Do You Elihu? (Part 1)

Before reading this post, I suggest you check out Pastor Paul LeBoutillier’s (Calvary Chapel – Ontario, Oregon) message on Job 32-42 for context. The clip below contains Pastor Paul’s commentary for Job 32 only…

 

Have you ever had to “get real” with a friend or colleague in distress? Perhaps you’ve been in a situation where saying what needed to be said felt like threading a needle…or a roundhouse kick to the trachea.

If so, rest assured: You’re not alone. We’ve all been there at one point or another.

Yet, while stirring a storm in tranquil seas is never fun, there’s something to be said about the willing word spoken at the perfect time, in the face of the opposite spirit.

‘Cause truth is: When verbal courage is expressed through perseverance, vulnerability, and fearless articulacy, it carries the power to inspire change.

Enter Elihu, the unsung hero in arguably the most underrated book in the Old Testament – Job.

For those unaware, the book details the life of Job, a righteous man who honors God despite immense suffering. Not only is Job the first poetic book in the Bible, but also the first to address themes of theodicy, the vindication of God’s justice in the light of humanity’s suffering. After losing his children, servants, wealth and health, Job’s wife and closest friends (Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar) tempt Job to curse God and die (Job 2:9); however, after multiple arguments between Job and his opponents concerning the source of his suffering (chapters 4-31), we finally find Elihu making his debut (32:6-22):

Then Elihu…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. Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job because they were older than he. And when Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, he burned with anger.

And Elihu…said, “I am young in years, and you are aged; therefore I was timid and afraid to declare my opinion to you. I said, ‘Let days speak, and many years teach wisdom.’ But it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand. It is not the old who are wise, nor the aged who understand what is right.

Therefore I say, ‘Listen to me; let me also declare my opinion.’ 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.’ He has not directed his words against me, and I will not answer him with your speeches. They are dismayed; they answer no more; they have not a word to say.

And shall I wait, because they do not speak, because they stand there and answer no more. I also will answer with my share; I also will declare my opinion. For I am full of words;  the spirit within me constrains me. Behold, my belly is like wine that has no vent; like new wineskins ready to burst. I must speak, that I may find relief; I must open my lips and answer. I will not show partiality to any man or use flattery toward any person. For I do not know how to flatter, else my Maker would soon take me away.”

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I mean….you talk about a ‘confrontation clinic’! Clearly, Elihu’s charge is one of the most comprehensive and honest critiques in all of Scripture…and he’s just getting started.

Let’s break the next few chapters down…

  • In Job 33, Elihu calls out Job for saying he was without any sin and that God would not answer. Elihu says, “But I tell you, in this you are not right, for God is greater than any mortal.” (v. 12)
  • In Job 34, Elihu pivots off his rebuke to emphasize God’s justice: “It is unthinkable that God would do wrong, that the Almighty would pervert justice.” (v. 12)
  • In Job 35, Elihu again censures Job: “Indeed, God does not listen to [the arrogant person’s] empty plea; the Almighty pays no attention to it. How much less, then, will he listen, when you say that you do not see him, that your case is before him and you must wait for him.” (v. 13-14)
  • In Job 36, shifts to highlighting God’s greatness: “How great is God, beyond our understanding! The number of his years is past finding out.” Elihu rightly points Job to God’s might, saying, “Listen to this, Job; / stop and consider God’s wonders.” (v. 26)
  • Finally, in Job 37, Elihu drops the mic (v. 23-24), emphatically bringing Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar to their figurative knees. As for Job, not only does he break his silence, but acknowledges Elihu’s criticism and in response, his own godly sorry (42:1-6). At last, Elihu’s persistence as a timely mouthpiece had come full circle.

Now, I bet you’re wondering what’s my point in bringing up Elihu, in summarizing these random passages.

To be fair, I could settle for…

  • Truth spoken in love leads to understanding/repentance.
  • Truth stands firm and perseveres through weakness.
  • God speaks to and through man for His highest good.
  • We are vessels of clay, anointed and appointed as His Godsend.

…however, what really grips me is God’s faithfulness to provide what we need to hear His voice and know He’s greater than our circumstances.

Yes, we can be correct in our theology and speak it coherently, but if it’s detached from God’s fatherheart of mercy, if it fails to lead one towards grace and discernment…can we honestly say we’re living as Kingdom influencers?

Granted, I know courage doesn’t necessarily imply perfect execution of proactive action. After all, the truth can get messy. But I guess this is why I love the story of Elihu so much.

For starters, Elihu doesn’t look for the platform; the platform finds him. He doesn’t speak when he feels like it but waits until ignorance and/or arrogance compels him (34:18-20). And before he even utters a word, he calibrates his thoughts to God’s perspective, allowing humility and confidence to saturate his speech. Perhaps this is why he refers to Job and his companions as “wise men” (34:2) in spite of their pride and valued his role as God’s embouchure more than his right to be right. Whatever the case, Elihu burned for God’s Word to be known (chapter 38), ultimately making a way for repentance to be realized.

May we all seize the opportunity to go and do likewise within our arenas of influence.

Selah.

Looking ahead, I’ll aim to write a sequel post on how we can be modern-day Elihu’s in today’s marketplace. For now, my encouragement to you is to consider how Elihu beheld the truth and his assignment to speak it. Then dare to apply it in your own life, regardless of whose (i.e. Job or Elihu) shoes you’re in, and live the question…

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‘Cause frankly whatever sole your soul is in, if you walk in humble obedience and the firm belief that God will use it to reflect His very best, then He’ll undoubtedly guide you whenever you have to speak the whole truth…and nothing but the truth.

You got this.

Cover creds: JW.org