The verse for the sermon is Job 42:6, “Wherefore, I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” It is a curious verse coming at the end of Job. Just Job having been afflicted ends up repenting.
Adams begins with the observation of the effect of affliction
Affliction is a winged chariot, that mounts up the soul toward heaven; or do we ever so rightly understand God’s majesty as when are not able to stand under our own misery.
There are many ways which God can use to get one’s attention, but affliction is most effective
But among them all, none despatcheth the business surer or sooner than affliction; if that fail to bring a man home, nothing can do it….Do we complain of incessant blows? Alas! He doth but his office, he waits for our repentance. Let us give him the messenger his errand, and he will begone. Let him take the proud man in hand, he will humble him; he can make the drunkard sober, the lascivious chaste, the angry patient, the covetous charitable; fetch the unthrift son back again to his father, whom a full purse had put into an itch of traveling. (Luke 15:17)
Having established that affliction should leave us to repentance, Adams considers three “degrees of mortification” of sin: the sickness, the death, and the burial of sin.
The humility of Job which brings about this repentance comes from a knowledge of God:
To study God is the way to make a humble man; and a humble man is in the way to come unto God.
(Again, this is consonant with Kierkegaard’s contention that one finds God in confession of sin: the wonder of being confronted with the eternal God brings about this humility, a knowledge of one’s sinfulness. This a sort of confession and humiliation which cannot be brought about by the skill of some preacher; it is a humility which flows from knowing God.)
Job’s humility flowed from two aspect of God’s nature: majesty and mercy. First majesty,
Of his majesty, which being so infinite, and beyond the comprehension of man, he considered by way or comparison, or relation to creatures [Since God’s majesty cannot be understood directly, God compares his strength to creatures which Job could know.]…Mathematicians wonder at the sun that, being so much bigger than the earth, doth not set it on fire and burn it to ashes; but here is the wonder that God being so infinitely great, and we so infinitely evil, we are not consumed.
And then mercy. If it were not for this mercy, we could not come to God.
This meditation on his mercy, than which nothing more humbles a heart of flesh.
We can understand a more powerful being withstanding us. But for one who has just cause against us, to show mercy in the midst of our knowledge of his power; that brings humility.
It is a certain conclusion; no proud man knows God.
How humility makes this possible:
Humility is not only a virtue itself; but a vessel to contain other virtures: like embers, which keep the fire alive that is hidden under it. It emptieth itself by a modest estimation of its own worth, that Christ may fill it. It wrestleth with God, like Jacob, and wins by yielding; and the lower it stoops to the gound the more advantage it gets to obtain the blessing. All our pride, O Lord, is from the want of knowing thee.
This knowledge of God in turn brings about the repentance for and mortification of sin.
At this point, it perhaps best to consider something which so often is missing in contemporary Christian life: the contemplation of God for his own sake. Americans (I cannot speak for others) want always to know what this information does; but is the practical application.
Now application is a great thing. But one sort of application which is noticeably absent is the application of contemplation: Just steadily thinking one, mediating, considering the thought that God is ….
It is nature of persons, that we can know one another only through some attention. We may gain a very superficial knowledge of a word or a sight; but actual appreciation for another person requires time and attention.
Perhaps our trouble with sin stems from too little knowledge of God. God is an abstraction; not personal. But a true knowledge of God would work humility and humility repentance.
Here is a thought. God is Father. Even before creation (if it makes any sense to say “before” when it comes to God), God is Father. The creation is an overflow of the joy and love of the Father. Our redemption flows from the love of God for us. Our glorification flows from the headwaters of God’s love as Father.
Sit alone with those thoughts. Consider that one truth and see what it brings about in you.
This sermon by Thomas Adams was preached on March 29, 1625, just after the death of King James
The Sinner’s Mourning-Habit
(A habit here means an outfit, the way one dresses in mourning.)
The text given is Job 42:6, “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent and dust and ashes.”
Adams begins with the implicit question, How does God speak to us, what does God do to gain our attention?
