Friends today we are returning to the book of Job to examine the conclusion of the matter. The matter I am talking about is the question of why innocent people may suffer especially when a good God is keeping watch over it all. Now three of Job’s friends took a stab at it and in different forms you will remember they came to the simple assumption that the only possibility is that Job or his family did something wrong in the past. Then Elihu the mysterious forth character appears and gives three very plausible explanations for the existence of suffering in general. in the end, after all the speeches were completed, it is God’s turn to take the stage. God addresses Job’s suffering in a very different and unexpected way. God reframes the whole conversation by counter questioning Job. You see Jesus do this all the time in the Gospels. And the purpose of this counter questioning is not to dodge the original question but to elevate the thinking of the questioner in such a way that the questioner is able to see things from a perspective in which the original question is not so relevant any more.
After three sermons focused on Job’s friends and looking at how people sometimes add to suffering by dealing in self-centered and insensitive ways with those who are suffering, we turned last week to how Job responded to his suffering. We looked at a model of grief pioneered by a famous psychologist called Elizabeth Kubler Ross. This model describes 5 stages of grief, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Each of these stages can be done well or badly. When I say well, I mean in a Biblical and Godly way. And when it is dealt with well it leads to healing and spiritual growth. On the other hand each stage can be dealt with in a worldly way that leads to bad outcomes. Now Job is commended by God both in the beginning of this ordeal, that means to start with, he was someone who lived a God-fearing life. And God vindicates him at the end of the book as well, that means he dealt with the challenges he was thrown within the book well. We know this because in the 10 speeches that Job has given you see each of the first 4 stages of grief circulating throughout these speeches. Thus looking at Job’s response is an opportunity for us to learn how to grieve well. And that means doing all the stages of grief well. Last week we looked at the first two stages of grief, denial and anger. This week we are going to look at the next three stages, bargaining, depression and acceptance. So let’s get started.
Today we are going to change gears and focus on the sufferer, Job. We are going to examine how he dealt with his pain. The end goal for us is to be able to learn to grieve well, so that we can be a witness to God even in our grief. Now if you read up on counseling you will find that people go through grief in 5 distinct phases. Now every individual and every grieving event has its own unique pattern but all go through some or all of these phases in their own way. These phases or stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Don’t worry you don’t have to remember all these just yet. It is going to take me at least two sermons to go through all the stages of grief. But at the end of it I am sure you will be able to remember it all Today, I will cover the first two stages, denial and anger.
Today we are going to examine the big elements of Elihu’s speech. When you look at the beginning of Elihu’s speech, it sounds the same as the rest of his friends. He even starts on a note of humility by saying that he is the youngest of them all and so he was waiting for those with the wisdom of age to speak before he did. So far so good. Elihu’s speech also has some amazing poetry on the majesty and lofty, way above our thinking ways of God.....
Three ways we can be real friends to the “Jobs” in our life. Make sure that we don’t make their pain worse by pining the blame carelessly, especially not on the mourner themselves. Secondly, make sure to weep with those who weep so that they know that you are with them in the time of their suffering. Finally take their “why” questions to God for them. God can handle all questions and God promises that those who mourn will be comforted. If we have experienced that comfort from leaving our questions and problems at the feet of Jesus, then we will be able to pass that comfort on to those whom we are trying to comfort.
We are going to turn our attention back to the book of Job. In our first sermon on Job we looked at the opening where the scene was being set for us, with God and Satan setting up a trial for Job in heaven. We also looked at how the trial plays out here on earth and we looked at the question that the book of Job is exploring. One way of framing the question is, is God just? The other approach to the question is, if God is good, then why do good people suffer? This is where Job’s friends come in. Because Job’s three friends soon appear to console him. Now each of Job’s friends have a slightly different take on how they respond to Job’s laments. These responses represent different philosophical perspectives to the question of God’s justice and human suffering. We are going to look at how these perspectives are formed and what is helpful and unhelpful about each of these perspectives when dealing with a grieving friend. Today our focus is going to be on Eliphaz, the Temanite.
For today, we will look at chapters one and two of the Book of Job. In these two chapters we are introduced to an exceptional human being. He is one of the richest people in the land. But he is also tremendously righteous. He was considered blameless by God. It does not get better than that! As an illustration of his righteousness, we are told that he even regularly made sacrificial offerings even for those sins that his children may have unknowingly committed. So Job is presented to us as a man who has all the possible bases of his life covered....