Job 36: Lessons for Discerning God’s Will from Elihu’s Mixed Prophetic Claims

Introduction: God can sometimes speak through a wayward person of the flesh. Balaam is one example (Nu. 23-24). Elihu is another example. Elihu had falsely condemned Job as being judged for his alleged sins. Here, he would continue to give that false message. Yet, at the end of this chapter, God would indeed inspire Elihu’s words in preparation for God’s arrival. You may encounter people who have said terrible things. But that does not preclude God from speaking through them. From Elihu’s mixture of false and true prophetic claims, God reveals seven lessons for discerning His will when you encounter a person like Elihu. These include: (1) testing, (2) edification, (3) prayer, (4) truth, (5) submission, (6) trust, and (7) fearing God.

First, after initially claiming to speak from his heart, Elihu now claimed that he was really speaking for God. God wants you to test every prophetic claim that you receive to determine its source. Second, Elihu then offered generic statements about God’s discipline that were true in the abstract. But they did not explain Job’s suffering. In contrast, a real prophetic claim from God is both edifying and relevant to your life. Third, without ever praying, Elihu warned Job that he faced an even worse fate unless he repented of his alleged sins. But his statements were false. Prayer should always come before any alleged prophetic advice. Prayer should also be used to confirm any prophetic claims. Fourth, Elihu claimed that God had disciplined Job for his allegedly wicked sins. But these were false statements. God had declared Job to be blameless. Any prophetic claim from God must be truthful and free from any lies or deceit. Fifth, once Elihu began to focus on the mysteries of God and not Job, God began to speak though him. Elihu stated that God’s power was beyond our understanding. God would later reinforce this message upon His arrival. A true prophetic message includes the requirement that you submit to God’s will, even when the reasons for God’s actions are unclear to you. Sixth, Elihu next spoke of the mysteries of the life-giving water cycle to emphasize the need for Job to trust God. A true prophetic message also stresses the need to trust God when His reasons are unknown. Finally, Elihu then described God’s power through terms like lightning and thunder. A true prophetic message includes the need to fear God. This includes reverent awe and hating evil and rebellion.

1. Testing: Test Every Prophetic Claim to Determine Its Source. Job 36:1-4.

  • Elihu claimed to speak on God’s behalf. After receiving no response to his prior speeches, Elihu declared for the first time that he was really speaking on God’s behalf: “1 Then Elihu continued and said, ‘Wait for me a little, and I will show you that there is still more to be said on God’s behalf. I will bring my knowledge from afar, and ascribe righteousness to my Maker. For truly my words are not false; one who is perfect in knowledge is with you.”’ (Job 36:1-4). Three chapters earlier, Elihu claimed to have offered his words from his heart: “My words are from the integrity of my heart, and my lips speak knowledge sincerely.” (Job 33:6). Elihu then concluded two of his speeches by insulting Job: “‘Job speaks without knowledge, and his words are without wisdom.’” (Job 34:35). ‘“16 so Job opens his mouth with empty words; He multiplies words without knowledge.”’ (Job 35:16). Elihu failed to provoke Job into repenting. Thus, Elihu decided to employ a new approach. During the same set of uninterrupted speeches, he claimed that his words were really from God. How do we reconcile the two statements? Elihu was claiming that his words from his heart must have come from God because he felt that they were sincere. But the prophet Jeremiah warns: “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). Indeed, Elihu was filled with prideful conceit. He claimed to have “perfect knowledge” (Job 36:4). He would soon use these exact same words to describe God (Job 37:16).