Affliction is a winged chariot, that mounts the soul toward heaven; nor do we ever rightly understand God’s majesty as when we are under our own misery….The Lord hath many messengers by which he solicits man….But among them all, none dispatcheth the business surer or sooner than affliction; if that fail of bring a man home, nothing can do it.
God had used affliction to gain the attention of Job and Job’s repentance here in “dust and ashes” is the end of that work. Where we may consider three degrees of mortification: the sickness, the death, and the burial of sin.
To study God is the way to make a humble man; and a humble man is in the way to come unto God.
Adams comes to the first word of the text, “Wherefore.” This establishes the basis upon which Job was humbled. Adams sees two elements here: (1) God’s majesty and (2) God’s mercy as the basis for Job’s humility.
As to majesty, “Mathematicians wonder at the sun, that, being so much bigger than the earth, it doth not set it on fire and burn it to ashes: but here is a wonder, that God being so infinitely great, and we so infinitely evil, we are not consumed.”
As to mercy: Meditating upon the mercy of God is the great means to humble us, “nothing more humbles a heart of flesh.”
It is a certain conclusion, no proud man knows God.
Humility is not only a virtue itself, but a vessel to contain other virtues: like embers, which keep the fire alive that is hidden under it. It empieth itself by a modest estimation of its own worth that Christ may fill it….All our pride, O Lord, is from want of knowing thee.
Next words, “I abhor myself. It is a deep degree of mortification for a man to abhor himself.”
He that doth not admire himself is a man to be admired.
But the children of grace have learned another lesson – to think well of other men, and to abhor themselves. And indeed, if we consider what master we have served, and what wages deserved, we have just cause to abhor ourselves. What part of us hath not sinned that it should not merit to be despised?
He then asks this question, which raises a fascinating psychological question as to the nature of self-centeredness and more particularly the sin-centeredness of human beings. Perhaps this centering upon sin is truly what is at issue in narcissism rather than the bare “self.” Here is Adams’ observation on this point:
That we love God far better than ourselves is soon said; but to prove it is not so easily done. He must deny himself that will be Christ’s servant, Mark viii. 34. Many have denied their friends, may have denied their kindred, not a few have denied their brothers, some have denied their own parents; but to themselves, this is a hard task. To deny their profits, to deny their lusts, to deny their reasons, to deny themselves? No, do to all this they utterly deny.
But this denial of self and abhorrence of the sin which inhabits this is the heart of repentance.
Thus, if we deny ourselves,
God will honor us.
If we abhor ourselves,
God will accept us.
If we hate ourselves,
God will love us.
If we condemn ourselves,
God will acquit us.
If we punish ourselves,
God will spare us.
Yea, thus if we seem lost to ourselves,
We shall be found in the day of Jesus Christ.
Next, he comes to the words, “I repent.” Rather than explain the nature of repentance, Adams’ goal is to bring us to repentance. He begins by noting that for many the potential for repentance perversely becomes an encouragement to sin. But such thinking is faulty, repentance – true repentance – can never be a basis to encourage sin: “repentance is a fair gift of God.”
Man’s heart is like a door with a spring-lock; pull the door after you, it locks of itself, but you cannot open it again without a key. Man’s heart naturally locks out grace; none but he that hath the key of the house of David, Rev. iii.7, can open the door and put it in. God hath made a promise to repentance, not of repentance; we may trust to that promise, but there is no trusting to ourselves.
We have no promise that God will grant us repentance, and without repentance there is no reconciliation with God. True repentance does not lie in magic words nor in our natural ability. True repentance is something given and granted by God.
Nor yet must we think with this one short word, ‘I repent,’ to answer for the multitude of our offenses; as if we, that had sinned in parcels, should be forgiven in gross….Nor is it enough to recount them, but we must recant them….
If we could truly weigh our iniquities, we must needs find a necessity of either repenting or of perishing.
Shall we make God frown upon us in heaven,
Arm all his creatures against us on earth?
Shall we force his curses upon us and ours;
Take his rod, and teach it to scourge us with all temporal plagues;
And not repent?
Shall we wound our consciences with sin,
That they may wound us with eternal torments;
Make a hell in our bosoms here,
And open the gates of that lower hell to devour us hereafter,
And not repent?
