Ascribe Righteousness to Your Maker (Job Sermon 23)
September 26, 2021 | Andy Davis
In Elihu’s final speech he uses God’s power displayed in the weather as a reminder for Job and all of us to trust God, especially in times of affliction.
- Sermon Transcript -
Turn in your Bibles this morning. We continue our study in Job; looking at chapters 36 and 37, conclude the speeches of Elihu. And as you do, I want to ask you, think in your mind your experience: what is the most awesome display of weather you've ever seen, of weather? When we were missionaries in Japan, I went with my brother-in-law to the coastline there to see the after effects of a massive tsunami. Basically, their version of a hurricane. The wind had whipped the sea into a frothy frenzy and one angry wave after another pummeled the rocky shores. We stood there and watched. The clouds were spectacular. They were mounting higher and higher into the heavens with differing layers, layer upon layer of dark and light clouds. The clouds seemed to be alive, writhing and moving and undulating and crashing into one another. The sound of the winds and its evident force was terrifying, and we struggled to maintain our footing on the rocky cliff where we are standing overlooking this spectacular scene. And all of this was the aftermath of the storm, of the tsunami. The full force of the storm had already passed by. I've seen myself many breathtaking displays of weather that would vie for the top spot in my memory. I remember on a cross country trip, I came to the state of Montana, which claims on their license to be big sky country. I didn't really know what that meant until one day I experienced an electrical storm there, and I realized that the sky did seem bigger than anything I ever saw in my little state of Massachusetts. The states are just little there up in New England. Across the Mississippi they get really big. And the horizon just seemed to be far, far away. And, during this electrical storm, the terror of that storm was greater than anything I'd ever seen before, because I could see the traverse of a single bolt of lightning from one end of the sky to the other. As Jesus talked about it in his second coming glory, "As lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man."
Now as we come to these two chapters in Job 36, 37, we come, as I said, to the final speech of Elihu, the mysterious man of God who just drops into this account. And he comes to speak on God's behalf. He's going to use the staggering power of God displayed in weather, displayed in the clouds, in wind and thunder and lightning to remind Job and all of us to trust God, especially in times of affliction. Today, we're going to find that the basic message from Elihu in these last two chapters will be essentially the same message that what almighty God himself will say to Job in chapters 38-41. Central thesis is this: God is a wise and loving teacher. He uses creation to teach us his nature. And then he uses trials to teach us our own sinfulness and dependency on him, God, the teacher. Therefore, the best we can do in times of suffering is to humble ourselves before him, and trust him more than ever. Look at the wonders of God and creation. Understand the God behind those wonders. Understand that same God is managing your life, and he knows how to do it. So trust him. That's the message. It's going to be the same that we see in Job 38-41, God's speeches.
I. Ascribe Righteousness to Our Maker (Job 36:1-4)
Let's begin by walking through what Elihu says, and we'll start with ascribing righteousness to our Maker. This is going to be probably the central theological idea in this sermon. Ascribing righteousness to our Maker. Look at verses 1-4, “Elihu continued, ‘Bear with me a little longer and I will show you that there is more to be said in God's behalf. I get my knowledge from afar. I will ascribe righteousness to my Maker. Be assured that my words are not false. One perfect in knowledge is with you.’" I believe as we look at this statement, "I will ascribe righteousness to my Maker," there's a very clear reason why Elihu feels the need to do this. We come to the theological topic of theodicy, or the justification of God, the vindication of God. What do I mean by that? Well, human suffering, or the problem of evil, the problem of wickedness in a world that God runs, is one of the great issues, one of the offensive issues for people who question the existence of God. They're going to bring it up. They regularly accuse God of non-existence even, because of the magnitude of human suffering in the world. They say it is impossible for the God you say that exists, a God who is wise, a God who is loving, a God who is powerful, those are the three attributes all the time on this issue, his wisdom, his power, his love to exist. It's impossible for such a God to exist because of all the suffering we see in the world, all the wickedness we see in the world. So either God is not wise, or perhaps he's not loving, or perhaps he's not powerful, or perhaps he doesn't exist at all.
