Two weeks ago we met Elihu, and after laying out the three commonly held views of this young man I made the case to you that I believe the good and positive view of Elihu to be the correct view. That he is to be seen as something of a preparatory voice for God’s greater voice to come and not as a foreign intrusion into the text and or an arrogant young man. But remember, I also said I could be wrong about this. So as I continue through Elihu’s speeches (chapters 33 tonight) I want to begin by saying two things. First, we must be aware that whatever view we take on Elihu will, to a very large degree, affect the way we hear what he has to say. It is impossible to remove ourselves of all bias we have, but though we cannot rid ourselves of all bias, we can make a concerted effort to be aware of our bias. And once we’re aware of our bias we can examine it thoroughly to see if it is correct. This is hard to do, this is wise to do, and in becoming aware of our bias we move toward seeing the text on it’s own basis. Second, because of these things I’ll make it an aim to show you both the positive and negative view of Elihu in an effort to aid you in coming to your own conclusion about who this young man is.
I’ve divided Job 33 into 3 portions. Let’s take them one at a time shall we?
Elihu Appeals (33:1-7)
“But now, hear my speech, O Job, and listen to all my words. Behold, I open my mouth; the tongue in my mouth speaks. My words declare the uprightness of my heart, and what my lips know they speak sincerely. The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life. Answer me, if you can; set your words in order before me; take your stand. Behold, I am toward God as you are; I too was pinched off from a piece of clay. Behold, no fear of me need terrify you; my pressure will not be heavy upon you.”
In this first seven verses of chapter 33 Elihu makes an appeal to Job, giving him reasons why he should listen to him. Elihu will open his mouth, his tongue will speak in the uprightness of his own heart, and Job will find Elihu’s words sincere in v4, serious in v5, and sympathetic in v6-7.Sincere in v4 and sympathetic in v6-7, because Elihu’s purpose is just that. He doesn’t want to squash Job but desires to speak truth lovingly to him. Job has said in past remarks (9:34 and 13:21) that God brings him great dread. It seems Elihu heard these remarks so he begins his address to Job saying that such dread need not be present when he is talking with him because, like him, he too is a created being, pinched off from a piece of clay. And because of this Elihu doesn’t want a great deal of pressure falling on Job from what he has to say. But while being sincere and sympathetic, Elihu makes it clear that he does have serious words to say to him in v5, that Job needs to set his words in order, and be prepared to answer him once he’s done if he can.
If you see Elihu negatively you’ll probably interpret these things as hot air preparing the way for more hot air, similar to what the other friends did before in their speeches. If you see Elihu positively you’ll want his intentions here noticed, to show that he doesn’t intend to bring trouble or pressure to Job, but help. Either way, it seems we must aim to see if his words match these beginning thoughts. So let’s move on to see.
Elihu Summarizes (33:8-13)
“Surely you have spoken in my ears, and I have heard the sound of your words. You say, ‘I am pure, without transgression; I am clean, and there is no iniquity in me. Behold, he finds occasions against me, he counts me as his enemy, he puts my feet in the stocks and watches all my paths.’ “Behold, in this you are not right. I will answer you, for God is greater than man. Why do you contend against him, saying, ‘He will answer none of man’s words’?”
After appealing to Job in v1-7, Elihu now summarizes Job’s words in v8-13. This would lead us to believe that Elihu has been around, at least since chapter 4 to the present and has listened carefully to what’s been said by Job’s friends and Job himself. According to Elihu Job has largely made two points. First in v9, that Job has said he is not guilty before God. Second in v10-11, that Job has accused God of treating him as an enemy, treating him unfairly, purposefully watching him to attack him, and publicly humiliating him (putting his feet in stocks) (see Job say these things in 12:24, 16:9-14, 19:6-12, 30:21). From these two summaries of Job’s words Elihu implies that Job has done what he shouldn’t have done. Namely, accusing God of being unjust. For saying such things Elihu says in v12 “Behold, in this you are not right.” So Elihu will answer Job. Reminding Job that no man may contend with God, for He is greater than man. Asking Job why He thinks he can contend with God when God doesn’t have to answer any of man’s words.
At this point one may believe Elihu to be just a repetition of the miserable friends, thinking that this is all evidence of Elihu’s youthful ignorant arrogance. I don’t think that’s quite what’s in view here. It’s important to see the difference here. Elihu isn’t telling Job that he is suffering because he has sinned like the friends did. No. Elihu is rebuking Job for saying wrong things about God because of his suffering.The two are massively different, and I think if we’re honest we’d agree that in his suffering Job has said things about God that are very wrong indeed. Things that must be addressed. Things that God Himself will address soon and leave Job speechless. Perhaps, because Job doesn’t answer Elihu once he’s done speaking show us that Elihu’s words are the preamble or beginning of God’s greater words.
