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27th May

Job 32-34; Psalm 142

Bible in a Year
5 minutes
In this article
27th May

Job 32-34; Psalm 142

Bible in a Year
5 minutes


So far in Job we’ve read through the prologue, the three rounds of speeches, and Job's final monologue. We read as Job was exalted as a model example of a righteous man. God held court with his divine beings and heard reports, including the report of the satan (think of this as a job title, rather than the big, bad guy of the Bible). The satan asked the question, was Job genuinely righteous and faithful or was he just behaving that way because God was blessing him?

So God put this theory to the test, removing all of his blessing and favour from Job and leaving him alone and with a body full of sores. But despite all this, Job didn't sin or turn from God. He did, however, lament his situation, crying out that it would be better if he hadn't been born, and asking God why he won't just let him die. To begin with, Job’s friends chose to sit with him and mourn with him.

But then they started to rebuke him, leading to the first round of speeches. Eliphaz started off gentle, praising Job for his past wisdom and pointing out that God is just and punishes the wicked. Either Job is innocent and God will rescue him, or he is guilty and deserves what he gets. Bildad claimed that Job's children must have been wicked, and that's why they were punished. He argued that we can see that those close to God flourish and those far from him suffer.

Zophar then jumped in to accuse Job of mocking God, saying that Job should be grateful because he deserves worse than what God is currently doing. Responding to them in turn and then as a whole, Job argued that he has every right to bring his case before God. God will do what he will do and Job is willing to accept that, as long as can speak to God himself. All these friends want to do is correct Job and hold on to the box they’ve put in God. They don’t want to comfort him or challenge their own assumptions about how God works.

This started round two of speeches, where the friends got harsher. They doubled down and what they've already said and explicitly blamed all the bad things happening to Job on Job and his children's wickedness. The friends wanted to hold on to their narrow, dogmatic understanding of God, while Job is wrestling with the nuance that comes from lived experience. For round three, Eliphaz started making up sins he assumed Job has committed, Bildad defaults back to God can do what he wants so deal with it, and Zophar doesn't even speak.

Job then started his monologue where he wrestles with the nuance that God does sometimes support the righteous and punish the wicked. But sometimes he doesn't. He also declared that wisdom can only come directly from God. Job grieved his old life that was gone and his new life that is full of suffering. One last time, he called out to God to hear him and point out any sins in him, and then Job stopped talking.

Job 32-34

Before God enters the scene, one more friend enters the conversation. Elihu is younger than Job and the other three friends. He waited to hear what they had to say before speaking. He's angry at Job because he feels like Job has mocked and discredited God, and he's angry at the friends for not being able to answer Job properly. So Elihu decides to enter the discussion and put the world to rights.

There is an arrogance and self-righteousness in Elihu's response. He makes a big deal that it is not someone's age that makes them wise, but God's spirit in them. He challenges Job's friends for not having the right words to say. In contrast, he claims to be fit to burst with wisdom and the spirit to answer these questions. Elihu takes a full chapter to introduce himself and doesn't really say much. Already we have the impression of a puffed up youth that believes he has a lot more wisdom than he really does.

Elihu then turns to Job and demands that he listen. Elihu boasts that he is right with God and that he is about to speak words of wisdom directly from God's spirit. But he encourages Job not to fear him. He won't be too harsh. Can you get a sense of the arrogance and pride that is rolling off this young man? He summarises Job's position for him. Job has claimed his innocence, and that God has made him an enemy.

Elihu argues that Job is wrong. Job has said that God has not responded to his question, but Elihu points out that God talks in many different ways. He can speak in dreams to terrify someone away from their sin. Or sometimes God strikes someone with sickness to punish them. Or maybe God will send one of his angels down. The point is there are many ways God is speaking. Maybe Job is just not listening. Elihu argues that the reason God does all this is to keep people from sin. These things are not punishment, they're teaching opportunities to help people learn the error of their ways.

Next, Elihu asserts God's justice. Throughout his speeches, Job has appealed to God's justice, asking God to restore him because he is innocent. Unfortunately, all of Job's friends, including Elihu, saw this as Job challenging God's justice. Elihu points out that Job has claimed to be innocent, when in fact he is just as bad as the wicked and the mockers. God, in contrast, can do no wrong. He has complete power and authority over the earth. He has the right to whatever he wants. If God decides he wants to take his spirit and his blessing back, he can do so, and watch as all the earth is returned to dust.

In the same way that most people would never dare go to a king and tell them they're doing a poor job leading a nation, how can anyone go to God and tell him he's ruling the earth wrong? God does not need to seek others for advice, nor does he have to justify himself. If he chooses not to respond to Job's questions, that is God's choice. Elihu rejects Job's claim that he has done nothing wrong, and just needs God to point out what his sin. For Elihu, Job's wickedness is clear for everyone to see, and Job needs to recognise and address this first before he has any hope of God responding to him.

Psalm 142

This psalm is attributed to king David and falls into the category of lament psalm.

Psalm 142:1-2 - I cry to the Lord

Psalm 142:3-4 - I am faint and no one cares

Psalm 142:5-7 - Rescue me O Lord

The psalmist starts with their cry to the Lord. They are bringing their complaints and struggles to the Lord. Their spirit is faint, and people have laid traps for the psalmist. When the psalmist looks around to the right and left they see no one on their side. No one notices, no one protects them, and no one cares.

Because of this, the psalmist cries to the Lord, for the Lord is their refuge. They ask the Lord to hear their cry and rescue them from the persecutors. They long to be brought out of this prison so that they will live to give thanks to the Lord and may be surrounded by others who are righteous and follow the Lord.

This is a psalm of a someone who feels alone in their pursuit of God and longs to be rescued and set in a community of others who will pursue God.

Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.

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