Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. AS TO THEIR METHOD. The God that "is greater than man," who worketh secretly and "giveth not account of any of his matters," giveth instruction:
1. In a dream, in the visions of the night; opening the ears of men, and sealing their instruction.
2. By the severities of affliction; when man is "chastened with pain upon his bed." This is applicable to Job; and the former may have been mentioned gently to introduce this.
II. AS TO THEIR PURPOSE. This is always gracious. It is to save from impending danger, and to lead in safe and good ways.
1. To restrain man from evil paths. "To withdraw him from his purpose."
2. To hide pride from man. To bring down the high looks of the self-complacent and the wicked.
3. To save from untimely death, and from the weapons of destructive violence. To keep "his life from perishing by the sword." Sin tends to death both by natural causes and by violence. Then Elihu views these corrections -
III. IN THEIR HAPPY RESULT.
(1) Should the mediating Counsellor be near, and the way of life, the right way - the way of righteousness - be pointed out; and
(2) the smitten one return with repentance, saying, "I have sinned, and perverted that which was right;" and
(3) lifting up his voice "pray unto God;" then
(4) shall the Divine deliverance come:
(a) in an expression of the Divine forbearance;
(b) in admission to the Divine favour - "he shall see his face with joy;"
(c) in a gracious restoration, delivering "his soul from going into the pit'" and bringing him to rejoice in the light.
This is the Divine response to repentance which Elihu urges upon Job. Happy is every smitten one who, returning to God, finds a ransom price paid for his soul, and rejoices in a deliverance which restores to him the days of his youth, when "his very flesh becometh fresher than a child's." - R.G.
I. MAN IS MADE BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD.
1. His origin is outside himself. Whatever man can do for himself, he certainly cannot make himself. When we come back to the question of origins, the most self-reliant person must confess that he could not have caused his own being.
2. His origin is from God. Man derives his life originally from the First Cause of the whole series of living creatures. Whether man was created immediately out of the dust of the earth, or, as evolutionists teach, mediately, through other creatures, he in common with all things living derives his being from the great Parent of nature. Evolution does not destroy creation; it only describes the process, and throws back the time of the beginning of creation.
3. His origin is in the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God at first brooded over the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2). When man appeared God breathed into him the spirit of life (Genesis 2:7). The Holy Spirit is the Lord and Giver of life. In his spiritual nature man is especially related to the Spirit of God. He is a spark from the eternal Sun.
4. His very existence is maintained by the Spirit of God. Man lives only because God lives in him. By nature his life is an inspiration from heaven. At any moment, if God were to withdraw, man would perish. "In him we five, and move, and have our being." Thus not only the original creation, but also the present life, should be regarded as inspired by God.
II. THE INSPIRATION OF CREATION IS A SOURCE OF KNOWLEDGE.
1. The Maker may be known by his work. All creation reveals God; but man, the highest creature, most fully expresses the Divine. To us there can be no higher revelation of God than that which is made through a perfect man. Therefore the incarnation of Christ is our most complete vision of the Father. But all men are in a measure revealers of the hand that made them.
2. The spiritual nature of man is a type of God. All nature reveals God; suns and stars, trees and flowers, birds, beasts, and fishes, give lemons of the Divine; but they do so through their material structures. Man reveals God in the constitution of his spiritual nature. He is not merely the building that sets forth the ideas of the Architect; he is the child, himself made in the image of the Father. His spiritual nature is essentially like God. who is Spirit. Thus he is made in the image of God.
3. The indwelling of the Spirit of God is a permanent revelation of God. God not only makes himself known by what he has done, he is daily revealing himself by his present life in our midst. Nature is not like a fossil that shows in its dead lineaments the traces of an old-world life; she is a mirror of the Divine activity. Our own souls are witnessing to God by their vitality. The dwelling of God within us is a continuous proof that he lives, that he works, that he loves. We know what God is now by what God is now doing in our hearts and lives. - W. F. A
I. WE NEED HUMAN SYMPATHY IN RELIGION. Although man is made in the image of God, and although his very life is a constant inspiration, and depends on the presence and power of God, still God is invisible, God is great, God is an infinite Spirit. The soul of man hungers for brotherly sympathy. We all want to feel the fellowship of one who is like ourselves.
