The Word Made Fresh
1“So, listen to me now, Job. Hear what I have to say. 2Do you see my mouth moving? Can you hear me speaking? 3My words come from a heart that is faithful, and what I say is said sincerely. 4God’s spirit and the breath of the Almighty gave me life, 5so answer me if you are able; get your arguments ready for me and take your stand. 6God made me just as God made you. We were both formed from a lump of clay. 7You don’t have to be afraid of me; I won’t pressure you too heavily.
8“You said, and I heard you say it, 9that you are blameless and have never done anything wrong. 10You said that God is against you and treats you like an enemy; 11that God has you shackled and keeps an eye on everything you do.
12“But you’re wrong, Job, because God is greater than any mortal human being. 13Why do you argue with God? Why do you say God will never answer you? 14God speaks in various ways, but people aren’t aware of it. 15It can be in a dream or vision in the night when we are fast asleep in slumber on our beds. 16That is when God terrifies us with warnings 17in order to turn us away from our wrongdoing and keep us from becoming too proud of ourselves. 18God protects our souls from the grave and death. 19People can also be stricken with pain that confines them to their beds with constant suffering, 20so that they loath food and find delicacies repulsive. 21And their bodies waste away to nothing, and their bones stick out. 22Their very souls approach the grave and their lives are in the hands of those who care nothing for them. 23But if one in a thousand people has an angel on their side who can serve as a mediator and uphold their innocence, 24then if that angel is gracious to that person and begs for their deliverance from the grave and offers a ransom for them 25and begs for them to be restored to their youth and returned to days of good health and youthful energy; and if that person prays to God and is accepted, God will spare that person and declare them to be in good standing. 27Then the one who has been spared will sing to others a song of rescue, saying, ‘I did what was wrong, but did not suffer death 28because God redeemed my soul from the grave and my life has been restored.’
29“God does these things, not just once, but two or three times for us mortals, 30to bring our souls back from the grave and allow us to live. 31Listen to me, Job. Listen to what I say, 32and answer me if you will. Speak up, because I want to support you. 33If you have nothing to say, listen, and I will tell you about wisdom.”
1-7: Now Elihu turns his attention to Job, and the second part of his speech is a refutation of Job’s defense. He tells Job that he is going to challenge him, but his challenge will not be overbearing. In this he seems to be showing at least a bit of restraint in the face of a man who is suffering.
8-11: He summarizes Job’s complaint, that Job is innocent, and God is punishing him unfairly.
12-28: Job has claimed that God doesn’t hear him. Elihu counters that God responds to us in ways that we sometimes miss; in dreams, for example, or even in our suffering. He gives an example of someone (like Job) who has wasted away to nearly nothing, for whom God grants a reprieve, and who responds with thanksgiving that God has heard their plea even though they sinned. The implication is that if Job will let them intercede for him, God will restore him; but first Job needs to admit that he needs an intercession. I think this is not really a bad argument.
29-33: Elihu assures Job that God is quite capable of saving a person more than once, and invites him to interrupt whenever he wishes, but tells Job to pay attention because he, Elihu, possesses wisdom. Thus, he sets the stage for launching into a sermon about the merits of God’s justice.
Job has claimed that he is completely blameless, but (as Paul tells us in his letter to the church in Rome – Romans 3:23) all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God – that is, God’s perfection. Instead of praying, “Lord, I don’t deserve this,” perhaps we should pray, “Lord, forgive me for whatever shortcomings I have and show me how I can do better.”