How God speaks
Elihu had told Job that no amount of agonizing or striving would compel the Lord to give an account of His actions, but that doesn’t mean that he never speaks at all. In fact, He does indeed “reveal His will; He speaks not only once, but He speaks again and again.” The problem is that either we are not listening or we simply do not understand how He is speaking.
Elihu explains two of the ways the Lord teaches us to know Him and His will. One way is by the direct inner teaching of the Holy Spirit “in a dream, in a vision of the night,” which is probably the only time many of us become totally separated from our “earthly” responsibilities and the simple “cares of this world.” The Lord “opens our ear” and gives us “wisdom and instruction” so that we will withdraw from our own purposes, agendas, and self-will and “so that we become disgusted with our own disappointing self-sufficiency.”
I realize Jesus completed the work of redemption on the cross. However, it still takes a long haul—even a lifetime—before the fruit of that work is seen in our lives and we start to become conformed to His image.
Elihu now begins to explain a second way that the Lord instructs his children, through physical suffering. This is an area I believe is the most misunderstood.
First, I believe it is used as a last resort, when we have not heeded His other methods. Now Elihu only mentions two of them, but I can think of several ways the Lord will try to lead and teach us. The primary way He uses is with a direct inward witness of the Holy Spirit with our own spirit. He will also use His Word, both the written word and the “rhema” (the words he speaks to us). It might be through a prophetic word or situations of life, the circumstances we experience daily. He will use whatever it takes us to hear (remember he once used a mule to correct one of his prophets?).
Here though, Elihu describes a physical suffering where we become “convicted by strong pain.” The Lord strips a man of all his natural vigor and strength so that he loses desires for bread, or “dainty deserts.” A friend of mine says if you are too sick for deserts, you must really be sick.
Job’s devotion and surrender to God in his days of strength is being put to the test. Does he really desire the will of God more than the work of God? Is he willing to be broken so that the Excellency of the Power may be seen to be God? Will he glory in his weakness that the power of Christ will rest on him?
The Reason God Speaks
The picture that Elihu draws is a very broad one. I do not believe it needs to be experienced in detail. However, it does express the simple lesson that the Father teaches his children by affliction only when they don’t heed the direct heart-instruction of His Spirit. He will deal with each one of us according to our character and need, so that out of the furnace of adversity we will come “as a refined vessel of honor.”
In every one of our lives, there are depths that can only be reached in the school of suffering. If you are going to shrink back from learning obedience by the things that you suffer you will remain unmellowed, untaught, in the richest and deepest knowledge of God.
The most important thing to understand, what I have been trying to stress over and over during this whole study, is that this “school of suffering” will often be fulfilled in a spiritual sense, even in the midst of the “work” the Lord has given you. There may be an inward spiritual stripping of strength and power; a loss of desire or “hunger” for spiritual bread; a pouring out of the soul even unto death; all of this known only to you and God.
However it is worked out in our lives, the lesson of the crucible has to be learned!
Out God is not looking for people who only want to receive great things from His hands, He is not even looking for those that want to do great things in His name or for His glory. He is searching throughout the whole earth for those whose hearts are perfect toward Him. He is searching for those who rejoice in the will of God rather than the service of God. Who glory in their weakness because it is the one condition for knowing the power of God in all its fullness (II Corinthians 12:9).
If you are interested, you can download the whole study of Job.
Other Bible Studies and Commentary are available at Doulos Studies.