From these deep musings upon the nature of true wisdom, and the contrast between the ingenuity and cleverness of man and the infinite knowledge of God, Job turns to another contrast, which he pursues through two chapters (Job 29:1-25; Job 30:1-31.)—the contrast between what he was and what he is—between his condition in the period of his prosperity and that to which he has been reduced by his afflictions. The present chapter is concerned only with the former period; and gives a graphic description of the life led, in Job's time and country, by a great chieftain, the head of a tribe, not of mere nomads, but of perseus who had attained to a considerable amount of civilization. The picture is one primitive in its features, but not rude or coarse. It is entirely un-Jewish, and has its nearest parallel in some of the early Egyptian records, as the Stele of Beka, and the Instructions of Amen-em-hat.
Moreover Job continued his parable, and said (see the comment on Job 27:1).
Oh that I were as in months past! or, in the months of old. To Job the period of his prosperity seems long, long ago—some-thing far away in the mist of time, which he recalls with difficulty. As in the days when God preserved me. Job never forgets to refer his prosperity to God, or to be grateful to him for it (see Job 1:21; Job 2:10; Job 10:8-12, etc.).
When his candle shined upon my head (comp. Psalms 18:28, "For thou wilt light my candle: the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness"). A "candle," or "lamp," is a general symbol in Scripture for life and prosperity. God is said to light men's candles when he blesses them and maizes his countenance to shine upon them; conversely, when he withdraws his favour he is said to put their candles out (Job 18:6; Job 21:17). And when by his light I walked through darkness. The light of God's countenance shining about a man's path enables him to walk securely even through thick darkness, i.e. through trouble and perplexity.
As I was in the days of my youth; literally, in the days of my autumn—by which Job probably means the days of his "ripeness" or "full manhood"—which he had reached when his calamities fell upon him. When the secret of God was upon my tabernacle; or, the counsel of God; when, i.e; in my tent I held sweet counsel with God, and communed with him as friend with friend (comp. Psalms 25:14, "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant;" and Proverbs 3:32, "For the froward is abomination to the Lord: but his secret is with the righteous").
When the Almighty was yet with me. These are terribly sad words. Job, in his afflictions, has come to look on the Almighty as no longer "with him "—no longer on his side; but rather against him, an enemy (see Job 6:4; Job 7:19; Job 9:17; Job 10:16, etc.). When my children were about me (comp. Job 1:2, Job 1:4, Job 1:5).
When I washed my steps with butter. Trod, as it were, upon fatness, moved amid all that was gladsome, joyful, and delicious. And the rock poured me out rivers of oil. "The rock" is probably the ground, rugged and stony, on which his olives grew. "Olives," says Dr. Cunningham Geikie, "flourish best on sandy or stony soil" They brought him in so great a quantity of oil that the rock seemed to him to flow with rivers of it.
When I went out to the gate through the city; rather, by the city, or over against the city. The "gate" was the place where justice was administered, and public business generally despatched. It would be "over against" the city, separated from it by a large square or place ( רְחוֹב ), in which a multitude might assemble (sue Nehemiah 8:1). Hither Job was accustomed to proceed from time to time, to act as judge and administrator. When I prepared my seat in the street. On such occasions a seat would be brought out and "prepared," where the judge would sit to hear causes and deliver sentences (comp. Nehemiah 3:7).
The young men saw me, and hid themselves; retired, i.e. withdrew to corners, that they might not obtrude themselves on one so much their superior. Compare the respect paid to age by the Spartans. And the aged arose, and stood up. Here the respect paid was not to age so much as to dignity. Men as old as himself, or older, paid Job the compliment of standing up until he was seated, in consideration of his rank and high office. So. in many assemblies, as in our own courts of justice, in Convocation, and elsewhere, when the president enters, all rise.
The princes refrained talking. The other head-men of the tribe, recognizing Job's superior rank and dignity, refrained from words as soon as he made his appearance, and in silence awaited what he would say. Perhaps we are scarcely to understand literally the further statement that they laid their hand on their mouth, which is probably as much an idiom as our phrase, "they held their tongues "(comp. Job 21:5).
The nobles held their peace. The other leading men followed the example of the "princes," and equally kept silence till Job had spoken. And their tongue cleaved to the roof of their month. A pleonastic repetition. The meaning is simply they said nothing, they stood in rapt attention.
