ELIHU'S FOURTH SPEECH
No reply being made to Elihu's preceding address, he resumes. Job .—"Elihu also proceded and said". His object to bring Job to a more becoming state of mind in reference to God's dealings with him. Aims, like Job's three friends, at showing that God is not to be charged with injustice by any of his creatures.
I. His introduction (Job ).
1. Bespeaks Job's farther patience and attention. Job .—"Suffer (wait for, or bear with) me a little, and I will show thee that I have yet to speak in God's behalf" (or, "that there are yet arguments for God"). Elihu makes good his own statement: "I am full of matter". "The words of a man's mouth are as deep waters; and the well-spring of wisdom as a flowing brook". "Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out" (Pro 18:4; Pro 20:5). The promise to believers in New Testament times: "Out of them shall flow rivers of living water" (Joh 7:37). On the day of Pentecost, believers, filled with the Holy Ghost, spake with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance (Act 2:4). Observe—
(1) Patient attention to spiritual teaching not always easy to the flesh.
(2) Wise in a public teacher to draw as little as possible on the patience of his hearers. Brevity, as far as consistent with faithfulness to the truth and the hearer's interests, to be constantly aimed at. The matter spoken to be carefully arranged, and the words employed to be few and well chosen. Prolixity, digression, and repetition to be avoided.
(3) Elihu's wisdom in making breaks in his discourse, and in pausing at times for a reply. His speeches four or five instead of one.
(4) Well to be ready to speak for God, in the presence either of friends or foes. Elihu's task to speak as an advocate for God against Job, who had appeared to take the place of an accuser. The part of wisdom to know how to speak for God, and to give a suitable answer to men's cavils and complaints.
2. Promises a thorough and satisfactory treatment of the subject in hand. Job .—"I will fetch my knowledge from afar" (from the widely-extended departments of God's works; from principles long and everywhere acknowledged; from deep thought and mature consideration). Elihu's knowledge like Solomon's "deep waters". Preachers to ponder and study well the subjects on which they are to speak. Dr. Guthrie commenced his preparations for the Sabbath on the preceding Monday, and thus kept his discourses ‘simmering' in his mind all the week. Sermons to carry evidence of close thought and thorough acquaintance with the subjects treated. To be confirmed by solid arguments and commended by apt illustrations.—The subject and aim of Elihu's discourse: "I will ascribe righteousness to my Maker". His subject—the justice of God's dealings in Providence; his aim—to exhibit and defend that justice. His arguments for God especially in relation to His righteousness as the Governor of the Universe. Job had apparently questioned that righteousness (ch. Job 27:2; Job 34:5-12). Wise in preachers to have a distinct subject and a clear aim in their discourses.
3. Assures Job of the sincerity as well as correctness of his sentiments. Job .—"For truly my words shall not be false (either subjectively, as spoken against my conscience to serve some by end or selfish purpose—a sin of which Job had accused his three friends; nor objectively, as being untrue in themselves in relation to the subject treated, as if vindicating God's ways by unsound arguments). He that is perfect in knowledge (or, one sincere in his opinions and mature in his knowledge of the subject in hand—no novice or tyro, albeit young in years) is with thee". Observe—
(1) A religious teacher to be true both in himself and in his teaching. Truth to be spoken, and to be spoken as truth, and not as fiction. The speaker to be true both in the manner and matter of his discourse. The truth to be spoken in truthfulness. What we speak to be truth, and to be believed and accepted by ourselves as such. "We speak," said the Model Teacher, "what we do know, and testify what we have seen".
(2) A preacher to be sound in his knowledge and in the use he makes of it. Timothy exhorted to "study to show himself a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth;" Titus, to use "sound speech that cannot be condemned" (2Ti ; Tit 2:8). The means of attaining this: "Give attendance to reading; meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; take heed unto thyself and unto the doctrine" (1Ti 4:13; 1Ti 4:15-16). Teachers of others to be not babes but men of full age in understanding, whatever they may be in years (Heb 5:12-14). The Scriptures given "that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto every good work" (2Ti 3:17).
III. Elihu's defence of God (Job ). "Behold," &c. What is about to be spoken is—
(1) Worthy of all attention;
(2) Patent to everyone, and not for a moment to be questioned. Elihu grounds his defence—
1. On God's attributes. Job .—"God is mighty, and despiseth not any; he is mighty in strength and wisdom." Adduces—
(1) His power. "God is mighty." Omnipotent and able to accomplish all His pleasure throughout the universe. Hence under no temptation to be unrighteous. Injustice allied to weakness. The mighty scorn to be unjust.
