In Job 32 we were introduced to another person who has been watching and listening to the speeches of Job and his three friends. His name is Elihu and after Job and his friends have inaccurately explained God and how he runs the world, he now goes about teaching Job and the audience about God. In his first speech Elihu declares that God speaks through suffering, teaching us to look to God and keep us from falling into the pit. Suffering is to be considered a grace of God, awaking our attention to eternal considerations. The answer of the three friends is far too simplistic. We cannot look at suffering and assume that the person has sinned, as these friends have done to Job. God allows suffering in the world to awaken our spiritual affections so that we would seek the Lord. Elihu ends his first speech asking Job to respond (33:32) but Job has nothing to say. Now Elihu will make his second speech in an effort to teach Job and show Job his error in his words.
God Is Just (34:1-37)
In the first six verses of Job 34 Elihu again declares to Job that Elihu’s contention with Job is with what Job has said. Elihu does not say that Job sinned in his actions and that his why he is suffering, like the three friends have said. Elihu will challenge Job because of what Job has said. He calls for the wise men to listen to what he is about to say, which would be directed mainly at these three friends who have claimed to have wisdom. Notice that Elihu quotes Job’s words in verses 5-6.
For Job has said, “I am in the right, and God has taken away my right; in spite of my right I am counted a liar; my wound is incurable, though I am without transgression.” (Job 34:5–6 ESV)
Elihu again has accurately quoted Job’s words. Job has said he is in the right and God has not been just toward him. We have read Job challenge the justice of God because he looks at his own life and cannot understand why he is suffering. God must not be just is Job’s conclusion. Even more, Elihu quotes Job again in verse 9 for saying, “It profits a man nothing that he should take delight in God.” Job has said there is no purpose is serving God because you are going to suffer whether you are righteous or wicked. Listen to what Elihu says about this in verses 7-8. Elihu is saying that you speak and act like the wicked when you say these things. Jump down to verse 36 and you will see this is Elihu’s point. Job “answers like wicked men” (34:36). The words Elihu quotes Job saying are particularly important. The initial challenge in the book of Job is between God and Satan. Satan told God that humans like Job are righteous only because it profits them. People only serve God because of the blessings they get from God is what Satan challenged. Job has said that there is no profit in serving God. So Elihu’s point is that Job is wrongly accusing God of not rewarding those who are obedient to him. These are the points that Elihu will now address.
First, Elihu asserts that God is just. God cannot do wickedness and cannot do wrong (34:10-12). God is just without exception. He does not pervert justice and he does not do wrong. God is sovereign and answers to no one (34:13-15). God certainly does not answer to us. Have you thought about this lately? God does not have to answer us. We are not in the position to tell God what is just and what is not just. Who are we to tell God that he is not acting true to his own character? This is what Elihu continues to say in 34:16-19. Can we condemn God who is righteous and mighty? Can we challenge God who shows no partiality since all peoples are the work of his hands? God sees all that is going on and knows what is happening (34:21-25). Job has indicated that God must not know the injustice he has experienced and therefore needs to inform God so he will be vindicated. But does know what is going on and he does see what is happening in Job’s life and in our lives. Therefore, Elihu asserts that God is just against the wicked and will eventually deal with them (34:26-30). God hears the cries of the suffering and will act on their behalf.
Verse 33 is an important conclusion to this thought. Should God reward on your terms because you object, Job? Oh, how we make this mistake! Should God answer us on our terms? If you think so then your view of God is too small. Should God act for us on our terms? If you think so then your view of God is too small. Should God judge on our terms? If you think so then your view of God is too small. Should God reward on our terms? If you think so they your view of God is too small. We can slip into the same poor thinking and need to hear this correction by Elihu. So Elihu says to Job that his trial needs to continue because you are speaking like wicked people speak (34:36-37). This fits Elihu’s point in the last chapter. Trials are needed to teach us and refine us. Job needs the trial to continue so he will not speak this way any longer.
Why Do You Cry Out To God? (35:1-16)
Elihu’s third point (the first point is found in chapter 33 and his second point is found in chapter 34) is found in chapters 35-36. Before he brings in this next point Elihu starts by asking Job to reflect and consider if Job’s words were right to say (35:1-3). In fact, he uses this to turn the tables on Job. Job cries out that there is no profit in serving God. What advantage is it to Job for him to delight in God and serve God? (35:1-3). If this is the way you are going think, then Job, what advantage is it to God that you serve him? (35:4-8)? If we are going to play that game, then let’s be foolish for a moment. If you are going to base your life on what advantage God gives you, then consider what advantage you give God. God does not owe you anything. Just because Job has been righteous does not mean that God must granted Job something. Too often we think like this. We think God owes us something because we have been righteous. If God will not reward us right now for our righteousness, then we will not serve him. Elihu is asking us if we think we are doing God a favor by being righteous so that we now can put God in our debt to act on our terms. This is often our problem in the way we think. God should act in our terms. Listen to Elihu in verses 9-13.
