Tag Archives: defense
With Friends Like These . . . Job’s Friends and Religious Foolishness (XXI. The Lord Speaks (Chs. 38-40:2)
Thirty-seven chapters — and the Lord has been silent. The only conversations the Lord has conducted have been those with Satan in volunteering His servant Job to be victimized (Job’s perspective) by the enemy of God. Now, the Lord speaks.
With Friends Like These . . . Job’s Friends and Religious Foolishness (XX.The Exasperation of Elihu – Chs. 32-37)
A new character is now introduced into the Job saga: Elihu. Where has he been? He is not listed as one of the friends who mourns with Job at the beginning of the book. In fact, when God finally rebukes Eliphaz in chapter 42 (as we will see), the Lord says that He is angry with Eliphaz “and your two friends” (42:7). Are the Elihu lectures an addition to the biblical text? Or is Elihu’s counsel so pathetic that he is ignored by God? Or, could it be, that Elihu is right whereas the other friends have been terribly ineffective and mostly wrong?
To answer some of the questions we must look carefully at the text — six chapters in total! Let’s begin with chapter 32.
Chapter 32: Job’s three friends, we are told, stopped answering Job “because he was righteous in his own eyes” (v. 1). They have failed to persuade him of his sinful life. But another steps into the ring whose outrage at Job and at the inability of the Three to make any progress in the debate compel him to speak.
Elihu is no fictional character for his family lineage is listed. He was a real person, as real as Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Job. He is motivated by anger at Job for justifying himself and at the Three for failing to refute Job while condemning him (v. 3).
As the younger of the four, Elihu had respectfully waited his turn. Now his anger — and the Three’s silence — drive him to speak. And speak he does, for six chapters!
Although Elihu respects his elders, he argues that wisdom does not reside with the aged alone (v. 9). He says he has patiently waited his turn while the Three “were searching for words” (v. 11). He himself minces no words in saying “not one of you has proved Job wrong” (v. 12). I, on the other hand, says Elihu, have not been the object of Job’s objections, so “I will not answer him with your arguments” (v. 14). So, Elihu believes that his argument will be new and more persuasive.
Elihu describes himself as “full of words”; “like bottled-up wine” ready to burst. He will find relief only when he, without flattery, offers his reply to Job (vv. 19-22). And if he fails to be impartial, Elihu believes that “my Maker would soon take me away” (v. 22).
Chapter 33: Elihu bids Job to listen to his words, for they are sincere and come from an upright heart (v. 3). Job’s claim, Elihu says, is that he is pure and free from sin and that God has found fault with him and considers Job His enemy (vv. 8-10).
Elihu bluntly says, “Job, you are wrong!” He argues that God’s greatness exceeds mortal man (v. 12) and that He indeed does speak (in dreams, visions, etc.) (vv. 14-17). God also speaks through redemptive pain, causing one’s body to waste away to “spare them from going down to the pit” (v. 24). Elihu seems to be saying, “Job, be thankful for your physical suffering, for God wants you to find favor with Him!” (v. 26). Responding rightly, Elihu says, will allow you to pray to God, see God’s face, and shout for joy (v. 26). And then He will restore you to full well-being. You will then have a testimony to others that though you sinned, you did not get what you deserved and God has delivered you (vv. 27-28). God’s desire is to turn you back from the pit, “that the light of life may shine [on you]” (v. 30). “Be silent, Job, and I will teach you wisdom” (v. 33).
Chapter 34: Elihu accuses Job of scorning the ways of God in claiming to be denied justice by God (vv. 5-7), and associating with the wicked (v. 8). He even says Job declares, “There is no profit in trying to please God.’ (v. 9). Where does Job actually say that?
Elihu then defends God as One who can’t do wrong, never would pervert justice, and repays everyone for what they have done (vv. 10-12). So, Elihu believes that Job is receiving his just deserts. But Job is guilty of condemning “the just and mighty One” (v. 17). God will not reward Job for his refusal to repent (v. 33), for Job answers like a wicked man (v. 36) and “to his sin he adds rebellion” (v. 37).
Chapter 35: Elihu says that Job is actually saying to the Lord, “What do I gain by not sinning?” (v. 3). We then are told that Elihu wants to respond to Job “and to your friends with you” (v. 4). Apparently he is referring to others who are privy to these conversations, some who might have been siding with Job.
Elihu seems to be arguing for what medieval theologians called the impassibility of God (that God does not experience emotions). One’s wickedness only affects other humans (v. 8). The bottom line for Elihu is that God doesn’t answer the wicked, especially when people like Job say that God’s anger never punishes evil (vv. 13-15). Elihu’s conclusion at this point? “Job opens his mouth with empty talk; without knowledge he multiplies words.” (v. 16).
Chapter 36: Believing he is speaking “in God’s behalf” (v. 2), Elihu describes himself as “one who has perfect knowledge is with you” (v. 4). Despite the evidence that Job has provided, Elihu argues that God “does not keep the wicked alive but gives the afflicted their rights” (v. 6).
