Skip to main content
28th May

Job 35-37; Psalm 143

Bible in a Year
7 minutes
In this article
28th May

Job 35-37; Psalm 143

Bible in a Year
7 minutes


So far in Job we’ve read through the prologue, the three rounds of speeches, and Job's final monologue, and started Elihu's speech. 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 on 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. 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.

Elihu then joined the conversation. Younger than the rest, we got a sense of Elihu's puffed up pride. He rebukes Job for his complaints and the friends for not being able to answer Job. After spending a lot of time not saying much, he starts to build an argument that sometimes God allows people to suffer. Not to punish them, but to keep them from sinning.

Job 35-37

Looking at Elihu's early arguments, it would seem that Elihu doesn't see God as personal. In his view, God is this objective law bringer, who sees all humanity as wicked and so allows everyone to go through suffering so that everyone might learn better. But this poses the question, if God sees everyone as wicked, and allows everyone to go through suffering, what difference does it make if I sin?

This is the question that Elihu tries to answer next, and he doesn't really come up with an answer. Elihu asks the question in multiple different ways before answering. In his opinion, the only thing your sin affects is you and the people around you. In short, it has no effect on God. The problem is this undermines Elihu's earlier arguments. If Job's sin has no effect on God, then it doesn't matter if Job complains to God about his situation.

Next, Elihu tries to answer the question, why does God not always answer prayer? Again, his answer isn't particularly helpful. He claims that God has no interest in 'empty' prayers (Job 35:13). Rather than an explanation of why God doesn't answer prayers, this is more of an attack on Job, and what Elihu thinks of his prayers.

Elihu's next argument is much more nuanced and mature. Ironically, it also justifies Job's stance. To sum it up, Elihu is arguing that God is great and mighty, and moments like this are opportunities to learn more about him. When difficult times come, you can pull on them to draw you closer to God to better understand him, or you can push against them, moving you further away from God. The important thing is not the situation you are going through, but how you respond to it.

Elihu mentions how God is mighty and does great things. Those that 'listen and serve him' will prosper, but those that 'do not listen' will perish (Job 36:11-12). Those that are godless allow themselves to become angry and bitter. But those that seek God allow him to open the ears so they might hear and understand.

Elihu then turns to Job to challenge and encourage him. Remember, as far as Elihu is concerned, Job's complaints are an overflow of Job's angry and bitter response to God. He can't see that Job's complaints are actually the opposite. They are the overflow of Job's desire to draw closer to God and better understand him. And so Elihu encourages Job to do the very thing he is already trying to do, to draw near to God and learn from this situation, and to declare God's authority and power.

Elihu ends with a chapter on God's majesty. He describes God's voice as like the roar of thunder. He sends snow and directs humans and animals alike. He is the God of the weather, sending whirlwinds, ice, and clouds. Elihu invites Job to marvel and God's great power. He then ends in a peaceful place. He opened the chapter with thunder, lightning, snow, and whirlwinds. God is a just and righteous God. Men should submit to him in fear and humility.

On a whole, Elihu's points have not been too bad. He has done a much better job than the other friends of painting a more nuanced picture of God and the question of wickedness. There were a couple of times he tripped himself up with his own logic, but we can chalk these up to the fact that he's young.

The main mistake he made was choosing to push his point of view, rather than comforting Job. Elihu and the other friends' focus was to prove themselves theologically correct and show Job that they knew better. Not one of them was willing to just be there to comfort him and care for him, despite the fact he is going through the worst case of grief and loss anyone could ever experience. When the people around us are hurting, are we able to comfort them, or are we too much like Job's friends, trying to explain away and box up people's pain?

Psalm 143

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

Psalm 143:1-4 - Initial request and complaint

Psalm 143:5-6 - I remember you

Psalm 143:7-10 - Answer me, teach me, and rescue me

Psalm 143:11-12 - Final request

The psalmist starts with a call to the Lord to hear them for he is faithful and righteous. They ask that the Lord no judge them for their sins. No one can stand before the Lord and be righteous. The psalmist then turns to their main complaint. Their enemies pursue them, seeking to kill and bury them. The psalmist has grown tired of it all. Their spirit is faint.

Then we move to trust. The psalmist remembers all that the Lord has done for them and holds tightly to them. Because of this, they reach out to the Lord like one thirsty for a drink. They ask the Lord to answer them quickly. They want to see the Lord’s face and to hear his voice. The psalmist asks for the Lord’s teaching and guidance. To rescue them from their enemies, but also teach them how to live well.

And so the psalmist ends with their final request. Because the Lord is righteous and loving, may he preserve their life and destroy their enemies. Like the last few psalms, which the psalmist is facing attacks from their enemies, they also look inside at what might be the problem. They ask the Lord to be gracious and not judge them for their sins, and then ask that he teach them to live righteously.

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.

Share this article