BREXIT and the Sabbath

In the recent referendum in Britain, I was supportive of leaving the EU. The main reason for this was that many of the EU countries see fit to hold their political voting on Sundays.


Sunday is considered such a convenient day for this activity, precisely because it is the Christian day of rest and has been set aside as a free day in these countries. precisely because they have traditionally been Christian countries. Using Sundays for such activities is (of course) a kick in the teeth for Christianity.


A few years ago, I lived in Sweden. I was surprised when, one day, I received a letter indicating that I  was eligible to vote in their referendum on whether or not Sweden should join the single currency of the euro. I decided that of course I should vote, then I checked the date, looked at the calendar, and noted that it was on a Sunday – and hence decided not to vote. I told someone back home that I wasn’t voting. ‘Of course you should vote; we have a responsibility to vote in a democracy.’ I then explained that the referendum was to be held on a Sunday. ‘Oh. Well, that doesn’t sound so good. I don’t know what I would do in that situation.’ The idea of voting on Sunday went entirely against my own Christian intuition and the reaction of my friend to the situation was exactly the same.


In the creation ordinances, Genesis 2, God set aside a day of rest; this was for the benefit of the whole of creation. In Genesis, this day of rest was the Sabbath; the apostles placed the day of rest on the first day (there is indication of this in 1 Corinthians). At any rate, the idea that a day should be set aside where the whole society rests is a creation ordinance. As Christians, we have a duty to encourage people to respect this, for their own good.


It is therefore irrelevant that the government allows people a postal vote if, as a matter of conscience, they won’t vote on a Sunday; if you participate in an election where the voting day is Sunday, you participate in an activity where large numbers of people have to work, policing the polling stations and then counting the votes when the polls close, which could be carried out on any other day of the week. There is absolutely no necessity  to hold the poll on a Sunday. After all, the electoral procedure in Britain seems to have survived quite well holding elections on Thursdays.


For the Euro-elections, the EU magnanimously granted Britain the right to hold the vote on Thursday, while most of the other EU countries held the election on the following Sunday. The Euro-elections are, in principle, a Sabbath-breaking activity. The British votes were kept in boxes and guarded until the polls closed in the other EU countries on the Sunday evening – and then counting began on Sunday.


A Christian, who takes the creation ordinance of a day of rest seriously, is politically disenfranchised in any country where Sunday is considered the natural day for political voting. This seems to be the situation in most EU countries. This makes BREXIT look like a very good idea, from a Christian point of view.

Job: Sermon 10: Part 4

When Job’s friends rent their garments, cast themselves on the ground and sprinkled dust upon their heads, we note that although such ceremonies are signs of repentance, we must not think that anybody is discharged of their duty towards God through any outward sign or ceremony. Like any other ceremony, the clothing in sackcloth, the sprinkling of dust, the weeping and using such other manner of fashions that may make them seem to have nothing but lowliness and adversity within them counts as nothing in and of itself. It is only useful if it brings them to a mind where they can repent and God only has regard for the repentance. As the prophet Joel says, ‘rend your hearts and not your garments.’

Joel 2v13

Rend your heart

and not your garments.

Return to the Lord your God,

for he is gracious and compassionate,

slow to anger and abounding in love,

and he relents from sending calamity.

Joel means that it is of no purpose for men to have great store of ceremonies, or to martyr themselves in the outward sight of the world, unless their hearts are broken and turned towards repentance before God. And in what way does God require us to break our hearts? It is that we should be cast down and humbled before him, that when we perceive any signs of his wrath (especially when we already feel the blows) we should be patient, assuring ourselves that everything comes from God, for his purpose and for our own ultimate good and that we do not, when God beats us with his rod, chaff at the bridle like mules and conceive of bitterness and rage against God, even though they give the appearance of being tame. On the contrary, it behoves us to rend our hearts, as David exhorts us in the psalm, by laying our hearts open before God, so that we reveal to him everything that is in it.

Psalm 17v1 – 5

Hear, O Lord, my righteous plea;

listen to my cry.

Give ear to my prayer –

it does not rise from deceitful lips.

May my vindication come from you;

may your eyes see what is right.

Though you probe my heart and examine me at night,

though you test me, you will find nothing;

I have resolved that my mouth will not sin.

As for the deeds of men –

by the word of your lips

I have kept myself

from the ways of the violent.

My steps have held to your paths;

my feet have not slipped.

I call on you, O God, for you will answer me;

give ear to me and hear my prayer.

Show me the wonder of your great love,

you who save by your right hand

those who take refuge in you from their foes.

Keep me as the apple of your eye;

hide me in the shadow of your wings

from the wicked who assail me,

from my mortal enemies who surround me.

They close up their callous hearts,

and their mouths speak with arrogance.

They have tracked me down, they now surround me,

with eyes alert, to throw me to the ground.

They are like a lion hungry for prey,

like a great lion crouching in cover.

Rise up, O Lord, confront them, bring them down;

rescue me from the wicked by your sword.

O Lord, by your hand save me from such men,

from men of this world whose reward is in this life.

You still the hunger of those you cherish;

their sons have plenty,

and they store up wealth for their children.

And I – in righteousness shall I see your face;

when I awake, I shall be satisfied with seeing your likeness.

The prophet Joel wrote of the attitude of God; God does not have any regard for the rending of one’s garments. He only has regard to whether we have rent our hearts, for in that we come to true repentance. We show that our hearts are truly rent by confessing our sins with the intent that we turn from them and, in so doing, give glory to God.

God does not receive a person as a repentant person unless the person brings the sacrifices spoken of in Psalm 51v16,17.

Psalm 51v16,17


God requires that we have our hearts and minds so distressed and ashamed of the sins we have committed that our hearts are truly rent, when our own conscience accuses us of our sins. Repentance does not consist in ceremonies. In the Old Testament times, the ceremonies were important, because the Lord had explicitly laid them down as law, to be carried out until the resurrection of the Christ. Neglecting the ceremonies would therefore have been disobedience against an express command of God and therefore a very great wickedness. But the ceremonies were only ever a means to an end; their purpose was to put a person in mind for repentance. God has regard for our repentance; the broken spirit, the broken and contrite heart. This was always the case, also in the times when ceremonies were lawful. Without these, the ceremonies were of no value.

When it is stated that Job’s friends sat by him seven days and seven nights, it is not meant that they did not depart from that place at any time during the seven days and nights. Rather, they were his company during that time, showing their love towards him by lamenting with him and abandoning all their own pleasures. It is stated that they did not speak one word, indicating that they were very sorely troubled when they saw that God’s hand was so rigorous upon Job. For they came with the set purpose to comfort Job, and now they are dumb. They saw Job, whom they took to be a servant of God. Before they came, they had thought that there would be some way to comfort him. But now, from what they see, they believe that God has utterly forsaken him and has set marks upon Job to indicate that Job truly is a reprobate person; there is no more hope for him and therefore they have no means to comfort him. This is the cause of their astonishment. But they ought to have had an eye to God’s promises, through which he witnesses to us that when all seems lost and past hope of recovery for us, he is above all and almighty, working for the good of those who love him and is well able to remedy the situation still. Not only is he well able, he has also promised to do so.

Isaiah 40v28 – 31

Why do you say, O Jacob,

and complain, O Israel,

“My way is hidden from the Lord;

my cause is disregarded by my God?”

Do you not know?

Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God,

the creator of the ends of the earth.

He will not grow tired or weary,

and his understanding no-one can fathom.

He gives strength to the weary

and increases the power of the weak.

Even youths grow tired and weary,

and young men stumble and fall;

but those who hope in the Lord

will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;

they will run and not grow weary,

they will walk and not be faint.

Why did Job’s friends fail to understand this? By this, we see that it behoves us to pray to God to hold us in the faith that we do not arrogate ourselves above our position and that we do not judge others, particularly that we do not judge our neighbour to be past hope of recovery when we see him suffer adversity. For the devil desires nothing more than to cause us to reach such a conclusion and to put into our heads either that God has cast us off, or put it into our heads that God has cast off our neighbour, so that we may be the instrument he uses to attack the faith of our neighbour. Do you suppose that God will receive you into his mercy if you become and instrument whereby the faith of your neighbour is attacked? If we give way to such temptations, we are certainly bereft of God’s grace and all his promises. We should therefore pray to God all the more earnestly that he will strengthen us so that we beat back all the assaults and we do not become instruments of Satan, by losing all hope when we see our neighbours afflicted. Even if the affliction is very great, we have a duty to trust in God, that he will ultimately turn the affliction to our welfare; that he always turns afflictions to the service of his faithful.

Prayer Let us fall down in the presence of our good God, acknowledging our sins, praying to God to make us feel them so that we may always be prepared to endure the chastising that he sends upon us. We pray that we will always be ready to condemn our sins and iniquities and crave pardon for them and confess that we are guilty before God in thought, word and deed. We pray that we may not cease to call upon our good God, we pray that by his grace we may come to him in true repentance and to assure ourselves that when we do, his mercy shall never be denied to us. We pray that, by his grace, our only desire will be to be subject to his good will, and to walk in his fear and obedience all the time of our life. We pray that it may please him to grant this not only to us, but also to all the people of the earth.

Job: Sermon 10: Part 3

It is stated that Job’s friends came to comfort him, to draw him out of his misery and to have compassion on him. If a person endures adversity and others come to serve that person and do what they can, but they have no compassion, all their work will simply serve to double the grief. If they are pastors who prove the suitability of their calling by inadvertently seeing the world through a dark pair of eyes, thus creating a world in which they have a superiority given to them by God to look after all these people who are in such need, then they will simply double the grief. There are people who are so pious that they are a pain in the neck and would not commend Christ to anybody. The only logical outcome of their intervention is that a person concludes ‘if that is Christianity, then I’ll have none of it’. And they would be right if that indeed were Christianity.

But if the person senses that those who have come have a regard for the misery as if it was their own misery, and they do not presume to gainsay God; they do not assume that the affliction is punishment for some grievous fault, then their work may be of some comfort. This is the true trial of love.

Job’s friends, however ill they may have carried it out, came with good purpose. They did not come simply to weep and to feel some part of the misery, but they came also with the intent of comforting Job, but they failed in their errand. They failed, because they did not look for the means to comfort Job that would have been agreeable to him. This is the mark that they should have shot at. They did not do so and, on the contrary, became as men amazed. How did that happen? Doubtless, they did not find anything to be offended at in the person of Job. Nevertheless, when they saw the extremity of Job’s affliction, they fell to the error of assuming ‘there’s always water where the turkey drowns’ and concluded that God would not have handled Job so sharply unless he really had been a castaway. And so they took such a conceit by reason of the excessive miseries in which they saw Job that they lost their direction in comforting him.

David also found himself afflicted, just like Job. He endured great adversities, as if he had been forsaken by God. David says of his ‘friends’ when they visited him, ‘Whenever one comes to see me, he speaks falsely, while his heart gathers slander; then he goes out and spreads it abroad.’ Sadly, this sounds like the typical attitude that one should expect of those who have been trained in the pastorate by the standard evangelical and other theological seminaries, with the one difference; after having gathered the slander in their heart, they do not go out and ‘spread it abroad’, but rather, they believe that it is part of their calling to be able to ‘keep a secret’. They store up their own superiority in their own hearts. Except, that they do not really ‘keep a secret’ at all. Having been told in their lectures that it is the mark of a pastor to be able to ‘keep a secret’, they become a breed apart from those whom they imagine that they are serving. Then they disclose all these secrets during meetings with other pastors at dismal group seminars entitled ‘How to deal with problem people’. The title indicates exactly what they think of those whom they are serving. The effect, of course, is to create the pastorate as a breed apart, who are therefore incapable of sharing in a grief and making it their own.

