IF THERE be for him an angel …
JOB lived a long time ago. No one knows precisely when. That he did both Ezekiel (Ezekiel 14.14-20) and James (James 5.11) testify. He lost nearly everything – his wealth, his family and his health (Job 1 & 2). He struggled to understand why? So much anguish gripped him that he cursed the day of his birth (Job 3). But he did not renounce God.
Neither his wife or friends could help him answer the question that bugged him: Why? Why did God take him into such a deep period of sorrow and sadness? God has the answer. After his friends Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar and Elihu had tried to provide an explanation, God spoke to Job (Job 38-41). God taught him that in this life we will not fully understand why we face times of difficulty and stress. Why is that? Because God’s ways are beyond our understanding. Ultimately all things work for our good. Thus, instead of not being satisfied with having no answer to our problems we are to trust God. He invites the troubled and weary to turn to him and ask for help. Those who do find it is freely given.
Though his friends did not have the answer to his troubles that does not mean that all of their advice was unhelpful. For example, the youngest of the four, Elihu, reminded Job about how God communicates with us. You will find his speech in chapters 32-37. In chapter 32 he rebukes Bildad, Eliphaz and Zophar for condemning Job who cannot explain his troubles. Then in chapter 33 he reminds Job that God can use three means of speaking to us.
He may use a dream or a vision (Job 33.15-18). We see examples of that in the lives of Jacob, Joseph, Ezekiel, Daniel, John and even unbelieving Nebuchadnezzar.
He uses illness (Job 33.19-22). And the illness, Elihu, says may be so severe that you lose both your appetite and a lot of weight. In fact you may feel near to death itself.
Why does God use such events? Elihu says it may be for a number of reasons. By them God may warn us to turn back from wrong thoughts, words and actions. Put another way, God uses them to teach us our need to turn to and trust in him. We are not made to live without but with God.
There is a third means that God uses. He speaks to us through people. Elihu speaks of an angel and a mediator (Job 33.23). What may such a person do? Declare to him what is right and also pray. There is something more. Something which we may deem much more important. God’s people speak of the ransom they have found (Job 33.24).
The use of the word angel by Elihu leads some to think of the good spiritual beings who dwell with God and do what God sends them to do. The word he uses may refer to angelic beings but it could refer to a messenger. An ordinary person that is like you or me. That is probably the right way to interpret the words of Elihu. He reminds Job that God uses fellow believers. He uses them to bring comfort and encouragement to those in need. That is what Elihu wanted to be.
What is a messenger of comfort? Elihu says that he or she is “one of a thousand” (Job 33.23). The words paint a vivid picture for us of one who is special; who is different to most other people. What makes such a person special? There are three elements to their advice.
First, they seek to declare what is right.
That is what God’s people are to do. We are not here to tell others what we think. Rather we are here to share with others God’s Word. It is God’s will for mankind that is right. It is perfect. Those who receive it find that it is life transforming. That is precisely what Job found when God spoke to him. And so he was taken through trials so that he would be able to help others who went through trials. He discovered what was right.
Secondly, they show mercy.
They are kind and gentle. And they pray. They pray that God would be pleased to deliver a person from their troubles. And they pray that in the process of taking them through their troubles they would learn much about God and turn from the wrongs they have hitherto done (Job 33.24). Their concern is that a person my live rather than die. That he or she will go to heaven rather than hell (Job 33.24).
Thirdly they speak of Jesus.
They have found a ransom (Job 33.24). They have found the one who saves us from death and sin. Jesus tells us that he came to give his life as ransom for many (Matthew 20.28). Whether Elihu understood that clearly we do not know. But we do know that the men and women of faith in Old testament times looked for the coming of Jesus who alone can save us from the consequences of our sin and sins. Real helpers speak of Jesus. That we are to called to do.
27 October 2019