In this short chapter, once more Elihu addresses himself to Job:
· first answering his complaint that a life of righteousness has
brought him no correspondent blessings (vs. 1-8); and
· then explaining to him that his prayers and appeals to God have
probably not been answered because they were not preferred in
a right spirit, i.e. with faith and humility (vs. 9-14).
· Finally he condemns Job for haughtiness and arrogance, and reiterates
the charge that he “multiplies words without knowledge” (vs.15-16).
1 “Elihu spake moreover, and said, 2 Thinkest thou this to be
right, that thou saidst, My righteousness is more than God’s?” Once
more it is to be observed that Job had said no such thing. At the worst, he
had made statements from which it might be argued that he regarded
himself as having a more delicate sense of justice than God (e.g. ch.9:22-24;
10:3; 12:6). But Elihu insists on pushing Job’s intemperate phrases to their
extremest logical sense, and taxing Job with having said all that his words
might seem to a strict logician to involve (compare the comment on ch.34:5, 9).
An Unjust Inference (v. 2)
Elihu represents Job as saying that his righteousness is greater than God’s,
and he asks whether the patriarch thinks it right to use such language.
· IT IS UNJUST TO ASCRIBE TO OUR FELLOW-MEN OPINIONS
WHICH THEY HAVE NOT EXPRESSED. Job had not used such
blasphemous language as Elihu attributed to him, and he would have
repudiated the ideas that it conveyed. His young monitor was rudely
asserting what he thought Job meant, what he took to be the underlying
opinion of Job. But this was unjust. Half the controversies of the Church
would have been avoided if people had not put into the mouths of others
words that they never uttered. The only fair way is to listen to a man’s own
statement of his case. The common injustice is to charge an opponent with
holding all the opinions which we think can be deduced from his confessed
beliefs. Thus we make him responsible for our inferences. “Judge not, that
ye be not judged.”
· WE SHOULD SEE THE NATURAL CONSEQUENCES OF OUR
UTTERANCES, Although it was unjust to draw conclusions as Elihu was
doing, it might be helpful for Job to see what conclusions were drawn from
his hasty words. He would revolt from such ideas with horror. Then the
question may well arise — Did he not provoke them? Though Elihu did
wrong to make his assertion, Job may also have done wrong in speaking
words that Elihu could use in such a way. We may learn from the false
charges that are brought against us. Possibly these have been provoked by
us. They are caricatures of our conduct. Therefore they show up the major
features of that conduct in a strong light. The very exaggeration calls
attention to the points that have been unduly magnified. We need to
consider the tendencies of what we say, and test the tendencies of our
opinions by the inferences that are drawn from them.
· MAN IS TEMPTED TO THINK HIMSELF MORE JUST THAN
GOD. He would not own to such an idea openly, nor even in his own
private thought. Nevertheless, in the heat of excitement, he acts as though
this were his belief. Otherwise, why does he murmur? Why does he rebel?
Why is he cast down into despair? We magnify our own opinions and we
justify our own actions when these arc counter to the truth and will of
God. Virtually this is making ourselves more just than God. (“....thou
thoughtest that I was altogether such a one as thyself; but I will
reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.” (Psalm 50:21)
· THE JUSTICE OF GOD IS THE TYPE OF ALL JUSTICE.
Evidently Elihu assumes that what is justice to man is in itself justice to
God. This is assumed throughout the Bible, which makes no attempt to
escape from the difficulties of providence by means of the “regulative
ideas” advocated by Dean Mansel. Here we do not see that justice means
one thing in God and another thing in man. But the perfection of justice
may be applied to circumstances that are beyond our understanding. Then
it may look unjust. Yet, if we knew all, we should see that it is the type and
pattern of the very justice we are called to strive after.
3 “For thou saidst What advantage will it be unto thee?” i.e.
What advantage will thy righteousness be unto thee? Job had certainly
argued that his righteousness brought him no temporal advantage; but he
had always a conviction that he would ultimately be the better for it. Elihu,
however, does not acknowledge this; and, assuming that Job expects to
receive no advantage at all from his integrity, argues that God is not bound
to afford him any. “And, What profit shall I have, if I be cleansed from
my sin?” - rather, And what profit shall have, more than if I had sinned?
(see the Revised Version)
4 “I will answer thee, and thy companions with thee.” - i.e. “thy
comforters, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar.” Elihu has pledged himself to
confute their reasonings, no less than those of Job (ch.32:5-20), and
now proposes to carry out this intention. But it is not very clear that he
accomplishes his purpose. In point of fact, he does little more than repeat
and expand the argument of Eliphaz (22:2-3).
Is Goodness Profitable? (vs. 3-4)
· A NATURAL QUESTION. Job is driven to put this question; or,
rather, Elihu concludes that Job’s language shows that the patriarch is
debating it within himself. Satan had sneered at the notion of disinterested
goodness, and had asked, “Doth Job fear God for naught?” (ch. 1:9).
Now Job is beginning to see that the profits of goodness, as they are
commonly believed in, do not accrue, for good men suffer as much as other
men, if not more. The utilitarian question crops up in practice, whatever
ethical theory we may have adopted. People will ask — What is the
advantage of religion? Why should they deny their passions? What will
they be the better for refraining from evil? The inquiry is natural for two
Ø We naturally desire to see results. Men wish to know that some good
end is to be reached. They are not satisfied with a good road; they must
know where it leads to.
Ø We naturally desire our own advantage. The instincts implanted in us
encourage such a desire. In itself it is not bad, but natural. Evil comes
from the abuse or the supremacy of it.
· A SUPERFLUOUS QUESTION. Although the question is natural, we
ought to be able to rise above it. After all, our chief concern is not with
results, but with duty. Our part is to do the right, whether it leads to failure
or to success. Obedience is our sphere; results are with God. We sow and
water; He it is who gives the increase. It is difficult to learn this lesson, for
we all gravitate to selfish and material ends unless we are lifted out of
ourselves. Still, the lesson must be learned. If a man is only virtuous on
account of the rewards of virtue, he is not really virtuous at all. He who
does not steal simply because be is persuaded that “honesty is the best
policy,” is a thief at heart. Conscience is independent of advantage, and
true goodness is only that which rests on conscience.
