The Basis for Life

The Basis for Life

Job 34-42

“Surely, God will not act wickedly, and the Almighty will not pervert justice.”

 

            Elihu is an enigma.  He appears in the story without introduction and speaks as a youth who defines the normal conventions of wisdom that affirm the elders are the wise teachers and the young men are the learners.  Throughout the interaction between Job and his three friends Elihu has remained silent.  But finally, he had enough. He was deeply troubled, for Job was more concerned about vindicating himself than God, and the three friends were more concerned about condemning Job than they were about comforting Job.  In response, he begins a lengthy defense of God’s righteousness and his actions.  For Elihu, the wisdom and folly of a person were not measured by the blessing they received or the adversity they faced.  It is measured by the degree we acknowledge God as the supreme God who has the right to do as he pleases.  God is not under the constraints of man.  He does as he pleases, and all his actions are just.  To accuse God of injustice (like Job had done) is to fail to recognize his divine right to exercise his will as he pleases.  Conversely, to place God in a theological straight jacket by arguing that God will always bless the righteous and bring adversity to the wicked (like Job’s friends have done) fails to recognize that God has his purposes.  He is beyond our ability to comprehend (26:26).  Just as God is behind the blessings; he is also in the storms of life.  “Whether for correction or for his world, or his lovingkindness, He causes it to happen” (37:13).  We cannot fully fathom God, so we must trust him.

            Elihu, in his speech, then sets the stage for God to speak.  Now God has the last word.  In confronting Job, God does not answer the question that has been plaguing him throughout the book:  The question of “Why?”  Instead of answering Job’s questions, God confronts Job with his own questions, “Where were you when I laid the foundation s of the earth?  Tell me, if you have understanding” (38:4).  In a rapid-fire onslaught, God asks Job a number of questions that focus on God’s absolute supreme in his being and wise in his dealings. God is absolutely sovereign and exalted in his nature and answers to know one.  By questioning God, Job placed himself above God, implying that God is somehow accountable to man.  However, in his response, God makes it clear he is responsible to no one, for he is the one who created all things.  In the end, all Job can do is acknowledge that “I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me which I did not know.”

            In the speech of Elihu and God, we find the answers for life and the source of true wisdom.  For Eliphaz, wisdom came from personal experience.  For Bildad, knowledge came from traditions.  For Zophar, understanding comes through human intellect.  But in the end, they all proved false.  Wisdom comes only from God, and the wise man is not the one who understands all things but trusts in the God who does.  To discover meaning and purpose in life, we must go to the one who created life.  We must look to him. But, instead of seeking to instruct God, all we can do is stand in awe of him and, like Job affirms, “Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You? I lay my hand on my mouth.”  When we stop talking and start listening to God, we discover wisdom. It is then that we find out the basis for life.

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