Meaning What We Say
May 14, 2019
Communication is a difficult thing. Most people are able to talk. Few people are able to properly communicate. Many people are misunderstood all the time. People misinterpret words all of the time. People frequently find it challenging to properly express their words so that they can be understood. When the circumstances of life get difficult, the difficulty of communication increases. It can be a challenge to accurately express what we mean when we have so many emotions and thoughts about a certain situation. Sometimes our words come out wrong. Sometimes we say things we don’t mean. Sometimes people hear things we don’t say. It can all be quite a mess in the end. Knowing this, it is important for God’s people to consider this challenge, and consider our words carefully; especially when we’re talking about the Lord! The last thing we should want to do is misrepresent the Lord. The last thing we should want to do is cause confusion about the Lord. As Christians, we shouldn’t be comfortable speaking unclearly about the Lord, distorting His testimony. Our aim should be to provide a clear and comprehensive witness about who God is and what His Word says. When our circumstances are challenging, we need to be especially mindful about our words and attitudes to ensure we don’t pervert our testimony of the Lord.
The troubling thing about this is that, our corruption of God’s testimony can happen so quickly and easily. The testimony of Job shows just how easy it is to say things about God that are far from true. Job didn’t mean to misspeak about God. Job didn’t curse God like the devil had hoped. Still, in the heat of Job’s passionate defense of his integrity, and in the weakness of his pain and suffering, Job was guilty of saying some things that were flat-out false about God. The testimony of Job 34:1-9 shows that Elihu heard the words that Job said and was helpful to correct him. Thankfully, Elihu’s manner of correction was different than Job’s other friends. Job’s other friends took on the role of accuser and prosecutor against Job. Job’s other friends resembled the devil more than the aid of the Holy Spirit. Elihu on the other hand was a breath of fresh air for Job. Though Elihu pointed out certain areas of error in Job’s life, he did so with humility, and with the genuine desire to assist Job in living a Godly life. None of us are perfect, so it is common for us to make mistakes, even when we have good intentions. When we receive loving correction from others, we would be wise to receive it. The testimony of Job 34:1-9 begins by implying that Elihu gave Job an opportunity to answer for himself after his last speech. The scriptures show that Job remained silent, allowing Elihu to continue in his instruction and wise discourse. Job was not quick to shut Elihu down because he was pointing out flaws. Job was also humble to receive correction.
When Elihu spoke, he addressed a group of people as if they were all in front of an audience. It is possible that this was Job’s other friends. It is possible that more people visited Job to try and comfort him in his sickness, and just remained silent while Bildad, Zophar, and Eliphaz did the speaking. Either way, Elihu addressed his audience by referring to them as wise men. Elihu didn’t speak as if he had all the answers. Elihu knew he was right in certain things he was saying, but didn’t boast as if his words were the only words of wisdom. He pleaded to his audience to hear his words so as to collectively determine what is right and wrong concerning Job’s trials. Elihu didn’t want to prove himself right. He wanted to provide perspective and let a group of wise people conclude what was right and wrong by God’s standards. Elihu wanted the people to receive his words like food, ponder them as if digesting food, and then make use of helpful and good nutrients by discerning his words. Elihu wanted everyone to agree on the standards of God’s goodness, exalting His name above all. Thus, Elihu pointed out the areas of Job’s previous speaking to show where God’s name was tainted by Job’s speeches.
Elihu did the best he could to quote Job, using Job’s own words as his evidence. Elihu accused Job of boasting about his own righteousness, saying, “I am righteous, but God has taken away my justice.” This is true. Job said this. In Job 27:6 Job said that he was holding his righteousness and would not let go. In other words, Job would not confess that he was guilty of hypocrisy. To be fair to Job, it is important to remember that the context of Job’s defense was regarding hypocrisy. Job would not confess guilt to the hypocrisy that his friends accused him of. Job would not say that he was guilty of a specific form of wickedness. Still, Elihu’s point was concerning Job’s attitude. It wasn’t just that Job tried to defend his integrity, but also brought God into his defense improperly.
