Eliphaz, in this concluding paragraph of his discourse, gives Job (what he himself knew not how to take) a comfortable prospect of the issue of his afflictions, if he did but recover his temper and accommodate himself to them. Observe,
I. The seasonable word of caution and exhortation that he gives him (Job 5:17): “Despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty. Call it a chastening, which comes from the father’s love and is designed for the child’s good. Call it the chastening of the Almighty, with whom it is madness to contend, to whom it is wisdom and duty to submit, and who will be a God all-sufficient (for so the word signifies) to all those that trust in him. Do not despise it;” it is a copious word in the original. 1. “Be not averse to it. Let grace conquer the antipathy which nature has to suffering, and reconcile thyself to the will of God in it.” We need the rod and we deserve it; and therefore we ought not to think it either strange or hard if we feel the smart of it. Let not the heart rise against a bitter pill or potion, when it is prescribed for our good. 2. “Do not think ill of it; do not put it from thee (as that which is either hurtful or at least not useful, which there is not occasion for nor advantage by) only because for the present it is not joyous, but grievous.” We must never scorn to stoop to God, nor think it a thing below us to come under his discipline, but reckon, on the contrary, that God really magnifies man when he thus visits and tries him, Job 7:17, 18. 3. “Do not overlook and disregard it, as if it were only a chance, and the production of second causes, but take great notice of it as the voice of God and a messenger from heaven.” More is implied than is expressed: “Reverence the chastening of the Lord; have a 460a humble awful regard to this correcting hand, and tremble when the lion roars, Amos 3:8. Submit to the chastening, and study to answer the call, to answer the end of it, and then you reverence it.” When God by an affliction draws upon us for some of the effects he has entrusted us with we must honour his bill by accepting it, and subscribing it, resigning him his own when he calls for it.
II. The comfortable words of encouragement which he gives him thus to accommodate himself to his condition, and (as he himself had expressed it) to receive evil at the hand of God, and not despise it as a gift not worth the accepting.
1. If his affliction was thus borne, (1.) The nature and property of it would be altered. Though it looked like a man’s misery, it would really be his bliss: Happy is the man whom God correcteth if he make but a due improvement of the correction. A good man is happy though he be afflicted, for, whatever he has lost, he has not lost his enjoyment of God nor his title to heaven. Nay, he is happy because he is afflicted; correction is an evidence of his sonship and a means of his sanctification; it mortifies his corruptions, weans his heart from the world, draws him nearer to God, brings him to his Bible, brings him to his knees, works him for, and so is working for him, a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Happy therefore is the man whom God correcteth, Jas. 1:12. (2.) The issue and consequence of it would be very good, Job 5:18. [1.] Though he makes sore the body with sore boils, the mind with sad thoughts, yet he binds up at the same time, as the skilful tender surgeon binds up the wounds he had occasion to make with his incision-knife. When God makes sores by the rebukes of his providence he binds up by the consolations of his Spirit, which oftentimes abound most as afflictions do abound, and counterbalance them, to the unspeakable satisfaction of the patient sufferers. [2.] Though he wounds, yet his hands make whole in due time; as he supports his people, and makes them easy under their afflictions, so in due time he delivers them, and makes a way for them to escape. All is well again; and he comforts them according to the time wherein he afflicted them. God’s usual method is first to wound and then to heal, first to convince and then to comfort, first to humble and then to exalt; and (as Mr. Caryl observes) he never makes a wound too great, too deep, for his own cure. Una eademque manus vulnus opemque tulit—The hand that inflicts the wound applies the cure. God tears the wicked and goes away; let those heal that will, if they can (Hos. 5:14); but the humble and penitent may say, He has torn and he will heal us, Hos. 6:1. This is general, but,
2. In the Job 5:19-27 Eliphaz addresses himself directly to Job, and gives him many precious promises of great and kind things which God would do for him if he did but humble himself under his hand. Though then they had no Bibles that we know of, yet Eliphaz had sufficient warrant to give Job these assurances, from the general discoveries God had made of his good will to his people. And, though in every thing which Job’s friends said they were not directed by the Spirit of God (for they spoke both of God and Job some things that were not right), yet the general doctrines they laid down expressed the pious sense of the patriarchal age, and as St. Paul quoted Job 5:13; 1 Cor. 1:19 for canonical scripture, and as the command Job 5:17; Heb. 12:5 is no doubt binding on us, so these promises here may be, and must be, received and applied as divine promises, and we may through patience and comfort of this part of scripture have hope. Let us therefore give diligence to make sure our interest in these promises, and then view the particulars of them and take the comfort of them.
