Elihu Speaks (Job Sermon 21)
September 12, 2021 | Andy Davis
Elihu made some significant contributions to the topic of human suffering and the character and plans and purposes of God. And in this, his first of four speeches, he will say that God uses suffering to benefit his people.
- Sermon Transcript -
Turn in your Bibles to Job chapter 32. We'll be looking at 32 and 33 today. The night before Jesus was crucified, he had some time with his disciples, his apostles. And he spoke many words to them to get them ready for what was about to come upon them and all of them, all of them underestimated what that would be. They didn't really understand what was going to happen that very night and they didn't know how hard it would be. And beyond that, even beyond the joy that would come after his death and then his resurrection, they- all of them underestimated how difficult their lives would be as apostles of Christ, all of the persecutions and the sufferings that they would most certainly follow. And so Jesus warned them ahead of time what was going to come. And he said very plainly, "I'm telling you this ahead of time so that when it comes on you, you will believe that I am he."
So the words got out ahead of the challenge, the words prepared their hearts for what was going to come, to the end that they would continue to believe in Jesus. Now you would think, "Well, I know I'm going to keep believing in Jesus no matter what happens." Don't underestimate the power of the world, the flesh and the devil assaulting your faith. You must have supply from heaven, you must have resources flowing into your soul from heaven and part of what we're going to do today is to give you some of those resources to get you ready for what's going to come. And at the end of that teaching time, Jesus said in John 16:33, "I have told you these things so that in me, you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble but take heart. I have overcome the world." Behind all of that is, it very much matters how you go through the trials that are going to come on you. It matters a lot.
It matters a lot whether, in the midst of those trials, in Christ you have peace or not. It matters very much whether you take heart in Christ's ultimate victory or not. That you would have peace in Christ and that you would take heart in Christ. That was the end of John 13:16. I would say it's the end of all scripture. Everything that was written in the past was written to instruct us, Paul tells us in Romans 15. So that through the endurance and the encouragement of the scriptures, you may have hope. Well, what is hope? But a strong feeling in the heart that the future is bright. We're going to a world where there'll be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain. Where you as a Christian man or woman, you're going to shine like the sun forever in the kingdom of your Father.
All of the pain of this life is temporary, all of it. And yet it also has a purpose. God is going to bring it on you. So you should have a sober mind as you listen to the book of Job and today the chapters 32-33. The Holy Spirit is going to use Elihu and some mysterious way to get you ready for what God is intending to bring in your life and it's not going to be nothing. He is going to bring things that you will find hard in your life. You need to get ready, and hopefully this sermon will help you do that. So as we come to Job 32-33, we come to a mysterious character in the Bible. A man of mystery, Elihu, who we didn't even know was there. Who is this guy? It's like he kind of parachutes into the story and says a bunch of things and then leaves. And no one even in the text says, "Who is that?" But in he comes.
Now, you need to realize in all the billions that even the trillions of words, that humans have spoken in all of redemptive history only a very select set made it into the Bible by the wisdom of God. And God chose that every generation of his believing people would listen to the words of Elihu and read them and deal with them. Now, what makes Elihu hard is first of all, we don't know who he is. Oh, we're told in verse two, he is the son of Barachel the Buzite of the family of Ram. Does that help any of you? It didn't help me, I don't know any of those guys. So that's your genealogical address, it doesn't help me much. And up to this point, we didn't even know he was there. He wasn't listed in the list of friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. He has five chapters assigned to him by the Holy Spirit, that's a lot. Four speeches that he makes. And after he's done speaking, God shows up and speaks out of a whirlwind to Job and then after that speaks directly to the three friends, God says nothing about Elihu at all. Furthermore, there's no dialogue; no one talks to him. There's no back and forth. Nobody comes back on him and says anything, he just drops in there.
