TO CHEW ON: "Then He tells them their work and their transgression—
That they have acted defiantly.
He also opens their ear to instruction,
And commands that they turn from iniquity." Job 36:9,10
In the beginning of his fourth speech, Elihu lectures Job about a purpose of suffering that Job's other friends have left out: that it is instructive.
God despises no one, Elihu insists (Job 36:5). He doesn't preserve the life of the wicked (Job 36:6) despite what Job thinks (Job 21:7). Rather, God speaks to the righteous person through his or her suffering (Job 36:9) in that way alerting them to sin so they can repent (Job 36:10). If they do, prosperity will result (Job 36:11). If they don't, they are doomed (Job 36:12).
Though what Elihu says may contain general truth, his cut-and-dried explanation that this is why Job is suffering is inadequate. We see how wrong he is when he applies this to Job (the first part of tomorrow's reading—Job 36:16-18). For as the heavenly prologue to all these speeches has told us, Job's suffering is neither punishment nor instruction but a demonstration and proof to Satan of Job's integrity (Job 2:1-6).
If Elihu is teaching us anything it is that we need to temper our defense of God, always leaving room for what we don't know. To us earth-bound humans there remains mystery in His actions or lack of them. Though the Bible is clear in its description of God and what He is like (love, omnipotent, omnipresent, righteous, just, holy etc.) we will not understand the outworking of these attributes in our lives and the lives of those we love, until we see Him face to face and "…know even as we are known" - 1 Corinthians 13:12.
PRAYER: Dear God, when I or my loved ones suffer, I long for explanations. Help me to avoid the temptation of giving myself and others pat answers because, frankly, I don't see what's happening behind the scenes and what You are accomplishing through these hard times. Amen.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.