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The Origin of Sickness and Strife Explained
While Moses was in the Midian desert being prepared for the exodus from Egypt, he wrote not only the book of Genesis, but also the story of Job. This book, with its far-reaching implications, should be read with the deepest interest by the people of God until the close of time because it contains all the answers about sickness that they are looking for, just as the acorn contains the oak tree.
The most obvious characters in the story are first, Job, and then his three well-meaning church friends, but the real hero is a young man named Elihu. His name means, "He is my God," and he lived up to it!
It is his words that are quoted below, basically from the King James Version of the Bible, but with more modern punctuation and setting out, some alterations to the "thees" and "thous" etc., and some additions in brackets to make the meaning clearer. Occasionally a word is changed to bring out the meaning more obviously.
It is prayerfully hoped that this article will be of help to you.
Job: Chapters 32 to 37
So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes.
Then was kindled the wrath of Elihu the son of Barachel the Buxite, of the kindred of Ram. Against Job was his wrath kindled, because he justified himself rather than God. And also against his three friends was his wrath kindled, because they found no answer, and yet had condemned Job.
Now Elihu had waited till Job had spoken, because they were older than he. When Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouths of these three men, then his wrath was kindled. And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buxite answered and said,
I am young and you are very old; wherefore I was afraid, and durst [dare] not show you my opinion. I said, Days, [elders] should speak [first], and multitude of years should teach wisdom.
But there is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty gives them understanding. Great men are not always wise, neither do the aged [always] understand judgment. Therefore I said, Hearken to me, I also will show you my opinion. Behold, I waited for your words, I gave ear to your reasons, while you searched out what to say. Yes, I attended to you, and behold, there was none of you that convinced Job, or that answered his words. [Beware] lest you say [in your hearts], "We have found out wisdom! God thrusted him down, not man." Now, he has not directed his words against me, neither will I answer him with your [kind of] speeches.
They were amazed, they answered no more. They left off speaking.
When I had waited (for they spoke not, but stood still, and answered no more) I said, I will answer also my part, I also will show my opinion. For I am full of words [margin]. The Spirit within me constrains me. Behold, my belly is as wine which has no vent, it is ready to burst like new bottles! I will speak that I may be refreshed, I will open my lips and answer. Let me not, I pray you, accept any man's person, neither let me give flattering titles to man, for I know [I ought] not to give flattering titles. In so doing, my Maker will soon take me away.
Wherefore, Job, I pray you, hear my speeches and hearken to all my words. Behold, now I have opened my mouth, my tongue has spoken in my mouth. My words shall be of the uprightness of my heart [I shall tell the truth as I know it], and my lips shall utter knowledge clearly. The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty has given me life. If you can answer me, set your words in order before me [and] stand up. Behold, I am according to your wish, in God's stead. I also am formed out of the clay. Behold, my terror shall not make you afraid [as you say God's did], neither shall my hand be heavy on you [as you said of God].
Surely you have spoken in my hearing and I have heard the voice of your words saying,
"I am clean without transgression, I am innocent; neither is there iniquity in me."
"Behold, He finds occasions against me, He counts me for His enemy. He puts my feet in stocks, He marks all my paths [to punish me]!"
Behold, in this you are not just. I will answer you that God is greater than man. Why do you strive against Him, for He [only seems to] give no account of His matters?
For God speaks once, yes twice, yet men perceive it not. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls upon men, in slumberings upon the bed, then He opens the ears of [willing] men and seals their instruction, that He may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man. He keeps back his soul from the pit [of death], and his life from perishing by the sword [if He is listened to].
[If not], he is chastened also with pain upon his bed, and the multitude of his bones [are sore] with strong pain, so that his life abhors bread, and his soul dainty meat. His flesh is consumed away so that it cannot be seen, and his bones that were not seen, stick out! Yes, his soul draws near to the grave, and his life to the destroyers.
[But even then], if there be a messenger with Him, an interpreter, one among a thousand, to show to the man His uprightness, [one whom he will listen to], then He is gracious to him, and says, "Deliver him from going down to the pit. I have found a Ransom [for him]."
