CHAPTER 36.

ELIHU hath been checking Job, for his unsavory words of God, and his way, in several chapters before; he proceeds as in this and the following, to reprove his passionate and impatient complaining of God. His speech hath a preface to the fifth verse of this chapter. 2dly, There is his confutation of Job, from verse 5. of this to the two last verses of chapter xxxvii, And, 3dly, In the two last verses is the conclusion of his dispute.

This speech differs from the former in this; that he cites not Job's words as before, but generally insists to confute his passionate way of complaining.

First, He uses a preface to stir up Job to attention, knowing how hard a thing it is for men under the cross to take well with niping87 and sharp words; Elihu also proceeded, and said, Suffer me a little, as if he said, I have not done yet, though I have said much, there is more to be said for God, it is such a cause to plead for God, that whosoever takes it in hand, they will never want matter, verse 1, 2. The second ground he goes on is verse 3. I will seek my knowledge from far, I will not now insist on the particular dispensation that ye have met with, but look all the providences and dispensations that hath been from the beginning, and ye will find them to plead the same for God that I say; and the scope of all is, I will ascribe righteousness to my Maker, wherein secretly he gives Job a check, as if he had derogate from God's righteousness. A third ground is verse 4. My words shall not be false, I shall speak truth, and neither counterfeit with God, nor flatter you; and a reason of it is, He that is perfect in knowledge is with thee; speaking of himself in the third place, to evidence his humility, or of God speaking in him, to tell his furniture was from God, who was perfect in knowledge; that which he has to confute in Job is, his passionate complaining, as if God had dealt unequally with him; and the confutation has three parts, the first ground is from verse 5. to verse 22. taken from God's righteousness and equal way of dealing withal. The second ground is, from verse 22. to verse 26. taken from God's sovereignty and absoluteness. The third ground is from God's greatness in ordinary causes, and in the works of creation, begun from verse 26. of this chapter, and followed forth in the next. And from these three, God's being just, absolute, and great, without reach of creatures, he confutes Job's taking on him to debate with God, and taking on him to censure him, as if he had done him wrong.

For the first ground, he, I. Propones. 2. Clears. 3. Applies it to Job's particular case, Behold God is mighty, God is mighty in strength and wisdom; and if we looked on God's strength and wisdom, and absolute way of proceeding, we had little ground of complaining, but for as mighty as God is, he is equal, and will not despise the poorest; therefore Job, ye have no cause to complain of severe dealing. He proves this, verse 6, 7. in two branches. 1. Never a poor man was in contest with a wicked man, were he never so mighty, but he did him justice, nay, he takes away the life of the wicked, and gives right to the poor. And, 2dly, as he takes order with the wicked by his special providence, so he hath a respect to the gracious, He withdraws not his eyes from them, that is, Psalm xxxiv, his eyes are upon them, and what is meant by this, the following words tell; with kings are they on the throne, and doth establish them, holding out a temporal grandeur in the latter, as in these times was more rise; and taking it spiritually, the meaning is, that God has always a respect to them, and will manifest it one time or other. He goes on to clear, and answer some objections that might be made against this, the first objecttion, and a great one, Oftimes good men are brought low, and far from reigning with kings? The first answer to this is, verse 8, 9, it they may be bound in fetters,. and holden in cords of affliction, but God does that for good ends, and he gives two. The first is, verse 8, 9. it may be the righteous in prosperity forget both God and themselves, as they are ready to do, but he brings on affliction, and shews them their work, and wherein they have exceeded in the liberty he gave them; and the second end is verse 10. He not only lets them see their evils, but he opens their ear to discipline; he gives them a lesson to amend, and by a forcible command makes them take up themselves. The meaning is, that God by a sanctified cross helps them both to examine themselves, and to take up their way to God, and God's way towards them. The second way how he answers the objection is, from the event, verse 11. though God afflict them, he does not put them from all hope of an outgate if they obey and serve him; They shall spend their days in prosperity, they shall get a happy outgate of their affliction, if they take up the lesson God teaches them by their affliction; and to this he opposes their not taking up of the mind of God in his rod, verse 12. If they obey not, they shall perish by the sword, and die without knowledge, importing, even that good men do not always take up God's lesson that he is teaching them by affliction, and this makes them be keeped the longer in the stocks. So, 1. Cor. xi. some of the Corinthians for abusing the sacramenr, are made to sleep the sleep of death, and Asa and Josiah for their failings, are removed and taken away by temporal judgement. Obj. 2. What difference is there then betwixt the righteous, and the wicked man, or hypocrite? He answers to this, verse 13. opposing him to the righteous man he spoke of before, The dissembling protest hypocrite, he is always treasuring up wrath, neither does he turn to God, lay on what judgement God likes on him; and this is further explained, verse 14. They die in youth, how long soever they live, God's judgement comes on them ere they live out half their days; and their life is among the unclean, that is, their portion after this life is separation from God and good men, the word is, they have their lives among the Sodomites, after this life. Then, verse 15. he clears that even these righteous folks that are taken away by temporal calamity, are in a different condition from such hypocritical men, for God is ay doing them good, for they are delivered at death, and sometimes before death he makes them take with their fault, and gives them an outgate.

