Meditations in Job : 58. Introducing Elihu
Job 32:1-3 So these three men stopped answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. 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
We come to a major turning point in the book which is spelled out simply for us: “So these three men stopped answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes.” The tirades against Job have finally come to an end because the three ‘friends’ have run out of words in the face of Job’s intransigence. Job has refused to give way in his determination to declare that he is righteous.
Then Elihu is introduced: “Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite, of the family of Ram.” Elihu means “God is Jehovah” and Barakel means “God blesses”. Buzite suggest from the family of Buz who was the son of Nahor, brother of Abraham. We are also told that he is younger than the others: “Now Elihu had waited before speaking to Job because they were older than he.” (v.4). Some have suggested that because so much information is given about him that he may be the author of the book, but it may just be that the others were well-known and he wasn’t and so more detail had to be given to identify him.
As we read on we see his response: “But when he saw that the three men had nothing more to say, his anger was aroused.” (v.5) It is when he sees that the others come to a halt and the situation has not been clarified that his anger arises and our verses above indicate that his anger focuses on two things.
First he becomes angry at Job because he has been justifying himself rather than God. This young godly man is passionate for the glory of God and in all that has been said, generally God has not been glorified! Job has been more concerned with his own righteousness than he has with God’s. Perhaps the best Job could have come up with might have been, “Well, I don’t understand why this has all happened but I trust God. I know that He always has good reasons and if this is of Him then I am certain that He has a good reason for it.” The nearest he came to that was his reaction after the first wave of disasters, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” (1:21) and his response to his wife who called him to curse God: “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (2:10)
For us today we can hold on to that promise spoken by Paul: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28) Our response in the face of lack of understanding needs to be, “Lord, I don’t know what is going on here, but I trust that you are working for my good in it because of what Jesus has done for me on the Cross.”
Second, he becomes angry at the three friends: “He was also angry with the three friends, because they had found no way to refute Job, and yet had condemned him.” A note in the margin of your Bible suggests that an alternative may mean ‘have condemned God.” In other words these men hadn’t been able to puncture Job’s arguments but had nevertheless condemned him and in so doing had condemned the work of the Lord. This is what the modern atheist does – blame God, IF there is one. Very often they don’t so much put up reasons why there can’t be a God (that very rarely happens!), as they say why they don’t like God, and therefore reject the God who they think is revealed in the Bible. They condemn what they don’t like but it’s not the real God described there! These three friends misrepresented God! At the conclusion of the book we find, “After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” (Job 42:7) That’s rather a bad assessment of them! But how do we represent God? When we speak of Him, when we witness about Him, are we faithfully representing Him or do we attribute things to Him that the Bible doesn’t say?
Before he moves into his speech properly, Elihu explains why he hasn’t said anything before, even though, apparently, he has been sitting in the background listening to it all: “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.” (v.6,7) Herein is humility! The young giving way to the old – exactly according to Scripture but not very common in the modern world! He graciously acknowledges that wisdom should come with age, which is why he simply sat listening to those older than himself – but he was disappointed!
So next he turns to an alternative source of wisdom, the Lord Himself: “But it is the Spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding.” (v.8) i.e. the Holy Spirit can communicate truth and wisdom and, by inference, this is what Elihu relies on, the Lord Himself. Where this is true, where there is such a relationship with the Lord, then, “It is not only the old who are wise, not only the aged who understand what is right.” (v.9). There is a profound truth here: wisdom should be learnt with the experience of the years, but a living relationship with the Lord opens the individual up to a source of wisdom that is not found otherwise. James said, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault.” (Jas 1:5) James later describes this wisdom that is available to the children of God: “the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” (Jas 3:17) Will we see that in what Elihu says? We’ll see! To close this particular meditation we may ask ourselves, have I learned the wisdom that comes with the experience of the years, and am I open for the Lord to share His wisdom to me through His Spirit? May both answers be able to be in the affirmative!