Prosperity, Sovereignty and Job, part 2

May 25, 2010 at 11:40 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, False teaching, Theology | Leave a comment

            Not only do Job’s first three friends represent the prosperity gospel of our day, but so does the fourth.  This younger mystery character called Elihu comes into the scene after Job’s three friends fail to answer him.  He speaks for six chapters (32-37) claiming to add to the conversation what the others failed to say.  He claims to speak wisdom (33:31-33); he even claims to speak for God (36:2).  Trouble is I fail to see anything new that he adds; he simply restates the argument the others have been making with different words.

            Elihu seems to believe in the sovereignty of God, making statements like “God thunders with His voice wondrously, doing great things we cannot comprehend,” and “The Almighty – we cannot find him; He is exalted in power,” and “He breaks in pieces mighty men without inquiry.” (37:5, 23; 34:24)  However, he fails to see how that overrules his own ideas about God.  He puts God in a box that sovereignty doesn’t allow.  “Far be it from God to do wickedness and from the Almighty to do wrong.  He pays a man according to his work.  . . .  Surely, God will not act wickedly, and the Almighty will not pervert justice.” (34:10-12)  All that sounds like good theology, and at face value it is, but reading on, and putting his words in their literary context, gives me the impression that right or wrong, good or wicked, is not absolute right and wrong according to God, but right or wrong according to Elihu.  In fact the real meaning of that comes out when he adds, “If they (i.e. the righteous) hear and serve Him, they will end their days in prosperity and their years in pleasures.” (36:11)  In this context, Elihu means that Job hasn’t served God, and that’s why he lost everything, but if he serves God from this point on, all his wealth will return to him.  That sounds exactly like the proponents of the prosperity gospel.  God’s word does promise success to those who hear and serve him, but they give success their own definition, which looks exactly like Madison Avenue’s definition, rather than God’s.  God’s definition of success is not more things and more money, but more knowledge of him and his will.  The matter of financial prosperity is subject to his sovereign choice.

            God notes that all the players in this production missed the point of his sovereignty.  He asks, “Who is this that darkens my counsel by words without knowledge?”  and follows up that question with four chapters of questions designed to teach his sovereignty to Job and his friends.  Job’s confession is a far better perspective than Elihu’s.  “I know you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” (42:2)

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