Because of the multitude of oppressions people cry out; they call for help because of the arm of the mighty. But none says, “Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night, who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth and makes us wiser than the birds of the heavens?” There they cry out, but he does not answer, because of the pride of evil men. Surely God does not hear an empty cry, nor does the Almighty regard it. (Job 35:9–13 ESV)
Elihu points out the big problem. People want God to save them but have no interest in honoring him or serving him. We just want God to fix our situation. It is not that we our truly turning our hearts to God. We just want God to make us comfortable again. Everyone cries out to God in their time of trouble. But who is crying out to God for a relationship with God? Job should have kept his crying out for God’s relationship with him and not cried out that God has been unjust in his treatment with Job. Instead of crying out to God properly, Job has cried to God in an insulting, complaining manner declaring that God is not right. Elihu says that you cannot expect God’s help when you are attacking God with your words! Job, you sound like the wicked who just want God when they are in need (35:12-16). You sound like the wicked who just want something from God even though God gets nothing in return. If you turn to God only for rescue and to bring your life back to a comfortable stability, then your view of God is too small.
What Will You Do With Your Suffering? (36:1-23)
Elihu now teaches Job to consider that there are two options given to people when they are suffering: listen to God and serve him or refuse to listen to God and perish (36:6-12). It is through suffering that we have our flaws identified. It is through suffering that we see where we are not thinking and acting as God desires. Suffering reveals what we are made of. Suffering reveals our true character. Elihu says that suffering is supposed to open our ears to God (35:15).
It was good for me to suffer, so that I might learn your statutes. (Psalm 119:71 NET)
So what will be your response to suffering? The common reaction to suffering is to sin (36:12-21). People harden their hearts toward God when they suffer rather than inclining their ears to the Lord. This was the very warning from the writer of Hebrews.
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years.” (Hebrews 3:7–9 ESV)
Hear the voice of the Lord. Do not harden your hearts on the day of testing. Let suffering be a vehicle to move you closer to God. Wicked people react to suffering by being more rebellious and continuing in their sins. The people of God humble themselves before God when they suffer. They do not cast off God but run to God.
Take care; do not turn to iniquity, for this you have chosen rather than affliction. (Job 36:21 ESV)
Do not sin because you are suffering. Do not choose sin in your trials. God is your teacher (36:22). Do not try to teach God. Do not try to shortcut your suffering. Learn from God your teacher through your suffering. Do not choose sin. Choose God. When we choose sin, then our view of God is too small. We are only looking at him for what we get and do not desire him for who he is.
Majestic God (36:24-37:24)
Elihu ends his words by helping us see that our view of God is often too small by proclaiming the majesty of God. Look at the greatness and the glory of God. You can see it in the creation. Elihu describes God’s majesty as being on display in the immense power of creation. Pick out one of Elihu’s statements about the creation and let God’s majesty resonate in your hearts. Here are two pictures of God that I will share with you.
First, in Job 36:32-37:5.
He covers his hands with the lightning and commands it to strike the mark. Its crashing declares his presence; the cattle also declare that he rises. At this also my heart trembles and leaps out of its place. Keep listening to the thunder of his voice and the rumbling that comes from his mouth. Under the whole heaven he lets it go, and his lightning to the corners of the earth. After it his voice roars; he thunders with his majestic voice, and he does not restrain the lightnings when his voice is heard. God thunders wondrously with his voice; he does great things that we cannot comprehend. (Job 36:32–37:5 ESV)
Thunder can be very startling, especially when lightning strikes close to where we are. The sudden boom can make your heart stop. Elihu says that the thunder is simply the voice of God. That is how powerful and majestic he is. His voice thunders wondrously. We cannot begin to grasp his might.
Second, in Job 37:21
Now no one can look at the sun, bright as it is in the skies after the wind has swept them clean. (Job 37:21 NIV)
If you do not see how great God is and how small we are, then just try to look at the sun! Try to look at it without shading your eyes. You simply cannot do it. God is to be exalted for his might and power.
So we must not be like those who only desire God to deliver them but do not desire God. God defines such people as wicked. They seek their own interests from God rather than seeking God as their interest. Therefore, when trials and suffering do come, do not sin. Choose God. Do not choose to sin. Let suffering teach you and not be a reason to rebel. Suffering challenges each of us to answer the question if we serve God for nothing. We can only know the answer through suffering. We can only know the answer by going through trials. As you go through suffering do not forget to look to the majesty of God. See Jesus as your shelter, your rock, and your hope. Run to him in prayer. Run to him in worship. Run to him in meditation. Run to him in song. Run to him in the scriptures. Run to your God.