Job 32:1-5; 34:1-15
If you’ve read the book of Job all the way through (which I highly recommend), you might've been puzzled by this guy named Elihu. If so, you’re in really good company. Biblical scholars for thousands of years have wondered how to interpret his speeches. We know that the three friends’ assertions were flawed at best, since the Lord condemned them at the end of the book, but Elihu is never mentioned, neither at the beginning of the book nor at the end. God didn’t include him when expressing his disapproval of the friends in the chapter 42 (never mentioning him at all), so we have to hold up what he said against the rest of Scripture in order to see how right he was.
First off, what was his main point? The friends all had a simple theological paradigm in which everything fit or was made to fit. They had God’s ways all figured out, and therefore came to the inevitable conclusion that Job’s sufferings were a direct result of his sin. Job ended all accusations with a solemn oath that he was innocent of outrageous transgressions, and since they couldn’t contradict the oath, that ended all the debates. But then stepped in Elihu, and he had one main point: Both sides are wrong.
He started off with a simple proposition: The Lord is always just in his dealings, but we don’t always know what he’s doing. In fact, if he doesn’t reveal himself, we’ll never have any inkling as to what his plans are. Job was not necessarily hiding some gross immorality, but he was perilously close to accusing God of wronging him, of treating him unfairly. Elihu’s main argument was that even if we don’t know what he's doing, we can know that he does, and he’s in charge.
So how right was he? Well, the Lord never condemned him (again, never mentioning him at all), and I personally haven’t seen anything in his speeches which I'd really disagree with. He was very zealous to defend God’s honor from both Job and his friends, and that’s certainly admirable. He seemed to be a little hard on Job, especially considering the agony that the man had undergone, but it seems that Elihu’s speeches were fundamentally sound.
Is there anything missing from his speech about God’s character? Well, there seems to be one major aspect which Elihu didn’t mention, which is pretty important to me: Love. Job might not know for sure that the Lord loved him--in fact, there were plenty of times in which his feelings told him the exact opposite. But even if God didn’t love him, he had to know that the Lord over the universe, who not only upholds the standard, but IS the standard for everything, is perfect in all his ways. As C. S. Lewis pointed out, God is the source of everything, including our intellect. You could never be right and him wrong anymore than water could flow uphill or a tree branch grow leaves while severed from the tree.
The good news is, with Christ, we are much more sure that God loves us. The most famous verse in the Bible is memorized all over the world by children: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Or there’s one of my personal favorites: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Or how about 1 John 4:10: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” The Old Testament saints knew in every fiber of their being that the Most High is sovereign, that his ways are mysterious, and that someday he'll judge all humanity. And they were pretty sure that he loved them. But when Jesus took our sins upon himself on the tree, all doubts on that score were laid to rest.
Lord Jesus, you're not only the God over all creation, you're my brother and my friend. I want to grow up to be just like you. Please.
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