Our God is not a legalist

Job Sees The Light - Thirty-sixth in a series

Hover over the Scripture references to read the verses under discussion

Job 35:1-3 NIV In any lengthy proceeding it is easy to lose track. That is why meetings have secretaries, trials have court recorders, and cities have newspaper archives.

The liar can forget what he earlier insisted on, and the honest person may forget the good things he has said. Who can keep track of all our words? Only God.

In Chapter 35, Elihu accuses Job of believing himself to be more righteous than God.

When Job said, What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto him? (Job 21:15) he was parroting what the unrighteous say, in effect, when they explain why they behave badly.

For himself, Job understood he was not a perfect man: If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse. (Job 9:20) He was confused as to why God put him in his trial (Job 10:15), and he defended his integrity (Job 27:6), but did he ever say there was no reason under heaven to practice good behavior and do right? No.

Elihu believed that Job’s words taken as a whole implied that the Lord was unjust. Some will agree with Elihu, and others will say they heard Job crying out for answers, which we all must do when we are in a trial.

Elihu frowned on Job’s desperate moaning. Stop crying out to God on the basis of your own righteousness — as though your good behavior should merit God’s answer!

Yes, Job had felt that God loved him and heard his prayers because he carefully followed God's ways. Elihu will now explain why that way of thinking is all wrong.

Job 35:4-8 NIV First, why should man assume God is in any way affected by his behavior? He is not! Ones bad or good behavior affects only other people.

Elihu's concept of God is flawed.

If it is true that because God is so great and so high, the innocence or guilt of a petty human being is a matter of profound indifference to his Maker, on the ground that it can bring Him neither gain nor loss, we are landed, we see at once, on a very gloomy shore. We reach a conclusion fatal to all religion. - Bradley (ref)

Next, Elihu denies that God will have regard for the prideful man.

Job 35:9-14 NIV Prideful people like Job do not cry out in praise to God, crediting him for man’s unique capabilities and thankful for his divine watchcare. Therefore God does not answer nor even regard them, and much less will he regard Job who has set God on his own timetable.

Perhaps the best thing we can point out about Elihu's insights is that they are not true. Thank heavens the Lord hears the prayers of the prideful who belong to him. True, he will discipline us, but he will not forsake us.

Job 35:15-16 NIV Elihu, the dogmatist, is waiting for God to lower the boom on Job, and when he does, that will shut Job up.

Some may say that God is like Elihu –or vice versa– in that he promised: “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Mat 12:36-37) In the context of the passage, however, “careless” is defined as those words spoken by legalists who reject Christ.

Every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, except for the blasphemy against the Spirit (Mat 12:31) Imagine! EVERY sin and blasphemy except one. God is NOT legalistic. God is love.

Who is Elihu, really?

Job Sees The Light - Thirty-fifth in a series

Hover over the Scripture references to read the verses under discussion

Job 34:1-4 NIV Elihu addresses Job’s friends In Chapter 34, and indirectly, Job. Perhaps he did not feel comfortable to confront him since Job was older and due respect.

He starts by inviting any wise men to hear him. Evidently he considered himself wiser than the others.

Job 34:5-6 NIV Though Elihu invited those present to truly hear him, did he afford that same courtesy to Job? He heard Job’s words, but did he listen to him? Listening requires more than the ear; the inner man must hear, too.

Elihu heard Job incriminate himself, but he did not pay attention to the cry of his heart to reestablish his relationship with God.

In the previous post, we asked, Could Elihu be a Christ figure to Job? Is he a messenger who ransoms the sinner? Early on, the answer is: no. If anything, in Chapter 34 Elihu reveals himself to be more a Satanic figure, an accuser whose goal is to discourage.

It is not hard for Satan to use anyone whether young or old, to carry out his schemes, unless we are on guard and resist his advances. In this instance, he came as an angel of light, a divine messenger. (2 Cor 11:14)

Job 34:7-9 NIV Once again, Job comes under the glaring spotlight of a critical man who judges him for his words without regard for his extreme circumstances. Job gets no ‘wiggle room’ from anyone.

Do your friends throw each word you say into your face? If so, would you consider their behavior a character flaw?

If one expresses pain in painful circumstances, is he a scornful man? Should Job be allowed to say some things without being judged?

God will call Job a faultfinder, but does he consider Job to be ‘fair game’ for men to criticize him? What happened to Miriam and Aaron and to Korah when they criticized Moses? (Num 12:4; 16:16) What happened to Laban when he sought to undermine Jacob? (Gen 31:12) What happened to Ham (Canaan) when he scorned Noah? (Gen 9:24-25) But was Job special to the Lord as were Noah, Jacob and Moses? If so, why? We will return to this question in later posts.

Already, Elihu sounds like the friends of Job whom he considers to be less wise than himself. His accusations are biting and devouring of Job’s spirit.

Job 34:10-12 NIV Elihu is in agreement with the friends that Job’s sorrows are evidence of his misdeeds and crimes. God will not pervert justice for he is also righteous.

Job 34:13-15 NIV The all-powerful God is in complete control and could easily erase us.

Listen, wise men:

Job 34:16-22 NIV God is no respecter of persons.

