The Word Made Fresh
1Elihu continued: 2“All of you who are wise, listen to me and hear what I have to say. 3Ears are made for understanding words, just as the mouth is made for tasting food. 4So, let us seek what is right and decide for ourselves what is acceptable. 5Job has maintained his innocence and accused God of taking away what he deserves. 6He says that he is being charged with wrongdoing even though he is right and is suffering an incurable malady even though he has done nothing wrong. 7Do you know anyone else like Job, who drinks in scornfulness like water, 8and keeps company with crooks and walks around with the wicked? 9And then he excuses his behavior by claiming there is nothing profitable about delighting in God!
10“So, listen to me if you have any sense. God is never involved in wickedness. The Almighty never does anything that is wrong. 11God rewards people according to what they have done and gives them what they deserve. 12Truly, God does not engage in wickedness. The Almighty will not cheapen justice. 13Who put God in charge of the whole world? God made the world! 14If God decides to take life and breath back, 15every living thing will perish. Every human being will go back to dust.
16“If you have the ability to understand things, then listen to what I have to say. 17Do you think someone who hates justice should govern? Or would you condemn someone who is morally strong and righteous, 18who calls the king a scoundrel and the children of the king wicked; 19who never kowtows to nobility and refuses to look upon the wealthy as if they are better than the poor because they are all the work of God’s hands? 20In the blink of an eye they all die. In the night all are stricken and pass away – even the mighty and the important – but not by any human hand.
21God watches the ways of human beings and sees everything they do. 22There is no dark secluded place where the wicked can hide themselves. 23God has no need to appoint a time for anyone to come before God to be judged. 28God can punish the strong without a hearing; God can put everyone in their place 25because God knows what they have done and brings judgment upon them in the middle of the night and crushes them. 26God strikes the wicked for their wickedness while others look on, 27because they refused to obey and had no respect for God, 28and made the poor suffer so that their cries rose up to the Almighty. 29No one else can pass judgment when God chooses to be silent, and no one, nor any nation, can see God when God’s face is hidden. 30The godless should not reign. Those who mistreat the people should not rule.
31“Has anyone ever said to God, ‘I have suffered; I won’t sin anymore; 32please teach me what I don’t understand, and I promise to never do it again’? 33Do you think God will then automatically set you up in whatever way you wish just because you have rejected your punishment? You decide, not I. I don’t pretend to have all the answers. Tell me what you know.
34“Those who have heard me and have some measure of intelligence and those who think they are wise will say, 35‘Job speaks without knowledge and has no insight. 36He should be punished to the limit because his answers are like those given by wicked people. 37Job is not only a sinner; he is also rebellious. He claps his hands for action and continues to argue against God.’”
1-9: Like the other three, Elihu finds fault with Job’s declaration of innocence. Job’s insistence that he is a righteous man who is suffering unjustly is for them evidence to the contrary because he is accusing God of being unjust; he is declaring that “taking delight in God” is pointless.
10-15: So, Elihu launches a defense of God! God makes no mistakes, he says. God sees to it that everybody gets what they deserve. After all, God is God, and if God decides to take back the gift of life, everything that lives will die.
16-20: No one can rule who hates justice. You may not think Elihu is right about that, but he is speaking of ruling the universe – in other words, God is fair; you can count on it. You, Job, are condemning the ruler of all creation who is the very epitome of justice.
21-30: God sees everything, he says. You can’t hide from God. No one else is above God in judgment. He describes how God sweeps away the wicked no matter how mighty they are. If God is silent, no one else is allowed to judge; only God can condemn nations and their rulers. God set things up that way so that “the godless should not reign,” but we have to wonder how Elihu can come to such a conclusion.
31-37: If you repent, says Elihu, and admit that you deserve your punishment God will certainly “pay back to suit you.” Your situation proves that you have sinned, Job, and when you deny the obvious you are only being rebellious.
We have to agree with Elihu in that last paragraph. Job has erred in insisting he has never done anything wrong. Of course, he has made mistakes. Nobody is perfect. Job is wrong because he lives in a world made imperfect by human sinfulness, and even if his mistakes have been miniscule, he still must live in that world and be subject to suffering, deserved or not. When we suffer, in order to gain anything from it we must move from asking, “Why?” and begin asking, “What now?”