“Then Job arose, tore his clothes, and shaved his head, and fell to the ground, and worshipped, and said, Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there: the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.”
JOB was very much troubled and he did not try to hide the outward signs of his sorrow. A man of God is not expected to be a stoic. The Grace of God takes away the heart of stone out of his flesh, but it does not turn his heart into a stone. The Lord’s children are the subjects of tender feelings–when they have to endure the rod, they feel the smart of its strokes–and Job felt the blows that fell upon him. Do not blame yourself if you are conscious of pain and grief, and do not ask to be made hard and callous. That is not the method by which Grace works–it makes us strong to bear trials, but we have to bear them! It gives us patience and submission, not stoicism. We feel and we benefit by the feeling–and there is no sin in the feeling–for in our text we are expressly told of the Patriarch’s mourning, “In all this Job sinned not.” Though he was the great mourner–I think I might truly call him the chief mourner of Scripture–yet there was no sin in his mourning. There are some who say that when we are heavy of heart, we are necessarily in a wrong spirit, but it is not so. The Apostle Peter says, “If need be you are in heaviness through manifold trials,” but he does not imply that the heaviness is wrong. There are some who will not cry when God chastises them and some who will not yield when God strikes them. We do not wish to be like they–we are quite content to have the suffering heart that Job had–and to feel the bitterness of spirit, the anguish of soul which racked that blessed Patriarch.
Furthermore, Job made use of very manifest signs of mourning. He not only felt sorrow within his heart, but he indicated it by tearing his clothes, by shaving his head and by casting himself prone upon the ground, as if he sought to return to the womb of mother earth as he said that he would. And I do not think we are to judge those of our Brothers and Sisters who feel it right to wear the common tokens of mourning. If they give them any kind of solace in their sorrow, let them have them. I believe that, at times, some go to excess in this respect, but I dare not pass sentence upon them because I read here, “In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” If the black band should be worn for a very long while and if the sorrow should be nursed unduly, as others judge, yet we cannot set up a standard of what is right for others–each one must answer for his conduct to his own Lord. I remember the gentleness of Jesus towards mourners rather than His severity in dealing with them–He has much pity for our weakness–and I wish that some of His servants had more of the same spirit. If you who are sorrowing could be strong. If the weeds of mourning could be laid aside, it might indicate a greater acquiescence in the Divine will, but if you do not feel that it should be so with you, God forbid that we should rebuke you while we have such a text as this before us, “Job arose, tore his clothes, and shaved his head, and fell to the ground.” And, “in all this Job sinned not.”
I want you, however, to notice that mourning should always be sanctified with devotion. It is very pleasant to observe that when Job had torn his clothes after the Oriental custom and shaved his head, (in a manner which, in his day, was not forbidden, but which under the Mosaic law was prohibited, for they might not cut their hair by way of mourning as the heathen did), and, after the Patriarch had fallen to the ground, he “worshipped.” Not, he grumbled. Not, he lamented–much less that he began to imprecate and use language unjustifiable and improper–but he, “fell to the ground and worshipped.” O dear Friend, when your grief presses you to the very dust, worship there! If that spot has come to be your Gethsemane, then present, there, your “strong crying and tears” to your God! Remember David’s words, “You people, pour out your hearts”–but do not stop there, finish the quotation–“You people, pour out your hearts before Him.” Turn the vessel upside down! It is a good thing to empty it, for this grief may ferment into something more sour. Turn the vessel upside down and let every drop run out–but let it be before the Lord. “You people, pour out your hearts before Him: God is a refuge for us.” When you are bowed down beneath a heavy burden of sorrow, then take to worshipping the Lord and, especially, to that kind of worshipping which lies in adoring God–and in making a full surrender of yourself to the Divine will–so that you can say with Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” That kind of worshipping which lies in the subduing of the will, the awakening of the affections, the bestirring of the whole mind and heart and the presentation of oneself to God over, again, in solemn consecration, must tend to sweeten sorrow and to take the sting out of it.
