JOB STUDIES 10
In Chapters 1 and 2, we learned a bit about the background and the character of Job. And we are given a view of the courts of heaven where we see Satan challenging his integrity. With the permission of a sovereign God, the devil brings a series of calamities upon God’s servant that are staggering in their cruelty.
Not the least of his problems is the fact that three men who had been his friends begin to attack him and accuse him of some hidden sin. We are nearly at the end, but before God Himself confronts Job, there is one more voice to be heard. A young man (32:4) named Elihu has been listening to the debate recorded in Chapters 3-31. He has been keeping silent, expecting to hear sound answers from the older men. But when he does not, he is anxious to add his own opinion to the rest. We soon discover that although young Elihu has a few more insights into the ways of God than the other men do, he is equally mistaken about the life and character of Job.
1) Elihu respected the wisdom of age, but what has he found (32:9)?
2) On what does Elihu base his views about Job (32:10, 17)?
3) What is Elihu’s opinion of his own ideas (33:3; 36:4)?
4) According to himself, what roll can Elihu play in helping Job (33:6; compare 9:33)?
5) While he has been silently listening to the arguments of the four men, what has been going on inside Elihu (32:18-20)?
6) Elihu accurately summarizes Job’s claim. What does he say about this (33:8-11)?
7) What is Job doing that Elihu thinks he should not be doing (33:12-13)?
8) What does Elihu see as the basic reason for suffering (33:19-21)?
9) What danger does Elihu see for Job (33:22)?
INSIGHT: The NIV renders vs. 23 as, “If there is an angel on his side...” But the Hebrew word, mala, can be more broadly be translated “messenger.” There is a Personage who appears many times in the Old Testament (though never in the New). He is called “the Angel of the Lord” (or, the Messenger of Jehovah). When all the references to this One are put together, it becomes evident that deity is being described. For example, after He appears to Hagar we are told “the Lord [Jehovah]...spoke to her” (Gen. 16:7-13). Most theologians have concluded that He is none other than God the Son, appearing on earth before His incarnation.
10) What hope is there for Job (33:23-26)?
INSIGHT: The angel (Messenger) from God could provide a ransom to save Job. That is an amazing insight, because it describes exactly what Christ has done for sinners (Mk. 10:45). But while Elihu has expressed a profound truth, he is still not on target as far as Job himself.
11) What conclusion does Elihu reach as to Job’s claim of being righteous (34:5-8)?
12) Elihu accuses Job of saying what (34:9)?
INSIGHT: It is significant that Elihu makes this sound as though it were a settled conclusion of Job’s, part of his creed. However, when Job approaches this conclusion, it is more as a question, an unresolved issue (9:29; 21:15). Job is asking questions, and seeking answers. He is not claiming these things are absolute truths (otherwise, he would indeed forsake God, as Satan says).
13) What is Elihu’s summary of how God works (34:11)?
INSIGHT: Like the others, Elihu has a quite simplistic view of God’s justice. But this is a complex subject. While we know without doubt that the Lord is a just God, He exercises that sovereign right in many different ways. Following are a few examples to consider.
14) There is justice disguised. God’s justice can look like a blessing on the surface. How is this illustrated in Psalm 106:14-15)?
¤ There is justice delayed. Sometimes a right resolution of things will have to wait till eternity.
¤ There is justice meted out through others. Sometimes God uses wicked men as His instrument. (The Babylonians took the Jews into captivity. This was a chastening from God. But later on the Babylonians were also punished for their mistreatment of the Jews.)
¤ There is justice transferred, in which one suffers in place of another. (This happened at the cross.)
15) What does Elihu conclude about Job (34:34-37)?
INSIGHT: “Job thinks he’s suffering now! But he deserves far more than this!” says Elihu. Not only is this utterly lacking in compassion. It misses the underlying intent of Job’s words. He is frustrated not because he is rebelling against God, but because he is struggling to find Him. Job’s suffering is part of a great cosmic demonstration proving the validity of man’s creation, and the possibility of a human being relating freely to his Creator.
16) The basic principle of Law is: If you do this God will bless you (DO >>> BE BLESSED).How does this describe the philosophy of the three friends (and Elihu)?
INSIGHT: The basic principle of Grace is: God’s blessings are a free gift, and human works are totally irrelevant. Works are an appropriate response to grace, but they can never earn it (or it would not be grace). The Grace Principle can thus be described as: BE BLESSED >>> DO.
INSIGHT: Think for a moment of how this might work in reverse, with Job in the place of God, and vice versa. When everything is stripped from him, it becomes evident that Job’s loyalty to God is based on grace. Job’s faith in God is not something God has earned by His “good works” toward Job. He loves God for what He is in Himself, apart from His gifts. In this way Job expresses, as closely as any sin-blighted mortal ever can, the kind of love for God his Creator desires to see in those made in His image.
17) What ideas does Elihu express about God in 35:6-7? (And is there an element of truth in this?)
INSIGHT: “God...gives songs in the night” (35:10). Indeed He does! Paul and Silas in a Philippian jail knew all about that (Acts 16:25).
INSIGHT: It is an awesome thing to claim to speak for God, as we do each time we share His Word. However, to claim the ability to make a perfect application of that Word in every situation is folly. We may think we understand what someone is going through when we do not.
18) Elihu believes he understands Job’s case “perfectly” (36:4). But he says nothing at all about what?
INSIGHT: This author once heard a woman preacher say, on the radio, that Christians should always be healthy and prosperous. Her “proof” was Job 36:11. This is what is known as taking a verse out of context!
19) What theory is behind 36:11 (one shared by the three friends as well)?
20) What does Elihu claim about God (36:26; 37:5)?
21) What challenge does Elihu issue to Job (37:14-18)?
INSIGHT: These questions anticipate the speech of God Himself, that begins in the next chapter. And it is true that a mere mortal cannot understand the ways of God. Job would certainly agree. But there is an issue Job still needs to deal with: that he does not need to understand God’s ways in connection with himself. He can put himself in the hands of infinite Love and be at rest.
22) What lesson are we to learn when a storm prevents us from doing what we’d like to do, and what we expected to do (37:6-7)?
23) The weather serves what three purposes of God (37:13)? (Explain.)
Elihu has more to say than any of Job’s friends. (His speech is longer than the combined speeches of any of the others.) But he has come to a similar conclusion. Job is sinful, and he is being punished for his sins. However, in one brief moment Elihu hits upon the real answer to Job’s suffering. It is a simple answer, even if we might not consider it intellectually satisfying. In Job 33:12 Elihu declares, “God is greater than man.” That’s it! That is the answer to the puzzle of the book. An answer developed more fully by the Lord Himself in Chapters 38-41. And an answer accepted in faith by Job as the book ends.