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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

Job 14

 

 

Verses 1-22

CONTINUATION OF JOB'S PLEADING WITH GOD

I. Pleads the common infirmity of human nature (Job ).

Man, from the very nature of his birth, frail and mortal, suffering and sinful. "Born of a woman." Allusion to the sentence pronounced on Eve after the fall (Gen ), "I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children." Like parent, like child. Such a birth a plea with the Almighty for lenience and forbearance. Three evils resulting to humanity from that birth—

1. Mortality. "Of few days." Man ever since the fall has been short-lived. Jacob's testimony at the age of a hundred and thirty—"Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been" (Gen ). The longest life short—

(1) In comparison with eternity;

(2) As compared with what it would have been but for the fall. Man's death the result of sin. Probably the tree of life in the garden of Eden a symbol of man's immortality, and a means of effecting it. Death among the lower animals no argument against the doctrine that man's death is the wages of sin. As easy for God to make man's body immortal as to make it at all. If man reaching the age of Adam and Methuselalr was short-lived, what is he now? Sad insanity, for the sake of this short span, to throw away a blissful eternity!

2. Suffering. "Full of trouble." Man's life on earth not merely sprinkled with with trouble, but saturated with it. The first scene disclosed by Scripture after the Fall is,—Adam and Eve weeping tears of anguish over a son slaughtered by the hand of his brother. A representative event. Man's history, even under an economy of mercy and the operation of grace, a record of blood and tears. "Few and evil," the description of most men's lives. The "trouble" both inward and outward. Disquietude and unrest the natural man's daily experience. No peace to the wicked. Man's soul a sea continually agitated by the winds of passion. The name of external troubles "Legion." Bodily diseases a part of that death which is the wages of sin. Death itself a prominent element in the troubles of life. Life clouded by the fear and apprehension of it, in respect either to ourselves or our friends. Deep trouble through its inroads into the domestic or social circle. Man's inhumanity, unkindness, and wrong to his fellow-man. Reverses of fortune, poverty, want. Not least, the trouble superinduced by our own conduct. Suffering produced by sin as heat by fire. Trouble as man's lot on earth a fact of universal experience. "The world is an abode which if it make thee smile to-day, will make thee weep to-morrow" [Hariri, an Arabian poet].

Man's frailty and mortality set forth under two impressive figures:—

1. A flower (Job ). "He cometh forth as a flower and is cut down." Man compared to a flower—

(1) From its origin, the earth;

(2) Its beauty;

(3) Its delicate texture and construction, contrasted with the fruit;

(4) Its frailty;

(5) Its end. If allowed to grow, soon fades and falls off, but liable also to many casualties,—from the hand of men, the tooth of animals, the nipping frost, the mower's scythe. Man the goodliest flower framed by his Maker's hand. "Godlike, erect, with native honour clad." His goodliness as the flower of the field. Like the blossom, which opens, expands, reaches its perfection, fades, and then falls to its native earth. More frequently is prematurely "cut down." His life exposed to a thousand casualties. The flower however falls off only to make way for the fruit. If prepared by grace, man dies only to ripen in a happier sphere.

2. A shadow. "He fleeth also as a shadow and continueth not." Time early measured by the shadow of a dial or a spear stuck in the ground. The shadow on the dial-plate never stands still. Glideson from hour to hour, from morning to noon, and from noon to night. The motion imperceptible, but constant and progressive. Neither stands still nor goes back. Only terminated by the setting of the sun or an unexpected cloud. So man's passage from the cradle to the grave. Hastens to the evening of death, which however often arrives unexpectedly before it is noon. The primæval sentence in continual execution,—"Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." The shadow an appropriate emblem also of the pleasures and pursuits of time, as empty and unsubstantial.—Lessons:—

(1) To form a true estimate of the enjoyments and interests of time and eternity.

(2) To improve our fleeting stay in this world to the preparation for a better.

(3) To make a diligent use of present moments which alone are ours.