Scripture indeed states

Proverbs 11v13

A gossip betrays a confidence,

but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.

and trustworthiness is indeed a necessary virtue for a Christian. But one has to ask oneself what information is supposed to come the way of a pastor in his role as a pastor, that he is obliged to keep a secret. If one listens to their discussions about ‘how to deal with problem people’, and one understands that these are ‘problem people’ within their congregations, and that the problems have nothing to do with points of theology, but rather with their own personal lives, one understands what they consider the job of the pastor to be. It becomes completely clear that whatever they are training their church men to deal with, it is not with Christian communities who are interested in hearing the Word of God. After some consideration the full extent of the evil becomes completely clear.

David, writing about his own adversity and his false friends writes in psalm 41,

Psalm 41

Blessed is he who has regard for the afflicted;

the Lord delivers him in time of trouble.

The Lord will protect him and preserve his life;

he will bless him in the land

and not surrender him to the desire of his foes.

The Lord will sustain him on his sick – bed

and restore him from the bed of his illness.

I said, “O Lord, have mercy on me:

heal me, for I have sinned against you.”

My enemies say of me in malice,

“When will he die and his name perish?”

Whenever one comes to see me,

he speaks falsely while his heart gathers slander;

then he goes out and spreads it abroad.

All my enemies whisper together against me;

they imagine the worst for me, saying,

“A vile disease has beset him;

he will never get up from the place where he lies.”

Even my close friend, whom I trusted,

he who shared my bread,

has lifted up his heel against me.

But you, O Lord, have mercy on me;

raise me up, that I may repay them.

I know that you are pleased with me,

for my enemy does not triumph over me.

In my integrity, you uphold me

and set me in your presence for ever.

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,

from everlasting to everlasting.

Amen and Amen.

David endured great adversity, in such a way that it looked as if he had been forsaken of God. But while people condemned David under the colour that God was persecuting him, David says ‘Blessed is he who has regard for the weak.’ From this, we see that if we see anybody in anguish as a result of hard adversities, God requires above all that we should not take such conceit as to say, ‘He is forsaken by God; God shows full well that he has purposed to cut him off. There is no hope for him. Behold, he is past recovery.’ We must have the wit to understand that God lays adversity on people for a number of reasons; God’s name is glorified when the patience of the faithful, which was before present but hidden, is demonstrated. Their patience is shown forth when they endure to the end the trials that God sends.

When we see that exactly the same trials befall both God’s faithful and also the castaways who will perish in their rebellion, we should understand that it is not for us to judge the matter. When God scourges people, although we do not perceive the cause, yet it becomes us to consider that God is righteous. We see, then, that afflictions hold for God’s children and also for the castaways; those who will not see eternal life. It is not for us to judge, except that God has told us that, ultimately, all things work to the good of those who love God. If we see that somebody is afflicted, we ought to acknowledge the hand of God and say, ‘Alas, I deserve as much, or more.’ Let us then advise ourselves to conclude, ‘Very well, I see this person is handled roughly. It is not for me to pass judgement on his sins before God. There is no difference. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God; the wages of sin is death. We do not know what God will do with this person, but we do know that all things work to the good of those who love God.’ Behold the wisdom that David exhorts us to; we should wait. In fact, we are not guaranteed to see until the next life God’s deliverance of those whom he persecutes with his own hand. So let us learn to be fenced against all stumbling blocks that may come our way and let us not permit our imagination to deceive us. If we have a desire and zeal to be of comfort to our neighbours, we must desire that we are provided with wisdom from God that we may understand our own limitations so that we do not overshoot ourselves and that we may be possessed of the loving kindness to do good.

It must not be considered strange that Job’s friends were so astonished, considering the plight in which they found Job, for he was utterly disfigured, so much so that they could not recognise him at first sight, as the text states. Undoubtedly, they had such an affection for him rooted in their hearts that when they saw him so miserable, yet they could not cease to show that they loved him still. It is therefore stated ‘They lifted up their voices and wept.’ These tears were not counterfeit; they sprang from a genuine affection for Job.

Next, it is stated, ‘They tore their garments and cast dust upon their heads and cast themselves on the ground. They remained seven days and seven nights without speaking any word.’ We now see not only the compassion that they had, but also that they intended to humble themselves with Job, as if to make intercession to God that God may have pity on Job. For when in old times men cast dust upon their heads, it was a token of humility and an acknowledgement of their own sins. It put them in mind of their own sinfulness and to think of what they have forgotten; it put them in mind to recognise that by rights they are nothing but rottenness before God. Men of old times used such a ceremony to yield themselves before God, acknowledging their sins and sinful nature as though they had been wretched offenders. God requires at the hands of offenders that they should acknowledge their faults, crave pardon, yield themselves guilty before God and return to him with true repentance. Job had good occasion to do so and his friends also could not show their friendship if they did not do likewise, for we are bound to take upon ourselves the person of our neighbours, if we are to ask forgiveness on their behalf. The greatest relief that we can give to those who are in distress is to pray to God that he will look after them and remember his promise that all thing work to the good of those who love him. But our prayers can only bring comfort to those in adversity if we humble ourselves before God and consider the affliction as if it was our own.

David protests that he even prayed for his enemies. When he saw them running to their destruction, he was sorry for them in his heart and shed bitter tears and sighs for them.

Psalm 35v11-18

Ruthless witnesses come forward;

they question me on things I know nothing about.

They repay me evil for good

and leave my soul forlorn.

Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth

and humbled myself with fasting.

When my prayers returned to me unanswered,

I went about mourning

as though for my friend or brother.

I bowed my head in grief

as though weeping for my mother.

But when I stumbled, they gathered in glee;

attackers gathered against me when I was unaware.

They slandered me without ceasing.

Like the ungodly they maliciously mocked;

they gnashed their teeth at me.

O Lord, how long will you look on?

Rescue my life from their ravages,

my precious life from these lions.

If David did this even for his enemies that persecuted him, why should we not do this for those who profess to be the children of God and who live according to their profession? Certainly, we ought to follow David in praying for our enemies. For unless we do this, Christ will not allow us to be his disciples. By a similar token, we are guilty of very great sin if we do not have care for those in whom we perceive some sign of godliness and desire to obey God, even if they do not hold entirely to the same doctrines as our own.

Job: Sermon 10: Part 2: Job’s Friends

Job 2v11 When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathise with him and comfort him.

We now turn to Job’s friends, who came to comfort him. The men went with the intention of comforting Job. God sent men who had pity upon Job and gave all appearance of having the skill and wisdom to comfort him. By their discourses, we see that they were exquisite persons. And so we might suppose that in sending these men, God was stretching out his hand to Job, to deliver him from the miseries that he had sent. But we see that this visit, by his friends, was intended to increase his misery and to plunge Job to the bottom of endless waves. From this, we should conclude that if at any time we have hope that we will be drawn out of our afflictions, we must not think it strange if the matter does not fall out as we conceived it. For we see how Job was disappointed of any hope that he may have had when he saw his friends approaching. We see how they became as devils to torment him more than he had ever been tormented before.

Of particular note here is that their mind was to comfort Job. They came with good, sincere motives and they did not intend to be the instruments of further torture. They did not come with the intention of mocking Job, although that is what they ended up doing. Perhaps they brought no malicious purpose, nor wicked intent with them. Rather, they possessed true good will and love towards him; it is stated clearly and plainly that they intended to have compassion upon him, but as all people know from their own experience, our own ego blinds us to our own faults and these men suffered from the psychological problems associated with ‘magnanimous men’.

We see the purpose of their visit and we see that nevertheless, Job had his affliction grievously increased by their visit.

We now look at this from the other side, from the point of view of those who came to visit Job, for it yields invaluable lessons concerning the application of pastoral care. Let us take warning from this example. Although we may be well minded towards our neighbours and desirous to comfort them in their miseries, yet God must guide us, or else our good intent will avail us nothing. In fact, when we see a fellow Christian afflicted by God, it behoves us to understand that our finite minds are invariably incapable of understanding either the state of mind of the individual in question, or why God is so working with this individual. We only know that God’s judgement is perfect and that ultimately ‘all things work to the good of those who love God’ (Romans 8v28). We must not allow ourselves to fall into the grievous sin of imagining that we understand something of amateur, or professional, psychology and start making judgements based on this; we must guard ourselves against the grievous sin of assuming “there’s always water where the turkey drowns”.

Job’s ‘friends’ made the cardinal error of making precisely this assumption; ‘there’s always water where the turkey drowns.’ Namely, since Job is suffering extremity, they assume that therefore he must have offended God in some way and therefore, he deserves what is coming to him. But the discourse between God and Satan demonstrates that the clean contrary is the case. Since Job was minding his own business, giving the outward appearance of leading a quiet godly life, they conclude that therefore it was his attitude towards God that was sinful and that God is displeased with his inward heart. They conclude that his current sufferings are proof of God’s displeasure at some part of Job’s sinful nature.

This underlying assumption is the characteristic error of many who train for the Christian pastorate. The students are taught how privileged they are to be entering the pastorate and emphasis is made on the superiority of the call to the pastorate over any other vocation. Then, in order to emphasise their own goodness and suitability for their calling, the teachers and principles will ascribe such slanderous motives to others in order to assert their own spiritual superiority and, by this, to prove that their own calling was genuine and that the world has special need of them. They  arrogate themselves above scripture when they play the ‘amateur psychologist’ act to produce a positive assessment of candidates whom they believe to be truly exquisite examples of God’s calling. They prove that their own calling was genuine by the remarkable abilities that the good Lord has given them to judge such issues. The devastating negative assessments that they make prove to them that their flock is in such great need of them, through the slander and character assassination (all carried out under exquisite words, with the very best of Christian intentions) of those whom they imagine to be the flock that God has entrusted to them.

When we see our neighbours in any danger or necessity, it behoves us to have compassion on them. It also behoves us, as Christians, to offer any assistance that we can, which will be of value to them. But here we ought to take great care, so that we do not fall into the trap of proceeding in a way that is guaranteed to do more harm than good; we ought to beseech God for the grace not only to be compassionate towards our neighbours, but also for the spirit of wisdom. If we attempt to show compassion while lacking wisdom, it is guaranteed that Satan will make the most of the opportunity and use our intervention to compound and increase the misery. He will make the most of our intervention as an instrument to drive the victim to despair.

There are many zealous persons, very earnest and desirous to show themselves charitable towards their neighbours, who only succeed in bringing a new torment to some poor creature who is already afflicted. We may note that Job’s friends were men of intellect and sincerity, as their speech shows. If we want to be of real assistance to somebody under extremity, it behoves us to take serious consideration of the words of the apostle Paul,

1 Thessalonians 4v11 Make it your ambition to ….. mind your own business.

This verse is particularly appropriate, because human nature proves how easy it is to fall into the very wicked sin of assuming ‘there’s always water where the turkey drowns’, or framing the situation that someone else finds themselves to one’s own limited and inaccurate understanding. It also appears to be human nature to fall into the sin of believing that God has worked miraculously so that, by the grace of God, one is truly gifted at offering pastoral care.

Most importantly, the Holy Scripture is quite clear that when a fellow Christian is suffering extremity, God Almighty himself has already equipped the believer to deal with it.

1 John 2v27 As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you and you do not need anyone to teach you.


1 John 4v4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

Of course, to consolidate their own position as super-apostles, they are so wise that they are able to shrug off 1 John 2v27 with the trite and arrogant remark ‘after all, John himself is teaching when he writes this’. This seems to be the standard line taken on this verse, in commentaries used by theological colleges, in order to dismiss anything that may be inconvenient for their line on training for the pastorate. Having castrated the Holy Scripture of its power and rendered it impotent, they then proceed with all the arrogance of people who believe that they have been given the gifts of a super-apostle.

1 Corinthians 4v8-10 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have become kings – and that without us! How I wish that you really had become kings, so that we might be kings with you! For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of a procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to all men. We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honoured, but we are dishonoured!

