Job 37
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics

I. A VOICE OF TERROR. The deep roar, the wide volume of sound, the mystery and the majesty of the thunder, combine to make it strike us with awe. Thunder accompanied the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:16). Men are naturally alarmed at any voice from heaven. God sometimes speaks to us in thunderous notes, i.e. through great calamities. Then we tremble as before an irresistible majesty.

II. A VOICE OF NATURE. The thunder is part of the economy of nature - as much a part of it as the whisper of the wind or the hum of the insect. It struck the ancient world with the greater alarm because it was wholly inexplicable. Now that we know its connection with time electric currents of the atmosphere, we do not think of it as so fearful. The artillery of the heavens is all obedient to fixed laws of nature. Yet it is not the less fired by the hand of God, who is the Spirit of nature as well as its Maker. The reduction of the thunder to a place among natural phenomena suggests a lesson in faith. We may be reassured when we see that what looks lawless is part of the Divine order. We often alarm ourselves with needless fears; but all must be well when God rules over all.

III. A POWERLESS VOICE. The silent lightning is deadly. On the other hand, the, re are no thunderbolts; it was ignorance that attributed the effects of the electric flash to the thunder that followed it. But this was in accordance with a common way of thinking. We pay most attention to that which makes most noise. Yet when the noise is heard the power is past. Men are always undervaluing the lightning and overvaluing the thunder. Sin is ignored, its consequences are made much of. Goodness is forgotten, fame is worshipped. Fidelity is not seen, success makes the welkin ring with applause.

IV. A VOICE OF MERCY. The thunder cannot do anything directly, with all its noise and fury. The deeds are done by the swift, subtle electricity; and the boasting thunder is nothing but noise. Still, there is a message in the thunder. The noise of the thunder tells us that the lightning has come and gone! The fearful flash has passed, and still we live untouched, unhurt. Moreover the storm, of which the thunder is one element, is a most refreshing influence, clearing the atmosphere, cooling the temperature, bringing rain to thirsty fields and gardens. Thus the voice that seems only to roar in rage is to be associated with grateful thoughts. The same may be said of other thunderous voices. Calamities burst over our heads like thunderstorms. At first they stun us; but by degrees we begin to see that they have brought showers of blessing, and that they have not crushed us as we expected. Here we stand, in spite of the storm, still living and still enjoying the loving-kindness of God. - W.F.A.

I. ITS SOURCE. It is produced by God, and it is directed by God. He brings it about, and he guides it.

1. It comes from God. Now, this is most certainly an integral part of nature. We have seen that the thunder belongs to nature. That was not always apparent to men; there seemed to be something so weird and awful about it that men attributed it to supernatural agencies. But the rain is manifestly in the order of natural phenomena. Yet this is as Divine as the thunder. God is in all nature, and as much in its quiet, normal occurrences as in what is startling and exceptional.

2. It is piloted by God. The clouds seem to pass over the heavens in wild confusion. We can see no reins to hold them in, nor any whip to drive them on. The science of meteorology is about the most backward of all the sciences, because it is so difficult to reduce the phenomena of the weather to their place in an orderly scheme, on account of their ceaseless variations and apparently boundless irregularities. But we are already seeing that there are laws behind the weather, and some of them are already known. Hence our weather prognostications in the newspapers. Now, the Scripture view of the weather, as much as that of the most orderly and changless phenomena, attributes all its movements to the will of God. God is in what looks to us most conflicting and purposeless. If he is steering it, we can trust to him to bring it to a happy end.


1. This is determined by God. The march of the clouds is commanded by their great Captain. In nature as well as in human life God works with a purpose, and the end is with him.

2. It is obscure. We cannot tell whether the rain is for one particular purpose which we have in mind, or for another that has never occurred to us. In all life God works out many purposes quite beyond the reach of our thoughts.

3. It may be "for a scourge. God sends what we regard as untimely rain - rain in harvest; or too much rain - floods that devastate fields, drown crops, and invade houses. For God sometimes looks very stern in his actions, whatever his thoughts may be. In other ways God chastises his people by natural calamities. Let us not be amazed when these things happen to us. They are predicted, and therefore they should be expected.

