Purpose Of Suffering | Elihu’s Speech | Job 32-37
Why do we go through hard times? Is it because God is not pleased with us? What is the true purpose of suffering? What counsel can you give to the suffering of the world today?
In Job 1, Job lost his 10 children, wealth, and servants. Job 2, dreaded skin disease, and boils came upon him. Also, in Job 3, Job curses the day of his birth, and his three friends who came to mourn with him start to speak. From chapter 4 to 31 Job conversed with his three friends; Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, about the meaning of suffering.
They had argued the retribution principle of God: Job’s friends said that suffering is basically punishment for sin and prosperity is reward for righteousness (Job 4:7–8). The friends said, “Job’s extraordinary suffering can only be explained as the punishment of God for grievous sin.”
How do you feel when you go through suffering and your friends come and accuse you of wrongdoing? Job defended himself all along by saying, that the wicked often prosper and the righteous often suffer (Job 21:29–30). And in his case in particular he had not committed any grievous sin that would set him up for such suffering above others.
We are left at the end of chapter 31 confused with the apparent ways of God. All seems to be arbitrary/random choice of God. God rules the affairs of men. Job never doubts God but as to why the righteous suffer—so far he has no answer.
It would be possible to live the rest of our lives at this level of understanding.
We could simply say, “Yes, I believe God rules over the world and controls what happens. I also believe that he is just and wise. All wrongs will be righted in the age to come. I know Jesus Christ as the Savior. So I will be still and trust God, though I cannot understand his strange ways.”
That is not a bad way to live. This honors God. But the writer of the book of Job is not satisfied to stop there and live that way. And he wants his readers to know that God has not concealed all of his ways. There is more to see of God’s purpose in suffering than we may think.
When if when you go through uncertainties of life, someone comes alongside and help you see things more clearly and gives you understanding? That is what Elihu does to Job.
Elihu Breaks In
Job 32:1-5 1So these three men stopped answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes.2But Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, became very angry with Job for justifying himself rather than God. 3He was also angry with the three friends, because they had found no way to refute Job, and yet had condemned him. 4Now Elihu had waited before speaking to Job because they were older than he. 5But when he saw that the three men had nothing more to say, his anger was aroused.
So Elihu’s speaks all the way from Job 32 to 37. Let’s try to learn today what this young Elihu has to say.
Elihu’s Rebuke Of Job
Elihu thinks that Job has been wrong in some of what Job has said—indeed, he sees pride and arrogance in Job’s attitude (see 33:17; 35:12; 36:9). In 33:8–12 he puts his finger on Job’s error:
Elihu said to Job: Job 33:8-12 8“But you have said in my hearing—I heard the very words— 9‘I am pure, I have done no wrong; I am clean and free from sin. 10Yet God has found fault with me; he considers me his enemy. 11He fastens my feet in shackles; he keeps close watch on all my paths.’ 12“But I tell you, in this you are not right, for God is greater than any mortal.
Job’s three friends said, Job is suffering because of his sin. Elihu said Job has sinned in his suffering. Job was justifying himself in his suffering rather than God 32:2. There is only one who has lived in this world without sin, Jesus Christ. Jesus said in John 8:46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? Even though Job was a righteous man in Job 1:1; Job was not a perfect man when suffering falls. When suffering fell Job sinned. There was a sediment of pride that began to cloud the purity of his life when it was stirred up by suffering.
Elihu’s Explanation Of Suffering
Elihu’s understanding of why the righteous suffer has to do with this residue of pride in them. Job had pride, self-reliance, self-righteousness lying at the bottom of Job’s life. His life was clean until it was shaken by suffering, then the sediment began to be stirred up and it came out in words that were overly self-justifying and overly disrespectful to his maker.
According To Elihu God Speaks To Man Two Ways
- God Speaks By His Word In Visions.
- God Speaks By The Pain Of Suffering.