1. That we may understand aright. We cannot understand a being of a different species from ourselves. We cannot even comprehend the meaning of our own dog when he looks up at us with pathetic eyes, for we are of another species.
2. That our affections may be awakened. We most naturally love one who is kindred to ourselves. The difficulty of loving God is to perceive that there is that in him which is akin to our own natures. When he appears strange to us we shrink from him; we cannot reach out to him in confidence and joyous emotion.
II. CHRIST BRINGS US HUMAN SYMPATHY IN RELIGION. We must not think of him as standing half-way between us and God. Such a Christ would be a monstrous being - neither one with us nor one with God. United with the Father on the Divine side. our Lord is a perfect Man on the human side.
1. He is intelligible to us. We can see him, hear him, understand him. And he has told us that when we see him we see the Father (John 14:9).
2. He wires our heart's affections. His kinship makes this possible; his brotherly love makes it actual; his great work and death for us perfect his hold upon us. Thus our hearts are drawn out to God by the sympathy of Christ.
III. MEN SHOULD SHOW HUMAN SYMPATHY IN RELIGION. What Elihu aimed at, what Christ realized, that is the ideal for us. Without the ostentation of the young Buzite, we are called upon to remember our human nature when we try to help our fellow-men in religious as well as in others matters. There is a sort of sanctimonious spirituality which ignores humanity. This is disgusting to men, and it is the cause of much popular aversion to religion. We cannot help our fellow-men till we recollect we are human like them - frail, fallible, mortal; nay, sinful, fallen, ourselves needing a Saviour. Brotherly sympathy is the first essential for helpful religious influence. - W.F.A.
I. JOB'S CONFIDENCE IN HAS INNOCENTS CENSURED. (Vers. 8-11.) Elihu gathers up in brief some of those sayings of Job which had shocked his ear and scandalized his spiritual conscience. Job had asserted his own purity, and had accused God of enmity against his person (compare Job's words, Job 9:21; Job 10:7; Job 16:17; Job 23:10; Job 27:5, 6; Job 10:13, seq.; Job 19:11; 30:21).
II. THE TRUE RELATIONS OF MAN TO GOD SET FORTH. (Vers. 12-30.) By many intimations of inward and outward experience God seeks to warn man and to bring him to himself He is no Being of passions such as Job represents him; "higher than a mortal," it is no part of his nature to crush in anger and revenge a defenceless creature. Nor is he dumb, voiceless, cold to his creatures' cries and appeals, as Job thinks. He speaks again and again; but the fault is in the deafness and dulness of the listener (vers. 12-14). Some medes of Divine instruction are then described.
1. The voice of conscience in dreams. (Vers. 15-18.) The ear is opened; the sensuous nature is stilled, the imagination is kindled into life; memory unlocks her stores; the past suggests the future; and thus hints and warnings are" stamped upon the instruction" of the soul. These are not merely facts of a past age of the world. If the Divine instruction by dreams was ever real, it is real still. The study of the physiology and psychology of our dream-life may yield a fund of interest of a directly religious kind to all who believe our nature to be in immediate intercourse with the unseen and the Divine. We are still warded and comforted of God in dreams. The purpose of these communications is to restrain man from evil; to hide pride from him, that is, so that he ceases to indulge it; to keep back his soul from the grave; to warn him against death and all that is deadly - against the sudden oncoming of the fatal blow. Whatever view be taken of the subject of special visions and communications from the other world, it is open to us all to observe how in our physical constitution we are never without warnings, forebodings, timely hints, of coming pain and disease; how in our moral constitution in like manner coming events of retribution cast their shadows before, and rouse us from the stupor of guilt and shame. A kindly voice is ever calling us in these ways to flee from the wrath that is to come.
