Today’s passage is Job 34:21-37. It’s not an easy to interpret, but if we stay in it long enough there are valuable lessons for us to learn. Let’s go!
Job 34:21-25 (NIV) 21 “His eyes are on the ways of men; he sees their every step. 22 There is no dark place, no deep shadow, where evildoers can hide. 23 God has no need to examine men further, that they should come before him for judgment. 24 Without inquiry he shatters the mighty and sets up others in their place. 25 Because he takes note of their deeds, he overthrows them in the night and they are crushed.
On verses 21-25: God sees everything we do, so there is no need to request a hearing with God as Job did, as if we need to remind God of all the good we have done. Because God sees it all and nothing escapes His notice, He is the best qualified to judge and His judgments are always just.
Job 34:26-29 (NIV) 26 He punishes them for their wickedness where everyone can see them, 27 because they turned from following him and had no regard for any of his ways. 28 They caused the cry of the poor to come before him, so that he heard the cry of the needy. 29 But if he remains silent, who can condemn him? If he hides his face, who can see him? …
On verses 26-29: Here Elihu proclaims God as the one who punishes the wicked and who hears the cry of the poor (v26-28). At the same time, Elihu says that if God chooses to remain silent, we cannot blame Him (v29), for God alone sees everything and He alone has the perfect plan to deal with injustice in His own way and time. The lesson for us here? Remember that God is just and give Him room to exercise justice His way.
Job 34:29-30 (NIV) 29 …Yet he is over man and nation alike, 30 to keep a godless man from ruling, from laying snares for the people.
On verses 29b-30: Elihu describes God as the one who watches over all people and nations to make sure that godless individuals do not rule and bring ruin on the people. This can be a tough statement to accept when you look at rulers throughout history who did not worship God and who legislated great atrocities on people – Nero, Hitler, Mao Ze Dong, the list goes on. What do we make of a statement like this? Keep in mind that this is young Elihu speaking and not necessarily by God’s Spirit. Still perhaps the best way to take this verse is to acknowledge that God is the protector of His people, and that whenever God does allow a tyrant to rule and to do evil, it is within pre-ordained boundaries that God has set so that, ultimately, out of such great evil, God can write an even greater story.
Job 34:31-33 (NIV) 31 “Suppose a man says to God, ‘I am guilty but will offend no more. 32 Teach me what I cannot see; if I have done wrong, I will not do so again.’ 33 Should God then reward you on your terms, when you refuse to repent? You must decide, not I; so tell me what you know.
On verses 31-33: Sometimes when I have a tough time understanding a verse in one translation, it helps me to read it in several others. I find the Message paraphrase of these three verses helpful:
Job 34:31-33 (MSG) 31 “So why don’t you simply confess to God? Say, ‘I sinned, but I’ll sin no more. 32 Teach me to see what I still don’t see. Whatever evil I’ve done, I’ll do it no more.’ 33 Just because you refuse to live on God’s terms, do you think he should start living on yours? You choose. I can’t do it for you. Tell me what you decide.
In other words, here Elihu seems to be encouraging Job to come before God with a humble heart and to invite God to show him what he does not yet see, instead of insisting that God meet him on his terms. This is good advice for all of us. Instead of insisting that God meet you on your terms, come to God with a humble heart, surrender to Him, and let Him speak to you in His way and His time.
Job 34:34-37 (NIV) 34 “Men of understanding declare, wise men who hear me say to me, 35 ‘Job speaks without knowledge; his words lack insight.’ 36 Oh, that Job might be tested to the utmost for answering like a wicked man! 37 To his sin he adds rebellion; scornfully he claps his hands among us and multiplies his words against God.”
On verses 34-37: Much like he did in Job 34:5-10 earlier, here Elihu is going after Job for times when Job seemed to openly question God’s justice and openly question whether it profits a person to follow God. Elihu sees this as Job encouraging rebellion against God and looking scornfully at God. Whereas Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar went after Job for what they thought were sins that led to his immense suffering, Elihu seems to be going after Job for sinning with his words while he is going through this immense suffering. In times like these, I’m so thankful for Jesus. Though Jesus is fully aware of all the ways I have misspoke, misunderstood, and mis-lived before God, rather than accusing me, Jesus comes to my defense and protects me. His choice to show mercy triumphed over His right to judge me. What a friend we have in Jesus.
Heavenly Father, rather than insisting that You meet me on my terms, may I have a humble heart that is surrendered to You, willing for You to speak to me on Your terms, in Your way and in Your time. Jesus, thank You so much also that, unlike Elihu, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, You don’t come at me with words of accusation. Instead You show me great mercy and You stand on my side. Thank You for being my best friend who never leaves me or forsakes me. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!