Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights, but no one spoke a word to him because they saw how intense his suffering had become.
I. OF THE BLESSING OF FRIENDSHIP. Sympathy is the indispensable need of the heart. It deepens the colour of all our pleasures; it throws a gleam of light athwart our deepest gloom. "Rejoice with them that do rejoice; and weep with them that weep." Our joys do not burst into flower till they feel the warm atmosphere of friendship. Our heaviest griefs only cease to be crushing when we have poured our tale into the ear of one we love. One of the humblest, yet best offices a friend can render to a sufferer is to be a good listener. Draw him out; get him to talk; movement and change of mind are what he needs. Exertion, if only the exertion of speech, will do him good. Do not pour upon him a cataract of well-meaning but stunning commonplaces. Imitate the kindness of Job's friends, but not their want of tact and perception. Let him only feel that in your presence he can relieve himself of all that is on his mind, and will not fail to be kindly understood.
II. SEASONABLE SILENCE IN THE PRESENCE OF SORROW. On the arrival of the friends, seeing the heart-rending condition of the noble chieftain, whom they had last seen in the height of his health and prosperity, now sitting in the open air, banished by disease from his dwelling, defaced by that disease beyond recognition, an utterly broken man, they express their grief by all the significant gestures of Eastern manners - weeping, rending their clothes, sprinkling dust upon their heads. They then take their places by his side, and keep a profound and mournful silence for a week, as Ezekiel did when he visited his countrymen captives by the river Chebar. What exquisite manners are taught us in the Bible! And the great superiority of its teaching in this respect over the common teaching of the world is that it founds all manners upon the heart. It is truth, love, sympathy, which can alone render us truly polite, refined, and delicate in our relations to others, teaching us always to put ourselves in thought in the other's place. "There is a time to keep silence." In great grief we recognize the hand of God, and he bids us be still and own him. Our smaller feelings bubble, our deeper ones are dumb. There are times when reverence demands silence, and a single word is too much. Leave the sufferer alone at first. Let him collect himself; let him ask what God has to say to him in the still, small voice that comes after the earthquake and the storm. "Sacred silence, thou that art offspring of the deeper heart, frost of the mouth, and thaw of the mind!" Sit by your friend's side, clasp his hand, say simply, "God comfort you, my brother!" In the earlier stage of a fresh and sudden grief this will be enough. We cannot doubt that the wounded heart of Job was greatly comforted by the silent presence of his sympathizing friends. It was better than all their spoken attempts at consolation. Let us thank God for friendship and for true friends; they are messengers from him. "God, who comforteth them that are cast down, comforted me by the coming of Titus!" - J.
holding his tongue for hours, by the side of the man who had lost the wife he had loved, or of a mother bereaved of her child.
And none spake a word unto him.
Homilist.Here is a demonstration of true friendship. Note the way in which these friends at first endeavoured to comfort Job. They did not speak.
I. SILENCE IS THE STRONGEST EVIDENCE OF THE DEPTH OF OUR SYMPATHY TOWARDS A SUFFERING FRIEND.
1. The comforting power of a friend lies in the depth of his sympathy.
2. Silence is a better expression of deep sympathy than speech.
II. SILENCE IS MOST CONSISTENT WITH OUR IGNORANCE OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE TOWARDS OUR SUFFERING FRIEND. How little we know of God's procedure in the affairs of human life: So long as these friends kept silence they acted as comforters; but as soon as they launched into speech they became Job's tormentors.
III. SILENCE IS MOST CONGENIAL WITH THE MENTAL STATE OF OUR SUFFERING FRIEND. The soul in deep sorrow seeks silence and solitude. Mere word-condolers are soul- tormentors. Then be silent in scenes of sorrow; overflow with genuine sympathy, but do not talk.
For they saw that his grief was very great.
I. THE NATURE, VARIETY, AND SEVERITY OF JOB'S CALAMITIES. His trials began with the loss of all his wealth and property. His afflictions came with an accumulating force. From his honours and usefulness he was driven, with as much rapidity as from his other sources of comfort. The mournful consequences of being visited with a singular distemper, and of his being stripped of his property and bereaved of his children, was the desertion of those who had formerly professed to venerate his character, and the total loss of influence and reputation in the places of concourse. The general opinion was that God had forsaken him, and therefore men might despise and revile him. Even the wife of his bosom added to his distress. And Job sometimes in Ills depression lost all sense of God's favour.
