“God’s voice thunders in marvellous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding.”
Job 37: 5
Job 32-37 (Psalm 141)
The three friends, prior to Elihu, had basically argued that suffering was a punishment for sin and prosperity a reward for righteousness. There was some acknowledgement that the matter was not quite as simple as that (5: 17); in effect they were saying that Job’s suffering was his own doing (22: 5). Job had countered, and perhaps won the argument, with evidence from experience and by pointing to God’s sovereignty. It seems though, that there is not yet an answer as to why the righteous suffer; enter Elihu.
In complicated and sometimes confusing arguments Elihu states that suffering is not simply because of sin nor does it occur at the whim of a sovereign God. God uses suffering to refine His people (36: 8-11), to correct and save them (33: 17). God’s people still have sin and pride within that has to be dealt with. Suffering causes that sin to be identified and offers the route to a renewed relationship with God; whereas the godless refuse to listen (36: 13). So Elihu proves the friend’s explanation to be in error and he also shows Job that there was more to the suffering than he (Job) thought (33: 8-12). Perhaps there was hidden and deep pride within Job, that had to be revealed, for Job to grow in godliness and to know the Lord more clearly.
It is worth noting that Job does not answer Elihu and that God steps in and speaks directly after Elihu (38). In addition God does not include Elihu in the rebuke of Job’s friends (42: 7)
A point of application that is immediately clear; words count. However well-intentioned Job’s friends were, there is no doubt, that their words hurt a man in deep distress. Even Elihu’s contributions were not completely clear. The five men were working the truth out as they spoke; a legitimate process but one that was truly more painful for the subject of the discussions. God’s ways are truly beyond our understanding (37: 5). We must take care in our conversations, especially with regards issues where there is no agreement.
That said, the book of Job, when linked with truths from the New Testament, takes us deeper into the matter of suffering. God does refine us, His children, through suffering; this proves our faith (1 Peter 1: 3-9). His discipline brings a harvest of righteousness and peace (Hebrews 12: 11), and it demonstrates His power in our weakness, witnessing to the world (2 Corinthians 1: 8-10). Sometimes we continue Christ’s suffering on behalf of the Church (Colossians 1: 24).
Suffering is never an easy, nor pleasant experience. Confusion, anger, frustration, and depression can all be part of the reality. Our faith, though, is worth more than gold, gives us joy in our relationship with Jesus, and through Him, we achieve the salvation of our souls (1 Peter 1: 7&9). We also, can rest assured that God will bring good out of the situation (Romans 8: 28).
The Question of Application
There is a deal of suffering present in the world and for us individually in our current situation. What might God be saying to you through the truths we have just considered, how might this help you to persevere (James 1: 2-4)
Dear Father we so often plead with you to take away our suffering, and yes, we do today. If though, we hear you say, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” give us the grace and strength, to be able to be glad about our weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on us. May we, for Christ’s sake, delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties; for when we are weak, then we are strong. Amen
From 2 Corinthians 12: 8-10
Suffering Servant by Dustin Kensrue
Refiners Fire by Hillsong
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.