Job is an intense and daunting book. The book is intense because of the terrible sufferings it describes. The book is daunting because it is long and filled with complex poetic speeches.
We are told that Job is a righteous man who honors God despite immense suffering. Not only is Job the first poetic book in the Bible, but also the first to address theodicy — how God acts righteously while allowing the existence of evil — and the vindication of God’s justice in the light of humanity’s suffering.
After losing his children, servants, wealth and health, Job’s wife and closest friends (Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar) tempt Job to curse God and die (Job 2:9); however, after multiple arguments between Job and his opponents concerning the source of his suffering (chapters 4-31), we finally find Elihu making his debut:
Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite said,
“I am young and you are old, so I held back from telling you what I think. I thought, ‘Those who are older should speak, for wisdom comes with age.’ But there is a spirit within people, the breath of the Almighty within them, that makes them intelligent. Sometimes the elders are not wise. Sometimes the aged do not understand justice. So listen to me, and let me tell you what I think.
“I have waited all this time, listening very carefully to your arguments, listening to you grope for words. I have listened, but not one of you has refuted Job or answered his arguments. And don’t tell me, ‘He is too wise for us. Only God can convince him.’ If Job had been arguing with me, I would not answer with your kind of logic! You sit there baffled, with nothing more to say. Should I continue to wait, now that you are silent? Must I also remain silent? No, I will say my piece. I will speak my mind. For I am full of pent-up words, and the spirit within me urges me on. I am like a cask of wine without a vent, like a new wineskin ready to burst! I must speak to find relief, so let me give my answers. I won’t play favorites or try to flatter anyone. For if I tried flattery, my Creator would soon destroy me. Job 32:6-22 NLT
Elihu is fit to burst! He has waited to speak because the others are all older than him and the assumption is that with age comes experience and from experience wisdom. However we all know that there is an huge difference between having ten years of experience and having one year’s worth of experience ten times! Spirit-filled young people have a role to play in making God’s glory evident. As the apostle Paul told young Timothy:
Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. 1 Timothy 4:11 NLT
So let’s look at what Elihu has to say to Job:
Elihu calls out Job for saying he was without any sin and that God would not answer. Elihu says, “But you are wrong, and I will show you why. For God is greater than any human being.” Job 33:12 NLT
Elihu emphasizes God’s justice. He says, “Truly, God will not do wrong. The Almighty will not twist justice.” Job 34:12 NLT Remember, “God is good, all the time!”
He points out that it is not surprising that Job hasn’t heard from God, when Job thinks he deserves God’s undivided attention. He says,
“Surely God does not hear an empty cry, nor does the Almighty regard it. How much less when you say that you do not see him, that the case is before him, and you are waiting for him!.” Job 35:13-14 ESV
Elihu pivots back to the idea that great age brings great wisdom and since God is infinite in time, he says, “Look, God is greater than we can understand. His years cannot be counted.” Job 36:26 NLT The basic message is that God not only knows what’s best, no one can possibly know better!
Elihu has a mic drop moment aimed at Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, who thought they had a lock on God’s intentions and thoughts, when he says,
“We cannot imagine the power of the Almighty; but even though he is just and righteous, he does not destroy us. No wonder people everywhere fear him. All who are wise show him reverence.” Job 37:23-24 NLT
What Elihu has to say gets through to Job. He realizes that self pity and demanding answers to “why me?”, meant that he was undervaluing God’s glory, justice and wisdom. He answers Elihu (and God) with “Sorry, my bad!”
Then Job replied to the Lord: “I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you. You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me. You said, ‘Listen and I will speak! I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.’ I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.” Job 42:1-6 NLT
As with all Scripture, when we read we should ask, “what is this telling me today, and how should I change my outlook and/or behavior?”. Certainly the example of Elihu’s forthrightness tells us that truth, spoken in love, can lead to understanding and repentance; truth is truth, regardless of the circumstances; God sometimes wishes to speak directly to and through humans, regardless of age or experience. Notice that before he utters a word, Elihu calibrates his thoughts to God’s perspective, saturating his speech with both confidence and humility. In life, sometimes we’re Job and sometimes we’re Elihu. In either case let’s consistently look at things from God’s point of view and praise his majesty, glory, grace and righteousness.
Blessings on you and yours, Jim Black