Job to God: 1. The soliloquy of sorrow.
I. A PATHETIC REPRESENTATION OF HUMAN LIFE . In contrast to the fascinating picture sketched by Eliphaz ( Job 5:17-27 ), Job depicts human life in general, and his own sorrowful existence in particular, as:
1 . A term of hard service. "Is there not an appointed time [literally, 'a warfare, a term of hard service'] on the earth?' like that of a mercenary soldier hired out for military purposes to a foreign despot; and "are not his days like the days of an hireling?" i.e. a hired slave who has been let out to some pitiless taskmaster; both of whom, the soldier and the slave, "pant for the shadow" on the dial, and "long for their wages," to give them a release from their heavy toils. The language suggests:
2 . A heritage of incessant misery. As realized in the experience of Job, this misery was:
(a) Extinction of hope by day; the absolute expiry of everything like expectation of betterment, which must have been a greater burden to the heart of Job than ever the elephantiasis was to his body: "We are kept alive by hope" ( Romans 8:24 ); but within the soul of Job the principle of life was gone.
(b) Want of sleep by night. As sleep is one of God's best gifts to man ( Psalms 127:2 ), restoring nature's exhausted powers, refreshing mind and body both ( Ecclesiastes 5:12 ; Jeremiah 31:26 ; cf. Shakespeare, 'Henry IV .,' Part II . act 3. so. 1), so is the want of it one of the heaviest afflictions that can befall a sufferer, arising sometimes from excessive labour, as with Jacob ( Genesis 31:40 ); sometimes from intense bodily pain, as in the case of Job (verse 5); sometimes from disturbed thoughts, as with Nebuchadnezzar ( Daniel 2:1 ), Ahasuerus ( Esther 6:1 ), and wicked men ( Proverbs 4:16 ); the restless tossings to and fro of the body keeping time with the inward agitations of the mind.
(c) Bodily pain both day and night, springing from a loathsome malady, detailed (verse 5) as breeding worms in his flesh, covering his skin with earth-coloured scales, causing it to stiffen and emit a purulent discharge, and commonly believed to be elephantiasis (see homiletics on Job 2:7 ).
3 . A period of exceeding"brevity." "My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle, and vanish without hope" (verse 8); i.e. they flee more rapidly than the shuttle passes backwards and forwards in the warp of the weaver's web, and vanish without hope of any to succeed them— i.e. of any days of happiness on earthman affecting emblem of the vanity and shortness of life.
II. A PITIFUL SUPPLICATION FROM HUMAN SORROW .
1 . The Being addressed. "Oh, remember!" Though not named, God is meant. It is well, though not always necessary, to invoke God by name in our prayers; but certainly it is better to leave God's name out altogether than to introduce it too frequently into our devotions. That Job called on God in his calamity was a sign that his faith was not yet extinguished, and that he still retained his hold upon the God whom he had formerly professed to serve. It was likewise a more hopeful way of obtaining relief from, or support under, his troubles, since it is always better in our distresses "to cry to God than to complain to creatures" (Caryl).
2 . The prayer presented. "Oh, remember!" As applied to God, the word signifies
God remembers when, so to speak, he allows an object to remain in the contemplation of his infinite mind so as to be suitably affected thereby.
Job desires that God would
(1) consider his case;
This, however, does not imply that God ever forgets his people ( Isaiah 49:15 ), though he may sometimes appear to do so ( Psalms 13:1 ); or fails to sympathize with them in trouble ( Psalms 103:13 ; Isaiah 66:13 ), though afflicted saints may sometimes imagine so ( Psalms 44:24 ; Isaiah 49:14 ); or is indisposed to succour them ( 1 Samuel 2:9 ; Psalms 31:23 ; Psalms 91:1 ), though he frequently, for wise and good reasons, delays his intervention ( Exodus 14:13 ; Matthew 14:25 ; Matthew 15:23 ).
