Job’s words have ended. Suddenly there is another voice to listen to, the young man Elihu, and we are told that he burned with anger against Job. We have been defending Job up to this point in the book because we know that God speaks so highly of him both at the beginning and the end of this great work. We have also critiqued Job’s friends, because God Himself says that they did not speak rightly of Him. Yet God has nothing to say about this man Elihu. We hear his words for several chapters, and then suddenly God speaks to Job directly. Is Elihu speaking for God in his critique of both Job and his three friends, or is he a brash young man who should have kept his thoughts to himself? We are not given a direct answer. Yet we do see that Elihu picks up on themes that Job himself has developed, and that the Lord will continue these same themes when He speaks at the end of the book.
The question remains: Is Elihu righteous in his anger toward Job? We are told that this prophetic figure was angry with righteous Job because Job justified himself rather than God. There is something important here that is worthy of our consideration. Job knows that God is more righteous than he is, and yet at times in his speeches the great man has wanted to enter into judgment against the Almighty and to presume to correct the Fountain of all righteousness. This fault is not the secret sin that Job’s friends presumed to invent. It became known in the course of a public discourse. It was a real fact, not a supposition. Job presumed to enter into judgment against one more righteous than he: God. This was ironically displayed in less righteous men presuming to be judges of Job. Job felt the insult of that. It was a lesson that he needed to learn himself.
Elihu also rebukes Job’s three friends. They had found no honest answer to the dilemma of Job’s great suffering, but instead of being silent in their ignorance, or simply admitting that they did not understand, they declared Job to be in the wrong, though they had no evidence. They needed to be corrected, but Elihu did not want to do the job. He waited for someone else to speak, but no one older or more respected came forward. Burning with anger, he finally felt compelled to talk.
At various points earlier in the book the friends of Job presented their conclusions as if they were the teaching of God. Remember that Eliphaz spoke of a spiritual experience he had one night and assumed that he must be giving a secret word from heaven that should be received as true. All three men were greatly insulted by Job’s complete rejection of their advice, as if they had spoken the Word of God. Now a younger man speaks, and he claims that he really does speak for God, not merely as one who finds out what God has said and teaches about it, but as a prophetic mouthpiece of the Almighty.
Can Elihu avoid hypocrisy in his critique of Job? Job has judged the most righteous being, God, in order to declare himself righteous. Job’s friends have entered into judgment against Job, a godlier man by far than any of them. How can this young man Elihu speak against both Job and Job’s friends without committing the same offenses? The only way around this trap is for Elihu to speak, not out of his own righteousness, but out of the Spirit of divine prophesy.
Elihu is aware that Almighty God is using him. Throughout the history of God’s leading of men, He has chosen certain people to be His prophetic spokesmen. When they speak, God speaks. There have been many others who have presumed to represent God, and yet they have been judged to be false prophets. The only way to discern whether someone is a true prophet is to test what that person is saying according to the known speech of God.
Elihu will speak for the next few chapters. He is full of words that he feels constrained now to deliver. He cannot contain this message within himself. He must speak. He will not do so like a man who is trying to impress others, lest God take him away for presumptuously impersonating a prophet of the Lord. We will listen to his words and measure them, not by our own judgment, but by the established Word of the Lord. We will let Scripture interpret and validate Scripture.
In the fullness of time, a final Prophet of God came. At about thirty years of age, He suddenly stood up to speak about the kingdom of God. He called Israel to repentance, and He brought a Word of life to those who had ears to hear. Many wanted Him to stop speaking, but He was the Word of God made flesh. He would accomplish His purpose. Eventually He would say these words: “It is finished,” and He would take His place again in the highest heavens. Though many would presume to judge Him, there is no one who is righteous enough to do so. Despite all of the confusion and sin among His followers, all who are in this one final Word of God have been granted heavenly life. He has the words of life. He is the Word of life.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Father God, we must not justify ourselves and accuse You. Help us to humbly receive the true correction of one who rightly speaks in Your Name. Though Your servant be young, and though his credentials may not seem impressive to us, help us to discern rightly the truth of the Word preached and the power of the Spirit at work in the life and ministry of Your ambassador.