Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Blog through the Bible: Elihu- Part 2


In Job 32 a new voice takes the stage. He makes his case for speaking in 32, and then he asserts that while Job says God is silent, he does speak, through dreams and pain. Now he moves on.

In 34, Elihu makes the case for God’s justice. In the first four verses, he says, hear me out. Then in 5-9, he summarizes Job’s argument, Job says that he is innocent, that he hasn’t done anything wrong, but God denies him justice. The implication is that there is no benefit, no “profit,” in trying to please God (34:9). From there, Elihu moves into a defense of God’s justice and impartiality. What’s interesting here is that Job begins by sounding just like the three “friends”. He says “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,” and he insist that “It is unthinkable that God would do wrong, that the Almighty would pervert justice. He goes on and on… “If it were his intention and he withdrew his spirit and breath, all mankind would perish together and man would return to the dust…If you have understanding, hear this; listen to what I say.” He then moves on to talking about how God punishes the wicked. He says, “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…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”.

He moves on to chiding Job for his non-repentance and rebellion, for question criticizing God for injustice, and for speaking to him the way he did. He says, Job, “Should God then reward you on your terms, when you refuse to repent? You must decide, not I; so tell me what you know.” He says, anyone who is wise knows that Jobs speeches (in which he criticized God), lacked knowledge. Elihu is correct for chiding job for rebelliously questioning God’s justice, notes Roy Zuck, and for demanding that God answer him and show him where he had sinned, but he seems to share something of the heartless attitude of the friends… however, he is not completely in their camp. While we do see him heading down the road of the three, suggesting the mechanical good for good, bad for bad view that the three had. We also see something else. He leaves place for mystery, for God to work in unexpected ways. As Carson points out, “he adds an element that once again puts his speech in a framework a little different from theirs. Elihu leaves place for mystery. While he insists that God is utterly just, he does not conclude, as the three “comforters” do, that this means every case of suffering must be the direct result of God’s just punishment”. The question Elihu asks in 34:29 tells us that he has left this space, as he say, “But if he (God) remains silent, who can condemn him? If he hides his face, who can see him? What we see here is that he is pretty harsh on Job too, and yet, he leaves wiggle room.  Carson notes that “ while Job flirts with the idea that God’s silence opens him to a charge of unfairness, Elihu assumes God’s justice, even if he (Elihu) does not draw out the inferences followed by the three miserable comforters. Elihu allows room for mystery, for divine silence that is nevertheless just silence”.

From there, we transition to chapter 35, and Elihu’s third speech, where he defends God’s sovereignty. Job had said that God is unconcerned; he does not reward me for my innocence. Elihu says “God is sovereign”. He starts by showing Job’s inconsistency (35:1-3). He says, Job, how can you say that it’s useless to serve God, and that God is unjust? Job can’t hope to be vindicated by God as innocent while saying that his innocent has no value in the eyes of God. He then moves on to speaking of man’s inability to affect God because of his sovereignty. Replying to both Job and the “friends”, he points out that since the heavens and the clouds are higher than man. The implication is that God is higher than the clouds, and therefore greater than man. He says what can you accomplish for or against him?If you have sinned, what do you accomplish against him? And if your transgressions are multiplied, what do you do to him? If you are righteous, what do you give to him? Or what does he receive from your hand?” A person’s wickedness and righteousness don’t affect Him, “Your wickedness concerns a man like yourself, and your righteousness a son of man.” From there, he transitions to speaking about mans inability to influence God because of his pride in 35:9-16. He says when people are oppressed they cry out, but they don’t turn to “God my Maker”, and therefore, God does not answer their cries, because of their pride its empty (35:12-13), and he ignores it. He then applies this to Job saying, “How much less when you say that you do not see him, that the case is before him, and you are waiting for him! And now, because his anger does not punish, and he does not take much note of transgression, Job opens his mouth in empty talk; he multiplies words without knowledge."

Here we see the argument begin to take shape. But more is to come.

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