Job 33:14-19 14For God does speak—now one way, now another— though no one perceives it. 15In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they slumber in their beds, 16he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings, 17to turn them from wrongdoing and keep them from pride, 18to preserve them from the pit, their lives from perishing by the sword. 19“Or someone may be chastened on a bed of pain with constant distress in their bones,
Now you see the two ways God speaks to man. Job and Elihu lived before scripture was given, so God primarily spoke through visions of the night and the bed of pain.
How Does God Speak To Us Today?
|His Son, Jesus Christ.||Hebrew 1:1-2|
|His Word||2 Timothy 3:16|
|His Spirit||Philippians 2:12-13; John 14:26|
|His People||1 Thessalonians 5:11|
|His Creation||Psalm 19:1-2; Romans 1:20|
Elihu Argues That Job Is The “Righteous Sufferer”
Elihu makes clear that there is such a thing as a righteous person who still has sin that needs to be revealed and rooted out. Job is the righteous sinner. To call a person righteous does not mean that the person is sinless perfection. Job had been claiming to his friends that he is righteous.
Job 36:6-10 6He does not keep the wicked alive but gives the afflicted their rights. 7He does not take his eyes off the righteous; he enthrones them with kings and exalts them forever. 8But if (righteous) people are bound in chains, held fast by cords of affliction, 9he tells them what they have done—that they have sinned arrogantly. 10He makes them listen to correction and commands them to repent of their evil
Both The Righteous And Wicked Suffer
The Wicked Is Destroyed In Suffering, 36:6
The Righteous Exalted In Suffering, 36:7
In other words, the righteous are far from sinless perfection. There is much of the old nature left in the most righteous man or woman. It came out when it was stirred up by Job’s suffering.
The Purpose Of God In Suffering According To Elihu
Elihu says, God speaks to us in visions and dreams or through the bed of pain. The purpose of this is: Job 33:17-18 17to turn them from wrongdoing and keep them from pride, 18to preserve them from the pit, their lives from perishing by the sword.
Why Do The Righteous Suffer?
Elihu does not picture God as an angry judge but as a Redeemer, a Savior, a Rescuer, a Doctor. The pain God caused Job is like the surgeon’s knife, it is not like the executioner’s whip.
1. Suffering Keeping One From Wrongdoing
2. Suffering Keep One From Pride
3. Suffering Preserve One From Danger
4. Suffering Keeps One From Destruction
In other words, God’s purpose in the suffering of the righteous is not to punish but to save — To save him from his pride, to save him from going into deeper sins, to bring him back from the pit of destruction, and ultimately from death.
5. Suffering Makes The Righteous Aware Of Their Sinfulness.
Job 36:8-98But if (righteous) people are bound in chains, held fast by cords of affliction, 9he tells them what they have done—that they have sinned arrogantly.
Elihu’s teaching is that affliction makes the righteous person sensitive to the remaining sinfulness, helps him hate it, and renounce it.
6. Suffering Makes The Righteous Listen To Correction.
Job 36:10 He makes them listen to correction and commands them to repent of their evil.
Suffering opens the ear of the righteous. It is like the psalmist: Psalm 119:71 It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.
I learnt when I got sick. I heard from God when I got sick.
Elihu says that the suffering of the righteous is not the fire of destruction but the fire that refines the gold of their goodness. Because the suffering of the righteous is not punitive it is curative, rehabilitative.
What Happens When The Wicked Suffer?
Job 36:13-14 13“The godless in heart harbor resentment; even when he fetters them, they do not cry for help. 14They die in their youth, among male prostitutes of the shrines.
When the godless in heart experiences suffering, they experience destruction.
Response Of The Godly In Suffering
Job 36:15-16 15But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction. 16“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.
|When The Righteous Suffer:|
|1. God Delivers The Righteous.|
|2. God Opens Their Ears.|
|3. God Speaks in our Suffering.|
|4. They Experience Deliverance.|
|5. Their Purpose From God Is Not Destruction.|
How Has Elihu Added to Our Understanding?