So for me I have to say, look honestly in the end none of that matters to me, it doesn't. All scripture's God breathed and useful. And I know the book of Job has some hermeneutical- some interpretive challenges like when God says about Job's words, "Who is this that darkens counsel by speaking words without knowledge?" So God gives to Job's words: a thumbs down. So what am I supposed to do with Job's words? And then at the end, He does the same thing to the three friends. He rebukes them because; "They have not spoken what is right about me as my servant Job has." So Job said some good things and not good things and then Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar they are panned by God, they're rejected. So, now I as an interpreter, I am like, "What do I do?" And then we saw the apostle Paul quoting Eliphaz, just quoting him in I Corinthians, an inspired scripture. So that means some of what the friend said was true. So we've been dealing with those hermeneutical challenges all along and now along it comes Elihu and we don't have either thumbs up or thumbs down at all. So basically, I think we should approach Elihu's statements, these chapters, as we do all the scriptures. We do the book of Ecclesiastes, as we do the book of Proverbs, as we do the minor prophets, we just come at it as holy scripture. And we read and wherever it seems to be off, just don't think it's off just take it as truth and accept it. On no other basis would we have to reject Elihu's words, we're just going to sit under them and let God speak.
But having said that, I find in the end that Elihu's wisdom is helpful but shadowy, the reality is Christ. So we in the end are going to get a better, clearer word from the New Testament and from the apostles and from Jesus himself on suffering. But Elihu can still help us, that's the approach that I'm going to take to Elihu. If you have a different approach to Elihu, come afterwards and tell me and I'll be happy to listen and we'll continue to turn through the mystery of these chapters. But in the meantime, we want to hear what Elihu has to say. And Elihu does make some significant contributions to our understanding of God's purpose in suffering.
I. Elihu Prepares to Speak
Now in chapter 32, he just gets ready to speak. That's the whole chapter. So that whole chapter is given to Elihu, stepping in, introducing himself and saying why he had waited so long and that he really has a lot to say and he wants to say something. That's what chapter 32, so let's see it. He begins angry, he's an angry man as he steps up, he's an angry man as he begins to speak, look at verses 1-5: “So these three men stopped answering Job because he was righteous in his own eyes but Elihu, son of Barachel 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 had condemned him. Now, Elihu had waited before speaking to Job because they were older than he. But when he saw that the three men had nothing more to say, his anger was aroused.” So this begins right away as an example of holy anger, righteous indignation. We'll talk more about that at the end of the message, somewhat. But he is offended that Job sees himself as righteous and God as unjust, that angers Elihu. Job, it seemed according to Elihu, was more certain of his own righteousness than he was of God's justice. Think about that. More certain of his own righteousness than of God's justice, I think that's true that he felt that way, that Job felt that way. And that's what made Elihu very angry. He was also, the text tells us, angry at the friends. They should have done one of two things. Either they should have brought evidence of Job's wickedness and shut him up, shut him down, or they should have stopped condemning Job. One or the other, but what they did according to Elihu was wrong, and so he was angry.
Now, why did he wait to speak? Why has it taken this long to hear from Elihu? Well, he explains that, verse 4, "Elihu had waited before speaking to Job because they were older than he." He's a young man. Verse 6 and 7, "So Elihu son Barachel the Buzite said, 'I am young in years and you are old, that's why I was fearful not daring to tell you what I know. I thought, ‘Age should speak; advanced years should teach wisdom.'" Well, I think this is an important message for our culture. Our culture tends to revere the young, and beautiful, and strong and energetic. Other cultures tend to revere and esteem wisdom and experience, especially, let's say, oriental cultures. Scripture says, "Rise in the presence of the aged." There's a sense of honor that comes to people who have lived and have experienced. And we should know as Christians, there're just some lessons that take time to learn. And we have to be immersed in them and it takes a while and people who have been walking with the Lord a long time have some wisdom to teach those who haven't been walking as long. And so I think that's commendable, but the time for Elihu's silence has now come to an end. He is compelled to speak and why is that?
