Day 29 (Jan. 29): Elihu reminds Job of God’s justice, power

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Job 35-37

Questions & Observations

Q. (Job 35:1-8): If Elihu is right, that sinning only hurts ourselves not God.  Hurting ourselves and others is a definite result of sinning.  But, I always thought that sinning hurt God’s feelings.  The Bible says several times that God is jealous and seeks our devotion and love, so I would think that when we sin, it directly hurts God emotionally.

A.  Honestly this is a bit tough to reconcile.  My honest response is that Elihu is not saying that God is unswayed by our concerns, but rather that our concerns do not change who God IS.  Though scripture is quite clear that God is greatly affected by the actions of human beings, the eternal nature of God is unaffected by our decisions.  God does not NEED us, but desires to be in relationship, and is certainly brokenhearted when those He gives life to reject Him.

Q. (35:9-12): Elihu is saying that people cry out for God for their own selfish reasons?  We should take what God gives us, be thankful — because He truly gives us a lot, including salvation through His son — follow Him and praise Him.  Personally, I praise God for everything that He has given us, and all the big and little surprises he gives us along the way.  However, as our father, I think He would want us to cry out to Him for help when we need it.  He is our father and wants to take care of us, right?

A.  The commentary materials I looked at said that verse 12 is extremely difficult to properly translate, especially in regard to punctuation (i.e. it’s hard to tell if it should have a comma).  It appears to me to say that we are (and should be) encouraged to trust in and cry out to God, but that those who do so out of arrogance are just wasting their breath.  I think Elihu is lumping Job in with the arrogant, who have no reason to expect an answer from God.

Q. (35:13-16): Elihu is responding to Job’s pity party about God not punishing the wicked?

A. If we are correctly assessing what Elihu is saying in verse 12 (that Job is arrogant and God ignores arrogant people), then this carries into 13-16.  He’s basically saying, why should God be obligated to respond to Job’s concerns about justice if Job himself is not showing proper respect for God.

Q. (36:4): Elihu says he is a man of great knowledge, but we don’t really know anything about him except he is the son of Barakel the Buzite.  And, we don’t know anything about his father?

A. In the end of Genesis 22, Abraham has a relative (nephew) named Buz, which might be a possible link, but we don’t have anything else to go on.  The story of Job is fairly self-contained as it relates to the rest of the Bible.  It honestly is part of the reason some people consider it to be a parable or discussion of suffering, rather than the recording of actual events.

Q. (36:5-16): Why should we give Elihu’s testimony any respect?  The words come from Elihu, not God.  He is speaking of God, but we don’t hear that God has told Elihu to say these things.

A. Watch the way that God responds to Job in the next few chapters (Elihu isn’t mentioned again after his four speeches), and I think you will see that God might have common ground with the things Elihu is saying.

O. (36:17): This verse speaks to me.  So many times I concern myself with the way others do things and if they are successful or not.  It’s like I tell my kids, don’t tell me what your sister is doing wrong, just concern yourself with your own actions so you can stay on the right course — I’m speaking of when I tell them to brush their teeth or put their toys away (grrrr).  But, I am trying to listen to my own words.  When I told friends and family about this blog, I don’t think they really knew what to think or say about it.  Then, I realized that this is what God was telling me to do, so I need to do it regardless of other’s opinions.  And, I’m so glad I listened to God because exploring the Bible has been an exciting adventure, making me happy to do something for myself, others and for God’s glory.

Q. (36:22-37:18): Elihu is telling of God’s power and control.  By bearing witness to all of his creation and what he can do with it — rain, snow — we should understand that we can’t understand the how, why, when, where and how much of God.  Accept it, revel in it, and be in awe of it.  Anything else?

A. One of the themes of Job that God will reveal at the end is to show that Job was right all along (i.e. God will vindicate Job against his friends).  Basically, the conclusion we should draw is that while we cannot (by definition) fully understand that how and why etc. of God, we should be seeking to have God help us understand.  We should cry out to Him if that is how we feel, rather than just “sucking it up” as Job’s friends are recommending.  In the end, Job’s bellyaching will be answered and vindicated, but Job will pay a high price for it.

Q. (37:23-24): I think Elihu is speaking for himself when he says that “He does not destroy.”  Only God can know that.  He is capable of anything.  Although He said He would never flood the earth again, he didn’t say he can’t destroy some things.  In some sense, you could say that Job was destroyed of who he was.  He was not physically destroyed, but all his belongings, family and his notoriety were destroyed.  Then he goes on to say that everyone fears him and the wise give him reverence.

A. I like the NIV translation of that particular verse better: it uses the word oppress rather than destroy, which I think gives a better fit for our story.  While I would agree God IS capable of whatever He desires, in practice we know that the character of God is consistent, even if it is hard for us to comprehend.

Q.  I don’t know about you all, but the Spirit does make me think about my actions and thoughts.  I am trying more and more to keep God at the forefront of everything I say and do, but it doesn’t always happen.  I do fear him in that way.  But, I think a more powerful feeling is his grace and how much He will take care of me no matter what.  I often pray that nothing will happen to my family, that my kids will live way past me and that they will have me and my husband for a very long time.  I am comforted in that I have asked Him for that and he gives me a sense of peace.  According to the book of Job, I should not think that nothing bad will ever happen, but I do have a sense that nothing bad will happen to my family.  Rob, does the Bible speak of such a feeling of comfort?

A. The key to understanding God’s comfort is this: the Bible tells us that God will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6, quoted in Hebrews 13:5).  To me, that means that nothing that happens in this life will be outside of God’s power and His ultimate will.  We may face tragic situations in life (not having children outlive us, losing close friends “too early” etc.) but that those who belong to God, even in death we are not lost to Him.  This actually ties quite nicely to Jim’s sermon this weekend about the end of Romans 8.

Think about the scenario you mentioned: you desire to not have your children or your husband die (I certainly feel the same about my wife and daughters).  But from God’s perspective, death is just a step — one that we all must take.  And even in death, we are not separated from God’s love: death is the ultimate culmination of Jesus’ work for us and in us.  The resurrection of Christ says that death is not the end, but only the beginning.  And I think if we consider that if death (especially tragic death) is THE worst thing that can happen to us in this life, and then consider that God has already defeated death, then I personally think we can find amazing comfort in God’s victory.  God acts in the person of Christ to tell us, “I understand the reality of sin and the inevitability of death for you.  But know that sin and death will not have the last word with Me.  My last word is comfort, mercy, and grace.”

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