God Reigns with Perfect Justice (Job Sermon 22)
September 19, 2021 | Andy Davis
Justice of God
Elihu presents God’s kingly reign in ways that warn us against pride as well, but only God gives the answers to the problem of suffering - in Christ.
- Sermon Transcript -
Turn in your Bibles, as we continue in our study in Job, we're looking at chapters 34 and 35 today. A.W. Tozer in his classic, The Pursuit of God, said these words, "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us." It's an amazing statement. What comes into our minds when we think about God is our theology, our theology. And Tozer says this is the most important thing that can be said about any one person. What do they really think about God? Well, I would say if that's true, if that statement is true, it's especially true during suffering. In our time of suffering, what we think about God is vital to whether we will go through that suffering well or poorly. That seems to me to be one of the central points of the entire book of Job. To enable us to think exalted, majestic, true thoughts about God while we go through great suffering.
Satan, as he did with Job, wants to use the suffering to put a wedge between us and God, so that in some way, we'll end up cursing God to his face, that we’ll be severed from our sincere and pure devotion to God and to Christ. That's what Satan wants to do in suffering. And God uses, therefore, the word of God to teach us instead, truth about God. That we would think about the unchanging nature of almighty God. And we come to Elihu for the second week. And Elihu is going to focus on Job's central and scandalous accusation that God has been unjust toward him, has dealt with him in injustice. Now God is going to clearly put Job in his place in due time. And we know that, and that's where we're heading. And no human being can ever do better than God at that kind of ministry, than God himself. But Elihu's arguments and his lofty words are extremely powerful and they help put us in our place as well. God can use this.
My approach to Elihu, who, as I told you last time, since we have no statement from God about Elihu, we don't really know what to think about him. It seems to me best, hermeneutically, interpretatively, to just accept Elihu's speeches, these chapters, as we would any Old Testament wisdom literature. That we should just accept the statements, not find fault with them as many commentators do, to try to pick apart Elihu. But as we're going to see in a moment, Elihu urges us to sample words as a tongue tastes food. So we should do that with Elihu as well. And any Old Testament book, the author to Hebrews tells us is shadow, the reality is Christ. So we're going to find in Elihu some shadowy wisdom, some good sound things that will help us, but the reality is going to be ultimately in Christ.
So we need to think about God and his justice. So we, all of us, think about God in too lowly a manner. We think too low thoughts about God, we struggle with conceiving of God's absolute sovereignty, we wrestle with how we feel about that. We tend to find fault with God in little ways and some of us at sometimes in very big ways, especially during suffering. At the back of our minds there's always some question that we have, it seems, about the justice of God. We see so many things wrong with the earth, we see so much suffering. Both suffering that comes from forces of nature and earthquakes and inanimate things, but how much more suffering that comes through human instrumentality. We see the wickedness of people, that people do to other people. And we see people getting away with murder it seems, and we wonder how God could actually be running a planet like this.
How could a good and wise and loving and powerful God actually be in charge of a planet like this with all of these things going on? How can he be so silent when there's so much obviously wrong on earth? Now how much more would we be tempted to question the justice of God when some great tragedy may come into our lives, we have done it. We've been with other people who have done it. And it seems to be for this very purpose, the book of Job is written. Because we tend to break out at that point in complaints and murmurings against God, questionings. And it tends toward open assertions of doubt and unbelief and that's, I think, Satan's purpose.
And yet none of us has ever had anything happen to us, even remotely close to what happened to Job, the instantaneous loss of all his wealth, the instantaneous loss of all 10 of his children, and then subsequently the loss of his health. And Job, yes, did indeed begin very well. In Job 1:22 it says, “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” And then later he said to his wife who urged him in words that should remind us eerily of what Satan said would happen. She urged him, "Curse God and die." And he replied to her, “’You are talking like a foolish woman, shall we accept good from God and not trouble?’ And in all this, Job did not sin in what he said.”