· AN ANSWERABLE QUESTION. Elihu is ready with his reply.
Perhaps it is not quite so simple a matter as he assumes, for he is one of
those fearless talkers who handle the most difficult problems with jaunty
confidence. Still, he helps us towards a reply. Goodness is not ignored by
God. This Elihu show, in three ways.
Ø God is too great to unjustly deprive men of the rewards of their deeds.
These may not come at once; but God can have no conceivable motive
for withholding them (vs. 5-8).
Ø The absence of immediate blessings is no proof of Divine negligence.
While complaining that their rewards are not given them, men may not
be treating God aright, and so not deserving His blessing (vs. 9-13).
Ø God’s watchfulness ensures His righteous treatment of His creatures.
(vs. 14-16.) Thus according to Elihu goodness is ultimately for the
advantage of its possessor. But may we not go further, and say that even
if it brings no ultimate reward it is infinitely better than sin, for goodness
is in itself a blessing? Few of us can be great, or rich, or very successful.
But it is better to be good than to be great, or rich, or successful; for
to be good is to be like Christ, like God.
5 “Look unto the heavens, and see; and behold the clouds
which are higher than thou.” - i.e. “look to the material sky and heavens,
so far above thee and so unapproachable, and judge from them how far the
God who made them is above thy puny, feeble self — how incapable he is
of being touched by any of thy doings.” (“For as the heavens are higher
than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my
thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9; for perspective, I recommend
Fantastic Trip – You Tube – CY – 2013)
6 “If thou sinnest, what doest thou against Him?” Man’s sins
against God cannot injure Him, diminish from His power, or lower His
dignity. They can only injure the sinner himself. God does not .punish them
because they harm Him, but because they are discords in the harmony of His
moral universe – “Or if thy transgressions be multiplied,” - i.e. if thou
persist in a long course of sin, and add “rebellion” to transgression,
and self-complacency to rebellion, and “multipliest thy words against God”
(Job 34:37) — even then, “what doest thou unto Him?” What hurt dost
thou inflict upon him? None.
7 “If thou be righteous, what givest thou Him?” By parity of
reasoning, as our sins do not injure God, so our righteousness cannot
benefit Him. As David says, “My goodness extendeth not to thee”
(Psalm 16:2). “Or what receiveth He of thine hand?” All things being
already God’s, we can but give Him of his own (I Chronicles 29:14). We cannot
really add to His possessions, or to His glory, or to His felicity. We cannot, as
some have supposed they could, lay Him under an obligation. (Let us not
even try it! – CY – 2013)
8 “Thy wickedness may hurt a man as thou art; and thy righteousness may
profit the son (rather, a son) of man.” Job must not think, Elihu means, that,
because his good actions benefit and his bad actions injure his fellow men, therefore
they must also in the one case injure and in the other benefit God. The cases are not
parallel. God is too remote, too powerful, too great, to be touched by his actions.
Job has done wrong, therefore, to expect that God would necessarily reward his
righteousness by prosperous, happy life, and worse to complain because his
expectations have been disappointed. It is of his mere spontaneous goodness
and bounty that God rewards the godly.
Paul says “Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the
Life that now is, and of that which is to come.” (I Timothy 4:8). It is a
sound premise that a man may be hurt by the irreligion, and benefited
by the godliness, of his neighbor. Nothing more demonstrable, or indeed
less demanding demonstration, than that moral character is contagious, and
evil character even more so than good. Every wicked man does an injury,
directly as well as indirectly, unconsciously even when not consciously, to
the world in which he lives, the neighborhood in which he dwells, the
society in which he moves, the individuals with whom he comes in contact.
The ungodly man may be compared to A WALKING PESTILENCE.
On the other hand, “the fruit of the righteous is A TREE OF LIFE.”
(Proverbs 11:30). However humble the position he occupies or the talents
he possesses, the good man, whose breast is the seat of fervent piety, is a
istinct gain to the world and the age (Matthew 5:13-14).
Job had made it a frequent subject of complaint that God did not hear, or at any
rate did not answer, his prayers and cries for relief. In vs. 9-14, Elihu answers that
Job’s case is not exceptional. Those who cry out against oppression and suffering
frequently receive no answer, but it is because they “ask amiss.” (James 4:3)
Job should have patience and trust.
· GOD IS NOT DEPENDENT ON MAN’S CONDUCT. We must agree
in the main with what Elihu here states. God is self-sufficient, and He owns
all things. “The cattle upon a thousand hills are His.” If He were hungry
He would not need to tell us (Psalm 50:10,12). Our most active service is
not necessary to God, our most virulent malignity cannot really touch
Him. HE DWELLS IN THE FULLNESS AND SERENITY OF
HIS OWN PERFECTION!
· GOD CANNOT BE BRIBED BY MAN’S GIFTS. The huge mistake
of heathen worship is that it consists for the most part in attempts to buy
off the anger and secure the favor of the gods by means of gifts and
sacrifices. We meet with the same heathenish idea in all religious exercises
that aim at being really profitable to God, not for His own sake, but to
ATTEMPT TO PURCHASE HIS FAVOR!
· GOD IS UNDER NO INDUCEMENT TO BE UNJUST TO MAN.
Between man and man injustice is common, because one man is much
affected by the conduct of another. But if man can neither profit nor injure
God, God can have no motive for dealing in any unequal way with man.
