Let’s take a step back and look at the situation from a wider angle. Like I said in the beginning, Elihu not so much addresses why Job suffers, but is more concerned with how Job suffers. Elihu is exhorting Job to suffer well. So then the question is: how do we suffer well?
Let me draw four principles out of these chapters which Elihu addresses:
We have to rightly assess our righteousness
Elihu talks about God’s righteousness for nearly three chapters (Job 34:1 – 36:23). Righteousness comes from God alone (Ps. 11:7). And Romans 10:3-4 says, “For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” On the cross, Jesus gifted His righteousness to us who are unrighteous. It is given to us by Jesus is we believe, or have faith, in Him and His work alone. (2 Cor. 5:21). Rightly assessing the source of our righteousness helps us to understand that when God brings about suffering it is not because of something we have done, nor does it change our standing before Him.
We have to rightly assess our treasure
What the three friends fail to see is that Job’s greatest agony came from the fact that he thought that God abandoned him. Job’s greatest treasure was God, and the thought of losing God brought greater agony than the loss of worldly possessions. You see, in one sense, suffering happens when our treasure is taken away (or threatened to be taken away) from you. We should not lay up for ourselves treasures on earth, but rather in heaven. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:21) Rightly assessing where our treasure is helps us to understand that when God brings about suffering to hold on to everything else but God with loose hands.
We have to rightly assess our knowledge
Elihu says, “Do you know how God lays his command upon them and causes the lightning of his cloud to shine? Do you know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of him who is perfect in knowledge, you whose garments are hot when the earth is still because of the south wind? Can you, like him, spread out the skies, hard as a cast metal mirror?” (Job 37:15-18) We have to come to the conclusion that God knows more than us. Rightly assessing our knowledge helps us to understand that when God brings about suffering we do not have to question God about the reason, but remember and trust in God’s words: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Pro. 3:5)
We have to rightly assess our words
Elihu says as his closing words, “The Almighty—we cannot find him; he is great in power; justice and abundant righteousness he will not violate. Therefore men fear him; he does not regard any who are wise in their own conceit.” (Job 37:23-24). Elihu confronted what he believed to be Job’s arrogance in saying that man deserved an audience or a justification from God. Rightly assessing our words helps us to understand that when God brings about suffering we do not need to engage in an argument or debate with God, but we should simply fear Him “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” (Pro. 3:7-8).
Suffering will come, and it won’t be easy when it does. But I pray these four principles may help.
Elihu’s Rebuke #1: An Introduction
Elihu’s Rebuke #2: God Is Gracious
Elihu’s Rebuke #3: God is Just
Elihu’s Rebuke #4: God is Great
Elihu’s Rebuke #5: Suffering as a Discipline
Elihu’s Rebuke #6: Conclusion