Most of us know the bitter taste of frustration. We've been there, done that a few times in this life. Who hasn't experienced the annoyance of plans gone awry, goals and objectives in the tank, the mysteries of life that defy explanation. Give me a break! Job did too, up close and personal. He had lost everything important in his personal value system. His three friends sought to bring counsel and instruction that would help him cope with the destructive turns Satan and the sons of God (see Job 1: 6-12) had inflicted on him. Still, their words were shallow and theologically flawed. Without answers Job was confused and disoriented. Finally, his personal exasperation exploded in pleas for a face to face with God. The text of Job 23 throbs with human emotion---
Then Job answered and said: “Today also my complaint is bitter; my hand is heavy on
account of my groaning. Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even
to his seat! I would lay my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments. I would
know what he would answer me and understand what he would say to me. Would he
contend with me in the greatness of his power? No; he would pay attention to me. There
an upright man could argue with him, and I would be acquitted forever by my judge.
Job 23: 1-7, ESV
It was a question King David asked often as well, where is God? The Psalms resonate with David's sense of being separated from God, the times of despair, betrayal, and personal loneliness that that could only be remedied by being in the presence of the Lord. In one particularly dark hour he prayed, "How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?" (Psalm 13: 1 (ESV). Like Job he needed answers about the harsh realities that defined his life at the moment. They were answers only God could provide. The empty talk of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar fell short of explaining the temptation Job faced. Their take on personal suffering was the simple understanding that righteous people prosper and wicked people suffer. They wanted Job to admit his hidden sin and accept the punishment he was due because of it.
Job was in error too. He thought himself righteous. You know, like self-righteous. His debate with the three friends, and success in his arguments against their presumed truth created a new and challenging view of suffering. Job's thoughts created the impression that God was capricious and arbitrary, guiding his creation with in random acts of mercy and punishment. Job never doubted or mistrusted God's sovereign rule of all things. But, the issue of suffering was left unspoken and unresolved. Job pleaded for a moment with God.
Enter Elihu, another mysterious person in the epoch of Job. He is introduced in job 32 and addresses Job through chapter 37. He extols the majesty, righteousness, and justice of God. Elihu proclaims a new angel on suffering and focuses his arguments on God rather than on Job. He identified the pride and arrogance in Job's defense of his faith and life. Job had been generous in his own personal assessment and stingy in recognizing the attributes of God. But, these six chapters created in Job a listening ear and receptive heart. In Chapter 38, God spoke to Job directly. This younger, little known person had softened Job so that he could hear and be convicted would God would actually address Job. .
And, that's my point today. Job was in a dark hour. Trying to comprehend his personal losses and deal with the theological suppositions of the day had left him with no answers. He was frustrated and desperate. He obviously thought God wasn't listening to him. Then, here is Elihu. The texts say little about Elihu's origin and how he arrived on the scene to confront Job. Was he a messenger of God? Did God dispatch Elihu to this righteous man Job (see Job 1:1) in order to re-focus Job on the character of God? It's interesting to note that in Job 42, God himself rebukes and corrects Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar (see Job 42: 7-9, ESV). But, there is no negative word spoken by God against Elihu.
Yes, Job is a mysterious book. God's truth resonates in every word, verse, and chapter. The matters of temptation and suffering remain difficult topics for us mere humans to comprehend. But, a simple truth is that God does hear our prayers and blesses us in our dark hours of uncertainty. Many times he inspires and authorizes someone to bring us truth we need to hear, steadfast believers like Elihu. When I'm asking, "Oh that I knew where I might find him...?" he is always there, sometimes in people and life circumstances that I may not recognize.
Perhaps, like Job, I should stop and listen.