· GOD VOLUNTARILY CONCERNS HIMSELF WITH OUR
CONDUCT BECAUSE HE LOVES US. Elihu’s description of God
is one-sided. True in regard to the nature of things, it is false as it concerns the
action and sympathy of God. Elihu’s God is too much like an Epicurean
divinity. The love which is most characteristic of the Divine character,
as it is revealed in the Bible, IS HERE QUITE IGNORED! God may
not be dependent on us. Yet His love leads Him to be deeply concerned in
what we do, and to entrust His designs to us as His servants. At the same time,
seeing that love is His leading motive, there can be no need for us to try to
bribe God, even if it were possible for us to do so; and we may be sure that,
so far from dealing with harsh injustice, GOD WILL ONLY DESIRE
· GOD ACCEPTS MAN’S TREATMENT OF HIS BROTHER-MAN
AS THOUGH THIS AFFECTED HIMSELF. Christ has taught us that
what is done to one of the least of His brethren is done to our Lord Himself
(Matthew 25:40 – Why? Because His abode is in us! – John 14:23 – CY –
2013). God’s love for His children makes Him regard any injury
done to them as though it were an injury to His own person.
The Father feels in the sufferings of his children. Thus we may benefit or
injure God’s cause by benefiting or injuring our fellow-men. At the
same time, this only results from the position which God voluntarily
assumes towards us.
· MAN IS DEPENDENT ON GOD, AND HIS CONDUCT SHOULD
BE A RESPONSE TO GOD’S. Religion does not begin with our worship
of God. Its commencement is earlier, in God’s goodness to man. All true
worship springs from GRATITUDE! Thus, while we cannot be useful
or hurtful to God, excepting in so far as His love and sympathy permit us,
we are urged to consider HOW COMPLETELY OUR LIVES ARE
IN HIS HANDS, and how essential it is for us to live so that we may
enjoy HIS CONTINUAL FAVOR!
9 “By reason of the multitude of oppressions they make the
oppressed to cry:” - rather, by reason of the multitude of oppressions, men
cry out. It is not Job only who cries to God. Oppressors are numerous; the
oppressed are numerous; everywhere there are complaints and outcries -
“they cry out by reason of the arm of the mighty.” The oppressors are, for
the most part, the mighty of the earth — kings, princes, nobles (see Isaiah 1:23;
3:14-15; Hosea 5:10; Amos 4:1).
10 “But none saith, Where is God my Maker?” The oppressed,
in many cases, do not appeal to God at all. They mutter and complain and
groan because of their afflictions; BUT THEY HAVE NOT ENOUGH
FAITH IN GOD TO CRY OUT TO HIM! Or, if they do so cry, it is not in
a right spirit; it is despondingly, despairingly, not confidently or cheerfully –
“who giveth songs in the night.” God is one who giveth songs
in the night. The truly pious man sings hymns of praise in his affliction, as
Paul and Silas did in the jail at
lively hope for deliverance. (Acts 16:25)
Songs in the Night (v. 10)
· SONGS IN THE NIGHT ARE PECULIARLY HELPFUL. The
thought is of a lonely and desolate night — a night of weary watching or
painful suffering, when sleep cannot, or should not, be enjoyed. Travelers
who dare not sleep in a perilous region infested by wild beasts, sing songs
as they sit round their camp fire. Poor sufferers on beds of sickness
welcome strains of well-known hymns in the long, wakeful night. The
dreadful night of sorrow needs the cheering of some SONG OF
dispense with them. It is when darkness lies about our path that we need
some uplifting and cheering influence.
· SONGS IN THE NIGHT MAY BE ENJOYED. Elihu speaks in the
present tense. Christian history tells of many a soul cheered by heavenly
songs in darkest hours. Paul and Silas sang in prison with their feet in the
stocks (Acts 16:25).
“Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage.”
Sufferers have been cheerful with interior joy, even when their outer life
has been hard and cruel The joy of God is never so real as when it breaks
out in the midst of the deepest earthly trouble. This is an actual
experience that lies within the reach of benighted souls, if only
they will seek its cheering helpfulness.
· SONGS IN THE NIGHT DO NOT ARISE SPONTANEOUSLY.
There is something paradoxical in the phrase, “songs in the night,” for of
course the context shows that it does not point to the noise of those who
turn night into day with unseemly revelry. Elihu’s night-songs are of holy
thoughts and heavenly music, or at least of pure and refreshing gladness,
as his indication of the Source of them proves. Now, sorrow is not the
parent of gladness. If we are to enjoy deep harmonies of thought, or to soar
into high heavens of emotion among the depressing influences of trouble, we
must not look for the trouble to produce the songs. We must turn
elsewhere, and if we have no higher than earthly supplies, we shall have
no songs such as Elihu spoke of.
· SONGS IN THE NIGHT ARE GIVEN BY GOD. In the still hours of
darkness He draws near to the soul. When the desolation and misery
are greatest, GOD IS MOST COMPASSIONATE! He is not dependent
on external circumstances. Night and day are alike to Him (Psalm 139:12).
Thus it is possible for Him to inspire His sweetest songs when we are
drinking the most bitter cup. We must not delude ourselves into the notion
that we shall not feel suffering if God is with us, although martyrs have been
known to lose consciousness of the devouring flames in the ecstasy of
their SPIRITUAL JOY! The song does not dispel the darkness of night.
But it drives out the terror and the despair, and brings PEACE AND
A DEEP JOY that is nearer the true heart of man than the waves of
sorrow which sweep over the surface of his life. The lark that
soars to heaven’s high gate rises from a lowly nest on the ground. The
sweetest songs of
Man’s Forgetfulness of God and God’s Remembrance of Man
· MAN’S FORGETFULNESS OF GOD. “None saith, Where is God my
Ø The cause of it.
o Generally, the sinfulness of the human heart. That man
should so habitually neglect God is inexplicable except
upon the hypothesis of a fall. But sin, having intervened to
separate man from God, has caused man to turn his
back upon God (No better example than the
of American in the 21st century – CY – 2013) and to contrive
to live without any sort of acquaintance with Him.
o Particularly, man’s neglect of God may be traced to three things:
§ a sense of guilt, which instinctively urges man to shun
God’s presence (Genesis 3:8);
§ the dominion of the world, which over every sinful
heart exercises an almost resistless fascination
(I John 2:15-17); and
§ an absorption in self, which, by magnifying all its
own little interests and concerns, its sorrows no less
than its joys, prevents the human soul from seeking
Ø The criminality of it.
o The character of God as the all-sufficient and all-powerful One,
demonstrates the wickedness of man in living so habitually in neglect
of His service.
o The relation of God to man as his Maker attests the sinfulness of
such behavior on the part of man.
o The favor of God to man in first bestowing upon him a superior
nature to that possessed by the animal creation, and secondly in making
these lower creatures his instructors, gives additional evidence of
man’s heinous guilt in thus neglecting to inquire after God.
o The power of God to assist man by giving “songs in the night” is a
further proof of man’s amazing criminality in not remembering
Ø In the night of natural day. By spreading out the star-illumined canopy
above man’s head, He stirs, at least in thoughtful minds, such exalted
ideas and holy emotions as frequently break out in anthems of
praise: witness David (Psalm 8:3-4), Job (ch.9:4-10), Isaiah (Isaiah
40:26), and the unknown Hebrew singer (Psalm 147:4).
