Read Job 36
36 Elihu continued:
2 “Bear with me a little longer and I will show you
that there is more to be said in God’s behalf.
3 I get my knowledge from afar;
I will ascribe justice to my Maker.
4 Be assured that my words are not false;
one who has perfect knowledge is with you.
5 “God is mighty, but despises no one;
he is mighty, and firm in his purpose.
6 He does not keep the wicked alive
but gives the afflicted their rights.
7 He does not take his eyes off the righteous;
he enthrones them with kings
and exalts them forever.
8 But if people are bound in chains,
held fast by cords of affliction,
9 he tells them what they have done—
that they have sinned arrogantly.
10 He makes them listen to correction
and commands them to repent of their evil.
11 If they obey and serve him,
they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity
and their years in contentment.
12 But if they do not listen,
they will perish by the sword
and die without knowledge.
13 “The godless in heart harbor resentment;
even when he fetters them, they do not cry for help.
14 They die in their youth,
among male prostitutes of the shrines.
15 But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering;
he speaks to them in their affliction.
16 “He is wooing you from the jaws of distress
to a spacious place free from restriction,
to the comfort of your table laden with choice food.
17 But now you are laden with the judgment due the wicked;
judgment and justice have taken hold of you.
18 Be careful that no one entices you by riches;
do not let a large bribe turn you aside.
19 Would your wealth or even all your mighty efforts
sustain you so you would not be in distress?
20 Do not long for the night,
to drag people away from their homes.
21 Beware of turning to evil,
which you seem to prefer to affliction.
22 “God is exalted in his power.
Who is a teacher like him?
23 Who has prescribed his ways for him,
or said to him, ‘You have done wrong’?
24 Remember to extol his work,
which people have praised in song.
25 All humanity has seen it;
mortals gaze on it from afar.
26 How great is God—beyond our understanding!
The number of his years is past finding out.
27 “He draws up the drops of water,
which distill as rain to the streams;
28 the clouds pour down their moisture
and abundant showers fall on mankind.
29 Who can understand how he spreads out the clouds,
how he thunders from his pavilion?
30 See how he scatters his lightning about him,
bathing the depths of the sea.
31 This is the way he governs the nations
and provides food in abundance.
32 He fills his hands with lightning
and commands it to strike its mark.
33 His thunder announces the coming storm;
even the cattle make known its approach.
Today’s reading marks the turning point in Elihu’s final discourse with Job. In verses 1-21, Elihu continues in calling Job to repent of the sin he thinks he must be unrepentantly walking in, and invites Job to humble himself and call out to God for help. In the world as Elihu supposes it to be, he has totally ruled out the possibility of Job’s innocent standing before God. Job is clearly in sin and, by having continued to delay repentance, he determines that Job has actually incurred further judgement by not repenting. Ultimately, this kind of counsel drove Job crazy. It demanded that he forsake his integrity and make a show of repentance just to please his friends, a lose-lose situation that finally causes Job to break down and cry out in anger to God.
In verse 22, Elihu’s posture towards their present situation seems to take a sharp and unpredicted turn. Where before he speaks definitively in regard to the nature of Job’s plight, here he begins to speak with open acknowledgement of the unknowable nature of our God. His words also become markedly more dramatic and anticipatory, almost as though something around the group has changed physically to motivate the observations he is now making. In light of the remaining chapters in Job, many scholars suggest that something powerful is implicitly happening here—Elihu is describing in stately detail what he is watching unfold before his eyes. Later in Job, we will read about God riding in on a cyclone to meet with Job. Perhaps Elihu is watching God ride in from the heavens in all of his glory, or perhaps is watching the storm begin to form and seeing glimpses of this glory as it happens.
In the face of a marked change in the literal atmosphere, and in view of the majesty of God’s ability to write the very laws of nature and “[draw] up drops of water, which distill as rain from the mist,” Elihu starts to recognize that he doesn’t know quite as much about God as he thinks that he does. Doesn’t this happen to us? We get close to finally putting God in a neat little box, thinking we have drawn close to relative understanding, and then we are shown even a small glimpse of God’s glory and all of our understanding is shattered in comparison to His stately majesty. When we get in the presence of God, we start to know how little we actually know, and we see, like Elihu, that if God can direct the rain and the lightning that we probably don’t need to be the ones who have it all figured out anyways.
- Have you ever assumed you understood a whole situation before you knew all of the facts, and then realized you were very wrong?
- Was there a moment in your life when you felt like you had God figured out, and then He showed His power and glory and reminded you that He was bigger than you thought? How did that situation change the way you understand God?
- What do you think God is trying to teach Elihu through this sequence of events?
Our prayer today is simple: Would you show us your glory? Remind us of how big you are today, and help us to trust that you know better than we do. Amen.
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