Job 34–35


We met Elihu for the first time last week. And we saw that he was waiting for Job and Job’s three friends to finish speaking. And now that they have finished, Elihu has begun to say what’s been on his mind. And he spoke about how he felt compelled to speak and the pressure inside him to speak has been building and building and building. He must speak and find relief. He must open his lips and reply. He must, because he’s angry with them. He’s very angry. He’s angry, or indignant, with them because they have dishonoured the Lord. Job has dishonoured the Lord because Job justified himself rather than God. That is, he was more interested in vindicating his own name than in vindicating the name of the Lord. And hadn’t he suggested that God was in the wrong? Hadn’t he suggested that God was being unjust? After all, he had done nothing to deserve his suffering and therefore God was wrong to afflict him.

And so, it seems to Elihu that Job had dishonoured the Lord. And the three friends had dishonoured the Lord because they had been unable to refute Job. And so, anyone listening would think that Job was right and God was wrong. And so, it seems to Elihu that the friends had dishonoured the Lord by not proving Job wrong.

And though Elihu is young, he believes the Spirit of God has given him understanding and wisdom beyond his years. And so, Job and his friends should listen to him. He knows what to say. He knows how to answer Job. And he’s ready to tell them what he knows.

I said last week that the commentators are divided about Elihu. Some think he’s a bit of a clown. He’s full of himself and his own importance. He says ‘I’ a lot and he’s always talking about himself and what he knows. And he comes across as an angry young man who is opinionated and brash and arrogant and he just needs to grow up and learn a bit of humility. But then there are other commentators who are much more positive about Elihu’s contribution. And I agree with them that Elihu has wise things to say and his speeches are a fitting introduction to the words of the Lord. He is God’s forerunner who begins to state God’s case against Job and his friends.

And the main point in his first speech which we looked at last week is that God speaks to us in two ways. Job had complained that God has been silent. Though he cried out to God, he got no response. Though he called to God, God did not answer him. God is silent, said Job. But God is not silent, said Elihu. God speaks to us in two ways. He speaks to us through special revelation. When we think of God’s special revelation today, we think of the Bible, which is God’s written word. But in the past, before the Bible was written, special revelation meant dreams and visions. And last week I mentioned the time when God warned Abimelech in a dream because he had taken Abraham’s wife, Sarah, for himself. God warned him in a dream. That’s the first way God speaks to us: through special revelation.

The second way God speaks to us is through suffering and affliction. As C. S. Lewis says, suffering is God’s megaphone. We may disregard his word, but we can’t ignore suffering. And God speaks to us through suffering to keep us from sinning against him. If God did not send some trouble into our life, who knows what sins we might have committed? And so, to keep us from sinning, he sends trouble into our lives. Think of Paul’s thorn in his flesh. He called it a messenger from Satan as if Satan had sent it into his life. But Paul also implies that the thorn came from the Lord. And Paul understood that the reason God sent the thorn into his life was to keep him from becoming conceited. God sent it into his life to keep him from sin. So, God speaks to us through special revelation and he speaks to us through suffering. He speaks to us to turn back our souls from the pit that the light of life may shine on us. When God speaks to us — whether it’s through the special revelation of his word or whether it’s through suffering — he has a gracious purpose in mind and he uses even our suffering for good.

And so, that was Elihu’s first speech. Today we come to his second and third speeches which are in chapters 34 and 35.


And Elihu’s second speech in chapter 34 can be divided into two parts, because in verses 1 to 15 he addresses a group of people and in verses 16 to the end he addresses Job.

‘Hear my words’ he says in verse 1 to a group of people he addresses as ‘you wise men’. Listen to me, he says to ‘you men of learning’. It’s possible he’s addressing Job’s three friends, but since he’s doesn’t think much of them, it’s unlikely that he would address them as wise men, unless he’s being sarcastic. And so, it’s possible that he’s addressing a larger group of people. Perhaps a number of people have gathered around Job and they’ve been listening to Job and his three friends as they discussed Job’s suffering and its significance. Elihu had been sitting among them, listening to the debate. And now Elihu wants to address them all. So, listen to me. Hear my words.

And just as the tongue tastes food to see whether the food is pleasant or not, so the ear tests words to see whether the words are worth hearing or not. So, listen to me and see whether or not what I’m saying is right. And let’s all use a discerning ear to see what’s right and good. That’s what he’s saying in verse 4 and we can have no doubt that Elihu believes that what he is about to say is right and good and worth listening to.

