This is the 7th part of the Job series. (Wow- its been 7 already!) This one ties in directly with our last chat about Job’s mean friends, so much so, that I wanted to get it out fairly quickly. Click HERE for the last post or catch up on all of them by searching the Categories for ‘Job Series’.
Job’s three friends — Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar have debated faith and righteousness for 9 chapters. They’ve been bantering for days.
Eliphaz said in 15:4* “Look at you! You trivialize religion, turn spiritual conversation into empty gossip. It’s your sin that taught you to talk this way.”
Zophar said in 11:12 * “He sees through vain pretensions, spots evil a long way off… Hollow men will wise up about the same time mules learn to talk.”
And Bildad said in 18:21* “So this is what happens to perverse people. This is how the God-ignorant end up!”
But if that didn’t cut to Job’s very heart, Elihu made sure to get it done.
Elihu’s name means “He is my God”. And can I just set the scene a little? The Bible doesn’t tell us where Elihu came from or when he arrived at this little chat around the ash pile; it only tells us that he’d been silent throughout the discourse thus far. He didn’t speak up until his elders finished talking. This guy was younger than Job, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. I imagine him good looking, well groomed and perhaps he’s even a trust-fund baby because he was NOT lacking in confidence. In fact, He was down-right prideful and angry. (Job 32:1-5). He gave an entire dissertation throughout SIX chapters. SIX. And at first count, he says TWELVE times: “Listen to me, I know”.
Job’s one request throughout this book is to encounter God, to simply meet with the Almighty about what is happening in his life. So Elihu pipes up in his long-windedness and says he can do that for Job. He says in Job 33:5: “Answer me then, if you can, stand up and argue your case before me.” (Tell me that isn’t pride.)
Is your stomach churning yet?
Elihu goes on. Seriously.
He says these things to Job: “I want to vindicate you” (33:32), “There is a bit more to be said on God’s behalf” (36:2), and “One who has perfect knowledge is with you” (36:4). Can you see his puffed up chest?
Elihu, like Satan himself, flaunted his knowledge of God, boasting of it even, and then coats it with pompous worship.
As I read Elihu’s words over and over and over, I began to weep, the kind of weeping so deep there aren’t tears – just a gut wrenching cramp that pulls you into a ball. Elihu took the stabbing words of the other three and began twisting the knife in Job’s gut. As if to say, “Job, you are not enough. You are not righteous enough, you are not worthy enough, you are not pure enough, you are not loved enough, to warrant the attention of the most high God.”
Fifteen chapters of “you are not enough”.
Sealed with this:
“Oh, that Job might be tested to the utmost for answering like a wicked man! To his sin he adds rebellion; scornfully he claps his hands among us and multiplies his words against God.” Job 34:36-37
“The godless in heart harbor resentment; even when he fetters them, they do not cry for help.” Job 36:13
“The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power… Therefore, people revere him, for he does not have regard for the wise in heart.” Job 37:24
The shovels raised, the smell of burnt ash and dirt mixed with the words — “give up, cause God could care less about you.”
I don’t know about you, but I’ve heard those same lies. They are whispered in my ear whenever circumstances are the complete opposite of my faith declarations. Whenever I find myself staring at the hard place of reality while barely holding shreds of hope – these words come steam rolling through my brain: “You aren’t worth hope, and this is proof that God can’t hear and doesn’t care.”
Isn’t it just like the Devil to take your worn down soul and stab just a little deeper with your worst fear, your fear of never being enough, never being seen or heard, never being loved?
Job had answered the other three friends’ accusations. He responded to their mockery, their jabs and their appeals. But before Job can catch his breath after this prideful, hopeless, angry speech; before Job is forced to respond to that overwhelming fear — God responds.
Out of this crazy storm, at the very place it feels the most barren and desolate, God speaks.
When God spoke to Job the storm was still raging. The waves were still rocking the boat. The wind was still whipping at his face. Job had to listen in the midst of the deepest anguish, the gushing pain, the most offended place.
I wonder, when we are down to the very bottom of the ash pile, when there is not a single word left and the tears have all dried up. When we have no explanation, no rebuttal, no formula… I wonder if that is the point of the most glorious whisper?
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.” John 10:27
* scriptures linked to Voice version, quoted from Message version.
pictures from Flickr – Creative Commons