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ELIHU’S FIRST SPEECH
Elihu addresses himself to Job on the subject of God’s afflictive dispensations. Afflictions often disciplinary chastisements.
I. He bespeaks Job’s careful attention to all that he has to advance
Job 33:1.—“Wherefore, Job, I pray thee, near my speeches and hearken to all my words.” Elihu speaks as one that had much to say. His speech, or perhaps rather speeches, much the longest of any in the controversy. Probably two speeches, separated by a pause or interval of silence (ch. Job 35:1; Job 36:1). His statement—“I am full of matter,” confirmed by the fact. His speeches, in this respect, perhaps in accordance with his age. Youthful speakers often wordy. The work of time and experience to learn to prune down our discourses and avoid multiplying words Elihu makes good his promise not to give flattering titles. Addresses Job by his plain name. A king of Spain complained that he lacked one who would speak plainly and faithfully to him without flattery and partiality. Elihu speaks with courtesy and respect as well as earnestness,—“I pray thee.” “Be courteous,”—a New Testament precept, to be especially remembered by all who endeavour to persuade others. Paul, an example of courtesy to his hearers. Often, like Elihu, employs the language of entreaty (Romans 12:1; Ephesians 3:4). A duty to give serious attention to all that an earnest and enlightened preacher has to say; still more that the inspired Word itself teaches (Deuteronomy 5:27; Acts 10:35). Men not to listen to only as much as pleases them, or accords with their own views.
Elihu bespeaks attention on the ground—
1. Of his own earnestness, and purpose to enter fully and intelligently into the subject. Job 33:2—“Behold, now I have opened my mouth; my tongue hath spoken (or speaketh) in my mouth,” (margin, in or with “my palate;” the palate, or roof of the mouth, used in articulate speech; perhaps referring to the distinctness with which it was his purpose to speak on the subject in hand). The expression: “I have opened my mouth,” an Oriental one, indicating—
(1) The setting of oneself to deliver a weighty and important discourse. Said of Jesus (Matthew 5:2).
(2) Fulness of matter and readiness of utterance, as if the words were waiting for egress, and flowed forth spontaneously. Paul’s request for the Church’s prayers, that “utterance” (freeness of speech) might be given him, that he might “open his mouth boldly, as he ought to speak” (Ephesians 6:19; Colossians 4:3).
2. Of his sincerity in what he says, as well as the clearness with which he will speak. Job 33:3.—“My words shall be of (or from) the uprightness (or sincerity) of my heart; and my lips shall utter knowledge clearly,” (or “they,” i.e., his words, “shall utter the sentiments of my lips purely”—sincerely, clearly, and correctly). Elihu, anxious to appear to Job and the rest—
(1) As unprejudiced and sincere—points in which the three friends had appeared to him to fail. Their views one-sided, and their minds prejudiced against Job on account of his extraordinary afflictions. Not always easy, though in the highest degree important, for a speaker to divest himself of prejudice, partiality and passion, and to be pure and sincere in his motives. Truth to be spoken without gall or guile. “Speaking the truth (literally, ‘truthing it’) in love.” Truth often distorted through passion and prejudice.
(2) As expressing his views simply and distinctly. Using plain language, and uttering exactly what he thinks, without fear or favour, mistiness or circumlocution. Plainness, simplicity and directness, important in every teacher of Divine truth. “All our learning necessary to make things plain”.—Archbishop Ussher. Paul again an example to preachers,—“We use great plainness of speech” (2 Corinthians 3:12). The vision to be made “plain, that he may run [at once for escape] that readeth it,” (Habakkuk 2:2).
(3) As uttering what is true and correct on the subject. “Shall utter knowledge”—not fancies but facts, not mere opinions but truth. What Elihu promised he appears to have performed. No fault found at last by the Almighty with any of his utterances, as in the case of the three friends. A religious teacher to employ the greatest possible care, both by prayer and study, to have his discourses and instructions strictly in accordance with revealed truth and the circumstances of the case. “If any speak, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11). Care to be taken that the Word of God be not corrupted or adulterated (2 Corinthians 2:17). Preachers to utter not merely what they have heard or read, but what they “know” (John 3:11; Acts 4:20).
3. Of his equality with Job as a creature of God. Job 33:4-7—“The Spirit of God (either the Divine power, corresponding with ‘breath’ in the next clause; or, the Divine person so spoken of throughout the Scriptures) hath made me [in connection with thyself], and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life (as to Adam and all his children, Genesis 2:7). If thou canst answer me, set thy words in order (produce and exhibit thy arguments) before me; stand up [as an opponent against what I have to say]. Behold, I am according to thy wish (or, ‘mouth,’—referring to Job’s words, chap. Job 9:34-35; Job 13:21, &c.; or simply, ‘like thee’) in God’s stead (or, ‘for God,’ i.e., to plead in his name; or, ‘in relation to God,’ i.e., as his creature); I also am formed out of the clay. Behold, my terror (or overpowering majesty) shall not make thee afraid; neither shall my hand (or power as of a superior being) be heavy upon thee”. Elihu, conscious of having no advantage over Job from his position, wishes him to listen at ease, and to answer with freedom. Those engaged in a discussion, to be able to speak on equal grounds and without fear from the authority and power of each other. “He must be confessed the better scholar who has thirty legions at his command,”—Phavorinus the philosopher, in reference to Adrian the Emperor. Observe:—
(1) A sign of weakness in dealing with an opponent, to take undue advantage either of learning or position.
