5 Look at the heavens, and see;
and behold the clouds, which are higher than you.
6 If you have sinned, what do you accomplish against him?
And if your transgressions are multiplied, what do you 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 concerns a man like yourself,
and your righteousness a son of man.
In Terry Pratchett’s irreverent look at religion, the book Small Gods, the author puts forth a fictional theory of religion that is not uncommon. The gods of the Discworld gain or lose abilities and power based on the amount of faith that is placed in them. Hence, when a god is no longer believed in by others, he loses his ability to act with divine power. However, when something happens to make people believe in the existence of the god again, especially if that belief is strong, the fortune of the deity turns and he is again restored to power.
While Pratchett’s satirical look at faith may seem odd to you, the book of Job would show us that, in our hearts, many of us are not so far from Pratchett’s theory as one might think. Consider how often you have thought that you were really doing God a favor by your actions. Consider how easy it is for you to think your failure to do rightly somehow diminishes God. Consider how many people attempt to purchase God’s favor by promising to do something good on his behalf as if obedience to God’s commands strengthens him and is thus a token with which to barter.
In Elihu’s speech, he shows Job that Job is mistakenly starting to think that Job’s actions for good or for ill can effect God. The picture that Elihu draws from is the cloudy sky. Job’s thoughts cannot effect the clouds. Job’s praise or cursing cannot move a cloud one inch. Neither can Job’s right behavior or his accusation somehow change the glory and grandeur of God.
I’m not here saying that our prayers and actions do not reach the Lord’s ears. I’m not saying that God does not care about our actions. God is pleased when we honor him. God is displeased when we disobey him. However, our love and worship or our sin and disobedience will not change the fact that God is, that God is good, and that God is in control. We cannot add to the value of God. We cannot subtract from the reality of God. His worth and status is completely separate from our impact. He is not in the least dependant on us for anything.
I hope this isn’t discouraging. It in fact should be exhilarating. God does not need us in any way, yet he chooses to adopt believers in Christ as his children. He chooses to forgive us our sin and make us part of his family. This is a glorious and loving God. We dare not think that we can buy his favor. We dare not think that our disobedience can threaten him. But we should most certainly think that it is wonderful to be allowed to see the glory of one so great, so mighty, so wonderful.