Weekly Insights about the Quarterly Lessons from the 1888 Message Study Committee.
Friday, December 02, 2016
1888 Glad Tidings : Insight #10 December 3, 2016
INSIGHT #10 DECEMBER 3, 2016
FOURTH QUARTER 2016 ADULT SABBATH SCHOOL LESSONS "THE WRATH OF ELIHU" DECEMBER 3, 2016
Then I said, "I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name." But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not. Jeremiah 20:9
In the story of Job, Elihu remains for many an enigmatic figure. For one thing, God does not include Elihu in His reproof of Job's friends (Job 42:7-9), nor of Job himself (42:1-6). Further, both Job and his three friends are brought to repentance, but Elihu's repentance is not explicitly mentioned.
It may be tempting therefore to more or less ignore the message of Elihu, or at least be unsure how it fits in the story of Job, other than perhaps the rant of a novice theologian before God finally appears to clean things up.
But I believe that if we look carefully at the story, we can see the gospel in the book of Job, and especially in the words of Elihu. His message is strategically placed in the book of Job. It is no coincidence that he speaks after the arguments of Job and his friends are exhausted to the point of silence, and right before God speaks.
Elihu, which means "He is my God," or "the God of him," is very much the Elijah, "Jehovah is God," of the story. Like John the Baptist, he is calling his friends to behold God for who He is as revealed in Christ, and to begin to see things from the heavenly perspective. In a sense he is calling for a paradigm shift, a complete reframing of the conversation to that point. He is the 1888 messenger of his day.
Like Jeremiah, Elihu is wrought up to the point where he has to say something. He can't hold back - the stakes are too high to remain silent. The impasse must be broken.
Job, who "was righteous in his own eyes," who "justified himself rather than God," needed the divine eyesalve. So did his friends, who had no answer or explanation for Job, yet had condemned him.
We might place ourselves squarely in the middle of this story, for is not the world suffering interminably? Do we as Seventh-day Adventists believe we have been doing all the right things for God, like Job, and yet our human suffering goes on? Or like his friends of counsel, do we point to others in the church who we condemn for the wrong theodicy? Once "they" get it right, we can go home.
Elihu was young, yet was burning to deliver the "fresh message" to Job and his friends. The wisdom of this message is in the power of the Holy Spirit, the "breath of the Almighty." (32:8) The message is impartial, and unflattering to self righteousness. (32:21,22)
Elihu places himself as Job's representative, compassionately identifying with him in solidarity as one who is also made of clay. (33:6,7) As such, we might see him "corporately repenting" with Job. He introduces the thought that what God is dealing with in this world is saving man from death-dealing pride (33:17) The source of that pride God Himself later reveals as the summation of the problem as "king over all the children of pride." (42:34) In this coming alongside Job, Elihu becomes a type of Christ, to whom he is pointing as the "messenger for him, one among a thousand, to show man His [God's] uprightness," so He can be "gracious to him," and "deliver him from going down to the Pit." Christ Himself is the ransom who experienced that second death experience on behalf of all men and whose righteousness alone must be revealed as the definitive solution to the sin problem (33:23,24). See Romans 3:21-26.
Even as God is rescuing us from sin, and viewing us in Christ as He viewed Job, as "blameless and upright," (1:8, 2:3) He is calling us to a deeper repentance, based on His revelation of how deep rooted the sin problem is in our shared, corporate humanity. Job did feel he had righteousness, and called it his own. (27:6) He was stuck in the paradigm of looking at the problem from man's perspective. This distorted his view of the controversy, and he called God, rather than Satan, his Accuser. (29:35) He had confessed his sins, and trusted in that for his justification. He had the wrong emphasis we sometimes get when we read 1 John 1:9 - on his own action, rather than the justice and mercy of God.
Elihu's message was to lay the glory of man, including Job's glory, in the dust. Indeed, if God simply stopped supporting human life through His Spirit, all men would immediately return to dust. (34:14,15) Look at the sin problem through God's eyes!
This problem is not something that a just and merciful God can solve with a snap of His fingers. The wicked must be given a chance to reveal their final choice. (34:21-30) Nor does He necessarily work on our terms or timetable. (33:31-33)
Sin is inherently destructive, so there is profit in avoiding it, even if we suffer or feel there is no apparent immediate benefit. (35:3) But neither our sins nor our best works accomplish anything in moving the loving heart of God. (35:6-8) He remains the same. He has given all for us.
God's salvation is universal in its scope, for He is always working for the salvation of all mankind (36:5-12), and thus He allows the "hypocrites in heart" time to "store up wrath," (36:13). We have much to learn, and much to unlearn, in our understanding of God. (36:22) Eventually the latter rain message of His goodness, like a powerful lightning and thunder storm, will break upon the entire world. (36:27-37:24) In the face of this revelation, those who are wicked will grow more so, but the wise will understand what is happening. (Daniel 12:10)
It appears in the last of Job 36, and the majority of Job 37, that Elihu is witnessing an actual storm, a metaphor and revelation of God's great power revealed in the plan of salvation. Notice the many references to rain and light. In fact we see God speaking "out of the whirlwind" beginning in Job 38. Like they did through Elihu, His words break forth directly from Him as a torrent of powerful truth, as He "takes the reins in His own hands," giving the answer in the person of Christ, for prior to the baptism of Christ we are told that "He had before communicated with humanity through Christ." (DA 116) Christ, the Messenger of the Covenant, the one whose faith would rescue mankind from the Pit by going into it Himself, was speaking to Job.
