I'D LIKE A FOURTH OPINION, PLEASE!
*It's Friday! I hope you are having a great day so far. Let's get right in to our work today. Yesterday, Job's "friends" offered their insight as to why Job was suffering as he was. His friend Eliphaz (Why don't we just call him Eli) observed that no one was completely sinless. Job, therefore, should expect some suffering in life. Bildad (Let's call him Bill) suggested that Job's children were to blame for the whole situation. Then good 'ole buddy Zophar ( I like the name Zoe [just humor me a moment]) claimed that Job was to blame for it all and was just as much a sinner as anyone. Poor Job listened as Eli, Bill and Zoe preached him a sermon marathon and took it like a man. Then, he had taken all he could take.
"Then Job replied: 'Listen carefully to my words; let this be the consolation you give me. Bear with me while I speak, and after I have spoken, mock on.'" (Job 21:1-3)
Keep in mind that the insights the friends offered Job were nothing more or less than their opinions. When bad things happen to good people; how do we know the answers to the "why" question? The answer; we don't. Now, granted, there are times when we know exactly what caused "x" to happen. I remember my father saying that while he knew exactly why he was getting radiation treatments (he was a heavy smoker and he died of lung cancer) he, for the life of him, could not understand why the nineteen year old girl next to him was. If George (no particular George in mind) drives 100 miles per hour down the highway and loses control of the car and hits a tree, I know why George died. So, if someone cries out: "Why did God take George?" I can at least want to answer (so I'll say it to myself) "God didn't take George. George drove 100 miles an hour down the road and lost control." There are answers, and there are not answers. So, what do we say? As I've said, sometimes the best thing to say is nothing. We need to just learn to be present with people. (There are always exceptions. But remember when people are grieving they may very well interpret words differently than they otherwise would)
Job is not willing to accept the opinions of his three friends. No, Job wants an answer from the only one who can give him an answer, and that is the Lord. "If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling! I would state my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments. I would find out what he would answer me, and consider what he would say." (Job 23:3-5) The wording here implies that Job wants to "take God to court." Well, Job will get his "day in court," but not just yet. Now, we are introduced to yet another character in this story. Remember, the majority of the book consists of dialogue.
"So these three men stopped answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. But Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, became very angry with Job for justifying himself rather than God. he was also angry with the three friends, because they had found no way to refute Job, and yet had condemned him." (Job 32:1-3)
The passage goes on to tell us that Elihu was younger than the other characters. He respectfully waited until they were finished "because they were older than he." (Job 32:4) Elihu's credentials are somewhat impressive. "Buz" from where the Buzzites come from was a nephew of Abraham. (Gen. 22:21) Barakel, in Hebrew, means "El Blesses." Elihu means "He is my God."
Elihu has heard enough from these friends. They have offered their opinions, but have done nothing to edify Job. Elihu, in his speech, is the only character to address Job by his name. Elihu does not let Job off the hook. He, too, holds Job to the fire. He says to Job: "But you have said in my hearing-I heard the very words-I am pure and without sin; I am clean and free from guilt...But I tell you, in this you are not right, for God is greater than man." (Job 33:8-9,12) Remember how this story began? Job was considered to be "blameless and upright." Now, it is almost as though he is viewed as self-righteous. This is interesting. In the beginning we saw how he was viewed by the Lord (and Satan), but now we see how others see him. Job is now just a man like his three friends. Elihu gets Job's attention. He will now give his perspective on Job's suffering. But, Elihu makes it sound as though he is speaking for God.
"Bear with me a little longer and I will show you that there is more to be said in God's behalf. I get my knowledge from afar: Be assured that my words are not false; one perfect in knowledge is with you... He (God) makes them listen to correction and commands them to repent of their evil. If they obey and serve him they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity..." (Job 36:1-4,10-11)
In other words Elihu is saying: "God has spoken to me!" Wow! How does this guy come across? And, it sounds like he would probably make it big today in the prosperity gospel movement. What is Elihu's take on the whole affair? He argues that God communicates with people (Job in this case) through suffering.
O.K., regardless of what we might think of Elihu and the other friends, they are not portrayed negatively in our story. In fact, there is only one person who is portrayed as being the bad guy. No, it is not Job's wife. No, it is not even Satan. Are you ready for this? The one person who comes closest to being portrayed as being the bad guy in this story is...Job. Poor guy! He went from being upright and righteous to being preached to about sin, repentance, and humility. The title of Elihu's sermon could easily have been "Just Who Do You Think You Are?"
Wow! Poor Job! Well, on Monday we will continue looking at this story. However, before we close I want to point out that throughout the dialogue with the three friends and Elihu Job never admits personal guilt. Also, he continues to have one desire, and that is that God would reveal himself. Job doesn't want to take the word of the "friends" he wants God to answer him. Well, you've heard the old saying: be careful what you wish for? Yep, Job will get his wish. On Monday we will discover what happens. Have a great weekend. -Pastor Rick