Elihu claimed to have had a special revelation from God1

  • Eliphaz also claimed to have received a special revelation. Elihu was not the only person to claim to have received a special revelation. After a dream, Eliphaz also believed that he received a special revelation: “Now a word was brought to me secretly, and my ear received a whisper of it. Amid disquieting thoughts from visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on people, dread came upon me, and trembling, and made all my bones shake.” (Job 4:12-14). Eliphaz most likely received a demonic dream. Moses commanded that false dreamers be put to death for misrepresenting God (Dt. 13:5). Jeremiah also warned of false prophets who proclaim: “‘I had a dream, I had a dream!’” (Jer. 23:25). Jude also warns of false dreams (Jude 1:8). Thus, the fact that someone claims to be speaking for God is not by itself proof that God has in fact spoken to them.

  • Test every prophetic claim. There will always be people who are misguided in their belief that they are speaking for God. “Then the LORD said to me, ‘The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My name. I have neither sent them nor commanded them nor spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divination, futility and the deception of their own minds.”’ (Jer. 14:14). Thus, Jesus warns believers to “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (Matt. 7:15). “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.” (Matt. 24:11, 24). Thus, it is important to test every person who claims to speak on God’s behalf: “20 But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ 21 You may say in your heart, ‘How will we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ 22 When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.” (Dt. 18:20-22). God allows false prophets to exist to test your heart (Dt. 13:3). His warnings to test all things is repeated in the New Testament. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 Jo. 4:1; 2 Tim. 3:16; 1 Thess. 5:21). Deceiving spirits may also come across as “angels of light” (2 Cor. 11:14-15). Thus, you should always be wary of being deceived. You should therefore test every person who claims to speak for God.

  • Don’t claim to represent God’s will without confirmation. Elihu failed to confirm that he was speaking for God. God’s will can be confirmed through the Word, prayer, of two or more witnesses (2 Cor. 13:1; Dt. 17:6; 19:15). For example, the Bereans searched the Word daily to confirm Paul’s claims about Jesus (Acts 17:11). If you claim to represent God’s will without any confirmation, you may commit the sin of presumption like Elihu. Likewise, if you fail to test or confirm a prophetic claim, you could be led astray.

  • Do not lean on your own understanding. Elihu was sincere in his beliefs that he represented God because it felt true to him. Yet, in situations like this, Solomon warned not to lean on your own understanding: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5). For people like Elihu, consulting God in prayer will also appear like a foolish waste of time. “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18; 1 Cor. 2:14). If you are offering important advice, first consult God.

2. Edification: A Prophetic Claim Should Be Both Edifying and Relevant. Job 36:5-12.

  • Elihu offered general truths about God’s discipline that did not explain Job’s suffering. After claiming to speak for God, Elihu offered generic statements about God’s discipline: “Behold, God is mighty but does not reject anyone; He is mighty in strength of understanding. He does not keep the wicked alive, but gives justice to the afflicted. He does not withdraw His eyes from the righteous, but with kings on the throne He has seated them forever, and they are exalted. And if they are bound in shackles, and are caught in the snares of misery, then He declares to them their work and their wrongdoings, that they have been arrogant. 10 He opens their ears to instruction, and commands that they return from injustice. 11 If they listen and serve Him, they will end their days in prosperity, and their years in happiness. 12 But if they do not listen, they will perish by the sword, and die without knowledge.” (Job 36:5-12). Each of Elihu’s statements were true in a generic sense. God’s justice is perfect, and He may discipline sinners in His timing. But Elihu’s generic truths had no application to Job. More importantly, Elihu had merely plagiarized his claims from other prior speakers.

Obedience can bring immediate blessings. But Job is proof that this is not always true.2

  • Elihu used subtle, coded words to call Job wicked. Elihu stated that God “does not withdraw His eyes from the righteous.” (Job 36:7). This was both a compliment to God and a subtly put down against Job. One commentator observes that “Since Job had often said and felt that God had removed His eyes from Job, Elihu is clearly counting Job among the wicked. In Elihu’s mind, the freedom God has for the righteous does not belong to Job because Job is not among the righteous. . . In Elihu’s mind, the righteous man was marked by many things; things that were conspicuously absent from the life of Job. – God’s eyes are upon the righteous . . . - The righteous are exalted . . . - If the righteous are bound, God convicts them, sets them free, and are restored to prosperity and pleasures . . . He warned Job to repent and to not be like the disobedient who perish and who die without knowledge.” (David Guzik on Job 36).3 If Elihu had met Joseph after Potiphar had sent him to prison based upon his wife’s charges (Gen. 39:19-20), Elihu would have likely looked at Joseph’s imprisonment as proof that God had abandoned him because of his unrepentant sins. Elihu made the mistake that many make in looking at a person’s environment as proof of God’s will. Thus, Elihu was not yet speaking for God.

