Read Job 35
35 Then Elihu said:
2 “Do you think this is just?
You say, ‘I am in the right, not God.’
3 Yet you ask him, ‘What profit is it to me,
and what do I gain by not sinning?’
4 “I would like to reply to you
and to your friends with you.
5 Look up at the heavens and see;
gaze at the clouds so high above you.
6 If you sin, how does that affect him?
If your sins are many, what does that do to him?
7 If you are righteous, what do you give to him,
or what does he receive from your hand?
8 Your wickedness only affects humans like yourself,
and your righteousness only other people.
9 “People cry out under a load of oppression;
they plead for relief from the arm of the powerful.
10 But no one says, ‘Where is God my Maker,
who gives songs in the night,
11 who teaches us more than he teaches the beasts of the earth
and makes us wiser than the birds in the sky?’
12 He does not answer when people cry out
because of the arrogance of the wicked.
13 Indeed, God does not listen to their empty plea;
the Almighty pays no attention to it.
14 How much less, then, will he listen
when you say that you do not see him,
that your case is before him
and you must wait for him,
15 and further, that his anger never punishes
and he does not take the least notice of wickedness.
16 So Job opens his mouth with empty talk;
without knowledge he multiplies words.”
This chapter is a continuation of the conversation between Job and his friend, Elihu, who is counseling him in response to Job’s claim that he is innocent and did not sin. In Job 35, Elihu specifically addresses the topic of self-righteousness. He sees Job as being prideful for believing himself to be “without transgression,” and while we do not have a transcript of every action Job has ever performed, we can remember from chapter 1 that Job is a man with a heart full of repentance and reverence for the Lord (Job 34:6). He always made sacrifices on behalf of his family in case they had “sinned, and cursed God in their hearts” (Job 1:5). We recollect on these earlier portions of the text because Elihu is accusing Job of being self-righteous; however, we know this is not who Job is.
Elihu makes two main points in this chapter. Firstly, as humans we do not have the ability to change God. From Elihu’s perspective, our sinful or righteous acts do not affect God, but only humans (Job 35: 8). Secondly, “God does not hear an empty cry” or the prayers of the wicked, and he critiques people for not seeking God in humility but instead approaching Him with “the arrogance of the wicked” (Job 35:12-13).
Since Elihu has made false claims in the past, let’s compare these with God’s Word. To the first point, it is true that God’s character does not change because of our actions, but the Bible does tell us the impact of our actions. Romans 1:18 says that “the wrath of God is… against all the godlessness and wickedness of people” and Romans 12:1 says that we can offer our lives to God and it will be “holy and pleasing” to Him. To the second point, Jesus tells a parable of two people who pray in the temple. One character is a Pharisee who pridefully boasts of how righteous he is, and the other is a tax-collector who cries out for mercy. While the story does not tell us whether or not God heard those prayers, Jesus does say that the sinful (yet humble) tax-collector “went home justified before God” (Luke 18:14).
Pride and self-righteousness are key themes of this chapter, so let’s answer these questions to reflect on how they might be in our life.
- What does this chapter tell us about humans?
- Are you in the practice of praying on your knees? When was the last time you prayed on your knees?
- How can you practice humility today?
“The utmost evil, is Pride…It was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.” – C.S. Lewis
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