William Kelly Major Works Commentary
Wherefore, Job, I pray thee, hear my speeches, and hearken to all my words.Job Chapter 33
But now (Job 33) was Elihu's turn; and after all, Job had not said the thing that was right. So he begins here. The 32nd chapter was merely a preface, speaking of his own shortcoming, and at the same time, of his entire conviction that he saw a truth that neither Job nor the three friends had seen; and this he must have out.
"I pray thee, hear my speeches, and hearken to all my words. Behold, now I have opened my mouth" - he had been very slow to do it - "my tongue hath spoken in my mouth. My words shall be of the uprightness of my heart" - it is all genuine and sincere, whatever these physicians of no value say, these higher critics - "and my lips shall utter knowledge clearly." And so they did. "The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life. If thou canst answer me, set thy words in order before me, stand up. Behold, I am according to thy wish in God's stead." Job, while his heart went out towards God, was afraid that it would be too overwhelming; and yet he wanted to find Him; but still he was afraid. He wanted some one that could speak in a human tongue to him - could speak thoroughly for God. Well, Elihu does that in his measure. Elihu is an interpreter, one of a thousand, and he therefore does speak for God - just what Job had wanted, only very far short of the Great Interpreter - very far short of Him who is the Chief of the Prophets, who is the Lord God of the Prophets, as well as a Prophet. Very short, indeed, of Christ! Still the presence of Elihu is a witness to sovereign grace. It is the rarest thing in the world to find a man that has learnt so of God as Elihu had. And it was purposely intended to bring down the pride of the older men. And Elihu felt that; but still he made them apologies; for he was very unwilling indeed to appear to be setting them in order and correcting the folly that had come from them. He is occupied with Job rather - and that is a very fine trait in him. He does not go round Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, and show how wrong they had been; but the great point remains still to be settled.
There was no solution of the riddle yet. Elihu contributes for the first time. Not completely - it required God to do that - and God did appear; I do not say how. I do not say that He took the shape of man, as He often did in the Old Testament. We do not read of anything of that here. It may merely have been a voice for that matter. But we shall see, when we come to that part, that it was a divine voice; there is no mistake about that. Here, however, it is a man, as he says, and a young man, too, "I also am formed out of the clay. Behold, my terror shall not make thee afraid, neither shall my hand be heavy upon thee," etc. (vers. 7-11). Job had complained of God's hand. There were two great faults in what Job had said. He thought too well of himself, and he found fault with God. That is what is clearly put here by Elihu. "Behold, in this thou art not just: I will answer thee, that God is greater than man. Why dost thou strive against him? for he giveth not account of any of his matters." He had entirely fallen short of the reverence due to God - entirely forgotten the infinite distance between God and man; the majesty of God; and therefore, instead of finding fault with himself for being so far short, he found fault with God. He did not understand His ways fully. Now he ought to have credited, though he did not understand them. "For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not" (vers. 12-14).
Now he brings in the fact that God carries on His wonderful way in the midst of all, in a ruined world with everything out of order and Satan triumphing, and in fact the prince of the world, and the god of this age, as scripture calls him, at any rate in the New Testament; although they very little understood that yet. But we ought to know it. Well, God, in the midst of all this, carries on His wonderful way, and did so before there was a Bible. You must remember that when the circumstances of Job occurred there was no written revelation. Genesis and Job were probably written very near one another: practically at the same time. There is no reference to the law; there is no reference to the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt, in Job; and although there was some distance between Job's country and Egypt, the Book of Job shows that he was well acquainted with the great features of Egypt; that he was well acquainted with the crocodile and the like. There is a magnificent description of it in this very book, and many other things that show that the country of Egypt and its people were quite familiar to Job. He only lived on the edge of the desert, and a little, therefore, to the east of the Holy Land; perhaps the north-east; but at any rate, it was in that part of the country. Elihu belonged rather to another part. He was the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the kindred of Ram. "Ram" is the same word (only another form) as "Aram," i.e., Syria, that part of the country of Asia north of the Holy Land. He belonged, therefore, to a race akin to the Holy Land, but not belonging to it strictly, and that is what makes the great interest of the book - it is God and man. It is not Israel at all; it is purposely God dealing with man, and God dealing with man's soul. It is far more important that the soul should be right, and this we find most carefully shown in this book. So much so that Job was brought into the best blessing he ever knew while he was still under the effects of his trial, and the external blessing had not yet been conferred; but it followed immediately he could bear it.
