1 And Elihu answered and said:
2 “Do you think this to be just?
Do you say, ‘It is my right before God,’
3 that you ask, ‘What advantage have I?
How am I better off than if I had sinned?’
4 I will answer you
and your friends with you.
5 Look at the heavens, and see;
and behold the clouds, which are higher than you.
6 If you have sinned, what do you accomplish against him?
And if your transgressions are multiplied, what do you 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 concerns a man like yourself,
and your righteousness a son of man.
9 “Because of the multitude of oppressions people cry out;
they call for help because of the arm of the mighty.
10 But none says, ‘Where is God my Maker,
who gives songs in the night,
11 who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth
and makes us wiser than the birds of the heavens?’
12 There they cry out, but he does not answer,
because of the pride of evil men.
13 Surely God does not hear an empty cry,
nor does the Almighty regard it.
14 How much less when you say that you do not see him,
that the case is before him, and you are waiting for him!
15 And now, because his anger does not punish,
and he does not take much note of transgression,
16 Job opens his mouth in empty talk;
he multiplies words without knowledge.” – Job 35:1-16 ESV
Once again, the overly verbose Elihu starts off the latest section of his speech by lifting the statements of Job out of their context and using them as a launching pad for his latest diatribe. He addresses Job’s persistent demand to get a hearing before God so that He might prove himself innocent. Elihu describes that demand as nothing more than a display of boastful pride. As far as Elihu is concerned, Job has no rights before God.
This led him to pick up on another statement made by Job but he does so with a fair amount of paraphrasing. He accuses Job of claiming that living a righteous life is of no advantage if the righteous suffer along with the wicked.
But what Job actually said was quite different. He simply asked, “For what hope do the godless have when God cuts them off and takes away their life? Will God listen to their cry when trouble comes upon them?” (Job 27:8-9 NLT). All he was trying to say was that the only hope the righteous have is if their God hears their cries and releases them from their pain and suffering. If He were to refuse to do so, they would be no better off than the wicked.
Yet Elihu wants to paint Job as a prideful, self-proclaimed Puritan who claims to have lived a perfect and sin-free life. Elihu isn’t buying Job’s innocent-victim act but he plays along with the idea. For Elihu, it didn’t really matter whether Job was righteous or wicked because God was not affected by either.
“If you sin, how does that affect God?
Even if you sin again and again,
what effect will it have on him?
If you are good, is this some great gift to him?
What could you possibly give him?” – Job 35:6-7 NLT
Elihu’s concept of God was that of a distant and disengaged deity who was far removed from the daily actions of mere humans. His argument seems to be that even if Job was fully righteous, God owed him nothing. All of Job’s supposed good deeds were nothing more than filthy rags in the eyes of God (Isaiah 64:6). From Elihu’s vantage point, sin had no influence on God; it only affected the sinner and all those around him. In the same way, the righteous deeds of men were only of value to other men. They were the sole beneficiaries. In Elihu’s theology, God remained unaffected by human sin or righteousness.
“There is no place in Elihu’s theology for doing God’s will out of love for him. Man affects only his fellow man by being good or bad (v.9). And though God may punish or reward man as Judge, there is no place for him in the role of a Father who can be hurt or pleased by man.” – Elmer B. Smick, “Job,” in 1 Kings-Job, vol. 4 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary
Elihu seems to concede that Job had done a few righteous things in his lifetime, but Elihu didn’t believe those “good deeds” had earned Job any credit with God. It seems obvious that these two men had two diametrically distinct views of God. For Elihu, God was aloof and disinterested in man’s earthly activities. But Job believed that God was intimately involved in the lives of mankind, and the Scriptures support his conclusion.
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
and whoever captures souls is wise.
If the righteous is repaid on earth,
how much more the wicked and the sinner! Proverbs 30:30-31 ESV
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise,
but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
Disaster pursues sinners,
but the righteous are rewarded with good. – Proverbs 13:20-21 ESV
Say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, and do not fear,
for your God is coming to destroy your enemies.
