Our reading for this Tuesday, December 18, 2018 is Job 33:1-10.
“But now, Job, listen to my words; pay attention to everything I say. 2 I am about to open my mouth; my words are on the tip of my tongue. 3 My words come from an upright heart; my lips sincerely speak what I know. 4 The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life. 5 Answer me then, if you can; prepare yourself and confront me. 6 I am just like you before God; I too have been taken from clay. 7 No fear of me should alarm you, nor should my hand be heavy upon you. 8 “But you have said in my hearing — I heard the very words — 9 ‘I am pure and without sin; I am clean and free from guilt. 10 Yet God has found fault with me; he considers me his enemy. – NIV
The words spoken to Job are those of Elihu, a young acquaintance of Job and his three friends who came originally to comfort Job in his misery, but who went further in an attempt to justify God’s allowing Job to suffer. Earlier when Elihu begins his discourse he confesses to having held his tongue as he observed Job and his three friends argue back and forth. Job’s friends were attempting to get Job to confess whatever sin he might have committed that might be responsible for bringing this tragedy upon him. Job had lost his prosperity, his children, and to add insult to injury he was afflicted with a debilitating disease.
Elihu explains the reason for his silence was his youthfulness. In ancient societies and still some places today age is associated with experience and wisdom. Elders are held with honor and respect. Though age should not necessarily be equated with wisdom there is some merit to listening and respecting the voice of experience. The Bible advocates respect for elders which is often neglected by today’s culture that is so youth oriented.
Elihu waited until everyone else had their say and finally he could hold his tongue no longer. He was angered by Job’s persistence with justifying himself (32. 2) and angry with Job’s three friends for their inability to convince Job he was not wholly innocent (32.3). Elihu was right in what he said, no one of us is completely innocent and undeserving of the afflictions we suffer in life. The Apostle Paul summarized the issue succinctly writing, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Ro. 3.23) and so are each deserving of death as “The wages of (all) sin is death” (Ro. 6.23).
While Job was not perfect as none of us are, yet compared to other persons of his time he should be numbered with those who exhibited exceptional morality. The point we should get is that while sometimes our suffering is the just consequence for the choices we have made still other suffering seems arbitrary. As Job protested that his suffering was overkill he believed God had targeted him for this extreme suffering. Job was correct! God had and we know why for we have the benefit of his experience to inform our own. I have spoken with many who would also protest the suffering they have born was disproportionate to what they deserved. Have you not thought this when suffering lesser afflictions than these, believing they are unfair?
It is a fact of life that the less guilty suffer more sometimes than those who may appear to be more obvious sinners. There are also those who seem to get away with or even prosper when practicing sin. And yes, the innocent, such as children who cannot comprehend right from wrong often suffer what appears to us to be unjust and undeserved. This is the given, part of the curse of human existence resulting from our separation from God.
We as believers of Christ and followers of God often make the mistake of Job’s friends and attempt to justify God’s actions before others who are suffering. As God points out to Job, he is God and does not need us to justify what he allows or does not allow. We may not like it but it is a fact of life. We can try to comprehend but will never totally understand God’s actions. We may help others see how their choices contributed and exacerbated their suffering in an attempt to steer them to correction in their course, but there will remain those incidents we can never justify.
We are each sinners and deserving of death, whether it be quick or proportionate to our offense or disproportionate. If we are spared suffering we deserve we should be grateful and we should be diligent at living the values God reveals he desires for us. We should also be discerning of that suffering that is disproportionate which others may bear and rather than judge come alongside to comfort and encourage, or better – relieve as much suffering as is possible. Nowhere did Job’s three friends or even Elihu raise a hand to help Job. They were all talk and no action.
In the end it was the same God who allowed the affliction of Job who also came to his salvation. This same unjust God has sent his own Son to suffer as we suffer and reveal that there is salvation even in death. For in dying we are freed from the curse of this life and brought into the fullness of God’s blessing. By believing this and having faith in Jesus who overcame death will we find redemption in this life and heaven after this earthly existence.