In Job’s concluding monologue of self-defense, the sufferer maintained that he was righteous before God. Job argued that his suffering was not the Almighty’s retribution for some secret sin he had committed. A new character, Elihu, entered the drama of Job in ch. 32. Elihu’s eloquence and truthfulness excelled that of the former interlocutors, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. In the end though, Elihu likewise fell short of recognizing that one may be righteous and yet suffer.
Job’s final statement was another claim of innocence (chs. 29-31). In ch. 29, Job mused on the glory of his former life. He had not only received the blessing of God but blessed all those around him, especially the needy (Job 29:1-17). Job viewed his integrity as the strength of the community (Job 29:21-25). Thoughts of how good he once had it prompted Job to lament his present situation (ch. 30). In vain, Job had cried out for God to remove the suffering. Should not the God of justice vindicate the righteous (Job 30:16-23)? Job mused.
In chs. 32-37, Elihu angrily replied to Job. But Elihu was also angry at Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, because they condemned Job but could not refute Job’s argument that he, a righteous man, was suffering like a criminal (Job 32:3). Elihu condemned Job for demanding vindication from God. God governs the world in justice, Elihu argued in Job 34, and there are no exceptions. Elihu proposed that God’s perfect justice and holiness were unaffected by Job’s complaint; indeed, when Job requested to put God in the dock, he opened his mouth in vain (Job 35:16). Job should thus focus on God and quit complaining that God owed him a hearing, Elihu stated.
Job’s suffering was exacerbated by his sense of loneliness, in spite of the presence of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. Elihu’s entrance into the dialogue only further isolated Job. He had no comforters. His suffering establishes a frame for appreciating the fellowship of the local church in the storyline of Scripture.
(1) Jesus and the authors of the New Testament encouraged believers to love one another, providing support during periods of suffering. Jesus warned His disciples that it would be better to drown than cause the downfall of brother (Matt 18:6-9//Mark 9:42-50//Luke 17:1-2). “Salt is good, but if the salt should lose its flavor, how can you make it salty? Have salt among yourselves and be at peace with one another” (Mark 9:50). In Jesus’ Farewell Sermon, He exhorted the eleven to love one another as He had loved them (John 13:34; 15:12) and prayed that His followers would be one as the Father and the Son are one (John 17:20-23). The author of Hebrews encouraged his audience to continue gathering for encouragement despite opposition they might face for identifying with Christ (Heb 3:12-14; 10:23-25, 32-39).
(2) During times of suffering, believers united in prayer. The church’s response to suffering differed from how Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu responded to Job’s trials. After Peter and John were released from prison, they gathered with the fellowship of believers in Jerusalem and prayed (Acts 4:23-31). When Peter was arrested by Herod, the church earnestly prayed for him (Acts 12:5). Paul urged the Romans to continue in prayer for him as he took the famine relief gift to hostile Jews in Jerusalem (Rom 15:28-32). He urged the Corinthians (2 Cor 1:11), Philippians (Phil 1:18-20), Colossians (Col 4:2-4), and Thessalonians (2 Thess 3:1-2) to pray for him as he suffered for the gospel.