It will also greatly alleviate our sorrow if we then fall into serious contemplations and begin to argue a little and to bring facts to bear upon our mind. Evidently Job did so, for the verses of my text are full of proofs of his thoughtfulness. The Patriarch brings to his own mind at least four subjects for earnest consideration, out of which he drew great comfort. In like manner, you will do well, not merely to sit still and say, “I shall be comforted,” but you must look about you for themes upon which to think and meditate to profit. Your poor mind is apt to be driven to and fro by stress of your sorrow, but if you can get an anchor hold on some great clearly ascertained Truths of God, about which you can have no possible doubt, you may begin to derive consolation from them.
“While I was musing,” said David, “the fire burned,” and it comforted and warmed him. Remember how he talked to himself as to another self, “Why are you cast down, O my Soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope you in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” There are two Davids, you see, talking to one another, and cheering one another! A man ought always to be good company for himself–and he ought to also be able to catechize himself! He who is not fit to be his own schoolmaster is not fit to be schoolmaster to other people. If you cannot catechize your own heart and drill a Truth of God into your own soul, you do not know how to teach other people. I believe that the best preaching in the world is that which is done at home. When a sorrowing spirit shall have comforted itself, it will have learned the art of consoling other people. Job is an instance of this kind of personal instruction. He has three or four subjects which he brings before his own mind and these tend to comfort him.
- The first is, to my mind, THE EXTREME BREVITY OF LIFE.
Observe what Job says, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there.” He came forth and he expected to go back to mother earth and there to lie. That is Job’s idea of life and a very true one it is, “I come forth, and I go back again.” One asked a man of God, one day, “Will you tell me what life is?” The man of God stopped just a moment and then deliberately walked away. When his friend met him the following day, he said to him, “Yesterday, I asked you a question and you did not answer it.” “But I did answer it,” said the godly man. “No,” rejoined the other, “you were there and you were gone.” “Well, you asked me what life was, and that was my answer. Could I have answered your question better?” He answered and acted wisely, for that is a complete summary of our life here below–we come, and we go! We appear for a brief moment and then we vanish. I often, in my own mind, compare life to a procession. I see you, dear Friends, going by me, one by one, and vanishing–and others come on behind. But the point that I am apt to forget–and you do the same–is that I am in the procession and you are in it, too. We all count all men mortal but ourselves–yet all are marching towards that country from whose stream no traveler returns.
Well now, because life is so short, do you not see where the comfort comes? Job says to himself, “I came, and I shall return; then why should I worry myself about what I have lost? I am going to be here only a little while, then what need have I of all those camels and sheep?” So, Brothers and Sisters, what God has given us is so much spending money on our journey, to pay our fares and to help our fellow travelers. But we do not, any of us, need as much substance as Job had. He had seven thousand sheep. Dear me! What a task it must have been to drive and to feed such a large flock! “And three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen!” That is, a thousand oxen. “And five hundred she asses, and a very great household.” Our proverb says, “The more servants, the more plagues,” and I am sure it is true that the more camels, the more horses, the more cows, the more of such things that a man has, the more there is to look after and to cause him trouble! So Job seems to say to himself, “I am here for such a little time, why should I be carried away, as with a flood, even when these things are taken from me? I come and I go–let me be satisfied if other things come and go. If my earthly stores vanish, well, I shall vanish, too. They are like myself–they take to themselves wings and fly away–and, by-andby, I, too, shall take to myself wings, and I shall be gone.” I have heard of one who called life, “the long disease of life.” And it was so to him, for, though he did a great work for his Master, he was always sickly. Well, who wants a long disease? “There’s the respect that makes calamity of so long life.” We need, rather, to feel that it is not long, that it is short, and to set small store by all things here below and to regard them as things which, like ourselves, appear but for a time, and soon shall be gone.
Further, Job seems especially to dwell with comfort upon the thought, “I shall return to the earth, from which all the particles of my body originally came. I shall return there.” “Ah,” said one, when he had seen the spacious and beautiful gardens of a wealthy man, “these are the things that make it hard to die.” You remember how the tribe of Gad and the tribe of Reuben went to Moses and said, “If we have found grace in your sight, let this land be given unto your servants for a possession, and bring us not over Jordan.” Of course, they did not need to cross the Jordan if they could get all their possessions on the other side. But Job had not anything this side Jordan, he was cleaned right out, so he was willing to go. And, really, the losses that a man has, which make him “desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better,” are real gains! What is the use of all that clogs us here?
