Explore the Bible Study: Justice Sought

6:30 AM

How should we respond if someone comes to us during times of distress and says, “God told me to say this to you”? When we observe a fellow believer going through difficulties, we should be careful not to draw conclusions that simply aren’t accurate. The Explore the Bible Study: Justice Sought, will focus on another of Job's friends conversation with Job and the assumptions he makes and the advice he gives Job.

As you look at a portion of Elihu’s conversation with Job, consider how his observations distort the truth of what you know about God and how He works with those who are suffering.

Job 36:1-7 begins with Elihu claiming to speak on God’s behalf. Elihu stated accurately that God is mighty and able to order man’s circumstances and govern the events of life (v. 5). He was correct when he said that God watches over the righteous and ultimately brings justice to the oppressed (vv. 6-7). However, Elihu didn’t understand that sometimes the righteous do suffer, and sometimes the wicked flourish. Like Job’s other friends, Elihu looked at Job’s suffering and claimed that “God told him” that it was due to some sin Job had committed.  

Elihu describes his view of God’s discipline in Job 36:8-11

He was accurate regarding what one will find when one responds well to God’s disciplinary suffering – They will find happiness again. He was correct in explaining that God reveals to humans their need to repent and that God sometimes uses trials and suffering to bring people to repentance. He was correct in stating that, if people in these situations repent, God would once again bless them.

He was wrong in assuming Job was experiencing God’s discipline and that he should listen and serve Him in order to experience restoration.

  • Read Luke 13:1-4 and consider what modern-day questions would be similar. Perhaps the question would be, "Were the people who died in a hurricane, tornado, car accident, or some other calamity more sinful than others?" Look closely at how Jesus responds to question in Luke 13:1-4 to determine what is wrong with this line of thought. How would you describe the relationship between sin, suffering, and repentance?
  • Read John 9:1-3 and consider how this passage helps you understand the relationship of suffering to sin and repentance. What are the dangers of assuming that a person' suffering is always caused by individual sin?
  • What are the dangers of claiming to speak for God when talking to people going through suffering or attempting to make sense of a difficult situation?

Elihu doubles down and reminds Job of the judgment of God in Job 36:12-16

  • Elihu was correct in saying that those who do not listen and the godless in heart who become stubborn and refuse to repent will receive the harshest of judgment from God. They will receive the just retribution of their disobedience. The godless face the judgment of God in the form of death.
  • Elihu was correct in saying that God speaks to them in their affliction. That is, God uses suffering to discipline them, prune and purify them, and bring repentance.
  • He was correct in saying that God desired and would give restoration to those who repent. 
  • He was incorrect in assuming this was what Job would experience if he were to repent. This wasn’t why Job was going through his suffering. He didn’t need to repent, yet God would comfort and restore him at the appropriate time.

Elihu and his friends assumed Job had not repented because of his pride. They thought Job had not learned his lesson. Because of his pride, his friends asserted he was headed to cross the river of death, where he would find no comfort or knowledge.

There are times when suffering comes about by people’s actions, the actions of others, or cause-and-effect circumstances of this sin-broken world. In these situations, it is important for Christians to initially weep with those who weep (see Romans 12:15) rather than jump into philosophical explanations regarding suffering.

Elihu persists that Job is guilty and concludes with warnings in Job36:17-23

There is nothing wrong with Elihu warning Job to not harden his heart but to embrace the divine purpose of his affliction.

Elihu was wrong in asserting that Job only loved God because of the gifts of riches that had been bestowed from God’s hand. Ironically, Elihu's dangerous assumption had already been presented to God at the very beginning of Job. The assumption was made by Satan. Obviously, Elihu or Satan did not know the heart of Job and were practicing the same tactics!

The Flawed Assumptions of Elihu

If you were to apply Elihu’s “wisdom” and advice to the death of Christ it would that lead you to assume that Christ had committed some personal sin which resulted in the pain and suffering He experienced. But, one could never assume this of Christ. Christ’s death was not because of His sin. He was the perfect Son of God. He died because of OUR sin, not His own!

Options When Suffering

Believers have several options when experiencing difficulties. They can and should examine their hearts. If God reveals sin they can either repent or rebel. But there is another option when one feels there is no obvious reason for suffering and hardships. It is TRUST. We can trust God has a plan and that He cares.

When we observe someone going through a difficult time we should avoid assuming God's role as Judge. Instead, let's join God in healing the brokenhearted and bandaging their wounds (Psalm 147:3).

The downloadable teaching helps provide more details for this study along with some tools you can use in guiding a group Bible study. Be sure to use this as a supplement to your study of the Explore the Bible Study resources provided by LifeWay.

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