  • Elihu restated many of Eliphaz’s words. Elihu claimed to have a revelation from God when he declared: “He does not keep the wicked alive, but gives justice to the afflicted.” (Job 36:6). But he had restated comments that Eliphaz had made earlier: “Remember now, who ever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright destroyed?” (Job 4:7). Eliphaz also stated: “But He saves from the sword of their mouth, and the poor from the hand of the strong.” (Job 5:15). Elihu further claimed to have special revelation from God when he declared: “He does not withdraw His eyes from the righteous, but with kings on the throne He has seated them forever, and they are exalted.” (Job 36:7). Yet, he had again restated comments that Eliphaz had made earlier: “So that He sets on high those who are lowly, and those who mourn are lifted to safety.” (Job 5:11). Eliphaz also stated: “When they have brought you low, you will speak with confidence, and He will save the humble person.” (Job 22:29). Elihu further claimed to have a revelation from God when he declared: “12 But if they do not listen, they will perish by the sword, and die without knowledge.” (Job 36:12). Yet, in reference to the wicked, Eliphaz had made a similar warning: “‘Is their tent-cord not pulled out within them? They die, yet without wisdom.’” (Job 4:21). Eliphaz also said: “He does not believe that he will return from darkness, and he is destined for the sword.” (Job 15:22). God later rebuked Eliphaz for his words (Job 42:7). Thus, if Eliphaz’s words were not from God, Elihu could not have been speaking from God when he recycled Eliphaz’s statements.

  • Elihu also restated many of Job’s statements. Elihu claimed to have a revelation from God when he declared: “Behold, God . . . is mighty in strength of understanding.” (Job 36:5). But he had merely restated Job’s words: “Wisdom and might are with Him; advice and understanding belong to Him.” (Job 12:13). “Wise in heart and mighty in strength, who has defied Him without harm?” (Job 9:4). Elihu further claimed to have a special revelation from God when he declared: “11 If they listen and serve Him, they will end their days in prosperity, and their years in happiness.” (Job 36:11). But he had again merely restated Job's prior claims: “They spend their days in prosperity, and suddenly they go down to Sheol.” (Job 21:13). As a man of God, Job likely tested Elihu’s words. If so, he merely heard his own words plagiarized and used against him.

  • God’s Word should edify God’s people. Paul declared that any prophetic utterance should edify God’s people: “One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church.” (1 Cor. 14:4). Part of edifying God’s people means that it is relevant to rebuking, correcting, and training God’s people: “All Scripture is inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness;” (2 Tim. 3:16). “I wish you could all speak in tongues, but even more I wish you could all prophesy. For prophecy is greater than speaking in tongues, . . .” (1 Cor. 14:5). A prophet speaks God’s Word. If you use the wisdom of Jesus’ Word to edify, bless, correct, or encourage, you are a prophet.

3. Prayer: Seek God’s Guidance and Don’t Rely On Your Understanding. Job 36:13-15.

  • Elihu suggested that God would rescue Job from oppression if he repented. Without praying for God’s guidance, Elihu then told Job that God could rescue a sinner like him: “13 But the godless in heart nurture anger; they do not call for help when He binds them. 14 They die in youth, and their life perishes among the cult prostitutes. 15 He rescues the afflicted in their misery, and opens their ears in time of oppression.” (Job 36:13-15). Elihu warned Job that unrepentant sinners faced a dark future. Elihu convinced himself that Job was a hypocrite who refused to call out to God in repentance. Thus, he claimed that God’s “anger” was upon him, and he faced an even darker future ahead of him. He analogized Job to “cult prostitutes” who were destined to die under God’s wrath from incurable diseases. Elihu chose what was at that time one of the most offensive sins before God to suggest that Job’s sins must have been just as egregious to God.