(4) To stand always prepared for life's unexpected termination.

Human frailty employed by Job as a plea for leniency and forbearance (Job ). "And dost thou open thine eyes upon (—pay rigid attention to) such an one (—one so frail, miserable, and short-lived)? and bringest me (or him) into judgment with thee" (—accusing and contending with him for his faults against thee)? The plea acknowledged by God (Psa 78:39; Psa 103:14; Isa 57:16; Gen 6:3). God however has opened His eyes on frail and suffering man, but differently from what Job intended. Has opened them in love and pity, so as to provide deliverance from man's wretched condition. So in regard to typical Israel (Exo 3:7-8). God's eyes opened graciously on every humble and contrite soul (Isa 66:2). On his covenant people, to watch over, defend, and bless them (Zec 12:4).

3. Depravity,—the third evil resulting to man from his birth (Job ). "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one." From sinful parents can come only a sinful offspring. The plant must be according to the seed—the fruit according to the tree. God created Adam in His own likeness; Adam, after the Fall, begat children, not in God's likeness, but his own (Gen 5:3). Men now shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin (Psa 51:5). "In Adam all die,"—spiritually as well as physically and legally (1Co 15:22). The corruption of human nature in its root acknowledged by the heathen. "Nobody is born without vices,"—the saying of a heathen poet. Man found everywhere and in all circumstances, corrupt and depraved. Savage and civilized partake of the same general character. Only to be accounted for by a common depraved nature. Children exhibit the same depravity as their parents. Deceit, envy, coveting, and self-will, common in early childhood. No outward restraint or appliances able to remove or overcome this innate depravity. No clean or holy thing ever brought forth out of man's sinful nature. "Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts," &c. "A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit." Grapes not gathered from thorns. What is holy may proceed from a sinful man, but not from a sinful nature. God does not produce the fruits of the Spirit from man's old sinful nature, but from a new one imparted. Two distinct and opposite natures, the old man and the new, in a child of God, each producing its own proper fruits. The presence of the new makes the man a saint; that of the old a sinner. The believer is holy, and produces holy fruits in virtue of his new and holy nature; he is still sinful, and produces sinful fruits in virtue of his old and sinful one. Hence the Saviour's teaching: "Ye must be born again." The old nature crucified in a believer and destined to die; the new nature victorious even now, and ultimately alone in the field.

II. Pleads for removal or relaxation of his sufferings (Job ).

His prayer, and the grounds of it.

1. His prayer (Job ). "Turn from him" (or, "look away from him," i.e., from Job himself), that he may rest (obtain relief from suffering, or rest in death), till he accomplish as an hireling his day" (or, ‘that he may enjoy,' as far as a hireling may do so, ‘his appointed period' of labour, viz., the present life, or find the rest of evening after his toil, viz., in death). Human life already spoken of as "the days of a hireling" (ch. Job 7:1);—

(1) As a certain definite period;

(2) As a period of toil and endurance. Job's day now felt to be especially oppressive. The burden and heat of the day for day-labourers in the East, especially severe (Mat ). The rest of evening greatly longed for (ch. Job 7:2). Job fluctuates between desire for alleviation of the burden, and for rest in the grave. So also in ch. Job 6:8-9; Job 7:19; Job 10:20. Times in a believer's experience when life seems especially burdensome. The feeling of David (Psa 55:6); of Elijah (1Ki 19:4); of Jonah (Jon 4:3; Jon 4:8); of Jeremiah (Jer 9:2; Jer 12:5). Once the feeling of Jesus (Mat 17:17). Christ at such times, as "a river of waters in a dry place, and the shadow of a great rock in a weary land." Believers not tempted above what they are enabled to bear. In the day of the rough wind, the cast wind stayed. Strength made equal to our day. "My grace is sufficient for thee."