Ø In the night of devout meditation. “Let the saints sing aloud upon
their beds” (Psalm 149:5); and oftentimes when wrapt in heavenly
contemplation, remembering God upon their beds, and meditating on
Him in the night-watches, the mouths of saints praise Him with joyful lips
Ø In the night of spiritual conviction. In such a night David sang some of
his sweetest songs (Psalm 51.). And as God put a new song into David’s
mouth when he was lifted out of the horrible pit and miry clay (Psalm 40:3),
so does He put a happy anthem of praise for forgiving mercy into the
lips of every believing penitent: witness the jailor of
In the night of temporal affliction
sang a song of deliverance before the morning dawn had fully risen
(Ibid. ch.15:1-19). A dark dismal night of adversity it was for David when
he was driven forth from his palace, from his capital, from his people, from
the temple (II Samuel 15:30); and yet then it was that David sang, “But
thou, O Lord, art a Shield for me, and the Lifter-up of mine head”
(Psalm 3:3). Paul and Silas had
their songs in the prison of
(Acts 16:25); and there is not a saint, however feeble, that may not
chant in the darkest night of trouble a psalm of holy confidence in God.
Ø In the night of approaching dissolution. Job himself at times was not
without his song, though he felt that he was standing on the verge of the
tomb (ch.19:25-27). So did God give an anthem to Hezekiah, when he
raised that weeping and praying monarch from what seemed a couch of
death (Isaiah 38:20). David, too, had a song ready for that dark sad
night which he knew to be inevitable (Psalm 23:4). It was a noble hymn
which Paul sent forth from the Roman prison to his young son Timothy
(II Timothy 4:6). And so does God give to all saints, who seek after
Him in humility, penitence, and faith, a song to cheer them in the
dying hour (I Corinthians 15:55); and when the dark night of death
breaks away, puts into their mouths the never-ending song of Moses
and the Lamb. (Revelation 15:3-4)
1. The advantage of seeking after God.
2. The kindness of God in thinking upon man
11 “Who teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth, and
maketh us wiser than the fowls of heaven.” Elihu probably alludes to
Job’s defense of his complaints as natural, like the instinctive cries of
beasts and birds (ch.6:5). God has given to man a higher nature than
He has bestowal on the brutes; and this nature should teach him
to carry his griefs to God in a proper spirit - a spirit of faith, piety,
humility, and resignation. If men cried to Him in this spirit, they would
obtain an answer. If they do not obtain an answer, it must be that the proper
spirit is lacking (compare James 4:3).
The Cry that is not unto God (vs. 9-11)
Elihu continues to press Job severely. His teachings run in the lines of
truth, and they approach more nearly to the design of Job’s suffering than
those of Job’s friends, but they fail actually to reach it. He makes many
sagacious reflections on human conduct. This is one. There is a cry raised
by the suffering ones under the heavy burden of their multiplied
oppressions, and “by reason of the arm of the mighty.” How often is it that
these address not their cry to God! It is not, therefore, to be wondered at
that relief does not come. Job seems to imply that God does not vindicate
the sufferers. Here is a reason. They cry not to God. “None saith, Where is
God. my Maker, who giveth songs in the night?”
· THE ERROR OF SUCH A CRY. God only is able truly to respond to
the cry of suffering. It is expending the breath in vain to invoke help from
other sources. Man is often utterly powerless; and, even when able, is not
always willing to help. If the cry is to a false god, it is a still greater error,
and can only end in disappointment.
· BUT THE CRY WHICH IS AN ERROR IS ALSO A FOLLY. Such a
cry ends in vexation; the unheard cry aggravates the sorrow and makes the
burden greater. Why should man in his feebleness appeal to his feeble
fellow? and why forsake the Maker of all, who alone can give songs of joy
in the night of mourning?
· THIS CRY IS ALSO A WRONG. It is a moral wrong for man to turn
his face away from God in the time of his trouble. It reflects upon the
Divine goodness and upon the ability and willingness of God to help. It
casts an unjust reproach upon a loving Creator, “who teacheth us” lessons
by “the beasts of the earth,” and “maketh us wise” by the very “fowls of
· BUT THIS IS ALTOGETHER A VAIN CRY. “None giveth answer.”
Evil men in their pride will not humble themselves to call upon Jehovah;
they will not acknowledge their dependence upon Him, will not submit to
Him. Their cry is as one made to the wind. Even if addressed to God, it is
void of all truth and meaning. It is the cry of vanity. “God will not hear,
neither will the Almighty regard it.”
From all which comes the great lesson, Though God is hidden, and men
see him not, “yet judgment is before Him”: therefore may men trust in Him,
and, believing “that He is, and that he is a Rewarder of them that diligently
seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6), make their supplication unto God, their cry to
The Superiority of Men to Animals (v. 11)
Man is naturally superior to animals:
· IN INTELLIGENCE. We cannot but admire the intelligence of the
horse, the dog, the elephant, the ant. There seems to be more than instinct
in these creatures; we notice in them the germs of a reasoning power,
because they can adapt means to ends, accommodate themselves to fresh
circumstances, and overcome unexpected difficulties. Yet man’s
intelligence far exceeds that of the animal world. Two striking
characteristics which are peculiar to it may be noted.
