Job 37 Commentary: The Effect of a Storm on Man…
But the coming storm also has an effect on man – and Elihu himself testifies to being personally moved at the approaching storm.
KJV Job 37:1 At this also my heart [trembleth/pounds],
and [is moved/leaps] [out of/from] [his/its] place.
2 [Hear/Listen] [attentively/closely to/carefully to] the [noise/thunder] of his voice,
[and/to] the [sound/rumbling] that [goeth/proceeds] [out of/out from/from] his mouth.
And up to this point I suppose I’ve been content to think of Elihu’s words for the last few verses as just speaking generically of the typical approaching storm and what tends to happen during such tempests.
But now Elihu is starting to express his own feelings in relation to this storm. And the way that he’s portraying it – you get the sense that the storm is rolling in – right now!
Now, we know that God is going to come to Job in a whirlwind – in a storm. Do you think that in these verses, Elihu has been acting as a herald of God’s approaching?
As Elihu is speaking here, is it reading too much into the text to imagine the sky darkening. And lightning starting to flash. And thunder beginning to roar. And Elihu is starting to become terrified. Because he now senses that the God whose work he’s been extolling is now coming to pay Job a visit.
It’s entirely possible that this is what’s happening at this point in Elihu’s speech. God is coming. And Elihu and Job and the three friends can’t help but notice that something strange is going on.
Job 37 Commentary: Lightning
Well, whether that’s what’s happening or not, Elihu continues by speaking once more of God’s work of lightning – which, again, he’s perhaps witnessing as God approaches Elihu, Job, and the three friends.
3 He [directeth it/lets it loose/lets it go] under the whole heaven,
and his lightning [unto the ends/to the far corners] of the earth.
Again, note the vast scope of God’s work of thunder and lightning. It goes all throughout the sky. For miles and miles. And it’s all by God’s command.
Job 37 Commentary: Thunder/Lightning
And so, Elihu continues to speak of God’s work of thunder and lightning.
4 After [it/that] a voice roareth: he thundereth with [the voice of his excellency/his majestic voice/an exalted voice];
and he [will not stay/does not restrain/does not hold back] [them/the lightnings/his lightning bolts] when his voice is heard.
And of course, in biblical poetry, thunder is given the alias of “God’s voice.” And most of the time, the writer is being metaphorical. It’s a sound that God makes through his storms. God’s sending the storm. He’s causing the thunder to roar. In that sense, the thunder is his voice.
And yet, with God literally approaching these men and with God ultimately speaking to Job in just a little while – when Elihu speaks of a voice roaring from God – this typically-poetic portrayal of God’s voice becomes absolutely literal.
God is going to speak in just a few verses!
Job 37 Commentary: Thunder and Other Great Things
And it’s that majestic and terrifying speech of God that Elihu now continues to extol.
5 God thundereth [marvelously/wondrously/in marvelous ways] with his voice;
great things doeth he, [which we cannot comprehend/beyond our understanding].
And so, it’s at this point that Elihu leaves the storm metaphor for a while.
And now Elihu wants to speak of other “great things” that God does. And he notes that these other things are beyond our understanding.
And let’s remember that both Job and his three friends have been speaking as if there’s nothing that God does that’s beyond our understanding.
The friends presume to know exactly how God always deals with the wicked – as if they know everything that he knows when he determines what he should do with such people.
And Job has been speaking as if he knows how God should treat him – as if Job knows every single factor that God is aware of as he decides how to deal with righteous people.
But Elihu says to all of these men – You don’t get it! There are many, many things that God does that we don’t understand. Stop acting as if you yourself are God and know everything. We don’t!
And let me ask you – what is one reality that we know of that neither Job nor the friends nor even Elihu know – as it relates to Job’s circumstances in this book? There’s something that happened at the beginning of this book that none of these men are factoring into why God is bringing suffering into Job’s life – but it’s the only reason that we’re aware of that God is sending the suffering… What is it? It’s Satan’s challenging God.
No one knows about that. God’s ways and his reasons for doing what he does are oftentimes beyond our knowledge! Case in point – Satan’s roll in Job’s suffering.
