I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear: but now my eye sees you.…
The text shoots a ray of light athwart the dark problem discussed in the earlier portion of this Book. How are the afflictions of a righteous man to be reconciled with moral government? How can God be just, and yet leave His righteous servants to be visited with every form of trial? The text discloses at least part of "the end of the Lord" in such mysterious procedure. No discipline can be unjust, no trials too severe, through which a soul is brought, as Job's was, to a clearer knowledge of God, which is its life. Once the end was reached, Job would have been the last man to have wished one pang of that painful experience recalled.
I. A GENERAL CONTRAST BETWEEN TWO KINDS OF KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. We know the difference which there is in ordinary matters between a knowledge which rests on testimony and a knowledge gained by personal experience and observation. There is a contrast in vividness between the two kinds of knowledge: a battle, a thunderstorm, foreign scenery. There is a contrast also in certainty. We may distrust or question what comes to us only as report — we may reject it as unsupported by sufficient evidence; but we cannot doubt what we have seen with our own eyes. Job's knowledge of God had hitherto been the traditional knowledge common to himself and his friends. Now he knew God for himself, as if by direct personal vision. He saw. Can man, then, see God? or is Job using here merely the language of strong metaphor? Certainly in one sense God is not and cannot be seen. He is not an object of sensuous perception; we cannot see Him with the natural eye, as we see the forms and hues of objects around us. But that may be true, and yet man be able to "see God." Job had heard God speaking to him in the whirlwind, but it is not of that he is thinking here. It was the "eyes of his understanding (Gr., heart)" which had been enlightened. Whereas formerly he had heard of God by the hearing of the ear, he had now a direct spiritual intuition of His presence, of His nearness, of His majesty, of His omnipotence, of His holiness. We need not, therefore, hesitate to affirm that in man's soul there abides a power enabling him spiritually to apprehend God, and in some measure to discern His glory; a kind of Divine faculty, buried deep, it may be, in sense, filmed over by manifold impurities, and needing to be quickened and cleansed by an outward revelation, and by the inward operation of the Spirit; but still there. Happy the misfortunes which, like Job's, help to clear the spiritual vision, and enable us to see God better.
II. THIS CONTRAST ONE WHICH DISCLOSES ITSELF IN A SERIES OF ASCENDING STAGES.
1. And first the text may be taken to express the contrast between the knowledge which a converted man and the knowledge which an unconverted man has of God. The one, the unconverted man, has heard of God with the hearing of the ear, as the blind man hears of the splendour of the landscape and the glory of the flowers, without being able to attach any definite ideas to what he hears; the other, the converted man, in comparison with this, has seen God with the seeing of the eye. A light has broken in on him to which the other is a stranger He cannot perhaps explain very clearly the rationale of the change — as who can? but the fact itself he knows, that whereas he was blind, now he sees. How many have heard of God with the hearing of the ear, have acquired notions about Him, have learned of Him from books, from the creed, from catechisms, in church! But how few comparatively walk with Him, and commune with Him as a living Presence! Ah! that is a never-to-be forgotten moment in a man's life when first the reality of God's presence breaks in on him like a revelation. He will not always he able to keep alive those vivid, soul-thrilling views of God which he had in the hour of his conversion; still, God can never again he the same to him as before his eyes were opened. God is a reality, not a mere name to him. The light of life has visited his soul, and its illumination never wholly deserts him. The contrast in his experience is broad and unmistakable.
2. The text expresses the contrast between the knowledge of God which a good man has in his prosperity, and the revelations which are sometimes made to him in his adversity. The former was the contrast between nature and grace; this is the contrast between grace and higher grace. Up to this time Job seems to have been remarkably prosperous. His sky bad scarcely known a cloud. But what Job knew of God in his prosperity was little compared with what he knew of God now in the day of his adversity. And is not this always the effect of sanctified affliction? All love the sunshine and the smooth way. No one prays for adversity, yet few who have come through the furnace will question its purifying power. When real affliction comes, a man can't live on hearsays and hypotheses, but is driven back on the great realities, and compelled to keep a tight hold upon them.
3. The text fitly expresses the contrast between the knowledge which Old Testament saints had of God and that which we now have in Jesus Christ. Compared with ours, theirs was but the hearing of the ear; compared with theirs, ours is the seeing of the eye. The Scripture itself strongly emphasises this contrast. "No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." No revelation which God ever gave of old can for a moment compare with that now vouchsafed in the person, character, and work of Christ. Job himself, were he to return to earth, would be the first to say to us, "Blessed are your eyes that ye see, and your ears that ye hear," etc.
4. Lastly, the text may be taken as expressive of the contrast between the state of grace and the state of glory, and in this view its meaning culminates. It can go no higher. "Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." Earth at its best, in comparison with that, is but hearing with the ear; in heaven alone the eye seeth God. Conclusion: Every step upward in the knowledge of God will be attended by a downward step in humility and consciousness of sin (ver. 6).
(J. Orr, M.)
Parallel VersesKJV: I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.