Elihu promised that God would bring him happiness as soon as he repented4

  • Elihu’s alleged revelation from God was again plagiarized. As part of his alleged special revelation, Elihu proclaimed that God: “rescues the afflicted in their misery, and opens their ears in time of oppression.” (Job 36:15). But Eliphaz had made a similar claim: “Behold, happy is the person whom God disciplines, so do not reject the discipline of the Almighty.” (Job 5:17). If Elihu was speaking for God, then so was Eliphaz. But God would soon rebuke Eliphaz (Job 42:7). Thus, Elihu was again not yet speaking from God when he repurposed Eliphaz’s statements as his own.

  • Seek God’s will to guide the important decisions in your life. Elihu should have consulted God before he condemned Job as a hypocrite who was allegedly under God’s judgment. The heroes of the faith frequently turned to God before they took important actions. After hearing reports of Saul’s imminent attack on him in the wilderness, David turned to the priest Abiathar to guide his steps (1 Sam. 23:9-15). Likewise, Jehoshaphat once asked for a prophet to help discern God’s will (2 Kgs. 3:11). When you cry out to God, He will give you wisdom: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (Jam. 1:5). “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.” (Ps. 51:6). “For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Prov. 2:6). David would also turn to God’s Word to guide his path: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:105). The Holy Spirit will help you to remember the Word and apply it in your life. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (Jo. 14:26, 16; 15:26; 16:13). Are you reading the Word and praying before you offer advice?

4. Truth: God’s Will Is Only Revealed Through Truthful Statements. Job 36:16-21.

  • Elihu’s claim that God had disciplined Job. Also as part of his professed alleged special revelation, Elihu called Job a sinner who was allegedly suffering God’s angry wrath: “16 Then indeed, He induced you away from the mouth of distress, and instead of it, a broad place with no constraint; and your table was full of rich food. 17 But you were full of judgment on the wicked; judgment and justice take hold of you. 18 Beware that wrath does not entice you to mockery; and do not let the greatness of the ransom turn you aside. 19 Will your cry for help keep you from distress, or all the exertions of your strength? 20 Do not long for the night, when people vanish in their places. 21 Be careful, do not turn to evil, for you preferred this to misery.” (Job 36:16-21). Elihu’s false claims were fully exposed when he dispensed with his subtle talk and proclaimed as part of his alleged special revelation that Job was “full of [God’s] judgment on the wicked.” (Job 36:17). God had in fact twice proclaimed that Job was “blameless” (Job 1:8; 2:3). Thus, Elihu was not speaking truthful words. Therefore, he was not yet speaking for God.

  • Elihu again restated many of Eliphaz’s words. Elihu believed that God mechanically blessed the righteous. Thus, he promised God’s restoration and freedom from distress if only he would repent: “16 Then indeed, He induced you away from the mouth of distress, and instead of it, a broad place with no constraint; and your table was full of rich food.” (Job 36:16). But this was again similar to Eliphaz’s promise of God’s consolation and comfort if only Job repented: “Are the consolations of God too little for you, or the word spoken gently to you?” (Job 15:11, 17). Elihu also alleged that God’s judgment for Job’s allegedly wicked actions was upon him: “17 But you were full of judgment on the wicked; judgment and justice take hold of you.” (Job 36:17.) Yet, his words were again similar to Eliphaz’s prior claim that God had judged Job for his wicked deeds: “Is your wickedness not abundant, and is there no end to your guilty deeds?” (Job 22:5). Again, because God later rebuked Eliphaz for his false attacks on Job (Job 42:7), Elihu could not have been speaking from God when he repeated Eliphaz’s false condemnations.

