Chapter 34:1-15 (ESV) - Then Elihu answered and said:
“Hear my words, you wise men,
and give ear to me, you who know;
for the ear tests words
as the palate tastes food.
Let us choose what is right;
let us know among ourselves what is good.
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.’
What man is like Job,
who drinks up scoffing like water,
who travels in company with evildoers
and walks with wicked men?
For he has said, ‘It profits a man nothing
that he should take delight in God.’
“Therefore, hear me, you men of understanding:
far be it from God that he should do wickedness,
and from the Almighty that he should do wrong.
For according to the work of a man he will repay him,
and according to his ways he will make it befall him.
Of a truth, God will not do wickedly,
and the Almighty will not pervert justice.
Who gave him charge over the earth,
and who laid on him the whole world?
If he should set his heart to it
and gather to himself his spirit and his breath,
all flesh would perish together,
and man would return to dust.
Question to consider: Did Job really say, “It profits a man nothing that he should take delight in God?”
In today’s passage Elihu sought to instruct the elders about the ways of God. If there is one thing that the youth commonly lack in professing wisdom, it is that of life experience. If we follow along with Elihu’s analogy of the ear being able to test words in the same way the palate tastes food, we could say that the young have an underdeveloped palate which has not matured enough to appreciate more sophisticated flavors.
In Elihu’s understanding of the world, there was no scenario in which God would allow Satan to bring calamity upon a righteous man. Thus, to Elihu’s ears, Job’s claim to be wounded without transgression sounded like a lie. He then exaggerated Job’s claim to what he thought was its logical conclusion that it profits a man nothing to delight in God.
Elihu was correct in his assessment of the character and power of God. God does not pervert justice. God does not act wickedly. God does have charge over the whole earth and could return man to dust if He desired. However, Elihu was not correct in his assumptions about the immediacy of God’s actions or what happens after we die.
God’s ultimate plan for this world is to redeem a people for Himself from the sin which has overcome it. On a day appointed by God from the beginning of time will come a reckoning that will set everything right, and there will be no more sin or death. Everything that has had to occur or will yet occur to usher in this day is beyond our ability to fathom. Therefore, we go forward in faith, knowing God is good and is acting toward that end. It is not a blind faith but a faith grounded in the historical life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. If Christ was not raised, then our faith is in vain, and we are dead in our sins. Elihu had not been given this revelation yet, and he would have benefited by listening to Job rather than hastily condemning him.
Dear heavenly father, we pray for Your kingdom to come and Your will to be done in this world. Help us to be Your instruments toward that end as we lift up the name of Christ. Amen.