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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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?