(2) The wisdom and kindness of God, first in revealing Himself by one who became a partaker of our own nature, and then of employing not angels but men in the ministry of reconciliation. Elihu possibly designed by the Holy Ghost to be a representative and type both of Christ and His Apostles, as well as of all faithful preachers of the Gospel.
(3) The record of man’s creation as found in the Bible, well known in the days of the writer of the Book.
(4) The Holy Ghost probably known as a distinct person. Personality apparently here ascribed to Him. So in Genesis 1:2. Probably also in Genesis 6:3. The breath or wind a Scriptural symbol of the Spirit, as proceeding from God, and mighty in His operation (Ezekiel 37:9-14; John 3:8; Acts 2:2-4). A plurity of persons recognized in the one Divine Creator (Genesis 1:26; so Job 35:10—“my Maker,” Hebrew, “my makers;” so Isaiah 54:5).
(5) The specialty in man’s creation here referred to, such as to render him an intelligent being, capable of reasoning and uttering important truth.
II. States his complaint against Job (Job 33:8-11). His complaint not against Job’s former life, but his present language. Job 33:8.—“Surely thou hast spoken in mine hearing, and I have heard the voice of thy words.” Elihu, till now, only an attentive listener. The best listener likely to be not the worst speaker. “Swift to hear, slow to speak.” Reference made by Elihu to such passages as chap. Job 9:17; Job 9:30; Job 10:7, &c. The grounds of his complaint in reference to Job’s language—
1. His maintaining his sinlessness. Job 33:9.—“Saying, surely I am clean, without transgression; I am innocent; neither is there iniquity in me.” Given as the substance of Job’s statements, rather than his exact language. Perhaps a mistaken or exaggerated representation of it. Yet according to the impression made by Job’s speeches on the mind of a bystander. His expressions often rash, unguarded, and extreme. At times seemed to say all that is here imputed to him, although not intending it in the sense in which Elihu understood it. His intention probably only to maintain that he was not conscious of living in the known breach of any of God’s laws, as he was suspected of doing, and that he was free from any such crime as to deserve, above others, the awful calamities with which he had been visited. Observe—
(1) Easy, under strong feeling, to utter unguarded language, capable of being misunderstood.
(2) Our duty to put the most charitable construction on the words of a good man, uttered at a time of suffering and excitement.
(3) Job’s error, that he maintained too vehemently his own innocence, and was more careful to vindicate himself than justify God. Personal depravity and imperfection the lesson he had yet to learn.
2. His charging God. Job 33:10-11. Job seemed to charge God—
(1) With fickleness and unkindness. Job 33:10.—“Behold, he findeth occasions (quarrels or breaches of friendship, Numbers 21:34) against me; he counteth me for his enemy.” Reference to Job’s language in such places as chap. Job 9:17; Job 13:24; Job 16:9; Job 19:11; Job 31:21. God’s former friendship and regard viewed by Job as now changed without cause into enmity. A grievous mistake and reflection on the Divine character. God’s love unchangeable (Jeremiah 13:3; John 13:1). His face may change, but not His heart (Isaiah 54:7-10). God may seem to count a man His enemy, whom He really regards as His friend. Love and hatred on the part of God not to be always gathered from His external dealings. Often the greatest love where there appears the greatest want of it. “You only have I known; therefore,” &c. On the other hand, often the greatest anger where there appears none. Observe—The pride of the natural heart leading to vehement vindication of ourselves, may easily, in the darkness and confusion of our spirit under trouble, lead also to language reflecting on our Maker and His procedure.
(2) With treating Him unjustly as a criminal. Job 33:11.—“He putteth my feet in the stocks” (or clog,—either as a punishment or a means of preventing escape). Job’s actual language (chap. Job 13:27). The child sometimes placed under temporary confinement while the servant or slave goes at large.
(3) With acting towards Him with undue severity and strictness. Job 33:11.—“He marketh all my paths” (as if watching for the least offence, in order to punish it). So Job seemed to say (chap. Job 13:17; Job 14:16; Job 31:4). The flesh in a tried believer, constantly liable to mistakes in regard to God and His dealings. God, for Christ’s sake, forgets, instead of marking, the offences of those who take hold of His covenant (Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 8:12; Hebrews 10:17). Casts them behind His back, and into the depths of the sea (Isaiah 38:17; Micah 7:19). Forgets the evil deeds of His faithful though imperfect servants, but remembers their good ones (Matthew 25:35-40; Hebrews 6:10). Treasures up their tears, but blots out their transgressions (Psalms 56:8; Isaiah 43:25).
