If He snatches away, who can hinder Him? Who can say to Him, 'What are You doing?'
I. THE HELPLESSNESS OF MAN IN PRESENCE OF HIS OMNIPOTENCE. (Vers, 1-3.) What avails right on one's side against him who has all heaven's artillery at his command? "It is idle to argue with the Master of thirty legions." Out of a thousand questions with which the Almighty might overwhelm my mind, there is not one which I could answer with the chance of a fair hearing. Indeed, this in a sense is true, as the thirty-eighth chapter will presently show. It is idle to argue with God concerning the constitution of things. But it is never idle to plead the right. This, God, by the very nature of his Being, by his promises, is bound to attend to. Job thinks of God as the Almighty and the All-wise (ver. 4), and he finds in this combination of attributes only reason for despair. He leaves out his justice; his faith in his love is suspended for a time. Hence he sees him only through the distorted dream of suffering, and his dark inferences are wrong.
II. DESCRIPTIONS OF THE ABSOLUTE POWER OF GOD.
1. In nature's destructive forces. Here he would rival and outvie Eliphaz in the sublimity of his pictures. The more terrible phenomena of nature are produced as evidences of a blind, tyrannic might: the earthquake (ver. 5), which topples over the giant mountains like a child's plaything, and rocks the solid foundations of the earth (ver. 6); the eclipse of sun and stars the universal darkness of the heavens (ver. 7), Here is the origin, according to some philosophers, of religion - man's terror in the presence of the vast destructive forces of nature. But it is the origin only of a part of religious feeling - of awe and reverence. And when man learns more of nature as a whole, and more of his own heart, he rises into loftier and happier moods than that of slavish fear.
2. In nature's splendour and general effect. The vastness of the "immeasurable heavens," and the great sea of clouds (ver. 8), the splendid constellations of the northern and the southern sky (ver. 9), lead the mind out in wonder, stretch the imagination to its limits, fill the soul with the sense of the unutterable, the innumerable, the infinite (ver. 10). This mood is happier than the former. It is one of elevation, wonder, delighted joy in the communion of the mind with Mind. It is stamped upon the glowing lines of the nineteenth psalm. But Job draws from these sublime spectacles at present only the inference of God's dread and irresistible power.
III. MANKIND ITSELF IN RELATION TO THIS ABSOLUTE POWER.
1. It is invisible and swift in its errand of terror (ver. 11). Sudden death by lightning, or by a hasty malady, naturally produces an appalling effect. Hence the prayer of the Litany.
2. It is irresistible. (Vers. 12. 13.) No human hand can stay, no human prayer avert, its overpowering onset. The monsters, or Titans ("helpers of Rahab"), were overcome, according to some well-known legend; how much less, then, can I resist with success (ver. 14)?
3. The consciousness of innocence is therefore of no avail. Supplication alone is in place before a Disputant who knows no law but his will (ver. 15). I cannot believe that he, from his height, would give attention to my cry (ver. 16). He is Force, crushing Force alone, guided only by causeless caprice (ver. 17); stifling the cry of the pleader in his mouth, and filling him with bitterness (ver. 18).
4. The human dilemma. Man in presence of an absolute Tyrant must always be in the wrong. If he stands on might, he is a fool; if he appeals to right, he has no court of all appeal - for who can challenge the Judge of heaven and earth? Right will be set down as wrong, innocence will be pronounced guilt (vers. 19, 20). We see, from this picture of Job's state of mind, that there is no extremity of doubt so dim as when man is tempted to disbelieve in the principle of justice as the law of the universe, which cannot be broken. The thought of God turns then only into one of unmitigated horror and despair. - J.
Behold, He taketh away.
I. THE DOCTRINE TAUGHT — THE AGENCY OF GOD. His agency in providence. Not to be classed with chance or accident. It would be a mistake to represent God as exercising no providential superintendence, no control, no management, no rule. Some hold that God's agency is general, not particular, not concerned with details. But great and little are not to God what they are to us. What it was no degradation to God to create, it can be no degradation to God to superintend. A particular agency on His part is the only intelligible notion of God's agency in providence. The manner in which God's agency, in the various dispensations of providence, is regarded respectively by the believer and by the unbeliever, constitutes one of the most marked distinctions between the characters of these two classes of person.