In verses 5 to 9 he reports what Job has been saying. He did the same in his first speech and, of course, this is a good way to start his speech, because it shows that he’s been listening carefully to Job. So, what has Job been saying? That I’m innocent, but God has denied me justice. And although I’m right, God regards me as a liar. And although I am guiltless, God’s arrows inflict an incurable wound.

And that’s a correct record of some of the things Job has been saying. All along he’s been saying that he has done nothing to deserve his suffering. In 27:2 he said that God has denied him justice. And God has regarded him as a liar in the sense that people have seen his suffering and they don’t believe him when he says he doesn’t deserve it. And in 6:4 he complained that God’s arrows are in him and his spirit drinks in their poison.

So, Elihu’s record of Job’s complaint is accurate. Job has said these things: I’m innocent. God has denied me justice. God regards me as a liar. God’s arrows are in me. And in verse 9 Elihu quotes Job as saying that it profits a man nothing when he tries to please God. That too is an accurate record of what Job said, because back in 9:22 Job said that God destroys both the blameless and the wicked. Elsewhere he spoke about the prosperity of the wicked and the suffering of the righteous. And so, what good does it do us to serve the Lord when the righteous suffer in this life and the wicked prosper? That’s what Job has been saying.

And it’s clear what Elihu thinks of this, because in verse 7 he asks what man is like Job who drinks scorn like water? The wicked are scornful about the Lord and it seems to Elihu that Job is lapping up what they’ve been saying. It’s as if he’s heard what the wicked have said and he’s prepared to repeat it. And it’s as if he’s been keeping company with evildoers and he’s begun to think and speak like them. And so, it’s clear that Elihu thinks Job is wrong to say these things about the Lord.

That’s what Job has been saying. And now, listen to me, you men of understanding. That’s in verse 10. You’ve heard Job, now listen to me. And he will not accept that God has done evil. God does not do wrong. God cannot do wrong. That’s a fundamental principle, a foundational truth, which we cannot set aside or deny. God cannot do wrong. So, whatever we might make of Job’s suffering, the one thing we cannot doubt is the truth that God cannot do wrong.

In verses 11 to 15 Elihu says about God that he repays a person for what he has done and he brings upon him what his conduct deserves. In other words, he deals with us with justice. And it is unthinkable that God would do wrong. It is unthinkable. God does not do wrong and he does not pervert justice. Furthermore, no-one appointed God over the earth. No one put him in charge of the world. It’s not as if there is a greater being than God who appointed him and to whom he is answerable. He is the supreme ruler over all. And if it were his intention, if he wanted to, God could withdraw his spirit and his breath from us and we’d all die.

It’s not entirely clear why Elihu is mentioning these things here, but I suspect he is simply trying to humble us by exalting God. Everyone has been listening to Job and we’re wondering whether Job is right about God being unjust. Has God done wrong? And when we start to think that way, then it’s as if we’re standing over God to judge him. And it seems to me that Elihu is reminding us of our place in the world. We are not over God. He does not answer to us. God is over all. He is over us. He is ruler of all. And we are under him and we are utterly dependent on him. And so, before we begin to discuss God, we need to humble ourselves before him and acknowledge that he is God and we are not. And having put us in our place, Elihu turns his attention to Job.


We know he’s addressing Job from this point on, because the word ‘you’ in verse 16 is singular. If you, Job, have understanding, hear this and listen to what I say.

And he then asks a question: Can he who hates justice govern? When he refers to ‘he who hates justice’, he’s referring to God. And Job has been saying that God is unjust for treating him in this way. But, Elihu says, God is the just and mighty one. That’s who God is.

And this is what we believe about God, isn’t it? In our church’s Confession of Faith, we confess that God is completely just in his judgments. In our Shorter Catechism, we say that God is infinite, eternal and unchangeable in his justice. And his justice is infinite, because he is infinite. His justice is eternal — without beginning or end — because he is eternal. And his justice is unchangeable, because he is unchangeable. God cannot become unjust, because if he were to become unjust, then he would no longer be God, because God is infinite and eternal and unchangeable in all his perfections, including his justice. He cannot be otherwise.

And God is infinitely and eternally and unchangeably mighty. He is the almighty God who is able to do all that he wills to do. No one is able to thwart his plans and nothing is too hard for him. We can perhaps imagine a situation where a human person wants to do what is just and fair, but is unable to do so, because he doesn’t have the power or authority to do so. A human judge wants to give a just verdict, and to sentence someone for a crime; but someone in authority over him has ordered him to set the accused free. But God is not limited in that way, because there is no one over him or greater than him or more powerful than he is. He is almighty and no one can prevent God from carrying out his just decrees.