III. Condemns Job for such sentiments. Job 33:12.—“Behold, in this thou art not just.” Job neither—
(1) Correct in judging according to the facts of the case; nor
(2) Just in his views regarding God. A man may be ordinarily just towards his fellow-men when he is very unjust towards God. Improper sentiments in regard to God and His dealings are injustice towards our Maker. This injustice charged upon Job rather than any iniquity in his past life.—Elihu gives his reasons for condemning Job for his language. “I will answer thee.” Our speech to be with grace, seasoned with salt [or wisdom], that we may know how we ought to answer every man (Colossians 4:6.) “Every one shall kiss his lips who giveth a right answer.” Elihu’s main reasons for man’s silent submission and acquiescence in all the Divine procedure—
1. God’s greatness in comparison with man. Job 33:12.—“God is greater than man.” God greater than man in wisdom, power, and justice. Greater than man as his Maker, Ruler, and Judge. The natural inference from this—man, even the greatest and best, is not to strive with God. “Why dost thou strive against Him?”—quarrelling with and disputing against His procedure (Isaiah 45:9). God’s greatness above man sufficient to exclude all murmurs and complaints, as—
(1) God is not to be required to give an account of his procedure to any of his creatures. Job 33:13.—“For (or because) he giveth not account of any of his matters” (or dealings). The reason why Job should have refrained from the sentiments he had uttered in regard to God, and why neither he nor any one ought to “strive against Him.” God a sovereign who acts according to His own will, though never but in infinite wisdom, rectitude, and holiness. Monstrous presumption to think that the Creator is to be called to His creature’s bar to answer for what He does (Psalms 115:3; Daniel 4:35). God too great to stoop to defend His procedure against the cavils of rebellious worms. This the scope of Jehovah’s own answer to Job afterwards.
(2) God is not to be comprehended by His short-sighted creatures. Folly and presumption for man to think he is able to comprehend God’s dealings, except as He is pleased to reveal and explain them. Hence the weakness and wickedness of censuring them.
“As if upon a full-proportioned dome,
On swelling columns beaved, the pride of art!
A critic fly, whose feeble ray scarce spreads
An inch around, with blind presumption bold
Should dare to tax the structure of the whole.”
2. God employs sufficient means for man’s instruction, which are yet unheeded. Job 33:14.—“For God speaketh (in order to man’s instruction and direction) once, yea, twice, yet man perceiveth (or regardeth) it not.” Man does not perish from want of means on God’s part for his preservation, but from inattention to them on his own. Not left without sufficient light for his guidance, were the light improved. God unwearied in His instructions to men. Means employed apart from a written revelation of His will. Some of these specified. Job 33:15.—“In a dream (as in the earlier periods of the world), in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed (a state between sleeping and waking); then He openeth the ears of men (communicates His will), and sealeth their instruction (impressing it upon their hearts as with a seal, or secretly conveying their instruction as in a sealed document), that he may withdraw man from his purpose (or intended work, as Abimelech, Genesis 20:6; Laban, Genesis 31:24; Balaam, Numbers 22:12; Numbers 22:20; Numbers 22:31), and hide pride from man (by keeping him back from it).” “He [by these means when meekly and attentively received] keepeth back his soul from the pit (grave or corruption,—emblem of future punishment), and his life from perishing by the sword [of Divine judgment].” Thus God employs sufficient means of instruction to supply man’s necessity though not to gratify his curiosity. Means still more abundantly employed in connection with inspired prophecy and a written revelation (Psalms 147:19-20; Isaiah 28:13; Hebrews 1:1). These means often unheeded by man—(l) Through indifference and sloth;
(2) Through worldliness and love of sin. A sufficient reason why Job and other sufferers should refrain from murmurs and complaints. Man is in a state of disobedience. God, in the exercise of mercy and compassion, employs means for his recovery, but often, through man’s waywardness, without effect. No just cause for striving against Him. God only kind to man, till compelled to be severe. At first uses gentle means for his restoration. Only from necessity employs more painful ones, and still from kindness to man. Acts towards men not merely as a governor but as a father. His eve constantly upon them for their good. His object in his admonitions to men—
First: To “withdraw man from his purpose” or work. Sin properly man’s work. “The thoughts of the imaginations of man’s heart only evil from his youth” (Genesis 6:5; Genesis 8:21). God made man upright, but he hath sought out many inventions (Ecclesiastes 7:29.) Man’s purposes and doings often such as if carried out would be ruinous both to themselves and others. Men kept back by God from many sins which they would otherwise commit.
Second: To “hide pride from man.” Pride fallen man’s besetting sin. Exemplified in the building of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:4); in Pharaoh,—“Who is the Lord?” &c.; in Sennacherib,—“By the strength of my hand I have done it” (Isaiah 10:13); in Nebuchadnezzar,—“Is not this great Babylon which I have built?” in Herod, eaten up of worms, “because be gave not God the glory” (Acts 12:23); even in good Hezekiah,—“his heart was lifted up” (2 Chronicles 32:5). Pride at once the subtlest and most hateful of sins. Robs God of His glory and man of his peace. Founded on a lie, that we are something when we are nothing. Loathsome in a creature hitherto unfallen, monstrous in one already fallen. Insinuates itself into man’s best actions and holiest feelings. Often the “fly in the pot of ointment.” Can array itself in the garb of humility. “Lowliness” often made “young ambition’s ladder.” Possible to be proud of one’s humility. Such a thing as spiritual pride. The sin of the Pharisee. The most loathsome of all the forms of pride. Doubtful if there can be such a thing as a “just pride.” To be elated with pride the next step to falling into the “condemnation of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:6). “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” God’s aim to keep Israel back from pride (Deuteronomy 8:11-18). The sin that banished the angels from heaven and our parents from paradise.
