patience

Job and Elihu

Where to Start
My purpose for starting this blog was to explore issues confronting men.  So this is my first attempt to regain my focus.

My first endeavor was to look to Biblical characters for examples of faithful husbands and fathers.  While there are many commendable men in scripture it was hard to find ones that excelled at being a husband and a father.  One that comes to mind is Job who had a large family that thrived on each other’s company.  He was successful in accumulating wealth.  But I ask in the book of Job does he betray a weakness of character, nonetheless?  My wife recently referred me to Job’s dialogue with Elihu.

Ever wonder why Job was admonished at the end of this story?  We all know his three friends were admonished also.  But what about the fourth man Elihu?  And why did God interrupt him but did not admonish him? Or maybe God followed on with Elihu’s initial summation?

Job’s Issues?

I’ve often thought about Job differently than most people.  In fact, I’ve thought of Job as a complainer.  And I’ll say patience and endurance is not what God rewards the most but a malleable spirit that grows from adversity.

I’ve often heard that God doesn’t always help us carry our burden, He sometimes gives us a stronger back.  And He does this not just for our own benefit but for our witness to others that have burdens to carry also.  And either way we are to be thankful to God.  This is aptly summarized in:
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 WEB) 16Rejoice evermore. 17Pray without ceasing. 18In every thing give thanks: for this is  the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
Elihu who?
Most of us know about Job but who remembers the name of Elihu?  He gives his own profile in:
(Job 32:6-10 WEB) 6And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said, I [am] young, and ye [are] very old; wherefore I was afraid, and durst not show you my opinion. 7I said, Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom. 8But [there is] a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding. 9Great men are not [always] wise: neither do the aged understand judgment. 10Therefore I said, Hearken to me; I also will show my opinion.
Elihu points out that age alone doesn’t produce a wise judge.  But Elihu himself shows wise judgement in deference to his elders before he speaks.
Elihu finishes his profile with the following conviction:
(Job 32:21-22 WEB) 21Let me not, I pray you, accept any man’s person, neither let me give flattering titles to man. 22For I know not to give flattering titles; [in so doing], my Maker would soon take me away.  When we start to defer to men’s opinions rather than God alone we will inevitably stumble no matter how good we look to the world.
Confronting Job
Elihui then goes on to quote Job in:
(Job 33:8-11 WEB) 8Surely thou hast spoken in my hearing, and I have heard the voice of [thy] words, [saying], 9I am clean without transgression, I [am] innocent; neither [is there] iniquity in me. 10Behold, he findeth occasions against me, he counteth me for his enemy, 11He putteth my feet in the stocks, he marketh all my paths.
Job pleads his absolute innocence and then accuses God of unfairness.  After quoting Job’s pleas of total innocence Elihu says Job is unjust.
(Job 33:12-13, 16-18 WEB) 12Behold, [in] this thou art not just: I will answer thee, that God is greater than man. 13Why dost thou strive against Him? for he giveth not account of any of His matters. … 16Then He openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction, 17That He may withdraw man [from his] purpose, and hide pride from man. 18He keepeth back his soul from the pit, and His life from perishing by the sword.
Elihu points out that God tries to divert the plans of men lest he become prideful, thus keeping him from ending up in Hell.  We focus so much on this life we neglect the more important blessings God seeks to store up for us with Him.  And prIde is the greatest sIn to God.  Notice the “I’s”?
Pleasing God
Elihu points out that goodness alone does not suffice if we’re not sharing  with others outside of our safe circle of family, friends, and church members.
Elihu details Job’s complaining about God in:
(Job 34:5-7 WEB) 5For Job hath said, I am righteous: and God hath taken away my judgment. 6Should I lie against my right? my wound [is] incurable without transgression. 7What man [is] like Job, [who] drinketh up scorning like water? 
Would we dare to be this bold in speaking about God?  But our ancestor Adam did also when he said in:
(Genesis 3:11-12 WEB) 11And He said, Who told thee that thou [wast] naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree of which I commanded thee, that thou shouldest not eat? 12And the man said, The woman, whom thou gavest [to be] with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.
And men have often deflected their responsibility ever since.
Elihu offers further evidence of Job’s charges against God in:
(Job 34:9-10 WEB) 9For he hath said, It profiteth a man nothing that he should delight himself with God. 10Therefore hearken to me, ye men of understanding: far be it from God, [that he should do] wickedness; and [from] the Almighty, [that he should commit] iniquity.
Elihu then defends God as one who does not initiate terrible things against men.  Some people seem to infer that God does as a part of pre-destination, but, the only thing God must do is not interfere with the corruption of creation and mankind by Adam’s sin.
God’s Reasoning
And in the following verses Elihu points out God’s motive and the possible reason God allowed Job to be tested. 
(Job 34:29-30 WEB) 29When he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble? and when he hideth [his] face, who then can behold him? whether [it be done] against a nation, or against a man only: 30That the hypocrite may not reign, lest the people should be ensnared. 
Is Job a hypocrite and a snare to others?  Isn’t his complaining a little shrill?  Is he looking for God or just pointing fingers?