So, Christians, seeking to win a lost world to faith in Christ, have sought to defend the honor of God, to vindicate his ways to a vicious and skeptical world. This is theodicy, the justification of God, or vindication of God. Amazingly, I believe this is the very thing Elihu is determined to do here, verse 3, "I will ascribe righteousness to my Maker." Notice he speaks of God as my Maker; that is appropriate because the centerpiece of his evidence here will be God's activity in creation, in making and sustaining and ruling over everything in the universe. And so, here we want to take Elihu's words and turn it around to all of us who read this text. This is the application for us. Ascribe righteousness to your Maker, and especially do it when you're suffering. When you're tempted to think God is being unfair, or God's being unjust to you, ascribe righteousness to your Maker. That's the main idea. The God who knit you together in your mother's womb, the God who has sustained your life every day since that time. That God, who not only made you, but actually made all things in the universe, that God is righteous. He doesn't make mistakes, this mighty God.
"When you're tempted to think God is being unfair, or God's being unjust to you, ascribe righteousness to your Maker."
Elihu, as he begins to talk, he introduces himself again with this preface and he asks for patience, because he has more to say. "Bear with me a little longer," he says. "I want to speak on God's behalf. I want to speak a word for God." As the theologian and writer said, “Who speaks for God?” We, his people in this world, should speak for God. Who speaks for him? Elihu wants to do that. And Elihu claims to gain wisdom or get his wisdom from afar, afar. He really is claiming to get his wisdom from God himself. He claims his words are not false. He even actually claims to be one who is perfect in knowledge. Now, here, the rubber meets the road on our hermeneutic on Elihu. If you're going to band him together with one of his friends and kind of cast him out in that regard, though there's no biblical reason to do so, but you're going to band him together, then you're going to walk through Elihu's statements and find fault with things he says. You may say, “What an arrogant individual! ‘One perfect in knowledge is here with you.’” Imagine saying that to your friends, “I want you to know one perfect in knowledge is here talking to you right now.” But it's a whole different matter, isn't it? If you believe in the office of a prophet or in prophecy. A prophet under the control of the Spirit actually is perfect in knowledge. You are hearing, when you hear a prophet speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, you are hearing, not the word of man, but the word of God through a man. Scripture throughout testifies at this. Apostle Paul said this to the Thessalonicans: “You heard the word from us as the word of God as it really is, not the word of men.” So that's how I hear Elihu here. He's speaking under the power and the influence of the Holy Spirit as a prophet would.
We're going to see much similarity between Elihu's approach and God's approach, very similar. It's like they have the same script. By the way, that happened at the time of Jesus' resurrection. The angels come to the empty tomb. Mary is there weeping. And the angels, though she doesn't think they're angels, but the angels say, "Why are you weeping?" A few moments later Jesus shows up. What's the first thing he says to her? "Why are you weeping?" It's interesting how the messengers of God, the ones that are truly from God, and God himself say the same thing. So it is here with a Elihu. He's going to give us natural theology. He's going to give us creation theology. We'll talk more about that in a moment. What may be learned about God from creation to make his point? And God's going to do the same thing. He's going to walk through a lot of the same material and many other things besides. And the basic idea is this: a human being should never, ever question a God who can make all of that, all of the things that we see with our eyes, this incredible creation. A God who made that, you should never question him or accuse him of wrongdoing, even if you're suffering greatly.
II. God Uses Suffering to Test Us (Job 36:5-15)
All right. Point two: God uses suffering to test us, verses 5-15. Almighty God does not despise any person. This isn't God despising people. Look at verse 5, "Behold, God is mighty and does not despise any. He is mighty in strength of understanding." That's what the text says. I think our minds might put a disjunction in there. “God is mighty, but he doesn't despise anyone.” I think that would be okay. Although we keep the text just the way it is. It would be easy for suffering people to accuse the mighty God, this awesome powerful God, of playing with people like a vicious young boy who likes to torture insects. "God is mighty," says Elihu. "He's more mighty and powerful than we can possibly imagine, but he doesn't despise any human being." Why is that? Because he knows better than we do the significance of every human being. The significance of everyone created in the image of God. He knows how important that is, so he doesn't despise anyone.
