65. Final Words

Meditations in Job : 65. Elihu’s Final Words

Job 37:23,24 The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power; in his justice and great righteousness, he does not oppress. Therefore, men revere him, for does he not have regard for all the wise in heart?

In verses 27 to 33 of chapter 36 Elihu has considered God’s greatness in the light of what He does in terms of nature, the elements. As we start chapter 37 he expresses his own heart about this: At this my heart pounds and leaps from its place. Listen! Listen to the roar of his voice, to the rumbling that comes from his mouth.” (v.1,2)  Now much of what follows is an extension of this, as he comments on various elements of God’s activity, and as he speaks about the lighting and thunder (v.3-5), the snow, rain and ice (v.6-13).

But then, following on from this, he asks Job if he has the same knowledge that God has? “Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God’s wonders. Do you know how God controls the clouds” (v.14,15)  He expands this in verses 14 to 18 and then asks Job if, in the light of God’s greatness, any of us dare question Him: “Tell us what we should say to him; we cannot draw up our case because of our darkness. Should he be told that I want to speak? Would any man ask to be swallowed up?” (v.19,20).  Really, he is saying, when you think about God’s greatness, it is stupid to dare to challenge Him; He’s in a different league to us!

Think about it, he continues, “Now no one can look at the sun, bright as it is in the skies after the wind has swept them clean.” (v.21) i.e. can anyone look at the sun in a clear sky? Of course not! So what about the Lord? “Out of the north he comes in golden splendor; God comes in awesome majesty.” (v.22) When His glory comes we realise that likewise we cannot even look at Him (implied).

His conclusion? “The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power; in his justice and great righteousness, he does not oppress.” (v.23)  i.e. God is so great that He is beyond our reach and in His unchanging righteousness, He always does good and therefore never oppresses people – that we need to trust in!  What should be our response to Him? “Therefore, men revere him, for does he not have regard for all the wise in heart?” (v.24)  We should just revere and worship Him without question for He is so much greater than us that he can disregard what we think is wisdom, what we think ins the right path, for His knowledge and wisdom is so great that He KNOWS what is the right path (implied).

Thus we come to the end of the six chapters of Elihu’s speaking.  Whether it was just one long speech or several broken speeches is not fully clear, but as he moves through from arguing against what he has heard Job say, eventually he comes to consider the Lord Himself, and in that he concludes, there’s nothing more to say.  When you think of it, the Lord is so great and we are so small, that any thought of us trying to hold God to account is really futile! When anyone reads the Bible and sees the works of God, then they will see One who is so much greater than us that He defies definition.  We can say that He is the Designer-Creator of the world and that He upholds and maintains this world, we can say that He is all-wise and all-knowing and all-powerful and all-loving, but beyond that we become unwise if we try to go much further. His goodness and salvation was revealed through His Son, Jesus Christ, and all of this shows us – if we have eyes to see – that if we want to argue with God, we are really very silly!

At the end of the book Job eventually says, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5,6)  Once he encountered the Lord he knew how stupid he had been to argue.  When Isaiah had a vision of the Lord he declared, “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” (Isa 6:5)  When the apostle Peter caught a glimpse of who Jesus was, he cried out: “When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Lk 5:8)  When Ezekiel saw something of God in a vision, we read, “This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown.” (Ezek 1:28) When the apostle John saw the risen Jesus in a vision, he recorded, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.” (Rev 1:17)

The testimony of Scripture is consistent and we would do well to heed it and ensure we are not like those foolish atheists who dare to challenge Almighty God, for again the testimony about Jesus is very clear: “God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 1:9-11)  One day EVERY knee will bow. Why make it worse with foolish words now?

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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.

62. None like God

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!

61. No Wrong God

Meditations in Job : 61. God does no wrong

Job 34:10-12 Far be it from God to do evil, from the Almighty to do wrong. He repays a man for what he has done; he brings upon him what his conduct deserves. It is unthinkable that God would do wrong, that the Almighty would pervert justice.

