The younger Elihu (his name literally means "my God is He") has been standing by and listening to Job's three "comforters" who tried in vain to convince Job that he could not be innocent and needed to repent. Since they were talked out, Elihu the Buzite (probably a descendant of Abraham's nephew Buz, Genesis 22:20-21) begins his first of four speeches:
(1) Job 32:6-33:33
(2) Job 34
(3) Job 35
(4) Job 36-37
As you read, you will note that he has a different way of accusing Job than the other three. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar claimed that Job was suffering because he had sinned. Elihu believed that Job was pridefully sinning because he was suffering. He was in sin for his reaction to the pain that God had allowed to be afflicted on him. This is most definitely a different tack. He is the only person that Job does not answer. Elihu is a bridge to God's answer that starts in Job 38.
Elihu is a bit prideful himself when he says "Hear what I know!" in Job 32-33. He is also angry at the three friends for not being able to refute Job and angry at Job for justifying himself. With all that, there is quite a bit of truth in Elihu's speech compared to the other three. He exhorted Job to look at suffering from a different perspective and for the higher purposes God might have in mind for it. In Job 33, however, we will see that he wrongly assumes that if Job responds correctly to the suffering he will be healed and restored (33:23-30). In Job 34, he wrongly assumes that suffering is connected with sin.
The whole time I have been meditating on Elihu's words, I have thought of Paul. He is a perfect example of someone who certainly did not "deserve" to suffer and was not being punished for sin. He was also a great example of someone who reacted rightly to his suffering because he had a very high view of the sovereignty of God and God's higher purposes for his life.
George and I studied 2 Corinthians with a group of like-minded people back in 1994. We were exhorted by our leader to develop a biblically based "theology of suffering" as we launched out of our comfort zones and into the world! I cannot tell you how much I go back to that study over and over again and praise God.
The gist of the "good" part of Elihu's speech is that sometimes God allows suffering to keep us from sinning! Paul certainly indicates that in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10:
Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.Paul's suffering kept him from pride. Boy, did I ever need to hear that today! I have been suffering over the last few days and feeling very weak/wimpy (Ask my friend, Kim, who listened to me cry for over an hour yesterday. Thanks Kim!). Satan knows RIGHT where my weak spot is, and he has been twisting the thorn for days, but I know that God has allowed it so that I do not get a big head!!!! Praise be to God.
Even though Job had not brought on the trial by sinning, he has sinned in the midst of the trial by very proudly demanding an explanation from God for his affliction.
Pride can kill.
C.S. Lewis said,
"A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and of course, as long as you're looking down, you can't see something that's above you."
The Daily Walk, May 28, 2008 adds to this quote:
God is so good to save us from exalting ourselves in pride. We can be thankful for our suffering. We can rejoice in the great "I AM" in the midst of it instead of demanding an explanation from God.--even if that "something" is God! Here's a thought to copy and carry with you through the day: "Pride" always demands that "I" be in the middle, but there's no place for "I" in "humble." Take it from Job, the quickest remedy for "I" trouble is looking up into the face of the great "I AM."
As application, I heartily suggest a reading and study of 2 Corinthians in order to develop a "theology of suffering" for your life!
Lord, there is some truth in Elihu's words. Help us to embrace suffering as You allow it to keep us from exalting ourselves. We want to be free of pride, Lord. Thank You. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.