Morning Light – April 21st, 2016: Do We Justify God or Ourselves in Suffering?

ml_2016Today: [Job Thirty-Six] Do We Justify God or Ourselves in Suffering? In the midst of suffering we very often seek to justify ourselves as not deserving of what we are going through. Sometimes we go to the furthest length and actually pervert or impugn the goodness of God because we feel we are suffering unfairly. Elihu in his continued discourse places himself in defense of the character of God reminding Job and his friends of the faithfulness of God toward us even when we are struggling with difficult circumstances.
[Job 36:1-33 KJV] 1 Elihu also proceeded, and said, 2 Suffer me a little, and I will shew thee that [I have] yet to speak on God’s behalf. 3 I will fetch my knowledge from afar, and will ascribe righteousness to my Maker. 4 For truly my words [shall] not [be] false: he that is perfect in knowledge [is] with thee. 5 Behold, God [is] mighty, and despiseth not [any: he is] mighty in strength [and] wisdom. 6 He preserveth not the life of the wicked: but giveth right to the poor. 7 He withdraweth not his eyes from the righteous: but with kings [are they] on the throne; yea, he doth establish them for ever, and they are exalted. 8 And if [they be] bound in fetters, [and] be holden in cords of affliction; 9 Then he sheweth them their work, and their transgressions that they have exceeded. 10 He openeth also their ear to discipline, and commandeth that they return from iniquity. 11 If they obey and serve [him], they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasures. 12 But if they obey not, they shall perish by the sword, and they shall die without knowledge.
In this chapter Elihu continues his discourse before Job and his three friends. He sets himself to defend before them the character of God correcting what he feels are false representations of the judgments of God so defined in their previous comments. He begins by begging their indulgence and seemingly in jest suggests that he is stretching the point somewhat but that his intention is to ascribe righteousness to his maker.
In verse 5 he declares that God is mighty yet nonetheless in His power does not despise anyone. This is in opposition to comments made by each of the four men throughout previous chapters of the book of Job. They plainly believe that God has nothing but scorn for the wicked and Job believes that God scorns even the righteous because He believes God is the source of his torment despite the fact (in his view) that he is an unimpeachably righteous man. Elihu insists that not only God does not despise the righteous but for that matter he despises no one. Psa. 51:17 tells us:
(Psa 51:17 KJV) 17 The sacrifices of God [are] a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
David wrote this in the aftermath of the murder of Uriah and the affair with Bathsheba. When men despise you in the midst of unforgiveable failure – God will still hear your prayer. Psalm 102:17 agrees with this same theme:
(Psa 102:17 KJV) 17 He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer.
In verse 6 Elihu says that God will not preserve the life of the wicked but that isn’t the end of the matter. God is not initiating the sorrows of the ungodly in fact verse 9 says that he will show them their transgression and (v. 10) open their ears to discipline and give them a path of escape. In all of this when we are struggling we can see that even when we are in the wrong and have no excuse God continually presents Himself to us as a part of the solution and not part of the problem – even though he will respect our choices and in His sovereignty allow us eventually to reap the consequences of those choices. Job feared long before his calamity came upon him and God put a hedge of protection around him in spite of it. Eventually however the hedge was lifted because God in the final analysis will allow us to reap the consequences of our choices (Job 3:35). This is not His choice nor by His origination but it is the act of God respecting our free will and the consequences thereof. In Ezekiel 33:11 we read:
(Eze 33:11 KJV) 11 Say unto them, [As] I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?
13 But the hypocrites in heart heap up wrath: they cry not when he bindeth them. 14 They die in youth, and their life [is] among the unclean. 15 He delivereth the poor in his affliction, and openeth their ears in oppression. 16 Even so would he have removed thee out of the strait [into] a broad place, where [there is] no straitness; and that which should be set on thy table [should be] full of fatness. 17 But thou hast fulfilled the judgment of the wicked: judgment and justice take hold [on thee]. 18 Because [there is] wrath, [beware] lest he take thee away with [his] stroke: then a great ransom cannot deliver thee. 19 Will he esteem thy riches? [no], not gold, nor all the forces of strength. 20 Desire not the night, when people are cut off in their place. 21 Take heed, regard not iniquity: for this hast thou chosen rather than affliction. 22 Behold, God exalteth by his power: who teacheth like him? 23 Who hath enjoined him his way? or who can say, Thou hast wrought iniquity?
