Neglect of God in Seasons of Need
William Nicholson, 1862
"But no one says: Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night?" Job 35:10
This is the language of Elihu, by which he shows the miserable state of the wicked, who, when troubles come upon them, have nothing to support them. When they cry out by reason of oppressions, they have no saving interest in God as the great Deliverer from trouble, and the Consolation of his people in every season of distress, verse 9, 10.
This constitutes one essential difference between the righteous and the wicked. The former habitually love God, and enjoy his gracious favor at all times; the latter are without God, without Christ, and without hope in the world. Nothing on earth is so important as a saving interest in God.
I. The Season of Affliction Should Induce Men to Seek after God.
1. All men are exposed to trouble.Both the righteous and the wicked. There is no exemption. Sin is the fruitful source of all. "Man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward!" "Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows!" John 16:33
On account of their unpleasantness, and the mental gloom, and distress, which afflictions produce, they are called "night," and "darkness." Isaiah 21:12. Afflictions are not joyous, but grievous. See also Isaiah 8:22; Job 3:24.
There are times which we must contend with these various kinds of afflictions:
(1.) Temporal visitations of Divine displeasure. When God visits a nation with war, famine, or pestilence, then it is a time of darkness. When families or individuals are subjected to poverty, to disappointment in their plans, hopes, etc., then it may be said to be night with them. Happy are they who have then the God of light for their refuge!
(2.) Bodily and mental afflictions may be compared to night. Health and its consequences resemble the bright cheering day; afflictions, and their effects, resemble the gloom and blackness of night.
(3.) The season of temptation is a dark season. The wicked may not feel it as such, but Christians do.
(4.) Declensions and backslidings lead to darkness. "Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love!" Revelation 2:4
(5.) Death is compared to night. John 9:4; and the wicked will find it "the valley of the shadow of death."
2. It is the duty of all to inquire after God in times of affliction. "Where is God my Maker?"
Inquiring after God implies:
(1.) A conviction that he is the source of all that is good and excellent, and that without a saving interest in him, the soul will be ruined forever.
(2.) Meditation on God's character by the light of revelation.
(3.) A deep conviction of our state of alienation from him, which induces repentance, godly sorrow, etc.
(4.) A knowledge of Christ as the Mediator, the way to the Father — a cordial reception of his own terms of reconciliation, and the exercise of faith in the Redeemer's sacrifice.
(5.) Frequent prayer to him, especially in seasons of darkness, believing that in him alone is our help found.
II. God Can and Will Afford Relief in the Darkest Seasons.
"Who gives songs in the night;" or, as it might be translated, "Who shines upon us, that we might praise him in the night."
He can give deliverance, grant support and consolation, and sanctify all the trials of his people, which will make them utter songs of gladness and praise.
1. It is evident from his power. "Who has an arm like God?" "How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you!" Psalm 66:3. "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble!" Psalm 46:1. "The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms." Deuteronomy 33:27. The Psalmist might well sing of his power, "Be exalted, O LORD, in your strength; we will sing and praise your might!" Psalm 21:13
2. It is evident from his love. He loves as a father, and will defend them, and save them. "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" Romans 8:32. Therefore they shall sing the song of redeeming love!
3. It is evident from his promises, how numerous are they — and the faithfulness which characterizes them. "God is not a man that he should lie," etc.
4. It is evident from what he has done. "Call to remembrance the former days!" See Hebrews 11.
(1.) He has given songs in the night of spiritual alarm, when the convicted one has trembled like the Jailor, who afterwards "rejoiced, believing," etc. Acts 16:34.
(2.) He has given songs in the time of deprivation and need. "Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign LORD is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights!" Habakkuk 3:17-19. 1 Corinthians 4:11; yet the Apostles uttered songs of triumph, 2 Corinthians 1:3, 4.
(3.) He has given songs under bodily afflictions. See the case of Paul, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. See also his powerful argument, "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
(4.) He has given songs in the time of persecution. Romans 8:36, 37, etc.; 2 Timothy 1:12; Matthew 5:10. Job when afflicted in his body, and stripped of his possessions, uttered a song of confidence, "Though he slays me, yet will I hope in him!" Job 13:15
(5.) He has given songs in the hour of temptation. 1 Corinthians 10:13; James 1:12; 1 Peter 1:6.
(6.) He has given songs in the night of death. "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me!" Psalm 23:4. Acts 21:13; 1 Corinthians 15:55.
III. Why Is it That So Few Are Inquiring after God?
1. Because man naturally hates God. "The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so!" Romans 8:7
Some deny his existence, "The fool has said in his heart: There is no God!"
Some wish there was no God, are glad when religion is opposed, would be happy to hear its truths confuted. If they could, they would obliterate the doctrine of divine providence, and the soul's immortality.
2. From the lack of spiritual perception. "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned!" 1 Corinthians 2:14
3. Because they are intoxicated with the vain pleasures of earth. Its honors — its enjoyments — its business engagements, etc., absorb their whole attention.
4. Pride also prevents them. "In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God!" Psalm 10:4. To inquire after God would lead to profess him, to become identified with his people, etc., and their hearts revolt at this.
5. Because they are captives to Satan. They are his servants — him they obey. "That they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will." 2 Timothy 2:26. "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." Ephesians 2:1-2
1. The happiness of those who inquire after God.
2. The present and future misery of the wicked.
3. Seek the Lord while he may be found.