The ‘wisdom’ of these super apostles, described by Paul, very often manifests itself in the following way. Those super-Christians, the magnanimous men who have been especially endowed with marvellous insights to read the characters of others, demonstrate their remarkable savvy when their vicious imagination devises an utterly poisoned explanation of events that have taken place, which bears no relation to reality. The ‘wisdom’ of Job’s friends is a good illustration of this. The community, in front of whom the super-apostles are performing, then deem them to have the most marvellous insight and shrewdness. This reputation for insight and shrewdness continues even after the slander and character assassination on a particular occasion is proved to be just that; this occasion is considered to be the exception, where events did not turn out in the normal way. On the rare occasion that the wise, magnanimous man is proved right in his pronouncement, this is taken as the occasion that proves the point. This is the occasion that is remembered; the manifold other occasions where the dark pair of eyes simply produced an unjustified slander and character assassination are simply forgotten.

Of course, the magnanimous man who so arrogantly overshoots himself in this way is acting in all sincerity and fails to see that he is overshooting himself. He will be the first to accept that he is sinful and that, by the grace of God his sin has been dealt with at Calvary, but for him this is only a theoretical consideration. He does not own to any specific sins. His own ego blinds him to any manifestation of his own sinful nature. He sees those around him through a dark pair of eyes, for which he is warmly commended as a wise and shrewd man, and thus elevates himself, gaining the moral superiority over those around in his own mind and in the minds of those around him.

People may hold to their own moral superiority without expressing it. They take seriously the exhortations to bridle the tongue, but fail to understand that this is supposed to be a means to bridling the whole being and conforming it to godliness. One occasionally encounters ‘Christians’ who take their faith very seriously and have even underlined important verses in their bibles, such as Ecclesiastes 4v2 ‘God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few’ which indicate their own moral direction. They do indeed let their words be few, but when they do utter anything, it is so full of poisoned judgements that one wishes that they had let their words be even fewer.

We see in the discourses that follow that there was something of this in Job’s friends. They were clearly wise and eloquent men. They came with the best of intentions. Yet, they exhibited all the faults that those who are trained for the pastorate at an evangelical theological college are trained to have.

By the grace of God, we ought to learn to understand our own limits and not to go beyond them. If we encounter anybody who is afflicted, we bridle ourselves so that we do not add to the anguish.

Most importantly, we should pray that God not only gives us wisdom, but that he also put a loving kindness in us, if we are to be of any comfort at all. As the apostle Paul states,

1 Corinthians 13v7 Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always preserves.

Note that love always trusts, so the assumption that ‘there’s always water where the turkey drowns’, which is characteristic of the three friends who visited Job, indicates that there is no real Christian love present within them, although they give all the outward appearance of being Job’s loving friends.

We should note, from the remarkable discourses that follow, that those who come to comfort Job are no ordinary men. They are men of remarkable intellect, as their discourses, and the eloquence with which they delivered them, show. They are well advised on all points. Yet they proceed in such a way that there is no respite in them; they appear to beat Job relentlessly down into hell. And why is it so? God intended to show us how there is neither wisdom nor discretion in the mind of a person, nor any rule or measure in him, except that God himself gives it. Furthermore, even when we may believe that we are exercising true, Christian compassion and kindness, and we may even have a diploma or degree from a leading theological seminary to prove it, nevertheless, we may still be suffering from the powerful delusion spoken of by the apostle Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2v11, exalting ourselves in arrogance above the position in which God has placed us. We may have a false understanding of the gifts we believe God has given us. We may have failed to understand the missions of Christian charity that the Lord has sent us on.

Let us be assured, then, that unless we are governed by God, we shall be of no comfort to those who are afflicted. For if Job’s friends, who were such excellent men, did overshoot themselves, how much more likely is it that our own efforts be utterly dismal, if we do not submit entirely to the will of God and earnestly pray for the loving kindness that the apostle Paul writes of.

It is said that ‘they took counsel to have compassion on him and to comfort him’. This shows us the duty of those who see themselves as the friends and neighbours of those who endure adversity. What does this entail? First and foremost, it requires a wisdom that can only be given by God, to let us see whether or not any comfort that we may try to bring may be of value. Secondly, although we may employ ourselves to the uttermost to be of use to those in need, yet it shall amount to nothing if we do not have the heart to be as they are and to join ourselves with them as though their grief was our grief. We may give all our material goods to the poor, and yet if we have not love, it is nothing, as the apostle Paul states.

1 Corinthians 13v3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

In so saying, the apostle Paul shows that we may well do many fair things, but these will nevertheless be but vanity, unless they are guided by love.

Job: Sermon 10: Part 1

Job 2v10-13

Job  replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”
    In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.
    When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shubite and Zophar the Naamathite heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathise with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognise him; they began to weep aloud and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust upon their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No-one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.

The sentence ‘We have received good at the Lord’s hand; why should we not also receive evil?’ serves to show that people are indeed ungrateful if they do not acknowledge that they are so indebted to God for all his goodness towards them that they ought not to refuse any manner of affliction when God lifts up his hand to exercise them. By saying ‘we received good at the Lord’s hand’, Job does not mean to comfort his wife by suggesting that since God had extended great good towards Job in the past, that therefore they could expect  God to extend similar goodness in the future. The meaning is quite clear; we should be prepared to accept whatever our Lord has in store for us, whether ease or trial. When Job calls to remembrance all the good that he has received from God, he takes it as an indicator that he is under God’s fatherly protection and that he should therefore be bound to continue patiently as one of God’s faithful throughout all adversity.

Here we ought to gather a good and profitable lesson. As long as adversities oppress us, we must acknowledge that God has shown himself to be such a good father towards us in so many ways that we should not think it strange if he afflicts us at times, nor should we be provoked and moved to grudge against him. Here it is clear that Job was able to draw comfort from a whole experience of God’s fatherly protection towards him during better times. He is able to conclude from the past that whatever trials he may be subject to now, God’s love and grace towards him will never fail. We could not endure trials patiently if we did not believe that God’s grace towards us in times past indicated that we were indeed continually under his fatherly protection and that therefore his grace and goodness towards us would also apply to the future. We must be well assured of the eternal goodness and love that God has for us and we must trust continually to his grace, not doubting that he will continue to love us, particularly when he deals roughly with us. Job calls to mind the benefits that he has received from God and he knows that God has not changed his purpose or his nature. God has not ceased to be good and righteous, even though he has afflicted Job. When we have this consideration within us, we see how our grief should be assuaged during times of trial.

Here we see a principal point. Although God may seem to be bent against us, yet considering how we have found him so good and that he makes us to feel his love towards us in so many ways, we should not doubt that he will continue in his love towards us even to the end. It is for this reason that scripture adds ‘In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.’
It was not only in what he said that Job did not sin; he was not a hypocrite. He did not glorify God with his mouth while yet his heart and mind were to the contrary. Why does Scripture add ‘in what he said’? Here Scripture intends to show Job’s remarkable self control. It is true that we sometimes conceive of evil imaginations and yet, by the grace of God, we bridle our tongues so that we do not give utterance to blasphemies. In the midst of our temptations, God gives us the grace to resist them to the extent that we do not come to the extremity of blaspheming him openly. We may still be worthy of blame for conceiving blasphemous thoughts, but the fact that we are able to bridle our tongues illustrates that ultimately we still hold God in awe and reverence and that we patiently hold onto our faith in him. Therefore, the sentence may well be taken in the following way: Even though Job was sorely provoked to evil, yet he resisted. The evil did not overcome him. Rather, he maintained his battle steadfastly.

Nevertheless, when we consider things thoroughly, there is no doubt that Job is set before us as a man who was perfect in his patience. To understand the passage more clearly, let us remark how James says that he who does not sin with his tongue is perfect above all men.

James 3v2 We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.

We see that people are often overly swift to speak. Now and then, something is spoken before it is properly conceived. A person who is able to hold themselves so that no word slips from them before it is well considered shows that they have been endued with a singular grace. Thus we see what we have to note about Job here. When Scripture states that his words are so well ordered, it is not far off from stating that he is prefect in his patience towards God. While other people are light of speech, unable to rule their tongues, Job humbles himself before God. Here we are taught to call upon God to grant us the grace that we may never cast forth any words that may tend towards the dishonour of his holy name, for we know that the tongue ought to be dedicated chiefly towards the honour of God. We ought to apply ourselves entirely to this purpose. Since God is our creator, it is good and rational that we should employ our entire being to his glory. Specifically, he desires that our tongues are instruments to glorify him and, as James points out, the tongue is a very good indicator of the entire being. If we apply our tongues to the contrary, we show that our entire nature is perverted. It is indeed very difficult to keep ourselves from the vice of loose speaking and intemperate language, but if once we allow ourselves to be given to it, we find it almost impossibly difficult to withhold ourselves from it. Therefore, we have such greater need to call upon God that he may govern us in such a way that we do not utter one word that is not to his honour. Furthermore, if from time to time we conceive of some evil imagination (it is not possible to avoid this, considering our great frailty and how Satan is stalking like a lion looking for any opportunity to devour us), we must ask forgiveness from God. It behoves us to fight valiantly to bridle our tongues and to prevent Satan from getting a foothold. We must be sharp to condemn any vice within ourselves that Satan may use to his own advantage.

Here we may consider a grievous error that some seem to hold to. They claim that if a person falls into doubt about whether or not there is a God, or doubts whether or not God is righteous, or if a person conceive horrible and outrageous blasphemies within their head, it is no sin at all, provided it is not uttered with the mouth. If a person is tempted to rob or to murder a neighbour, or to commit adultery, it is held by some that this is no sin if the temptation is not acted upon or the thoughts are not uttered.

Evil thoughts within our minds are expressions of our sinful nature, even if they take place only within our own minds and we do not give expression to them. They illustrate why, by nature, we stand condemned. They illustrate why Christ had to die a horrific death, being crucified and being forsaken by God, which was, by rights, the reasonable punishment that each and every one of us deserved for our own personal rebellion against God. By the crucifixion, the believer knows that Christ was punished in his place, for his own personal sins. By the resurrection, the believer knows that Christ conquered death on his behalf; God could not forsake Christ any longer. Everyone who trusts in Christ is saved by the grace of God, through their faith. But God never grants a person saving faith without also giving the Holy Spirit which works towards the renewing of the mind. The renewal of the mind is an ongoing process, which is never completed in this life.

All evil thoughts within our minds are expressions of our basic sinful nature. A person stands condemned for his sin if he has not trusted in Christ as his personal saviour, that Christ stood in his place in the crucifixion and that in Christ’s resurrection he sees his own resurrection.

It is therefore a very grievous error to make light of any sin at all and describe it as merely ‘venial’, as if there is any sin that is not so serious that by rights it leads to death. ‘For all have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God.’ (Romans 3v23) ‘The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, through Christ Jesus.’ (Romans 6v23) Any particular sin is expression of the ultimate sin; our enmity with God, which is our natural state, until God drags us from the very depths of hell, even while we are rebelling against him, and places us in heaven.

Ephesians 2v1-10 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no-one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared us in advance for us to do.

Even though our victory over the sinful nature is assured and guaranteed, and Satan has already been defeated within us, yet he has not accepted his defeat, he is still very much active and capable of grievous skirmishes. Any sin that we perpetrate demonstrates a victory for Satan in one of these skirmishes and shows that the remains of our old sinful nature which is at enmity with God, is still active, although it has been defeated.

John 3v16 – 18 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

Therefore, if we doubt, then we do not believe and we are condemned already before God. If trials and afflictions succeed in making a person lose their faith entirely, then it shows that they never belonged to the number of the faithful in the first place.

1 John 18-20 Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.

Therefore, let us not doubt that God has mercy on us, that he will hold us up in our infirmities and that by the grace of the Holy Spirit we will shake off all such things. We pray that we will not put any wicked imaginations that we conceive of in our minds into practise.

