Ungoverned passion often grows more violent when it meets with some rebuke and check. The troubled sea rages most when it dashes against a rock. Job had been courting death, as that which would be the happy period of his miseries, Job 3:1-26. For this Eliphaz had gravely reproved him, but he, instead of unsaying what he had said, says it here again with more vehemence than before; and it is as ill said as almost any thing we meet with in all his discourses, and is recorded for our admonition, not our imitation.
I. He is still most passionately desirous to die, as if it were not possible that he should ever see good days again in this world, or that, by the exercise of grace and devotion, he might make even these days of affliction good days. He could see no end of his trouble but death, and had not patience to wait the time appointed for that. He has a request to make; there is a thing he longs for (Job 6:8); and what is that? One would think it should be, “That it would please God to deliver me, and restore me to my prosperity again;” no, That it would please God to destroy me, Job 6:9. “As once he let loose his hand to make me poor, and then to make me sick, let him loose it once more to put an end to my life. Let him give the fatal stroke; it shall be to me the coup de grace—the stroke of favour,” as, in France, they call the last blow which dispatches those that are broken on the wheel. There was a time when destruction from the Almighty was a terror to Job (Job 31:23), yet now he courts the destruction of the flesh, but in hopes that the spirit should be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Observe, Though Job was extremely desirous of death, and very angry at its delays, yet he did not offer to destroy himself, nor to take away his own life, only he begged that it would please God to destroy him. Seneca’s morals, which recommend self-murder as the lawful redress of insupportable grievances, were not then known, nor will ever be entertained by any that have the least regard to the law of God and nature. How uneasy soever the soul’s confinement in the body may be, it must by no means break prison, but wait for a fair discharge.
II. He puts this desire into a prayer, that God would grant him this request, that it would please God to do this for him. It was his sin so passionately to desire the hastening of his own death, and offering up that desire to God made it no better; nay, what looked ill in his wish looked worse in his prayer, for we ought not to ask any thing of God but what we can ask in faith, and we cannot ask any thing in faith but what is agreeable to the will of God. Passionate prayers are the worst of passionate expressions, for we should lift up pure hands without wrath.
III. He promises himself effectual relief, and the redress of all his grievances, by the stroke of death (Job 6:10): “Then should I yet have comfort, which now I have not, nor ever expect till then.” See, 1. The vanity of human life; so uncertain a good is it that it often proves men’s greatest burden and nothing is so desirable as to get clear of it. Let grace make us willing to part with it whenever God calls; for it may so happen that even sense may make us desirous to part with it before he calls. 2. The hope which the righteous have in their death. If Job had not had a good conscience, he could not have spoken with this assurance of comfort on the other side death, which turns the tables between the rich man and Lazarus. Now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
IV. He challenges death to do its worst. If he could not die without the dreadful prefaces of bitter pains and agonies, and strong convulsions, if he must be racked before he be executed, yet, in prospect of dying at last, he would make nothing of dying pangs: “I would harden myself in sorrow, would open my breast to receive death’s darts, and not shrink from them. Let him not spare; I desire no mitigation of that pain which will put a happy period to all my pains. Rather than not die, let me die so as to feel myself die.” These are passionate words, which might better have been spared. We should soften ourselves in sorrow, that we may receive the good impressions of it, and by the sadness of the countenance our hearts, being made tender, may be made better; but, if we harden ourselves, we provoke God to proceed in his controversy; for when he judgeth he will overcome. It is great presumption to dare the Almighty, and to say, Let him not spare; for are we stronger than he? 1 Cor. 10:22. We are much indebted to sparing mercy; it is bad indeed with us when we are weary of that. Let us rather say with David, O spare me a little.
V. He grounds his comfort upon the testimony of his conscience for him that he had been faithful and firm to his profession of religion, and in some degree useful and serviceable to the glory of God in his generation: I have not concealed the words of the Holy One. Observe, 1. Job had the words of the Holy One committed to him. The people of God were at that time blessed with divine revelation. 2. It was his comfort that he had not concealed them, had not received the grace of God therein in vain. (1.) He had not kept them from himself, but had given them full scope to operate upon him, and in every thing to guide and govern him. He had not stifled his convictions, imprisoned the truth in unrighteousness, nor done any thing to hinder the digestion of this spiritual food and the operation of this spiritual physic. Let us never conceal God’s word from ourselves, but always receive it in the light of it. (2.) He had not kept them to himself, but had been ready, on all occasions, to communicate his knowledge for the good of others, was never ashamed nor afraid to own the word of God to be his rule, nor remiss in his endeavours to bring others into an acquaintance with it. Note Those, and those only, may promise themselves comfort in death who are good, and do good, while they live.
VI. He justifies himself, in this extreme desire of death, from the deplorable condition he was now in, Job 6:11, 12. Eliphaz, in the close of his discourse, had put him in hopes that he should yet see a good issue of his troubles; but poor Job puts these cordials away from him, refuses to be comforted, abandons himself to despair, and very ingeniously, yet perversely, argues against the encouragements that were given him. Disconsolate spirits will reason strangely against themselves. In answer to the pleasing prospects Eliphaz had flattered him with, he here intimates, 1. That he had no reason to expect any such thing: “What is my strength, that I should hope? You see how I am weakened and brought low, how unable I am to grapple with my distempers, and therefore what reason have I to hope that I should out-live them, and see better days? Isa. my strength the strength of stones? Are my muscles brass and my sinews steel? No, they are not, and therefore I cannot hold out always in this pain and misery, but must needs sink under the load. Had I strength to grapple with my distemper, I might hope to look through it; but, alas! I have not. The weakening of my strength in the way will certainly be the shortening of my days,” Ps. 102:23. Note, All things considered, we have no reason to reckon upon the long continuance of life in this world. What is our strength? It is depending strength. We have no more strength than God gives us; for in him we live and move. It is decaying strength; we are daily spending the stock, and by degrees it will be exhausted. It is disproportionable to the encounters we may meet with; what is our strength to be depended upon, when two or three days’ sickness will make us weak as water? Instead of expecting a long life, we have reason to wonder that we have lived hitherto and to feel that we are hastening off apace. 2. That he had no reason to desire any such thing: “What is my end, that I should desire to prolong my life? What comfort can I promise myself in life, comparable to the comfort I promise myself in death?” Note, Those who, through grace, are ready for another world, cannot see much to invite their stay in this world, or to make them fond of it. That, if it be God’s will, we may do him more service and may get to be fitter and riper for heaven, is an end for which we may wish the prolonging of life, in subservience to our chief end; but, otherwise, what can we propose to ourselves in desiring to tarry here? The longer life is the more grievous will its burdens be (Eccl. 12:1), and the longer life is the less pleasant will be its delights, 2 Sam. 19:34, 35. We have already seen the best of this world, but we are not sure that we have seen the worst of it.
VII. He obviates the suspicion of his being delirious (Job 6:13): Isa. not my help in me? that is, “Have I not the use of my reason, with which, I thank God, I can help myself, though you do not help me? Do you think wisdom is driven quite from me, and that I am gone distracted? No, I am not mad, most noble Eliphaz, but speak the words of truth and soberness.” Note, Those who have grace in them, who have the evidence of it and have it in exercise, have wisdom in them, which will be their help in the worst of times. Sat lucis intus—They have light within.