The Biblical Illustrator
For thou saidst, What advantage will it be unto thee?
Nothing is so important to man as his character.
I. That selfishness is an evil in man’s character.” For thou saidst, What advantage will it be unto thee? and, What profit shall I have, if I be cleansed from my sin?” Whether Job expressed this selfish idea or not, Elihu’s language implies that such an idea is a great evil. It is by no means an uncommon thing for men to take up religion on purely selfish motives.
1. There are some who take it up for mere worldly gain.
2. There are some who take it up for eternal gain. Their object is to escape hell and get to heaven. Religion to them is not the summum bonum, is but a means to a selfish end.
II. That God is independent of man’s character “Look unto the heavens, and see; and behold the clouds which are higher than thou. If thou sinnest, what doest thou against Him? or if thy transgressions be multiplied, what doest thou unto Him?” This being the case, it follows that sovereignty must be the principle of all His conduct with men.
1. It is the reason of all law. Why does He require us to love and serve Him? Not for His own sake, but for ours. Thus only I can become happy.
2. It is the source of redemption. Why did He send His Son into the world? He cannot be advantaged by it. “God so loved the world,” etc.
3. It is the ground of rewards. The blessedness He communicates to the good, is given not on the ground of merit, but of grace.
III. That society is influenced by man’s character. One man’s character is reproduced in another. The righteousness of one must profit society. Three things give every man some influence upon his race.
If righteous we are fountains of life, whence rivers to irrigate, purify, and beautify the world will flow down the ages. (Homilist.)
If thou sinnest, what doest thou against Him?
Does man influence, God
Elihu, in these words, brings out his views of God in the form of questions, which views are of an Epicurean character. He looks upon God as a being so far above human concerns and conduct as not to be influenced by them. There are those now who have sympathy with these sentiments. They say God is too high and too great to be affected by the sin or righteousness of man. The doctrine of the Bible is, that man’s conduct does influence God as well as man.
I. Answer the two questions that Elihu, in his scepticism, propounds.
1. “If thou sinnest, what doest thou against Him? or if thy transgressions be multiplied, what doest thou unto Him?” A man that lives in sin, and multiplies his transgressions--
If God was an Epicurean God, man’s sins may not affect Him; but all His revelations of Himself to us go to show that He is our Father, Sovereign, Saviour; that He hates sin; that He loves the sinner. Hence our sins do influence Him. The Bible abounds with illustrations of these particulars.
2. If thou be righteous, what givest thou Him? or what receiveth He of thine hand? A righteous man (truly such in the scriptural sense) gives to the Almighty--
Numerous illustrations of these particulars also may easily be collected from the Old and New Testament. The second part of this text, Elihu has no doubt about. Neither have those sceptics in our day, who sympathise with him in his former sentiments.
1. “Thy wickedness may hurt, or injure a man as thou art.” As to the hurt your wickedness may do your fellow, it may depend much upon the nature of the wickedness and the character, relations, and circumstances of your fellow man. One form of wickedness affects one man in one way, and another a different way. For instance, lying will hurt where swearing may not; and drunkenness where dishonesty may not. This thought more particularly applies to example. But look at the particular in its general application. Thy slander may hurt another man’s character. Thy false accusation may hurt his feelings and reputation. Thy theft or dishonesty may hurt his property or circumstances. Thy calumny or detraction may injure his influence for good upon others. Humanity is one body--one family--one society; and it is impossible for one member to do wickedly without affecting in some way or other, to some degree or other, the rest.
2. “Thy righteousness may profit the son of man.” On the same principle that wickedness hurts our fellow men, righteousness is a benefit to them. If the term righteousness here be understood in a broad sense, as right-doing according to the moral instinct, it is profitable to man in a world like this, where human nature is so prone to wrong-doing. If the term be understood as the righteousness which is by faith in Jesus Christ--as received from Him in justification, and as wrought in Him in good works, according to His Spirit--it is still more profitable to man. This may be shown in the terms used to designate such:--the “light of the world.” Light is good and useful in darkness;--the “salt of the earth.” Salt is good and profitable in many ways. Righteousness implies truthfulness, honesty, goodness, purity, humility, benevolence, temperance, brotherly kindness, charity; and each of these is profitable in its influence on our fellow men. As wheat, fruit, flowers, vegetables, etc., in the natural world are profitable to man; so are the fruits and flowers of righteousness in the moral world. Learn--
1. Your responsibility to individuals and society in respect to your conduct towards them.
2. Your responsibility to God in respect to wicked or righteous conduct before Him.
3. The necessity of having a new nature within in order to live righteously before God and man. (J. Bate.)
But none saith, Where is God my Maker?
