We have been watching and listening to Job and his three friends discuss his situation. But there is a fifth man who has been present all along. It’s his turn to speak.
I did not remember this man being in the stories I heard, learned or even read previously. I have no idea why he slipped my memory or wasn’t emphasized in the stories. THIS man says a LOT of what I would have said if I were there with Job. But we have to get into his story slowly.
One of the first things we learn about this man is his reason for staying silent so long. “Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job because they were older than he” (verse 4). Society said wisdom came with age and Elihu was respecting that teaching. But Job’s final speech and his three friend’s inability to bring godly wisdom to the conversation MADE him speak up.
“He burned with anger at Job because he justified himself rather than God. He burned with anger also at Job’s three friends because they had found no answer, although they had declared Job to be in the wrong” (verses 2b-3).
Job had argued his friends to silence. He had put forth his life for examination and they were unable to point to the sin he was being punished for. “So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes” (verse 1).
But Elihu knew there was more to say. The foundation of his argument is already laid before us. 1) Job justified himself rather than God, and 2) his friends accused him without identifying the fault he was guilty of. These two points will shape Elihu’s response to the four men. We will have to work our way through his whole response to hear all he has to say. Today is just the opening salvo.
Elihu has been listening intently throughout all the back and forth between the men. He has been eagerly waiting for true wisdom to come pouring from these older men’s mouths. For comfort and right confrontation to be spoken to Job. And for a godly response to pour out of Job’s broken spirit. But he has seen none of this.
Job’s friends went from saying, “You must have sinned somehow” to “You are wholly a wicked man!” Nowhere in all their rebukes did they identify the sin they were accusing Job of committing. And Job’s responses were always the same; “I have searched myself and find no fault. God is punishing me without cause.”
When all fall silent Elihu gapes at the four men. “Is no one going to say any more? Is there none to defend God?” He can stay silent no longer. But to speak he must first establish that he too has a right to do so. He had not only a right to speak but an obligation to do so. The burning question remained; “Why?”
I like that Elihu recognizes that his place in society doesn’t determine his usefulness or position with God. It is not the years of a man’s life that make him wise for some men live their entire lives refusing to learn. “But it is the Spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand” (verse 8).
My bible uses a little “s” for the spirit in man. At this time in history Jesus hasn’t done His redemptive work and the Holy Spirit is not yet sent as the Comforter to man. But I hear His influence speaking through Elihu as he responds to these four men so I gave the “Spirit” His due and capitalized the “S” in doing so. God’s Spirit didn’t dwell with men yet but He did speak to their spirits at times. I believe this was one of those times.
Elihu first lays into Job’s friends. “Behold, I waited for your words, I listened for your wise sayings, while you searched out what to say. I gave you my attention, and, behold, there was none among you who refuted Job or who answered his words. Beware lest you say, ‘We have found wisdom; God may vanquish him, not a man’” (verses 11-13). In other words, “I listened and kept waiting for you to say something of value, but you only spouted hot air. God’s words were nowhere in your speeches.”
“Now it’s my turn to speak. My spirit is nearly bursting with the need to speak the truth to all of you. Be still and listen. Don’t discount me simply because I’m young. I have MUCH to say of what the Lord has shown me while I waited. And don’t expect me to do it with flattering words. You need to hear the truth, no matter how much it hurts.”
Brace yourselves Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Job. It’s time you ALL heard the truth!
Father God, thank You that You don’t discriminate by age and keep Your wisdom only for the aged. Sometimes the greatest nuggets of truth come from the mouths of children. I can’t lay my finger on a specific example at this moment but I know of several examples of children who taught others in Your name. The biggest one is when Jesus taught in the temple. He is part of the Godhead so I don’t know how much that counts as a child teaching but the people didn’t see His origin as He taught. They simply listened to a child bringing to them wisdom above any they had ever known.
Another example is my Aunt Thelma who taught the other children of You when she was just a child herself. I did the same as a teenager for the children in my church. I didn’t ‘feel’ wise so I KNEW I had to rely on You to get me through the lessons each week. MANY years later, and MANY teaching opportunities under my belt, I still don’t ‘feel’ wise. I KNOW I STILL have to rely on You for wisdom and understanding. THANK YOU for NEVER failing to meet me with what is important for my life each day as I turn to You again.
THANK YOU Holy Spirit for speaking to my spirit. I would be TOTALLY lost without You!