Ø The supremacy of man. Man is one of the weakest and most defenseless
creatures. He has not the hide of the rhinoceros, nor the horns of the bull,
nor the fangs of the lion, nor the strength of any of these creatures. Yet
he masters them and rules the world, simply by means of superior
Ø The progress of man. Only man among the animals advances in
civilization. Ants build now as their ancestors built ages ago. Man only
moves onward. The savage may seem to be as low as the baboon; but
he is susceptible of an education that the baboon can never enjoy.
· IN CONSCIENCE. There seems to be a trace of conscience in the
shame of the dog when he has done what he knows has been forbidden
him. But though the animal may know shame, he does not know sin. Purity
is an idea quite foreign to his nature. He may be generous, and he may
sacrifice his life in devotion to his master. Yet he cannot feel the hunger
and thirst after righteousness. The deep sense of sin and the great desire for
holiness are peculiar to man.
· IN RELIGION. A dim religious feeling may be dawning in the dog
when he raises adoring looks to his master, often to a very unworthy
master — like poor Caliban worshipping drunken Stephano. But the animal
cannot know God. Man alone of all God’s creatures knows his Maker. All
nature praises God unconsciously, only man blesses Him consciously. To
man it is given to feel the love of God, and to love God in return. Man is
permitted to hold communion with God; he is God’s child. Nature is the
work of God; man His son. Nature is dependent on her Creator; man is
sustained by his Father. “For of Him, and through Him, and to Him,
are all things to whom be glory for ever. Amen” (Romans 11:36)
· IN DIVINE FAVOR. This is implied by all that precedes. All the
superiority of man is from God. Intelligence, conscience, and religion are
Divine endowments. We could not raise ourselves above the animal world,
for no creature could transcend its own nature. If our nature is superior to
that of animals, this fact is wholly owing TO THE GRACE OF GOD!
But we may go further, and see that grace not only in our original creation
and natural endowments, but also in our history. By His providence God
has been adding to His favour. Not for the animals, but for man, and man
alone, CHRIST CAME! The Incarnation was a fact of the human world,
and in it man is supremely honored by being united to God. Man is
redeemed by the death of the Son of God.
· IN OBLIGATION. Much is expected from him to whom much has
been given. (“For to whomsoever much is given, of him shall be
much required.” Luke 12:48) What is innocent in the animal may be sinful
in man. It is a degradation for man to sink down to animalism. Brutal violence
and bestial vice are utterly unworthy of a being exalted far above the animals
by nature and the grace of God. When man sinks down to the level of the
animals he really falls much lower. It is an insult to innocent brutes to
associate them with the habits of corrupt men.
12 “There they cry,” - “There,” smitten by calamity, they do at last
cry to God - “but none giveth answer,” - They “ask, and receive not.”
Why? “because of the pride of evil men.” Because, i.e., they ask proudly, not
humbly; they claim relief as a right, not as a favor; they approach God in a
spirit that offends Him and prevents Him from granting their requests.
13 “Surely God will not hear vanity,” - God will not hear prayers
that are rendered “vain” by sin or defect in those who offer them, as by a
want of faith, piety, humility, or resignation -“neither will the Almighty
regard it.” Neither will the Almighty regard any such petitions.
14 “Although thou sayest thou shalt not see Him,” - rather, How
much less when thou sayest thou canst not see him! (compare the Revised
Version); i.e. how much less will God attend to thy prayers when thou
sayest that thou canst not see or find Him (ch.9:11; 23:3, 8-10), that
He is altogether hid from thee, and treats thee as an enemy (ch.33:10)!
“yet judgment is before Him; Still, judgment (or, the cause, i.e. “thy cause’)
is before Him, or “awaits His decision” - “therefore trust thou in Him.”
Wait on, in patience and trust. The last word is not yet spoken.
Leaving his advice to sink into Job’s mind, in the last two verses (vs. 15-16),
Elihu turns from him to the bystanders, and remarks, with some severity, that it is
because Job has not been punished enough, because God has not visited
him for his petulance and arrogance, that he indulges in “high swelling
words of vanity,” and continues to utter words which are foolish and
From Despair to Trust (v. 14)
Job had often expressed a deep desire to meet with God. He had longed for
an opportunity of making his case clear, and having it tried by his great
Judge. He had felt like a prisoner languishing in jail without a trial, greatly
wishing for an habeas corpus; and he had despaired of ever being brought
face to face with his Accuser, who, as he thought, was also his Judge. Now
Elihu tells him that God is already attending to his case, and therefore that
he should have faith.
indeed expressed a confident assurance that he will behold his
Redeemer with his own eyes; he himself, and not another (ch.19:25-27).
We need not be startled at the contradiction. In such darkness as that of Job’s,
faith ebbs and flows. For a moment the clouds break and a gleam of sunshine
falls on the sufferer’s path, and at the sight of it he leaps up triumphant; but
soon the blackness closes in again, and then the despair is as deep as ever.
Ø God is not seen by the bodily eye. We may sweep the heavens
with the most powerful telescope, but we shall never discover their
King seated on His throne among the stars.
Ø God does not give an immediate solution of our difficulties.
We ask Him to decide our case, to justify the right, and to destroy
the false. Yet He does not seem to be interfering; for the confusion
and the injustice remain. Then the weary waiting leads us to think
that He will never appear. “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick”
(Proverbs 13:12), and in its sickness it loses its hope.
Ø God is not neglecting us. Elihu assures Job that his case is already
before his Judge. It is neither forgotten nor postponed. It is now
being tried. Elihu was quite justified in making this statement, as we
know from the prologue (ch.1:8-12). Job was being tried before
God throughout; and so also were his friends, as the conclusion of
the book shows (ch.42:7-9). Perhaps one lesson to be taught by this
great poem is that God is watching man, and dealing justly with
him, even when no indication of Divine interest or activity is
vouchsafed to him. The verdict is not yet given nor the judgment
pronounced; but the case is proceeding, and THE JUDGE IS
CAREFULLY ATTENDING TO IT! That is what this book
teaches concerning the great problem of life.