When the ear heard me, then it blessed me. Job, having described his reception by the nobles and chief men of the city, proceeds to speak of the behaviour of the common people. The former were respectful and attent, the latter rejoiced and made acclamation. Being of the class most exposed to oppression and wrong, they hailed in the patriarch a champion and a protector. They were sure of redress and justice where he was the judge. And when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me. The eye of the poor man lighted up with joy and rejoicing as Job sat down upon the seat of judgment, thus hearing witness to his fairness, candour, and integrity.
Because I delivered the poor that cried. And again the Inscription of Ameni-Amenemha: "No little child have I injured; no widow have I oppressed; no fisherman have I hindered; no shepherd have I detained; no foreman have I taken from his gang to employ him in forced labour" (ibid; vol. 12.63). And the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. Championship of the poor was anciently regarded as characteristic of the wise, good, strong ruler.
The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me (comp. Job 29:11). Oppression in the East sometimes drives its victims to actual starvation or to suicide. Isaiah calls the oppressors against whom he inveighs "murderers" (Isaiah 1:21). These "perishing" ones Job often saved, and they "blessed" him. And I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy. How cold are the words of Ameni, "No widow have I oppressed," compared with these! Job was not content with mere abstinence from evil, mere negative virtue. He so actively and effectually relieved distress that affliction was turned into happiness, and lamentation into rejoicing.
I put on righteousness, and it clothed me (comp. Isaiah 61:10; Psalms 132:9, etc.). Job "put on righteousness;" i.e. made it as the garment wherewith he clothed himself withal (Psalms 109:18, Psalms 109:19), covered up with it all his own natural imperfections, and made it part and parcel of his being. It was a beautiful covering, and, when once he had put it on, it clung to him, and could not be removed. It "clothed him," or rather, if we translate the Hebrew literally, "clothed itself with him." putting him on, as he had put it on. It was not merely external; it was internal, a habit of his soul and spirit. My judgment was as a robe and a diadem; rather, my justice (see the Revised Version). My "justice," or "righteousness" (for the words are synonymous), was at once my robe and my crown, my necessary clothing and my ornament.
I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. The Persian kings had officials, whom they called their "eyes" and their "ears"—observers who were to inform them of all that went on in the provinces. Job acted as "eyes" to the blind of his time, giving them the information which their infirmity hindered them from obtaining. He was also feet to the lame, taking messages for them, going on their errands, and the like. He was kind and helpful to his fellow-men, not only in great, but also in little matters.
I was a father to the poor (comp. Job 29:12, and see below, Job 31:16-22): and the cause which I knew not I searched out; rather, the cause of him that I knew not I searched out (see the Revised Version). When men were quite unknown to him, Job still gave to their causes the utmost possible attention, "searching them out," or investigating them, as diligently as if they had been the causes of his own friends.
And I brake the jaws of the wicked (comp. Psalms 58:6). It is scarcely meant, as Canon Cook supposes, that Job was himself the executioner. "Quod facit per allure facit per so." Job would regard as Age doing what he ordered to be done. And plucked the spoil out of his teeth. Either by disappointing him of a prey which he was on the verge of making ms own, or by compelling him to make restitution of a prey that he had actually laid hold of.
Then I said, I shall die in my nest. The metaphor of "nest" for "dwelling-place" occurs in Numbers 24:21; Jeremiah 49:16 : Obadiah 1:4; and Habakkuk 2:9. It is also employed by Healed ('Op. et Di.,' 1.301). And I shall multiply my days as the sand. Some translate, "I shall multiply my days as the phoenix," the fabulous bird which was supposed to live for five hundred years (Herod; 2:72), to burn itself on a funeral pile of spices, and then to rise again from its ashes. But the view seems to be a mere rabbinical tradition, and is unsupported by etymology. Khol ( חוֹל ) means "sand" in Genesis 22:17; Jeremiah 33:22; and elsewhere. It is taken in this sense by Rosenmuller, Schultens, Professor Lee, Canon Cook, and our Revisers.
My root was spread out by the waters (comp. Psalms 1:3; Jeremiah 17:8); rather, to the waters—so that the waters reached it and nourished it. And the dew lay all night upon my branch. Job compares himself, in his former prosperous state, to a tree growing by a river-side, which receives a double nourishment—from the actual water of the stream, which reaches its roots, and from the moisture evaporated from the stream, which hangs in the air, and descends in the shape of dew upon its leaves and branches. Both sources of refreshment represent the grace and favour of God.
