Job 32: Elihu
December 10, 2022
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
John 17:1-5, Revelation 7, Job 32, Amos 5-6
Now we come to Elihu and his lengthy speech, the first part of which we are looking at in this chapter 32. Elihu is probably the most difficult character in this book to interpret. What is he saying? Is what he is saying right, or is it wrong? The difficulty is that while God, when later his words are recorded in the Book of Job, rebukes Job’s so-called “comforters” and addresses Job himself with direct assessment, nowhere are Elihu and his words given an evaluation by God. And neither does Elihu get an introduction at the beginning of the book. He appears to come out of nowhere. Perhaps he has been listening to the public debate of Job and his three friends. And now he feels pressed and driven to intervene. Perhaps he is a bystander who is now certain that he has a better answer than the so-called “friends” of Job, as well as Job himself. Elihu is not rebuked by God, but neither is he praised by God. His intervention is simply ignored! And many commentators on Job have similarly been unsure what to make of what it is that Elihu is saying.
To my mind, he speaks as he indicates he will speak. That is, he speaks as an angry young man—his anger is mentioned several times by himself in his speech—and dramatically and passionately rails against both Job and his comforters. Elihu can see that the situation they have gotten themselves into is distinctly “not good.” It is not good that Job’s comforters have failed to identify the real source of Job’s suffering or explain the possibility of Job’s suffering in the context of a good and almighty God. But neither is it good that Job has also failed to understand how his suffering is possible. Therefore, Elihu, in his lengthy speech, lashes out (with anger) at both Job and his “comforters,” seeking to exalt God as almighty with a conclusion that has a lengthy and passionate exaltation of God’s power. It is not a subtle speech, nor a subtle argument. Without great experience or much wisdom, Elihu as a young man sees a problem that is unsolved and needs solving and “wades in where angels fear to tread.” At times he says things that are true; at other times he does not. Through it all, he argues as a passionate, angry young man, unhappy with the situation because it leaves God’s glory and honor questioned, but not providing the sort of answer that must be provided—and that is only provided by God himself at the end of the book.
In short, in a sense we could ignore Elihu and his contribution altogether (as God does) and be none the poorer for it. But it is here to teach us that rushing in to provide answers with angry passion is not usually wise—and while such angry passion can illuminate some truth, it is not itself the truth we need to find which can only come from the revelation of God himself in Scripture, in Christ, illuminated in our hearts by His Spirit.
If you are young, be careful that you do not simply lash out with words when you see those more experienced than you failing. It could be that the right thing to do, rather than attempt an unhappy intervention, is to wait and study God’s Word, and hear what God himself has to say.
Of course, it is not only young men who become angry when there are unsolved problems around. Old men can too, as well as women of all ages. Remember that the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. And in your anger do not sin. If you are tempted today to be angry about a situation that is troubling you or other people, do this: take the time to pray first. A good rule of thumb for disturbing emails is the 24-hour rule. Do not reply until you have waited twenty-four hours to let your blood cool down. And if you are confronted verbally in the moment by something that is said that also makes you angry, count to ten before you reply—literally in your head—and when you have reached that number ten, say something that redirects the conversation to a higher, more godly purpose. “Stop, I will insist that we speak only what is pleasing to Christ and honoring to his people,” is a good line if you are in a Christian context. If you are working in a secular context, try this line (after your mental counting to ten), “Stop, I want to make sure that what is said and done is best for the company and for all who work here.” But at any rate, in your anger do not sin.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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