In chapter 34 we pick up the second phase of Elihu’s talking, started by, “Then Elihu said…” Again he challenges his listeners to listen and check out what he has to say: Hear my words, you wise men; listen to me, you men of learning. For the ear tests words as the tongue tastes food. Let us discern for ourselves what is right; let us learn together what is good.” (v.2-4).  In this there is a confidence that is willing to be checked out.  We also have a reasonable faith one that can be checked against the evidence and we should not be afraid to say to others, “Check it out!”

Elihu then picks up again on what he has heard Job say, “Job says, `I am innocent, but God denies me justice. Although I am right, I am considered a liar; although I am guiltless, his arrow inflicts an incurable wound.” (v.5,6) Job has asked for justice but justice is not what it is all about.  Elihu concludes that this puts Job in the same category as evildoers who also say wrong things about God (implied): “What man is like Job, who drinks scorn like water? He keeps company with evildoers; he associates with wicked men.” (v.7,8)  i.e. he takes in scorn as one drinks and takes in water and by his words he “keeps company with” and “associates with” wrong people. That doesn’t make him an evildoer or wicked but just means he is speaking in the same foolish way they do.

Why?  What has he said?  He has said, “It profits a man nothing when he tries to please God.” (v.9)  i.e. what is the point of trying to please God?  Back in chapter 21 Job maintained that the wrong doer so often appears to get away with it and, indeed, both good and bad die young or live to old age.  Perhaps this is what Elihu is referring to.  He has a strong answer which we have in our verses today which may be summed up as, “God does no wrong!”   Often in these meditations I have found myself saying that we may not understand what is happening to us but when we get to heaven, if God allows us to look back on His dealings with us, we will never be able to criticise Him for anything He has said or done or not done!

In verse 11 we find a doctrine that comes up often in Scripture: “He repays a man for what he has done; he brings upon him what his conduct deserves.” In the New Testament Paul says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Cor 5:10) which is about our future destiny, and then more generally in respect of life here on earth, “A man reaps what he sows.” (Gal 6:7)

Yes, this is a general truth.  One day we will have to appear before the Lord to account for what we have done and, yes, here and now our wrong behaviour can have serious repercussions. For example the promiscuous person can find themselves with a sexually transmitted disease, which may be life threatening. Their behaviour has genuinely serious repercussions. The person who steals something lives in fear of being caught and one day may be arrested and judged. The person who has an uncontrollable temper may say things which harm and destroy a relationship and life is changed.  A person who eats too much becomes obese and may have a whole range of health problems, as does a person who drinks too much or takes illegal drugs. In all of these ways wrong behaviour DOES bring ‘negative fruits’ to our lives, fruits that are liable to be harmful and destructive.  It is no wonder that Elihu had previously said that God speaks to us “to turn man from wrongdoing and keep him from pride, to preserve his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword.” (Job 32:17,18)

But there is a bigger truth and it is that God does things sometimes that are not related to this general principle and so Job is not being punished for his wrong doing.  As we’ve seen, he’s been declared by the Lord to be righteous. This is all about testing of faith, testing for faithfulness, and that is nothing to do with discipline to deal with sin. No, the principle is right, Elihu, but it just doesn’t apply here to Job.  It’s a good and right principle but it is not what is happening here.

Yet again we are faced with this warning not to judge people without revelation from God. It is too easy to get it wrong!

60. Lessons in Love

Meditations in Job : 60. Lessons in Love

Job 33:14,17,18 For God does speak…… to turn man from wrongdoing and keep him from pride, to preserve his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword

Now I know the word ‘love’ is not mentioned in this chapter but I would suggest that everything the Elihu says about the way God works, describes God as a God of love.  Elihu has listened (33:8) and heard Job say that he is pure and without sin (v.9) yet Job has blamed God for finding fault with him and for making him an enemy (v.10), the way He has dealt with him (v.11), and with this Elihu has a problem (v.12)

Now the truth we know from earlier in the book is exactly the opposite: God hasn’t found fault with Job, He has praised him for his righteousness and there is no way that God considers Job an enemy.  In fact, without realising it, he is God’s emissary, displaying faithfulness on behalf of God in the face of Satan’s attacks.  There has been a wrong assessment of the situation by Job.

