Purposes in suffering

John Piper, in a sermon on Job 38-42

What we have seen so far, then, is that Job’s suffering has a twofold explanation: its purpose at the outset was to demonstrate God’s value and glory, and its ongoing purpose was to refine Job’s righteousness. His suffering is not punishment. It is not a sign of God’s anger. Job’s pain is not the pain of the executioner’s whip but the pain of the surgeon’s scalpel. The removal of the disease of pride is the most loving thing God could do, no matter what the cost.

Remember the words of the Lord: Better to suffer the excruciating pain of a gouged out eye than to let any sin remain in your heart. If this does not seem obvious to you—namely, that sanctification is worth any pain on this earth—it is probably because you don’t abhor sin and prize holiness the way God does and the way you should. Let us examine ourselves carefully at this point.

A Gathering Storm and God’s Rebuke of Job

Toward the end of Elihu’s speech (32–37) a thunderstorm had gathered and filled him with awe. It is as though he senses the approach of God in this storm and brings his words to a close. And sure enough, somehow, out of the whirlwind comes the voice of God to Job (chapters 38–41).

In 38:1–2 God begins: “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind: ‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?'” Someone might think that God is criticizing the words of Elihu here, but that is not the case. He is speaking to Job and criticizing Job.

We know this because in 42:3 when God is through speaking, Job quotes these words from 38:2 and applies them to himself. He says, “Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?” That is a quote from God in 38:2. And then Job responds (in the second half of verse 3), “Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”

So the words of God in chapters 38–41 are not a rebuke of Elihu. Nowhere does God rebuke or criticize Elihu. Elihu had been right. Job listens in silent agreement. And when Elihu is finished, God speaks to Job and not to Elihu. And so now we want to know what more God has to say to Job. Let’s look and see.

Listen to the rest of this sermon at Desiring God: