Online Bible Commentary
Knowing the Heart of God
Job 33:13 Why do you complain to him that he answers none of man's words? 14 For God does speak--now one way, now another-- though man may not perceive it. 15 In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men as they slumber in their beds, 16 he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings, 17 to turn man from wrongdoing and keep him from pride, 18 to preserve his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword. (NIV)
Job has complained that God has not answered his questions and Elihu responds to Job’s complaint (v. 13). Elihu corrects Job stating that God does speak to us, it is just that we may not recognize when God is speaking to us (v.14). God is always speaking to us through our consciences. God speaks to us “now one way, now another.” If we ignore His instruction, He will try again, in another way.
The Hebrew word translated “speak” is the word “dabar” (v.14). It is one of the most general words in the Old Testament. It means oral or mental communication. Specifically it means to promise, instruct, report, direct, or decree. It is the same word used in Numbers 12:6: “Then the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the Tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When both of them stepped forward, he said, "Listen to my words: "When a prophet of the LORD is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams” (Numbers 12:5-6). The Lord has said that he reveals Himself to prophets in visions and speaks to them in dreams.
Elihu says here that God speaks to “men” (v.15), not just prophets. He says that God speaks to us through dreams and visions in deep sleep or the slumber that comes before or after. The word translated “slumber” is the Hebrew word “tenoomaw”, which comes from a word meaning “drowsiness”. The Lord may speak to us as we lay in bed, in a drowsy state, trying to go to sleep. He chooses this time of the day when we are free of the hustle and bustle of the day to speak to us through our consciences, mental communication. Then, He may speak to us through dreams, while in deep sleep or shallow sleep, the state of drowsiness.
Our dreams also may terrify us because God is warning us (v.16). The word translated “speak” in verse 16 is the Hebrew word “galah”, which means to reveal. God is revealing things to us in these dreams that terrify us in order to warn us. This is different than the other times when God “speaks”, “dabar” (v. 14), to give us instruction or direction. The word translated “warning” is the Hebrew word “musar” which denotes “correction resulting in educating”. These warnings are to keep us from doing wrong, and becoming prideful (v.17).
So the purpose of these warnings, or corrections, is to keep us from sinning. The hoped for result is to preserve our “soul from the pit” (v. 18). The word translated “pit” is the Hebrew word “sahat” meaning to destroy, as to trap or snare. It is the same word as the word translated “decay” used in Psalm 16:10: “because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.” Peter quoted Psalm 16:10 on Pentecost referring to the resurrected Christ (Acts 2:27-32). It is a clear reference to the afterlife.
It is clear from this passage, and others, that God does speak to us. We should heed our conscience. It is God’s mental communication to us. It can save us from tragedy. It saved my life twenty-five years ago. As I was driving on a busy freeway in Houston I started changing lanes to exit, only to have something stop me and direct me to stop my car on the median between the two lanes, in front of safety barrels. At that moment an eighteen wheeler roared by in the exact place that I was about to move to. I had a young pregnant woman passenger with me at the time. My conscience, God, saved three lives. This happened before I entered the ministry. God had plans for me and my passengers. I am so thankful that I heeded my conscience.
We should also heed our dreams. God can be speaking to us, perhaps warning us, though our dreams. We should also heed God’s revelations to us as we slumber. Several times God has revealed to me Bible passages to write on, or the meaning of certain verses as I have slumbered. He reveals to us what we should have done differently that day, or what we should do tomorrow. He wants to have a relationship with us, so He speaks to us during those quiet times that we can hear Him. Listen for Him. He wants you to know His heart, the heart of God.