Tried To The End
A daily devotion for December 20th
1 Then Elihu said:
2 "Hear my words, you wise men;
listen to me, you men of learning.
3 For the ear tests words
as the tongue tastes food.
4 Let us discern for ourselves what is right;
let us learn together what is good.
5 "Job says, 'I am innocent,
but God denies me justice.
6 Although I am right,
I am considered a liar;
although I am guiltless,
his arrow inflicts an incurable wound.'
7 What man is like Job,
who drinks scorn like water?
8 He keeps company with evildoers;
he associates with wicked men.
9 For he says, 'It profits a man nothing
when he tries to please God.'
10 "So listen to me, you men of understanding.
Far be it from God to do evil,
from the Almighty to do wrong.
11 He repays a man for what he has done;
he brings upon him what his conduct deserves.
12 It is unthinkable that God would do wrong,
that the Almighty would pervert justice.
13 Who appointed him over the earth?
Who put him in charge of the whole world?
14 If it were his intention
and he withdrew his spirit and breath,
15 all mankind would perish together
and man would return to the dust.
16 "If you have understanding, hear this;
listen to what I say.
17 Can he who hates justice govern?
Will you condemn the just and mighty One?
18 Is he not the One who says to kings, 'You are worthless,'
and to nobles, 'You are wicked,'
19 who shows no partiality to princes
and does not favor the rich over the poor,
for they are all the work of his hands?
20 They die in an instant, in the middle of the night;
the people are shaken and they pass away;
the mighty are removed without human hand.
21 "His eyes are on the ways of men;
he sees their every step.
22 There is no dark place, no deep shadow,
where evildoers can hide.
23 God has no need to examine men further,
that they should come before him for judgment.
24 Without inquiry he shatters the mighty
and sets up others in their place.
25 Because he takes note of their deeds,
he overthrows them in the night and they are crushed.
26 He punishes them for their wickedness
where everyone can see them,
27 because they turned from following him
and had no regard for any of his ways.
28 They caused the cry of the poor to come before him,
so that he heard the cry of the needy.
29 But if he remains silent, who can condemn him?
If he hides his face, who can see him?
Yet he is over man and nation alike,
30 to keep a godless man from ruling,
from laying snares for the people.
31 "Suppose a man says to God,
'I am guilty but will offend no more.
32 Teach me what I cannot see;
if I have done wrong, I will not do so again.'
33 Should God then reward you on your terms,
when you refuse to repent?
You must decide, not I;
so tell me what you know.
34 "Men of understanding declare,
wise men who hear me say to me,
35 'Job speaks without knowledge;
his words lack insight.'
36 Oh, that Job might be tested to the utmost
for answering like a wicked man!
37 To his sin he adds rebellion;
scornfully he claps his hands among us
and multiplies his words against God."
1 Then Elihu said:
2 "Do you think this is just?
You say, 'I will be cleared by God. '
3 Yet you ask him, 'What profit is it to me,
and what do I gain by not sinning?'
4 "I would like to reply to you
and to your friends with you.
5 Look up at the heavens and see;
gaze at the clouds so high above you.
6 If you sin, how does that affect him?
If your sins are many, what does that do to him?
7 If you are righteous, what do you give to him,
or what does he receive from your hand?
8 Your wickedness affects only a man like yourself,
and your righteousness only the sons of men.
9 "Men cry out under a load of oppression;
they plead for relief from the arm of the powerful.
10 But no one says, 'Where is God my Maker,
who gives songs in the night,
11 who teaches more to us than to the beasts of the earth
and makes us wiser than the birds of the air?'
12 He does not answer when men cry out
because of the arrogance of the wicked.
13 Indeed, God does not listen to their empty plea;
the Almighty pays no attention to it.
14 How much less, then, will he listen
when you say that you do not see him,
that your case is before him
and you must wait for him,
15 and further, that his anger never punishes
and he does not take the least notice of wickedness.
16 So Job opens his mouth with empty talk;
without knowledge he multiplies words."
Oh, that Job might be tested to the utmost for answering like a wicked man! (Job 34:36).
The unique thing about Elihu's presentation is that he does not attempt to speak out of his experience. He is not an old man who has been taught certain lessons by life. His claim is that he is speaking out of what God has taught him by the Spirit, and, therefore, he is sharing the insights and wisdom of God. And as Elihu's speech unfolds, we can see that is true. It is in accord with the revelation of God elsewhere in scripture, so God is speaking and answering some of the cries of Job's tormented heart through this young man.
What Elihu is saying here is that Job is obviously speaking out of ignorance of the nature and true character of God, and therefore he needs further treatment.
Oh, that Job might be tested to the utmost he says. He doesn't desire this because he wants to increase Job's agony but because only that will bring Job to the truth, so he asks that Job's trials go on until he sees what he is doing.
Job is a righteous man. His heart is right, and he wants to serve God, but he thinks that he can do it by his own just efforts. The toughest lesson God has to teach human beings is the lesson of seeing the evil in what we think is nothing but good. We always think that our efforts to behave ourselves by obeying the truth, as we understand it, are acceptable to God. The hardest lesson of life is to learn that our righteousness is as filthy rags in His sight (Isaiah 64:6). It is only dependence upon His gift of righteousness that will ever be acceptable in His sight. That is what Job is finally learning. It is the struggle of Romans 7 here in the Old Testament. Paul, whose heart was right, wanted to do what God wanted and was trying his best to do it, but instead it all fell apart, and he cried out,
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me (Romans 7:24)? And the word of faith comes in:
It is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). You are righteous, not by trying, but by accepting what God has said by His gift of righteousness.
Job is learning that his righteousness does not come about by his own efforts here. Remember that God initiated this contest, not Satan. God said to Satan,
Notice my friend Job? See what you can do with him. God had something to teach this man, and maybe that is what God is saying to many of us. When we think our heart is absolutely right before Him, we have failed to grasp the one basis upon which we can be right before Him, and that is why trouble often comes.
Father, my heart is humble as I see how mighty are Your ways. What a marvelous Being You are, Lord. Help me to take the place of the learner and be taught out of humility and weakness that I might be strong because of Your loving grace.
Life Application: Have we grasped the tough lesson from our loving Father that our best good deeds, if done in our own strength apart from the Spirit, are an abomination to the Lord?
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Daily Devotion © 2006 by Ray Stedman Ministries. For permission to use this content, please review www.RayStedman.org/permissions. Subject to permission policy, all rights reserved.