Yet, as we've noted again and again, in this long book of Job, trials go on much longer than we want them to last. They wear on us, they wear us down, they break us down through their chronic nature. And so when Job's friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar begin pressing him with their theology, that Job was just suffering because he had committed some sin, God directly judges sins, and because of his suffering being so staggeringly great, then his sins must be staggeringly great as well. Well, anyway, when they did this, it tempted Job and it pressed him to begin complaining against God. It seems, as I've mentioned, that Job has accepted from time to time at least, their basic theological structure. That people suffer in this world as a direct retribution for the sins they have committed, it's a law of sowing and reaping. He accepts their basic premise, but he refutes the concept that he himself is wicked. He's a blameless man, he knows the truth. There is no great pattern of sin in his life. So accepting that premise, he then turns on God and accuses God of injustice. And yearns for his day in court when he can prove to God how righteous he is. Job 19:6 and following, "I know that God has wronged me and drawn his net around me. Though I cry, ‘I've been wronged!’ I get no response. Though I call for help, there is no justice. He has blocked my way so I cannot pass. He has shrouded my path in darkness."
So Job concludes his words with his masterly defense of his own blamelessness, Job 31, and we walked through that. He goes into lengthy detail in the nature of his blamelessness, his righteousness. Which consisted of absolute sexual purity, commitment to sexual purity, wise and moral leadership of his own household, just and sacrificial dealings with the poor and the needy in his community, and many other things. Job 31, the portrait of a truly righteous, a blameless man walking through life. And amazingly, it's all true! It's all true. God himself had boasted about Job to Satan. Job 1:8, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him. He is blameless and upright, a man who fear God and shuns evil."
So Job's friends, ultimately, became silent and could say nothing more because Job had bested them. He'd won the chess match. Job was utterly convinced of his own righteousness and that God had wronged him. Suddenly another man speaks up. Elihu, a man we didn't even know existed, didn't know he was there, but who it seems was listening to all the dialoguing between Job and his friends. And he was angry. He was righteously angry that the honor of God had been so impugned. Job 32:2-3, “Elihu the son Barachel, the Buzite to the family of Ram became very angry with Job for justifying himself rather than God. He was also angry with the three friends because they had found no way to refute Job and yet had condemned him.”
So last week we looked at Elihu's introduction and then his first speech, Job 32 and then 33. His contribution last time brought a new perspective to the problem of suffering. A new angle on it, a different way to look at it. The basic concept that the only possible explanation for human suffering in the world is God's direct retribution for specific sins committed. That explanation is inadequate. It's partially true, but it doesn't cover everything. “There is another explanation,” says Elihu. Namely, that God uses suffering, including sickness to warn people ahead of time against committing sins and to protect them from the ultimate consequence of sin. Job, 33:16-18, “God may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings. To turn man from wrongdoing and to keep him from pride, to preserve his soul from the pit and his life from perishing by the sword.” So that's a new angle, a new approach, and it's beneficial. It's helpful.
Now, we're going to continue on studying Elihu. And then I'm going to say to you: while Elihu's words are majestic, while they're helpful and beneficial, we're still left wondering if he has missed some aspects of God's character. And at times it seems that Elihu takes the exact same approach to Job that the friends do. The law of sowing and reaping, you get what you deserve. And he doesn't seem aware of the uniqueness of Job's situation. He is a stunningly righteous man, singled out in a very unique way for a role in redemptive history. How could he know all that? And so sometimes Elihu will sound just like the friends.
So as profound as Elihu often is, we're going to find that only God alone can give the full and final answers to the problem of suffering. And he doesn't do it through a Elihu, and he doesn't even do it in the book of Job. He does it ultimately in the person and the work of his son, Jesus Christ. And in Jesus Christ, in his life, his sinless life, his substitutionary death on the cross, his resurrection triumph over the grave, in that all of the questions are ultimately answered.
