It is clear from the first chapter that Job had not done anything bad; in fact, the opposite is true. He was more righteous than anyone including his friends. He was suffering not because he had done anything bad, but because he was the best man in all of the East. God was putting Job on display.
However, Job's friends did not know this. Instead of seeing Job as being the most righteous man among them, they saw him as the greatest sinner. How wrong they were! If only they had known the beginning of the book. They would have shut up.
Because Job was so righteous among men and yet he suffered, people assume good people suffer. In answering the question, "Do good people suffer?" you might answer, "Yes, of course they do. Job is the prime example. He was a good person, yet he suffered." So people think that the book of Job answers "Yes" to the question, "Do good people suffer?" But if the answer is yes, then God could no longer be just. How can God allow good people to suffer and still be just? He can't.
"Wait a minute! Are you saying that Job was not a good person?" you might ask.
Let me ask you, "Was Job a good person?" Yes!? Maybe!? Are you sure? Job was not "good" in the sense that the Bible describes what is good!
A rich young man came to Jesus and said, "Good teacher." Jesus interrupted and said, "There is no one good but God alone."
Paul writes, "...There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is not one who does good, not even one" (Romans 3:10-12).
The New Testament makes it abundantly clear that no one is considered righteous in God's sight. Now in man's sight, there are good people. Job was one of them.
The Bible says that Job was the best man in all of the East. That doesn't mean that he was righteous and good in God's sight. He was simply the best man from a human perspective, but even the best man is a sinner in God's sight, and that includes Job. A sinner has no right-standing or rights with God.
THE UNFORGOTTEN HERO
Do you remember the last character in the book of Job? Elihu is his name. He was not one of Job's friends. He was simply listening to Job's friends judging him and Job defending himself. As he began to listen to all four, God gave him insight into the true nature of Job's sufferings.
Out of all the human characters, only Elihu understood why Job suffered. It is amazing that I haven't heard anyone ever mention Elihu. We almost forget him. But the truth is, Elihu was the only one with true insight, not only into the sufferings of Job but, insight into the sufferings of all mankind. This is why Elihu is the last to speak concerning Job's sufferings. It is interesting to note that when God appeared to Job, He rebuked Job for not having insight and He rebuked Job's three friends for falsely judging Job. Yet God never rebuked Elihu. Why? Because Elihu was correct in understanding suffering.
Elihu begins by saying,
I am young in years, and you are old; that is why I was fearful, not daring to tell you what I know. I thought, "Age should speak, advanced years should teach wisdom." But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding. (Job 32:6-8)
Notice, Elihu is about to give wisdom not because of any human understanding, but because God's Spirit gave him understanding. The first thing he does is correct Job's friends.
I waited while you [Job's three friends] spoke,I listened to your reasoning; while you were searching for words, I gave you my full attention. But not one of you has proved Job wrong; none of you has answered his argument. (Job 32:11-12)
Elihu showed Job's friends that they were wrong in judging him. The second thing Elihu does is correct Job, but he does it in humility.
But now, Job, listen to my words; pay attention to everything I say. I am about to open my mouth; my words are on the tip of my tongue. My words come from an upright heart; my lips sincerely speak what I know. The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life. Answer me then, if you can; prepare yourself and confront me. I am just like you before God; I too have been taken from clay. No fear of me should alarm you, nor should my hand be heavy upon you. 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.." (Job 33:1-9)
Elihu saw one fundamental flaw in Job: that Job believed that he was without«)3» «)1»original sin. Job was self-righteous. Yes, he was righteous as far as men are concerned, but he was not righteous as far as God was concerned.
Since Job thought he was sinless and not under the curse of sin, he could not figure out how he could suffer. This bothered Job. But Elihu points out the fact that Job was a sinner like everyone else and is subject to the curse of sin which includes sickness and poverty.
People erroneously think that the book of Job was written to try to answer the question: Why does God allow good people to suffer? But Elihu has no trouble with that question because he knows that there are no truly "good" people in God's sight. The thing that perplexed Elihu was not the fact that Job was suffering, but why weren't he and Job's friends suffering along with Job. In fact, Elihu is wondering why everyone doesn't suffer all the time since everyone is a sinner.
Elihu realized that sinners are under the curse of sin, and therefore have no legal right to get mad when they suffer. They should realize that they deserve to suffer and if they are not suffering, they should praise God even more because He is having mercy on them.
