Job 36

weather

Job 36:1-7
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.
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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?
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Job 36:8-12

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.
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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”
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Job 36:13-15

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.
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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.
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Job 36:16-21

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.
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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.
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Job 36:22-26

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.
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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 !!

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Job 36:27-33

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.
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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.

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Job 32

intervention


Job 32:1-5
Elihu

32 So these three men stopped answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. 2 But Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, became very angry with Job for justifying himself rather than God. 3 He was also angry with the three friends, because they had found no way to refute Job, and yet had condemned him.4 Now Elihu had waited before speaking to Job because they were older than he. 5 But when he saw that the three men had nothing more to say, his anger was aroused.
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Job’s final defence provoked a response from a fourth friend – the young man “Elihu.” You get the impression from the text that these speeches were quite intrusive and were born out of listening to what was going on between the friends. They do however prepare the way for even more “intrusive” speeches from God himself!

Elihu was a “Buzite”. His ancestry can be traced to the Arabian tribe of Buz (Jeremiah 25:23). The “family of Ram” is unknown.

“Elihu” means He is my God. “Barachel” means God blesses. These names both indicate that Elihu was a believer in the One True God.

Elihu took a new approach to the issue of Job’s suffering. Angry with the other 3, he had some new thoughts, but was very hard on Job. Elihu was angry, full of self-importance and verbose, but his approach was refreshing after listening repetitiously to the others, though not really helpful to Job.

After Job had finished his speech which was met with silence from his friends then Elihu stepped in.

There are differing opinions about Elihu. I have read a lot of commentary that suggests that Elihu was foolish and merely repeating what Job’s friends had already said but packaging it slightly differently but it appears that he was more balanced, fair and accurate without the bias of Job’s friends. He exercises some wisdom and eventually introduces God himself.

Elihu’s main idea was that God is fair. Job’s other friends said that they believed this. But they themselves were unfair to Job. However, Job was not always sure that God is fair. If God was always fair, it did not explain his trouble. In all this however, Job did feel sure that God would be a fair judge.

Job wanted a friend who would act like a lawyer (Job 9:32-35; Job 16:19-21). He needed someone to intercede with God on his behalf. He hoped that God himself would step in and sort this out. We know that ultimately this is fulfilled in Jesus.
In the context of all of this Elihu acts like this lawyer. The book of Job is written in such a way that it seems as though Elihu arranged for Job to meet God. There was nothing special about Elihu, he was not a prophet as such or anything more than an ordinary young man but his words were from the Holy Spirit (Job 32:8; Job 36:4).

Elihu was probably one of a number of onlookers who witnessed the debate between Job and his friends. In the six chapters devoted to his speeches, the emphasis seems to be fourfold:
1. Absolute reverence for God,
2. Sensitivity to sin
3. Purpose in suffering
4. The danger of spiritual pride

In this early part of Elihu’s intervention he lives up to the caricature of “angry young man”. The word “wrath” occurs four times in verses 2-5. He explains that he has kept silent because of his youth, but now feels compelled to speak.

This was actually stating that Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar had run out of things to accuse Job of. Job knew that he was not guilty of the things they had accused him of. They thought Job was righteous in his own sight. Job had not made that statement. He had only defended himself from their accusations, which were untrue.

Elihu was angry with Job for self-righteousness, and with the friends for false accusations and unsuccessful arguments.

Elihu was polite. He respected the older men. He did not interrupt them.
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Job 32:6-8

6 So Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite said:
“I am young in years,
and you are old;
that is why I was fearful,
not daring to tell you what I know.
7 I thought, ‘Age should speak;
advanced years should teach wisdom.’
8 But it is the spirit in a person,
the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding.
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Elihu makes a very refreshing introduction. He had waited for his elders to speak assuming that they would impart wisdom. He clearly had some strength of opinion about the whole situation but his first step was to listen carefully to all that was being said. James’ letter in the new testament informs us that we should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. That is wisdom in of itself. In highly charged situations it takes a lot restraint to avoid jumping in.  There is a lot of wisdom in listening and attempting to understand different perspectives.

There is also a big difference between worldly wisdom and spiritual wisdom
(1 Corinthians 1:18-19; 1 Corinthians 1:27). The Holy Spirit teaches us about the ways of God (1 Corinthians 2:9-12). Job had complained that his friends were not speaking by the Holy Spirit (Job 26:4). Their statements about God were not always accurate (Job 25:6).

Elihu had listened, reluctant to speak but in the end decided that he had something to say. God had somehow put it on his heart to speak knowing that it is the breath of the Almighty that ultimately gives understanding.

There have been plenty of occasions when I should have said something but instead kept quiet and many occasions when I spoke and it would have been better to listen.

I think to some degree wisdom about when to speak and when to listen comes with age and experience but true wisdom comes from God. I know men my own age who I struggle to listen to because everything is bound up in their own opinion and worldview and they deliver a warped view of the way things are or should be with such strength of conviction it’s hard for others to ask honest questions let alone disagree. At the same time I know people half my age who have considerable wisdom. A few weeks ago when a young 19 year old and my own 17 year old son delivered the sermon at church I was blown away at how articulate they were and the measured wisdom of the message as well as the way that they delivered it. It was delivered with such calm maturity.
James 1:5 informs us that if we lack wisdom then we should ask God who gives generously without finding fault …
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Job 32:9-14

9 It is not only the old who are wise,
not only the aged who understand what is right.
10 “Therefore I say: Listen to me;
I too will tell you what I know.
11 I waited while you spoke,
I listened to your reasoning;
while you were searching for words,
12     I gave you my full attention.
But not one of you has proved Job wrong;
none of you has answered his arguments.
13 Do not say, ‘We have found wisdom;
let God, not a man, refute him.’
14 But Job has not marshalled his words against me,
and I will not answer him with your arguments.

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Elihu continues with this refreshing approach as he simplifies the notion of wisdom to “doing what is right” and the aged do not have the monopoly on that.

Elihu spoke like a lawyer. He had listened to the other speeches. He thought carefully about them. But the three friends’ arguments did not impress him. He saw that they had no evidence to accuse Job. He believed that Job’s speeches were better than theirs.

The three friends had failed to prove that Job was guilty. But they were still accusing Job (verse 3). They did not say, ‘We were wrong.’ Instead, they said, ‘God will prove that Job is wrong’ (verse 13). Elihu thought that they were unfair to Job. But Elihu would not be unfair.

This mysterious character appears to initially level the conversation with fairness and impartiality.
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Job 32:15-22

15 “They are dismayed and have no more to say;
words have failed them.
16 Must I wait, now that they are silent,
now that they stand there with no reply?
17 I too will have my say;
I too will tell what I know.
18 For I am full of words,
and the spirit within me compels me;
19 inside I am like bottled-up wine,
like new wineskins ready to burst.
20 I must speak and find relief;
I must open my lips and reply.
21 I will show no partiality,
nor will I flatter anyone;
22 for if I were skilled in flattery,
my Maker would soon take me away.
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Similar to the Old Testament prophets Elihu felt a heavy burden to say something. Sometimes this burden is described as a heavy weight (Nahum 1:1; Malachi 1:1). It was the work of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes the Spirit is described as a wind that was blowing through them (John 3:8). The Hebrew word for ‘wind’ and ‘spirit’ are the same.

Elihu spoke like a lawyer. He promised impartiality and fairness and was aware of his responsibilities before God.