II. THE CAUSES ASSIGNED WHY AN UNERRING AND RIGHTEOUS GOD PERMITTED SO GREAT AND GOOD A MAN AS JOB TO BE SO SINGULARLY AFFLICTED. Afflictions cannot come upon us without the Divine permission. But Job's friends perverted this sentiment.. They urged that all calamities are the punishments of sin secretly allowed, or freely indulged in. Job must have been living in the transgression of the Divine commandments or he would not have been so sorely afflicted. It is made an argument against religion, that its highest attainments cannot exempt the godly from calamities. The just are often more tried than other men. But the truth is, that God is glorified by the afflictions of His children, and their best interests are promoted thereby.
1. Job's trials were designed and calculated to convince him, and to convince the saints in every age, that God is sovereign in His dispensations. He claims it as His right to order the lot of His children on earth according to His own unerring wisdom. So important is the habitual persuasion of the Divine Sovereignty, that in chapter 38, the Almighty is represented as pleading His own cause in this respect. He is the great First Cause, of whom and for whom are all things. His people may well trust in God, though He hides His countenance; venerate their Heavenly Father, though He corrects them; and walk by faith, not by sight. Much of religion lies in submitting to the sovereignty of God, especially when the events of Providence appear to us peculiarly mysterious.
2. Job was tried in order to correct and remove his imperfections, and to promote in his soul that spiritual life which Divine grace had already begun. History represents Job as devoted to God, eminent for holiness, and distinguished for the most active benevolence and extensive usefulness. But there were certain blemishes which needed the powerful influence of the fiery furnace to purify and eradicate. There was a spirit of dejection, fretfulness, and distrust, which at times prevailed over his heroic patience. And there was a self-righteous opinion of his own goodness. With too presumptuous a confidence he wishes to argue matters even with a holy God. His arrogant language he penitently confesses and laments in the last chapter of the book. His tribulation wrought humility and self-abasement, so did it also work patience. His sufferings also increased his compassion for the afflicted.
3. Job's trials were intended to convince him, and to convince mankind, that though God afflicts the dearest of His children, yet He most seasonably and graciously imparts to them both support and deliverance. We cannot expect temporal deliverance and exaltation, like that of Job, but we may be sure that we shall receive of the Lord's hand a double recompense of joy for all our sorrow.
III. THE CONSIDERATIONS WHICH SUPPORTED AND RELIEVED THE MIND OF JOB IN HIS DAYS OF ADVERSITY AND TRIBULATION.
1. Seeing the hand of God in all his afflictions. "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away."
2. The full persuasion that his Redeemer would never abandon him.
3. The prospect of resurrection from the dead, a believing persuasion, and a lively hope of eternal happiness beyond the grave. Although immortality was not then brought to light by any outward revelation, the Spirit of God wrought in this illustrious patriarch that genuine faith which is the evidence of things not seen, and which enabled him to connect humble faith in an ever-living Redeemer with the lively hope of an inheritance in the heavens.
1. Observe that affliction is by God's ordinance part of the general lot of man. A state of perfect happiness, if such were possible, would not be suitable for a world of imperfect virtue.
2. We should not be astonished when afflictions touch us. We all get into the way of assuming that somehow we are to be exempt from the usual ills.
3. Remember that a universal experience has testified that affliction has its service, and adversity its sweetness. Without affliction who could avoid worldliness? It is the sorrows of this life that raise both eye and expectation to the joys of the life to come. Without affliction there would be but little refinement — no tender ministries, no gracious compassion, no self-forgetful sympathy. All the passive virtues, which are so essential to character, thrive under it — such as endurance, patience, meekness, humility. Prosperity coarsens and scars the conscience; affliction gives it tenderness. The necessity for stronger faith itself strengthens it.
4. It is but a deduction from this to add: Remember, therefore, affliction is not hate, but love. "Whom God loveth He chasteneth." Lord Bacon forgot Job when he uttered his fine aphorism: "Prosperity was the blessing of the Old Testament, but adversity of the new."
After this opened Job his month, and cursed his day.
1. That even eminently good men sometimes give utterance to sentiments which are a departure from the spirit of religion, and which they will have occasion to regret. Here there was a language of complaint, and a bitterness of expression, which religion cannot sanction, and which no pious man, on reflection, would approve.
