Job 35

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Job 35:1-8
35 Then Elihu said:
2 “Do you think this is just?
You say, ‘I am in the right, not God.’
3 Yet you ask him, ‘What profit is it to me,
and what do I gain by not sinning?’
4 “I would like to reply to you
and to your friends with you.
5 Look up at the heavens and see;
gaze at the clouds so high above you.
6 If you sin, how does that affect him?
If your sins are many, what does that do to him?
7 If you are righteous, what do you give to him,
or what does he receive from your hand?
8 Your wickedness only affects humans like yourself,
and your righteousness only other people.
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This section is introduced with the Hebrew word vaya‛an. The translation being “And he answered”; the word “answer” being used, as it is often in the Scriptures, to indicate the commencement of a discourse.

This leads me to believe that Elihu had paused at the close of his second discourse, possibly with a view to see whether there was any inclination to reply.

In the next 16 verses we read that Elihu continues to address Job’s complaints, first of all his thinking that there appeared to be no advantage to being righteous (verse 3), which Job had said, as recorded in 21:15 and 34:9.

The first part of his answer is that Job gained nothing by sinning or not sinning because God was so high that nothing men do affects Him (verses 5-7). It only affects other men (verse 8). Job had also complained that God did not answer his prayers when he cried under this oppression (see 24:12:30:20). Elihu rather harshly gave 3 reasons why Job’s prayers had not been heard: pride (verses 10, 12), wrong motives (verse 13) and lack of patient trust (verse 14).

In other words, Job appeared to be saying, ‘God does not care whether a man is innocent or not. I thought that God would help me because of my good deeds. But in fact, I am suffering as an evil person deserves to suffer. So when I did these good deeds, I was wasting my time.’

Elihu disagreed. He felt that this was a foolish and stupid attitude.
It would be overly simplistic to suggest that if we do what is right then we will avoid suffering because God will bless us and at the same time it would be dismissive to suggest that God does not care whether we do things his way or not.

God in his infinite wisdom designed the universe and formed us in his own image. He knows what works and what doesn’t work. It is an act of love to give us a way of living that fulfils our design. His desire is that life goes well and our relationship with him flourishes and is expressed by our own will and desire …otherwise it would not be a relationship at all.

On the other hand to do right and avoid suffering would assume that everyone in all of human history would make the right choices and live by their design which of course is not what has happened, In fact we have all asserted our own will and made a decision to be the God of our own lives and that extrapolates out causing a ripple effect down the corridors of time and across all humanity in the present moment as well as setting a flawed template for the future.

This is our predicament today and was the predicament in Job’s day. The good news is that plan goes beyond the immediate, the here and now and at a certain point in human history he made a very personal intervention in the form of Jesus and as a result the possibility of a complete rebuild occurs in every individual’s life and the eternal plan remains a possibility for all that will accept it.
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Job 35:9-13
9 “People cry out under a load of oppression;
they plead for relief from the arm of the powerful.
10 But no one says, ‘Where is God my Maker,
who gives songs in the night,
11 who teaches us more than he teaches the beasts of the earth
and makes us wiser than the birds in the sky?’
12 He does not answer when people cry out
because of the arrogance of the wicked.
13 Indeed, God does not listen to their empty plea;
the Almighty pays no attention to it.

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In Job 24:1-12, Job had spoken and complained about the lack of justice for the oppressed,  Elihu reasoned that the oppressed may not truly cry out to God but rather just complain about their situation. That their true desire was not God but was pain relief or relief from their oppression and perhaps his thought was that this was the case for Job.

The question to ask myself here is am I seeking the presence of God or am I seeking for my life to go well? This can often be the dilemma of the journey to faith and we can be so easily be confused or deluded about that. Of course there are benefits to walking faithfully but there are also challenges and difficulties. It can be a thorny journey. We are called to stand up and stand out, be different and the result of that can be a world that is set against us. There are no guarantees that life will go well or our suffering will cease. We are equipped perhaps to handle these things with perspective because the true blessing is the presence of God in our lives.
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Job 35:14-16

14 How much less, then, will he listen
when you say that you do not see him,
that your case is before him
and you must wait for him,
15 and further, that his anger never punishes
and he does not take the least notice of wickedness.
16 So Job opens his mouth with empty talk;
without knowledge he multiplies words.”
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Elihu’s assessment on the situation was that God had gone easy on Job. He had not experienced the full weight of his anger and God had in fact overlooked Job’s foolish words.