Many rulers and Nobles and the mighty ones on planet Earth, they lorded over the lowliest of people, lorded over them. They despise them. They don't hate them; they just think very little of them. That's what the word means here. They think little of them. They can't be bothered. Those people have no access to that mighty person. Can't get in. He doesn't listen to them. He ignores them. He just lives his high and mighty life. Well, that's not God. God despises no one. And he is mighty in understanding. He understands everything on Earth. He understands what you're going through. He understands your life situation. He understands you and what you need. He understands everything. And he doesn't despise you. Just because we are so limited, because we are so small, you could say, “What is man that you're mindful of him?” We're just small, puny in strength. Yet God doesn't despise any one of us.
Think about how angry Jesus got with his disciples when parents were bringing little children to Jesus. Remember, the disciples were rebuking those people and they couldn't get access and Jesus got angry at them. Their approach is, “Jesus is an important man he doesn't have time for children.” and Jesus became indignant with them and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth. Anyone who will not be converted and transformed to be like a little child will not receive the kingdom of God.” That's how we receive it. And he took the children in his arms and he put his hands on them and blessed them. That's him living out what Elihu says about God. He doesn't despise even the smallest among us.
God does cut off the wicked, verse 6. He's active in cutting off the wicked. Here, Elihu only briefly addressed that lamentation we saw back in Job 21, remember how he is refuting his friends, saying their basic premises. As soon as you're wicked, God crushes you. That's the thing. Job said, "Actually not. There are wicked people that do very well, and they make it to the end of their lives surrounded by all of their loved ones. And they die in their sleep." Job 21. Elihu says, "Actually, the wicked don't escape justice. God sees to it that they get justice. Eventually, he brings the hammer down." Verse 6. But concerning the righteous, God uses suffering to teach them. Verse 7-10: “He does not take his eyes off the righteous; he enthrones them with Kings and exalts them forever. But if men are bound in chains, held fast by chords of affliction, he tells them what they have done- that they have sinned arrogantly. He makes them listen to correction and commands them to repent of their evil.” So God exalts righteous people. He puts them in key positions in society. Even better, someday he'll exalt all of the righteous into heavenly glory and give them thrones, and we will consort with one another with the great ones in history. But along with that, he sometimes afflicts his people with great suffering. Elihu likes it to being held with chains of affliction, cords of affliction, but think of somebody battling chronic illness, like cancer, and wave upon wave of tests and diagnostics come back. It's very, very difficult. It's like they're bound, lashed down by this trial. They can't escape it. They can't sever that cord. It's holding them fast. They can't run and leap and fly and sing. They're held down, they feel, by this chain of affliction. God brings chains of affliction on people, he says to expose their sinfulness. Sometimes it comes as a direct chastisement for sin. Elihu speaks in this case of people sinning arrogantly. There's a certain arrogance, isn't there, to all sin? We're just arrogant when we sin. Prideful. And he brings those individuals, the righteous that are suffering, he brings them to repentance. He convicts them. He takes them back to their own actions. He shows them what they did, “Don't you remember? You did this. You said that. This is what happened.” He shows them their actions, and he makes them take ownership of their choices, “This is what you decided to do.” verse 10, “He makes them listen to correction and commands them to repent of their evil.”
So, I understand you're like, “Well, this sounds a lot like the friends,” but here's the fact of the matter: we don't have Job's resume of righteousness. Don't you think it's wise for us, whenever we go through affliction, to get before God humbly and quietly to go into our room and close the door and pray to our Father whose unseen and say, “God, what sin is there in my life that has resulted in this affliction? Are you chastising me for sin?” It is right for us to do that. Some cases, the answer is no; that, like Job, you're suffering for other purposes. That may be the case. We open that up in our minds. We know the case of Job tells us that. But often it may be, there is a direct chastisement that the Father is bringing into our lives. We should not assume that set is zero, empty; we would never be chastised for our sins. I think we often are. And that's Hebrews 12. So we should go to God. He makes us listen to correction and own our own actions. He commands us to repent of our choices, of our sin, of our evil. The trial then, therefore, sifts people and tests them. The suffering puts people at a fork in the road, and God is testing them to see how they'll respond. Verses 10-12, “He makes them listen to correction, commands them to repent of their evil. If they obey and serve him, they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity and their years in contentment. But if they do not listen, they will perish by the sword and die without knowledge.” So, trials come to all kinds of people, everybody really. When they come, how those people respond sifts them out. There's a sifting that goes on. Shows a lot about the state of your soul. Now, wicked people, when they go through the exact same afflictions, stubbornly refuse to cry out to God. They actually use it as an excuse to get even angrier at God than they were before. Look at verse 13-14, “The godless in heart harbor resentment; even when he fetters them,” there's that chain of affliction, that bondage of affliction, “when he fetters them, they do not cry for help. They die in their youth among male prostitutes of the shrines," the text says.