My glory was fresh in me; i.e. "my glory remained fresh"—received no tarnish, continued as bright as it had been at the first. And my bow was renewed in my hand. My strength did not fail. When it seemed on the point of failing, it was secretly and mysteriously "renewed." Some commentators regard Job 29:19 and Job 29:20 as a portion of the speech begun in Job 29:18, and view the verbs, not as past tenses, but as futures (compare the translation of the Revised Version). The general meaning is much the same, whichever of the two views we take.
Unto me men gave ear, and waited, and kept silence at my counsel (comp. Job 29:9, Job 29:10). Job, however, does not repeat himself, sines in the previous passage he is speaking of his work and office as judge, whereas now he declares the position which he had occupied among his countrymen as statesman and counsellor.
After my words they spake not again. When Job had spoken, the debate commonly came to an end. It was felt that all had been said, and that further remark would be superfluous. And my speech dropped upon them (comp. Deuteronomy 32:2, "My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew"). The silent, penetrating influence of wise counsel is glanced at.
They waited for me as for the rain; i.e. "they were as eager to heat' me speak as the parched ground is to receive the winter rain, which it expects and waits for and absorbs greedily." And they opened their mouth wide as for the latter rain. They drank in my discourse as the spring vegetation drinks in the spring showers, known in the East generally as "the latter rains."
If I laughed on them, they believed it not; rather, if I smiled on them. If, as a mark of favour, I smiled on any, they thought it such graciousness and condescension that they could scarcely believe it possible. And the light of my countenance they cast not down. They never put me out of countenance, or made me sad and gloomy, by opposing my views and ranging themselves against me.
I chose out their way, and sat chief. Though not an absolute monarch, but only a patriarchal head, I practically determined the course which the tribe took, since my advice was always followed. I thus "sat chief"—nay, dwelt as a king in the army (or, in the host, i.e. among the people), as one that comforteth the mourners; i.e. as one to whom all looked for comfort in times of distress and calamity, as much as for counsel and guidance at other times (Job 29:21-23).
Job's second parable: 1. Regretful memories of bygone days.
I. DAYS OF RELIGIOUS HAPPINESS. In tender elegiActs strains Job resumes his monologue of sorrow, casting a pathetic glance upon "the times of yore," already faded in the far past and gone beyond recall; not the days of his youth (Authorized Version), hut the autumn season of his mature manhood, when, like a field that the Lord had blessed (Genesis 27:27), groaning beneath the exuberance of its harvest fruits, he was loaded with an abundance of good things (Psalms 103:1-5). Heaven's blessings were so many and so varied, so ripe and so ready, that it seemed to him like a very time of vintage for his soul. But, alas! these bright days of golden sunshine were departed, carrying with them all the treasures of felicity they had brought; and of these that which by its loss now struck the keenest pang of anguish into his melancholy soul was the blessed fellowship, the familiar, confiding, unreserved intercourse which he then enjoyed with Eloah, who, in the threefold capacity of Guardian, Guide, and Friend, was an habitual Visitor at his tent.
1. As a Guardian. Then Eloah preserved, or protected, him, as Satan, in the cloning of the fundamental controversy of the poem, complained (Job 1:10), and as Eliphaz (Job 5:11-21; Job 22:25), followed by Zophar (Job 11:18), assured him God would again do, if he returned in penitential submission to Eloah's ways. This Divine guardianship must not be limited to the setting up of a fence around the patriarch's estate, but extended to that of which it was a symbol, the casting of a shield around the patriarch's soul. In the happy days of old Job nestled beneath the shadow of the Almighty's wings (Ruth 2:12; Psalms 91:1), body, soul, and spirit, feeling himself secure against calamity of every sort, inward or outward, spiritual or material. What God was to Job he likewise proved himself to be to David and other Old Testament saints, and to-day offers himself to be to all Christ's believing followers—a Defender against the charges of the Law, of conscience, or of Satan (Psalms 32:1-5; Psalms 65:3; Psalms 85:2, Psalms 85:3; Isaiah 44:22; Romans 8:1, Romans 8:31, Romans 8:33); a Protector against the ills and temptations of life (Psalms 46:1; Psalms 48:3; Psalms 121:3; Proverbs 3:6, Proverbs 3:23, Proverbs 3:24; Isaiah 54:14 17; Zechariah 9:8; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; 1 Peter 3:13).
2. As a Guide. Job also recollects that, in the bright days whose departure he laments, Eloah's candle (or lamp) shone above his head, enabling him to walk with perfect safety even in nights of thickest darkness. The allusion probably is to the custom of suspending lamps in rooms or tents over the head (Carey); and the meaning is that, while rejoicing in Heaven's favour and fellowship, Job's feet never stumbled in the path of duty. If perplexities arose around or before him, through Divine grace he was always able to resolve them, threading his way through the deepest intricacies, and moving straight on in an even path. This was no doubt owing partly to the circumstance that his consciousness of inward peace and sincerity permitted him to make the best possible use of his natural faculties, and partly to the fact that he enjoyed the special illumination of Heaven. If piety does not confer new powers, it enables old ones to be turned to the best advantage Then the singleness of aim which a good man possesses largely facilitates the discovery of light in times of darkness. And, finally, saints have special promises guaranteeing providential guidance when placed in situations of perplexity m' peril (Psalms 25:8, Psalms 25:9; Psalms 32:1-11; Psalms 37:23; exit. 4).
3. As a Friend. More particularly Job mentions that, in the times of blessedness referred to, "the secret," or favour (Cox), or blessed fellowship (Delitzsch), or counsel (Fry) of Eloah was upon his tent. Whether Job was honored like Abraham to receive theophanies (Genesis 18:1, Genesis 18:2), so that he might actually speak of God being a Visitor at his tent (Carey), the language (literally, "in the seat or cushion of God being at my tent") obviously points to an intercourse of the most friendly and familiar kind between him and God—such a dwelling together as Eliphaz affirmed should take place (Job 22:21) if Job and God were to be at peace. The friendship here depicted as having existed between Job and Eloah was realized in the case of Abraham and Jehovah (2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23), and is in a certain sense still realized in the experience of Christians and the Saviour (John 15:15). As one result of this friendly intercourse between Eloah and Job, Job became acquainted with Eloah's counsel or secret purpose, as Abraham was informed of Jehovah's determination concerning Sodom (Genesis 18:17), as the prophets generally were afterwards instructed about the mind of God (Amos 3:7), as "the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him" (Psalms 25:14; Proverbs 3:32), and as on believers is conferred an unction from the Holy One, enabling them to know all things (1 John 2:20, 1 John 2:27; 1 John 5:20), but more particularly the mind of Christ (John 16:13-15; 1 Corinthians 2:16).
II. DAYS OF DOMESTIC FELICITY. It is a special mark of piety in Job that, enumerating his lost blessings, he begins with what the worldly or wicked man would have plied last, viz. the Divine friendship. As to David (Psalms 63:3) and to Asaph (Psalms 73:25), so to Job the favour and fellowship of God constituted the principal ingredient in his full cup of blessing. But next to fellowship with a God of mercy and salvation, no earthly happiness can be compared to a home illumined by the sunshine of genuine religion, and gladdened by the cheery voices of loving and obedient children. Job cannot recall the time when the Almighty was still with him (verse 5) without remembering that then also his children (his young men, his boys) were about him—a numerous, happy, loving, united, and, it may be hoped, a pious family (Job 1:1-5; vide homiletics). It is contrary to religion for a good man, or any man, to prize his wife and children above his Saviour and his God (Matthew 10:37); it is contrary to nature to behold them taken from his side by the hand of death without weeping (Genesis 23:2; John 11:1-57 :81, 83, 35); it is contrary to neither nature nor religion to cherish them with loudest affection, and to mourn for their death with sincere lamentation.
III. DAYS OF MATERIAL PROSPERITY. Guarded by Divine care and guided by Divine light, like Jacob in Padan-aram (Genesis 31:5, Genesis 31:7, Genesis 31:11, Genesis 31:12, Genesis 31:42), Job attained to extensive wealth, the poetic imagery employed (verse 6) to depict it meaning, when converted into unadorned prose, that his flocks became so abundant, and their yield of milk so rich and plentiful, that he might almost be said to wash his steps in butter, which among the Arabs was mostly a liquid preparation, and that everywhere throughout his domain the crags were clothed with olive trees so prolific that the very rocks appeared to pour forth oil It was another mark of Job's fervent piety and well-balanced judgment that he preferred his children to his flocks and trees, giving these latter only the third place in his esteem, and that he ascribed his material prosperity, no less than his domestic felicity, to the circumstance that then the Almighty was with him. So did Jacob when serving with Laban (Genesis 31:5), and Joseph when ruling for Pharaoh (Genesis 45:8), recognize God as the Author of their temporal advancement. So does Scripture habitually trace to God every blessing which the saint enjoys (Psalms 75:6, Psalms 75:7; James 1:17).
