Elihu made it clear in the last verses of the previous chapter (Job 36:26-33) that God in His sovereignty has control over nature. This serves as an example that He has control over all things. In this chapter he continues to describe God’s control over nature. In verses 1-12 he cites more examples of “great things” that God does in nature that we do not understand (verse 5).
In verse 13 Elihu says what the effects of God’s control over nature are on people. What God does can cause pain, it can also give relief. When Elihu arrives at that point, he turns to Job again to apply these truths to his situation (verses 14-24).
1 - 4 The Thunder of God’s Voice
1 “At this also my heart trembles,
And leaps from its place.
2 “Listen closely to the thunder of His voice,
And the rumbling that goes out from His mouth.
3 “Under the whole heaven He lets it loose,
And His lightning to the ends of the earth.
4 “After it, a voice roars;
He thunders with His majestic voice,
And He does not restrain the lightnings when His voice is heard.
Elihu continues speaking of God’s voice in the thunder (verse 1), which he began in the previous chapter (Job 36:29). Yes, about that (“at this”) his heart trembles and leaps into place. There is no fear, but deep awe of this expression of God’s majesty. What he says to Job in his description of that majesty touches him himself. He stands, as it were, trembling on his legs. He does not teach Job physics, but undergoes the greatness of what he describes and passes on what he hears in the creation of God’s eternal power and divine nature (Rom 1:20). In this we see again how he stands beside Job before God. This is necessary in order to serve someone.
Elihu calls upon Job to “listen closely to the thunder of His voice” (verse 2). “The rumbling that goes out from His mouth” is the sound of the approaching thunderstorm. It is an impressive sound, not clearly spoken words. It is recommended to read Psalm 29 (Psa 29:1-11). In that psalm God’s majesty in the thunderstorm is impressively described. By listening to it attentively, lessons can be learned from it.
When the thunder of the voice of God rolls, that voice is heard “under the whole heaven” (verse 3). National borders do not count, nor do all kinds of differences on earth. Everyone is addressed by it. The same goes for His lightning. As far as the eye can see over the earth, His lightning goes over the horizon of our field of vision. In what Elihu says here, we can think of the coming of the Lord Jesus to earth to judge. The Lord says so Himself: “For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Mt 24:27).
After the lightning a deafening thunder breaks out. This is the roaring of God with His voice (verse 4). Thunder is “His majestic voice” (cf. Psa 29:4). Then, after “His voice is heard”, other things follow that He does not restrain. This is seen in the rain and the storm that follow the lightning and the thunderstorm (Jer 10:13). His voice announces something and it will come. He does not deceive.
5 - 13 God Does Great Things
5 “God thunders with His voice wondrously,
Doing great things which we cannot comprehend.
6 “For to the snow He says, ‘Fall on the earth,’
And to the downpour and the rain, ‘Be strong.’
7 “He seals the hand of every man,
That all men may know His work.
8 “Then the beast goes into its lair
And remains in its den.
9 “Out of the south comes the storm,
And out of the north the cold.
10 “From the breath of God ice is made,
And the expanse of the waters is frozen.
11 “Also with moisture He loads the thick cloud;
He disperses the cloud of His lightning.
12 “It changes direction, turning around by His guidance,
That it may do whatever He commands it
On the face of the inhabited earth.
13 “Whether for correction, or for His world,
Or for lovingkindness, He causes it to happen.
Elihu, and we with him, cannot but say that “God thunders with His voice wondrously” (verse 5). The voice of His thunder is a wondrous display of His majesty and power. Not only the voice is wondrous, but also what causes the thundering voice of God. It sometimes cracks rocks and mountains, the earth trembles, and mighty trees break like matchsticks (Psa 29:5-9).
With verse 5a ends the description of the thunderstorm. The “great things” of verse 5b not only refer to the thunderstorm, but they are also about the things Elihu mentions hereafter. They all have in common that we have to say, “which we cannot comprehend”. All natural phenomena are manifestations of Who God is. They refer to Him. How He works in them and controls them remains incomprehensible to man.