II. THE LESSONS WHICH THIS DOCTRINE TEACHES.
1. Privation and loss are the doing of Him who neither does nor can do us any wrong. God is never arbitrary, never capricious, never unjust. He is essentially righteous. In no sense can He do that which is unrighteous. He cannot do it from ignorance, or from design.
2. Privation and loss are the doing of Him, all whose doings in reference to us are in accordance with what He Himself is — wise and gracious. Not only is He wise, but all-wise; actually, absolutely, yea, necessarily all-wise. His understanding is infinite. He is gracious. His nature is love. What a proof of this did He afford in devising a plan by which sinners might be rescued from the penal consequences of sin.
3. Privation and loss are the doing of Him who is able, and as willing as He is able, to educe, in our experience, good from evil. Out of the strait in which we are involved there may be no seeming way of escape. But is it irremediable by Him whose arm is full of might, who is equal to our support and deliverance, whatever be our condition? This subject calls for thankfulness; it should produce resignation; it should lead us to prepare for changes.
(A. Jack, D. D.)
Who will say unto Him, What doest Thou? —
I. IT IS THE NATURAL TENDENCY OF AFFLICTIONS TO MAKE THE FRIENDS OF GOD REALISE AND SUBMIT TO HIS SOVEREIGNTY. Afflictions always display the sovereignty of God. Whenever God afflicts His children, He gives a practical and sensible evidence that He has a right to dispose of them contrary to their views, their desires, and most tender feelings. Of all afflictions, those which are called bereavements, give the clearest display of Divine sovereignty.
II. SUCH A REALISING SENSE OF THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD IN AFFLICTIONS, HAS A NATURAL TENDENCY TO EXCITE TRUE SUBMISSION IN EVERY PIOUS HEART.
1. While they realise the nature of His sovereignty, they cannot help seeing the true ground or reason of submission.
2. God designs thus to bring His children to submission.
3. It has so often produced this desirable effect in their hearts. Apply the subject.(1) If all afflictions are designed and adapted to bring men to a cordial submission to Divine sovereignty, then all true submission must be in its own nature absolute and unreserved.(2) We may assume that we shall have to submit to the Divine sovereignty in the world to come.(3) The doctrine of unconditional submission to God ought to be plainly taught and inculcated.(4) If afflictions are designed and suited to make men realise Divine sovereignty, then they always try their hearts, whether they are friendly or unfriendly to God.(5) The afflictions that bring men to submission must do them good.
(N. Emmons, D. D.)
I. THE LORD'S SOVEREIGN AGENCY. We see this in families, we see it in provinces, we see it in whole nations. We perceive prosperity or adversity — peace or discord — joy or misery — coming both to individuals and to communities without their knowledge, and often without their concurrence. The human race are subject to other influences besides their own. From the Bible we learn that the smallest, as well as the weightiest affairs, are under Christ's supervision and control. Nothing arises in this our world by chance or by accident. The same sovereign agency is seen in the issues of life. The keys of the invisible world are committed to Christ's sole custody. All second causes work out the sovereign will of the Great First Cause. It is He who fixes the precise moment for the removal of men by death from their busy occupations.
II. HIS IRRESISTIBLE MIGHT. This is the groundwork of the patriarch's argument in the passage before us. Who can hinder Him? Shall the man of wisdom? Shall a parent's love avert the threatening blow? Shall the tears of a wife? Shall the regrets of an admiring nation?
III. HIS UNSEARCHABLE WISDOM. The Almighty doeth all things well. From all eternity the Lord has had certain purposes to be accomplished. In some matters the wisdom of the Lord's dealing is so palpable that we are compelled to acquiesce. At other seasons we are all in the dark. Then it is our privilege to exercise faith in the fatherly care and unfailing love of our Almighty Redeemer.
(C. Clayton, M. A.)
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