Job 35-37

It would seem that at this point Elihu paused again, and no answer being forthcoming, he proceeded further to expose the drift of Job's arguments. In claiming that he had committed no sin that called for the enduring of such extreme sufferings as had come upon him, he had elevated his own righteousness above God's, and inferred that there was no profit in a life of piety. The answer to this would be of profit to Job's companions as well as himself.

The answer Elihu gave was based upon the supreme greatness of God as the Creator. Further than this he could not go, but that knowledge he had in common with all men after the flood. From that primeval knowledge the mass of mankind soon departed, as Romans 1: 20, 21, declares. Yet the men we listen to in this book were exceptions to this sad rule, and they retained this knowledge, and argued from it.

God was far above His heavens, and so great that nothing wrong, perpetrated by puny man could hurt Him, and nothing that was right could be any addition to Him. Our wrongs may be of damage to our fellow-men, and our right actions be of profit to them. And if we wrong our fellows, they cry out in complaint, yet God is forgotten. No one thought of God who is Creator, and who can lift up the spirit and give songs even in the night of sorrow.

The God, who gives the songs in the night, teaches man whom He made; beings of a far higher order than the beasts and birds, able to have intercourse with Him, whether in songs of joy or cries of need. Verse 10 mentions the songs and verse 12 the cries. And why do men cry and yet receive no answer? The answer is, because of pride: and in verse 13, Elihu diagnoses the root cause of it all as vanity, which is abhorrent to God, a thing which He completely disregards. Is not this instruction for us? Do we not see here an explanation of many an unanswered cry and prayer?

These things Elihu said in order to drive the point home to the heart of Job, as he did in the last verse of the chapter. Job had opened his mouth "in vain," or "in vanity," and hence though his words had been abundant they had been without knowledge. The excellence of Job's outward life had betrayed him into an inward spirit of vanity, which lay at the root of his lack of a true knowledge of himself. This we shall find Job himself confessed, when we reach Job 42: 3.

Again it looks as if Elihu paused for a moment to see if Job had any reply to make, but none being forthcoming, he resumed his discourse the finish of which occupies Job 36 and Job 37. He commenced by saying that he had yet words to say on God's behalf; and as we read these two chapters we shall notice that he had little more to say to Job about his utterances, but he rather dwelt on the greatness and power of God, and on His righteous dealings with the sons of men. He would "ascribe righteousness" to his Creator.

He proceeded to extol the way in which God, who is perfect in knowledge, deals both with the wicked and the righteous. From the latter He does not withdraw His eyes; that is, He keeps them ever under observation, and ultimately He exalts them as kings. Yet, before that happy end is reached, He may permit them to be "bound in fetters" and "holden in cords of affliction," just as poor Job was at that moment. And, if He does permit this, it is for a purpose, as is shown in verses 9-11. Notice, it is the righteous who are thus dealt with, for even an Abraham and a Job, though righteous, were not sinless, and God's disciplinary dealings are exerted towards such, rather than those who shut God out of their lives.

The arguments of the three friends had led to the conclusion that Job was not a righteous man. Elihu seems rather to admit that he was righteous, and that, because he was, God had permitted this severe discipline to come upon him; and in verse 16 he does apply what he is saying to Job, for after all the deep-seated pride and vanity of the human heart is the greatest offence of all.

Verse 18 was addressed to Job. We must remember that in that far distant day, nearly two millenniums before Christ appeared, life and incorruptibility had not been brought to light, as 2 Timothy 1: 10 shows; and hence an eternal salvation was not known as we now know it. If we today were to quote this verse we should do so to an unbeliever.

Elihu's warning to Job, however, was timely, particularly verse 21. In shrinking from the "affliction," he had turned to the "iniquity" of maintaining his own righteousness. But affliction is to be preferred to iniquity, as we are reminded in Peter's first Epistle-"He that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin" (Job 4: 1). The early Christians might escape suffering by sinning and so may we, if it is only a question of what may come upon us from the world or the flesh or the devil.

Having thus warned Job, Elihu turned afresh to dwell upon the greatness of God as evidenced in creation, and upon this theme the rest of his discourse dwells. Particularly did he consider the control exercised by the Creator on that which lies wholly out of man's control-the clouds, the winds, the thunder, the lightning, the rain, the snow, the frost. As these things came before his mind, he had to confess that his heart trembled and was deeply moved.

In our day men have made many discoveries and gained control of a sort over a few of the subtle powers that lie in God's wonderful creation, but the things Elihu mentioned they cannot master. When, as he put it in verse 9, "Out of the south cometh the whirlwind; and cold out of the north," the cleverest of men can only accept the situation and seek shelter or warmth, as the case may be.

Elihu recognized that God ordered the weather with wise purpose, and what He sends may be, "for correction," i.e, discipline for wrongdoing; or, "for His land," i.e., to maintain the ordinary productivity of the earth; or, "for mercy," i.e., to effect some merciful deliverance. This too had a bearing on Job's case.

Job did not know, and none of us know, how God exerts His supreme power. The Lord Jesus displayed His Godhead power when He stilled the wind and waves on the Lake of Galilee. He did so in mercy. Elihu ended his words with the assertion that with God, the Almighty, is "terrible majesty," and yet all His doings are in justice. Hence, however wise of heart any of us-Job included-may consider ourselves to be, our attitude before Him should not be that of criticism and questionings but of fear.