June 9, 2024

The Former Days Always Seem Better Than Today


"Shun all giddy, loose, and wicked company; they will corrupt and lead you into vice and bring you to ruin. Seek the company of sober, virtuous and good people? which will lead [you] to solid happiness"

DAILY READING : Job 29 - 31

TEXT : Job 29:1  Moreover Job continued his parable, and said, Job 29:2  Oh that I were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me; Job 29:3  When his candle shined upon my head, and when by his light I walked through darkness; Job 29:4  As I was in the days of my youth, when the secret of God was upon my tabernacle; Job 29:5  When the Almighty was yet with me, when my children were about me; Job 29:6  When I washed my steps with butter, and the rock poured me out rivers of oil; Job 29:7  When I went out to the gate through the city, when I prepared my seat in the street!
There can be no doubt - Job's suffering's are great. Therefore, he continues to reminisce about the former days when he as well protected by God and in abundant prosperity. When we are in a depression of mood - no matter what the reason, the past always seems better than the present. Often, those who suffer from one affliction or the other, will be deceived into thinking, "today is the worst day I have ever had." The present suffering always seems worse than anything does in the past. Moreover, the mind has a unique way of washing away bad memories of the former days [at least to some degree] and remembering all the good.
Job here, continues to register his "complaint" that his suffering is not justified. Therefore, he desperately wants to inquire of God as to why his present state is so horrible while his past state was so wonderful.
"O that I were as in months past - Job seems here to make an apology for his complaints, by taking a view of his former prosperity, which was very great, but was now entirely at an end. He shows that it was not removed because of any bad use he had made of it; and describes how he behaved himself before God and man, and how much, for justice, benevolence, and mercy, he was esteemed and honored by the wise and good. Preserved me - Kept, guarded, and watched over me." [ADAM CLARKE]
When God's "candle" gives us light  - we rejoice. It is during the "dark night of the soul" that we are f rightened, discouraged, and perhaps in a measure of despair. ["The "Dark Night of the Soul" is a treatise by Saint John of the Cross containing a commentary explaining his poem of the same name."][1] We recall how God treated us in the past, and long for a return of those days. The "dark night of the soul," is the experience of every man or woman who has walked closely with God. It is a time of [severe] testing, when it seems God has disappeared, even ceased to exist. During this period of darkness, we are tempted in many ways, particularly to doubt the love of God.
St. John of the Cross, explains how he finds a closer unity with Christ through Christ's "wounding' him.
St. John of the Cross 
On a dark night
1. On a dark night, Kindled in love with yearnings--oh, happy
     I went forth without being observed, My house being now at rest.
     2. In darkness and secure, By the secret ladder, disguised--oh,
     happy chance!--
     In darkness and in concealment, My house being now at rest.
     3. In the happy night, In secret, when none saw me,
     Nor I beheld aught, Without light or guide, save that which burned
     in my heart.
     4. This light guided me More surely than t he light of noonday
     To the place where he (well I knew who!) was awaiting me-- A place
     where none appeared.
     5. Oh, night that guided me, Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,
     Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover, Lover transformed in the
     6. Upon my flowery breast, Kept wholly for himself alone,
     There he stayed sleeping, and I caressed him, And the fanning of the
     cedars made a breeze.
     7. The breeze blew from the turret As I parted his locks;
     With his gentle hand he wounded my neck And caused all my senses to
     be suspended.
     8. I remained, lost in oblivion; My face I reclined on the Beloved.
     All ceased and I abandoned myself, Leaving my cares forgotten among
     the lilies.[2]
During these "dark nights" some may experience [great] depression, acute anxiety, hopelessness, helplessness, etc. Again, we long for the time when God was so near. Yet - is He [a God] that is far away? No, it is not so. It only "appears " that way due to our suffering. Yet, God is faithful, Who, when the trial is finished, having its desired end, we shall shine by the candle of God again!
When his candle shined upon my head,.... Which may be understood either of outward prosperity, sometimes signified by a candle, Job_18:5; and may be called the candle of the Lord, because it is from him, it is of his lighting and setting up; and its shining on his head may denote the large measure and degree of it possessed by him, in allusion to torches carried on high to light with; or lamps, or candles, set up in the higher part of the house to give the more light; or to the sun in the firmament, and especially when in its meridian, and shines clearest right over our heads, and casts no shadow: or else it may be understood of light in a figurative sense, not of the light of nature in men, which, though called the candle of the Lord, Pro_20:27; yet, in man's fallen state, shines not clearly; and with respect to this there was no difference in Job than heretofore; but rather it is the light of grace, the true light, which had shone upon him and in him, but now not so clearly as formerly, and a s he could wish for; or else the word of God, which is a light unto the feet, and a lamp to the path; or it may be, best of all, the favour of God, the light of his countenance he had before enjoyed, having had a comfortable display of his love, a clear view of interest in it, and had the blessings of it bestowed upon him, and enjoyed by him; and nothing was more desirable by him, as is by every good man, than the return of the light of God's countenance; and that he might be remembered with his special favour, as his people are, and as he had been in times past:
and when by his light I walked through darkness; that is, either by the light of outward prosperity he had escaped those calamities, distresses, and dangers, and got over those difficulties which attended others, though now surrounded with them; or by the light of divine grace, or of the word of God, and especially by and in the light of God's countenance, he walked cheerfully and comfortably, without any fear of the darkness of affliction and calamities, or of the dark valley of the shadow of death, or of the prince of darkness, or of the darkness of hell and damnation; but now clouds of darkne ss being about him, and he without the light of God's countenance, could not see the way in which he walked and therefore wished that that again might be lifted up upon him. [JOHN GILL]
Therefore, Job compares days gone by with his present troubles and believes God has withdrawn Himself. He consoles himself with all the various types of pleasures and comforts he once had. A comparison of the "good times" with the bad, is what makes the testing of God productive. For in the end, we see how both the enjoyable gifts and grace of God and the bad - work together for [our] good and the good of His Kingdom.
"Job proceeds to contrast his former prosperity with his present misery, through God's withdrawing from him. A gracious soul delights in God's smiles, not in the smiles of this world. Four things were then very pleasant to holy Job. 1. The confidence he had in the Divine protection. 2. The enjoyment he had of the Divine favour. 3. The communion he had with the Divine word . 4. The assurance he had of the Divine presence. God's presence with a man in his house, though it be but a cottage, makes it a castle and a palace. Then also he had comfort in his family. Riches and flourishing families, like a candle, may be soon extinguished. But when the mind is enlightened by the Holy Spirit, when a man walks in the light of God's countenance, every outward comfort is doubled, every trouble is diminished, and he may pass cheerfully by this light through life and through death. Yet the sensible comfort of this state is often withdrawn for a season; and commonly this arises from sinful neglect, and grieving the Holy Spirit: sometimes it may be a trial of a man's faith and grace. But it is needful to examine ourselves, to seek for the cause of such a change by fervent prayer, and to increase our watchfulness." [MATTHEW HENRY]
As mentioned, days gone by may seem better than the present time. This is particularly true when we suffer. For obvious reasons, the past will seem better when we are in pain - physical or mental. Job has both, and remembers his many blessings from God in the past. In particular, he was held in high esteem by young and old. As an elder and a righteous man, he was, more than likely, a judge in his city. Judges in ancient times sat at the gates of the city.
"When I went out to the, gate through the city,.... Job having described his former state of happiness by the personal favo urs he enjoyed, and by the prosperity of his family, and his abundance of plenty at home, proceeds to give an account of the honour and respect he had from men of every age and rank abroad: though he had an affluence of the things of this world, he did not indulge himself at home in ease and sloth; but went abroad to take care of the public welfare, maintain public peace, and administer public justice among his neighbours; performing the office of a civil magistrate, which is often expressed in Scripture by going in and out before the people: Job went out from his own house to the gate of the city, where a court of judicature was kept, as it was usual in those times and countries to hold them in the gates of the city; see Zec_8:16; and to which he passed through the city, very probably, in great pomp and splendour, suitable to his office and character, which drew the eyes and attention of the people to him; by which it should seem that his house was on one side of the city, and the gate where justice was administered was on the other; though it may be rendered, "over the city" (o), and the sense be, that he passed along as he that was over the city, the chief man in it, and president of the court of justice, see 2Ki_10:5; [JOHN GILL]
Though Job taught many, and was a teacher, he now recalls his obligation and privilege as judge. To judge, or be recognized and appointed as a judge, puts you in a position of great authority and prestige. Now, all Job can see is his wretchedness. In addition, he was apparently no longer held in esteem by the men and women of his city. No doubt, the reason for this would be the same as the mindset of Job's friends. That is, Job MUST have sinned  [secretly]. Therefore, we [they say] reject him as a man of honor and integrity. Perhaps, this was as bad, or worse, an affliction to Job than his physical sufferings. Namely, the loss of his reputation as a righteous man. To be misunderstood and judged unfairly and incorrectly is indeed worse the physical suffering. Men and women often spend a lifetime to gain a good reputation. To have it maligned and come under judgment when it is not warranted is an affliction indeed!