Questions which ought to be asked
Elihu perceived the great ones of the earth oppressing the needy, and he traced their domineering tyranny to their forgetfulness of God. “None said, Where is God my Maker?” Surely, had they thought of God, they could not have acted so unjustly. Worse still, if I understand Elihu aright, he complained that even among the oppressed there was the same departure in heart from the Lord: they cried out by reason of the arm of the mighty, but unhappily they did not cry unto God their Maker, though He waits to be gracious unto all such, and executeth righteousness and judgment for all the oppressed.
I. Think over these neglected questions.
1. Where is God? Pope said, “The proper study of mankind is man”; but it is far more true that the proper study of mankind is God. Let man study man in the second place, but God first. Some men have a place for everything else, but no place in their heart for God. They are most exact in the discharge of other relative duties, and yet they forget their God.
2. Where is God thy Maker? Oh! unthinking man, God made you. Do you never think of your Maker? Have you no thought for Him without whom you could not think at all?
3. Where is God our Comforter? “Who giveth songs in the night?” Though you have had very severe trials, you have always been sustained in them when God has been near you. It will be very sad if we poor sufferers forget our God, our Comforter, our Song-giver.
4. Where is God our Instructor? Who “teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth, and maketh us wiser than the fowls of the heaven?” God has given us intellect. It is not by accident, but by His gift, that we are distinguished from the beasts and the fowls. If animals do not turn to God, we do not wonder, but shall man forget? Why, O man, with thy superior endowments, art thou the sole rebel, the only creature of earthly mould that forgets the creating and instructing Lord?
II. There are questions which God will ask of you. Adam heard the voice cry, “Where art thou?” There will come such a voice to you if you have neglected God. Though you hide in the top of Carmel, or dive with the crooked serpent into the depths of the sea, you will hear that voice, and be constrained to answer it. You will hear a second question by and by, “Why didst thou live and die without Me?” Such questions as these will come thick upon you--“What did I do that thou shouldst slight Me? Did I not give you innumerable mercies? Why did you never think of Me?” You will have no answer to these questions. Then will come another question--“How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?”
III. Give the answers to the grave inquiries of the text. Where is God? He is everywhere. Where is God your Maker? He is within eyesight of you. You cannot see Him, but He sees you. Where is your Comforter? He is ready with “songs in the night.” Where is your Instructor? He waits to make you wise unto salvation. “Where then may I meet Him?” says one. You cannot meet Him--you must not attempt it--except through the Mediator. If you come to Jesus, you have come to God. Believe in Jesus Christ, and your God is with you. (C.H. Spurgeon.)
Neglect of God in seasons of need
I. That seasons of affliction should induce men to seek after God.
1. All men are exposed to trouble.
2. It is the duty of all to inquire after God. “Where is God my Maker?”
II. That God can and will afford relief in the darkest seasons. “Who giveth songs in the night.” He can give deliverance, grant support and consolation, and sanctify all the trials of His people, which will make them utter songs of gladness and praise.
1. It is evident from His power. “Who has an arm like God?” etc. (Psalms 66:3; Psalms 46:1, etc.; Deuteronomy 33:27). The Psalmist might well sing of His power (Psalms 21:13).