Job was not expressing gratitude. Instead, he was constantly arguing that he himself was innocent. He was constantly insisting that God should help him. Job was acting as if God deserved blame for Job’s troubles. Whilst his suffering was great he appeared to be in a state of self pity.

In all of the various discourses within the book of Job we find an ongoing wrestling from all parties about the nature of God, the character of God and judgment of each other. Not much has changed in believing circles over the years. Elihu and Job’s other friends had all spoken elements of truth about God and his ways as well getting a few things wrong but often they were delivered in an insensitive way that did not help Job move forward. The question in my mind is this:Is it more important to be right? or is it more important to be effective?

Being effective is not compromising the truth it’s just emphasising the truth in a way it can be heard. In the past there are many times I can recount where being right was more important but if others cannot hear it because of the way it’s delivered then of what value is it?

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Job 33

Listen

Job 33:1-7
33 “But now, Job, listen to my words;
pay attention to everything I say.
2 I am about to open my mouth;
my words are on the tip of my tongue.
3 My words come from an upright heart;
my lips sincerely speak what I know.
4 The Spirit of God has made me;
the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
5 Answer me then, if you can;
stand up and argue your case before me.
6 I am the same as you in God’s sight;
I too am a piece of clay.
7 No fear of me should alarm you,
nor should my hand be heavy on you.
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Elihu turns from addressing the four men to addressing Job alone. He begins with some bold claims about his position and right to speak. He says that his motives are sincere and honest.  (verses 1-7), this is followed by references to Job’s questions/complaints (verses 8-11). He then addresses Job with his answers(verses 12-33).

Elihu asserts that Job has had a complaining attitude toward his suffering and a hostile attitude toward God. God does not have to answer to man (verse 13), he then goes on to say how God reveals himself to mortal men and that he will restore a man when he responds favourably to suffering.

Job’s three friends all came with an attitude that they were wiser than Job but Elihu appears at this stage to have had a little more humility. He wanted to hear from Job, he wanted to understand and he reminded Job that he was a mere man as Job was.

A direct encounter with God or even an angel would have gripped Job with terror and fear but if God were to communicate through an ordinary man then it would not appear so alarming or burdensome.

Sounds like a template for the incarnation of God.
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Job 33:8-14

8 “But you have said in my hearing—
I heard the very words—
9 ‘I am pure, I have done no wrong;
I am clean and free from sin.
10 Yet God has found fault with me;
he considers me his enemy.
11 He fastens my feet in shackles;
he keeps close watch on all my paths.’
12 “But I tell you, in this you are not right,
for God is greater than any mortal.
13 Why do you complain to him
that he responds to no one’s words?
14 For God does speak—now one way, now another—
though no one perceives it.
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Elihu paraphrased Job’s words and communicated back what he thought was the intent and heartbeat of what Job was saying. This is a good model for counsel. 

Connection always wins over correction! However, he does bring one thing to the table that he feels that Job must hear right at the beginning and that is that God answers to no one, If Job could embed this in his thinking then everything else will at least have some intellectual perspective even if it is hard to grasp emotionally. He used his speech in order to prepare Job to meet with God.
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Job 33:15-18

15 In a dream, in a vision of the night,
when deep sleep falls on people
as they slumber in their beds,
16 he may speak in their ears
and terrify them with warnings,
17 to turn them from wrongdoing
and keep them from pride,
18 to preserve them from the pit,
their lives from perishing by the sword.
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In verse 14 Elihu tells us “For God does speak—now one way, now another—
though no one perceives it.”

Elihu used two stories to explain this idea. The first story is in verses 15-18. This sounds like Eliphaz’s strange dream (Job 4:12-21). The second story sounds rather like Job’s life.

In both stories, the man was not expecting God to speak. But God had an important message to get across to both men.
This dream is like Eliphaz’s dream (Job 4:12-21). But there are important differences:

·     In Elihu’s story, God spoke by the dream. In Eliphaz’s dream, a strange spirit spoke.

·     In Elihu’s story, the message was that the dreamer himself must stop his evil behaviour. But in Eliphaz’s dream, the message seemed to be that Job must stop his evil behaviour.

It may be that Eliphaz’s dream really was from God. Possibly God was warning Eliphaz to stop his evil behaviour. Eliphaz however, had his own interpretation a targeted Job (Job 22:2-10).

Perhaps God was speaking to Eliphaz. But Eliphaz did not want to hear God’s message.