Now I began this sermon quoting A.W. Tozer, that statement from The Pursuit of God, “What comes into your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you.” Well, C.S. Lewis heard that statement. He read it when Tozer wrote it and he said, "By God, it is not the most important thing about a man." C.S. Lewis. "How God thinks of us is not only more important than how we think about God, but infinitely more so." So just ruminate on that while I preach the rest of the sermon, and I think both of them are true. I don't think Tozer would've refuted anything C.S. Lewis was saying there. And I think in the end, isn't it marvelous that even when we are... I don't know, temporarily insane in the midst of our suffering, God never loses his perspective, always knows what he's about, knows how to navigate us through it in Christ and bring us safely to the other side. Praise God for that. So I thank God for both A.W. Tozer and C.S. Lewis, they both help us. In the end, what God thinks about us, even in the midst of our suffering and what he has done for us in Christ is infinitely more important than what we think about God, however, it is pretty clear that 42 chapters in the book of Job are given to help us think well about God and rightly about God when we go through suffering. And that's important too.
1.Elihu Judges Job
All right, let's dig in on this second section on Elihu. Elihu and his judgment of Job. And he's going to stand in judgment over Job. And he's going to begin or continue to demand to be heard. He's already spoken some, but now he has more to say. Job 34:1-2, "Then Elihu said, 'Hear my words, you wise men. Listen to me, you men of learning.'" So he is directly addressing not only Job, but the three friends whose failure to correct Job was so offensive to him. And through Elihu, the Holy Spirit is speaking to all of us, “All of you people listen now to the words that Elijah's going to say,” then he says, "The ear tests words." Look at verses 3-4, "The ear tests words as the tongue tastes food. Let us discern for ourselves what is right, let us learn together what is good." So we're going to sample the truth of the words, we're going to test them. Speech is a fundamental gift from the Lord to the human race. It is part of what separates the human race from animals. Part of what it means, I think, to be created in the image of God is the gift of speech, of language. But words, according to Elihu, have to be tested like food has to be tasted.
Think of a master chef that runs a five star restaurant in Paris and he samples all of the sauces and the dressings and the bubbling concoctions that all of his sous chefs are making under his direction in the kitchen. He goes from one to the next with a spoon and tests them and samples them, his skillful tasting, his pallet, enables him to correct the heat at which the sauce is being heated or stirred in the sauce pan, or the exact blending of the spices in the dressings, or the exact makeup, the balance of the ingredients in the soufflé, he's doing this, he's sampling all of this. That is how we're supposed to come to words, especially philosophical words or theological words, significant words. We're going to sample them. We're going to weigh out arguments, we're going to use logic and reasoning and illustrations and applications. And with all of them, we are going to evaluate: is it true or false doctrine?
Now in the book of Acts we meet the Bereans, who are noble minded, and they took everything Paul said and brought it back to scripture to see if what Paul said was true. And so that's what I want to do for each of you. I want each of you each, and you're already doing it, you're doing it right now, “Pastor, we're doing it. Trust us.” You're evaluating, you're listening, sampling to see if it's true or not. We need to do that with Elihu. And we need to do that in general, says Elihu. Helping us in the new covenant, helping us Christians is the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Isn't that marvelous? We have the indwelling Spirit who enables us to sample words and to come to right doctrine. He illuminates, he brings us to truth. Praise God for the ministry of the third person of the Trinity! It says in 1 John 2:20, "You have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you knows the truth. I don't write to you because you don't know the truth, but because you do know the truth.” And so the Holy Spirit enables us, when you hear something, even for the first time to say, "That's true. I just know it." Even if you've never heard that teaching before, you just know, you've got that anointing from the Holy Spirit, the indwelling Spirit helps you. Now, this sampling of words has been essential to the whole study of the book of Job. Where you have to sample, we're kind of in trouble a little bit in this book. When God pans, or rebukes Job for what he says, "Who is this that speaks words without knowledge?" It's like, “Well what do I do then with Job's words?" It's kind of tough. And then later he says that, “Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar have not spoken what is right about me as my servant Job has.” Oh, okay, so some of what Job says is true and some of it isn't. And some of what the friends say is true, and some of it... So we are sampling. And with Elihu, we're like, "I don't know, what do we do?" And so we have to take and evaluate everything Elihu says alongside the truths we have from other passages of scripture, we have to sample them. Then Elihu goes into Job's claim. He goes into the basic problem. The thing that stirs Elihu up, gets him angry. Job's claim of innocence, verse 5-6, “Job says, ‘I am innocent, but God has denied me justice. Although I am right, I am considered a liar. Although I am guiltless, his arrow inflicts an incurable wound.’” That's the basic problem. Job is claiming to be innocent and God is attacking him.