Well first of all, God gives understanding to everyone. Every man, every person has something worth listening to. Look at verses 8-10, "It is the spirit in a man the breath of the almighty that gives him understanding. It is not only the old who are wise, not only the aged who understand what is right. Therefore I say: Listen to me and I too will tell you what I know." So all true wisdom comes from God and every human being is created in the image of God and so therefore, every human being has the capacity to speak wisdom and truth. We should listen to people, we should listen even if they're young, we should be willing to listen and so God can speak through young people. There are some people that come to remarkable levels of wisdom very early in life.
Jonathan Edwards, for example, was a spiritual prodigy somewhat like Mozart was musically, Edwards was spiritually. Wrote out a bunch of incredibly deep perceptive resolutions at age 19. Oh that every 19 year old young man had that level of wisdom, it was remarkable. And not just him, but Spurgeon was preaching as a teenager and preaching very deep perceptive sermons. So it can happen. So even though Elihu was a young man, he still has some things worth listening to.
Also, he's compelled to speak because Job's friends were wrong to give up, to wave the white flag on this whole thing. So they seem to be done, they've spent what they have and now nobody's talking, somebody needs to step up. Look at verses 12-16, "Not one of you has proved Job wrong, none of you has answered his arguments. Do not say, ‘We have found wisdom, let God refute him not man.’ But Job has not marshaled his words against me and I will not answer him with your arguments. They are dismayed and have no more to say, words have failed them. Must I wait now that they're silent? Now that they stand there with no reply." So he's gotten frustrated with these friends. So they're older than him, it's true but they seem to be done. And there's more to say here. "I need to defend God, I need to defend the honor and the glory of God, I need to speak up." "Seems like you men are just waiting for God to show up and rebuke Job," which is exactly what's about to happen. But no one knew that and he says, "Look in the absence of that I need to speak, I need to speak up. Now t's my turn." Look at verse 17, "I too will have my say, I too will tell what I know and I can't hold back any longer." Versus 18-20 he said, "I am full of words and the spirit within me compels me. Inside I'm like bottled up wine, like new wine skins ready to burst. I must speak and find relief, I must open my lips and reply." Have you ever felt like that? Yeah, the last time you interrupted someone. Interruption is a sin. We're struggling with that sometimes. We think, "All right, it's time for me to speak. I know the other person's not done yet but I'm going to rudely break in because I can't help myself." And now you have great verses to prove it, you can just quote Elihu, "I'm like wine ready to burst; I'm like a volcanic eruption I can't hold back."
But there are times that the prophet of God is like that. I think about Jeremiah and he had a very, very difficult ministry, didn't he? Very tough ministry. And God's word brought him reproach and rebuke all day long. No one wanted to hear what Jeremiah had to say. And he said, "All right, I'm done. I don't want to be a prophet anymore." But that didn't work, why? He says in Jeremiah 20:9, "If I say I will not mention God or speak anymore in his name, his word is in my heart like a fire. A fire shut up in my bones, I am weary of holding it in. Indeed, I cannot." So hopefully the best way to put a spin on what Elihu is saying here, “God has something he wants me to say and I need to say it.” And as he says it, he said, "I am committed to not flattering anyone." Verse 21, 22 he says, "I will show partiality to no one, nor will I flatter any man. If I was skilled in flattery, my maker would soon take me away." So Elihu's zeal for the glory of God means he's not going to be using flattery. What is flattery? It's self-serving verbal techniques in which you're trying to do something but it's not genuine praise, it's not healthy encouragement. It's really a lie. You're saying encouraging things but your real motive is something else. And frequently that happens with wealthy, powerful, influential people. You try to ingratiate yourself, you go into the King's presence and say, "Oh, king live forever." That kind of thing. When you don't really want him to live forever, you don't like him that kind of thing, but it's just using flattery. He said, "I'm not going to do that." Yes, Job is a wealthy, powerful man but God is more important than him and I'm just not going to use flattery in this case.