2. Grounds of the prayer (verse Job ).

(1) The time of our stay on earth fixed by God himself (Job ). "Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass." Job troubled with no doubts on the subject of

Predestination

That God appointed the-bounds of man's life as certain with Job as that He made him at all. This belief held firmly by the Arabians to the present day. The doctrine of the Bible. Our time in God's hand. Man unable to add a cubit to his stature, an hour to his age. Consistent with the operation of second causes and natural laws. Means appointed along with the end. "Man's life no more governed by the Stoics blind fate than by the Epicuran's blind fortune" [M. Henry]. The fact pleaded by Job as a ground for the mitigation of his sufferings. The few short years allotted on earth may be graciously spared such excessive, accumulated, and continued affliction. It is still with God to say both how long and how severe our sufferings on earth shall be. Predestination perfectly consistent with

Prayer

The Almighty not, like the God of the Stoics, bound by fate. May not change His purpose, but may alter His procedure. Changes in His out ward procedure already in His secret purpose. The thread of man's life in God's hands, to lengthen or shorten it according to circumstances already foreseen. Hence full scope for the exercise of prayer. Prayer and its answers no interference with God's purposes. Not only what God does, but how He does it, already predetermined. Believing prayer one of the means appointed with the end. God builds up Zion at the "set time" to favour her, because He regards "the prayer of the destitute" (Psa ). The duty and prevalence of prayer a fact as well of experience as of revelation. Prayer and its efficacy an instinct of human nature. One of the great moral laws under which God has placed His intelligent creatures. Man's inability to reconcile it with his philosophy no argument against it. Man must pray; and God is the hearer of prayer.

(2.) Our departure from this world final and irrevocable. Man's case at death is—(i.) contrasted with that of a felled tree (Job ). "For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch (or shoot) thereof will not cease; though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die (to all appearance) in the ground; yet through the scent of water (—its gentle contact, like an exhalation or an odour,) it will bud and bring forth boughs (Heb. ‘a crop' of shoots) like a plant (or, ‘as if it had been planted.') But man (even in his best estate—Heb. ‘the strong man') dieth and wasteth away (or, ‘is prostrated and gone'—loses all inward power of recovery or revival); yea, man (Heb.—man as sprung from the earth, ‘Adam') giveth up the ghost and where is he?" (i.e., is no more to be seen—a Biblical and Arab phrase).—(ii.) Compared to water disappearing by evaporation, absorption, or otherwise (Job 14:11). "As the waters fail from the sea (or lake,—the term applied to any considerable collection of water, Jer 51:36; Isa 19:5); and the flood (or winter-torrent) decayeth and drieth up (in summer); so man lieth down (in the grave) and riseth not; till the heavens be no more they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep." Man at death disappears for ever as a resident of this present world. No return to a mortal life. "The bourne whence no traveller returns." That needs to be well done that can be done only once. (See also ch. Job 7:9-10).

The question asked (Job )—"If a man shall die, shall he live again?"—capable of a double answer. In regard to the present world, or the world in its present state, No; in regard to a future resurrection, Yes. The fact of such resurrection, however, probably not, at least distinctly, in Job's mind.

The doctrine of the

Resurrection

One of gradual development. Death viewed by most nations of antiquity as a "perpetual sleep." Revelation assures us of an awaking out of it (Dan ; 1Th 4:14-17). That awaking at the Lord's appearing, when "the heavens shall pass away with a great noise" (2Pe 3:7; 2Pe 3:10-11). New heavens and a new earth the promised abode of resurrection saints (2Pe 3:13; Rev 21:1). Resurrection only to follow the sin-atoning and death-destroying death on the cross. Hence the slight knowledge of it by Old Testament saints. The knowledge of it to be only according to the knowledge of that which was the foundation of it. Life and immortality brought to light by Christ Himself (2Ti 1:10). As in Adam all die, so only in Christ shall all be made alive. Christ rose as the first-fruits of them that slept. Christ the first-fruits; afterwards they that are Christ's at His coming (1Co 15:20-23). Only faint and occasional glimpses of the resurrection obtained by Old Testament believers. David's hope expressed prophetically of the Messiah's resurrection, rather than personally of his own (Psa 16:8; Act 2:25-31). The Lord's second appearing, and His people's resurrection as bound up with it, the blessed hope of New Testament believers. Vague and dim apprehension now exchanged for glorious certainty (2Co 5:1; Php 3:21).