God therefore, Elihu says, often deals in a dream of the night (ver. 15). I dare say some of you have had these visitations. It is certainly not for me to beast of anything; but I think that I have had consciously God whispering little things to me about myself, and advising me to take care what I was about, and compelling me to judge myself in a way that I had not done before; and I conceive that it is very probably so in this case. It is nothing miraculous at all. We may perhaps not count with God; but this no doubt is just where we fail, in not attaching the importance that we ought to do, and this although we have His word. But still God is a living God, and God has to do with every one of us in this way. There can be no doubt that here Elihu speaks about it as a certainty in those days; and why it should not be in our day, I, for one, have never learnt. I believe it is all a mistake to imagine it is not so. The great point is that it is altogether inferior to the word. This is where we have our great advantage; and all these excellent people that come before us in this book had it not. Oh no, scripture is of enormous value, and we show our great lack of faith by not estimating it, and making it the grandest point of every day's life - to learn God more and better by His word, now especially as we have Christ, who is not merely the Interpreter, "one of a thousand," but alone; alone, above all - Moses, Elias, no matter whom - Jesus only. Well, "In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men" - it is not seeing a spirit, as Eliphaz did. That I do not pretend to. It has never been my lot, nor, I suppose, yours; but here it is another thing. It is in sleep; and it is a dream; plain, simple, positive fact, but still it is God deigning to help us. And He loves to do that in ways that we do not always perceive, but He is always doing so in one way or another, except where Ephraim is joined to his idols - "let him alone"! That is a terrible word.
"Then he openeth the ears of men" (ver. 16). That is what is shown in this chapter. It is not "believing" men; it is any man, in order that he might believe. But still, when we do not behave as saints, we may get a little word just showing us where we are, that we are "walking as men," as the apostle said. "That he may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man." You see, it is one that had never yet been broken. "He keepeth back his soul from the pit, and his life from perishing by the sword." He was on the straight way to it. "He is chastened also with pain upon his bed." It is not only these dealings with the soul, but also with the body. There he touches the very case of Job. "And the multitude of his bones with strong pain: so that his life abhorreth bread, and his soul dainty meat. His flesh is consumed away" - how true it was of poor Job "that it cannot be seen; and his bones that were not seen, stick out. Yea, his soul draweth near unto the grave, and his life to the destroyers. If there be a messenger with him" - that is exactly what Elihu was - "an interpreter, one among a thousand, to show unto man his uprightness": i.e., what becomes him. And what is it that becomes a man? Self-judgment. He is a fallen man. He may be a believing man, but still, he is a man, as we can say, with the flesh in him; and that flesh may be working strongly, as it did in Job as well as the others. "Then he is gracious unto him." Directly the man bows, directly there is submissiveness to God - that is the uprightness of man. This is what is done when a man is converted, i.e., he bows to God, but also when a man gets away, like Peter, it may also be said, "When thou art converted." For the restoration of a man is very much of the same character as when a man is converted. He is turned back to God. He has been forgetting God, and he turns back and remembers Him. That is how it was with Peter; and that is what we sometimes find also. "Then he is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit, I have found a ransom" (vers. 17-24).
Now I do not think you could find in all the rest of the Old Testament such a description as here of God's dealing with the soul that is wrong, or that has got wrong. I do not remember any so graphic, and so personally applicable; and it would be hard to find it in the New Testament, except where the Lord gives us the Prodigal. There I admit that we have a perfect picture. We could not have here all that the Lord shows of the prodigal son; but here it is a wonderful thing, especially so precious at the early day. But it does not mean that the ransom was yet offered; but there it was before God, answering to that word in Rom. 3: "the pretermission" of sins - a passing over, not a "remission," for this latter could not be true of an Old Testament saint. "Remission" is what particularly belongs to the New Testament. But there was a "pretermission" - a "passing over" by God. It was like a bad debt, and the creditors saying, "It is no use; we must pass it by; we must not expect anything." That is what God did. There was "the forbearance of God." But now it is not the forbearance of God at all; and it is not "pretermission." It is "remission" now. It is God's righteousness clearly manifested, and that is, that Christ has borne our sins, and therefore it is a righteous thing to blot them out. It is not merely saying, "Poor fellow, he cannot pay"; but here is One that has paid, and paid in the most glorious manner; more wonderful a great deal than if there had never been sin; more glorious to God and more blessed for man. Because, on the contrary, it was giving us up as a bad job where it was merely "forbearance" and "pretermission"; but now it is triumphing.