Do we give by sin Satan a right to us
A power over us
An advantange against us:
And not labor to cross his mischiefs by repentance?
Do we cast brimstone into that infernal fire,
As if it could not be hot enough, or we should fail of tortures expect we make ourselves our own tormentors?
And not rather seek to quench those flames without penitent tears?
How then will we put off sin? We cannot look to repentance as a remedy to sin if we look to it as an excuse for sin. We start with looking to the end of sin, “If we could see the farewell of sin, we would abhor it and ourselves for it.” Look at the consequence which will flow from the sin: what will happen? How will your conscience stand?
Finally the phrase, “Dust and ashes.”
This is a wonderful line, “I have but on stair more, down from both text and pulpit, and this a very low one, ‘Dust and ashes.’”
What keeps us from thinking of this end?
How may doth the golden cup of honor make drunk, and drive from all sense of mortality. Riches and heart’s ease are such usual intoxications to the souls of men, that it is rare to find any of them so low as dust and ashes.
Dust as the remembrance of his original; ashes, as the representation of his end. Dust, that was his mother; ashes, that shall be the daughter of our bodies.
Dust the matter of our substance, the house of our souls, the original grains whereof we were made, the top of all our kindred. The glory of the strongest man, the beauty of the fairest woman, all is but dust. Dust, the only compounder of differences, the absolver of all distinctions.
Who can say which was the client, which the lawyer;
which the borrower, which the lender;
which the captive, which the conqueror,
when they all lie together in blended dust?
The sport of the wind,
The very slave of the besom [a broom].
This is the pit from whence we are digged,
And this is the pit into which we shall be resolved.
As he writes later, we are made from dust and live in the empire of dust.
I call you not to casting dust on your heads
Or sitting in ashes
But to that sorrow and compunction of souls
Whereof the other was but an external symbol or testimony.
Let us rend our hearts and spare our garments
Humble our souls without afflicting our bodies. Is. lviii.5.
Poor wretched man Death’s captive stood full chuff But thou my gracious Lord didst find relief Thou King of Glory didst, to handy cuff With King of Terrors and dashed out his teeth, 15 Pluckest out his sting, his poison quellest, his head To pieces breakest. Hence cruel death lies dead.
Summary: Having passed his introduction, the poet turns to the explanation of his motto, “Death is yours.” The movement is clear: Humanity was under the sway of Death without escape. God found a way to defeat death. Death is now dead.
“Death is yours.” This needs some explanation. The verse cited, in context reads,
1 Corinthians 3:18–23 (AV) 18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. 20 And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. 21 Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; 22 Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; 23 And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.
The people of Corinth were playing favorites and counting themselves as part of a faction of Paul o Apollos or Cephas (Peter). Such factions are wisdom of the world. And why would claim only Paul or Apollos?
“This turns their slogans completely on their head, with the significant difference that the pronoun is plural, not singular. Thus, they may not say “I belong to Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas,” not only because that is to boast in mere men, but because that is the precise opposite of reality in Christ. In him, as Eph. 1 will say in lofty cadences, God has begun what he will eventually bring to full consummation, namely “to bring all things in heaven and earth under one head, even Christ” (Eph. 1:10); therefore, all things are yours (plural).” Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987), 153.
The personification of death:Death is here presented as a monster which God defeats: Death has “capatives”; therefore, Death has the capacity to make captive. Death is the “King of Terrors.” Death has teeth, a sting, poison, and a head. Death has also been killed.
Death holding captives:
This comes from Hebrews 2:14–15, “14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” (AV) Here is specifically the “fear of death” which is used to hold us captive.
The Defeat of Death
The primary allusion for this stanza comes from 1 Corinthians 15:54-57, where Paul writes that due to the Resurrection of Jesus, the power of death has been destroyed. Taylor takes much of his imagery from this passage: “54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (AV)
The breaking of death’s head comes from Genesis 3:15, “15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”
chuff: here morose, sullen. “full chuff”, does he mean “despair”?