But then comes Elihu’s second complaint: Job says he’s cried to God but the Lord hasn’t answered him. Elihu launches into a declaration that God does speak again and again, “though man may not perceive it.” (v.14b)  The Lord speaks in a variety of ways (v.14a), in dreams or visions (v.15) or directly into our ears (v.16).  The REASON God speaks is then given: to turn man from wrongdoing and keep him from pride, to preserve his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword.” (v.17,18)  When God speaks He is trying to get man to turn away from those destructive attitudes and ways of behaving so that he will be saved.  If we refuse to heed his voice we may simply end up in hell, and we may even go there through a violent means brought on by our own folly.

Another way that the Lord ‘speaks’ to us is through personal suffering that brings us to the edge of death (v.19-22), yet Elihu is aware that God sends angels as personal messengers “to tell a man what is right for him” (v.23c) and also to remind the Lord that He has provided a ransom to save this man (v.24) so that this man might be saved and restored (v.25).  Now whether that ransom is reference to the sacrifices made for sin (see 1:5) or whether it is a prophetic reference to the Lamb of God, Jesus, is unclear.  Such a man will pray and be restored (v.26) and then he will go and confess to others that he had sinned but had not received what he had deserved (v.27) because God has redeemed him (v.28).

He reiterates that God does this sort of thing, “twice, even three times– to turn back his soul from the pit, that the light of life may shine on him.” (v.29,30)  Yes, God uses this sort of thing to bring people to their senses.  We see this exactly in Jesus’ parable to the Prodigal Son (Lk 15:14-17) where the bad circumstances drive the son to his senses.

Elihu concludes this chapter with a call to Job to answer up if he has got an answer.  Now the only trouble with all this is that, of course, Job doesn’t have an answer because neither he nor Elihu know what has gone on in the courts of heaven (ch.1 & 2) and they don’t know that this actually has nothing to do with Job’s sin.  Everything Elihu has said has been absolutely correct – except it doesn’t apply to Job, because he is a special case and he is going through trials for no other reason than God has chosen him to go through them – and that because he IS righteous!

So, having looked at this chapter, there are various things we need to check out in ourselves.  Elihu maintains that God does speak to us in a variety of ways.  Are we open to believe that?  Do we believe that the Lord speaks to us personally – and if so, what have we done with what He has said?

Second, are we aware that in God’s sanctifying processes, making us more like Jesus, He uses physical suffering and circumstances generally?  Can we, therefore, when things aren’t going well, be open to learn from Him?

Third, do we realise that whenever God ‘speaks’ it is to extend our experience of salvation and keep us away from things that would harm us or draw us away from Him?  Are we so aware of God’s love that we can be utterly secure in all that happens to us, secure in the knowledge that He loves us and is working to bless us?

Finally, can we learn that lesson that we have observed previously but which arises again here, that unless we have had revelation from God we should be slow in assessing people negatively (judging them).

Moses asked the Lord, “teach me your ways so I may know you.” (Ex 33:13). In this meditation new have been touching on the ‘ways’ of God, the way He works and why He works as He does. May we learn these things!

59. Elihu Prepares

Meditations in Job : 59. Elihu prepares the way

Job 32:10-12 Therefore I say: Listen to me; I too will tell you what I know. I waited while you spoke, I listened to your reasoning; while you were searching for words, I gave you my full attention. But not one of you has proved Job wrong; none of you has answered his arguments.

Some commentators complain that Elihu is wordy but I believe we see in the verses we’ll consider today, a young man, aware of his youthfulness, who seeks to be gracious and seeks to explain why he is daring to speak in the company of these older and, one might suppose, wiser men. He starts by, in a sense, laying down his right to speak: “I waited while you spoke, I listened to your reasoning…. I gave you my full attention,” i.e. I have sat quietly taking in all that you have said. I have not interrupted (implied) or joined in; I’ve sat, listened and thought about what you have said. And, to the three friends, “not one of you has proved Job wrong.” This is the truth, this summary of all that they have said. As we noted in the previous meditations, the Lord also chided these three with, you have not spoken of me what is right.” (Job 42:7)

He continues, “Do not say, `We have found wisdom; let God refute him, not man.” (v.13)  I like the Message version’s take on this: “And don’t excuse yourselves by saying, ‘We’ve done our best. Now it’s up to God to talk sense into him.” That’s a cop out, we might say, but he’s not going to be defeatist like this: “But Job has not marshaled his words against me, and I will not answer him with your arguments.” (v.14) i.e. I’m not going to use the same wrong arguments you used.