IV. DAYS OF CIVIC HONOUR. A saint of eminent piety, the father of a numerous family, and the proprietor of vast possessions, Job had likewise been the chief magistrate, or supreme dispenser of law and justice, in his clan. Passing beyond the bounds of his own private domain, and entering the adjacent city, when he took his seat among the elders in the broad way, i.e. in the open space usually reserved in Oriental cities, either in front of the gate (2 Chronicles 32:6; Nehemiah 8:1, Nehemiah 8:8, Nehemiah 8:16), or in the vaulted recesses beneath the archway (Genesis 19:1; 1 Kings 22:10), for the transaction of business (Ruth 4:1), the dispensing of justice (Proverbs 31:23), or the conducting of other negotiations, he was saluted with marked tokens of respect. The younger men, conscious of his greatness, retired into the background; the old men amongst the councillors received him standing; the voice of the greatest magnate amongst them was silent until he had uttered his opinion. A remarkable testimony to the high esteem in which Job was held for his personal qualities and commanding abilities.
V. DAYS OF PUBLIC PHILANTHROPY. What Eliphaz once admitted (Job 4:3, Job 4:4), Job is now constrained to avow, that his whole by-past career had been one of unwearied benevolence. In his magisterial capacity he had:
1. Espoused the cause of the poor and needy. In conspicuous contradiction to Eliphaz, who had charged him (Job 22:5-9) with intolerable oppression and cruelty, with robbing the poor, and inhumanly suffering the naked and hungry to perish, he had taken, it might be said, the whole family of the unfortunate under his protection. When a poor man oppressed by his neighbour had cried out for help, when an orphan had poured into his ear a tale or pitiful distress, when a miserable outcast half-dead through cold and nakedness, or through hunger and thirst, had found the way to his door, when a broken-hearted widow had appealed to him for assistance, he had had an ear for every cry, a heart for every sorrow, and a hand for every need. Job's sympathies had inclined him to feel for the defenceless and the poor. And in this Job had shown himself to be a good man (Psalms 40:1), and an eminent type of Christ (Psalms 72:4; Matthew 8:16, Matthew 8:17). Nay, Job had considered no care or trouble too much to expend on behalf of his clients. He had both taken pains to understand their complaint, and had not been satisfied till he had rectified their grievance. And with such skill, energy, and perseverance had he conducted their causes, that he commonly carried them forward to success, delivering the poor and fatherless who cried to him (verse 12), causing the widow's heart to sing for joy (verse 13), breaking the jaws of the wicked and plucking the spoil out of his teeth (verse 17). And in all that Job had said or done in his magisterial capacity he had:
2. Acted with the most scrupulous regard to justice. He had not met chicanery and oppression by resorting to the same dishonest weapons. If he had stood forth for justice to the poor, he had not attempted to withhold it from the rich. So unchallengeably just had been his decisions, and so unimpeachable the principles of equity by which these were guided, that he felt himself entitled to say he had literally clothed himself in righteousness, and assumed integrity as a robe and turban; in this, again, typifying strikingly the Lord Jesus Christ (Psalms 72:2; Psalms 96:13). And so successful had Job been in his determination to combine "mercy and truth, righteousness and peace," in his magisterial capacity, that he had:
3. Gained the good opinion and respect of all. Unlike Aristides, whom his fellow-countrymen ostracized because they could not longer bear to hear him called the "just" the fellow-citizens of Job had saluted him on every side with words and looks of commendation and esteem (verse 11).
VI. DAYS OF UNANTICIPATED EVIL. Pious, rich, honoured, useful, trusted, revered, Job was unconscious of a single gloomy foreboding. All round him, above him, before him, the prospect was clear and exhilarating. Not a speck of cloud lay upon the bright horizon that encompassed him. Job had no thought but that he should live a long, prosperous, and honoured life, multiplying his days like the sand, or like the phoenix, the fabulous bird of Egyptian mythology, or, perhaps, like the. palm tree, and at last dying calmly in his nest, i.e. like Abraham (Genesis 25:8), m the bosom of his family. Two things contributed to foster such a pleasing anticipation in the mind of Job.