Job: Sermon 9: Part 3: The Rebuke

Here we have to consider thoroughly what is said of Job, for it is a common instruction to all the faithful. We see that the words spoken by the wife of Job are the common currency of the world. The standard question of those who are too arrogant to accept their own sinfulness, measured by God’s reasonable Holy standard, is ‘How can a God of love permit such suffering in the world?’ Such a question only ever springs from the lips of arrogant godless people; it is invariably a concrete proof that the person who utters the question is at enmity with God and God’s faithful. The question imports exactly the same as the words of Job’s wife. She is essentially stating that a God who permits you to suffer cannot have you under his fatherly protection and, indeed, has forsaken you. He is not a God of love, at least as far as you are concerned. Such speaking is the ordinary custom of the world. People are not at all ashamed to confess their own unbelief. Furthermore, Job’s wife uttered words that are very similar to the standard manner of speaking that is typical and characteristic of arrogant God haters. This gives a clear statement of where her heart lay.

Let us mark that since Job was tempted and provoked even by his own wife, we should conclude that Satan will have a store of people close to us to undermine us and lead us into temptation. We should therefore be armed and fenced to resist the temptations from Satan, even from those closest to us, whom we trust most.

Trouble often lies within ourselves. We see how even David confessed of himself that he stood upon ice and thought that he should have fled when he entered into discourse with himself and saw how the wicked were so well treated and glutted themselves with the pleasures of this world and did not pine as the good people do. On the contrary, the poor faithful ones drink the water of sorrow and God does not cease to afflict them. He concludes, ‘I have endeavoured to have clean and pure hands. Is it any better than lost time? Is it not an unprofitable labour?’ David confesses that he was encumbered by such temptation, but he was not overthrown by it. It came before him and he steadfastly resisted it. So then, let us mark that when the devil brings such flames to set us on fire against God for our afflictions, we must not give ear to him, lest he entrap us. The Psalm of David gives us the inspiration to resist such encounters.

Psalm 73

Surely God is good to Israel,

to those who are pure in heart.

But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;

I had nearly lost my foothold.

For I envied the arrogant

when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

They have no struggles;

their bodies are healthy and strong.

They are free from the burdens common to man;

they are not plagued by human ills.

Therefore pride is their necklace;

they clothe themselves with violence.

From their callous hearts comes iniquity;

the evil conceits of their minds know no limits.

They scoff and speak with malice;

in their arrogance they threaten oppression.

Their mouths lay claim to heaven,

and their tongues take possession of the earth.

Therefore their people turn to them

and drink up waters in abundance.

They say, “How can God know?

Does the Most High have knowledge?”

This is what the wicked are like –

always carefree, they increase in wealth.

Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure;

in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.

All day long I have been plagued;

I have been punished every morning.

If I had said, “I will speak thus,”

I would have betrayed your children.

When I tried to understand all this,

it was oppressive to me

until I entered the sanctuary of God;

then I understood finally their destiny.

Surely you place them on slippery ground;

you cast them down to ruin.

How suddenly are they destroyed,

completely swept away by terrors!

As a dream when one awakes,

so when you arise, O Lord,

you will despise them as fantasies.

When my heart was grieved

and my spirit was embittered,

I was senseless and ignorant;

I was a brute beast before you.

Yet I am always with you;

you hold me by my right hand.

You guide me with your counsel,

and afterwards you will take me into glory.

Whom have I in heaven but you?

And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail,

but God is the strength of my heart

and my portion for ever.

Those who are far from you will perish;

you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.

But as for me, it is good to be near God.

I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;

I will tell of all your deeds.

When one sees all things so confounded, so that it appears that all order is turned upside down and that God favours the wicked and hates the godly, or rather that Fortune carries all the sway and that God is asleep in heaven and no longer governs the earth here below, yet we should always be assured of this; ultimately the righteous shall reap the fruit of their labours. It is true that there cannot be a worse temptation than to believe that we lose our labour when we serve God, in praying to him and in holding ourselves under him. It behoves us to be fully persuaded that God will in no way disappoint those who honour and serve him. If we do not hold to this, it is impossible that we should have the least desire to give ourselves unto God. If we imagine that God turns his back on us and makes sport with us, that it is a game to him to see us in turmoil, or that he shuts his eyes and that it is but lost time to walk in all carefulness, then who among us would be able to bend himself to serve God? It therefore behoves those who serve God to be fully resolved that God rewards those who fear him. We see that the worst and deadliest trump that Satan can put in our way is when he bears us in hand to convince us that we only waste time and effort when we pray to God and seek refuge in him. So much the more must we be watchful against such temptations, as they are wicked and dangerous. Note that the devil even used Job’s wife. Therefore, we must even be fenced against the greatest friends that we have; ultimately, we cannot be sure of wife, or neighbour or the person whom we trust best. Satan, our mortal enemy, is wily and spies out the best territory from which to attack us. The easiest entrance he has is by the love that a husband and wife have for each other. Satan sees well enough that we are more inclined to give way to those whom we trust most and he labours all the more earnestly to press those closest to us into his service. It therefore behoves a husband to pray particularly that his wife should be under the protection of God and numbered among the faithful and that she should not fall to being the instrument of Satan. It behoves a wife that she should pray the same of her husband. Moreover, when God has given us friends and acquaintances, it behoves us to pray to him that they may serve to his honour so that we may each further the way of the others to salvation and that we should not entice each other to wickedness, either willingly or inadvertently. The bonds of love and friendship are sweet when we see that God dwells within our friends and loved ones and that he uses them as if they were his own hands to guide us to him. But if a friend, or kinsman, or husband or wife go about to drive us to despair, then we know, as the apostle John tells us in his first letter, that they are antichrists, who never belonged to the number of the faithful in the first place. Out of all peradventure, we must renounce them, because God must be preferred and all our friendships must begin at him and level at him as their true mark. Job sets the example when he says,

Job 2v10 Job replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept the good from God, and not trouble?”

The word ‘foolish’ in Scripture denotes godlessness.

Psalm 53v1-3

The fool says in his heart,

“There is no God.”

They are corrupt and their ways are vile;

there is no-one who does good.

God looks down from heaven

on the sons of men

to see if there are any who understand,

any who seek God.

Everyone has turned away,

they have together become corrupt;

there is no-one who does good,

not even one.

When Job states to his wife that she has spoken foolishly, he is using one of the strongest pejorative terms that scripture has to offer. By his response, we are shown that we must reprove such blasphemies sharply, for they are, in fact, spewed directly out of the mouth of Satan. If we see a sword drawn against us, or an arrow cast at us to wound us to death, what would we do? Would we allow ourselves to be slain without making moves to avoid the sword or arrow? No, but we would take heed to parry the blow, or to avoid it, if we set any store by our life. In the same way, when Job saw himself so persecuted even by his own wife, and that she went about to harm him not only in his body, but also to send him into the deep pit of hell, he resisted her stoutly. Not only that, but even if Job was so fenced in his faith that the wicked words his wife spewed out against him would surely fall wide of their intended target, it does not behove a servant of God to sit back in silence when God is blasphemed. We see then the courage we ought to apply when we proceed in such cases and how there is no time for sweet parley with Satan. When faced with such wicked blasphemy against God, we should not proceed as if it were a matter of minor consequence.

If somebody upbraids us, claiming that it is vain to trust in God and accuses God of dealing wrongly with his servants and mocking them, and especially if God is accused of injustice, then all that is proper to God is taken from him. He shall no longer be God. If God is no longer regarded as judge of the world, ready to hear those who resort to him, if he is bereft of such virtues, then his glory and his Godhead and his very being are quite abolished. So then Job could not bear with such blasphemies. As it is stated in the psalm, zeal of God’s house ought to bite our hearts and consume us. The reproach that people offer to God ought to rebound on us, for it behoves us to be grieved when we see the honour of God impeached. As David writes in the sixty ninth psalm,

Psalm 69v6-12

May those who hope in you

not be disgraced because of me,

O Lord, the Lord Almighty;

may those who seek you

not be put to shame because of me,

O God of Israel.

For I endure scorn for your sake,

and shame covers my face.

I am a stranger to my brothers,

an alien to my mother’s sons;

for zeal for your house consumes me,

and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.

When I weep and fast,

I must endure scorn;

when I put on sackcloth,

people make sport of me.

Those who sit at the gate mock me,

and I am the song of drunkards.

If we are God’s children, it becomes us to set ourselves against those who mock God. Thus we note that Job rebukes his wife stoutly when he says ‘you have spoken like a fool.’ This is the answer that ought to be made against all such assaults against God, no matter where they come from, or from where they are sent.

Above all, we should learn from Job how to deal with our own grief when God is under attack through us. We do not remain silent, as if blasphemy against God were a light thing. But we must also guard against the excesses to which we are tempted as a result of our righteous anger. While Job has a duty before God to rebuke his wife soundly, we go beyond our bounds if we think of the person who blasphemed God as someone without hope. What God has determined concerning a person is beyond our knowing and it is no less godly than humane to wish, hope and pray for the best for them, no matter how much they may be defiantly fighting against God at the present time. The difficult temptation here is not so much the temptation to renounce one’s faith; God fences us in so that ultimately this will not happen. But who, when someone whom we loved and trusted turns against God with such blasphemies can heed God’s instructions, as written by apostle Paul in the twelfth of Romans?

Romans 12v14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

Romans 12v17-21 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written “It is mine to avenge; I will repay” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him:

if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap burning coals upon his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

This is the teaching of Solomon, from Proverbs 25v21,22.

Paul not only instructs, he also sets the example in his own life and work. As he writes in the fourth of his first epistle to the Corinthians,

1 Corinthians 4v12,13 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.

We are called upon to keep control of our reason and to bless those who persecute us. When enemies of God practise the evil of Satan against us, we are fain to be so carried away with the desire for vengeance that we find that we do not have a worse enemy than ourselves. That is, we discover that we have such an ungracious nature and that the wicked affections that we conceive within ourselves are an even greater enemy against our welfare than the servant that Satan sent to practise against us. Therefore, when such enemies come, let us learn from Job that we should withstand them stoutly without losing control of ourselves. We must not lose control and then flatter ourselves with such excuses as that it is but our nature and that we cannot amend it. Such excuses shall stand us in no stead. We must enter into combat and when we do so we must employ all our wit and endeavour, or else we shall be defeated, one way or another.

When Job adds, ‘seeing we have received good of the Lord, why should we not also receive evil?’ he sets down a natural argument to induce us to bear patiently the evil and adversities that God sends us. A child, having been nourished and sustained by his parents will bear with them through harsh treatment, knowing that ultimately the parents are trying their best to secure a proper loving upbringing and that this will, from time to time, involve a certain level of chastisement. A child is willing to bear with his father, knowing that he is his father’s child, and that his father has nourished him and sustained him, even if the father is rough towards him for a time.

If we grant this to fellow creatures, how much more ought we to grant it to our creator. We see that God does us many good turns. Are we not prepared to endure any evil at his hand when it pleases him? Ought he not to have such superiority over us that he may afflict us when he deems that it is for the good of his eternal purpose? This consideration ought to make us bow before him and hold us in quiet. That is the argument that Job makes here. Previously, he had given another reason, ‘The Lord has given, the Lord has taken away.’ By this, he meant that when God gives us goods, it is not as if he appropriates them to us and gives us sovereignty over them. Rather, he lets us have the use of them for a time; he lets us have them on condition that we should be ready at all hours to return them when he requires. He now adds ‘We receive goods at the Lord’s hands, why then should we not also receive evil?’ Since we are bound to our God, who loves us so much that he has procured our salvation, it would be vile and unthankful if we could not find it in our hearts to suffer even the heaviest affliction for his sake.