2. It is evident from His love. He loves as a father, and will defend them, and save them.
3. It is evident from His promises.
4. It is evident from what He has done. “Call to remembrance the former days.”
III. Why it is that so few are inquiring after God.
1. Because man naturally hates God (Romans 8:7).
2. From the want of spiritual perception (1 Corinthians 2:14).
3. Because they are intoxicated with the vain pleasures of earth.
4. Pride also prevents them (Psalms 10:4).
5. Because they are captives to Satan. They are his servants--him they obey (Ephesians 2:2).
1. The happiness of those who inquire after God.
2. The present and future misery of the wicked.
3. Seek the Lord while He may be found. (Helps for the Pulpit.)
Inquiry after God
It is the height of ingratitude to forget God in the day of prosperity. Considering, however, the deep corruption of man’s fallen nature, there is little in such ingratitude, culpable as it is, to excite our surprise. The great subject for wonder is, that while God has revealed Himself as the refuge of the oppressed, a friend in the day of calamity, a Saviour from guilt, and sin, and hell, a comforter in darkness, and a deliverer in trouble, He should be neglected in circumstances and times when no other being and no other object can cheer the heart, or interpose any effectual relief. There is no deficiency of complaint in the hour of affliction, come from what source it may. The charge of the text is one involving deep criminality. It implies an affectation of independence of God; it argues ingratitude; it evinces all the temerity of rebellion; it is the expression of contempt. For it is the duty, and it ought to be esteemed the delight of the rational soul to be inquiring after God, to be climbing up the ascent to an intimate acquaintance and near fellowship with Him, who is the Father of our spirits and the God of glory. But wherefore is it necessary to inquire after God? Whence this language importing difficulty--language which supposes the absence of God our Maker? There is no local distance to separate between the soul of any living thing and Him the former of it. The only absence of God from men is one of reserve, of restrained manifestation: it is the cold distance of offence created by human guilt; for we have compelled Him to stand aloof; we have insulted Him in the manifestation of His glory. Therefore it is necessary to seek God, and to say, “Where is God my Maker?” To solicit, not His presence, for that necessarily fills heaven and earth, but His favourable presence, the spiritual union of our souls with Him. We must seek Him” as He is “in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.” What are the motives which ought to influence everyone to ask, “Where is God my Maker?” and to seek Him as He reveals Himself in Christ Jesus?
1. His glory, that we may give Him the worship due to His name and majesty.
2. That we may express our gratitude.
3. That we may obtain assurance of His favour.
4. That we may learn His will.
5. That we may secure His help.
But the charge is aggravated. Were God a being regardless of the worship, the miseries, and discomforts of His creatures, although such neglect could not then be justified, yet it would seem to be palliated to a certain extent. But when God is a strength to the poor, when it is in the ordinary course of His government to heal the broken in heart, the neglect is greatly aggravated. The night is a general symbol for what is melancholy and sorrowful; as the day, illuminated by the splendour of the sun, is the image of joy and exhilaration. Whatever the darkness we contemplate, we shall find that for that “night season” God has provided consolations, has given songs to cheer the heart of the believer. Life itself is a time of darkness. It is a scene of sin, trial, and temptation. There are seasons of gloomy night to individuals, as well as to the world. The seasons of temptation, affliction, and death, are times of darkness, on which Christ arises as the light. Then let reason have her just sway, and you will inquire after God your Maker. You will become penitent, humble believers in Christ. You will become new creatures. (T. Kennion, M.A.)
Men who do not ask for God
“None sayeth, Where is God my Maker, who giveth songs in the night?” They do not betake themselves to God thus revealed for consolation in their trials. There are some who ask not for God at all, speculative or practical--atheists, who, in conscious fear of Divine holiness and justice and truth, set themselves resolutely to disbelieve in the Divine existence, and strangely choose to be creatures of chance and slaves to inexorable fate, rather than the creatures of a personal God--the children of a Heavenly Father. So, instead of asking for God, they go groping amid old geologic ruins for some substitute for the Eternal One, crying into every skeleton and spectre, “Where is this monstrous thing, ‘force’ or ‘law,’ that hides itself in the night?” And in this reference there is an undesigned but withering irony in Job’s foregoing confession, “I said to corruption, Thou art my father, and to the worm, Thou art my mother and my sister.” And we leave the whole school to the raptures of such a brotherhood and sisterhood--to all the consolation, in coming trials, of the promise unto those who “honour such a father and mother,” to fill all the death caverns of unbelief with the sibilation inspired by such a genesis. But be it our blessed privilege to honour a nobler parentage, to cherish holier hopes and higher memories, and to go forth amid present glooms crying, “Where is God my Maker, who giveth songs in the night?” (C. Wadsworth, D.D.)