Ø We should learn to trust God. We cannot see our Judge as yet.
We must wait for the verdict. All is dark to the eye of sense. But if
we know that God is watching over us and considering our
condition, we ought to be assured that WE CANNOT
SUFFER FROM NEGLECT. THE SPECIAL REGION
FOR FAITH is this present scene of darkness, and we are to
expect the darkness to continue as long as the faith is to be
exercised. But this will not be for ever. (I Corinthians 13:10 –
when faith shall be done away with – CY – 2013) Job was right
when, in a moment of strange elation, he leaped to the assurance
that his Redeemer lived, and that he would see Him at the
latter day (ch.19:25).
15 “But now, because it is not so, He hath visited in His anger;” -
This is an impossible rendering. The Hebrew is perfectly plain, and is to be
translated literally as follows: But now, because he hath not visited his (i.e.
Job’s) anger. God had not visited Job with any fresh afflictions on account of
his vehement expostulations and overbold and reckless words – “yet he
knoweth it not in great extremity.” The Authorized Version again wholly
misses the meaning. Translate, with the Revised Version, Neither doth He
greatly regard (Job’s) arrogance.
16 “Therefore doth Job open his mouth in vain;” - or, in vanity
(compare v. 13). “he multiplieth words without knowledge.” - i.e. he is
bold to speak words that are vain and insensate, because God has not, as He
might have done, punished him for his previous utterances.
The Profit of Godliness (vs. 1-16)
· THE FOLLY OF THE OPINION THAT THERE IS NO PROFIT IN
GODLINESS. (vs. 1-8.) A good man, says Elihu, would not speak as
Job has done, questioning whether godliness is more profitable than sin.
But what is the refutation of this dangerous notion? The speaker points to
the blessed self-sufficiency of God, the exalted One in the heavens. In this
light man must appear alone as one who draws advantage from his
righteousness (compare ch. 7:20; 22:2, sqq.). Our evil deeds cannot
injure God, neither can our good deeds add to His blessedness. To expect a
return or recompense from God for obedience, as if we had given Him a
pleasure or conferred on Him an advantage, is, according to Elihu, a sign
that we have altogether forgotten the distance between ourselves and Him,
and the true relation in which we stand to Him. A modern philosopher,
indeed, says, using a bold expression, “Put God in your debt!” But this
means only — Conform to God’s laws, and expect that God will be true to
those relations expressed by His laws. The misery of Job is that he cannot,
for the present, see that God is true to those relations. He has sown
righteousness, but not, as it seems, reaped mercy. He is half in the right,
and so is his present instructor. It remains for these two halves of truth to
be united into a whole. Meanwhile Elihu points to a great canon of
conduct, a great motive of right. Piety is always beneficial, ungodliness
always hurtful to our fellow-men, in a sense in which this, of course,
cannot be said of God. And this should sustain us in suffering: the thought
of the example we may be permitted to set, the light that may shine out of
our darkness, the image of those who may be deterred from evil or allured
to good by what they see in us.
· REASONS FOR UNANSWERED PRAYERS (vs. 9-16)
Ø Want of true reverence for God. (vs. 9-14.) The cry of the oppressed
goes up to heaven, and it is long before an answer comes. Help is delayed
or denied. Why? In most cases it is probably the fault of the sufferer
himself. There is something defective in the substance or in the spirit of
his prayers. He does not cry: “Where is the Almighty, my Creator?”
(v. 10). This is the complaint which Jehovah makes by the mouth of
Jeremiah (Jeremiah 2:6, 8). There is no injustice in Him; but there is
inconsistency in men. They do not trust Him. They ungratefully forget
His past providences. They disobey His laws, they meddle with
forbidden things. There are conditions, moral conditions, under
which alone it is possible for men to be heard, delivered, blessed.
“Have I been a wilderness
figures lies the truth that Divine blessing is conditioned by our own
moral state and endeavor. Those grand relations of mercy in which
God stands to men — their Deliverer, the Giver of songs in the night
of natural distress and emergency, the Instructor of their spirits in that
life above that of the brutes who lead a blind life within the brain —
can only be realized by the faithful and the true. To know God as
our Saviour, we must humbly and constantly trust Him; to know Him
as our Teacher and Guide, we must diligently follow Him. Pride, vain
or evil desires in the heart, these, then, are the only permanent causes
of unanswered prayers. And how much less are advantage and
deliverance possible for Job, if he reproaches God with iniquity in
being unwilling to regard His cause; if he waits as if that cause
were not already laid before God (v. 14)! For He knows all; and
we must commit our way to Him, in the assurance that He will in
due time bring it to pass.
Ø Presumptuous language against God. (vs. 15-16.) Though such folly
has hitherto passed unpunished, it does not follow that God has not
observed it. According to Job’s way of thinking, Elihu says, in effect, this
would follow. But he will soon see the contrary. The passage is instructive
as giving us searching admonition on the subject of unanswered prayer,
unrelieved distress. It is a time for heart-searching. The fault cannot be
with God; if fault there be, it lies at our door. The Word comes with power
in such moments, “Cleanse your hands, ye sinners! Draw nigh to God, and
he will draw nigh to you.” Read Isaiah 1. But to the true and contrite heart,
mercy and deliverance may be delayed, never denied. And the lesson, then,
is — Be patient, wait, and hope.
The Trial of Job Continued (vs. 1-16)
· JOB’S OFFENCE RESTATED. Returning to the charge, Elihu accuses
Job of having given utterance to two dangerous assertions.
