Job, observing perhaps that his friends, though they would not interrupt him in his discourse, yet began to grow weary, and not to heed much what he said, here turns to God, and speaks to him. If men will not hear us, God will; if men cannot help us, he can; for his arm is not shortened, neither is his ear heavy. Yet we must not go to school to Job here to learn how to speak to God; for, it must be confessed, there is a great mixture of passion and corruption in what he here says. But, if God be not extreme to mark what his people say amiss, let us also make the best of it. Job is here begging of God either to ease him or to end him. He here represents himself to God,
I. As a dying man, surely and speedily dying. It is good for us, when we are sick, to think and speak of death, for sickness is sent on purpose to put us in mind of it; and, if we be duly mindful of it ourselves, we may in faith put God in mind of it, as Job does here (Job 7:7): O remember that my life is wind. He recommends himself to God as an object of his pity and compassion, with this consideration, that he was a very weak frail creature, his abode in this world short and uncertain, his removal out of it sure and speedy, and his return to it again impossible and never to be expected—that his life was wind, as the lives of all men are, noisy perhaps and blustering, like the wind, but vain and empty, soon gone, and, when gone, past recall. God had compassion on Israel, remembering that they were but flesh, a wind that passeth away and cometh not again, Ps. 78:38, 39. Observe,
1. The pious reflections Job makes upon his own life and death. Such plain truths as these concerning the shortness and vanity of life, the unavoidableness and irrecoverableness of death, then do us good when we think and speak of them with application to ourselves. Let us consider then, (1.) That we must shortly take our leave of all the things that are seen, that are temporal. The eye of the body must be closed, and shall no more see good, the good which most men set their hearts upon; for their cry is, Who will make us to see good? Ps. 4:6. If we be such fools as to place our happiness in visible good things, what will become of us when they shall be for ever hidden from our eyes, and we shall no more see good? Let us therefore live by that faith which is the substance and evidence of things not seen. (2.) That we must then remove to an invisible world: The eye of him that hath here seen me shall see me no more there. It is hades—an unseen state, Job 7:8. Death removes our lovers and friends into darkness (Ps. 88:18), and will shortly remove us out of their sight; when we go hence we shall be seen no more (Ps. 39:13), but go to converse with the things that are not seen, that are eternal. (3.) That God can easily, and in a moment, put an end to our lives, and send us to another world (Job 7:8): “Thy eyes are upon me and I am not; thou canst look me into eternity, frown me into the grave, when thou pleasest.”
Shouldst thou, displeased, give me a frowning look, I sink, I die, as if with lightning struck.—Sir R. BLACKMORE. He takes away our breath, and we die; nay, he but looks on the earth and it trembles, Ps. 104:32. (4.) That, when we are once removed to another world, we must never return to this. There is constant passing from this world to the other, but vestigia nulla retrorsum—there is no repassing. “Therefore, Lord, show me kindness while I am here, for I shall return no more to receive kindness in this world.” Or, “Therefore, Lord, kindly ease me by death, for that will be a perpetual ease. I shall return no more to the calamities of this life.” When we are dead we are gone, to return no more, [1.] From our house under ground (Job 7:9): He that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more until the general resurrection, shall come up no more to his place in this world. Dying is work that is to be done but once, and therefore it had need be well done: an error there is past retrieve. This is illustrated by the blotting out and scattering of a cloud. It is consumed and vanisheth away, is resolved into air and never knits again. Other clouds arise, but the same cloud never returns: so a new generation of the children of men is raised up, but the former generation is quite consumed and vanishes away. When we see a cloud which looks great, as if it would eclipse the sun and drawn the earth, of a sudden dispersed and disappearing, let us say, “Just such a thing is the life of man; it is a vapour that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” [2.] To return no more to our house above ground (Job 7:10): He shall return no more to his house, to the possession and enjoyment of it, to the business and delights of it. Others will take possession, and keep it till they also resign to another generation. The rich man in hell desired that Lazarus might be sent to his house, knowing it was to no purpose to ask that he might have leave to go himself. Glorified saints shall return no more to the cares, and burdens, and sorrows of their house; nor damned sinners to the gaieties and pleasures of their house. Their place shall no more know them, no more own them, have no more acquaintance with them, nor be any more under their influence. It concerns us to secure a better place when we die, for this will no more own us.