3 . The plea offered . The irrevocableness of life which Job depicts by means of two impressive images, comparing his sorrowful existence to:
(a) His eye should never more see good (verse 7); i.e. it should never more return to enjoy the things that constitute (or are supposed to constitute) earthly felicity (cf. the language of Hezekiah, Isaiah 38:11 ). Life's pleasures, opportunities, privileges, can only be enjoyed once. Yet good in the highest sense does not terminate with death. When a saint departs from this mortal scene he enters upon the chief good, the experience of nobler pleasures and loftier privileges than ever he possessed on earth ( Job 19:27 ; Philippians 1:21 ).
(b) Men's eyes should never see him (verse 8); i.e. he should never more mingle in the society of the living, never more participate in the friendships and associations of time, having bid farewell to all companions and loved ones (cf. Ecclesiastes 9:9 , Ecclesiastes 9:10 )—an argument for living peacefully and lovingly amongst friends, companions, and neighbours, since we must soon be parted from them and they from us.
(c) Even God's eye should fail to see him (verse 8); i.e. God would not be able to do him good after he was dead, the present life being the only season in which man has an opportunity of receiving "gracious" visitation from God. It is too late to give a man a cordial when he is in his grave; and much more is it post horam to look for salvation when life is ended ( 2 Corinthians 6:2 ).
1 . Since life, and especially the Christian life, is a war-service ( 1 Timothy 6:12 ), it becomes saints not unnecessarily to entangle themselves with the affairs of this world ( 2 Timothy 2:4 ), but to endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ ( 2 Timothy 2:3 ).
2 . Since God will faithfully recompense his servants ( Proverbs 12:14 ; Romans 2:10 ; 1 Corinthians 3:8 ), they whom he has hired should be faithful in the rendering of service to him ( Romans 12:11 ; Ephesians 6:6 , Ephesians 6:7 ).
3 . Since the natural life of man, even when taken at its best estate, is altogether vanity ( Psalms 39:5 , Psalms 39:11 ), it is the part of wisdom to aspire after that life which will never disappoint ( John 4:14 ), never know affliction ( Revelation 7:16 , Revelation 7:17 ), and never pass away ( 1 John 2:17 ).
4 . Since it is certain that we must all go down into the grave ( Job 30:23 ; Psalms 89:48 ; John 9:4 ; Hebrews 9:27 ), it becomes us to prepare for that event ( Psalms 39:4 ; 2 Kings 20:1 ; Philippians 1:21 : 1 Peter 1:17 ).
5 . Since it is equally certain that we shall all come up again out of our graves ( Job 19:26 ; Daniel 12:2 ; John 11:23 , John 11:24 ; Acts 24:15 ), it is folly not to seek before we die the sure and certain hope of a glorious resurrection ( Philippians 3:11 ).
The weakness of man's appeal to the clemency of God.
I. GENERAL VIEW OF MAN 'S MISERY AND HIS OWN . ( Job 7:1-5 .) Man is compared to a hireling with an appointed time of service, the end of which is wearily and wistfully looked for. The ideas suggested are
As the slave longs for the lengthening shadows of evening, the hired labourer for pay-time, so the oppressed sufferer, toiling beneath a load of pain, longs for the welcome end of death. He "would 'twere bedtime, and all well." Voluntary and moderate labour is one of the keenest delights of life; but forced and prolonged toll exhausts the very springs of enjoyment. Rest is the reward of moderate exertion, but to the excessive toiler or sufferer it is denied. We have a picture here of the extreme misery of sleeplessness, than which none can be more acute; the tossing through the wakeful hours of darkness, the mind travelling over and over again the same weary track of its melancholy contemplations. It may be appropriate here to think of the great blessing of sleep. Homer termed it "ambrosial." It was one of the great boons of Heaven to suffering mortals. It is "the season of all natures," as Shakespeare beautifully says. It is the preservation of sanity. Connected with this, the lesson of moderate exertion is one needed by many in these busy, striving days; and no less the fault of over-anxiety, and the duty of casting care upon God. on which the gospel insists so strongly. It is the life according to our true nature, and according to simple piety, which brings sound sleep by night, and healthy thought by day.