And so he judges Job, verse 7-9, "What man is like Job, who drinks scorn like water? He keeps company with evildoers; he associates with wicked men. For he says, ‘It profits a man nothing when he tries to please God.’" Now it seems like Elihu is saying that in questioning God's justice, he is associating with wicked people in general who do that all the time. What wicked people do all the time is question God, whether he exists or not and whether he's good or not, or just or not. And when Job joins up with them he's just, it seems, hanging out with wicked people like they are, acting like them.
Now, I'm not in entirely sure what it means, "What man is there like job who drinks scorn like water?" Maybe afterwards, one of you can come and tell me what you think that means. It's like, “It doesn't matter how much scorn you pour on this guy; he drinks it and just keeps on going. Nothing seems to change his mind.” I don't know, maybe that's what Elihu means. Then the things get even more challenging after that. Because Elihu digs in and speaks of a majestic God. A God whose righteousness and holiness and majesty soars so far beyond anything we can comprehend. And I think we need to hear these words, the perfect justice, the omniscience of God. And that is the foundation of God's righteous throne in heaven. We who live in 21st century America, we are staggeringly casual about God. We are familiar with God in ways that I think aren't helpful. We are informal. We're a casual people. And we need to not be that way with God. And Elihu's words can help. Elihu in verses 10-12 zeros in on God's perfect hatred of evil, "So listen to me, you men of understanding. Far be it from God to do evil, from the Almighty to do wrong. He repays a man for what he has done. He brings upon him what his conduct deserves. It is unthinkable that God would do wrong, that the Almighty would pervert justice." so what he's saying is God hates evil at a level we can scarcely imagine. And this is the unified teaching of the Bible. God, 1 John 1:5, "God is light,” straight through his being. He is pure, “God is light, and in him there's no darkness at all.” There is no evil in God. So nothing God ever does is evil, he is pure light. So according to Elihu, anything that God has done to Job must be perfectly just, perfectly right, because God did it. Now in heaven, I do believe we will review all of God's actions in history. We'll review all of God's judgments and we'll find that God acted with perfect justice in every case. And that unrepentant sinners actually do ultimately get paid back in full. It says in Romans 2:6, “God will give to each person according to what he has done,” plain. So ultimately, Job, your sense that wicked people get away with murder and all that, we'll come back to that one. But everything that God does is right. And God deals justly with the wicked.
"We who live in 21st century America, we are staggeringly casual about God. We are familiar with God in ways that I think aren't helpful. We are informal. We're a casual people. And we need to not be that way with God. "
2.Elihu Exalts God as Sovereign King
God's authority as king, his right to rule is independent of his creatures. Look at verse 13, “Who appointed him,” God, “Who appointed him over the earth? Who put him in charge of the whole world?” God is king of the universe. Okay, who is the king maker? Was there a search process for that? Was there an electorate during that time? No, none of the above. God derives his being and his authority from himself. That's the aseity of God. Everything comes from God himself, nothing from the creature at all. So what that means is we never voted God into office and we can't impeach him, we have no power to vote him out. No creature gave God his throne. It is his by virtue of his person and his work in creating the universe. God the creator made this universe. It is his, he can do with it whatever he pleases. And he made it, and so therefore he can rule over it absolutely as king. God's absolute power also extends to life and death. Look at verses 14-15, and also in verse 20, "If it were his intention and he withdrew his spirit and breath, all mankind would perish together and man would return to the dust." and again, verse 20, "They die in an instant in the middle of the night. The people are shaken and they pass away. The mighty are removed without human hand." So we exist through the will of God at every moment. It says in Acts 17:28, "In him, we live and move and have our being." whether we acknowledge him or not. God sustains the life of every human being at every moment. Hebrews 1:3 says concerning Jesus, "The Son sustains all things by his powerful word. He upholds the being of every creature." It is completely dependent on God's purpose and will whether any human being continues to exist or not for another second. And that's true, not just of humans, but of every creature that God ever made.