Song in the night of sorrow
The late Sir Arthur Sullivan had long admired the words of “The Lost Chord,” and had made up his mind to set them to music. Relating the circumstances of the composition of the best-known sacred solo of the day, Sir Arthur said, “One night I was in the room next to that in which my brother lay dying. I had been watching at his bedside, and was thoroughly tired out and weary. I chanced to sit down in the room and there the noble words were before me. I did not rise from the seat until I had composed the music.” The lovely strains were composed in the hour of sorrow. The dark night gave birth to the sweet song! Perhaps we do not know what we are producing when we travel the rough road--we are only conscious of the pains, and not of the products. But we may rest assured that our Father knows the ministry of every circumstance through which He makes us pass. (J.H. Jowett, M.A.)
Men’s neglect of God
I. What is meant by inquiring after God our maker?
1. When we investigate the important question, Is there a Deity? what notions are we to form of His nature, perfections, and providence?
2. When we apply to Him in the exercise of religious duty, particularly prayer (Job 8:5; Isaiah 55:6).
3. When we are solicitous to discover His will concerning our duty and privilege, as moral and reasonable beings (Romans 12:2; 1 Thessalonians 4:3).
4. When we earnestly pant after His approbation, and give ourselves no rest till we obtain it, through repentance for sin, and faith in the atonement of the Son of God (Romans 3:25-26).
5. When we thirst after that better country, where God is enjoyed, and where our inquiries after Him shall meet with ample success. There we shall have the justest and the brightest ideas of Him, the most glorious resemblance of His holy and benevolent nature (1 John 3:2).
II. Why is it that so new are making this inquiry?
1. Because mankind are so much engaged about visible things: these strike the senses more than things of a spiritual and invisible nature; and seem to be the only things which command their attention.
2. Dissipation. They have no taste but for play and amusement, one scene of diversion after another; the hours which should be spent in intercourse with heaven, are prostituted to folly, vanity, and idleness.
3. They make a God of this world, by placing their affections supremely upon it (James 2:4); its gold and silver, honour, fame, power, dominion, popular applause.
4. They are sensual, making a God of pleasure, sensuality, lascivious gratifications. How can a soul, thus fettered to earth, elevate itself to inquire after God its Maker? no more than a bird can ascend without wings.
5. Some live so criminally, that God is the object of their dread: they wish there was no God; are glad to hear religion opposed; would be happy to hear its truths confuted, if they could; they would obliterate the doctrine of providence, and the soul’s immortality.
III. Consider the amiable account here given of God. “He giveth songs in the night”; or matter of songs, etc.
1. By exhibiting those bright orbs which fill the expanse of heaven (Psalms 8:3-4).
2. Night may be taken figuratively. Day is put for prosperity, success, joy, and comfort. Night for adversity, calamity, grief, and vexation. God cheereth the mourner’s heart, and solaceth His people in the night of adversity, grants support, unexpected relief (Psalms 66:19).
3. He giveth songs in the night of death, of praise and thanksgiving, of victory (1 Corinthians 15:55; 1 Corinthians 4:7).
1. Let us rejoice in Him, who lifteth up the hands that hang down, and giveth songs of praise in adversity.
2. Let us adore the wisdom of Providence, in whose dispensations day and night, good and evil, are so seasonably blended, enjoy the good thankfully, suffer the evil with resignation.