4. It may be in mercy. For the good of his land." The dry soil needs rain. Thirsty crops are refreshed by the downpour that is distressing to the traveller. What looks like a calamity may be a blessing. Instead of complaining of the inconvenience of what happens to us, let us look round us and see if it is bringing good in some other direction.

5. In any case it is for a blessing. The scourge is a blessing in disguise. Though various results may issue from God's various actions, in so far as they are designed by God they all make for righteousness and the welfare of his children. Thunder and rain bless even by their calamities. Sorrow and loss, pain and tears, scourges and thorns, are instruments of discipline that bless when they hurt. - W.F.A.

Elihu in his continued address would teach Job to hearken to the Lord rather than reply to him. to learn rather than teach, and more especially to consider his wonderful works. The greatness of the Divine works causeth Job's teacher's heart to tremble; so he would it were with Job. To the greatness of the Divine voice, to the wonder of the Divine works, he directs him. The works of God may be considered -

I. AS A REVELATION OF THE DIVINE GREATNESS. This is one of the purposes in Elihu's mind. He would lead Job to "tear." It is only by a contemplation of the works of God that we can rise as by successive steps to any adequate conception of the greatness of the Divine power or the grandeur of the Divine Name. They are beyond our comprehension, and so give us a notion of the infinite; they are multiplied, and great and wonderful. In them is hidden the parable of the Divine greatness. They may be considered -

II. AS A REVELATION OF THE DIVINE GOODNESS. With great beauty the Divine goodness is traced in this book. A goodness extended not only to man, but also to the beasts of the field, to the fish of the sea, to the bird of the air. It is from this contemplation that man may return to himself, and learn that the goodness everywhere displayed around him may be truly at work within and for him, though its processes are not made known. So the Divine works may be considered -

III. AS A REVELATION OF THE HIDDEN PURPOSE OF GOD. In all the wonderful works around, much as men know, there is much that is hidden. To this Elihu calls Job's attention. "Dost thou know when God disposed them?" "Dost thou know the balancing of the clouds? Dost thou know "the wondrous works of him that is perfect in knowledge"?

IV. Hence is revealed

(1) the ignorance of man;

(2) his littleness;

(3) his consequent inability to contend with God.

This is the process of Elihu's argument. "With God is terrible majesty." His work is deep. He is "the Almighty," whom we cannot find out. His purposes we cannot fathom. Therefore-so the argument terminates - therefore bow and wait and trust. God "is excellent in power, and in judgment and in justice." These he perverts not. Therefore may men reverence him with lowly fear and with silent mouth, and the wise will wait on him for the unfolding of his own wise ways. - R.G.


1. Material things. We cannot live for ever in a realm of ideas. It is well to come down to the solid earth and look at physical facts. There are lessons to be learnt from the stones and trees and living creatures of nature. Mountain anti stream, forest and flower, speak to the soul of man.

2. Created things. "Works." These things were made. They are not eternal; they are manufactured articles. They are not chance products of chaos; they have been designedly made.

3. Divine things. The glory of them is their Maker. God has condescended to put his hand to this earth of ours. and the result has been all the life and beauty with which it abounds. The character of the Maker is impressed on his work. God owns what he has made. Therefore his works belong to him. They are but lent to us. We are stewards who will have to give an account of all that we use and of how we use it.

4. Wonderful things. God's works are "wondrous." They are stamped with the impress of thought. The most advanced science is but man's blundering attempt to spell out God's hieroglyphics written in the great book of nature. The very difficulties of nature spring from its vast complexity. The Architect of the universe is an infinite Artist, Mathematician, Physiologist.


1. With attention. "Hearken unto this." The sin of the world distracts our thoughts, so that we fall to perceive what God is saying to us through the many voices of nature. We miss the voices of God in nature and life through heedless indifference.

2. With patience. "Stand still." We hurry to and fro, and so fail to gather the treasures that come to him who waits. The life of rushing haste is superficial. The best things do not come at a call, nor can they be snatched up in a moment. We must "wait on the Lord" if we would have his blessing, and "be still" if we would know that he is God (Psalm 46:10). Thus hearkening, and standing still, we are to wait for God to speak to us through his works. We talk too much about the works of God; it would be better if we would be silent and let them speak to us.