Furthermore, we should not compare the benefits of being well regarded by God, when we endure the trials that he sends us so that his name may be glorified, with the praises that we may receive from the people around us, when we show the qualities that they esteem. When God is the creator and all else are God’s creatures, how do these compare? The majesty of God surpasses all creatures. Above all, we must mark the gracious loving care that God extends to us continually, by his own hand, particularly in times of adversity, when he sends us trials by which his good name may be glorified.

Let us be assured that when we have considered all God’s acts of love towards us, we must confess with David, in the fortieth psalm, that there is neither number nor measure of them and that we are continually bestowed with grace upon grace from God. The fortieth psalm is worth repeating in its entirety; David writes down his mind towards God during a time of extremity.

Psalm 40

I waited patiently for the Lord;

he turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit,

out of the mud and mire;

he set my feet on a rock

and gave me a firm place to stand.

He put a new song in my mouth,

a hymn of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear

and put their trust in the Lord.

Blessed is the man

who makes the Lord his trust,

who does not look to the proud,

to those who turn aside to false gods.

Many, O Lord my God,

are the wonders you have done.

The things you have planned for us

no – one can recount to you;

were I to speak and tell of them,

they would be too many to declare.

Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,

but my ears you have pierced;

burnt offerings and sin offerings

you did not require.

Then I said, “Here I am, I have come –

it is written about me in the scroll.

I desire to do your will, O my God;

your law is within my heart.”

I proclaim your righteousness in the great assembly;

I do not seal my lips,

as you know, O Lord.

I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;

I speak of your faithfulness and salvation.

I do not conceal your love and your truth

from the great assembly.

Do not withhold your mercy from me, O Lord;

may your love and your truth always protect me.

For troubles without number surround me;

my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.

They are more than the hairs of my head,

and my heart fails within me.

Be pleased, O Lord, to save me;

O Lord, come quickly to help me.

May all who seek to take my life

be put into shame and confusion;

may all who desire my ruin

be turned back in disgrace.

May those who say to me “Aha! Aha!”

be appalled at their own shame.

But may all who seek you

rejoice and be glad in you;

may those who love your salvation always say,

“The Lord be exalted!”

Yet I am poor and needy;

may the Lord think of me.

You are my help and my deliverer;

O my God, do not delay.

David trusts in God implicitly and looks to God and God alone for salvation in a time of utter extremity. David acknowledges that the extremity has been brought about by God, and by God alone.

Since the graces of God are so innumerable that we cannot comprehend them by any means, why should we not also be prepared to receive willingly the adversities that God sends us? Do not God’s benefits far surpass all the afflictions that we can suffer at his hands? Let us mark well the words of Job, so that whenever God afflicts us, we may bear all things patiently, assuring ourselves that it is with good reason that we should receive the adversity at his hands which, as the apostle Paul tells us, is a necessary part of the faith, as well as the benefits.

Prayer Now let us pray to our good God that it may please him always to regard our infirmities whenever he afflicts us and that we be conformed to patience while we remain in this world. Although we are forced to pass through many thorns and diverse heart griefs and vexations of mind, yet nevertheless, our good God will so arm us with his strength that we may not quail. Even though our life is but corruptible and ruinous, he will hold us up in our feebleness, right up to the end of our earthly sojourn and until such time as he has rid us clean of the infirmities of our flesh. We thank our good God that we have recourse to the fatherly goodness that he bestows upon us and that he succours us in all our necessities. We pray that we will not doubt that he will bring us to the salvation that he has promised us, thanking him for his assurance that, having believed on him, then through him we will persist in obedience towards him and we shall not be disappointed. We thank him that through him we will stick to his promises, so that he will never fail to have his hand stretched out over us to succour us. We pray that it may please him to grant this grace not only to us, but to all people and all nations of the world.

Job: Sermon 9: Part 2: The Wife of Job

Job 2v9 His wife said to him, “Do you still continue in your singleness? Curse God and die!”

Now, Job’s wife comes to him to provoke him to despair.

The devil finds means enough to encumber us, without having to use his bellows to quicken up the fire. There is such a great sturdiness in human nature’s rebellion against God that it is pitiful to see. Instead of quietly submitting ourselves to God and to his Holy Spirit as we ought to do, we conceive wandering imaginations and there is not any of us at all who does not have a store of dotages in his brain, through which he is made drunken. We know that all the lusts of our flesh are enemies against God. So then, there is not one of us who does not overshoot himself, even when there is nobody to entice us and to provoke us against God, or to draw us into despair. In short, even though Satan may take no instruments outside our own persons to deceive us, he shall find enough within us. Our enemies are already within us, for all our wavering fancies are utter enemies to God and all our affections are armed against him to make us strive against his punishments when he sends them to us.

Therefore, a double war was waged against Job when besides the possibility of being tempted within himself, his own wife provoked him to despair. For that brought the misery in even greater measure. But God permits this to happen to his faithful ones, especially when he has determined to try them to the quick.

This did not happen to Job alone. We see it in David in the sixty ninth psalm and we see it most of all in our Lord Jesus Christ. These are two mirrors, in which God meant to represent this kind of temptation to us. One of the most grievous complaints that David made was that he was mocked for putting his trust in God. He became a laughing stock and men stuck out their tongues at him and mocked him saying, ‘See here! He boasted that he sat in God’s lap. He called God his protector, his buckler and his fortress. He bragged that he called upon God and that he resorted to God for refuge. It seemed that God would never forsake him. But look now! It has become clear how God really esteemed David!’ All the miseries that David endured were not so hard to digest, nor were their wounds so deadly, as these reproaches that the men hurled at him. And truly Satan sees how he holds us by the throat, when he has won this point at our hands. For he does not simply stand scanning where he may prick or wound us in an arm or leg, but rather, when he has won this point, he has succeeded in scoring a direct hit, right at the heart and throat. So one of his main weapons is to use wicked people to mock us as though we have trusted God in vain and as though we were disappointed of the hope that we waited for at the hand of God. We see then that our faith will go to utter ruin if for one minute we give the slightest consideration to such temptation.

Having noted what befell David, we can see that the same was accomplished in our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, it behoves the faithful to be fashioned like him and to fulfil their calling. We should put ourselves in readiness to resist when we are called upon to endure adversities and when wicked persons, for that is what Job’s wife was, come to sting us by scoffing at our faith, in a way that can only cast us into despair if we allow it; in a way intended to convince our hearts that God is against us and to convince us that we will be cut short of the trust that we place in him when we do not find the succour that we looked for at his hand. Let us arm ourselves against such temptations that we do not quail under them.

Job’s wife was indeed a wicked woman. A person may be brought to despair by persecutions against himself. But when a person encourages another to forsake God, that is an entirely different order of magnitude. Why was this woman Job’s wife? One can only conclude that in times of comfort, everything was sweetness and light and that there was no reason to suspect that her heart was set against God. It was only under times of trial that her heart was revealed. She is one of the antichrists that the apostle John writes about in the second chapter of his first epistle:

1 John 2v18 – 19 Dear children, this is the last hour; and you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.

Job’s wife shows clearly and plainly which side she is on and she shows that she had never belonged to God’s faithful in the first place. But it is only in time of trial that she ‘went out’ and, in so doing, declared herself.

Through his wife, the trials of Job were compounded to such an extremity that they were almost unendurable. Nevertheless, we see what is written here of Job. The God who upheld Job will also uphold all his faithful so that we do not quail. But the Holy Scripture shows us here that after Satan has tormented us and has visited us in goods, family and body and everything else, he knits up the matter by ensuring that we are mocked and that our faith is assaulted. And whenever this is done, the name of God is blasphemed. If we love God, we must necessarily be grieved to the heart when that happens. For when the unfaithful scorn us as though we have been rejected of God, it is God whom they accuse of untruth, as though God Almighty himself had beguiled us. Therefore, it must necessarily grieve us and torment us. But however the world goes, we should not faint for all that. Let us remember what happened to Job, and to David, and what our Lord Jesus Christ has shown us, so that we do not think it strange if we are fashioned to his image. For here we see the conditions under which God has grafted us into the body of his son, so that he is the general patron of all the faithful, as the apostle Paul declares in the eighth of Romans.

Romans 8v12 – 17 Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation – but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die: but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of son ship. And by him we cry “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now, if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co – heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

It should be noted that the apostle Paul states that partaking in the sufferings of Christ is an integral part of the Christian faith.

Let us now consider what is imported when Job’s wife says ‘Do you still hold to your singleness?’ She is asking, ‘What do you gain by serving God? For your intent in serving him has been that he should support you and look favourably upon you and that he should have shown by his works towards you that he is your father. Now you see that he is an enemy and that he is persecuting you. Therefore, your soundness does not profit you at all.’ Consider her conclusion when she says ‘curse God and die.’ We detest blasphemy against God. It is something that ought not even to be named. We understand that to grudge against God, or to spite him, or to cast forth any words that dishonour him is so detestable that we must shudder and quake at it. When the apostle Paul speaks against very great evils, he says ‘let them not be named among you.’

Ephesians 5v11,12 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.

The statement ‘curse God and die’ may therefore be taken to mean ‘provoke the Lord to anger and then you shall die for it. You may revenge yourself upon him once before you die, since you see well enough that he has deceived you and that you will die anyway.’

It is not to be doubted that this woman was an instrument of Satan. It is not to be marvelled at that she is a she – devil, or a fiend of hell, sent to set Job to lift himself up against God and to rush against his majesty.

There are two ways in which we could lift ourselves up against God. Firstly, our faith may be shaken for a time. But we know that although our faith may be shaken, it will never be destroyed. There may be fluctuations within our faith, but with respect to the ultimate objective, faith is final. When we believe, we believe once and for all and we are sealed in the number of God’s faithful. Anyone who truly believes knows that. The other way that we can lift ourselves up beyond our bounds is that when we hear such blasphemy, we are rightly angry against it, but unless we are careful, our anger may lead us beyond reasonable bounds.

There is another way in which the statement by Job’s wife may be taken, since the Hebrew uses the same word for ‘praise’ as ‘curse’. The sentence may be taken ‘Praise God and die’, meaning ‘Continue to praise God as much as you like. But when you are through with it, you shall have gained absolutely nothing by it; it is lost labour. You are destined to die; it is fully determined that it shall be so. You see that God has not heeded your prayers. Whether you glorify him or not, it is all one. You have spun a fair thread in humbling yourself before God, but do not expect God to heed you; do not expect his wrath to be assuaged. He has forsaken you and you will die.’ Death here means a spiritual death.

Either way, the sense leads to the same point. The first point is that the target of Job’s wife was to drive Job to despair, to the end that he should fret and chafe against God, that he should lose his whole understanding and instead of praising God as he had done before, he should provoke God to wrath.

Job: Sermon 9: Part 1

Job 2v7-10

So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.

His wife said to him, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!”

He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.

When God withdraws his hand from us, we must prepare ourselves to suffer much greater miseries than we could ever expect. The ultimate aim of our suffering is that our faith is proved and, though this, God is glorified. We see how God proceeds when he afflicts his servants. If we are but novices who are unacquainted with the sufferings of adversity, he spares us. He would not send as great a burden on a little child as he sends on a mature servant. God has regard to our ability to bear suffering and he sends us small or great troubles according to how practised we are with enduring them. But when we are once under affliction, he may lay the full load upon us, to the full extent that he has given us the ability to bear out. We see how he speaks to Peter, saying that when he was young, he was left at his own ease and rest, ‘but when you are old you will be tied and bound and someone will lead you where you do not want to go.’ This is from the twenty first of the gospel according to the apostle John:

John 21v18-19 “I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God.