3. Let us fortify ourselves under every calamity by looking forward. (T. Hannam.)
The apparent intentions of Divine wisdom
To inquire after God our Maker, with a view of understanding, so far as we are able, His designs, and conforming to His will, is our highest wisdom. But what are we able to know of Him? Are we able to attain no knowledge of Him? That would be denying our own reason, and degrading ourselves to a level with the brute creatures. God has distinguished us with a rational nature above them. It is therefore our privilege and duty to inquire, Where and what is God our Maker? His infinite unsearchable perfection ought not to discourage our humble and sincere inquiries; but is a consideration proper only to damp that pride, conceit, and self-sufficiency which would obstruct our inquiries, and prevent our attainment of real knowledge. All His works discover something of Him; and we are utterly ignorant of ourselves and of the world around us, if we know nothing of God. The apprehension of a Deity results immediately from the very consciousness of our own existence. Every creature around us points to a Creator. Our acquisition of knowledge was an intention of the Almighty Creator. All instruction comes from God, the original fountain of wisdom and knowledge. The Divine intention will strike our minds, if we attend to the gradual process by which men arrive at that portion of knowledge which they are severally possessed of. In the beginning of life the human soul subsists with few ideas, according to its minute capacity. But they multiply fast; the inquisitive curiosity is adapted to and gratified with a continual accession of new objects. When the stock of ideas is sufficiently increased, the comparing and judging faculty begins to operate. Here reason commences, and is henceforth continually employed in disposing the intellectual furniture of the mind, arranging everything in due place and order. Is there no design of creative wisdom in this admirable and evident process of nature? Did not God thus intend to disclose to us His works, and consequently lead us to the study and contemplation of Himself? The first branch of knowledge is that which respects ourselves and mankind around us, the relations, dependencies, connections, interests, inclinations, customs, and laws of human society. This qualifies me to live in society, and to behave as subjects of law and government, and in a manner proper to domestic and national obligations. The second branch of knowledge is that of a Supreme Being, as the maker and disposer of all things, the all-wise Governor of the whole world, the just Judge of mankind, and the original Author of all good. This knowledge is constantly taught by the still eloquence of universal nature. These two kinds of knowledge, so important and so beneficial, are common to mankind in general. Reflections--
1. It becomes us to acknowledge with all gratitude the liberality and kindness of our Creator, in forming and designing us for the acquisition of such excellent and valuable knowledge, and in bringing us to the possession of it.
2. Let us observe and pursue the Divine intention, by a diligent improvement of our advantages.
3. The knowledge of God, and of the visible intentions of His wisdom and goodness in the frame of our world, in the faculties of our minds, and in the order of society, is the best preparation for understanding and embracing the Gospel of our Saviour. We must believe in God, before we can have faith in Christ; we must previously hear and learn of the Father Almighty, before we come to Christ duly qualified for His instructions. If we wisely improve present advantages, there is a glorious everlasting constitution, which God hath established in Christ Jesus our Lord, in order to our rising again from the dead to the enjoyment of immortality. (E. Bown.)
Who giveth songs in the night.--
Songs in the night
I. What season of our lives is described under the image of night? Night is the time of darkness and of gloominess; when we can see nothing and can do nothing, as we can in the bright and cheerful light of day. As such it fitly represents a time of ignorance, and unbelief, and sin. It also represents a time of adversity and of affliction, whether of a public or a private nature. The season of suffering is, to the unconverted person, a season of gloom and heaviness. How cheerless is the chamber of sickness to the eye and the heart of an unsanctified sufferer!
II. What is the real Christian’s spirit and temper and condition in these dark seasons of suffering? Singing bespeaks an easy, contented, and happy state of mind. We seldom if ever hear a person singing who is very unhappy. But this excellent gift and faculty may be and often is abused. There are different sorts of song, and different characters who sing them. We should not understand the word “songs” in our text, only in its literal meaning. It also represents that sweet and composed and resigned spirit which the Christian sufferer experiences inwardly when all outward things are dark about him. “Songs in the night” describe that peaceful and composed frame of mind and soul which the Christian sufferer enjoys in his darkest night of suffering or sorrow.
III. Who is to give us this Christian spirit, temper, and condition? Even the Lord, our Maker, and Preserver, and Saviour, and Comforter. A heavenly mind and spirit can only proceed from heaven. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature”; and as such he receives a new nature, and a new spirit, and he sings a new song. He sees everything with different eyes; he receives everything with a different spirit; he bears everything with a different temper; he no longer looks upon himself, or his condition in this world, as he once did. It is no longer his rest; it is a school in which he is to learn lessons of heavenly wisdom; a warfare, in which he is to fight the good fight of faith. (Robert Grant, B.C.L.)
