Summary: Job's friend Elihu gives invaluable insights in how to minister to those who are suffering.
1. I could not believe it had happened. One minute everything seemed alright and the next minute everything had changed. They had just been married a year before. I had the joy of performing the wedding. Just a few months ago they had found out that she was expecting. A young couple with all of life and its hopes stood before them.
2. And then - just like that - suddenly and without warning it all fell apart. She collapsed and was rushed to hospital where she died within minutes. All because of a small yet powerful blood clot.
3. Her husband had been starting to go to church but was not really a believer. As I waited for him to come over to talk to me about the funeral, I was overwhelmed with what to say to him
4. He needed comfort. He wanted answers. He needed some way of keeping his life together.
1. One of hardest things we have to do is to relate and minister and care for those who suffer - whether illness, loss, marriage breakup or other. What do we say to someone who does not understand why this had to happen to her? How do we respond to the man who is angry at God? How do we help someone through tragedy?
2. A few weeks ago we looked at Job and his tragic circumstances. We looked at his three friends and how they cared for him and yet failed at being able to minister to him.
a. Their shortcomings were of two sorts: what they said and how they ministered.
b. We saw how they said that suffering was always God’s judgement upon sin. The idea being that the more one sins, the more they suffer.
c. But we know that God said later that they had not spoken of Him that which was right
d. Second, as we saw, they failed in their method of ministry. They became more heartless as they spoke. They came across as arrogant - we are better since you are suffering more than us. They became argumentative and they failed to prove their case.
3. At this point we may argue that one should care for those who suffer and that we do not need to try and speak the truth about why. Suffering and the ways of God are beyond our ability to understand. That is the way many of as Christians view suffering. We may say that we believe God rules the world and that He is just and wise. Things seem unfair and arbitrary but we know they will be made right when we get to heaven.
a. And this way of faith is not a bad way to live. It means trusting in God through all the unknowns, but the writer of Job lets us know that we do not have to settle for this way of living.
God does not hide all His ways. We may see more of God’s purpose in suffering than we might think and so we he tells us about another friend of Job, one that we have not met before.
b. Elihu has been listening to Job and his friends arguing and he is angry at all of them. And so he says he must speak, the words are just bursting out of him.
c. While Elihu gives good insight as to why God brings or allows suffering to occur, that is not what we will focus on this evening. Instead we consider how E. was able to minister more effectively so that we also may be more effective in our ministry as well.
4. Before we do that I just want to give reason why the writer of Job shows that Elihu’s words and methods represent the truth of God’s word and God’s way of presenting them. I acknowledge John Piper’s sermon on this passage as giving most of these reasons, as well as other insights.
a. 1st - discussion between Job and friends have ended. Ch. 32 begins with prose showing a clear break with that which had been said before. The friends gave up because job was still righteous in his own eyes. E. was angry at friends for failing to find an answer and he was angry at Job because Job had been trying to justify himself rather than God.
b. 2nd - the three friends speeches got shorter and shorter because they were losing the argument. Six chapters are devoted to Elihu’s words and they seem to form a bridge between that of 3 friends and that of God Himself.
c. 3rd - Job does not argue with Elihu because he also could see the truth of what E was saying. In fact in 42:6 Job even repents over some of the very things that Elihu said.