JOB 32, 33 and 34
Today, a new character appears on the scene: Elihu, whose name means ‘He is my God’. A man is never going to be half-hearted with a name like that! Having waited for his elders to exhaust their arguments with Job, he now takes the opportunity to launch his own defence of God’s position and to attack what he sees as Job’s self-justification. He is young, zealous, and with the undiluted idealism that comes with youth. He reacts rather strongly to Job’s claims of innocence, taking them perhaps too literally, and seeing these as a direct attack on God’s justice.
I feel sorry for Job; he has been honest with his feelings towards the Lord, with whom he has had a great relationship, he is suffering much, and his heart-felt words are being twisted or taken to an extreme by this young, oh-so-spiritual, upstart, Elihu. Job is not claiming to be sinless – just to have lived a godlier life than most of his generation; if his sufferings ARE the result of his sins, as his friends claim, then he would simply like God to let him know what these specific sins are, so that he can repent of them.
Elihu, in 33:19-30, homes in on Job’s own situation and essentially says that ‘it is not too late to repent and be healed and forgiven’. Is he right? Well, he could be. Sufferings could be: (1) As a result of just living in a broken world, or (2) A punishment sent from God, or (3) A state allowed by God to get our attention and cause us to turn and to seek Him again. The rest of scripture supports all three reasons; Job is simply objecting to his friends insisting that it has to be number ‘2’!
How should we respond to pain, suffering and hardship, then? By drawing closer to The Lord, rather than by turning away. By enquiring of him, and of our consciences, whether we have indeed committed some offence against him (just in case!). By confessing our faults (James 5) and getting healed if we have sinned. By persevering patiently in our hardships, which allows God to mould our characters into that of Jesus. Easier said than done, I know; but if that were not true, then it wouldn’t work!