Handy cuff: struck with a hand
Dashed out his teeth This seems to be an allusion to Psalm 3:7 “7 Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly.” (AV)
King of Terrors This comes from Job 18:14, speaking of one being brought to death as a judgment, “14 His confidence shall be rooted out of his tabernacle, and it shall bring him to the king of terrors.” (AV). This was understood as a reference to death, “Death is of all terribles the most terrible, and is therefore called the king of terrors. But those who have taken God in Christ for their refuge, have what may comfort and establish them, even in that case. Even from the last enemy God it a refuge.” Thomas Boston, The Whole Works of Thomas Boston: A Soliloquy on the Art of Man-Fishing, ed. Samuel M‘Millan, vol. 5 (Aberdeen: George and Robert King, 1849), 66.
Rutherford used the image with the idea of ruling over men, “By one man’s offence, there was a cruel king, death the king of terrors, who hath a black sceptre, set over all and every man without exception.” Samuel Rutherford, Christ Dying, and Drawing Sinners to Himself (Glasgow: Samuel and Archibald Gardner; Niven, Napier & Khull, 1803), 501.
In this sermon by Matthew Sylvester, we see very similar thoughts and imagery to that used by Taylor: “DIRECTION I. Be thoroughly persuaded of, and heartily affected with, a life to come. (2 Cor. 4:17, 18.)—This is the “poise” and pondus of religion; (Heb. 11:6;) this is the heart and strength of godliness. (Acts 24:14, 15, 25.) It is this that strips that king of terrors, death, of all his frightful looks and strength; this spoils his fatal conquest, gripe, and sting. (2 Tim. 4:6–8; 2 Cor. 5:1–10; 1 Cor. 15:51–58.)”. James Nichols, Puritan Sermons, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Richard Owen Roberts, Publishers, 1981), 659.
The phrase itself was remarkably common in Puritan writing, whether Public (such as Sylvester’s sermon) or in private correspondence such as this by Thomas Brooks, “Now you should always look upon death under scripture notions, and this will take off the terror of death; yea, it will make the king of terrors to be the king of desires; it will make you not only willing to die, but even long to die, and to cry out, ‘Oh that I had the wings of a dove, to fly away, and be at rest!’ At death you shall have an eternal jubilee, and be freed from all incumbrances. Now sin shall be no more, nor trouble shall be no more, nor pain nor ailments shall be no more.” Thomas Brooks, The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, vol. 5 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1867), 454–455.
King of Glory: This is an allusion to Psalm: 8–10 “8 Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. 9 Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. 10 Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah.” The allusion is quite apt, because the original is a reference to Jesus’ Ascension where he enters having defeated death:
“When Christ ascends into heaven after his sore conflict with his enemies and his glorious victory over them, wherein he appeared to be “the Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle” [v. 8], and the word was proclaimed to the gates and doors of that everlasting temple of God, that they should be lift up, that the King of glory may come in, the heavenly hosts are represented as inquiring with wonder and great admiration, “Who is this King of glory?”, as being in their eyes a very wonderful person, and one that had done very wonderful things, as though some very new thing appeared, a remarkable person coming, appearing in such wise as never had been before, a person that appeared with very wonderful glory, and such an one as that it was wonderful that one, with those things that had appeared in him of late and now appeared, should have the title of “the King of glory,” as though it was admirable that such glory should be united with those other things that appeared in this person, which yet it most plainly appeared there had, that appeared in him, by which he appears sufficiently to merit the character of the King of glory, viz. his appearing so strong and mighty in battle, as he had done, and gaining such a glorious victory, as he had done. And therefore it is answered, “The Lord strong and mighty,” etc. [v. 8].” Jonathan Edwards, Notes on Scripture, ed. Harry S. Stout and Stephen J. Stein, vol. 15, The Works of Jonathan Edwards (London; New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), 282.
The Defeat of Death:
Christ before his death had been combating with the powers of darkness and all the subordinate instruments. Death was Satan’s beast of prey that was set upon him; but our Lord foiled it in its own dungeon. The battle between Christ and death was begun upon the cross; he grappled with it there, and they went tugging and wrestling to the grave. Christ, like a prudent warrior, carried the war into his enemy’s country, and there got loose of the grasp of death, foiled it in its own territory. He arose, and left death gasping behind him; so that the quality of the grave is quite altered. Before it was a prison, Satan’s dungeon; now it is a chamber of repose, a bed of ease, ever since Christ slept there.
