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“…. only Elihu understood why Job suffered”.

[Interesting article. AMAIC would not necessarily endorse all the theology here]

Why Job Suffered

by Tom Brown

Often, when I speak on healing and prosperity, people  will ask me about Job. They’ll question me, “If healing and prosperity belongs  to us, why did Job suffer sickness and poverty?” That is a good question, and it  deserves to be answered.

First of all, the book of Job was written as a play.  Nevertheless, this is not a work of fiction. Job really existed. Ezekiel 14:14  lists Job as a real righteous man who once lived long ago. In this play called  Job, we find eight characters: God, Satan, Job, Job’s wife, Job’s three friends  (Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar) and finally a young man named Elihu.

The play begins with the narrator telling the story about Job  and describing him as the greatest man among all the people of the East. His  integrity was world-renowned. He was so upright in the way he lived that even  God bragged on Job. He told Satan to take note of Job’s outstanding life.

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant  Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who  fears God and shuns evil. (Job 1:8)

Satan was disgusted with Job’s lifestyle of holiness, so he told  God that the only reason Job lived right and worshipped God was because he was  so healthy and prosperous. Satan believed that if Job was sick and broke he  would quit serving God. So God was going to prove to Satan that Job would serve  Him no matter what kind of trials he went through. From there Satan destroyed  everything that Job had– his wealth, his children and his health.

It is this fact that God lets Satan destroy everything which  causes all the controversy. Why did God do that?

Well, some charismatics simply blame Job’s fears as being the  open door to Job’s trials. They point to Job 3:25, “What I feared has come upon  me; what I dreaded has happened to me.”

“You see,” some exclaim, “Job was operating in fear. This is why  Satan was able to attack him.”

It is true that fear can cause a lot of bad things to happen to  us, but it is also clear that the book of Job is not teaching about fear. You  cannot simply take one statement from Job and build an entire theory on it and  say that Job lost it all because of fear. I believe that this interpretation is  an over-simplified attempt to explain Job’s suffering.

On the other hand, many evangelicals love this story because it  proves to them that good men should expect to suffer. The trouble with their  view is they forget to point out that Job was healed and blessed twice as much  after his trial. In other words, Job did not stay sick or broke. He was healed  and blessed.

James reminds us to consider the latter end of Job’s life: “You  have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought  about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy” (James 5:11).

Isn’t it amazing that when people think of Job they think of his  trials and not the end of his trials? Yet, James tells us to consider the  victory that Job experienced, and to let him be an example for us–that if we  are suffering sickness or poverty, we should persevere in faith and God will  bring about victory for us, too.

Yet, that still doesn’t answer why God let Job suffer in the  first place.

WHY BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE?

Some think that the book of Job is trying to answer the age-old  question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Well, the answer is simple  if you don’t believe in God. You simply say that life is full of chances.  Without God you don’t have to answer the question. But for people who believe in  God the question is even harder, “If God is love and has all the power to remove  suffering, why does He allow good people to suffer?” Tough question, isn’t it?  In fact, not only is it tough to answer, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO ANSWER!

What do I mean? Simple. It is possible to ask a question that  can’t be answered. I do it by asking a question with assumptions. An  assumption is something that most people think is true but has not yet been  proven. In other words, if I assume something is true, then I cannot ask for an  answer to a question unless I am willing to forgo my assumption.

For example, a wife can ask a question with an assumption by  saying, “I don’t understand how my husband can be a good Christian and yet  commit adultery?” Well, he can’t be a good Christian and commit adultery. He can  be a Christian and commit adultery, but he cannot be a good Christian and commit  adultery. Do you see that a person can ask a question that can’t be  answered?

The same is true of asking the question, “How can God be love  and have all power, and yet still allow good people to suffer?”

This question has three assumptions to it:

1. God is love.

2. God has all power.

3. Good people suffer.

To assume something is not necessarily wrong. In this case, are  any of these three assumptions wrong?

First of all, is God love? Of course He is. The Bible says so.  “God is love” (1 John 4:16).

Well, how about God’s power. Does God have the power to remove  suffering?

It is this second assumption that caused a Rabbi to write a  best-selling book on suffering. Basically he said that God is love but is not  willing to use his power for us. He prefers to let us live our own lives without  His intruding on us. He sees God as a little boy who winds up a toy and then  lets it go. He believes God made us and then left us on our own.

But this is not what the Bible teaches–either the Old Testament  or the New Testament. Christians rightly refuse to believe that God does not  become active in our lives. In the Bible we find that God helped Israel out of  slavery, delivered Judah from its enemies and Jesus healed the sick and helped  the poor. God is active in helping us.

So, the second assumption is correct. God has all power to help  us. “For nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

That brings us to the third assumption, “Do good people  suffer?”