State after death

The question "Where is he? (Job ), solemn and important in relation to the man, viewed as possessing an immortal spirit. Only two states after death. Lazarus is carried into Abraham's bosom. The rich man lifts up his eyes in hell, being in torments. "The wicked is driven away in his wickedness," Where? Judas went to his own place. "The righteous hath hope in his death." The penitent thief was in Paradise, while his lifeless body was cast into a pit. Where was his companion who died in his sins? Psa 9:17 gives the solemn answer. "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord."

III. Job desires a temporary concealment in the grave (Job ).

"O that thou wouldst hide me in the grave until thy wrath be past (—the present affliction viewed as a token of that wrath); that thou wouldst appoint me a set time and remember me." Has doubts as to the possibility of this wish being accomplished. "If a man die, shall he live again?" (Job ).—Returns to his wish and states what would be the result of its being granted. "All the days of my appointed time (or warfare, as ch. Job 7:1) will (or would) I wait till my change (dismission or renovation) come. Thou shalt (or shouldst) call and I will (or would) answer; thou wilt (or wouldst) have a desire to the work of thine hands." A confused wish of Job's troubled spirit. Apparently inconsistent with his previous statements about man's irrevocable departure out of this world. Prayer, especially in deep affliction, often without much reflection. Even believers sometimes know not what they ask. Yet a great truth in his words, though but dimly apprehended by himself. Truths often uttered through the presence of the Spirit, when but imperfectly understood by the speaker (1Pe 1:12).

"To the imagination may be given

The type and shadow of an awful truth."

Much more when the human spirit is in intimate communion with the divine. God's saints actually hidden for a time in the grave and the spirit-world. The words of the prophet (Isa ), almost an echo of the patriarch's. A set time actually appointed to God's people for their recall from the grave. God remembers them there as he did Noah in the Ark (Gen 8:1). Their death precious in his sight. Their names engraven on the palms of his hands. Zion's wall's, though lying in ruins, continually before him (Isa 49:16). Living saints at the Lord's appearing not caught up till dead ones have been raised (1Th 4:15-17). The righteous, previous to the last and great tribulation, mostly taken away from the evil to come. Hidden in their chambers for a little moment till the indignation be overpast (Isa 26:20). Observe—

1. Job's faith and patience (Job ). "All the days of my appointed time will I wait till my change come. Faith foresees the change for the better, and patience waits for it. Three "changes" in a believer's experience—

(1) When he is born again, and passes from spiritual death to life.

(2) When he falls asleep in Jesus and enters the heavenly rest.

(3) When he rises from the grave to be made in body and spirit entirely like Christ, and to be ever with the Lord. Probably the third of these vaguely and dimly indicated in Job's words. For this, as well as the change for the better at death, were his wish to be granted, he would patiently wait. Deliverance decreed for God's people from all trouble and from death itself. The time of that deliverance in God's hands. To be patiently waited for. Patient waiting the posture of believers in this world (Rom ; 1Th 1:10; Heb 10:36). The vision is for an appointed time. The promise, Behold I come quickly. Blessed is he that waiteth. The change at a believer's death worth patient waiting for; much more the change at the Lord's appearing. At death we are unclothed, at the resurrection clothed upon (2Co 5:2).

2. Job's joyous anticipation, should his wish be granted (Job ). "Thou shalt call." No awaking from the sleep of death but at the Divine call. "A wake and sing, ye that dwell in dust" (Isa 26:19). For the call, see also Joh 5:28; 1Co 15:52; 1Th 4:14-17. The call of the Bridegroom (Son 2:10-13).—A ready response given by believers to the call. "And I will answer." The language of conscience innocence in the case of Job; of conscious acceptance "in the Beloved" in the case of every believer.—The reason of that Divine call—"Thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands." Believers especially the work of God's hands—

(1) In creation. Man's body a masterpiece of Divine skill directed by Divine benevolence.

