JOB 34:1 – 36:33 and ROMANS 13:1–14
There may have been a pause to see if Job would respond to Elihu’s initial words. As mentioned in the previous chapter Elihu seemed to be laying out his credentials to Job so as to have the right to speak and answer Job. Elihu seems to be addressing more than Job; was it also to his friends, to other by-standers or was it also meant in a general sense to those who come to know of his speech? In any case his words will prove instructive to us as we consider its content.
In verses 3-4 Elihu could be referring to the need of giving good teaching and doctrine. The Bible exhorts us to taste and see that the Lord is good (Psa 34:8). There is a huge premium placed on being able to discern, especially in these last days. The words of a man reflect what is in his heart and spirit. Two men can speak about the same thing but come from a totally different spirit. We have seen this in the discourses of Job and his friends. At many times they seem to say the same thing but from different realms or perspectives. Have you ever listened to good preaching and yet sensed something did not seem right in their sharing? My wife had this experience several years ago with a well-known Christian leader. His words spoke of wonderful things taking place in his ministry. He spoke of the fruit of a recent trip in another country and how the favor of God was being seen everywhere. Both my wife and I sensed something was not right in the midst of these wonderful words of sharing. To our shock and dismay we came to know of serious moral failure on this person’s part a few weeks later. We must seek the Lord for discernment in the last days. One of the primary keys that helped the Lord in knowing good from evil is seen in the following verse:
Isa 7:15 Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.
Elihu had that kind of spiritual ear; he was exercised in being able to know the intent and spirit of the words that came forth from the likes of Job and his three friends. Elihu speaks of Job defending his righteousness and then questioning God as to why he is being judged unfairly (vs 5). He saw himself as being falsely accused resulting in an incurable wound from which he would not recover. Elihu is looking to bring Job’s words into perspective before speaking to his true need. This is an important technique and protocol when dealing in counselling matters; to rehearse the words and position of the one you are addressing. This demonstrates a comprehension of the facts of the case and it signals to the one you are addressing that you have weighed carefully the content of their sharing while listening to their words. This can be done seamlessly in helping to pave the way in addressing the true need. Elihu’s initial approach to Job is not a knee jerk reaction to his arguments; he crafts his response by rehearsing Job’s own thoughts and words before him.
In verses 7-9 Elihu begins to touch some sensitive issues concerning Job. He was an upright and godly man and would never walk nor associate with the workers of iniquity yet his words at times were aligned with what such people would speak. It is evil and ungodly men that would make statements such as “it profits not a man to delight himself with God”. Elihu is seeking to separate the part of Job that is good and upright and contrast it with his words and statements. This is what a skilled counsellor is able to do. It is what the Word of God can do; separating between the soul and the spirit within a man (Heb 4:12). Elihu is being very skilful in his approach to Job. He wields the sword of God’s Word in precise measures as he penetrates the inner recesses of Job’s being. His words will begin to cut but they will cut cleanly unlike Job’s friends and many of us when given opportunity to address people.
In verse 10 onwards Elihu begins to exercise the sword in a way that will help bring God’s perspective out into the open. He begins by saying that the Almighty has nothing to do with iniquity nor the perverting of judgment. He makes the case in speaking of God’s greatness as a creator and how futile it is to lay any charge against Him. He asks rhetorical questions like “Is it fitting to say to a king that thou art wicked and that you do not know what you are doing “(vs 18)?
Elihu concludes his initial remarks by saying that Job has spoken without true knowledge and his words were without wisdom. It is interesting to note that wisdom and knowledge keep coming up in the various discourses. We cannot get away from these anointing’s because they are attributes of the Holy Spirit. Though the Holy Spirit is not referenced directly in this narrative His work and nature is clearly seen. He is producing a unique grace in the life of Job. The Lord as the Son of man needed the enabling power of the Holy Spirit to help Him fulfil His life’s course (Heb 9:14). We see a picture of some of the qualities of the Holy Spirit in Elihu’s dealings with Job. It is true that Job has not answered God in his questionings in wisdom and knowledge nonetheless that work was being produced within him.
One gets the impression that Elihu had a clear hold upon his audience which of course included Job. We may assume that there could have been brief pauses between the portioned chapters but no one took up on his comments. Elihu spoke with a clarity and grasp of the big picture. It was sensed and realized by those who were giving ear. You can detect when there is an authority and anointing upon a speaker. Elihu will now carry his conversation in a more direct manner towards Job.
Job was a very good man but his righteousness certainly did not equate to God nor did he presume to do so. It was the nature of some of his questions that prompts Elihu to make this point. Job’s mistake was to make the point that it mattered not for a man to be righteous; the wicked do not get judged in the manner that Job did and yet he was seeking to live uprightly. This was an insult to God and clearly a false statement. Like Elihu said earlier in closing comments from chapter 35, these were words without knowledge and wisdom.
