Job 32-34

Silence having fallen upon all four disputants, a fresh speaker appeared, and he too is introduced to us in a way that shows we are considering a history and not a romance. He was descended from Buz, who was a nephew of Abraham, as Genesis 22: 21 shows. In those early days after the flood, when population was small, the duplication of names would not be common.

Now Elihu is a name with a meaning, which is given to us as, "God Himself." If we bear this in mind, and then read verse 6 of Job 33, we shall see that he intervened to play the part of a mediator, and so become a type-though a faint one-of the true Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is God Himself. Elihu was truly a man, formed out of the clay and he stood before Job on God's behalf, according to the desire that Job expressed in Job 9: 33.

In Job 32 we have, what we may call, Elihu's apology for speaking at all. As a much younger man he had been content to listen to all these controversial speeches and in result was moved to wrath against all four. Job had justified himself without justifying God, while the others had condemned Job without being able to answer his arguments. He acknowledged that normally men should increase in wisdom and understanding as they increased in years, but neither greatness of reputation nor age guaranteed this, since wisdom really comes to man through his spirit and as the fruit of the "inspiration," or "breath" of the Almighty. If the three friends had succeeded in convicting Job, they would have prided themselves on their own wisdom; only God could do it. The closing words of verse 13 have been translated, " God will make him yield, not man."

Elihu also had the advantage which he mentioned in verse 14. He had not been involved in the wordy warfare, hence he could view it all impartially, and speak in a way that would not be flattering to any of the contestants. Moreover, having listened to all that had been said, he was so full of matter that it had to find an outlet and burst forth from him.

So in the opening verses of Job 33, we find him making two claims. First, he asserts that his words will be marked by uprightness and purity, as becomes one who has his being and life from God. Second, that though he would speak on God's behalf, he himself was a man, "formed of the clay," just as Job was, and hence, though Job had said of God, "Let not His fear terrify me" (Job 9: 34), what he had to say, as interpreting God's ways, would bring no terror to Job's spirit. Even as our Lord Jesus became a Man, thus bringing God to us without any sense of terror.

In verse 8, Elihu began to challenge Job in a direct way. He had heard what Job had contended, and he summed it all up as being a repudiation of any accusation brought against him as to transgression and iniquity, which of necessity involved, either directly or indirectly, an accusation against God of hard dealing, if not injustice. In thus summing up the whole position we can see, we think, that Elihu was not far wrong. The world being as it is and what it is, if perfection be claimed for man, then obviously all the wrong that exists must be blamed upon God.

In answer to Job, Elihu's first point is the supreme greatness of God. Hence striving against Him is futile. It is man who is accountable to God, not God accountable to man. Let us in our day never forget this.

But then in the second place, though God gives no account of His matters, He does speak to man, though so often man does not perceive it. And, having stated this, he proceeded to indicate ways in which God does thus speak. He may speak in a dream or a vision. He has often done so, as Scripture records, and evidently He does so still, particularly with simple saints, who know but little of the Bible, and possibly have but little of the Bible in their native tongue. Where saints are instructed in and by the Bible-a superior form of guidance - dreams, in which God speaks, are comparatively rare. And, if God does thus speak to a man in a dream: to what end is it? To alter his course and to humble his pride into the dust. A salutary word for Job; and for all of us.

God may also speak to a man by granting him some merciful deliverance when he is threatened by disaster or war. This is mentioned in verse 18, and many of us can look back to occasions when we received mercy of this sort, and we were conscious at once that God had something to say to us in it.

And yet again, God may speak through pain and sickness, which is so vividly described in verses 19-22, until the sufferer is brought face to face with death itself. We can see how Elihu's description of this exactly fitted the case of Job, and indeed not a few of us, though our cases have not been nearly as extreme as Job's. How often has a careless sinner, when smitten thus, been led to turn to God and awakened for his eternal salvation. How often too has a saint had to look back to a time of severe sickness as an occasion of much spiritual blessing.

These times of emergency are the opportunity for the one whom Elihu called a "messenger," an "interpreter," who can show what it is that God has to say in these things. Though such are not common, as indeed we know, they are of great value, and Elihu called them, "one among a thousand," which indicates rarity. There may be many who can commiserate and sometimes condemn the afflicted one, as did Job's three friends. To give the mind of God is another and a greater thing.

