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Light and Truth: The Old Testament: Chapter 40 - Man's Misconstruction of the Works of God

By Horatius Bonar


      "By them judgeth he the people." -- Job 36:31

      THIS verse suggests Acts 14:17, "He left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness." Both passages call on us to listen to the voice of God speaking to us through what are called "natural phenomena." By "judging" we understand more than inflicting judgment, more than sitting as judge, or sentencer, or executioner. It means "ruling" as well, wielding the sceptre and governing. By people we specially understand the gentile or idolatrous nations of the earth; or generally the inhabitants of earth. Two things are here declared, first, that God judgeth the nations; secondly, that he does so by the changes and occurrences of nature.

      I. He judgeth the peoples (or nations). This judging is not a thing of the past, or of the future merely; but of the present. He has been, and he is now "judging." Creation is past, the new creation is future, but governing is now. All are equally sure and true; and they who deny the present governing or the future interposition in the great day, might as well deny creation. God's connection with earth is as close and as direct now as ever.

      Not so obvious or so visible, but quite as real. A thing does not need to be visible, or audible, or palpable in order to be direct and real. Many things are the latter which are not the former. The power of the silent and distant moon over the sea; of the atmosphere over all life; of the soul over the body in every movement: these are instances in point. Only God's connection with earth is more real and direct than these; for in Him we live and move and have our being. His purpose comes in contact with earth and its dwellers; not generally and by means of laws, but directly and minutely. His will, his voice, his hand, his arm, all come into contact with this world, as well as with all other worlds, the creation of his power. He has not left them alone. He sustains and rules as truly as he creates. Not for a moment does he let go his hold. He is the governor among the nations. He ruleth by his power forever; his eyes behold the nations. He doeth according to his will in the armies of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. It is with no distant, unheeding God that we have to do; but with that God who fixes the bounds of our habitation, who counts our hairs, who feeds the ravens, notes a sparrow's death, clothes the lilies of the field. He is nearer to us than the nearest earthly object or being; more closely in contact with us than we are with one another. All other links are as nothing compared with this; they are threads, this is an adamantine chain.

      II. He judges the people by means of the changes of nature. We use "nature" for want of a better word: we mean earth and sky with all their motions, and alternations, and transformations, great and small, all "natural phenomena" as they are called. These phenomena, or appearances, appear to us common things; by some ascribed to chance, by others to "laws of nature." Here they are ascribed directly to God. They are His voice by which He speaks to us, His finger by which He touches us, His rod by which He corrects us; His sword, by which He smites us. It seems to be the thought of many that in none of these can we or ought we to recognise, directlv and specially, the interposition of God; that it is fanaticism to interpret them so as to make them special messengers of God to us. But the words before us are very explicit, "by them judgeth he the people." The things by which He is here said to judge the people, are the common things of the day and year,--the rain, the clouds, the lightning, and such like. He uses these as His voice in warning, or commanding, or chastising, or comforting. These common things do not come by chance, or at random, or by dead law, but go out from God as his messengers. Thus every thing has a divine meaning and a heavenly voice. Let us listen and interpret and understand. Summer speaks to us with its green fields and fragrant gardens; winter speaks to us with its ice and snow and frost. By these God judges the people. The pestilence, the famine, the earthquake, the lightning, the storm, the shipwreck, the overthrow of kingdoms and kings. Each of these has a special message to the nations,--and to each of us. Let us see God drawing near to us in them;-- shewing His care and love,--manifesting an unwearied concern for our welfare. Woe to us if we either misinterpret them, or refuse to interpret them at all. The common daily changes of personal or family life, all speak in the same way. Not only the sweeping calamity that carries off its hundreds, but the sickness, the pain, or the gentle indisposition, these have a voice to us. He that hath an ear, let him hear!

      We disjoin God from creation, and so see nothing in it of divine life and power. We disjoin God from the changes of creation, and so find no meaning in these. We disjoin God from the beautiful or the terrible, and so realise nothing in them that overawes, or attracts, or purifies, or comforts. We have so learned to separate between God and the works of God, that we seem to imagine that they contradict each other. The fair sky, and the clear stream, and the green hills, all speak of divine goodness, and bring to us a gospel which can hardly be mistaken. But we have learned to deny the gracious meaning, and to say that all this beauty means nothing, and contains no message from God, and embodies no glad tidings of great joy.

      This separation of God from His works is one of the awful features of human unbelief. How much more of Him should we know, were we to interpret His works aright, and hear His voice in each, whether in love or discipline. These skies of His are not bent over us in beauty without a meaning. These seas of His do not roll for nothing. These flowers of His are not fragrant and fair for nothing. They do not say to us, God is your enemy, He hates you; but God is your friend, He pities you, yearns over you, wishes to make you happy. How full a gospel does creation preach to us, according to its kind and measure!

