The grieving soul needs to find God. This is not an easy thing to do, even for people who have believed in and known the Lord for as long as they can remember. It does not normally help for someone to come to mourners in that condition of permanent life-altering loss and to begin talking to them about God or instructing them that they need to find God and lean upon Him, even though that is a fact. There is one person we listen to more than anyone else on the planet: our own. It is best to hear instruction directly from our hearts. We need to say something like this when the time is right: “Why so downcast O my soul? Put your hope in God!” (Psalm 42:5)
There is one voice that is even more powerful than the voice of a person’s own soul: the voice of God. At times throughout the history of God’s speaking to His people, He spoke through prophets, as here with Elihu speaking to Job. Job does not interrupt Elihu. He listens. How do we distinguish this speech from that of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar? That is a very mysterious question. Even if the content were entirely the same, which it is not, there is something different with Elihu. He really is a messenger from God. The other men were not speaking for God. God promises that His own Word will not return empty to Him. There is no such promise for the vast crowd of overly spiritual advisors to the grieving, who talk too much when they should just admit that they do not understand what God is doing.
The voice of God through Elihu powerfully reorients the soul of this great man, Job, to the God that he has never stopped believing in and never stopped loving. Bear with Elihu now, for he really is God’s messenger until the Lord Himself will speak. Job was the best messenger of God earlier in the book, and now Elihu speaks with a great prophetic spirit and Job listens. Soon God Himself will speak without any prophet, and everyone else will have to fear, listen, and obey. Inasmuch as Job and Elihu have accurately spoken the Lord’s Word, God has truly spoken through them. Yet who can help but be taken aback when the Almighty One comes directly from heaven to talk to His beloved servant Job? But for now, Elihu redirects well the heart of this grieving lover of God.
His message? What a mighty God is the Lord! His glory is not only in physical force. He has the power of perfect understanding and faultless accomplishment. His purpose will stand and His timing is unquestionably right. He sees His afflicted one. He even knows who will be His eternal King, and He will exalt that One above all the nations forever. For those to whom He grants some measure of authority on earth, He watches their works and disciplines their arrogance in His own perfect way. He can make anyone willingly hear, believe, and obey. Some respond to His outward entreaty according to an inward effectual call that men cannot see. Others harden themselves to His instruction and are left in the disastrous pride that will lay them low and hurt those around them.
Here is something amazing to consider: God is free to draw the righteous near to Him through affliction that me might normally presume to be only the fate of the ungodly. This treatment that seems so unjust to us is not a good excuse to heap ignorant accusations upon the Lord or to scoff at Him as if we knew anything. The misery that we feel is part of the pathway of a powerful ransom for the elect of God, an expression of His love for us, and not necessarily a sign of our special sinfulness or of His unusual displeasure. Do not mock at powerful mysteries, but receive what you cannot possibly understand. There is no way to avoid His providence anyway, and through the worst of times God is still unchanging in His goodness.
Embrace the affliction somehow and embrace God. How can anyone do that? Can a person like Job be expected to be happy about what has happened to his children, all of them gone in a moment? Let’s not say too much, just receive what we can never change and marvel at God. Let the Lord be exalted and let Him teach us as He sees fit according to His own eternal counsel.
This was the pathway of Jesus, the sinless Servant of the Lord. Of course He despised the cross for the evil thing that it was, yet He embraced it for the glorious redemption that it would become. He extolled His Father and gave Himself entirely into His hand. The church still sings about this centuries after it was accomplished: One Man suffered well, and He emerged perfectly victorious for our sake. Therefore, we agree with the Son of God that God is great. We do not understand His eternal nature and His infinite and unchangeable wisdom as He touches our own lives with present sorrow. We see the lightning and we hear the thunder. It seems too close. We know that the Lord has brought water up into the clouds, and that He is pouring forth His gift of rain upon the earth. And we know that the seed that has been planted in death will yet be harvested in the fruitfulness of life, and that requires not only sunshine, but also rain. Not all rain is gentle. To feel affliction rightly is to find the greatness of God in the storm, and to trust Him in the eternal quietness of His own divine love, appreciating and putting to good use whatever He ordains for us in this place of tears and hope.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
God of Wisdom and Glory, You are both righteous and mighty. The most powerful men of the earth must answer to You. Their days come and go. The arrogant man thinks great thoughts about himself but he cannot add one day to his life. If You speak he must listen. You will surely remove him from his place of authority whenever You please. You are exalted in Your power. Your works of creation are all around us. You rule over all Your creatures and all their actions in a way that should inspire the greatest fear among men. We should worship You. We certainly cannot charge You with evil.