(2) His kindness. "He despiseth not any." In opposition to Job's insinuation (chap. Job ; Job 19:7; Job 23:13). Though mighty, He scorns not the meanest. Though high, He hath respect to the lowly. Slights no creature's cause or interests. The contrast of earth's mighty ones. No creature too minute or insignificant in God's eyes for His care and attention. A sparrow not forgotten before Him. His power no impediment to His providence. His greatness enables Him to pay attention to the tiniest insect as well as to the mightiest angel. To Omnipotence and Omniscience an atom an object of attention as well as a sun. God the universal Parent. All creatures, great and small, His own. All created by Him and for Him. All dependent on Him for life and all things. The universe a proof that He is mighty, yet "despiseth not any." The animalcule, invisible to the naked eye, a testimony to His condescension and care, as well as to His power and wisdom. The animating reflection of Mungo Park from the appearance of a small moss in the solitary African desert: "Can that Being, thought I, who planted, watered, and brought to perfection in this obscure part of the world, a thing which appears of so small importance, look with unconcern upon the situation and sufferings of creatures formed after His own image? Surely not." The attribute in the text appropriated by Jesus in reference to sinners applying to Him for salvation. "Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise east out" (Joh 6:37). His own incarnation and death on man's behalf the most illustrious confirmation of the text (Psa 8:4; Heb 2:6, &c.).
(3) His wisdom. "He is mighty in strength and wisdom" (Heb., "in strength of heart," perhaps including generosity and kindness, as parallel to the preceding clause). God's omniscience as real as His omnipotence. His wisdom equal to His power. In God infinite power directed by infinite wisdom and employed by infinite goodness. Scripture reveals God's heart as well as His arm. Hence God a Father and a Friend, instead of a tyrant and a terror to His creatures. The object of love and trust as well as of reverence and fear. The tiniest creature the monument of His skill. All nature a testimony to His heart as well as to His hand.
2. On God's dealings in Providence (Job ). His dealings—
(1) In respect to the ungodly. "He preserveth not the life of the wicked," i.e., always. Suffers, or causes them, if continuing wicked, sooner or later, to perish. Usually, however, not till after long patience. Examples:—Pharaoh; Sodom and Gomorrha; the antediluvian world. The ungodly preserved for a time by God—(i.) For His own purposes (Rom .); (ii). To afford space for repentance (Rom 2:4; 2Pe 3:9-15).
(2) In respect to the poor: "But giveth right to the poor,"—the oppressed and afflicted; not without respect to their spirit as well as their circumstances. Maintains their cause against oppressors, and sooner or later, in one way or other, delivers them. Example: Israelites in Egypt. Same truth in similar language (Psa, and elsewhere in the Psalms). Applied by Jesus to His suffering Church (Luk 18:8). Maintained by Elihu against Job's complaints and frequent appearances. Might often suffered to take the place of right. Yet "there is a God that judgeth in the earth." The language of Elihu both a rebuke and an encouragement to Job. If poor, he should sooner or later have right given him, notwithstanding his complaint (chap. Job 27:2). Observe—God's people "poor" in this world, both in respect to their spirit and their position. Their posture one of patience and hope. Their cause, however, maintained by God. "A righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you, and to you who are troubled, rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven" (2Th 1:6-7). Then, if not sooner, right given to the poor.
(3) In respect to the righteous. First, in exercising continual care over them. Job .—"He with draweth not His eyes from the righteous," however they may seem at times to be overlooked and forsaken by Him. The case of Noah already a well-known example. Joseph in Egypt an example of a later period. Righteous Abel died indeed by his brother's hand, but his blood not forgotten by Jehovah (Gen 4:10). The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous (Psa 34:15). The comfort of God's people in all circumstances. At times almost forgotten and questioned by the afflicted and tempted patriarch. "Thou God seest me," a well of refreshment for tried believers.—Second; in exalting them. "But with kings are they on the throne; yea, he doth establish them (or, "yea, kings on the throne, He doth even make them sit") for ever, and they are exalted". Even on earth the righteous often exalted, out of great affliction, to dignity and honour. Joseph and David examples. So far from neglecting the godly, God sooner or later exalts them,—sometimes to an earthly throne, always to a heavenly one (1Sa 2:3; Psa 113:8). "Out of prison he cometh to reign" (Ecc 4:14). Every believer made a king as well as a priest (1Pe 2:9; Rev 1:6; Rev 5:10). Their kingdom an everlasting one (Dan 7:18). God's providence and care extended over godly rulers. His eyes not withdrawn from kings on the throne. Earthly rulers from God Himself. "He putteth down one and setteth up another". "By Me kings reign" (Pro 8:15-16; Rom 13:1; Psa 75:7). Human rule an evidence and consequence of the Divine. Perhaps a direct allusion in the text to Job himself.—Third; In correcting them. Job 36:8-12—"And if they be bound in fetters, and be holden in cords of affliction, then He sheweth them their work, and their transgressions that they have exceeded (or, ‘wherein they have acted proudly'). He openeth also their ear to discipline (or, ‘correction'—so as to hear the lesson which that discipline is intended to teach them), and commandeth that they return from iniquity. If they obey [the voice of the rod] and serve Him, they shall spend their days in prosperity and their years in pleasures (or ‘delights'). But if they obey not, they shall perish by the sword [of Divine judgment]. They shall die without knowledge" (in their folly, or "before they are aware," i.e., suddenly). Observe from the whole passage, in regard to
1. Even the righteous may require correction. True both in Old and New Testament times (1Co ; Rev 3:19). In Elihu's judgment, Job's case at present. Though the godly may not live in sin, they may fall into it, and for a time continue in it. Examples: Noah; Abraham; David; Peter. Every sin has its root in a believer's heart. "Foolishness bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction driveth it out" (Pro 22:15).