2. The passionate inference he draws from it. From these premises he might have drawn a better conclusion that this (Job 7:11): Therefore I will not refrain my mouth; I will speak; I will complain. Holy David, when he had been meditating on the frailty of human life, made a contrary use of it (Ps. 39:3; I was dumb, and opened not my mouth); but Job, finding himself near expiring, hastens as much to make his complaint as if he had been to make his last will and testament or as if he could not die in peace until he had given vent to his passion. When we have but a few breaths to draw we should spend them in the holy gracious breathings of faith and prayer, not in the noisome noxious breathings of sin and corruption. Better die praying and praising than die complaining and quarrelling.
II. As a distempered man, sorely and grievously distempered both in body and mind. In this part of his representation is he is very peevish, as if God dealt hardly with him and laid upon him more than was meet: “Amos I a sea, or a whale (Job 7:12), a raging sea, that must be kept within bounds, to check its proud waves, or an unruly whale, that must be restrained by force from devouring all the fishes of the sea? Amos I so strong that there needs so much ado to hold me? so boisterous that no less than all these mighty bonds of affliction will serve to tame me and keep me within compass?” We are very apt, when we are in affliction, to complain of God and his providence, as if he laid more restraints upon us that there is occasion for; whereas we are never in heaviness but when there is need, nor more than the necessity demands. 1. He complains that he could not rest in his bed, Job 7:13, 14. There we promise ourselves some repose, when we are fatigued with labour, pain, or traveling: “My bed shall comfort me, and my couch shall ease my complaint. Sleep will for a time give me some relief;” it usually does so; it is appointed for that end; many a time it has eased us, and we have awaked refreshed, and with new vigour. When it is so we have great reason to be thankful; but it was not so with poor Job: his bed, instead of comforting him, terrified him; and his couch, instead of easing his complaint, added to it; for if he dropped asleep, he was disturbed with frightful dreams, and when those awaked him still he was haunted with dreadful apparitions. This was it that made the night so unwelcome and wearisome to him as it was (Job 7:4): When shall I arise? Note, God can, when he pleases, meet us with terror even where we promise ourselves ease and repose; nay, he can make us a terror to ourselves, and, as we have often contracted guilt by the rovings of an unsanctified fancy, he can likewise, by the power of our own imagination, create us much grief, and so make that our punishment which has often been our sin. In Job’s dreams, though they might partly arise from his distemper (in fevers, or small pox, when the body is all over sore, it is common for the sleep to be unquiet), yet we have reason to think Satan had a hand, for he delights to terrify those whom it is out of his reach to destroy; but Job looked up to God, who permitted Satan to do this (thou scarest me), and mistook Satan’s representations for the terror of God setting themselves in array against him. We have reason to pray to God that our dreams may neither defile nor disquiet us, neither tempt us to sin nor torment us with fear, that he who keeps Israel, and neither slumbers nor sleeps, may keep us when we slumber and sleep, that the devil may not then do us a mischief, either as an insinuating serpent or as a roaring lion, and to bless God if we lie down and our sleep is sweet and we are not thus scared. 2. He covets to rest in his grave, that bed where there are no tossings to and fro, nor any frightful dreams, Job 7:15, 16. (1.) He was sick of life, and hated the thoughts of it: “I loathe it; I have had enough of it. I would not live always, not only not live always in this condition, in pain and misery, but not live always in the most easy and prosperous condition, to be continually in danger of being thus reduced. My days are vanity at the best, empty of solid comfort, exposed to real griefs; and I would not be for ever tied to such uncertainty.” Note, A good man would not (if he might) life always in this world, no, not though it smile upon him, because it is a world of sin and temptation and he has a better world in prospect. (2.) He was fond of death, and pleased himself with the thoughts of it: his soul (his judgment, he thought, but really it was his passion) chose strangling and death rather than life; any death rather than such a life as this. Doubtless this was Job’s infirmity; for though a good man would not wish to live always in this world, and would choose strangling and death rather than sin, as the martyrs did, yet he will be content to live as long as pleases God, not choose death rather than life, because life is our opportunity of glorifying God and getting ready for heaven.
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