3. With thought. "And consider." Note the "and." Attention and patience should precede and prepare the way for the consideration. But then this must follow and be joined on to the earlier passive conditions. We must not be stilt in mental indolence. When God speaks to us through his wondrous works, our part is to receive his message intelligently and think over it. The study of nature in science is commended to us. But we need to rise above this, to meditate over the Divine voices in nature and in all the works of God. - W.F.A.

Seeing Jesus in prayer, and noticing how different his prayer was from theirs, the disciples besought him to reach them to pray (Luke 11:1). Their request implied a high estimation of true prayer, and at the same time a deep sense of their own inability to pray aright. The same feelings are expressed to us by Elihu.

I. WHAT IS REQUIRED IN TRUE PRAYER. The greatness of God suggests to Elihu the importance of speaking to God in the right way. The vastness and splendour o{ the heavens, as well as the majesty of the thunder and the government of the cloud, impress us with the majesty of God; and yet his greatest glory is not seen in these phenomena, but it is revealed in his moral rule and his fatherly goodness. It would be a foolish thing for us to shrink from approaching God on account of his majesty in the physical universe. He is not like a stately monarch who surrounds himself with the ceremony of a court. Formal manners are an abomination in prayer. God does not look for the courtier's obsequiousness; he seeks the child's confidence. At the same time, his kingly state is crowned by holiness. We have to approach him in awe of his purity. He dwells in light eternal. This fact, much more than his power and wide sway over the physical universe, calls for a deeply reverent spirit in prayer. Then the spiritual nature of God requires spiritual worship, and we must be true in heart if we would pray acceptably.

II. THE DIFFICULTY OF ATTAINING TO TRUE PRAYER. Elihu and the disciples of Christ both felt this difficulty. Job's friend gives the cause of it - "for we cannot order our speech by reason of darkness."

1. Ignorance. We do not know what God wills; nor do we know our own hearts. Not only is the spiritual realm strange to us; we even need to know what are our needs.

2. Sin. This is the darkness that really hinders and ruins prayer. The father is not vexed at his child's helpless prattle when the child is loving and obedient. He does not look for pompous phrases; he prefers the natural, simple outpouring of the child's heart. But he is grieved at duplicity, insincerity, unreality. When our hearts are far from God we cannot pray acceptably to him. The great difficulty is want of sympathy with God; want of sympathy is the one hindrance to all human intercourse, and it is the one thing that prevents us from praying acceptably.

III. THE WAY TO REACH TRUE PRAYER. This is by prayer. We must pray to be taught to pray. The confession of our inability to pray is the first step towards doing so acceptably. Pride and self-sufficiency keep us back from the right spirit of prayer. We have to learn to bow our wills as well as to bend our knees. But the prayer to be taught this lesson may be answered in unexpected ways. We may learn what we should say to God in a school of adversity. Humbled and subdued by sorrow, we may be brought down to the right spirit of prayer in the experience from which we shrink with dismay. Or perhaps the lesson may come through more directly spiritual influences. We need to contemplate the character of God in order to pray to him aright. The revelation of God in Christ shows us how we should approach God. When we see Jesus we learn how to pray. - W.F.A.

When clouds are cleared from the face of the sun we cannot bear to look up at the splendour of unveiled light. This is the case even in our thick and humid atmosphere; but it is much more so in the East, where the sun shines in its terrible strength. The unbearable light is a type of the majesty of God.

I. GOD VEILS HIS GLORY IN CLOUDS. The day often beans with clouds about the sun. Then we can look at the splendour of the dawn, because the ever-shifting panorama of crimson and gold that heralds in the day is visible to us in colours that our eyes can endure to look at. God begins the education of his children in a light that is tempered to suit their feeble vision. But a common mistake is to forget that God is condescending to our weakness, and to limit our conception of God to the measured revelation. Thus we form partial and human ideas of God. If his cloud is thick and dark we do not see his glorious light, and then we accuse him of the darkness, and narrow and unjust thoughts of God spring up in our hearts. Difficulties in nature and providence trouble us. Vexations thoughts about the apparent imperfection of God's works fill our minds with doubt. And all the while the simple truth is that God is merciful and considerate, veiling himself in clouds for the very purpose of sparing us.

