Meditations in Job : 62. None like God
Job 34:29 But if he remains silent, who can condemn him? If he hides his face, who can see him? Yet he is over man and nation alike
Elihu has just declared that it is unthinkable that God would ever do wrong (34:12). Now he goes on to show God’s greatness and why we can make such an assertion that is true. When he says, “Who appointed him over the earth? Who put him in charge of the whole world?” (v.13) he is saying, let’s face it, God is above all beings and there is no one like Him! God is all powerful and He sustains life and could withdraw it whenever He wanted: “If it were his intention and he withdrew his spirit and breath, all mankind would perish together and man would return to the dust.” (v.14,15) The writer to the Hebrews similarly maintained in respect of Jesus, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” (Heb 1:3). God is so mighty and life-giving that without Him nothing would exist.
Elihu calls again for Job to think about this: “If you have understanding, hear this; listen to what I say.” (v.16) and then goes on to challenge the ungodly of the world who would dare to challenge the Lord: “Can he who hates justice govern? Will you condemn the just and mighty One?” (v.17). Can corrupt leaders rule and can they possibly have any right to challenge the Lord? Look, he says, “Is he not the One who says to kings, `You are worthless,’ and to nobles, `You are wicked,’ who shows no partiality to princes and does not favor the rich over the poor, for they are all the work of his hands?” (v.18,19) No, it’s the other way round, he says. It is He who condemns them! Indeed, if He wants to, He can deal with them in an instant: “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.” (v.20) It is easy for Him to remove them as He wills.
More than that, He sees everything they do: “His eyes are on the ways of men; he sees their every step. There is no dark place, no deep shadow, where evildoers can hide.” (v.21,22) Implied here is that His justice is perfect for He sees and knows everything and nothing is hidden from Him. Moreover, “God has no need to examine men further, that they should come before him for judgment. Without inquiry he shatters the mighty and sets up others in their place.” (v.23,24) i.e. He doesn’t need to enquire of them like an earthly judge, to try and find out the truth, for He knows it – always! Thus, because He knows, He can act accordingly and His action will always be just: “Because he takes note of their deeds, he overthrows them in the night and they are crushed. He punishes them for their wickedness where everyone can see them, because they turned from following him and had no regard for any of his ways.” (v.25-27). He sees and He hears everything: “They caused the cry of the poor to come before him, so that he heard the cry of the needy.” (v.28). He knows when they have been oppressing the poor and the weak. he knows when they are guilty, and what they deserve!
Yes, this is the God with whom we have dealings, and He is utterly just, but suppose He appears to remain silent for a while, who can possibly challenge this God who sees all, knows all, and acts utterly justly? “But if he remains silent, who can condemn him? If he hides his face, who can see him?” (v.29a). If He does remain silent, if He does appear to hide Himself, who can do anything about that and, in the light of all we’ve just noted, who can possibly criticise Him, for He is always just! He is above all: “Yet he is over man and nation alike,” (v.29b) and He is working, as we’ve seen before, to bring and maintain good on the earth, and so part of that is, “to keep a godless man from ruling, from laying snares for the people.” (v.30)
Elihu then supposes words of repentance (which he has heard from Job): “Suppose a man says to God, `I am guilty but will offend no more. Teach me what I cannot see; if I have done wrong, I will not do so again.” (v.31,32) That sounds all right but it must be accompanied by real and genuine repentance: “Should God then reward you on your terms, when you refuse to repent?” (v.33a) and by implication, he is saying, I’m not sure I’ve seen that in you Job! I get the impression, is what I sense him saying, that you want God to come to you on your terms, rather that you go to Him on His – total honesty! So he concludes: “You must decide, not I; so tell me what you know.” (v.33b) At the end of the day, Job, you’ve got to decide what is the truth about what is going on inside you.
But he makes his own pronouncement on the basis of what he has heard: “Men of understanding declare, wise men who hear me say to me, `Job speaks without knowledge; his words lack insight.” (v.34,35) i.e. tell me you wise men who have been listening to me, don’t you think that Job has been speaking without knowledge? Well actually, yes he has, but they don’t know that for they too lacked the knowledge of what had gone on in the courts of heaven. But there is truth here, that Job had spoken without knowledge and in some ways he would have done better to remain silent: “Oh, that Job might be tested to the utmost for answering like a wicked man! To his sin he adds rebellion; scornfully he claps his hands among us and multiplies his words against God.” (v.36,37) Yes it does seem that Job has unwisely spoken out about God.
Very well! Who wants to cast the first stone? Who of us would probably not have done the same as Job? How many of us groan and grumble under the awful pressures of the anguish that comes with extreme suffering? Yes, we can sound spiritual and declare with Paul that ‘God’s grace is sufficient’ (2 Cor 12:9), but sometimes it takes a while for us to appropriate that grace, as it clearly did for Paul (for he had asked three times for his ‘thorn in the flesh’ to be removed!).
The reassurance here is that the Lord understands. He is going to educate Job and that includes rebuking him, but after that when Job responds, He fully restores him. It’s a process and it’s why Jesus died on the Cross for us: we suffer, we groan, we don’t always handle it well, we find the grace eventually, and we say sorry for our earlier grumblings, and we are forgiven. So, put that stone down, you have no right to judge Job or anyone like him! Let’s look to the Lord for His mercy, grace and forgiveness. Us weak people have got to stick together!