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The character of Job.
1 There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.
2 And there were born unto him seven sons and three daugh
3 His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she-asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.
Of attaining to perfection.
The country in which Job lived was to the eastward of Judea, not far from the land of the Chaldees. And the time was about half a century previous to the time of Moses. Thus much will at least appear highly probable, upon a diligent comparison of the names of persons mentioned in the book of Job, with the same names as they occur in the book of Genesis. There is also good reason to suppose, that Moses added the first two chapters and the last, to the book as it originally existed. And if Job, who at first composed this book, used a language somewhat different from the Hebrew, it was no doubt Moses who translated it into the Hebrew tongue. We have therefore a twofold warrant for the divine authority of this portion of holy Scripture. It is evident from the book itself, that the things which Job wrote must in part have been revealed to him by God. See Ch. 38-41. And it is certain, that whatsoever Moses introduced into the volume of the Jewish Scriptures, he must have been directed by the Holy Ghost in so doing. Let us rejoice to find, on the testimony of this sure witness, that Job glorified God so greatly by his holy and consistent life. Let us praise God for this his faithful servant. Let us thank God for this eminent example, of one who was perfect and upright," "one that feared God and eschewed evil." An eminent example. A profitable pattern of that entire devotedness of life, which whether before the Law, or under it, or under the Gospel, has ever been the proper fruit of genuine religion. There must be no reserve in our obedience; no purpose to please ourselves in any thing at the risk of displeasing God. We may be still liable to fall as Job was. And like Job we may in some things still actually transgress. But we must never do so purposely, wilfully, or habitually. We must never allow ourselves in any sin that we know of. It must be the settled purpose of our hearts, and the settled plan of our lives, to do the will of God in every thing. To this perfection Job attained, without so much as the guidance of the written Law. How much more ought we to aim at it, and attain to it, with the light and assistance of the Gospel!
Satan obtaineth leave to tempt Job.
4 And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one on his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them.
5 And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt-offerings according to the number of them all for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.
6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them.
7 And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.
8 And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? 9 Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?
10 Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.
11 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.
12 And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.
How thankfully we ought to yield up all earthly joys.
It was a principal part of the prosperity of Job, that "there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters." Ver. 2. And it was owing to the abundance of his substance, that his children were able to enjoy the frequent feasts here spoken of. But Job appears to have been well aware, that he had much to answer for, in proportion to the large amount of blessings, which it had pleased God to give him. And therefore he used to watch, with holy jealousy, lest his children should be tempted, in the times of their festivity, to sin against God. He knew how likely it was, that when they had eaten and were full, they would forget the great Giver of all good things, and take the name of their God in vain. See Deut. 6. 11, 12. And at the end of their periods of feasting, he used to offer a sacrifice for each of them, by way of making atonement for any such sins into which they might have fallen. Let Christians who enjoy abundance learn hence, to be ever on their guard against the sins which abundance is most apt to breed. Let Christian parents learn hence, to ward off as far
as possible the temptations which beset their children; and whatsoever sins they are most likely to fall into, let them remember to plead in their behalf the all prevailing merits of Christ our Saviour. Little can that father have reflected upon his own past trials, who does not tremble to think of the risks his children must run as they grow to man's estate, of the many sins and sorrows, to which they are then straightway exposed. And little can he have experienced in his own case, the benefit of prayer, and the privilege of applying unto God for the pardon of his sins through Christ, if he does not frequently intercede for those whom he has been the means of bringing into the world, and earnestly pray to God, that they may be justified, sanctified, and saved, through the atonement of the death of Christ.