Ø That his (Job’s) righteousness was greater than God’s. “Thinkest thou
this to be right?” — dost thou hold this for a sound judgment? — “that
thou saidst, My righteousness is more than God’s?” (v. 2). That Job
never used this expression may be true; but that Elihu does not unfairly
represent the patriarch’s meaning may be inferred from the circumstance
that even at an earlier stage in the controversy Eliphaz distinctly
understood this to be the import of his language (ch. 4:17). Besides, it
is a legitimate deduction from those passages in which Job, maintaining
his own integrity, complains that God does not accord to him even-handed
justice, but treats him, though innocent, as a criminal; so that practically it
is involved in the milder rendering, “I am righteous before God”
(Septuagint, Umbreit, and others), Job meaning thereby to affirm that he
failed to discern in God a corresponding righteousness to that which he
beheld in himself, or, in other words, that his righteousness was more
(visible and real) than God’s. Whether designed or not, the inevitable
result of regarding with too much admiration one’s own righteousness
(natural or gracious, legal or evangelical) is to obscure one’s perceptions
of the righteousness of God, as, on the other hand, the more exalted
views a saint entertains of the righteousness of God, the less will he
feel disposed to magnify his own.
Ø That his (Job’s)piety was of no advantage to himself. “For thou saidst,
What advantage will it be unto thee? and, What profit shall I have, if I
be cleansed from my sin?” literally, “(from it) more than from my sin”
(v. 3). This, which Job himself had put into the mouth of the ungodly
(ch. 21:15), adding, “The counsel of the wicked be far from me,” had
already been assigned to Job by Elihu (ch. 34:9; see homiletics), and
might well seem to be implied in such utterances as ch.9:22-31, in which
God is represented as involving “the perfect and the wicked” in one
indiscriminate destruction, and in a time of sudden and overwhelming
calamity “laughing at the trial of the innocent” (ch. 21:7-13; 24:18-24),
and in which the prosperous lives and happy deaths of the ungodly are
set over against the evil fortunes commonly allotted to the good. Such
questions as these of Job about the profit of religion, though common
in the mouths of saints (e.g. Asaph, Psalm 73:13; St. Peter, Matthew
19:27), proceed from mistaken views as to the essential character of piety,
which is nothing if not disinterested. Yet, in the truest and most
comprehensive sense, “godliness is profitable unto all things”
(1 Timothy 4:8; compare >Matthew 19:28).
· JOB’S FOLLY EXPOSED. Reversing the order of Elihu’s words, we
Ø A sound premise. That a man may be hurt by the irreligion, and benefited
by the godliness, of his neighbor. Nothing more demonstrable, or indeed
less demanding demonstration, than that moral character is contagious,
and evil character even more so than good. Every wicked man does
an injury, directly as well as indirectly, unconsciously even when not
consciously, to the world in which he lives, the neighborhood in which
he dwells, the society in which he moves, the individuals with whom
he comes in contact. The ungodly man may be compared to a walking
pestilence. On the other hand, “the fruit of the righteous is a tree of life”
(Proverbs 11:30). However humble the position he occupies or the
talents he possesses, the good man, whose breast is the seat of fervent
piety, is a distinct gain to the world and the age (Matthew 5:13-14).
Ø A faulty deduction. Correct. enough in thinking that a man might
make his fellow a debtor by his goodness, or incur towards his fellow
obligations in consequence of damage done by his wickedness, Job was
utterly at fault in inferring that the same relations could exist between
man and God. “If thou sinnest, what doest thou against Him? or if thy
transgressions be multiplied, what doest thou unto Him? If thou be
righteous, what givest thou Him? or what receiveth He of thine hand?”
(vs. 6-7). That is, human piety cannot add to the blessedness of God in
such a way as to make God the debtor of His creature, and lay Him under
obligation to make the good man happy; neither can man’s impiety so
diminish the Divine felicity as to require God to protect Himself against
the machinations of the wicked by always entailing on them misery as
the recompense of their wickedness (see homiletics on ch. 22:2-4). If God
makes a good man happy, He does so of grace and favor; if he allows him
to pass his life in misery, he does not thereby commit an act of injustice.
Ø A complete refutation. Elihu disposes of Job’s bad logic by reminding
him first of the lofty elevation of the heavens (v. 5), and a fortiori of the
infinite exaltation of him who dwells above the heavens beyond the
highest and purest creature on the earth. Since God thus transcends
even the best of men, it is clearly impossible to suppose that He can
be tried by purely human standards.
· JOB’S MISTAKES INDICATED.
Ø Dwelling too exclusively upon the greatness of his misery. “By reason
of the multitude of oppressions they make the oppressed to cry;” or they,
i.e. the oppressed, raise a cry: “they cry out by reason of the arm,” i.e.
violence, “of the mighty” (ver. 9). Elihu reminds Job that his complaint
(ch. 24:12), animadverting severely on the seeming indifference of God
to what He could not but be cognizant or; viz. man’s inhumanity to man;
is misguided. Elihu now alludes with the view of suggesting to the mind
of Job the direction in which to look for an explanation of this remarkable
phenomenon — God’s silence in the presence of human sorrow. The cry
which rises from the oppressed is in no sense a believing appeal to the
Creator for assistance. It is simply a groan of anguish. Instead of turning
with hope and expectation to their Maker, they fix their thoughts upon
their misery and raise a shout. It is impossible not to think that, in holding
up such a mirror before the mind of Job, Elihu designed the patriarch to
catch a reflection of himself. Had not he too been crying out under the
severity of the stroke which had fallen on him, rather than anticipating the
hour of deliverance when God would fill his mouth with rejoicing? The
mistake of magnifying one’s troubles, and dwelling too exclusively upon
them, is one which even Christians, no less than Job, are not careful to
avoid. (It is a very common mistake of people enduring bouts of depression –
I know because I was depressed two times in my life, once when I
was 36 and the second time, when 54 years old. I would wish depression on
no one – obsessive centering on oneself gets one nowhere fast – Elihu is right
here – the depressed one is better off helping others and getting his mind off
himself – easier said than done but with God’s help, this too will pass – CY –
2013). Besides springing from unbelief, it has a tendency to hinder their
beneficent design, and commonly obscures the soul’s discernment of the
source as well as of the first approaches of relief. Mistakes made, for
Ø Neglecting to repair to God for succor. “None saith, Where is God my
Maker, who giveth songs in the night?” (v. 10). Instead of giving way to
wailing, the victim of oppression (and such Job deemed himself to be)
ought to turn in believing confidence and with hopeful expectation,
not to his fellows, like Asa the King of Israel (II Chronicles 16:12), or to
false gods, like Ahaziah the son of Ahab (II Kings 1:2), or to any form of
creature-help whatsoever (Psalm 146:2), but like David to the living God
(Psalm 121:2), remembering:
o who God is in Himself — the all-powerful and all-sufficient One;
o the relation in which He stands to the sufferer, that of Maker; and
o the gracious character in which He delights to present himself to His
creatures, viz. as a God “who giveth songs in the night,” i.e. who,
by granting deliverance to afflicted sufferers in the night of
tribulation, gives them occasion to celebrate His praise in anthems of
gratitude and joy. Such nights of sorrow and tribulation occur in
all men’s lives (ch. 5:7), but especially in the lives of saints
Yet no night is too dark for God to turn the shadow of death into the morning
5:8). God, who caused
(Exodus 15:1), and David after escaping from the hands of Saul (II Samuel
and Paul and Silas in prison at
most despairing sufferer to shout “Hallelujah!” Still nothing is
more frequent than for saints to forget God, and turn to almost every other
quarter before they seek unto Him (Isaiah 51:13), though one principal
end of affliction is to IMPEL MEN to seek unto Him who alone can put a
new song into their mouths.
