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Biblical Thoughts on Suffering: A fresh bag of wind blows more hot air.

Job 32-33
Job32At this point we encounter Elihu, a 4th friend of Job’s, younger than the others. Although his words convey a lot of truth and wisdom, he is way off the mark when he accuses Job. First of all, he rightly observes that age does not equal wisdom. Yet he does so to express his anger over the failure of his older colleagues to refute Job and set him straight. So we must be aware that even though much of what he says may edify and enlighten us, Elihu is sadly lacking in wisdom for he has misjudged Job entirely. His speech reveals to us that he is nothing more than an arrogant bag-of-wind as he unwittingly claims in 32:18-20. Although he claims to speak for God, that he has the answer to the argument, none of what he will add is going to resolve the situation for he insists that Job is guilty of provoking the Lord to wrath.

In response to Job’s allegation that God is silent, Elihu rightly observes that God speaks in dreams and visions and through the circumstances of adversity. He also rightly notes that God does not desire the destruction of any man but wants all to come to repentance. And so Job would have to repent if he was guilty but he is not. Despite Elihu’s error he does claim that we need a mediator who must act to restore our relationship with the Lord. Elihu wrongly attributes this role to an angel which is perhaps where the idea of guardian angels may find its root. How this angel mediator provides a ransom to deliver the sinner, he does not say. The truth is that when the sinner admits his wrongdoing to the Lord he finds healing and restoration but only because of the ransom that was paid for sin by our mediator, Christ Jesus, on the cross.

Biblical Thoughts on Suffering: Wisdom comes from God.

Job 28

wisdomThe nameless author of Job presents us with a transition from the dialogues of Job and his friends to the resolution of the book. His purpose is to bring us back to the real issue which has been obscured by all the theological rhetoric and emotional responses of these men. We may have thought that the core issue of this book focused on suffering and its causes, or why the good suffer while the bad do not, or even God’s justice. These are all topics which we have explored, but the real issue is wisdom. God possesses it without limit; He acts according to it and in a way consistent with his Divine nature and sovereignty. Yet man is unable to begin to grasp or understand it on his own.

Human beings seek wisdom by observing the created world and by thinking about the wonders of the entire universe. Human beings mine the world for answers and explanations as miners dig for precious metals and gemstones. The world considers the wise person to be one who is successful, famous, accomplished, charismatic and talented, one who can pontificate on a subject or variety of subjects without fear or trepidation.

The author lets us know that this is not true at all. Wisdom comes not by human effort at all. Wisdom comes from a relationship with the Lord. Though we can never hope to fully comprehend Him and His ways, we can begin to understand Him as we humbly acknowledge our weakness, as we admit that compared to Him we know nothing, as we declare our total dependency on Him. Then we will respond in worship and in obedience to follow all He has commanded us to do. The hardest thing to admit is that we cannot begin to even follow Him unless He draw us. That is true wisdom.

Biblical Thoughts on Suffering: We suffer because of sin.

We suffer because of sin.

JobaccusedJob 25-26

Bildad’s short argument attempts to refute Job’s view of God’s nature that has upset the comfortable theology of the three friends. He presents the bottom line reason that tries to explain why God allows bad things to happen: human nature is corrupt. Sin is the source of all the evil that occurs and all men are sinners. No man can stand before a holy and perfect God and claim innocence. Therefore, according to Bildad, we should not complain but merely accept what we have coming to us. Certainly this is of no comfort or help to those enduring suffering and pain delivered as it is without feeling and compassion, but in an attempt to prove oneself right. It makes the “comforter” feel comforted while belittling the suffering one’s grief and crushing his honest dialogue with God.