Psalm 104:29 speaking of all creatures out in the fields, in the mountains and in the valleys, all of them out they're on planet earth: "When you hide your face, they're terrified when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust." That's true of humans; that's true of everything. God has therefore, as I've said before, created a needy universe. It needs him. Every atom of the universe needs God to continue to exist. I don't think we can think too much about this or too highly of this. If God wanted to kill a single individual, or if he wanted to kill a whole nation alike, he could do that with no preparation at all. He doesn't need any help to do that. As Moses said to Pharaoh in Exodus 9:15, at this point, they're well into multiple plagues and Pharaoh still doesn't get it. Remember how Pharaoh began that interview with Moses, in the exchange with Moses. "Who is the Lord? I don't know the Lord." Well, he is getting an education. And God said to Pharaoh through Moses in Exodus 9:15, "For by now, I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would've wiped you from the face of the earth." "Do you not know who I am? I have that kind of power." It says in verse 20, Elihu says, "The mighty are removed without a human hand." Meaning God doesn't need any allies at all if he wanted to kill anyone or even any nation, he doesn't need any help to do it. Verse 20.
Jonathan Edwards in his famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, zeroed in on this powerful ability of God to take life at any moment, without any preparation, without any equipment. I mean: nothing needs to get arranged. This is what Edward said:
It is no security to wicked men for one moment that there are no visible means of death at hand. It is no security to a natural man that he is now in health, that he does not see which way he should now immediately go out of the world by any accident. That there is no visible danger in any respect in his circumstances, the manifold and continual experience of the world in all ages shows this is no evidence that a man is not actually on the brink, the very brink of eternity and that his next step will not be into another world. The unseen, unthought-of ways and means of persons going suddenly out of the world are innumerable and inconceivable. Unconverted men walk over the pit of hell on a rotten covering, and there are innumerable places in this covering so weak that they will not bear their weight. And these places are not seen by them. The arrows of death fly unsoon at noon day. The sharpest sight cannot discern them. God has so many different, unsearchable ways of taking wicked men out of this world and sending them to hell.
This is an elaboration of the very thing Elihu is saying, when God takes away their breath, they die, and they go to the dust. It would be good for us to meditate on this as well. “In God I live and move and have my being.” It's the very same thing he said in James. “We should say, ‘If God wills, I will live and do this or that.’" Do not presume on the future. Do not presume you'll be alive tomorrow or a week from now. God also, according to Elihu is totally impartial. He's not impressed by people's positions. Look at verses 16-19: "If you have understanding, hear this, listen to what I say. Can he who hates justice govern? Will you condemn the just and the mighty One? Is not he, the One who says to kings, 'You are worthless.' And to nobles, 'You are wicked.' And shows no partiality to princes and does not favor the rich over the poor, for they are all the work of his hands. They die in an instant in the middle of the night, the people are shaken and they pass away, the mighty removed without a human hand."