It wouldn’t be so unusual. I wonder how many sermon’s I have heard through the years and thought that this would be a good message for some specific person, a friend, my wife etc., and deflect the idea that God actually has something to say to me. …or even worse I have prepared a sermon with someone in mind that they need to hear this message without engaging with the scripture and immersing my own heart in God’s counsel. Maybe it’s just me that has that issue but I suspect not.
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Job 33:19-33

19 “Or someone may be chastened on a bed of pain
with constant distress in their bones,
20 so that their body finds food repulsive
and their soul loathes the choicest meal.
21 Their flesh wastes away to nothing,
and their bones, once hidden, now stick out.
22 They draw near to the pit,
and their life to the messengers of death.
23 Yet if there is an angel at their side,
a messenger, one out of a thousand,
sent to tell them how to be upright,
24 and he is gracious to that person and says to God,
‘Spare them from going down to the pit;
I have found a ransom for them—
25 let their flesh be renewed like a child’s;
let them be restored as in the days of their youth’—
26 then that person can pray to God and find favour with him,
they will see God’s face and shout for joy;
he will restore them to full well-being.
27 And they will go to others and say,
‘I have sinned, I have perverted what is right,
but I did not get what I deserved.
28 God has delivered me from going down to the pit,
and I shall live to enjoy the light of life.’
29 “God does all these things to a person—
twice, even three times—
30 to turn them back from the pit,
that the light of life may shine on them.
31 “Pay attention, Job, and listen to me;
be silent, and I will speak.
32 If you have anything to say, answer me;
speak up, for I want to vindicate you.
33 But if not, then listen to me;
be silent, and I will teach you wisdom.”

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Elihu came as a type of mediator for Job. The thrust of his message was that God does not act in a whimsical way and that there is purpose in suffering. God allows suffering for spiritual benefit.

The idea of a “ransom” being necessary to secure a person’s redemption and to avoid the deserved judgment is presented here and written about centuries later in Romans 5:6-11.

Some scholars believe that Elihu was presenting himself as the mediator that job needed (9:31-33). This may have been his intention but he most certainly was not the mediator that Job sought. Job needed an intermediary who could be a “ransom” for him. This is ultimately fulfilled in Jesus. (1 Timothy 2:5-6).

Job 15

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Job 15:1-6
Eliphaz

15 Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied:
2 “Would a wise person answer with empty notions
or fill their belly with the hot east wind?
3 Would they argue with useless words,
with speeches that have no value?
4 But you even undermine piety
and hinder devotion to God.
5 Your sin prompts your mouth;
you adopt the tongue of the crafty.
6 Your own mouth condemns you, not mine;
your own lips testify against you.
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Eliphaz returns to the conversation and this time around he launches into a scathing attack on Job.

He began by accusing Job of sinning that involved attacking God with his complaints. He felt Job was guilty of empty words and had not exhibited godly fear and righteous prayer (verse 4), but rather was sinning in his prayer (verses 5-6). He was accused of being full of wind and of being rather bombastic.

..So the heat is turned up.

Job said that he was as wise as his friends (Job 12:3). He even said that they could learn from his words (Job 13:5-6). This caused a strong reaction in Eliphaz.

Eliphaz begins with a question. There are over three hundred questions in the Book of Job which is more than in any other book in the Bible. They express the viewpoint of wisdom and the search for understanding. Their constant use in the book clearly reflects it’s Near Eastern origin.

Eliphaz was criticizing Job for his talking, referring to it as “unprofitable”. He thought all of Job’s talk was in vain. He thought that God regarded it no more than he would the blowing of the wind. The east wind in that part of the world was the most “blowy” and “blustery” of winds.

Job claimed and reasoned that good men often have things that are not good in life and that evil men often prosper (Job 12:6). Eliphaz did not agree. He believed that God rewards good and punishes evil. Job’s words appeared to be disrespectful to his creator. He believed that Job was not showing reverence toward God and that he was hindering other’s prayers to God.

Eliphaz now accuses Job of “iniquity” and being “crafty” deceitful, whereas in his first speech he seemed to assume Job’s sincerity. 

