I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear: but now my eye sees you.…
These words were uttered by Job at a very remarkable period of his affecting history. Up to this moment his sorrows had been unassuaged: the Almighty seemed fiercely to contend with him, and his arrows drank up his spirit. His friends also had bitterly reproached him, and he remained unvindicated from their charges; and no ray of hope had hitherto burst through the gloom that surrounded him. But the verses that follow our text point out a most favour, able change in his condition. "The Lord," it is said, "turned the captivity of Job." This change in the conduct of God towards Job was preceded by a change in the mind of Job himself; the nature of which change is shown in the words of our text. Formerly he had justified himself, as we find up to the thirty-first chapter; after which he begins to condemn himself; he is humbled on account of his transgressions. "He answered the Lord," it is said in the first verse of the chapter before us, but not as he had formerly spoken, in the language either of self-applause, or of repining against the dispensations of God, for he had wisely determined to speak no longer in this manner; "Behold," said he, "I am vile; what shall I answer Thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken, but I will not answer again; yea twice, but I will proceed no further."
I. LET US INQUIRE WHAT WE ARE TO UNDERSTAND IN THE TEXT BY SEEING GOD; for Job says that he had heard of Him before by the hearing of the ear, but now his eye saw Him. He does not mean through his bodily senses; for in this manner, says our Saviour, "no man hath seen God at any time." "God is a spirit"; "the king invisible," "dwelling in the light, which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, or can see." Even when God revealed Himself to the people of Israel, "they saw no manner of similitude." It was not so much a new or miraculous knowledge of God which he had obtained, as a practical conviction and application of those truths respecting Him which he had known before, but which had not been before brought home to his heart and conscience with their due force, so as to produce the fruits of repentance, humility, and submission to the will of God. He had heard of the wisdom, the power, and the providence of the Creator; of His justice, His mercy, and the veneration due to Him. His friends, especially Eliphaz, and even Job himself, had uttered many admirable maxims on these subjects; but now his knowledge had become more than ever practical in its effects. He felt assured that God could do all things; that none could resist His will; yet that it was never too late to hope for His mercy. His knowledge was attended with such a lively faith as made it, according to the definition of the apostle, "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." He had known and confessed many important doctrines and precepts of true religion at an earlier period of his history. He had acknowledged, in the first place, his infinite obligations to God, "Thou hast granted me life and favour, and Thy visitation hath preserved my spirit." He had, further, confessed his sinfulness in the sight of God; for, though he vindicated his character against the unjust suspicions of his fellow creatures, he knew that his righteousness extended not to his Creator: "I! I justify myself," said he, "mine own mouth shall condemn me; if I say I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse." He could trust to no merit of his own: for he felt so forcibly the imperfection of his best observances in the sight of art infinitely holy God, that he says, "If I be righteous, yet will not I lift up my head"; and again, "If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean, yet shalt Thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me." He knew that God could, and would, deliver him, and in the end make all things, and not least his severe afflictions, work together for his good. "When He hath tried me," said he, "I shall come forth like gold"; elsewhere adding, with the most exalted faith and confidence, "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though, after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God." Yet all his former knowledge of these things, clear and accurate as it once seemed, appeared now to him but like a verbal report, compared with the vivid distinctness of his present convictions. He had heard, he now saw; he had believed, but his faith now became more than ever active and influential on his character. Before, he mourned chiefly for his afflictions; now, he mourns for his sinfulness in the sight of God: and he exhibits his penitence by the most expressive emblems; he repents "in dust and ashes."
II. TO APPLY THE SUBJECT TO OUR OWN TIMES AND CIRCUMSTANCES. We also have heard of God by the hearing of the ear. We were born in a Christian country; we have, perhaps, had the benefits of early Christian education; of frequent instruction in the Word of God; of the prayers and example of religious friends: we cannot therefore be wholly ignorant of our obligations to God Yet, with all our advantages, our professed religion and knowledge of God may have been hitherto but "the hearing of the ear." It was by this faith that "Moses endured, as seeing Him who is invisible." Now, there are too many, even of those who call themselves Christians, who "live without God in the world." He is as much unseen by the eye of their mind as by their bodily senses. Far from "setting the Lord always before them," the practical language of their conduct is rather, "Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways." But is not this a heinous sin? Is it not also the height of folly? Will it profit us, at the Last Day, that we have heard of God by the hearing of the ear, if we have no true practical knowledge of Him, like that of Job in our text? Let us, then, "acquaint ourselves with God, and be at peace; and thereby good shall come unto us." And let us ever remember that the only medium of this peace and intercourse between God and man is Christ Jesus the Mediator.
(J. Orr, M.)
Parallel VersesKJV: I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.