"In their looks Divine

The image of their glorious Maker shone;

Truth, wisdom, sanctitude severe and pure."

(2) In regeneration and sanctification. Believers God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus (Eph ). The expression frequent in Isaiah as applied to God's people (Isa 29:23; Isa 45:11; Isa 60:21; Isa 61:3). Believers a more costly work than all creation besides. Required the incarnation, suffering, and death of the Creator. The heavens the work of God's fingers, believers the work of God's hands (Psa 8:3). To this work of His hands God has a special desire. That desire one of—

(1) Pity and benevolence;

(2) Yearning affection;

(3) Complacency and delight. The Father's desire is to them as His children; the Son's, as His Bride and the purchase of His blood; the Spirit's as His especial work. Faith unable, in the darkest time, to give up the idea of God's loving fatherhood. Looks through the gloomy passage of the grave, and sees more or less clearly a light shining at the farther end.

IV. Complains again of God's present severity (Job ).

"For (or, ‘but') now thou numberest my steps (taking strict account of all my actions); dost thou not watch over my sin (in order to punish it)? My transgression is sealed up in a bag (as if so much treasure, that none may be lost or left unpunished, or as so much evidence preserved against me); and thou sewest up mine iniquity" (in order carefully to keep it for future punishment). A constant recurrence of God's present apparent severity. Remembered now, either as the reason for Job's wish for concealment in the grave (Job ), or as the contrast of its fulfilment (‘but now' &c.). Hard to get over present grievances. All Job's sufferings viewed as the result of God's resolution to punish his every failure. Observe—

(1) "Faith and unbelief view God's character and dealings in an opposite light;

(2) A time of darkness and trouble unfavourable for a right judgment. Job's present view of God's character and dealings entirely a mistaken one. His character is—"Slow to anger;" "Ready to forgive;" "Delighting in mercy." Sin, however, in order to its being forgiven, thus dealt with in the case of the Surety. The iniquities of all the redeemed laid upon Him. Strict account taken of sin by God in dealing with the Sin-bearer. No sin pardoned in the sinner without being punished in the Substitute. God just while justifying the ungodly. Job's view true in a dispensation of simple law. Not true in a dispensation of mercy and under the covenant of grace. Sad to live under a dispensation of mercy and not to avail oneself of its benefits. The worst of all cases, to have the guilt of a rejected Saviour added to all other transgressions.

V. Again bewails man's mortality and wretchedness (Job ).

First by comparison with the mutability everywhere visible in Nature.

(1) The mountain and the rock, that seem the firmest of all earthly objects. These, or at least portions of them, torn away from the rest by earthquakes or other agencies, fall and then lie mouldering and crumbling on the ground (Job ). "And surely (or ‘but') the mountain falling cometh to nought, and the rock is removed," &c.

(2) Stones, the hardest of earthly materials, are worn away by the slow continual action of water (Job ). "The waters wear the stones."

(3) The very soil forming the loose surface of the earth, with the trees, grain, &c., that grow in it, is washed away by floods. "Thou washest away the things that grow out of the dust of the earth" (or, "the floods sweep away the dust," &c).

Man, a partaker of the general corruptibility and decay. "And (or, ‘so') thou destroyest the hope of man" (—‘wretched' man's hope and expectation of prolonging his life on the earth). Human mortality in in keeping with the decay of all visible nature. Man ordinarily thinks of death as at a distance from him. "All men think all men mortal but themselves." The hope of evading the last enemy vain. The sentence has gone forth, Dust thou art, &c. (Job ). "Thou prevailest for ever against him (—‘always,' or, ‘to complete victory'), and he passeth," (or, "he is gone,"—departs of this world). Man properly uses his endeavour to prolong his life. Battles against the sentence, "unto dust shalt thou return." In vain. The victory always with God who executes his own sentence. Three stages in this victory—

(1) Disease. "Thou changest his countenance." Sickness alters the state of our frame, and the aspect of our face. Instead of the glow and plumpness of health comes the paleness and emaciation of disease. Job himself at the time an example of his own words.