Many say there are no atheists in foxholes. In other words, when you're in the battle you're going to cry out to God. You're going to find God in that foxhole. Well, actually that doesn't always happen. In fact, it often doesn't happen. Frequently, when wicked people go through these exact same afflictions, they double down on their rebellion, actually. They feel strong in their rebellion because of their suffering. Isaiah 8:21 speaks of this exact same issue, these are wicked people going through affliction: “Distressed and hungry they will roam through the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God." Isaiah 8:21. You see the same thing in the afflictions that happen in the book of Revelation. These punishments and judgments come on the Earth, and the people don't repent. They get even angrier at God. Revelation. Conversely, godly people enduring the exact same trials will use them wisely. Look at verse 15, "those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their afflictions." God speaks to them in their afflictions. He's telling them many things. He's using the affliction to communicate with them. And point three in my outline, God is wooing them. He's wooing them toward himself.
III. God is Wooing Us, but so is Evil (Job 36:16-21)
But along with that comes a warning. So also is evil. There's a siren call of evil. So God is wooing you in the affliction, but so also is evil wooing you, enticing you, verses 16-21. So we get competing enticements, competing voices. On the one hand, God is willing his people to come closer to him, to draw near to him, to ask him for forgiveness and for help. God is telling you, "Use the affliction wisely. Draw closer to me in repentance. Ask me for forgiveness. Ask me for help." On the other hand, though, evil is alluring you. Evil is enticing you, pulling on you with a deadly siren call of rebellion. Who are you going to listen to? The future of your soul depends on how you react when you're at that fork in the road. So God is wooing his people, verses 15-16, “But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction. He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food.” So in your suffering, God is speaking his wisdom into your life. He's speaking his purpose into your life and your love into your life. He's wooing you to himself. He's talking you down from the ledge, from the ledge of rebellion, from the ledge of sin and destruction, from the jaws of distress. He's enticing you, wooing you away from that, he says, to a place of richness, to a banquet table laden in his presence. Ultimately, this will be fulfilled in heaven's banquet table to sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the kingdom of heaven and feast. God prepares a table before us in the presence of our afflictions and he feeds us. That's going to happen.
I already decided, church, what the title of my last sermon in Job will be. I'm going to write it, I think God willing, this week, number of weeks ahead. The happy ending. Does that sound good? I'm looking forward to the happy ending. You guys have read ahead. You know what happens, don't you? I'm not going to tell you now. Another sermon, another day, God willing. But there is a happy ending for us at the end of all of these afflictions. But at the same time, evil is alluring. It's wooing. It's enticing. It's a warning here.
Now, Elihu is speaking, I think, directly to Job here, and he's not accusing him of sin, but he's warning him. "Don't give into resentment. Don't give into bitterness. Don't give into rebellion against God." Look at verses 17-21. "But now you are laden with the judgment due to the wicked; judgment and justice have taken hold of you. Be careful that no one entices you by riches; do not let a bribe turn you aside. Would your wealth or even all your mighty efforts sustain you so that you would not be in distress? Do not long for the night so you can drag people away from their homes. Beware of turning to evil, which you seem to prefer to affliction." These are sharp words, words of rebuke, words of warning. “Don't go in that direction.”