2. We see the effect of heavy affliction on the mind. It sometimes becomes overwhelming. It is so great that all the ordinary barriers against impatience are swept away. The sufferer is left to utter language of murmuring, and there is the impatient wish that life was closed, or that he had not existed.
3. We are not to infer that, because a man in affliction makes use of some expressions which we cannot approve, and which are not sanctioned by the Word of God, that therefore he is not a good man. There may be true piety, yet it may be far from perfection; there may be a general submission to God, yet the calamity may be so overwhelming as to overcome the usual restraints on our corrupt and fallen nature; and when we remember how feeble our nature is at best, and how imperfect is the piety of the holiest of men, we should not harshly judge him who is left to express impatience in his trials or who gives utterance to sentiments different from those which are sanctioned in the Word of God. There has been but one model of pure submission on earth — the Lord Jesus Christ. And after the contemplation of the best of men in their trials we can see that there is imperfection in them, and that if we would survey absolute perfection in suffering we must go to Gethsemane and Calvary.
4. Let us not make the expressions used by Job in this chapter our model in suffering. Let us not suppose that because he used such language, therefore we may also. Let us not infer that because they are found in the Bible, that therefore they are right; or that because he was an unusually holy man, that it would be proper for us to use the same language that he does. The fact that this book is a part of the inspired truth of revelation does not make such language right. All that inspiration does in such a case is to secure an exact record of what was actually said; it does not, of necessity, sanction it, any more than an accurate historian can be supposed to approve all that he records. There may be important reasons why it should be preserved, but he who makes the record is not answerable for the truth or propriety of what is recorded. The narrative is true; the sentiment may be false.
(Albert Barnes.)1. The holiest person in this life doth not always keep in the same frame of holiness. "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" This was the language we lately heard; but now cursing — certainly his spirit had been in a more holy frame, more sedate and quiet, than now it was. At the best in this life we are but imperfect; yet at some time we are more imperfect than we are at another.
2. Great sufferings may fill the mouths of holiest persons with great complainings.
3. Satan, with his utmost power and policy, with his strongest temptations and assaults, can never fully attain his ends upon the children of God. What was it that the devil undertook for? was it not to make Job curse his God? and yet when he had done his worst, and spent his malice upon him, he could but make Job curse his day, — this was far short of what Satan hoped.
4. God doth graciously forget and pass by the distempered speeches and bitter complainings of His servants under great afflictions.
(H. E. Stone.)
1. Notice how terrible, after all, is Satanic power. Look at Job if you would see how much the devil can, under Divine permission, do to human life. Perhaps it was well that, in one instance at least, we should see the devil at his worst.
2. See what miracles may be wrought in human experience. In Job's malediction, existence was felt to be a burden; but existence was never meant to be a heavy weight. It was meant to be a joy, a hope, a rehearsal of music and service of a quality and range now inconceivable. But under Satanic agency even existence is felt to be an intolerable burden. Even this miracle can be wrought by Satan. He can turn our every faculty into a heavy calamity. He can so play upon our nerves as to make us feel that feeling is intolerable. But the speech of Job is full of profound mistakes, and the mistakes are only excusable because they were perpetrated by an unbalanced mind.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
(Footsteps of Truth.)
1. There are, in the most subdued child of God, strong corruptions ready to break forth in trial. The best of men ought to be sensible that they have, by nature, an evil heart of unbelief, even when they are strong in faith; that they have lukewarmness under their zeal, passion under their meekness.
2. Albeit natural corruptions may lurk long, even in the furnace of affliction, yet long and multiplied temptations will bring it forth.(1) Every exercise and trial will not be a trial to every man, nor an irritation to every corruption within him.(2) The length and continuance of a trial is a new trial, and may discover that which the simple trial doth not reach.(3) When men get leisure in cold blood to reflect and pore upon their case it will prove more grievous than at first it doth.(4) When men are disappointed of what they expect under trouble (as Job was of his friends' comfort), it will grieve them more than if they, in sobriety, had expected no such thing. Doctrine — The Lord, in judging of the grace and integrity of His followers, doth afford many grains of allowance, and graciously passeth over much weakness, wherein they do not approve themselves.
