arrogant gaston January 15 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today's Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Job 35, 36, 37

Arrogant Presumptions

Many of us may be familiar with Gaston, the handsome arrogant character in Disney's animated tale, Beauty and the Beast. To be “arrogant” is defined by Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language, 2nd College Edition, © 1980, p.77, as being full of “unwarranted pride and self-importance, overbearing, and haughty.” This not only describes Gaston; it also describes many people in our real world. Arrogant people will not listen to anyone—they are so right. They will not even listen to God. The Biblical patriarch Job was accused of this behavior.

Has anyone accused us of being arrogant when we proclaimed our righteousness in certain situations? Or, have any of us presumed people are guilty when they proclaim their innocence? What is right for us to do?

Job lived in the days of Abraham (more...) and was a righteous man. He was pious, an excellent father, a good businessman and a philanthropist. He helped the poor and widows, and anyone in need—he encouraged people. He lived his life to please the LORD and avoided doing any evil (see January 13 Bible study). Satan told God that if Job lost everything he would not be so holy and righteous—he would curse his Maker to his face. God allowed him to test Job. On one day Job lost his business, family (except his wife) and his wealth. Still, Job did not curse God but praised him. He said,

“Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”

In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
(Job 1:21-22, NIV)

Satan appeared before God once more and asked that he might take away Job's health and then Job would curse the LORD. God allowed it. Job was then afflicted with a very bad skin disease (probably boils) and was miserable. Added to his misery was his wife telling him to curse God and die, and three well-meaning friends who came to comfort him. Hearing Job justify his righteousness, however, they lectured him, accusing him of wrongs they were convinced led to all his losses. Certainly, they argued, God only punishes the wicked.

When his three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar run out of arguments, however, a younger companion, Elihu speaks up. He is quite disgusted and angry that the arguments of Job's friends don't convince him. Elihu is the youngest member of the group. Out of respect he waits until Job's friends have expended their arguments. Then, in veiled pride he says he has a better answer. What is Elihu's answer to Job's defense?

Elihu defends God. He says God is greater than man; we would expect a man to defend himself, but God does not have to defend himself—he is above and beyond all in power, wisdom, understanding, and righteousness—he is transcendent. This is true, but Elihu goes even further in his argument.

He [God] does not answer when men cry out because of the arrogance of the wicked. Indeed, God does not listen to their empty plea; the Almighty pays no attention to it (Job 35:12-13, NIV).

Elihu implies that God does not answer Job because of his wickedness and arrogance. He continues...

If they obey and serve him [God], they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity and their years in contentment. But if they do not listen, they will perish by the sword and die without knowledge (Job 36:11-12, NIV).

This argument is no different from Job's friends. Elihu continues,

But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction. He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food. But now you are laden with the judgment due the wicked; judgment and justice have taken hold of you (Job 36:15-17, NIV).

This young man's argument is that God is afflicting Job to draw him back into a good relationship with him. He is therefore suffering because he is laden with God's judgment upon the wicked. Job must repent so he might receive the good things which are laid on God's table.

Elihu tells Job it is wrong to challenge God. He rightly expresses God's transcendence.

God is exalted in his power. Who is a teacher like him? Who has prescribed his ways for him, or said to him, “You have done wrong?” Remember to extol his work, which men have praised in song (Job 36:22 –24, NIV).

How great is God—beyond our understanding! The number of his years is past finding out (Job 36:26, NIV).

In other words, Elihu says to Job, in your arrogance you are challenging the eternal God who is transcendent in understanding above all. Shouldn't you be praising him instead of accusing him? Elihu, like Job's friends, is right in what he says but wrong in his application—Job is speaking from his miserable pain and great discomfort. It is wrong for Job to challenge God, but in this righteous man's case, what he spoke about his integrity is otherwise true.

As a storm approaches, Elihu uses it as an illustration of God's might and Job's comparative weakness. He wants him to take note of the powers of nature, which God directs, and to fear the Almighty One.

Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God's wonders. Do you know how God controls the clouds and makes his lightning flash? Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who is perfect in knowledge? You who swelter in your clothes when the land lies hushed under the south wind, can you join him in spreading out the skies, hard as a mirror of cast bronze?” (Job 37:14- 18, NIV).

Once again, Elihu's point is that God is transcendent in might and understanding.

The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power; in his justice and great righteousness, he does not oppress. Therefore, men revere him, for does he not have regard for all the wise in heart? (Job 37:23-24, NIV).

In this, Elihu hints that Job is not wise in his heart for accusing God, for the Almighty is above and beyond all in wisdom and understanding; therefore, he does not afflict the righteous.

Job, in his intense and unexplainable sufferings, has become defensive. His speeches are bold and arrogant, but this is not what brought troubles upon him. Neither did wickedness bring trouble upon him. It is true that God is transcendent in might and understanding and that he is completely just and righteous, so why are his friends so quick to say they understand the ways of the LORD?

Why do the righteous suffer? While we may have theological understanding that suffering happens because there is wickedness in the world (James 1:15; Romans 5:12; 8:20-22; John 16:33), or that God is judging someone for sin as Job's three friends and Elihu testify (Romans 6:23; Isaiah 13:11), or that the LORD is making us into better Christians (James 1:2-4), conforming us into his image (Romans 8:28-29), or that all our suffering works to the glory of God (Ephesians 1:11; Romans 11:36). In truth, however, we do not always know what God's purposes are in particular situations (Romans 11:33-36). And, if we do not know, it is wrong to guess and fill some troubled person's head with non-sense and a false sense of understanding.

Who is arrogant except the person who speaks presumptively? Nevertheless, what this young man said about God is true—he is above and beyond all in might and comprehension. This understanding provides a prelude to the final scene in which God speaks. We will see this in our next Bible study.

Lessons to Live By

  • Do not add to the burdens and pain of those who are suffering physically or emotionally with hurtful words and a pretence that you have all the answers—that is arrogance!
  • God is above and beyond all in might and understanding, but he is also personal and wants a relationship with us. He offers us spiritual light and life (more...).
  • Continue to walk prayerfully and humbly before God and encourage those who are afflicted.

Focus Verse

Job 37:23-24, NIV “The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power; in his justice and great righteousness, he does not oppress. Therefore, men revere him, for does he not have regard for all the wise in heart?”

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A Look Ahead: In our Next Lesson God speaks and gives Job his day in court. Have you ever wished for Your Day in Court? What might that be like?

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