  • God speaks to those who diligently seek His truth. Throughout time, there have been many who have been sincere but sincerely misguided in their beliefs. For example, Saul thought that he was serving God when he hunted down the followers of Christ. At that time, he could not hear God’s voice. Yet, God later transformed him and allowed him to understand His voice (Acts 9). If you diligently seek His truth, you will also find Him, and His truth will guide you and set you free: ‘“and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. . . So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”’ (Jo. 8:32, 36). “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29:13). “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Matt. 7:7-8). “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” (Ro. 8:2). Are you diligently seeking Jesus’ truth before you offer advice to others?

  • God’s truth is also based upon love, which Elihu lacked. Job’s three friends and Elihu were united in their belief that God had condemned Job for some major hidden sin. Believers are called upon to act with one accord as the Spirit leads the body (Ro. 12:5; 1 Cor. 10:17; 12:12; 12:20-21; Eph. 4:4). But unity must be based upon the love of God: “Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” (Col. 3:14). Neither Job’s friends nor Elihu spoke out of love. Thus, Elihu did not yet speak for God.

  • God sent the prophets and later Jesus because His shepherds led His people astray. Job had no human counselor to help him understand the reasons for his suffering. Because this problem would persist, Moses later prayed for God to provide a spiritual shepherd to gather His lost sheep: “May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation, who will go out and come in before them, and who will lead them out and bring them in, so that the congregation of the LORD will not be like sheep which have no shepherd.” (Nu. 27:16-17). Jeremiah also lamented the lack of a spiritual shepherd for God’s people: “My people have become lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray. They have made them turn aside on the mountains; they have gone along from mountain to hill and have forgotten their resting place.” (Jer. 50:6). Jesus is the Good Shepherd who came to gather His lost sheep: “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matt. 9:36; Mk. 6:34). When you feel alone in your pain, turn to Jesus.

  • Don’t despise those who use God’s Word to reprove evil. Although Job’s friends and Elihu were wrong in claiming that Job’s problem was a failure to repent of some sin, their advice is normally correct. The bigger problem today is typically leaders who try to minimize or contradict what the Bible defines as sin. God’s prophet Amos condemned those who reject God’s reproof: “They hate him who reproves in the gate, and they abhor him who speaks with integrity.” (Amos 5:10). “A scoffer does not love one who reproves him, he will not go to the wise.” (Prov. 15:12). Paul also rebuked those who despised him for speaking God’s Word: “So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Gal. 4:16). God does not want you to have a stiff neck when He reproves you. Instead, He wants you to repent and turn back to Him when He reproves you.

5. Submission: Submit to God, Even When His Reasons are Unclear. Job 36:22-24.

  • Elihu encouraged Job to submit to the God whom he could not fully understand. After his attacks on Job failed, Elihu spoke with inspiration for the first time as he praised God: “22 Behold, God is exalted in His power; who is a teacher like Him? 23 Who has appointed Him His way, and who has said, ‘You have done wrong’? 24 ‘Remember that you are to exalt His work, of which people have sung.”’ (Job 36:22-24). Commentators observe a profound difference in Elihu’s speech from this point through the end of Chapter 37: “Elihu’s fourth speech makes an abrupt turn at this point. He moved from the subject of God’s punishment of the wicked and rewarding of the righteous to a description of God the Creator, transcendent, mighty, and inexplicable. The one imperative, ‘remember,’ in v. 24 suggests that Elihu was still speaking to Job, but the essay seems intended for a wider audience, one that includes even us. It is the introduction to the prelude of the theophany.” (Robert Alden, The New American Commentary, Vol. 11, Job (B&H Publishing Group 1993) p. 354). “This begins a section where a marked change comes over Elihu. As the following verses indicate, he probably spoke with his eye upon a rapidly approaching storm with all of its rain and wind and thunder and dark clouds. A sudden and wonderful inspiration filled Elihu, and he spoke in a very different way than his previous harsh and condemning way towards Job.” (David Guzik on Job 36).5 God once used a demon-possessed girl to proclaim that Paul and Silas were “servants of the Most High God.” (Acts 16:16-18). Likewise, God used Balaam, who was hired to curse God’s people, to bless them (Nu. 23-24). If God can use His enemies to be the heralds of His people or use them to bless His people, He could certainly speak the truth through a misguided believer like Elihu.

