Then Elihu said:
2 “Hear my words, you wise men;
listen to me, you men of learning.
3 For the ear tests words
as the tongue tastes food.
4 Let us discern for ourselves what is right;
let us learn together what is good.
Elihu addressed Job and his accusers. His approach was to quote Job directly (verses 5-9), then respond to his complaints, but at times he misinterpreted Job’s remarks, and at other times he put the words of the accusers in Job’s mouth. The most obvious example was in saying that Job claimed to be sinless and perfect (verse 6). Job however, acknowledged his sin (7:21; 13:26).
Like everyone else in the story, Elihu was not aware that God had pronounced Job innocent (1:8; 2:3). In answer to Job’s complaints that God seemed unjust, Elihu reminded Job that God was too holy to do anything wrong (verse 10), he was in fact … fair (verses 11-12), powerful (verses 13-14), just (verses 17-18), impartial (verses 19-20), omniscient (verses 21-22), the supreme judge (verse 23), and the Sovereign who does what He wills (verses 24-30).
34:1 – 35:16: In chapter 34:1 through to 35:16. Elihu answers two arguments crucial to Job’s position. First, against Job’s charge that God has wrongly afflicted an innocent man. Elihu answers that God’s absolute sovereignty (34:13-15) and omniscience (34:21-28) ensure His justice.
Second, against Job’s position that righteousness does not bring about the blessings of life and divine favour, Elihu answers that neither sin nor righteousness cause any change in God (35:5-7). Further, Job has denied the teaching value of suffering (35:11), and has failed to have his prayers answered because they are vain (35:13).
The opening four verses usher in the following discourse …
Elihu heard the other men’s arguments. They all insisted that they were wise. They were however fixed on their own opinions and there’s little evidence that any of them would consider the opinions of Job or each other. Elihu either makes a genuine or perhaps sarcastic appeal that they reason together and listen to each other.
Although the text has mentioned only four people up to this point, the fact that Elihu was silent until chapter 32 is perhaps indicative that others were now present, and Elihu was making his appeal to a larger group of men.
Elihu now appears to have an air of arrogance as he calls them to pay attention to his words.
The words he uses seem to be great sentiments but in context perhaps quite condescending being presented by such a young man addressing his elders.
He had corrected Job for judging, and now he said that he and these other men would judge this matter for themselves. It seems quite bold.
5 “Job says, ‘I am innocent,
but God denies me justice.
6 Although I am right,
I am considered a liar;
although I am guiltless,
his arrow inflicts an incurable wound.’
7 Is there anyone like Job,
who drinks scorn like water?
8 He keeps company with evildoers;
he associates with the wicked.
9 For he says, ‘There is no profit
in trying to please God.’
10 “So listen to me, you men of understanding.
Far be it from God to do evil,
from the Almighty to do wrong.
11 He repays everyone for what they have done;
he brings on them what their conduct deserves.
12 It is unthinkable that God would do wrong,
that the Almighty would pervert justice.
13 Who appointed him over the earth?
Who put him in charge of the whole world?
14 If it were his intention
and he withdrew his spirit and breath,
15 all humanity would perish together
and mankind would return to the dust.
Elihu took issue with Job’s protests of innocence. He was saying that Job’s words sounded like the words of the wicked. He was not saying that Job was evil but he was actually arguing that it is better to be evil than to be good. His words seemed as if he was dismissive of God.
In verses 10-15 Elihu emphasises some basic truths. He appears to use rhetorical amplification and uses a lot of words that do not add anything that has not already been said.
That said, these are important tenet’s to cling to and reminders that there is another explanation for Job’s suffering to the suggestion that he is being punished by God for his sin or that God himself is unjust and unfair or cruel.
16 “If you have understanding, hear this;
listen to what I say.
17 Can someone who hates justice govern?
Will you condemn the just and mighty One?
18 Is he not the One who says to kings, ‘You are worthless,’
and to nobles, ‘You are wicked,’
19 who shows no partiality to princes
and does not favour the rich over the poor,
for they are all the work of his hands?
20 They die in an instant, in the middle of the night;
the people are shaken and they pass away;
the mighty are removed without human hand.
21 “His eyes are on the ways of mortals;
he sees their every step.
22 There is no deep shadow, no utter darkness,
where evildoers can hide.
23 God has no need to examine people further,
that they should come before him for judgment.
24 Without inquiry he shatters the mighty
and sets up others in their place.
