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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Job 40



Verse 2



Job 40:2. He that reproveth God, let him answer it.

JOB’S friends had failed of convincing his mind. And no wonder; for they adopted not any line of argument fitted to that end. Job was faulty, exceeding faulty, before God, though not in the way that his friends imagined. He had complained of God in very irreverent and unhallowed terms. He had complained of God as “multiplying his wounds without cause [Note: Job 9:17.].” He had even condemned God as an oppressor: “I will say unto God, Do not condemn me: shew me wherefore thou contendest with me. Is it good unto thee that thou shouldst oppress, that thou shouldst despise the work of thine hands, and shine upon the counsel of the wicked? Thou inquirest after mine iniquity, and searchest after my sin. Thou knowest I am not wicked [Note: Job 10:2-3; Job 10:6-7.].” He even challenges God to a dispute respecting the equity of his own proceedings, not doubting but that, if God will only give him leave to plead his own cause, without oppressing him by his power, he shall prove God himself to be in error concerning him: “Withdraw thine hand far from me; and let not thy dread make me afraid: then call thou, and I will answer; or let me speak, and answer thou me [Note: Job 13:21-22.].” In reply to all this, God takes up the cause: and, with an immediate reference to such expressions as I have already cited, he says, “He that reproveth God, let him answer it.”

Now, as it may be thought that there are none at this day so presumptuous as to “reprove God,” I will inquire,

I. Who they are that are obnoxious to this charge—

Impious as such conduct is, there are multitudes who are guilty of it.

1. Those who dispute his word—

[None but the truly humble either do or will receive the word of God without gainsaying. To some it is too sublime, containing doctrines which human reason cannot comprehend: to others it is too simple, offering salvation by faith alone, without any deeds of the Law. To others, again, its precepts are too strict, requiring more than man can perform; whilst, on the other hand, its promises are too free, seeing that a man has nothing to do but to rest upon them, and they shall all be fulfilled to him.

But, of all people under heaven, there are none who so systematically and openly blaspheme the word of God as the Papists do. They deny its sufficiency for the instruction of men in the way of life, and put on a footing of equality with it their own unwritten traditions. And even its suitableness, also, do their deny; affirming that, if indiscriminately read by the laity, “it will do more harm than good.” If it be in any translation of the Protestants, they denounce it as “a deadly pasture,” that will destroy the flock; and as “the devil’s gospel,” which, whosoever has “the presumption to read without the permission of the priest, he shall never receive absolution from the priest; and, as far as the priest can prevail, he shall perish for ever under the guilt of all his sins [Note: All this is affirmed by the present Pope, in his charge to all the Popish Bishops and Clergy throughout the world, given in 1824.]. What is all this, but to “reprove God,” and to say to him, “Thou hast revealed thy word in away unsuitable to the necessities of thy people, and unfit for their perusal?” This the priests declare, even respecting their own translations of the Bible: and they accordingly take the Bible out of the hands of the laity, and suffer none to read it without their special permission. I marvel that there can be found upon the face of the whole earth persons that will submit to such impious, such deadly, tyranny as this. But this whole Church shall answer for it, ere long.]

2. Those who arraign his providence—

[Here, again, will every man be found guilty before God. It is no uncommon thing to hear even persons who bear the Christian name speaking of luck, and fortune, and chance, exactly as if there were no God in heaven, or as if there were things beyond his reach and control. And, when afflictions are multiplied upon us, how commonly do we repine and murmur against God, instead of saying, as we ought, “The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” Perhaps it will be said, that our complaints are not so much made against God as against those who are the immediate instruments of our affliction. But the creature, whoever he may be, is only a “rod,” a “staff,” a “sword,” in Jehovah’s hands: and, though God leaves men to the unrestrained operation of their own corrupt hearts, he overrules every thing they do for the accomplishment of his own will. Even the crucifixion of our blessed Lord was “in accordance with God’s determinate counsel and will [Note: Acts 2:23; Acts 4:28.];” “nor is there evil in the city, but it must be traced to God as the doer of it [Note: Amos 3:6.],” so far, at least, at the sufferer is concerned. And us Moses, when the people murmured against him and Aaron, told them that their murmurings were in reality against God himself [Note: Exodus 16:7-8.], so must I say, that murmuring of every kind, against whomsoever or whatsoever it be directed, is,” in fact, a reproving of God himself, without whom not a sparrow falls to the ground, nor does so much as a hair fall from our heads.]

3. Those who condemn his grace—

[The sovereignty of God, in the disposal of his blessings, is more especially offensive to the proud heart of man. We arrogate to ourselves a right to dispense our favours to whomsoever we will: but we deny that right to God. St. Paul places this in a very striking point of view. God had said by the Prophet, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated,” St. Paul, then, arguing with a proud objector, replies, “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So, then, it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy; and whom he will, he hardeneth. Thou wilt say, then, unto me, Why, then, doth he yet find fault? for who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel to honour and another to dishonour [Note: Romans 9:13-21.]?” Here is the very point both stated and answered. Man’s proneness to call in question the grace of God is here affirmed, and is plainly declared to be a reproving of God himself.]

