High Altitudes in Elihu's Answer to Job
Job 32:1-22 , Job 33:1-33 , Job 34:1-37 , Job 35:1-16 , Job 36:1-33
We now come to that part of the Book of Job which presents a most remarkable message spoken by a young man of spiritual integrity. Elihu had evidently been listening to the words of Job, and of his three friends. His spirit had waxed hot within him as he listened; and yet he did not deign to make a reply until the three men utterly collapsed in their arguments and expletives against Job.
1. Men who speak for God should be taught of God. Elihu said, "Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom." However, Elihu understood. "Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgment." This is a message that all young people need to ponder. Men of years are not necessarily men who know God. One may be ever so well versed in human knowledge, and ever so brilliant in all things which pertain to psychical understanding, and yet, be altogether ignorant of the things of God. Here is the way Elihu put it: "There is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding" (Job 32:8 ).
We need this inspiration from on high this gift of God. Daniel possessed Divine wisdom. How else could he have told the things of God and particularly those things which are being fulfilled in our own day.
2. Men who speak for God should realize that they stand in God's stead. Elihu approached Job, not with a message of his own; neither did he come in his own name. Mark his words: "Behold, I am according to thy wish in God's stead: I also am formed out of the clay."
Job had desired to meet God, and lay his case before the Almighty. Elihu now tells Job that he is there in God's stead. He feels that he can bring God's message, because he was taught of God. Elihu's claim may, at the first, seem like presumption. How can a man stand in God's stead? We must stop and consider these words. Let us examine a Scripture to be found in 2 Corinthians 5:20 . "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.
The Spirit-sent believer holds a very vital relation to God in his delivery of a God-sent message. The Lord even says of Him, "He that receiveth you receiveth Me, and he that receiveth Me receiveth Him that sent Me."
The authority of one who preaches the true Word of God is as high Heaven. There is an abiding sense of responsibility in all of this; and it lies with tremendous weight upon every one sent of God. If we are in God's stead, we must speak the words of God. If we are in God's stead, we must work the works of God.
3. Men who speak for God should express the compassion of God. Elihu said: "My terror shall not make thee afraid, neither shall my hand be heavy upon thee" (Job 33:7 ). "For I know not to give flattering titles; in so doing my Maker would soon take me away."
We have then a twofold obligation: first, we must speak with all love; and yet, secondly, we must speak with all honesty and not with beguiling words, with which we would seek to please men. We may sum up our duty in this: "Speaking the truth in love."
Job's three friends had shown anything but the tender compassion of God. They had maligned Job, and criticised him, had continually charged him with wickedness, of which he knew he was not guilty. They expressed no Godlike sympathy, as they should have done.
Christ spoke bitter words of denunciation against the religious hypocrites of His day, but He spoke them with a heart of yearning. The darkest anathemas He ever uttered are recorded in Matthew twenty-three. Mark, therefore, how He closed His solemn series of terrific "woes." Here are His closing words: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, * * how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, but ye would not!" Let us speak the truth in love.
I. HOW GOD REVEALS HIMSELF (Job 33:14-17 )
1. God speaks in dreams. Not for a moment would Elihu suggest that all dreams are from God. However, it is often true that in the daytime God has but little opportunity to get in a word with those to whom He would give some warning. Thus, in the hours of the night, God does speak in "a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep faileth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed."
Where is the individual who has not felt that he had, at some time in his life, some real message from God as he lay sleeping? And yet, we would give a warning that Elihu did not give. We believe that we need to be so in touch with the Lord, and in such fellowship with the Spirit that we will seek by day, and not when asleep at night, the will of God, and His message for our souls.
We need, moreover, to be so filled with His Word that we will receive many revelations from God in the Scriptures that come to our remembrances in special hours of need. If we will walk with God in full yieldedness to Him, it will not be difficult to find out what He has to say to us.
2. God's purpose in speaking to us. This is the way Elihu put it:
(1) "That He may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man." Alas, alas, so many men are rushing headlong on their way, without ever stopping to seek, much less to know, the will of God in their lives! God has said, "It is not in a man to order his steps"; and yet, few men, comparatively, ever ask God for guidance.
Why do we get into so many labyrinths of difficulty? It is because we sought to turn every one to his own way. The very essence of sin is "my way," "my thought." What is the finale of salvation? It is to turn men back to God, as Lord and Master. It is to save us from our transgression going across the will of God.
The supreme call of God to the redeemed soul, is this: "Yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God" (Romans 6:13 ).