25 Because he takes note of their deeds,
he overthrows them in the night and they are crushed.
26 He punishes them for their wickedness
where everyone can see them,
27 because they turned from following him
and had no regard for any of his ways.
28 They caused the cry of the poor to come before him,
so that he heard the cry of the needy.
29 But if he remains silent, who can condemn him?
If he hides his face, who can see him?
Yet he is over individual and nation alike,
30 to keep the godless from ruling,
from laying snares for the people.
The Hebrew words shift from the plural to the singular here, as Elihu shifts his attention away from the friends and back to Job. This time, Elihu declares that an unjust God is unthinkable, because if God was unjust, He could not be God and everything would fall apart. God is a God of order and not a God of chaos!
Abraham’s question in Genesis 18:5 springs to mind…”Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
Elihu said, “if it was dangerous to levy such an accusation to an imperfect earthly king, how much more dangerous was it to say to the Creator of the universe?”
God is the author of life he chooses life and death without any respect for an individual’s position or station in life.
God’s sovereignty is key to our worldview. He is either fully God or not God at all.
· Pilate thought that he had power over Jesus. But Jesus replied that Pilate’s power came from God – John 19:10-11.
· When King Nebuchadnezzar did not give honour to God, he became mentally ill. For 7 years, he behaved like an animal. Other men ruled his country. But then Nebuchadnezzar became humble. He praised God. And God appointed Nebuchadnezzar to be king again (Daniel chapter 4).
· King Herod died a horrific death soon after he refused to give honour to God (Acts 12:21-23).
God is the judge of every person who is established on earth as a power and authority.
Elihu defended God against Job’s criticism that God was neglectful and absent.
He asserts that the omniscience of God is a security against his acting unjustly. He knows exactly each man’s powers, capacities, temperament, temptations, and circumstances, and will deal with all of it without partiality or prejudice.
God knows everything man does, thinks, and even is. He knows the heart and motives of every individual that ever was, is and will be!
We may flatter ourselves, or cheat others, by covering our wicked actions with plausible pretences and professions. But we cannot deceive God, nor keep our hearts and ways from his sight. It’s a scary thought when applied to ourselves but a comforting thought that gives security when applied to others.
Bottom line is that though we try, we cannot hide from God (Psalm 139:11-12). I spent most of 2015 running from God and of course he caught up with me and brought everything crashing down around me. It was in my best interests even though my immediate reaction was one of self pity.
Over time he helped me unpack that and unravel it all. Amazing. He knew the reaction I would had and he chose the perfect moment. Any sooner and he may have got a response but it would not have been wholehearted and any later it would have been too late … I would have perhaps been unresponsive or in oblivion due to the path of self destruction that I was on.
God’s knowledge is not skewed like human knowledge. He judges with perfect wisdom and perfect precision. (Psalm 139:1-4).
Verse 23 is not referring to the judgment of the last days, but is more about the general accountability toward God that man experiences on a daily basis. The point Elihu made was that God did not need to go through all of the routine of examination and cross examination of the court to get to the sentence. God knows our works (34:25).
Even though this was not spoken directly to Job, it was a derogatory statement made about Job. He was saying that Job was wrong in asking God to consider his situation.
Job had been hugely influential. He had in fact, most likely been a judge. Elihu and Job’s so-called friends, probably would like to take Job’s place as judge. They were all jealous of Job. Elihu said that God had destroyed Job to set one of them up as governor.
He had made a true statement that God rules the earth by elevating one man to be a ruler and tearing another down.
However, he was misunderstanding the situation of Job’s case.
In Job’s culture, a judge would select a day when he would act as judge. Everyone who needed the judge’s help would wait for that day. On the appointed day, they could go to his court. The judge would then preside over the issues that were presented before him and make decisions.
Job knew that God was a judge. But Job thought that God’s servants were waiting in vain (Job 24:1). Job thought that God may never select a day to act as judge. He was impatient in this respect.
Elihu did not agree. He explained that God is much better than any human judge. God is always acting to help us. He does not need to select a date. He does not even need to ask questions. He already knows our deeds and he will judge when he is ready, choosing exactly the right moment.
Job spoke about poor people who cried to God. Job thought that God would not help them (Job 24:10-12).
Elihu did not agree. God heard their cries. And God will act to help them at the time when he decides. He will punish their cruel rulers. And he will appoint new rulers.