We see then what regard God has to hold us up while we are yet tender. Afterwards, when he has made us strong, he sends us more grievous and heavy afflictions, for which we have been strengthened beforehand, through which he may be glorified. This has already been shown in the person of Job, to the end that each one of us might receive instruction by it for ourselves. The afflictions send on Job were truly horrendous. He was spoiled of his goods, he lost his children and he was brought to poverty. But it was yet another manner of work when Satan smote him in his body, so that he was full of painful sores, in a way that looked like leprosy. The Holy Scriptures show us that the disease must needs have been extreme. Here we see Job cast out of all human company. Previously, he had been honoured by everybody, but now he is considered as a piece of rotten carrion. Furthermore, such sores were in all likelihood accompanied by great burning, which tormented him to the uttermost. This latter misery seems to be far more excessive than all the miseries that had happened before. This is what Satan meant when he said, ‘skin for skin! A man will give all he has for his own life. But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones and he will surely curse you to your face.’ Satan’s subtleness here is grounded on the nature of man. Although he did not succeed with Job, he understands, nevertheless, that we are all inclined towards such a mind. Our life is precious to us and it is easier for us to bear everything else, rather than the misfortunes that afflict our own physical health. But in Job, we see invincible constancy in a servant of God. He continued in his soundness when God punished him in his goods and in his children. So also he continued in his soundness when he was persecuted so roughly in his body that he was continually in extreme torment. But no matter what happened, he continued to praise God. If God grants us escape from one inconvenience, we should be prepared to suffer three or four more, each greater and more excessive than the first. And it is with good reason that God should increase the weight of our burden according to the strength with which he has endowed us to bear these burdens; in so doing, he has an eye to our welfare.

It behoves us especially to mark that Job did not have long respite between the miseries that befell him. God often gives us some respite. When he has tried our patience in adversity, we may have the leisure to take breath again and to assuage the grief and heaviness that we endured. Afterwards, God sends us some other burden. With Job, God laid it on stroke after stroke. For as soon as Job had been visited by robbers, lightning immediately came from heaven and disposed of the rest of his goods. Immediately, his children died as if the hand of God had been their enemy. And shortly afterwards, he is plagued in his own person. This should have been enough to overwhelm Job, even though he had a wonderful stoutness within him. It was God’s will to work in such a way within Job; in all this God did not cease to have an eye to Job’s ultimate salvation. Therefore, each one of us, when we are afflicted, should consider that God does not cease to be our father, for God never forsook his servant Job. When we suffer even the tenth part of what Job endured, shall we be excused if we murmur against God? Not at all. Rather, we have cause to thank God for watching over us in our infirmity, even when he afflicts us. We should note that he afflicts us strictly according to that which he has enabled us to endure, even though it may not seem like that at the time. And why should we not be afflicted as much as Job? God has absolute authority over us. We can be sure that Satan rages as much now as he did in the days of Job. Satan is still of the same mind and he is still like a roaring lion with open mouth to swallow us up, as the apostle Peter declares. If God gives him leave, we may be sure that we should endure as much, or even more than Job. But our afflictions are indeed gentle compared with those described here.

Let us therefore conclude that God shows himself courteous and compassionate towards us, and that we are afflicted only gently at his hand. He keeps such a measure that we are not racked to the uttermost, nor does he use such excessive rigour as we see in the person of Job. Furthermore, it is shown here that people ought to renounce themselves so that they may give themselves wholly over to God. But as long as a person stands in his own conceit, even though he may be well accustomed to serve God, he is certain to go backwards rather than forwards. A person standing in his own conceit delights in his own pleasure and his own ease. But God intends to handle us differently. It is not for his own delight that God troubles us. Rather, it is because it behoves us to be tamed and brought low so that we may understand the subjection that we ought to yield to God. If God should frame himself to our own will in the things he sends upon us, we could not discern what it means to be obedient. But when he handles us clean contrary to our appetite, and yet we still subject ourselves to him so that we hold all our affections under his bridle and we frame ourselves to his will and yield him the honour of governing us after his own good will, it is only then that we show that we are obedient to him.

Thus, we see what is declared to us in the text. We see how Job has to fight against all his own affections, to bereave himself of them and to hold himself as a prisoner. Otherwise, he should leap out of his bounds. He should lift himself up against God, or at the very least fall into such anger that he should do nothing but storm within himself so that God should have neither credit nor superiority over him. Job resists all his affections and brings them underfoot. We should take heed of this example and do likewise, for it is impossible that God should have the full use of us until we have come to the same point. That is, we must renounce ourselves to such an extent that we do not lay any store by our own life. Rather, we should find it within our hearts to yield ourselves subject to our God and dedicate our lives to him, rather than to be given to our own comfort and ease. It is good that we should desire that God assist us by sending us comforts that we may enjoy. Nevertheless, we must keep ourselves within bounds and be prepared to serve God in whatever way God sees fit. We should be prepared that God may bring troubles that are wholly against our appetite, because we know full well that he will grant us the grace to frame ourselves to him and to follow him through, wherever he calls us.

We have to practise this continually throughout our entire lives. When a trade, occupation or handicraft is hard, we need to take more time to learn it and it has more skill belonging to it. The lesson here is hard for us to learn and too hard for us to put into practise. It is true that we can confess well enough that it is reasonable that God should be our Lord and master and that he should reign over us, and that we should not strive against him. But when it comes to the deed of doing, there are very few who are capable of it. Let us all the time of our lives hold to this lesson and continually apply ourselves to it and to learn from it as we need to.

Job: Sermon 8: Part 2

Job 2v1 – 6

On another day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. And the Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”

Satan answered him, “From roaming through the earth and going to and fro in it.”

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him: he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and withdraws himself from evil. And still he maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.”

“Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but spare his soul.”

We see why it is stated again that Satan appeared among the children of God, before God. Satan did not intend to disguise himself through hypocrisy that he might mix with the angels. But he is fain to appear before God to yield an account of his doings. Of course, the encounter between God and the angels and Satan should not be taken in a literal way; scripture frames it so to communicate to us in our rude state. We cannot conceive how things are in the presence of God; we cannot conceive of such a power and pre-eminence that nothing is hidden from him. When we read of such things in the Holy Scripture, we must acknowledge that Scripture applies itself to our limited reason and it teaches us by means that are convenient for us. It chooses the means that are most agreeable to our understanding. God therefore is likened here to a prince that holds his assizes or court, where all people must come before him and be judged. Thus we see why it is said that upon a certain day the devil made his appearance with the angels.

Let us mark, then, that just as when God sends his angels to guide us and to be ministers of our welfare so that they are his hands as it were, and the instruments of his power to maintain us, so also, on the contrary, he sends the devil to vex us and torment us. And he knows the end to which he does it, which is ultimately for our benefit. It is true that we may be astonished at first when we do not see any reason why God should do this or that. But how should our faith be approved by God if it is not through glorifying God while we are at our wits end and yet we nevertheless conclude that all that ever proceeded from God is right and just and that there is nothing but steadfastness in all his ways? If we are not so minded, how can we claim to have any faith at all?

And surely this present story is a good instruction. For unless we consider the reasons why God persecuted his servant Job, it may seem to us that we have good cause to complain of God. If God punishes wicked people, it is well done. In so doing, we can gainsay him. But if a person walks in uprightness and simplicity, why does God deliver him into Satan’s hand? If a person tries to say that God only permits or suffers Satan, as if Satan were at his own liberty and that we are left as Satan’s prey, should we not of necessity be overwhelmed at the first push? But on the contrary, we see how it is God’s purpose to have the patience of His servant made known through suffering. And although God has other reasons which are hidden from us for a time, yea, even all our life long, yet we must hold ourselves short and confess that all that God does is good, even though we do not perceive the end to which he does it. So then, we see neither the devils above us, nor the angels. Yet, we must assure ourselves that God sends both the one and the other to maintain us on the one side and to trouble us on the other. It behoves us always to know that God has just cause to chastise us, and that if he continually overwhelms with no respite at all, then we are well worthy of it. Yet, when God afflicts us, he very often does not have any regard at all to how much we may or may not deserve it. Now and then, it is His will that Satan should torment us to the end that we might gain victory against him and that our victory should be so much more honourable, just as Satan’s assaults against us have been so much more terrible.

Another reason for our sufferings is that God intends us to stand in awe of Him and not to take occasion to advance ourselves, nor to overstep ourselves in vain self trust and presumption, as we would be wont to do. God then awakens us in such a way that we understand that if we were not upheld by him, it would be to our sorrow; we would fall and stumble at every blow. We are led to understand that God must put his hand under us, otherwise our falls would be deadly. It is God’s will that we should sense the danger and to understand that the angels have a special care of us to guide us in the way that God has appointed. They are to be ministers of our welfare. God has committed us to their keeping. We therefore see why they are called powers and principalities. In the meanwhile, the devils do not cease to cause turmoil and to destroy all things as much as they can. This does not happen without God’s will. These things are carried out to the end that we should be awakened by them and challenged by temptation and trial so that our victory should be so much greater when we have fought valiantly. The angels are sent so that Satan may gain nothing at our hand, for we are guarded with strength from above to withstand his temptations.

At the beginning of the second chapter, God demands of Satan from where he came. Satan replies that he has roamed over the whole world, causing mischief throughout. Touching Job, it is God who raises the question, just as it was God who introduced the subject of Job in the first chapter, another demonstration that it was God who was the author of everything that befell Job. ‘Have you not considered my servant Job?’ Again, the Holy Scripture applies itself to our rawness. For God has no need to ask this of Satan. All things are present with God, but it is for our own instruction that we have speeches couched in terms that we can understand. God shows himself in a way that we may conceive of him. Here we see God’s great goodness towards us; while we are unable to raise ourselves up to him, he condescends to come down to us here, so that we might know him, sufficiently for our profit. For if we should presume to come into the presence of his great majesty, we should be overwhelmed. If we are not able to look upon the sun except that our eyes be dazzled and permanently damaged, how shall we behold the glory of God in its full perfection? It is impossible for us to do it, until we have been made new again, as the apostle John writes telling us that we shall see him as he is.

1 John 3v1 – 3 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

In the mean while, let us be contented to be his children and to have the grace of his adoption sealed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Consequently, let us be content to know him in the image by which he has showed himself to us.

As the apostle Peter says, Satan does not cease to go about like a roaring lion, continually seeking new prey. Since it is so, let us keep good watch and stand upon our guard. For after Peter has warned us about Satan, he adds ‘Resist him by keeping yourselves steadfast in your faith.’

1 Peter 5v 8-11 Be self controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

God shows us that we must not be afraid, even though Satan has such power and even though he be named the Prince of the World. We need not be afraid that Satan should overwhelm us so long as we are armed with faith. For through our faith, God shall endow us with strength enough; we shall be sure of the victory if we rest upon God and lean upon the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which the apostle John writes about in the tenth chapter of the gospel. ‘The father,’ he says, ‘has put you into my hand and he is stronger than all.’

John 10v27 – 30 “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no-one can snatch them out of my hand. My father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no-one can snatch them out of my father’s hand. I and the father are one.”

We should not fear that Satan shall overcome his maker. For God has put us into the hands of our Lord Jesus Christ, so that he should be the good and faithful keeper of both our bodies and our souls. Therefore, let us rest upon him. But yet, let us not cease to be wary and careful. Those who are negligent shall find themselves overcome by every blow. For as for the sureness that we have in God, it does not make us dull; it does not lead us to forget our own dangers. It only upholds us so that we do not quail in the fight. But as for those who are drowsy and flatter themselves, they despise God’s aid and relief. Our Lord says, ‘I will hold you up, be not afraid. For although Satan will charge against you with thundering assaults so that it seems to you that everything shall go to ruin, yet you shall be safe under me and under my hand.’ But when he says so, his meaning is not that people should presume upon themselves and go no further. On the contrary, he says, ‘Come to me and retire yourselves under my protection that I may be your fortress against those who devise mischief against you.’ Since we find ourselves assailed by so many enemies, it behoves us so much more to know the need we have of God’s help, and that when we are under his protection, we are sure that neither Satan, nor all the wicked people in the world can bring to pass their ultimate aim against us.

