When a prophetic ambassador speaks he does not demand that men be machines, accepting what is said without carefully weighing the message against the Scriptures. God wants us to hear and even to test the words of those who say they speak for Him, and then to choose what is right. Job’s problem was not in critiquing the advice of his friends. He was right to reject their messages. Where Job seems to have erred was in suggesting that he could actually judge God’s righteousness. It is one thing to weigh the words of a prophet. It is another to think that we could ever have the capacity to judge God Himself, and to find Him lacking in righteousness. The first is commendable. The second is sin.
When Job says that he is in the right, there is something true about what he is asserting. Particularly when compared with the righteousness of his friends, Job is good. Where he veers away from propriety is when he says, “God has taken away my right,” as if to bring an accusation against the Almighty. Is Job claiming to be superior in righteousness to the Being who is the source and definition of unchanging justice? If not, how can Job seem to judge God?
Elihu’s goal is not merely to accuse Job, but to help him by redirecting him to thoughts of the greatness of God. This is what we really need to do, though we may not always be ready (or perhaps even able) to take in this good medicine. Our experience of the Almighty will not consistently lift us up. Feelings change. It is God Himself who never changes. The contemplation of God is very different than the contemplation of our experience of God. Let us hear about God. Let us sing about God. Let us think about God. This is the redirection we need, away from our pain, away from injustice, away from what others have accused us of, and toward only God.
If Job is tempted to judge the righteousness of God, it would be far better for him to consider the unchanging justice of the Lord which belongs to God forever, a justice that is beyond our judging, but not entirely beyond our meditation. This is what the Lord’s prophet Elihu brings before Job, by the power of the Holy Spirit. We should not try this on our own as if a theology lecture to suffering friends is always the right thing to do. God is speaking through His instrument Elihu. We can take this good Word into our hearts through the Scriptures, asking that God would fill us with His Spirit and help us in our distress.
Can we listen to words of God’s justice? God never does anything wicked. He knows every man, He sees the way a man gives to the poor, and He will repay him. There is no one above God who gave God control of the world. He has the capability to end everything in a moment. What would be left of us if God did that right now?
God is not only righteous, but also mighty. Who will challenge Him? No man could ever stand up to the Lord. We die, and He is eternal. He made us. We did not make Him. There are many powerful men on the earth, but let’s not look at them. We should gaze at the One who cannot be seen. He can see us. He sees our steps, and He judges rightly. There is no hiding from God. Imagine that: God never needs to conduct an investigation in order to know the facts about a person. We are immediately before Him. He uses this knowledge to take action, taking down the arrogant whenever He wills. If God is quiet, it is not that His eye has been distracted by a subtle enemy. If a godless man reigns, if an enemy should bring trouble upon His people, no one crying out to God brings Him news of which He is unaware. Does it seem that He is not moving fast enough to save? How should we evaluate this disappointment? Which is more likely? That God has made a mistake in His timing, or that something is indeed happening that we do not understand?
Is God going to apologize to Job for what has taken place in this good man’s life? Does that seem like the best thing for God to do? Does God have to give us what we want once we are finished with what we think His discipline should be in any situation? Who can say to God, “I think I have had enough now. This would be a good time to restore to me what affliction has taken away.” Who can teach God what measure of comfort would be right for us, or when precisely one of His beloved saints needs to face more of the troubles of this world?
People are saying that Job speaks without insight. Maybe they know something, or maybe they don’t. But God does know. It is this God who is working out His eternal purpose in Christ. This God sees the events that cut like jagged edges in our hearts, those things that even a man must point to as “wrong.” Yet it is God alone who knows what is necessary for sin to be put away through the suffering of His Son. No one else can turn away from the horror of seeing the cross, and say to God, “Enough already!” God must tear the curtain in the Holy of Holies from top to bottom, and Christ alone is able to say, “It is finished.” God knows when our present affliction will be over, and He has promised us that though “weeping may tarry for the night, joy comes with the morning.”
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Father, there is so much about You that is so very right and very good. What a joy it is to contemplate Your greatness. There is no wickedness in You. You will repay man according to his ways at just the right time. You love justice. You are righteous in everything that You think and do. Your knowledge is perfect, and Your ways are always right. You do not need to hear the testimony of any man, for You already know all things, and all of Your judgments are perfect. You do not need to repay anything to man as if You owed anything to anyone. We humble ourselves before You. We hate every rebellious thought that we once cherished. You alone are God and we worship You.