Click to donate today!
In this short chapter, once more Elihu addresses himself to Job, first (verses 1-8) answering his complaint that a life of righteousness has brought him no correspondent blessings; and then (verses 9-14) explaining to him that his prayers and appeals to God have probably not been answered because they were not preferred in a right spirit, i.e. with faith and humility. Finally (verse 15, 16), he condemns Job for haughtiness and arrogance, and reiterates the charge that he "multiplies words without knowledge" (comp. Job 34:35-37).
Job 35:1, Job 35:2
Elihu spake moreover, and said, Thinkest thou this to be right, that thou saidst, My righteousness is more than God's? Once more it is to be observed that Job had said no such thing. At the worst, he had made statements from which it might be argued that he regarded himself as having a more delicate sense of justice than God (e.g. Job 9:22-24; Job 10:3; Job 12:6, etc.). But Elihu insists on pushing Job's intemperate phrases to their extremest logical issues, and taxing Job with having said all that his words might seem to a strict logician to involve (compare the comment on Job 34:5, Job 34:9).
For thou saidst What advantage will it be unto thee? i.e. What advantage will thy righteousness be unto thee? Job had certainly argued that his righteousness brought him no temporal advantage; but he had always a conviction that he would ultimately be the better for it. Elihu, however, does not acknowledge this; and, assuming that Job expects to receive no advantage at all from his integrity, argues that God is not bound to afford him any. And, What profit shall I have, if I be cleansed from my sin? rather, And what profit shall f have, more than if I had sinned? (see the Revised Version, and compare the comments of Rosenmuller and Canon Cook).
I will answer thee, and thy companions with thee; i.e. "thy comforters, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar." Elihu has pledged himself to confute their reasonings, no less than those of Job (Job 32:5-20), and now proposes to carry out this intention. But it is not very clear that he accomplish, s his purpose. In point of fact, he does little more than repeat and expand the argument of Eliphaz (Job 22:2, Job 22:3).
Look unto the heavens, and see; and behold the clouds which are higher than thou; i.e. "look to the material sky and heavens, so far above thee and so unapproachable, and judge from them how far the God who made them is above thy puny, feeble self—how incapable he is of being touched by any of thy doings."
If thou sinnest, what doest thou against him? Man's sins against God cannot injure him, diminish from his power, or lower his dignity. They can only injure the sinner himself. God does not punish them because they harm him, but because they are discords in the harmony of his moral universe. Or even if thy transgressions be multiplied; i.e. if thou persistest in a long course of sin, and addest "rebellion" to transgression, and self-complacency to rebellion, and "multipliest thy words against God" (Job 34:37)—even then, what doest thou unto him? i.e; what hurt dost thou inflict upon him? None.
If thou be righteous, what givest thou him? By parity of reasoning, as our sins do not injure God, so our righteousness cannot benefit him. As David says, "My goodness extendeth not to thee" (Psalms 16:2). Or what receiveth he of thine hand? All things being already God's, we can but give him of his own. We cannot really add to his possessions, or to his glory, or to his felicity. We cannot, as some have supposed they could, lay him under an obligation.
Thy wickedness may hurt a man as thou art; and thy righteousness may profit the son (rather, a son) of man. Job must not think, Elihu means, that, because his good actions benefit and his bad actions injure his fellow men, therefore they must also in the one case injure and in the other benefit God. The cases are not parallel. God is too remote, too powerful, too great, to be touched by his actions. Job has done wrong, therefore, to expect that God would necessarily reward his righteousness by prosper us, happy life, and worse to complain because his expectations have been disappointed. It is of his mere spontaneous goodness and bounty that God rewards the godly.
Job had made it a frequent subject of complaint that God did not hear, or at any rate did not answer, his prayers and cries for relief. Elihu answers that Job's case is not exceptional. Those who cry out against oppression and suffering frequently receive no answer, but it is because they "ask amiss." Job should have patience and trust.
By reason of the multitude of oppressions they make the oppressed to cry; rather, by reason of the multitude of oppressions, men cry out. It is not Job only who cries to God. Oppressors are numerous; the oppressed are numerous; everywhere there are complaints and outcries. They cry out by reason of the arm of the mighty. The oppressors are, for the most part, the mighty of the earth—kings, princes, nobles (see Isaiah 1:23; Isaiah 3:14, Isaiah 3:15; Hosea 5:10; Amos 4:1, etc.).
But none saith, Where is God my Maker? The oppressed, in many eases, do not appeal to God at all. They mutter and complain and groan because of their afflictions; but they have not enough faith in God to cry to him. Or, if they do so cry, it is not in a right spirit; it is despondingly, despairingly, not confidently or cheerfully. God is one who giveth songs in the night. The truly pious man sings hymns of praise in his affliction, as Paul and Silas did in the jail at Philippi, looking to God with faith and a lively hope for deliverance.
Who teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth, and maketh us wiser than the fowls of heaven. Elihu probably alludes to Job's defence of his complaints as natural, like the instinctive cries of beasts and birds (Job 6:5). God, he says, has given to man a higher nature than he has bestowal on the brutes; and this nature should teach him to carry his griefs to God in a proper spirit- a spirit of faith, piety, humility, and resignation. If men cried to him in this spirit, they would obtain an answer. If they do not obtain an answer, it must be that the proper spirit is lacking (comp. James 4:3).
There they cry. "There," smitten by calamity, they do at last cry to God. But none giveth answer. They "ask, and receive not." Why? Because of the pride of evil men. Because, i.e; they ask proudly, not humbly; they claim relief as a right, not as a favour; they approach God in a spirit that offends him and prevents him from granting their requests.