1. The apparent stability of his outward or material prosperity. Comparing himself to a tree planted by the rivers of waters—a frequent biblical emblem of a good man (Psalms 1:3; Psalms 92:12; Jeremiah 17:8)—he had hoped that, since his roots were open to the waters, whence they could always draw a plentiful supply of moisture, and since his branches were nightly laden with dew (verse 19), nothing ever would or even could occur to interrupt the outward course of his temporal greatness. The sources of his wealth appeared so permanent and inexhaustible that he never imagined they could either be diminished or dried up. His honours were so fresh upon him (cf. 'Henry VIII.,' act 3. sc. 2) that he dreamt not of their decline. And his manly vigour, his capability of warding off danger, represented by the bow which he carried in his hand, was so full and so easily renewed that he feared not an overthrow to his unexampled fortune, or an eclipse to the shining splendour of his honourable name.
2. The unlimited extent of his authority and influence. The autobiographical fragment introduced in verses 21-25 is not designed as a continuation or resumption of the theme treated of above (verses 7, 8), but is intended to explain how dark forebodings never crossed the mind of Job when reposing in the brilliant sunshine of his earthly glory. The profound veneration in which his countrymen held him, causing them with patient silence and eager expectation to wait for his counsel (verses 21, 23); the awful respect in which they held his words, regarding them as final on every subject they handled (verse 22); the effect which his decisions never failed to produce upon those who heard them, his speech distilling upon them with reviving and enlivening influences, and being welcome to their hearts as the early and the latter rains (verse 23); the influence he wielded over them by his kindly manners, his very smile being regarded as an act of gracious condescension which they could hardly believe was meant for them, but which, nevertheless, they were loth to lose, and which seemed to have a talismanic power in dispelling their sadness (verse 24); and the unquestioning, nay, joyous, submission with which they hailed his instructions, his position among them being at once that of a monarch and a friend (verse 25);—all these considerations rendered it difficult for Job to think that ever for him an evil day should dawn.
1. The propriety and profit of recalling and reviewing the past.
2. In enumerating blessings, much depends upon assigning to each its exact place in the order of importance.
3. To a good man the things of God ever stand in the front rank.
4. Having flint obtained Heaven's favour, a man may legitimately aspire to acquire the riches of the world and the good opinions of his fellow-men.
5. An upright and useful life seldom fails to meet its recompense, even upon earth.
6. He whom God has enriched with wealth, ability, and influence should devote them to the service of the poor and needy.
7. The blessings of those whom a good man relieves are greater riches than accumulated gold and silver.
8. The retrospect of a well-spent life is a great consolation in the season of adversity.
9. It is dangerous to look for permanence in anything on earth.
10. It is well when great men can combine love with authority, and sympathy with power.
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
Wistful retrospect of past happy days.
I. PICTURES OF MEMORY; HAPPINESS FOUNDED ON THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD. (Job 29:1-10.)
1. Friendship with God the source of happiness. (Job 29:1-5.) This is beautifully indicated in figurative expressions. He thinks of the days when God's light beamed upon his brow, by God's light he walked through the darkness; the days of his ripe and mellow age (rather than of his "youth"), when the secret, i.e. the intimacy, of the Almighty was a shelter and a blessing to his home. The word "secret" means "intimacy," confidential intercourse (see Job 19:19; Psalms 25:14; Psalms 55:15; Proverbs 3:32). God was near to him, and the next greatest blessing to that favour of God, viz. the blessing of children, was granted to him. (Compare on the blessing of children, Psalms 127:3, sqq.; Psalms 128:3.) The outward blessings of life are chiefly to be valued as signs of the deeper, the inward good; the constant nearness of God, the consciousness of his approval, the certainty of his guidance.
2. Features of outward happiness. (Job 29:6-10.)
"Not backward are our glances bent,
But onwards to our Father's home."
The past is gone for ever; but there is a present and a future which is still our own.