Then we go onto chapter 33, Elihu then addresses Job directly and he asks him for a hearing. Job 33:1-2 he says, "But now, Job, listen to my words; pay attention to everything I say. I'm about to open my mouth; my words are on the tip of my tongue." And he promises Job that he's upright in heart. Verse 3, "My words come from an upright heart; my lips sincerely speak what I know.” “God's spirit is at work in me." he says, "the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” “So I'm ready to talk and God's spirit is moving and I have something I need to say to you."
And he says, "I'm just a man like you are before God. I've been taken from clay I'm just a human being, so you should not be afraid of me like you would be if God showed up. If God comes and God speaks, you would fear. But you have no reason to fear me, I'm just a man like you are." So verse 5, "Answer me then if you can prepare yourself and confront me." All right, so that's all preface. It's all introduction to Elihu speaking; chapter 32 on into chapter 33:7, this is preparation. Now he says what he wants to say and he begins by criticizing Job.
II. Elihu’s Criticism of Job (Job 33:8-16)
Now, why does he criticize him? Because it seems to me that both Job's friends and Job himself are operating out of the same basic theological construction on the issue of suffering, human suffering. Both of them feel that the best explanation for Job's sufferings from God are God's righteous justice against specific sins committed. You sin; you get crushed by God. That's just what happens, it's the law of sewing and reaping. And ironically, both the three friends and Job are operating out of that same structure, basically. Now the friends are saying, "Your wickedness must be secret and hidden but it must be very great. Because only that would explain the magnitude of your sufferings, the reason you suffer is because of specific sins you have committed. And so your suffering is great, therefore, your sins must be great. We haven't seen it but it must be happening." Job accepts, it seems that premise, but he said, the wickedness doesn't occur. "I've not done those wicked things." Job 31, his whole defense for his righteousness. "Therefore, God must be unjust. God's wrong about me in bringing all of this." And so Elihu says that whole structure is wrong. Sometimes it's right and sometimes God does punish people for their sins, it's true but that's not the only possible explanation here, so Elihu speaks up. Verse 8-11, Chapter 33:8-11 says, "But you have said in my hearing- I have heard the very words- ‘I am pure and without sin; I am clean and free from guilt. Yet God has found fault with me; he considers me his enemy. He fastens my feet in shackles’ he keeps close watch on all my paths.’" So Elihu has a different perspective on the reason for Job's suffering and he's angry that Job claims to be pure and that God is unjust. So then he elevates Job's mind and all of our minds on the person of God, the majesty of the glory and the holiness of God. God is infinitely majestic so all accusations of God's wrongdoing are themselves very wrong. Verse 12, "I tell you in this you are not right, for God is greater than man." This is one of the greatest lessons that we've taken from the book of Job.
It is always wrong for the suffering to accuse God of wrongdoing. It's never okay to do that. You may be going through great suffering. In the future, God may choose to bring suffering into your life. It will never help you, it is not therapeutic, it will not heal you. And it's just not true that God has wronged you and God has been unjust or saying any harsh, wrong things about God. Don't do it. That's one of the main lessons of the book of Job. You don't need to go through all of that to get to the point Job gets at the end of the book where he puts his hand over his mouth and doesn't accuse God anymore of wrongdoing. So just get to that point, that's what he's saying. Now Job's two great accusations are that God is unjust and not only that, he's silent. "As I cry out to God, he gives me no answer." Look at verse 13, "Why do you complain to him, to God that he answers none of man's words." So Elihu takes that up, "Why do you say God doesn't speak?"
"It is always wrong for the suffering [person] to accuse God of wrongdoing."
Job has repeatedly charged God with silence. Isn't it true that when we go through great suffering, one of the worst things that people say is that, "I pray but God doesn't say anything to me. He doesn't answer me, I don't feel close to God through all of this?" Very great trial. And so Job said it. Job 19:7, "Though I cry I've been wronged, I get no response." And then Job 30:20, "I cry out to you oh God, but you do not answer.” “You've left me on my own God." But Elihu asserts, God is not silent. Look at verse 14-16, "For God does speak. Now one way now another though man may not perceive it in a dream and a vision of the night when deep sleep falls on men, as they slumber in their beds, he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings."
