Saturday, April 15, 2017

When Bad Things Happen To Good People: A Study Of The Book Of Job. Day 41, Elihu's Speech, Part One

A new character named Elihu steps onto the stage today. As his speech progresses over the next several days, he will attack Job from a different angle than Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. He won't accuse Job of specific hidden sins, as they did, but he will accuse him of being prideful and of thinking too much of himself. He feels it takes a lot of nerve for Job to charge God with treating him unfairly and he doesn't believe that any mortal man has the right to complain against God.

"So these three men stopped answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes." (Job 32:1) They have concluded there is no help for him. They believe he has blinded himself to the truth of his sins and there is no way they can get through to him. You and I know, of course, that even God said in the first chapter that there was no man on earth as godly as Job, but his three friends don't know that. They have decided Job is a fool and incapable of understanding their arguments.

We might expect Job to gain some relief at this point. At last these three terrible friends are silent. But Satan isn't done picking on him yet and he does it through a man who hasn't spoken a word until now. Elihu was so quiet we never even suspected he was there. "But Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, became very angry with Job for justifying himself rather than God. He was also angry with the three friends, because they had found no way to refute Job, and yet had condemned him." (Job 32:2-3) Elihu is angry at Job because Job feels justified in complaining against the Lord. He feels that man is too far beneath God to speak against Him, and he thinks that if Job has sinned in nothing else, he has sinned in this one matter. He's also angry at Job's three friends because they condemned him of certain sins without any proof he had committed them. They've made all sorts of wild accusations but have been unable to back them up. He thinks all four of these men are in the wrong and now he's overflowing with anger and burning to speak up.

We find out here why he has kept silent until now, "Now Elihu had waited before speaking to Job because they were older than he." (Job 32:4) Out of respect for his elders Elihu waited until they had all finished speaking. Now, seeing they have all fallen silent, he recognizes this as his opportunity to put forth his own opinions.

"But when he saw that the three men had nothing more to say, his anger was aroused." (Job 32:5) I think he waited in suspense through all the long days of discussion, expecting a climactic moment at the end in which the proof for all Job's hidden sins would be revealed, but instead the conversation trailed away into nothing. He feels let down. He feels cheated. There was no big "reveal" at the end. I think this, more than anything, may be what makes Elihu so angry.

"So Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite said: 'I am young in years, and you are old; that is why I was fearful, not daring to tell you what I know. I thought, 'Age should speak; advanced years should teach wisdom.' But it is the Spirit in a person, the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding. It is not only the old who are wise, not only the aged who understand what is right.'" (Job 32:6-9) Elihu makes a valid point when he mentions the value of being instructed by the Holy Spirit. A young man who has the Spirit of God in him is certainly wiser than an elderly man who has no heart for the Lord. The Apostle Paul once advised his young friend Timothy, "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity." (1 Timothy 4:12) Timothy was not to be ignored by his elders simply because he was a young man. As a follower of Christ he had a great deal of godly influence on those around him. Elihu is saying something similar, although perhaps not with the right attitude. He waited for his elders to finish speaking, thinking he would end up hearing some profound truths, but they fell far short of his expectations. So now he's going to give it a try because at this point he feels he is more spiritual than they are.

"Therefore I say: Listen to me; I too will tell you what I know. I waited while you spoke, I listened to your reasoning; while you were searching for words, I gave you my full attention. But not one of you has proved Job wrong; none of you has answered his arguments. Do not say, 'We have found wisdom; let God, not a man, refute him.' But Job has not marshaled his words against me, and I will not answer him with your arguments." (Job 32:10-14) Elihu says, "You guys have done a terrible job in this long debate. I kept waiting for you to present your evidence against Job and it never materialized. Since you couldn't prove any of your accusations, you copped out by saying, 'Well, we may not know what Job has done, but God knows. God is the One dealing with him, not man. We will leave it up to Him.' But Job has not yet heard my arguments against him, and he has not prepared a defense against what I am about to say."

"They are dismayed and have no more to say; words have failed them. Must I wait, now that they are silent, now that they stand there with no reply? I too will have my say; I too will tell what I know. For I am full of words, and the spirit within me compels me; inside I am like bottled-up wine, like new wineskins ready to burst. I must speak and find relief; I must open my lips and reply. I will show no partiality, nor will I flatter anyone; for if I were skilled in flattery, my Maker would soon take me away." (Job 32:15-22) I don't know about you, but I disliked Elihu right off the bat. He's a long-winded young man who enjoys hearing the sound of his own voice. He's the type of person we might hide from if we spotted him out in public, because we know if we run into him we'll have to listen to some long and pointless story. While reading Elihu's words I couldn't help remembering these wise words of King Solomon, "Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues." (Proverbs 10:19) Elihu is going to be every bit as wrong as the other three men were, and adding extra words to his speech isn't going to make him right. Elihu claims the Spirit of the Lord is in him, and that he speaks according to what the Holy Spirit has revealed to him, but we can't simply accept this as the truth. Many deeds have been done in the name of the Lord, but this doesn't mean He was actually a part of them. Atrocities have been committed in the name of God, but God was not the author of any of those terrible acts. Nor is He to be found in the words of Elihu, or in the words of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. When God speaks up later on, He will have nothing good to say about any character in the book of Job....except Job himself.

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