II. THE SOURCE OF HAPPINESS IN GOODNESS. (Verses 11-17.) His benevolence and his strict integrity were mediately the cause of his prosperity. For although God is the one and only Cause of all things, the gracious Author of our bliss, yet his dispensations are not arbitrary. Blessing is conditioned by faith; and faith is proved by conduct. Job's public and private life was known and seen and elicited approval from all. He was the succourer of the poor and the helpless orphan; the blessing of the forlorn and the wretched was breathed forth on his behalf. He had clothed himself with rectitude (compare for this figure, Isaiah 11:5; Isaiah 51:9; Isaiah 59:17; Psalms 132:9). It was to him like a robe and a turban. He was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame; a father to the needy. He searched out the cause of unknown men, to help them as surety or otherwise if their cause was good. He put down men of violence and oppression, and recovered their ill-gotten booty from them, as one snatches the prey from the jaws of the wild beast. Despite the mournful mood of Job, what solace is there not, even in the greatest affliction, through the memory of having been permitted to do some good and reap some reward of affection from others in the world? And, looking to the sequel of the story, let us remember that God is not unrighteous to forget the labour of love. Every cause has its effect; every act of benevolence will be followed in due time by its bright flowers of peace and joy in the conscience and the memory. Go on, then, in the work of doing good, steadfast and immovable in the work of the Lord. Be like fountains watering the earth and spreading fertility. "Subdue discord, mutiny, widespread despair by manfulness, justice, mercy, and wisdom. Chaos is dark, deep as hell; let light be, and there is instead a green, flowery world. Oh, it is great, and there is no other greatness! To make some work of God's creation a little more fruitful, better, more worthy of God; to make some human hearts a little wiser, more manful, happier, more blessed; it is a work for God!" (Carlyle).
III. THE MEMORY OF BRIGHT HOPES; THE RESPECT AND INFLUENCE IN FORMER DAYS. (Verses 18-25.)
1. Everything in that happy period pointed with seeming prophetic power to a long life' to a blessed old age. He thought within himself that he should end his days in his nest. in the besom of his family, in peace and security; and like the sand (or the days of the phoenix) would be their number. If the word be taken as denoting the phoenix, then the allusion is to the legend of the bird living five hundred years, then burning in its nest, and rising from the ashes. Peace and prosperity bred in his mind great hopes. Like a well-watered tree, he thought his life would spread, the refreshing dew resting by night upon its branches, and that his honour would ever freshly remain with him; that his bow—the symbol of lusty manhood and strength (1 Samuel 2:4; Psalms 46:9; Psalms 76:3; Jeremiah 49:35; Jeremiah 51:56)—would renew itself in his hand. We learn here, in passing, the lesson not to build on the constancy of earthly things, not to lay up treasures of hope here. If it be well with us now, let us be prepared for reverses (Sirach 11:25). This lesson comes back to us from many a saying of the ancient world, mixed no doubt with much of superstition, and ignorance of the nature of God, but still in the main expressed with the truth of experience. "There is nothing secure in the world, no glory, no prosperity. The gods toss all life into confusion, mix everything with its reverse, that all of us, from our ignorance and uncertainty, may pay them the more worship and reverence". "God hath power to change the lowly for the lofty; he weakens the distinguished, he brings the obscure to the light; Fortune with shrill sound here removes the towering crest, and here she sets it up" (Horace, 'Od.,' 1:35). The brief sum of life's days forbids us to cherish a long hope (ibid; Job 1:4). We must learn in a Christian sense to "pluck the day, and have the smallest confidence in what is to come" (ibid; Job 1:11). What the morrow may bring we should shun to inquire, and count as a gain every day that may be given us (ibid; Job 1:9). "Too late is the life of to-morrow; live to-day!" (Martial).
2. A further picture of the social esteem and respect in which his past days had been spent. The members of his tribe or clan all looked up to him, listened in silence to his address, and had nothing to add alter he had spoken. His speech fell upon them like the refreshing rain for which the thirsty pastures long—the late rain which in March or April blesses the ripening crops (comp. Deuteronomy 11:14; Jeremiah 3:3; Jeremiah 5:24; Joel 2:23; Hosea 6:3). His cheerful smile dismissed men's rising fears, the light of his countenance was like the sun dispelling the clouds of doubt or alarm. He sat in the midst of the assembly of his tribe, guiding, commanding, directing, like a king in the midst of his battle-host; or, as if this picture were too warlike and remote from the peaceful scenes of the patriarch's life, he sat among them as a general consoler, a comforter of the mourners. Thus—
"Remembrance wakes with all her busy train,
Sucks at his breast, and turns the past to pain?
