JUSTICE SOUGHT - God is just in His treatment of all people.
MEMORY VERSE: JOB 36: 10 He makes them listen to correction and commands them to repent of their evil.
Most of us have been on the receiving end of something we thought to be unfair. This could be the team running sprints because one person loafed. Also, it could be receiving extra work because one classmate misbehaved. One thing common to every person is we want to be treated justly by others. While people may struggle to always do what is right concerning others, Job 36:8-23 reveals God is just in His treatment of all people.
THE CONTEXT (Job 32:1-37:24)The first 31 chapters deal with Job and his three buddies. In Chapter 32 another younger character comes on the scene. He has been respectfully listening to the discourse between Job and his three friends. He was biting his tongue forcefully, holding back his words till he had a chance to shed light on the others lack of coming to a credible conclusion. When they finally became quiet, he begins to speak
He offers the last and longest speech to Job (ch. 32 - 37). And in it, he attempts to solve the mystery that has been set by the apparent contradiction between Job’s life and his sufferings
.The purpose of Elihu’s speech is to justify and defend God. And his thesis is: Does a man have a right to complain against God? Elihu starts his response by being “very angry with Job for justifying himself rather than God” and with Job’s three friends “because they had found no way to refute Job, and yet had condemned him” (Job 23:2-3). Elihu condemns Job as much as he does Job’s other friends, but for different reasons. He tells them, “I gave you my full attention. But not one of you has proved Job wrong; none of you has answered his arguments” (Job 32:12). Because Elihu was younger in years than the three friends, he was quiet during their earlier conversations (Job 32:4-7)
Elihu adds to Job that no man can argue with God. “For God is greater than any mortal” (Job 33:12). And “It is unthinkable that God would do wrong, that the Almighty would pervert justice” (Job 34:12). Elihu’s philosophy of divine discipline points that Job must be a sinner. According to his belief, whether the afflictions of Job were due to discipline or punishment, Job must have committed some sin to justify them. In this respect, his thinking is not different from Job’s other three friends.
The uselessness of contending with God
Thus, according to Elihu’s reasoning, the consequences of sin or righteousness are felt, not by God, but by man. Elihu suggests t he Almighty is so far from the effects of either sin or righteousness that there is no reason for Him to deviate from stern justice. This means that where there should be recompense there will be, and where there should be a punishment, there should be. Therefore, there is a benefit in being good
In Job 36—37, Elihu says, “How great is God—beyond our understanding! The number of his years is past finding out” (Job 36:26). And he advises, “Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God’s wonders” (Job 37:14). Thus, in Elihu’s valuation, God is too exalted to modify the workings of cause and effect which call for reward for the righteous and punishment for the evildoer.
Where did Elihu err?
Elihu’s viewpoint fails in that it doesn’t present the actual tender connection between God and His children (Isa. 43:1). Elihu sees God’s divine existence, but he doesn’t see His closeness to His people. For the gospel message presents the picture of a loving Heavenly Father who is affected by what His creatures do, and who interacts with them on a personal way. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” (Heb. 4:15). In fact, God loved His creatures unto death (John 3:16).
The unbeliever reads the Bible and sees judgment and impossible rules. The believer reads the Bible as God’s love letter to mankind and grasps His wonderful love, mercy, and grace to those who love Him.
Elihu is not mentioned again after he ends his speech with Job. And it is interesting to note that God did not rebuke him as he did to Eliphaz the Temanite, and his two other friends (Job 42:7).
It is Elihu who comes across as arrogant. He accused Job of being judgmental, but it was Elihu who was being the most judgmental. We have a tendency to judge others on the basis of appearance. We must be careful not to make condemning judgments based on what we see. We only see in part. There is mystery in the work of God, especially when it comes to his providential permission of suffering.
PURPOSEFUL DISCIPLINE (JOB 36:8-11)
The general principles that Elihu applied to all people are unconvincing when the entirety of the Book of Job is taken into account. Things are not as clear-cut as he presumed. What Elihu didn’t account for is the fact that sometimes the righteous do suffer, and sometimes the wicked flourish. As Job’s friends have done thus far, Elihu looked at Job’s suffering and claimed divine inspiration as the grounds to accuse Job of sin.
8 But if men are bound in chains, held fast by cords of affliction,
9 he tells them what they have done-- that they have sinned arrogantly.
In verse 8, Elihu’s presumptions began to fail as he returns to the idea of disciplinary suffering. There are instances where divine discipline occurs within the context of evil. God disciplines His people – collectively and individually - that they may be brought to repentance and closer to Him. In other cases, the purpose of God’s discipline is often to teach a lesson – to train and to mature His children through suffering – but this was not the case with Job. Job maintained his innocence throughout his experience. Despite his friends’ claims, Job argued that God would one day vindicate him and prove them wrong.