Elihu’s bottom line is that “if people are bound in chains, held fast by cords of affliction, he tells them what they have done — that they have sinned arrogantly” (vv. 8-9). God “commands them to repent of their evil” (v. 10). Repentance will bring prosperity; the godless will die like the male prostitutes of the shrines (v. 14). What a comparison!
God is wooing you, Job, Elihu says. But you seem to prefer turning to evil instead of responding to God-given affliction (v. 21).
Elihu then extols God in His power over creation, as if his theology proper (his doctrine of God) is the final answer to Job’s dilemma (vv. 22-33).
Chapter 37: In this last chapter of his exasperation, Elihu speaks of God’s thundering voice and His power over the weather. “He brings the clouds to punish people, or to water his earth and show his love” (vv. 2-13). Job’s ignorance of the ways of God — “those wonders of him who has perfect knowledge” — should humble him, causing him to cease seeking to draw up his case against the Lord (vv. 14-19). Job, says Elihu, you are wrong. God does not oppress in his justice and great righteousness (v. 23).
With Friends Like These . . . Job’s Friends and Religious Foolishness (XIX. Job’s Final Defense – Chs. 29-31)
In these three chapters (29-31), Job continues his desperate discourse on the ways of God as he understands Him. Job has endured numerous sessions with his friends who have provoked more pain than promise.
Chapter 29: Job first of all laments his days gone by when “God watched over me” (v. 2). He reflects on “his prime” when the friendship of the Lord blessed his house, his children were around him, and his public presence was respected by all (vv. 7-10). Those were the days when Job rescued the poor, assisted the fatherless, made the widow’s heart sink (vv. 12-13).
He matter-of-factly states that he “was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame . . . a father to the needy.” And he was one who stood up to the wicked, snatching victims from their teeth (v. 17).
He had believed that he would die in his own house (not on an ash heap) and that his glory would not fade (vv. 18-20). People sought his wisdom and were overwhelmed when he smiled at them (v. 24). Perhaps as a criticism of his friends, Job says he was “like one who comforts mourners” (v. 25).
Chapter 30: But now young men mock him, avoid him, and spit in his face (vv. 1-10). They join the God who has “unstrung my bow and afflicted me” in attacking Job (vv. 11-14).
Job has lost all sense of safety and security; his life “ebbs away” (v. 16). God has reduced Job to dust and ashes (v. 19). And God answers Job only with ruthless silence, tossing him into the storm (vv. 20-22).
God shows no mercy in laying His hand on this broken man who has wept for those in trouble and grieved for the poor (vv. 24-25). Hoping for good, evil came; looking for light he received only darkness (v. 26). His suffering has blackened him; his body burns with fever. His singing has been turned to wailing (vv. 28-31).
Chapter 31: Continuing his defense of his life, Job declares that he has remained sexually pure in his marriage: “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman” (v 1).
Job’s expectation is that God’s judgment will bring ruin on the wicked (v. 3). He challenges the Lord to “weigh” him and see that he is blameless and not guilty of lust, or of denying justice to others, or of not sharing his food with the poor and the orphans (vv. 6-17). Job makes a wonderful pro-life statement when he asks, “Did not he who made me in the womb make them [his servants]? Did not the same one form us both within our mothers?” (v. 15).
In fact, Job asks for God’s swift judgment upon himself if he has been guilty of sinning against the fatherless or the widow (vv. 16-23).
He grants that he would have been unfaithful to God on high if he had trusted in his wealth (vv. 24-25) or engaged in worshiping the sun or the moon (v. 26), or rejoiced at his enemy’s misfortune (v. 29). He states bluntly: “I have not allowed my mouth to sin” (v. 30); “I have [not] concealed my sin as people do” (v. 33).
Lastly, Job pleads with the Lord to answer him, to allow him to give an account of his every step (vv. 35-37). And then we read, “The words of Job are ended” (v. 40).
But they aren’t ended, as we will soon see.
What do we mean when we say, “I got your back!”?
When we say, “I got your back,” what do we mean? Aren’t we saying, “I’m with you, man. I’ll stand up for you. You are not alone in this!”?
In our independent, everyone-does-his-own-thing culture, we need community, partnerships, comrades in arms who will stand with us when life has us by the throat.
And that, it seems to me, is the genius of the local church. The local church is to be a place, or rather a group of people, who say and show the truth of the statement “I got your back!”
But, alas, sometimes the local church is little more than a social gathering of religious people.
Jesus said, “The world will know you are my disciples if you love one another.”
1. When someone complains to us about another believer, we’ve “got one another’s backs” when we ___________________________________________.
2. To say “I got your back” doesn’t mean we make excuses for each other, or rationalize each other’s sins away, does it? Can you think of one example of Jesus and His disciples when He “got their backs”?