      The separation of the works of God from His word, is another sad feature of human unbelief. Creation and inspiration are in harmony. The Bible does not contradict the works of Jehovah. It means what they mean; and they mean what it means. Each little part of both speaks, out most intelligibly. God wishes to be understood in both. Men would misinterpret both; they try to discover as little of God as they can in both. Yet both preach the same gospel. In both we see the goodness of God leading to repentance; in both we discern the loving-kindness of the Lord. The fact that we sinners are out of hell is one gospel; that we who should have been in hell are dwellers on a fair and fruitful earth, is another; God in these ways shewing that He has no pleasure in our death or misery, but in our life and joy.

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See Also:
   Preface
   Chapter 1 - The Old and New Creation
   Chapter 2 - The Link Between Being and Non-Being
   Chapter 3 - A Happy World
   Chapter 4 - The Sin, the Sinner, and the Sentence
   Chapter 5 - Man's Fig-Leaves
   Chapter 6 - Expulsion and Re-Entrance
   Chapter 7 - The Blood of Sprinkling and the Blood of Abel
   Chapter 8 - The Way of Cain
   Chapter 9 - The Man of Rest
   Chapter 10 - Going Out and Keeping Out
   Chapter 11 - The Shield and the Recompense
   Chapter 12 - Liberty and Service
   Chapter 13 - The Day of Despair
   Chapter 14 - The Blood of Deliverance
   Chapter 15 - How God Deals with Sin and the Sinner
   Chapter 16 - The Fire Quenched
   Chapter 17 - The Vision from the Rocks
   Chapter 18 - The Doom of the Double-Hearted
   Chapter 19 - Be Not Borderers
   Chapter 20 - The Outlines of a Saved Sinner's History
   Chapter 21 - Divine Longings Over the Foolish
   Chapter 22 - What a Believing Man Can Do
   Chapter 23 - Song of the Putting Off of the Armour
   Chapter 24 - The Kiss of the Backslider
   Chapter 25 - The Priestly Word of Peace
   Chapter 26 - Human Anodynes
   Chapter 27 - Spiritual and Carnal Weapons
   Chapter 28 - Divine Silence and Human Despair
   Chapter 29 - Jewish Unbelief and Gentile Blessing
   Chapter 30 - The Restoration of the Banished
   Chapter 31 - The Farewell Gift
   Chapter 32 - God's Dealing with Sin and the Sinner
   Chapter 33 - God Finding a Resting-Place
   Chapter 34 - The Moriah Group
   Chapter 35 - Diverse Kinds of Conscience
   Chapter 36 - The Soul Turning from Man to God
   Chapter 37 - Man's Dislike of a Present God
   Chapter 38 - True and False Consolation
   Chapter 39 - Gain and Loss for Eternity
   Chapter 40 - Man's Misconstruction of the Works of God
   Chapter 41 - The Two Cries and the Two Answers
   Chapter 42 - The Knowledge of God's Name
   Chapter 43 - Deliverance from Deep Waters
   Chapter 44 - The Excellency of the Divine Loving-Kindness
   Chapter 45 - The Sickness, the Healer, and the Healing
   Chapter 46 - The Consecration of Earth's Gold and Silver
   Chapter 47 - The Gifts of the Ascended One
   Chapter 48 - The Speaker, the Listener, the Peace
   Chapter 49 - The Believing Man's Confident Appeal
   Chapter 50 - The Love and the Deliverance
   Chapter 51 - The Sin and Folly of Being Unhappy
   Chapter 52 - The Book of Books
   Chapter 53 - The Secret of Deliverance from Evil
   Chapter 54 - The Voice of the Heavenly Bridegroom
   Chapter 55 - The Love that Passeth Knowledge
   Chapter 56 - The Vision of the Glory
   Chapter 57 - Man's Extremity and Satan's Opportunity
   Chapter 58 - The Day of Clear Vision to the Dim Eyes
   Chapter 59 - The Unfainting Creator and the Fainting Creature
   Chapter 60 - The Knowledge that Justifies
   Chapter 61 - The Heritage and its Title-Deeds
   Chapter 62 - The Meeting Between the Sinner and God
   Chapter 63 - God's Love and God's Way of Blessing
   Chapter 64 - Divine Jealousy for the Truth
   Chapter 65 - Divine Love and Human Rejection of it
   Chapter 66 - God's Desire to Bless the Sinner
   Chapter 67 - The Resting-Place Forgotten
   Chapter 68 - The Day that Will Right all Wrongs
   Chapter 69 - The Glory and the Love
   Chapter 70 - False Religion and its Doom
   Chapter 71 - No Breath No Life
   Chapter 72 - Every Christian a Teacher
   Chapter 73 - Work, Rest, and Recompence
   Chapter 74 - Human Heedlessness and Divine Remembrance
   Chapter 75 - Lies the Food of Man
   Chapter 76 - The Love and the Calling
   Chapter 77 - The Anger and the Goodness
   Chapter 78 - Darkness Pursuing the Sinner
   Chapter 79 - Jerusalem the Centre of the World's Peace
   Chapter 80 - Jerusalem and Her King
   Chapter 81 - Looking to the Pierced One
   Chapter 82 - The Holiness of Common Things
   Chapter 83 - Wearying Jehovah with our Words
   Chapter 84 - Dies Irae

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