When the interpreter has arrived what has he to say? He shows to a man his uprightness; which is of course, to judge himself and hence honestly to take his place before God as a self-confessed sinner. This Job had not as yet done, but it is that to which he was led when the end of the story is reached. It is the end we must all of us reach if we have to do with God at all. Have we, all of us, reached it?

When that point is reached, what is the result? An exhibition of grace on God's part, resulting in deliverance from going into the pit, and that, because God Himself had found a ransom. The word translated "ransom" here simply means a "covering," akin to the word translated, "atonement" in the Old Testament. Before Christ came God covered before His holy eye the sin of the repentant sinner, waiting for the time when full propitiation should be made in the all-sufficient sacrifice of Christ. Hence that word about "the remission [passing over - see, margin] of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God" (Rom. 3: 25). These past sins were those of pre-Christian saints; Job's among them.

Verse 25 had special reference to Job's case; but verses 26-30 have a wide application. The ransomed sinner stands before God in righteousness and with joy and, as the next verses show, he can happily confess both his sin and his deliverance before men, as the marginal reading of verse 28 shows. Elihu's words here were instruction to Job and designed to lead him to honest confession before God. They are equally true for us, and that in a far more ample and perfect way, as we look back to the accomplished work of Christ.

In these remarkable words Elihu was certainly acting the part of the interpreter with Job, by showing what is the good design of God in His dealings, so adverse apparently, with men. He aims at delivering them from the "pit" of self-esteem and complacency in this life, and the "pit" of judgment and condemnation in the life to come. Having interpreted God's ways thus far Elihu evidently paused to see if at this point there was anything Job wished to say.

There being no response on Job's part, Elihu resumed his discourse and, as Job 34: 2 indicates, had a larger audience in view. He addressed himself also to the three friends and any other bystanders, challenging them as to whether they had the wisdom and knowledge that would enable them to try words: and choose what is good and right. He knew well that the effect of sin is to pervert man's judgment and blind him to what is right.

In keeping with the larger audience he began to speak about Job rather than to Job as previously he had done. Job does not appear to have said, "I am righteous," in so many words; he had rather inferred it by singing his own praises in the way recorded in Job 29. But, turning back to Job 27: 2, we note he did definitely say, "God hath taken away my judgment." Hence his attitude clearly was, "Should I lie against my right?"

His "right" was, he maintained to be free of these calamities and he did not intend to say otherwise. His wound did indeed seem to be incurable but he maintained it was not provoked by any transgression on his part. Verses 5 and 6 sum up Job's position, as Elihu saw it. He had not claimed to be sinless, but he did claim that he was guilty of no transgression that justified God in inflicting upon him such woes. In effect it came to this, that he was right, and God was wrong.

Elihu now shows that in all this Job had really allied himself with the wicked. The scorning of men he might drink up like water, but he could not so treat the judgment of God. The absolute perfection and rightness of all God's ways is what Elihu asserts; a matter of the greatest importance, seeing He is supreme in all the earth. He has "charge over the earth," so that He has "disposed the whole world." Verse 14 has been translated, "If He only thought of Himself, and gathered unto Him His spirit and His breath;" then the result would be that all flesh would expire together and man return to the dust. Such is the greatness as well as the rightness of God.

Hence the argument of the succeeding verses. Should government be in the hands of the unjust? And if in the hands of the ALL-Just, is what He orders to be challenged? Men would not speak thus to kings or princes. Much less then to God. What He orders must be right.

Elihu proceeds to speak of the searching judgment of God, which is quite impartial, the rich being amenable to it equally with the poor Moreover there is "no darkness, nor shadow of death," where those who work evil may hide themselves. He went on to assert that God's judgments are always right and that He acts as seems good in His sight, breaking in pieces and overthrowing mighty men, yet on the other hand hearing the cry of the afflicted. He may give quietness to the afflicted and who then can disturb it? He may hide His face from the wicked and who then can behold Him? And this is true whether a nation be in question or only an individual.

The rest of this chapter is more directly a word to Job. It would have been more becoming if he had humbly accepted the chastisement, admitting that there was iniquity with him, of which he was ignorant, and as to which he needed God should teach him, so that he should put right what was wrong. Instead of that he had challenged God's judgment in favour of his own mind, and in so doing he had added to his sin rebellion against God.