Now even Job’s own words were condemning himself, there was no need for further testimony! The accusation levied against Job was of being irreverent and blasphemous in his speech. This is a shadow of the accusations levied against Jesus much later in time.
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Job 15:7-13

7 “Are you the first man ever born?
Were you brought forth before the hills?
8 Do you listen in on God’s council?
Do you have a monopoly on wisdom?
9 What do you know that we do not know?
What insights do you have that we do not have?
10 The grey-haired and the aged are on our side,
men even older than your father.
11 Are God’s consolations not enough for you,
words spoken gently to you?
12 Why has your heart carried you away,
and why do your eyes flash,
13 so that you vent your rage against God
and pour out such words from your mouth?
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True wisdom is not necessarily linked to age but to consistent trust and obedience to God’s ways (Psalm 119:99-100). Wisdom comes from walking with God and discovering that his commands are trustworthy and true (Deuteronomy 4:6; 1 Timothy 4:12).Solomon was reportedly the wisest man that ever lived. He was granted wisdom in his youth (1 Kings 3)

In verses 7-1,  Eliphaz condemned Job for rejecting the conventional wisdom, as if he had more insight than other men (verses 7-9) and could reject the wisdom of the aged (verse 10) and the kindness of God (verse 11). It was a serious charge against Job. He was saying that Job was going against conventional wisdom, the society norm and accepted culture and beliefs of his elders.

The common belief was that an older man was wiser (Job 32:7). Eliphaz said that many of the respected elders believed the same ideas as Eliphaz himself. Their forefathers had the same ideas. They thought that someone inflicted with illness or disease must be opposed by God because of some sin. Even Jesus’ disciples had a similar worldview (John 9:2). But Jesus challenged this (John 9:3).

Eliphaz charges Job with these words…
“Are you older than the hills?” As wisdom herself is (Proverbs 8:23). “Did you exist before the earth was created?”

He was accusing Job of believing that he had supernatural intelligence. He was also asking Job if he was the firstborn of God. In other words he was saying, are you trying to compare yourself to God.

The words are harsh, condemning, full of judgment and misunderstanding.
“Are you privy to the secret council of God?”

No mortal man had ever been included in the counsel of God, and yet that was what Eliphaz was saying that Job believed he had done. He was suggesting Job thought he was the only wise man on the earth and accusing him of great pride and arrogance.

Eliphaz defended the position of the friends. It appears that at least one of Job’s friends was as old as Job’s father. It probably would have been Eliphaz, because he always spoke first.

Job said that he wanted to meet God. He wanted to reason with him because he could not understand his troubles. It went against his belief system so he was wrestling with and struggling with the common belief that suffering equals a result of sin. He could not fathom it. It was a sincere wrestling. Eliphaz misunderstood this and assumed that Job was angry with God.

Eliphaz was insisting that he and his friends had offered a solution to Job. He should repent of his sins and seek God with all his heart, and then perhaps God would stop the punishment against him. 

His conclusion was that Job was rebellious and too proud to admit his sin against God.

I wonder how Job must have felt under all this judgment and condemnation on top of his grieving and immense suffering. I know that if I am mildly sick I can barely engage with normality, let alone emotive dialogue.
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Job 15:14-16

14 “What are mortals, that they could be pure,
or those born of woman, that they could be righteous?
15 If God places no trust in his holy ones,
if even the heavens are not pure in his eyes,
16 how much less mortals, who are vile and corrupt,
who drink up evil like water!
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In verses 14-16, Eliphaz delivers a strong but accurate statement about the sinfulness of man (Romans 3:23), the statement attacked Job’s claim to righteousness. Verse 15 refers to holy angels who fell and brought impurity into the heavens (Revelation 12:1-4). Whilst it is true and theologically accurate that all men are sinners it is quite irrelevant to the context of  Job’s complaint and question. His suffering was not due to any sin.

Eliphaz and his friends primary moral code and philosophy was one of retributive justice. They could not distinguish the difference between the fact that all suffering is a result of our sinful nature but not all the suffering is loaded proportionately on the being whose acts are sinful. Cause and effect is not necessarily delivered with equality. Such is the nature of a fallen world. The innocent sometimes suffer and the wicked sometimes get away with it but at the end of all things God will sort it out.

I remember myself and one of my younger brother’s being sat on a stool in the bathroom whilst my dad sorted out a particular issue that had occurred in the house. It’s a very simplistic illustration but in the end God will sift through it all and bring it back to perfect judgment.

Eliphaz was saying that if even the heavens, and the angels in heaven were not clean, the earth and its inhabitants were filthy. They were filled with iniquity.

