Today’s reading: Job 35-37.
James complained about the person whose mouth spoke praises to God while cursing his fellow-man. “My brothers and sisters,” he said, “this should not be.” Maybe he had Job’s counselors in mind when he wrote those words. Elihu fits his description all too well. He praises the greatness of God while cursing the wickedness of Job.
“I would like to reply to you and to your friends with you. Look up at the heavens and see; gaze at the clouds so high above you. If you sin, how does that affect him? If your sins are many, what does that do to him? If you are righteous, what do you give to him, or what does he receive from your hand? Your wickedness affects only a man like yourself, and your righteousness only the sons of men. Job 35:4-8
For Elihu, God is so high above men that they cannot possibly affect him. He is far beyond them in power, position, and perfection. Job, being so far beneath God, has no right to call God to account or expect a hearing or explanation. Job is guilty of pride and impertinence according to Elihu. He also accuses Job of trying to bargain with God (I’ve been good, God, so why aren’t you good to me) when in fact Job had done just the opposite by not cursing God though suffering overwhelmed him.
Elihu’s argument is a mixture of truth and error, and you must tease the two apart to understand why he is wrong to condemn Job. It’s true that God is far beyond us in every way (“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9). It’s false that God isn’t affected by us. He made us in his image so that we could have a relationship with him. That was the beginning. He loves us so much that he’s preparing a perfect place for us and is coming back to take us to that place where we will be together forever. That’s the end. In between the Bible is full of accounts of God’s attention to his people and the full range of emotions he expressed for them. Does God care for me? Indeed. Was Job wrong to cry out to God for relief and understanding? Not at all.
We’ve all been in that place where the only one who could answer our questions was God. You probably carry some of those questions around with you today. The message of Job is that you are not wrong to question God, but in your questioning you must not doubt that God cares about you. Though he is far above you in power and perfection, he is right beside you in love and concern.
Image by Michael 1952 on Flickr, CC by 2.0