Job’s three friends thought, “No!” They believed that if a  person suffered it was because they sinned against God. So throughout the book  of Job, they constantly try to get Job to confess his hidden sin. They were very  eloquent, knowledgeable, but fault-finders.

Every time they tried to say something to convince Job that he  had sinned, Job would come back claiming innocence. Job knew that he had not  sinned. He knew that he was not at fault. He didn’t understand why God was  punishing him since he had not committed any sin.

It is clear from the first chapter that Job had not done  anything bad; in fact, the opposite is true. He was more righteous than anyone  including his friends. He was suffering not because he had done anything bad,  but because he was the best man in all of the East. God was putting Job on  display.

However, Job’s friends did not know this. Instead of seeing Job  as being the most righteous man among them, they saw him as the greatest sinner.  How wrong they were! If only they had known the beginning of the book. They  would have shut up.

Because Job was so righteous among men and yet he suffered,  people assume good people suffer. In answering the question, “Do good people  suffer?” you might answer, “Yes, of course they do. Job is the prime example. He  was a good person, yet he suffered.” So people think that the book of Job  answers “Yes” to the question, “Do good people suffer?” But if the answer is  yes, then God could no longer be just. How can God allow good people to suffer  and still be just? He can’t.

“Wait a minute! Are you saying that Job was not a good person?”  you might ask.

Let me ask you, “Was Job a good person?” Yes!? Maybe!? Are you  sure? Job was not “good” in the sense that the Bible describes what is  good!

A rich young man came to Jesus and said, “Good teacher.” Jesus  interrupted and said, “There is no one good but God alone.”

Paul writes, “…There is no one righteous, not even one; there  is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have  together become worthless; there is not one who does good, not even one” (Romans  3:10-12).

The New Testament makes it abundantly clear that no one is  considered righteous in God’s sight. Now in man’s sight, there are good people.  Job was one of them.

The Bible says that Job was the best man in all of the East.  That doesn’t mean that he was righteous and good in God’s sight. He was simply  the best man from a human perspective, but even the best man is a sinner in  God’s sight, and that includes Job. A sinner has no right-standing or rights  with God.

THE UNFORGOTTEN HERO

Do you remember the last character in the book of Job? Elihu is  his name. He was not one of Job’s friends. He was simply listening to Job’s  friends judging him and Job defending himself. As he began to listen to all  four, God gave him insight into the true nature of Job’s sufferings.

Out of all the human characters, only Elihu understood why Job  suffered. It is amazing that I haven’t heard anyone ever mention Elihu. We  almost forget him. But the truth is, Elihu was the only one with true insight,  not only into the sufferings of Job but, insight into the sufferings of all  mankind. This is why Elihu is the last to speak concerning Job’s sufferings. It  is interesting to note that when God appeared to Job, He rebuked Job for not  having insight and He rebuked Job’s three friends for falsely judging Job. Yet  God never rebuked Elihu. Why? Because Elihu was correct in understanding  suffering.

Elihu begins by saying,

I am young in years, and you are old; that is why I was  fearful, not daring to tell you what I know. I thought, “Age should speak,  advanced years should teach wisdom.” But it is the spirit in a man, the breath  of the Almighty, that gives him understanding. (Job 32:6-8)

Notice, Elihu is about to give wisdom not because of any human  understanding, but because God’s Spirit gave him understanding. The first thing  he does is correct Job’s friends.

I waited while you [Job’s three friends] spoke,I listened to  your reasoning; while you were searching for words, I gave you my full  attention. But not one of you has proved Job wrong; none of you has answered his  argument. (Job 32:11-12)

Elihu showed Job’s friends that they were wrong in judging him.  The second thing Elihu does is correct Job, but he does it in  humility.

But now, Job, listen to my words; pay attention to  everything I say. I am about to open my mouth; my words are on the tip of my  tongue. My words come from an upright heart; my lips sincerely speak what I  know. The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.  Answer me then, if you can; prepare yourself and confront me. I am just like you  before God; I too have been taken from clay. No fear of me should alarm you, nor  should my hand be heavy upon you. 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..” (Job  33:1-9)

Elihu saw one fundamental flaw in Job: that Job believed that he  was without original sin. Job was self-righteous. Yes, he was righteous  as far as men are concerned, but he was not righteous as far as God was  concerned.

Since Job thought he was sinless and not under the curse of sin,  he could not figure out how he could suffer. This bothered Job. But Elihu points  out the fact that Job was a sinner like everyone else and is subject to the  curse of sin which includes sickness and poverty.

People erroneously think that the book of Job was written to try  to answer the question: Why does God allow good people to suffer? But Elihu has  no trouble with that question because he knows that there are no truly “good”  people in God’s sight. The thing that perplexed Elihu was not the fact that Job  was suffering, but why weren’t he and Job’s friends suffering along with Job. In  fact, Elihu is wondering why everyone doesn’t suffer all the time since everyone  is a sinner.