"So God is there and is not silent," as Francis Shafer said. He actually fills the world with communication. He speaks all the time through creation and we're going to see the beauty of natural theology when God speaks, basically all that God does. "Look at my creation, do you not see the greatness of my power and my wisdom and love?" So that's natural theology. God does that. Psalm 19:1, "The heavens declare the glory of God. The skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day, they pour forth speech." You just look around at creation and you can see God talking to you. But that's not really what Elihu talks about; he also speaks directly to the hearts and ears of human beings. Something pops into man's mind and it was God speaking to him, sometimes he speaks by dreams even when people are sleeping.
III. Elihu’s New Insight: God Uses Suffering to Save His People (Job 33:16-33)
And why does God speak? Well here it's time for Elihu's powerful contribution on this whole theology of suffering. Elihu's new insights is that God uses suffering to save his people, God uses suffering to save or benefit his people. Job and his friends are operating from that paradigm that God in suffering is just pounding on people, he's bringing justice for their sins, it's retribution. But Elihu sees a different possibility, a more redemptive answer, I would say a more therapeutic answer. God brings suffering into the lives of his people to help them ultimately, to benefit them, to bring them to a better place in life. First of all, he uses warnings. Look at verses 15-16, "In a dream, in a vision of the night when deep sleep falls on men as they slumber in their beds, he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings." And he does this, verse 17, "To turn them from wrongdoing.” And also in verse 17, "To keep them from pride." So turn them away from sin and to turn them away from pride, that's why God does this. Ultimately salvation from the pit: verse 18, "To preserve his soul from the pit," ultimate judgment. So God steps in ahead of time, in dreams, warns you about the course of action, humbles you about himself and about yourself and preserves you from going down to the pit. That's what God does.
"God brings suffering into the lives of his people to help them ultimately, to benefit them, to bring them to a better place in life."
So he does this so that people will not continue in evil courses. Very good example of this in the book of Genesis. Do you remember Genesis 20? When Abraham and Sarah were in Gerar and Abraham lied about Sarah, you remember this? He said, "She's my sister," very bad. I mean because Isaac's about to be conceived and born, it'd be very clear that it was Abraham the father, you could get into that whole thing, but it was very important that they not mess up with Sarah here. And this lie put Sarah in tremendous jeopardy. Well, what ended up happening? Well, what happened was Abimelek, the king of Gerar, is about to take Sarah as his wife remember, and God speaks to him in a terrifying dream. And this is what Abimelek heard, "You are a dead man because the woman you're about to marry is a married woman." He was like, "What did I do? I didn't do anything. I didn't know. I'm innocent. I'm an innocent man." Then God answers him in the dream, "Yes, I know that you did this with a clear conscience so I have kept you from sinning against me. That's why I did not let you touch her. Now return the man's wife for he is a prophet and he will pray for you and you will live." Wow. "But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all of yours will die." Wow. What do you think Abimelek did when he woke up from that dream? What would you do? So that's a clear example of what Elihu who says, "God will step in and use dreams and warn people." And it's amazing in the Muslim world how often God has used dreams to save people's souls. He'll lead Muslim people to certain cities where they'll hear a messenger even identified in the dream and they hear the gospel, and they're saved. This is a recurring theme in Muslim conversions; it's remarkable how God uses dreams.
Now, Elihu doesn't mention the clearest way God speaks wisdom. Much clearer than natural theology and much clearer than dreams. And that is the written word of God; he doesn't mention scripture at all. It's for this reason that many scholars think that the book of Job is so old maybe the oldest book because it predates all other scriptures. We don't know it's an argument from silence, he just doesn't mention it. But the word of God is a clearer word to us, isn't it? As again Psalm 19 continues, beyond natural theology, Psalm 19:7-8 says, "The law of the Lord is perfect reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right giving joy to the heart, the commands of the Lord are radiant giving light to the eyes." So light, clear light, comes from God's word, the precepts.