A man of large possessions reminds me of my experience when I have gone to see a friend in the country and he has taken me across a plowed field and I have had two heavy burdens of earth, one on each foot, as I have plodded on! The earth has clung to me and made it hard walking. It is just so with this world–its good things hamper us, clog us, cling to us like thick clay–but when we get these hampering things removed, we take comfort in the thought, “We shall soon return to the earth from where we came.” We know that it is not mere returning to earth, for we possess a life that is immortal! We are looking forward to spending it in the true land that flows with milk and honey, where, like Daniel, we shall stand in our lot at the end of the days. Therefore we feel not only resigned to return to the womb of mother earth, but sometimes we even long for the time of our return to come!
A dear servant of God whom you would all recognize if I mentioned his name, was talking with me concerning our dear departed brother, Hugh Stowell Brown, and he said, “All the Brethren of my age and yours seem to be going Home. They are passing away. The fathers and the leaders are going and I could almost wish,” he added, “that our Heavenly Father would put my name down as the next to go.” I said that I hoped the Lord would not do so, but that our Brother might be spared to labor a while longer but that, if I might put in another name, I would plead for my own to go in there instead of his! Happily, we have nothing to do with the date of our going Home–it is out of our hands–yet we are glad to feel that when the time of our departure shall arrive, it will be no calamity, but a distinct advancement, for the Master to bid us to return to the dust from where we came! “Return, you children of men,” He will say, and we will joyfully answer, “Yes, Father, here we are, glad to stretch our wings and fly straight to yonder world of joy, expecting that even our poor bodies, by-and-by, at the trump of the archangel, shall come back to You, and we shall be like Your onlybegotten Son, when we shall see Him as He is.”
II. Secondly, Job seems to comfort himself by noticing THE TENURE OF HIS EARTHLY POSSESSIONS. “Naked,” he says, “came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there.”
He feels himself to be very poor, everything is gone, he is stripped. Yet he seems to say, “I am not poorer, now, than I was when I was born.” I had nothing then, not even a garment for my back but what the love of my mother provided for me. I was helpless then–I could not do anything for myself whatever.“ One said to me, the other day, "All is gone, Sir, all is gone, except health and strength.” Yes, but we had not as much as that when we were born. We had no strength, we were too weak to perform the least, though most necessary offices, for our poor tender frame. David often very sweetly dwells upon his childhood and still more upon his infancy–and we shall do well to imitate him. Old men sometimes arrive at a second childhood. Do not be afraid, Brother, if that is your case! You have gone through one period, already, that was more infantile than your second one can be–you will not be weaker, then, than you were at first!
Suppose that you and I should be brought to extreme weakness and poverty–we shall neither be weaker nor poorer than we were when we were born! “But I had a mother,” says one. Well, there are some children who lose their mother in their very birth, but if you had a mother to care for you then, you have a Father to care for you now and, as a child of God, you surely feel that your mother was but the secondary agent to watch over you in your weakness! And God who gave that love to her and moved her to care for you will be sure to find that same love which flowed out of Him into her still stored up in His own bosom–and He will see you through. Do not be afraid, my Brother, my Sister, the Lord will see you through! It is amazing that after God has been gracious to us for 50 years, we cannot trust Him for the rest of our lives! And, as for you who are 60, 70, or 80 years of age–has He brought you this far to put you to shame? Did He bear you through that very weakest part of your life and do you think He will now forsake you? David said, “I was cast upon You from the womb,” as if then he had none but God to help him! And will not He who took care of us, then, take care of us even to the end? Yes, that He will! Therefore let us be of good courage and let the poverty and weakness of our infancy, as we think of it, cheer us if we are weak and poor now.