It was not just that Job said he was innocent of hypocrisy. Job also tried to convince his friends that God was picking on him. Job felt like God had taken the liberties and joys that come to those who are innocent of hypocrisy. Job spoke as if God was treating him as a guilty man though he was innocent. This was not good. Job spoke as if God was being excessive in His treatment. Elihu quoted Job saying that the wounds God was inflicting were “incurable.” Elihu quoted Job accurately again, since Job said this in so many words in Job 6:4 and also in Job 9:17. There, Job talked about his suffering as if God was punishing him for no purpose and that punishment was too much for anyone to bear. Job made himself out as if he were a victim of some sort of injustice, implying that God was the author. Job didn’t call God unjust, but referred to His sovereign control as unfair in certain regards. Job spoke of the pain he endured as being so greatly inflicted by God that his life was unrepairable. This he elaborated on more in Job 16:16-17. This is untrue, not only of God, but also Job’s circumstances.
It was statements like these that offended Elihu. Elihu felt these things were offensive to God, and also slanderous to Job’s own integrity. Elihu explained that Job’s misspeaking of God caused him to be like the wicked. Though Job didn’t curse God and wasn’t guilty of hypocrisy, he became guilty of other sins through his self-righteous statements. Job’s emotional outbursts caused him to be like a man that drank scorn like water. Job’s zealous defense caused him to be like the wicked men he tried to correct and separate from. Misspeaking of God is speaking against the Truth, which by default, is a lie. Those who speak lies, especially of God, are scornful and wicked. It is true that Job is called a blameless and upright man, but here it is clear to see how easy it is for the flesh to remind the people of God that we are still sinners in this life. Even when we mean well, we easily speak evil against God, and often times, don’t even realize it. Even when we seek to do good, our attitudes can cause us to resemble the wickedness we might be fighting against. This is proof that Job’s approval from God was not because he was perfect or exceptional. Job was just as human as the next person. Job was approved by God on account of God’s grace, not Job’s conduct.
Elihu’s chief issue was that, the context of Job’s points made it seem as if there is no profit in this life to those who serve the Lord. Job was a follower of God, but only spoke of all the hardships associated with it. Job made it seem like all of his righteous pursuits to please God by faith were rewarded with calamity and suffering. To Elihu, this made it seem as if Job was saying, God rewards the faithful with pain and turmoil. Job was making it sound like serving the Lord profits people nothing in this life; as if we suffer serving the Lord, just to die in shame and misery, awaiting benefits only in eternity. This simply isn’t true. Job’s attitude was communicating the idea that it is better to just indulge in the affections of this life because it is the only way to gain gratification and satisfaction in this life, since following the Lord provides so much suffering. This is indeed a misrepresentation of the Lord! This is absolutely false! This is totally untrue, unbiblical, and unrighteous in the eyes of God!
Does this mean that Job cursed God? No. Job suffered to the point that the weaknesses of his flesh were clearly exposed, but he did not depart from his faith like his wife had suggested earlier. However, the issues that Elihu pointed out show that life’s trying circumstances seem to pull the worst out in us even though God is refining us to conform us to His image. It is amazing to see the transcendent power of God here. The weaknesses of Job’s flesh were put on display by his morbid and self-righteous attitude, but at the same time, God was able to preserve the integrity of his faith, while also using Job as a prophetic picture of Jesus Christ in His suffering! God took the flaws of Job’s flesh and used them for good without Job even knowing. Then, God used Elihu to explain Job’s faults so as to enable Job to repent, thereby glorifying God two-fold: Once, through the work God did to reveal Himself through prophetic pictures; Second, through the confession of sin and repentance that Job would later provide.
It is amazing to see the complexity of God’s work in scripture. Nevertheless, we should always remember that our trials tend to produce opportunities for the flesh to come out, thereby perverting our witness of God’s glory and greatness. Thankfully, the testimony of Job shows that God is not dependent on our conduct and attitude to glorify Himself. Still, since God IS fair, and DOES reward His servants in this life with joy and satisfaction, we must remember that those rewards and joy only comes when our focus is on Him through humility, not on ourselves through wallowing, complaining, and bickering. It is profitable to serve the Lord, and God manifests that profit in this life in numerous ways. To receive this profit, we are called to humbly submit to God’s goodness, keeping His Word, and trusting that He will produce goodness despite the appearance of bad circumstances. The testimony of Job proves that God is able to do so, even in the midst of our mistakes and faults.