Some people, when they're in the midst of affliction, begin to question the way they've been living their lives up until now. I mean, in piety, in righteousness. “What good has it been to me to serve God all this time? How has it benefited me? I'm here now suffering the same afflictions as the wicked. What good has all my praying done? If this is how God treats his friends, it's no wonder he has so few of them," some have said. Or we hear that bitter wooing or enticing from Job's wife, "Are you still holding onto your integrity? Curse God and die." That's the voice of evil. “Are you holding onto your piety, to your godliness, to all your praying, your righteous? Are you holding onto that?” So evil is saying, “I've got a better way. Why don't you just forget all that piety and religion and follow us and we'll share a purse together,” so to speak, “We will lay in wait for souls and drag them off,” Proverbs 1. Elihu is saying don't do it. Don't give into that siren call of evil. Now, Elihu turns to his main message: the God of creation gives you everything you need for life. He also will give you everything you need to endure this affliction. He is worthy of your full trust in the midst of your suffering. So point four, God uses creation to teach us his nature.
IV. God Uses Creation to Teach Us His Nature (Job 36:22-37:18)
So Elihu fills Job's mind and ours with majestic thoughts of God. So for me, I'm not just along for the ride. I like reading good poetry. I like reading descriptions of nature, but I am asking, what is this here for? Why is this in the book of Job? We have to ask that question. I think the point is that God of creation knows you, is wise and loving, and you can trust him in the midst of your affliction.
So first, God is an exalted teacher. Verse 22, “God is exalted in his power. Who is a teacher like him?” I love that. That's a helpful little reminder. Just put this weapon in your arsenal for when you go through affliction. God is a teacher. God is going to use it to teach you himself. So we should think God is just generally teaching you about himself all the time in creation, but he's also going to teach you in the midst of affliction. And the lesson is always the same, God himself. God is the lesson. We will learn God in all of this. We will learn God by looking at nature. We will learn God by looking at him in the midst of our sufferings. That's what he's saying.
"Just put this weapon in your arsenal for when you go through affliction. God is a teacher. God is going to use it to teach you himself."
So, how majestic is God? Well, he's infinitely majestic. He is a majestic sovereign king. He is an independent king. Look at verse 23, “Who has prescribed his ways for him?” I went back yesterday as I was practicing a sermon, working on this. I looked at this word in multiple translations, “Who has prescribed his ways for him?” There are a lot of different aspects, but they all get about the same thing. “Who has assigned God his ways?” You like that? “Who has told God what to do?” You could look at it, “who has been his counselor?” You heard those words before. “Who has understood the mind of the Lord, or instructed him as his counselor? Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him? Who taught him the right way?” Isaiah 40:13-14. That's the kind of thing. Who did God turn to when he said, “I don't know what to do.” That never happened. No one assigns God his ways. And secondly, no one can say to him, “you have done wrong.” God is accountable to no one. I'm going to zero in on this concept, God willing, in a later sermon. God is not accountable to us. He doesn't have to give any explanation to us for what he's done, verse 23. Point of the universe is that God's glory would be on display. That we would see his glory. That we would study his glory. That we would savor his glory and celebrate his glory. That's our job, “The Earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” It's our job to be the knowing ones. We know his glory and celebrate him.
Look at verses 24-26, “Remember to extol his work, which men have praised in song.” That's just a call to praise him. Just remember to extol him, praise him, which others have written songs about. You should sing. In the midst of your affliction, sing. Verse 25, “All mankind has seen it. Men gaze on it from afar. How great is God- beyond our understanding! The number of his years is past finding out.” And so, Elihu then just waxes eloquently concerning the glories of God and creation. This is what we call natural theology. We're going to be swimming in it over the next number of weeks, God willing.
Natural theology. What does that mean? What you can learn about God from what he has made. Romans 1:20, "Since the creation of the world, God's invisible qualities- his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." So by looking at creation, you can learn what God is like. God is the infinite, the unsearchable creator and sustainer of everything in the universe. Visible and invisible. He is all sufficient. He doesn't need anything from the creation or the creature. But he actually gives to the creation everything it needs to continue to exist. He sustains all of creation by his powerful word. And he sustains creation in the function for which he created it. That's what God does.
