Friday, February 6, 2009
God's goodness is exalted
Elihu continued and said:
"Bear with me a little, and I will show you,
for I have yet something to say on God's behalf.
I will bring my knowledge from far away,
and ascribe righteousness to my Maker.
For truly my words are not false;
one who is perfect in knowledge is with you.
"Surely God is mighty and does not despise any;
he is mighty in strength of understanding.
He does not keep the wicked alive,
but gives the afflicted their right.
He does not withdraw his eyes from the righteous,
but with kings on the throne
he sets them forever, and they are exalted.
And if they are bound in fetters
and caught in the cords of affliction,
then he declares to them their work
and their transgressions, that they are behaving arrogantly.
He opens their ears to instruction,
and commands that they return from iniquity.
If they listen, and serve him,
they complete their days in prosperity,
and their years in pleasantness.
But if they do not listen, they shall perish by the sword,
and die without knowledge.
"The godless in heart cherish anger;
they do not cry for help when he binds them.
They die in their youth,
and their life ends in shame.
He delivers the afflicted by their affliction,
and opens their ear by adversity.
He also allured you out of distress
into a broad place where there was no constraint,
and what was set on your table was full of fatness.
"But you are obsessed with the case of the wicked;
judgment and justice seize you.
Beware that wrath does not entice you into scoffing,
and do not let the greatness of the ransom turn you aside.
Will your cry avail to keep you from distress,
or will all the force of your strength?
Do not long for the night,
when peoples are cut off in their place.
Beware! Do not turn to iniquity;
because of that you have been tried by affliction.
See, God is exalted in his power;
who is a teacher like him?
Who has prescribed for him his way,
or who can say, 'You have done wrong'?
Comments: Reading Job is like dealing with what I call ‘popular religion’. Elihu, Job’s good friend is trying to warn Job from becoming angry because of all the things that have happened to him. But Elihu is not aware of the contest going on between God and Satan in this morality tale. He is telling Job that he needs to stay on God’s right side and accept what has happened to him. But Job IS angry. He does confront God and ask for justice. Justice is finally granted simply because Job is faithful. Job does not throw off his relationship with God.
The whole point of this tale of Job is to try to explain ‘why bad things happen to good people.’ All too often we believe like Elihu that when bad things happen to us, it is the result of sin, or some misdeed. We somehow expect God to be manipulated by our good works. But that is not what happens in the relationship between God and human. Bad things happen! Period. Full Stop. They do not happen because we are good, or because we are sinful. Good things do not happen because we are righteous either. Good and bad happens to all human beings. It is our relationship with God that helps us live through both good and bad times. Often what happens is NOT just, as with this story of Job. It is, however, our relationship with God that makes good and evil make sense, allows us to choose the good, and live in a way that is not only pleasing to God but pleasing to ourselves.