The Word Made Fresh
1Elihu continued: 2“Do you think this is fair, Job? You claim to be in the right before God, 3but then you want to know what advantage that claim gives you, and you want to know if you would be better off if you had actually sinned.
4“I would like to respond to you and to your friends here with you. 5Look up at the sky and see the clouds above you. 6If you have sinned, what could that do to God? Even if you sin constantly, how would that affect God? 7And if you are sinless, what does God gain from it? 8Your sinfulness only affects you and others like you and your righteousness also affects you and others.
9“Because of all their problems people cry out and beg for help. They beg for help because they suffer under the hand of the powerful. 10But no one asks, ‘Where is the God who made me and sends songs in the night? 11Where is the God who teaches us more than the animals are taught and makes us wiser than the birds?’ 12They cry out but God doesn’t answer the pride of the wicked, 13and God doesn’t hear empty complaints; the Almighty pays no attention to such things. 14Why should God respond when you claim that you have presented your case and are waiting for a ruling? 15And now, because God hasn’t responded, 16Job complains and complains without realizing he is doing nothing but running empty words together.”
1-8: Now Elihu attempts to respond to two of Job’s complaints: that being righteous is no guarantee for prosperity and that God refuses to respond to his plea for justice. In answer to the first complaint Elihu presents an interesting theological point: whether we are righteous or sinful affects the people around us but has no effect on God. That may be so, but it certainly affects our relationship with God.
9-13: Elihu then addresses Job’s second complaint – that God won’t listen to him. Job himself has said that oftentimes oppressed people cry out, but God doesn’t hear them (see, for example, 24:12). Elihu’s explanation is that although the oppressed often cry out against their oppressors, God does not hear because they do not cry out in prayer. “Where is God my Maker?” (Verse 10) is an acknowledged appeal to God for help, a recognizable prayer that God does indeed hear. Job has said that even animals and birds can see that they are being punished by the hand of God (12:7). Elihu responds that God has given human beings more wisdom than the animals and the birds (verse 11). However, Elihu says, “God does not hear an empty cry,” (verse 13) meaning that God only responds when the outcry is properly addressed to God.
14-16: So, when Job claims that he is waiting for God to show up he is complaining in exactly the way in which God will refuse to respond. In other words, Job doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
Elihu is not altogether in the right. God does indeed hear the cry of the oppressed, and it is wrong to think that they must ask God “correctly,” or God won’t hear. But let’s follow the rest of Elihu’s response to Job and his friends before we grade the young fellow.