Surely God will not hear vanity. God will not hear prayers that are rendered "vain" by sin or defect in those who offer them, as by a want of faith, piety, humility, or resignation. Neither will the Almighty regard any such petitions.
Although thou sayest thou shalt not see him; rather, How much less when thou sayest thou canst not see him! (compare the Revised Version); i.e. how much less will God attend to thy prayers when thou sayest that thou canst not see or find him (Job 9:11; Job 23:3, Job 23:8-10), that he is altogether hid from thee, and treats thee as an enemy (Job 33:10)! Still, judgment (or, the cause, i.e. "thy cause') is before him, or "awaits his decision." Therefore trust thou in him. Wait on, in patience and trust. The last word is not yet spoken.
Job 35:15, Job 35:16
Leaving his advice to sink into Job's mind, Elihu turns from him to the bystanders, and remarks, with some severity, that it is because Job has not been punished enough, because God has not visited him for his petulance and arrogance, that he indulges in "high swelling words of vanity," and continues to utter words which are foolish and" without knowledge."
But now, because it is not so, he hath visited in his anger. This is an impossible rendering. The Hebrew is perfectly plain, and is to be translated literally as follows: But now, because he hath not visited his (i.e. Job's) anger. (So Schultens, Canon Cook, and, with a slight difference, our Revisers.) God had not visited Job with any fresh afflictions on account of his vehement expostulations and overbold and reckless words. Yet he knoweth it not in great extremity. The Authorized Version again wholly misses the meaning. Translate, with the Revised Version, Neither doth he greatly regard (Job's) arrogance.
Therefore doth Job open his mouth in vain; or, in vanity (comp. verse 13). He multiplieth words without knowledge; i.e. he is bold to speak words that are vain and insensate, because God has not, as he might have done, punished him for his previous utterances.
Elihu to Job: the trial of Job continued.
I. JOB'S OFFENCE RESTATED. Returning to the charge, Elihu accuses Job of having given utterance to two dangerous assertions.
1. That his (Job's) righteousness was greater than God's. "Thinkest thou this to be right?"—dost thou hold this for a sound judgment?—"that thou saidst, My righteousness is more than God's?" (verse 2). That Job never used this expression may be true; but that Elihu does not unfairly represent the patriarch's meaning may be inferred from the circumstance that even at an earlier stage in the controversy Eliphaz distinctly understood this to be the import of his language (Job 4:17). Besides, it is a legitimate deduction from those passages in which Job, maintaining his own integrity, complains that God does not accord to him even-handed justice, but treats him, though innocent, as a criminal; so that practically it is involved in the milder rendering, "I am righteous before God" (LXX; Umbreit, and others), Job meaning thereby to affirm that he failed to discern in God a corresponding righteousness to that which he beheld in himself, or, in other words, that his righteousness was more (visible and real) than God's. Whether designed or not, the inevitable result of regarding with too much admiration one's own righteousness (natural or gracious, legal or evangelical) is to obscure one's perceptions of the righteousness of God, as, on the other hand, the more exalted views a saint entertains of the righteousness of God, the less will he feel disposed to magnify his own.
2. That his (Job's) piety was of no advantage to himself. "For thou saidst, What advantage will it be unto thee? and, What profit shall I have, if I be cleansed from my sin?" literally, "(from it) more than from my sin" (verse 3). This, which Job himself had put into the mouth of the ungodly (Job 21:15), adding, "The counsel of the wicked be far from me," had already been assigned to Job by Elihu (Job 34:9; vide homiletics), and might well seem to be implied in such utterances as Job 9:22-31, in which God is represented as involving "the perfect and the wicked ' in one indiscriminate destruction, and in a time of sudden and overwhelming calamity "laughing at the trial of the innocent" (Job 21:7-13; Job 24:18-24), and in which the prosperous lives and happy deaths of the ungodly are set over against the evil fortunes commonly allotted to the good. Such questions as these of Job about the profit of religion, though common in the mouths of saints (e.g. Asaph, Psalms 73:13; St. Peter, Matthew 19:27), proceed from mistaken views as to the essential character of piety, which is nothing if not disinterested. Yet, in the truest and most comprehensive sense, "godliness is profitable unto all things" (1 Timothy 4:8; cf. Matthew 19:28).
II. JOB'S FOLLY EXPOSED. Reversing the order of Elihu's words, we discover:
1. A sound premiss. That a man may be hurt by the irreligion, and benefited by the godliness, of his neighbour. Nothing more demonstrable, or indeed less demanding demonstration, than that moral character is contagious, and evil character even more so than good. Every wicked man does an injury, directly as well as indirectly, unconsciously even when not consciously, to the world in which he lives, the neighbourhood in which he dwells, the Society in which he moves, the individuals with whom he comes in contact. The ungodly man may be compared to a walking pestilence. On the other hand, "the fruit of the righteous is a tree of life" (Proverbs 11:30). However humble the position he occupies or the talents he possesses, the good man, whose breast is the seat of fervent piety, is a distinct gain to the world and the age (Matthew 5:13, Matthew 5:14).
2. A fallacious deduction. Correct. enough in thinking that a man might make his fellow a debtor by his goodness, or incur towards his fellow obligations in consequence of damage done by his wickedness, Job was utterly at fault in inferring that the same relations could exist between man and God. "If thou sinnest, what doest thou against him? or if thy transgressions be multiplied, what doest thou unto him? If thou be righteous, what givest thou him? or what receiveth he of thine hand?" (verses 6, 7). That is, human piety cannot add to the blessedness of God in such a way as to make God the debtor of his creature, and lay him under obligation to make the good man happy; neither can man's impiety so diminish the Divine felicity as to require God to protect himself against the machinations of the wicked by always entailing on them misery as the recompense of their wickedness (vide homiletics on Job 22:2-4). If God makes a good man happy, he does so of grace and favour; if he allows him to pass his life in misery, he does not thereby commit an act of injustice.