There are theories about their origin. By researching a number of natural phenomena, people can now partly explain their origin on the basis of cause and effect, through which for them the miracle has been explained and disappeared. Elihu and his contemporaries were not burdened with this ‘handicap’. But what people with all their intellect can never do is create or stop a thunderstorm. They can discover and apply laws of nature, but never change them. It takes faith in God to keep seeing the miracles in nature and to keep seeing them as expressions of His presence therein.
To come this far it takes faith in the greatest and most incomprehensible miracle and that is that God gave His Son to save those arrogant, proud creatures. Whoever believes that cannot but praise God for that miracle of His grace. The more we penetrate through the study of God’s Word into what Christ has done for lost sinners, and the more we become aware of our own sinfulness, the more we will understand its incomprehensibility. It will lead us to great thankfulness and a life dedicated to Him. Then it is no longer a question of how the worlds and the laws of nature came into being, for we will understand this “by faith” (Heb 11:3).
No one but God knows the origin of the snow and He alone knows where it falls on earth (verse 6). Physical explanations for the process of snow formation have been discovered far after the time of Job, but how the process as such originated is unknown. Here we hear that snow is created at the command of God and that He commands the snow to be on earth. Natural phenomena are there because God commands them to be there (Psa 148:8). With the same commanding voice, He created the whole world (Psa 33:6,9).
Just because we know now how snow is formed, it should only increase our admiration for God as its origin. Everything we see and discover of God’s work in nature brings us to a greater admiration of Him. What we first admired, and rightly so, without knowing the laws of nature, we now worship all the more, now that we also know how God worked.
What Elihu said of the snow also applies to the downpour and the rain. He tells them: “Be strong.” At His command they go to earth to the extent He determines. They can be invigorating showers, but also devastating downpours. He, and He alone, gives rain and He alone determines the amount of it and where it falls.
When snow and downpours fall on the earth, man is eliminated in his outdoor activities (verse 7). God “seals the hand of every man”, which means that He cannot do anything. He is powerless against the forces of nature. God therefore speaks to “all men”. He makes known to them His work, that He is at the helm of life and that every human being is dependent on Him. People cannot always do what they want.
The sealing of every man’s hand is meant to bring man to a standstill and give him time to think of his Creator. In a practical sense this happens at all farms in the winter when it is not possible to work on the land for a few months because of freezing of the ground and snowfall. The many believers who have their work on the land are therefore able to occupy themselves as much as possible with God’s Word and to be taught in it.
God has given the beasts the instinct to go into their hiding places during the snow and rain in winter and stay in their dens for as long as the snow and rain lasts (verse 8). For people, God’s speaking through snow and rain is a call to think of Him. Perhaps the animals are an example to man and there is a lesson in this for man. That lesson is that man seeks refuge with God in a time of spiritual cold by taking refuge in Christ.
In verse 9 Elihu mentions “the storm” and “the cold”. He shows where they come from. The storm comes from God’s “room” [literal translation]. The cold is caused by winds from the north that spread snow and rain over the earth. The point Elihu is making is that all these things are under God’s control, whether it is the hot desert wind or the cold north wind.
Also, the creation of ice is God’s work (verse 10). It happens physically through the freezing wind, but in reality it happens through “the breath of God”. That breath is so powerful that not only small ditches, but even “the expanse of the waters is frozen”. What used to be liquid is transformed by God’s breath into a massive mass that can no longer be broken through.
The enormous masses of ice in the polar regions were created by His breath and therefore remain. Once again, it makes it clear that God is the Creator and Processor of natural phenomena. We can think of the Lord Jesus, Who is the Word of God and of Whom it is written: “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (Jn 1:3).
Just as God controls the water on earth and can make snow and ice out of it, so He also controls the water in the air by collecting it in clouds (verse 11). As a result, they become large reservoirs of water, heavy “with moisture”. No matter how heavy the clouds are with moisture, God keeps them under His control. His mighty hand leads them wherever He wills. Likewise, during the darkness of the rain clouds, He spreads His light over the earth through a shining cloud, that is to say, the lightning coming out of that cloud.
The shining cloud is also controlled by Him (verse 12). Behind the course of a cloud “His guidance” is hidden. Not only He determines its course but also its work. Every cloud, wherever it floats above the earth, is not there by chance, but has been placed there by God with a purpose. The cloud will do without resistance anywhere “on the face of the inhabited earth” everything God commands.
