Then answered Eliphaz the Temanite, and said,
This text helps us to put our finger on the cause of a great deal that is amiss in all of us. It is very likely, it is all but certain, that the reason of all our trouble, and dull discouragement, and want of growth and health is that we are doing just the thing that Job's unkind friend accused him of in the text—"restraining prayer before God."
I. There can be no doubt that the neglect of prayer is a sadly common sin. It is likewise, when we calmly think of it, a most extraordinary folly. Prayer is the best means to all right ends; the very last thing in prudence to be omitted; the thing that will bring God's wisdom to counsel us, God's mighty power to uphold and defend us; the thing without which our souls will droop and die, more needful to the growth of grace in us than showers and sunshine are to the growing grass or the green leaves. It is through carelessness that professing Christians neglect prayer, through lack of interest in it, vague dislike to close communion with God, lack of vital faith, the faith of heart as well as head.
II. There are two things which will save us from this sin. One is that we oftentimes pray, "Lord, increase our faith." The other is that we habitually ask that in all our prayers we may be directed, inspired, elevated, composed, by the blessed and Holy Spirit. Remember St. Paul's words, "The Spirit also helpeth our infirmities, for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered."
A. K. H. B., Sunday Afternoons at the Parish Church of a University City, p. 54.
Job 15:4(1) To a believer in revelation it is enough that prayer is most positively enjoined as a primary duty of religion, a duty strictly in itself as the proper manner of acknowledging the supremacy of God and our dependence. (2) Prayer cannot be discountenanced on any principle which would not repress and condemn all earnest religious desires. (3) It is the grand object to augment these desires. Here too is evidence in favour of prayer. For it must operate to make them more strong, more vivid, more solemn, more prolonged, and more definite as to their objects. Forming them into expressions to God will concentrate the soul in them, and on these objects.
I. It may well come upon our thoughts to reflect how much of this exercise in its genuine quality there is or has been in the course of our life habitually. There should be some proportion in things. A matter of pre-eminent importance should not be reduced to occupy some diminutive interstices and corners of the active system. We know that our grand resource of prayer is a blessed privilege granted from heaven, of a peculiarly heavenly quality; where is our consistency if we are indifferent and sparing in the use of it?
II. "Thou restrainest prayer before God." (1) Is there a very frequent or even a prevailing reluctance to it, so that the chief feeling regarding it is but a haunting sense of duty and of guilt in the neglect? This were a serious cause for alarm lest all be wrong within. (2) Is it, in the course of our days, left to uncertainties whether the exercise shall be attended to or not? Is there a habit of letting come first to be attended to any inferior thing that may offer itself? The charge in the text falls upon the state of feeling which forgets to recognise the value of prayer as an important instrument in the transactions of life. The charge falls, too, on the indulgence of cares, anxieties, and griefs with little recourse to this great expedient.
III. Restraint of prayer foregoes the benefits of the intercession of Christ. It precludes the disposition to refer to the Divine Being in social communications. It saps a man's moral and Christian courage. It raises a formidable difficulty in the way of recourse to God on urgent occasions and emergencies.
J. Foster, Lectures, 1st series, p. 113.
References: Job 15:10.—G. W. McCree, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xii., p. 399; W. Walters, Ibid., vol. xix., p. 137.
Job 15:11God has a different side of Himself to show to each of us. To the young man He is the Setter of great tasks, the God who asks great sacrifices and gives glorious rewards. You say nothing to the young man about the God of repair, the God of consolation, the God who takes the broken life into His hands and mends it, nothing of that God yet. The time will come for that. And is there anything more touching and pathetic in the history of man than to see how absolutely, without exception, the men and women who start out with only the need of tasks, of duties, of something which can call out their powers, of the smile of God stimulating and encouraging them—how they all come, one by one, certainly up to the place in life where they need consolation?