First of all, in that little section, Elihu says God could not rule as he does if he hated justice. Although human history is certainly marred by tyrants, who ruled with an iron fist and hated justice, God isn't like them. Actually, God's love for justice is the foundation of his throne. Psalm 89:14 says, "Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne. Love and faithfulness go before you." God is so powerful and sovereign over the kings and princes of the earth that he has no trouble judging any of them, any time. He sees how many of the kings are actually worthless men and how many of the princes are wicked. And he shows no partiality to them at all, but he removes them in an instant. They die at night with no warning. That's true today. We look around at the heads of state, whether presidents or premieres or prime ministers or any of them, these words are still true. All of them. So Job's contention that God tolerates the wicked and that they die peacefully in their beds with their loving families around them and there's no retribution at all, Job 21, may occasionally be true. But the norm is that God is actually, as it says in Romans 9, “bearing with great patience the objects of his wrath.” That's what's happening, he's just putting up with them. And that at the right time, according to his wisdom, he brings the hammer down. Justice is served.
Now in verses 21 through 28, Elihu speaks of God's perfect knowledge of all of the sins of all men. There's no hiding from God. Verses 21-28, "His eyes are on the ways of men. He sees their every step. There's no dark place, no deep shadow where evildoers can hide. God has no need to examine men further that they should come before him for judgment. Without inquiry, he shatters the mighty and sets up others in their place. Because he takes note of their deeds, he overthrows them in the night and they are crushed. He punishes them for their wickedness where everyone can see them because they turn from following him and had no regard for any of his ways. They caused the cry of the poor to come before him, so that he heard the cry of the needy." So God's judgments of all human beings are perfect. They're based on complete knowledge. Men in their sins, often deceive themselves into thinking that no one can see them. No one knows. Elihu reminds us all that there's never a moment in which God's omnipresent eye does not see everything that we do. Elihu says specifically, "God doesn't need anymore information to judge us. There's no need, Job, for a court trial. There's no need for witnesses to be called. He already knows what we are in our hearts and what we did with our bodies.” Do you remember that time when God showed up and told Abraham, "A year from now, Sarah would hold the child." Remember that? And they'd been a barren couple. Do you remember what Sarah did? Do you remember? She laughed in her tent. And then God said, "Why did Sarah laugh?" And she was afraid. So she lied and said, "I didn't laugh." And God said, "Oh yes, but you did laugh, period. Next paragraph." That's a little microcosm of judgment day. "Yes you did. Period. This is what you said. This is what you did. No witnesses are needed." And God knows our hearts. He knows the motive behind our words. He knows why we did everything that we did. So Job's longing for a hearing is not necessary. God already knows who Job is and what he's done. So if I can just stop and let me just reach ahead for an application and do it right now. Wouldn't it not be good for all of us to walk continually in the fear of the Lord? Isn't the fear of the Lord the beginning of wisdom? Isn't it right for us to see that there's no darkness with God? Even the night is day to him. Wouldn't it be good if there are patterns of sin in our lives, to put them to death immediately? To not act like no one will ever see, no one ever knows? Shouldn't these words move us to that kind of a holy fear? I think so. Let us not be trapped in our vain imaginations about God and think he doesn't see us. Let us not live a double life, whitewashed tombs that look good on the outside, but inside are full of corruption and dead men's bones and everything unclean. What other people wrongly think about us will not matter at all on judgment day. All that matters on judgment day is what God thinks about us. At the final judgment, the court will be seated, the books will be open and the dead will be judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. It's that clear.
"Let us not be trapped in our vain imaginations about God and think he doesn't see us. Let us not live a double life, whitewashed tombs that look good on the outside, but inside are full of corruption and dead men's bones and everything unclean."
Now it seems to me, the Holy Spirit has to say this kind of thing to us again and again, because our faith is so weak. Faith is the eyesight of the soul by which we see invisible, spiritual realities. Past, present, and future. We sin through unbelief, we forget that a holy God is watching us right now and will later call us to account. So the stronger our faith is, the stronger our eyesight of the invisible spiritual world is, the less we will sin. We need to lie openly under the word of God and let it search us and know us. Hebrews 4:12-13 says, "The word of God is living and active, sharper than any double edged sword. It penetrates even to the dividing of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything's uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we will give an account." We need to just let God's word do its work in us. Let it cut us open, let it do its surgery on us. Let it hurt us in order to heal us. That's what we need.
