Job 37: Lessons From Elihu’s Praise For God for Believers to Respond to God’s Majesty

Introduction: Elihu had just given a long speech in which he falsely condemned Job for being a sinner. Although he did not speak with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit when he condemned Job, God used this misguided believer to set the stage for His impending arrival. As Elihu’s speech concluded, God’s storm clouds with lightning and thunder appeared. Elihu became filled with fear, and he switched from condemning Job to praising God. From Elihu’s final praise for God, God reveals seven ways that believers should respond to His majesty. These include: (1) awe, (2) trust, (3) worship, (4) submission, (5) humility, (6) discipleship, and (7) reverence.

First, Elihu confessed that his heart trembled as God’s holy presence approached. He described in awe God’s majestic and thunderous voice. Believers also should respond to God’s majesty with awe and wonder, something that is frequently missing today. Second, Elihu stated that the wonders of God’s voice were beyond human comprehension. Believers can never fully understand the mind of God. Believers should therefore respond to God’s majesty by trusting Him in faith. Third, Elihu professed the wonders of God’s sovereignty over nature and His use of His sovereignty to sustain life. The evidence of God’s fingerprints in nature are everywhere, but many ignore them. Believers should also respond to God’s magnificent creation in nature with worship and gratitude. Fourth, as a precursor to God’s rhetorical questions of Job, Elihu challenged Job to explain how God established the laws of nature. God’s ways are beyond our understanding. In the face of the unknown, God’s majesty should prompt believers to submit to Him in faith. Fifth, Elihu also challenged Job to explain what he could say to teach God on the subject of divine justice and fairness. Believers also have nothing to teach God. Thus, believers should respond to God’s majesty with humility. Sixth, Elihu called God the source of light and righteousness. God’s majesty, His light, and His righteousness should also prompt believers to follow Him as His disciples. Finally, Elihu concluded by telling Job to fear God. Believers should also respond to God’s majesty with reverence. The fear of God is defined as hating evil.

1. Awe: Believers Should Respond to God’s Majesty With Awe and Wonder. Job 37:1-4.

  • Elihu declared awe at God’s power. As the thunderous storm clouds that preceded God’s appearance arrived, Elihu declared his reverent fear at the approaching presence of God: “At this also my heart trembles, and leaps from its place. Listen closely to the thunder of His voice, and the rumbling that goes out from His mouth. Under the whole heaven He lets it loose, and His lightning travels to the ends of the earth. After it, a voice roars; He thunders with His majestic voice, and He does not restrain the lightning when His voice is heard.” (Job 37:1-4). In the prior chapter, Elihu also described God’s voice as being like thunder. “Its thundering voice declares His presence; the livestock also, concerning what is coming up.” (Job 36:33). He was humbled from his self-righteous and misguided attacks on Job. Now, he “trembled” (Job 37:1) at God’s holy presence.

  • God’s voice carries power like thunder. Throughout the Bible, God’s voice was analogized to the power of thunder. In David’s song of deliverance, he stated: “The LORD thundered from heaven, and the Most High uttered His voice.” (2 Sam. 22:14). “The voice of the LORD is on the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD is over many waters.” (Ps. 29:3). Hannah also declared in her prayer: “Those who contend with the LORD will be terrified; against them He will thunder in the heavens, the LORD will judge the ends of the earth; and He will give strength to His king, and will exalt the horn of His anointed.” (1 Sam. 2:10). Jeremiah also declared: “When He utters His voice, there is a roar of waters in the heavens, and He makes the clouds ascend from the end of the earth. He makes lightning for the rain and brings out wind from His storehouses.” (Jer. 51:16). These persons all stood in reverent awe of God’s majesty.