“Cromwell, I charge thee, fling away ambition.
By that sin fell the angels: how can man then,
The image of his Maker, hope to win by it?”
God hides pride from men—
(1) By showing the hatefulness of it;
(2) By discovering the consequences of it;
(3) By removing the occasions of and temptations to it. Afflictions and trials often sent to keep men humble, and mercies withheld or removed which might prove the occasion of pride. True humility a fruit of the Spirit and a feature of the new man in Christ. To be learned at the feet of Jesus and in the shadow of His cross. Christ the only example of perfect humility (Matthew 21:29; Philippians 2:5-8.)
Third: To save men from the consequences of transgression,—to “keep back their soul from the pit.” Sin’s consequences, the pit of the grave, and that of which it is the emblem, the “bottomless pit” (Revelation 9:1). Death, in its full extent, the wages of sin (Romans 6:23; Genesis 2:17; James 1:15). Some sins lead directly to temporal death; all sin to death eternal. Man composed of body and soul. The penalty of sin extends to both. The soul that sinneth it shall die. A first and second death (Revelation 2:11). The former the shadow, the latter the substance. The first death, man’s separation from the light of this world; the second, his separation for ever from the light and glory and blessedness of the next. The first, to a believer in Christ, bereft of its sting and converted into a blessing; the second, only remediless unmitigated woe. The latter a necessity as well as righteous sentence. Sin its own misery and punishment. No peace possible to the wicked. Without holiness no man see the Lord. God’s great object to save men from eternal death, and from sin which is its cause. Hence the giving up of His own Son as man’s substitute. “Die man or justice must, unless,” &c. Christ made “sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” “By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
Perhaps another reason for man’s acquiescence in God’s procedure intimated in Job 33:14. “God speaketh (decreeth or purposeth) once, yea, twice, yet man perceiveth it not” (or, “but twice, or a second time, He—God Himself—does not consider it, so as to alter or improve it.) God’s purposes founded on infinite wisdom and holiness, and therefore unchangeable.
IV. Passes to personal affliction as a means employed for man’s benefit. Job 33:19-22.—“He (man in general, or the man whose spiritual benefit God is aiming at) is chastened also with pain upon his bed, and the multitude of his bones with strong pain (or, ‘and with incessant racking of his bones’ Psalms 38:3; Isaiah 38:13); so that his life (or appetite) abhorreth bread, and his soul dainty meat (Heb., ‘meat of desire,’ or meat otherwise desirable). His flesh is consumed (or pines) away, that it cannot be seen, and his bones that were not seen stick out (or, ‘his bones are wasted away [so that] they are not seen’), yea, his soul draweth near to the grave, and his life to the destroyers” (the bands or pains of death as Acts 2:24; “things causing death,” as the Latin Vulgate; or simply, death itself, Hades or the invisible world, as the Septuagint or Greek version; or perhaps the angel of death—“him that hath the power of death” (Hebrews 2:14). Observe—
1. Affliction the result of sin. Affliction in general the consequence of the first transgression. Individual cases of affliction often the chastening for some particular offence. Thus the leprosy of Miriam, Gehazi, and King Azariah; the plague in Israel’s camp in the Wilderness; the emerods of the Ashdodites; the disease of Herod. Diseases threatened to Israel as the consequence of disobedience (Leviticus 26:16; Deuteronomy 28:60) Sickness and disease also the disciplinary consequence of sin in the New Testament. Distinctly stated in 1 Corinthians 11:30; implied in James 5:15.
2. Affliction of the body one of God’s remedial measures for the welfare of the soul. Diseases His servants. His to bring down to the grave. Diseases His rebuke for iniquity. In His hand as the Creator and Ruler of the universe. Employed by Him as a father, under a dispensation of mercy, for the benefit of His children. A testimony that God is gracious and has purposes of mercy in reference to man. “Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” “He that spareth the rod hateth the child” (Proverbs 13:24). Affliction no less employed by God as a fatherly chastisement because coming through secondary or natural causes. The causes themselves in His hand as well as the effects they are to produce. A part of His providential plan and government of the world He has made and cares for. His to bring the causes of disease to bear on the individual and in such a way as to produce the end. The Shunamite’s child goes out to the reapers, and returns home with a sunstroke fand dies. Of God’s ordering that the child was there, and that the sunstroke should happen and produce the effect which it did, while other children escaped. Diseases induced in a thousand ways, when apparently, but for the most trifling circumstance, they might have been avoided. The effect of a cause in producing disease dependent upon various circumstances, the same cause often operating differently indifferent cases. The circumstance determining the effect, in God’s hands. This no reason why care is not to be exercised in order to avoid disease and prolong health in ourselves and others. Such care enjoined as a duty. “Do thyself no harm.” “Thou shalt not kill.”