So God works in us a clear view of judgment day and causes us to repent and make changes while there's still time. And it is by working in sinners, a deep conviction of sin that God saves us. This deep conviction of sin brings us to the cross of Christ. And then it continues, doesn't it? To serve us well the rest of our Christian lives. So that we are deeply convicted of sin the rest of our Christian lives. We should also remember that God is patient with us, gives us time to repent. He doesn't deal with us immediately, but we should not presume on that time. We don't know how long it will be. And we should realize that as soon as you're aware of sin in your life, put it to death by the Spirit.
In verse 29-30, Elihu who speaks of God's freedom to rule as he sees fit: "But if he remains silent, who can condemn him? If he hides his face, who can see him? Yet, he is over man and nation alike to keep a godless man from ruling, from laying snares for the people." So Elihu speaks of the freedom that God has sometimes to speak powerfully in judgment, just like that. And other times to be silent and give the sinner more time. God can do whatever he wants. There's no telling. God alone can decide which of these he will do. Remember the story of Jonah? Where Jonah comes and preaches to Nineveh, and the king of Nineveh commands the whole city to repent and to humble themselves before the God of heaven? And then says these words, "Who knows God may be merciful to us?" Do you realize the theology of “who knows?” God can do what he want. He doesn't owe us another day. And so who knows? God may, in some cases, give more time. Other cases: done. Nebuchadnezzar, he gives him seven years, and Nebuchadnezzar repented. King Herod? Killed him immediately, instantly. God can do either one. Now, Elihu is speaking of God being over both man and nation alike. God is so powerful that he can bring judgment on a single man in and afternoon. And he can do the exact same thing to a nation. He can kill 185,000 of Assyrian troops in a single night. That's the power of God.
III. Elihu Urges Job to Repent
So, therefore in Job 34:31-37, Elihu urges Job to repent, “Suppose a man says to God, ‘I am guilty, but I will offend no more. Teach me what I cannot see; if I have done wrong, I will not do so again.’ Should God then reward you on your terms, when you refuse to repent? You must decide, not I. So tell me what you know? Men of understanding declare, wise men who hear will say to me, 'Job speaks without knowledge; his words lack insight. Oh, that Job might be tested to the utmost for answering like a wicked man. To his sin he adds rebellion; scornfully he claps his hands among us and multiplies his words against God.'" So it's interesting, Elihu seems to write Job's script for him here: “Suppose a man says, ‘I am guilty, but I will offend no more. Teach me what I cannot see; if I have done wrong I will not do so again." Effectively, he's saying, "Job, say that to God. Say it to God." "I will confess that I've sinned and I'm guilty, but I promise never to do it again. I yearn Lord for you to teach me the truth about my sins." The rest of this section, if I can be honest with you, brothers and sisters, I found extremely difficult to interpret. Some things are clearer than others. So I walked through this saying, “Okay, what am I going to say to the church about this?” And since I don't really know, I'm gonna just move on to the next section.
IV. Elihu Exalts God as Independent of All Humanity
There's so many things in this book that I don't fully understand. And so in chapter 35:1-8, Elihu exalts God as independent of all humanity: “Then Elihu said: ‘Do you think this is just? You say, 'I will be cleared by God.’ Yet you ask him, ‘What profit is it to me, and what do I gain by not sinning?' I would like to reply to you and to your friends with you. Look up to the heavens and see; gaze at the clouds so high above you. If you sin, how does that affect him? If your sins are many, what does that do to him? If you are righteous, what do you give to him, or what does he receive from your hand? Your wickedness affects only a man like yourself, and your righteousness only the sons of men.’" So Elihu is giving a sense of the infinite transcendence of God. And we spoke of that earlier in the book of Job. God is not benefited by us in any way. God doesn't need us. We don't make God feel better. We don't help God with his program. Does that make sense? He isn't served by us as if he needed anything. He doesn't need anything. We spoke of this earlier. God is higher above us than the clouds, or even the most distant stars. He is lofty and exalted; you're not going to affect God in himself at all by how you live.