Job 37 Commentary: Snow/Rain
Well, here are two of these great things that God does that we ultimately don’t understand.
6 For he saith to the snow,
[Be thou on/Fall on/Fall to] the earth;
[likewise/and] to the [small rain, and to the great rain/downpour and the rain/torrential rains]
[of his strength/“Be strong”/“pour down”].
So, who determines where snow and rain should fall? It’s not the weather forecaster. It’s not any man. Ultimately, God decides where snow and rain fall.
And Elihu could well say, “Can you do that, Job? What about you, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar? No? Oh, so there are things that God does that you can’t understand… I wonder what else God might be doing in Job’s life that none of you understand.”
And let’s apply this to ourselves. What is perplexing you right now? Is anything making you question God’s goodness or his wisdom?
Then you better take a cue from Elihu. Consider the fact that you can’t in any way make snow or rain fall. And there are numerous uncountable other things that God knows – and you don’t. And you and I can trust his wisdom – even when we don’t understand his ways in this world.
Job 37 Commentary: Men’s Work vs. God’s
Well, continuing on – if you’re a construction worker or someone who labors outside or someone who needs to commute anywhere for work – then you know what it’s like to have your work hindered by God’s unfathomable work.
7 He [sealeth up the hand of/causes X to stop working] [every man/everyone];
that all men may know his work.
So, he causes everyone to stop working through snow and rain. Why? So that everyone will pay attention – not to their own work – but to his.
And when we consider God’s work which is able to make it literally impossible for us to do ours – then we should take away from that circumstance that God is beyond us. Not only in terms of wisdom and knowledge and understanding. But also in terms of power and ability.
Job 37 Commentary: Beasts
And not only can God stop the work of humans. His work can also prevent animals from doing anything.
8 [Then the/The] [beasts/wild animals] go into [dens/their lairs],
and remain in their [places/dens].
So, the picture is – God works. Everyone is forced to stop. Man and beast. Nothing happens if God wills it so.
Job 37 Commentary: Storms and Cold
And God does this from every direction – north and south.
9 [Out of/From] [the south/its chamber] [cometh/blows] [the whirlwind/the storm/a tempest]:
and [icy…] cold [out of/from] the [north/driving winds].
So, storms and cold – the things that are ultimately beyond our understanding and that can be so effective in bringing all of our pursuits to a complete halt – those things God just throws at mankind from every which way – every direction.
It’s no problem for him. It doesn’t cause him great exertion to do this kind of thing. It’s easy.
Job 37 Commentary: Ice/Frozen Water
And then Elihu speaks more of the effects of the cold that God sends from the north.
10 By the breath of God [frost/ice] is [given/made/produced]:
and the [breadth/expanse] of the waters [is straitened/is frozen/freezes solid].
Frost and frozen water. Sounds like what we’ll be dealing with here in the next few months – even though this summer has been so hot and humid. Frost and ice are coming.
And when these things do come, remember who sent them.
And you might not like that he’s sending frost and ice. But remember – these are his works. And his thinking and understanding is beyond you.
So, when February rolls around and we’re all sick of the frost and the ice – do me a favor and remind me of this message.
Bur seriously, I hope that we can remember the sober teaching of this section of Scripture and really be content with what God gives us. Even when it’s frost and ice.
Job 37 Commentary: Clouds with Water/Lightning
Because ultimately, God will send precipitation once more – not as frost and ice – but as rain.
11 Also [by watering/with moisture] he [wearieth/loads] the thick cloud:
he [scattereth/disperses] [his bright cloud/the cloud of his lightning/his lightning through the clouds]:
So, once more, Elihu is back to speaking of clouds and lightning and rain. God’s work that is beyond our comprehension.
Job 37 Commentary: Clouds
And Elihu ends this sub-section on that note. These things – rain, snow, frost, ice, clouds, lightning, thunder – they may seem so mundane and boring and irrelevant to us.
But catch this – these works of God are carrying out God’s will and are acting according to God’s commands.