2. The righteous not left to remain in their sin. Correction employed to raise them out of it (Pro ). "As many as I love I rebuke and chasten; be zealous therefore and repent" (Rev 3:12). "For this cause (viz., sin in reference to the Lord's Supper) many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep"—are dead (1Co 11:30). "When we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world" (Job 36:32). In Elihu's view, Job not proved to be a wicked man by his suffering, but a righteous one who has sinned, and whom God in His love is chastening.
3. The object of chastisement to bring sin to our remembrance in order to repentance. "He sheweth them their work and their transgressions". God's rod a speaking one (Mic ). "Art thou come to call my sin to remembrance?"—the question of the widow of Zarephath to Elijah on the death of her son.
4. Chastening, when improved, followed by a life of enjoyment God's rod, like Jonathan's, brings honey on the point of it. A rich blessing attendant on sanctified affliction (Psa ). Believers allured into the wilderness, that the Lord "may speak comfortably" to them (Heb., "to their heart"). Their vineyards given them from thence, and the valley of Achor made a door of hope (Hos 2:14-15).
5. Chastisements, not improved, followed by still severer ones. "If they obey not, they shall perish by the sword". Divine chastening neither to be despised nor fainted under (Heb ).
III. Elihu administers reproof to Job (Job ).
1. By adducing the case of the ungodly. Job .—"But the hypocrite (or ungodly) in heart (whatever they may appear in their outward life or in the eyes of their fellow-men,) heap up wrath (increasing the Divine displeasure against them by their continuance in sin, and their impenitent stubborness under affliction—another solemn word for Job); they cry not (to God, as sinners for pardoning mercy) when He bindeth them (with the cords of affliction). They die in youth (that is, prematurely), and their life is (or ‘becomes extinct') among the unclean" (Margin, "Sodomites,"—persons who by prostituting their bodies abridge their lives; with possible allusion to the men of Sodom, or more likely, to those who prostituted themselves in heathen temples in the service of their abomiuable deities). Observe—
(1) A fearful case when a man is "a hypocrite in heart." Christ's most solemn woes pronounced on hypocrites. Sad to be an open sinner; still more to be a secret one. Necessary to look to our outward life; still more to look to our heart (Psa ).
(2) The wrath of God the reward of sin, whether open or secret. God angry with the wicked every day (Psa ). The wrath of God revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (Rom 1:18).
(3) That wrath capable of being removed by repentance and faith, or increased by impenitennce and unbelief. "He that believeth in the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him" (Joh ). Wrath treasured up to themselves by the impenitent against the day of wrath (Rom 2:5).
(4) The mark of a hard and impenitent heart when prayer is not made to God in affliction.
(5) Sin the cause of an unhappy life, and often of a premature death (Psa ; 1Co 11:30).
(6) Awful to live among sinners; still more awful to die among them.
2. By showing God's conduct towards the humble and afflicted. Job .—"He delivereth the poor in His affliction, and openeth their ears in oppression," to receive instruction. A reminder to Job of what had been his duty and what might have been his experience. Observe—
(1) Affliction of various kinds, whether from men or otherwise, allowed by God for wise purposes.
(2) One of these purposes is to receive instruction. Divine chastening connected with Divine teaching (Psa ). "Hear ye the rod" (Mic 6:2).
(3) Accepted chastisement usually followed by imparted deliverance (Lev ). Deliverance may be either—(i.) By removing the affliction; (ii.) By removing the afflicted to a better world; or (iii.) By filling his soul with comfort and raising him above his affliction.
