63. Would God Listen

Meditations in Job : 63. Would God Listen?

Job 35:6,7 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

As we move on into the next chapter, Elihu first chides Job for his apparent double arguing. On one hand he declares that he will be cleared by God for his righteousness, and on the other he wonders why he bothers to remain righteous: Do you think this is just? You say, `I will be cleared by God.’ Yet you ask him, `What profit is it to me, and what do I gain by not sinning?” (v.2,3). In answer Elihu simply asks them all to look upwards and grasp something of the Lord’s greatness: “I would like to reply to you and to your friends with you. Look up at the heavens and see; gaze at the clouds so high above you.” (v.5,6) He does this because he is now going to argue that God is so great that He doesn’t get value from either our goodness or badness.

He starts with the badness: “If you sin, how does that affect him? If your sins are many, what does that do to him?” (v.6). He replies, “Your wickedness affects only a man like yourself,” (v.8a) i.e. God is so much ‘above’ us that our petty foolishness doesn’t change Him. Then the goodness: “If you are righteous, what do you give to him, or what does he receive from your hand?” (v.7) and his reply is that righteousness only affects the sons of men, i.e. it’s only humans who may be recipients of your goodness.

He then considers how we respond to things when they go wrong: “Men cry out under a load of oppression; they plead for relief from the arm of the powerful.” (v.9), i.e. we are only too quick to cry out for help from God but no one says, `Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night, who teaches more to us than to the beasts of the earth and makes us wiser than the birds of the air?” (v.10,11) i.e. we cry for help but don’t simply trust the Lord for His caring provision “in the night” when it is dark and who relates to us and teaches and helps us.  Do we remember that He does these things when we ask or do we ask in a grumbling manner?

Look, he continues, there are times when God just keeps quiet: “He does not answer when men cry out because of the arrogance of the wicked. Indeed, God does not listen to their empty plea; the Almighty pays no attention to it.” (v.12,13)  i.e. if it is just a selfish, self-centred, shallow cry of arrogance against God, He will not respond.  God replies to righteous, humble cries, is implied in this.  And if God won’t reply to the petty, critical calls of the arrogant, how much less will He reply when we say stupid things about Him: “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, and further, that his anger never punishes  and he does not take the least notice of wickedness.” (v.14,15)

He concludes, “So Job opens his mouth with empty talk; without knowledge he multiplies words.” (v.16)  i.e. Job you don’t know what you’re saying.

Now let’s look at some of these things again. Is it true that God doesn’t care about whether we do good or bad? Well Elihu is right that God’s character is not changed because of our behaviour;  no, He remains exactly the same whether we are the most wonderful saint or the worst sinner. In that respect He is utterly unchanging.  Yet, Jesus revealed Him as a loving Father and as such He will be grieved if we sin and bring harmful outcomes upon ourselves, so in that respect it is not true to say that it doesn’t matter.  Remember this is an argument about how God is or is not affected by our behaviour, but there is the whole question of how loving children can purposefully sin and upset their loving heavenly Father, which is Paul’s point in Romans chapter 6.

Indeed does God ignore us when we say stupid things?  Well the lesson of the whole book of Job suggests that He often stays quiet while we seek to resolve our problems but nevertheless eventually speaks and brings correction.  I believe that as part of His working to bring maturity in us, and indeed of testing us, it means that sometimes He remains silent to allow us time and space to think, pray and work through to a right place. Sometimes part of the test is how will we respond when he does remain silent? Often in the psalms, the psalmist starts out with worries and concerns and obviously feels very stressed and yet, as he progresses his thinking, he comes to a place where he is able to praise the Lord and affirm truths about God.

So if the Lord seems to be remaining quiet, how are you responding? Will the Lord find a faithful and right attitude prevailing in you, right through to the next time you hear from Him?  Because we are His children, the Lord may remain quiet but that doesn’t mean He remains still. The teaching of the New Testament is that He is always working and He is working to bring good for us. May we remember these things when we are in times of difficulty.

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