Sunday, April 16, 2017

When Bad Things Happen To Good People: A Study Of The Book Of Job. Day 42, Elihu's Speech, Part Two

Elihu, the young man who has been listening to the long discussion between Job and his three friends, is still trying to get his own speech started. He spent all of Chapter 32 announcing his intention to speak. He spends a fair amount of Chapter 33 doing the same. Elihu is going to speak for a long time but he isn't going to do it in the right spirit. I am reminded of what the Apostle Paul said about speeches that don't include love, "If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging symbol." (1 Corinthians 13:1) Elihu, because he is young and intelligent and enthusiastic, will become carried away by the sound of his own voice and will forget to show love to his neighbor Job. I'm afraid he is going to bore us at times, amuse us at times, and make us impatient at times. Bible scholar David Guzik remarks that Elihu's speech "is by far the longest single speech in the book of Job, longer than even God's speech in later chapters". Even God, who has the right to speak as long as He wants, will use far fewer words than this young man Elihu.

"But now, Job, listen to my words; pay attention to everything I say. I am about to open my mouth; my words are on the tip of my tongue." (Job 33:1-2) This is funny. He says he is about to open his mouth. Job and his three friends have already been listening to him for a while now. I have to give them credit for being too polite to point this out.

"My words come from an upright heart; my lips sincerely speak what I know." (Job 33:3) In all fairness, Elihu probably does have good intentions. He believes his words are going to be helpful. It's easy for us to dislike him, but at the same time maybe it should be easy for us to see a little bit of ourselves in him. I remember what it was like to be so young I thought I knew everything. I think this is Elihu's main problem. He's young enough to think he knows everything. He may be more educated than Job and the three other men, which causes him to be prideful. He's full of ideas and energy and the desire to share his thoughts, so he's bold and brash and lacking in compassion. He's eager to make a name for himself as a wise counselor, and he thinks his words are the words that are going to make all the difference. In his mind, this is his opportunity to shine, and he's going to give it all he's got.

"The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life. Answer me then, if you can; stand up and argue your case before me. I am the same as you in God's sight; I too am a piece of clay. No fear of me should alarm you, nor should my hand be heavy on you." (Job 33:4-7) Elihu says, "The same God made both of us, Job. We were both created from the dust and our bodies will return to the dust. There's no need for you to be afraid to answer my questions. We are equals in the sight of God." I doubt Job ever considered being afraid of Elihu's questions. Job didn't back down from the questions of his closest friends, men who were elders in the community. So why should he quake in fear in front of this young know-it-all? Although Elihu claims to believe he and Job are equals, I have a sneaking suspicion that Elihu considers himself superior to Job.

"But you have said in my hearing---I heard the very words---'I am pure, I have done no wrong; I am clean and free from sin. Yet God has found fault with me; He considers me His enemy. He fastens my feet in shackles; He keeps close watch on all my paths." (Job 33:8-11) Job has never said he was sinless. He denied committing several very specific sins, and he stated that he had committed no sins worthy of the tragedies that came into his life, but he has never said he was perfect. On the contrary, in Chapter 19 he declared in faith, "I know my Redeemer lives," and a man who believes he is sinless would not say such a thing. If Job were not a sinner, he would not need a Redeemer, but he very clearly makes a claim on this Person by calling Him "my Redeemer". Job knows he needs a Redeemer. Godly man that he was, he needed the Lord just as much as you and I need Him. I am certain Job was a much better person than I am, but he still needed a Redeemer.

It seems fitting we should discuss our Redeemer on this Easter morning. According to the dictionary, a redeemer is one who "brings goodness and honor to something again". The thesaurus says a redeemer is a "deliverer, rescuer, or savior". I needed someone to buy back the goodness and honor I so casually gave away. In so many ways, I sold myself out for nothing and was destitute, unable to buy my honor back. The price was higher than I could ever pay, but Christ Jesus was willing to pay any price it took to be able to clothe me in dignity and righteousness, to allow me to be called by His name, to give me a new life in place of the pit of despair I dug for myself. Like Job, I needed a Redeemer. Like Job, I claim Him as my own. My Redeemer lives! Everything isn't hopeless after all! My sins can be forgiven and I can stand before my Creator someday and be called His child. I deserved death but instead I have life because my Savior died for me. And I know His sacrifice on my behalf was acceptable to God because Jesus rose from the dead to prove it. My Redeemer lives!

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