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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Facing Trials: Job [14]

Despite his youth, Elihu seems to clearly see the weakness in the arguments of Job and of his three companions. He "became very angry with Job for justifying himself rather than God. He was also angry with the three friends, because they had found no way to refute Job, and yet had condemned him" (Job 32:2- 3)

He heard Job speak, albeit foolishly, as though he were able to judge God. He (Job) has questioned the Lord's justice and wisdom. The three friends have foolishly condemned Job. Obviously Job was not the ungodly sinner they have accused him of being. So with Elihu's insight, the arguments finally stop.

Even though he is also buying into the view that suffering is a punishment for sin, Elihu seems to catch fleeting glimpses of something more important. Perhaps God does use affliction for another purpose besides punishment and correction.

But those who suffer and are delivered 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." (Job 36:15-16)

Could it not be, implies Elihu, that God uses troubles to bring about good? Perhaps he sends pain into our lives to turn us to Him before WE FALL INTO SIN, NOT ONLY (as the friends have said)TO PUNISH AND CORRECT US AFTER WE HAVE ALREADY FALLEN! So Elihu is suggesting that the Lord is not silent, after all, as Job has argued (Job 33:14). Rather, He is saying something to Job for his benefit.

These small hints of better things are the best Elihu has to offer. He struggles to rise above the thinking of Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, but he is also a child of his times. And so Elihu slips back into the platitudes about sin and punishment. But, importantly, Elihu has come closer to helping Job than anyone else. 

Elihu has touched on a vital truth, namely, out of mercy (and granting free will) God allows His children to suffer. Far from being a sign of God's displeasure, suffering can be, and often is, a sign of his love.

Is this not the same that we do with our own children. Yes, we love them and want to protect them from all harm, but as they mature, we withdraw some of that safety net. We allow them to trip over some of life's potholes. And we do this, not because we are terrible parents or we hate our children. No, we do this because we do love them, and we want them to survive in the real world when we are gone, and we cannot protect them.

In the words of Scripture, "The Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son" (Hebrews 12:6). That is to say, where there is Christian faith, there are bound to be tribulations. Life has tribulations...for everyone! We do not get a fee ride or a free pass because we are faithful.

Remember that the Bible defines faith as being "certain of what we do not see" (Hebrews 11:1). If, however, we could always clearly see God's love and mercy in our lives, then we would not have to accept in faith that God is merciful and loving. We would have visible proof of it.

But "we live by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5;7).

The Lord does not want us to trust in him simply because we are blessed with good health and riches and honor. Rather, he wants us to trust him simply because of what he tells us in his Word, what we believe, what we have faith in. Thus we are often called on to believe in spite of what we see and experience--not because of it.

So the Lord tells us over and over in his Word that we believers should expect sorrows, troubles, persecutions and burdens to bear. These come together with God's blessings of forgiveness, love, peace, joy and eternal life. 
While he is still speaking, Elihu sees a storm coming from the north. He perceives in it the power of God:

Now no one can look at the sun, bright as it is in the skies after the wind has swept them clean. Out of the north he comes in golden splendor; God comes in awesome majesty. The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power in his justice and great righteousness, he does not oppress. (Job 37:21-23)

In this, Elihu is right. For the storm will bring a revelation from God Himself. Hang on, God is about to speak...


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