Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Job 36: Elihu Speaks of God and Job

This essay is #42 of an ongoing series on the book of Job. Click here to start at the beginning.

Elihu's Fourth Speech

Elihu has the confidence and somewhat harmless conceit found in young adults:

Elihu said further: “Be patient with me a little longer and I will instruct you, for I still have words to speak on God’s behalf. With my knowledge I will speak comprehensively, and to my Creator I will ascribe righteousness. For in truth, my words are not false; it is one complete in knowledge who is with you. (Job 36:1-4)

Elihu speaks of his complete and comprehensive knowledge. He has not yet learned how little knowledge one can actually acquire in a lifetime. But his heart is good and the knowledge that he has is at least correct. He continues to speak on God's behalf and ascribes righteousness to his Creator. In ascribing righteousness, Elihu counters Job's claim to the high moral ground and suggests that we must approach the puzzles and conundrums of life with a perspective that God will not violate His character. In speaking of his Creator, Elihu establishes the Creator/creature relationship. The Creator is autonomous, but we are totally dependent. He is the potter and we are the clay. By pointing to the Creator, Elihu points to an accepting humility on the part of the creature. The beauty of the diamond comes from repeated and well directed blows on an otherwise ugly rock.

Indeed, God is mighty; and he does not despise people, he is mighty, and firm in his intent. 

  • He does not allow the wicked to live, but he gives justice to the poor. 
  • He does not take his eyes off the righteous; but with kings on the throne he seats the righteous and exalts them forever. 

But if they are bound in chains, and held captive by the cords of affliction, then he reveals to them what they have done, and their transgressions, that they were dealing proudly. And he reveals this for correction, and says that they must turn from evil. If they obey and serve him, they live out their days in prosperity and their years in pleasantness. But if they refuse to listen, they pass over the river of death, and expire without knowledge. 

The godless at heart nourish anger, they do not cry out even when he binds them. They die in their youth, and their life ends among the male cultic prostitutes. 

He delivers the afflicted by their afflictions, he reveals himself to them by their suffering. (Job 36:5-15)

"But if they are bound in chains..." To whom does Elihu here refer? Is it not the the righteous poor and righteous kings? "He reveals ... that they were dealing proudly." Elihu hints that a person can have a righteous exterior and a proud heart. Uncorrected, this proud heart will eventually turn to evil. God will bring correction and we should respond to the correction with a change of heart--yielding to the chains and affliction while acknowledging the right and goodness of the Creator to use such means. This is the surest way of getting to the other side.

Elihu's comment about the "godless at heart" and their end among the "male cultic prostitutes" is not easily understood. We do not know much about Job's days and culture, which would give us a firmer understanding. We have to infer the meaning. Rather than guess wrongly, I will connect some dots in modern culture. The first dots are the Humanist Manifestos of 1933, 1973, and 2000. You can find them online or in the public library. Read them and note that they map out cultural change along the lines of atheism, socialism, and complete sexual freedom. The second dot is the ACLU. If you track the case work that they defend, you will see that it correlates to the agenda of the manifestos--and this is not a coincidence. The third dot is the growing hostility against Christianity and growing anti-Semitism in the world as secular humanist forces gain strength and power. There is an historical connection between godlessness and unconstrained sexuality and there is a connection between unconstrained sexuality and anger against God and those who know Him.

Concerning death among male cultic prostitutes, unconstrained sexuality has always had dangers. it is dangerous for the unwanted children that are destroyed. It is dangerous because of sexually transmitted diseases, which in Elihu's day could do nothing but run their course and spread and kill.

The next verse is transitional, "He delivers he afflicted by their afflictions, he reveals himself to them by their suffering." Elihu says that to yield to the affliction as coming from the Creator who gives songs in the night is to find both deliverance and more intimate knowledge of God. 

With this transition, Elihu gives a brief history of Job's life and direction:

And surely, he drew you from the mouth of distress, to a wide place, unrestricted, and to the comfort of your table filled with rich food. 

But now you are preoccupied with the judgment due the wicked, judgment and justice take hold of you. 

Be careful that no one entices you with riches; do not let a large bribe turn you aside. Would your wealth sustain you, so that you would not be in distress, even all your mighty efforts? Do not long for the cover of night to drag people away from their homes. Take heed, do not turn to evil, for because of this you have been tested by affliction. 

Indeed, God is exalted in his power; who is a teacher like him? Who has prescribed his ways for him? or said to him, ‘You have done what is wicked.’ Remember to extol his work, which people have praised in song. All humanity has seen it; people gaze on it from afar. (Job 36:16-25)

I see the remarks about Job being drawn from the mouth of distress as an historical comment. It tells me, however briefly, that Job's life was from rags to a "table filled with rich food." Job came to a wide and unrestricted place--the freedom that comes from wealth and public acclaim.

"Be care that entices you with riches; do not let a large bribe turn you aside." Elihu could mean this either literally or figuratively. In the literal sense, Elihu may be saying that before Job's troubles began, he was beginning to think of taking bribes. In the figurative sense, he is saying that Job should avoid wanting to return to his former estate so badly as to turn aside to evil. I prefer the figurative sense. Job has been moving in the direction of selling his integrity for the life of a godless man, because there was no benefit to living righteously. In either case, Job's sufferings have revealed a flaw in him. The wide unrestricted places were turning his heart from the Creator. This is what the Lord was seeing in Job when Satan came before Him. This is why He asked Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job?" The Lord needed to reveal and turn Job's heart before it changed direction.

According to Elihu, God is doing exactly in Job's life what needs to be done for Job and for the creation. Who is a teacher like the Lord?

Thursday: Elihu Praises God

<>< Test Everything. Cling to what is good. ><>


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