(Job 35:1-7 WEB) 1Elihu spoke moreover, and said, 2Thinkest thou this to be right, [that] thou saidst, My righteousness [is] more than God’s? 3For thou saidst, What advantage will it be to thee? [and], What profit shall I have, [if I be cleansed] from my sin? 4I will answer thee, and thy companions with thee. 5Look to the heavens, and see; and behold the clouds [which] are higher than thou. 6If thou sinnest, what doest thou against him? or [if] thy transgressions are multiplied, what doest thou to him? 7If thou art righteous, what givest thou to him? or what receiveth he from thy hand?
There’s a lot in this passage that I believe gets to the basic nature of God and Job.  The carnal nature of a man descended from Adam would think of being equal to God, so I don’t think Elihu is off-base.  Verse 7 explains God’s point of view.  I can hear the church people now saying I’ve been good, why me?  Why do I suffer?  Shouldn’t I be protected for being so good?  But as Elihu points out we are asked to be more than “good” and “comfortable”.  We are to be like Jesus who did not seek comfort but the salvation of mankind, whatever the cost.
Elihu answers the questions of the “why me” church in:
(Job 35:10-13 WEB) 10But none saith, Where [is] God my maker, who giveth songs in the night; 11Who teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth, and maketh us wiser than the fowls of heaven? 12There they cry, but none giveth answer, because of the pride of evil men. 13Surely God will not hear vanity, neither will the Almighty regard it. 
Believers fail to turn to God when they experience trials.  But trials are what sharpen us and gives us witness to others that are suffering – people who are asking “why me”?
Elihu in the rest of Chapter 35, 36, and 37 shows the power of God.  And he gives a definitive answer to the point of how God sees Job in:
(Job 37:23-24 WEB) 23[Touching] the Almighty, we cannot find him out: [he is] excellent in power, and in judgment, and in abundance of justice: he will not afflict. 24Men therefore fear him: HE respecteth not any [that are] wise of heart. 
Should God have yielded to Job’s complaints?  Where does Job get the idea that he is not showing prIde?  Does he not put himself equal with God?
God Steps In
Now the crux of the issue is made clear in:
(Job 38:1-4 WEB) 1Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, 2Who [is] this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? 3Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. 4Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.
Note that God is addressing Job – the man who is without knowledge yet claims to be more righteous than God.  God continues chastising Job for his arrogance in:
(Job 40:1-5 WEB) 1Moreover, the LORD answered Job, and said, 2Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct [him]? he that reproveth God, let him answer it. 3Then Job answered the LORD, and said, 4Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay my hand upon my mouth. 5Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yes, twice; but I will proceed no further
True Repentance
Job repents and sees what Elihu and the LORD were saying all along.  He now looks at God through God’s eyes and not Job’s eyes. 
(Job 42:1-6 WEB) 1Then Job answered the LORD, and said, 2I know that thou canst do every [thing], and [that] no thought can be withheld from thee. 3Who [is] he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that which I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. 4Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will ask of thee, and declare thou to me. 5I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now my eye seeth thee. 6Wherefore I abhor [myself], and repent in dust and ashes. 
Job’s arrogance has been replaced with humility.  Humility is simply placing someone above ourselves.  We must be humble before God and always able to be a servant and not always as a leader. 
Here’s an example of works versus repentance and humility.  Job had repented but his friends had not.  Being wrong is one thing.  But humility and repentance before God is necessary if we are to be like Jesus (in the past, present, and future).  Repentance will not happen without a humble spirit. 
(Job 42:7-9 WEB) 7And it was [so], that after the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me [the thing that is] right, as my servant Job [hath]. 8Therefore take to you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer for yourselves a burnt-offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept: lest I deal with you [after your] folly, in that ye have not spoken of me [the thing which is] right, like my servant Job. 9So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite [and] Zophar the Naamathite went, and did according as the LORD commanded them: the LORD also accepted Job. 
Note that Elihu is not in this list of people being reprimanded.  So, from my point of view Elihu was correct and Job was not.  But Job was considered righteous because of his repentance.
What can we learn? 
1.   Patience is not enough without humility which Job did not possess at the beginning of this story.
2.   Age by itself does not result in wisdom.
3.   Knowing God’s will can only be known by a humble spirit.

Elihu had a humble spirit and had learned wisdom by knowing God’s heart and deferring to His will and not his own.  How often do we hear people in our congregations bemoan their circumstances and yet have given God only their solution (not necessarily God’s) and feel and say God is not with them?  God is always with us, but we ignore Him, not recognizing God’s answers to our prayers, because the outcome does not meet our expectations.
Remember when I said God is after a malleable spirit?  Even though Job was admonished by God , God knew that Job was teachable.  We should never come to believe we’ve learned it all.  Rather we must be open to all God sends our way, to count on Him for our strength and endurance, and to be able to reflect on what we can learn in these circumstances.

Categories: patience, Suffer, Testimony

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