For the first time, Elihu spoke for God when he urged Job to submit to God6

  • Trust God and submit to His will. Elihu proclaimed that no one could claim to be God’s teacher: “22 Behold, God is exalted in His power; who is a teacher like Him?” (Job 36:22). Job had made nearly the same statement: “Can anyone teach God knowledge, in that He judges those on high?” (Job 21:22). But Job had failed to internalize his own words and submit to God: “Elihu indirectly suggested in 34:22 that Job ask God to ‘teach’ him what he could not see. It also looks forward to chaps 38-41, where God did ‘teach’ Job about Himself.” (Alden at 355). Like Job, believers are called upon to trust God’s greater plans, even if we don’t understand them: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Ro. 8:28). During your trials, do you fully trust God?

  • God’s greater plans for mankind are beyond our full understanding. In the face of the unknown, Elihu proclaimed that Job should submit to God by exalting God’s works and singing His praises: “24 ‘Remember that you are to exalt His work, of which people have sung.”’ (Job 36:22-24). This was sound advice that is repeated in the psalms: “How great are Your works, LORD! Your thoughts are very deep.” (Ps. 92:5). “Elihu considered God’s power and wisdom as the themes Job should dwell on rather than God’s justice. The wisdom of the great Teacher (cf. 34:32; 35:11) assures the justice of His actions, and His power makes certain His wise purposes will be fulfilled. God’s ways derive from His sovereign freedom (v. 23a). This rules out man’s right to question God’s moral conduct (v. 23b). Because man sees God’s work at a great distance, he cannot understand it completely; so he who is wise will look on it with delight and praise (v. 24).” (Frank Gaebelein, Elmer Smick, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, 1, 2 Kings, 1, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job (Zondervan Publishing House 1988) p. 1023). Job had faithfully worshiped and praised God during his times of blessing. Now, he would need to learn to submit and praise God during his trials.

6. Trust: Trust in God’s Plans for You, Even When You Don’t Understand. Job 36:25-29.

  • Elihu stated that God’s power is beyond Job’s ability to understand. Using the analogy of the life-giving water cycle, Elihu stated that God’s power was beyond our understanding: “25 All people have seen it; mankind looks at it from afar. 26 Behold, God is exalted, and we do not know Him; the number of His years is unsearchable. 27 For He draws up the drops of water; they distill rain from its celestial stream, 28 which clouds pour down; they drip upon mankind abundantly. 29 Can anyone understand the spreading of the clouds, the thundering of His pavilion?” (Job 36:25-29). Job lived in an arid Middle Eastern environment where rain was critical to life. Eliphaz had also made a similar claim: “He gives rain on the earth, and sends water on the fields,” (Job 5:10). The water that they depended upon came from a complicated cycle of water evaporation that turned into clouds and then rain. Then as now, the mechanics of the water cycle was beyond the ability of most people to understand. Then as now, people must trust in God to deliver life-giving water to survive. Whether He withholds or delivers rain, He has a reason. He is worthy of our worship in either case because He knows what is best for mankind.

