Job’s three friends were no help to him at all. Finally, a much younger man named Elihu stepped up who had apparently been listening to these older men argue. As a younger man, Elihu knew his place and didn’t want to be impudent. But when Elihu realized what lousy advice was being given by Job’s three friends, he “burned with anger” and could not hold his tongue. (Job 32:4-5)
In Job 32-37, Elihu has a corrective message for both Job’s friends, and for Job. After Elihu’s monologue, the Lord is going to speak. I believe that the Lord sent Elihu to come before him to these men and prepare them for what He will say later.
Then Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, burned with anger. He burned with anger at Job because he justified himself rather than God. He burned with anger also at Job’s three friends because they had found no answer, although they had declared Job to be in the wrong. (Job 32:2-3)
- The righteous don’t suffer. If you believe this, then you fall for the prosperity gospel that TV evangelists sell. According to this error, God heals and prospers the faithful, so if you are sick, suffering, unemployed, poor, depressed, etc., you either need to trust God more, or you need to repent of whatever you did to piss Him off. This is what Job’s friends believed.
- The righteous don’t sin. This one is much more subtle and insidious. Another way to phrase this lie is that once I become a Christian I no longer need to continue to war against sin in my life. I can just coast until I get to Heaven. According to this error, once we have trusted God in faith and turned to Him and He has adopted us into His family, we’re good to go. We no longer need the gospel. We’re “in.” If suffering is only punitive for those who do not know God, then what purpose could it possibly serve in the life of the righteous? This is the lie that Job had come to believe. We’ve already established (from the mouth of the Lord Himself) that Job was a righteous man. (Job 1:8) But righteous men can start to depend on their own righteousness and pride can creep back in. As Elihu listened in on the conversation, he correctly noticed that Job “justified himself rather than God.” (Job 32:2)
Elihu is going to remind Job that God sometimes uses suffering in the life of a believer the way that a surgeon uses a scalpel – to cut out residual pride and sin in our lives that could kill us spiritually if not removed. Pride and self-sufficiency is the root sin. Remember Genesis 3? Satan told Eve that eating the forbidden fruit would make them “like God” (Genesis 3:5), and Eve believed that eating it would “make one wise.” (Genesis 3:6) The lie that Eve believed was that eating the fruit would make her self-sufficient and she wouldn’t need God.
In Job 33:14-28, Elihu tells Job that God wants to use this suffering in his life to surgically remove residual spiritual pride in his life. When God allows suffering in the lives of believers it is not arbitrary or random. It is not punitive (as Job’s friends had said), but purposeful. Job has been accusing God of being unjust, but God is completely justified in allowing Job to go through this suffering.
My daughter will often tell me that I am being “mean” when I make her do things she doesn’t want to do. I am making her “suffer” (from her perspective), and to her that seems unjust and arbitrary. But I allow that “suffering” to take place, not because I don’t love, but precisely because I do. I don’t want to raise a spoiled brat who feels entitled to whatever she wants, and neither does God.