How then can a man be just before God? How can one born of woman be pure?
Job 23:10-12). His object is to insist that, the distance between man and God being infinite, man cannot enter into controversy with God, nor can he be pure in his eyes. The address of Bildad consists mainly of repetitions from the previous discourses of Eliphaz (Job 4:17, sqq.; 15:14, sqq.) - descriptions of the majesty and sublimity of God. In reply, Job seizes the opportunity offered by his antagonist, and, after a few bitter words of self-vindication, proceeds to outvie and far surpass Bildad in his description of the greatness of God.
I. GOD'S MAJESTY; AND APPLICATION. (Vers. 2-4.)
1. Absolute power carrying with it overwhelming awe into the minds of his subjects - a power which has quelled the earlier discord of heaven and made peace in those heights - is associated with God (ver. 2). He is "Lord of hosts," and those hosts are innumerable - the stars of heaven, the angels who inhabit and guide them (Job 15:15); and all the marvellous forces of nature - winds, lightnings, waves (Job 38:19-21; Psalm 104:4), which do his bidding (ver. 3).
2. He is the absolute Light' from which all others are but reflected and derived. It is his garment and his glory (Psalm 104:2; Ezekiel 1:27, 28; 1 Timothy 6:16). It blesses and cheers all that lives (Matthew 5:45). No living creature is exempt from its all-pervading beams. Then how can a mortal be just with God? How can man, in his feebleness, enter into court and contend with absolute Power (comp. Job 9:2)? Thus the speaker would convict Job of folly. And then comes the second member of ver. 4 leading to the second great thought of the speech: "How can he be pure that is born of a woman?"
II. GOD'S PURITY; AND APPLICATION. (Vers. 5, 6.) The bright silver lustre of the moon seems pale, the stars are dimmed, when compared with the essential and eternal splendour of the Highest - to say nothing of man, the maggot, the worm! The stars are but the outer adornments of the palace and abode of God; and how, then, shall man, living on this dim spot that men call earth, think to meet God on equal terms and dispute with him? If he, like moon and stars, keeps to his rank and order, he may enjoy the benefit of God; if he attempts to travel beyond it, he will be crushed by the weight of the Divine majesty (Cocceius). The view of yonder glory reminds man of his sin and corruption. The celestial lustre is the sign of celestial purity in the inhabitants of heaven; his frailty and mortality are the evidence of his sin. The time has not yet come when, life and immortality being brought to light, man is conscious of the grandeur of his inward faith and of his spiritual destiny, when he refuses to be crushed by the dazzling might and splendour of the material universe because conscious of affinity to the creative thought. - J.
1. The natural man builds his hope of justification at the day of final reckoning on the law. The moral law contains the sum of our duty toward God and toward man. If the law give life, it can do so only to those who fulfil it in all its requirements. The law is exceeding broad. We stop not to inquire whether it is possible for human strength to fulfil the law even in its letter, but we ask you to reflect whether you have fulfilled it in its spiritual extent. Many, finding that they cannot be justified by a law thus spiritual in its nature and extensive in its requirements, go about to establish a righteousness of their own upon a ground just as untenable. They conceive that a law of such perfection is fitted only to perfect, sinless creatures; and that to beings imperfect, and in their nature now inherently and habitually sinful, it must relax its strictness, and lower its requisitions, and accept of sincere, instead of complete obedience. But this is absurd as well as unscriptural. Do the laws of human governments vary with the endless variety of their subjects whose social relations they are appointed to direct? The laws of heaven cannot stoop, because they are founded upon the immutable basis of their truth and rectitude.
I. THE ALL-IMPORTANT QUESTION WHICH OUR TEXT PROPOSES. "How can man be justified with God?" It is a matter of some consequence to stand well with our brethren, to bear what is called a good character before our fellow men; but to stand right with God is a point on which our heaven depends.
How then can man be Justified with God?I. WHAT JUSTIFICATION IS. The being accounted righteous though we are not so. When brought into a justified state we are treated as if we were altogether righteous. Whose is this righteousness? Whence is it derived? Not from ourselves or any remaining excellence in human nature. We must be accounted righteous, and justified with God, by other merits than our own. It is to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that we are indebted.
II. HOW A MAN CANNOT BE JUSTIFIED.
1. Not by repentance.
2. Not by amendment of life.
3. Not by our sincerity.
4. Not by any works whatever of our own.
III. HOW ALONE HE CAN BE JUSTIFIED. We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Why does faith alone, faith without works, justify us? Because faith is the only medium by which we can receive Christ.
IV. WHY A MAN CAN BE JUSTIFIED IN NO OTHER WAY THAN THE WAY IN WHICH HE IS JUSTIFIED.
1. It is God's determination that "no flesh shall glory in His sight."
2. God has determined that His Son alone shall be exalted in the justification of a sinner.
3. It is God's determination to magnify His name and word above all the philosophy and traditions of men.
4. It is a merciful God's gracious determination to afford grounds of the most abundant consolation to the humbled and believing sinner.