3. Afflictions thus often made blessings. But for a dispensation of mercy through the provision of a Saviour, disease only a penalty and part of the curse entailed by transgression. “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” In the economy of grace, the very curse converted into a means of blessing. Blessing connected in the Bible with chastening (Psalms 94:10; Job 5:17). Corrections of instruction the way of life (Proverbs 6:23). Designed in mercy, not to ruin but to restore. “Mercy, when an affliction is a correction, not an execution.—Brooks. Affliction, as a correction, designed—
(1) To arrest the sinner in his sinful career;
(2) To subdue pride;
(3) To lead to thought; The prodigal “came to himself,” and said, &c.;
(4) To exhibit the emptiness and unsatisfying nature of a present world;
(5) To bring to view death, judgment and eternity;
(6) To bring sin to remembrance as the cause of suffering,—“Father, I have sinned,” &c.;
(7) To give us to realize God as our Governor and Judge, on whom we are dependant and to whom we are amenable as His creatures;
(8) Thus to bring to repentance.
Chastening the theology of Christians.—Luther. The workshop of the virtues.—Ambrose. The treasury of all blessings.—Brentius. King Alfred prayed that God would frequently send him sickness. Man often like the top that moves only when it is whipped.—Brooks. David’s experience, that of most: “Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now I have learned to keep thy law.” Affliction a bitter but salutary drug in the hands of a heavenly father. The digging about the tree to render it fruitful instead of cutting it down. Manasseh’s iron chain better to him than his golden crown.
V. Describes the means and result of sanctified affliction. Job 33:23-28.—“If there be a messenger with him (either divine, angelical, or human; here probably the last, as Haggai 1:13; Malachi 2:7; Ecclesiastes 5:6; Revelation 1:20; same word usually rendered angel, and applied both to Christ and His ministers; here, one sent or employed by God for the patient’s spiritual benefit); an interpreter (one able to explain the meaning of the affliction and the way of improving it, probably a human spiritual teacher or enlightened friend, without excluding either the Great Teacher,—the Messenger of the covenant, who alone teaches to profit, or the Holy Spirit employed by Him and the Father, whose office it is to ‘reprove [or convince] the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment’), one among a thousand (of rare intelligence, fidelity, and skill, Ecclesiastes 7:28); to shew unto man (here the afflicted person) his uprightness (either—
(1) what he should have done, but which he has failed to do; or
(2) his duty in his present circumstances; or rather
(3) what may now restore him to a state of uprightness and acceptance with God, viz., repentance and faith in Him in whom, as our propitiation and substitute, we have righteousness and strength, Isaiah 45:24. Then (when these means have been employed and have operated successfully on the sick man’s mind and heart in bringing him to humiliation, repentance, and faith) He is gracious (or favourable) unto him (has mercy upon him so as to pardon his sin and probably deliver him from his affliction, James 5:15-16), and saith (decrees or commands—perhaps to an angel who may have the power given him to remove the disease, as John 5:4, or to Satan, who had the power of death committed to him, Hebrews 2:14): Deliver from going down to the pit (in the first instance, the grave, but probably including the idea of the bottomless pit (Revelation 9:1), of which it was the symbol); I have found (provided or accepted) a ransom (what makes satisfaction for his sin, so that I can righteously forgive and restore him,—the great atonement, now laid hold of by the sick man in repentance and faith). His flesh (as one of the results of his repentance and faith) shall be fresher, or more tender, than a child’s (as in the case of Naaman when healed of his leprosy, 2 Kings 5:14). He shall return to the days of his youth (as Psalms 103:5). He shall (as a second result of his repentance and faith, and the fruit of his sanctified affliction) pray unto God, and He will be favourable unto him (—shall have both access to and acceptance with God); he shall see His face with joy (rejoice in the Divine favour and fellowship—a third and still more blessed result): for (in confirmation of these statements as to the results of sanctified affliction) He will render unto man His righteousness (will deal faithfully with him according to his conduct; in this case according to his repentance and faith; or, will restore to the sick man, on his repentance and faith, the righteousness which he lost by the Fall, but which is recovered in Jesus Christ the Second Adam, and given to the penitent believer). He looketh upon men (as the Omniscient Father and Ruler, as Psalms 14:2), and if any say (or as margin: “He [the sick man, as a further result and evidence of sanctified affliction] shall look upon men and say “[in confession and thanksgiving]; or, perhaps rather: “he shall sing [in praise of God, who has been so gracious to him] among or before men, and say”): I have sinned and perverted that which was right (transgressed God’s righteous laws), and it profited me not (or, ‘and He has not requited me according to my deserts’); He will deliver his soul (or as margin, ‘He hath delivered my soul’) from going into the pit, and his life (margin, ‘my life’) shall see the light” [both of this world and the next]. The passage indicates, in regard to
First, the MEANS through which it is effected, viz.: spiritual teaching. Job 33:23.—“If there be a messenger with him,” &c. Spiritual teaching always necessary to the improvement of affliction. Ordinarily through a human teacher; always through a Divine one (Psalms 94:10). Something necessary to be shown to the patient. “To show unto man,” &c. Observe—
1. Affliction in itself not a blessing. The blessing dependant on other things connected with it. Depends on the manner in which it works and in which the patient is inwardly exercised by it. “Worketh the peaceable fruits of righteousness in them that are exercised thereby” (Hebrews 12:11). Spiritual teaching necessary in order to this. “Blessed is the man whom Thou chastenest, O Lord; and teachest him out of Thy law” (Psalms 94:10). Affliction may either soften or harden; as fire softens wax and hardens clay.