  • Mankind can never fully understand the complexities of God’s mind. Elihu correctly stated that mankind does “not know Him” and “the number of His years is unsearchable.” (Job 36:26). This was a true statement. Job’s misguided friend Zophar had also made a similar claim: “Can you discover the depths of God? Can you discover the limits of the Almighty?” (Job 11:7). Although both of these men proclaimed that God’s ways are beyond human comprehension, both claimed to know God’s will with their retribution theology. Elihu also stated that God is unknowable, like thunder: “29 Can anyone understand the spreading of the clouds, the thundering of His pavilion?” (Job 36:29). Job also claimed that God is unknowable, like thunder: (Job 26:14). But his complaints against God stemmed from his presumption that he also understood how God worked.

  • Trust God, even when you do not understand the reasons for a trial. Like Job, his friends, and Elihu, you cannot claim to know God’s mind. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.” (Is. 55:8). Instead of criticizing what you don’t understand, give praise that God makes everything work together in mysterious ways to serve His greater good: “Many, LORD my God, are the wonders which You have done, and Your thoughts toward us; there is no one to compare with You. If I would declare and speak of them, they would be too numerous to count.” (Ps. 40:5). Are you praising God for the wonders of nature and His sovereignty?

7. Fear God: If You Don’t Fear God, You Won’t Discern His Word. Job 30-33.

  • Elihu reminded Job to be reverent to the all-powerful Creator. Elihu then used the analogy of lightning and thunder to advise Job that he needed to respect God their Creator: 30 Behold, He spreads His lightning about Him, and He covers the depths of the sea. 31 For by them He judges peoples; He gives food in abundance. 32 He covers His hands with the lightning, and commands it to strike the target. 33 Its thundering voice declares His presence; the livestock also, concerning what is coming up.” (Job 36:30-33). Elihu later again describes the voice of God as thunder (Job 37:4-5). As Elihu was speaking, the clouds that preceded God’s appearance had arrived.

Even when you don’t understand, be reverent the Creator of the universe7

  • Lightening and thunder were symbols of God’s power. Jesus used lightning to describe the quickness of God’s judgment against Satan: “And He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall from heaven like lightning.”’ (Lk. 10:18; Ps. 29:7; Is. 14:12). Thunder is also frequently used to describe the power of God’s voice (e.g., Ps. 18:13; 29:8-9; Rev. 6:1; 14:2). The storm clouds were also evidence of His divine power (e.g., Ps. 18:11-12; 68:8). Mankind cannot even be in His direct presence and survive after hearing His voice: “Has any people heard the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire, as you have heard it, and survived?” (Dt. 4:33). David also described “The God of glory thunders,” (Ps. 29:3). In heaven, the praise for God will also ring out with the power of thunder: “Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters, and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.” (Rev. 19:6). God’s power is a reminder that He is entitled to reverence. The clay cannot question the Potter (Is. 45:9).

  • Fear God by hating evil. God’s incredible power is also a reminder that true wisdom begins by fearing Him: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Prov. 1:7; 9:10; Ps. 111:10). The Bible defines fearing God by hating that which was evil: “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; . . .” (Prov. 8:13). If you are tolerating any evil in your life, you are not fearing God.

  • Listen to God’s prophetic Word. Moses promised that God’s people during the end times or “latter days” would return and understand His voice (Dt. 4:30). Jeremiah also promised that God’s prophetic Word would be clearly understood in the last days (Jer. 23:20). In the Old Testament, God spoke through prophets and even non-believers (cf., Nu. 24:14; Dan. 2:28). In the New Testament, God spoke through Christ and His disciples (Heb. 1:2). Listening to His word will build up your faith (Ro. 10:17). You also must read the Word and pray. He will then guide your steps (Ps. 119:130).

  • Don’t reject all who offer prophetic utterances. Today, most would reject a prophetic word from someone like Elihu. But this account shows that God can speak through even a wayward believer. Thus, believers are warned to “not despise prophetic utterances.” (1 Thess. 5:20-21; Eph. 3:4-5). Thus, don’t discount prophetic words simply because of a person’s past sins. Instead, test whether their words are true and pray about them.