Songs in the night
Elihu suggests one possible reason why the cry of the afflicted is not oftener redressed. The reason suggested is, that it is a godless cry.” Surely God will not hear vanity. But if he sufferer would apply to God with a humbled, penitent, and believing spirit, the darkness might be more readily dispelled. God, our Maker, giveth songs in the night, songs at an unwonted time, melody when least expected. Here then we have a forcible and effective contrast. An ever-helpful truth this, that when the cry of deep disquietude and great unrest is changed into a prayer, when it assumes the form of an intelligent and patient faith, it loses in the act its plaintiveness and becomes triumphant. It is no longer the wail of hopelessness, it is the hallelujah of thanksgiving.
1. Young has these lines--
“Earth, turning from the sun, brings night to man;
Man, turning from his God, brings endless night.”
And we have no more fit image than night for the occasion of our heaviest woes. What a pall sin will bring over our souls! We are all of us learning by experience. Are not our moods ofttimes of a sombre character? We cannot always control the moods of our soul. It is not easy to sing the song of faith when the voice refuses to sing the song of glad and happy love. Yet let the true soul wait on God, and the songs will come. Cry first, and you will sing presently.
2. So, too, faith may lose its assurance. It may want some of the links that give perfection and continuity to a personal trust. The shades of unbelief, or a faith that has lost its clearer lights, will sometimes take the place of a well-evidenced trust. If the time should ever come that you lose your early trust, do not let your cry lose aught of its devoutness; do not lose your hold upon God; still cling to Him. He is still with you in all those earnest questionings; and He will give you songs even in that dark night if you cry to Him.
3. “At midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises to God.” It was a strange place for the voice of thanksgiving, for the melody of praise. That night seemed a fit image of their circumstances, dark enough in all truth. Not much, to human seeming, that could inspire songfulness; everything to beget fear and alarm. Not more so, perhaps you are thinking, than the circumstances of some you know--your own, perhaps. Little outwardly to cheer your life, very much to depress it. And yet you, too, may have songs of trust and loving confidence; songs of hope, and triumph in that hope. We must not spend the time of our trial in fruitless complaining. Let us besiege heaven with our suppliant tones.
4. But I think it would be easier to die for Christ than to live through the commonplace life of thousands of modern Christians, who have to drink of the water of affliction, and eat the bread of adversity, and yet be Christ-like. Yes, to live thus, and still keep one’s hold of God, and lift in consequence a hymn of glad thankfulness or patient hope, is it not yet more difficult? I often think so.
5. What is the aggregate life of the Church, with all its blessed fruits of love, joy, and peace, but a “song in the night”? If then, God has given any of us “songs in the night”; songs of happy love, songs of quiet hope, songs of deep trust, songs of true thankfulness, no night will last forever. (G.J. Proctor.)
Songs in the night
There is sufficient in our God to give every saint a song even during his darkest night of sorrow.
1. Our sufficiency in God is in no way affected by our outward circumstances. Have you never rejoiced in the purposes of your God? Another well of comfort is found in the love of God. The thought of God’s having pardoned us is a fountain of joy. Have you not often rejoiced in the anticipation of heaven? What is your night? Perhaps it is one of changed prospects; or of changed health; or it is a night of bereavement; or, may be, of spiritual depression.
2. Some of the songs God gives to His saints. The song of faith; hope; tranquillity; sympathy with Jesus; heavenly anticipation. (Archibald G. Brown.)
Songs in the night
The world hath its night. It seems necessary that it should have one. Night is one of the greatest blessings man enjoys. Yet night is to many a gloomy season. Yet even night has its songs. Man, too, like the great world in which he lives, must have his night. And many a night do we have--nights of sorrow, of persecution, of doubt, of bewilderment, of anxiety, of oppression, of ignorance--nights of all kinds, which press upon our spirits, and terrify our souls.
I. Who is the author of these “songs in the night”? God our Maker. Any fool can sing in the day. It is easy enough for an AEolian harp to whisper music when the wind blows; the difficulty is for music to come when no wind blows. What does the text mean, when it asserts that God giveth songs in the night? Two answers.
1. Usually in the night of a Christian’s experience God is his only song. We can sacrifice to ourselves in daylight--we only sacrifice to God by night.
2. He is the only one who inspires songs in the night. It is marvellous how one sweet word of God will make whole songs for Christians.