(W. Mudge, B. A.)
II. THE DIFFICULTIES IT SUGGESTS.
1. The extreme holiness of God. The text says that there is not in any of the shining orbs of heaven, there is not to God the beauty that we see. So it is also with respect to moral excellency and spiritual perfection. Characters that we call shining actions that we count pure, exalted, are not in His eyes what they are in ours. In this Book it is said God "chargeth His angels with folly," and "the heavens are not clean in His sight." How can man be justified before that God who is so pure, so holy, so requiring — who sees dimness in the moon, imperfection in the stars, folly in His saints?
2. Then another difficulty is the extreme unholiness of man, his miserable baseness and corruption. Man is here called a worm. It is the very proverb in our lips for weakness and for helplessness; a thing that every foot may crush. But look at the place — the dunghill — where the worm is found. Look at its vile habits and propensities. It is the emblem of spiritual baseness and corruption. Man is spiritually vile in the sight of the most holy God. Put the two statements of the text together. God so holy that the very moon and stars have no glory in His eyes. Man so polluted that the filthy worm which crawls upon the dunghill is considered a just emblem of his case and character. Then how can man be justified with God?
III. THE ONLY WAY IN WHICH SO DIFFICULT A QUESTION CAN BE ANSWERED. The Gospel supplies it. In Christ alone is the question entirely satisfied. The answer is ready — by coming unto Jesus; by casting the whole soul upon the Saviour's merits; by ceasing from that hopeless work of endeavouring "to establish our own righteousness," and by submitting ourselves unfeignedly to that which Christ hath wrought for us. Are we doing this? Are we making Christ the "Lord our Righteousness," by looking only unto Him for recommendation in the sight of God?
(A. Roberts, M. A.)
2. Repentance is the next ground to which the sinner betakes himself in the persuasion that though the law of itself cannot give life, yet with this addition it may do so. But is there anything in repentance, when considered by itself, which can really form a ground of hope to the violator of the law? To the eye of reason, apart altogether from revelation, there certainly is not. The law is broken, and sorrow for its breach no more repairs the evil, than sorrow for an injury done to a fellow mortal actually repairs that injury. Repentance does nothing of itself to repair the breach which has been made by transgression. Our repentance, so far from annulling law, can only be regarded as a testimony, on our part of the justice of the Lawgiver in demanding that atonement which blood only can supply. The sinner has no ground in revelation for supposing that repentance of itself can atone for transgression.
3. A vague dependence on the mercy of God. Can anything be conceived more impious or evidently delusive than such a hope as is here entertained? What idea must they form of the character of God when they can derive from it an excuse for past and a motive for future wickedness? Has God no attributes but those of mercy and goodness, or are the other parts of His character negatived by these?
4. The true answer is given by Jehovah. We are "justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." Christ is the fountain of all our hopes. By the perfect obedience of His life He has magnified and even honoured the law, which had been dishonoured by man's transgression; He has satisfied its justice by the death of the Cross.
1. If any man shall presume to refer himself to the judgment of God, shall he be justified? In this sense it is possible for a man to be justified with God; and thus Job was justified by God at last against the opinions and censures of his three friends.
2. To be justified with God is as much as this. If man come near to, or set himself in the presence of God, shall he be justified? Man usually looks upon himself at a distance from God; he looks upon himself in his own light, and so thinks himself righteous; but when he looks upon himself in the light of God, or as one that is near to God, will not all his spots and blemishes then appear?
3. Can man be justified with God? That is, if man compare himself with God, can he be justified? One may compare himself with another, and be justified. But how can man be just or righteous compared with God, in comparison of whom all our righteousness is unrighteous, and our very cleanness filthy?
4. To be justified with God is against God. That is, if man strive or contend with God, in anything, as if God were too hard and severe towards him, either by withholding good from him, or bringing evil upon him, can man be justified in this contention? Will God be found to have done him any wrong? Taking the words in a general sense, observe that man hath nothing of his own to justify him before God. There are two things considerable in man. His sin, and his righteousness. All grant man cannot be justified by or for his sins; nor can he at all be justified in or for his own righteousness. And that upon a two-fold ground.(1) Because the best of his righteousness is imperfect; and no imperfect thing can be a ground of justification and acceptance with God.(2) All the righteousness wrought by man is a due debt. How can we acquit ourselves from the evil we have done by any good which we do, seeing all the good we do we ought to have done, though we had never done any evil? When we trove done our best we may be ashamed of our doings, we do so poorly. There is, however, a two-fold justification. The justification of a man in reference to some particular act, or in his cause. And the justification of a man in his person. When Job said, "I know that I shall be justified," his meaning was, I shall be justified in this case, in this business. I shall not be east as a hypocrite (for he always stood upon, and stiffly maintained his integrity); or I know I shall be justified in this opinion which I constantly maintain; that a righteous man may be greatly afflicted by God, while in the meantime He spareth the unrighteous and the sinner. A man may have much to justify himself by before God, as to a controversy between him and man; for he hath nothing at all to justify himself by, as to his state before God.
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