2. Severe sickness as the visitation of God. (Vers. 19-22.) Buffering is felt to be chastisement. When all the frame is unstrung, when the sweet sense of life turns to loathing, and the body wastes away, and death draws near, then man feels his dependence on a higher power; then often for the first time learns to pray, to believe in God, and to feel his nearness and his goodness. No doubt there was much of superstition in ancient times with regard to supposing suffering to be a direct visitation of the anger of God. But while we get rid of the superstition, let us preserve the truth of which it is a distortion - that in this mixed constitution of ours the proper effect of pain is to lead the mind to the Author of all that we both enjoy and suffer. "In some constitutions affliction seems peculiarly necessary as a hint of God. Some trees will not thrive unless their roots be laid bare; or unless, besides pruning, their bodies be gashed and sliced. Others that are too luxuriant need their blossoms to be pulled off, or they will yield nothing. Rank corn, if it be not timely eaten down, may yield something to the barn, but little to the granary. Every man can say he thanks God for ease; but for me, I bless God for my troubles" (Bishop Hall).
3. The ministry of angels. (Vers. 23-28.) Literally in the last verse the "destroyers" are the "angels of death," sent upon their fatal errand by the Almighty. In contrast we have now the mention of the good, delivering angel who brings release from the doom. The ministering angel draws near to the penitent sufferer in compassion, and says, "Relieve him from going down into the pit; I have found a ransom? In the forms of the poetical imagination, an unexpected recovery from deadly sickness is thus described. Then returning health covers his flesh again with the bloom of youth; the sorrow vanishes from his mind; it is once more summer in the soul. He prays to the Almighty, and is graciously heard and accepted; he basks in the sunshine of God's countenance; and the lost peace is restored to the purified conscience. And the heart breaks out into singing, for a new song is put into the restored one's mouth - a song of praise to God. And this is its burden: "I had sinned and perverted right; but it was not requited to me; he redeemed my soul, that I might not go into the grave, and my life sees his pleasure in the light" (comp. Isaiah 22:23, seq.; Isaiah 51:17). Such is the portion of the man who hears the rod, and who has appointed it; who bows beneath affliction only to rise to's purer height of spiritual joy. His sins are pardoned, his good endeavours accepted, his crosses sanctified, his prayers heard; everything that he has is a blessing to him, everything that he suffers an advantage. CONCLUSION. (Vers. 31-33.) These are the dealings of God with man; this the purport of all his afflictions. Experience seals the truth. Let Job or any other gainsay or refute it if he will or can! But rather this strong deep personal conviction of Elihu will vibrate and awake a response in the sufferer's heart. There is a contagion in true faith. Oh for the victory that overcomes the world! Once realize God to be our God, our Refuge and Strength, our present Help in trouble, and earth or hell in vain labour to make us other than blessed. - J.
I. THE ADVENT OF THE DIVINE VOICES. Elihu reminds us of Eliphaz, yet with a difference. Both men believe in superhuman influences, in God-sent messages, But Eliphaz tells of a stately vision, an awful and overwhelming apparition; Elihu, on the other hand, is satisfied with dream-voices. God approaches man in various ways. The most awe-inspiring is not necessarily the most instructive. Dreams have been continually recognized among the channels of Divine communication, e.g. the stories of Joseph and Daniel and the prediction of Joel (Joel 2:28). It is very easy to misinterpret a dream, and to attribute to a Divine impulse what only springs from the vagaries of one's own fancy. We need some assurance that the voices are from God. Now, the test is in their character. All holy thoughts proceed from God, and none that are unholy. When we are visited by a holy thought, whether in sleep or in waking hours, we may rejoice with gratitude to know that God has spoken to us.
II. THE REPETITION OF THE DIVINE VOICES. "God speaketh once, yea twice." Pharaoh's dreams were repeated (Genesis 41:32). Joseph's different dreams reiterated the same message (Genesis 37:9). Prophet followed prophet with warning and promise for Israel. The new Christian voice followed the old Jewish voice. God is speaking now, sending one message after another in his providence. We have all heard from God more than once. His was the Voice that instilled the first eager desires for goodness in childhood, and his the voice that pleaded amid the passionate enthusiasms of youth. It has sounded in our ears repeatedly among the varied scenes of life warning against sin, and calling to Christian service. It is repeated whenever the Bible is read, whenever Divine truth is preached, whenever conscience is aroused.