This then becomes like a stage play where one player moves aside from the rest and talks out loud for the sake of the audience, for it’s as if he makes an aside about the three friends who have been silenced: “They are dismayed and have no more to say; words have failed them. Must I wait, now that they are silent, now that they stand there with no reply?” (v.15,16)  Look at this, he says, they’ve run out of words, so must I remain silent any longer while they say nothing?  No, he continues, “I too will have my say; I too will tell what I know.” (v.17)  Why?  Because he feels like he’s about to explode: “For I am full of words, and the spirit within me compels me; inside I am like bottled-up wine, like new wineskins ready to burst. I must speak and find relief; I must open my lips and reply.” (v.18-20).  In this he sounds like some of the prophets who felt the same thing.  They tried to remain silent but God’s word, bottled up in them, just had to explode out!

Then he gives a little warning: I will show partiality to no one, nor will I flatter any man; for if I were skilled in flattery, my Maker would soon take me away.” (v.21,22).  It’s all right, he reassures the friends, I’m not going to take sides and I’m not just going to pat Job on the back to encourage him, because if I did that God would not be pleased.  We are in the business of truth and although grace may prevail, it has to do so in the face of the truth!

But then, as we move into the next chapter, he turns directly to Job: “But now, Job, listen to my words; pay attention to everything I say.” (v.1)  Now this may sound a little condescending but I believe he is in fact acknowledging that Job has almost come to the end of himself with all this arguing and needs this exhortation to hang on in a bit longer and hear what he has to say. He goes on: “I am about to open my mouth; my words are on the tip of my tongue.” (v.2) i.e. I can’t hold back any longer so please stay with me, I’ve got to speak!  Please understand, he continues, “My words come from an upright heart; my lips sincerely speak what I know. The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” (v.3,4) i.e. please see that I’m trying to come without any deviousness and I will speak as sincerely as possible, to share what I believe God’s Holy Spirit has taught me.

“Answer me then, if you can; prepare yourself and confront me. I am just like you before God; I too have been taken from clay. No fear of me should alarm you, nor should my hand be heavy upon you.” (v.5-7) i.e. please give me answers and be ready to challenge what I say if it is untrue (implied) because we’re both just men and I don’t come threateningly to seek to overpower you.

In the poetic form that this story comes, it may appear a little straight-laced to us but I believe the tone or sense of Elihu’s words are as I have suggested.  I have always been struck by the similarities between what he says and then what the Lord says.  I believe he comes as a godly intermediary. This is no jumped-up upstart trying to put down these four older men.  I believe we should see graciousness in the way he says things.  This run-in to the main thrust of what he has to say to Job suggests a diplomat, or at least one who is concerned about the people he is addressing.

Perhaps these thoughts might leave us thinking about how we approach people who we feel need correcting.  Presumably we have earned some right to be in the position of correcting another.  If not we should remain silent!  But perhaps by servant hearted godliness we have to come to the place of being in a position to help others in their thinking.  We have to assume from the context that they have wrong thinking and we need to help them correct it.  Do we come to them as people who are obviously lesser beings who can’t think properly for themselves, or do we approach them as children of God to whom we are coming as servants.  I am always mindful of Paul’s words to the Ephesian elders: “Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.(Acts 20:28)  What was he saying to them?   As you care for the church, remember that these are people who are precious to Jesus for he gave his life for them.  They are precious to him!   That is how we approach Christians in need of correction: they are precious to Jesus and we should treat them accordingly.  May it be so!