3. By applying the whole to Job's own case. Job .—"Even so would He have removed thee out of the strait into a broad place where there is no straitness (or, ‘out of the wide mouth of distress which has no bottom'); and that which should be set on thy table should be full of fatness. But thou hast fulfilled the judgment of the wicked (approving their way, imitating their example, and incurring their punishment): judgment and justice take hold on thee" (or, "will hold their place,"—causing thee still to suffer in consequence of thy rebellious speeches, instead of being delivered, as thou wouldst have been, hadst thou meekly submitted to the Divine chastening and justified God in thy affliction.) Job's sin, in Elihu's judgment, that like Israel, instead of meekly accepting the Divine chastisement, he chafed and kicked against it "like a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke" (Jer 31:18). Observe—
(1) The way to have chastisement removed is weekly and patiently to submit to it, and to seek its improvement (Lam ; Lam 3:39-41; Mic 7:9).
(2) An easy thing with God to remove us out of the deepest distress and to bring us into enlargement and comfort. The experience of the Israelites a common one with God's children (Psa ).
(3) A well-supplied table a gift of God's providence to His obedient children. God able to give richly all things to enjoy. Promises that our bread shall be given us, and our water shall be sure. Teaches his children both how to abound and how to suffer need. Prepares a table for them in the presence of their enemies, and makes their cup to run over (Psa ).
(4) If God's people sin with the ungodly, they must expect to suffer with them. God's dealings characterized by "judgment and justice," as well with saints as with sinners. Sin shown to be abominable and malignant wherever it is found. Sons not exempt from stripes (Psa ).
IV. Elihu's warning. Job .—"Because (or since) there is wrath [on the part of God], beware lest He take thee away with His stroke (or chastisement): then a great ransom cannot deliver thee. Will He esteem thy riches? No, not gold, nor all the forces (or exertions) of strength". Observe—
(1) Appearance of wrath on the part of God not necessarily wrath. Job's afflictions not the effect of wrath. Elihu, in this respect, almost as much in the dark as Job's three friends. Love and hatred on the part of God not known by present treatment (Ecc ). Yet
(2) Suffering often an indication of displeasure. "For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and smote him." "In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment" (Isa ; Isa 57:17).
(3) Believers and others, under chastening, to beware of further provoking God's displeasure by obstinacy and rebellion.
(4) Chastisement, not improved, may end in death (1Co ):
(5) No human power or worldly riches able to divert the Divine displeasure. All Herod's wealth unable to save him from the worms that ate him up (Act ).
(6) The language of Elihu to be taken as in general a
Warning to Sinners
1. Their DANGER. "There is wrath". God angry with the wicked every day. The wrath of God revealed from heaven against all sin. Must exist till sin is atoned for, repented of, and forgiven. Sin draws to itself the lightning of Divine wrath. That wrath displayed in the expulsion of the angels from heaven, of man from paradise, and of the Jews from their own land. Exhibited in the destruction of the Old World by water, and of the Cities of the Plain by fire. Most of all seen in the suffering and death of the Son of God standing as the sinner's Surety. God's wrath must consume either the sinner himself or his substitute. The meaning of sacrifices. Christ the thunder-rod that drew down that wrath on Himself in order to draw it off from man. God's wrath is—
(1) Righteous—the just reward of sin;
(2) Holy—infinitely removed from sinful passion;
(3) Intolerable—as the wrath of man's Creator and Judge;
(4) Unabatable and unremovable by creature power. That wrath all the more dreadful to the impenitent and unbelieving as the "Wrath of the Lamb" (Rev ).
2. Their DUTY. "Beware, lest He take thee away with His stroke". Implies—
(1) An awaking to consciousness and consideration of one's peril. "Stop, poor sinner, stop and think!"
(2) A halting in one's present course. Illustrations: The prodigal at the swine-trough; the penitent thief.
(3) Earnest inquiry as to the way of deliverance. Illustrations: The converted murderers of Jesus on the day of Pentecost—Men and brethren, what must we do? Saul of Tarsus—Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? The Philippian jailer—Sirs, what must I do to be saved? No safety but in the Lord's own way. Any other ends only in death.
(4) Immediate obedience to Divine direction. That direction—Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Behold the Lamb of God. Come unto Me and I will give you rest. No safety for a sinner but at the cross where the wrath alighted and was extinguished. Dangerous to delay in obeying the direction. Lot not to tarry in all the plain. No safety till inside of Zoar. An hour after God shut Noah and his family in the ark, too late for refuge. A step outside the City of Refuge, and the manslayer might perish. The three thousand at Pentecost gladly received the Word and were baptized. The jailer believed and was saved before daybreak. "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation!" "To-day, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your heart."