3. A complete refutation. Elihu disposes of Job's bad logic by reminding him first of the lofty elevation of the heavens (verse 5), and a fortiori of the infinite exaltation of him who dwells above the heavens beyond the highest and purest creature on the earth. Since God thus transcends even the best of men, it is clearly impossible to suppose that he can be tried by purely human standards.
III. JOB'S MISTAKES INDICATED.
1. Dwelling too exclusively upon the greatness of his misery. "By reason of the multitude of oppressions they make the oppressed to cry;" or they, i.e. the oppressed, raise a cry: "they cry out by reason of the arm," i.e. violence, "of the mighty" (verse 9). So Job had complained (Job 24:12), animadverting severely on the seeming indifference of God to what he could not but be cognizant or; viz. man's inhumanity to man; and to this Elihu now alludes with the view of suggesting to the mind of Job the direction in which to look for an explanation of this remarkable phenomenon—God's silence in the presence of human sorrow. The cry which rises from the oppressed is in no sense a believing appeal to the Creator for assistance. It is simply a groan of anguish. Instead of turning with hope and expectation to their Maker, they fix their thoughts upon their misery and raise a shout. It is impossible not to think that, in holding up such a mirror before the mind of Job, Elihu designed the patriarch to catch a reflection of himself. Had not he too been crying out under the severity of the stroke which had fallen on him, rather than anticipating the hour of deliverance when God would fill his mouth with rejoicing? The mistake of magnifying one's troubles, and dwelling too exclusively upon them, is one which even Christians, no less than Job, are not careful to avoid. Besides springing from unbelief, it has a tendency to hinder their beneficent design, and commonly obscures the soul's discernment of the source as well as of the first approaches of relief.
2. Neglecting to repair to God for succour. "None saith, Where is God my Maker, who giveth songs in the night?" Instead of giving way to wailing, the victim of oppression (and such Job deemed himself to be) ought to turn in believing confidence and with hopeful expectation, not to his fellows, like Asa the King of Israel (2 Chronicles 16:12), or to false gods, like Ahaziah the son of Ahab (2 Kings 1:2), or to any form of creature-help whatsoever (Psalms 146:2), but like David to the living God (Psalms 121:2), remembering
(1) who God is in himself—Eloah, the all-powerful and all-sufficient One;
(2) the relation in which he stands to the sufferer, that of Maker; and
(3) the gracious character in which he delights to present himself to his creatures, viz. as a God "who giveth songs in the night," i.e. who, by granting deliverance to afflicted sufferers in the night of tribulation, gives them occasion to celebrate his praise in anthems of gratitude and joy. Such nights of sorrow and tribulation occur in all men's lives (Job 5:7), but especially in the lives of saints (Acts 14:22). Yet no night is too dark for God to turn the shadow of death into the morning (Amos 5:8). God, who caused Israel to sing upon the shores of the Red Sea (Exodus 15:1), and David after escaping from the hands of Saul (2 Samuel 22:1), and Paul and Silas in prison at Philippi (Acts 16:25), can cause the most despairing sufferer to shout "Hallelujah!" Still nothing is more frequent than for saints to forget God, and turn to almost every other quarter before they seek unto him (Isaiah 51:13), though one principal end of affliction is to impel men to seek unto him who alone can put a new song into their mouths.
3. Forgetting the superior dignity of his nature. Simply to howl over one's miseries. Elihu intends to say, is to reduce one's self to the level of the brute creation, which express their natural sense of pain by means of such bellowings (Job 6:5). But man belongs to an order of creation loftier than the wild ass or the ox: and, being possessed of nobler faculties and larger intelligence than these, should not be content with such modes of giving utterance to emotion as are shared in by them, but should address himself to God in the filial confidence of prayer. And to this the example of the beasts, viewed in another light, may be said to urge him. Another rendering supplies the thought that God "teacheth us by the beasts of the earth"—by the young lions, e.g; who roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God (Psalms 145:21); "and maketh us wise by the fowls of heaven"—for instance, by the ravens who cry to God for food (Psalms 147:9).
4. Offering prayers that spring from vanity and pride. "There they cry, but none giveth answer, because of the pride of evil men. Surely God will not hear vanity, neither will the Almighty regard it" (verses 12, 13). Again under the general ease Elihu deals with the ease of Job. Job had repeatedly complained that his prayer had not been answered (Job 19:7; Job 30:20). Elihu indirectly meets his objection by explaining why the prayers of sufferers in general remain unheard. They are not prayers in the proper sense of the expression, being dictated by wounded pride rather than by conscious need, and consisting of emptiness and wind, mere "sound and fury signifying nothing," rather than the aspirations and desires of a believing heart. It is impossible to resist the impression that Job's outcries and entreaties were sometimes inspired by lacerated pride and insulted vanity rather than by lowly humility and fervent piety. Hence they were suffered to ring through the vault of heaven unheeded. So are all similar prayers by whomsoever presented (Psalms 66:18; Isaiah 1:15; Proverbs 28:9; John 9:31; James 4:3). A prayer, to be acceptable, must be sincere, lowly, reverent, and devout.