(2) That He may keep "back his soul from the pit, and his life from perishing by the sword." God does not want any of us to rush heedlessly on to our doom. He wants to bless us with all spiritual blessings. He wants to fill our lives with His good things. He has no pleasure that any man should perish. Let us, then, seek His face, and learn to trust His will.
II. GOD'S PURPOSE IN PAIN (Job 33:19-22 )
Some one has said, "Sweet are the uses of adversity." God has said, "No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but * * afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby." Back of all affliction, is the God of all grace.
1. Then He is gracious unto him. Elihu taught that all of the chastening of God led to a manifestation of God's mercy. Man is chastened with pain upon his bed: his life abhorreth bread, and his soul dainty meat; his flesh is consumed away; his bones stick out, and his soul draweth near to the grave: then God is gracious unto him.
Elihu is right. God does use every bitter cup that we drink, every pain that we suffer, that He may perfect, strengthen, establish, and settle us. In all of our trials, God is seeking our good. In our anguish, He is leading us to His joy; in our poverty, He is leading us into His riches; in our shame, He is leading us into His glory.
What then should we do when afflictions befall us? We should drop our tired head over upon His arm and wait for His deliverance. He will be gracious unto us.
2. The basis of God's graciousness. Here is a little expression found in the last clause of Job 33:24 , which is well worth weighing. The clause reads: "I have found a Ransom."
We do not doubt but Elihu is seeking to convey the basis upon which God's grace operates. How can God be gracious unto the one who has sinned, and whom He has chastened? How can God deliver any soul from going down into the pit? All have sinned; and the wages of sin is death.
God's deliverance is given on the basis of a Ransom. That Ransom is made in none other way than by the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the One who died, the Just for the unjust. He is the One who suffered for us. How truly grateful we should be because God found a basis upon which He could be just, and yet justify the ungodly!
There are some who feel that this Scripture in Job carries a wonderful message on God's physical deliverances. This is no doubt true, particularly when sickness, with its contingent pain and bitterness, is due to sin. In such a case, the sin must be disposed of before the remedy can be applied.
Elihu, in Job 33:26 , emphasizes the place of prayer, and confession, as a basis on which God's grace, by way of His Ransom, operates. Elihu said, "He shall pray unto God, and He will be favourable unto him: and he shall see His face with joy."
Elihu is pleading with Job to accept God's graciousness by the way of His Ransom, and by means of the prayer of confession. Where can we find a better scriptural statement than this?
III. GOD'S RIGHTEOUS DEALINGS (Job 34:10-12 )
During Job's sickness and pain Elihu observed that Job was justifying himself. In this, Elihu contended that Job, of necessity, was condemning God. Elihu was right. To be sure, Job had been nagged on by the condemnatory words of his false friends; and besides, Job was righteous, so far as he knew. He was not guilty, as his friends asserted. However, Job should not have found fault with God. Here are the words of Elihu: "Far be it from God, that He should do wickedness; and from the Almighty, that He should commit iniquity."
Elihu further contended that the Almighty will not pervert judgment. As the result of Elihu's contention, he made two statements in the form of two questions.
1. "Wilt thou condemn Him that is most just?" It is not fit for a subject to say to the King, "Thou art wicked." Nor, for the plebian to say to the prince, "Ye are ungodly." Then said Elihu, "How much less to Him that accepteth not the persons of princes, nor regardeth the rich more than the poor?" Shall the created condemn the Creator? Shall the clay condemn the potter?
Abraham, when he prayed to God concerning Sodom, said, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" Men may not always understand God's dealings, but men should always bend the knee and acknowledge God's righteousness.
All of Job's complaints against Jehovah were due to Job's ignorance. If he had only been able to have pierced the veil, and to have heard Satan's challenge; or, if he had heard God's marvelous commendation of his righteousness, he would have felt differently about it. The trouble with Job was that he argued in the dark.
2. Wilt thou condemn Him who is omniscient? Elihu presented before Job the fact that God knew all things. Here are Elihu's words: "For His eyes are upon the ways of man, and He seeth all his goings. There is no darkness, nor shadow of death, where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves."
Man may not understand God, but God knows what is in man. God may hide Himself from the wicked, but they can never hide from Him. There is nothing that is not naked and open unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.
Since God knows the way we take, He also knows what is good for us. Elihu said, "He will not lay upon man more than right." What then shall we do? We will trust and not be afraid. If we do not know the way, we know our Guide; if we do not know the why of our sorrows and our pains, we do know that God leads the way.