That’s who God is. He is the just and mighty One. He’s the one who shows no partiality when judging the world. So, he’s not afraid of kings and nobles or princes and the rich; and he doesn’t give them special treatment. He will judge them justly and declare them to be worthless and wicked when that’s what they are.

And when the time is right, God will bring their life in this world to an end. And so, according to verse 20, the wicked die in an instant, in the middle of the night without human hand. God does not need to send an executioner to punish the wicked, because he’s able to do it all on his own.

And his eyes are on the ways of men and women. This is verse 21. He sees their every step. And so, his knowledge of them is perfect. A human judge does not know everything about the accused; and a human judge might be deceived. But God is not deceived or led astray or mistaken, because he knows each person perfectly. The wicked cannot hide their wicked deeds from him. In fact, God does not need to examine the wicked or to question them to discover the truth, because his knowledge of the wicked is perfect. And so, without enquiry he shatters the mighty and sets up others in their place. He doesn’t have to set up a public inquiry or hire a detective or hold an inquisition. He knows what each person has done.

And because he takes note of their deeds, he overthrows the wicked in the night and they are crushed. This is verse 25. He punishes them for their wickedness, where everyone can see them, because they turned from following him and they have no regard for any of his ways.

And Elihu says in verse 28 that the wicked caused the cry of the poor to come before him so that God heard the cries of the needy. But if God remains silent, who can condemn him? In other words, God may not answer the cries of the poor and needy immediately. He might hide his face from them for a time. But we shouldn’t condemn God as if he does not care and does not intend to do anything about it. We shouldn’t condemn him, because he is still over man and nation alike. He rules over all to keep a godless man from ruling. Do you see that in verse 30? It’s not entirely clear, but I think Elihu’s point is that even when God appears to be doing nothing, he’s not doing nothing, because, when the time is right, he will remove the godless and the wicked. And he removes them when they die.

I should explain that, for the believer, death is the doorway into God’s presence. However, for the wicked, death is always a punishment. It is always a punishment, because the wages of sin is death. What the wicked deserve for a lifetime of sin and rebellion is death. God may not punish them immediately for their sins. And so, they may live a long and prosperous life. But in the end, God’s sentence of death will be fall on them and they will die in an instant, in the middle of the night, without human hand. That’s the fate of all the wicked and it happens because of God who governs the whole of creation and who has decreed that the wicked will die as punishment for their sins. All who have trusted in Christ will also die. But for those who believe, death is the passing over into eternity and into the presence of God to receive our eternal reward, which we cannot earn and do not deserve, but which God freely bestows on us for the sake of Christ who loved us and gave up his life for us.

Suppose a man says to God, ‘I am guilty but will offend no more.’ Do you see that in verse 31? He’s referring to Job and I think he’s saying that this is what Job needs to do. He needs to confess his guilt before God and turn from it. Job must either do that or he must insist that God should reward Job on Job’s own terms. That’s in verse 33. In other words, what are you going to do, Job? Will you go on insisting that you are right and God is wrong and he owes you something? Or will you confess your sin and turn from it? You must decide, not I. Which is it going to be?

And then, right at the end of the chapter, Elihu addresses the people around him. He’s saying to them: I’m right, aren’t I? Job speaks without knowledge. His words lack insight. Job has answered God like a wicked man; and to his sin, he’s added rebellion. He scornfully claps his hands among us and multiplies his words against God.

I mentioned last week that whereas the three friends said that Job was suffering because he had sinned, Elihu says that Job had sinned because he was suffering. Let me say that again: whereas the three friends said that Job was suffering because he had sinned, Elihu says that Job had sinned because he was suffering. He hadn’t done anything to deserve his suffering. God himself declared Job to be blameless and upright and a man who fears God and who shuns evil. However, now that he was suffering, he said things about God which were not right. He said God was unjust. God was treating him unfairly. God was wrong to treat him this way. And by saying those things, he dishonoured the Lord. And therefore, Job had sinned because of his suffering. And he now needed to repent.


And, turning to chapter 35, and Elihu’s third speech, he records in verse 3 that Job had said to God, ‘What profit is it to me and what do I gain by not sinning?’ In other words, what’s the point of serving you? What’s the point? I lived a godly life and look how you repaid me? Other people live godless lives and they live long and prosper. What’s the point in serving you?

