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ELIHU’S THIRD SPEECH
After a second pause, and no reply, Elihu again resumes. Renews his reproof of Job, and attempts to answer some of his cavils. Job 35:1.—“Elihu spake moreover,” &c.
I. Reproves Job for his improper language. Job 35:2-3.—“Thinkest thou this to be right (or, ‘Dost thou reckon this for judgment’) that thou saidst,” &c. Probably a sarcastic allusion to Job’s vehement complaints about the want of “judgment.” Care necessary that we do not ourselves offend in that for which we are forward to blame others. “Judge not that ye be not Judged.” Job’s language rather than his life still the subject of Elihu’s reproof.” Job reproved—
1. For maintaining his righteousness to be greater than God’s. Job 35:2.—“My righteousness is more than God’s,”—allusion to such passages as ch. Job 9:30-35; Job 10:15. The supposed meaning rather than the exact words of Job’s speeches. Job had maintained that his life had been pure and righteous, and that he was, notwithstanding, treated by the Almighty as wicked. The natural inference from the complaint—Job thinks himself more righteous than God. Job, judging from present appearances, often tempted to believe this. The same conclusion only avoided by the three friends by their falsely maintaining that Job must be a hypocrite and bad man. The error of both parties, that of judging of God’s justice from His present dealings. Neither of them fully aware that God, for special reasons, may allow a godly man to be very severely tried. Their error that of the period in which they lived. A future judgment not yet fully revealed. The pious inclined to expect rewards and punishments in the present life. The peculiarity of Abraham’s faith that he acted as one “that looked for a better country, that is, an heavenly;” content meanwhile to live as “a stranger and pilgrim on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13-16). Hence Abraham, not Job, the “father of the faithful.” The nature of faith to give substance and reality to things hoped for, and the certainty of conviction as regards things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). Observe—
(1) In judging in regard to God and His dealings, apart from faith, men certain to fall into error. Job’s error and consequent irreverent language, the result of defective faith.
(2) Inferences from our language often such as we ourselves should be shocked at. Probably Job himself would have recoiled from the language here ascribed to him.
(3) A good man responsible not only for his words, but from the inference that may justly be drawn from them.
2. For appearing to maintain that piety was profitless to its possessor. Job 35:3.—“For thou saidst, what advantage will it be unto thee (viz., that thy life has been righteous and pure)? and what profit shall I have if I be cleansed from my sin (or as margin—‘more than by my sin’)?” Another inference from Job’s actual language, closely connected with the former one. Job maintained that his life had been pure, and that, notwithstanding, he was a most grievous sufferer. Inference: Job maintains that piety brings no profit. True, if such sufferings continued through life, and there were no hereafter. Job’s real assertion, however that in the present life, piety did no save its possessor from suffering. “If the scourge stay suddenly, He mocketh at the trial of the innocent” (ch. Job 9:23). Satan’s challenge that Job only served God for present advantage, and that when this was withdrawn, he would cast off his religion. His great object to accomplish this. The temptation from Job’s wife. Against this, Job maintained that he was a righteous man, although he suffered so unusually, and that he would hold fast his religious character and conduct at all hazards (ch. Job 13:15). Observe—The sentiments ascribed to Job, the language of unbelief. Entertained by the unbelieving Jews in the days of Malachi (Malachi 3:14). Even the godly tempted at times to employ such language (Psalms 73:13). The opposite of the truth. Godliness profitable unto all things (1 Timothy 4:8). Yet the godly often called to suffer severely in the present life. “Through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom” (Acts 14:22; Revelation 7:14; 2 Timothy 3:11-12).
II. Elihu answers Job’s cavils. Job 35:4, &c.—“I will answer thee and thy companions with thee,”—either the three friends and others present, some of whom perhaps appeared inclined to coincide with Job; or more generally, all those who entertained sentiments similar to those he had expressed—like ch. Job 34:8. Observe—
(1) The duty of the godly to be ready to answer for God and to correct the errors of brethren. “Every one shall kiss his lips that giveth a right answer” (Proverbs 24:26). Believers to know how they “ought to answer every man” (Colossians 4:6).