His flesh shall be fresher than a child's. He shall return to the days of his youth. He shall pray to God, and He will be [able to be] favourable to him. And he shall see His face with joy, for He will render to man His righteousness. He looks upon men and if any say, "I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not [I confess my sin]," He shall deliver his soul from going down into the pit, and his life shall see light.
Lo, all these things God often works with man, to bring back his soul from the pit [of death], to be enlightened with the light of the living.
Mark well, O Job, hearken to me. Hold your peace and I will speak. If you have anything to say, answer me [right now]. Speak, for I desire to justify you. If not, hearken to me, hold your peace, and I shall teach you wisdom.
Furthermore, Elihu answered and said, Hear my words, you wise men, and give ear to me, you that [think you] have knowledge. For the ear tries words as the mouth tastes meat. Let us choose to us judgment - let us know among ourselves what is good. For Job has said, "I am righteous, and God has taken away my judgment. Should I lie against my right? [Shouldn't I speak up?] My wound [from God] is incurable - without transgression [without any fault on my part]."
What man is like Job, who drinks up scorning like water? Who goes in company with workers of iniquity [in his words]? For he has said, "It profits a man nothing that he should delight himself with God." Therefore hearken to me, you men of understanding. Far be it from God, that He should do wickedness - and [far be it from] the Almighty, that He should commit iniquity.
For the work of a man shall He render to Him, and cause every man to find according to his ways [for as you sow so shall you reap].
Yes, surely God will not do wickedly, neither will the Almighty pervert judgment. Who has given Him a charge over the earth? Or who has disposed the whole world? If He sets His heart on a man, if He gather to Himself His Spirit and breath, all flesh shall perish together, and man shall turn again into dust [but He does not do this].
If now you have understanding, hear this, Hearken to the voice of my words. Shall even he that hates right, govern? And will you condemn Him that is most just? Is it fit to say to a king, "You are wicked?" And to princes, "You are ungodly!" How much less to Him that accepts not the person of princes, nor regards the rich more than the poor? For they are all the works of His hands. In a moment they shall die, and the people shall be troubled at midnight, and pass away. And the mighty shall be taken away without hand. For His eyes are upon the ways of man, and He sees all His goings. There is no darkness or shadow of death where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves.
For He will not lay upon man more than is right, that he should enter into [an argument about] judgment with God.
[Yet] He shall break in pieces mighty men without number, and set others in their stead. Therefore He knows their works, and He overturns them in the night so that they are destroyed. He strikes them as wicked men in open sight of others, because they turned back from Him and would not consider any of His ways [they gave up His protection totally], so that they cause the cry of the poor to come to Him, and He hears the cry of the afflicted.
When He gives quietness [protection and peace], who then can make trouble? And when He hides His face [because of our sins], who then can behold Him, whether it be done against a nation, or against a man only? [He does this] that the hypocrite reign not, lest the people be snared. Surely it is meet [or fitting] to be said to God, "I have borne chastisement, I will not offend any more. That which I see not, teach You me. If I have done iniquity I will do no more." Should it be according to your mind? He will recompense it, whether you refuse or whether you choose, and not I. Therefore, speak what you know. Let men of understanding tell me, and [or] let a wise man hearken to me. Job has spoken without knowledge, and his words are without wisdom.
My desire is that Job may be tried to the end [until he repents of his attitude] because his answers [are] for wicked men. For he adds rebellion to his sin; he claps his hands among us, and multiplies his words against God!
Elihu spoke more and said, Do you think that this is right, that you said, "My righteousness is more than God's?" For you said, "What advantage will it be to me," and, "What profit shall I have if I be cleansed from my sin?"
I will answer you, and your companions with you. Look to the heavens and see, and behold the clouds which are higher than you. If you sin, what do you do against Him? Or if your transgressions be multiplied, what do you [do] to Him? [On the other hand], If you be righteous, what do you give to Him? Or what receives He at your hand? Your wickedness may hurt a man [such] as you are; and your righteousness may profit the sons of men; [but they will not affect God personally - either of them!].
By reason of the multitude of oppressions [wars and crime] they [the wicked ones] make the oppressed to cry, [but] they cry out [only] by reason of the arm of the mighty [they look only for revenge]. But none says,
"Where is God my Maker, Who gives songs [of joy] in the night, Who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth, and makes us wiser than the fowls of heaven?"