Let us mark how Holy Scripture presents a graphic picture of the devil. When the Holy Ghost says that he does not cease to keep his courts and circuits about the earth, it stands us on hand always to keep a sure watch, to be continually on guard and to pray to God and have recourse to him, to arm ourselves more and more with the faith that we may enter into the battle field and fight courageously until such a time that God grants us to enjoy the victory that he has promised us.

Job 2v3 Have you considered my servant Job? There is no-one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and withdraws himself from evil. And still he maintains his integrity, although you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.

It is stated next that God questioned Satan about Job especially. This is a token that in those days there were very few who served God purely. Job’s distinguishing feature is that ‘he withdraws himself from evil’. For the whole world was full of corruption and overflowing with iniquity. If there had been a good store of righteous people in the world and if there had been many like Job who had given themselves to serve God as he did, God would not have spoken of that one man alone. But here it is stated expressly of Job, ‘There is not his match nor his like.’

By this we are warned, then, not to mar ourselves when we are among wicked persons. Even though we may see the whole world set upon mischief and turned upside down, we must not follow the example of the world, or suffer ourselves to be carried away. Rather, we must continue in obedience under the guidance of God, beseeching him to strengthen us with his holy spirit, that we are not tripped up by the stumbling blocks we see around us, which the devil casts before us to thrust us out of our way.

Seeing that Job lived in such a world in all soundness, we should note that whatever may be going on around us, we should never permit ourselves the liberty of doing evil. We should have an eye towards God and be thoroughly set upon him alone and walk as if we were in his presence. For we see the record that is given of the holy fathers who lived righteously, for example in the eleventh of Hebrews. They did not regard the people around them. They did not say, ‘even if I only go half way towards the way they live, at least I will still be better than my neighbours.’ Rather, they noted that God sees how we walk in this world and that we must carry ourselves as if we were under God’s eye at all times. We must have our eyes settled upon him alone.

For emphasis, God repeats the commendation of Job, that he was sound and upright and withdrew himself from evil. This soundness of heart is the true foundation upon which we must ground ourselves. No matter what virtues we may have, all will be nothing but dung and stark filthiness before God, unless the fountain of the heart is pure and clean. According to that shall all our works be judged. Therefore, let everybody enter into themselves and search their own conscience. For even if we are well liked by the people around us, even if they are well contented with us, yet we shall be cursed by God if there is any hypocrisy in our hearts. We should not be ‘double hearted’, as the scriptures put it in another place. When we are so minded to serve God, our life will be answerable to him alone and we should walk as it becomes us before him. We see various people that would fain be taken for righteous people in the world, but their very lives show the contrary. They are people of such good behaviour, who have appropriated all the finish and polish associated with class and culture, that it is a wonder to see them. Nevertheless, the true behaviour, which is so beautifully covered by the veneer of charming etiquette, shows them to be fully devils incarnate and deadly plagues to infect the whole world. So then, let us mark well that the foundation of soundness of heart must be matched by honesty and upright dealing, so that we may be conversant among people, without doing evil to any person, endeavouring to help our neighbours and showing the neighbourliness which God commands us. Here we see how we show our soundness, and this is the one true touchstone whereby God proves us. Just as gold is tried either by the touchstone or the furnace, even so our sound heartedness shows itself by our honest and upright dealing when we live among people without perpetrating evil against any of them and without desiring to draw other peoples goods to us, being void of cruelty, void of pride, void of vainglory. On the contrary, being courteous to all, quick to help those in need, not seeing injustice ‘through fingers’ and diligent to employ ourselves fully according to the ability that God has given us. Just as it behoves us to walk uprightly and faithfully with our neighbours, so it behoves us also to fear God, for it would be absurd if people should have their right and duty, while God in the meantime goes without his. For it is He that should be our starting point, since He is above all and almighty. So then, we must apply ourselves to serving our neighbours, keeping a constant eye on God.

This is well worth marking. For sometimes one sees an outward countenance of virtue, giving the impression that a person is angelic in their goodness and no fault can be found. But this counts for nothing if they do not regard God, but rather despise him. Therefore, it is with good cause that God Almighty himself purposes here to commend his servant Job by matching these two things together, that he has lived uprightly among the people whom God had put around him and he was also devoted to his worship of the living God. He did this, even though he lived here in a world filled with many corruptions. Now, if we consider the soundness in which Job lived among such corruption, we are too lazy if we do not resist all the evils surrounding us. Therefore, do not let us imagine that we can serve God without trouble, for we are certain to be provoked by evil on all sides. How then shall we walk as becomes us? It behoves us to endeavour to withdraw from evil, yes, particularly the evil that is within us. If the evil were merely near to us, we would still need to be careful to withdraw ourselves from it. When Satan seeks to poison us and everything is full of infection, we have good cause to withdraw ourselves. But the evil that is within us is like a burning oven. Look how many wicked lusts there are to carry us away if only we were to allow them. There are so many adversaries to the will of God. As the apostle Paul says, the entire nature of mankind is nothing but enmity to God.

Romans 8v5 – 8 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of the sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.

Therefore, it behoves us to be all the more careful that we withdraw ourselves from evil. How shall we withdraw ourselves? First of all, let us take heed of ourselves and of our wicked affections, which serve to turn us aside from God. Afterwards, let us beware of those who aim to lead us astray and turn us away from God. Such people are mortal plagues. When we see so much iniquity, so much looseness and so much outrage in the world that every vice seems to have its full scope, what is to be done? Let us withdraw ourselves and shun the occasion to participate, as the apostle Paul exhorts us:

1 Corinthians 6v14 – 18 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said, “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God and they will be my people.”

“Therefore come out from them and be separate,” says the Lord.

“Touch no unclean thing and I will receive you.”

“I will be a Father to you,

and you will be my sons and daughters,” says the Lord Almighty.

The apostle Paul means that once we have believed, and in so doing entered into the Saviour’s family, it behoves us to be holy both in mind and body and to be given wholly unto God and dedicated to his service. This cannot be done except that we withdraw ourselves from all defilements that may corrupt us. So then, we must eschew occasions of evil. And when we see the world so overflowing with all vice, let us advisedly withdraw ourselves and fasten our eyes upon God, who makes us holy.

And now our Lord adds an accolade to Job that he had not used before: ‘And still he maintains his soundness’.

Job 2v3 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no-one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains soundness, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.”

Here God commends Job’s constancy, which was not apparent until such time that he had been wounded to the quick. Job had therefore been a man who had feared God, he had been sound and he had been honest and upright in his conversation with his neighbours. But since he had not been tested, his constancy under extremity had not been revealed. But now Job is bereft of all his goods and has lost his children. Yet he still praises the name of God, acknowledging that he ought to live under whatever conditions the Lord gives him. If it pleases God to give him goods to use, and afterwards to take them from him again, he ought to prepare himself for nakedness and misery; he should not kick against God who has all power and authority.

And so the invincible constancy that God knew to be within Job is revealed. Up to now, it had not undergone serious trial. By this, we see that it is necessary for us to be afflicted. Although we may find it hard and painful at first sight, yet it is necessary for us. And why so? For we do not think on God’s help as it becomes us until we have worked through many dangers and seen that it is through God and God alone that we have gained the upper hand over all temptations. Just as God stated, Job kept his soundness even though he had been sorely persecuted. We must also be continually ready to serve God and to give ourselves wholly to him, no matter how we be tried. We see that it is necessary that each one of us be exercised so that we may understand how much we need God’s help and that our faith be tried in such a way that the power of the Holy Spirit may show itself within us, by getting the upper hand in the temptations and battles that Satan puts to us. May God then grant that we are armed with the heavenly virtue of constancy to withstand all encounters until we have the full victory when we shall be gathered into the everlasting rest of the heavenly kingdom.

Prayer Now let us cast ourselves down in the presence of our good God, acknowledging our faults and beseeching him to make us understand them better, so that we may be brought to a true repentance, when we crave pardon at his hand. We pray that he may so strengthen us by his Holy Spirit that the devil may not be able to gain any victory through us, but that we may have the victory against the devil and against the whole world and against all the sinful desires of our own sinful nature.

Job: Sermon 8: Part 1

Job 1v22

In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with unreasonableness.

The devil, even though he is God’s mortal enemy, is obliged to yield obedience to his maker, to whom he is subject. He does not do this willingly, but by force. The devil is so enraged that he would destroy the whole world, but he cannot even attempt anything, let alone bring anything to pass that is contrary to the will of God. Satan is held in awe of God, as are all the wicked people of the world. It is true that they pass their bounds as far as they can. They believe that they can stand against God and they have the will to do so. But meanwhile, God accomplishes his own will through them. They are nothing but tools that God uses to serve his own purpose.

This point is well made by Job when he declares that God, who had given him all the goods that he ever possessed, has now also taken them away from him. For it was certain that Satan was the doer of all the evils perpetrated against Job. It was Satan who raised the horrible tempest. It was Satan who spoiled Job of his substance and it was Satan who killed his children. Why then does Job therefore impute these things to God? Especially as we have seen that it was thieves and robbers who spoiled Job of his goods, is it appropriate that God should be uttered as the author of such thieving and robbery? It may appear that we intend to wrap God in the sins of men and accuse him of wrong doing, for we cannot excuse those who came to invade the goods and cattle of Job; their acts were wholly wicked. We may certainly judge and condemn the thieves. Nevertheless, Job does not state ‘It is Satan who has spoiled me’ or ‘it is thieves who robbed me.’ Rather, he attributes it to God. He states that God did it. Does Job blaspheme God by saying so? Not at all. It is plainly written in the scriptures, as we have seen, that God affirms that he did not sin by saying this. The scripture states clearly that ‘he did not charge God with any unreasonable dealing.’ Job has confessed that God is righteous and full of equity. Job has glorified God as it was appropriate. Nevertheless, he states flatly that God was the doer of the evil acts carried out by the thieves and by Satan.

We see here that God is continually sovereign in guiding and disposing of all things here below, to lead them to the good end that he has purposed. This is not a matter for us to judge after our own understanding. To do so would be to be wise beyond scripture in making God and his whole world subject to our own fancy. As the apostle Paul writes in the ninth of Romans,

Romans 9v20-22 But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath – prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory – even us, whom he called, not only from the Jews, but also from the Gentiles?

And then, in the fourth of his first letter to the Corinthians,

1 Corinthians 4v6 Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not take pride in one man over against another.

This is no matter for us to judge after our own understanding. Yet one hears many people, with many arguments, that demonstrate that they have fallen into this sin. In so doing, they are wise in making God and the whole world subject to their own fancy. One question that illustrates this, which emerges from the godless is ‘How can a God of love permit such evil to happen in the world?’ One frequently hears this question phrased as a rhetorical question by people who are so arrogant in their godlessness that they refuse to accept their own sinfulness. Such people are beasts, yes, and as beetle-headed beasts as they can be. They have neither knowledge nor wit. They say that they see no reason why God should be the doer of all things, for then God would be the author of sin. They state that they do not accept that a God of love could have sovereignty over such things. And, by thinking or speaking in this way, they even judge the Holy Spirit himself.

