After lamenting his loss of place in chapters 29 and 30, Job, in what will be his closing statement, again calls up the word “integrity” to plead his cause: “Let me be weighed in a just balance, and let God know my integrity!” “If I have walked with falsehood and my foot has hastened to deceit…if my step has turned aside from the way and my heart has gone after my eyes…if I have raised my hand to the fatherless…if I have made gold my trust…let thorns grow instead of wheat, and foul weeds instead of barley.”
And then Job and his friends fall silent. One of the intriguing aspects of this book is the way information is handled. You know why Job has suffered. Job does not. Job’s friends don’t know what you know, nor do they know that Job is innocent.
And none of us knows – or at least no one acknowledges – that there is one more actor hiding just offstage. Elihu, like you, has been sitting in the corner listening. Waiting, like you, for resolution. The author has hidden him from view for reasons known only to him. Even more curious is the introduction that he receives. Listen to the opening of chapter 32:
So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. Then Elihu, son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, burned with anger. He burned with anger at Job because he justified himself rather than God. He burned with anger at Job’s three friends because they had found no answer, although they had declared Job to be in the wrong. Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job because they were older than he.
Before you read this in context, and hear what Elihu has to say, I want you to think about your initial inclination toward Elihu. What does the author present that makes you likely – or unlikely – to value what he says? The LORD has been silent for 30 chapters, so all options are on the table. Trust that the author knows what he’s doing, and dive in.
Our verse for this week is Luke 16:13: No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
Job 31 through 34. Now let’s read it!
Job 31 - 34
31:1 “I have made a covenant with my eyes;
how then could I gaze at a virgin?
What would be my portion from God above
and my heritage from the Almighty on high?
Is not calamity for the unrighteous,
and disaster for the workers of iniquity?
Does not he see my ways
and number all my steps?
“If I have walked with falsehood
and my foot has hastened to deceit;
(Let me be weighed in a just balance,
and let God know my integrity!)
if my step has turned aside from the way
and my heart has gone after my eyes,
and if any spot has stuck to my hands,
then let me sow, and another eat,
and let what grows for me be rooted out.
“If my heart has been enticed toward a woman,
and I have lain in wait at my neighbor's door,
then let my wife grind for another,
and let others bow down on her.
For that would be a heinous crime;
that would be an iniquity to be punished by the judges;
for that would be a fire that consumes as far as Abaddon,
and it would burn to the root all my increase.
“If I have rejected the cause of my manservant or my maidservant,
when they brought a complaint against me,
what then shall I do when God rises up?
When he makes inquiry, what shall I answer him?
Did not he who made me in the womb make him?
And did not one fashion us in the womb?
“If I have withheld anything that the poor desired,
or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail,
or have eaten my morsel alone,
and the fatherless has not eaten of it
(for from my youth the fatherless grew up with me as with a father,
and from my mother's womb I guided the widow),
if I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing,
or the needy without covering,
if his body has not blessed me,
and if he was not warmed with the fleece of my sheep,
if I have raised my hand against the fatherless,
because I saw my help in the gate,
then let my shoulder blade fall from my shoulder,
and let my arm be broken from its socket.
For I was in terror of calamity from God,
and I could not have faced his majesty.
“If I have made gold my trust
or called fine gold my confidence,
if I have rejoiced because my wealth was abundant
or because my hand had found much,
if I have looked at the sun when it shone,
or the moon moving in splendor,
and my heart has been secretly enticed,
and my mouth has kissed my hand,
this also would be an iniquity to be punished by the judges,
for I would have been false to God above.
“If I have rejoiced at the ruin of him who hated me,
or exulted when evil overtook him
(I have not let my mouth sin
by asking for his life with a curse),
if the men of my tent have not said,
‘Who is there that has not been filled with his meat?’
(the sojourner has not lodged in the street;
I have opened my doors to the traveler),
if I have concealed my transgressions as others do
by hiding my iniquity in my heart,
because I stood in great fear of the multitude,
and the contempt of families terrified me,
so that I kept silence, and did not go out of doors—
Oh, that I had one to hear me!
(Here is my signature! Let the Almighty answer me!)
Oh, that I had the indictment written by my adversary!
Surely I would carry it on my shoulder;
I would bind it on me as a crown;
I would give him an account of all my steps;
like a prince I would approach him.
“If my land has cried out against me
and its furrows have wept together,
if I have eaten its yield without payment
and made its owners breathe their last,
let thorns grow instead of wheat,
and foul weeds instead of barley.”
The words of Job are ended.
32:1 So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. Then Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, burned with anger. He burned with anger at Job because he justified himself rather than God. He burned with anger also at Job's three friends because they had found no answer, although they had declared Job to be in the wrong. Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job because they were older than he. And when Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, he burned with anger.
And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said:
“I am young in years,
and you are aged;
therefore I was timid and afraid
to declare my opinion to you.
I said, ‘Let days speak,
and many years teach wisdom.’
But it is the spirit in man,
the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand.
It is not the old who are wise,
nor the aged who understand what is right.
Therefore I say, ‘Listen to me;
let me also declare my opinion.’
“Behold, I waited for your words,
I listened for your wise sayings,
while you searched out what to say.
I gave you my attention,
and, behold, there was none among you who refuted Job
or who answered his words.
Beware lest you say, ‘We have found wisdom;
God may vanquish him, not a man.’
He has not directed his words against me,
and I will not answer him with your speeches.