(2) Believers to be careful with whom they associate, and whose sentiments they espouse.—Two considerations employed by Elihu to silence Job’s cavils:—
1. God’s infinite superiority to, and absolute independence of, His creatures. Job 35:5-8. “Look unto the heavens and see; and behold the clouds which are higher than thou (hence, God who dwells above them not only incomprehensible to His creatures, but independent of and unaffected by them). If thou sinnest, what doest thou against him? if thy transgressions be multiplied, what doest thou unto him? Thy wickedness may hurt (or affect) a man as thou art; and thy righteousness may profit (or affect) the son of man” (mankind, thyself or others like thee, but not God). Observe—
(1) Men apt to think they lay God under an obligation by their piety or morality. God’s happiness not capable of being increased or diminished by His creatures doings (Psalms 16:2; Jeremiah 7:19). His creatures unable to give Him what is not already His own (1 Chronicles 23:14; Romans 2:28-29). No good either possessed or practised by man but is received from God Himself.
(2.) Man apt to forget the distance between the creature and the Creator. Infinite condescension on the part of God to regard man as He does. David’s language that of wisdom and piety: “Lord, what is man that thou art mindful of him?” (Psalms 18:4; Psalms 144:3.) Self-humiliation in God to behold the things that are in heaven and on the earth (Psalms 113:6). Condescension and love on His part, that He receives glory from, and has pleasure in, those that fear and love, serve and trust in Him (Psalms 50:15; Psalms 147:11).
(3.) Man himself affected for weal or woe by his own conduct (Isaiah 3:9; Isaiah 3:11; Proverbs 8:36; Proverbs 9:12). Reaps what he sows now, either here or hereafter (Galatians 6:7-9.) Life and death, happiness and misery, the respective fruits of righteousness and sin (Proverbs 2:19)
(4.) A man’s conduct not only productive of weal and woe to himself but also to those around him. In the constitution of the world, one creature made to depend upon, and be affected for good or evil by, another. Each made either a blessing or a curse to his neighbour. One man’s sin likely to be another’s misery as well as his own. The piety of one the profit of another as well as of himself. A godly man a blessing to the neighbourhood; an ungodly one its bane. Both a conscious and an unconscious influence exercised by each on those around him, either for good or evil. Unconscious often more effective than conscious influence. Each responsible to God for both. A man with a loving and Christlike spirit a perpetual benefaction. Such a spirit perceived in society as the perfume carried about on one’s person. All men like boys writing with invisible ink. An impression left upon thousands by our spirit, words, and conduct, to be only known and seen hereafter.—H. W. Beecher.
(5.) The sky over our head fitted to correct man’s low and erroneous conceptions of the Divine Being. Profitable to “look unto the heavens,” and to study the lessons taught by the starry firmament. The nocturnal sky “Nature’s system of Divinity”. God’s ever open Bible
“His universal temple, hung
With lustres, with innumerable lights,
That shed religion on the soul, at once
The temple and the preacher.—
His love lets down these silver chains of light
To draw up men’s ambition to Himself,
And bind his chaste affections to His throne.—
One sun by day, by night ten thousand shine,
And light us deep into the Deity”.
2. The cause of men’s continued misery and God’s apparent disregard, to be found not in God but in themselves. Job 35:8; Job 35:13.—“By reason of the multitude of oppression, they make the oppressed to cry (or simply, ‘men cry’); they cry out by reason of the arm of the mighty (the violence of tyrants and the ungodly rich). But none saith (under his trouble, in a grateful remembrance of past mercies and prayerful dependence for present aid), where is God my Maker (Heb., ‘my makers,’ as Isaiah 54:5; Ecclesiastes 12:1; probably with allusion to Genesis 1:26—indicating the plurality of Divine persons and the fulness of Divine perfections in the one God), who giveth songs in the night? who teacheth us more than (or ‘above’) the beasts of the earth, and maketh us wiser than the fowls of heaven. There (in their afflicted and oppressed condition) they cry, but none giveth answer, because of the pride of evil men (who cause them by their cruelty and violence to cry out under their affliction). Surely God will not hear vanity (vain prayers that are destitute of faith or piety, and only extorted by suffering); neither will the Almighty regard it” (viz., so long as they remain impenitent). From the whole passage, Observe—
(1) Men often made to suffer grievously from the oppression and tyranny of others. Witness the Israelites in Egypt (Exodus 1:2). Possible allusion made by Elihu to the case of Job himself.