1. Elihu Shows Why Job’s Three Friends Are Wrong
He showed Job’s three friends to be wrong. The friends said that the only way to explain Job’s suffering was to say that God was punishing him for sin.
Elihu says that this is not the way to explain Job’s suffering. Job is a righteous man. The righteous do suffer. And their suffering is not a punishment for sin but a refinement of their righteousness. Suffering awakens their ear to new dimensions of God’s reality and new depths of their own imperfection and need. Secondly, Suffering deepens their faith and godliness. Suffering opens their eyes to magnificent truths about God. So the three friends of Job are wrong.
2. Elihu Shows Why Job Is Wrong
Job insisted that he is righteous and his suffering made no sense. God has become my enemy.
He was not Job’s enemy and Job is not as pure as he claims to be. Moreover, God is in fact Job’s loving Father. He has allowed this sickness to drag on for months because he loves Job, not because he hates him.
The suffering has brought out the hidden sin of pride in Job. Now Job’s ear has been opened to his remaining imperfection. Now he can repent and be cleansed and depend on God as he never had before. His suffering was not only an occasion for God to get glory over Satan (which we saw in chapters 1 and 2); it was also an occasion for God to deepen Job’s insight and trust and godliness.
We are to pray, “God, reveal to me my hidden faults.”
The Result Of Elihu’s Speech
Job Does Not Argue With Elihu.
Elihu says to Job: Job 33:32 If you have anything to say, answer me; speak up, for I want to vindicate you.
There is no answer form Job. The easiest explanation for this silence is that Job agreed with him. Job had been successful in silencing Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, but he does not say one word against Elihu even though Elihu challenged him.
Job Repents Of Some Things Elihu Said.
In fact, in Job 42:6 Job does repent for some of the things Elihu said: Job 42:6 Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.
Elihu was right in things he had said about God and Job repents.
God Does Not Rebuke Elihu.
In Job 42, God looks back over the period of suffering and rebukes Job’s three friends, but God does not rebuke Elihu. Job 42:7 After the Lord had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.
Why does God not rebuke Elihu? Probably because Elihu’s words are true and prepare the way for the final, decisive words of God. Elihu claims to be guided by the Spirit of God: 32:8.
Job 32:8 But it is the spiritin a person, the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding.
I think Elihu here speaks the very words of God.
The Central Lesson
So the central lesson for us from the book of Job today is that the children of God—those who trust in God and are led by his Holy Spirit and have their sins covered by the blood of Jesus—may indeed suffer. And when they do suffer, it is not a punishment for sin. Christ has borne the punishment for our sin, and there is no double jeopardy! There is no punishment for the children of God. There is only merciful kind gentle, and if necessary severe discipline.
The suffering of the children of God is not the firm application of a principle of retributive justice. Suffering is the free application of the principle of sovereign grace.
Suffering is apportioned to us as individually designed, expert therapy by the loving hand of our Great Physician.
Lamentations 3:37-42 37Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it? 38Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come? 39Why should the living complain when punished for their sins? 40Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord. 41Let us lift up our hearts and our hands to God in heaven, and say: 42“We have sinned and rebelled and you have not forgiven.
1 Peter 1:6-7 6In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
The aim of suffering is that our faith might be refined, our holiness might be enlarged, our soul might be saved, and our God might be glorified.
Hebrews 12:10-11 10….God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
2 Corinthians 1:8-9 8We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.
James 1:2-4 2Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Both The Righteous And Wicked Go Through Suffering
The Suffering Of The Wicked Leads To Destruction
The Suffering Of The Righteous Is Not To Punish But To Save
God Speaks To Us In Our Suffering
God Delivers The Righteous
Link to the first sermon in the BOOK OF JOB series below.
Link to the second sermon in the BOOK OF JOB series below!