II. What is generally the matter contained in a song in the night? What do we sing about? About the yesterday that is over; or else about the night itself; or else about the morrow that is to come.
III. What are the excellencies of songs in the night above all other songs? A song in the night of trouble is sure to be a hearty one. The songs we sing in the night will be lasting. They will be those which show a real faith in God. Such songs prove that we have true courage and true love to Christ.
IV. Show the use of such songs. It is useful to sing in the night of our troubles, because thus we may cheer ourselves: because God loves to hear His people sing. Because it will cheer your companions. Because it is one of the best arguments in favour of your religion. (C.H. Spurgeon.)
Songs in the night
In regard of God’s dealings with our race, there is an almost universal disposition to the looking on the dark side, and not on the bright; as though there were cause for nothing but wonder, that a God of infinite love should permit so much misery in any section of His intelligent creation. We cannot deny, that if we merely regard the earth as it is, the exhibition is one whose darkness it is scarcely possible to overcharge. But when you seek to gather from the condition of the world the character of its Governor, you are bound to consider, not what the world is, but what it would be, if all which that Governor has done on its behalf were allowed to produce its legitimate effect. When you set yourselves to compute the amount of what may be called unavoidable misery--that misery which must equally remain, if Christianity possessed unlimited sway--you would find no cause for wonder, that God has left the earth burdened with so great a weight of sorrow, but only of praise, that He has provided so amply for the happiness of the fallen. The greatest portion of the misery which exists, arises in spite of God’s benevolent arrangements, and would be avoided, if men were not bent on choosing the evil and rejecting the good. There must be sorrow on the earth, so long as there is death; but, if this were all, the certain hope of resurrection and immortality would dry every tear, or cause at least triumph so to blend with lamentation, that the mourner would almost be lost in the believer. For wise ends, a certain portion of suffering has been made unavoidable. When we come to give the reasons why so vast an accumulation of wretchedness is to be found in every district of the globe, we cannot assign the will and appointment of God; we charge the whole on man’s forgetfulness of God; on his contempt or neglect of remedies and assuagements Divinely provided; yea, we offer in explanation the words of our text,--“None saith, Where is God my Maker, who giveth songs in the night?” Elihu represents it as a most strange and criminal thing, that, though our Maker giveth songs in the night, He is not inquired after by those on whom the calamity presses.
1. What an aggravation it is of the guilt of men’s forgetting their Creator, that He is a God who giveth “songs in the night.” It is one beautiful instance of the adaptation of revelation to our circumstances, that the main thing which it labours to set forth is the love of our Maker. Natural theology, whatever its success in delineating the attributes of God, could never have proved that sin had not excluded us from all share in His favour. The revelation, which alone can profit us, must be a revelation of mercy, a revelation which brings God before us as not made irreconcilable by our many offences. This is the character of the revelation with which we have been favoured. But if God has thus revealed Himself in the manner most adapted to the circumstances of the suffering, does not the character of the revelation vastly aggravate the sinfulness of those by whom God is not sought?
2. With how great truth and fitness this touching description may be applied to our Maker. Take the cases of death in a family, or the times of sorrow a minister meets with. And how accurate the description is, if referred generally to God’s spiritual dealings with our race. Who would not be a believer in Christ? when such are the privileges of righteousness, the privileges through life, the privileges in death, the wonder is, that all are not eager to close with the offers of the Gospel, and make these privileges their own. (Henry Melvill, B.D.)
Therefore trust thou in Him.
The counsel of Elihu to the despondent
There is no word which the worshippers of God need to have whispered to their hearts more frequently than this, “Trust thou in Him.” We are in a world, and under a system of events, wonderfully adapted to try our faith.
I. If without faith it is impossible to please God, we might infer that faith is eminently pleasing. There is in Scripture no list of those who distinguished themselves for zeal, or humility, or hope; but the eleventh of Hebrews emblazons the names of men and women who through faith did marvellous things. Faith is the crowning glory of the Christian character.
II. A principal design of the Old Testament is to teach us faith. A wonderful illustration in connection with the text. God meant to teach mankind by this book, that the great business of man in this world is to trust God. “In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.”