IV. GOD'S GREAT AND BENEFICENT HAND (Job 35:10-11 )
We now come to one of the most beautiful verses of the whole Bible. They are words spoken by Elihu. "But none saith, Where is God my Maker, who giveth songs in the night" (Job 35:10 ). Elihu is intimating that Job should have been singing, instead of sighing. Some may now desire to take Job's part. They may feel that if God sends tribulation, it is right and proper for saints to tribulate. With this, Elihu would not agree.
It was just here that Job, as a type of Christ, broke down. We have shown in a former study how the cries of Job, in the hour of his anguish, paralleled those of Christ as He went to the Cross. We have also shown how the treatment which Job received paralleled the treatment which Christ received. We now wish to observe, not the parallelism, but the contrast.
As Job faced his suffering, and drank the bitterness of his cup, he caught every now and then, through faith, a vision of ultimate victory; yet, Job continually bewailed his estate. Job wished to die. Job even condemned God, and continually bemoaned his lot.
Jesus Christ, on the contrary, as He faced the hour of His travail, faced it with joy. On the night of His betrayal, Christ uttered such words as these: "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you." "These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full."
In the Garden of Gethsemane, as the bitter cup was pressed to the lips of the Master, Christ said, "If it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt."
There never was a moment that the Lord Jesus complained; there was never a moment that He doubted. Our Lord was a nightingale, singing in the midnight hour of His travail. We read that after He had taken the bread and had broken it, saying, "This is My body"; and that after He had taken the cup, and had poured it forth, saying, "This is My blood of the new testament, which is shed for many"; that afterward, " when they had SUNG AN HYMN, they went out."
Thus, the Lord sang songs in the night. Is it possible for us to sing, as He sang? It was possible for Paul and Silas, for they sang at Philippi with their feet in the stocks, as they lay in the Roman jail.
V. ELIHU'S SOLEMN WARNING (Job 36:18 )
We must bring this message shortly to a close, but we cannot do so until we emphasize Elihu's three solemn warnings which he gave to Job.
1. "Beware lest." "Beware lest He take thee away with His stroke: then a great ransom cannot deliver thee." Elihu longed for Job to get into the place of victory, before God might take him away, Elihu taught that after death God's great Ransom could not deliver. He who repents must repent in life, and never after death. The work of the Cross is effective by faith only among men who are yet in the flesh.
Let every one, therefore, beware lest God speak the word, "Cut him down: why cumbereth he the ground?"
2. "Remember that." This is Elihu's second warning. He said, "Remember that thou magnify His work, which men behold." How marvelously did Elihu give glory to God! This is the whole duty of man.
There is a little verse in the New Testament that says: "Remember Jesus Christ." People today are in danger of forgetting God, and of forgetting His Son our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The world needs a renewed vision of God, and a new love for and trust in God.
3. "Behold, God." The verse in full reads: "Behold, God is great, and we know Him not, neither can the number of His years be searched out." The balance of Elihu's speech, finishing the thirty-sixth and through the thirty-seventh chapter, is given to glorifying God, and to magnifying His greatness.
Let us know, with the faith of Elihu, that we have a Ransom. Let us not trust "Rotten Ships."
Much has been said and written about rotten ships, and what a sad piece of iniquity it is for any, just for the sake of present gain, to attempt to trifle with human life, in sending men in ships that ought to have been broken up long years ago. Old unseaworthy hulks patched up and painted, then freighted with precious life, all sacrificed for the cupidity and covetousness of the owners, how the world reprobates such conduct, and cries out against it.
Would that all equally condemned the attempts to sail to Heaven in the rotten hulks of man's providing.
When we try to gain everlasting life by anything that we do, say, or promise, ignoring the new and living way, what is it but sailing in a rotten ship that must founder. When we boast ourselves of our morality, sincerity, good deeds and intentions, ignoring the work and Person of Jesus the Saviour, what is it but a fair coat of bright paint that covers a worm-eaten, rotten ship, that will not stand one breath of God's judgment. When we weary ourselves with the performance of outward forms and ceremonies of religion, and try to satisfy the conscience with acts of devotion and contrition, rejecting the work of Christ , who hath "by Himself purged our sins," what is it but building again what God has destroyed, and embarking in that which will never reach the shore.
God condemned all these ways four thousand years ago, providing an "Ark," even Christ Jesus, for the saving of the soul the sinner's refuge and way of escape. And what He said unto Noah, He says to you, "Come thou, and all thy house, into the Ark." Unknown.