There they [the oppressed ones] cry, but none [not even God] gives answer, because of the pride of evil men. Surely God will not hear [the cry which is only meaningless] vanity; neither will the Almighty regard it [or answer such a call, Jeremiah 11:14].
But although you say you shall [can] not see Him, yet judgment is before Him. Therefore trust you in Him.
But [right] now, because it is not so, [because] He has [not speedily] visited [the wicked] in His anger; yet [because it seems] He knows it not [or is uncaring] in [man's] great extremity; therefore does Job open his mouth in vain, and he multiplies words without knowledge [and draws the wrong conclusion].
Elihu also proceeded and said, Suffer me a little [more], and I will show you that [which] I have yet to speak on God's behalf.
I will fetch my knowledge from afar [from a wider view], and will ascribe righteousness to my Maker. For truly my words will not be false. He that is perfect in knowledge is with you [speaking through me]. Behold, God is mighty, and [yet] despises not any. He is mighty in strength and wisdom. He preserves not [only] the life of the wicked [as far as they allow Him], but gives right to the poor [where His gift is also accepted]. He withdraws not His eyes from the righteous, but [also] with kings are they on the throne. He establishes them for ever and they are exalted [by Him for good purposes].
And if they be bound in [the] fetters [or chains of adversity] and are held in cords of affliction, then He shows them [the true character] of their work [behaviour], and their transgressions that they have exceeded. He opens also their ears to [accept] discipline and commands that they [also] return from iniquity. If they obey, and serve Him, they shall spend their days in prosperity and their years in pleasures.
But if they obey not, they shall perish by the sword, and they shall die without knowledge [of His protecting truth].
But the hypocrites heap up wrath [by despising God's warnings] - they cry not [for understanding] when He binds them. They die in [their] youth, and their life is among the unclean [sinners]. [However], He delivers the poor in his affliction, and opens their ears [to His wonderful salvation] in [their] oppression.
Even so, [if He could have] He would have removed you [Job] out of the strait [narrow place] into a broad place where there is no straitness [or difficulty], and that which should be set on your table should be full of fatness [you would have been able to "eat" His words]. But [because] you have fulfilled the judgment of the wicked [put yourself in his place], judgment and justice [of his sort will] take hold on you. Because there is wrath, beware lest He [have] to take you away [altogether] with His stroke [for] then a great Ransom cannot deliver you [any more].
Will He esteem your riches? No, not gold, nor all the forces of strength. Desire not the night when people are cut off in their place [do not ask to die]. Take heed, regard not iniquity: for this you HAVE chosen rather than affliction! [This is your real desire deep down].
Behold, God exalts by His power. Who teaches like Him? Who has enjoined [or taught] Him? Or who can say, "You have wrought iniquity" [to Him]? Remember that [by submitting and believing] you magnify His work, which men behold [in you]. Every man may see it; man may behold it afar off. Behold, God is great, and we know Him not, neither can the number of His years be searched out. For He makes small the drops of water [and draws them up into the sky]. They pour down [as] rain according to the vapour of it, which the clouds do drop and distil upon man abundantly. Also, can any understand the spreadings of the clouds, or the noise of His tabernacle? Behold, he spreads His light upon it, and covers the bottom of the sea. For by them [His great natural wonders] He judges the people. He gives meat [food] in abundance. With clouds he covers the light [of the sun], and commands it not to shine by the clouds that come between. The noise of it [or the lack of noise] shows [His great power] in this. [Even] the cattle also [take notice or] concern [themselves] with the vapour [or mists, so why don't you?].
At this my heart also trembles and is moved out of his place!
Hear attentively the noise of His voice, and the sound that goes out of His mouth. He directs it under the whole heaven, and His lightning to the ends of the earth. After it a voice roars. He thunders with the voice of His excellency, and He will not stay them when His voice is heard. God thunders marvellously with His voice; great things does He, which we cannot comprehend [but from which we may know His protecting care for us]. For He says to the snow, "Be you on earth." Likewise, to the small rain, and to the great rain of His strength. He seals up the hand of every man, that all men may know [Him by] His work. [Romans 1:18-22].