In v. 13 Elihu contrasts the reaction of outright pagans to those that espouse rightly but are actually hypocrites. The wicked may turn their hearts but hypocrites even when they suffer do not cry out for mercy – but rather complain to God that He would dare allow them to go through what they are enduring. In v. 15 he says that the poor when they suffer cry out to Him and though they are not suffering by His hand He will nonetheless open their ears in the time of oppression.
It is true when we suffer we tend to become very introspective. We reform our ways. We deal with little hypocrisies and sinful habits and indulgences that we know are not pleasing to God. If our suffering is great we may go so far as to correct and deal with deep bitterness and forgiveness against those we have begrudged. This is not false repentance. God is not originating our sorrows but He is an opportunist and will take advantage of our vulnerability to bring conviction of sin and move us to correct our errors. Because this results many times in getting closer to God in suffering than when we are prospering there is an erroneous conclusion often made then that it is God who initiated the trouble to begin with but that would be false.
Remember Job 34:12 that “God will not do wickedly nor pervert judgment…” This means He will not make a positive promise one day and arbitrarily do the opposite because we have failed Him. He honors His word above His name and though we may not always be faithful to Him He will be faithful to us.
24 Remember that thou magnify his work, which men behold. 25 Every man may see it; man may behold [it] afar off. 26 Behold, God [is] great, and we know [him] not, neither can the number of his years be searched out. 27 For he maketh small the drops of water: they pour down rain according to the vapour thereof: 28 Which the clouds do drop [and] distil upon man abundantly. 29 Also can [any] understand the spreadings of the clouds, [or] the noise of his tabernacle? 30 Behold, he spreadeth his light upon it, and covereth the bottom of the sea. 31 For by them judgeth he the people; he giveth meat in abundance. 32 With clouds he covereth the light; and commandeth it [not to shine] by [the cloud] that cometh betwixt. 33 The noise thereof sheweth concerning it, the cattle also concerning the vapour.
In v. 16 Elihu says that God’s purpose is to move you out of the strait place (difficult place) in life and to bring you into the broad place of His blessing. For all this sweet intent there is nonetheless justice in God and when we persist without responding to the Holy Spirit’s conviction we place ourselves in the path of the avenues of God’s justice. In Acts 5 when Ananias and Sapphira died at Peter’s feet it was not God’s intention that this happen. This was during a time that people were giving by the Holy Ghost and poverty was eliminated among God’s people because of the generosity and unconditional love that abounded among them. Ananias and his wife put themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong motive and as a result lost their lives. In Acts 12 we see an angel deliver Peter from prison even though he was surrounded and chained to 16 soldiers charged with his imprisonment. As a result of God’s determination to free Peter these 16 soldiers were put to death for failing to keep Peter safe. There was no intention on God’s part to harm these soldiers and in fact some of them very likely may have been believers but they put themselves in the wrong time and the wrong place in the midst of something God was doing.
The chapter concludes with Elihu extolling the grandeur of God’s creation that serves as His footstool and how past finding out are God’s judgements beyond our ability to reproach or to criticize. He feels the need to do this because Elihu thinks that Job and his friends in their diatribes and debate have denigrated the character of God and reduced and diminished Him by daring to call Him down on each side of their arguments in the attempt to justify themselves and make themselves appear to be in the right in their arguments.
For us we simply see that Elihu is attempting to get their eyes off of themselves and to look to the glory of God and be admonished that even when we don’t understand why we are going through something difficult to resist the temptation to pervert in our judgment the established character of God in His word.

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