Thomas Manton, “The Saints Triumph Over Death,” The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, vol. 2 (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1871), 445
And is it much ‘far better’ to die, that we may be with Christ, than to live here a conflicting life? Why should we then fear death, that is but a passage to Christ? It is but a grim sergeant that lets us into a glorious palace, that strikes off our bolts, that takes off our rags, that we may be clothed with better robes, that ends all our misery, and is the beginning of all our happiness. Why should we therefore be afraid of death? it is but a departure to a better condition? It is but as Jordan to the children of Israel, by which they passed to Canaan. It is but as the Red Sea by which they were going that way. Therefore we have no reason to fear death. Of itself it is an enemy indeed, but now it is harmless, nay, now it is become a friend, amicable to us, a sweet friend. It is one part of the church’s jointure, death. ‘All things are yours,’ saith the apostle, Paul and Apollos, ‘life and death,’ 1 Cor. 3:22. Death is ours and for our good. It doth us more good than all the friends we have in the world. It determines and ends all our misery and sin; and it is the suburbs of heaven. It lets us into those joys above.
Richard Sibbes, The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, vol. 1 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; W. Robertson, 1862), 340.
Death lies dead: I don’t know if he means an allusion here to either Donne’s “Death thou shalt die” or Owens’ “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ.”
The first line is hard to scan. The effect depends upon how one takes the word “poor” at the beginning. It could read solemnly, “POOR WRETched MAN,” with a heavy accent on “poor.” But one could read the line Poor filling in like a connective word introducing the topic.
The interesting effects are in lines 15-18:
With King of Terrors and dashed out his teeth, 15 Pluckest out his sting, his poison quellest, his head To pieces breakest. Hence cruel death lies dead.
There is no way to force these lines into smooth iambs. The pause in line 15 between TERrors – and makes for a run up to DASHED OUT his TEETH. Perphas Taylor had a cheat syllable of DASH-ed to create iambs.
Line 16 I scan:
PLUCKest OUT his STING, his POIson QUELLest, his HEAD – an enjambment: which creates some movement to line 17
to PIEces BREAKest.
We get a long pause before when come to the conclusion of death’s death.
The strong initial consonsants:
With King of Terrors and dashed out his teeth, 15 Pluckest out his sting, his poison quellest, his head To pieces breakest. Hence cruel death lies dead.
James Denney begins his sermon, Immortality, as follows:
WHO has not asked this question, in suspense, in hope, or in fear? We know that we must all die: we know that those who are dearest to us must die: can our eyes penetrate beyond the veil which death lets fall? Is there any answer in the nature or heart of humanity to the question of Job, “If a man die shall he live again?”
If we look at the history of nations and religions, we see that the whole tendency of man has been to answer the question in one way. “Looking at the religion of the lower races as a whole,” says Dr. Tylor in his Primitive Culture, “we shall at least not be ill advised in taking as one of its general and principal elements the doctrine of the soul’s future life.” The idea of the extinction or annihilation of man in death is indeed not so much a natural as a philosophic or doctrinaire one; an untaught mind is incapable of it, and it only appears as a fruit of reflection or speculation. The natural inclination of man everywhere is to believe not in his extinction, but in his survival. The ideas attached to the word may be vague, but they are real, and they exercise a real influence upon the life.
James Denney, The Way Everlasting: Sermons (London; New York; Toronto: Hodder and Stoughton, 1911), 177.
As he looks upon the range of human beliefs on this matter he makes this observation:
What strikes one most in looking at this widespread, one may truly say this universal, faith in man’s survival of death, is its moral neutrality. All men survive, and they survive in practically the same condition, whether they are good or bad. The world into which they pass is conceived as a shadowy unsubstantial place, and the life of those who tenant it corresponds.
I have seen this to be true. I once spoke with people visiting the place a young man was murdered in a gang drive by (one rival gang against another). The friends of the slain man were quite certain that their comrade who died in connection with his criminality was alive in the same place as everyone else.