3. Their DOOM, if neglecting it: "Then a great ransom cannot deliver thee". No chance of deliverance after death to the unsaved sinner. A "great ransom" already provided. Nothing less than the blood of God's own Son made flesh. Able to satisfy Divine justice for the sins of a world. Delivers every sinner who trusts in it. Delivered the thief upon the cross, Saul the persecutor, and Christ's own murderers. A cloud of witnesses, both in heaven and on earth, to the value of the ransom. Available, however, only on this side of death. After death the judgment. An impassable gulf fixed between heaven and hell. Purgatory a priestly fiction. Rejectors of Christ's proffer here, punished with everlasting destruction from His presence hereafter. The hand that shut Noah in the ark shut all the world out. The blood of Jesus pleads for pardon to all who trust in it,—punishment on all who trample on it (Heb ; Heb 10:26-29). A day when even the blood of God's Son cannot save a soul. Much less anything else. How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?
V. Elihu's admonition. Job .—"Desire not the night (of death,—probable allusion to Job's wish, chap. Job 7:15), when people are cut off in their place (or, go up [as chaff in a whirlwind] ‘to their place'). Take heed, regard not iniquity; for this hast thou chosen rather than affliction" (or, "meek submission;" or, "in consequence of affliction"). Job's temptation twofold:
(1) To desire death rather than continuance in his present affliction;
(2) To sin or cast off religion in consequence of it. The latter especially Satan's aim. Observe—
1. No sin to which a believer may not be tempted. "Scarcely a temptation except that of covetousness, which Luther did not experience".—Spurgeon. The Head tempted to the grossest of all sins,—the worship of the devil for worldly gain and worldly glory; no marvel if the members should be so too. No attainment in grace sufficient to exempt a believer from temptation. Christ taken to the Holy City to be tempted, and there placed on a pinnacle of the temple. Temple-pinnacles, places for the most terrible temptations. The measure of grace shown not in being free from temptations, but in overcoming them. Gold, not pinchbeck, submitted to the crucible.
2. Temptations only sinful when succumbed to. Job sorely tempted to curse God, yet only blessed Him. Tempted to renounce religion, yet only clung to is the closer. Not temptation, but sinning in it, hurts the soul.
3. Common to be tempted to sin in order to escape suffering. Christ tempted to distrust God and work a miracle, to escape the pangs of hunger. Daniel tempted to abstain from prayer, to escape the lion's den. The three captive youths tempted to worship the golden image, to escape the fiery furnace. Peter tempted to deny his Master, to escape his fate. Cranmer tempted to recant, to escape the fires of martyrdom. Believers tempted to choose sin rather than suffering, yet, through grace, prefer suffering to sinning. Peter repented of his sin, and met a martyr's death. Cranmer recanted his recantation, and embraced the flames.
VI. Elihu directs attention to the Divine perfections (Job ). "Behold," &c. With a view to bring Job to submission, he exhibits—
1. The power of God. Job .—"God exalteth (i.e., men; or simply, ‘is exalted') by His power". God exalted in Himself, and exalts the lowly. None so reduced but Divine power can restore him. Exalted Joseph from a dungeon to the throne of Egypt. God's power employed as well in exalting the humble as in abasing the proud.
2. His condescension. "Who teacheth like him?" (or, who is like Him as a teacher, ruler, or master?) God's power makes Him a ruler; His condescension, a teacher of His creatures (Psa ). Observe in reference to—
1. Its excellence. As a Teacher, God is—
(1) Perfectly acquainted with the subjects which He teaches, and which we require to be taught.
(2) Understands the capacity and capabilities of the taught.
(3) Knows the best and most effectual way of teaching them.
(4) Able by His power to give effect to His instructions. Instructs with a strong hand (Isa ).
(5) Has patience with the dulness of His scholars.
(6) Carries them to the highest degree of knowledge. Makes them ultimately to know even as they are known (1Co ).
(7) Exalts them by His teaching to His own moral excellence. Conformity to His own image the end of His teaching. The effect of human teaching often to make men proud. Knowledge puffeth up. God's teaching humbles while it exalts. Human teaching often leaves men depraved and immoral. Attainments in knowledge not always attainments in virtue. Divine teaching purifies the heart, while it enlightens the mind. God teaches men in order to save them.—
2. The necessity of Divine teaching. As fallen men, need Divine teaching to restore them. "Alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them" (Eph ). Men need teaching that gives life as well as light. One of Christ's offices as Redeemer, that of Prophet or Teacher. Is made "wisdom" to us as well as "righteousness," &c.—
3. The means of Divine teaching: God teaches
(1) By His Word;
(2) By His works;
(3) By His Providential dealings;
(4) By His Spirit. His teaching connected with His chastening (Psa ).—
4. The subjects of Divine teaching God teaches us to know—
(1) Ourselves, both as creatures and as sinners. The celebrated maxim: "Know thyself," only truly learned under Divine teaching.