In verse 4 it is clear that the companions of Job are still with him as they are about to hear further words from Elihu. Elihu declares the glory of God in saying that the clouds are higher than man and that God is higher than the clouds. How is it then that the exalted God would be dependent upon man as Job alleged in some of his comments? If a man is righteous what can He give to God that makes him better (vs 7)? Elihu does make the point that if we are wicked it can have a direct effect upon a man but not with God who is far above all things, seeing that He is the creator.
In verses 9-12 we see a picture of man going through great oppressions but does not patiently wait for God to answer them in the midst of the trial. There are conclusions drawn out of haste which brings out the pride of man. False statements are made like some of the comments we have seen earlier with Job. It is times like this where we must have perspective, grace and patience. When we become more acquainted with the ways and dealings of God we then come into a place of greater wisdom, knowledge and understanding. Elihu also makes the point that the Almighty will not regard vanity or foolish assumptions.
Job knew that the hand of God was upon him but the need to justify himself kept coming forth before God. He was being righteous in his own eyes which in reality are the roots of pride. It is the root of Lucifer’s sin and it is that root that this trial is sourcing. As in the previous chapter Elihu once again concludes that the words of Job were multiplied without knowledge.
Elihu seems to now only be warming up as he makes the comment that he has yet to speak on God’s behalf (vs 2). The words that Elihu will speak will come forth from God; he is confident that his words will echo and reflect the heart of God. He will prove that God’s wisdom and ways are far higher than man’s and that His knowledge is perfect. He will also prove to Job that God is not a despiser of any man unless they reject him and be separated through sin. Elihu begins his expression of God’s viewpoint by conveying the sovereignty of God. This was something that was seen in Job in many of his comments. We see that it is God who puts kings in positions of power and allows them to flourish in their reigns. If they are bound and chained then God is able to show them their affliction; to show where they have exceeded boundaries. This is the purpose of laws and boundaries. Sadly today laws and boundaries are being broken down and eradicated. God does not do things indiscriminately. One may not see or understand why God is doing a thing but there needs to be the trust and knowledge that God is in all that He does. Job could speak of God’s sovereignty but it often fell short when he sought to assess his plight. True knowledge of God would allow one to endure, knowing that there are riches to be gained. The Apostle Paul came to know this quite well. He could come to a place of rejoicing in the midst of tribulation because the fruit of patience was being produced (Rom 5:3). This is a revelation and lesson that Job is currently going through.
God is gracious and gives ample opportunity for man to repent and change his ways. He is a God of justice and discipline and gives the promise of a prosperous existence to those who come to the place of obedience. The warning is also given that man will be judged if he chooses not to obey resulting in his dying without knowledge. It is a choice and man is given opportunity. God is just and fair and makes provision for everyone to come to the place of choosing His ways. Sadly, many reject the knowledge of God (Rom 1:28) and go about seeking their own way. This is true of non-believers but it is also true of many in the church. Elihu is making the case that God is not to be weighed in accordance to Job’s sense of balance. He is chipping away bit by bit at many of the arguments that Job had put forth.
He goes on to speak of the disdain that God has for hypocrites (vs 13). They have no sense of God’s displeasure when God begins judging them. Their life ends up in the land of the unclean which seems to make perfect sense seeing they live a secret life. The Lord is also merciful and gracious to the poor in their affliction and speaks to them during times of oppression. These things Job would know but they can get lost when going through a severe trial. Elihu is setting the stage for the sword of the Lord that will get at the root of Job’s issue. Everything that has been shared has been for the purpose of softening the ground for the work of circumcision to come. This process needs to be noted because it is how God still works today.
Elihu is now going deeper in his revelation concerning God which helps to put Job’s trial into a whole new perspective. God is great; He is infinite and His years cannot be searched out (vs 26). The rains come forth from the clouds, we see it and enjoy it but where do they come from? It is so easy to take for granted the things of everyday life but Elihu has the ability to convey the intricacies of day to day occurrences that we oftentimes never think about. In the midst of the rains and the clouds he sends forth the light and at times allows it to be covered and obscured by the clouds. Elihu is now warming up and one can easily sense the gravity and weight of his words. God is about to speak.