That was Job’s complaint. And Elihu responds in verses 5 to 8 by describing God’s impassibility. I mentioned this one other Sunday evening. God’s impassibility means that God is not affected by anyone or anything outside of himself. That is to say, he does not suffer. And so, Elihu asks Job and the others to look up at the heavens and gaze at the clouds which are so high above us. But God is higher still and if we sin, how does that affect him? Even if our sins are many, it does not affect him or hurt him. In fact, when we are righteous, it doesn’t affect him either. He doesn’t gain anything from our righteousness and he doesn’t lose anything or suffer because of our sin.

As well as God’s impassibility, we also believe in God’s aseity, which means God does not rely on anyone or anything outside of himself. He is utterly independent and self-sufficient. He does not need us for anything and our righteousness does not benefit him in any way. Our wickedness only affects other people and our righteousness only affects other people. Our sins don’t affect God and our righteousness doesn’t benefit him, because he is the eternally blessed God, which means he is eternally happy and nothing we do can diminish or increase his happiness.

And I think Elihu’s point is once again to humble us before God. He’s putting us in our place. He’s making sure we understand that God is God and we are not.

But I think he’s making another point. How do we treat one another? Often it’s a case of: If I do something for you, will you do something for me? If I help you, will you help me in return? And we think of God in those terms: If I do something from you, what will you do for me in return? If I obey you and keep your commandments and shun evil, what will you do for me?

But God does not need us to do anything for him. He is never in our debt. He never owes us anything. And when we obey him we’re only doing our duty and we should not expect any reward in return. Isn’t that the point of the Lord’s parable of the unworthy servants? When a servant comes in from the field, the servant’s master doesn’t invite him to sit down and eat with him. No, the master commands his servant to go and prepare the dinner and the servant’s job is always to obey the master. And when we have done what God has commanded, we shouldn’t think that he now owes us and is obligated to reward us, because all we’re doing is our duty.

Having said that, we are amazed and grateful because we know that God is gracious and kind and generous and he fills our lives with good things and he promises us an eternal reward. We do not deserve any of these good things he gives us, but he gives them to us because he is kind. And we do not deserve the eternal reward, but he freely gives it to all who trust in his Son. But though God is gracious and kind, we also know that he is free to give his gifts and eternal life to whomever he wants; and we cannot demand these things from him. And so, we’re to serve God because he is God and we are his servants. And when we serve him, he doesn’t owe us anything thing in return.


In verses 9 to 16 Elihu explains that God does not listen to empty pleas. Do you see that in verse 13? He means that when people are burdened down and oppressed and when they’re suffering, they cry out and they plead for relief. But their pleas are empty, because they do not acknowledge God and they do not call out to him. And so, he does not listen to their pleas or pay attention to them. He does not listen, because they’re not trusting in him or crying out to him.

And God has not responded to Job’s cry, because Job has been guilty of empty talk. Do you see that in verse 16? He was not suffering because he had sinned. But he has sinned because he was suffering. The things he had been saying about God were wrong. He was dishonouring God by saying that God was unjust and unfair and wrong. And God will not listen to him so long as he continues to say those kinds of thing. Job complained that God is silent. But God will not respond when our cries are empty and when we dishonour the Lord by what we say.


But the good news of the gospel is that we have one in heaven who speaks on our behalf. We have an advocate with the Father, a mediator and intercessor, who speaks on our behalf and whose words are never empty or sinful, but whose words are true and good. I’m referring, of course, to Jesus Christ, God’s Only-Begotten Son, who became flesh and who lived and who suffered as one of us and who gave up his life to pay for our sins and who was raised from the dead to give us life. And in heaven he speaks to the Father on our behalf. And though our words might be empty, Christ’s words are always true and good and he asks the Father to help us.

And he asks the Father to pardon us for our sins and shortcomings. And so, if we, like Job, sin because we’re suffering — and all of us will suffer in this fallen world — if we, like Job, sin because we’re suffering, we need not be afraid of the Father’s wrath, because Christ has made peace between us by his blood shed on the cross. He has made peace between us forever so that the Father will never punish us in wrath when we sin, because Christ has borne our punishment in our place. And so, we have peace with God and we need not fear his wrath and curse. And when we suffer, it’s not because he hates us, because he doesn’t hate us, but he loves us with an everlasting love. And when we suffer, it’s not because God is unjust or weak, because he is infinitely and eternally and unchangeably just and powerful. He is the just and mighty one and everything he does is right and though we may not understand his purposes, we know his purposes for us our good and he works all things together for our good.