12 [And it is turned round about/It changes direction, turning around/The clouds go around in circles, wheeling about] [how and why?…] [by his counsels/by his guidance/according to his plans]:
[that they may do/to carry out] [whatsoever/all that] he commandeth them [upon/over] the face of the [world in the earth/inhabited earth/whole inhabited world].
So, God is in control. Even of mundane seemingly-irrelevant realities in this world. It’s not the atmosphere that dictates these things. It’s God. He uses the atmosphere. He influences the atmosphere. But it’s all ultimately his doing.
Job 37 Commentary: God’s manifold purposes
But why? Why does he bring rain or snow or whatever else?
Well, he often carries out his work in order to influence his human creatures.
13 He causeth it to [come/happen/find its mark],
whether [for correction, or/it is for punishment] for his [land/world], or [whether it is…] for [mercy/lovingkindness].
So, God works in ways that seem – as I’ve said – mundane or irrelevant. And yet, that is not how we ought to think about his work. He works through natural phenomena in order to deal with people. Like you and me.
He might send any of these things and do so in such a way as to constitute a correction for people.
Or he might do any of these things in order to show mercy to humans.
Either way, it’s his choice. And either way, it’s beyond our understanding.
And that’s where Elihu wants this to end for now. He wants the suffering Job to consider that every single way that God works is just and it has a reason behind it. But here’s the key – we very well might not understand that reason.
And that’s OK – when we have a God who understand everything. So, even when we don’t understand God’s ways – we can trust his wisdom as he leads us through this oftentimes perplexing life.
And I trust that this message from Elihu today will do just that for those of us who know him.
Job 37 Commentary: Elihu Finishes
So, here’s how Elihu finishes his long message to Job.
14 [Hearken/Listen/Pay attention] [unto/to] this, O Job:
stand still, and consider the [wondrous works/wonders] of God.
And so, from here to the end of this chapter Elihu is going to help Job – and us – consider the wondrous works of God.
Job 37 Commentary: Q1: Lightning
Here’s one of those works. God’s work of lightning.
15 [Dost thou/Do you] know [when/how] God [disposed/establishes/commands] them,
[and/how he] [caused/makes] [the light/lightning] [of his cloud to shine/flash in his storm cloud]?
And notice that as Elihu ends this chapter and speaks of God’s wondrous works, he starts asking Job questions.
And of course Elihu has asked a few questions in the last several chapters. But not in the same manner – one after the other like he’s going to ask of Job right now. In fact, we’ll see him ask four questions – one right after another – in the rest of this chapter.
And I think what’s interesting is that we’ll see later on that God picks right up after Elihu finishes. And God does basically the same thing that Elihu does – asking Job questions one right after the other, the answer to which of course Job doesn’t know.
So, back to this verse, Job doesn’t know how God deals with lightning. And certainly, Job can’t work with lightning like God does.
Job 37 Commentary: Q2: Clouds
Well, what else does Job not understand and what else does he have no power to influence? Clouds.
16 Dost thou know [about…] the [balancings/layers/balancing] of the clouds,
the [wondrous works/wonders/wondrous activities] of him [which/who] is perfect in knowledge?
17 [How thy/You whose] garments are [warm/hot],
when he [quieteth/stills] the earth [by/because of] the south wind?
So, how does God balance clouds? Why don’t they fall from the sky? Why do they seem to roll along as if they were on solid ground? Job didn’t know. We don’t either, ultimately.
But beyond that – can Job make that happen? Can he balance the clouds like God does?
So, if Job doesn’t even understand how to balance the clouds – then how could be possibly do it? The answer of course is that Job is powerless and without understanding when it comes to balancing clouds.
On the other hand, God knows how to do it and he does it – every day.
And in fact, Job is so frail compared to God that his clothes get hot when the south wind blows. That’s just a picture of Job’s weak and feeble nature as compared to the Almighty God’s nature.
Job 37 Commentary: Q3: Sky
And, Job is powerless also when it comes to the sky.
