Elihu is here endeavouring to possess Job with great and high thoughts of God, and so to persuade him into a cheerful submission to his providence.
I. He represents the work of God, in general, as illustrious and conspicuous, Job 36:24. His whole work is so. God does nothing mean. This is a good reason why we should acquiesce in all the operations of his providence concerning us in particular. His visible works, those of nature, and which concern the world in general, are such as we admire and commend, and in which we observe the Creator’s wisdom, power, and goodness; shall we then find fault with his dispensations concerning us, and the counsels of his will concerning our affairs? We are here called to consider the work of God, Eccl. 7:13. 1. It is plain before our eyes, nothing more obvious: it is what men behold. Every man that has but half an eye may see it, may behold it afar off. Look which way we will, we see the productions of God’s wisdom and power; we see that done, and that doing, concerning which we cannot but say, This is the work of God, the finger of God; it is the Lord’s doing. Every man may see, afar off, the heaven and all its lights, the earth and all its fruits, to be the work of Omnipotence; much more when we behold them nigh at hand. Look at the minutest works of nature through a microscope; do they not appear curious? The eternal power and godhead of the Creator are clearly seen and understood by the things that are made, Rom. 1:20. Every man, even those that have not the benefit of divine revelation, may see this; for there is no speech or language where the voice of these natural constant preachers is not heard, Ps. 19:3. 2. It ought to be marvellous in our eyes. The beauty and excellency of the work of God, and the agreement of all the parts of it, are what we must remember to magnify and highly to extol, not only justify it as right and good, and what cannot be blamed, but magnify it as wise and glorious, and such as no creature could contrive or produce. Man may see his works, and is capable of discerning his hand in them (which the beasts are not), and therefore ought to praise them and give him the glory of them.
II. He represents God, the author of them, as infinite and unsearchable, Job 36:26. The streams of being, power, and perfection should lead us to the fountain. God is great, infinitely so,—great in power, for he is omnipotent and independent,—great in wealth, for he is self-sufficient and all-sufficient,—great in himself,—great in all his works,—great, and therefore greatly to be praised,—great, and therefore we know him not. We know that he is, but not what he is. We know what he is not, but not what he is. We know in part, but not in perfection. This comes in here as a reason why we must not arraign his proceedings, nor find fault with what he does, because it is speaking evil of the things that we understand not and answering a matter before we hear if. We know not the duration of his existence, for it is infinite. The number of his years cannot possibly be searched out, for he is eternal; there is no number of them. He is a Being without beginning, succession, or period, whoever was, and ever will be, and ever the same, the great I AM. This is a good reason why we should not prescribe to him, nor quarrel with him, because, as he is, such are his operations, quite out of our reach.
III. He gives some instances of God’s wisdom, power, and sovereign dominion, in the works of nature and the dispensations of common providence, beginning in this chapter with the clouds and the rain that descends from them. We need not be critical in examining either the phrase or the philosophy of this noble discourse. The general scope of it is to show that God is infinitely great, and the Lord of all, the first cause and supreme director of all the creatures, and has all power in heaven and earth (whom therefore we ought, with all humility and reverence, to adore, to speak well of, and to give honour to), and that it is presumption for us to prescribe to him the rules and methods of his special providence towards the children of men, or to expect from him an account of them, when the operations even of common providences about the meteors are so various and so mysterious and unaccountable. Elihu, to affect Job with God’s sublimity and sovereignty, had directed him (Job 35:5) to look unto the clouds. In Job 36:24-33 he shows us what we may observe in the clouds we see which will lead us to consider the glorious perfections of their Creator. Consider the clouds,
1. As springs to this lower world, the source and treasure of its moisture, and the great bank through which it circulates—a very necessary provision, for its stagnation would be as hurtful to this lower world as that of the blood to the body of man. It is worth while to observe in this common occurrence, (1.) That the clouds above distil upon the earth below. If the heavens become brass, the earth becomes iron; therefore thus the promise of plenty runs, I will hear the heavens and they shall hear the earth. This intimates to us that every good gift is from above, from him who is both Father of lights and Father of the rain, and it instructs us to direct our prayers to him and to look up. (2.) That they are here said to distil upon man (Job 36:28); for, though indeed God causes it to rain in the wilderness where no man is (Job 38:26; Ps. 104:11), yet special respect is had to man herein, to whom the inferior creatures are all made serviceable and from whom the actual return of the tribute of praise is required. Among men, he causes his rain to fall upon the just and upon the unjust, Matt. 5:45. (3.) They are said to distil the water in small drops, not in spouts, as when the windows of heaven were opened, Gen. 7:11. God waters the earth with that with which he once drowned it, only dispensing it in another manner, to let us know how much we lie at his mercy, and how kind he is, in giving rain by drops, that the benefit of it may be the further and the more equally diffused, as by an artificial water-pot. (4.) Though sometimes the rain comes in very small drops, yet, at other times, it pours down in great rain, and this difference between one shower and another must be resolved into the divine Providence which orders it so. (5.) Though it comes down in drops, yet it distils upon man abundantly (Job 36:28), and therefore is called the river of God which is full of water, 65:9. (6.) The clouds pour down according to the vapour that they draw up, Job 36:27. So just the heavens are to the earth, but the earth is not so in the return it makes. (7.) The produce of the clouds is sometimes a great terror, and at other times a great favour, to the earth, Job 36:31. When he pleases by them he judges the people he is angry with. Storms, and tempests, and excessive rains, destroying the fruits of the earth and causing inundations, come from the clouds; but, on the other hand, from them, usually, he gives meat in abundance; they drop fatness upon the pastures that are clothed with flocks, and the valleys that are covered with corn, Ps. 65:11-13. (8.) Notice is sometimes given of the approach of rain, Job 36:33. The noise thereof, among other things, shows concerning it. Hence we read (1 Kgs. 18:41) of the sound of abundance of rain, or (as it is in the margin) a sound of a noise of rain, before it came; and a welcome harbinger it was then. As the noise, so the face of the sky, shows concerning it, Luke 12:56. The cattle also, by a strange instinct, are apprehensive of a change in the weather nigh at hand, and seek for shelter, shaming man, who will not foresee the evil and hide himself.
2. As shadows to the upper world (Job 36:29): Can any understand the spreading of the clouds? They are spread over the earth as a curtain or canopy; how they come to be so, how stretched out, and how poised, as they are, we cannot understand, though we daily see they are so. Shall we then pretend to understand the reasons and methods of God’s judicial proceedings with the children of men, whose characters and cases are so various, when we cannot account for the spreadings of the clouds, which cover the light? Job 36:32. It is a cloud coming betwixt, Job 36:32; Job 26:9. And this we are sensible of, that, by the interposition of the clouds between us and the sun, we are, (1.) Sometimes favoured; for they serve as an umbrella to shelter us from the violent heat of the sun, which otherwise would beat upon us. A cloud of dew in the heat of harvest is spoken of as a very great refreshment. Isa. 18:4. (2.) Sometimes we are by them frowned upon; for they darken the earth at noon-day and eclipse the light of the sun. Sin is compared to a cloud (Isa. 44:22), because it comes between us and the light of God’s countenance and obstructs the shining of it. But though the clouds darken the sun for a time, and pour down rain, yet (post nubila Phoebus—the sun shines forth after the rain), after he has wearied the cloud, he spreads his light upon it, Job 36:30. There is a clear shining after rain, 2 Sam. 23:4. The sunbeams are darted forth, and reach to cover even the bottom of the sea, thence to exhale a fresh supply of vapours, and so raise recruits for the clouds, Job 36:30. In all this, we must remember to magnify the work of God.