5. Supposing God did not understand his case. This an extremely natural inference from the oft-reiterated demand that God would permit Job to lay his cause before him. But Elihu assures him that this was quite unnecessary; that, although he did not, and apparently could not, see God, i.e. come to God's presence (Job 23:3-9), the whole case he wished to submit to God was already before him, and all he (Job) needed to do was simply to wait for God's gracious intervention (verse 14)—words suggestive of
(1) a great temptation to which suffering saints are not seldom exposed, viz. a temptation to despond of Divine succour and Divine favour, like Job himself (Job 23:3), like David (Psalms 42:6), Asaph (Psalms 77:7-9), Heman (Psalms 88:6), Jonah (Jonah 2:4), and others;
(2) a great consolation which all desponding and despairing ones may cling to, viz. that God perfectly understands their case in all its minutest details, as he knew the cases of Job (Job 23:10), Hagar (Genesis 16:13), and Israel (Exodus 3:7); and
(3) a great duty which is equally incumbent on all, to wait patiently on God till he is pleased to come with deliverance and favour (Psalms 62:5; Lamentations 3:26; Micah 7:7; Habakkuk 2:3).
6. Misimproving the Divine clemency. Understanding Elihu to say, "And now, because he, i.e. God, "does not visit" (i.e. hostilely, in the sense of punishing) "his," i.e. Job's, "anger, and does not know" (in the sense of regarding or taking notice of) "his wickedness or pride greatly; therefore doth Job open his mouth in vain, he multiplieth words without knowledge" (verses 15, 16), the meaning is that Job's sufferings have not been severe enough, and that the Divine clemency in dealing sparingly with Job has only been recompensed by the continuatior. and manifestation in Job of a rebellious and refractory spirit.
1. That God's servants ought to cry aloud and spare not in exposing the wickedness of men, whether saints or sinners.
2. That it is of great advantage when a faithful reprover can particularly specify the sin which be condemns.
3. That men's words commonly afford a good index to the state of their hearts.
4. That by the quality of their speech shall men eventually be either acquitted or condemned.
5. That preachers of the gospel should ever, like Elihu, be able to defend as well as recommend the faith which they proclaim.
6. That God is not too high to bless man, though he is certainly too exalted to be injured by man.
7. That while man can enrich God with nothing, God both can and does enrich man with all things.
8. That "man's inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn."
9. That God is perpetually cognizant of all the wickedness and misery, crime and wretchedness, that exists on earth.
10. That the only power competent to banish sin and sorrow from the heart of from the world is the power of God.
11. That men have usually themselves to blame when their prayers are not heard.
12. That God is infinitely worthy of the unwavering confidence of men.
Man's forgetfulness of God' and God's remembrance of man.
I. MAN'S FORGETFULNESS OF GOD. "None saith, Where is God my Maker?"
1. The cause of it.
(1) Generally, the sinfulness of the human heart. That man should so habitually neglect God is inexplicable except upon the hypothesis of a fall. But sin, having intervened to separate man from God, has caused man to turn his back upon God, and to contrive to live without any sort of acquaintance with him.
(2) Particularly, man's neglect of God may be traced to three things:
(a) a sense of guilt, which instinctively urges man to shun God's presence (Genesis 3:8);
(b) the dominion of the world, which over every sinful heart exercises an almost resistless fascination (1 John 2:15); and
(c) an absorption in self, which, by magnifying all its own little interests and concerns, its sorrows no less than its joys, prevents the human soul from seeking after God.
2. The criminality of it.
(1) The character of God as Eloah, the all-sufficient and all-powerful One, demonstrates the wickedness of man in living so habitually in neglect of his service.
(2) The relation of God to man as his Maker attests the sinfulness of such behaviour on the part of man.
(3) The favour of God to man in first bestowing upon him a superior nature to that possessed by the animal creation, and secondly in making these lower creatures his instructors, gives additional evidence of man's heinous guilt in thus neglecting to inquire after God.
(4) The power of God to assist man by giving "songs in the night" is a further proof of man's amazing criminality in not remembering God.
II. GOD'S REMEMBRANCE OF MAN. He "giveth songs in the night."
1. In the night of natural day. By spreading out the star-illumined canopy above man's head, he stirs, at least in thoughtful minds, such exalted ideas and holy emotions as frequently break out in anthems of praise: witness David (Psalms 8:3, Psalms 8:4), Job (Job 9:4-10), Isaiah (Isaiah 40:26), and the unknown Hebrew singer (Psalms 147:4).
2. In the night of devout meditation. "Let the saints sing aloud upon their beds" (Psalms 149:5); and oftentimes when wrapt in heavenly contemplation, remembering God upon their beds, and meditating on him in the night-watches, the mouths of saints praise him with joyful lips (Psalms 63:5, Psalms 63:6).
3. In the night of spiritual conviction. In such a night David sang some of his sweetest songs (Psalms 51:1-19.). And as God put a new song into David's mouth when he was lifted out of the horrible pit and miry clay (Psalms 40:3), so does he put a happy anthem of praise for forgiving mercy into the lips of every believing penitent: witness the jailor of Philippi (Acts 16:34).
4. In the night of temporal affliction Israel, escaping from the land of Egypt in a night which at one period seemed dark enough (Exodus 14:10), sang a song of deliverance before the morning dawn had fully risen (Exodus 15:1). A dark dismal night of adversity it was for David when he was driven forth from his palace, from his capital, from his people, from the temple (2 Samuel 15:30); and yet then it was that David sang, "But thou, O Lord, art a Shield for me, and the Lifter-up of mine head "(Psalms 3:3). Paul and Silas had their songs in the prison of Philippi (Acts 16:25); and there is not a saint, however feeble, that may not chant in the darkest night of trouble a psalm of holy confidence in God.