Having reviewed both beliefs of many cultures and having traced the issue through the Scripture, he comes to the Christian hope in full:
Christians believe in their own resurrection to eternal life, because they believe in the Resurrection of Christ. But faith does not depend upon—it does not originate in nor is it maintained by—the Resurrection of Christ, simply as a historical fact. The Resurrection of Jesus is not simply a fact outside of us, guaranteeing in some mysterious way our resurrection in some remote future. It is a present power in the believer. He can say with St. Paul—Christ liveth in me—the risen Christ—the Conqueror of Death—and a part, therefore, is ensured to me in His life and immortality. This is the great idea of the New Testament whenever the future life is in view.
Having shown the ground of our hope, he returns to Job’s question from his introduction, but this he rephrases it:
“If a man die,” asked Job, “shall he live again?” Let us put it directly, If I die, shall I live again? It is not worth while putting it as a speculative question: the speculators have not been unanimous nor hearty in their answer. Faith in immortality has in point of fact entered the world and affected human life along the line of faith in God and in Jesus Christ His Son. Only one life has ever won the victory over death: only one kind of life ever can win it—that kind which was in Him, which is in Him, which He shares with all whom faith makes one with Him. That is our hope, to be really members of Christ, living with a life which comes from God and has already vanquished death. God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Can death touch that life? Never. The confidence of Christ Himself ought to be ours. If we live by Him we have nothing to fear. “He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” “Verily, verily I say unto you, if a man keep My word, he shall never see death.” “I am the Resurrection and the Life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead yet shall he live, and he that liveth and believeth in Me, shall never die.” Believest thou this?
Fyall lays the crux of Job as the question of which and why the evil? More precisely, he lays out two related questions. Is God Job’s advocate or his Satan (accuser) is God for Job or against him:
Here Job comes close to reconstructing the scene of the heavenly council in the Prologue; but he turns it inside out. He identifies God as his enemy rather than his advocate. At this crucial point he is tested to the ultimate. From his perspective he is led to wonder if God in whom he trusted is not in reality his satan.
Page 43, quoting J.E. Hartley. A related question is the presence of evil in creation. To Job, there seems to be a dualism in creation: an equal evil power to the power of God, a power which lies in contrast to God but which operates on the same plain as God.
To combine the questions: Is this affliction the power of God or is it the power of something God cannot control?
To develop this question, Fyall looks to the nature of the evil powers as presented in the language of ANE mythology. There is way in which the allusions would be understood. This is not to say that Job believes the ANE mythology but rather that the allusions give detail and personification to the evil:
My argument is that personification is necessary because it corresponds to a profound reality. The reality is that the universe is not a mechanical system as envisioned by a rationalistic deism (which, incidentally, is a metaphorical view as any other) but a vast series of complex relationships involving not only God but other powers. It is, in other words, the metaphor of the heavenly court that brilliantly embodies this idea.
Working through this thesis, Fyall explains the manner in which God’s speech to Job answers the question: and thus leads to Job’s statement,
Job 42:5 (ESV)
5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;
Job realizes there are no powers beyond God’s control; Job learns to understand God more clearly.
In addition to working through this issue, Fyall develops various themes and makes observations which help us to understand theology and the Scripture well beyond Job. For example, the discussion of Jesus and the sea opened up a whole new way to understand Jesus walking upon and Jesus stilling the sea.
Now, it is much better for things to be in a state of confusion so we will wake up, for if we were at peace, we would be asleep, we would no longer be aware of anything, anything at all. But if things go badly, we are forced to think about God and put our senses on alert and think about a judgment that is prepared, which is not yet apparent, and that is how our Lord leads us to hunger for the last day and the resurrection which has been promised. But the fact remains that men continue to surround themselves with false and wicked fantasies. For, as I have already said, inasmuch as events do not happen as we would like, we are tempted to suppose that God does not think of us or watch over us any longer, that serving him is a wasted effort and that there is no difference whether we live an upright life or not and that the good gain nothing by walking in fear under him.