“They are dismayed; they answer no more;
they have not a word to say.
And shall I wait, because they do not speak,
because they stand there, and answer no more?
I also will answer with my share;
I also will declare my opinion.
For I am full of words;
the spirit within me constrains me.
Behold, my belly is like wine that has no vent;
like new wineskins ready to burst.
I must speak, that I may find relief;
I must open my lips and answer.
I will not show partiality to any man
or use flattery toward any person.
For I do not know how to flatter,
else my Maker would soon take me away.
33:1 “But now, hear my speech, O Job,
and listen to all my words.
Behold, I open my mouth;
the tongue in my mouth speaks.
My words declare the uprightness of my heart,
and what my lips know they speak sincerely.
The Spirit of God has made me,
and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
Answer me, if you can;
set your words in order before me; take your stand.
Behold, I am toward God as you are;
I too was pinched off from a piece of clay.
Behold, no fear of me need terrify you;
my pressure will not be heavy upon you.
“Surely you have spoken in my ears,
and I have heard the sound of your words.
You say, ‘I am pure, without transgression;
I am clean, and there is no iniquity in me.
Behold, he finds occasions against me,
he counts me as his enemy,
he puts my feet in the stocks
and watches all my paths.’
“Behold, in this you are not right. I will answer you,
for God is greater than man.
Why do you contend against him,
saying, ‘He will answer none of man's words’?
For God speaks in one way,
and in two, though man does not perceive it.
In a dream, in a vision of the night,
when deep sleep falls on men,
while they slumber on their beds,
then he opens the ears of men
and terrifies them with warnings,
that he may turn man aside from his deed
and conceal pride from a man;
he keeps back his soul from the pit,
his life from perishing by the sword.
“Man is also rebuked with pain on his bed
and with continual strife in his bones,
so that his life loathes bread,
and his appetite the choicest food.
His flesh is so wasted away that it cannot be seen,
and his bones that were not seen stick out.
His soul draws near the pit,
and his life to those who bring death.
If there be for him an angel,
a mediator, one of the thousand,
to declare to man what is right for him,
and he is merciful to him, and says,
‘Deliver him from going down into the pit;
I have found a ransom;
let his flesh become fresh with youth;
let him return to the days of his youthful vigor’;
then man prays to God, and he accepts him;
he sees his face with a shout of joy,
and he restores to man his righteousness.
He sings before men and says:
‘I sinned and perverted what was right,
and it was not repaid to me.
He has redeemed my soul from going down into the pit,
and my life shall look upon the light.’
“Behold, God does all these things,
twice, three times, with a man,
to bring back his soul from the pit,
that he may be lighted with the light of life.
Pay attention, O Job, listen to me;
be silent, and I will speak.
If you have any words, answer me;
speak, for I desire to justify you.
If not, listen to me;
be silent, and I will teach you wisdom.”
34:1 Then Elihu answered and said:
“Hear my words, you wise men,
and give ear to me, you who know;
for the ear tests words
as the palate tastes food.
Let us choose what is right;
let us know among ourselves what is good.
For Job has said, ‘I am in the right,
and God has taken away my right;
in spite of my right I am counted a liar;
my wound is incurable, though I am without transgression.’
What man is like Job,
who drinks up scoffing like water,
who travels in company with evildoers
and walks with wicked men?
For he has said, ‘It profits a man nothing
that he should take delight in God.’
“Therefore, hear me, you men of understanding:
far be it from God that he should do wickedness,
and from the Almighty that he should do wrong.
For according to the work of a man he will repay him,
and according to his ways he will make it befall him.
Of a truth, God will not do wickedly,
and the Almighty will not pervert justice.
Who gave him charge over the earth,
and who laid on him the whole world?
If he should set his heart to it
and gather to himself his spirit and his breath,
all flesh would perish together,
and man would return to dust.
“If you have understanding, hear this;
listen to what I say.
Shall one who hates justice govern?
Will you condemn him who is righteous and mighty,
who says to a king, ‘Worthless one,’
and to nobles, ‘Wicked man,’
who shows no partiality to princes,
nor regards the rich more than the poor,
for they are all the work of his hands?
In a moment they die;
at midnight the people are shaken and pass away,
and the mighty are taken away by no human hand.
“For his eyes are on the ways of a man,
and he sees all his steps.
There is no gloom or deep darkness
where evildoers may hide themselves.
For God has no need to consider a man further,
that he should go before God in judgment.
He shatters the mighty without investigation
and sets others in their place.
Thus, knowing their works,
he overturns them in the night, and they are crushed.
He strikes them for their wickedness
in a place for all to see,
because they turned aside from following him
and had no regard for any of his ways,
so that they caused the cry of the poor to come to him,
and he heard the cry of the afflicted—
When he is quiet, who can condemn?
When he hides his face, who can behold him,
whether it be a nation or a man?—
that a godless man should not reign,
that he should not ensnare the people.
“For has anyone said to God,
‘I have borne punishment; I will not offend any more;
teach me what I do not see;
if I have done iniquity, I will do it no more’?
Will he then make repayment to suit you,
because you reject it?
For you must choose, and not I;
therefore declare what you know.
Men of understanding will say to me,
and the wise man who hears me will say:
‘Job speaks without knowledge;
his words are without insight.’
Would that Job were tried to the end,
because he answers like wicked men.
For he adds rebellion to his sin;
he claps his hands among us
and multiplies his words against God.”