5. In the night of approaching dissolution. Job himself at times was not without his song, though he felt that he was standing on the verge of the tomb (Job 19:25-27). So did God give an anthem to Hezekiah, when he raised that weeping and praying monarch from what seemed a couch of death (Isaiah 38:20). David, too, had a song ready for that dark sad night which he knew to be inevitable (Psalms 23:4). It was a noble hymn which St. Paul sent forth from the Roman prison to his young son Timothy (2 Timothy 4:6). And so does God give to all saints, who seek after him in humility, penitence, and faith, a song to cheer them in the dying hour (1 Corinthians 15:55); and when the dark night of death breaks away, puts into their mouths the never-ending song of Moses and the Lamb.
1. The advantage of seeking after God.
2. The kindness of God in thinking upon man.
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
Elihu's third speech: the profit of godliness.
I. FOLLY OF THE OPINION THAT THERE IS NO PROFIT IN GODLINESS. (Job 35:1-8.) A good man, says Elihu, would not speak as Job has done, questioning whether godliness is more profitable than sin. But what is the refutation of this dangerous notion? The speaker points to the blessed self-sufficiency of God, the exalted One in the heavens. In this light man must appear alone as one who draws advantage from his righteousness (comp. Job 7:20; Job 22:2, sqq.). Our evil deeds cannot injure God, neither can our good deeds add to his blessedness. To expect a return or recompense from God for obedience, as if we had given him a pleasure or conferred on him an advantage, is, according to Elihu, a sign that we have altogether forgotten the distance between ourselves and him, and the true relation in which we stand to him. A modern philosopher, indeed, says, using a bold expression, "Put God in your debt!" But this means only—Conform to God's laws, and expect that God will be true to those relations expressed by his laws. The misery of Job is that he cannot, for the present, see that God is true to those relations. He has sown righteousness, but not, as it seems, reaped mercy. He is half in the right, and so is his present instructor. It remains for these two halves of truth to be united into a whole. Meanwhile Elihu points to a great canon of conduct, a great motive of right. Piety is always beneficial, ungodliness always hurtful to our fellow-men, in a sense in which this, of course, cannot be said of God. And this should sustain us in suffering: the thought of the example we may be permitted to set, the light that may shine out of our darkness, the image of those who may be deterred from evil or allured to good by what they see in us.
II. REASONS FOR UNANSWERED PRAYERS. (Verses 9-16.)
1. Want of true reverence for God. (Verses 9-14.) The cry of the oppressed goes up to heaven, and it is long before an answer comes. Help is delayed or denied. Why? In most cases it is probably the fault of the sufferer himself. There is something defective in the substance or in the spirit of his prayers. He does not cry: "Where is the Almighty, my Creator?" (Verse 10). This is the complaint which Jehovah makes by the mouth of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 2:6, Jeremiah 2:8). There is no injustice in him; but there is inconsistency in men. They do not trust him. They ungratefully forget his past providences. They disobey his laws, they meddle with forbidden things. There are conditions, moral conditions, under which alone it is possible for men to be heard, delivered, blessed. "Have I been a wilderness to Israel?" Behind these figures lies the truth that Divine blessing is conditioned by our own moral state and endeavour. Those grand relations of mercy in which God stands to men—their Deliverer, the Giver of songs in the night of natural distress and emergency, the Instructor of their spirits in that life above that of the brutes who lead a blind life within the brain—can only be realized by the faithful and the true. To know God as our Saviour, we must humbly and constantly trust him; to know him as our Teacher and Guide, we must diligently follow him. Pride, vain or evil desires in the heart, these, then, are the only permanent causes of unanswered prayers. And how much less are advantage and deliverance possible for Job, if he reproaches God with iniquity in being unwilling to regard his cause; if he waits as if that cause were not already laid before God (verse 14)! For he knows all; and we must commit our way to him, in the assurance that he will in due time bring it to pass.
2. Presumptuous language against God. (Verses 15, 16.) Though such folly has hitherto passed unpunished, it does not follow that God has not observed it. According to Job's way of thinking, Elihu says, in effect, this would follow. But he will soon see the contrary. The passage is instructive as giving us searching admonition on the subject of unanswered prayer, unrelieved distress. It is a time for heart-searching. The fault cannot be with God; if fault there be, it lies at our door. The Word comes with power in such moments, "Cleanse your hands, ye sinners! Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you." Read Isaiah 1:1-31. But to the true and contrite heart, mercy and deliverance may be delayed, never denied. And the lesson, then, is—Be patient, wait, and hope.—J.
HOMILIES BY R. GREEN
The cry that is not unto God.
Elihu continues to press Job severely. His teachings run in the lines of truth, and they approach more nearly to the design of Job's suffering than those of Job's friends, but they fail actually to reach it. He makes many sagacious reflections on human conduct. This is one. There is a cry raised by the suffering ones under the heavy burden of their multiplied oppressions, and "by reason of the arm of the mighty." How often is it that these address not their cry to God! It is not, therefore, to be wondered at that relief does not come. Job seems to imply that God does not vindicate the sufferers. Here is a reason. They cry not to God. "None saith, Where is God. my Maker, who giveth songs in the night?"
I. THE ERROR OF SUCH A CRY. God only is able truly to respond to the cry of suffering. It is expending the breath in vain to invoke help from other sources. Man is often utterly powerless; and, even when able, is not always willing to help. If the cry is to a false god, it is a still greater error, and can only end in disappointment.