(2) Our duty, both to God, our neighbour, and ourselves.
(3) Our happiness—wherein it consists, and how it is secured.
(1) Virtue or holiness—its nature, excellence, and means of attainment.
(5) Sin—its nature, malignity, and consequences,
(6) Salvation, or the way of deliverance from sin and its effects.
(7) God Himself, in His being, His perfections, and the relations He sustains to mankind.
(8) Jesus Christ, in His person, His offices, and His work as our Redeemer (Joh ).
3. His supremacy and independence. Job .—"Who hath enjoined Him His way?" (has charged Him how He is to act, and may call Him to account for His conduct). Deity admits of no superior or director. From the Creator's tribunal no appeal to a higher court.
4. His justice and holiness. "Who can (will or dare to) say to him, Thou hast wrought iniquity?" Connected with preceding clause.
(1) There is none to charge God with a dereliction of duty.
(2) There can be no ground for such a charge. Iniquity possibly found in human rulers; none in the Supreme. The creature's interests safe in the hands of the Creator. Iniquity in God the ruin of the universe. The blasphemous presumption supposed in the text, implied in all quarrelling with God's providence. The sin to which Job had been chiefly tempted. The temptation to which men under severe trials are especially exposed.
VII. Job's duty in reference to the Creator and His works. Job .—"Remember that thou magnify his work (both his actual working and the products of it), which men behold (or ‘praise'). Every man may see it; men may behold it afar off" (so glorious and conspicuous is it). Observe—
(1) Trouble apt to shut out God and His work from our thoughts. The tendency of suffering and trial to draw our attention more to ourselves than our Maker. In dwelling on our own griefs, we are apt to forget His glory.
(2) Our duty, as intelligent creatures, to observe and magnify God's work. God's works made to be remembered (Psa ).
(3) Man's distinction, as a creature, that he is capable of admiring and praising God's work. Other creatures only capable of rendering unconscious praise. The lower animals made to rejoice in the effects of God's work; man to praise and magnify the work itself. Man alone of terrestrial creatures capable of perceiving the wisdom, power, and goodness in the Creator's work. Hence (i) his greater capacity for happiness; (ii) his responsibility.
(4) God's work such as to demand the praise and admiration of intelligent creatures. His work honourable and glorious (Psa ). His works the reflection of Himself and the exponents of His perfections. The heavens declare His glory. All His works praise Him. Infinite wisdom, power, and goodness impressed on the work of His hands. His attributes displayed as well in His work of Providence as of creation.
(5) God's work admired and praised by men, especially the good, in all ages. "The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein" (Psa ). Some of the earliest poetry hymns in praise of God's work.
(6) God's work everywhere visible and conspicuous. "Every man may see it; man may behold it afar off". God never without a witness to Himself from His works, giving rain from heaven and fruitful seasons (Act ). His work threefold—
1. Creation. In creation, God calls into existence and gives shape and character to what thus exists. Creation itself a fact of reason and revelation. Everything must have a cause, and marks of design prove a designer. The process of creation briefly indicated in the beginning of the Book of Genesis. The Scriptures "by far the most ancient and the only thoroughly trustworthy record" of the work of creation. Other accounts preserved in various heathen countries, doubtless, in their origin related to the Hebrew one. Nearly all commence, like that of Genesis, with a primitive chaos of matter, empty and dark, on which the Creator acted. Science able to say nothing as to the one first cause. Its instruments inadequate to discern the spiritual cause, asserted by the Bible to be behind all natural phenomena. Knows, and can know of itself, nothing of the origin of the world, either in regard to the matter composing it or the forces operating in it. The language in Genesis that of accommodation. Every creation-act accomplished by a word of command, as the fullest representation of the kind of power exerted. The work, both as to matter and form, simply a will on the part of the Creator. Materials for later stages in creation ready at hand in the results of the earlier. At each stage a special fiat, consistent with a gradual development, and new Divine impulse. A perfect universe not created at once, but slowly built up step by step.—Warrington's Week of Creation. What appears at first as the results of one period of creation, actually that of many. The rocks disclose a series of creations previous to that of man, separated from each other by thousands of years. The rocks themselves, to a large extent, the result of those previous creations. Limestone rocks almost entirely composed of the remains of shell fish. The products and proof of God's creation-work everywhere before us. Embrace both the visible and the invisible, the material and the spiritual. Man both spiritual and material—a microcosm or universe in himself. God's works of creation claim our admiration both for their magnitude and minuteness; their multiplicity and variety; their perfection and beauty; their complexity and order; their extent and mutual adaptation.
