Let Elihu Speak
Chapters 29-31 are the bookend on this first section of the book of Job. After hearing from each of his three friends twice, and offering his rebuttal, he now turns to lament for his past (ch. 29), cry out for his present (ch.30), and look to the future for vindication from God (ch.31). Like a courtroom, Job, the accused, has stood trial under his friends’ accusations and he has offered his defense before God, the righteous judge. But the judge has one last testimony to hear – the young Elihu.
Commentators are divided on the role of Elihu. He offers harsh words for both the defendant and for the prosecution. I argue that Elihu speaks for God before God speaks, as he states in 31:8-10, for the following reasons: (1) Elihu has the longest uninterrupted opportunity to speak, and, therefore, the penultimate stage in the book; (2) unlike with his friends, Job offers no response and no defense; and (3) many of Elihu’s words point to God’s response in the following chapters; and God offers no rebuke of Elihu’s words.
Elihu has remained silent while his elders, from whom he expected to hear wisdom, spoke. But, now he can remain silent no more. Even in his youth, Elihu knows that wisdom does not come from age, but from God’s Spirit that gives us understanding. Just as there are many young fools, there are also many old fools. While grey hair may make wisdom more likely, it does not secure it.
So, what should we glean from Elihu? Parents, raise your children on the Word of God. Pack it into their hearts, so that the Spirit may unpack it for them. In a generation when we are expecting less and less of our young people, expect more of them. The world needs you to raise young Elihus.
And to those of us who have begun to feel the days and years fly by more quickly: don’t confuse experience with wisdom. Experience alone will make you a complainer and a cynic. Experience plus the understanding from God will make you wise. Dig into the Word of God and seek understanding. Until we have understanding, may we not foist our cynicism and wrong conclusions on others. Young or old, if we lack understanding we should keep our mouths closed and our ears open until we find it.
For all of us: don’t assume that God cannot use an Elihu in your life to bring you wisdom from an unlikely source. A wise pastor I once served under taught me an invaluable lesson concerning criticism. He told me to weigh the critical comment, no matter the source, and to ask God to reveal to me if there was even a kernel of truth to it that God wanted me to hear. So often we dismiss wisdom out of hand because of the one dispensing it. God can dispense wisdom in any container He chooses.