This Week's Focus Passage

Job 26:14 ‘Lo, these are but the outskirts of his ways.’

Job 26:14 ‘Lo, these are but the outskirts of his ways.’

If I may be excused for doing so, I intend to communicate a rather large extract from the 12 volumes of his Practical Observations on Job by the Puritan Joseph Caryl (1602-1674). A recent purchaser of this reprint (the first after 400 years) offered the following remarks:

“Few Christians, whether regenerate or merely pretending, will ever get around to this one, either because it is in limited supply, or that what is available is in what seems, an ancient script (which few will venture to try), or, significantly, that it is full of meat such as this world has not seen since the days of the Puritans. Now is a day of meat, and meat won’t do for most. Still, if one loves the Puritan way of exposition, heavily steeped in the word of God, then this, ostensibly on the book of Job (but, in true Puritan fashion, taking in all the counsel of God)….then this is for you.”—Amazon customer review.

With that said, I hasten to set before you a few of his ‘Observations’ upon Job 26:14;

All we know of the works of God is but a part. As ‘tis said of Solomon (1 Kings 4:33) that he spake of trees, from the cedar tree, that is in Lebanon, even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall: He spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of

fishes; so Job had been discoursing from the heights of heaven to the bottoms of the Sea, yea to the bottom of hell; and yet he comes off, and saith, lo these are parts of his ways. He that speaketh and knoweth many things, yea he that speaketh all that he knoweth, hath yet spoken only a part of that which is knowable. The Apostle saith (1 Cor. 13:9-10) We know in part, and we prophesy in part; Many know more than they utter or prophesy, but no man can utter or prophesy more than he knoweth; We know but a part of what is to be known; and we know what we know but in part, and therefore when we have spoken our all, we have spoken but a part. Though every Godly man knoweth all things needful for him to do and believe, yet the holiest man on earth doth not know all that God hath done. God hath some reserved and secret ways into which he doth not lead his people. As the best of Saints see but the Back-parts of God in this life, so they see but a part of the ways of God in this life, lo these are parts of his ways. Again, taking the original word as it signifies not only a part but the outside or extreme of anything, Note, That which we know of the works of God, is not only no more than a part of his works, but ‘tis indeed only the outside of his works.

‘Tis but as the hem to a garment, or the borders to a Continent. When we have travelled as far as we can, and as we think into the very heart of the works of God, yet we have gone no further than the borders of them; and it is, as if a man coming to discover this Island, should only walk upon the shore where he disembarked, and there viewing the cliffs and rocks, the sands and nearest marshes, should take upon him to report the state of the whole island: what hath this man seen? nothing but the extremity, the border of the Land, and can he make a complete discovery of the whole? he hath not seen the pleasant hills and vales, the towns and cities, the forts and castles, the trade and riches, the customs and manners of the people; no man can know the chief things of a nation or country that stands only upon the shore. All that we know of the works of God, is only the shore, and outside of them; we cannot reach the heart, nor fathom the bottom of them. The works of the Lord are great, (Psal. 111:2) Sought out of all them that have pleasure therein; that is, they who take pleasure in them do their utmost to find out the utmost of them; a godly man is as industrious to understand the ways and works of God as he is to understand his word, yet he cannot reach either fully; and therefore that Psalm hath an excellent conclusion, to satisfy us in our exclusion, (as yet) from the perfect knowledge of these things. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, a good understanding have all they that do his commandments; as if the Lord had said, though while ye labor to seek out my works, yet, ye cannot find them out to perfection, be not discouraged, as if ye were shortened in wisdom, and knowledge; for the fear of my name is wisdom enough for you, and obedience to my commandments is the best understanding; let this satisfy you while ye know but a part of my ways. And if we know but a part, and that the outside of the ways and works of God, then surely we cannot know all of God himself: as it followeth in the next words, And how little a portion is heard of him?

The original notes anything which is little, or a little portion of anything. Hence some render it a drop, which is a little or the least portion of water. So the vulgar and the Seventy, We have hardly heard a little drop of his speech. Others render it a whisper, which is but a little portion of a voice. How little a whisper have we heard of him? The works of God are as it were a whisper concerning him, all that we see, or can say, makes but a kind of silent report of God, in comparison to what he is, or to what might be said of him. And so the word whisper, is opposed to thunder in the close of the verse, But the thunder of his power, who can understand? As if Job had said, All that I have spoken of God is but a whisper, there is a Thunder of his power, which I am able neither to utter, nor to understand. All creatures speak of God, yea they speak much of God, as the Apostle affirmeth for the conviction of the Gentiles in their idolatrous departures from him (Rom. 1:20) For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and God-head, so that they are without excuse: The creatures speak loud enough to stop man’s mouth and leave him without all excuse, yet comparatively they do but whisper, there is a thunder of God infinitely louder than their voice. So that Job calleth those works of God wherein he has instanced a whisper or still voice, because though they signify to us and declare the glory of their Author, yet they are not a full declaration of it, but only such a one as is accommodated to our childish capacity. All that they speak or can speak of God, yea all that can be spoken of God by the wisest of men, is only as a whisper to thunder or as a drop to the ocean; but I shall not say more of the elegancy of the word here, it having been already opened (Chap. 4:12) where Eliphaz thus bespeaks Job; Now a thing was secretly (or as we put in the margin, by stealth) brought to me, and mine ear received a little (a whisper, a drop) thereof, in thoughts from visions of the night, etc. All that we know now, of God and his ways is but little to what we know not, and but little to what we shall know hereafter; every day we hear great things reported and preached of God both to our eyes and ears, and though we should have sermon upon sermon, line upon line all the days of our lives, yet at the last day of our lives we must say, How little a portion have we heard of him?

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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