2. Providence. Consists in the preserving and governing the creatures made, and conducting them to the end for which they were created. The creatures dependent on God for their preservation as well as their creation. In Him we live and move, as well as have our being. The end of creation the Creator's own glory. His work of Providence the steps by which that end is secured. Its operation discovered in what at first sight appears to have been the work of creation. The creatures whose remains lie imbedded in the rocks, and to a considerable extent compose them, the ancient objects of God's providence. The formation of the rocks themselves due to the same providence, acting for millions of years previous to man's appearance on the earth. Provision made by God's providence, in those distant ages, for man's future residence and comfort, as well in the coal-beds prepared for his fuel by the growth of primeval forests, as in the rocks which should furnish the soil he was to cultivate, and the material with which he was to build his dwelling. God's work of providence extends to the lowest as well as the highest of His creatures. The fall of a sparrow under His direction as well as the revolution of a world. The animalcule, invisible to the naked eye, cared for by it as well as the sun with its diameter of a million miles. That work embraces the rise and fall of empires, the progress and decay of states, and the affairs of the humblest individuals that compose them. All history but the exponent of Divine providence. Its operations continually before our eyes, and often such as to arrest the attention even of the thoughtless. Visible in the miseries and calamities, as well as in the blessings and deliverances experienced among men. Under Divine providence, virtue in general, and in the end, rewarded, though frequently permitted, for a time, to be tried and purified by suffering—the case exhibited in this book. Vice in general, and in the end, punished, though often allowed, for a time, to prosper and triumph. Many things in God's work of providence, as in that of creation, mysterious to us in our present imperfect condition. Among these the permission of evil. His providence seen, not only in permitting it, but in overruling it for His own glory—"from seeming evil still educing good."
3. Redemption.—Properly a special part of God's work of providence. Its most glorious part, and that to which both creation and providence are subservient. Redemption the deliverance and restoration of fallen men by the incarnation and life, the suffering and death, the resurrection and ascension of the Son of God, as well as by the mission and operation of the Holy Ghost. The work in which God has chosen, most of all, to exhibit His perfections. "To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places, might be made known by the Church, the manifold wisdom of God" (Eph ). God's work of Redemption established upon man's fall, which it includes as its foundation. Embraces the call of Abraham, and the selection of a part of his posterity to be, for a time, the special field of its development, preparatory to the extension of its blessings to all the nations of the earth. Included, as a farther preparation, the union of the nations in successive universal empires, culminating in the Roman, in which the work was to receive its principal development. Embraced the mission of the Apostles for the proclamation of the Redemption among all nations, and the establishment of the New Testament for its experience and further exhibition. Included the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the Jews, thus terminating a religion of symbols after it had served its purpose, and affording a standing evidence to the truth of the Scriptures which announce and unfold the Redemption. Comprehends the spread of the Gospel and the conversion of the nations to Christianity, with all the events, movements, and arrangements of Divine providence conducing to it; as—the general diffusion of the Greek language as the channel for the early promulgation of the Gospel; the free communication among the nations, through the extension of the Roman empire and its universal net-work of roads; the breaking up of the Roman Empire, and the settlement of the Northern nations in the provinces of Southern Europe; the persecutions of the Church, and the dispersion of its members and teachers; the preservation of a faithful remnant in the midst of corruption and apostasy in the Church itself; the Reformation, and the various steps conducting to it, as the revival of learning, the invention of printing, and the general aspiration after liberty; the discovery of America, and the planting, in its northern portion, of a nation of Protestants who should occupy it with the Gospel, and disseminate it in its purity and power in other lands; the increasing power and influence of Protestant nations, as England and Prussia, and the decay of Popish ones, as Spain and Portugal; the discovery of the maritime passage to India, and the subsequent transfer of its numerous millions from the sway of a Popish to that of a Protestant nation; the defeated attempts of Mahommedanism to overspread Europe, and of Popery to crush Protestantism in England and the Netherlands; the French Revolution, which aroused both the Church and the world, preparing the one to communicate and the other to receive the Gospel; the almost simultaneous formation of societies for the spread of the Gospel in foreign lands, as the Bible, Tract, and Missionary Societies of Great Britain; the overthrow of the Pope's temporal sway by the Italian people, and the crippling of the power of France which had been its chief support. The work of redemption the sum of all God's dealings in providence. All past history but the unravelling of God's eternal plan concerning our race, and the working out of that redemption provided for it. Redemption both the key and the keystone of history. Runs through its entire course, like the scarlet cord said to run through all the cables of the Royal Navy. Finds its realization in the conversion of every believer's soul.
