Elihu also proceeded, and said,…
In the preceding discourses of Elihu, be has dwelt chiefly upon the moral relations of man to God, and the view presented of God has been chiefly that obtained through the medium of human feelings and analogies. His present discourse rises to a sublime view of him as the infinitely mighty One, the wise and just Father of mankind. If we suppose that during this address the storm is brewing out of which Jehovah presently speaks, then all Elihu's references to the lightning, the thunder, the storm and rain receive, as he proceeds, their splendid illustration from the sublime scene around, and heighten the force of his appeals.
I. INTRODUCTION. (Vers. 1-4.) The speaker begins by announcing that he has something further of weight to say in justification of the ways of God to man. He has "words for God" to utter. Though God's works are his justification, and he needs no defence at the hands of man, yet it may be said that the free exercise of reason, in setting forth the glory of his goodness and justice, is an acceptable service to him. If he delights in the unconscious testimony of babes and sucklings (Psalm 8.), still more must he delight in the conscious spontaneous offerings of man's matured thought at his shrine, The great works of Christian theologians and apologists, such as Calvin's 'Institutes' or Butler's 'Analogy,' are the tributes of reason to the honour of God. But they are valueless unless they have that quality which Elihu so emphatically claims, sincerity, truth. He who ventures to speak for God must speak, not with the purpose of temporary expediency, but out of the consciousness of eternity.
II. THE JUSTICE OF GOD REVEALED IN THE HISTORY OF MAN. (Vers. 5-21.) The course of life, argues the speaker, shows that a chastening, a purifying, but at the same time a loving, Power is at work in the world. This is supported:
1. By a general view of human life. (Vers. 6-15.) God is revealed in the different courses of men's lives as Power, but not as arbitrary Power. His greatness is not associated with contempt for the lowliness of man. It is not reckless of right and wrong. It upholds the moral order - the godless sink unsupported into the ruin their own conduct has prepared for them; while those who suffer from the injustice of others are succoured and defended. God's watchful eye is upon all just men, from the king whose throne he establishes, whose dignity he guards, to the captive in his chains, to the beggar in his misery. This, as we have so often seen, is the firm foundation-truth which runs beneath the whole of this book, and through the whole of the Bible. And the seeming exceptions to these principles of the Divine administration are now explained as merely seeming; for they come under the principle of chastisement, which is but another illustration of love. According to this view - never more feelingly set forth than here-suffering may be, not the brand of guilt, but the silent token of love in the form of discipline. Without positive guilt there may be moral stagnation, in which the germs of future evil are discovered by the eye of the Divine Educator. Evil is forming in tendency or thought when it has not blossomed into deeds. Then comes the visit of God in suffering to warn, to hint of danger, to "open the ear" to instructions that were thought unnecessary in the days of perfect peace and self-complacency. And if the mind yields to this gracious leading, and bends itself to docility to this new revelation of the holy will, all shall yet be well. The season of depression and disaster will be passed through, and the sheep who have heard the Shepherd's voice will find themselves led once more into the green pastures of content (vers. 6-11). But the God who is revealed to us in this tender and gracious aspect in the course el experience, under the condition of obedience, becomes clothed in sternness and severity to those who resist. Those who venture to war with law, to rebel against omnipotence and justice, can but meet an unhappy doom. In wondrous ways, unknown to man, God is able to bring men to their destined goal (vers. 12-14). The great lesson, then, is to betake one's self to self-examination (the opening of the ear) and to prayer when the visitants of God's chastening love are knocking at the door of our heart. The lesson is expressed by pointing to the sad examples of unsubmissive, prayerless lives! These, like spots where the dew falls not, cannot thrive. Hearts, like bare rocks, that will not melt in the sun, callous, impenitent, heedless, perish for want of knowledge, of faith, of God; but those whose whole nature has been broken up and laid open by suffering are prepared to receive the seed of eternal wisdom which the Divine Husbandman seeks in such times to implant (ver. 15).
2. By reference to Job's vicissitudes. (Vers. 16-21.) In these verses, which are so obscure in meaning in our version, a deduction is made from the foregoing principles in reference to the case of Job. In ver. 16 the verb should be taken in the present, "God's leading," or "is for leading" him out of his present straitened and distressed condition; but what if the conditions of submission, penitence, and docility are wanting in Job? Assuming that there is this want, solemn warnings are given - that he cannot, if in a state of sin, escape the judgment of God; that if he allows the fire of suffering to madden him into impiety instead of purifying his spirit, he will find himself in an evil plight, for no cries nor efforts can avail to extricate him from the fangs of doom. Let not Job, then, says the speaker (ver. 20), perhaps pointing to the dark warning of the sky, long after the night (of judgment); for whole peoples pass away in that terrible darkness when the wrath of God is outpoured! And to conclude the warnings, let Job beware of the turning of the heart to vanity - the natural thoughtlessness of mankind in presence of the judgments of God. The application is unfair as regards Job; still, we are reminded indirectly that it is not sufficient to hold a true theory of God's moral government in general, without applying it to the facts of our own lives. Men may harshly apply great principles to our character and condition in the world; this cannot absolve us from the duty of applying them truly and honestly for ourselves.
III. THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD REVEALED IN NATURE. (Ver. 22-37:24.)
1. The wisdom and power of God as seen in nature's wonders. (Ver. 22-37:13.) Introduction. (Vers. 22-25.) The sublime power of God fills every observer of Nature with awe. Who is a Ruler as he? Who can improve upon Nature? She is the great mechanist, artist, designer, executor. Man may produce new varieties of plants and, to some extent, of animals by the exercise of intelligence, but "o'er that art which men call nature is another art which nature makes." Art is the highest effort of human nature; and what nature can he honour who honours not the human? If, then, you have a quarrel with God, what is this but to dispute the beauty and the good of things, which all men delight to celebrate, on which no eyes are weary of looking with wonder?
2. Look, then, at the grandeur of the phenomena of nature - the rain the clouds the storms. (Ver. 26-37:5.) Read the words of the description, compare them with your own feelings. In the very vagueness and vastness of nature there is a power to impress the imagination. This array of beauty and of grandeur is not only far beyond, but totally unlike, anything that man can conceive or accomplish. No words can better set forth these profound and unutterable impressions than the words of great poets, "thrown out" as it were at a distant, illimitable object which cannot be defined. "God thunders with his voice wondrously, doth great things that we understand not:" this is the sum of all. The indefinite grandeur of images and sounds, which is so impressive in the highest poetry, represents the inarticulate but overwhelming voice of nature which tells of the Being and the goodness of God. Again, these effects point to causes; and the regularity of effects to the regularity of causes; and the whole series of effects and causes resolves itself into the conception of law, high, unerring, unbroken. Even with a very imperfect knowledge of the structure of the cosmos, there is some dim perception of these truths: how much more should consummate science impress them upon the spirit! Every phenomenon that strikes with awe the senses, or that gently excites the wonder and curiosity of the mind, hints at an Intelligence which is ever at work. The snow, the rain-torrents, which give pause to the labours of man, and compel his gaze to the sky; the crouching of the wild beast in his lair before the fury of the storm; the rushing forth of the blasts as from some hidden repository (as the Greeks fabled, the cave of AEelus); the congelation of the waters; the clouds discharging their weight of moisture or flashing forth their lightnings; - all speak of superhuman power, ell-controlling and still guiding the march of nature by a principle of right; now scourging men's folly, and now rewarding and blessing their obedience. In the fearful and beautiful scenes of the storm and of winter we indeed no longer see signs of the personal displeasure of God. We explain them by the "laws of nature." But none the less do these phenomena tell of the power, the wisdom, and the goodness of God, and hint to us the duty and the need of prayer to him who gave to Nature her laws.
3. Inferences; exhortations. (Job 37:14-24.) If this be the view Nature gives us of her God and of our Creator, instead of murmuring at him or disputing his dealings, let Job and all sufferers draw the true conclusions amidst the dark enigmas of their lives. Let the preceding impressions be laid well to heart, and in quiet contemplation let the mystery of the Divine operations be reviewed. Can man explain the secrets of nature? If not, why should he expect to explain fully that which is a part of the same system, under the same rule, controlled by the same God, namely, his own life and its mingled web of weal and woe (ver. 14, sqq.)? "We have but faith; we cannot know." "If man is not called by God to his side in other matters of his daily doing, to be as a judge and counsellor, and this can be expected by none, and none presumes to murmur against that order, it is right that man should not demand that the method of God's government should be shown him in this world, but that he should acquiesce in it, whether he understands it or no; that he should believe his Word, and await his good in patience" (Cocceius). CONCLUSION. find now the speaker - pointing to the rising storm which has been gathering during his discourse, brings his words, in solemn iteration and summing-up, to a close (vers. 21-24). The aspect of yonder heaven is a symbol of Job's position in relation to God. The light that flashes in its wonted splendour behind the clouds is not seen just now, but a wind rises and sweeps those clouds away; and so the God who is concealed for a time, and of whom we are in danger of entertaining wrong thoughts, may suddenly, to our surprise and shame, discover himself. Let us, then, humble ourselves in presence of the destiny that just now is full of darkness. From the gloom as of midnight there bursts forth the gleam as of gold - brilliant token of the sublime power of Jehovah. And God remains inaccessible to sense, to knowledge, dwelling in the unapproachable light. But, amidst all the terror and the mystery, the voice of conscience, the moral sense in man, tells him that, though God be incomprehensible, this much concerning him may be known - he is no Perverter of right and justice; he is the infallibly good and wise, just and holy One. This faith is the foundation of reverence, of piety; and as for the "self-wise," the men wise in their own conceits, God holds them in no regard. (On the dazzling light, the symbol of the majesty of God, compare the hymn of Binney, "Eternal Light! Eternal Light!") - J.
Parallel VersesKJV: Elihu also proceeded, and said,