III. THE RECEPTION OF THE DIVINE VOICES. Too often they are unheeded. "Man perceiveth it not." A mood of spiritual dulness may let the voices pass unheard. But this is not a natural condition. The little child is not thus deaf.
"Heaven lies about us in our infancy." Later years deaden our perceptions, not indeed by the simple wear and tear of life, but by the evil things that are engendered. Distracting worldliness and sin, the deadliest foes to the heavenly voices, make us careless of the messages from God. IV. THE PURPOSE OF THE DIVINE VOICES. They are to guide and save. "To withdraw man from his purpose," when that purpose is evil or dangerous. "To hide pride from man," i.e. to save man from his pride. Thus the voices are warning and deterrent. They remind us of the "demon" of Socrates, which, he said, told him when he was not to do something, but did not prompt him to do anything. We know that God inspires for action, that heavenly voices summon to toil and battle. Yet perhaps we may perceive that the inner voice is more often a restraining than a stimulating voice. For the stimulus we look to the living Christ. Yet the restraint is sent in mercy. God warns, that he may save. - W.F.A.
IV. THE PURPOSE OF THE DIVINE VOICES. They are to guide and save. "To withdraw man from his purpose," when that purpose is evil or dangerous. "To hide pride from man," i.e. to save man from his pride. Thus the voices are warning and deterrent. They remind us of the "demon" of Socrates, which, he said, told him when he was not to do something, but did not prompt him to do anything. We know that God inspires for action, that heavenly voices summon to toil and battle. Yet perhaps we may perceive that the inner voice is more often a restraining than a stimulating voice. For the stimulus we look to the living Christ. Yet the restraint is sent in mercy. God warns, that he may save. - W.F.A.
I. SUFFERING IS CHASTISEMENT. As he elaborates his thought we see what Elihu is making clear. Suffering is not the vindictive punishment of sin; nor is it the work of a malignant or even of an indifferent being. It is sent by God for the wholesome discipline of his children. No doubt this discipline is often rendered necessary by sin, and when it is so chastisement is virtually punishment; but even then it is punishment with a merciful end. It is the rod that corrects, not the gallows that ends a career without hope. It looks forward to better things; it is directly designed to help and bless and save. But often it is not connected with sin. It is the wholesome discipline that seasons the soldier with hardship.
II. CHASTISEMENT IS A DIVINE MESSENGER. The poor sufferer, "chastened also with pain upon his bed," is not deserted by God. He is tempted to look upon his trouble as a proof that God has left him, if it is not a sign that God has become his Enemy. But both ideas are wrong. God is neither inimical nor negligent. The very suffering is a sign of God's present care. It is a process by means of which he is bettering his child. Therefore it is a message of mercy. Yet it is not always possible to discern the mercy in the message. Still, the message is not fruitless. Perhaps there was a danger of too much self-confidence; pride was creeping in; success was lifting up the soul to dangerous heights. Then the chastisement came to cast down and humble. At first this seemed harsh and hurtful. But on reflection it is seen to be the very thing needful for saving the better life and refining it.
III. THE SUFFERING OF CHASTISEMENT SHOULD DRIVE US TO GOD. Perhaps we would not heed him in the cheerful hours. Now we need him. The voices that were drowned in the noisy scenes of pleasure may steal into our ears in the lonely watches of pain. Thus we learn to trust in the darkness.
"Lord, in thy sky of blue "Lord, when I look on high,
"Lord, when I look on high,
I. GOD SPEAKS BY A MESSENGER. It is a question whether we should understand the word rendered "messenger" in the usual sense attached to it, i.e, as standing for "angel." God has spoken through angel-messengers from the days of Abraham. But any one charged with a Divine message becomes God's angel to those to whom he delivers it. Every prophet is God's messenger, one who speaks for God. The apostle is one sent forth by Christ. Angels, prophets, apostles - they are all, so far, the same. They are God's missionaries. Christ is once called an Apostle (Hebrews 3:1), because he too was sent forth by his Father (1 John 4:14). Our Lord's mission on earth was to bring the new message of salvation from heaven, and to make it a real and living thing among men. Every true follower of Christ is called to be a messenger from God to his fellow-men. People will listen to the human voice when they are deaf to the pleadings of conscience and blind to the teachings of experience. The true preacher is God's messenger. "We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:20).