Then the beasts go into dens, and remain in their places. Out of the south comes the whirlwind, and the cold out of the north. By the breath of God frost is given, and the breadth of the waters is straitened [frozen]. Also by watering He wearies the thick cloud. He scatters His bright cloud, and it is turned around by His counsels, that they may do whatever He commands them upon the face of the world in the earth. He causes it to come, whether for correction, or for His land, or for mercy.
Hearken to this, O Job: stand still and consider the wondrous works of God. Do you know when God disposed them, and caused the light of His cloud to shine? Do you know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of Him who is perfect in knowledge? How are your garments warm, when He quiets the earth by the south wind? Have you with Him spread out the sky, which is strong, and as a molten looking-glass? If so, teach us what we shall say to Him, for we cannot order our speech by reason of darkness [ignorance].
Shall it be told Him that I [want to] speak? If a man speaks [to God in his own strength] surely he shall be swallowed up! And now men see not the bright light which is in the clouds, but the wind [of affliction still] passes by and cleans them [from their errors, if they are willing to learn]. Fair weather [God's protection and blessing] comes out of the north: with God is terrible majesty. Touching the Almighty, we cannot find Him out. He is excellent in power, and in judgment, and in plenty of justice. HE WILL NOT AFFLICT. Men [of understanding] do therefore fear [or respect] Him. He respects none that are wise of [their own] heart.
Now that he had succeeded in turning Job's attention away from his own problems and self-pity, Elihu moved out of the discussion for at this point in the Scriptures, chapter 38:1, it is written, "Then the LORD answered Job ..." He had been patiently waiting for this moment, and now He carried on for Elihu.
The questions which He asked Job were ones which the most profound scholars cannot answer. These questions were not asked, supposing that we could answer them, but to call our attention to the deep mysteries of God, and to make us realise that our wisdom is limited.
Finally, at the end of these questions Job came to his senses.
Then Job answered the LORD and said, "Behold, I am vile, What shall I answer You? I will lay my hand upon my mouth! Once I have spoken, yes, twice, but I will proceed no further."
Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, "Gird up your loins now like a man ... Will you condemn Me that you may be righteous?"
Then Job answered the LORD, and said, "I know that You can do everything, and that no thought can be held back from You. Who is he that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore have I uttered that [which] I understood not. Things too wonderful for Me, which I knew not ...
I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my [spiritual] eyes see You! Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes ...
So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning ..."
Job's friends tried to convince him that because of his sins God was punishing him with his troubles, and in this they were terribly wrong, and misunderstood the character of God.
GOD DOES NOT PUNISH
SIN ALONE DOES THIS
What God does is use the consequences of sin to draw our attention to the real problem. Therefore the LORD frequently has to watch us, without interfering, as we choose a way which will bring us eventually into a hurting situation. Then He works that we may turn to Him, our Protector and Deliverer, as a child would turn to its parent when in trouble and fear. It is no evidence that God is "against us" because we are afflicted. It is the result of our own actions, or the flow-on from somebody else's. Whichever way it occurs it comes because of the lack of protection. What we need is the knowledge of how to control our actions under God's care and that is readily available in "the gospel."
God does not "plan" our sicknesses, or our deaths, to further His work. These are under the control of His enemy, for it is written of him, "Him that had the power of death, that is, the devil." Hebrews 2:14. God always plans that we be set free from sickness and death, either by prevention or by cure. Again the choice is ours. He says,
"Beloved, I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers." 3 John 2.
"Why will you die?," is His question. Ezekiel 33:11.
He also asks that He may be our Doctor when He says, "I am the LORD that heals you." Exodus 15:26.
During His ministry Jesus spent more time healing the sick than He did in preaching. His miracles testify to the truth of His words, that He came "not to destroy men's lives, but to save them." Luke 9:56. His righteousness went before Him and the glory of the LORD was left behind Him. Isaiah 58:8. Wherever He went, the tidings of His mercy preceded Him. When He had passed, the objects of His compassion were rejoicing in health, and making trial of their newfound powers. His voice was the first that many had ever heard, His name the first word they had ever spoken, His face the first they had ever looked upon. As He passed through the towns and cities He was like a vital current, diffusing life and joy wherever He went. Acts 10:38.
And He tells us that He is the image of His Father. John 14:9.
