Sunday, 6 July 2014

(188) July 7: Job 35-37 & Acts 13:24-52

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­
As you read consider what Elihu stresses about God.

To ponder:
Chapter 35 isn’t easy to understand. Job has implied God is unjust. But Elihu seems to be asking whether it would be just for God to clear Job (as Job claims he will), whilst Job has the attitude that there is nothing to be gained before God by not sinning (35v1-3). He then suggests that because God is the transcendent creator, human action does not affect him (35v1-8). Here, Elihu doesn’t mean God doesn’t care about human action (see 36v5-16, 37v24). Rather, his point seems to be that Job can’t somehow move God to answer his plea for deliverance by threatening to sin because he feels God will not reward righteousness. Elihu then describes how people cry out under deliverance whilst failing to actually look for their Maker who can give them songs (ie. joy) at night, and wisdom too. And so, because of this arrogance, God does not listen or answer them. His point is that if God doesn’t respond then, how much more will he refuse to listen to Job who claims (as 35v2-3) that his case is before God, but that God doesn’t care about wickedness (35v9-16). Elihu’s portrayal of God here is that he is unconcerned for people’s struggles, coldly administering justice, and lacking in the grace to engage those who find his ways hard. The fact that God does answer Job from chapter 38, and eventually comes to us personally in Christ, shows just how wrong Elihu is.
            Elihu is, however, concerned to vindicate God’s justice (36v1-4). And so he restates his contribution to the book’s discussion. He is adamant, as the others were, that God cares for the afflicted, rewards the righteous (36v5-8), and that suffering comes because of sin. However, he also stresses God’s purpose in it is to “tell” people “what they have done” wrong, and so bring them to repentance and restoration (26v5-12). Elihu therefore describes two groups of people to Job: the godless who “harbour resentment” (as he assumes Job does), and so do not cry out in their affliction, but die in sin; and those who do listen as God “woos” them “from the jaws of distress” (36v11-16). He then states that Job is currently “laden with the judgement due to the wicked,” and shows concern that he could be turned to evil more generally. Elihu therefore urges Job not to be enticed to sin for the sake of money, as wealth and effort can do nothing to free him from his distress; and not to long for the night when people might kidnap others (36v17-21) – perhaps in order to gain money by way of ransom. (This may have been a particular problem in Job’s day). There is wise warning here against responding to suffering by resenting and so rejecting God, and therefore giving oneself to sin.
            36v22-37v24 finish Elihu’s speech with a meditation on God’s supremacy as Creator and, again, his power and wisdom (36v22). As similar truths are made by God in his coming speech, it proves that although Elihu still misdiagnosed the reason for Job’s sufferings and so wrongly condemned him, he was wiser than the others not just in seeing how suffering can turn the wicked from sin, but in recognising how limited our perspective on God’s ways is.
It is worth taking time to chew the words of this section over. The main point seems to be that the wonder of all God does throughout his creation shows that he is “beyond our understanding” (36v26, 29, 37v5, 15, 16). The stress on his mighty “voice” may also imply he should be humbly and reverently listened to, rather than spoken back to (37v1-7, 19-20). And so Elihu concludes we cannot draw up our case (ie. Job’s defence) before God because of “our darkness” (ie. lack of understanding of his ways). Indeed, to do so is to risk being “swallowed up,” for if we cannot look into the brightness of the sun, how much more can’t we face up to God’s “awesome majesty” (37v19-22). So Elihu ends by saying God is beyond our reach. He also reaffirms his key point that God is just, not oppressing people (as Job has implied), and therefore to be “revered,” for he looks well on the “wise in heart” (37v23-24). Of course, in Christ God shows that he is not beyond our reach, but willing to come close and meet with us face to face. And in Christ, he makes it possible for us to come close without fear of being consumed.
Praying it home:
Praise God for the wonder of his works in creation. Pray that you would not respond to suffering with resentment and so sin.

Thinking further:
None today.
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