What a cloud must do is described in verse 13. God possesses the clouds and the lightning and uses them to carry out His counsel. The area He has in mind is “His world”. This means the earth and the people who live there (Psa 24:1). In view of them, God uses the elements of nature. In His speaking through what He does in nature, He has a dual purpose.
He can use the elements “for correction”. This means that He can use thunderstorms, rain, lightning, snow and the like as means of discipline to bring people back from the wrong path. Natural disasters and missed harvests are always a speaking from God to people, to bring them to their senses. He can also send the weather conditions “for mercy”, so that people will thank Him for what He has done. Abundant harvests thanks to favorable weather conditions are proof of His mercy.
We see here that Elihu had more in mind than just impressing Job with God’s power in nature. In this verse he makes a direct relationship between God’s reign over nature and His reign over the lives of men. In other words, he shows here how the unfathomable secret of God’s ways in nature coincides with the unfathomable secret of His ways with man. It is the direct preparation for God’s addresses in the following chapters. Elihu’s speech thus reaches a climax.
14 - 24 The Closing Words of Elihu to Job
14 “Listen to this, O Job,
Stand and consider the wonders of God.
15 “Do you know how God establishes them,
And makes the lightning of His cloud to shine?
16 “Do you know about the layers of the thick clouds,
The wonders of one perfect in knowledge,
17 You whose garments are hot,
When the land is still because of the south wind?
18 “Can you, with Him, spread out the skies,
Strong as a molten mirror?
19 “Teach us what we shall say to Him;
We cannot arrange [our case] because of darkness.
20 “Shall it be told Him that I would speak?
Or should a man say that he would be swallowed up?
21 “Now men do not see the light which is bright in the skies;
But the wind has passed and cleared them.
22 “Out of the north comes golden [splendor];
Around God is awesome majesty.
23 “The Almighty—we cannot find Him;
He is exalted in power
And He will not do violence to justice and abundant righteousness.
24 “Therefore men fear Him;
He does not regard any who are wise of heart.”
Elihu is ready for his closing words after the climax of verse 13. In it he turns to Job (verse 14). He asks him to listen “to this”, these are the lessons of God’s rule over nature. To do this, Job must remain in an attitude of awe and attention and pay attention “to the wonders of God” which He shows in nature. If he is willing to hear, he will absorb God’s wonders and his spirit will be filled with the reverence that is appropriate toward Him.
From verse 15, Elihu asks Job some questions intended to make him realize how ignorant he really is and how incapable he is of judging God in His dealings with him. In this light, it must become clear to him that it is absolutely out of place for him to call God to account. He knows nothing at all and God knows everything. This method of teaching in the form of asking questions is the one God also uses in His speech to Job in the following chapters. God will do nothing but ask Job the same kind of questions, only much more extensively and with the result that Job goes on his knees before Him.
Elihu’s first question is about the ordering God has put into His works and through which He controls them (verse 15). Does Job have any idea of how God connects all of His works and how they relate to each other? Of course he does not. He also has to answer the question of how God “makes the lightning of His cloud to shine”.
The next question to Job is whether he knows about the layers of the thick clouds (verse 16). Job does not know the answer. He had no knowledge of the laws of nature that man has discovered in the course of time. He can only look at them with silent amazement and wonder how clouds float heavy with water anyway. It cannot be other than through the mighty hand of God. But how He does it, cannot be explained. But with all our knowledge of physics do we know the answer? We don’t know the answer either. We see the laws, but how those laws originated, we do not know without the revelation by God that He gives in His Word.
God, Who does all these wonders, is perfect in knowledge. Someone who is able to make such an ordering in nature and make the clouds float must know everything (1Sam 2:3b). He has perfect knowledge in Himself and of all His works, of all that is outside Him, of all creation, and of every human being, for everything has come forth out of Him. On the other hand, man is a completely ignorant creature.
The temperature is completely in God’s hand. Does Job know how the temperature can rise so high that it warms him up and makes his clothes stick to his body (verse 17)? He knows that a south wind brings heat (Lk 12:55). But does he know how God makes the earth still and then lets that wind blow from the south?