Then Job adds, “However poor I may be, I am not as poor as I shall be, for naked shall I return to mother earth. If I have but little, now, I shall soon have still less.” We have heard of a rustic who, when dying, put a crownpiece into his mouth because he said that he would not be without money in another world–but he was a clown and everyone knew how foolish was his attempt thus to provide for the future! There have been stories told of persons who have had their gold sewn up in their shrouds, but they took not a penny with them for all their pains. Nothing can be taken with us–we must go back to the earth, the richest as poor as the poorest, and the poorest no poorer, really, than the richest! The dust of great Caesar may help to stop a hole through which the blast blows and the dust of his slave cannot be put to more ignoble uses. No, poor and weak as we may be, we are not as poor and weak as we shall be, by-and-by, so let us just solace ourselves with this reflection. The two ends of our life are nakedness–if the middle of it should not always be scarlet and fine linen and faring sumptuously every day, let us not wonder. And if it should seem to be all of a piece, let us not be impatient or complaining.
I want you to notice, also, what I really think was in Job’s mind, that, notwithstanding that he was but dust at the beginning and would be dust at the end, yet, still, there was a Job who existed all the while. “I was naked, but I was. Naked I shall return there, but I shall be there.” Some men never find themselves till they have lost their goods. They, themselves, are hidden away like Saul, among the stuff–their true manhood is not to be seen because they are dressed so finely that, though people seem to respect them–it is their clothes that are respected! They appear to be somebodies, but they are nobodies, notwithstanding all that they possess. The Lord brought His servant Job to feel, “Yes, when I had those camels, when I had those she asses, when I had those sheep, when I had those men servants, they were not myself. And now that they are gone, I am the same Job that I ever was. The sheep were not a part of myself, the camels were not a part of myself. I, Job, am still here, lying in my wholeness and integrity before God as much a servant of Jehovah in my nakedness, as I was when I wrapped myself in ermine.”
O Sirs, it is a grand thing when God helps us to live above what we have and above what we have not! Then it is that He brings us to know ourselves as we are, in our God, not dependent upon externals, but maintained and strengthened by food of which the world knows nothing, which comes not from milk of cattle! Then are we robed in a garment that comes not from fleece of sheep and we possess a life that depends not on the swift camel–a true existence that is neither in flocks, nor herds, nor pastures, nor fields–but delights itself in God and keeps itself on the Most High. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there,” says Job, but, “still it is I, the blessed of God, His same devoted servant who will trust Him to the end.” That was good talk for Job’s heart, was it not? Though it may not all have been said in words, I doubt not that something like it, or something much better passed through the Patriarch’s mind and thus he solaced himself in the hour of his sorrows and losses.
III. But now, thirdly, and perhaps the most blessed thing, is what Job said concerning THE HAND OF GOD IN ALL THINGS–“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
I am so pleased to think that Job recognized the hand of God everywhere giving. He said, “The Lord gave.” He did not say, “I earned it all.” He did not say, “There are all my hard-earned savings gone.” “Ah, me,” he might have said, “all the care for those sheep, the dreadful expense of those camels and the trouble that I have been at with those oxen–and now they are all gone, it does seem hard.” He does not put it so, but he says, “The Lord gave them to me. They were a gift and though they are gone, they were a gift from Him who had a right to take them back, for all He gives is only loaned. ‘A loan should go laughing home,’ and if God loans me these things, and now has called them back, I will bless His name for having let me have them so long.”
What a sweet thing it is, dear Brothers and Sisters, if you can feel that all you have in this world is God’s gift to you! You cannot feel that, you know, if you came by it dishonestly. No, it is not God’s gift, then, and it brings no blessing with it. But that which is honestly the result and fruit of your cheerful industry, you may consider has come from God and if, in addition, you have really sanctified your substance and have given your fair proportion to help the poor and the needy, as Job did–if you can say that you have caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy when you relieved her needs, then all that you have is God’s gift! God’s Providence is man’s inheritance and your inheritance has come to you from God’s Providence. Look at it all as God’s gift–it will even sweeten that little loaf of bread and that tiny pat of butter which is all you may have to eat today or tomorrow–if you regard it as God’s gift! It will soften that hard bed upon which you lie, wishing that you were somewhat better covered from the cold, if you think of it as God’s gift. A slender income will give us much contentment if we can see that it is God’s gift.