"when I prepared my seat in the street; where he sat, not as a teacher, though he was an instructor, not only of his family, but of his neighbours, as Eliphaz himself testifies, Job_4:3; and it was usual for such to have seats to sit upon, as those had who succeeded Moses, and are said to sit in his chair; and it was usual to call to men and instruct them in open public places; hence Wisdom is said to utter her voice in the streets, in the opening of the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors, Pro_1:20; but Job here speaks of himself as a civil magistrate, as a judge upon the bench, who had a seat or throne erected for him to sit upon, while he was hearing and trying causes; and this was set up in the street under the open air, before the gate of the city, where the whole city might be convened together, and hear and see justice done to their neighbours; in such a street, before the gate of the city, Ezra read the law to Israel; and in such an one Hezekiah got the people of Israel together, and spoke comfortably to them when invaded by Sennacherib; see Neh_8:2; and the Arabs, to this day, hold their courts of justice in an open place under the heavens, as in a field, or in a market place (p); and it is right that courts of justice should be open and accessible to all." [JOHN GILL]
Thus, we see Job's friends are uninformed as to the true state of God and His governing of the earth. Further, as we shall see, Job's problem is that he is self-righteous. God does commend Job - as we have seen in the opening chapters of the book of Job. Nevertheless, Job did not understand that all righteousness is of God. Further, our righteousness is as "filthy rags" even when they are holy. That is, they are nothing when we compare our character to the character of God. Our own righteousness is not to be counted as anything. [Isa 64:6  But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. Isa 64:7  And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.] All goodness and righteousness belongs solely to God.
However, Job does depend on God though he is rebellious and self-righteous. Job's greatest lessons to learn about God are yet to come.
As to the friends of Job, they do not call for any extended remarks. They urge the doctrine that God's earthly government is a full measure and manifestation of His righteousness, and of the righteousness of man, which would correspond with it: a doctrine which proves a total ignorance of what God's righteousness is, and of His ways; as well as the absence of all real knowledge of what God is, or man as a sinner. We do not see either that the feelings of their hearts were influenced by communion with God. Their argument is a false and cold estimate of the exact justice of His government as an adequate manifestation of His relationship with man, though they say many true commonplace things which even the Spirit of God adopts as just. Although Job was not before God in his estimate of himself, he judges rightly in these respects. He shews that although God shews His disapprobation of the wicked, yet the circumstances in which they are often found overthrow the arguments of his friends. We see in Job a heart which, although rebellious, depends upon God, and would rejoice to find Him. We see, too, that when he can extricate himself, by a few words, from his friends, who, he is quite sensible, understands nothing of his case, nor of the dealings of God, he turns to God (although he does not find Him, and although he complains that His hand is heavy upon him), as in that beautiful and touching chapter 23, and the reasonings as to divine government, chapters 24, 21. That is to say, we see one who has tasted that God is gracious, whose heart, wounded indeed and unsubdued, yet claims those qualities for God-because it knows Him-which the cold rea sonings of his friends could not ascribe to Him; a heart which complains bitterly of God, but which knows that, could it once come near Him, it would find Him all that it had declared Him to be, and not such as they had declared Him to be, or were themselves-could he find Him, he would not be as they were, He would put words in his mouth; a heart which repelled indignantly the accusation of hypocrisy; for Job was conscious that he looked to God, and that he had known God and acted with reference to Him, though God thought fit to bring his sin to remembrance. [JOHN DARBY]
Always keep in mind that all things work together for our good and the good of the Kingdom. [Rom 8:27  And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. Rom 8:28  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. Rom 8:29  For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Rom 8:30  Moreover whom he di d predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. Rom 8:31&n bsp; What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?]
The former days always seem better than today when we suffer. Yet, every day is good in the sight of God. Every day is the day the LORD has made - the good one and and the bad ones. Above all, the righteous learn to rejoice in all of them!
Psa 118:22  The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. Psa 118:23  This is the LORD'S doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. Psa 118:24  This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Psa 118:25  Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD: O LORD, I beseech thee, send now prosperity. Psa 118:26  Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD: we have blessed you out of the house of the LORD. Psa 118:27  God is the LORD, which hath shewed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar. Psa 118:28  Thou art my God, and I will prais e thee: thou art my God, I will exalt thee. Psa 118:29  O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.


  • [1] From Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Night_of_the_Soul
  • [2] DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL,  by   Saint John of the Cross ; DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH ,THIRD REVISED EDITION,   Translated and edited, with an Introduction,   by E. ALLISON PEERS   from the critical edition of
   P. SILVERIO DE SANTA TERESA, C.D. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/john_cross/dark_night.txt
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