36 Elihu continued:
2 “Bear with me a little longer and I will show you
that there is more to be said in God’s behalf.
3 I get my knowledge from afar;
I will ascribe justice to my Maker.
4 Be assured that my words are not false;
one who has perfect knowledge is with you.
5 “God is mighty, but despises no one;
he is mighty, and firm in his purpose.
6 He does not keep the wicked alive
but gives the afflicted their rights.
7 He does not take his eyes off the righteous;
he enthrones them with kings
and exalts them forever.
I started out by liking Elihu but now I really begin to take a strong dislike.
Although there is some accuracy in what he says about the nature of God he appears arrogant and cocky in believing his words come directly from God.
His main accusation against Job is his misrepresentation of God being unfair or unkind. This is perhaps true. Elihu may be accurate in his assessment of Job but the way he carries himself makes him difficult to hear.
I think about this dilemma and the challenge to my heart is two fold. If I am in the position of delivering an assessment, a judgment or even feedback it would be prudent to give careful thought to my delivery and how I carry myself so that my hearer can hear the message. It may even be a case of asking myself honestly am I the best person to deliver this message.
If I am in the position of recipient my challenge is to cut through the noise and the emotional obstacles that may come with the delivery and ask myself “what is the message? Is it true? Is it reasonable? What do I want to do about it?
I begin to wonder how many friends Elihu had and indeed who he was… perhaps indeed a prophet to usher on the presence of God or perhaps a later fictional addition to the text as some scholars suggest. We don’t know much about this mysterious character but he appears to be giving an accurate assessment of the nature of God but is a bit off the mark in his insensitive dealings with Job. What’s the lesson here? Listen to the message not the messenger perhaps? Listen to what’s behind the message not the immediate emotional response?
8 But if people are bound in chains,
held fast by cords of affliction,
9 he tells them what they have done—
that they have sinned arrogantly.
10 He makes them listen to correction
and commands them to repent of their evil.
11 If they obey and serve him,
they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity
and their years in contentment.
12 But if they do not listen,
they will perish by the sword
and die without knowledge.
Elihu along with Job’s friends, were relating difficulties in this life with being out of fellowship with God.
This is erroneous thinking. All of the apostles who followed Jesus, except for one, were believed to have died a martyr’s death. That in itself discredits the theory that Elihu had here. These apostles suffered for doing good, not for doing wrong. Stephen was stoned to death for preaching the gospel. In fact following God rarely …if ever equates to an easy life.
2 Timothy 2:12 informs us that “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us”
13 “The godless in heart harbor resentment;
even when he fetters them, they do not cry for help.
14 They die in their youth,
among male prostitutes of the shrines.
15 But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering;
he speaks to them in their affliction.
Elihu identifies the issue of resentment being the source of sin that even when God enslaves them to a destructive way that they do not cry out for help, they are resigned to this empty way of living and become embroiled deeper in the downward spiral. He says they die in their youth. Maybe this is not physical death but rather spiritual death. In other words they become unresponsive to spirituality.
The practice of shrine prostitution is mentioned which was part of the pagan religious practices of the ancient world.
The idea of God speaking through suffering is also brought to the table. This is when we are perhaps most responsive to God’s prompts and his calling to us out of the world and all the mess that we have surrounded ourselves with.
Elihu in his arrogance was speaking some profound spiritual truths.
16 “He is wooing you from the jaws of distress
to a spacious place free from restriction,
to the comfort of your table laden with choice food.
17 But now you are laden with the judgment due the wicked;
judgment and justice have taken hold of you.
18 Be careful that no one entices you by riches;
do not let a large bribe turn you aside.
19 Would your wealth or even all your mighty efforts
sustain you so you would not be in distress?
20 Do not long for the night,
to drag people away from their homes.
21 Beware of turning to evil,
which you seem to prefer to affliction.
It appears that Elihu is saying that Job may have been delivered from this disaster if he accepted it in the right spirit and now he was getting what he deserved. His gold and riches were no longer of use to him. They could not save him from all of this.
Job had wanted God to end his life and yet Elihu was saying that he should not dare to make such a wish. His part in this was to just patiently accept the affliction that God had put upon him.
If this passage tells me anything about human nature, it is our ability to express in a very authoritative fashion positions on stuff we don’t have any clue about. Our ignorance is only equalled by our pride and arrogance.
22 “God is exalted in his power.
Who is a teacher like him?
23 Who has prescribed his ways for him,
or said to him, ‘You have done wrong’?
24 Remember to extol his work,
which people have praised in song.
25 All humanity has seen it;
mortals gaze on it from afar.
26 How great is God—beyond our understanding!
The number of his years is past finding out.
The focus and emphasis shifts from Job to the almighty as Elihu emphasizes the greatness of God that no man can fathom. He cannot be taught anything by man, he cannot be corrected …stop, look, contemplate and be amazed !!
27 “He draws up the drops of water,
which distill as rain to the streams;
28 the clouds pour down their moisture
and abundant showers fall on mankind.
29 Who can understand how he spreads out the clouds,
how he thunders from his pavilion?
30 See how he scatters his lightning about him,
bathing the depths of the sea.
31 This is the way he governs the nations
and provides food in abundance.
32 He fills his hands with lightning
and commands it to strike its mark.
33 His thunder announces the coming storm;
even the cattle make known its approach.
Elihu makes a declaration about who controls the weather and then God’s power in the rain storm. This was a typical question in the ancient world. God is the ruler of all nature. This beautiful Hebrew poetry describes God’s command of the weather and nature.
In Job 26:14, Job said that man’s experience of God was like a whisper. But God’s greatness was like the thunder. Job and his friends were about to have a greater experience of God.
A storm was approaching. Elihu described the storm. The men were sitting outside (Job 2:8; Job 2:13). So they carefully watched the storm.
First, the men saw the clouds (verses 27-29).
Then the men saw the distant lightning. And they heard the distant thunder. It was not raining yet. But the storm was coming closer. Even the cows realised this. When a storm approaches, cows do not continue to eat. Instead, they sit on the ground (verse 33).
When we observe nature or watch nature in some way we cannot help but be fascinated at the beauty, the design, the detail. I have moments of mindfulness sometimes when I walk into work even in the urban surroundings I can notice a plant or a movement in the clouds.
I cannot help but think of God. Sometimes all we need to do is to slow down enough and look beyond the concrete that we are surrounded by and notice how nature works to bring us back to the presence of God.