Ø Forgetting the superior dignity of his nature. Simply to howl over one’s
miseries’ Elihu intends to say, is to reduce one’s self to the level of the
brute creation, which express their natural sense of pain by means of
such bellowings (ch.6:5). But man belongs to an order of creation loftier
than the wild ass or the ox: and, being possessed of nobler faculties and
larger intelligence than these, should not be content with such modes of
giving utterance to emotion as are shared in by them, but should address
himself to God in the filial confidence of prayer. And to this the example
of the beasts, viewed in another light, may be said to urge him. Another
rendering supplies the thought that God “teacheth us by the beasts of the
earth” — by the young lions, e.g., who roar after their prey, and seek their
meat from God (Psalm 104:21); “and maketh us wise by the fowls of
heaven” — for instance, by the ravens who cry to God for food (Psalm 147:9).
Ø Offering prayers that spring from vanity and pride. “There they cry, but
none giveth answer, because of the pride of evil men. Surely God will not
hear vanity, neither will the Almighty regard it” (vs. 12-13). Again under
the general case Elihu deals with the case of Job. Job had repeatedly
complained that his prayer had not been answered (ch.19:7; 30:20).
Elihu indirectly meets his objection by explaining why the prayers of
sufferers in general remain unheard. They are not prayers in the proper
sense of the expression, being dictated by wounded pride rather than by
conscious need, and consisting of emptiness and wind, mere “sound and
fury signifying nothing,” rather than the aspirations and desires of a
believing heart. It is impossible to resist the impression that Job’s outcries
and entreaties were sometimes inspired by lacerated pride and insulted
vanity rather than by lowly humility and fervent piety. Hence they were
suffered to ring through the vault of heaven unheeded. So are all similar
prayers by whomsoever presented (Psalm 66:18; Isaiah 1:15; Proverbs 28:9;
John 9:31; James 4:3). A prayer, to be acceptable must be:
o reverent, and
Ø Supposing God did not understand his case. This an extremely natural
inference from the oft-reiterated demand that God would permit Job to lay
his cause before Him. But Elihu assures him that this was quite
unnecessary; that, although he did not, and apparently could not, see God,
i.e. come to God’s presence (23:3-9), the whole case he wished to
submit to God was already before Him, and all he (Job) needed to do was
simply to wait for GOD’S GRACIOUS INTERVENTION! (v. 14) —
words suggestive of:
o a great temptation to which suffering saints are not seldom exposed,
viz. a temptation to despond of Divine succor and Divine favor, like Job
himself (Job 23:3), like David (Psalm 42:6), Asaph (Psalm 77:7-9),
Heman (Psalm 88:6), Jonah (Jonah 2:4), and others;
o a great consolation which all desponding and despairing ones may cling
to, viz. that God perfectly understands their case in all its minutest
details, as He knew the cases of Job (ch. 23:10), Hagar (Genesis 16:13),
o a great duty which is equally incumbent on all, to wait patiently on God
till He is pleased to come with deliverance and favor (Psalm 62:5;
Lamentations 3:26; Micah 7:7; Habakkuk 2:3; 3:17-19).
Ø Misinterpreting the Divine clemency. Understanding Elihu to say,
“And now, because He, i.e. God, “does not visit” (i.e. hostilely, in the
sense of punishing) “his,” i.e. Job’s, “anger, and does not know” (in the
sense of regarding or taking notice of) “his wickedness or pride greatly;
therefore doth Job open his mouth in vain, he multiplieth words
without knowledge” (vs. 15-16), the meaning is that Job’s sufferings
have not been severe enough, and that the Divine clemency in dealing
sparingly with Job has only been recompensed by the continuation
and manifestation in Job of a rebellious and refractory spirit.
1. That God’s servants ought to cry aloud and spare not in exposing the
wickedness of men, whether saints or sinners.
2. That it is of great advantage when a faithful reprover can particularly
specify the sin which be condemns.
3. That men’s words commonly afford a good index to the state of their hearts.
4. That by the quality of their speech shall men eventually be either
acquitted or condemned.
5. That preachers of the gospel should ever, like Elihu, be able to defend as
well as recommend the faith which they proclaim.
6. That God is not too high to bless man, though he is certainly too exalted
to be injured by man.
7. That while man can enrich God with nothing, God both can and does
enrich man with all things.
8. That “man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn.”
9. That God is perpetually cognizant of all the wickedness and misery,
crime and wretchedness, that exists on earth.
10. That the only power competent to banish sin and sorrow from the
heart of from the world is THE POWER OF GOD!
11. That men have usually themselves to blame when their prayers are not
12. That God is infinitely worthy of the unwavering confidence of men.
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