You recollect that remarkable word which I think is quite misunderstood - "come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Does this apply to the believer? On the contrary, no believer comes "short of the glory of God." And how is this? Why, because there is One in the glory who bore my sins on the cross, And He who is in the glory of God is my life and my righteousness. Therefore it is that we, believers, do not "come short of the glory of God." There was that great fact, not merely a mighty work upon the cross, but the Lord Jesus connecting that work with the glory of God, and giving us the wonderful impulse and strength of knowing that we do not come short of the glory of God. That was a thing that could not be at the beginning. It could not be without - not only sin forgiven, but Christ glorifying God about sin, and consequently going up Himself into the glory of God, and this as our Saviour. Well, we have not this here; nothing like it at all, but simply "I have found a ransom."
"His flesh shall be fresher than a child's; he shall return to the days of his youth; he shall pray unto God, and he will be favourable unto him; and he shall see his face with joy." We have here nothing at all about the two natures. That the Old Testament saint never understood. There is no such thing as the intelligence of that great truth in any part of the Old Testament. And man is incapable of profiting by, or understanding, it until he sees Christ by faith; sees the Son and believes in Him. Now we are capable. Now we are made to understand it simply and fully. "He looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not" - there you see, is just what the repentant soul says. It is not called "repentance" here. It is in Jeremiah. Jeremiah, brings it out very beautifully in the 31st chapter, before he introduces the new covenant; but here we have the thing, repentance, although the word is not employed. "He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light. Lo, all these things worketh God oftentimes with man" (vers. 25-30). It is very comforting to think that that was what God was doing, and was known to be doing, in those days. Because the gospel was not preached then. There was, no doubt, the precious revelation of "the Seed of the woman" that was to be bruised, and which was to bruise Satan; but after all, although that is a most wonderful word, and not less wonderful now than it ever was - most wonderful to think of now - yet it was almost all they had then.
There was a little more that came in with Noah, as a type - the deluge, and man passing out of it; and then Abraham as the chosen one, and the seed that belonged to that stock; because. they all knew that thence was to be the Messiah. All the believing Jews were perfectly aware that Abraham's Seed, represented by Isaac, was to be the Messiah. And how beautifully it was confirmed by Isaac being the one that was offered up in a figure, and was received, as it were, from the dead, God forbidding Abraham to put him to death! but he was under sentence of death for three days, and then it was, at the very critical moment, he was delivered!
Not so with Jesus. Here everything was perfect. Everything here was carried out in all its fulness of blessing, but it could not be in any other than Jesus. So Elihu calls Job (ver. 31) to mark all this, and hearken; and then if he has anything to say he would be very glad to hear, because he wanted to justify him. There is, you see, the great difference between Elihu and the others The others wanted to condemn him. They were quite sure there was something altogether bad there, and they wanted to have it out. Therefore they were on their mettle to try and discover what it could possibly be; and so they grew more and more angry with Job, because instead of acknowledging it he told them that they were botchers. Instead of being physicians of any value they were mere bunglers, and everything was a mistake and a blunder on their part, and no doubt they were very angry.
Behold, now I have opened my mouth, my tongue hath spoken in my mouth.
My words shall be of the uprightness of my heart: and my lips shall utter knowledge clearly.
The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.
If thou canst answer me, set thy words in order before me, stand up.
Behold, I am according to thy wish in God's stead: I also am formed out of the clay.
Behold, my terror shall not make thee afraid, neither shall my hand be heavy upon thee.
Surely thou hast spoken in mine hearing, and I have heard the voice of thy words, saying,
I am clean without transgression, I am innocent; neither is there iniquity in me.
Behold, he findeth occasions against me, he counteth me for his enemy,
He putteth my feet in the stocks, he marketh all my paths.
Behold, in this thou art not just: I will answer thee, that God is greater than man.
Why dost thou strive against him? for he giveth not account of any of his matters.
For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not.
In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed;
Then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction,
That he may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man.
He keepeth back his soul from the pit, and his life from perishing by the sword.
He is chastened also with pain upon his bed, and the multitude of his bones with strong pain:
So that his life abhorreth bread, and his soul dainty meat.
His flesh is consumed away, that it cannot be seen; and his bones that were not seen stick out.
Yea, his soul draweth near unto the grave, and his life to the destroyers.
If there be a messenger with him, an interpreter, one among a thousand, to shew unto man his uprightness:
Then he is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom.
His flesh shall be fresher than a child's: he shall return to the days of his youth:
He shall pray unto God, and he will be favourable unto him: and he shall see his face with joy: for he will render unto man his righteousness.
He looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not;
He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light.
Lo, all these things worketh God oftentimes with man,
To bring back his soul from the pit, to be enlightened with the light of the living.
Mark well, O Job, hearken unto me: hold thy peace, and I will speak.
If thou hast any thing to say, answer me: speak, for I desire to justify thee.
If not, hearken unto me: hold thy peace, and I shall teach thee wisdom.