Job 35:1

I. FOLLY OF THE OPINION THAT THERE IS NO PROFIT IN GODLINESS. (Vers. 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.


1. Want of true reverence for God. (Vers. 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?" (Ver. 10). This is the complaint which Jehovah makes by the mouth of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 2:6, 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 (ver. 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. (Vers. 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. 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.

What man is like Job?
It was natural that, with all his reverence for Job, Elihu should be offended by the heat and passion of his words, by the absence of moderation and self-restraint, and tell him that "this strained passion did him wrong." No doubt it is easier for a friend on the bank to maintain his composure, than it is for the man who has been swept away by the stream of calamity, and is doing instant battle with its fierce currents and driving waves. Job is not to be overmuch blamed if, under the stress of calamity, and stung by the baseless calumnies of the friends, he now and then lost composure, and grew immoderate both in his resentments and his retorts. Remembering the keen agony he had to endure, we may well pardon an offence for which it is so easy to account; we may cheerfully admit, as Jehovah Himself admitted, that in the main he spoke of God aright; we may even admire the constancy and patience with which, on the whole, he met the provocations and insults of the friends; and yet we cannot but feel that he often pushed his inferences against the Divine justice and providence much too far: as, indeed, he himself confessed that he had, when at last he saw Jehovah face to face, and carried his just resentment against the friends to excess. There are points in the progress of the story where he seems to revel in his sense of wrong, and to lash out wildly against both God and man. With fine moral tact, Elihu had detected this fault in his tone and bearing, and had discovered whither it was leading him.

(Samuel Cox, D. D.)

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