Let us not only regard our money and our goods as God’s gifts, but also our wife, our children, our friends. What precious gifts they often are! A man is truly rich who has a good helpmeet! He is really rich who has godly children about him. Even though they may cost him much care, he is abundantly repaid by their affection. And if they grow up in the fear of the Lord, what a choice gift they are! Let us look at them all as God’s gifts–let us not see them or anything else about the house without feeling, “My Father gave me this.” Surely it will tend to draw the teeth of every sharp affliction if, while you have enjoyed the possession of your good things, you have seen God’s hand in giving them to you.
Alas, some of you do not know anything about God! What you have is not counted by you as God’s gift. You miss the very sweetness and joy of life by missing this recognition of the Divine hand in giving us all good things richly to enjoy.
But then, Job equally saw God’s hand in taking them away. If he had not been a believer in Jehovah, he would have said, “Oh, those detestable Sabeans! Somebody ought to go and cut to pieces those Chaldeans.” That is often our style, is it not–finding fault with the secondary agents? Job has nothing to say about the Sabeans or the Chaldeans, or the wind, or the lightning. “The Lord,” he said, “the Lord has taken away.” I believe that Satan intended to make Job feel that it was God who was at work when his messenger said, “The fire of God is fallen from Heaven and has burned up the sheep.” “Ah,” said Satan, “he will see that God is against him!” The devil did not succeed as he thought he had done, for Job could see that it was God’s hand and that took away the sting of the stroke. “The Lord has taken away.” Aaron held his peace when he knew that the Lord had done it. And the Psalmist said, “I was dumb with silence, I opened not my mouth, because You did it.” And Job felt just that. “It is the Lord, let Him do what seems good to Him.” Never mind the secondary agents! Do not spend your strength in kicking against this bad man or that–he is responsible to God for all the evil he has done. But at the back of these free agents there is a Divine Predestination, there is an over-ruling hand and even that which in men is evil may, nevertheless, in another light, be traced up distinctly to the hand of the Most High! “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away.”
Will you remember that with regard to your children? If Job had lost only his eldest son, he might have needed much Grace to say, “The Lord gave him, and the Lord has taken him away.” Job had lost his eldest son, but he had lost six more sons, and he had lost his three daughters as well. I have known a mother say, “My two dear boys sickened and died within a week–I am the most tried woman who ever lived.” Not quite, not quite, dear Friend–there have been others who have excelled you in this respect. Job lost his 10 children at a stroke. O Death, what an insatiable archer you were that day, when 10 must fall at once! Yet Job says, “The Lord has taken away.” That is all he has to say about it–“The Lord has taken away.”
I need not repeat to you the story of the gardener who missed a choice rose, but who could not complain because the master had plucked it. Do you feel that it is just so with all that you have, if he takes it? Oh, yes! Why should he not take it? If I were to go about my house and take down an ornament or anything from the walls, would anybody say a word to me? Suppose my dear wife should say to the servant, “Where has that picture gone?” and the maid replied, “Oh, the master took it!” Would she find fault? Oh, no! If it had been a servant who took it down, or a stranger who removed it, she might have said something, but not when I took it, for it is mine. And surely we will let God be Master in His own house–where we are only the children–He shall take whatever He pleases of all He has loaned us for a while. It is easy to stand here and say this, but, Brothers and Sisters, let us try to say it if it should ever come to us as a matter of fact that the Lord who gave should also take away.
I think Job did well to call attention to this blessed Truth of God, that the hand of God is everywhere at work, whether in giving or in taking away. I do not know anything that tends more to reconcile us to our present sorrows, losses and crosses than to feel, “God has done it all. Wicked men were the agents, but still, God, Himself, has done it. There is a great mystery about it which I cannot clear up, and I do not need to clear it up. God has done it and that is enough for me. ‘The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away.’”
