This article on Job 33:19 and Job 36:15-16 is about punishment and the Lord's chastisement.

Source: The Outlook, 1981. 3 pages.

Job 33:19 - Elihu's "Solution" to Job's Problem

Or a man may be chastened on a bed of pain.

Job 33:19

But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering, he speaks to them in their affliction. He is wooing you from the jaws of distress, to a spacious place free from restriction.

Job 36:15,16

The three friends of Job have finished speaking, accusing him of special great sins as the cause of all his incredible suffering. Now they are silent. Job, too, is quiet. The long dialogues and heated debates they have had show that the question with which they have wrestled does not have an easy solution, neither theoretically, nor practically. Therefore the silence that ensues is not one in the evening following a busy day or after a severe storm. It is a silence in the middle of the day that precedes more struggles and storms of the soul. Job must have an answer. Heaven will therefore have to intervene. In afflictions all Christians living in faith must have answers, not only after awhile, in the hereafter, but already in time, if they will have peace of mind and soul and respond as God wants them to.

Elihu, the fourth friend appears on the scene. Because he is younger than the rest in humility he has let the older ones speak first. It is worthwhile to take notice of some of his remarks and opinions. God is greater than man. This he emphasizes. In the light of this truth he asks Job,

Why do you complain to Him that He answers none of man's words?

Elihu recognizes the Lord's sovereignty. The Almighty can do no wrong. He is always righteous. Because of this he does punish sin, and repays a man for the wrong he does. But, Elihu continues, don't try to understand God because at one time he will speak one way, then in another way, one that man will not understand. Then there "comes through" in the words of Elihu the idea of a mediator.

Yet if there is an angel on his side, as a mediator, one out of a thousand, to tell a man what is right for him, to be gracious unto him.

The approach of Elihu is different in many ways, from that of the other three men. He speaks of this mediator being gracious to Job and sparing him from going down into the pit. God's grace is beginning to "peek" through the clouds. Elihu further comes through in some "vague manner" with the concept of chastisement.

Listen, 'A man may be chastened upon his bed with constant distress in his bones. Also, God makes people listen to correction,' he says.

This of course is quite different from punishment.

And then again, 'But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering, he speaks to them in their affliction.'

He says to Job that God is wooing him from the jaws of distress, to a spacious place free from restriction.

From all these words we may conclude that Elihu teaches that God does punish sin. But with Christians this takes on some form of chastisement. And it appears that he thinks that all chastisement is the result of sin, but he does not accuse Job of particular great sins, like the other three friends did. Job is chastised for his sins in general. How clear the whole concept of chastisement was for them, living in the age of Old Testament revelation, we do not know. But there is progress as they struggle with the question why Job suffers so intensely. The real and final answer the Lord Himself gives in the last few chapters of the book.

In the New Testament the concept of chastisement takes on a much clearer meaning. Which Christian, being acquainted at all with the Bible, does not think of Hebrews 12:5-7, 11.

My son, regard not lightly the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art reproved of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth. And scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. It is for chastening that ye endure; God dealeth with you as with sons, for what son is there whom his father chasteneth not? ... All chastening seemeth for the present to be not joyous but grievous; yet afterward it yieldeth peaceable fruit unto them that have been exercised thereby.

Chastisement is quite different from punishment. The latter is retribution. Chastisement is rooted in love, often deep love, for improvement, betterment and spiritual growth. Remember also here that there is no searching of His understanding. His training programs of chastisement bear fruit for time and all of eternity.

Often God will use the same means for punishment or chastisement. Believers and unbelievers may, for example, both be afflicted with physical ailments, the same kind, in fact. But for the believer they should never be considered to be punishment, not even for some special sins when no special outstanding sins have been committed. O yes, there may be chastisement where special transgressions have been committed. Sin is never cheap, neither for unbelievers, nor for believers. Think of David. The results of his sins in connection with Bathsheba were grievous. The sword would not depart from his house, adultery and murder were later committed in his own family and his wives were raped by his enemies. But this does not mean that all chastisement is a result of some special sins. Very emphatically, not. That is one of the great lessons of the book of Job. This should be of great comfort for many tried Christians. To teach this great truth the Lord undoubtedly "picks out" one of the most godly men who ever lived. No one may ever say that Job was submitted to such indescribable suffering because of any special sins. With Job, as well as with many other pious children of God, the Divine purpose is to bring out beautiful faith into much fuller spiritual blossom. And that will be the answer to the devil and silence him forever. Never forget that the suffering of Christians living in faith is a part of the heavenly program, out of love, for their good and the glory of God.

But the Lord also understands human nature. Therefore he warns us not to become discouraged, or as we find it in another version, not to lose heart. And how much we need this encouragement!  Especially when the affliction is heavy and prolonged.

We are encouraged to endure and accept this hardship as a discipline, a teaching of the heavenly Father. The Scriptures employ many different words to describe this kind of Christian action. It speaks of accepting the ways of the Lord, of yielding, enduring, surrendering, being resigned, acceding to God's ways. All by the grace of God of course through a lot of Bible reading and prayer. The Lord wants complete and total submission. These words are some of the "biggest" words in the vocabulary of the experience of the saints. This kind of action, we ultimately find with Job. James speaks of his patience, meaning that he endured, he didn't give up in his struggle, even though he often descended into deep valleys. Finally we find with him the endurance and acceptance, which the Lord subsequently abundantly blessed.

The result of such Christian exercises, says the writer to the Hebrews, is the peaceable fruit of righteousness. Walking in the way of righteousness here means walking in the fear of the Lord, which, in these circumstances, means accepting and enduring and waiting with much grace and prayer. Doing this, says the author, we receive wonderful peace of mind and calmness of soul. The Holy Spirit gives it. Who has not seen Christians in wheelchairs, on sickbeds, in other forms of affliction displaying an accepting faith, with peace that no one can understand, except that we know it is a gift of God? Such people have reached sublime spiritual heights in their chastisement. That kind of people understand something of what James speaks about when he says,

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.

Here we see mighty victories of faith, silencing the devil, glorifying God.

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