(2) Death. "Thou sendest him away." Death is God's dismission. "Return ye children of men." The world "a stage where every man must play his part." The time for his exit in God's hand.

(3) The disembodied state in the

World of Spirits

Represented by Job—

1. As a state of ignorance of what takes place on earth, especially as regards surviving relatives (verge 21). "His sons come to honour, and he knoweth it not; and they are brought low, but he perceiveth it not of them." Parents naturally very deeply interested in the prosperity or adversity of their children. In the spirit-world, ignorant of and unaffected by either. Absolute separation from all the living and the creatures of the present world. This however not necessarily to be regarded as a divine declaration of the real state of the case. Rather the utterance—(a) Of Job's own melancholy spirit at the time; (b) Of the views generally entertained on the subject at that early period. The knowledge possessed by the departed in reference to survivors still a mystery. Among "the spirits of the just," probably more of such knowledge than we are aware of. Joy among the angels of God over one repenting sinner. Naturally also among departed saints. Hence, still more, over a repenting relative. Such knowledge an obvious increase to their joy and praise. Angels constant attendants on believers in life, and their escort to paradise at death. Departed saints therefore probably made acquainted by angels, if not more directly, with the circumstances of converted relatives on earth. The mere worldly prosperity or adversity of surviving relatives, however, even if known, probably, as such, a matter of the utmost insignificance to departed saints.

2. As a state of suffering and grief (Job ). "But his flesh upon him shall have pain, and his soul within him shall mourn" (or, "only his flesh shall have pain on account of himself, and his soul on account of himself shall mourn"). The dead man represented as occupied with his own concerns, not those of his surviving friends. His state not one of pleasure but of pain; his experience not one of joy but of grief. Spoken of man in general without reference to distinction of character. Also spoken according to the view then entertained of the state of departed spirits. That state one of anything but comfort or joy (see ch. Job 10:21-22). The "flesh" and "soul" here viewed as making up the man, who is regarded as still conscious in the spirit-world. That consciousness, however, one only of discomfort. Hence, the desire for life so prevalent in Old Testament times. Almost any kind of life regarded as preferable to an abode in the world of spirits. Such views natural, apart from revelation. Even still the views of many living under the Gospel but ignorant of its truths. The experience of the body transferred to the departed spirit, as if partaking of it. The thing dreaded in death—"To lie in cold abstraction and to rot." Views of the spirit-world entirely changed since the Advent of Him who is both the Life and the Light. Life and immortality brought by Him to light through the Gospel. The kingdom of heaven opened to all believers. The spirit-world now their Father's house—the better country—Paradise—the rest from labour—the Mount Zion—the place of Divine worship and communion—the heavenly Jerusalem—the general assembly and church of the first-born—the innumerable company of angels—the presence of Jesus, the Elder Brother and Mediator of the New Covenant. The views of Job more correctly applicable in reference to the unsaved dead. The rich man in hell (or Hades) lifted up his eyes, being in torment. Compared with the condition of an unsaved soul in the world of spirits—

"The weariest and most loathed worldly life

That ache, age, penury and imprisonment Can lay on Nature, is a paradise."

Lessons:—

1. The comparative insignificance of worldly prosperity or adversity in view of the eternal world.

2. The infinite importance of seeming a place of happiness beyond the grave—

(1) For ourselves;

(2) For our children and friends.

3. The value of the Gospel, and the duty of making ourselves acquainted with its precious contents.

4. The paramount necessity of a personal interest in Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Job 14:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/job-14.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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