Thursday, January 15, 2015

Lessons for the comforter

ill person with caretakers
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Job 34:16-37

TO CHEW ON: " ' If you have understanding, hear this;
Listen to the sound of my words: … ' " Job 34:16

Some wise person has said, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." Elihu doesn't seem to be aware of the principle behind that saying. He continues speaking to suffering Job like a lawyer building up to a "guilty" verdict.

In his defense of God he makes many claims we would call true. In yesterday's reading we considered his defense of God's justice. Today he upholds God's omniscience (Job 34:21,22,25) and omnipotence (Job 34:24,25).

The writer of the Asbury Bible Commentary puts a finger on the disconnect  we feel between young Elihu's often accurate words and how they must sound to the ill patriarch:

"While Elihu has the luxury of being theoretical and general (which he is) in his comments, Job, by virtue of his sufferings, is personal and existential in his. At issue in the book is not the justice of God in general, but his justice as it pertains to Job's suffering" - Asbury Bible Commentary, accessed via "Study This" on BibleGateway.

Also, Elihu's arguments lead him to a wrong conclusion (Job 34:34-37):  "Elihu is forced to picture Job as a wicked person if his theological assumptions are to stand" - Asbury Bible Commentary. Elihu's conclusion isn't accurate, as we know from our glimpse behind the scenes - see Job 1:8; 2:3.

I see two lessons for myself and perhaps all of us in this installment:

1. When we talk to someone who is suffering, our knowledge and certainties need to be delivered with empathy. How much easier Elihu's speech would have been for Job to hear if Elihu had acknowledged Job's condition, spoken with less stridency, softened his tone even a little.

2. We need to be careful of being too either/or in our theology so we avoid being forced into a false-conclusion corner because of our incomplete human knowledge. Elihu knew nothing of the extraterrestrial dialogue that preceded Job's trouble. His tight system brought him to the same wrong conclusion (that Job had brought this trial on himself: "…for he adds rebellion to his sin…  Job. 34:37) that Job's other friends came to.  It's way better to hold our peace in matters of divine cause and effect—things about which we have limited knowledge.

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to learn the lessons of empathy and humility as I seek to understand life's difficulties and comfort my suffering friends. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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