Tuesday, April 18, 2017

When Bad Things Happen To Good People: A Study Of The Book Of Job. Day 44, Elihu's Speech, Part Four

Elihu is really on a roll now and today he repeats some of Job's own words back to him and makes fun of them.

"Then Elihu said: '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." (Job 34:1-4) Elihu says, "We are a bunch of smart men. We are able to judge for ourselves what is right and what is wrong." I'll have to disagree with him, because the Bible says, "There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death." (Proverbs 14:12) We can't always use our own judgment. Our carnal minds will lead us astray, which is why we must be led by God's word instead.

Now Elihu mocks Job's words. "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.' Is there anyone like Job, who drinks scorn like water? He keeps company with evildoers; he associates with the wicked. For he says, 'There is no profit in trying to please God.'" (Job 34:5-9) He accuses Job of being the most wicked of men. His words are a sharp contrast to those of God, who said of Job, "There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil." (Job 1:8)

It's true that Job wonders why he bothered to live a godly life if it didn't prevent tragedies from coming. Earlier in our study of Job we compared his words with those of the psalmist Asaph who wrote, "Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments." (Psalm 73:13-14) In time Asaph realized he was looking at his situation all wrong, but for a while he felt like Job and said, "What good is it to live a godly life? It hasn't spared me from troubles."

"So listen to me, you men of understanding. Far be it from God to do evil, from the Almighty to do wrong. He repays everyone for what they have done; He brings on them what their conduct deserves. It is unthinkable that God would do wrong, that the Almighty would pervert justice. Who appointed Him over the earth? Who put Him in charge of the whole world? If it were His intention and He withdrew His spirit and breath, all humanity would perish together and mankind would return to the dust." (Job 34:10-15) The companions of Job believe that all troubles are punishment. They think it would be unrighteous of God to visit sorrows upon a godly man, therefore Job cannot be godly because God would not afflict him if he were. They completely reject the idea that God might allow hardships for purposes other than punishment.

"If you have understanding, hear this; listen to what I say. Can someone who hates justice govern? Will you condemn the just and mighty One? 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? 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." (Job 34:16-20) Elihu points out that God judges the ungodly and shows no favoritism even if the ungodly person is rich or influential. I think he is trying to insinuate Job expected special treatment from God because he had been wealthy. He's making the accusation that Job had been living an ungodly life but considered himself immune from judgment because he was an important man in the community.

"His eyes are on the ways of mortals; He sees their every step. There is no deep shadow, no utter darkness, where evildoers can hide. God has no need to examine people further, that they should come before Him for judgment. Without inquiry He shatters the mighty and sets up others in their place. 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." (Job 34:21-27) Job has been expressing his desire for a hearing before the Judge, but Elihu says that God has the right to judge without a hearing. God sees and knows all things and He doesn't need to hear any testimony. But Elihu, like Job's three friends, seems oblivious to the fact that the wicked often prosper for a long time on the earth. He keeps talking about how swiftly justice is meted out on the wicked, but quite often it seems to take a long time before the Lord brings wicked people down.

None of Elihu's words are helpful and I'm sorry to say we have more of his useless words to get through before the Lord finally interrupts him in Chapter 38. If nothing else, we can learn from Elihu's example what not to say to someone who is hurting.

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