58. Introducing Elihu

Meditations in Job : 58.  Introducing Elihu

Job 32:1-3 So these three men stopped answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. But Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, became very angry with Job for justifying himself rather than God. He was also angry with the three friends, because they had found no way to refute Job, and yet had condemned him

We come to a major turning point in the book which is spelled out simply for us: So these three men stopped answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes.” The tirades against Job have finally come to an end because the three ‘friends’ have run out of words in the face of Job’s intransigence. Job has refused to give way in his determination to declare that he is righteous.

Then Elihu is introduced: “Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite, of the family of Ram.” Elihu means “God is Jehovah” and Barakel means “God blesses”. Buzite suggest from the family of Buz who was the son of Nahor, brother of Abraham.  We are also told that he is younger than the others: “Now Elihu had waited before speaking to Job because they were older than he.” (v.4). Some have suggested that because so much information is given about him that he may be the author of the book, but it may just be that the others were well-known and he wasn’t and so more detail had to be given to identify him.

As we read on we see his response: “But when he saw that the three men had nothing more to say, his anger was aroused.” (v.5)  It is when he sees that the others come to a halt and the situation has not been clarified that his anger arises and our verses above indicate that his anger focuses on two things.

First he becomes angry at Job because he has been justifying himself rather than God. This young godly man is passionate for the glory of God and in all that has been said, generally God has not been glorified!  Job has been more concerned with his own righteousness than he has with God’s. Perhaps the best Job could have come up with might have been, “Well, I don’t understand why this has all happened but I trust God. I know that He always has good reasons and if this is of Him then I am certain that He has a good reason for it.”  The nearest he came to that was his reaction after the first wave of disasters, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” (1:21) and his response to his wife who called him to curse God: “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (2:10)

For us today we can hold on to that promise spoken by Paul: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28)  Our response in the face of lack of understanding needs to be, “Lord, I don’t know what is going on here, but I trust that you are working for my good in it because of what Jesus has done for me on the Cross.”

Second, he becomes angry at the three friends: “He was also angry with the three friends, because they had found no way to refute Job, and yet had condemned him.” A note in the margin of your Bible suggests that an alternative may mean ‘have condemned God.” In other words these men hadn’t been able to puncture Job’s arguments but had nevertheless condemned him and in so doing had condemned the work of the Lord.  This is what the modern atheist does – blame God, IF there is one.  Very often they don’t so much put up reasons why there can’t be a God (that very rarely happens!), as they say why they don’t like God, and therefore reject the God who they think is revealed in the Bible.  They condemn what they don’t like but it’s not the real God described there!  These three friends misrepresented God!  At the conclusion of the book we find, “After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” (Job 42:7)  That’s rather a bad assessment of them!  But how do we represent God?  When we speak of Him, when we witness about Him, are we faithfully representing Him or do we attribute things to Him that the Bible doesn’t say?

Before he moves into his speech properly, Elihu explains why he hasn’t said anything before, even though, apparently, he has been sitting in the background listening to it all:  “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. I thought, `Age should speak; advanced years should teach wisdom.” (v.6,7)  Herein is humility!  The young giving way to the old – exactly according to Scripture but not very common in the modern world! He graciously acknowledges that wisdom should come with age, which is why he simply sat listening to those older than himself – but he was disappointed!

So next he turns to an alternative source of wisdom, the Lord Himself: “But it is the Spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding.” (v.8)  i.e. the Holy Spirit can communicate truth and wisdom and, by inference, this is what Elihu relies on, the Lord Himself. Where this is true, where there is such a relationship with the Lord, then, “It is not only the old who are wise, not only the aged who understand what is right.” (v.9). There is a profound truth here: wisdom should be learnt with the experience of the years, but a living relationship with the Lord opens the individual up to a source of wisdom that is not found otherwise. James said, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault.” (Jas 1:5)  James later describes this wisdom that is available to the children of God: “the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” (Jas 3:17)  Will we see that in what Elihu says?  We’ll see!  To close this particular meditation we may ask ourselves, have I learned the wisdom that comes with the experience of the years, and am I open for the Lord to share His wisdom to me through His Spirit?  May both answers be able to be in the affirmative!