II. REFLECTION ON THE BREVITY OF LIFE , AND PRAYER . ( Job 7:6-10 .) The mood of self-pity continues. Then follows a lament on the shortness of life. It is compared to a weaver's shuttle, to smoke, to the vanishing of a cloud, as it is elsewhere compared ( Job 9:25 ) to the hasty passage of a courier, or, in the well-known old story of English history, to the flight of a bird through a hall and out into the darkness again. We may compare the following plaintive passage from the Greek poet AE schylus:—
Ah! friend, behold and see
What's all the beauty of humanity?
Can it be fair?
What's all the strength? can it be strong
And what hope can they bear,
These dying livers—living one day long?
Ah! seest thou not, my friend,
How feeble and slow
And like a dream doth go
This poor blind manhood, drifted from its end?"
(Mrs. E. B. Browning's translation.)
We may draw from this passage the following lessons:
1 . There is a constant sense of infirmity in human nature, and of the inexorable law of death.
2 . The mind cannot submit patiently to this doom. Dear earthly affections ( Job 7:8 ) cry out against it, and unconsciously witness for the immortality of the soul.
3 . The thought of utter extinction cannot be endured by an awakened and elevated spirit ( Job 7:10 ). These impotences and reluctances in the presence of decay and death are really tokens of immortality. We see them to be so in this instance, in an age when life and immortality were not brought to light.
4 . The natural relief from all such sorrows and perplexities is in prayer ( Job 7:7 ). The cry, "Oh, remember!" is not unheard by him who knows our frame and remembers that we are dust. There may be the clear consciousness of God where there is not the definite assurance of immortality. But a firm faith in him, when cherished and educated, leads ultimately to the conviction that the soul cannot perish.—J.
The days of the hireling.
Job speaks from the depth of suffering, and as yet he has no clear light upon the Divine purpose concerning him. God, who is his true Refuge, appears to be his Enemy; and he likens his miserable days to those of the oppressed slave. This he urges as a justification of the longing for rest which he has expressed. For him there is no prospect of that rest but in the grave. It is the cry of bitter subjection.
1. THE COMPARISON OF HUMAN LIFE TO THAT OF THE HIRELING . It is an appointed lot. It is a lot of subjection. It is a life of toil and weariness. In Job's case the comparison is most apt. But his thought is especially upon the longing of the hireling for the close of the day. For this the toil, the heat, the weariness, prepare him. Job's condition is one of hard toil. He is weary even of his life. And his longing for the rest which death alone can bring is the precise point of his comparison. How often does life present no brighter or more beauteous aspect! Its many cares, its disappointments, its multiplied sorrows and keen, penetrating pains make life to many to be as the hard drudgery of the hireling. How many long for death as the hireling for night I In a true sense life is the life of a hireling, and the good Master who has sent us into his vineyard to toil will reward the faithful labourer with his sufficient hire.
II. THE AGGRAVATIONS OF JOB 'S LOT . He is to his own view as one whose toil is a grievous one. He is more than weary; and his longing for the shadows of evening is justified by what seems to him to be the hardness of his taskmaster. Earnestly he "desireth the shadow;" for long "months of vanity" he is "made to possess," and "wearisome nights are appointed' to him. When the tired labourer lies down to rest in unconscious sleep, and to gain strength for the toil of the morrow, Job is "full of tossings to and fro." The dawn brings him no refreshment. The fevered night leaves him to encounter unprepared the enemy of the day. His poor afflicted body presents the saddest picture; "worms and clods of dust" clothe it, His "skin is broken;" his sores make his flesh "loathsome" to him, and his "days are spent without hope." From such a sufferer comes the word of complaining. It is little to be wondered at by one who remembers his own frailty. The picture of Job is a lesson for us, and, turning our thoughts from our own healthy life to the sufferings of the afflicted, let us learn our duty, and cherish:
1 . The pitifulness of spirit which is due to all sufferers.
2 . Their claim upon our help and sympathy.
3 . The forbearance with which we should hear their complainings.
4 . We also may, in our turn, become the sufferers, and need the comfort we now give to others.