(1.) It is here promised that as afflictions and troubles recur supports and deliverances shall be graciously repeated, be it ever so often: In six troubles he shall be ready to deliver thee; yea, and in seven, Job 5:19. This intimates that,as long as we are here in this world, we must expect a succession of troubles, that the clouds will return after the rain. After six troubles may come a seventh; after many, look for more; but out of them all will God deliver those that are his, 2 Tim. 3:11; Ps. 34:19. Former deliverances are not, as among men, excuses from further deliverances, but earnests of them, Prov. 19:19.
(2.) That, whatever troubles good men may be in, there shall no evil touch them; they shall do them no real harm; the malignity of them, the sting, shall be taken out; they may hiss, but they cannot hurt, Ps. 91:10. The evil one toucheth not God’s children, 1 John 5:18. Being kept from sin, they are kept from the evil of every trouble.
(3.) That, when desolating judgments are abroad, they shall be taken under special protection, Job 5:20. Do many perish about them for want of the necessary supports of life? They shall be supplied. “In famine he shall redeem thee from death; whatever becomes of others, thou shalt be kept alive, Ps. 33:19. Verily, thou shalt be fed, nay, even in the days of famine thou shalt be satisfied, Ps. 37:3, 19. In time of war, when thousands fall on the right and left hand, he shall redeem thee from the power of the sword. If God please, it shall not touch thee; or if it wound thee, if it kill thee, it shall not hurt thee; it can but kill the body, nor has it power to do that unless it be given from above.”
(4.) That, whatever is maliciously said against them, it shall not affect them to do them any hurt, Job 5:21. “Thou shalt not only be protected from the killing sword of war, but shalt be hidden from the scourge of the tongue, which, like a scourge, is vexing and painful, though not mortal.” The best men, and the most inoffensive, cannot, even in their innocency, secure themselves from calumny, reproach, and false accusation. From these a man cannot hide himself, but God can hide him, so that the most malicious slanders shall be so little heeded by him as not to disturb his peace, and so little heeded by others as not to blemish his reputation: and the remainder of wrath God can and does restrain, for it is owing to the hold he has of the consciences of bad men that the scourge of the tongue is not the ruin of all the comforts of good men in this world.
(5.) That they shall have a holy security and serenity of mind, arising from their hope and confidence in God, even in the worst of times. When dangers are most threatening they shall be easy, believing themselves safe; and they shall not be afraid of destruction, no, not when they see it coming (Job 5:21), nor of the beasts of the field when they set upon them, nor of men as cruel as beasts; nay, at destruction and famine thou shalt laugh (Job 5:22), not so as to despise any of God’s chastenings or make a jest of his judgments, but so as to triumph in God, in his power and goodness, and therein to triumph over the world and all its grievances, to be not only easy, but cheerful and joyful, in tribulation. Blessed Paul laughed at destruction when he said, O death! where is thy sting? when, in the name of all the saints, he defied all the calamities of this present time to separate us from the love of God, concluding that in all these things we are more than conquerors, Rom. 8:35-39 See Isa. 37:22.
(6.) That, being at peace with God, there shall be a covenant of friendship between them and the whole creation, Job 5:23. “When thou walkest over thy grounds thou shalt not need to fear stumbling, for thou shalt be at league with the stones of the field, not to dash thy foot against any of them, nor shalt thou be in danger from the beasts of the field, for they shall all be at peace with thee;” compare Hos. 2:18; I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field. This implies that while man is at enmity with his Maker the inferior creatures are at war with him; but tranquillus Deus tranquillat omnia—a reconciled God reconciles all things. Our covenant with God is a covenant with all the creatures that they shall do us no hurt but be ready to serve us and do us good.