Job rejects this argument for although it is true that all men are born with a sin nature, the explanation does not fit his situation or for that matter every situation he has cited. Instead, Job focuses on God’s awesome nature, his power, might, splendor and wisdom as proclaimed in all of His creation. He does this to point out to his friends and us that God’s ways are, ultimately mysterious and beyond our comprehension. He defies our vain imagination and disrupts our easy answers and comfortable rules. All our knowledge, all our attempts to explain and thereby control the world and God, through theology, philosophy, science and the arts, are but a whisper compared to His thunderous Word.  We may be comforted somewhat by the thought that as sinners we deserve to suffer since that allows us some explanation for our pain. Nevertheless we should voice our complaint to the Lord for we know in Him we are forgiven and that He made us for something better. Yet in the end, it is up to Him.

Biblical Thoughts on Suffering: Does God’s silence mean that He is unjust?

Job 23-24

job23In response to Eliphaz’s baseless accusations, Job feels utterly frustrated. His friends have misjudged him. He informs them that if he were only able to go before the Lord and make his case, he would be vindicated. The Lord would show them that his motives were pure, his actions faultless and his suffering undeserved. But he cannot do this because the Lord remains hidden from him and silent. Job has cried out to God but He has not answered. Job concludes that this means God apparently does as He pleases. Such a thought is terrifying for that means his suffering can continue indefinitely.

Job’s experience of God runs counter to his friends’ rigid ideas and formulas about the way the Lord acts. God does not seem to have fixed times of judgment as would an earthly court. No one can appear before Him at a certain time and know they would get a hearing let alone receive justice for their case. Meanwhile He looks the other way at the wicked, almost as if He supported their cause and protected them. His withholding of justice and retribution allows them to get away with all their monstrous deeds and actually prosper. This occurs at the expense of those whom they afflict, abuse and denigrate. The powerless and the oppressed are denied basic human rights and dignity while the wicked are elevated and praised. Job’s friends cannot explain this away but they know it is true.

Many of us today wonder why God does not act to prevent evil or punish those who inflict harm on us or others. We feel this way usually only after there has been a serious incident of a violent nature such as a mass shooting or bombing. We call out to God to do something but we also call on the government to protect us as if the two were somehow equal. In reality, the government cannot stop or prevent evil, merely limit it or hold it in check for a time until it periodically breaks forth. Only God can resolve all our social woes and do away with violence. He alone is the Almighty one who is sufficient to supply our every need, satisfy our every desire and comfort all our fears. Until we submit to His will we will never know peace.

 

Biblical Thoughts on Suffering: We can’t assume that the wealthy are always guilty of wickedness.

Job 22

JobaccusedEliphaz makes his final appearance as the last cycle of the argument with Job begins. His words are basically a restatement of what he has already said along with a final call to Job to repent and be restored into God’s favor once again. However there is one big addition: he actually accuses Job of specific acts of wrongdoing, actions for which the Lord is punishing him. Because Job had been renowned for his great prosperity and wealth, Eliphaz assumes that Job must have amassed his fortune through dishonesty, theft and oppression, or else if he failed to use his wealth to help those in need, or use it to give glory to God. He spent it all on himself and his family without regard to anyone else. Much of what he labels sin ought to make us aware of how we fall short in our lives, how we neglect to help those who are truly suffering and in need.

Yet Eliphaz has evaluated Job wrongly. He has assumed that because he was wealthy, Job was evil. Such an assumption is often made today. Sometimes it is true, but many times, especially regarding the middle class, such allegations are made unfairly. Many people work hard to achieve what they have. Others sit back and expect others, the government or society to give them all they want and desire. They often label those with money as evil. They want to take from them and give to people who have done nothing but sponge off others all their lives. This is not to say that people with means should neglect the poor and needy. Yet the Lord grants wealth to those who work hard and obey His laws as well as to the greedy and selfish. He expects such wealth is to be used to help the poor and the hungry wherever they are and whoever they may be as well as to combat oppression, corruption and wickedness on every level of society, not wasted on selfish pleasures of any sort.

So before we accuse anyone as Eliphaz accused Job, we ought to look at our own lifestyles and what we spend our money on. If we spend an inordinate amount on ourselves on entertainment, electronic gadgets, leisure pursuits, food and vacations then perhaps those allegations are true of us as well. Then we really cannot accuse others of similar wrongdoing until we repent and allow the Lord to change us.

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