Elihu praised God and became filled with fear as His holy presence approached1

  • God deserves your awe and wonder. Even Bildad was able to recognize that God alone is worthy of awe: “Dominion and awe belong to Him who makes peace in His heights.” (Job 25:2). The word “awesome” in Hebrew is literally translated as “He is the one to be feared.” (Frank Gaebelein, The Expositors Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, 1, 2 Kings, 1, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job (Zondervan Publishing House 1988) p. 682). Moses also referred to God as awe inspiring or “awesome”: “You shall not dread them, for the LORD your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God.” (Dt. 7:21). The psalmists also referred to God as being awesome: in glory, power, and majesty: “Say to God, ‘How awesome are Your works! . . . . Come and see the works of God, who is awesome in His deeds toward the sons of men.”’ (Ps. 66:3, 5). “O God, You are awesome from Your sanctuary. The God of Israel Himself gives strength and power to the people. Blessed be God!” (Ps. 68:35). “Men shall speak of the power of Your awesome acts, and I will tell of Your greatness.” (Ps. 145:6; 106:22; Is. 64:3). “For the LORD most high is to be feared, a great King over all the earth.” (Ps. 47:2). “I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed and said, ‘Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments,”’ (Dan. 9:4). Many people causally use the term “awesome” to express approval for a good outcome to a situation. But this misuses a word that was reserved for God’s amazing power. In your prayers, are you professing awe at God’s amazing power?

  • Bless God’s Holy name. As an expression of their awe for God’s power, the Jews also blessed God’s holy name: “And blessed be His glorious name forever; and may the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen, and Amen.” (Ps. 72:19). “Ascribe to the LORD the glory of His name; bring an offering and come into His courts.” (Ps. 96:8). “Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to Your name give glory because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth.” (Ps. 115:1). “that Your name may be magnified forever,” (2 Sam. 7:26). “bless the Lord your God forever and ever! May Your glorious name be blessed and exalted above all blessing and praise!” (Neh. 9:5). Jesus also began the Lord’s prayer by declaring God’s name to be holy (Matt. 6:9). Do your prayers also include expressions of awe and praises for God’s holy name?

2. Trust: Believers Should Respond to God’s Majesty By Trusting Him. Job 37:5.

  • Elihu stated that God’s ways are beyond our comprehension. Elihu also used the mystery of thunder to analogize how the mystery of God’s ways are beyond our comprehension: “God thunders wondrously with His voice, doing great things which we do not comprehend.” (Job 37:5). Elihu asked a similar question at the end of the prior chapter: “Can anyone understand the spreading of the clouds, the thundering of His pavilion?” (Job 36:29). Almost all of the speakers had made similar statements. But they all contradicted their own words by claiming to know God’s thoughts and ways.

Trust God because His power and plans are beyond human understanding2

  • Because God’s ways are beyond our understanding, believers should trust Him. Job also stated that God’s power is beyond our limited comprehension: “Behold, these are the fringes of His ways; and how faint a word we hear of Him! But His mighty thunder, who can understand?” (Job 26:14). “It is He who does great things, the unfathomable, and wondrous works without number.” (Job 9:10). Eliphaz made a similar statement: “Who does great and unsearchable things, wonders without number.” (Job 5:9). Zophar also made a similar claim: “Can you discover the depths of God? Can you discover the limits of the Almighty?” (Job 11:7). But each of these speakers then made statements suggesting that they knew the reasons for God’s actions. A similar admonition exists in the psalms: “Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable.” (Ps. 145:3). Isaiah also warned: “Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, or as His counselor has informed Him?” (Is. 40:13). Paul made a similar claim: “Oh, the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?” (Ro. 11:33-34). Because you can never understand the reasons for God’s actions, you should trust that He knows what is best. He has a plan that is always working together for His greater good (Ro. 8:28). If you can learn to place your trust in Him, especially in the face of the unknown, you will be blessed: “How blessed is the man who has made the LORD his trust, and has not turned to the proud, nor to those who become involved in falsehood.” (Ps. 40:4).