(7.) That their houses and families shall be comfortable to them, Job 5:24. Peace and piety in the family will make it so. “Thou shalt know and be assured that thy tabernacle is and shall be in peace; thou mayest be confident both of its present and its future prosperity.” That peace is thy tabernacle (so the word is); peace is the house in which those dwell who dwell in God, and are at home in him. “Thou shalt visit” (that is, enquire into the affairs of) “thy habitation, and take a review of them, and shalt not sin.” [1.] God will provide a settlement for his people, mean perhaps and movable, a cottage, a tabernacle, but a fixed and quiet habitation. “Thou shalt not sin,” or wander; that is, as some understand it, “thou shalt not be a fugitive and a vagabond” (Cain’s curse), “but shalt dwell in the land, and verily, not uncertainly as vagrants, shalt thou be fed.” [2.] Their families shall be taken under the special protection of the divine Providence, and shall prosper as far as is for their good. [3.] They shall be assured of peace, and of the continuance and entail of it. “Thou shalt know, to thy unspeakable satisfaction, that peace is sure to thee and thine, having the word of God for it.” Providence may change, but the promise cannot. [4.] They shall have wisdom to govern their families aright, to order their affairs with discretion, and to look well to the ways of their household, which is here called visiting their habitation. Masters of families must not be strangers at home, but must have a watchful eye over what they have and what their servants do. [5.] They shall have grace to manage the concerns of their families after a godly sort, and not to sin in the management of them. They shall call their servants to account without passion, pride, covetousness, worldliness, or the like; they shall look into their affairs without discontent at what is or distrust of what shall be. Family piety crowns family peace and prosperity. The greatest blessing, both in our employments and in our enjoyments, is to be kept from sin in them. When we are abroad it is comfortable to hear that our tabernacle is in peace; and when we return home it is comfortable to visit our habitation with satisfaction in our success, that we have not failed in our business, and with a good conscience, that we have not offended God.
(8.) That their posterity shall be numerous and prosperous. Job had lost all his children; “but,” says Eliphaz, “if thou return to God, he will again build up thy family, and thy seed shall be many and as great as ever, and thy offspring increasing and flourishing as the grass of the earth (Job 5:25), and thou shalt know it.” God has blessings in store for the seed of the faithful, which they shall have if they do not stand in their own light and forfeit them by their folly. It is a comfort to parents to see the prosperity, especially the spiritual prosperity, of their children; if they are truly good, they are truly great, how small a figure soever they may make in the world.
(9.) That their death shall be seasonable, and they shall finish their course, at length, with joy and honour, Job 5:26. It is a great mercy, [1.] To live to a full age, and not to have the number of our months cut off in the midst. If the providence of God do not give us long life, yet, if the grace of God give us to be satisfied with the time allotted us, we may be said to come to a full age. That man lives long enough that has done his work and is fit for another world. [2.] To be willing to die, to come cheerfully to the grave, and not to be forced thither, as he whose soul was required of him. [3.] To die seasonably, as the corn is cut and housed when it is fully ripe; not till then, but then not suffered to stand a day longer, lest it shed. Our times are in God’s hand; it is well they are so, for he will take care that those who are his shall die in the best time: however their death may seem to us untimely, it will be found not unseasonable.
3. In the Job 5:27 he recommends these promises to Job, (1.) As faithful sayings, which he might be confident of the truth of: “Lo, this we have searched, and so it is. We have indeed received these things by tradition from our fathers, but we have not taken them upon trust; we have carefully searched them, have compared spiritual things with spiritual, have diligently studied them, and been confirmed in our belief of them from our own observation and experience; and we are all of a mind that so it is.” Truth is a treasure that is well worth digging for, diving for; and then we shall know both how to value it ourselves and how to communicate it to others when we have taken pains in searching for it. (2.) As well worthy of all acceptation, which he might improve to his great advantage: Hear it, and know thou it for thy good. It is not enough to hear and know the truth, but we must improve it, and be made wiser and better by it, receive the impressions of it, and submit to the commanding power of it. Know it for thyself (so the word is), with application to thyself, and thy own case; not only “This is true,” but “this is true concerning me.” That which we thus hear and know for ourselves we hear and know for our good, as we are nourished by the meat which we digest. That is indeed a good sermon to us which does us good.