I. God is the Consoler of men by the very fact of His existence. It is because God is that man is bidden to be at peace. Although we live petty and foolish lives, the knowledge that there is greatness and wisdom, the knowledge that there is God, is a far greater and more constant consolation to us than we know.
II. But what comes next? The sympathy of this same God, whose existence is already real to us. It becomes known to us, not merely that He is, but that He cares for us. Through God's sympathy we know God more intensely and more nearly, and so all the consolations of God's being become more real to us.
III. God has His great truths, His ideas which He brings to the hearts He wishes to console. What are those truths? Education, spirituality, and immortality—these seem to be the sum of them. These ideas are the keys to all the mysteries of life, and to the gateways to consolation.
IV. God comes Himself and shows His presence and His power by working the miracle of regeneration upon the soul that has cried out for Him. That is the consummate consolation. Everything leads up to that.
Phillips Brooks, Sermons, p. 98.
References: Job 15—S. Cox, Expositor, 1st series, vol. vii., p. 1; Ibid., Commentary on Job, p. 185. Job 16:2.—R. Glover, Homiletic Magazine, vol. x., p. 167. Job 16:22.—E. J. Hardy, Faint yet Pursuing, p. 138. Job 16-17—S. Cox, Expositor, 1st series, vol. vii., p. 100; Ibid., Commentary on Job, p. 197. Job 17:1-3.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. vi., p. 70. Job 17:3.—Expositor, 3rd series, vol. iv., p. 426. Job 17:6.—Ibid., p. 427.
Should a wise man utter vain knowledge, and fill his belly with the east wind?
Should he reason with unprofitable talk? or with speeches wherewith he can do no good?
Yea, thou castest off fear, and restrainest prayer before God.
For thy mouth uttereth thine iniquity, and thou choosest the tongue of the crafty.
Thine own mouth condemneth thee, and not I: yea, thine own lips testify against thee.
Art thou the first man that was born? or wast thou made before the hills?
Hast thou heard the secret of God? and dost thou restrain wisdom to thyself?
What knowest thou, that we know not? what understandest thou, which is not in us?
With us are both the grayheaded and very aged men, much elder than thy father.
Are the consolations of God small with thee? is there any secret thing with thee?
Why doth thine heart carry thee away? and what do thy eyes wink at,
That thou turnest thy spirit against God, and lettest such words go out of thy mouth?
What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?
Behold, he putteth no trust in his saints; yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight.
How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water?
I will shew thee, hear me; and that which I have seen I will declare;
Which wise men have told from their fathers, and have not hid it:
Unto whom alone the earth was given, and no stranger passed among them.
The wicked man travaileth with pain all his days, and the number of years is hidden to the oppressor.
A dreadful sound is in his ears: in prosperity the destroyer shall come upon him.
He believeth not that he shall return out of darkness, and he is waited for of the sword.
He wandereth abroad for bread, saying, Where is it? he knoweth that the day of darkness is ready at his hand.
Trouble and anguish shall make him afraid; they shall prevail against him, as a king ready to the battle.
For he stretcheth out his hand against God, and strengtheneth himself against the Almighty.
He runneth upon him, even on his neck, upon the thick bosses of his bucklers:
Because he covereth his face with his fatness, and maketh collops of fat on his flanks.
And he dwelleth in desolate cities, and in houses which no man inhabiteth, which are ready to become heaps.
He shall not be rich, neither shall his substance continue, neither shall he prolong the perfection thereof upon the earth.
He shall not depart out of darkness; the flame shall dry up his branches, and by the breath of his mouth shall he go away.
Let not him that is deceived trust in vanity: for vanity shall be his recompence.
It shall be accomplished before his time, and his branch shall not be green.
He shall shake off his unripe grape as the vine, and shall cast off his flower as the olive.
For the congregation of hypocrites shall be desolate, and fire shall consume the tabernacles of bribery.
They conceive mischief, and bring forth vanity, and their belly prepareth deceit.