2. The exhibition of Divine truth to the patient necessary to the improvement of his affliction. Not only prayer to be made for him and with him, but suitable truth to be presented to him. Implied in the term “interpreter”. His office to “show” to the sick man. The spiritual teacher at least as necessary to the patient as the physician. Truth to be exhibited for his mind, as well as medicine for his body.
3. The spiritual teaching usually through human instrumentality. The Divine Teacher absolutely necessary; a human teacher usually the instrument. The New Testament rule (James 5:14). “Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the Church,”—who are required to be “apt to teach,” and of whom at least some labour “in the word and doctrine” (1 Timothy 3:2; 1 Timothy 5:17). Therefore not only to pray with the sick man, but to instruct him.
4. Great skill and fidelity required on the part of ministers and others in healing the sick. “One among a thousand.” Easier to preach to a thousand hearers than to minister wisely and faithfully to one sick-bed. Study and prayer necessary for the bed-room as well as the pulpit.
5. The part of the visitor of the sick to “show” to the patient “his uprightness”—the personal righteousness in which he has failed, the imputed righteousness which he may yet obtain, and which he is now to seek, receive, and rejoice in, and the present duty required of him, viz., humiliation, repentance, and faith in the provided sacrifice. Hence the visitor’s need of knowledge both of the law and of the Gospel; of sin and the way of salvation from it. By the law is the knowledge of sin; by the Gospel the knowledge of salvation. The visitor to be able to point the patient to the Saviour as God’s way of righteousness for the sinner—“the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Romans 10:4), “and made righteousness to all who are in him” (1 Corinthians 1:30).
Second, the RESULTS of sanctified affliction, or of repentance and faith on the part of the patient. Job 33:24.—“Then,” &c. The results varied and precious. Chiefly spiritual, in the patient’s mind and soul; partly and frequently also in his body.
1. Experience of the Divine mercy and forgiveness.—“Then he is gracious unto him.” God, as a righteous and holy God, able only to exercise forgiving grace and mercy in certain circumstances and on certain conditions. “Then He is gracious to him,”—when these things have taken place. The gracious inclination and purpose already there; the outlet or manifestation of it prevented till the patient’s repentance and faith. Mercy provides the means for its own outflow to sinners. Repentance and faith necessary to the experience of pardoning mercy; but even these of mercy’s own providing (Acts 3:19; Acts 5:31).
2. Deliverance.—“Deliver from going down to the pit”. This deliverance probably twofold—the one a picture of the other.
(1) Deliverance from temporal or physical death, which seemed impending.
(2) More especially, deliverance from eternal death,—the object of the chastening. The death, which is the consequence and wages of sin, now averted in the patient’s repentance and faith. Hence the ground of this deliverance—“I have found a ransom”. In regard to the
1. The meaning and application of the term. In Hebrew, literally a covering. Hence something to cover transgression; a ground of pardon (Psalms 32:1). An atonement, or what satisfies justice, and makes it righteous to forgive transgressors. The name given to the mercy-seat or lid of the ark in the Holy of Holies; called also in the New Testament the Propitiation, from the atonement made on it by the sprinkled blood of the sacrifices (Leviticus 16:14). Hence also, anything done, suffered, or paid as an atonement or ground of deliverance. Thus the intercession of Moses for Israel (Exodus 32:20); and the censer taken into the camp by the zeal of Phinehas (Numbers 25:13). The price paid for the redemption of a captive. Egypt given for Israel’s ransom (Isaiah 43:3). The ransom, in reference to men, whatever God may please in His wisdom and goodness to appoint. Appointed according to the nature of the case and the deliverance afforded. Repentance and amendment on the part of a nation, made a ground of forgiveness and deliverance from threatened punishment. Thus Nineveh saved from predicted destruction. The existence of one truly righteous man in Jerusalem, in the days of Jeremiah, a ground of forgiveness to the whole city (Jeremiah 5:1). So the existence of ten righteous men in Sodom. Ahab’s humiliation the ground of the deliverance of himself and the kingdom from threatened punishment during his own life-time (1 Kings 21:29). Confession of sin, with the prayer of faith on the part of the sick, made in the New Testament the more immediate ground of forgiveness, and consequent restoration to health (James 5:15-16). Christ’s death the only ransom-price of a sinner’s deliverance from eternal death (Matthew 20:28).
2. The actual ransom in the text. As the ground of the sick man’s deliverance from eternal death, the ransom that provided by God Himself for the purpose—the death of His own Son as a substitute for sinners—to be exhibited in our time (1 Timothy 2:6). That death typified and held forth as the ransom for sinners and the ground of their forgiveness and deliverance from death eternal, in the sacrifices slain and offered up in the patriarchal and Levitical age (Leviticus 17:11). That death a full satisfaction to Divine justice for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). Through it, God able to be just while justifying the ungodly who believe in it (Romans 3:25-26). Without shedding of blood no remission (Hebrews 9:22). The significance of sacrifices as typifying this ground of forgiveness understood by Job (chap. Job 1:5; Job 42:8).