Then he talks about weather. As I began the sermon, clouds, rain, thunder, and lightning. Look at verses 27-30: “He draws up the drops of water, which distill as rain to the streams.” So he evaporates them, lifts them up off the Earth. He gathers them, and then he drops them down where he wants them. Verse 28, "The clouds pour down their moisture and abundant showers fall on mankind. Who can understand how he spreads out the clouds, how he thunders from his pavilion? See how he scatters his lightning about him, bathing the depths of the sea." Clouds are really astonishing, aren't they? Have you ever entertained yourself on a summer afternoon just by looking at clouds? Is that something only children do? I must tell you honestly, I haven't done it in a while. Oh, I know I wrote about it in the sermon here, but I remember when I was a kid, you would just look up at the clouds and try to turn them into shapes. Did you ever do that? Like an elephant with a big trunk, really big trunk on that elephant. Or I don't know, some palace with spires going up, or some mountain range, or I don't know, a squirrel. I never saw a squirrel in clouds. You know, they look like fluffy whiffs of cotton, but they're actually immensely heavy. They're very heavy. They're made up of evaporated water, and water is heavy. Water rises from the surface of the Earth. Clouds rise up. They're carried by thermals, like rising columns of heated air. The average fair weather cloud can weigh well over 1 million pounds. A million pounds, one of those fair weather clouds. What about one of those massive thunderstorm clouds that I was describing? Well, that's billions of pounds of water. How does it defy gravity? Do you ever wonder about that? It's amazing. And they just float over the surface of the Earth. And then God's storms are terrifying. Verses 29-30, "Who can understand how he spreads out the clouds, how he thunders from his pavilion? See how he scatters his lightning about him bathing the depths of the sea.” bathing them in light, crackling light. You ever seen an electrical storm over the water, it's just impressive.
By these clouds, Elihu says, God controls the water of the Earth. And he actually even controls the direction of human history by weather. Verses 31-33, “This is the way he governs the nations and provides food and abundance. He fills his hands with lightning and commands it to strike its mark. His thunder announces the coming storm. Even the cattle make known its approach." That's a fascinating concept. God controls, governs nations by weather. Not only by weather, but sometimes by weather, like battles have been influenced decisively by a sudden rainstorm that hinders the movement of troops from one place to another. It happens. And how much more the economy, how withholding water from one place or giving suitable or appropriate water to another place causes food to grow and a balance of wealth that affects the unfolding history of nations. It's amazing.
And then we come to the terror of thunder and lightning. You could say, “Look, pastor, I've outgrown all that. I'm not afraid of thunder and lightning at all.” Have you ever had one strike literally right over your head? What's happening to your heart rate at that moment, dear friends? Especially if it was unexpected, it's unbelievably loud. It's terrifying. Chapter 37:1-5, "At this my heart pounds and leaps from its place." Yes. That's you in an electrical storm, "Listen! Listen to the roar of his voice, to the rumbling that comes from his mouth. He unleashes his lightning beneath the whole heaven and sends it to the ends of the earth. After that comes the sound of his roar. He thunders with his majestic voice. When his voice resounds, he holds nothing back. God's voice thunders in marvelous ways. He does great things beyond our understanding." Elihu acknowledges that his own heart pounds whenever he sees an electrical storm. And the thunder and lightning go together, for thunder is caused by the rapid expansion of air surrounding the path of a lightning bolt. Lightning is the discharge of the static electricity that's happening between the clouds as they rub against each other. A lightning bolt takes only a few thousands of a second to make its journey to the surface of the Earth, but its effects are overwhelming. Lightning bolts heat the air around the bolt to a temperature as high as 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit. That's five times hotter than the surface of the sun. The combination of thunder and lightning always has the power to strike terror into the hearts of people.
The wicked emperor, Caligula, was so terrified of electrical storms, thunder and lightning, that he would run into a corner or literally hide under a bed. He was the Emperor of Rome hiding under a bed at an electrical storm. And then there's Martin Luther, who is a law student making his way across a field in Germany, electrical storm traps him. He's hundreds and hundreds of yards from the forest or from any safety. He falls down in the mud and makes a vow to the patron saint of minors. "Help me, Saint Anne. I shall become a monk." Medieval Catholic theology. He was going to earn his way out of hell by becoming a monk, but that led him on a journey to discovering the gospel. But it was electrical storm. Brilliant, jagged, blinding light, coupled with overpowering deep rolling sound. Our senses reel with the power. They're designed by God, among other things, dear friends to strike terror in the hearts of arrogant, rebellious human beings. And he does it easily.