II. BUT THE CRY WHICH IS AN ERROR IS ALSO A FOLLY. Such a cry ends in vexation; the unheard cry aggravates the sorrow and makes the burden greater. Why should man in his feebleness appeal to his feeble fellow? and why forsake the Maker of all, who alone can give songs of joy in the night of mourning?
III. THIS CRY IS ALSO A WRONG. It is a moral wrong for man to turn his face away from God in the time of his trouble. It reflects upon the Divine goodness and upon the ability and willingness of God to help. It casts an unjust reproach upon a loving Creator, "who teacheth us" lessons by "the beasts of the earth," and "maketh us wise" by the very "fowls of heaven."
IV. BUT THIS IS ALTOGETHER A VAIN CRY. "None giveth answer." Evil men in their pride will not humble themselves to call upon Jehovah; they will not acknowledge their dependence upon him, will not submit to him. Their cry is as one made to the wind. Even if addressed to God, it is void of all truth and meaning. It is the cry of vanity. "God will not hear, neither will the Almighty regard it."
From all which comes the great lesson, Though God is hidden, and men see him not, "yet judgment is before him": therefore may men trust in him, and, believing "that he is, and that he is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek him," make their supplication unto God, their cry to the Almighty.—R.G.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
An unjust inference.
Elihu represents Job as saying that his righteousness is greater than God's, and he asks whether the patriarch thinks it right to use such language.
I. IT IS UNJUST TO ASCRIBE TO OUR FELLOW-MEN OPINIONS WHICH THEY HAVE NOT EXPRESSED. Job had not used such blasphemous language as Elihu attributed to him, and he would have repudiated the ideas that it conveyed. His young monitor was rudely asserting what he thought Job meant, what he took to be the underlying opinion of Job. But this was unjust. Half the controversies of the Church would have been avoided if people had not put into the mouths of others words that they never uttered. The only fair way is to listen to a man's own statement of his case. The common injustice is to charge an opponent with holding all the opinions which we think can be deduced from his confessed beliefs. Thus we make him responsible for our inferences. "Judge not, that ye be not judged."
II. WE SHOULD SEE THE NATURAL CONSEQUENCES OF OUR UTTERANCES, Although it was unjust to draw conclusions as Elihu was doing, it might be helpful for Job to see what conclusions were drawn from his hasty words. He would revolt from such ideas with horror. Then the question may well arise—Did he not provoke them? Though Elihu did wrong to make his assertion, Job may also have done wrong in speaking words that Elihu could use in such a way. We may learn from the false charges that are brought against us. Possibly these have been provoked by us. They are caricatures of our conduct. Therefore they show up the salient features of that conduct in a strong light. The very exaggeration calls attention to the points that have been unduly magnified. We need to consider the tendencies of what we say, and test the tendencies of our opinions by the inferences that are drawn from them.
III. MAN IS TEMPTED TO THINK HIMSELF MORE JUST THAN GOD. He would not own to such an idea openly, nor even in his own private thought. Nevertheless, in the heat of excitement, he acts as though this were his belief. Otherwise, why does he murmur? Why does he rebel? Why is he cast down into despair? We magnify our own opinions and we justify our own actions when these arc counter to the truth and will of God. Virtually this is making ourselves more just than God.
IV. THE JUSTICE OF GOD IS THE TYPE OF ALL JUSTICE. Evidently Elihu assumes that what is justice to man is in itself justice to God. This is assumed throughout the Bible, which makes no attempt to escape from the difficulties of providence by means of the "regulative ideas" advocated by Dean Mansel. Here we do not see that justice means one thing in God and another thing in man. But the perfection of justice may be applied to circumstances that are beyond our understanding. Then it may look unjust. Yet, if we knew all, we should see that it is the type and pattern of the very justice we are called to strive after.—W.F.A.
Job 35:3, Job 35:4
Is goodness profitable?
I. A NATURAL QUESTION. Job is driven to put this question; or, rather, Elihu concludes that Job's language shows that the patriarch is debating it within himself. Satan had sneered at the notion of disinterested goodness, and had asked, "Doth Job fear God for naught?" (Job 1:9). Now Job is begin-nine to see that the profits of goodness, as they are commonly believed in, do not accrue, for good men suffer as much as other men, if not more. The utilitarian question crops up in practice, whatever ethical theory we may have adopted. People will ask—What is the advantage of religion? Why should they deny their passions? What will they be the better for refraining from evil? The inquiry is natural for two reasons.
1. We naturally desire to see results. Men wish to know that some good end is to be reached. They are not satisfied with a good road; they must know where it leads to.
2. We naturally desire our own advantage. The instincts implanted in us encourage such a desire. In itself it is not bad, but natural. Evil comes from the abuse or the supremacy of it.
II. A SUPERFLUOUS QUESTION. Although the question is natural, we ought to be able to rise above it. After all, our chief concern is not with results, but with duty. Our part is to do the right, whether it leads to failure or to success. Obedience is our sphere; results are with God. We sow and water; he it is who gives the increase. It is difficult to learn this lesson, for we all gravitate to selfish and material ends unless we are lifted out of ourselves. Still, the lesson must be learnt. If a man is only virtuous on account of the rewards of virtue, he is not really virtuous at all. He who does not steal simply because be is persuaded that "honesty is the best policy," is a thief at heart. Conscience is independent of advantage, and true goodness is only that which rests on conscience.
III. AN ANSWERABLE QUESTION. Elihu is ready with his reply. Perhaps it is not quite so simple a matter as he assumes, for he is one of those fearless talkers who handle the most difficult problems with jaunty confidence. Still, he helps us towards a reply. Goodness is not ignored by God. This Elihu show, in three ways.