Elihu Instructs (33:14-33)
“For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men, while they slumber on their beds, then he opens the ears of men and terrifies them with warnings, that he may turn man aside from his deed and conceal pride from a man; he keeps back his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword. Man is also rebuked with pain on his bed and with continual strife in his bones, so that his life loathes bread, and his appetite the choicest food. His flesh is so wasted away that it cannot be seen, and his bones that were not seen stick out. His soul draws near the pit, and his life to those who bring death. If there be for him an angel, a mediator, one of the thousand, to declare to man what is right for him, and he is merciful to him, and says, ‘Deliver him from going down into the pit; I have found a ransom; let his flesh become fresh with youth; let him return to the days of his youthful vigor’; then manprays to God, and he accepts him; he sees his face with a shout of joy, and he restores to man his righteousness. He sings before men and says: ‘I sinned and perverted what was right, and it was not repaid to me. He has redeemed my soul from going down into the pit, and my life shall look upon the light.’ “Behold, God does all these things, twice, three times, with a man, to bring back his soul from the pit, that he may be lighted with the light of life. Pay attention, O Job, listen to me; be silent, and I will speak. If you have any words, answer me; speak, for I desire to justify you. If not, listen to me; be silent, and I will teach you wisdom.”
Here Elihu makes the case that God does indeed speak though men may believe He doesn’t. Specifically, Job may believe God doesn’t hear him or respond to him about his suffering, but He does and has been doing. How so? Elihu says God speaks to man in two ways: through the conscience (v15-18) and through suffering (v16-28).
Through the conscience, in that while men sleep, dream, or slumber they often have a vision or a dream that brings them terror. Elihu believes Job ought to pay attention to such things in v15, and heed the still small voice of his own conscience in such moments in v16. Why? Because, according to Elihu in v17-18, God speaks in these ways to keep us from pride and ultimately save our souls from destruction. The implication Elihu is making here is that God has been speaking to Job in these ways all along, whether or not Job realizes it. But, that Elihu only gives 4 verses to God speaking through the conscience and gives the rest of the chapter to God speaking through suffering tells us the latter of Elihu’s main point in chapter 33.
So how does God speak to man through suffering? In v19-22 Elihu describes the suffering man experiences by speaking of pain, strife, loathing, wasting away, lack, destruction, and even a closeness to death. Elihu says man is rebuked by these things, not in the sense that man is being punished by God in suffering, but that in suffering man is being made aware of God’s ways with us, or that in suffering God truly does intend to teach us much about Him and ourselves, or that suffering jolts us out of our mundane existence and makes us painfully aware of what’s important in life. It truly is a rebuke to man in this sense. This is in part what C.S. Lewis was trying to get at when he said, “Pain insists on being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts to us in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”Without suffering all truly seems to be well, and until suffering comes upon us in its various forms we will rest at ease. But when suffering comes we’re laid low on one hand and yet lifted high above the clouds of everyday existence on the other.
Elihu views suffering in this light and is instructing Job to do the same. To see suffering as a kind of angel or mediator in v23 that declares to us what is right and delivers us from the pit in v24, that will ultimately lead us to a renewed vigor in v25 and new shouts of joy in v26. What then is the response to such grace from God through suffering? A prayer in v27-28 that recognizes these things to be true, rejoicing that God redeems us in such a manner. Therefore, in v29-30, Elihu states this is what God does with man, many times in fact, to bring us back from the pit we are so naturally prone to run toward and to give us the light of life. While the former friends have said Job is suffering because of his sins or because he’s hiding his sins from others Elihu disagrees and says Job is wrong to believe God is silent in his suffering. God isn’t silent, in fact, God is speaking to him in this suffering, and by speaking to him in this way God intends to save him in the end. Elihu does say Job is wrong for speaking about God like this, but does mean to encourage him by pointing out that God does speak, and more so, He speaks to save.
Elihu then repeats his initial appeal in v31-33 telling Job to listen to his words, to learn wisdom from them, to answer him if he can, or to be silent and listen further if he can’t. Why does Elihu say these things to Job? He gives his reason in v32. His desire is to justify Job. What does that mean? This word ‘justify’ in Hebrew is the word sadaq, which comes from the Hebrew word sedeq, meaning righteous or holy. Therefore the word here in v32, sadaq, which is a form of this word, is employed here in this text to give the impression that Elihu wants to labor for Job’s good. But more is in view. He not only wants to labor for Job’s good, he wants to so labor for Job, that Job would be seen as righteous, that Job would be seen as innocent, that Job would be seen as holy, that Job would be vindicated from Job listening to and embracing his words. Elihu desires to speak to Job toward this end. Whether or not Elihu actually does this is a matter to be seen as we continue to move through the text. The positive view of Elihu believes he does accomplish this, while the negative view doesn’t think he does. We’ll see these things play out in his remaining speeches.
It is here Church, that we see Elihu’s true desire to labor for Job’s good. But it’s also here that we see the greater meaning of Elihu’s person. By seeing Elihu’s desire to vindicate Job, we get a view of the greater Vindicator and His greater vindication. As a result of His life and teaching Jesus was nailed to a cross and was executed alongside criminals. From a mere human perspective it looked like Jesus’ entire ministry was an utter failure. But wonder of wonders, He who died did not remain dead. He rose. 1 Timothy 3:16 mentions Jesus being vindicated by the Spirit. This is further fleshed out in Romans 1:4 when Paul says Jesus was, “…declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by His resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord…” In Christ’s resurrection vindication, Christ was in a moment seen to be what He is. Not a failure or a fool but God Himself, triumphant over sin and death. And in this resurrection He led forth all His elect who would one day believe in Him as well, so that one day they too will similarly rise from their graves or rise to meet Him in the sky upon His return.
I think we get a little preview of this here in Job 33. Christ’s vindication means a great deal for us who believe in Him, as Elihu’s labor to vindicate Job would’ve meant a great deal to him.