18 [Hast thou/Can you/Will you] with him spread out the [sky/skies/clouds],
[which is strong, and as a molten looking glass?/Strong as a molten mirror?/solid as a mirror of molten metal?]
19 [Teach/Tell] us what we shall say unto him;
for we cannot [order/arrange/prepare] [our speech/our case/a case] [by reason/because] of [the…] darkness.
So, Job is both powerless and completely without knowledge when it comes to spreading out the sky.
But God does it – every day. He knows how to make it happen and he is able to make it happen.
So, when it comes down to it, we’re really in the dark. That’s what Elihu says. In light of all that God knows and all that we don’t – how can we order a case before God to argue that he’s being unjust? We don’t understand and we’re powerless – and we presume to question God on his dealings in this world? How absurd!
Job 37 Commentary: Q4: Man
Well, the content of verse 19 – Elihu saying that Job needs to teach him and his friends what to say to God – that leads Elihu to another question – though it’s a bit different than the first three.
20 Shall [it be told him/he be informed] that I [would/want to…] speak?
if a man speak, surely he [shall/would] be swallowed up.
So, based on the fact that when it comes to all sorts of things in this life – God is the only one who really understands and is really able to do anything – does God really need to be informed that we have a complaint with how he’s running things around here? Does God really need to hear that we don’t appreciate what he’s doing? Does he really need to be bothered with the discontented complaining of his creatures who really can’t understand – let alone do – anything that he alone understands fully and can do perfectly?
And God would be justified in swallowing us up if we do that. The kind of complaining that Job had been doing – the accusations of God being unjust – are worthy of God just snuffing our your life.
Well, here’s another picture of humanity’s weakness compared to God’s strength.
21 And now [men see not the bright light/the sun cannot be looked at] which is [bright…] in the [clouds/skies]:
[but the/after a] wind [passeth/has passed/passed], and [cleanseth/cleared/swept away] [them/the clouds].
So, I think Elihu is saying that the clouds present a real hindrance to mankind. They even block our view of the sun – the brightest light in the sky to our eyes.
And yet it takes just a bit of wind to move those clouds along.
So, something that can be moved along by a light breeze poses such an obstacle for us. How weak mankind is – is the message.
On the other hand, God is all powerful.
22 [Fair weather/Golden splendor/In golden splendor he] cometh [out of/from] the north:
[with/around] God is [terrible/awesome] majesty.
23 [Touching/as for] the Almighty, we cannot [find him out/find him/attain to him]:
he is [excellent/exalted/great] in power, [and/but] [in judgment/justice], and [in plenty of justice:/abundant righteousness] he [will/does] not [afflict/do violence/oppress].
So, God is majestic, unknowable in some ways, powerful, full justice and righteousness, and always good.
Job would have been inclined to believe all of that before his trial. But as the trial has dragged on, he’s seriously questioned God’s justice and goodness.
But Elihu wants to finish strong here and affirm everything that Job knew to be true of God – when God was blessing him. The message is – God is still the same. Even when Job’s circumstances changed and it seems like God has changed – he really hasn’t. He’s the same good and just and powerful deity that Job has known and loved and served.
And so, Job needs to go back to this approach to God.
24 Men do therefore fear him:
he [respecteth/regards] not any that are wise of heart.
So, to not fear God is to be wise in your own heart. To reject being wise of heart is necessary to truly fear the Lord.
Job has become one of these who are wise of heart – at least, that’s how they view themselves. They know better than God. Job knows better how to run the world than God does. Job has put himself in the position where he feels that he can judge God.
Let that sink in. The godliest among us – like Job was – can get to the point where we feel like we can judge God. And from that position of judge, we can render a verdict regarding how God is doing. We can declare that God has done well in this area and that area – but we really don’t think he should have done that thing or the next thing.
And folks – that kind of thinking is so wrong. How can the judge be judged? How can the righteous one be found to be unrighteous in any way?
No – the moment we start thinking that God is wrong or is doing wrong – is the moment that we are wrong.
And that’s where Elihu rests his case. God is good and powerful and just – whether we want to acknowledge that in our lives or not.