He is coming to save you.” – Isaiah 35:4 NLT
It was David who said of God, “The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness” (1 Samuel 26:23 ESV). He spoke these words to King Saul, after having rejected the opportunity to take Saul’s life. David had spent years running from the king, who had placed a bounty on David’s head. On one occasion, after a long day of pursuing David, Saul and 3,000 of his men set up camp in the wilderness of Ziph. In the middle of the night, David and a companion snuck into camp and found Saul fast asleep. Abishai, who had volunteered to join David on his clandestine mission, saw this as a God-ordained opportunity to take care of the Saul problem once and for all.
“God has surely handed your enemy over to you this time!” Abishai whispered to David. “Let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of the spear; I won’t need to strike twice!” – 1 Samuel 26:8 NLT
But David rejected Abishai’s advice, refusing to take matters into his own hands.
“Don’t kill him. For who can remain innocent after attacking the Lord’s anointed one? Surely the Lord will strike Saul down someday, or he will die of old age or in battle. The Lord forbid that I should kill the one he has anointed! But take his spear and that jug of water beside his head, and then let’s get out of here!” – 1 Samuel 26:9-11 NLT
With Saul’s spear and water jug in his hands, David stealthily exited the camp and climbed to the top of a nearby hill, where he called out to Saul and revealed just how close the king had come to death at his hands. David informed Saul that the only reason he was still alive was because David was willing to let God reward and repay according to His own will.
“The Lord gives his own reward for doing good and for being loyal, and I refused to kill you even when the Lord placed you in my power, for you are the Lord’s anointed one. Now may the Lord value my life, even as I have valued yours today. May he rescue me from all my troubles.” – 1 Samuel 26:23-24 NLT
This perspective stands in direct opposition to that of Elihu. He asserts that when the oppressed “cry out, God does not answer because of their pride” (Job 35:12 NLT). The reason they get no answer from God is because they are sinful. According to Elihu’s theology, their oppression is their own fault.
But in the very next breath, Elihu seems to contradict himself. He states, “…it is wrong to say God doesn’t listen, to say the Almighty isn’t concerned” (Job 35:13 NLT). He actually accuses Job of denying God’s presence. But that is not what Job has been saying. He has only expressed his view that God didn’t seem to be listening or intervening in his situation. He has repeatedly called out to God, asking for an audience before His Creator and Judge so that he might state his case. But from Job’s perspective, it felt like God was not listening or was nowhere to be found.
Job was simply stating things as he saw them. He was describing the way he viewed his life from his limited earth-bound perspective. He knew God was there, but his circumstances painted a very different picture. Elihu views Job’s honesty as the words of a fool because he doesn’t understand the depths of Job’s pain. Elihu can’t get past Job’s words long enough to see what going on in his heart. This leads him to say, “…you are talking nonsense, Job. You have spoken like a fool” (Job 35:16 NLT)
But in reality, Job was speaking like a suffering saint. He was expressing his pain and confusion just as David did. The David who was confident that God rewards the righteous is the same David who wrote the following gut-wrenching words:
O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
with sorrow in my heart every day?
How long will my enemy have the upper hand? – Psalm 13:1-2 NLT
And he was the same David that followed up these words of anxiety and anguish with the following statement of faith and hope:
But I trust in your unfailing love.
I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
I will sing to the Lord
because he is good to me. – Psalm 13:5-6 NLT
Both David and Job were venting their frustration. The only difference is that Job had not yet reached the point of expressing his hope in the faithfulness of God. He was not yet ready to rejoice in the midst of his trials. At this point in his life, there was no song on his lips or unwavering confidence in his heart that God was going to make things right. He had hopes but they were weak and wavering. He was desperate for deliverance but was not quite convinced of its imminence.
But Job could have used a little help from his friends. Instead, all he got was a heavy dose of condemnation and correction. In Elihu’s attempt to defend God, he was destroying Job’s faith in God. His truncated theology had produced a diminished view of God that was actually diminishing Job’s faith in God.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.