So if Job says, "What benefit is it to me to avoid sinning?" Then you need to know your sins are only hurting yourself and the people around you. You're not hurting God or affecting his throne at all. Elihu then in verses 9-13; cries out against the oppression of the poor by the powerful. Look at these verses: "Men cry out under a load of oppression; they plead for relief from the arm of the powerful. But no one says, ‘Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night, who teaches more to us than the beasts of the earth and makes us wiser than the birds of the air?’ He does not answer when men cry out because of the arrogance of the wicked. Indeed, god does not listen to their empty plea; the Almighty pays no attention to it." So all four men, Job and his three friends, have spoken passionately about their concern for what we call social justice. For the poor and needy, Elihu adds his voice to theirs. Here however, Elihu says that even the poor oppressed, themselves are sinners. They do not think of God often in the midst of their afflictions, they are poor. It's true. They are suffering. They are socioeconomically disadvantaged, but they're still sinners. And in the midst of their sorrows they do not think properly about God. They suffer, but they wickedly forget God and they don't cry out to him. And when they do, God does not listen because they do not pray properly in faith and repentance.
V. Elihu Again Judges Job
And then in verses 14-16, Elihu ends again by judging Job. "How much less, then, will he listen when you say that you do not see him, that your case is before him and that you must wait for him, and further that his anger never punishes and that he does not take the least notice of wickedness. So Job opens his mouth with empty talk and without knowledge, he multiplies words.” So bottom line, no human being ever, no matter what they're going through can rightly accuse God of wrongdoing, ever. Not Job, not the poor, not the mighty, no one.
"So bottom line, no human being ever, no matter what they're going through can rightly accuse God of wrongdoing, ever. Not Job, not the poor, not the mighty, no one."
All right. So what lessons can we draw from this? Well, I've already given you one of the main lessons and that is that we should walk wisely and circumspectly in the fear of the Lord. An omniscient God, a holy God who sees us at every moment. Now, I already told you that was the foundation of Job's righteousness. Wasn't it? It was the foundation of his piety. That's how he lives such a holy life. He never forgot that God saw him all the time, and we need to do that as well. Now the primary benefit of that meditation, by far, is to drive us to the cross of Christ. We are guilty. We have violated God's holy laws. We have no hope in and of ourselves. In our own righteousness, we have no hope.
But we understand that the only righteousness that will survive judgment day is a perfect righteousness and that was only ever found in one man, Jesus Christ. And God in his goodness offers that freely to all of us, every generation, he cries out before us and holds out his own, Jesus holds out his own righteousness and offers it to you as a gift. And he offers to take all of your wickedness and all of your rebellion and take it on himself and suffer and die under the wrath of God on the cross that we might be free from guilt on judgment day. Christ is our righteousness on judgment day. And in Christ’s imputed righteousness, we will shine like the sun forever.
So if you are walking in grief and sorrow now, you're going through trials; you're burdened by that; come to Christ. If you are a sinner and up to this point you have never trusted in Christ as your Lord and savior, come to Christ. Even if you're a Christian and you've walked with the Lord for many years and are in no particular pattern of suffering right now, come again and again, develop a strong habit of coming to Christ in any and every situation because you know, likely maybe even very soon, you're going to be suffering your own version of Job's trials. And so Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Close with me in prayer.
Father, we thank you for this time with Elihu. These words are deep, they're complicated, they're not easy to understand. Pray that you would guide us, Lord. Help us to have a majestic vision of God, that our hearts and our minds would soar as far as these words imply. So that we see that God is above the heavens, even the highest heavens, which cannot contain you. And that we would draw near to our mediator, our savior Jesus, and find in him full forgiveness and find in him strength for the trials that we're going through. And we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.