Acquaint now yourself with him, and be at peace: thereby good shall come to you.
This is all the three friends could, in substance, say. It is difficult to read the exhortation of another man. We are, indeed, apt to put into all reading our own tone, and thereby sometimes we may do grievous injustice to the authors or speakers whom we seek to interpret. One canon of good reading, however, may surely be this, that when a man so seer-like, so prophet-like as Eliphaz, concluded his controversy with Job, observing the suffering and the sorrow of the patriarch, he would be sure to drop his voice into the music of consolation, and would endeavour, whilst speaking words of apparently legal and mechanical preciseness, to utter them with the tone of the heart, as if in the very sorrow was hidden a gracious Gospel, and as if duty might, by some subtle power, be turned into the most precious of delight. All hortatory words may be spoken with too much voice, with too strong a tone, so as to throw them out of proportion in relation to the hearer, whose sorrow already fills his ears with muffled noises. Let us imagine Eliphaz — eldest of the counsellors, most gracious of the speakers — laying his hand, as it were, gently upon the smitten patriarch, and approaching his ear with all the reverence of affectionate confidence, and giving him these parting instructions. Then the exhortation becomes music. The preacher does not thunder his appeal, but utters it persuasively, so that the heart alone may hear it, and the soul be melted by the plea. May it not be so with us also? We do not need the strong exhortation, but we do need the consolatory appeal and stimulus. You may frighten a man by calling out very loudly when he is within one inch of a brink; the nearer the man is to the precipice, the more subdued, the less startling, should be your appeal: you might whisper to him as if nothing were the matter; you might rather lure his attention than loudly and roughly excite it; and then when you get firm hold of him bring him away to the headland as urgently and strongly as you can. May it not be that some hearts may be so far gone that one rude tone from the preacher would break up what little hope remains? Should we not rather sometimes sit down quite closely to one another and say, softly, "Acquaint now thyself with Him, and be at peace"? think of what all thy life comes to, poor soul, and see if even now, just at the very last, the flickering lamp cannot be revived, and made strong and bright: come, let us pray. Never regard the Gospel as having come roughly, violently, but as always coming like the dawn, like the dew, like music from afar, which, having travelled from eternity, stops to accommodate itself to the limitations of time. Still the exhortation has the strength within it. Speak it as you may, it is the strongest exhortation that can be addressed to human attention. When the tone is softened it is not that the law has given up the pursuit of the soul, has ceased to press its infinite claims upon the trespasser. Do not mistake the persuasion of the Gospel for the weaknesses of the preacher, and do not regard the errors of the preacher as implying in any degree defect on the part of his message. Eliphaz tells Job what he must do; let us read his bill of directions. "Acquaint now thyself with Him." Here is a call to mental action. Job is invited to bethink himself. He is exhorted to put himself at the right point of view. Instead of dealing with social questions and personal details, the seer invites the smitten patriarch to betake himself to the sanctuary and to work out the whole solution in the fear and love of God. There are amongst ourselves questions that are supreme and questions that are inferior. Who would care for the inferior if he could solve the supreme, and fill himself with all the mystery of Deity? What are all our inventions, arts, sciences, and cleverest tricks, and boldest adventures into the region of darkness, compared with the possibility of knowing human thought — the power of removing the veil that separates man from man, and looking into the arcana of another soul? But this is kept back from us. We are permitted to dig foundations, to build towers and temples; we are permitted to span rivers with bridges, and bore our way through rocky hills; but we cannot tell what the least little child is thinking about. All other learning would be contemptible in comparison with an attainment so vast and useful. This is the explanation of men spending their days over crucibles, in hidden places, in darkened dungeons, seeking in the crucible for the particular Something that would dissolve everything that was hard, and reveal everything that was dark. This is the meaning of the quest in which men have been engaged for the Sangreal, the philosopher's stone — that marvellous and unnamable something which, if a man had, he would open every kingdom and be at home in every province of the universe. You cannot kill that mysterious ambition of the human heart. It will come up in some form. It is the secret of progress. All this leads to the uppermost thought, namely, that if a man could acquaint himself with God, live with God, would not that be the very highest attainment of all? If he could enter the tabernacles of the Most High, and survey the universe from the altar where burns the Shechinah, what would all other attainments and acquisitions amount to? Yet this is the thing to be aimed at — grow in grace; grow in all life; for it means, in its fruition, acquaintance with God, identification with God, absorption in God, living, moving, having the being in God; taking God's view of everything; made radiant with God's wisdom, and calm with God's peace. Assuming that to be a possibility, how all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory thereof, fade away into the dim distance! How grandly some of the old seers now and again touched the vital point; and how the ages have thrilled with their touch, knowing that at last they had left detail and cloud and mystification, and touched the very pulse of things. Here stands the great truth, the eternal verity: until we have acquainted ourselves with God, by means prescribed in God's own Book, our knowledge is ignorance, and our mental acquisitions are but so many proofs of our mental incapacity. Eliphaz therefore lifts up the whole discussion to a new level. He will not point to this wound or that, to the sore, boil, or blain, to the withering skin, to the patriarch's pitiful physical condition; he begins now to touch the great mystery of things — namely, that God is in all the cloud of" affliction, in all the wilderness of poverty, and that to know His purpose is to live in His tranquillity.
(Joseph Parker, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace: thereby good shall come unto thee.