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Why be Good?

Job Series  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Why Be Good?

Long before it’s time, the cousin to the prosperity gospel, the therapeutic gospel asks — “If I am good, will God bless me?” To which it answers — “Yes, He will!”
Unlike the previous two speeches, this one is solely addressed to Job. But like the other two, Elihu begins by summarizing something Job said in verses 2-4 before giving him an answer.
Elihu’s answer has two parts, the first in verses 5-8 and the second in verses 9-16.
Here is how this speech is made up.
The Question — What’s the point of being good?
The First Answer — It’s the Wrong Question to ask.
The Second Answer — Don’t Expect an Answer
Let’s examine each.

The Question — Why be Good?

Job 35:1–4 HCSB
Then Elihu continued, saying: Do you think it is just when you say, “I am righteous before God”? For you ask, “What does it profit You, and what benefit comes to me, if I do not sin?” I will answer you and your friends with you.
The key question is found in verse 3. This is a quotation of Job’s words in .
Job 9:29 HCSB
Since I will be found guilty, why should I labor in vain?
Elihu already used this in the previous chapter.
Job 34:9 HCSB
For he has said, “A man gains nothing when he becomes God’s friend.”
Now he takes this issue and makes it the focus of this speech. Job’s question is his objection as well.
“If I take the trouble to live a godly life, what is the point if, despite my virtue, I experience such terrible suffering?”
Now, remember what was said of Job:
— he was “blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil.”
“This was the greatest of all the people of the earth.”
Look what Job would do.
Job 1:5 HCSB
Whenever a round of banqueting was over, Job would send for his children and purify them, rising early in the morning to offer burnt offerings for all of them. For Job thought: Perhaps my children have sinned, having cursed God in their hearts. This was Job’s regular practice.
Job 1:
And it was God who said of Job twice: Job is “a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil.”
So, you can see why Job asks the question: “Why be good?” It has done me no good. And here’s the question for us:
Why should we do good?
Elihu answers Job, but he doesn’t do it by sympathetically putting his arm around him. This is a strong rebuke.

Answer 1 — You’re asking the wrong question.

He gives him an illustrative exhortation:
Job 35:5 HCSB
Look at the heavens and see; gaze at the clouds high above you.
What does this do? What’s the point?
Think about the transcendence of God and how His dwelling place is beyond your reach. He is above you, Job — far above you!”
God live above and beyond this world of human mortals. Nothing you can do on earth will change what happens up there. You can hate and lie or be generous and loving, and nothing in the heavens changes. It remains as it was and is. You won’t affect the realm of God.
And look at verse 6:
Job 35:6 HCSB
If you sin, how does it affect God? If you multiply your transgressions, what does it do to Him?
Negatively, your sin doesn’t harm God, nor does it affect God in the slightest.
Positively,
Job 35:7 HCSB
If you are righteous, what do you give Him, or what does He receive from your hand?
God is in His very nature and eternal blessedness — impassible and immutable, unchangeably the same.
Your sin and your righteousness can only affect your fellow human beings. That’s verse 8:
Job 35:8 HCSB
Your wickedness affects a person like yourself, and your righteousness another human being.
What is the point here?
Elihu is not suggesting that God doesn’t care how Job or you and I behave. Clearly our actions have moral and spiritual significance. But what he is saying is that since we cannot affect the blessedness of God by our actions, there is no way we should expect to gain any kind of leverage with God. We can’t say, “If I stop sinning, I expect you’ll feel happier and reward me.”
Therefore to ask:
Why be good?
It’s actually the wrong question. Because it shows we have not properly understood the transcendence of God — that He is impassible and immutable. That means we cannot harm Him or cause Him to change.
Now Elihu is very blunt in his first answer. And the second is even more uncomfortable.

