John T. Willis

Monday, November 02, 2009

Elihu--Part 3 [Addressing Job's First Two Arguments]--Job 33:8-33

After Elihu expresses his attitude toward Job and God and himself, Elihu now turns to Job's position, Job's arguments in the debate against Job's three friends.

One should notice carefully that Elihu's approach here is quite different from Job's three friends. First, Elihu "quotes" or "repeats" or "rehearses" Job's own position to show respect to Job and to make sure that Elihu is not misrepresenting Job's view. In my opinion, it is very important that Job does not respond to Elihu here, indicating that Elihu is correctly representing Job's view and Job is favorably responding to Elihu's reasoning. This further supports the view that Elihu is headed in the right direction, preparing Job to listen to God in Job 38ff.

In Job 33:8-33, Elihu addresses two of Job's major arguments. This falls into two parts.

I. Job claims that God is making Job suffer without just cause. Job 33:8-12.
a. Elihu begins by assuring Job that Elihu has listened to Job's words, Job's arguments very carefully. Verse 8.
b. Then, Elihu "quotes" Job's position. Verses 9-11. This position is:
1. Job is "clean, without transgression," righteous, blameless. Remember, God himself declared this--Job 1:1, 8; 2:3. No one thinks that Job never committed a sin. This misses the point entirely. The point is: Job has faithfully served God for at least six decades, and thus Job does not DESERVE all the suffering and losses he has recently experienced.
2. God intentionally and deliberately has picked Job out to make Job suffer without just cause. God considers Job God's "enemy," and constantly watch every move Job makes to denounce and afflict Job. Job 9:13-22; 13:24; 16:7-9, 12-17; and several other passages make it quite clear that here Elihu is correctly reported Job's view.
c. Elihu's response to this charge of Job is very simple and pointed:
"In this you [Job] are not right. I will answer you:
God is greater than any mortal." Verse 12.
Job speaks as if Job were greater than God or at least equal with God. Elihu flatly denies this and declares: God is greater than any mortal--including Job. It may APPEAR that Job is mistreating God, but in reality, God is greater than Job, and God is not mistreating Job or behaving unrighteously.

II. Elihu now turns to a repeated declaration of Job, namely, God will not answer Job's invitation to meet God in a fair court trial to prove that Job is right and God is making Job suffer without just cause. Verses 13-33.
a. Again, first Elihu "quotes" Job's view: "God will answer none of my words." Verse 13. Job 9:30-33; 13:3, 8, 18; 14:7-19; 16:19-22; 19:23-29; 23:3-10; 31 and other texts verify that Job made this argument again and again. Elihu is quite correct on this point.
b. Elihu responds very clearly and specifically to address Job's complaint. Job demanded a "verbal" response to God. Elihu replies that God ALREADY has responded to Job frequently, BUT Job has been YELLING SO LOUD that Job cannot hear God's response. God has spoken in three sequential steps:
1. God begins by speaking to human beings "in a dream, in a vision" "though people do not perceive it." While people are asleep, God "speaks" to them. This is the "gentle" voice of God. Verses 14-18. God's purpose in doing this is to "keep human beings from PRIDE." Some people are very sensitive and respond. But if not, God moves to his second step.
2. If a human being does not respond to God's "gentle" touch, God gets that person's attention by CHASTISEMENT, suffering, pain. Verses 19-22.
3. But this human being often does not realize WHY he or she is suffering. So, for God's third step, God sends "an angel, a mediator" to help that person to realize what is happening in his or her life and to deliver that person from his or her prideful self-centeredness. Verses 23-25. In this context, in my opinion, this "angel" or "mediator" is Elihu. God is using Elihu to comfort Job and to lead Job out of his own pride into greater submission and trust and service to God.
4. God's approach leads the prideful sufferer to "pray" to God, and God receives him, and declares to others, "I have sinned, and perverted what is right, and it was not paid back to me." Verses 26-28. This is PRECISELY what happens to Job in Job 42:1-6.
5. After these two responses to Job, AGAIN Elihu beseeches Job to intervene now or at any time IF Elihu is not speaking the truth. Verses 29-33.

Here, Elihu has put his finger on Job's problem: PRIDE. Job was "blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil," BUT Job was CONFIDENT that he was a righteous man. This seems very similar, but they are poles apart. It is one thing to be a godly person. It is something quite different to be CERTAIN or PROUD or SELF-CENTERED in one's godly living. One can be PROUD of his own righteousness. THIS is the big issue in the Book of Job!!! WILL a person serve God with not strings attached? Subtly, we all yield to this feeling or attitude of self-righteousness. Think of Jesus' story about the Pharisee and the tax collector at worship in Luke 18:9-14.

OUCH!!! The Book of Job is too close to our own lives, our own hearts, our own attitudes, our own feelings. We NEED this book to see ourselves like one looking into a mirror. Job was a godly man--but he was PROUD of his godliness. This was the problem. And now, God is trying to awaken Job and bring Job to repentance. Remember, Job does this in Job 42:1-6.

How do you respond to Elihu's approach and treatments in Job 33:8-33? Share YOUR thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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