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gradually increasing in violence, each discharge louder and more awful than the preceding one.
"There came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were ploughing, and the asses feeding beside them; 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."
By this messenger Job is informed that he had lost five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred sheasses, which were taken by a roving band of Sabeans, a body of lawless plunderers, who lived by spoil and rapine; and that at the same time all the servants who attended them (one only excepted) were slain by the sword.
It does not appear that Job or any of his servants had given any occasion of offence to these Sabeans; but Satan put it into their heart* to commit this outrage, and thus this adversary of God and man obtained a double advantage; for he made both Job to suffer, and them to sin. When Satan has God's permission to do mischief, he will not want mischievous men to be his instruments; for he is a spirit that worketh in all the children of disobedience. While the former messenger was yet speaking, another arrives, and brings tidings of the loss of seven thousand sheep, together with the death of all the shepherds, by lightning, the fire of God from heaven.
This event seemed to be attended with circumstances peculiarly afflictive, because the hand of God appeared more immediately in it, than in the robbery and murders perpetrated by the Sabeans. This lightning is called by the messenger " the fire of God;" and as thunder is his voice, so lightning is his fire. But on this occasion Satan, no doubt, was permitted to be the kindler of it; and doubtless he possesses great power. He is called in Scripture "the prince of the power of the air.'' If we should sustain losses, or suffer calamity, by the violence or fraud of wicked men, we should, in such a trial, view the providence of God, by whom such events are permitted. But when afflictions seem to come immediately from his own hand, there is something more awful in them, than when they are inflicted through the agency of man. Still, in whatever way afflictions may overtake us, they spring not out of the dust. They are given to us by weight and measure. In the providence of God "clouds and darkness are round about him." The believer, nevertheless, may be assured that "righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne."
By a third messenger, the patriarch was informed of the loss of three thousand camels, with the murder of all the servants that were looking after them, one only excepted, who brought the dismal intelligence, by three bands of the Chaldeans.
If the fire of God, which fell upon Job's honest servants, who were in the way of their duty, had fallen upon the Sabean or Chaldean robbers, who were committing enormous sin, God's judgments then would have been like the great mountains, evident and conspicuous; but when the way of the wicked prospers, and good men are afflicted, the divine dispensations are then like a great deep, which is not easily fathomed. In the present instance the Sabeans and Chaldeans carry off the cattle of Job as their booty, and his numerous servants are murdered, or die by lightning, and thus Job is at once stripped of all his substance. Yet, this is not all: this is not yet the worst. As the clouds return after the rain, so the messengers of melancholy tidings to Job :—
For "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 - 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."
To the loss of Job's oxen, his asses, his sheep, his camels, and his servants, is now added the loss of all his children—seven sons and three daughters; and that not by any lingering disease, under which he might have visited them, prayed with them, and pronounced his blessing upon them, before they were called to leave the world and enter the eternal state; but by a sudden death—buried together under the ruins of their eldest brother's house, a stately edifice, struck by the resistless whirlwind.
These are the peculiar and complicated afflictions of Job, mentioned in the first chapter of the book which contains the history of his sufferings.
To these calamities afterwards were added others, which more immediately affected his own person. Satan, having permission to try him to the uttermost, smote him from head to foot with the most loathsome ulcers. Hear the account, as given in the second chapter: "So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown. And he took him a potsherd to scrape himself withal; and he sat down among the ashes."
In the midst of all these troubles and afflictions, one might have hoped that he would have found some comfort in the kind offices of his neighbours, the compassion of his friends, and the tender assiduities of his wife. But not so—his servants turned their back upon him; "They that dwell in mine house, and my maids, count me for a stranger: I am an alien in their sight. I called my servant, and he gave me no answer; I entreated him with my mouth. The friends who came to comfort him, loaded him with the most unfounded accusations, and asserted that his sufferings were evidences of his peculiar wickedness, which God was now disclosing and punishing. His wife derided his affiance in God, counselled him to renounce it, and to "curse God, and die."
If we look at any of these trials separately, may we not ask, were they not great? But if we view them collectively, can we suppose they were ever exceeded by any endured by mortal man ?—Let us now proceed to consider,
II. The patience which Job manifested under his affliction.
The trials of this patriarch called for the most extraordinary degree of patience, and submission to the will of God. And was it not exercised in the most wonderful manner? Observe his conduct, when informed of the circumstances by which he was suddenly deprived of all his property, and bereaved of his numerous family of children. "Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped; 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." He mourns as a man, and manifests his sorrow by the usual customs of grief; but he submits with patience, as a believer. Behold him again, after he was visited with his peculiarly distressing bodily affliction; when his wife gave him that desperate—that horrible advice, "Curse God and die." On this occasion all was meekness and submission in the patriarch; his reproof was kind, affectionate, mild, though firm and consistent. "He said unto her, thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips."
It is true that, after this,-we find Job cursing the day of his birth, and uttering some other sinful expressions. Nor would we conceal or extenuate his guilt. We find the patriarch failing in the very grace for which he is especially commended by God. How are we to account for this fact? No man can of himself overcome his propensity to sin. Nothing