salvation or purification of the individual soul, but for the glory of God. If we look at the prelude of the book, we learn this lesson. Satan insinuates that the piety of Job is a selfish piety. His challenge strikes at the nature of God Himself. And God accepts the challenge. This is the key to the enigma, though Job knew nothing of it. Surely no more noble part can be assigned to any man than to be the champion of God. Men may mock at the Gospel and its promises; they may charge the followers of the Crucified with selfish aims and sordid motives; but one saint, who knows that the glory of God is in his hands, shall answer the sneer. His submission, self-sacrifice, and love shall compel the world to confess that God is love, and that man loves God for Himself.
J. S. Perowne, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv., p. 81.
Job 1:9I. Selfishness is not the essence of human nature as presented in the Bible. Satan denies that there is unselfishness in Job, who is described as a "righteous man, who feared God and eschewed evil." He would imply that it is not in God's power to create a disinterested love of Himself even in a regenerate creature; that self-interest is the hidden worm at the root of everything, good or bad. (1) Think, first, of the regenerate man, and see whether God's plan of forming him proceeds on the principle of appealing to selfishness. It is granted that the Bible all through presses men with threatenings of punishment and holds out to them promises of happiness to lead them to a new life. But this is to be remembered, that it begins its work with men who are sunk in sin, and that the essence of sin is selfishness. The Bible is constantly advancing from the domain of threatening and outward promise to that of free and unselfish love. As a man rises into the knowledge of the Divine plan he seeks and serves God, not from the hope of what he is to receive from Him, but from the delight which he finds in Him. (2) Even in the case of unregenerate men, the Bible does not affirm that the only law at work is one of utter selfishness.
The elements of human nature are still there. They are not annihilated, neither are they demonised. Whatever unrenewed men may be to God, they perform to their fellow-men oftentimes the most unselfish acts. The Bible delights to recognise this, and records the genuine and the kindly in unrenewed men. Let us thank God that He has not left human nature without gleams of His own kindness still reflected from it.
II. We have to show from the context the results of a belief in unmitigated selfishness. We shall take the character of the accusing spirit here for an illustration of these results. (1) The first evident consequence in him who holds it is a want of due regard for his fellow-creatures. All may be treated remorselessly where all are so contemptible. (2) The next consequence to the spirit which has no belief in unselfishness is the want of any centre of rest within itself. Incessant wandering, "going about," "seeking rest and finding none," is the view given of Satan in Scripture. (3) Another effect is the failure of any real hold on a God. It was so with the great spirit of evil. He could not deny God's existence; this was too plainly forced upon him and felt by him; but he had no just views of a God of truth, and purity, and goodness, else he had never continued so to resist Him.
III. Consider some means that may be adopted as a remedy by those who are in danger of falling into this faith. (1) We should seek as much as possible to bring our own life into close contact with what is genuine in our fellow-men. (2) In judging of humanity, we must beware of taking a part for the whole. (3) We must learn to apprehend the Divine care for human nature.
J. Ker, Sermons, p. 98.
References: Job 1:9.—Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 22; T. T. Shore, Some Difficulties of Belief, p. 211.
Job 1:10, Job 1:21I. Adversity tests the genuineness, the reality, of a man's religious life.
II. Adversity improves the quality of the religious life, so that all true believers are able to say, "It was good for me that I was afflicted." It renders our religious life (1) more thoughtful; (2) more robust; (3) more intense and prayerful; (4) more rounded and complete; (5) more tender and sympathetic.
III. Adversity promotes the permanence and growth of the religious life.
IV. Adversity gives effectiveness, capacity of service and usefulness, to the religious life. Neither the good servant nor the good soldier is trained in luxury for his work. They have both to "endure hardness" and to pass through discipline if they are to attain proficiency and be of real use.
J. C. Harrison, Congregationalist, vol. i., p. 653
Job 1:21I. Job's temptation came to him late in life.
II. Job is described as being perfect and pure, one that feared God and eschewed evil. The words of the text show that he had trust in God. He had got at two sides of trust in God's omnipotence—trust in His positive and in His negative omnipotence. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away in His wisdom. It is not His will that we should possess all gifts; we have to realise our dependence upon one another. There are many who are tempted through feelings of despondency because they see how little they can do, how far others are before them, who are tempted not to do what they can do. We have not because God thinks it best for us not to have; we do not because God does not will us to do. The truer wisdom recognises the fact that it is God who gives, and God, equally omnipotent, equally powerful to give, who withholds. What He wants is a humble, intelligent, and diligent use of the gifts He has given. You must use that which God gives, otherwise you may lose that which you have. His will is not simply that we should accept heaven, but it is offered to our winning, to our acquisition. He would see every man using the talents given him, and the reward, we know, was given, not simply to the five, but to the fewer than five, of entering into the joy of the Lord.
Bishop King, Oxford Journal, Oct. 22nd, 1874.
The authorship and date of the book of Job are problems yet unsolved. This only is certain, that it presents a picture of a very early civilisation. It is not Jewish. Its teaching is unlocalised, and is of all time because it seems to be of no special time.
I. Hence it is that portions of this ancient book sound to us so strangely modern; and the verse before us is one in point.
It is a height of spirituality for which we are not prepared in a civilisation so remote. There is a ring of enthusiasm in the words, the spirit of a mind possessed with the reality of a Divine world above and beyond this.
II. The moral of the book of Job is that there are lessons in suffering or loss as true and precious as those which are learnt from regarding it as punishment, and this truth is one which we are still far from having mastered. In the problem presented here to Job was the dawn of that light which burst in all its fulness upon mankind in the Son of God. We have here a true foreshadowing of the Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, of Him who was made perfect by sufferings, not because of the Father's hate, but because of His great love.
III. The instinct of sonship which was so strong in Job we, blessed with the great heritage of Christianity, are often slow to attain to. For, however much the reason is convinced that suffering and sacrifice are necessary ministers of the kingdom of heaven, we, each for himself, have to make it our own by another path.
A. Ainger, Sermons Preached in the Temple Church, p. 52.
References: Job 1-2—S. Cox, Expositor, 1st series, vol. iv., pp. 81, 161; Ibid., Commentary on Job, p. 22. Job 1-3—A. W. Momerie, Defects of Modern Christianity, p. 79. Job 2:3.—F.4 W. Farrar, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxviii., p. 17. Job 2:4.—Old Testament Outlines, p. 92; J. Robertson, Expositor, 2nd series, vol. vi., p. 255; H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1526. Job 2:5.—Parker, Fountain, July 4th, 1878.
And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters.
His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.
And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them.
And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them.
And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.
And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?
Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?
Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.
But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.
And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.
And there was a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house:
And there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them:
And the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away, yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house:
And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped,
And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.
In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.