You remember Exodus 19, the 10 commandments? Remember God descending in a cloud and fire to the top of Mount Sinai? And do you remember how the Earth shook beneath their feet? And there was an electrical storm. Exodus 19:16, "On the morning of the third day, there was thunder and lightning with a thick cloud over the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled." The book of Hebrews tells us something we didn't know. Moses was so terrified at the site that he said, "I am terrified with fear." Everyone was afraid. 10 times in the book of Revelation, 10 times, thunder and lightning are used to show the terrifying power of the presence of God. Thunder and lightning. So Revelation 11:19, "Then God's temple in heaven was open. And within his temple was seen the arc of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peels of thunder and earthquake in a great hailstorm."
Elihu calls thunder the voice of God. Beyond this, Elihu talks about God's control of weather. Verses 5-14, "God's voice thunders in marvelous ways. He does great things beyond our understanding. He says to the snow, 'Fall on the earth.' And to the rain shower, 'Be a mighty downpour.' so that all men that he has made may know his work. He stops every man from his labor." They have to stop working because it's a downpour, “The animals take cover. They remain in their dens. The tempest comes out from its chamber, the cold from the driving winds. The breath of God produces ice. The broad waters become frozen. He loads the clouds with moisture. He scatters his lightning through them. At his direction they swirl around over the face of the whole Earth to do whatever he commands them. He brings the clouds to punish men or to water the Earth and show his love.” verse 14, "Listen to this, Job. Stop and consider God's wonders." The range of precipitation, all of which God controls. The volume of rain, differing levels. Like, there's a sprinkle, ever been in a sprinkle? And then a spring shower. Then there's a downpour. Then there's sheets of rain. I like to talk about the car wash effect. Have you ever been in one of those? I don't know what it is about this region. I never saw this in the state I grew up in, but you can have this pocket of rain and drive through. It takes about a minute to drive through, but it's like a car wash. And then the other side the road is literally dry, bone dry. But in that car wash, it's hard to drive. You can't see much beyond the hood of the car.
Then there's the temperature that God controls. Sometimes it's warm, sometimes colder, sometimes freezing. And then different types of precipitation. There's rain, there's snow, there's hail, hail storms. And then there's the effect of the precipitation. As he says, men have to stop working. Animals take cover. So God uses the clouds, he says, both to punish men, but also to water the Earth and to show his love for people, verse 13. All of these are done at the will and bidding of God for his inscrutable purposes. And man is powerless over the weather. I don't know of any research being done to control weather patterns. I mean, I think we know to wave the white flag on that one. What could we do to stop the massive movements of air over the surface of the Earth? Nothing. Powerless.
So God's activity and all of this should humble us. Verses 14-18, "Listen to this, Job. Stop and consider God's wonders. Do you know how God controls the clouds and makes his lightning flash? Do you know how the clouds hang poised? Those wonders of him who has perfect in knowledge, you who swelter in your clothes when the land lies hush beneath the south wind. Can you join him in spreading out the skies hard as a mirror of cast bronze?" Now this is the very approach that God is going to take with Job in chapters 38-41. "You are limited in knowledge. You are limited in power. You are limited in longevity, in lifespan. Who are you to question me?" He's going to take this exact approach that Elihu is taking here. Such a mighty God of creation is worthy of our adoration and trust. Even in times of suffering.
V. Consider God’s Wonders and Revere Him (Job 37:19-24)
Fifth point. Consider God's wonders then and revere him. Verses 19-24, "Tell us what we should say to him that we cannot draw up our case because of our darkness. Should he be told that I want to speak? Would any man ask to be swallowed up? Now no one can look at the sun, bright as it is in the skies after the wind has swept them clean. Out of the north he comes in golden splendor; God comes in awesome majesty. The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power; in his justice and great righteousness, he does not oppress. Therefore, men revere him, for does he not have regard for all the wise in heart?" So let's just get to the point here. Elihu is warning Job to stop preparing his court case. You know how Job wants to have his day in court with God as his legal opponent? He thinks he can walk boldly into the presence of God with his legal arguments about his righteousness and accuse God of injustice concerning him, but the God of thunder and lightning, the God who sends every drop of rain that has ever fallen on earth, the God of creation of glory will not be impressed with any of Job's credentials or any of his arguments. None of them. And would not a mortal man be swallowed up by the infinitcy of God's majesty? "We cannot look at the sun directly when the clouds are gone," Elihu says, “We'd be instantly blinded. But God created and sustains the sun. His glory's greater than the sun. God comes out of the north with gold splendor riding on the clouds of awesome glory. He speaks in a voice of thunder. Almighty God then is infinitely above our reach. Hear that Job and hear that all suffering people. God's righteousness is perfect. So here's my final advice,” verse 24, "Fear him for he does not regard any who are wise in their own conceit. Fear him." That's just his way of saying: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” He's not going to look at you if you are arrogant. So you better humble yourself before him and he'll give you grace.