God also says- Elihu uses sickness. He turns to the terrible sickness that Job has experienced- experiencing and he says that God uses sickness to help his people, to humble them, to chastise them for their sins. But to the end of bringing them to a deeper, sweeter, more intimate relationship with God. So he describes his sickness verse 19-22, "Or a man may be chastened on a bed of pain with constant distress in his bones so that his very being finds food repulsive and his soul loathes the choicest meal. His flesh wastes away to nothing and his bones once hidden now stick out. His soul draws near to the pit and his life to the messengers of death." That's almost exactly describing Job. God uses dread sicknesses to bring people to that level. And yet God can heal using, interestingly, an angel as a mediator.
Scripture is deep and complex, isn't it? Where'd this angel mediator come from? I find this interesting. He says at verse 23-24, "Yet, if there's an angel on his side as a mediator one out of a thousand to tell a man what is right for him, to be gracious to him and say, ‘Spare him from going down to the pit I've found a ransom for him.’” So there's an intercessor, a mediator, and he's speaking to the suffering man, the sick man, but also to speak on his behalf to God, “Be gracious to him; heal him. I found a ransom for him.” Friends, all of that points me to Christ our mediator, doesn't it? I can't help but go and say, who would that be other than Jesus? Speaking on our behalf, speaking wisdom to us, speaking to God on our behalf saying, “Spare him.”
Then the healing comes. Verse 25, "His flesh is renewed like a child, it's restored as in days of youth." He does this through prayer. So the sick person on the sick bed prays. They cry out to God, they lose that aloof independent attitude that we all walk in. That's our natural sinful state, “I don't need God,” but now when you're sick, what are you doing? You're praying, "Heal me, God. Heal me, I'm hurting. Heal me." “He prays to God,” verse 26, “and finds favor with him,” and look at the final end, "he sees God's face and shouts for joy; he is restored by God to his righteous state.” He's in a better place after the sickness than he was before it. He's closer to God, more intimate and thanks God, really, for the affliction. And then he gets to have a powerful ministry to other people, "So let me tell you about what happened to me. Let me tell you how God was gracious to me." Verse 27-28, “Then he comes to men and says, ‘I sinned, I perverted what was right but I did not get what I deserve,’” God did not treat me as my sins deserve, “‘He redeemed my soul from going down to the pit and I will live to enjoy the light.’” So God does this to save His people. It's kind of a summary, verse 29-30: “God does all these things to a man twice, even three times to turn back his soul from the pit that the light of life may shine on him.” Then in verses 31-33, he warns us all, and Job too, "I have a lot more to say." So we're going to have a couple more sermons on Elihu, he just has more to talk about, "Pay attention Job and listen to me, be silent and I will speak. If you have anything to say answer me, speak up for I want you to be cleared. But if not, then listen to me be silent and I will teach you wisdom." And on we go into the next chapter.
So Elihu has brought powerful and helpful perspective on God's purpose and suffering. God's purpose is to warn people of their sins, to turn them away from passive sin that will lead to the pit, eternal judgment, or to the sword, temporal judgments. In this, God is very kind. He warns us ahead of time to repent lest we perish. God also uses sickness to humble us and chastise us for our sins and then he heals us in answer to prayer. He restores us to full health, to an even greater closeness and intimacy with God than we ever had before. This is exactly what will happen to Job, though Elihu doesn't know it yet.
IV. God’s People Humbled and Healed in Christ
Now I must stop having summarized basically everything Elihu has said and go directly to the cross. Always as we read the Old Testament, we should think, how does this make me wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus? How is the testimony of Christ the spirit of all prophecy? How does everything in God's word bring us to Christ? All roads lead to the cross. Well first of all, Elihu as an Old Testament voice of wisdom is what I would call a shadow. Its shadowy wisdom. The reality is found in Christ. The author to Hebrews gives us that shadow reality image, Old Testament shadow, New Testament reality. So Elihu's speaking truth but it's not the clearest light of day, it's not everything we could say. However, it is helpful.