But we have a power over this "bosom-spring," and may cheer or sadden ourselves with retrospect, according as we take the golden key of faith or the iron key of despondency wherewith to unlock the door of the past. Do not these bright memories of a well-spent past afford solace to the afflicted hero, though they also touch the nerves to pain? Let it be ours so to use memory that it still yield instructive joy and hope. As we turn over her mixed records, let us say to ourselves, "The joys we have possessed are ever ours—out of the reach of chance and change. Let past years, so far as they are marked with the greatness of God, with acts of piety, works of love, breed in us perpetual benedictions."—J.
HOMILIES BY R. GREEN
A mournful reflection upon a happy past.
Job had lived in honour and great respect. He was "the greatest of all the men of the East." The Divine testimony concerning him was, "There is none like him in the earth." Job's was an enviable condition, and his own words indicate how sensible he was of it. In his mournful utterance, made as he looks back upon a dead past, we see wherein consisted his happiness; and we learn what arc the elemental conditions of the highest felicity in human life—at least at that period of the world's history. Nor can we think of loftier conditions to-day. The conditions of happiness on the loss of which Job mournfully reflected are—
I. THE ASSURED FAVOUR OF JEHOVAH. The proof of this to Job was in his abounding prosperity.
II. DOMESTIC FELICITY. If the joy of home be destroyed, all joy must wither.
III. THE RESPECT OF SURROUNDING SOCIETY. It is always painful to a right-minded man not to be held in respect by his fellow-men; and although it may minister to pride in the unwary, it is to the prudent a source of the greatest satisfaction, especially when it is subordinated to the honour that cometh from God only.
IV. THE HONOURABLE REGARD EVEN OF THE GREAT. The very princes and nobles held silence when he spake. He who is so highly honoured cannot but honour himself. Happy the man whose self-respect so ripens.
V. THE EXERCISE OF CHARITY, without which the heart would become selfish.
VI. THE RESPONSIVE BLESSINGS OF MEN, sweet as nard of great price.
VII. CONSCIOUSNESS OF INTEGRITY AND RIGHTEOUSNESS—a conscience void of offence.
VIII. THE EXERCISE OF HIS POWER AND WEALTH FOR THE DEFENCE OF THE NEEDY AND OPPRESSED. Every kind act leaves a fragrance on the hand of him who does it.
IX. THE POSSESSION OF HOPE. It might be said the hope of the permanence of these precious possessions.
X. A CAUSE OF BLESSING TO OTHERS. In these lies the secret of the truest happiness, but many deserve them not, and having them are not able to retain their integrity and simplicity. Hence how often are they withdrawn! The absence of these Job is called to mourn. To hold fast his integrity in the loss as truly as amidst the possession of these things marks the true greatness and goodness of the man, and ultimately brings him the highest honour.—R.G.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
Regrets for the happy past.
I. IT IS NATURAL TO LOOK BACK WITH REGRET ON THE HAPPY PAST. The memory of past joy is not wholly pleasant. If the joy is gone, the memory only adds pain to the present sense of loss. Several things contribute to give intensity to the feeling of regret.
1. Many of the best blessings are not appreciated while we possess them. We have to lose them to learn their value. This is especially true of great common blessings, such as the buoyancy of youth, health, affluence. When all goes well with us we do not consider how many gifts of God we are enjoying. The charm of summer is appreciated when dull November makes us look back on the lost days of brightness. We wake up to the value of our loved ones when they have been taken from us by the hand of death. Adversity reveals the privileges of prosperity. Declining years teach the value of youth.
2. Reflection grows with years. It has been remarked upon as a misfortune that so many of the best things in life seem to be lavished upon an age that is carelessly negligent of them. Strength, energy, health, happiness, in abundance are enjoyed in youth without a thought. When these treasures are more scarce they are carefully economized and highly valued. In later years the habit of looking backward grows upon us, and reflection takes the place of heedless activity. Thus we consider find appreciate with regret in the later years of life what we disregarded in the earlier times of possession.
3. Memory throws a delusive glamour over the past. The distant hills are beautiful; we see their purple shadows, we do not observe their stony paths. Youth is not so sunny as age paints it. Keen pains of youth are forgotten in after-years, especially if those years have bro