3. This ransom “found” or provided by God Himself. “God so loved the world that He gave his only-begotten Son” (John 3:16; Romans 8:32). The ransom found in His own bosom (John 1:18). The deliverance of the sick man the result of this ransom appropriated by and applied to him on his repentance and faith. That repentance and faith the ground or occasion of his deliverance from temporal death; the Lamb “slain from the foundation of the world,” the ground of his deliverance from death eternal (1 Peter 1:20). Impossible for any but God to provide such a ransom. Man unable to provide a ransom for his brother even from death temporal (Psalms 49:7-9). Christ slain as the Ransom, the power and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:23-24). The words in the text the language of joy,—“I have found,” &c. God “delighteth in mercy.” Hence rejoices in finding a righteous way for its exercise. The father rejoices over the return of his prodigal or long-lost child, and the means of securing it. Similar language employed in reference to David as the type of Messiah (Psalms 89:19-20).
3. Restoration to health, among the results of sanctified affliction. Job 33:25.—“His flesh shall be fresher,” &c. This probably included in the command: “Deliver from going down to the pit.” The power to deliver from temporal death and to restore from the brink of the grave, in the hand of the Almighty. The command needs only to be given or power put forth. The Divine command as effectual in restoring to life and health as at the creation in producing light: “Let there be light, and there was light.” The centurion’s faith in regard to Jesus as the Son of God: “Speak the word only and my servant shall be healed”. Diseases God’s servants, to come and go at His bidding. The leper’s faith: “Lord, if thou will, thou canst make me clean”. All nature, visible and invisible, under the Divine control. The command or will of Jehovah obeyed through-all the material universe. “He spake and it was done.” Recovery from sickness dependant not on the skill of the physician, but on the will of the Almighty. Till God says: “Deliver from going down,” &c, all remedies fruitless. When He speaks the word, the simplest becomes effectual. A plaster of figs laid on Hezekiah’s boil at the prophet’s prescription, the means, at God’s will, of saving the king’s life (Isaiah 38:21). The power of
Healing the Sick,
claimed by God in regard to Israel (Exodus 25:26; Exodus 23:25; Deuteronomy 7:15). Ascribed to Him in regard to men in general (Psalms 103:3; Psalms 107:20). Exercised by Christ as a proof of His Divinity and Divine mission as the Messiah (Luke 7:20-22). The same power communicated by Him to the Apostles as credentials of their Divine commission and of the truth of their doctrine (Mark 3:15). The power communicated also to the seventy (Luke 10:9); and promised to believers in general (Mark 16:18). Continued in the New Testament Church as one of the “spiritual gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:9; 1 Corinthians 12:28). Exercised through the elders of the Church in connection with the prayer of faith and anointing with oil (James 5:14-16). Healing still imparted in the Church in answer to believing prayer. The institution at Mannedorf, in Switzerland, an evidence. The healing in the text in connection with repentance and the forgiveness of sins. The affliction sent on account of sin and with a view to the individual’s repentance and salvation, most likely to be removed when, and only when, the end has been secured. Repentance and faith, followed by forgiveness and peace with God, even on natural grounds among the most likely means of restoration to health. Sin being the cause of sickness, natural that the removal of the cause should be followed by the removal of the effect. Thus forgiveness of sin followed by restoration to health (James 5:15-16; Matthew 9:2-6; Psalms 103:3). Hezekiah restored to health when God cast all his sins behind his back (Isaiah 28:17).
4. Access to God and acceptance with Him in prayer, a FOURTH result of sanctified affliction. Job 33:26.—. “He shall pray unto God, and he will be favourable unto him.”
the natural and necessary consequence of a graciously awakened conscience, of submistion to God, of repentance, and of faith in the Divine mercy. The testimony concerning penitent Saul in Damascus: “Behold he prayeth.” The prayer of the awakened and penitent sick man at least as much for forgiveness of sin as for restoration to health. With sanctified affliction, prayer becomes his “vital breath”. The penitent and believing unable to live without prayer. Prayer the happy privilege of the child of God. A precious mercy in itself, as well as the means of obtaining more. Accepted prayer the result of the Spirit of adoption, crying “Abba Father,” and of the Spirit of grace and supplication making intercession within us (Romans 8:15; Romans 8:26; Zechariah 12:10). A heart to pray not always present with the need of prayer. Prayer, though made, not always accepted (Proverbs 1:28; Isaiah 1:15). In sanctified affliction, prayer not only made but accepted: “He will be favourable unto him”. Prayer only accepted when offered in penitence and faith. Believing prayer the channel for the best of all favours. The key that opens the cabinet of God and unlocks the treasures of heaven. God’s favour, the fountain of all blessing, experienced through believing prayer. The Divine invitation: Seek ye my face. His face, or favour, not sought in vain (Psalms 28:8; Psalms 24:6; Isaiah 45:19). A mercy to be able to pray; a still greater one to have our prayer answered. A praying heart both preceded and followed by Divine mercy.
5. Reconciliation with and joy in God. “He shall see his face with joy”. So the penitent prodigal in respect to his father (Luke 14:22-24). Reconciliation with God the sinner’s greatest blessing. The object aimed at by God in the gift and sacrifice of His Son (2 Corinthians 5:18-19; Acts 10:36; Ephesians 2:16; Colossians 1:20-22). Aimed at in his chastenings (Hosea 2:6-7; Hosea 2:11-20). Reconciliation with and joy in God the fruit of faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1; Romans 5:11). The spiritual healing of the penitent patient (Matthew 5:8). A foretaste of heaven thus enjoyed as the result of sanctified affliction (Revelation 22:4; Psalms 17:15). The sight of God’s reconciled face here is heaven before coming to it—Chrysostom. No joy like that of seeing the reconciled face of God in Jesus Christ.