II. GOD'S MESSENGER BRINGS A RANSOM. It is contrary to the whole course of historical revelation, which develops truth by slow degrees, to suppose that the ransom intended by Elihu was the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross. Such an anachronism implies an entire lack of perspective in the view of the interpreter. Nevertheless, the essential ideas of a ransom are here brought forward.
1. Deliverance. It is the duty of God's messenger to preach "deliverance to the captives." He is more than a revealer of truth; he is a herald of salvation.
2. A costly method. Elihu may have no conception of the price of redemption. Yet he perceives more or less dimly that some ransom must be paid. We have a much clearer view of the subject, because we can read it in the light of history. We now know that our deliverance is effected through the death of Christ. "The Son of man came to give his life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28).
III. THE DIVINE RANSOM SECURES A GLAD WELCOME FROM GOD. The message may seem to come in stern tones of anger, following a John the Baptist preparation of chastisement. Yet it is a gospel. Ver. 26 paints a glowing picture of the redeemed man.
1. Acceptable prayer. Until he was ransomed his prayer seemed to be in vain. Now God hears it with favour.
2. The beatific vision. "He shall see his face with joy." Reconciled to God, he rejoices in communion with God.
3. Restoration of righteousness. "He restoreth unto man his uprightness." This is the grand human result of redemption. Deliverance from doom is not enough, is not the chief end. The restoration of the broken and defiled image of God to its original, or more than its original, beauty is the great outcome Of the redeeming work of Christ. - W.F.A.
I. THE CONDITION OF RESTORATION. The redeemed man is represented as chanting a grateful psalm in recognition of his merciful deliverance. In this psalm he both acknowledges his guilt and recognizes that he has not been treated as he deserves. Guilt is a fact to be first of all owned. There is no forgiveness without confession. Even when a man is forgiven, though God may put aside his guilt, the man cannot do so. The thought of what he has been delivered from heightens his gratitude while it deepens his humility.
II. THE STATE OF RECOVERY. It is deliverance from death - "the pit." Death is the natural penalty of sin. But when God forgives and restorers he does more than remit the penalty. Salvation is far more than this negative blessing. The sin has already poisoned the life of the sinner. Already he is "dead in trespasses and sins." Therefore he needs the gift of life. Now, this positive boon comes with the great restoration of souls in redemption. God, who first gave natural life, now gives spiritual life. Thus the blessing is internal and personal. It is not a change of the soul's estate, but a regeneration of the soul itself.
III. THE SOURCE OF REDEMPTION. God himself brings about the new, happy condition of the restored penitent. He could not restore himself; no creature in the universe could give him what he needs. For the evil was death, and the requirement was a gift of life. Only he who first created life, and who ever lives in all his creatures, can renew life. Regeneration implies a Divine energy. Those forms of religion which are satisfied with man as he is may dispense with any very marked activity on God's side in religion; but when the ruin of man is acknowledged, the chief element in religion must be, not man's devotion, but God's salvation. Now, this is what we see in the Bible. There man appears in his sinfulness and helplessness, utterly unfit for heaven, or even for earthly life in its beauty and fruitfulness, and there God is seen as the mighty Deliverer coming to the rescale of his helpless child.
IV. THE METHOD OF RENEWAL. Elihu has spoken of the Divine voices, the experience of chastisement, and the personal messenger. By these means God reaches man. What else is done is not so fully seen here as in the later revelation of the New Testament, in which we discover the cross of Christ as the root of man's new life. But throughout God's dealings with man in all ages it has been apparent that there are various processes of spiritual experience through which God leads returning penitents. Therefore, if the present process is dark and mysterious and even painful, we have great encouragements for submitting to it with more than patient faith, with joyous hope, looking to the end which is, "to bring back his soul from the pit, to be enlightened with the light of the living." - W.F.A.