John Calvin, Sermon on Job 24:1-9
let us realise that we must not come before God to plead our case, for we are all obliged to be condemned without his conducting a long trial against us, and all the more must our sins be compounded, since we think we have many defences and excuses to offer. So, there is no other remedy except acknowledging we are all indebted to him and asking for his pardon and mercy. This is how we must come to God: we must not claim to be righteous or be able to satisfy him; we must acknowledge the sins we have committed and ask him to receive us out of his pure kindness and mercy, and we must not open our mouths to plead our case, for that debate is not ours. That office is in the hands of our Lord Jesus Christ. As for us, let us keep our mouths shut and allow Jesus Christ to be our advocate and intercede for us so that our sins may be buried in this way and we may be absolved instead of condemned. That is the first thing we have to remember. And that is how we will be forever delivered by our Judge, as Paul says: ‘Who will lay anything to the charge of God’s children, since he justifies them?’ (Rom. 8: 33) Who will bring a suit against them, since Jesus Christ has taken their case in hand and wants to plead it? That, I say, is our only refuge, and without it we are lost and have no need to think about approaching God, for we will be struck down by his wrath, as we deserve.
John Calvin. Sermons on Job, Volume 2: Chapters 15-31 (Kindle Locations 7147-7151). The Banner of Truth Trust.
Here we have Eliphaz telling Job that God punishes the wicked to show that he is Judge of the world and that they are wasting their effort fortifying themselves because they will not be able to escape his hand, for despite their great numbers and cooperation, God will destroy everything. But if that language is applied to Job, Job would have to believe that God is his enemy because he is wicked and filled with hypocrisy. That is not the case. Job has good reason to say, ‘Well, I know all of that, and if I needed it now, I would use it, but it does not apply to me.’ Job understood that he was not being afflicted because of his sins and that this was not God’s intention. It is not that Job did not feel guilty and deserving of worse if God had wanted to examine him rigorously, but he knows that God is not dealing with him the way he is because of his sins, but that God has another purpose. Knowing that, Job rejects the accusation they charge him with. Why? Because it does not fit his situation. ‘You are,’ he says, ‘a sorry lot of comforters.’ Why? Because they do not offer him appropriate consolations.
That tells us that when we want to comfort our neighbours in their distress and sorrow, we are not to approach them unmindful of their situation, for there are many comforters who, without regard for the person they are addressing, have only one pat thing to say. We must address each person and situation differently. We must speak one way to a person who is stubbornly opposed to God and another way to a pitiful creature who has always walked in simplicity. And depending on what the affliction is, we need to know how to proceed. For example, if men are morally insensitive, we must reproach and reprove their indifference so they will feel God’s hand and humble themselves under it. So we need great wisdom when we want to comfort appropriately those whom God afflicts. That is what we have to remember about this passage when it says that those who were intending to comfort Job were sorry comforters because they offered nothing that could help him. That is the main thing we have to remember.
John Calvin. Sermons on Job, Volume 2: Chapters 15-31 (Kindle Locations 1243-1258). The Banner of Truth Trust.
Paton had courage to overcome the criticism he received from respected elders for going to the New Hebrides. A certain Mr. Dickson exploded, “The cannibals! You will be eaten by can- nibals!” The memory of Williams and Harris on Erromanga was only nineteen years old. But to this Paton responded:
Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serv- ing and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or by worms; and in the Great Day my Resurrection body will rise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.
— John Piper, Filling Up The Affliction of Christ, John Paton, p. 58.
THE CONQUEROR WORM
By Edgar Allan Poe
Lo! ’t is a gala night
Within the lonesome latter years!
An angel throng, bewinged, bedight
In veils, and drowned in tears,
Sit in a theatre, to see
A play of hopes and fears,
While the orchestra breathes fitfully
The music of the spheres.
Mimes, in the form of God on high,
Mutter and mumble low,
And hither and thither fly—
Mere puppets they, who come and go
At bidding of vast formless things
That shift the scenery to and fro,
Flapping from out their Condor wings
That motley drama—oh, be sure
It shall not be forgot!
With its Phantom chased for evermore
By a crowd that seize it not,
Through a circle that ever returneth in
To the self-same spot,
And much of Madness, and more of Sin,
And Horror the soul of the plot.