3. He applies this to Job in three particulars. 1. That if he had humbled himself, God would have given him an outgate, verse 16. Even so would he have removed thee out of the strait into a broad place; if ye had humbled yourself before God, he should have brought you through; and that which should have been set on thy table should have been full of fatness, that is, much prosperity and happiness should have come to thee. The second way how he applies it is, verse 17. But thou hast fulfilled the judgement of the wicked, ye have carried yourself like a wicked man, tho' I will not say that ye are one. Therefore ye have no reason to complain of God, though justice and judgement should take hold of you. The third way of his application is by giving Job some directions. The first direction is, verse 18. Because there is wrath, beware lest he take thee away with this stroke, with a temporal judgement, though ye get your soul for a prey. Therefore it were far better to stoop to God, than to complain of his dealing, and he backs this with a reason, if God strike, a great ransom cannot deliver, yea, ver, 19. neither gold, nor silver, nor any thing else in esteem with men will be accepted. A second direction or admonition is, verse 20. Desire not the night, when people are cut of in their place, Job ye have often desired death, which is the end of all people, and which takes away people from the miseries of this life, but beware of limiting God, for ye know not if death will be sweet as ye take it; and he confirms this, verse 21. Regard not iniquity, continue not in your sinful complaining impatient way; for this hast thou chosen rather than affliction, I have cause to bid you beware of complaining of your life, and to desire death, for thou hast taken this desperate way of desiring and wishing for death, rather than patient submitting to God under thy trouble, which impatience of thine is sin and iniquity.

The second ground of his confutation of Job is, from verse 22. to verse 26. taken from God's sovereignty and absoluteness, He begins every one of this grounds with a Behold, as verse 5. in this verse 22. and afterwards verse 26. and because we spoke of them, chapter xxvi. we may be the shorter here, Behold, God exalts by his power, who teaches like him? None can by his teaching cause to profit as he can, and both in respect of the means and manner of teaching, he can teach otherwise than any other can teach; this he follows with a reason, verse 23. Who has enjoined him his way? Who has given him a commission? Is not God absolute, and gives commission to all, but takes none from any? Or, who can say, thou hast wrought iniquity? Who can say, God has done wrong, or any injustice? And this way of interrogation does vehemently deny the thing; therefore he subjoins an exhortation, verse 24. Remember that thou magnify his work;  seeing God is so absolute and great, take up yourself Job, and be so far from complaining of God's dealing, as ye make much of it; fall in love with it, and magnify it; and a reason of this, because men behold, and see it to be God's work with you; yea, verse 25. Every man may see it. It is a thing palpable to be God's work, these who are not so much concerned in it as thou, may be convinced that it is God that is dealing with thee.