Now God does speak in dreams, he does whisper in our ears but how do you know it's God? How do you know that dream was God? Angels speak in dreams and so therefore also demons can speak in dreams. I don't know, how do I interpret? What's the standard of truth? Friends, it's God's word and so God speaks a clearer word through the prophets, through Moses, through Isaiah, and Jeremiah, and Ezekiel and Daniel, and then even more clearly and finally he speaks to us in Christ. So in Hebrews 1:1-3 it says, "In the past, God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways. But in these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son whom he appointed heir of all things and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being sustaining all things by his powerful word. And after he had provided purification for sin, he sat down at the right hand of the majesty in heaven." that's Jesus Christ, God's final word to the human race, God's clearest word to the human race, Jesus Christ. And Christ sufferings teach us about all suffering. Suffering wouldn't even be in the world if it weren't for Adam's sin. Adam's sin brought in death and suffering into the world. Therefore, Jesus had to die on the cross to redeem us from all of this.
And so Jesus' suffering and Jesus' death is of an order different than anything we could ever experience. It was in our place, he suffered in our place. He died under the wrath of God, the death we deserve for our sins. As Isaiah saw, very clear, Isaiah 53:4-6, speaking of Christ, "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows. Yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our inequities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him and by his wounds, we are healed. We all like sheep have gone astray. Each of us has turned to his own way and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” So when you are going through your sufferings, you're going through afflictions, remember the three categories that were assaulted in Job's life, his possessions, his loved ones, his family and his health. You, dear friend, are vulnerable in all three areas. You're vulnerable. Vulnerable. And when you get hit in one or more of those areas, when you are hurting in one or more of those areas, you should go to God where that in general pain and suffering is in the world because of sin. It may well be that you are specifically being chastised for your own sins or maybe not.
"Jesus' suffering and Jesus' death is of an order different than anything we could ever experience. It was in our place, he suffered in our place."
But in any case, there is a strong connection between sin and suffering and death. That meditation should lead you to the cross, “Jesus died in my place. I know I'm a sinner, I know I deserve the pit, I deserve to be condemned but because Jesus died from me, I am freed from the pit, I will spend eternity with God in heaven.” And so all suffering should lead us to the cross and then we realize that all of our suffering as Christians then is redemptive. God is a loving father and Elihu's themes come in then, we're sick, we're hurting, we can pray and God's going to use it to bring us close to him. He's going to heal us of sin, ultimately. 1 Peter 2:24-25 has this therapeutic model of the cross, therapeutic, speaking of Jesus, "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree that we might die to sin and live for righteousness, by his wounds you have been healed." You hear that? Healed. Healed from what? “For you are like sheep going astray.” Healed from that. From sin. “You are like sheep going astray but now you have returned to the shepherd and overseer of your soul.” So whenever you're hurting or ever you're in grief and sorrow, go quickly to Christ, to the cross, to the empty tomb and find joy in that. If you're not a Christian yet, if you came here today, you don't usually go to church, maybe you're going through some suffering right now, maybe you're afraid you will, you're waiting for the other shoe to drop in your life, you're afraid of it. I'm just saying, thank you, thank God that you're here. I'm glad you're here. You have heard the gospel this morning; you've heard of a substitute of God's Son dying in your place, trust in him. Trust in him and your sins will be forgiven.
V. Timeless Lessons from Elihu
Now I want to finish with just a couple more lessons from Elihu and we'll be done. I want to talk about the reality and limitations of righteous rage. Righteous rage. We're told in James, “everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and,” what? “Slow to become angry,” why? Why slow to become angry? "For man's anger does not bring about the righteousness of God. Therefore, get rid of all,” listen to this, “moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you which can save you." Wow, James is hard on anger, very hard. Calls it moral filth. Most of our anger, let's be honest, is unrighteous, isn't it? Unrighteous. It's based on pride or inconvenience. That'll take care of 95% of your unrighteous anger right there. Your pride was hurt and so you get angry, you're inconvenienced in some way, by some other drivers let's say, and you get angry. But you say: “Yet, however, there are still examples of righteous rage in the Bible!” That is true, there are. But be careful; be careful.
