Elihu here comes more closely to Job; and,
I. He tells him what God would have done for him before this if he had been duly humbled under his affliction. “We all know how ready God is to deliver the poor in his affliction (Job 36:15); he always was so. The poor in spirit, those that are of a broken and contrite heart, he looks upon with tenderness, and, when they are in affliction, is ready to help them. He opens their ears, and makes them to hear joy and gladness, even in their oppressions; while he does not yet deliver them he speaks to them good words and comfortable words, for the encouragement of their faith and patience, the silencing of their fears, and the balancing of their griefs; and even so (Job 36:16) would he have done to thee if thou hadst submitted to his providence and conducted thyself well; he would have delivered and comforted thee, and we should have had none of these complaints. If thou hadst accommodated thyself to the will of God, thy liberty and plenty would have been restored to thee with advantage.” 1. “Thou wouldst have been enlarged, and not confined thus by thy sickness and disgrace: He would have removed thee into a broad place where is no straitness, and thou wouldst no longer have been cramped thus and have had all thy measures broken.” 2. “Thou wouldst have been enriched, and wouldst not have been left in this poor condition; thou wouldst have had thy table richly spread, not only with food convenient, but with the finest of the wheat” (see Deut. 32:14) “and the fattest of the flesh.” Note, It ought to silence us under our afflictions to consider that, if we were better, it would be every way better with us: if we had answered the ends of an affliction, the affliction would be removed; and deliverance would come if we were ready for it. God would have done well for us if we had conducted ourselves well; Ps. 81:13, 14; Isa. 48:18.
II. He charges him with standing in his own light, and makes him the cause of the continuance of his own trouble (Job 36:17): “But thou hast fulfilled the judgment of the wicked,” that is, “Whatever thou art really, in this thing thou hast conducted thyself like a wicked man, hast spoken and done like the wicked, hast gratified them and served their cause; and therefore judgment and justice take hold on thee as a wicked man, because thou goest in company with them, actest as if thou wert in their interest, aiding and abetting. Thou hast maintained the cause of the wicked; and such as a man’s cause is such will the judgment of God be upon him;” so bishop Patrick. It is dangerous being on the wrong side: accessaries to treason will be dealt with as principals.
III. He cautions him not to persist in his frowardness. Several good cautions he gives him to this purport.
1. Let him not make light of divine vengeance, nor be secure, as if he were in no danger of it (Job 36:18): “Because there is wrath” (that is, “because God is a righteous governor, who resents all the affronts given to his government, because he has revealed his wrath from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, and because thou hast reason to fear that thou art under God’s displeasure) therefore beware lest he take thee away suddenly with his stroke, and be so wise as to make thy peace with him quickly and get his anger turned away from thee.” A warning to this purport Job had given his friends (Job 19:29): Be you afraid of the sword, for wrath brings the punishment of the sword. Thus contenders are apt, with too much boldness, to bind one another over to the judgment of God and threaten one another with his wrath; but he that keeps a good conscience needs not fear the impotent menaces of proud men. But his was a friendly caution to Job, and necessary. Even good men have need to be kept to their duty by the fear of God’s wrath. “Thou art a wise and good man, but beware lest he take thee away, for the wisest and best have enough in them to deserve his stroke.”