Paul is going to address the subject of authority and government. God does recognize authority and its structure both in the church and secular realms. How we respond to the authority structures that are placed over our lives says much about us. This authority structure is first seen in the functioning of the godhead. The Father is the pre-eminent one to whom both the Son and Holy Spirit relate and submit. The Son honours the Father and serves as an image of Him while upon earth. The Spirit helps to administrate the Kingdom while empowering and bringing attention and glory to the Son. The Holy Spirit has the same function in the way He works with us as believers as we are baptized into His person. You see God’s structure of authority in the home with the husband given the mandate to love his wife in the manner Christ loved the church. The wife then submits willingly to the headship of her husband’s authority because of being loved and secured under the covering of her husband. The children learn to honor their parents as they are taught and instructed in the ways of life as they develop into adults. This structure should then also be seen in business and other facets of life. In honouring authority we are honouring God because it is He who developed and authored it. This structure was violated at the fall of man which resulted in Satan making inroads in the distortion of authoritative structures. This is why we see abusive structures in place today. This can make it difficult in knowing how we are to respond when we are serving under unfair and burdensome authorities.
Jesus as the Son of man had to willingly submit and subject Himself to evil men. In doing this He was actually honouring His Father because He was fulfilling His will. This is the key thing to note. Jesus was ultimately submitting Himself to His Father when he subjected Himself to man. Why? It was because it was the will of the Father for His Son to go to Calvary to take on the sin of all mankind of which we are all beneficiaries. There will be times when God will bring authority figures into our lives that we are to submit to. Jacob had to serve under the unfair rule of his Uncle Laban. He was cheated, deceived and taken advantage of however it was God who allowed it. Jacob was ultimately submitting to God when serving under his deceiving boss. It produced a cleansing of deceit from his own life while preparing him for a new name and authority in the years to come. This is Paul’s exhortation in the first two verses of Rom 13. How do we view the authority figures that serve over our lives? Israel as a nation had to serve under the authority of Babylon. They were cruel taskmasters but it was God who ordained it. This was the message that Jeremiah was seeking to impress upon his people but to little avail. The key is to see God as sovereign and over all things.
There are times when we are to resist the directives of the state but they are usually at a time of great persecution. A good key and guide is to examine the Book of Daniel. Daniel and his three friends were presented with opportunities where they made a decision to defy the law of the land. Here is a brief review:
In Daniel 3 there was a law that all men had to bow down before the image of the king at a designated time. These three men were not ordinary; they were with Daniel when they made the decision to not defile themselves with the king’s meat or to delight in worldly dainties that would contaminate them (Dan 1:8). They were also intentional in seeking and fasting before God (Dan 1:12). God honoured them with wisdom, knowledge and understanding that exceeded all other men. At the time of chapter 3 they had already distinguished themselves. At the command to bow to the image they refused even at the risk to their lives. They were committed to God and would not violate conscience. We see the same with Daniel in chapter 6. A perverse law was written that would indict Daniel for praying openly in public. Daniel disregarded it because it was a man-made law constituted to prevent him from honouring God in his daily manner. In both cases Daniel and his three friends did not conform (Rom 12:2) to the world’s system of authority. In both cases God vindicated his chosen ones and brought them into greater favor. This is a true picture of what will be seen in the last days. We are to openly submit to the designated authorities placed over our lives but there will be times in the days to come when we must not conform to the world and its system by taking its mark. If we walk closely with God we will discern those times and have the grace available to stand like Daniel and his friends. Those days are drawing ever closer!
This teaching of Paul is causing a bit of consternation amongst the members of the audience and tour. This topic of submitting to authority is not totally clear to many; it does not make sense as to why we have to serve under certain kinds of authority. They don’t understand Paul’s explanation as to why Israel had to go into Babylon. They are also shaken when coming to know the decisive and life-threatening stand that Daniel and his three friends took. On the other hand there are some on the tour that clearly get it. They come away inspired more than ever to dare to be a Daniel and be like his three friends. They readily understand the 20 year period of servitude that Jacob gave to Laban. Is it any surprise to see these two opinions being derived from their respective approach to Romans 6-8? Those who took the narrow road understand the subject of authority that Paul is referring to; it is clear to them and easily understood. These same believers endeavour to have the conviction and ability to stand in the midst of persecution and trials to come as seen in Daniel. The by-pass crowd cannot nor choose to accept certain types of captivity. They struggle with Paul’s message of being subjected to higher authority and powers. They subscribe to serving under God and certain other areas of designed authority but struggle in coming to terms with the thought of the message of Babylon. It’s clear that there is only one group travelling together at this point but two very different levels or streams of spirituality.
The majority of this summary was primarily spent on the subject of understanding God’s structure of authority and how we are to function under it. Paul closes the chapter by reinforcing the importance of vigilance. Let’s remember that he wrote this about 2000 years ago so how much more today should we give heed? The night is far spent so how then shall we live? As Moses was entering his twilight years he prayed concerning vigilance and making the most of his opportunity; may we do likewise:
Psa 90:12 So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.