Theologically accurate but completely unhelpful. Sometimes it’s good to think beyond being right and start thinking about being effective. Eliphaz was completely ineffective in his counsel of Job.
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Job 15:17-26

17 “Listen to me and I will explain to you;
let me tell you what I have seen,
18 what the wise have declared,
hiding nothing received from their ancestors
19 (to whom alone the land was given
when no foreigners moved among them):
20 All his days the wicked man suffers torment,
the ruthless man through all the years stored up for him.
21 Terrifying sounds fill his ears;
when all seems well, marauders attack him.
22 He despairs of escaping the realm of darkness;
he is marked for the sword.
23 He wanders about for food like a vulture;
he knows the day of darkness is at hand.
24 Distress and anguish fill him with terror;
troubles overwhelm him, like a king poised to attack,
25 because he shakes his fist at God
and vaunts himself against the Almighty,
26 defiantly charging against him
with a thick, strong shield.

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Eliphaz continues his rant about Job’s sin being the cause of his suffering. To support his relentless point, he launches into a lengthy monologue about the wicked and their outcomes in life, drawing many parallels to the sufferings of Job. He had pain, and didn’t know when his life would end (verse 20). He suffered from fear, every sound alarmed him, and he thought his destroyer was near (verses 21-22). He worried about having food (verse 23). His suffering made him question God (verses 24-26). 

Once well-nourished, housed and rich (verses 27-29), he would lose it all (verses 30-33). Eliphaz concluded by calling Job a hypocrite (verses 34-35), saying that this was the reason things were going so badly.
Eliphaz again asserts his personal experience as his authority: “from what I have seen.” He then surveys the judgments that fall on the wicked,  implying that Job is to be numbered among them.

Verse 18 refers to the oral tradition of the time. There were few or quite possibly no written records during this period. 

Knowledge among the ancients was communicated chiefly by tradition from father to son. They had few or no written records, and hence, they embodied the results of their observation in brief, pious sayings, and transmitted them from one generation to another.

Eliphaz said that even the wise men of old and the fathers had warned their children of the punishment that came to those who sin. These were not secrets but common knowledge.

Verse 19 alludes to the idea that the land they lived in had been kept safe from foreign invasion, cultural invasion or religious invasions. It seems evident that Job’s time was the time of the Patriarchs most likely after Noah and Abraham.
Eliphaz warned Job not to accuse God. He should not argue but just accept that he is guilty.

I have been on the receiving end of counsel like that and I have also delivered counsel like that. It is unhelpful and hurtful to the recipient and if my experience it is anything to go by delivering that type of counsel it only serves to make me feel better about myself, take my focus off my own shortcomings and place myself above the person I am giving counsel to in my imagined hierarchy. It doesn’t seem that there is anything fruitful or productive in that.
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Job 15:27-35

27 “Though his face is covered with fat
and his waist bulges with flesh,
28 he will inhabit ruined towns
and houses where no one lives,
houses crumbling to rubble.
29 He will no longer be rich and his wealth will not endure,
nor will his possessions spread over the land.
30 He will not escape the darkness;
a flame will wither his shoots,
and the breath of God’s mouth will carry him away.
31 Let him not deceive himself by trusting what is worthless,
for he will get nothing in return.
32 Before his time he will wither,
and his branches will not flourish.
33 He will be like a vine stripped of its unripe grapes,
like an olive tree shedding its blossoms.
34 For the company of the godless will be barren,
and fire will consume the tents of those who love bribes.
35 They conceive trouble and give birth to evil;
their womb fashions deceit.”
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Job had observed that many evil people are successful (Job 12:6). Eliphaz argued that their success was temporary. Their wealth would not last. Soon, they would lose everything (verse 29).

Job had spoken about a tree that someone had cut down (Job 14:7-9). This idea gave hope to Job. Perhaps God would allow Job to live, even after death. Eliphaz rebutted what he perceived as a stupid idea. If someone burns a tree, that tree will not live again (verse 30).

Eliphaz seemed to think that a person’s spirit dies with that person. He thought that the only new life after death would be through our children. They would be our only hope for the future. An evil man would have no children (verse 33). As Job’s children were dead, Job’s own death would be his end.

In verse 27 Eliphaz accused Job of gluttony, coveting and greed and yet he lived in ruin. Surely God took away his riches. Maybe Eliphaz had been jealous of how Job had been previously blessed and was now gloating on his disaster.

He believed that Job had to be a hypocrite. Job had proclaimed faith in God. Eliphaz said Job’s faith was just for show and that he was corrupt, prideful and greedy.
We don’t know what was behind such a disproportionate response.