(2) Men’s cries under oppression and trouble not always followed with Divine deliverance. “They cry, but none giveth answer.”
(3) The reason of such unanswered cries not in God, but in the sufferers themselves. Elihu indicates some
Reasons for continued suffering
1. Men do not pray to God in their affliction. They “cry” and “cry out,” but do not pray. Men’s cries in trouble often not to God but against Him. Sufferers often cry to men, and cry out of men, without praying to God. All cries not prayer. Cries in suffering only heard and answered when they are cries to God.
2. Prayer made in trouble not answered, because not right prayers. “God will not hear vanity”. God hears only the prayer of piety or of penitence—the prayer of His servants or of those who desire to become such. No promise to impenitent prayers. “God heareth not sinners,” continuing such (John 9:31). “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Psalms 66:18). “When ye make many prayers, I will not hear; your hands are full of blood” (Isaiah 1:15). “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination” (Proverbs 28:9; Proverbs 1:28-30). “Ye ask and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (James 4:3). Penitence and purity necessary to prevailing prayer. “I will that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands without wrath and doubting” (1 Timothy 2:8). The prayer of the upright is God’s delight (Proverbs 15:8). The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit (Psalms 51:17). Men may kneel upon their beds without being humbled in their hearts (Hosea 7:14). Prayer is vanity when—
(1) Without sincerity;
(2) Without repentance;
(3) Without faith. Prayer without faith is like faith without works,—dead, being alone (James 2:17). Earnest and believing prayer either receives the thing asked or something better.
3. Deliverance not experienced, on account of forgetfulness of God. Job 35:10.—“None saith, where is God my Maker?” Men suffering at the hand of others apt to think more of the creature than the Creator (Isaiah 51:12-13). God not acknowledged by the unregenerate either in their mercies or their afflictions. God’s object in afflicting men, to bring them to Himself. The prayer of the sufferer unanswered till the object is secured, or answered in wrath (Psalms 104:15). Affliction blessed when men turn to God and inquire after Him. Men, since the fall, naturally forgetful of God. Forgetfulness of God the sin that fills hell with inhabitants (Psalms 9:17). Men under suffering apt to inquire after men’s help rather than God’s. Asa, in his affliction, sought not unto the Lord, but unto physicians (2 Chronicles 16:12). Righteous that God should disregard men who willingly forget Him. Seriously to inquire after God the first step in true repentance. Observe—God to be remembered in affliction as our “Maker”. Our Maker, who is also our Redeemer, has the best right to our remembrance. To turn to Him who made us, our first duty in affliction. He who made us cannot but be able to help and deliver us. Our wisdom, when suffering at the hands of men, to turn from the creature to the Creator. Sin to be acknowledged in not having served and followed our Maker. In consequence of the Fall, God to be inquired and sought after as one who is lost. Affliction naturally finds men “without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). God however to be found. Not far from every one of us. Savingly found in Christ (John 14:6 2 Corinthians 5:17).
4. Deliverance not vouchsafed on account of ingratitude for past mercies. “Who giveth songs in the night”. Past songs not to be forgotten in present sufferings. A thankful remembrance of past mercies the best way to obtain present deliverances. Remembrance of past triumphs a precious help under present troubles. “Because Thou hast been my help,” &c. (Psalms 63:7). The recollection of God’s past kindness David’s sweetest comfort in his most crushing trial (Psalms 42:6). Forgetfulness of Divine mercies one of our greatest sins (Isaiah 1:2-3). The natural heart forgetful of God’s benefits as well as His being. The part of grace to resist this tendency (Psalms 103:2).