Answer 2 — Don’t expect an Answer

Job 35:9–16 HCSB
People cry out because of severe oppression; they shout for help because of the arm of the mighty. But no one asks, “Where is God my Maker, who provides us with songs in the night, who gives us more understanding than the animals of the earth and makes us wiser than the birds of the sky?” There they cry out, but He does not answer, because of the pride of evil men. Indeed, God does not listen to empty cries, and the Almighty does not take note of it— how much less when you complain that you do not see Him, that your case is before Him and you are waiting for Him. But now, because God’s anger does not punish and He does not pay attention to transgression, Job opens his mouth in vain and multiplies words without knowledge.
Here Elihu describes a nonspecific situation. It’s application to Job becomes clear in verses 14-16.
Here’s the situation he describes:
People all over the world are oppressed, and the oppressed “cry out” and they call for help. (verse 9)
Why doesn’t God do something about it?
This is the question of the sceptic, the atheist, the secularist:
If there’s a God, then why is there evil in this world? Why has God done something about it all?
And the answer is in verse 10 --
Job 35:10 HCSB
But no one asks, “Where is God my Maker, who provides us with songs in the night,
They don’t call out to God! The question: “Where is God my Maker?” is not asking for information, but expresses a heart that longs for God.
Look at the the answer in totality:
Job 35:10–11 HCSB
But no one asks, “Where is God my Maker, who provides us with songs in the night, who gives us more understanding than the animals of the earth and makes us wiser than the birds of the sky?”
Where is God my Maker? This professes God as Creator.
Who provides us with songs in the night? This assumes all gifts come from the Lord of the universe, not ourselves.
Who gives us more understanding and wisdom? We are not wise because of our education or science or our rulers or we’re so smart. Wisdom comes from God. Understanding comes from God.
The problem is that while people cry out, they do not pray. Their cry is one of anguish, not one of faith in God. They don’t pray and God does not answer.
Hebrews 11:6 HCSB
Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him.
Why don’t people cry out to God in faith?
Verse 12 — Because they are proud. Their cry is empty, verse 13, empty means deceitful and worthless. Their cry comes from an unbelieving heart. And that God does not answer.
Isn’t this uncomfortable?
It gets much more uncomfortable when he homes in on Job. Wouldn’t this make you uncomfortable, if he then turned to you and said:
“How much less when you complain?”
Job complained that he cannot see God, that his case is before God, and he is just waiting and waiting for God to hear his case. That’s verse 14.
God doesn’t punish evildoers and seems not to notice transgression at all. (vs15)But Job’s problem is that his talk about God is “empty” just like the empty crying of the people described in verses 9-13.
What does all this mean? What is Elihu saying to Job?
Job cannot expect to hear from God when Job is saying all these outrageous and impious things about God. You cannot expect God to answer you when you look at God as being like you.
God said
Psalm 50:12
Psalm 50:21 HCSB
You have done these things, and I kept silent; you thought I was just like you. But I will rebuke you and lay out the case before you.
God won’t answer your cries Job no more than he will answer the cries of other sufferers who do not cry out to Him in faith.
Elihu is telling Job, not what Job wants to hear, but what he needs to hear. There is no soppy sympathy from Elihu, but there is the truth. Elihu dares not compromise God’s name.
People think they can put God in their debt and that because we suffer that God is obligated to answer us. Neither is true.
God is far above us. He is all-wise. He is all-good. God is sovereign in power and rule.
Will God ever listen to a man?
Will God ever answer prayer?
Psalm
Psalm 34:18 HCSB
The Lord is near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit.
Psalm 51:17 HCSB
The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. God, You will not despise a broken and humbled heart.
Isaiah 57:15 HCSB
For the High and Exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy says this: “I live in a high and holy place, and with the oppressed and lowly of spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and revive the heart of the oppressed.
More than this! Listen to this promise.
Jeremiah
Jeremiah 29:12 HCSB
You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.
Better than that!
Jeremiah 33:
Jeremiah 33:3 HCSB
Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things you do not know.
You cannot approach God, except to come to Him knowing He is God.
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