Fussing with Job, Fuming with Elihu, Fearing God

“Then the wrath of Elihu . . . was aroused against Job; . . . because he justified himself rather than God.  Also against his three friends his wrath was aroused, because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job” (Job 32:2-3, NKJV).

The book of Job is the Bible’s book on inexplicable suffering–when one suffers for no apparent reason.  If you remember, Job was a rich, righteous, and blessed man, having seven sons and three daughters–a man “blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1).  Then one day, unknown to Job himself, God and Satan had a conversation:

“Have you considered My servant Job,” asked God, “that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” (1:8).

“Does Job fear God for nothing?” replied the devil.  “Stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” (1:9, 11).

So God let him, and Job lost all his children and possessions in one day.  Still, he did not curse God, but blessed Him, saying, “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (1:21).

Again, God and Satan conversed; and again, God asked if Satan had considered Job.  “Skin for skin!” the devil replied.  “Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life.  But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” (2:4-5).

So God let him, and Job lost his health and heard his wife (bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh) tell him to curse God and die.  Still, he did not curse God, but reproved his wife, saying, “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” (2:10).  “In all this,” we read, “Job did not sin with his lips” (2:10).

But then the poetry begins, and with it, the mystery.  On the one side, three friends accuse Job of wrongdoing, for how can a man walk blamelessly and yet experience such extreme loss and agony?  On the other hand, Job defends himself and accuses God of wrongdoing, for how can a man walking blamelessly and yet experience such extreme loss and agony?  On the horns of a dilemma, the conversation is hung, and some of the wisest minds of the East cannot find a solution.  Then walks in Elihu, a young man, angry at both sides.

Now before discussing Elihu’s anger, let us sympathize a moment with both sides.  Honestly, we may be more like Job and his friends than we realize.  On the one side, when unusual calamity strikes another person, do we not often suspect there must be some moral cause behind it, unknown to us?  After all, has not our obedience often been the pathway to blessing for us?  On the other side, when unusual calamity strikes us, do we not often interpret the pain as God’s displeasure?  Do not the emotions of our heart, and the murmurings of our conscience cry out with Job, “Why do You hide Your face, and regard me as Your enemy?” (13:24).  In other words, “God, what did I do to deserve this?”  And yet, God was not Job’s enemy.  From the beginning of the book, we know that God was proud of Job.  Therefore, both sides are wrong, and Elihu is right.  And if we doubt it, the whirlwind voice of God Himself adds eloquent confirmation to Elihu’s wrath (Job 38-41).  As a result, Job repents; and God forgives (Job 42).

Here is where my thinking on Job has been corrected.  In the past, I used to criticize Job by thinking, “Job, don’t you realize that we are all sinners and that we all deserve hell?  Job, anything this side of hell is a mercy.  Quit complaining.  God has not wronged you, O sinner.”  That is not the solution.  Even though such reasoning is true in an absolute sense (Mt. 19:17; Rom. 3:10)–and believe me, if you have not abandoned your sense of goodness and trusted in Jesus and His blood alone to pay for your sins, you are not saved–still, though such reasoning is true overall, it is not the point of the book of Job (which deals with a believer), and it does not fit the repeated testimony of God at the beginning of the book.  We are to consider Job as blameless, having done nothing to deserve this.  So why is he suffering?  That’s the rub.

Oddly enough, it is not Job’s sin that has led to his suffering, but Job’s blamelessness.  God is showing Job off to Satan.  In turn, Satan asserts that religion goes no deeper than self-interest.  Wrong.  Job shows otherwise, for Job refuses to curse God.  However, even though Job does not curse God, he does accuse God; and here is where we learn of man’s chief temptation–self-righteousness.  Elihu is angry with Job (and rightly so) for justifying himself rather than God (32:2).  In other words, Job is saying, “I am righteous, but God has taken away my justice” (34:5).  By saying that it does not pay to please God, Job has inadvertently begun to talk like the wicked (34:9, 36).

Brothers, listen.  God never does wrong.  If we should be born blind for the glory of God (John 9:3), or be crucified for the glory of God (John 21:18-19), or lose all our children, our possessions, and our health, as did Job, for the glory of God in heaven, God has done no wrong; for we exist for Him, and He alone is worthy of such glory.  Amazing.  I so often crumble at little things, and in self-pity react as if God has wronged me.

Ultimately, the mystery of Job is solved at the cross.  Granted, Job himself is restored to health, wealth, and prosperity, and we are told to take note of “the end”–of God’s mercy towards Job (James 5:11); but Job himself never knew why all that had happened to him.  Nor did he see the cross, when the absolutely Blameless One suffered most for the glory of God.  We, however, who have seen what the Blameless One, Jesus, has suffered–and has suffered for us–we have the advantage of knowing about both Job and Jesus.  How can we now complain against Him? God help us!

Note: All Scripture references in this post are taken from the New King James Version.  Copyright (c) 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.  Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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