Monday, April 17, 2017

When Bad Things Happen To Good People: A Study Of The Book Of Job. Day 43, Elihu's Speech, Part Three

Elihu criticizes Job for speaking against God. He feels man has no right to question God or to complain that God is not answering. He states that perhaps God is already answering Job, but he is not listening.

"But I tell you, in this you are not right, for God is greater than any mortal. Why do you complain to Him that He responds to no one's words? For God does speak---now one way, now another---though no one perceives it." (Job 33:12-14) Elihu is going to point out that God speaks to no one in an audible voice from heaven, but that He does speak in other ways.

"In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they slumber in their beds, He may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings, to turn them from wrongdoing and keep them from pride, to preserve them from the pit, their lives from perishing by the sword." (Job 33:15-18) Elihu says, "During the daytime you may be too busy to realize God is trying to get your attention. It's possible for men and women to fill their waking hours so full that there is no room for God. This is why He sometimes has to speak through dreams and visions."

"Or someone may be chastened on a bed of pain with constant distress in their bones, so that their body finds food repulsive and their soul loathes the choicest meal. Their flesh wastes away to nothing, and their bones, once hidden, now stick out. They draw near to the pit, and their life to the messengers of death." (Job 33:19-22) We know that Job is sick in body and suffering from a lack of appetite. Elihu suggests that this illness is being used of God for a purpose. Job has accused God of being his enemy, of maybe afflicting him for some private amusement, but on this point Elihu displays some wisdom. God is not Job's enemy. He doesn't hate him. He hasn't allowed afflictions into his life just so He can have His own private reality show. Elihu believes suffering has a purpose in the believer's life, although as we will see in the next section, he thinks Job's suffering will be relieved if he will repent of blaming God.

"Yet if there is an angel at their side, a messenger, one out of a thousand, sent to tell them how to be upright, and he is gracious to that person and says to God, 'Spare them from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom for them---let their flesh be renewed like a child's; let them be restored as in the days of their youth'---then that person can pray to God and find favor with Him, they will see God's face and shout for joy; He will restore them to full well-being. And they will go to others and say, 'I have sinned, I have perverted what is right, but I did not get what I deserved. God has delivered me from going down to the pit, and I shall live to enjoy the light of life.'" (Job 33:23-28) In the original Hebrew the angel or messenger in verse 23 would be more correctly translated as a mediator or interpreter. In Chapter 9 Job expressed his wish that someone would help him speak with God, "If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together." (v 33) Elihu says, "God does deal with us in this way. A mediator speaks to Him on our behalf and says, 'I have found a ransom for him! I have redeemed him! Hear his prayer of repentance.'" Elihu uses this example of conversion wrongly in Job's case, since Job has not strayed from the Lord, but it remains a beautiful picture of the way Christ intercedes on our behalf. God the Father hears our prayers of repentance because God the Son has asked him to. God the Father grants us pardon because God the Son has paid our ransom.

"God does all these things to a person---twice, even three times---to turn them back from the pit, that the light of life may shine on them." (Job 33:29-30) Elihu tells Job, "The Lord gives a person second and third chances. Maybe even more! When a man keeps going the wrong way, the Lord brings affliction into his life to correct his ways, but this is not because God hates anyone. It's because God wants to save our souls. He loves us too much not to discipline us."

"Pay attention, Job, and listen to me; be silent, and I will speak. If you have anything to say, answer me; speak up, for I want to vindicate you. But if not, then listen to me; be silent, and I will teach you wisdom." (Job 33:31-33) There have actually been some nuggets of wisdom in Elihu's speech. None of them apply to Job's particular situation, but he's made a few good points about the way God sometimes uses affliction to get our attention and about the fact that there is a mediator between God and man. The problem is, none of this is going to help Job because he already knows these things. They have no bearing on his own circumstances because he knows he hasn't brought his suffering upon himself. He wants to believe there is a purpose for his pain. He could probably stand his tragedies if God would only speak up and tell him the reason for them. But so far all he's heard is useless advice from men who think he is an unrepentant sinner.

Job's longing to understand the reasons for his suffering remind me of a line from a song (the link will be provided below) that says, "I want to believe there's beauty here." And I think that's a very profound statement. In our suffering, don't we want to believe there is beauty? Couldn't we stand it a little bit better if we believed beauty could come from ashes? Our Maker knew we would need promises to hold onto in the tough times, and that's why He gave us so many. In our pain and confusion we have to believe what the word of God says instead of relying on the way we feel. Our feelings will deceive us. Because we are weak and fragile, our troubles can overwhelm us. But God has given us the promises in His holy word so that we will have something unshakable to cling to even in the midst of the storm.

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