1. That they did only express (as they ought) the suffering of his sensitive part, as a man, and so were opposite to Stoical apathy, not to Christian patience.
2. That he spake all this not only according to the law of sense, but with exact judgment, and according to the law of soundest reason. I do not say but that Job loved God, and loved Him exceedingly all this while, but whether we should so far acquit Job I much doubt. We must state the matter in the middle way. Job is neither rigidly to be taxed of blasphemy or profaneness, nor totally to be excused, especially not flatteringly commended, for this high complaint.It must be granted that Job discovered much frailty and infirmity, some passion and distemper, in this complaint and curse; yet notwithstanding, we must assert him for a patient man, and there are five things considerable for the clearing and proof of this assertion.
1. Consider the greatness of his suffering: his wound was very deep and deadly, his burden was very heavy, only not intolerable.
2. Consider the multiplicity of his troubles. They were great and many — many little afflictions meeting together make a great one; how great, then, is that which is composed of many great ones!
3. Consider the long continuance of these great and many troubles: they continued long upon him — some say they continued divers years upon him.
4. Consider this, that his complainings and acts of impatience were but a few; but his submission and acts of meekness, under the hand of God, were very many.
5. Take this into consideration, that though he did complain, and complain bitterly, yet he recovered out of those complainings. He was not over. come with impatience, though some impatient speeches came from him; he recalls what he had spoken, and repents for what he had done. Look not alone upon the actings of Job, when he was in the height and heat of the battle; look to the onset, he was so very patient in the beginning, though vehemently stirred, that Satan had not a word to say. Look to the end, and you cannot say but Job was a patient man, full of patience — a mirror of patience, if not a miracle of patience; a man whose face shined with the glory of that grace, above all the children of men. Learn —(1) The holiest person in this life doth not always keep in the same frame of holiness.(2) Great sufferings may fill the mouths of holiest persons with great complainings,(3) God doth graciously pass by and forget the distempered speeches and bitter complainings of His servants under great afflictions.
(Joseph Caryl.)Job 3:4); and again: "Why is light given to a man whose way is hid, and whom God hath hedged in?" (Job 3:23) This is not the "Lord" of the first speech; this is but invoking Omnipotence to do a puny miracle: it is not making the Lord a high tower, and an everlasting refuge into which the soul can pass, and where it can forever be at ease. So we may retain the name of God, and yet have no Lord — living, merciful, and mighty, to whom our souls can flee as to a refuge. It is not enough to use the term God; we must enter into the spirit of its meaning, and find in God not almightiness only, but all-mercifulness, all-goodness, all-wisdom. "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." Yet we must not be hard upon Job, for there have been times in which the best of us has had no heaven, no altar, no Bible, no God. If those times had endured a little longer our souls had been overwhelmed; but there came a voice from the Excellent Glory, saying, "For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee." Praised forever be the name of the delivering God!
(Joseph Parker, D. D.)
Homilist.A man's language must be construed according to the mood of his soul. Here we have sufferings forcing a human soul —
I. TO THE USE OF EXTRAVAGANT LANGUAGE.
1. Great sufferings generate great passions in the soul. Hope, fear, love, anger, and other sentiments may remain in the mind during the period of ease and comfort, so latent and quiescent as to crave no expression. But let suffering come, and they will rush into passions that shake and convulse the whole man. There are elements in every human heart, now latent, that suffering can develop into terrific force.
2. Great passions often become irrepressible. Some men have a wonderful power of restraining their feelings. But passion sometimes rises to such a pitch in the soul that no man, however great his self-control, is able to repress. Like the volcanic fires, it will break through all the mountains that lie upon it, and flame up to the heavens.
3. When great passions become irrepressible they express themselves extravagantly. The flood that has broken through its obstructions does not roll on at once in calm and silent flow, but rushes and foams. He speaks not in calm prose, but in tumultuous poetry.
II. TO DEPLORE THE FACT OF HIS EXISTENCE.
1. The fact that he existed at all.
2. That, having existed, he did not die at the very dawn of his being. Incidentally, I cannot but remark how good is God in making provision for our support before we enter on the stage of life. The fact that suffering can thus make existence intolerable suggests the following truths —(1) Annihilation is not the worst of evils. Better not to be at all than to be in misery; better to be quenched than to burn. Another truth suggested is —(2) Desire for death is no proof of genuine religion. Another truth suggested is —(3) Hell must be an overwhelmingly terrible condition of existence. Hell, the Bible tells us, is a condition of excruciating and hopeless suffering. There death is sought, but cannot be found.