The third ground whereby he labours to convince and confute Job is, verse 26. and it is taken from God's greatness, Behold, God is great, and we know him not, Job, God is far greater than ye are, he is incomprehensible, and far above all that we have said of him; Neither can the number of his years be searched out; that is, he is eternal, and this he speaks to fear folks from diving curiously into the works of God's providence, and guiding of the world; he clears God's greatness in common things. 1. He makes small the drops of water; they pour down, Is he not a great God, that can take up water above the clouds, and then lets it not fall in a flush, but sifts it down in smalls, or like a still dropping drop after drop; and yet though he let it fall in small drops, he makes it fall out abundantly. 2dly, He puts two wonders together, verse 28. that neither the rain falls out in clouds at once, but in drops, and yet there is as much of it falls as does folks turn abundantly 3dly, His spreading of the clouds, and there watering to and fro, which Psalm xviii. 11. are called God's pavilion or tabernacle, or the noise of his tabernacle, that is the thunder; which holds out God's terror; Behold, he spreads his light upon it, verse 30. that is, God's making of the fire flaughts, every one of which sets out God's greatness; and covers the bottom of the sea, or the great gulphs and arms of the sea, that seem to be as so many roots of a tree. He gives two ends God has before him in sending rain, wind and thunder. 1. By them he judges the people, sometimes, as in the days of Noah, he sends storms and extraordinary rains for a punishment. 2. That which he makes a plague and punishment to some, he makes it a mean to furnish others with plenty. And so folks have daily among their hands evidences of his greatness. He amplifies what he has said before, verse 32. With clouds he covers the light; when it is a dear day, he will cause a cloud come in and cover the sun, and it is dark by the interposition of that cloud. And he closes all, verse 33. The noise thereof, that is of the thunder, sheweth concerning it, that is concerning the rain. The meaning is, God by the noise of thunder gives warning ere the rain come; the cattle also concerning the vapour, God has also a secret instinct in beasts, that they know ere a storm come, and provide themselves a shelter. God makes himself so known in creatures above, that it is sensible to creatures beneath.

 OBSERVATIONS.

I. Observe. The solid ground of taking up God's way rightly, is solidly to conceive and apprehend God himself rightly. To know God rightly in these three, in his equal and righteous way of procedure, in his absoluteness and sovereignty, and in his greatness, is the way to take him rightly up in his dispensations; and it is the ignorance of God in one of thir three, or all of them, that makes folk debate matters with God; therefore study to know God in this, and it will silence the most disputing mouth amongst us.

II. From his proving and clearing the first ground, verse 6, 7, Observe: That all God's ways carry in them a respect to the godly, and a stroke to the wicked. In all God's dispensations, there is a special regard to them that fear him, and a blow to them that fear him not; and this is an argument to put to silence Job's fretting and complaining, and it is a check to Job, who alledged, that God took not notice to his honesty.

III. On the end why God brings on affliction the godly, Observe: That great end why God afflicts the righteous, it is one of more or both, either to let them know what is wrong, or to convert and amend what is wrong in them; for often in prosperity folks are partial in examining and judging themselves, and therefore God brings on affliction, strips them of worldly comforts, makes them sit alone, and examine matters over again, and it were good to learn in every particular strait and difficulty, to have an open ear to discipline, to seek out what is wrong, and depart from iniquity, and then affliction has the right fruit when there is a discovery of sin, and a turning from it.

IV. Observe. That both these are not from the rod, but they are from God's gift. The ordinary time when God teaches is the time of affliction, but the lesson is from him; he must discover sin, and turn from sin, and we must depend on him for both.

V. If they obey and serve him, and if they obey not, verse 12. Obs That gracious folks may be under the rod for a long time, and not get the good of it. Asa is under the rod, and turns not till he be removed by death; and yet it is said of him, His heart was perfect with the Lord his God all his days. This should make us very humble, and to depend on God, and not on any bit of grace we have received.

VI. Observe. When godly folks make not use of the rod, they may come under sad temporal strokes, even unto death, as in Asa, and these I Cor. xi. and Josiah, and others. Sad strokes may follow them till they be taken out of the world, and yet they be saved.

VII. Observe. That even then when it is so, God puts a difference betwixt them and hypocrites in heart; he preserves them from having their life among the unclean, as hypocrites have; therefore beware of being rash in judging others, but learn ourselves to stand in awe, and fear before the Lord.

VIII. The directions speak themselves. 1. When wrath lies on, we would then especially beware of provoking God more. 2. Folks had then need to take heed what wishes and desires escape them, and particularly they would not desire the night of death, least worse be abiding them. 3. Chuse rather affliction than sin. 4. Remember his work to magnify it; folks would not only be careful, not to forget God's dealing and dispensations, but they would magnify his work. Labour to see God in it, and learn to speak good of God in it, and guard against any thing that may make him or his work be ill spoken of.