Seeing, then, that so many are obnoxious to the charge here exhibited, I will shew,

II. What is meant by the warning here given them—

I have before noticed Job’s challenge to Jehovah to answer him. Now God, in reply, bids the offender, if he can, to answer him. But there are only two ways in which any answer can be given: it must either be in a way of self-approving vindication, or in a way of self-abasing humiliation. Let the answer, then, be heard,

1. In a way of self-approving vindication—

[To return such an answer as this, a man must maintain these three points: God is bound to consult me in what he does—I am competent to sit in judgment on his proceedings—I know, better than God himself does, what it becomes him to do. But who can maintain these points, and make them good against God? Let the two preceding chapters be read, and it will soon appear what claim man has upon God: from whom he derived his very existence, and who keeps him in existence every breath he draws — — — As to judging of God’s ways, as well might a peasant sit in judgment on the works of the greatest statesman or philosopher. Who amongst us would submit to have all his views and pursuits criticised by a child that has just learned to speak? Yet, that were wise and commendable in comparison of our presuming to sit in judgment upon God. And, when a taper can add to the light of the meridian sun, then may we hope to counsel God, how best to govern the world, and how most effectually to advance his own glory.

If, then, we cannot make good our own cause against God, then must we answer him,]

2. In a way of self-abasing humiliation—

[It was in this way that Job replied. “Then Job answered the Lord, and said, Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken; but I will not answer; yea, twice; but I will proceed no further [Note: ver. 3, 4.].” So again, afterwards; “I have uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes [Note: Job 42:3; Job 42:6.].” O Brethren! this is the answer for every one of us to give: for “God will assuredly be justified in all that he has done, and will be clear when he is judged [Note: Psalms 51:4.].” He will vindicate his own honour, and put to silence every proud objector — — —

Instead of reproving God, therefore, in future, let this be the habit of our minds: let us, under all circumstances, maintain an humble affiance in his goodness, and a meek submission to his will. This is our duty, our interest, our happiness. We expect as much as this from our own children: and shall we manifest less regard for God, than we, poor fallible creatures, exact from them? Let us lie as clay in the hands of our all-wise, all-gracious God, and leave him to perfect his work in his own way; having no anxiety in our minds, but to fulfil his will and to glorify his name. It was by a very circuitous route that he brought the Israelites to Canaan: but we are told, “He led them by the right way.” And we, whatever trials we may meet with in this wilderness, shall, in “the end,” have the same reason to glorify our God as Job himself had [Note: James 5:11.], and as all the saints have had from the beginning of the world.]

Verse 4



Job 40:4. Behold, I am vile!

THESE are the words of a man whom God had pronounced “perfect and upright.” As a fallen descendant of Adam, he partook of the corruption of our common nature: but as a child of God, he was one of the most eminent of all the human race. It may be thought, indeed, that this confession of his proved him to have been guilty of some enormous crime; but it evinced rather his great advancement in the divine life, and his utter abhorrence of all evil. Doubtless there was just occasion for this acknowledgment, because he had transgressed with his lips in arraigning the conduct of Providence towards him: but, if they were suited to his case, much more are they so to all those who possess not his high attainments.

We shall consider the words as expressing,

I. A discovery then made—

Job had certainly low views of himself upon the whole [Note: Job 9:20; Job 9:30-31.]: yet he had spoken in too unqualified terms in vindication of his own character [Note: Job 10:6-7; Job 16:17.]. Instances of this Elihu had brought to his remembrance [Note: Job 32:2; Job 33:8-12; Job 35:2.]; and God himself testified against him in this respect [Note: Job 38:2; Job 40:2-8.]. Job had repeatedly expressed his wish, that God would admit him, as it were, to a conference; and had expressed his confidence that he could maintain his cause before him [Note: Job 23:1-5; Job 31:35-37.]: but now that God did interpose, he saw how much he had erred, and that all his former confidence was presumption. He now saw,

1. That his conduct had been sinful—

[Being conscious of the integrity of his heart, in relation to the things which his friends had laid to his charge, he had done right in maintaining his innocence before them: but he had erred in maintaining it to the extent he did; he had erred in imagining that he had not merited at God’s hands the calamities inflicted on him; and, above all, in complaining of God as acting unjustly and cruelly towards him. These workings of his heart he now saw to be exceeding sinful, as betraying too high thoughts of himself, and great irreverence towards the God of heaven and earth, “in whose sight the very heavens are not clean, and who chargeth his angels with folly.” This sin therefore he now bitterly bewailed.]

2. That his whole heart was sinful—

[He did not view his conduct as a mere insulated act; but took occasion, from the fruit which had been produced, to examine the root from which it sprang. He now traced the bitter waters to their fountain-head, and discovered thereby the bitterness of the spring from whence they flowed. This was altogether a new discovery to him: he had no conception how desperately wicked his heart was, and that the evils he had committed would have broke forth with ten thousand times greater violence, if they had not been restrained by the grace of God. The rebellion of which he had been guilty now proved indisputably to him, that he was of himself as prone to sin as any of the human race, and that, if he differed from the vilest of mankind, he had nothing to boast of, since he had not made himself to differ, nor did he possess any thing which he had not received as the free gift of God [Note: 1 Corinthians 4:7.]. This is the true way of estimating any individual sin [Note: Psalms 51:3; Psalms 51:5. Mark 7:21; Mark 7:23.] — — — and in this way alone shall we ever attain a just knowledge of ourselves.]

