Job 32-34 He justified himself rather than God

From Job 32-34

18 Job three friends

In a previous post Job made his summary defense and final appeal. He has nothing more to say. In today’s post another enters the conversation. His name is Elihu. I like to think of him as the ‘young gun’.

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

18 Job 32-34

32 So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes.

2 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. 3 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.

4 Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job because they were older than he. 5 And when Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, he burned with anger. (Job 32.1-5)

Job is righteous in his own eyes. They could not convince Job that he had sinned and deserved the punishment he had received. We know from the first few chapters that Job actually is upright and blameless before the LORD (Job 1.1,8). So these statements reflect Job’s position and his friends assumptions.

However since Job has suffered he has not put God in the right. He believes what has happened is unjust and blames God. So Elihu has a point.

6 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.

7 I said, ‘Let days speak, and many years teach wisdom.’

8 But it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand.

9 It is not the old who are wise, nor the aged who understand what is right.

10 Therefore I say, ‘Listen to me; let me also declare my opinion.’ (Job 32.6-10)

Elihu is going against social convention. Normally youth defer to the aged. But in this situation the aged have not spoken as they should. Elihu will not let this pass. Elihu says his understanding is from the Almighty so they should listen to him now.

11 “Behold, I waited for your words, I listened for your wise sayings, while you searched out what to say.

12 I gave you my attention, and, behold, there was none among you who refuted Job or who answered his words.

13 Beware lest you say, ‘We have found wisdom; God may vanquish him, not a man.’

14 He has not directed his words against me, and I will not answer him with your speeches. (Job 32.11-14)

Elihu respectfully waited for his elders to speak first. Elihu fears God is the only one who can speak to him, since these men have failed. This also prompts him to action.

15 “They are dismayed; they answer no more; they have not a word to say.

16 And shall I wait, because they do not speak, because they stand there, and answer no more?

17 I also will answer with my share; I also will declare my opinion.

18 For I am full of words; the spirit within me constrains me.

19 Behold, my belly is like wine that has no vent; like new wineskins ready to burst.

20 I must speak, that I may find relief; I must open my lips and answer.

21 I will not show partiality to any man or use flattery toward any person.

22 For I do not know how to flatter, else my Maker would soon take me away. (Job 32.15-22)

Elihu comments on Job’s three friends and how Job has refuted their accusations. Like Job, they have nothing more to say either. Once again Elihu firmly explains why he is speaking up.

The primary issue that seems to be motivating Elihu at this point is that Job has not put God in the right.

Elihu commends himself before Job and his friends. He summarises some of what Job has said to his first three friends. But he questions whether it is right for Job to contend with God. He then gives a lengthy description of God and his works. God knows things that mankind will never know.

God turns people away from their sins. He restores man to his righteousness. These men praise God for what he has done.

Elihu says this because he wants the same for Job. He wants to justify him (Job 33). Elihu like Job’s three friends believes Job has sinned and that’s why he has suffered as he did.

Elihu again recalls some of Job’s words. He questions how Job could say he is in the right and God has taken away his right. Elihu says all men will be repaid according to their works. God will not pervert justice. He does punish the wicked. He finishes the reading saying that Job answers like wicked men and multiplies words against God (Job 34).

Story of Jesus

Before Jesus died and rose again he also had something to say about men who justified themselves. This is similar to what Elihu is condemning Job for. He also justifies himself rather than God.

9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Lk 18:9–14)

Job may have been blameless and innocent in God’s eyes (Job 1.1,8). But he has not given due credit to God.

In some ways he has been similar to the Pharisee. The Pharisee only speaks about himself. But Job hasn’t gone so far as to criticise those who seek God’s mercy.

Learning from the examples of Job and Jesus’ parable, we need to remember to give glory to God.

He will be in the right despite whatever misgivings we may have. Beware making the same mistake as the Pharisee. If you have sinned, seek the LORD’s mercy as the Tax Collector.

Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2014. All Rights Reserved.