google-site-verification: google3e8cc4742c5fd8a2.html Job - Why God? - Part 8
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Study 8 : Study 8: Job 32-37

A young man sounds off.

 

The next 5 chapters of the book of Job are rather strange. The discussion between Job and his 3 friends has come to its end. A young man called Elihu speaks up with a 5 chapter long speech, an uninterrupted harangue in fact. Unlike the 3 friends he is an Israelite and he is young. He is not mentioned anywhere else in the book as the others are. All of which makes many people think his contribution is a late addition to the book. Perhaps. But we have it as a part of scripture so we need to look at it and may expect to get something from it.

 

Four main points arise from what he said, of which only one really contributes much to the argument of the book.

1. He is a brash and arrogant young fellow who says things that do not make him a very likeable character;

2. After announcing that he is going to tell the 3 friends what they should have said, he says a great deal that is not significantly very different;

3. His main new argument is that by what has happened God has been training Job, disciplining him to straighten him out – which we may well question given the harshness of what happened to Job;

4. In his last chapter he says things which do serve as a preparation for the following word from the Lord.

 

I am not going to Job all these 5 chapters, you will be glad to hear, but pick out verses from various places to follow the scheme above.

 

1. Arrogant Elihu. Job 32: 6 – 12, 17 – 22; 33: 1 – 3; 34: 1 – 4; 7 – 10b; 36: 1 – 4. Oh dear! Not a nice lad, I think. Fortunately not all, or not many, young folk are like that. Not much to learn there except possibly what not to do and say!

2. Ideas repeated. After claiming to know better Elihu is unable to get away from the basic cause-effect principle that dominated the comments and advice of the 3 friends. Listen to this: JOB 34: 5 – 12, 21 – 28; 36: 5 – 12; 34: 11. They all take us right back to the CEP that we have seen has to be rejected. And now to point 3, which is much, the most important new idea Elihu advances.

3. The discipline of the Lord. We might accept what he says on this subject except we have to remember the appalling multiple disasters that Job has experienced. They make it very difficult to accept the validity of Elihu’s arguments. Here is what he said: JOB 33: 14 – 30; 36: 5 – 16. He thinks that Job is simply experiencing the discipline of the Lord, designed to aid his spiritual life by developing his wisdom. So he says Job 33: 29, 30. Half-truths are always dangerous and this is a half-truth.

The writer to the Hebrews says in Hebrews 12: 5 - 11 “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son. God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it… have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement”

Yes, but surely there are limits to what can be called discipline before it degenerates into abuse. Those who experience difficult childhoods: perhaps the early death of their mother or being sent back home at an early age for schooling and not seeing their parents who are working in another country for many years, being forced to toughen up and become self dependent at an early age, often rise to high positions in society. But would we consider such things desirable? Surely not. Somewhere we have to draw a line between what is a strengthening discipline and a result of the Normal Chaos of Life. And this must apply to the Lord and his people as well as families on this earth. What happened to Job must fall into the NCL category. So – sorry, Elihu – but I think you are entirely wrong and have overstepped the mark in telling Job he has been disciplined by the Lord.

 

It is also hard to find NT examples of discipline at all. What Jesus did in delaying his journey to the house of Martha and Mary as their brother Lazarus lay dying might be said to have a disciplinary effect strengthening their faith, but I find it hard to think of any other examples where he acted like that.

Question:  do you agree?

 

4. Preparation for the word from the Lord. Living in UK we get plenty of poor weather but only very seldom is it really bad weather. Tornados, really heavy rain, extreme cold or dangerously hot weather we do not get. But in most of the world these things are awe-inspiring, dangerous and life threatening things that happen regularly. So to express his view of what the Lord is like Elihu uses these illustrations. He says: Job 36: 27 – 37: 13.

 

He then challenges Job to explain these things Job 37: 14 – 16. And then he equates Job’s inability to understand the way of the Lord with him in his private world with his inability to understand the weather. It is one picturesque way to talk about the NCL!

 

It is hard to know what to do with Elihu when Paul says “all scripture … is profitable …”! Elihu’s declared aim is to seek wisdom and he has a deep trust in the Spirit of God to do that in 33: 1 – 4 when he says “But now, Job, listen to my words; pay attention to everything I say. I am about to open my mouth; my words are on the tip of my tongue. 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.” , though we may argue with much of what he said. He has a high view of the Lord when he says : “So listen to me. Far be it from God to do evil, 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?”

 

But I missed out verse 11 where he falls back into CEP thinking, saying “He repays everyone for what they have done; he brings on them what their conduct deserves.” He is presumably trying to correct Job here though it was not so much that Job denied the justice of God as that he was annoyed that he could not connect up with it. Elihu calls strongly for repentance when he says “Suppose someone 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.” Should God then reward you on your terms, when you refuse to repent? You must decide, not I; so tell me what you know.” It is even questionable whether Job failed to repent. By promising not to repeat his errors he at least promised the most neglected part of repentance!  Jesus always looked to people’s future as much as their past when he said “go and sin no more”!

 

Probably Elihu’s best contribution is the good part of the half-truth I accused him of earlier. He says: “God does all these things to a person — twice, even three times — to turn them back from the pit, that the light of life may shine on them.”

 

That is fine provided we don’t go on to say that correction is the purpose of suffering. Yes – we will experience suffering in this life; yes – we can learn many valuable lessons from it and grow because of it; no – we cannot and must not go on to equate our suffering with our potential for growth any more than we can equate it with punishment for ours sins. Someone has rightly said “ the greatness of Christianity lies in the fact that it does not seek a supernatural remedy for suffering but a supernatural use for it”.

 

Thank you, Elihu for forcing us to think about these difficult things.

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