Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

If You Have Sinned, What Do You Accomplish Against Him?

Elihu humbles Job by applying some perspective.

Job 35: 1-16 (ESV)

And Elihu answered and said:

“Do you think this to be just? Do you say, ‘It is my right before God,’ that you ask, ‘What advantage have I? How am I better off than if I had sinned?’ I will answer you and your friends with you. Look at the heavens, and see; and behold the clouds, which are higher than you. If you have sinned, what do you accomplish against him? And if your transgressions are multiplied, what do you do to him? If you are righteous, what do you give to him? Or what does he receive from your hand? Your wickedness concerns a man like yourself, and your righteousness a son of man.

“Because of the multitude of oppressions people cry out; they call for help because of the arm of the mighty. But none says, ‘Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night, who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth and makes us wiser than the birds of the heavens?’ There they cry out, but he does not answer, because of the pride of evil men. Surely God does not hear an empty cry, nor does the Almighty regard it. How much less when you say that you do not see him, that the case is before him, and you are waiting for him! And now, because his anger does not punish, and he does not take much note of transgression, Job opens his mouth in empty talk; he multiplies words without knowledge.”

Now Elihu shifts gears – and gets to the point. Job thinks that his suffering has some huge significance. That’s where he’s wrong. God’s priorities aren’t just different from Job’s; they’re larger.

Consider the two trials that Satan hit Job with in the beginning. Did you notice anything wrong with the prioritization? The attack on Job’s body is considered the greater trial.

But isn’t the death of all his children much worse? The less significant trial seems greater to Job because it’s “closer.” His normal sinful nature over-emphasizes his own importance.

Now, generalize this concept. Job naturally (i.e., sinfully) thinks his trials are a big deal. Thus he thinks he deserves some kind of explanation.

Elihu’s answer to Job isn’t to explain why God did what He did; it’s just to say, “So what?”

This is technically correct, but obviously isn’t a great line to use with someone who’s suffering. That’s why the book of Job is so important. By teaching this principle in the abstract, using Job as a case study, we prepare people for the inevitable trials life brings.

The classic application of this lesson is dealing with unanswered prayer. The reason God doesn’t give us exactly what we ask for is rarely easy to discern.

Instead of a quick explanation for why we don’t get what we want, we may just get a collection of principles that form an interpretive lens to help us see God’s higher purposes.

The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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