The book of Job is the subject of reflections from August to October. Relying on the Revised Common Lectionary’s readings for Tuesdays, I draw on nominated passages from Job to offer us encouragement and to guide our living week by week.
Job 35: 1, 9-16 (NIV)
1 Then Elihu said: …
9 “Men cry out under a load of oppression; they plead for relief from the arm of the powerful.
10 But no-one says, ‘Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night,
11 who teaches more to us than to the beasts of the earth and makes us wiser than the birds of the air?’
12 He does not answer when men cry out because of the arrogance of the wicked.
13 Indeed, God does not listen to their empty plea; the Almighty pays no attention to it.
14 How much less, then, will he listen when you say that you do not see him, that your case is before him and you must wait for him,
15 and further, that his anger never punishes and he does not take the least notice of wickedness.
16 So Job opens his mouth with empty talk; without knowledge he multiplies words.”
Elihu, who was younger than the others, has not been mentioned until chapter 32 where he was introduced in these verses:
1 So these three men stopped answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. 2 But Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, became very angry with Job for justifying himself rather than God. 3 He was also angry with the three friends, because they had found no way to refute Job, and yet had condemned him.
Elihu addressed four speeches to Job; Job did not reply. This is the third of those speeches.
It appears that Elihu, in his immaturity, believed that God was indifferent to human conduct, regardless of whether that conduct was good or evil or of whether the human was in the right or in the wrong (chapter 35).
6 If you sin, how does that affect him? If your sins are many, what does that do to him?
7 If you are righteous, what do you give to him, or what does he receive from your hand?
8 Your wickedness affects only a man like yourself, and your righteousness only the sons of men.
Elihu had already told Job, “It is unthinkable that God would do wrong, that the Almighty would pervert justice” (34: 12). Elihu saw God as Almighty and infallible but remote, an all-powerful but distant dispenser of justice. He did not recognise the love that God has for all that he has created. He did not comprehend that God’s love would continuously fuel God’s desire that his children would love, worship and obey him forever.
We of the New Covenant are blessed to have insights that Elihu could not imagine. We have the assurance of God’s love for us which has been demonstrated through the life, teaching and example of Jesus Christ (John 3: 16):
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
We know that, regardless of Elihu’s words (verses 12-13) God does listen, God does care and God is paying attention to all in his creation. Our Saviour has made this clear to those who love him (see reflection of 4 August 2015: “It is I. Don’t be afraid.” ).