TESTED TO THE UTMOST
Lord, having your love and grace in my life reminds me just how rich I am. I thank you and praise you.
Read JOB 34
34 Then Elihu said:
2 “Hear my words, you wise men;
listen to me, you men of learning.
3 For the ear tests words
as the tongue tastes food.
4 Let us discern for ourselves what is right;
let us learn together what is good.
5 “Job says, ‘I am innocent,
but God denies me justice.
6 Although I am right,
I am considered a liar;
although I am guiltless,
his arrow inflicts an incurable wound.’
7 Is there anyone like Job,
who drinks scorn like water?
8 He keeps company with evildoers;
he associates with the wicked.
9 For he says, ‘There is no profit
in trying to please God.’
10 “So listen to me, you men of understanding.
Far be it from God to do evil,
from the Almighty to do wrong.
11 He repays everyone for what they have done;
he brings on them what their conduct deserves.
12 It is unthinkable that God would do wrong,
that the Almighty would pervert justice.
13 Who appointed him over the earth?
Who put him in charge of the whole world?
14 If it were his intention
and he withdrew his spirit[a] and breath,
15 all humanity would perish together
and mankind would return to the dust.
16 “If you have understanding, hear this;
listen to what I say.
17 Can someone who hates justice govern?
Will you condemn the just and mighty One?
18 Is he not the One who says to kings, ‘You are worthless,’
and to nobles, ‘You are wicked,’
19 who shows no partiality to princes
and does not favor the rich over the poor,
for they are all the work of his hands?
20 They die in an instant, in the middle of the night;
the people are shaken and they pass away;
the mighty are removed without human hand.
21 “His eyes are on the ways of mortals;
he sees their every step.
22 There is no deep shadow, no utter darkness,
where evildoers can hide.
23 God has no need to examine people further,
that they should come before him for judgment.
24 Without inquiry he shatters the mighty
and sets up others in their place.
25 Because he takes note of their deeds,
he overthrows them in the night and they are crushed.
26 He punishes them for their wickedness
where everyone can see them,
27 because they turned from following him
and had no regard for any of his ways.
28 They caused the cry of the poor to come before him,
so that he heard the cry of the needy.
29 But if he remains silent, who can condemn him?
If he hides his face, who can see him?
Yet he is over individual and nation alike,
30 to keep the godless from ruling,
from laying snares for the people.
31 “Suppose someone says to God,
‘I am guilty but will offend no more.
32 Teach me what I cannot see;
if I have done wrong, I will not do so again.’
33 Should God then reward you on your terms,
when you refuse to repent?
You must decide, not I;
so tell me what you know.
34 “Men of understanding declare,
wise men who hear me say to me,
35 ‘Job speaks without knowledge;
his words lack insight.’
36 Oh, that Job might be tested to the utmost
for answering like a wicked man!
37 To his sin he adds rebellion;
scornfully he claps his hands among us
and multiplies his words against God.”
- Job 34:14 Or Spirit
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.’1 Thank God for his sovereign grace, even in tough trials.
During 22 years of suffering from one of the most painful conditions known to humanity, I was aware of being tested. Partly because testing was an ongoing aspect of my care, with regular blood tests, scans, X-rays and so on, but mainly because of the daily challenge it presented to my faith. Physical and mental torment led to deep wrestling with my theology to try and reconcile both my understanding of God’s healing power and my awareness of his sovereignty. Job has been through something similar, compounded by bereavement, financial disaster, and heavy criticism from friends. Ironically, Elihu declares that Job should still be tested to the utmost (v 36). What more could he be put through? It seems that Elihu’s youthful love of simple faith formula has blinded him to the real trial already unfolding in Job’s circumstances.
Elihu’s speech would be laughable if it were not so serious in tone and implications.2 He sets out his simplistic ideas, which are remarkably like those of the other three friends, holding Job guilty of sin and of rebellion against God (v 37). In his black and white view of the world, good people simply do not suffer and that is an end of the matter. Certainly, there are blessings for obedience to God’s ways and consequences for wrongdoing, but one would have to have one’s eyes shut to believe that this is consistently the case. That may be fine for the young and presumably fit Elihu, but it leaves Job with nowhere to go. Nor is he alone in this dilemma. There are many of us who would be left without comfort or hope if Elihu and the pals are right. Thankfully, they are not: ‘When all things seem against us, to drive us to despair, we know one gate is open; one ear will hear our prayer.’3
Read James 1:2–4,12. Reflect on the phrase ‘the testing of your faith’. What benefits accrue to those who endure such testing?
How much I need your wisdom, Lord! Teach me by your Spirit the life lessons that will lead me to trust you more.
1 Job 23:10 2 John Goldingay, Job for Everyone, SPCK, 2013, p169 3 Oswald Allen, 1816– 78, ‘Today thy mercy calls us’
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