All right, so that's Elihu, chapters 36, 37. What lessons can we take from this? Well, the central lesson we've said throughout the sermon: the God of this glorious creation is worthy of your full trust. When you are suffering afflictions, realize that this mighty God cannot, will not, do wrong in your case. He knows what he's doing. You need to trust him. When you're suffering afflictions draw near to him in humble worship. Humbly ask him for relief, ask him for wisdom, ask him how have I sinned and expect that there is some answer, and then repent of that sin. But don't accuse God of unrighteousness, of injustice. As Elihu said, realize that God is a teacher. He's using creation every day to teach you his nature, but he's also using afflictions to teach you. And what should you learn? That you're a creature and he's the creator. He's infinitely above you. And secondly, that you're a sinner in need of repentance. You have sinned and need to repent. And so like Job at the end of this book, so will you. When you have this encounter with God, you're going to feel that sinfulness and you're going to repent. And use the trial. You're at the fork in the road. Use it to get closer to God, not to hear that evil sirens song to get further away from God. Beware of evil. Beware of murmuring against God, seething in rebellion, questioning the goodness of God or the justice of God or mercy of God. Don't do that. Ultimately, all roads in scripture lead to Christ.
Now, let's look at what the basic issue is here. Elihu is here to speak on God's behalf. God will tell very clearly what he's angry at Job at: "How can you accuse me of injustice, of unrighteousness?" Now here's what I want to say to you. You can't really see the righteousness of God in creation. It's hard to see righteousness. I can see power. I can see wisdom. I can see love. It's hard to see righteousness there. No friends, the greatest display of righteousness there has ever been is the death of his only begotten Son. That's where you see righteousness.
"The greatest display of righteousness there has ever been is the death of his only begotten Son. That's where you see righteousness."
God presented Christ as a propitiation, a sacrifice of atonement for our sins. “He did this,” Romans 3:25-26, “to demonstrate his justice, his righteousness. Because in his forbearance, he'd left the sins committed beforehand unpunished.” You look at history, you look at how God treats different people, you'll get confused. You won't see that God is always, like, smacking the wicked as soon as they do injustice. It's confusing. What you have to do is look to what God did in his only begotten Son, the only pure man that has ever lived. He crushed him on the cross. And why? Because he is our sin bearing substitute. God made him, Christ, who had no sin to be sin for us, and then crushed him so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. That is the single greatest display of the righteousness of God there ever has been or ever will be. God did it to demonstrate his justice, his righteousness. So if you ever want to question the righteousness of God, look to the cross.
And then secondly, know that the one who died there is there to be a merciful and faithful high priest to help you through your trials. He's not distant. He is God with us. He walks with you through the trial. He knows what it is to be tempted. He knows what it is to suffer. And so it says in Hebrews 2:17-18, "Christ is a merciful and high priest and service to God. That he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted."
Finally, I don't know if you're ever going to get out to Montana, but picture in your mind: big sky country. Picture in your mind the lightning flashes from the east visible even in the west, "And at that time,” Jesus says, "the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky. And all the nations of the Earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming in power and great glory on the clouds of the sky." That's what we're looking forward to, a display of the justice and righteousness of God and the salvation that waits for all of us.
Close with me in prayer. Lord, thank you for what we learn from scripture. It's deep. It's complicated. It's not easy to walk through these verses. Father, give us the ability to hear these lessons and take them to heart. Help us to realize, not with any sense of dread or ominousness, but you are in fact right now preparing us for suffering and infliction that you will bring wisely into our lives later. Help us, oh Lord, not to turn away in rebellion, but to turn to you in love and in faith. In Jesus' name. Amen.