Job 34:1-20

Elihu Vindicates God’s Justice

34 Then Elihu continued and said,

“Hear my words, you wise men,
And listen to me, you who know.
“For the ear tests words
As the palate tastes food.
“Let us choose for ourselves what is right;
Let us know among ourselves what is good.
“For Job has said, ‘I am righteous,
But God has taken away my right;
[a]Should I lie concerning my right?
My [b]wound is incurable, though I am without transgression.’
“What man is like Job,
Who drinks up derision like water,
Who goes in company with the workers of iniquity,
And walks with wicked men?
“For he has said, ‘It profits a man nothing
When he [c]is pleased with God.’

10 “Therefore, listen to me, you men of understanding.
Far be it from God to do wickedness,
And from the Almighty to do wrong.
11 “For He pays a man according to his work,
And makes [d]him find it according to his way.
12 “Surely, God will not act wickedly,
And the Almighty will not pervert justice.
13 “Who gave Him authority over the earth?
And who has laid on Him the whole world?
14 “If He should [e]determine to do so,
If He should gather to Himself His spirit and His breath,
15 All flesh would perish together,
And man would return to dust.

16 “But if you have understanding, hear this;
Listen to the sound of my words.
17 “Shall one who hates justice rule?
And will you condemn the righteous mighty One,
18 Who says to a king, ‘Worthless one,’
To nobles, ‘Wicked ones’;
19 Who shows no partiality to princes
Nor regards the rich above the poor,
For they all are the work of His hands?
20 “In a moment they die, and at midnight
People are shaken and pass away,
And the mighty are taken away without a hand.

Elihu doesn’t get it all wrong, as he does make a couple valid points. Namely, that God does not show partiality to those who are rich or powerful, and that God will not act wickedly. Or put another way, God will not pervert justice. But among the fallacies of Elihu, there are a couple that stand out even more.

The first is summed up when Elihu says that God “pays a man according to his work…”. There are a couple problems here, but the biggest is that this idea completely ignores the mercy, love, and incredible patience of God. Of course, it is also used as a hammer to beat down those who are going through hard times, and that’s the worst of all. To automatically assume that someone whose life isn’t going swimmingly is being punished for their sins is utter folly.

Certainly, God is a god of justice. But time and again, even in the Old Testament, God gives people second chances. Just ask Jonah what happened to the wicked people of Nineveh. Or in his own words, “I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.” This then leads us on to the second fallacy…

Which is that righteous people should have nothing to do with the wicked. Let’s put it another way, “believers should have nothing to do with unbelievers.” Now maybe I’m putting words into Elihu’s mouth, but what evidence does he have for verse 8? Either he is completely making up falsehoods, or he has actually seen Job talking to “wicked men” and conflated that with Job being wicked himself.

Now, I don’t know why Job was talking to these folks, but I can well imagine it was in the course of everyday business. Or just as likely, he was hoping to share God’s love with them, and help drag them from the muck of their sin. We hear the same foolish recommendations today, yet how will the unbeliever become a believer if he (or she) is shunned by believers? That’s the worst possible scenario imaginable.

Rather, God loves everyone, and that means even the person you think least likely to believe in God. We need to have his heart and show his love to everyone as well, not just those in our social circle, or those who think like we do. God loved the whole world so much he sent his Son, not just for a chosen few, but for everyone who would believe.

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