VIII. Returns to the perfections of God as exhibited in the operations of nature, especially in the production of rain and the phenomena of a thunderstorm. Job .—"Behold, God is great, and we know Him not (or, ‘and we know not'—how great He is), neither can the number of His years be searched out (is from everlasting, and therefore incomprehensible to us). For he maketh small the drops of rain (or, ‘draweth up [by evaporation] the watery particles' from land and sea to be formed into rain): they pour down rain according to the vapour thereof (or, ‘according to His vapour'—the quantity of vapour thus collected by Him; or, ‘they fine [or filter] the rain from His vapour; or, ‘instead of His mist,' alluding to Gen 2:5-6), which the clouds do drop and distil (instead of pouring them down in destructive and overwhelming floods) upon man abundantly. Also, can any understand (or, does any consider) the spreadings of the clouds (either as to mode or measure), or the noise of His tabernacle (the thunder-crash that proceeds from the clouds, which form His pavilion, Psa 18:11)? Behold, He spreadeth His light (or lightning) upon it (or, ‘over Himself,' Psa 104:2), and covereth the bottom (Marg., ‘the roots') of the sea (namely, with the light or lightning which penetrates the ocean's depths, or with the dense cloud spread over its surface; or, ‘he covereth Himself with the bottom of the sea, i.e., with the waters exhaled from it, and formed into clouds). For by them (the clouds, or these operations in the atmosphere) judgeth He the people (either in the bestowment of benefits or the infliction of chastisement); He giveth meat in abundance (by imparting fertility to the earth). With clouds He covereth the light (or the sun, the great reservoir and source of light to the earth, its opaque body being surrounded with a luminous atmosphere; or, ‘He covereth both His hands with lightning'); and commandeth it not to shine by the cloud that cometh betwixt (or, ‘commandeth concerning it—the lightning—in its striking,' or as to where it shall strike). The noise thereof sheweth concerning it (or, ‘His thunder declares concerning Him,—His presence, power, and majesty), the cattle also concerning the vapour" (or concerning Him as He ascends [in the storm]; or, "a magazine of wrath against iniquity").
The whole paragraph sublime, but, on that account, obscure and difficult.—Contains a highly poetical description of a gathering thunder-storm, probably the storm-cloud out of which the Almighty was about to speak, and which was already making its appearance and giving forth its pealing thunder. From the whole, observe—
1. God in Himself infinitely above our comprehension, but discernable in His works of creation and providence.
2. Elihu's first illustration of God's power and wisdom drawn from meteorology. God seen in objects and operations the most minute as well as the most majestic. The phenomenon of rain one of the most interesting evidences of His being and perfections. The atmosphere the Divine laboratory for the irrigation and fructifying of the earth. To fill the cloudy reservoirs with water exhaled from the land and sea, and then to form the contents into rain, and send it down in refreshing and fertilizing showers,—a process as interesting and wonderful as it is beneficial and little regarded. The whole operation carried on by the Divine Ruler according to laws of His own establishment. The process no less His own, and no less requiring His hand and direction, that it is carried on according to established laws.
3. The formation and descent of rain generally understood by the scientific, though much of the process still remains a mystery. "Can any understand [fully] the spreadings of the clouds?" The operation intended, like all other works of God in nature, to engage the attention and employ the study of His intelligent creatures. Engaged the thoughts of devout men in Job's day, when natural processes were much less understood than at present. Not considered, because so common. "Doth any consider the spreading of the clouds?"
4. All nature a magazine of means prepared by the Almighty, to be employed by Him, either in judgment or in, mercy. His goodness exhibited in the copious or softly falling shower; his terrible majesty and awful displeasure against sin, in the forked lightning and crashing thunder. Even the irrational creatures gladdened by the one, but alarmed and terrified by the other. All the elements of nature under the Almighty's control. The lightning-flash or thunderbolt has its commission from the Creator. "He commandeth concerning it where it shall strike". Alexis, the friend of Luther, is struck dead by a flash of lightning, while Luther himself, close by his side, remains unhurt.
5. The voice of Nature as well as of Revelation, that the Almighty is present in the thunder-storm. "The noise thereof showeth concerning him". God no less in the thunder because its reverberation is according to natural and tolerably understood laws. The report of a musket no less dependent on the hand that draws the trigger, that it is produced by the same laws. Every reason why the thunder-cloud should be designed and employed by its Divine Author, among other purposes, as his celestial artillery against His impenitent and rebellious adversaries (ch. Job ).
6. Unspeakably blessed to have the Almighty for our Father and friend; terrible beyond conception, to have Him for our foe.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Job 36". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany