First of all, let me apologize to my readers for having skipped yesterday. Sometimes there aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done. I’ll try to make sure they don’t happen very often.
The argument between Job and his friends is crescendoing into its peak and in it are a lot of interesting things being said. Here we are introduced to one more “friend”, Elihu, who claims to speak for God, and like some preachers we might know is a little lengthy in his sermon — wrong as it ultimately is. But he speaks up because Job has fairly effectively shut down the other guys (32:1,2) by (chapt. 31) specifying his righteous behavior and challenging his “friends” to prove him guilty in any of the things he lists. Elihu is younger than the other men and brasher and full of vinegar in his attempt to “break” Job. Let’s begin today by looking at some of the things that Job can teach us in his list of his righteousness.
Have I eaten my morsel alone? — Job understood real stewardship. Righteousness is not just about giving to the poor; it is about generosity. I know people, perhaps you do, too, who believe that good stewardship is all about preservation. They believe that good stewardship, for example is primarily about large bank accounts for the church, a pristine church building, and being very careful with the budget. And certainly wild spending, deliberate abuse of things God has given, and failing to budget at all is ungodly. But good stewardship is hardly at all about preservation; it’s about using what God has given in ways that God approves! The whole point of the parable of the talents is about how poor a steward the preservationist 1 talent man really was, because he simply preserved rather than properly used. Generosity toward the poor is part of using the gifts God has placed into our hands in way a way that He would approve of. Job wasn’t a miser, hoarding the good that God had given into His hand just for himself. His opponents knew what a good steward, what a generous man, what a giver Job was and they couldn’t mount an argument against him. And God will see us as righteous if we move beyond preservationism and on toward true generosity and proper use of the good things God has given us.
Have I put my confidence in gold? — This verse is part of a larger passage in which Job was really talking about idolatry — did you notice? And he is lumping materialism in with throwing a kiss to the sun or moon (gods in the Mesopotamian world: Shamash and Sin). Why? Because materialism puts its trust in riches — a denial of God above (31:28). It’s an Old Testament version of Colossians 3:5, “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.” Even though Job had been rich, he had never trusted in those riches; that’s why he was able to say, “The has given and the Lord has taken away”; he knew they were transient and limited in power. God on the other hand, is immutable and unlimited — it’s the nature of who He is! Where is your confidence, where is your time spent, where are your energies focused, where is your trust?
Have I rejoiced in the extinction of my enemy? — Here’s one we all had a little trouble with recently at the death of OBL. On the one hand, it was good to see justice served; but on the other hand, he was a soul heading for a terrible eternity. God says about His enemies, “Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’” Ezekiel 33:11, NAS95. Righteousness may be satisfied with justice, but it doesn’t rejoice at the demise of a soul that is destined for Hell.
Have I covered my transgressions like Adam? — This is the very thing that Job’s friends were suggesting that he must be doing, hiding his sin. It might be useful to think a moment about how Adam tried to hide his sin. Was it really in the physical hiding that Adam did? Was it in the loin coverings of fig leaves that he used? Or was it really in the blame shifting that he attempted? Maybe all three, but given the accusations that Job’s friends had been making, I’m thinking that perhaps what Job is talking about here is the blame shifting attempts. Of course, sometimes we try to hide what we’ve done wrong from the attention of anyone, but when the deed comes to light, we often retreat to blame shifting. Think of Rep Wiener lately, when he sexted and when caught tried to claim that he’d been hacked and he couldn’t tell if the explicit pictures were really of him. That prompted a number of guffaws from almost all of us — blame shifting. Job couldn’t even be convicted (successfully) of blame shifting.
Be careful what you speak in God’s name — Finally, Elihu had some chutzpah to suggest that he was speaking for God (33:4), but then again that’s a common story among false prophets. How would you feel if someone came up to your husband or wife and said, “(Fill in your name here) wanted me to tell you that he/she didn’t love you anymore.” We’d sort of freak out, right? How dare that person say such a thing!! Or have you ever been misquoted by someone (possibly in, say, gossip?), offending someone by what you never really said? “Hey, get it straight!” we might say, “I never said that!” We need to gather a lesson from such blunders. Elihu may have thought himself to really be right, really be speaking for God; but as God is about to make clear, starting in chapter 38, he was not speaking for Him at all. The scariest sort of command that I read as a preacher are those passages, and there are several of them, that warn of the high standard that anyone who teaches or preaches will be held to. I’m sometimes caught a little off-guard, when someone challenges something that I’ve said, but in retrospect I am always grateful for everyone who’s ever questioned my teachings. They keep me honest, they make me really do my homework, and more to the point here, they help me stay true to the word. It’s true for all of us who teach, when we lay claim to speak a word in God’s behalf, we need to make sure that we really are.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.