But see, amid the mimic rout,
A crawling shape intrude!
A blood-red thing that writhes from out
The scenic solitude!
It writhes!—it writhes!—with mortal pangs
The mimes become its food,
And seraphs sob at vermin fangs
In human gore imbued.
Out—out are the lights—out all!
And, over each quivering form,
The curtain, a funeral pall,
Comes down with the rush of a storm,
While the angels, all pallid and wan,
Uprising, unveiling, affirm
That the play is the tragedy, “Man,”
And its hero, the Conqueror Worm.
These are rough notes for a talk on covetousness and consumerism:
I. The Good of Wealth
God seems quite fond of gold and jewels. In Genesis 2 we read of the gold of Havilah, where there is also bdellium and onyx. When Solomon builds the temple, it is made of gold and cedar. The New Jerusalem in the New Heavens and Earth has streets of pure gold, walls of jasper. “The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel” (Rev. 21:19). When describes the glory of God in the place, he compares it to “a most rare jewel, a jasper, clear as crystal” (Rev. 21:11).
Those who search the sky have found a planet completely made of diamond and a star where it rains olivine, a green stone like an emerald;  crystals in comets and gems on the surface and mountains of crystal on the moon. Apparently, two neutron stars smashing into each other creates oceans of gold.
When God blessed Job, he gave him wealth (Job 42:10-17). And when Solomon showed humility in asking for wisdom, God blessed Solomon by giving him wealth (1 Kings 3:12-13). Riches are in the right hand of wisdom (Prov. 3:16; 8:18):
4 The reward for humility and fear of the LORD
is riches and honor and life. Proverbs 22:4 (ESV)
II What then is the trouble with stuff?
A) Read from “The Journey to the Bending Light”.
Ask the kids – what’s the trouble with the toys?
Are toys bad? Is it wrong to play with the toys?
They wear them out by chasing the wrong things.
They make them discontent.
The toys lead them to covet and coveting leads to more sin.
B) No amount of property in this world will make us content
1. Ecclesiastes 2:1-11: In the end, he owned an illusion.
a) Riches don’t keep: they are vain. 1:2 Proverbs 27:24, “riches do not last forever”.
James 1:11 (ESV)
11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
b) Proverbs 11:4 (ESV)
4 Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
but righteousness delivers from death.
2. When riches are end in themselves, they only leave to covetousness:
a) It ruins us in this life leading in pursuit of something which can never make us happy.
1 Timothy 6:9–10 (ESV)
9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
b) It ruins us for the life to come:
Luke 12:13–21 (ESV)
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” ’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
III How does covetousness work?
A) What is going on with the desire for wealth?
1) When a young man wishes to marry a young lady, he may give her a ring. The ring causes her to think of him. The ring is a token. But what if she were to love the ring and not the boy?
2) Think of the ways in which wealth is spoken of as a good thing:
a) The Garden,
b) The New Jerusalem
c) God’s glory
d) The Temple
e) Wealth given as a blessing alleviates some of the pain caused by the Fall.
3) Wealth appeals to our desire for something greater than this vain, fallen world.
B) What then is the trouble with wealth?
a) Our focus is directed to the toy alone.
b) The rich fool who forgot God.
c) The wicked whose wealth causes them to forget God:
Psalm 73:11–12 (ESV)
11 And they say, “How can God know?
Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
12 Behold, these are the wicked;
always at ease, they increase in riches.
d) Wealth becomes the end.
4): Augustine Book 10, Chapter 29:
For he loves You too little who loves anything with You, which he loves not for You, O love, who ever burnest, and art never quenched!
5) Here then is the secret:
a) We must receive all things – wealth as a gift from God:
Ecclesiastes 5:18–20 (ESV)
18 Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. 19 Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. 20 For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.
b) We must allow wealth or poverty to cause us to forget God:
Proverbs 30:7–9 (ESV)
7 Two things I ask of you;
deny them not to me before I die:
8 Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
9 lest I be full and deny you
and say, “Who is the Lord?”
or lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God.
Philippians 4:11–12 (ESV)
11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
c) Contentment, ultimately, is a gift which comes by means of faith from Christ:
13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 (ESV)