2. Let him not promise himself that, if God’s wrath should kindle against him, he could find out ways to escape the strokes of it. (1.) There is no escaping by money, no purchasing a pardon with silver, or gold, and such corruptible things: “Even a great ransom cannot deliver thee when God enters into judgment with thee. His justice cannot be bribed, nor any of the ministers of his justice. Will he esteem thy riches, and take from them a commutation of the punishment? No, not gold, Job 36:19. If thou hadst as much wealth as ever thou hadst, that would not ease thee, would not secure thee from the strokes of God’s wrath, in the day of the revelation of which riches profit not,” Prov. 11:4. See Ps. 49:7, 8. (2.) There is no escaping by rescue: “If all the forces of strength were at thy command, if thou couldst muster ever so many servants and vassals to appear for thee to force thee out of the hands of divine vengeance, it were all in vain; God would not regard it. There is none that can deliver out of his hand.” (3.) There is no escaping by absconding (Job 36:20): “Desire not the night, which often favours the retreat of a conquered army and covers it; think not that thou canst so escape the righteous judgment of God, for the darkness hideth not from him,” Ps. 139:11, 12. See Job 34:22. “Think not, because in the night people retire to their place, go up to their beds, and it is then easy to escape being discovered by them, that God also ascends to his place, and cannot see thee. No; he neither slumbers nor sleeps. His eyes are open upon the children of men, not only in all places, but at all times. No rocks nor mountains can shelter us from his eye.” Some understand it of the night of death; that is the night by which men are cut off from their place, and Job had earnestly breathed for that night, as the hireling desires the evening, Job 7:2. “But do not do so,” says Elihu; “for thou knowest not what the night of death is.” Those that passionately wish for death, in hopes to make that their shelter from God’s wrath, may perhaps be mistaken. There are those whom wrath pursues into that night.
3. Let him not continue his unjust quarrel with God and his providence, which hitherto he had persisted in when he should have submitted to the affliction (Job 36:21): “Take heed, look well to thy own spirit, and regard not iniquity, return not to it (so some), for it is at thy peril if thou do.” Let us never dare to think a favourable thought of sin, never indulge it, nor allow ourselves in it. Elihu thinks Job had need of this caution, he having chosen iniquity rather than affliction, that is, having chosen rather to gratify his own pride and humour in contending with God than to mortify it by a submission to him and accepting the punishment. We may take it more generally, and observe that those who choose iniquity rather than affliction make a very foolish choice. Those that ease their cares by sinful pleasures, increase their wealth by sinful pursuits, escape their troubles by sinful projects, and evade sufferings for righteousness’ sake by sinful compliances against their consciences, make a choice they will repent of; for there is more evil in the least sin than in the greatest affliction. It is an evil, and only evil.
4. Let him not dare to prescribe to God, nor 44b1 give him his measures (Job 36:22, 23): “Behold, God exalteth by his power,” that is, “He does, may, and can set up and pull down whom he pleases, and therefore it is not for thee nor me to contend with him.” The more we magnify God the more do we humble and abase ourselves. Now consider, (1.) That God is an absolute sovereign: He exalts by his own power, and not by strength derived from any other. He exalts whom he pleases, exalts those that were afflicted and cast down, by the strength and power which he gives his people; and therefore who has enjoined him his way? Who presides above him in his way? Isa. there any superior from whom he has his commission and to whom he is accountable? No; he himself is supreme and independent. Who puts him in mind of his way? so some. Does the eternal Mind need a remembrancer? No; his own way, as well as ours, is ever before him. He has not received orders or instructions from any (Isa. 60:13, 14), nor is he accountable to any. He enjoins to all the creatures their way; let not us then enjoin him his, but leave it to him to govern the world, who is fit to do it. (2.) That he is an incomparable teacher: Who teaches like him? It is absurd for us to teach him who is himself the fountain of light, truth, knowledge, and instruction. He that teaches man knowledge, and so as none else can, shall not he know? Ps. 94:9, 10. Shall we light a candle to the sun? Observe, When Elihu would give glory to God as a ruler he praises him as a teacher, for rulers must teach. God does so. He binds with the cords of a man. In this, as in other things, he is unequalled. None so fit to direct his own actions as he himself is. He knows what he has to do, and how to do it for the best, and needs no information nor advice. Solomon himself had a privy-council to advise him, but the King of kings has none. Nor is any so fit to direct our actions as he is. None teaches with such authority and convincing evidence, with such condescension and compassion, nor with such power and efficacy, as God does. He teaches by the Bible, and that is the best book, teaches by his Son, and he is the best Master. (3.) That he is unexceptionably just in all his proceedings: Who can say, Thou hast wrought iniquity? Not, Who dares say it? (many do iniquity, and those who tell them of it do so at their peril), but Who can say it? Who has any cause to say it? Who can say it and prove it? It is a maxim undoubtedly true, without limitation, that the King of kings can do no wrong.