  • God’s mysteries are in part revealed through Jesus. Although mankind can never fully understand God’s mind, His ways are in part revealed through Jesus “For who has known the mind of the Lord, that He will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Cor. 2:16). We can in part understand His will for us through the Word and prayer.

3. Worship: Believers Should Respond to God’s Majesty With Worship. Job 37:6-13.

  • Elihu celebrated God’s sovereignty over nature. Elihu also proclaimed that nature’s seemingly natural processes are in fact subject to God’s invisible but sovereign control: “For to the snow He says, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the downpour and the rain, ‘Be strong.’ He seals the hand of every person, so that all people may know His work. Then the animal goes into its lair and remains in its den. From the south comes the storm, and from the north wind the cold. 10 From the breath of God ice is made, and the expanse of the waters is frozen. 11 He also loads the clouds with moisture; 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 earth, or for goodness, He causes it to happen.” (Job 37:6-13). Elihu previously proclaimed God’s sovereignty over the life-giving water cycle: “For He draws up the drops of water; they distill rain from its celestial stream,” (Job 36:27).

  • God deserves praise as the source of all life-giving water. Elihu celebrated God’s control over snow and rain because these processes make life possible throughout the year (Job 37:6). Rain is also a sign of God’s blessings: “then I shall give you rains in their season, so that the land will yield its produce and the trees of the field will bear their fruit.” (Lev. 26:4). “that He will provide rain for your land in its season, the early and late rain, so that you may gather your grain, your new wine, and your oil.” (Dt. 11:14). God’s blessings of life-giving rain also deserves your praise: “You visit the earth and cause it to overflow; You greatly enrich it; the stream of God is full of water; You prepare their grain, for so You prepare the earth.” (Ps. 65:9). “‘They do not say in their heart, “Let us now fear the LORD our God, who gives rain in its season, Both the autumn rain and the spring rain, who keeps for us The appointed weeks of the harvest.” (Jer. 5:25). “yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” (Acts 14:17). Do you take for granted the natural processes that God created for life to even exist?

Elihu praised God’s sovereign power as the storm clouds surrounded them3

  • People who deny God’s role in creation are without excuse before God. According to Paul, we are without excuse when we fail to give God the glory to His creation of the world around us: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, being understood by what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” (Ro. 1:20). David revealed thousands of years ago that the light from the stars pours forth knowledge about God’s creation: “A Psalm of David. The heavens tell of the glory of God; and their expanse declares the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” (Ps. 19:1-2). David’s words turned out to be prescient. Thousands of years later, astronomers confirmed that the light from the stars revealed events from the formation of the universe. In your worship, do you marvel at God’s beauty in the world?

  • Celebrate God’s works in nature through worship. Elihu stated that people can see God’s hand throughout nature: “He seals the hand of every person, so that all people may know His work.” (Job 37:7). The psalmist also proclaimed that those who study the works of God’s hand in nature celebrate it through worship: “Great are the works of the LORD; they are studied by all who delight in them.” (Ps. 111:2). “How great are Your works, LORD! Your thoughts are very deep.” (Ps. 92:5). In heaven, the angels also worship and give thanks for God’s marvelous works: “And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, ‘Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God, the Almighty; righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations!”’ (Rev. 15:3). Does your worship include similar praises for God?

  • Worship the faithful Creator of the universe, who is sovereign over everything. The Jews worshiped the Creator who gave them life (Neh. 9:6). The psalmist also worshiped God as the creator of all life: “May you be blessed of the LORD, maker of heaven and earth.” (Ps. 115:15). “Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” (Ps. 124:8). “May the LORD bless you from Zion, He who made heaven and earth.” (Ps. 134:3). If you have the faith to celebrate that God created everything, you can have the faith to know that there is no problem that is too big in your life for God to deal with.