And what can he do about it? Surely he has not helped God to spread out the skies which during the heat are “strong as a molten mirror” (verse 18)? God did that all alone (Isa 44:24b). Job cannot command clouds to temper the heat. Only God can. What can Job do other than endure the heat patiently? If things are as they are, what can such a weak, helpless and ignorant human being do against God when He acts with him?
Elihu is aware of his ignorance of the things he has told Job about God. But perhaps Job knows more and wants to tell him and everyone what they should say to God (verse 19). After all, Job has said to God that he wants to set out his case for Him (Job 13:3,18-22). He would let God know that God was not acting well with him. Elihu feels himself in the darkness when it comes to judging God and that will be felt by everyone who looks at God in His government over nature. Who dares to say that he can fathom God’s actions? In what Elihu says here, there is a gentle admonition to Job.
Elihu knows that no one has to tell God what he (Elihu) has said (verse 20). For God has known everything already for a long time (Psa 139:4). If anyone thinks he has to do so with the thought that something has eluded Him and wants to correct Him, he will be “swallowed up”. If such a person goes to God to inform Him, he will be overwhelmed by the awareness of His omniscience. When it comes to the judgment of God in His reign, everyone is well advised to keep silent: “Be silent, all flesh, before the LORD” (Zec 2:13a).
Apart from not being able to say anything about what God does, we also see nothing of it, we are blind to it (verse 21). About what God does, we lack the light, it is hidden from us in the clouds. We see the clouds. What God is going to do with them escapes us. But the light shines in them, we may know that. And in His time He will drive away the clouds by the wind. Then the sky will be clear.
We can apply this to our lives. The clouds are a picture of trials and tribulations that may exist in our lives. Then we don’t see the light, but we know it’s there. We know that He is above our difficulties, though it is difficult to see Him. When the time comes when He expels the clouds, the light becomes visible. We see Him. Maybe the troubles are not gone, but He shows us the purpose for which they serve.
When the heavens have been cleared by God, it turns out that gold has come with the wind from the north, the gold of the shining weather (verse 22). With these last words of Elihu, Job is, as it were, prepared for the gold of the speaking of God Himself. In the application to our lives we can say that it has not only become clear, but has also enriched. The purification of faith is more precious than the purification of gold (1Pet 1:7). We have been given a deeper impression of God’s “awesome majesty” than we had before. He had and has control over everything and controls the clouds in our lives.
Elihu finishes his closing words with a kind of conclusion. He points out that he and others cannot find “the Almighty” (verse 23). What he means by that is what he then says about God. God is incomparable to man and immeasurable in His “power”. His “justice” is incorruptible. He never does anything that is contrary to the law, to the correctness of a matter with which He is concerned. The same goes for Job.
Furthermore, His “abundant righteousness” is in the use of His means. Abundant righteousness is literally ‘a multitude of righteousness’. In all the means at His disposal, His righteousness radiates, He flows over from it, it is His hallmark. This also means that “He will not do violence”. He uses all His perfect qualities in such a way that in His dealings with people all insensitive or barbaric hardness is lacking.
Because of these qualities which He uses for the benefit of men, they fear Him, that is, they have respect and awe for Him (verse 24; cf. Psa 130:4). It is a general fear of God when they see the revelation of His power (Rev 15:4). Those who have a stubborn heart are those who have their own opinion of God and want to tell Him how to govern. They lack the awe of Him. That is why He does not see them, He does not give them a glance worthy of them.
With this Elihu said what he had on his heart. The three friends of Job believed that suffering is the result of a ‘tit for tat policy’ from God. In judging suffering, they adhered to what we might call a ‘compensation theology’. This theology assumes that there is a relationship between righteousness and prosperity, and between sinful conduct and misery. Elihu has shown how wrong this theology is.
Job questions the government of God in his life. But he already understands nothing of the government of God in nature. Elihu therefore admonishes Job to acknowledge God’s wisdom in both matters and to trust Him. Now that Elihu has spoken about the coming of the sun after the storm, the coming of God in His majesty (verse 22), the time has come for God Himself to miraculously teach Job about His ways (cf. Heb 1:1). This is what the following chapters are about.