Thursday, March 1, 2012

Blogging the Bible: Elihu- Part 3

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. In 34-35 his arguments begin to take shape. In 36-37 he brings them to a conclusion as he gives a defense of God’s power and justice in dealing with man, and a defense of God’s sovereignty and benevolence in His dealing with nature. This is a continuation of the themes of justice and sovereignty that we saw in 33-34.

It begins with Elihu’s request for more time to keep speaking. He says, “Bear with me…” (36:1-4); keep listing to me, because “my words are not false; one perfect in knowledge is with you”. With these words, he may be claiming some sort of inspiration, since the words “perfect in knowledge” may refer to God.

Then, he moves into speaking about God’s power and justice in dealing with people.

He says, God is just in dealing with the wicked and the righteous (36:5-7), He makes clear that while Job has been calling for God to speak, he is mighty and firm in his purpose, he will act, “He does not keep the wicked alive but gives the afflicted their rights. He does not take his eyes off the righteous; he enthrones them with kings and exalts them forever.” Here, on the one hand he affirms the position of the three “friends”, that God judges the wicked, but affirms on the other hand, that God restores afflicted righteous people, and even honors them.

He goes on to say, the purpose of suffering is to get people to repent (36:8-12). By pain, God gets people’s attention. Affliction is a tool in his hand. It gets a response, a correction of path, repentance, they will be blessed. But, if they don’t listen, they will perish. Now, this sounds like the theology of the three “friends”, but there is a difference. They stressed that Job was guilty of sinful actions, whereas Elihu only says Job has a sinful attitude, pride. And He is saying that Job should not think of these calamities as proof that he was essentially ungodly (as the three “friends” said), or that he was forsaken by God (as Job said), but that they were means to humble him before God.

He speaks of the reactions of people to suffering (36:13-15). He says of the godless, the true sinner, they will not repent, and they will die young, "The godless in heart harbor resentment; even when he fetters them, they do not cry for help. They die in their youth, among male prostitutes of the shrines”. The reference to among male prostitutes has to do with idol worship here. However, while the godless die young, he says that God delivers those suffer; he speaks to them in their affliction. The difference, is that God speaks to them in their affliction (literally opens their ear). Election? Anyone? All are rebelling, and to some, he opens their ears. The implication is that if Job doesn’t admit his pride, he would be showing that he’s Godless. That God isn’t opening his ears. Repentance would show that he belonged to God, and God is opening his ears.

Elihu then speaks of the reaction that Job should have to his suffering. He says, God seeks to free Job from distress (36:16-19). 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.” In light of that, Job should not be preoccupied with God’s seeming failure to exercise justice. Nor, should Job be concerned about the night. Instead he should repent f his pride and be careful not to sin by complaining (36:20-21). Why? Because of God’s great, exalted, power (36:22-26),

From speaking about God’s power, He transitions to speaking of God’s sovereignty and benevolence in dealing with nature.

He elaborates on God’s work in nature in the autumn storm (36:27-33), declaring “He draws up the drops of water, which distill as rain to the streams; the clouds pour down their moisture and abundant showers fall on mankind… “He fills his hands with lightning and commands it to strike its mark. His thunder announces the coming storm; even the cattle make known its approach.” He speaks of God’s work in the winter (37:1-13). He says that his heart pounds at the sound of the rumbling of his voice, describing a lightning storm in (37:1-5). He then describes other storms, snow, and rain, that makes men and animals stop (37:6-12). He says, sometimes these storms come to bring punishment, and sometimes God sense these storms to show his love (37:13). He challenges Job to think through God's  God’s sovereignty in the summer (37:14-18), and in a series of questions he says Job is ignorant of God’s power in nature; we can’t fathom how God controls things, and we can’t take part in his work either.

This brings him to the point. If Job can’t understand God’s ways, what gives him a right to draw up a case (a legal battle) against God. Man is in darkness (that is, ignorant of God).  Therefore, “should he be told that I want to speak? Would any man ask to be swallowed up?” He goes on “No one can look at the sun”, and what unsaid is that since God is greater than the sun, no one can look at God. He concludes with words that anticipate the coming of God, he says, “Out of the north he comes in golden splendor; God comes in awesome majesty. The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power; in his justice and great righteousness, he does not oppress. Therefore, men revere (fear) him, for does he not have regard for all the wise in heart?” To fear God involves recognizing God’s supremacy and mans inferiority. Job, Elihu says, has a problem with pride. Job says nothing here, perhaps recognizing some truth in these words.

These speeches, overall, are hard to take. However, as D.A. Carson observers,
in the framework of the book of Job, two factors stand out.
First, when God finally responds, Job is corrected (as we shall see), and the three “miserable comforters” are roundly rebuked because, God says, they “have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (42:7)—but no charge at all is laid against Elihu. That may reflect the fact that he is a bit player; but it also reflects the fact that his basic stance is right, even if the tone is a tad self-righteous.
Second, in his hinted suggestions that there may be in God mysterious realities and hidden reasons to which we do not have access, Elihu anticipates some of God’s own arguments when he speaks out of the storm in the closing chapters of the book (chaps. 38—41). Biblical revelation provides us with many things to understand, some of which will require a lifetime of learning. But it also reminds us that God has not disclosed everything (Deut. 29:29). At some point God demands our trust and obedience, not merely our evaluation and understanding.

The book of Job is coming to a close. But we have one more voice to hear from. While Elihu has been speaking, a storm had gathered. From the storm, God would answer Job.

No comments:

Post a Comment