1. God is too great to unjustly deprive men of the rewards of their deeds. These may not come at once; but God can have no conceivable motive for withholding them (verses 5-8).
2. The absence of immediate blessings is an proof of Divine negligence. While complaining that their rewards are not given them, men may not be treating God aright, and so nor deserving his blessing (verses 9-13).
3. God's watchfulness ensures his righteous treatment of his creatures. (Verses 14-16.) Thus according to Elihu goodness is ultimately for the advantage of its possessor. But may we not go further, and say that even if it brings no ultimate reward it is infinitely better than sin, for goodness is in itself a blessing? Few of us can be great, or rich, or very successful. But it is better to be good than to be great, or rich, or successful; for to be good is to be like Christ, like God.—W.F.A.
God's independence of man.
I. GOD IS NOT DEPENDENT ON MAN'S CONDUCT. We must agree in the main with what Elihu here states. God is serf-sufficient, and he owns all things. "The cattle upon a thousand hills are his." If he were hungry he would not need to tell us. Our most active service is not necessary to God, our most virulent malignity cannot really touch him. He dwells in the fulness and serenity of his own perfection.
II. GOD CANNOT BE BRIBED BY MAN'S GIFTS. The huge mistake of heathen worship is that it consists for the most part in attempts to buy off the anger and secure the favour of the gods by means of gifts and sacrifices. We meet with the same heathenish idea in all religious exercises that aim at being really profitable to God, not for his own sake, but to purchase his favour.
III. GOD IS UNDER NO INDUCEMENT TO BE UNJUST TO MAN. Between man and man injustice is common, because one man is much affected by the conduct of another. But if man can neither profit nor injure God, God can have no motive for dealing in any unequal way with man.
IV. GOD VOLUNTARILY CONCERNS HIMSELF WITH OUR CONDUCT BECAUSE HE LOVES us. Elihu's description of God is one-sided. True in regard to the nature of things, it is false as it concerns the action and sympathy of God. Elihu's God is too much like an Epicurean divinity. The love which is most characteristic of the Divine character, as it is revealed in the Bible, is here quite ignored. God may not be dependent on us. Yet his love leads him to be deeply concerned in what we do, and to entrust his designs to us as his servants. At the same time, seeing that love is his leading motive, there can be no need for us to try to bribe God, even if it were possible for us to do so; and we may be sure that, so far from dealing with harsh injustice, God will only desire our good.
V. GOD ACCEPTS MAN'S TREATMENT OF HIS BROTHER-MAN AS THOUGH THIS AFFECTED HIMSELF. Christ has taught us that what is done to one of the least of his brethren is done to our Lord himself (Matthew 25:40). God's love for his children makes him regard any injury done to them as though it were an injury to his own person. The Father feels in the sufferings of his children. Thus we may benefit or injure God by benefiting or injuring our fellow-men. At the same time, this only results from the position which God voluntarily assumes towards us.
VI. MAN IS DEPENDENT ON GOD, AND HIS CONDUCT SHOULD BE A RESPONSE TO GOD'S. Religion does not begin with our worship of God. Its commencement is earlier, in God's goodness to man. All true worship springs from gratitude. Thus, while we cannot be useful or hurtful to God, excepting in so far as his love and sympathy permit us, we are urged to consider how completely our lives are in his hands, and how essential it is for us to live so that we may enjoy his continued favour.—W.F.A.
Songs in the night.
I. SONGS IN THE NIGHT ARE PECULIARLY HELPFUL. The thought is of a lonely and desolate night—a night of weary watching or painful suffering, when sleep cannot, or should not, be enjoyed. Travellers who dare not sleep in a perilous region infested by wild beasts, sing songs as they sit round their camp fire. Poor sufferers on beds of sickness welcome strains of well-known hymns in the long, wakeful night. The dreadful night of sorrow needs the cheering of some song of Zion. In the sunny day songs come readily enough; but then we could dispense with them. It is when darkness lies about our path that we need some uplifting and cheering influence.
II. SONGS IN THE NIGHT MAY BE ENJOYED. Elihu speaks in the present tense. Christian history tells of many a soul cheered by heavenly songs in darkest hours. Paul and Silas sang in prison with their feet in the stocks (Acts 16:25).
"Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage."
Sufferers have been cheerful with interior joy, even when their outer life has been hard and cruel The joy of God is never so real as when it breaks out in the midst of the deepest earthly trouble. This is an actual experience that lies within the reach of benighted souls, if only they will seek its cheering helpfulness.
III. SONGS IN THE NIGHT DO NOT ARISE SPONTANEOUSLY. There is something paradoxical in the phrase, "songs in the night," for of course the context shows that it does not point to the noise of those who turn night into day with unseemly revelry. Elihu's night-songs are of holy thoughts and heavenly music, or at least of pure and refreshing gladness, as his indication of the Source of them proves. Now, sorrow is not the parent of gladness. If we are to enjoy deep harmonies of thought, or to soar into high heavens of emotion among the depressing influences of treble, we must not look for the trouble to produce the songs. We must turn elsewhere, and if we have no higher than earthly supplies, we shall have no songs such as Elihu spoke of.
IV. SONGS IN THE NIGHT ARE GIVEN BY GOD. In the still hours of darkness he draws near to the soul. When the desolation and misery are greatest, God is most compassionate. He is not dependent on external circumstances. Night and day am alike to him. Thus it is possible for him to inspire his sweetest songs when we are drinking the most bitter cup. We must not delude ourselves into the notion that we shall not feel suffering if God is with us, although martyrs have been known to lose consciousness of the devouring flames in the ecstasy of their spiritual joy. The song does not dispel the darkness of night. But it drives out the terror and the despair, and brings peace and a deep joy that is nearer the true heart of man than the waves of sorrow which sweep over the surface of his life. The lark that soars to heaven's high gate rises from a lowly nest on the ground. The sweetest songs of Zion that ascend to the gates of glory begin on the tearful earth.—W.F.A.
