Tuesday, May 7, 2013

a hiccup of hope

Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen.
Job 37:13

In a minor concessive point, Elihu speaks the clearest wisdom of all of Job's friends. It is too bad that he didn't start with this point and build out from it. He could have given the best counsel to his suffering friend if he had done so. Instead, this short sentence comes from him, almost like a hiccup, during his final point in his monologue... as he addresses the subject of the majesty of God.

All along Elihu has focused on sinful disobedience as the reason for Job's trials. He has pointed fingers at Job. He has been obsessed with blaming Job for his present pain. His theology of suffering has been graceless and accusatory, just as all of Job's friends have been with him.

Yet now in this short statement about the purpose of God, Elihu has stated a truth that could have been the deepest comfort to his friend. He spoke about the purposes of God in a way that showed the relationship God has with us. It made a sane and loving sovereignty known in the purposes of God, and this statement is worth our consideration.

There are three purposes mentioned: 1) correction, 2) convention, and 3) care. These define the events that God sovereignly brings into our lives. And they are certainly purposes that I can see in my own life experience.

The first purpose is correction. This is more than punishing retribution. This correction has the goal of repentance and growth in mind for the person suffering. It is parental. As a father corrects with instruction so that a child can learn and grow from an error, so God corrects us when we sin. This is a kinder, gentler way of understanding the holy consequences in judgment. It is too bad that Elihu only mentions this in passing.

The second thought, what I call convention, is God's regular uninterrupted action of letting His created order be maintained. Elihu says God does things "for his land". He is talking about storms and rain, which keep the natural order in maintenance. Into every life some rain must fall. This is necessary. It is the main way we see God's sovereign work. It is routine and observable, and beautifully designed. God's sovereign purposes are found in natural law and revealed in observational science every hour of our lives.

The final missing piece of God's purposes is found in His caring love. Could God allow even Job's searing trial to bring out a loving relationship with Job? Absolutely. In the end, Job will see it and be blessed again. And it is love for God and love from God that has kept Job tenaciously firm in his resolve all this time. God never stops loving us. And He loves us greatly in our deepest pains.

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