A Precious Chapter in the Book of Job
We have been going through the book of Job in our Sunday evening service and I have been wonderfully helped in this close study of God’s Word. We are nearing the end, so I may have to come back with an updated post, but up till now one chapter has struck me as exceedingly precious. Most people are familiar with the first 2 chapters and the last 5 chapters, and rightly so. There are massive lessons to learn about suffering in those chapters. Additionally, chapter 28 is a particularly unique and important chapter about wisdom that is utterly necessary. But the one chapter that I was not expecting to land with such force was chapter 33. Elihu brings a powerful argument that must not be missed if one is going to be prepared to suffering rightly.
Elihu just came onto the scene in chapter 32. This young man probably needs to simmer down a bit, as burning anger is mentioned 3 times in his introduction. But nonetheless, I believe he is God’s man to prep Job with reproof and correction before the nuclear bomb of instruction lands in chapters 38-41. Elihu’s reproof gets going in chapter 33, and from there I want to walk you through his important words.
Your Beliefs are the Problem
Job has already spent numerous chapters detailing his righteousness. Although the three friends tried to deny it, Job was in reality a righteous man. God affirmed this and Elihu never challenged it. The problem that has come to the surface is Job’s thinking which has gone off the rails; not his thinking about sin, but his thinking about God. In Job’s estimation, God seems not to be as concerned about sin and righteousness as he is. Righteousness needs to be exalted, but Job is debased. Righteousness should be extoled, but Job is humiliated. Righteousness must be lauded, but Job is destroyed. What is wrong with God? That is where Job is going in his mind. God is sovereignly in control over these painful things and it is not right.
So Elihu goes after Job’s beliefs. But how does he do that? Beliefs are embedded in a person’s heart and the heart is most readily displayed by words. From the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. In 33:8-11 Elihu starts quoting and summarizing Job’s speeches and they are the continual target for Elihu. In verse 12, Elihu says you are not right, “for God is greater than man.” God is so great Job, you are already off base by asserting these accusations. Then Elihu targets a particular form of talk Job had fallen into.
Your forget your place
Verse 33:13 is so huge for someone in suffering. “Why do you complain against Him, that He does not given an account of all His doings?” Job had begun to complain, and at the heart of the complaint was the demand for an accounting. Job wanted to do an audit on God. He wanted to see reasons for why this suffering was happening. Isn’t that so common among those who suffer? But one thing we have been learning from this book is this; we are not being taught the “why” of suffering, but the “how” of suffering. And one “how” is to not demand an accounting from God. If you are going to suffer rightly, in a God honoring way, you cannot demand to know all the reasons God has for doing what He is doing.
Does God have reasons? Absolutely, and we are going to get to some in a moment. But the first and foremost issue is the character of God. Do you trust Him? Is He worthy of worship? Is His power sufficient to bring good from evil? When the suffering person demands that God give an account, he is saying God is suspect, and only one's own assessment will satisfy. You are trying to switch places with God; you have forgotten your place. But God doesn’t rotate off his throne with his creatures.
A Sampling to get a feel
But then Elihu does something amazing. He gives an accounting of God’s actions. The very thing that Job was out of order for asking is the very thing that Elihu gives him. Now, be aware that this is just a sampling. Do you really think you can exhaustively understand all the reasons an infinite God has for doing what He does? Impossible. God has been orchestrating every atom, for all time, for His purposes. Your life and your suffering is a part of this unfathomable dance of matter and every moment impacts every other moment. You cannot understand this. You cannot even understand the depth of how much you cannot understand it. But maybe you can handle a sampling of what God does.
Verse 14 says that no one even notices when God speaks. It is so intertwined in the normal everyday stuff that you look right past it. If you can’t even see the big A on the eye chart of God’s dealings, what are you doing demanding an account of all the little stuff. Nonetheless, Elihu gives us three examples. First, verses 15-18 speak of a dream event. In some mysterious way, in the depth of man’s soul, God can move him with fearful imaginations. The second is verse 19-22. The suffering of the sickbed is one of God’s tools as well. God brings him to the pit, but clearly it is ultimately to avoid the pit. Verse 21-26 is the third way of a mediator. This angel is probably better understood as a human messenger that is riding the waves of the sickbed suffering in the previous verses. This man speaks truth to him (vs.23c) and then pray fervently for him (vs. 24-26). The restoration that results brings repentance and praise (vs.27-28).
Then Elihu makes one thing abundantly clear. “Behold, God does all these oftentimes with men, to bring back his soul from the pit, that he may be enlightened with the light of life.” Read that carefully. God is always doing this kind of thing. Maybe not these exact things, but things just like it.
God is always at work
This is Elihu’s first big reproof to Job. It is a huge one that probably deals with 85% of what most of us do when we are suffering. How dare you complain and demand and accounting, when you don’t even see the all the rescuing ways that God is doing in you and all around you. You are so blind, and so arrogant. Yet God is so big and glorious and gracious. He is doing good and right things that are preserving your life. Yes you only feel pain and confusion. But what will you trust; God or your own assessments?
If you are going to suffer rightly, the first way to do it is to expel this desire for getting all the reasons. Trust that God has them, that God is working perfectly and powerfully with those reasons, and that those reasons are for your good and His glory.
More in Pastor Jay's Blog
September 13, 2020How Exactly is Jesus Reigning As King? (Or is Pastor Jay a Closet Postmillennial)
August 7, 2020Keeping Unity Amid Pandemic Differences
August 2, 2020You Need Mystery, Not Ignorance