So Elihu is righteously angry about God's honor being impugned, and that's going to happen. We're going to get angry about things, there are issues, moral injustices in this world that we should be angry about. Wickedness that humans do to each other like abortion, like racism, like economic exploitation, sex trafficking, child abuse. And it is right for us to look at those or hear accounts of that and feel anger about it. It's right. But we have to be careful. Our hearts are corrupt. We shouldn't trust ourselves so much. I think the year 2020, looking back, was a full display of so-called righteous rage in America. People were angry about lots and lots of stuff and many of them believed they had righteous reasons behind that. Whether it was the righteous rage when they rioted after George Floyd's death, or when others storm the Capitol Building after the election. If you read all the- you see all the rage in social media, do you see some of the anger in social media? The current- hottest current events of the day, like Black Lives Matter, COVID, masks, election, all of these topics, racism, sex abuse, Me Too. And many of those that are enraged in no way claim to be Christians, they just have a moral structure that's offended and they're, I think it seems in many cases, proud of their anger, proud of it. There's problems when we get righteously angry, it really could be a proud thing like you’re virtue signaling. Saying to everyone, "I don't like that stuff. Therefore, see how righteous I am." And even if the issue itself is clear and the actions are clear, we still should be distrustful of our own reactions and be more humble about it. But there is a place for righteous rage. Look at Jesus, John 2, he goes and sees all the people buying and selling in the temple courts. You remember that? And he sat down and took the time to weave together a long whip. I don't know how long that took, but it took a while. And then what did he do with the whip? Well you know what he did with the whip. He drove out all who were buying and selling in his Father's temple, “Get out of here,” he said, "This house will be called a house of prayer for all nations and you have made it a den of thieves." And his disciples remembered, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” So I think there's a place for it, but just be careful.
Secondly, God both wounds and heals. See the activity of God in all of this, it's not an accident when you get sick. Deuteronomy 32:39 says, "See now that I, myself am he. There is no God besides me, I put to death and I bring to life. I have wounded and I will heal." So Elihu rightly sees God's hand, God's wise, loving hand and his purpose in sickness and it's helpful for us. And one of the purposes of God is to humble us. Sickness humbles you, doesn't it? You're powerless, what can you do to get well? And wasn't that the case with the apostle Paul? God showed him amazing things. He caught him up to the third heaven, to paradise. He saw God with his own eyes in heaven. And then he says in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9, "To keep me from becoming conceded because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan who torment me. Three times, I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’” That sickness, that pain that got brought into Paul's life, he said, "Was to keep me from being conceited, to humble me and keep me low before the hand of God."
But encourage yourself with this: all sickness, all pain is temporary. It's temporary. You're going to a world where there be no more death, mourning, crying and pain. And where it says in Revelation 22:2, "the leaves of the tree of life are there for the healing of the nations.” And the river of the water of life is flowing through and under that tree. And we're going to be drinking from the river of the water of life and we're going to be feeding from the tree of life. And it's a continual renewal of the health and energy and strength of the resurrection body. You won't know any sickness in heaven, so look forward to that.
And finally, when God disciplines us for sin and we repent of that sin and then God heals us, then we are able or even if there's no known sin but there’s just suffering in our lives, we're able then to have a powerful ministry to others, we're able to minister the comfort that we receive when we went through that painful time. 2 Corinthians 1:4, "God comforts us in all our trouble so that we may comfort others in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." Close with me in prayer. Lord, we thank you for the things we've learned from your word today. So much to know. We pray, Lord, that you would please sustain and strengthen each one of us in them. Lord, thank you for your wisdom in bringing sorrow and pain into our lives. You don't give us more than we can bear but you are good and loving when you do it. I pray that you would strengthen those that are going through acute suffering right now. If there are any, even that are here, that are suffering and struggling, just speak a word of comfort and consolation to them. Lord, we thank you for this time in Jesus’ name. Amen.