Two reasons on the part of God why He should be remembered and sought to under affliction and suffering:—
First reason: He gives
Songs in the Night
1. What He gives. “Songs”. God the giver of songs. Songs the expression—
(1) Of joy and gladness;
(2) Of praise and thanks-giving. God happy Himself, and delights in making His creatures happy. According to His nature to give songs rather than sorrows. To give joy, His delight; to cause sorrow, His strange act. God is love; and the nature of love to give songs. The songs that God gives are—
(1) The sweetest;
(2) The holiest;
(3) The most lasting. Satan also gives songs,—short songs the prelude to lasting sorrows. The world gives songs—songs often sung to a heavy heart. All songs but those that God gives to be one day turned into howlings (Amos 8:3). The instrument gives forth its sweetest music under the hands of Him that made it.
2. When He gives songs. “In the night”. First: In the natural night (Psalms 42:8). Night the time of reflection and meditation. Satan makes men howl upon their beds; God makes them sing upon them (Hosea 7:14; Psalms 149:5). God gives songs when there is nothing else to give them—in the night. Paul and Silas sang praises at midnight (Acts 16:25). Musing on our bed the fire burns, and we rise at midnight to give thanks (Psalms 39:3; Psalms 119:62).—Second: In the night of trouble (chap. Job 36:20). God gives songs in the night—
(1) Of personal affliction;
(2) Of temporal adversity;
(3) Of painful bereavement;
(4) Of persecution from the world;
(5) Of spiritual darkness and desertion;
(6) Of death and its solemn approaches (Habakkuk 3:17-18; Acts 16:25; Hosea 2:14-15; Psalms 23:4). No night of trouble too dark for God to give songs in it. Jesus sung a hymn with His disciples in the darkest night of His earthly life. John sung songs of joy and praise as an exile in Patmos, and Paul and Silas as prisoners in Philippi. God gives songs to His people when it is night to others as well as themselves. Israel had light in their dwellings when all Egypt was covered with darkness.
3. How God gives songs in the night.—
(1) By bringing into trouble;
(2) By comforting under it;
(3) By delivering out of it (Hosea 2:14; Psalms 23:4). The songs God gives, generally “songs of deliverance” (Psalms 32:7). God puts songs into the mouth by putting gladness into the heart (Psalms 4:7). Puts a new song into our mouth by setting our feet upon a rock (Psalms 40:2-3). God gives songs in the night by sending and showing us a Saviour (Luke 2:8). The office of Jesus to give “the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” (Isaiah 61:3.
Second reason: He “teacheth us more than the beasts,” &c.—
(1) His special regard to His intelligent creatures, a reason for their seeking to Him in time of trouble. God cares for the lower animals, how much more for man? Man made rational and intelligent after his Maker’s likeness.
(2) The faculties with which God has endowed man, a reason why he should seek Him in trouble. Reason given to enable us to know God, and to understand that He is the helper and deliverer of all who truly seek Him. To be in trouble without inquiring after God, more the part of a beast than a man. Beasts cry in their sufferings, but unable to think of God in them. Sin degrades men below the brute creation. Beasts howl but cannot pray: men can pray but do not. Faculties given to beasts to apprehend the creature: to man to apprehend the Creator. A beast able to know the will of his master; a man to know the will of his God. Understanding given to the beasts to enable them to attend to their bodily wants and those of their offspring; a higher understanding given to man to enable him to attend also to his spiritual wants and those of others. Beasts endowed with sufficient intelligence for the preservation of themselves and others in the present life; man endowed with an intelligence to enable him to secure happiness for himself and others in the life to come. The understanding or instinct of the lower annimals ever the same; the understanding of man capable of continual increase.
III. Elihu exhorts Job to patience and hope. Job 35:14.—“Although (or ‘even when’) thou sayest thou shalt not see Him (enjoy His returning favour; or, ‘thou dost not see Him,’ i.e., understand His procedure), yet judgment is before Him (He ever acts according to judgment; or, ‘the case is before Him’—under His consideration); therefore trust thou in Him”.
1. A temptation or complaint supposed.—
(1) A temptation to despondency. “Thou sayst thou shalt not see him”. Job at times hard pressed with it (chap. Job 17:15). Yet enabled to overcome it (chap. Job 19:26-27). The part of believers to resist temptation (Psalms 42:5-11). To a believer the sun is only hidden by a cloud, not set. The hiding of God’s face no proof that He neglects our cause. Is glorified when He is trusted in the dark (Hebrews 3:17-18). Or—
(2) A complaint of darkness. “Thou sayest thou dost not see him”. Job’s trial that he was unable to comprehend God’s dealings (chap. Job 9:11). God’s dealings with His people often dark, mysterious, and incomprehensible. Christ’s words to Peter spoken for the consolation of tried believers through all time,—“What I do, thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter” (John 13:7).
