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We are taking a look at tough times happen in our lives when we say, "It's not right!" These are times of tragedy, troubles, disaster, illness, etc. If anyone ever had the right to say, "It's Not Right!" it was a man named Job. He was a blameless, upright, God-fearing, and fleeing evil man who loved and served God. In one day, God allowed Satan to take Job's entire wealth. The same day all Job's children were killed in a tornado. Shortly after this, Satan was allowed to strike Job with a horrid disease causing festering boils with worms all over his body. Unknown to Job, he was the topic of two debates between God and Satan in the throne room of God. God believed in Job's genuine faith. Satan believed he could shatter Job's faith. Could we be topics of debates in God's throne room? Does God want to prove us before Satan's forces?
Initially, Job projected an amazing attitude:
Job 1:21-22 and said: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised." In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
Job proved his love for God surpassed his love for possessions or even his love for family. However, as his sickness continued and healing didn't come, Job began to question God as we all do.
Job 7:3-5 so I have been allotted months of futility, and nights of misery have been assigned to me. When I lie down I think, 'HOW LONG BEFORE I GET UP?' The night drags on, and I toss till dawn. My body is clothed with worms and scabs, my skin is broken and festering.
Job 7:20-21 If I have sinned, what have I done to you, O watcher of men? WHY have you made me your target? Have I become a burden to you? WHY DO YOU NOT PARDON MY OFFENSES AND FORGIVE MY SINS? For I will soon lie down in the dust; you will search for me, but I will be no more."
Job was miserable. He felt he was dying. He didn't understand what he'd done. "Why?" he asked. If he had sinned, why hadn't God forgiven him? We talked last time about how nothing is more depressing than illness. We don't understand why God doesn't heal us.
From chapter 4 to chapter 31 of the Book of Job, Job disputed with three friends - Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar - about Job's suffering. The friends' religious theology was no more than an erroneous theory and what many of our "religious friends" think today. They believed trouble and suffering are God's punishments for sin, and they believed prosperity and health are God's reward for righteousness. They said Job's extraordinary suffering could only be explained by Job's extraordinary sinfulness. They argued Job was only getting what he deserved. Job argued this was not true. Wicked people everywhere prosper and never experienced trouble or suffered as he was suffering. Job said there are righteous people everywhere who suffer and have trouble continuously. Job said he'd committed no sin capable of bringing the degree of trouble and suffering he was experiencing. Job said, "Show me where I have been wrong!"
Job won the argument with these three "friends," but didn't answer his question as to why he was going through his horrific trouble. At the end of Chapter 31, Job's thinking is God is haphazard, unpredictable, erratic, impulsive, and meaningless. There is no answer why the righteous suffer and have trouble in extraordinary ways. Job's conclusion and the conclusion of most people today is the same.
We could close the book here and have a theology we could live with. I believe most Christians have closed the book, and this is their thinking about God. It's essentially this: God rules over the world and controls all things. God is just and wise. Though I don't understand it, when God allows things appearing haphazard, unpredictable, erratic, impulsive, and meaningless they do have meaning and one day I will understand. I will serve God through Jesus Christ no matter what.
That's not a bad theology. It's a good way to live, but it's not where God closed the Book of Job. He didn't stop with Job in total triumph. Neither does he end Job's story with this theology. There are two more levels of understanding God desires we grasp when it comes to our It's Not Right times.
In chapter 32, another friend named Elihu appears. He talks for seven chapters. Elihu takes Job's and our understanding to a higher level. Elihu was angry with Job and Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar.
Job 32:2-3 But Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, became VERY ANGRY with Job for justifying himself rather than God. He was also angry with the three friends, because they had found no way to refute Job, and yet had condemned him.
