He keeps back his soul from the Pit, And his life from perishing by the sword. Job 33:8
Redemptive Purpose of Suffering
Pain may awaken a man to spiritual danger and direct his thoughts to God. In this case, suffering is a blessing in disguise. And the believer’s conviction that God is good survives despite the suffering of innocent. This thinking is repeated in Elihu’s reprise of Job’s argument, but Elihu avoids the fallacy of applying this general principle to Job’s case. He points out that God has at least one purpose in suffering other than punishment. The attacks of Job’s friends fail, and Job need not torment himself with fears and thoughts that the God he trusts is unjust.
“You are not right” (33:8-12). Elihu quotes Job’s words, not to condemn him, but simply to point out an error in his thinking. There is no attack here, no assumption that Job must have sinned terribly to be suffering now. Elihu simply says, “You are not right” (v. 12).
12 “Look, in this you are not righteous. I will answer you, For God is greater than man. 13 Why do you contend with Him? For He does not give an accounting of any of His words.
It’s not a sin to be wrong, even when we are wrong about an important issue. Job has claimed that he did not consciously sin, and Elihu will not refute that. But because one didn’t sin consciously or willfully doesn’t mean he or she is sinless!
33:14, 15 In response to 7:14 where Job complained of nightmares, Elihu suggests that God may have been trying to teach Job something through a dream or a vision of the night.
14 For God may speak in one way, or in another, Yet man does not perceive it. 15 In a dream, in a vision of the night, When deep sleep falls upon men, While slumbering on their beds, 16 Then He opens the ears of men, And seals their instruction. 17 In order to turn man from his deed, And conceal pride from man, 18 He keeps back his soul from the Pit, And his life from perishing by the sword.
In essence, human beings simply cannot reason back from any experience to definitely pinpoint a purpose God may have had in permitting it. Thus the three friends, so secure in their condemnation of Job, were completely out of line. And Job was unnecessarily tormented by the doubt his own rigid theology caused.
The book of Job teaches us to avoid dogmatism in the foolish belief that we understand God. And it reminds us that whether we understand or not we can always trust our loving God fully.
33:23 The precise identity of the messenger or angel is disputed. God may have employed this figure as a mediator to address Job’s need for an impartial arbiter and to contradict Eliphaz’s counsel of 5:1. The intercessory role of this messenger to lead Job to repentance sounds much like the role that Christ would play (see Heb. 7:25).
23 “If there is a messenger for him, A mediator, one among a thousand, To show man His uprightness,
Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrew 7:25
33:29, 30 This conclusion succinctly states God’s primary purpose in getting a person’s attention through dreams and suffering: He wants to keep him from the Pit – that is, the grave and hell – and give that person the light of life – a meaningful life. Suffering can have a redemptive purpose.
29 “Behold, God works all these things, Twice, in fact, three times with a man, 30 To bring back his soul from the Pit, That he may be enlightened with the light of life.
→ There will always be an element of mystery in God’s dealings with us. We need to accept this and remain unshaken in our trust in His good intention towards us.