Elihu was saying that Job had offended the poor and the afflicted. This was the exact opposite of the truth. Job had been the champion of the poor and the afflicted.
But God does not always stop the rule of evil men immediately. Sometimes he allows evil men to rule nations. God uses it all in his ultimate purpose. We are called to pray in such situations (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Our calling is not to complain but to pray, trust God, be supportive of our rulers but ultimately obey God rather than men (Acts 4:19).
Most of the statements that Elihu was making, were the same statements Job had made himself. Job was not only aware that these things were wrong, but had made absolutely sure that he was not guilty of any of these things. Job was not a hypocrite
31 “Suppose someone says to God,
‘I am guilty but will offend no more.
32 Teach me what I cannot see;
if I have done wrong, I will not do so again.’
33 Should God then reward you on your terms,
when you refuse to repent?
You must decide, not I;
so tell me what you know.
The battle that Job and his friends had and the battle that we have is that we think we set the terms on issues of what can best be described as crime and punishment. The problem is that we barely know anything and have a very limited view first of all of the incident itself and more importantly of the heart of the person committing the crime and the heart of the victim, we also fail to see the consequential damage and ripple effect through all of humanity and our environment.
God however sees everything with absolute clarity and the more I dig into Job the more I am convinced that we know remarkably little and that we are in no place to question how God will deal with stuff. All I have in my arsenal is that whilst I will do my best in my limitations to do what is right there is absolutely no point speculating why things happen or don’t happen. It’s really not my business.
Job complained that God did not act immediately to punish (Job 24:1). Elihu also spoke about this subject in Job 33:27-28.
God will not be regulated in His dealings by what men may think. He does not consult men. He decides the extent and the limits of his discipline, he chooses the timing and he knows the perfect time to snuff out the life of a man. He sees every knock on effect of everything. Our view is extremely limited.
The three friends and Elihu tried to get Job to say that the chastisement from God was because of some sin he had committed. They wanted him to ask God to forgive him. Job knew of no sin that he had committed. He could not ask for forgiveness, without knowing what he had done wrong.
Job had already asked God to reveal to him where he had failed. Job was a man of a pure heart.
Elihu believed that Job wanted God to listen to him and do it his way. He also was saying that it would not matter what Job wanted, God would do deal with it on his own terms and Joel was in no position to dictate terms. God would not be influenced by anyone’s explanation. Elihu wanted Job to answer this. It seems that Elihu wanted to control Job and his response in some way.
I remember when I was beginning to come to my senses, several people had fairly strong opinions about what repentance would look like for me and how I should deal with stuff. I was quite resistant at the time and was told by one brother that I was putting everything on my terms and life is not like that. I felt I was right in dealing with it the way I chose to deal with it because always I had pandered to other people’s whims and I wanted to deal with things thoroughly and with authenticity.
Was it on my terms? Yes, I think it was. There was no model or precedent to imitate. This was the first time our church in London had seen such a dramatic high profile falling from grace. To this day I think I took the best action dealing with it in the way that I did. I had to get comfortable or least comfortable with the discomfort of being misunderstood.
Is this how God would have wanted me to deal with stuff? Should I have thrown myself at the mercy of the congregation, or was it best to have the one to one conversations with people over a period of time, removing myself from the fellowship and reconnecting with individuals on a personal level? I think I chose best but either way could have been acceptable to God.
The point is that we sometimes want to control people’s responses for whatever reason and we try to play God when God is perfectly okay at playing God himself. He has been doing it a lot longer than we have and he has never made a mistake in his entire existence. Speaking for myself, I have made more than a handful of mistakes & erroneous judgments about the heart and motives others. It’s just not pretty!
34 “Men of understanding declare,
wise men who hear me say to me,
35 ‘Job speaks without knowledge;
his words lack insight.’
36 Oh, that Job might be tested to the utmost
for answering like a wicked man!
37 To his sin he adds rebellion;
scornfully he claps his hands among us
and multiplies his words against God.”
After a promising start, Elihu concluded that Job was guilty because he expressed anger and frustration against God rather than maintaining a posture of repentance and silence.
Job’s wrestling was labelled as rebellion by Elihu. Whilst Job’s friends have charged him with being a wicked man, Elihu stopped short of this but could not accept his position or his wrestling with God. He took a rather religious position.
This rather pious stance failed to recognise the authenticity and honesty in Job’s wrestling but misjudged it as rebellion.