Of course, these words are directed to Job, not to his friends, for it is obvious to all that Job is that noble man who came under the impartial judgment of the omniscient God.

Job 34:23-28 NIV Here, Elihu is answering Job’s plea for God to meet with him to explain what he has done wrong to deserve such desolation. He states that God owes no wicked man a trial or an audience. The wicked are merely done away with and in a visible fashion so that their judgment by God is plain. This is deserved because of their sins against the poor and afflicted. Furthermore, God is not amenable to man’s entreaties nor his pleas for mercy:

Job 34:29-30 NIV Elihu believes God will not restore the man who sins. This is one way he prevents the godless from reigning— and ruining a populace.

Job 34:31-33a NIV Perhaps this was a direct question to Job. Or, is Elihu challenging the older men to decide whether God will bow to man’s requests for an audience or for his kind consideration if a man will repent?

Job 34:33 NIV Elihu challenges the friends to agree with him that God should not bow to the requests of an evil man.

In this he goes further than the friends who promised Job God would renew his life if only he would turn from his evil. Elihu believes God owes no man the favor of restoration. If a man rejects God’s law in the first place, why would God owe him or show him any mercy? Not possible!

Job 34:34-35 NIV Elihu insists the men should agree with him that Job will receive no mercy from God. Job's terrors prove he is guilty!

Unlike Job’s friends, Elihu does not believe God will help the man who repents. Even were Job to reject his own sin, he could not expect to live without penalty. But in any case, he has not confessed and repented!

Job 34:36-37 NIV Elihu finishes his speech by revealing his heart of stone. He is pharisaic in his view that God is an unforgiving, unrelenting taskmaster. But that description fits Satan, not God.

Is Elihu a Christ figure to Job?

Job Sees The Light - Thirty-fourth in a series

Hover over the Scripture references to read the verses under discussion

Job 33:1-6 NIV In Chapter 33 Elihu begins to address Job. His opening statement to the friends has been made: Time now to express what is in his heart, which he believes will set Job straight.

Job has cried out for God to show him his faults (Job 19:7; 23:3-7; 30:20; 31:35). “Behold” Elihu believes he has come instead of God to explain his trial to him. (vs 2)

This is generally not the way of the Lord. Though a man or woman may be as the voice of God to another human, there is nevertheless a difference between hearing the voice of the Lord and hearing it through a friend or teacher. In the end when God directly speaks to Job, Job is humbled and sees God in a new way.

But do Elihu’s words help to prepare the way for Job to receive the instruction of God? Is Elihu to Job as John the Baptist was to Israel?

Let us begin to consider this possibility by looking at verse 5, “If thou canst answer me, set thy words in order before me, stand up.”
John the Baptist was confrontational with the Pharisees. Does Elihu likewise see Job as an hypocrite? Though he insists that he, too, is only a man “formed out of clay,” does his challenge to Job belie a superior attitude? If so, he would not be like John, a man appointed by God to prepare the way of the Lord.

Job 33:7-11 NIV Job never said that he was “clean without transgression” nor that he was innocent. In fact, he said, “If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse.” (Job 9:20 NIV) However, he has defended himself from the false accusations of his friends; he has refused to agree with their aspersions. Also, he does not feel his punishment fits his crimes.

Job 33:12-13 NIV Job would not argue that man is greater than God, but he is seeking an audience with him.

Is it true that God will give no account of any of his matters? What about when Paul entreated the Lord three times that the thorn in his flesh be removed? (2 Cor 12:7-9) The Lord did answer him, explaining his rationale in this matter. There are times when God shares with man his purposes.

Job 33:14-18 NIV Elihu explains that God may at times turn a wayward man from his missteps through speaking to him in a dream or night vision.

Job 33:19-22 NIV Another way God prevents man from pride or perishing by the sword is through physical pain and illness.

Job 33:23-24 NIV Also, a stubborn man may be turned from folly by a messenger to whom God says: Deliver him from going down to the pit. God perceives he has found a man who by his service can rescue the perishing. The messenger saves the sinner from destruction. Thus does the messenger serve as a ransom, as a valuable prize or sum to purchase the sinner's heart and life, to retrieve and rescue it from delusion and evildoing.

Elihu sees himself in this role. Now we have advanced from asking if he is like John the Baptist to wondering if he is a Christ figure to Job!

Job 33:25-28 NIV The outcome of the messenger's service shall be that the vain man will be completely refreshed in his spirit. His desire will be to restore what he may have stolen. His repentance earned by the messenger will deliver him from evil to light.

Job 33:29-33 NIV Elihu promises he will be that special messenger to Job.

Some commentators write that since these verses are prophetic with respect to the role of Jesus Christ, we need to carefully consider Elihu's words. (one reference)

Of course, it is not the message or words of Jesus that save sinners, but rather the blood of Jesus. However in the context of this analogy, it is the messenger himself who serves as a ransom, and this evokes New Testament passages that speak of Christ as our ransom. (Mat 20:28; Mark 10:45; 1 Tim 2:6). Thus, we will consider Elihu's statements and insights thoughtfully. He will speak for four more chapters.

Attention Readers

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