III. The counsel of Elihu in the text is profitable to a sinking heart. The meaning is, “Although you say you will never see Him appear for you, yet He will exercise judgment when to do so; therefore trust thou in Him.” There are times, when a dark providence has settled down like a cloud on our prospects. Something has happened which is the very worst thing which it seems to us God could have chosen wherewith to afflict us. There is no explanation, no mitigation, no cheerful outlook. Friends are mistaken if they tell us not to weep. Nature finds comfort in cries, groans, tears. There is no use in argument, we say, God was my friend once, now He has set me up as His mark. To such afflicted souls: the Word of God says, “Although thou sayest thou shalt not see Him, yet, judgment is before Him.” You think that you will never see His design to accomplish good in you and by you in this affliction. It seems to you without plan, confused, reckless. But judgment is for Him, whenever a child of His suffers; the arrow that pierces us wounds His heart ere it reaches ours.
IV. Our duty in dark hours is here made plain. “Therefore trust in Him.” This is done by special heartfelt address to God by word of mouth. To rise and go upon our knees, implies a serious determination to seek God, and the act of framing our speech, shows that we are in earnest. Having committed our prayer to God, declaring our trust in Him, we must show our sincerity by a quietness of mind which, be it remembered, is not inconsistent with importunity. We should never abandon ourselves to grief in the darkest hours. God takes pleasure in those who, against hope, believe in hope, taking part with God by insisting that He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. Did We but know it, God is wooing those whom He is afflicting. “He scourgeth, every son whom He receiveth.” Therefore be of good courage, desponding souls. Submit yourselves under His rod. Finally--Everything which has been said of trust in God in times of despondency is eminently true of faith in the Saviour. (N. Adams, D.D.)
A God who hides Himself
1. These words suppose that there are seasons and situations, in which the ways of heaven seem dismaying and inexplicable. This is abundantly evident to whatever department of the Divine government we turn our eyes. If we look on the natural world we shall not always find unobscured the God of nature. If we look into the social department, here, too, we shall find His ways mysterious. There are times when the protection of His providence would seem to be withdrawn from society. Its interests appear subject to the caprices of fortune and the passions of men. If we turn our attention to the normal department, here, too, we shall find occurrences to astonish and perplex us. Affliction maintains a powerful and oppressive dominion among the sons of men. It is not uncommonly the lot of the righteous to bear the heaviest burdens, and experience the severest trials of life. In the management of their allotments, the ways of the Deity are inscrutable. When we compare the terrors of nature with His benevolence who rules her movements; when we contrast the triumphs of iniquity in the world, with His power and holiness by whom it is governed; when we combine the afflictions of the virtuous, and the trials of the Church, with His love to whom they are devoted: it must be confessed that there are seasons when he whose faith is most firmly fixed, may be ready to exclaim with the amazed prophet, “Verily, Thou art a God that hidest Thyself, Oh God of Israel, the Saviour!” Of this, however, we may be sure. His government must be as pure, just, and benevolent, as His nature; and consequently, righteous in every measure of it; seeking unceasingly the manifestation of justice, and the melioration and happiness of the creature. “The Lord is righteous in all His ways and holy in all His works.” We ought to maintain, in every situation in which His providence places us, an unshaken trust in His goodness, and obedience to His will. Nothing more frequently distresses the feelings, and disturbs the principles of men, than the inscrutableness of the dealings of God. But are the measures of His government wrong, because they do not coincide with our partial views? Are the methods of His providence to be condemned, because they cannot be comprehended by our limited understandings? That His ways are mysterious should fill us with humility. It should inspire us with reverence and godly fear; but it ought not to excite our surprise. We are assured by reason and by Scripture, that His government is infinitely and uniformly righteous. In the gift of His Son for our salvation, He has offered us the greatest pledge we are capable of receiving, that His aim, His wish, His constant care is the preservation and happiness of His offspring. In men assured of the perfection of a governor, and of the principles by which he acts, it is absurd to be dissatisfied with measures which they can see but in part. The most afflictive and inexplicable dispensations may often be the springs of the most important and happy operations. Let us learn, from what has been said, to preserve in every situation an unshaken reliance on the love of the Almighty, and a steadfast obedience to His will. (Bishop Dehon.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Job 35". The Biblical Illustrator. https://beta.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24