Thus may each man see himself in every sufferer, and learn to give that consolation he himself so soon may need.—R.G.
The weariness of sorrow.
I. IN A DESIRE FOR THE CLOSE OF LIFE . ( Job 7:2 .)
II. As A CONTINUOUS DISAPPOINTMENT . ( Job 7:3 .)
III. As A CEASELESS RESTLESSNESS . ( Job 7:4 .)
IV. AS A REVOLT FROM THE PAINFULNESS OF ITS CIRCUMSTANCES . ( Job 7:5 .)
V. AS A CONDITION OF HOPELESSNESS . ( Job 7:6 .)—R.G.
The days of a hireling.
Job compares himself to a mercenary in war and to a hired servant at work. As these men have little interest in what they are doing, partly because the masters who hire them take little interest in them, Job feels his life but a weariness, and longs for the term of his service to expire.
I. LIFE MAY APPEAR LIKE THE DAYS OF A HIRELING .
1 . It involves hard toil. The lot of most men is not easy; but some find life a grinding servitude.
2 . Its labour is often weary and unattractive. Many people have to work at uninteresting tasks, and only regard their labour as drudgery. There is neither pleasure in the work nor pride in the result of it. If men could all choose their lots, many of the most necessary industries would be entirely abandoned.
3 . It is only undertaken for the sake of its rewards. Men work for wages, and, needing the wages, they endure the toil which they detest. This is not only true of what is called the wage-earning portion of the community. It applies also to many who seem to be their own masters, but whose work is undertaken solely for the remuneration which it brings in.
4 . The supreme Muster is not seen to take interest in his servants. The laws of life are inexorable. There is no evading the rules of God's great factory in which we are all set to work. Men fall and die at their tasks without visible signs of compassion from their Lord. Thus faith is severely tried, and some weakly ones sink to low views of life and of man's relations to God.
II. IT IS NEITHER HELPFUL NOR RIGHT TO REGARD LIFE AS THE DAYS OF A HIRELING .
1 . It is not helpful. Hireling service is never of any great value. The work that is only done for pay is apt to be done hastily if by the piece, and in a wastefully slow and slovenly fashion if by the hour. Until a man puts his heart into his task, he cannot put good work into it. No one can live a worthy life chiefly in the hope of its rewards. The service of God which is only undertaken that good things may be obtained from God is degrading and of little worth. The Christian who lives solely on the hope of heaven is spending a poor life on earth. We have to discover higher motives and to serve God joyfully and lovingly, because his service is delightful, and because we love him.
2 . It is not right . The hireling idea of life is delusively suggested to us by a superficial view of facts and by a low tone in our own minds. But it is completely false, for God does not treat us as hirelings. He knows our frame, and remembers that we are dust. He is our Father, and he pities us as his children. And therefore we owe to him more than a hired servants drudgery—we owe filial obedience and the rich service of love. Now, when we have learnt to take right views of God and his service, the miserable, degrading idea of the hireling's lot drops off, and a much nobler and happier conception of life dawns upon us. Then the most common task ceases to be a piece of drudgery and becomes a labour of love. By a gracious law of providence it seems to be ordered that any duty which is undertaken conscientiously and heartily becomes interesting and even a source of pleasure. So while the hireling longs for the shadow that tells of the declining day and of the end of his task, the faithful Christian makes the most of his day of service, knowing "that the night cometh, wherein no man can work."—W.F.A.
In this chapter Job first bewails his miserable fate, of which he expects no alleviation (verses 1-10); then claims an unlimited right of complaint (verse 11); and finally enters into direct expostulation with God—an expostulation which continues from verse 12 to the end of the chapter. At the close, he admits his sinfulness (verse 20), but asks impatiently why God does not pardon it instead of visiting it with such extreme vengeance (verse 21).
Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth? rather, Is there not a warfare (or, a time of service ) to man upon earth? Has not each man a certain work appointed for him to do, and a certain limited time assigned him within which to do it? And thus, Are not his days also like the days of an hireling? Since the hireling is engaged to do a certain work in a certain time.