Job 32:2-3 (ESV)
2 Then Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, burned with anger. He burned with anger at Job because he justified himself rather than God. 3 He burned with anger also at Job’s three friends because they had found no answer, although they had declared Job to be in the wrong.
There are two big mistakes that Job and his friends make in the book of Job, and God intends for us to see them. Sadly, when we think of this book, we often get extra-fascinated with the spiritual battles in chapters 1 and 2 or with the righteous responses that Job had early in the book without seeing the wrong ways that Job responded to God later. We also fail to see ourselves in the 3 friends who converse with Job from chapters 3 through 31.
We need, however, to see that there are two big errors that God has wanted us to grasp from chapters 3-31, and we are easily tempted to fall into them. Job attempted to self-justify before God. Job’s friends accused, assuming they knew more than they did. Neither group rested in God’s sovereignty.
First, let’s see Job. We know that Job was righteous, not sinning with his lips, in the early chapters. When his wife tried to get him to curse God and die, Job responded as he should have. He is to be commended.
But, if you watch Job’s speeches, it appears that Job becomes progressively more convinced of his own personal righteousness. He walks dangerously close to and even crosses the line into accusing God of treating him wrongly and owing him an explanation. Had Job not failed in his attitude, he would have had no need to twice declare that he repents at the end of the book. As Scripture shows us, God is just, not us. God is wise, not us. God is always right, not us.
What we need to learn from Job comes in what stirred the anger of Elihu. Job attempted to justify himself. We just can’t do that. God is holy. His ways are not ours. We have no right to tell God how good we have been. Our greatest goodness is nothing apart from the grace of God. We certainly cannot argue that we deserve any sort of good treatment from our Creator. Neither does he owe us any sort of explanation.
Christians, realize that you are not good on your own. You are gifted with grace that is entirely not of yourself. Non-Christians, realize that you do not have the right to stand before God and declare that you have been a good person. If Job could not justify himself, you and I certainly cannot. And let us all realize that God is holy and perfect. We answer to him, not the other way round.
Second, look at the response Elihu had for Job’s 3 friends. These men accused Job, but had no idea how to make a case. They sat there before Job and constantly assumed that they knew why God was doing what he was doing. They assumed that Job must be being punished by God for something they could not see. They assumed that, would Job only admit what he had done wrong, God would clearly restore him to health, wealth, and prosperity.
How often do we sit in judgment of others? How often do we assume that we know why God has done all that he has done? How easily do we assume that others deserve the judgment of God while we should have grace? How foolish are we?
Let us learn from Job’s friends that God is perfect and beyond us. We do not have the right to assume that we know why anybody is going through anything. All are sinners, us included. All deserve far more judgment than any of the living have ever received, us included. God’s choices for us are often mysterious, and none of us will have the wisdom on our own to explain all of God’s thoughts and plans. All we can do is to rely on what is revealed in Scripture and to trust that God knows far better than we do.