4. Submission: God’s Majesty Should Prompt Believers to Submit to Him. Job 37:14-18.

  • Elihu described God’s abilities as far beyond human abilities. Elihu also challenged Job to explain how God established the laws of nature and whether Job could do the same: “14 Listen to this, Job; stand and consider the wonders of God. 15 Do you know how God establishes them, and makes the lightning of His clouds to shine? 16 Do you know about the hovering of the clouds, the wonders of One who is 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 cast metal mirror?” (Job 37:14-18). Elihu’s rhetorical questions laid the foundations for God’s future questions of Job. God would soon demonstrate that His complex mind and reasons were beyond Job’s ability to understand. The lesson for Job would be to submit to God in the face of the unknown.

  • Submit to God in obedience the way all creation does. Elihu previously emphasized that all creation submitted to God’s sovereignty, even the lightning: “He covers His hands with the lightning, And commands it to strike the target.” (Job 36:32). “Elihu wanted Job to not only appreciate the greatness of God, but also the submission of creation. The implication was that unrepentant Job should submit to God the way His creation does.” (David Guzik on Job 37).4 And God would soon confirm this message with a similar question of His own: ‘“Can you send flashes of lightning, so that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’?” (Job 38:35). If mankind were to fail to praise God, creation would do so: “Jesus replied, “I tell you, if these stop speaking, the stones will cry out!” (Jo. 19:40). Even when you don’t understand the reasons for trials, submit to God’s will.

5. Humility: Believers Should Respond to God’s Majesty With Humility. Job 37:19-20.

  • Elihu described God’s wisdom as far beyond human wisdom. Elihu also challenged Job to explain what he could say to teach God on the subject of divine justice and fairness: “19 Teach us what we are to say to Him; we cannot present 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?” (Job 37:19-20). “Job had expressed the wish that God would ‘hear him, and answer him.’ Elihu, intending to rebuke this presumption, yet shrinking from doing so directly, puts himself in Job’s place, and asks, ‘Would it be fitting that I should demand to speak with God?’ If not, it cannot be fitting that Job should do so.” (Pulpit Commentary on Job 37).5 According to another commentator, Elihu’s point was: “He could not do anything about the weather but endure it. How then can a mere creature, so lacking in knowledge and strength, expect to understand God’s justice (vv. 19-20)? Elihu’s switch to the first person in vv. 19-20 may be an attempt to soften the blow on Job’s ego. Had Job not drawn up his case, affixed his signature, and called for an audience with God.” (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. 1025). Job had admitted that there was nothing that mankind could say to teach God: “Can anyone teach God knowledge, in that He judges those on high?” (Job 21:22). He also admitted that there was nothing that he could say to God: “How then can I answer Him, and choose my words before Him?” (Job 9:14). But Job’s complaints implied that he believed that God had been unfair.

  • Approach God in prayer and worship with a contrite and humble heart. God wants to exalt you. But you must first approach Him in humility: “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Matt. 23:12; Lk. 14:11; 18:14). “A man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor.” (Prov. 29:23). “‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”’ (Jam. 4:6(b)). In the end, Job humbled himself before God, and God celebrated him as a hero of the faith. In worship and in prayer, do you approach God in humility?

6. Discipleship: God’s Majesty Should Prompt Believers to Follow Him. Job 37:21-23.

  • Elihu revealed that God’s light and righteousness were Job’s guiding light. Elihu also told Job that God’s light and righteousness were far beyond anything he could perceive: “21 Now people do not see the light which is bright in the skies; but the wind has passed and cleared them. 22 From 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 violate justice and abundant righteousness.” (Job 37:21-23). God’s light, His power, His justice, and His righteousness were all that Elihu could declare after his attempts to convict Job failed: “Unable to reconcile their theology of retribution with the facts of Job’s case and his accompanying, unshaken belief in his own integrity, Elihu, speaking for himself and the other three friends, confessed that God is transcendent and inscrutable. The second line [of verse 23] consists of three fundamental affirmations about God: He is just, He is right, and ‘he does not oppress.’ They abandoned their search for a solution and surrendered to divine sovereignty as Abraham did when he prayed for Sodom, ‘Will not the Judge of all the Earth do right?’ (Gen. 18:25).” (Robert Alden, The New American Commentary, Vol. 11, Job (B&H Publishing Group 1993) p. 365). God’s righteousness and His light are there for you to follow Him.

