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Reflections on the Book of Job: Part 2
Elihu: The Transcendence of God
(Added: Reflections on Righteousness)
1. We find Job standing on his own righteousness, throughout the Book, barring the last three chapters. Indeed the Bible comments: 'He was righteous in his own eyes.' Job 32:1. And this is the problem that arises with legal righteousness, or the righteousness that comes from the law. Paul himself in Philippians 3:6 says, 'As to the righteousness which is in the Law, I was found blameless.' And Paul rejects such righteousness, saying 'That I may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith', Phil 3:9.
1b. Some of us may ask, 'But Job lived before the Law! The Law came with Moses. So how can you talk about legal righteousness?' It is true that Job was a patriarch, but the patriarchs lived by a moral law. It is stated clearly that Job feared God and departed from evil. In chapter 31 Job gives several evidences of his practical righteousness. He challenges his friends (or anyone) to show where he had sinned. (Knowledge of sin comes not merely from conscience, but from the law.) Job was one who, like Abraham, walked before God. He was morally upright and blameless.
2. While Job stands on his own righteousness, Elihu steps into the discourse by emphasizing the righteousness of God. Elihu speaks in 6 chapters, from Ch 32 to Ch 37. And, straightaway, we find these words written: 'Against Job his anger burned because he justified himself before God.' 32:2. I believe that the words of Elihu are a key to understanding the Book of Job.
3. Elihu says, 'Behold, let me tell you, Job, you are not right in this, for God is GREATER than man.' 33:12. 'God is far greater than man' - that speaks of the transcendence of God.'Why do you complain against Him that He does not give an account of all His doings?' 33:13. 'He does not give an account of all His doings', or 'He does as He pleases' - does that not speak ofthe sovereignty of God?
4. There are many things that happen in our lives, painful things, losses and sorrows, which God does not explain.Should we thereby become bitter against God? Alas, many do become bitter against God. But that is the test we must pass. We must hold on to God, despite His not explaining His painful, mysterious ways in our lives.
5. But, shall I tell you a secret? In all the trials that we have been through, is it not a fact that, rather than we holding on to God, it is God who is holding on to us? Somehow, we have given up! We have thrown up our hands! But in a marvellous way, He has kept us from falling and has carried us through. For 'underneath are the everlasting arms'! Deut 33:27. That, beloved, is transcendent grace!
6. Elihu makes it clear that 'Far be it from God to do wickedness.' 'Surely, God will not act wickedly, and the Almighty will not pervert justice.' Job 34:12. Let us be very clear on this issue. God will never pervert justice. He is the Righteous Judge of all the earth! But do we not see so much mindless suffering; there are victims of terrible violence who have gone with great anguish into the grave. Many bear the scars on their body, and others the scars, unhealed, in their heart. What shall we say about this? Is God unjust? Is God blind to the terrible injustice that prevails on earth?
7. There is a Day of Judgment. Job calls it the Day of calamity, the Day of fury (of God's wrath), Job 21:30. All accounts will be settled on that day. It is a Day of Justice. Our God is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him! Isa 30:18. He is the God who wipes away the tears from the eyes. He knows what suffering is; He was Himself a victim of mindless violence, terrible rage. He carries the scars of the Cross on His body, even in His glorified state.
8. Elihu clinches the issue when he asks Job: 'Do you say, My righteousness is more than God's?' 35:2. How can you say that, Job, knowing that God is transcendent? Elihu is determined to ascribe righteousness to his Maker (36:3).
9. He then makes a remark that should enlighten us as to the meaning of the inward cross: 'God delivers the afflicted in their affliction, and OPENS THEIR EAR in time of oppression (or adversity).' 36:15. 'Who is a teacher like Him?' 36:22. God uses sufferings and trials to teach us, instruct us, and make us humble.
10. Again and again, Elihu makes it clear that God is transcendent. Listen: 'Behold, God is exalted, and we do not know Him; the number of His years is unsearchable.' 36:26. Elihu says we do not know Him. But in the New Testament, we find Paul, on the other hand, expressing his longing to know Him. And how? 'That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings...' Phil 3:10. Knowing God is through the inward experience of the cross. It is knowing 'Christ, and Him crucified' (1 Cor 2:2) in a subjective way.
11. Elihu says flatly, 'God does great things which we cannot comprehend.' 37:5. He concludes: 'The Almighty – we cannot find Him; He is exalted in power, and He will do no violence to justice and abundant righteousness.'
12. Elihu concludes: 'God does not regard any who are wise of heart.' Honestly, we know very little of God. It would take eternity to know Him. Therefore, it is dangerous to find fault with God on the basis of our limited, finite and faulty human understanding.
13. Notice how God Himself speaks. 'Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty?' 40:2. God brings Job's argument to naught, when He says: 'Will you condemn Me that you may be justified?' 40:8. How can we find fault with God? We know very little of His ways. He is transcendent, way beyond us! ('Exalted' is the word Elihu uses.)
14. It is so easy to find fault with Job, but who has suffered the way he did? The problem with Job was that his life was circumscribed by the Law. He belongs to the Old Testament age. Though there are flashes of prophetic insight in his discourses, we find that Job's thinking was confined to the Law with its limitations. Yes, Job was blameless, upright, fearing God and eschewing evil. He was one commended by God. Yet there is one aspect lacking: the deeper understanding of God's transcendent grace! That understanding has come to us in the New Testament age through the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
15. Further, that lack, honestly speaking, is not in Job. For he maintained his integrity throughout that great and terrible trial; his faith never failed. He never renounced God, though he was dangerously close to censuring Him! And he did believe that God would surely vindicate him!
16. The lack is in us. Few of us have been able to appreciate the marvellous riches of God's amazing grace. We are so caught up in our second-hand life, living a Christianity that is more mental than spiritual, and so lacking in the deep and direct experience of the cross, that we are unable to say emphatically and in a heart-felt way: 'His mercy is everlasting!' Psalm 136. We are so obsessed with our doctrines and creeds, and the superiority of our particular brand of faith, that we are unable to say: 'It is only by the grace of God I am what I am!' 1 Cor 15:10. Few, if any, of us are able to fathom Paul saying, 'I am foremost of all sinners.' 1 Tim 1:15. In many ways, we are shallow like Job's friends.
17. You see, the problem of self-righteousness is not so much with Job. The problem of self-righteousness is with us. It is the problem of a cheap and shallow gospel that plagues the Christian world and has led to a complete ignorance of Christ. Like Job, we need to come into the deep experience of the cross in order to know God and Christ.
© Roland N Oliver/Pratonix
The first part of this hub is at http://hubpages.com/hub/Thoughts-on-the-Book-of-Job-Part-1 and is worth reading also.