2. A truth stated. “Judgment is before him”. God’s dealings may be dark, but are never doubtful. While clouds of darkness are round about Him, justice and judgment are the basis of His throne (Psalms 97:2; Psalms 89:14). Purposes of wisdom and goodness in every event, though unknown to us. A God of truth and without iniquity. The cause of the poor and afflicted believer never really, though sometimes apparently, overlooked. “I have seen, I have seen, the affliction of my people in Egypt, and I am come down to deliver them”. Joseph’s case in the pit and then in the prison. Jacob’s in Canaan: “All these things are against me”. Job’s case at present. Believers made to pass through fire and water, but are brought out into a wealthy place (Psalms 66:12).
3. An exhortation addressed. “Trust thou in him.”
Trust in God
The believer’s grand recipe in darkness and trouble. Implies—
(3) Patience. Faith in God’s promise and perfections; hope of His deliverance; patience to wait His time for it. God delivers His people, but in His own time and way. Tarry thou the Lord’s leisure. The vision is for an appointed time; though it tarry, wait for it (Psalms 37:7-34; Habakkuk 2:3) Sinners not immediately punished, nor saints immediately delivered. Trust in God founded in the knowledge of Him. They that know Thy name will put their trust in Thee (Psalms 9:10). God to be trusted in, not an idol bearing His name; God as revealed in His Word, not as formed by our own imagination. To be trusted in as a God of justice as well as mercy. True trust in God founded on the atonement of His Son. God in Christ the revealed object of a sinner’s trust. Christ the only way to the Father. Trust in God implies trust in—
(1) His goodness;
(2) His wisdom;
(3) His faithfulness;
(4) His justice;
(5) His power. God in Christ to be trusted in by the sinner for pardon; by the saint for purity. To be trusted in by believers—
(1) In deepest darkness;
(2) Under greatest discouragements;
(3) In danger and difficulty;
(4) In the absence of all help from ourselves and others;
(5) In the face of all appearances. Trust, the grace that brings the greatest glory to God and the greatest comfort to ourselves (Isaiah 12:2; Romans 4:20).
IV. Elihu reproves Job’s obstinacy. Job 35:15-16.—“But now because it is not so, he hath visited in his anger (or, ‘because it is not so [that] his anger has visited,’ viz., Job, for his irreverent and unbecoming speeches), yet he knoweth it not in great extremity (or, ‘and He [viz., God] hath not taken severe cognizance of his transgression’); therefore doth Job open his mouth in vain (in vain and foolish complaints against God, without either reason or success); he multiplieth words without knowledge” [either of God or himself]. One of the most obscure passages in the book. Elihu’s object to reprove Job either—
(1) Because, while God was chastising, Job was still sinning by his rebellious murmurs; or
(2) Because while God was forbearing to punish Job’s irreverent speeches, Job still continued to indulge in them. Observe—
(1) An evil case—(i.) when God chastises, and we are either blind to the chastening or harden ourselves under it; (ii.) when God’s forbearance is abused to a continuance in sin.
(2) A child of God not always like himself in temptation and trial. Asaph’s confession: “So foolish was I, and ignorant; I was as a beast before thee” (Psalms 73:22). A believer never entirely free from his old carnal nature in this life. Innate corruption liable at times to break out with great violence. God’s forbearance required as well in the case of a saint as of a sinner. David’s prayer needful for every child of God: “Keep back Thy servant from presumptuous sins” (Psalms 19:13). A strict watch required to be kept over heart and lips in time of temptation and trouble. A tendency in the best to impatience under intense and protracted suffering. New Testament grace required in order to fulfil the New Testament precept: “Rejoice evermore; in everything give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17). The belever’s privilege as well as duty to “glory in tribulation” (Romans 5:3). Not too much, under the New Testament supplies of the Spirit, to be “strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, unto all patience and long suffering with joyfulness” (Colossians 1:11).
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Job 35". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14