We are called upon to trust and follow God, even when we don’t understand His reasons6

  • God’s glory should cause you to follow Him as a disciple. While Job and his friends lacked the benefit of God’s Word, we have seen the majesty, light, and glory of God the Father through Jesus: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us; and we saw His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (Jo. 1:14). When Jesus revealed His glory to His disciples, they followed Him and believed in Him: “This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and revealed His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.” (Jo. 2:11). He is also worthy of your praise for His light and His dominion: “who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.” (1 Tim. 6:16). You can respond to Jesus’ glory by following Him.

  • God guided the Jews with His Word. When Moses delivered God’s law, He declared that it revealed God’s wisdom for His people: “So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.”’ (Dt. 4:6; Ex. 19:20; 20:1-21; Neh. 9:13-14). His Word can also guide your path in darkness: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:105; 2 Pet. 1:19). “The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.” (Ps.19:7). “The unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” (Ps. 119:130). Solomon also declared: “For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is light; and reproofs for discipline are the way of life” (Prov. 6:23). Are you reading the Word so that God can instruct you, guide you, and give you wisdom?

  • Respond to God’s light and righteousness by becoming a disciple. Know that you have the wisdom, light, and righteousness revealed through God’s Word, Jesus wants you to respond by following Him: “And He was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”’ (Lk. 9:23). This includes trying to be holy as He is holy: “because it is written: ‘you shall be holy, for I am holy.”’ (1 Pet. 1:16). Are you following Jesus' example?

7. Reverence: Believers Should Respond to God’s Majesty With Reverence. Job 37:24.

  • Elihu urged Job to fear God. Elihu concluded his remarks by telling Job to fear God: “24 Therefore people fear Him; He does not regard any who are wise of heart.” (Job 37:24). Solomon concluded his statements in Ecclesiastes with similar advice: “The conclusion, when everything has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.” (Ecc. 12:13). Yet, God had already declared that Job was blameless and feared Him” “The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” (Job 1:8; 2:3). Thus, Job passed God’s tests.

  • God’s people showed reverent fear when they witnesses His power. There are many times in the Bible when God allowed people to briefly experience the power of His presence. Each time, the people responded in reverent fear. For example, the Jews were filled with reverent fear when God later parted the Sea to crush the Egyptians: “When Israel saw the great power which the LORD had used against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in His servant Moses.” (Ex. 14:31). Likewise, when the prophet Samuel later called upon God, the people also responded in reverent fear at God’s presence: “So Samuel called to the LORD, and the LORD sent thunder and rain that day; and all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel.” (1 Sam. 12:18). God performed miracles to show His power over nature so that His people would fear Him with reverent obedience: “For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed, just as the LORD your God had done to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed; so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, so that you may fear the LORD your God forever.” (Josh. 4:23-24). Fearing God helps to put you on a walk of life-long obedience and faith. This also leads to your salvation: “Certainly His salvation is near to those who fear Him, that glory may dwell in our land.” (Ps. 85:9).

  • 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.

  • Give thanks that God’s faithfulness is not dependent on your faithfulness. God’s awesome majesty and His holiness should also remind every believer how unworthy we are of His love. Thankfully, even when we sin, God promises to never leave us or forsake us: “He will not fail you or forsake you.” (Dt. 31:6; 4:31; Heb. 13:5). Out of mercy and grace, Jesus can also remove your sins: ‘“I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”’ (Is. 43:25). You can also give thanks that His faithfulness is not conditioned upon your faithfulness: “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Tim. 2:13). Have you given thanks that God will not use your sins to revoke His promises to you?