The superiority of men to animals.
Man is naturally superior to animals ―
I. IN INTELLIGENCE. We cannot but admire the intelligence of the horse, the dog, the elephant, the ant. There seems to be more than instinct in these creatures; we notice in them the germs of a reasoning power, because they can adapt means to ends, accommodate themselves to fresh circumstances, and overcome unexpected difficulties. Yet man's intelligence far exceeds that of the animal world. Two striking characteristics which are peculiar to it may be noted.
1. The supremacy of man. Man is one of the weakest and most defenceless creatures. He has not the hide of the rhinoceros, nor the horns of the bull, nor the fangs of the lion, nor the strength of any of these creatures. Yet he masters them and rules the world, simply by means of superior intelligence.
2. The progress of man. Only man among the animals advances in civilization. Ants build now as their ancestors built ages ago. Man only moves onward. The savage may seem to be as low as the baboon; but he is susceptible of an education that his humble cousin can never enjoy.
II. IN CONSCIENCE. There seems to be a trace of conscience in the shame of the dog when he has done what he knows has been forbidden him. But though the animal may know shame, he does not know sin. Purity is an idea quite foreign to his nature. He may be generous, and he may sacrifice his life in devotion to his master. Yet he cannot feel the hunger and thirst after righteousness. The deep sense of sin and the great desire for holiness are peculiar to man.
III. IN RELIGION. A dim religious feeling may be dawning in the dog when he raises adoring looks to his master, often to a very unworthy master—like poor Caliban worshipping drunken Stephano. But the animal cannot know God. Man alone of all God's creatures knows his Maker. All nature praises God unconsciously, only man blesses him consciously. To man it is given to feel the love of God, and to love God in return. Man is permitted to hold communion with God; he is God's child. Nature is the work of God; man his son. Nature is dependent on her Creator; man is sus-rained by his Father.
IV. IN DIVINE FAVOUR. This is implied by all that precedes. All the superiority of man is from God. Intelligence, conscience, and religion are Divine endowments. We could not raise ourselves above the animal world, for no creature could transcend its own nature. If our nature is superior to that of animals, this fact is wholly owing to the grace of God. But we may go further, and see that grace not only in our original creation and natural endowments, but also in our history. By his providence God has been adding to his favour. Not for the animals, but for man, and man alone, Christ came. The Incarnation was a fact of the human world, and in it man is supremely honoured by being united to God. Man is redeemed by the death of the Son of God.
V. IN OBLIGATION. Much is expected from him to whom much has been given. What is innocent in the animal may be sinful in man. It is a degradation for man to sink down to animalism. Brutal violence and bestial vice are utterly unworthy of a being exalted far above the animals by nature and the grace of God. When man sinks down to the level of the animals he really falls much lower. It is an insult to innocent brutes to associate them with the habits of corrupt men.—W.F.A.
From despair to trust.
Job had often expressed a deep desire to meet with God. He had longed for an opportunity of making his case clear, and having it tried by his great Judge. He had felt like a prisoner languishing in gaol without a trial, greatly wishing for an habeas corpus; and he had despaired of ever being brought face to face with his Accuser, who, as he thought, was also his Judge. Now Elihu tells him that God is already attending to his case, and therefore that he should have faith.
I. THE SUFFERER'S DESPAIR. Job despairs of seeing God. He has indeed expressed a confident assurance that he will behold his Redeemer with his own eyes; he himself, and not another (Job 19:25-27). We need not be startled at the contradiction. In such darkness as that of Job's faith ebbs and flows. For a moment the clouds break and a gleam of sunshine falls on the sufferer's path, and at the sight of it he leaps up triumphant; but soon the blackness closes in again, and then the despair is as deep as ever.
1. God is not seen by the bodily eye. We may sweep the heavens with the most powerful telescope, but we shall never discover their King seated on his throne among the stars.
2. God does not give an immediate solution of our difficulties. We ask him to decide our case, to justify the right, and to destroy the false. Yet he does not seem to be interfering; for the confusion and the injustice remain. Then the weary waiting leads us to think that he will never appear. "Hope deferred maketh the heart sick," and in its sickness it loses its hope.
II. THE ENCOURAGEMENT TO FAITH.
1. God is not neglecting us. Elihu assures Job that his case is already before his Judge. It is neither forgotten nor postponed. It is now being tried. Elihu was quite justified in making this statement, as we know from the prologue (Job 1:8-12). Job was being tried before God throughout; and so also were his friends, as the conclusion of the book shows (Job 42:7-9). Perhaps one lesson to be taught by this great poem is that God is watching man, and dealing justly with him, even when no indication of Divine interest or activity is vouchsafed to him. The verdict is not yet given nor the judgment pronounced; but the case is proceeding, and the Judge is carefully attending to it. That is what this book teaches concerning the great problem of life.
2. We should learn to trust God. We cannot see cur Judge as yet. We must wait for the verdict. All is dark to the eye of sense. But if we know that God is watching over us and considering our condition, we ought to be assured that we cannot suffer from neglect. The special region for faith is this present scene of darkness, and we are to expect the darkness to continue as long as the faith is to be exercised. But this will not be for ever. Job was right when, in a moment of strange elation, he leaped to the assurance that his Redeemer lived, and that he would see him at the latter day.—W.F.A.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Job 35". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13