II. GOD'S UNVEILED GLORY WOULD BE AN UNBEARABLE LIGHT. This we commonly say and instinctively feel. Let us now ask how it should be so.

1. Ignorance is dazzled by absolute knowledge. The beginner is not helped, he is only perplexed, when he is favoured with the most advanced thoughts of the ripe scholar. If all God's truth were suddenly flashed out to us it would be incomprehensible and overwhelming.

2. Sin shrinks from perfect holiness. The centre of God's eternal light is his purity. In our sin we cannot bear to look upon this.

3. Finite life cannot endure the fulness of infinite life. Our sympathies endeavour to respond to the appeals that draw them out. But when those appeals are infinite, our own life is swallowed up in the response. If we entered fully into the life of God, our life would be extinguished as the light of the stars is quenched in that of the sun.

III. GOD EDUCATES US BY GRADUALLY UNVEILING HIS GLORY. The clouds are rolled back by degrees. Twilight is a merciful gift of providence, tempering the first approach of the light, and saving us from the shook of the sudden exchange of night for day. God's education of his people is gradual.

1. Revelation is progressive. Adam could not endure the light which Christ brought. Early ages were trained by degrees to fit them for the growing light of God's truth. We have not reached all knowledge. Christ has many things to tell us, but we cannot bear them now (John 16:12). "God has yet more light and truth to break forth from his Word."

2. Individual lives are prepared for growing light. We cannot endure on earth the glory that shall be revealed in heaven. Our early Christian experience is not capable of receiving all that God wishes to reveal to us; therefore he rolls back the clouds by slow degrees, preparing for the great apocalypse. "Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face" (1 Corinthians 13:12). - W.F.A.

We cannot find out God. In his great strength and perfect equity he will render an account to no man. Here is a mystery, but one that is saved from terror by a sufficient revelation to reassure us of the true righteousness of God.

I. THE MYSTERY IS IN THE ACTION OF GOD. His nature is mysterious. But we are not distressed by the difficulty of comprehending it, for we know it must be beyond our grasp, and we may be content to live in peace without solving the most abstruse problems of theology. It is very different with the action of God. This affects us closely. We see it in our common life in the world. Yet here too is mystery.

1. Nature is a mystery. Not only cannot we understand its origin, but we cannot see whither it is tending. The great machine rolls on to a future beyond our imagination. What is God doing with it? How is he using all the pain and failure of it?

2. Providence is a mystery. We cannot see why God acts as he does, giving prosperity to one and adversity to another without reasons that we cat, discover. Why does he permit the simple, honest man to fail, and the clever rogue to succeed?

3. Religion is a mystery. There are mysterious doctrines in it; these we can endure. But there are also mysterious experiences. We cannot understand the dark days of strange thoughts and sad feelings, the weariness and failure, through which we have to pass.

II. THE CHARACTER OF GOD IS REVEALED TO US. Let us be fair and see what is known before we sit down and despair over the mystery of God. It is better to fix our eyes on the light we have than to brood in helpless melancholy over the darkness that surrounds it on every side. Now we know what it most concerns us to know about God. We need not understand the exact process if we can see the end. But if the character of God is revealed, we may be sure that the end of God's actions will agree with it. God has made himself known to us as perfect righteousness. That is enough. Then all he does must be righteous - "in plenty of justice." We can trust God for what he is, even when we do not understand what he does.

III. THE MYSTERY OF GOD IS IN HARMONY WITH THE REVELATION OF GOD. There is a close connection between the two. They do not contradict one another. On the contrary, the revelation leads up to the mystery. That revelation shows equity. Now, equity implies a fair treatment of all things. It is not a simple notion like love or anger. It God is just, he must take into account others besides the one person he is dealing with, and more than the pleasure or pain of the present moment. Large issues are at stake, wide interests are involved. These must go beyond our small world of observation. Therefore, because we believe in the equity of God, we must expect him to act in mystery. It is not for us to call him to account. The idea of dome so suggests an unworthy doubt. We should trust his righteousness without asking him to solve the mystery of his action. - W.F.A.

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