But we cannot comprehend the greatness and height of God’s doings, further than the finite, limited insight that it pleases God to give us, according to the finite, limited capacity that he has given us. Nobody knows nor understands God’s works, except for God himself. They are as deep as a bottomless pit, as the scriptures say, and we have no means to attain to them or understand them. All who search them shall be confounded, unless they apply themselves with reverence and lowliness. That is, one does not start from a position of placing oneself as judge over God. It belongs to God and God alone to give us knowledge of what he does, how he does it and why he acts in the way he does. It behoves us to content ourselves with that which the scripture tells us. Although it seems strange to us and although we are unable to comprehend it by our own capacity and reason, yet we must confess that God is righteous. And as our understanding in this life is clouded and limited, let us look forward in hope to the day when we shall understand fully and not by piecemeal nor through dimness, but we shall behold those things face to face which now are shown us only as it were in a glass. As the apostle Paul writes,

1 Corinthians 13v9-12 For now we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I thought like a child and reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

Thus, in the book of Job, we see an excellent text to show us how God guides and governs the whole world by his providence. But we have to note further the purpose to which the Holy Ghost tells us that God is the author of everything and that nothing can come to pass without the consent and indeed the authorship of God. It is to the end that we may spite Satan and all wicked men, when we see them practise and invent ever so many things. We are sure that they are not able to bring their enterprises about, or at least that they are not able to achieve their ultimate objective, which is to lead the faithful away from God. See then how God means to assure us of his protection and to show us how Satan is so far off from being master of himself that he is destined to serve God’s turn. Seeing that the case stands so, let us apply the holy scripture to such use as this: let it teach us that although we may be hemmed in by enemies all around, and we may be like sheep surrounded by wolves, nevertheless, we must not cease to trust in God and we must warrant ourselves that as long as we remain under the shadow of his wings, we shall be sure of our salvation. How so? Because he has sovereign dominion over all creatures, in such a way that he even holds Satan, and all wicked persons of the world, in awe of him. He leads all things to the good conclusion that he has ordained. We should mark this well, so that we may call upon God quietly, and when we have called upon him, we should assure ourselves that he will guide us. And it behoves us to bear in mind that we must not judge God, for that would be a preposterous presumption. It would be satanic pride for a person not to acknowledge God to be righteous unless they could perceive him to be so. This would be to demand that God humble himself before us. Those who advance themselves with such pride are well worthy to be overwhelmed by God. Those who searching God’s majesty beyond the bounds that God has set, shall be overwhelmed in their own pride and shall be confounded. Therefore, there remains nothing for us but to maintain the sobriety of praying to God that he teach us everything that behoves us and is for our benefit and that we should accept whatever he says as good and right, without pleading to the contrary.

There are many who have not understood this and who argue that God is not the author of everything carried out by Satan and wicked men. It is commonly argued that when the wicked carry out their evil, God is not the author of the work, but simply suffers the wicked and he merely gives them leave to perpetrate their evil. But since he has the authority and power to let them, is his suffering or his granting permission not all one, as if he himself were the author? Therefore, suggesting that God merely suffers evil to take place is simply a fond excuse. The Holy Scriptures state quite clearly that God not only permits the wicked to carry out their evil desires and he does not merely give them leave. Rather, in so doing, he actively executes his will. He executes his will through the devil and through wicked persons. Note well that the psalmist writes ‘You crushed us and made us a haunt for jackals’. The psalmist does not write, ‘You permitted us to be crushed’. The forty fourth psalm is very instructive.

Psalm 44

We have heard with our ears, O God;

our fathers have told us

what you did in their days,

in days long ago.

With your hand you drove out the nations

and planted our fathers;

you crushed the peoples

and made our fathers flourish.

It was not by their sword that they won the land,

nor did their arm bring them victory;

it was your right hand, your arm,

and the light of your face, for you loved them.

You are my King and my God,

who decrees victories for Jacob.

Through you we push back our enemies;

through your name we trample our foes.

I do not trust in my bow;

my sword does not bring me victory.

But you give us victory over our enemies;

you put our adversaries to shame.

In God we make our boast all day long

and we praise your name for ever.

But now you have rejected us and humbled us;

you no longer go out with our armies.

You made us retreat before our enemy,

and our adversaries have plundered us.

You gave us up to be devoured like sheep

and have scattered us among the nations.

You sold your people for a pittance,

gaining nothing from their sale.

You have made us a reproach to our neighbours,

the scorn and derision of those around us,

You have made us a byword among the nations;

the peoples shake their heads at us.

My disgrace is before me all day long,

and my face is covered with shame

at the taunts of those who reproach and revile me

because of the enemy, who is bent on revenge.

All this happened to us,

though we had not forgotten you

or been false to your covenant.

Our hearts had not turned back;

our feet had not strayed from your path.

But you crushed us and made us a haunt for jackals

and covered us over with deep darkness.

If we had forgotten the name of our God

or spread out our hands to a foreign god,

would not God have discovered it,

since he knows the secrets of the heart?

Yet for your sake we face death all day long;

we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.

Awake, O Lord! Why do you sleep?

Rouse yourself! Do not reject us for ever.

Why do you hide your face

and forget our misery and oppression?

We are brought down to the dust;

our bodies cling to the ground.

Rise up and help us;

redeem us because of your unfailing love.

In another psalm, when David confesses his sins and offences after God had punished him grievously, he says, ‘Lord, of whom shall I complain? I see it is your hand.’ Although David was persecuted by wicked men, yet he attributed it to the hand of God. Behold how the Lord himself speaks. Will we be wiser than he? Shall we convince him that he has need of our bright colours? See how God speaks of his own works. When God was minded to punish David for his adultery with Bathsheba and murder (or as good as murder) of Uriah the Hittite, God states ‘You did it in secret, but I will make the sun bear witness of it before all Israel’ (2 Samuel 12v12). How was God to do that to David? The answer is that God raised up Absalom to commit adultery with his father’s wives and defile them in the presence of all Israel, in the sight of the sun. The story is related in the twelfth and the sixteenth of the second book of Samuel.

2 Samuel 12v11,12 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight, before all Israel.’”

2 Samuel 16v20-22 Absalom said to Ahithophel, “Give us your advice. What should we do?”

Ahithophel answered, “Lie with your father’s concubines whom he left to take care of the palace. Then all Israel will hear that you have made yourself an offence to your father’s nostrils, and the hands of everyone with you will be strengthened.” So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof and he lay with his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel.

The incest described here is horrible, perverse and against nature. Nevertheless, God states flatly, ‘I will do it’. Those are his very words. We see then how it is not in any way a leave or permission. Rather, God himself works in such a way that the wicked must needs be instruments of His will. Touching the office of judge, it is no more than to give a hangman leave to do his duty. When a judge passes judgement on an offender and gives sentence accordingly as law and conscience will bear, he does not say to the hangman ‘I give you leave to do what you will with this man.’ On the contrary, he pronounces the sentence and afterwards puts the offender into the hangman’s hands, putting the hangman under obligation to carry out the execution. Behold, God is the sovereign judge of the world and we dishonour him if we say that he only gives Satan leave to do what he wants. If we said so, we would mock God’s justice and pervert all order.

So then, let us mark that when the wicked run riot and seek nothing else but to put everything into confusion, God is above them. He is guiding and governing all things in such a way that nothing comes to pass without his providence; nothing comes to pass in any way other than the way that God has ordained.

And here we see why it is expressly stated in scripture that God incites those who are carried away by their own ambition or covetousness to make wars and to cause all the troubles of the world and that God himself entertains them in his service. For he even terms them his servants. Consider King Nebuchadnezzar, who, whatever conversion experience described in the fourth chapter of the prophet Daniel may have entailed, he was, at the time that Jeremiah wrote of him, an idolater who desired nothing but to shed blood and to put the whole world to turmoil, as much as it lay within his power to do so. There was neither uprightness nor equity within him. Nevertheless, God avouched him to be his servant, and avouched that he was doing these things in his service, as written in the prophet Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 25 v 8 – 11 Therefore, the Lord Almighty says this: “Because you have not listened to my words, I will summon all the peoples of the north and my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon,” declares the Lord, “and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants and against all the surrounding nations. I will completely destroy them and make them an object of horror and scorn, and an everlasting ruin. I will banish from them all the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, the sound of millstones and the light of the lamp. This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon for seventy years.”

In what way was Nebuchadnezzar God’s servant? Clearly, God did not only permit him or give him leave. Clearly, it would be beastliness to talk so. In fact, if donkeys could speak, they would behave themselves more reasonably before God than those who talk in such a way. We see the way in which God executes his commands and ordinances.

Yes, but let us bear in mind that evil cannot in any way be imputed to God. Satan must still bear the blame for his own wickedness. People are reproved and condemned by their own conscience, which shall be their judge. GOD shall be glorified in everything that he does. And how is that? We know that all things carried out by people ought to be esteemed according to the intent and end that people aim at. So although God placed Nebuchadnezzar in the office of hangman, we know that Nebuchadnezzar’s heart and mind, in carrying out his mischief, was not that of God’s righteous hangman.

Let us now consider the way in which God guides and governs the things that are done here below. It is true that Satan desires nothing less than to destroy everything and to bring all God’s good works to ruin. But God, on the other side, intends an entirely contrary conclusion. For the Holy Scripture describes all God’s works as judgements, and with that one word alone, the Holy Scriptures take away all idle thoughts and imaginations that may come into our minds. This is the mark that justifies all the works of God; they are righteous judgements. Who is able to argue that God does not do all things well? By his righteous judgements, he punishes the wicked and he leads his faithful to patience, so that they may mortify their sinful desires and learn lowliness. It follows that all God’s works are just and righteous, even though people cavil against them. It is true that the wicked do not cease to grunt and bark against God, even though they cannot bite him. Yet, it must needs come to pass (as David says in the fiftieth psalm) that God shall be found righteous in judging; the very heavens proclaim his righteousness in judging.

Psalm 50

The Mighty One, God, the Lord,

speaks and summons the earth

from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets.

From Zion, perfect in beauty,

God shines forth.

Our God comes and will not be silent;

a fire devours before him,

and around him a tempest rages.

He summons the heavens above,

and the earth, that he may judge his people;

“Gather to me my consecrated ones,

with whom I made a covenant by sacrifice.”

And the heavens proclaim his righteousness,

for God himself is judge. Selah.

“Hear, O my people, and I will speak,

O Israel, and I will testify against you;

I am God, your God.

I do not rebuke you for your sacrifices

or your burnt offerings, which are ever before me.

I have no need of a bull from your stall

or a goat from your pens,

for every animal of the forest is mine,

and the cattle on a thousand hills.

I know every bird in the mountains,

and the creatures of the field are mine.

If I were hungry I would not tell you,

for the world is mine, and all that is in it.

Do I not eat the flesh of bulls

or drink the blood of goats?

Sacrifice thank – offerings to God,

fulfil your vows to the Most High,

and call upon me in the day of your trouble;

I will deliver you and you will honour me.”

But to the wicked, God says:

“What right have you to recite my laws

or take my covenant on your lips?

You hate my instruction

and cast my words behind you.

When you see a thief, you join with him;

you throw in your lot with adulterers.

You use your mouth for evil

and harness your tongue for deceit.

You speak continually against your brother

and slander your own mother’s son.

These things you have done and I kept silent;

you thought I was altogether like you.

But I will rebuke you

and accuse you to your face.

“Consider this, you who forget God,

or I will tear you to pieces, with none to rescue;

He who sacrifices thank – offerings honours me,

and he prepares the way

so that I may show him the salvation of God.”

David speaks so with very good cause, for he knows that there is such boldness and wickedness in men that they desire nothing more than to lift themselves against God and to cast forth words against him at every opportunity. David, therefore, perceiving such things in the world says, ‘Very well, it is true that the creatures pass their bounds with such excess that they blaspheme and reproach God; God’s creatures even go so far as to judge God their creator. But yet, for all that, God shall be found true and righteous. When the wicked have grudged against God to their fill, in the end when everything reaches its conclusion, the righteousness of God will speak clear in spite of their teeth.

We should not marvel that people murmur against the clear teachings of the Holy Scriptures. It must needs be so, for the Holy Ghost prophesied it beforehand. But let us walk on in singleness of mind and keep to that which God has declared to us concerning himself. Thus we see how we ought to practise the lesson. Above all, let us hold fast to the comfort that we are given here and let us fence ourselves with it; that Satan and all the wicked people in the world may lift themselves up against us as much as they wish, but yet for all that, they must pass under the hand of God and they must execute his will, in spite of their teeth. It shall be so, because God has sovereign pre eminence over the whole world, so that the devil and the wicked are also subject to him; they can do nothing without his consent.