But we must further view his words as expressing,

II. An acknowledgment of the truth then discovered—

“Out of the abundance of his heart his mouth spake.” Feeling his sinfulness, it was an ease, rather than a pain, to him to confess it before God and man. Behold here,

1. The ingenuousness of his confession—

[Here were no excuses made, nor any suggestions offered to extenuate his guilt. He might have pleaded the weight of his sufferings, and the falseness of the accusations brought against him: but he saw that nothing can excuse sin; and that, whatever palliatives may be adduced to lessen its enormity in the sight of man, it is most hateful in the sight of God, and ought to abase us in the dust before him. That his sin on this occasion was an exception to his general conduct, did not at all change, in his estimation, the malignity of it: on the contrary, the enormity of it would appear in proportion to the mercies he had before received, and to the profession of piety he had before maintained.

Now thus it is that we also should acknowledge our vileness before God. Doubtless there may be circumstances which may greatly aggravate our transgressions; and these it will be at all times proper to notice: but it is never wise to look on the side that leads to a palliation of sin: self-love is so rooted in our hearts, that we shall always be in danger of forming too favourable a judgment of ourselves: the humiliation of the publican is that which at all times befits us: nor can we ever be in a more becoming state than when, with Job, we “repent and abhor ourselves in dust and ashes.”]

2. The dispositions with which it was accompanied—

[He submitted to reproof, and acknowledged himself guilty in relation to the very thing that was laid to hit charge. This is a good test of true and genuine repentance. It is easy to acknowledge the sinfulness of our nature; but for a man, after long and strenuously maintaining his integrity, to confess his fault before the very people who have vehemently accused him, is no small attainment: yet did Job confess, that he had repeatedly offended, both in justifying himself, and in condemning God. Moreover, he declared his resolution, with God’s help, to offend no more [Note: ver. 5.]: and by this he manifested beyond a doubt the reality and depth of his repentance. Of what use is that penitence that does not inspire us with a fixed purpose to sin no more? Humiliation without amendment is of no avail: “the repentance which is not to be repented of” produces such an indignation against sin, as will never leave us under the power of it any more [Note: 2 Corinthians 7:10-11.]. May we all bear this in remembrance, and, by the entire change in our conduct, “approve ourselves in all things to be clear in this matter [Note: 2 Corinthians 7:10-11.]!”]


1. Those who entertain a good opinion of themselves—

[How is it possible that you should be right? Are you better than Job, who is represented by the prophet as one of the most perfect characters that ever existed upon earth [Note: Ezekiel 14:14; Ezekiel 14:20.]? or if you were subjected to the same trials, would you endure them with more patience than he, of whom an Apostle speaks with admiration, saying, “Ye have heard of the patience of Job?” Know, then, that whilst you are indulging a self-righteous, self-complacent spirit, you betray an utter ignorance of your real state and character, and are altogether destitute of true repentance. Moreover, to you the Gospel is of no avail: for, what do you want of a Physician when you are not sick; or what of a Saviour, when you are not lost? O put away from you your Laodicean pride, lest you be rejected by God with indignation and abhorrence [Note: Revelation 3:17-18.]. But if, notwithstanding this warning, you are determined to hold fast your confidence, then think whether “you will be strong in the day that God shall deal with you,” or be able to stand before him as your Accuser and your Judge? Be assured, that if Job could not answer his God in this world, much less will you be able to do it in the world to come.]

2. Those who are humbled under a sense of their vileness—

[We bless God if you have been brought with sincerity of heart to say, “Behold, I am vile.” If you feel your vileness as you ought, then will all the promises of the Gospel appear to you exactly suited to your state, and Christ be truly precious to your souls. Whom does he invite to come unto him, but the weary and heavy laden? What was the end for which he died upon the cross? Was it not to save sinners, even the chief? Yes, verily; “it is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation [Note: 1 Timothy 1:15.]” — — — But whilst we would encourage all to come and wash away their sins in the fountain of his blood, we would caution all against turning the grace of God into licentiousness. Many, in acknowledging the depravity of their nature, make it almost an excuse for their sins. Their acknowledgments may be strong; but they are attended with no tenderness of spirit, no deep contrition, no real self-lothing and self-abhorrence. Brethren, above all things guard against such a state as this. Whilst you are ignorant of your vileness there is hope that your eyes may be opened to see it, and your heart be humbled under a sense of it: but to acknowledge it and yet remain obdurate, is a fearful presage of final impenitence, and everlasting ruin [Note: Revelation 16:9; Revelation 16:11; Revelation 16:21.]. If you would be right, you must stand equally remote from presumption and despondency: your vileness must drive you, not from Christ, but to him; and when you are most confident of your acceptance with him, you must walk softly before him all the days of your life.]


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Job 40:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.

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