Do we see a storm gathering today? Even in the cataclysm of earth's final hour God's love is to be revealed in His mercy and justice. Eventually, as in the story of Job, God's ultimate purpose of love and blessing will be accomplished. Let us prepare for the storm by anchoring in the Rock, Jesus Christ, who is "the Lord our Righteousness." Like Job, let us be called by Elihu to the Faith of Jesus. And let us be those who proclaim by our very name and identity, "'Elihu - This is our God', we have waited for Him, for He is the one who has saved and will save us."
Ellen G. White -
"No finite mind can fully comprehend the character or the works of the Infinite One. We cannot by searching find out God. To minds the strongest and most highly cultured, as well as to the weakest and most ignorant, that holy Being must remain clothed in mystery. But though 'clouds and darkness are round about Him: righteousness and judgment are the foundation of His throne.' Psalm 97:2, R.V. We can so far comprehend His dealing with us as to discern boundless mercy united to infinite power. We can understand as much of His purposes as we are capable of comprehending; beyond this we may still trust the hand that is omnipotent, the heart that is full of love." (Ed 169.1)
"He that ruleth in the heavens is the one who sees the end from the beginning--the one before whom the mysteries of the past and the future are alike outspread, and who, beyond the woe and darkness and ruin that sin has wrought, beholds the accomplishment of His own purposes of love and blessing. Though 'clouds and darkness are round about Him: righteousness and judgment are the foundation of His throne.' Psalm 97:2, R.V. And this the inhabitants of the universe, both loyal and disloyal, will one day understand. 'His work is perfect: for all His ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He.'" Deuteronomy 32:4. (PP 43.1)
"This is the day of the Lord's preparation. He says: 'Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.' The great work from which the mind should not be diverted, is the consideration of our safety in the sight of God. The storm is coming, relentless in its fury. Are we prepared to meet it? Are our feet on the Rock of Ages? Are we one with Christ, as he is one with the Father?" (RH, December 27, 1898, par. 14)
E. J. Waggoner -
"'Does the Lord require me to give this up? Can I not be saved if I do not?'"
"Have you not often heard such questions? Perhaps you yourself have had similar thoughts. There is among many people a feeling that God is exacting; that He requires too much of us, and that He ought to be satisfied with less. Indeed, if people would analyse their thoughts they would find an idea that God is really benefiting Himself at their expense.
"That this idea is actually held, is shown by the words of Elihu to Job: 'Thou saidst, My righteousness is more than God's? For thou saidst, What advantage will it be unto thee? and, What profit shall I have, if I be cleansed from my sin? I will answer thee, and thy companions with thee. Look unto the heavens, and see; and behold the clouds which are higher than thou. If thou sinnest, what doest thou against Him? or if thy transgressions be multiplied, what doest thou unto Him? If thou be righteous, what givest thou Him? or what receiveth He of thine hand? Thy wickedness may hurt a man as thou art; and thy righteousness may profit the son of man.' Job xxxv. "This thought, often unexpressed and half-unconscious, is nothing else than the reverberation of the subtle temptation by which the serpent caused the fall of Eve. With a contemptuous sarcasm he asked the question, 'Has God really said that ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?' and then followed up this insinuations against God's justice by boldly saying that there was no harm in eating from the forbidden tree: 'for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof ye shall be as gods.' Thus He made her believe that it was unjust for God to require her to abstain from eating the fruit of that tree; that she was really been abused; and that God was profiting by their abstinence.
"What now is the real truth in the case. Just this: that whenever we give up anything in obedience to God, we profit greatly at His expense. We talk about sacrifice, and what it costs us, foolishly forgetful of the fact that it is the Lord who has made the sacrifice, and the only real one that ever has been or can be made. Do you know what it costs the Lord every time you give up an evil habit?-Nothing less than His life. You think it will cost you your life, or at least all that life is worth, to give up that darling practice, yet in doing so you will find life in such rich measure and so full of joy as you never knew before, but it cost Christ's heart's blood to enable you to do it. Ah, never again let the shadow of the thought enter your mind, that God is causing huge inconvenience to gratify Himself. He is, on the contrary, giving you happiness that the cost of His own life.
"In this lies our strength, and the assurance that nothing is impossible to us. God is really asking us to receive something, instead of to give up. He asks us to receive His life, in which there is no shade of evil, and which is the very essence and fulness of light, and joy, and peace in order that we may be delivered from that which is to us darkness, sorrow, misery, and death. And the fact that our deliverance from the bondage of evil habits costs the Lord His life, is the assurance of deliverance; for His life has proved victorious over every temptation. Then instead of murmuring about what we are required to give up, let us give thanks to God for His unspeakable gift.
"'What shall I render unto the lord for all His benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.'" Ps. cxvi. 12, 13. (November 7, 1901 EJW, PTUK 709,710)