One day, when Christ was on earth, a man born blind was brought to Him to be healed. John 9:1-7. This gave Him an opportunity to show where the blame really lay, but He did not bother to do this. Instead, He just healed the sufferer.
"And His disciples asked Him, saying, Master, who did sin [who can we blame], this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents [that you should condemn them], but [you should be glad] that the works of God should be made manifest in him." John 9:2-3.
It was generally believed by the Jews, just as it is today by so many, that sin is punished in this life. Therefore every affliction was regarded as the penalty of some wrong-doing, either by the sufferer himself or his ancestors. It is true that all suffering results from the transgression of God's law, but, like so many others, this truth had become perverted. Satan, the author of sin and all its results, has led men to look upon disease and death as proceeding from God - as punishment arbitrarily inflicted on account of sin. Hence one upon whom some great affliction or calamity had fallen had the additional burden of being regarded as a great sinner.
Thus the way was prepared for the Jews to reject Jesus. He who "has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows" was looked upon by the Jews as "stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted," and they hid their faces from Him. Isaiah 53:4.
God has given a lesson designed to prevent this misconception. The history of Job has shown that suffering is inflicted by Satan through sin, and is overruled by God for purposes of mercy.
Job 1:12, 2:4-7
"And the LORD said to Satan, Behold, all that he has is in your power; only upon himself put not forth your hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD...
And Satan answered the LORD, and said, Skin for skin, yes, all that a man has will he give for his life. But put forth Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse You to Your face.
And the LORD said to Satan, Behold, he is in your hand; but save his life. So went Satan forth from the presence of the LORD, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to his crown."
But Israel did not understand the lesson and neither do many today.
God permits because He is restricted by our free choice and then Satan does the damage. Although he is restricted in the amount of trouble he can inflict, note that Satan still claims that God is doing it!
The same error for which God reproved the friends of Job was repeated by the Jews in their rejection of Christ.
"The LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has." Job 42:7 NKJ.
The belief of the Jews in regard to the relation of sin and suffering was also held by Christ's disciples. While Jesus corrected their error, He did not explain the cause of the man's affliction, but told them what would be the result. Because of it the works of God would be made manifest. "As long as I am in the world," He said, "I am the Light of the world." John 9:5. Then having anointed the eyes of the blind man with clay from the ground, He sent him to wash in the pool of Siloam and the man's sight was restored.
Thus Jesus answered the question of the disciples in a practical way, as He usually answered questions put to Him from curiosity. The disciples were not called upon to discuss the question as to who had, or had not sinned, but to understand the power and the mercy of God in giving sight to the blind. It was evident that there was no healing virtue in the clay, or in the pool wherein the blind man was sent to wash, but that the virtue was in Christ and came from Him.
This answers the troubled questioning of many minds.
"Why should these things be? Is it because of our sins that distress and sorrow have come upon us? Are we being punished for them?"
The answer is that it is true that sickness and death are the consequences of sin. "By one man [Adam] sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men for that all have sinned." Romans 5:12. But whether they are our sins, the sins of our parents, or some other ancestor, is not important. We are feeling the effects of them, and the LORD uses the sufferings that we are going through that we may learn the precious lessons of trust and faith that we need in order to be healed of them and protected from further bad experiences. [See also "The Protection of God"]
It is the same when we bring ourselves into a situation where we are in trouble. The LORD does not stop us from entering into these trials, although He warns us beforehand if we are listening, but if we continue without heeding the warning He uses them to teach us the same lesson of faith and trust. It was not His intention that Peter should deny Jesus that night, but He was able to use him more effectively from that time on. Matthew 26:33-35; 75. Judas, who also betrayed Him the same night, would not repent and therefore died! Matthew 27:5.
The man Christ Jesus, who was the representative Christian, was never sick although He mixed with many very ill people, including lepers. Nor could He be killed although infuriated mobs tried! Matthew 8:2-3; Luke 4:28-30. And so it may be with us.
If troubles and sicknesses are understood correctly, they will prove of the highest value to us in our religious experience. It is written, "Tribulation works patience." Romans 5:3. As troubles and sicknesses lead us to put our trust more firmly in God, we will become better acquainted with His character, and then, like Him, we will not want to blame any one!
But we don't need to have them!!! Problems, yes, troubles No!
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