WHY ARE SINNERS BLESSED?
Elihu asked the right question, "Why does God allow sinners to be blessed?" The answer: Because God is merciful.
In other words, before Job had his trials, he experienced the mercy of God. But when Job had his trials, he experienced the justice of God--he only got what he deserved.
Immediately after Elihu spoke, God answered Job in a whirlwind and rebuked him for falsely accusing God of injustice. Job wisely repented.
You might be saying, "I understand what you are saying, but how can we claim our healing and prosperity, if we are sinners? Sinners, after all, have no right to healing and prosperity."
That was true, before the cross! But, through the cross, we have been made the righteousness of God, therefore we have right-standing with God. We are living after the cross. This is why God commanded Job's three friends to offer a sacrifice.
God appeared to Eliphaz, the leader of Job's friends, and told him, "I'm angry with you three. You and your two friends should take seven bulls and seven rams and go to Job and sacrifice a burnt offering. And when Job prays for you, God will show mercy on you all and not bring on any tragedy that Job experienced." God showed Job and his three friends that only through the shedding of blood is there forgiveness of sins.
This is the point: Before Jesus died on the cross for our sins, mankind had no legal right to healing and prosperity. They could only plead for mercy. But now since Christ has died for our sins, sicknesses and poverty, we now have a right to the grace of God.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GRACE AND MERCY
Grace is unmerited favor. We do not claim healing and prosperity based on our good works, but based on Christ' good work on the cross.
Remember the scripture in the previous chapter of this book, 2 Corinthians 8:9: "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, he became poor for you." He became poor through His Substitutionary sacrifice on the cross, and because of it, we have access into God's grace, which is far better than mercy.
The Bible tells us to grow in the grace of God. Nowhere does the Bible say to grow in the mercy of God. Many people interchange the word "grace" with "mercy." They think these two are the same, but they definitely are not.
Hebrews 4:16 says, "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Notice that God's throne is the throne of "grace" not mercy. Yet at His throne people can receive both "mercy" and "grace." These are two different things. Unfortunately, most people are trying to receive mercy when they should be finding grace. Grace is better.
What's the difference between mercy and grace? Mercy is when God does not bring on you the punishment you deserve. Grace is when God brings on you the benefits that He paid for. The only similarity between grace and mercy is that both have to do with unmerited favor. However, mercy is not based on legal rights. Grace is!
Let me illustrate the difference. Suppose you are eating a nice meal at a restaurant, and afterwards, you go to the cash register to pay for it. When you reach into your pocket, you discover that you forgot to bring your money. You don't have cash, checks or credit cards. You apologize to the manager that you don't have the money to pay for it.
What do you need? MERCY! Let's suppose the manager has compassion on you and tells you to forget the bill. You enjoyed the meal without paying for it. This illustrates mercy.
What is grace? Grace is when someone gives you a gift certificate which entitles you to a free meal. So you go to the restaurant and order your favorite food, and you enjoy every bite of it. After the meal, you walk over to the cash register and hand the worker your gift certificate. Do you know what you experienced? Grace.
In both cases, you did not pay for the meal. That's unearned favor. In the first case, fear gripped you because you knew you didn't have the money. You were not sure what the manager was going to do to you. There was not assurance or peace until you were forgiven, but even then you still felt unworthy because the meal was never paid for.
You see, this is how the Old Testament saints, including Job, operated. They pleaded for mercy but were never sure if God would show it. This is why Job said that he was fearful of tragedy. He was not confident that blessings would abound in his life all the time, because he operated by mercy.
In the second case, you enjoyed the meal knowing that someone else paid for it. As long as you had the gift certificate you ate in peace and confidence. It didn't bother you that someone else paid for it. You did not walk to the worker at the cash register and say, "Oh, I'm so unworthy to have eaten this delicious meal. I am undeserving of it. Someone else paid for it and gave me this certificate. Do you suppose that you could accept this certificate on my behalf?" NO! NO! NO! A thousand times no! You went to the register without feeling inferior, knowing that the meal was paid for.
Friend, this is what the New Testament teaches about grace. God has already paid the price for your sins, sicknesses and poverty. You simply come boldly to His throne to find grace in your time of need. You already know that the price is paid. Just enjoy the benefits.
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