In these verses,
I. Elihu instructs Job what he should say under his affliction, Job 34:31, 32. Having reproved him for his peevish passionate words, he here puts better words into his mouth. When we reprove for what is amiss we must direct to what is good, that our reproofs may be the reproofs of instruction, Prov. 6:23. He does not impose it upon Job to use these words, but recommends it to him, as that which was meet to be said. In general, he would have him repent of his misconduct, and indecent expressions, under his affliction. Job’s other friends would have had him own himself a wicked man, and by overdoing they undid. Elihu will oblige him only to own that he had, in the management of this controversy, spoken unadvisedly with his lips. Let us remember this, in giving reproofs, and not make the matter worse than it is; for the stretching of the crime may defeat the prosecution. Elihu drives the right nail, and speeds accordingly. He directs Job, 1. To humble himself before God for his sins, and to accept the punishment of them: “I have borne chastisement. What I suffer comes justly upon me, and therefore I will bear it, and not only justify God in it, but acknowledge his goodness.” Many are chastised that do not bear chastisement, do not bear it well, and so, in effect, do not bear it at all. Penitents, if sincere, will take all well that God does, and will bear chastisement as a medicinal operation intended for good. 2. To pray to God to discover his sins to him (Job 34:32): “That which I see not teach thou me. Lord, upon the review, I find much amiss in me and much done amiss by me, but I have reason to fear there is much more that I am not aware of, greater abominations, which through ignorance, mistake, and partiality to myself, I do not yet see; Lord, give me to see it, awaken my conscience to do its office faithfully.” A good man is willing to know the worst of himself, and particularly, under affliction, desires to be told wherefore God contends with him and what God designs in correcting him. 3. To promise reformation (Job 34:31): I will not offend any more. “If I have done iniquity (or seeing that I have), I will do so no more; whatever thou shalt discover to me to have been amiss, by thy grace I will amend it for the future.” This implies a confession that we have offended, true remorse and godly sorrow for the offence, and a humble compliance with God’s design in afflicting us, which is to separate between us and our sins. The penitent here completes his repentance; for it is not enough to be sorry for our sins, but we must go and sin no more, and, as here, bind ourselves with the bond of a fixed resolution never more to return to folly. This is meet to be said in a stedfast purpose, and meet to be said to God in a solemn promise and vow.
II. He reasons with him concerning his discontent and uneasiness under his affliction, Job 34:23. We are ready to think every thing that concerns us should be just as we would have it; but Elihu here shows, 1. That it is absurd and unreasonable to expect this: “Should it be according to thy mind? No, what reason for that?” Elihu here speaks with a great deference to the divine will and wisdom, and a satisfaction therein: it is highly fit that every thing should be according to God’s mind. He speaks also with a just disdain of the pretensions of those that are proud, and would be their own carvers: Should it be according to thy mind? Should we always have the good we have a mind to enjoy? We should then wrongfully encroach upon others and foolishly ensnare ourselves. Must we never be afflicted, because we have no mind to it? Isa. it fit that sinners should feel no smart, that scholars should be under no discipline? Or, if we must be afflicted, is it fit that we should choose what rod we will be beaten with? No; it is fit that every thing should be according to God’s mind, and not ours; for he is the Creator, and we are creatures. He is infinitely wise and knowing; we are foolish and short-sighted. He is in one mind; we are in many. 2. That it is in vain, and to no purpose, to expect it: “He will recompense it whether thou refuse or whether thou choose. God will take his own way, fulfil his own counsel, and recompense according to the sentence of his own justice, whether thou art pleased or displeased; he will neither ask thy leave nor ask thy advice, but, what he pleases, that will he do. It is therefore thy wisdom to be easy, and make a virtue of necessity; make the best of that which is, because it is out of thy power to make it otherwise. If thou pretend to choose and refuse,” that is, “to prescribe to God and except against what he does, so will not I—I will acquiesce in all he does; and therefore speak what thou knowest; say what thou wilt do, whether thou wilt oppose or submit. The matter lies plainly before thee; be at a point; thou art in God’s hand, not in mine.”
III. He appeals to all intelligent indifferent persons whether there was not a great deal of sin and folly in that which Job said. 1. He would have the matter thoroughly examined, and brought to an issue (Job 34:36): “My desire is that Job may be tried unto the end. If any will undertake to justify what he has said, let them do it; if not, let us all agree to bear our testimony against it.” Many understand it of his trial by afflictions: “Let his troubles be continued till he be thoroughly humbled, and his proud spirit brought down, till he be made to see his error and to retract what he has so presumptuously said against God and his providence. Let the trial be continued till the end be obtained.” 2. He appeals both to God and man, and desires the judgment of both upon it. (1.) Some read Job 34:36 as an appeal to God: O, my Father! let Job be tried. So the margin of our Bibles, for the same word signifies my desire and my father; and some suppose that he lifted up his eyes when he said this, meaning, “O my Father who art in heaven! let Job be tried till he be subdued.” When we are praying for the benefit of afflictions either to ourselves or others we must eye God as a Father, because they are fatherly corrections and a part of our filial education, Heb. 12:7. (2.) He appeals to the by-standers (Job 34:34): “Let men of understanding tell me whether they can put any more favourable construction upon Job’s words than I have put, and whether he has not spoken very ill and ought not to cry, Peccavi—I have done wrong.” In what Job had said he thought it appeared, [1.] That he did not rightly understand himself, but had talked foolishly, Job 34:35. He cannot say that Job is without knowledge and wisdom; but, in this matter, he has spoken without knowledge, and, whatever his heart is, his words were without prudence. What he said to his wife may be retorted upon himself (He speaks as one of the foolish men speak) and for the same reason, Shall we not receive evil as well as good at God’s hand? Job 2:10. Sometimes we need and deserve those reproofs ourselves which we have given to others. Those that reproach God’s wisdom really reproach their own. [2.] That he had not a due regard to God, but had talked wickedly. If what he had said be tried to the end, that is, if one put it to the utmost stretch and make the worst of it, it will be found, First, That he has taken part with God’s enemies: His answers have been for wicked men; that is, what he had said tended to strengthen the hands and harden the hearts of wicked people in their wickedness, he having carried the matter of their prosperity much further than he needed. Let wicked men, like Baal, plead for themselves if they will, but far be it from us that we should answer for them, or say any thing in favour of them. Secondly, That he has insulted God’s friends, and hectored over them: “He clappeth his hands among us; and, if he be not thoroughly tried and humbled, will grow yet more insolent and imperious, as if he had gotten the day and silenced us all.” To speak ill is bad enough, but to clap our hands and triumph in it when we have done, as if error and passion had won the victory, is much worse. Thirdly, That he has spoken against God himself, and, by standing to what he had said, added rebellion to his sin. To speak, though but one word, against God, by whom we speak and for whom we ought to speak, is a great sin; what is it then to multiply words against him, as if we would out-talk him? What is it to repeat them, instead of unsaying them? Those that have sinned, and, when they are called to repent, thus go on frowardly, add rebellion to their sin and make it exceedingly sinful. Errare possum, Haereticus esse nolo—I may fall into error, but I will not plunge into heresy.
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