How different is such watchful care and holy jealousy as this, how different from the foul suspicions, and the false imputing of selfish motives, which are here set in the most hateful light, as practised against Job by the accuser of our brethren! Doth Job fear God for nought?" His piety, Satan argues, is but selfishness in another form. It is merely for his own present gain that Job fears and serves the Lord. If he were now deprived of his great substance, he would serve God no longer. Instead of blessing the Lord, and praising Him for his goodness, Job would begin, like other men, to murmur under chastisement. Nay, so far does Satan go in his accusations as to say," he will curse thee to thy face." Such is the wicked suggestion of the evil one. Such are the hard thoughts which evil disposed persons often harbour and express, against those who are not ashamed to own that they are servants of the most high God. Let us watch that we give no handle to any such suspicions, by manifesting too fond an attachment for the present gains of godliness, in regard to this world's comforts. Let us adorn our Christian profession by the habitual practice of self denial; and by the cheerfulness with which we bear any affliction, which God thinks fit to lay on us. We do indeed gain usually much of present comfort, independently of spiritual peace and joy, by adopting the principles and the practices of the Gospel. Health, wealth, and respectability of character, are all in favour of those who live according to the will of God, as revealed by Christ and his apostles. But let not these be the chief objects of our desire. These let us be prepared to lose, if so it happen, and to bear the loss with thankfulness. Nay, even life itself let us be willing to lay down, for God's sake, if occasion should require; glad to give this proof that we look for brighter joys than any which this present world can yield. Thus should we not only silence the gainsayers of our faith, but also put to shame the great enemy of our souls. And instead of deeming an afflictive providence matter of mystery and regret, we should clearly see in the heaviest afflictions the means of giving greater glory to God, and of gaining greater happiness for ourselves.
Job deprived of goods and children blesseth God.
13 And there was a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house :
14 And there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them:
15 And the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
16 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
17 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away, yea, and slain the servants
with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
18 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house:
19 And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
20 Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped,
21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.
22 In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.
The use of viewing all we have as God's free gift.
See here the result of that limited permission which the Lord gave to Satan against Job, "Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand." Ver. 12. See the cruel use which Satan makes of such power, as God allows him to possess, that he may exercise the faith and patience of mankind. See the precious fruit of resignation, thankfulness, and praise, which ought to abound in us, as it did in Job, in consequence of being subjected to Satan's malice. How can we think it strange that we are exposed to trials so fiery, to griefs so sore, when we see what a holy heavenly temper they are fitted to work in us? How can we marvel, as we are apt to do, that God should allow such an one as Satan to trouble us in body or in soul, when we behold the patience of Job; when we see the righteous sufferer falling down upon the ground and worshipping;
when we hear him uttering words so remarkably expressive of true piety, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord ?"
This is one of the most important lessons which this whole book appears intended to convey, namely, that adversity or any other trial whatsoever, when received by man with devout resignation, is sure to be overruled by God for good. It may be that the tempter gains some short lived triumph. It may be, that the faithful Christian is prevailed upon by Satan, as Job was for a while, to think hastily in his mind, or to speak unadvisedly with his lips. But though the righteous fall, he shall not be cast down. See Ps. 37. 24. And when we read of " the patience of Job," at this beginning of his history, it is well for us to call to mind "the end of the Lord," which St. James mentions at the same time; James 5. 11; meaning the blessedness of Job's after life, the pitifulness and tender mercy of God, in sustaining him through all his trials, satisfying him in all his doubts, forgiving him all his sins, and blessing" the latter end of Job more than his beginning." Ch. 42. 12.
Greatly it would help us to bear afflictions with patience like this of Job, if we would more frequently consider the important truth which Job expressed on this occasion, that all our present blessings are God's free gift. It is to Him that we are altogether indebted for the use of them. And when He thinks fit to take any of them away from us, instead of counting this for so much loss, we ought rather to dwell upon our great gain in enjoying them whilst He suffered us to keep them. Naked we came into this present world, and naked shall we depart out of it. Whatsoever in the mean time we possess, our goods, as food and raiment, the necessaries, the comforts, or the luxuries of life, our friends and near relations, and all the pleasure we derive from their affection, these all are freely given us by that great and gracious God, to whom we also owe it, that we are alive to enjoy them. Were we but well accustomed to think of this all the time we are enjoying them, were we but also mindful, that He who freely gives us these things, reserves the power of taking them away whensoever He sees fit, we should be better able to hear the worst of tidings, and to bear the heaviest of afflictions, not only without charging God foolishly, but also with a disposition to thank God cheerfully.
Thanks be to Thee, O God, for all Thou givest us! Thanks be to Thee, for all Thou takest away! All, all we have, and all we are, is thine. Oh that thy will may be in all things ours! Oh that whatsoever harm befals us here, we may be able to say with holy Job, "Blessed be the name of the Lord!"