IV. Job’s last comfort lay in this Truth, that GOD IS WORTHY TO BE BLESSED IN THINGS–“Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Dear Friends, let us never rob God of His praise, however dark the day is. It is a funeral day, perhaps, but should not God be praised when there is a funeral, as well as when there is a wedding? “Oh, but I have lost everything!” And is this one of the days when there is no praise due to God? Most of you know that the Queen’s taxes must be paid–and our great King’s revenue has the first claim upon us. Let us not rob our King of the revenue of His praise. “From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, the Lord’s name is to be praised.” “Oh, but I have lost a child!” Yes, but God is to be praised. “But I have lost my mother.” Yes, but God is to be praised. “I have a bad headache.” Yes, but God is to be praised. One said to me, one evening, “We should have family prayer, my dear Sir, but it is rather late. Do you feel too tired to conduct it?” “No,” I said, “I was never too tired, yet, to pray with my Brothers and Sisters, and I hope I never shall be.” If it is the middle of the night, let us not go to bed without prayer and praise, for we must not rob God of His Glory! “There is a mob in the street,” but we must not rob God of His Glory. “Our goods are getting cheaper and cheaper–we shall be ruined in the market.” Yes, but let us not rob God of His Glory! “There is going to be, I do not know what, happening, by-and-by.” Yes, but we must not rob God of His Glory.
“Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job means that the Lord is to be blessed both for giving and taking. “The Lord gave,” blessed be His name. “The Lord has taken away,” blessed be His name! Surely it has not come to this among God’s people, that He must do as we like or else we will not praise Him! If He does not please us every day and give way to our whims, and gratify our tastes, then we will not praise Him? “Oh, but I do not understand His dealings,” says one. And are you really such a stranger to God and is God such a stranger to you, that unless He enters into explanations, you are afraid that He is not dealing fairly with you? O Sir, have you known the Lord for 20 years and cannot praise Him for everything? Brothers and Sisters, some of us have known him 40 years, now. Perhaps some of you have known the Lord for 50 years–are you always needing to have chapter, verse and explanations from Him before you will praise Him? No, no, I hope we have gone far beyond that stage!
God is, however, especially to be praised by us whenever we are moved by the devil to curse. Satan had said to the Lord concerning Job, “Put forth Your hand, now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse You to Your face.” And it seemed as if God had hinted to His servant that this was what the devil was aiming at. “Then,” said Job, “I will bless Him.” His wife suggested afterwards that he should curse God, but he would do no such thing, he would bless Him! It is usually a wise thing to do the very opposite to what the Evil One suggests to you. If he says, “Curse,” you bless! Remember the story of a man who was going to give a pound to some charitable institution? The devil said, “No, you cannot afford it.” “Then,” said the man, “I will give two pounds. I will not be dictated to in this way.” Satan exclaimed, “You are a fanatic!” The man replied, “I will give four pounds.” “Ah,” said Satan, “what will your wife say when you go home and tell her that you have given away four pounds?” “Well,” said the man, “I will give eight pounds, now, and if you do not leave me alone, you will tempt me to give sixteen.” So the devil was obliged to stop because the more he tempted him, the more he went the other way. So let it be with us! If the devil would drive us to curse God, let us bless Him all the more, and Satan will be wise enough to leave off tempting when he finds that the more he attempts to drive us, the more we go in the opposite direction!
This is all meant to be sweet, cheery talk to suffering saints. How I wish that everybody here had an interest in it! What will some of you do–what are some of you doing, now that you have lost all? Wife dead, children dead and you are growing old, yet you are without God? O you poor rich people who have no interest in God! Your money must burn your souls! But you poor, poor, poor people who have not anything, here, and have no hope hereafter, how sad is your case! May God in His rich mercy give you even a little commonsense, for surely, commonsense would drive you to Him!
Sometimes in distributing temporal relief, we meet with persons who have been out of work and full of trouble. They may not have any bread to eat and we say to them, “Did you ever cry to God for help?” “No, Sir, we never prayed in all our life.” What is the matter with you? Here is your child crawling about the house, shivering for lack of bread and clothes. “Did you never ask your Father for anything?” “No, never.” Come, Friend, did God make you, or did you grow without Him? Did God create you? If He made you, He will have respect unto the work of His hands. Go and try Him, even on that low ground. Go and seek His face, even as His creature, and see whether He does not help you! O unbelief, to what madness do you go, that even when men are driven to starvation, they will not turn to God! O Spirit of God bless the sons of men! Even through their fears, sorrows and losses, bless them, and bring them in penitence to the Savior’s feet, for His dear name’s sake! Amen.