III. Here is suffering urging a man TO HAIL THE CONDITION OF THE DEAD.
1. As a real rest. Lying still in unconscious sleep, beyond the reach of any disturbing power. How profound is the rest of the grave! The loudest thunders cannot penetrate the ear of the dead. He looked at death —
2. As a common rest. "Kings and counsellors," princes and paupers, tyrants and their victims, the illustrious and obscure — all are there together. The state of the dead, as here described, suggests two practical thoughts.(1) The transitoriness of all worldly distinctions. The flowers that appear in our fields at this season of the year vary greatly in form, size, hues. Some are far more imposing and beautiful than others; but in a few weeks all the distinctions will be utterly destroyed. It is so in society. Great are the secular distinctions in this generation, but a century hence and the whole will be common dust. How egregiously absurd to be proud of mere secular distinctions.(2) The folly of making corporeal interests supreme.
IV. HERE IS SUFFERING URGING A MAN TO PRY INTO THE REASONS OF A MISERABLE LIFE. Has the great Author of existence any pleasure in the sufferings of His creatures? There are, no doubt, good reasons, reasons that we shall understand and appreciate ere long.
1. Great sufferings are often spiritually useful to the sufferer. They are storms to purify the dark atmosphere of his heart; they are bitter ingredients to make spiritually curative his cup of life. Suffering teaches man the evil of sin; for sin is the root of all anguish. Suffering develops the virtues — patience, forbearance, resignation. Suffering tests the character; it is fire that tries the moral metal of the soul.
2. Great sufferings are often spiritually useful to the spectator. The view of a suffering human creature tends to awaken compassion, stimulate benevolence, and excite gratitude. From this subject we learn —(1) The utmost power that the devil is capable of exerting on man.(2) The strength of genuine religion.
1. "Job opened his mouth, and cursed his day." In a kind of wild, impossible revision of Providence, and reopening of questions long settled, he assumes the right of heaping denunciations on the day of his birth. He is so fallen, so distraught, and the end of his existence appears to have come in such profound disaster, the face of God as well as of man frowning on him, that he turns savagely on the only fact left to strike at — his birth into the world. But the whole strain is imaginative. His revolt is unreason, not impiety, either against God or his parents. He does not lose the instinct of a good man, one who keeps in mind the love of father and mother, and the intention of the Almighty, whom he still reveres. The idea is, Let the day of my birth be got rid of, so that no other come into being on such a day; let God pass from it — then He will not give life on that day. Mingled in this is the old-world notion of days having meanings and powers of their own. This day had proved malign — terribly bad!
2. In the second strophe cursing is exchanged for wailing, fruitless reproach of a long past day, for a touching chant in praise of the grave. If his birth had to be, why could he not have passed at once into the shades? The lament, though not so passionate, is full of tragic emotion. It is beautiful poetry, and the images have a singular charm for the dejected mind. The chief point, however, for us to notice is the absence of any thought of judgment. In the dim underworld, hid as beneath heavy clouds, power and energy are not. Existence has fallen to so low an ebb that it scarcely matters whether men were good or bad in this life, nor is it needful to separate them. It is a kind of existence below the level of moral judgment, below the level either of fear or joy.
3. The last portion of Job's address begins with a note of inquiry. He strikes into eager questioning of heaven and earth regarding his state. What is he kept alive for? He pursues death with his longing as one goes into the mountain to seek treasure. And again, his way is hid, he has no future. God hath hedged him in on this side by losses, on that by grief; behind, a past mocks him, before is a shape which he follows, and yet dreads. It is indeed a horrible condition, this of the baffled mind to which nothing remains but its own gnawing thought, that finds neither reason of being nor end of turmoil, that can neither cease to question, nor find answer to inquiries that rack the spirit. There is energy enough, life enough to feel life a terror, and no more; not enough for any mastery even of stoical resolve. The power of self-consciousness seems to be the last injury — a Nessus shirt, the gift of a strange hate...Note that in his whole agony Job makes no motion towards suicide. The struggle of life cannot be renounced.
(Robert A. Watson, D. D.)
(T. T. Munger.)
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