6. Confession of sin, and praise to God for pardoning and restoring mercy, a SIXTH result of sanctified affliction. Job 33:27.—“He looketh upon men, and if any say, &c.; he will deliver his soul,” &c. Probably better according to the Margin: “He (i.e., the sick man now restored) shall look upon men and say, &c.; he (God) hath delivered my soul,” &c.
(1) Confession of sin: “I have sinned.” A result and evidence of sanctified affliction. The language of the penitent prodigal (Luke 15:21). Confession of sin made in respect to (i.) Its iniquity and turpitude: “I have perverted that which was right”. Observe—(a) God’s will concerning us and his law given to us, only what is right. (b) All sin a perverting of what is right. Sin an opposition to God’s holy will and righteous law. (ii.) Its hurtful consequences: “And it profited me not;” or, “he hath not rewarded me accordingly.” No profit in sin. Its promises delusions. Its pleasures but for a season. No profit in gaining the world and losing the soul. Not only no profit in sin, but absolute loss. Its fruit shame, its end death (Romans 6:21). An ill exchance for the path of obedience (Hosea 2:7). The righteous desert of sin eternal death (Romans 6:23). Sin an ill paymaster that sends all his servants away weeping.—Trapp. Observe—(i.) Confession of sin an evidence of genuine repentance. Such confession made not feignedly, as by Saul (1 Samuel 15:24); nor forcedly, as by Pharaoh (Exodus 10:16), and by Achan (Joshua 7:20); nor despairingly, as by Judas Iscariot (Matthew 27:4); but sincerely, freely, and hopefully, as by David (Psalms 51:3-4; Psalms 51:12-14. (ii.) Confession of sin an accompaniment of pardoning mercy. Preceding it (Psalms 32:5; 1 John 1:9; Proverbs 28:13). Following it (Ezekiel 16:63).—
(2) Praise for pardoning and restoring mercy. Margin: “He shall look on men and say,” &c, or, “He shall sing among men,” &c. Examples: Hezekiah (Isaiah 38:19-20); David (Psalms 30:1-12). Praise, God’s due for mercies received (Psalms 50:23; Psalms 116:12-13). Mercies doubly sweet when accompanied with a grateful heart and thanksgiving to their gracious Author.
VI. Re-asserts these gracious dealings of Divine Providence. Job 33:29-30.—“Lo (the fact worthy of careful notice, both from its truth and preciousness), all these things worketh God oftentimes with man, to bring back his soul from the pit (the grave, and that state in eternity of which it is the symbol), to be enlightened with the light of the living” (made glad with the joy of those who are truly and spiritually alive). The “things” referred to, God’s chastening men for sin by bringing them to the verge of the grave, and then restoring and blessing them upon repentance. Observe—
1. The frequency of such dispensations,—“Oftentimes”. Not always. All not visited alike with chastening and affliction. God sovereign in his dealings. But often. Multitudes thus graciously visited. God merciful and gracious. Intent on man’s welfare. Chastenings a greater proof of his love than the want of them (Revelation 3:19). An ill sign for a man when God will not spend a rod upon him.—Brooks.
2. The object of them,—“To bring back his soul,” &c. God’s object in chastening men, their present and eternal welfare. “He [chastens] for our profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness” (Hebrews 12:6; Hebrews 12:11). This is all the fruit to take away his sin (Isaiah 27:9). Man by nature in a state of darkness and of death. God’s object in affliction to deliver him out of it. Brings his body to the verge of the grave to save his soul from going to a deeper pit. Danger of temporal death made a means of deliverance from death spiritual and eternal. The true penitent, one who was dead, but is alive again (Luke 15:32). Life only in the favour and image of God. Heaven rather than earth the place of the living (Matthew 20:32).
VII. Invites Job to reply, and urges attention to his further remarks
Job 33:31-33.—“Mark well, O Job; hearken unto me: hold thy peace and I will speak. If thou hast anything to say, answer me: speak, for I desire to justify thee (or ‘thy justification’ or ‘righteousness’). If not, hearken unto me: hold thy peace, and I shall teach thee wisdom.’ Observe—
1. Opportunity to be given to reply or object to our statements. The benefit of inquiry or after-meetings in connection with special or missionary services.
2. In the absence of objection or reply, respectful attention the more to be expected.
3. Hearers to be convinced that we speak from a simple desire for their own benefit. The desire of the preacher of the Gospel, the justification of the hearers through their acceptance of Jesus as the Lord their Righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6). Christ the way of a sinner’s justification. The way provided by God, and the only way. “The end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Romans 10:4).
4. The hearer’s character and case to be viewed in the most favourable light that truth admits of. The contrary the case with Job’s three friends. Hence Job’s irritation rather than conviction. Elihu takes up a contrary position, and Job is silent.
5. True “wisdom,” to understand the character and dealings of God, and to act in humble submission to Him under those dealings. This wisdom taught by Elihu, and ultimately learned by the patriarch.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Job 33". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20