Job’s friends had pretended to comfort him with the hopes of his return to a prosperous estate again; now he here shows,
I. That it was their folly to talk so (Job 17:10): “Return, and come now, be convinced that you are in an error, and let me persuade you to be of my mind; for I cannot find one wise man among you, that knows how to explain the difficulties of God’s providence or how to apply the consolations of his promises.” Those do not go wisely about the work of comforting the afflicted who fetch their comforts from the possibility of their recovery and enlargement in this world; though that is not to be despaired of, it is at the best uncertain; and if it should fail, as perhaps it may, the comfort built upon it will fail too. It is therefore our wisdom to comfort ourselves, and others, in distress, with that which will not fail, the promise of God, his love and grace, and a well-grounded hope of eternal life.
II. That it would he much more his folly to heed them; for,
1. All his measures were already broken and he was full of confusion, Job 17:11, 12. He owns he had, in his prosperity, often pleased himself both with projects of what he should do and prospects of what he should enjoy; but now he looked upon his days as past, or drawing towards a period; all those purposes were broken off and those expectations dashed. He had had thoughts about enlarging his border, increasing his stock, and settling his children, and many pious thoughts, it is likely, of promoting religion in his country, redressing grievances, reforming the profane, relieving the poor, and raising funds perhaps for charitable uses; but he concluded that all these thoughts of his heart were now at an end, and that he should never have the satisfaction of seeing his designs effected. Note, The period of our days will be the period of all our contrivances and hopes for this world; but, if with full purpose of heart we cleave to the Lord, death will not break off that purpose. Job, being thus put upon new counsels, was under a constant uneasiness (Job 17:12): The thoughts of his heart being broken, they changed the night into day and shortened the light. Some, in their vanity and riot, turn night into day and day into night; but Job did so through trouble and anguish of spirit, which were a hindrance, (1.) To the repose of the night, keeping his eyes waking, so that the night was as wearisome to him as the day, and the tossings of the night tired him as much as the toils of the day. (2.) To the entertainments of the day. “The light of the morning is welcome, but, by reason of this inward darkness, the comfort of it is soon gone, and the day is to me as dismal as the black and dark night,” Deut. 28:67. See what reason we have to be thankful for the health and ease which enable us to welcome both the shadows of the evening and the light of the morning.
2. All his expectations from this world would very shortly be buried in the grave with him; so that it was a jest for him to think of such mighty things as they had flattered him with the hopes of, Job 5:19; 8:21; 11:17. “Alas! you do but make a fool of me.”
(1.) He saw himself just dropping into the grave. A convenient house, an easy bed, and agreeable relations, are some of those things in which we take satisfaction in this world: Job expected not any of these above ground; all he felt, and all he had in view, was unpleasing and disagreeable, but under ground he expected them. [1.] He counted upon no house but the grave (Job 17:13): “If I wait, if there be any place where I shall ever be easy again, it must be in the grave. I should deceive myself if I should count upon any out-let from my trouble but what death will give me. Nothing is so sure as that.” Note, In all our prosperity it is good to keep death in prospect. Whatever we expect, let us be sure to expect that; for that may prevent other things which we expect, but nothing will prevent that. But see how he endeavours not only to reconcile himself to the grave, but to recommend it to himself: “It is my house.” The grave is a house; to the wicked it is a prison-house (Job 24:19, 20); to the godly it is Bethabara, a passage-house in their way home. “It is my house, mine by descent, I am born to it; it is my father’s house. It is mine by purchase. I have made myself obnoxious to it.” We must everyone of us shortly remove to this house, and it is our wisdom to provide accordingly; let us think of removing, and send before to our long home. [2.] He counted upon no quiet bed but in the darkness: “There,” says he, “I have made my bed. It is made, for it is ready, and I am just going to it.” The grave is a bed, for we shall rest in it in the evening of our day on earth, and rise from it in the morning of our everlasting day, Isa. 57:2. Let this make good people willing to die; it is but going to bed; they are weary and sleepy, and it is time that they were in their beds. Why should they not go willingly, when their father calls? “Nay, I have made my bed, by preparation for it, have endeavoured to make it easy, by keeping conscience pure, by seeing Christ lying in this bed, and so turning it into a bed of spices, and by looking beyond it to the resurrection.” [3.] He counted upon no agreeable relations but what he had in the grave (Job 17:14): I have cried to corruption (that is, to the grave, where the body will corrupt), Thou art my father (for our bodies were formed out of the earth), and to the worms there, You are my mother and my sister, to whom I am allied (for man is a worm) and with whom I must be conversant, for the worms shall cover us, Job 21:26. Job complained that his kindred were estranged from him (Job 19:13); therefore here he claims acquaintance with other relations that would cleave to him when those disowned him. Note, First, We are all of us near akin to corruption and the worms. Secondly, It is therefore good to make ourselves familiar with them, by conversing much with them in our thoughts and meditations, which would very much help us above the inordinate love of life and fear of death.
(2.) He saw all his hopes from this world dropping into the grave with him (Job 17:15, 16): “Seeing I must shortly leave the world, where is now my hope? How can I expect to prosper who do not expect to live?” He is not hopeless, but his hope is not where they would have it be. If in this life only he had hope, he was of all men most miserable. “No, as for my hope, that hope which I comfort and support myself with, who shall see it? It is something out of sight that I hope for, not things that are seen, that are temporal, but things not seen, that are eternal.” What is his hope he will tell us (Job 19:25), Non est mortale quod opto, immortale peto—I seek not for that which perishes, but for that which abides for ever. “But, as for the hopes you would buoy me up with, they shall go down with me to the bars of the pit. You are dying men, and cannot make good your promises. I am a dying man, and cannot enjoy the good you promise. Since, therefore, our rest will be together in the dust, let us all lay aside the thoughts of this world and set our hearts upon another.” We must shortly be in the dust, for dust we are, dust and ashes in the pit, under the bars of the pit, held fast there, never to loose the bands of death till the general resurrection. But we shall rest there; we shall rest together there. Job and his friends could not agree now, but they will both be quiet in the grave; the dust of that will shortly stop their mouths and put an end to the controversy. Let the foresight of this cool the heat of all contenders and moderate the disputers of this world.