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How many are my iniquities and my sins?

Make me know my transgression and my sin.

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23 How many are mine iniquities and sins? make me to know my transgression and my sin.   24 Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and holdest me for thine enemy?   25 Wilt thou break a leaf driven to and fro? and wilt thou pursue the dry stubble?   26 For thou writest bitter things against me, and makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth.   27 Thou puttest my feet also in the stocks, and lookest narrowly unto all my paths; thou settest a print upon the heels of my feet.   28 And he, as a rotten thing, consumeth, as a garment that is moth eaten.

Here, I. Job enquires after his sins, and begs to have them discovered to him. He looks up to God, and asks him what was the number of them (How many are my iniquities?) and what were the particulars of them: Make me to know my transgressions, v. 23. His friends were ready enough to tell him how numerous and how heinous they were, ch. xxii. 5. "But, Lord," says he, "let me know them from thee; for thy judgment is according to truth, theirs is not." This may be taken either, 1. As a passionate complaint of hard usage, that he was punished for his faults and yet was not told what his faults were. Or, 2. As a prudent appeal to God from the censures of his friends. He desired that all his sins might be brought to light, as knowing they would then appear not so many, nor so mighty, as his friends suspected him to be guilty of. Or, 3. As a pious request, to the same purport with that which Elihu directed him to, ch. xxxiv. 32. That which I see not, teach thou me. Note, A true penitent is willing to know the worst of himself; and we should all desire to know what our transgressions are, that we may be particular in the confession of them and on our guard against them for the future.

II. He bitterly complains of God's withdrawings from him (v. 24): Wherefore hidest thou thy face? This must be meant of something more than his outward afflictions; for the loss of estate, children, health, might well consist with God's love; when that was all, he blessed the name of the Lord; but his soul was also sorely vexed, and that is it which he here laments. 1. That the favours of the Almighty were suspended. God hid his face as one strange to him, displeased with him, shy and regardless of him. 2. That the terrors of the Almighty were inflicted and impressed upon him. God held him for his enemy, shot his arrows at him (ch. vi. 4), and set him as a mark, ch. vii. 20. Note, The Holy Ghost sometimes denies his favours and discovers his terrors to the best and dearest of his saints and servants in this world. This case occurs, not only in the production, but sometimes in the progress of the divine life. Evidences for heaven are eclipsed, sensible communications interrupted, dread of divine wrath impressed, and the returns of comfort, for the present, despaired of, Ps. lxxvii. 7-9; lxxxviii. 7, 15, 16. These are grievous burdens to a gracious soul, that values God's loving-kindness as better than life, Prov. xviii. 14. A wounded spirit who can bear? Job, by asking here, Why hidest thou thy face? teaches us that, when at any time we are under the sense of God's withdrawings, we are concerned to enquire into the reason of them—what is the sin for which he corrects us and what the good he designs us. Job's sufferings were typical of the sufferings of Christ, from whom not only men hid their faces (Isa. liii. 3), but God hid his, witness the darkness which surrounded him on the cross when he cried out, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? If this were done to these green trees, what shall be done to the dry? They will for ever be forsaken.

III. He humbly pleads with God his own utter inability to stand before him (v. 25): "Wilt thou break a leaf, pursue the dry stubble? Lord, is it for thy honour to trample upon one that is down already, or to crush one that neither has nor pretends to any power to resist thee?" Note, We ought to have such an apprehension of the goodness and compassion of God as to believe that he will not break the bruised reed, Matt. xii. 20.

IV. He sadly complains of God's severe dealings with him. He owns it was for his sins that God thus contended with him, but thinks it hard,

1. That his former sins, long since committed, should now be remembered against him, and he should he reckoned with for the old scores (v. 26): Thou writest bitter things against me. Afflictions are bitter things. Writing them denotes deliberation and determination, written as a warrant for execution; it denotes also the continuance of his affliction, for that which is written remains, and, "Herein thou makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth," that is, "thou punishest me for them, and thereby puttest me in mind of them, and obligest me to renew my repentance for them." Note, (1.) God sometimes writes very bitter things against the best and dearest of his saints and servants, both in outward afflictions and inward disquiet; trouble in body and trouble in mind, that he may humble them, and prove them, and do them good in their latter end. (2.) That the sins of youth are often the smart of age both in respect of sorrow within (Jer. xxxi. 18, 19) and suffering without, ch. xx. 11. Time does not wear out the guilt of sin. (3.) That when God writes bitter things against us his design therein is to make us possess our iniquities, to bring forgotten sins to mind, and so to bring us to remorse for them as to break us off from them. This is all the fruit, to take away our sin.

2. That his present mistakes and miscarriages should be so strictly taken notice of, and so severely animadverted upon (v. 27): "Thou puttest my feet also in the stocks, not only to afflict me and expose me to shame, not only to keep me from escaping the strokes of thy wrath, but that thou mayest critically remark all my motions and look narrowly to all my paths, to correct me for every false step, nay, for but a look awry or a word misapplied; nay, thou settest a print upon the heels of my feet, scorest down every thing I do amiss, to reckon for it; or no sooner have I trodden wrong, though ever so little, than immediately I smart for it; the punishment treads upon the very heels of the sin. Guilt, both of the oldest and of the freshest date, is put together to make up the cause of my calamity." Now, (1.) It was not true that God did thus seek advantages against him. He is not thus extreme to mark what we do amiss; if he were, there were no abiding for us, Ps. cxxx. 3. But he is so far from this that he deals not with us according to the desert, no, not of our manifest sins, which are not found by secret search, Jer. ii.34. This therefore was the language of Job's melancholy; his sober thoughts never represented God thus as a hard Master. (2.) But we should keep such a strict and jealous eye as this upon ourselves and our own steps, both for the discovery of sin past and the prevention of it for the future. It is good for us all to ponder the path of our feet.

V. He finds himself wasting away apace under the heavy hand of God, v. 28. He (that is, man) as a rotten thing, the principle of whose putrefaction is in itself, consumes, even like a moth-eaten garment, which becomes continually worse and worse. Or, He (that is, God) like rottenness, and like a moth, consumes me. Compare this with Hos. v. 12, I will be unto Ephraim as a moth, and to the house of Judah as rottenness; and see Ps. xxxix. 11. Note, Man, at the best, wears fast; but, under God's rebukes especially, he is soon gone. While there is so little soundness in the soul, no marvel there is so little soundness in the flesh, Ps. xxxviii. 3.