Elihu realized that sinners are under the curse of sin, and  therefore have no legal right to get mad when they suffer. They should realize  that they deserve to suffer and if they are not suffering, they should praise  God even more because He is having mercy on them.

WHY ARE SINNERS BLESSED?

Elihu asked the right question, “Why does God allow sinners to  be blessed?” The answer: Because God is merciful.

In other words, before Job had his trials, he experienced the  mercy of God. But when Job had his trials, he experienced the justice of God–he  only got what he deserved.

Immediately after Elihu spoke, God answered Job in a whirlwind  and rebuked him for falsely accusing God of injustice. Job wisely  repented.

You might be saying, “I understand what you are saying, but how  can we claim our healing and prosperity, if we are sinners? Sinners, after all,  have no right to healing and prosperity.”

That was true, before the cross! But, through the cross, we have  been made the righteousness of God, therefore we have right-standing with God.  We are living after the cross. This is why God commanded Job’s three friends to  offer a sacrifice.

God appeared to Eliphaz, the leader of Job’s friends, and told  him, “I’m angry with you three. You and your two friends should take seven bulls  and seven rams and go to Job and sacrifice a burnt offering. And when Job prays  for you, God will show mercy on you all and not bring on any tragedy that Job  experienced.” God showed Job and his three friends that only through the  shedding of blood is there forgiveness of sins.

This is the point: Before Jesus died on the cross for our sins,  mankind had no legal right to healing and prosperity. They could only plead for  mercy. But now since Christ has died for our sins, sicknesses and poverty, we  now have a right to the grace of God.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GRACE AND MERCY

Grace is unmerited favor. We do not claim healing and prosperity  based on our good works, but based on Christ’ good work on the cross.

Remember the scripture in the previous chapter of this book, 2  Corinthians 8:9: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though  he was rich, he became poor for you.” He became poor through His Substitutionary  sacrifice on the cross, and because of it, we have access into God’s grace,  which is far better than mercy.

The Bible tells us to grow in the grace of God. Nowhere does the  Bible say to grow in the mercy of God. Many people interchange the word “grace”  with “mercy.” They think these two are the same, but they definitely are  not.

Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then approach the throne of grace  with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our  time of need.” Notice that God’s throne is the throne of “grace” not mercy. Yet  at His throne people can receive both “mercy” and “grace.” These are two  different things. Unfortunately, most people are trying to receive mercy when  they should be finding grace. Grace is better.

What’s the difference between mercy and grace? Mercy is when God  does not bring on you the punishment you deserve. Grace is when God brings on  you the benefits that He paid for. The only similarity between grace and mercy  is that both have to do with unmerited favor. However, mercy is not based on legal rights. Grace is!

Let me illustrate the difference. Suppose you are eating a nice  meal at a restaurant, and afterwards, you go to the cash register to pay for it.  When you reach into your pocket, you discover that you forgot to bring your  money. You don’t have cash, checks or credit cards. You apologize to the manager  that you don’t have the money to pay for it.

What do you need? MERCY! Let’s suppose the manager has  compassion on you and tells you to forget the bill. You enjoyed the meal without  paying for it. This illustrates mercy.

What is grace? Grace is when someone gives you a gift  certificate which entitles you to a free meal. So you go to the restaurant and  order your favorite food, and you enjoy every bite of it. After the meal, you  walk over to the cash register and hand the worker your gift certificate. Do you  know what you experienced? Grace.

In both cases, you did not pay for the meal. That’s unearned  favor. In the first case, fear gripped you because you knew you didn’t have the  money. You were not sure what the manager was going to do to you. There was not  assurance or peace until you were forgiven, but even then you still felt  unworthy because the meal was never paid for.

You see, this is how the Old Testament saints, including Job,  operated. They pleaded for mercy but were never sure if God would show it. This  is why Job said that he was fearful of tragedy. He was not confident that  blessings would abound in his life all the time, because he operated by  mercy.

In the second case, you enjoyed the meal knowing that someone  else paid for it. As long as you had the gift certificate you ate in peace and  confidence. It didn’t bother you that someone else paid for it. You did not walk  to the worker at the cash register and say, “Oh, I’m so unworthy to have eaten  this delicious meal. I am undeserving of it. Someone else paid for it and gave  me this certificate. Do you suppose that you could accept this certificate on my  behalf?” NO! NO! NO! A thousand times no! You went to the register without  feeling inferior, knowing that the meal was paid for.

Friend, this is what the New Testament teaches about grace. God  has already paid the price for your sins, sicknesses and poverty. You simply  come boldly to His throne to find grace in your time of need. You already know  that the price is paid. Just enjoy the benefits.

….

Taken from: http://tbm.org/why_job_suffered.htm

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