God’s greatness

“Listen just a little longer,” Elihu said, “because I’m coming to my point. What I tell you comes straight from the Source, praise be His name.

“Unlike your friends here, Job, I won’t attempt to vindicate God with unsound arguments. God is mighty as His understanding is mighty. How can anyone be low enough for him to despise?

“He’s an advocate for the poor, but that doesn’t mean he sustains the wicked. Just because he establishes kings doesn’t mean he forsakes the godly in favor of the unjust monarch.

“Your friends called you a hypocrite because of your affliction. I tell you, your affliction is a warning against your obvious arrogance. If you humble yourself, will you not be far richer in wisdom for it?

“The godless have no god to help in their affliction. But God delivers the afflicted in their very affliction. In other words, he pierces the heart through adversity.

“God would lure you out of your predicament, but you’re preoccupied with judgment and justice.

“I warn you, don’t let anger cause you to fall into bitterness, because no ransom whatsoever will be enough to win you back.”

Bildad said, “He said he wanted to die anyway. What does it matter?”

Elihu turned to Bildad. “It matters because death is no teacher.”

“Are you saying Job should embrace his torment?” Bildad asked.

“Is there a greater teacher than his torment? Your mistake, Job, was to presume to tell God how He should respond to you, a mortal man. Instead, make it an unbreakable rule to magnify God’s might in all His works.

Consider how the clouds form from thin air and pour rain here or there. He chooses to withhold these rains on a whim. Can you stand up against the powers that hold back sky oceans?”

No one said anything for several minutes. The cock had crowed during Elihu’s pronouncements, and the sun lighted the distant fields, eerily empty of life. Surrounding Job and his company was the remnant rubble of his settlement, a morbid reminder of a great prosperity now lost.

There was nary a hint of cloud in the sky.

Inspiration: Job 36

God’s justice

After a few moments of stunned silence, Elihu, ancestor of Nahor, continued.

“The ear considers words like the tongue tastes food. Together, let the four of us determine what is good.

“Job, you plead a compelling case of blamelessness, but you take credit in vindicating yourself. In doing so, you’ve essentially agreed with the wicked by claiming there’s no value in delighting in God. When you say you’ve kept yourself clean in vain, in fact, you’ve offended God.

“You claim that the wicked go unpunished. Perhaps worse, you claim that you’re sinless yet punished.

“God is perfect Justice. Can a governor hate justice? God can do no wrong, for He is Shaddai, the Almighty. No one appointed Him to a court position. No one handed down a law book so He would know how to properly fan out the canvass of stars over the land and seas between the four pillars.

“If God decided to breathe in and take His Spirit back into Himself, all flesh would turn again to dust. Get it?

“In your discontent, you condemned God’s judicial proceedings.

“Will you also condemn a righteous man who calls a king a scoundrel? Would you condemn a righteous judge who shows no partiality between a noble man and a common slave?

“We’re all God’s creation, and we all die. His eyes watch our every step. There’s no place for the wicked to hide on the last day.

“He doesn’t have to deliberate long before His judgment is handed down.

“He obliterates the wealthy in the their nocturnal haven without a thought, because He knows them as He knows Himself. With onlookers gaping in horror, He strikes them down in their wickedness.

“The rich man amasses wealth by the blood and sweat of oppression, and the cries of the poor reach God’s ears.

“But if God remains silent while the innocent die of starvation, are you going to condemn Him? Can even an entire host of nations stand against Him if He chooses to remain hidden?

“What if you considered your punishment and sorrow as proof of our common trait of some hidden sin? I wish you could humble yourself enough to say, ‘God, show me what I don’t see in myself, so I may correct my ways and live.’ He wants you to be humble, not feel guilty.

“You think you’ve been tested to the limit. Don’t tempt God to press further. You heap rebellion upon your stain of sin, multiplying God’s justification against you.”

Zophar interrupted and said, “Job told us earlier, in the lamplight of his tent, that the wicked go unpunished, and that they jeer, ‘who is this God, and why should we obey Him?’”

Elihu turned again to Job, a look of disgust impossible to hide.

“And by saying such things,” Elihu condemned Job, “you’ve admitted that you’d be better off having followed the ways of the wicked.”

“I asked him,” Eliphaz interjected, “if he actually thought God can be affected by his righteousness.”

Elihu laughed.

“Look how high the clouds float above us,” he pointed at the breaking of dawn’s sky. “Eliphaz is right. What good is your righteousness to a God who’s higher than the clouds we cannot touch? For that matter, what harm would come to God if you sinned?

“Your wickedness or righteousness is a matter between those of us on the ground. And the oppressed don’t get an answer because, instead of humbly seeking God and trusting in His timeline, the suffering one, even you, Job, is quick to call for justice because of their evil pride. We don’t need justice. We need mercy!

“God can’t hear an empty cry, that is, a cry for justice. How much less will he hear the haughty case you’ve laid before Him. And as you wait for an answer, you dare to regard his slowness to anger as a license to sin.

“Job, by your mouth. you’ve opened up for yourself a gaping pit.”

Inspiration: Job 34, 35

Elihu’s appearing

The three companions wandered aimlessly in the yard around as the last embers of the campfire cooled into dust. They were dumbstruck by the confidence of Job.

Unbeknownst to Job or the others, Elihu, who had traveled all the way from Buz, had kept himself hidden behind a shrub of pomegranate. The son of Barachel, he was an ancestor of Nahor, Abraham’s brother.

He wore a ram insignia on his breast, woven of intricate needlework. His cloak and turban were pristine white.

Elihu seethed with anger at everything he had heard come from Job’s mouth. Neither were Job’s companions vindicated, because they convicted Job without evidence.

The young man stepped out of dawn’s shadows. He had held his tongue up until this moment out of respect.

“I’m young,” he began, “and you’re old.”

Job and the others turned in the direction of the newcomer’s voice.

“I was afraid to say anything, knowing the opinion of a child falls on deaf ears. ‘Let experience speak,’ I thought as I listened to your rants. The longer I listened, the more I realized old age doesn’t make a person right, and understanding doesn’t come from experience. It’s the Spirit within man, the breath of God Most High that brings enlightenment.

“I’m a new wineskin without a vent, full of wine and ready to explode, so listen. I speak without bias or flattery. I’m wise enough to know flattery can get you killed.”

Job rested himself against a large stone near the opening of his tent and waited for the young man to relieve himself from whatever he had to say. Could he be an advocate, one who has come to vindicate him?

Elihu approached the pitiful shell of a man covered in sores and racked with grief and fatigue.

“Job,” he said, “I speak sincerely, from my heart. The Spirit of God made me, and His breath gave me life. I’m inclined toward God just like you, for I know I’m nothing but a pinch of clay from his fingers. Don’t fear anything I have to say, because I’m on your side.

“You say you’re without sin, yet God has made you his enemy. Let me explain how you’re wrong. Simply stated: God is wholly other than us.

“The very act of contending against him is ludicrous. You say, ‘God doesn’t answer me,’ and yet he answers in multiple ways without our comprehension.

“Have you noticed when we dream, God often opens our ears with warnings? He uses our deep sleep as a way to enlighten us so that we can make a better choice when we wake. He saves us from the grave and from death by the sword.

“He also corrects us through aches and pains. Lying sick in bed, when we can’t stand the sight of rich foods, or even bread, and our ribs show through our skin, this is a great opportunity to rest in God.

“When a man’s soul draws close to death and a Watcher mediates mercifully on his behalf and whispers the right word, saying, ‘Get him out of the pit and let vigor return to his body, for I have found the ransom,’ this is when a man prays to God and accepts Him. These are the conditions in which a person sees the face of God in joy, and God restores their righteousness.

“The sinner shouts in public, ‘I perverted the good, yet I’ve been spared! My soul is redeemed and now I gaze upon the light.’ His testimony is a witness for others to think twice before falling into mischief.

“God does this two, even three times for the one who sins, so he might have the light of life.

“Job, listen. Or if you wish to add something, feel free, because all I want is to set you free. Otherwise, hold your tongue so I can teach you wisdom without interruption.”

Inspiration: Job 32, 33