Elihu was implying that Job was holding something back, namely, that he did indeed know why he was suffering and was hiding it from his friends.
10 He makes them listen to correction and commands them to repent of their evil.
11 If they obey and serve him, they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity and their years in contentment.
According to Elihu, those who respond well to God’s disciplinary suffering will find happiness again, Elihu was not wrong. As Psalm 30 reminds us, those who repent will find their lament turned to dancing! However, he wrongly assumed this was the case with Job and was the solution to Job’s problem. God does reveal to humans their need to repent. In fact, sometimes God uses trials and suffering to bring people to repentance, and if people do repent, then God will once again bless them. It is important to note that all suffering is the result of sin in general, but not all suffering is the direct result of a person’s individual sin in particular. All suffering is not for the explicit purpose of discipline. There are things that we do not understand completely. The Bible is full of many mysteries that we do not understand completely because we do not have God’s intellect. What is always true, however, is that suffering is an opportunity to lean into and trust God deeply.
JUDGMENT COMING (JOB 36:12-16)
12 But if they do not listen, they will perish by the sword and die without knowledge.
13 "The godless in heart harbor resentment; even when he fetters them, they do not cry for help.
14 They die in their youth, among male prostitutes of the shrines.
Elihu and his friends assumed Job had not repented because of his pride. They thought Job had not learned his lesson. Because of his pride, his friends asserted he was headed for death where he would find no comfort or knowledge.
15 But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction.
16 "He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food.
After the warning of dying a shameful death, Elihu shamed Job further. If Job would just respond in repentance, he would not only be set free but would also enjoy the abundance of God’s blessings, like a table spread with choice food.
Elihu made the grave mistake of wrongly assuming a general principle in a particular case. This is instructive to us as Christians who will sometimes find ourselves consoling the suffering. Before making any assumptions about the reason for suffering, one must begin by weeping with those who weep (Rom. 12:15). The sufferer will often find it difficult to maintain a proper attitude toward God and may even be tempted to rebel against Him or give up belief in God altogether. In these instances, the best Christian response is not to offer philosophical enlightenment, but loving care.
Always remember – there is nothing more pointless than to answer a question that is not fully understood or fully posed. There are times when suffering and pain come to people not because of their sin. For this reason, the book of Job reminds us not to draw hasty conclusions about a person’s spiritual condition based on the circumstances of that person’s life. Suffering is a complex situation that involves different perspectives on reasons and purpose, most of which are not readily available to the human mind.
17 But now you are laden with the judgment due the wicked; judgment and justice have taken hold of you.
18 Be careful that no one entices you by riches; do not let a large bribe turn you aside.
19 Would your wealth or even all your mighty efforts sustain you so you would not be in distress?
20 Do not long for the night, to drag people away from their homes.
21 Beware of turning to evil, which you seem to prefer to affliction.
In his final plea, Elihu concluded by challenging Job to learn his lesson and turn from unrighteousness. Elihu appealed to Job very directly at this point by describing the change in his circumstance and warning him against choosing to harden his heart rather than embrace the divine purpose of his affliction. Job’s circumstances were misread by Elihu just as the others had jumped to the wrong conclusion of Job’s suffering.
22 "God is exalted in his power. Who is a teacher like him?
23 Who has prescribed his ways for him, or said to him, 'You have done wrong'?
Even though Elihu’s interpretation of Job’s life was incorrect, he was correct to say that God’s greatness is the source of all hope and wisdom.
In the kingdom of God, things are not always as they seem. God can and does work in difficult situations to bring about good. The ultimate example of this is the cross of Jesus Christ. The death of Jesus, which from a human perspective was a tragic injustice. But from God’s perspective, it was the means by which the sins of the world would be taken away and forgiven. Even in the events of our lives, we can hold on tight to the scripture in Romans 8: 28. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
The doctrine of God’s providence is the truth that He controls the circumstances of everyday history so as to work out His purposes. There is nothing meaningless or out of control in human history that God did not sovereignly ordain or providentially allow. There are three things we can affirm about God’s providential relationship to human history.
When we experience difficulties, trials, or suffering, we might be tempted to think, where is God? What is He doing? Doesn’t He care? God does care, and He knows what He is doing.
Most of the time, it is hard to see God’s hand in difficult situations, so we must trust His heart.
There are times when we do not understand what is happening in the moment, but we must reassure ourselves of the truth that God remains sovereign over every aspect of the universe and every detail of our lives. We can trust that God is in control – even in our trials.