Elihu is angry with Job self-righteousness justifying himself and questioning God. He was angry with Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar for not being able to answer Job's query as to why the righteous suffer and have trouble, yet condemned Job. Elihu projects a new thought concerning why the righteous suffer, why bad things happen to good people, and why there are It's Not Right times. Elihu says when It's Not Right times happen to the people of God, it's not punishment from God. It's the opposite. It's the love of God. It's not because of wickedness. It's a refinement. It's not for destruction. It's protection from ultimate destruction. It's not a proof of sin. It's proof of God's love. The three friends were wrong. Also, Job was wrong. God is not haphazard, unpredictable, erratic, impulsive allowing meaningless troubles to come upon us. Elihu said there are understandable purpose and meaning within every trouble. Speaking to Job, Elihu said,
Job 33:8-18 "But you have said in my hearing - I heard the very words - 'I am pure and without sin; I am clean and free from guilt. Yet God has found fault with me; he considers me his enemy. He fastens my feet in shackles; he keeps close watch on all my paths.' "But I tell you, IN THIS YOU ARE NOT RIGHT, for God is greater than man. Why do you complain to him that he answers none of man's words? FOR GOD DOES SPEAK - NOW ONE WAY, NOW ANOTHER - THOUGH MAN MAY NOT PERCEIVE IT. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men as they slumber in their beds, he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings, TO TURN MAN FROM WRONGDOING AND KEEP HIM FROM PRIDE, TO PRESERVE HIS SOUL FROM THE PIT, HIS LIFE FROM PERISHING BY THE SWORD. Or a man may be chastened on a bed of pain with constant distress in his bones
Elihu said for Job to think he was pure and without sin was not right. God is not Job's enemy. God is your savior. Saying he is your enemy is disrespectful toward God. Elihu said God is always speaking to us one way or another. We simply don't perceive it. It may be in a dream, a vision, on a bed of pain, butGod is always speaking. God is not punishing us. He's attempting to preserve our soul from the pit of hell and destruction.
What Elihu said all through his talk was God was showing Job his wrongdoing. It was pride of self-righteousness. Though God said twice Job was blameless, upright, and shunned evil (1:8; 2:3), there was a sin capable of destroying Job and taking him to hell. It was pride and self-righteousness. It had settled deep in Job. God wanted to deal with this. Job's trouble and suffering would dislodge it and bring it up and out.
Trouble and suffering are not discomforts from punishment and God being our enemy. It's the discomfort of surgery saving us from destruction. Even righteous and blameless people have the sediment of sin. Righteous people are not sinless people. We are righteous sinners. If sin is not dealt with, the sin could come back, overwhelm us, and destroy us.
Job 36:13-15 "The GODLESS in heart harbor resentment; even when he fetters them, they do not cry for help… But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; HE SPEAKS TO THEM IN THEIR AFFLICTION.
Elihu shows two groups of people. The godless who resent and reject God and the righteous who listen. Elihu teaches us the righteous person is sensitive to the speaking of God. The wicked are arrogant refusing to listen. God makes all listen to him. Trouble and times of suffering will take us to God, or push us from God. Trouble and times of suffering will ultimately save us, or ultimately destroy us.
Within the most righteous of people there remains the sediment of sin remaining within us with the potential to take us to the pit of hell. A major work of salvation is accomplished through God speaking to us in our "It' Not Right!" times dislodging sins potential. Trouble, tragedy, trials, disaster, illness, and suffering is not to punish the righteous. It's to open the ear to listen, to refine, and to save. As a surgeon opens the flesh cutting away a malignancy, God opens our ear to hear cutting away malignant sin.
A central lesson from the Book of Job is the righteous do suffer and have trouble, but not in punishment. They experience it for refinement working salvation, not destruction. God's people, those filled with the Holy Spirit, covered by the blood of Jesus, will suffer, but when they suffer it is not punishment. Christ bore our punishment. We are to understand trouble as God's mercy and God's grace.
The apostle Paul tells of the incredible visions and revelations given him. He wrote of a time when he was taken into the third heaven (2Co 12:2). He saw paradise and inexpressible things he was not permitted to mention. Then he said this.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, THERE WAS GIVEN ME A THORN IN MY FLESH, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "MY GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR YOU, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Paul realized his suffering, his thorn in his flesh, was for his good, not for his bad. He prayed three times to take it away. It didn't happen and it not happening was God's grace and love, not God's punishment. It was God's refinement, not God's anger. It made Paul stronger, not weaker. It was God's love, not God's anger. It refined Paul. His genuine faith was proven (1Pe 1:7).
In "It's Not Right!" times, God is speaking. He will speak through dreams and visions. He will speak audibly. He will speak through terrifying times. He will speak through trouble, tragedy, disaster, and illness. "For God Does Speak, Now One Way, Now Another." Listen for God to speak in your "It's Not Right! Times.