Does anyone know what to do with this Elihu kid? For five uninterrupted chapters, he spouts his opinion…some of which seems good while the rest seems no better than contributions of the three “friends.” We learned a couple days ago that Elihu had not yet spoken in deference to the older men. But once he realized they had no solution or satisfactory conclusion for the problem of Job, he entered his voice into the debate.
On one hand, Elihu displays the idealistic and passionate, though sometimes ignorant and arrogant, voice of youth—throwing rebukes left and right (while many of his statements seem to echo what the three friends have already said), chastising Job (even though he knows nothing more about the situation than the other friends), and claiming to speak on behalf of God himself (even though—SPOILER ALERT—God seems to ignore Elihu in the next chapter when He finally begins to talk).
On the other hand, he reorients the entire conversation back to the sovereignty and glory of God. In Job 34:14-15, we find one of the most sobering verses in Scripture: “If he should set his heart to it and gather his spirit and his breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust.” When was the last time you thanked God that his breath sustained you for that day? Every moment we live is a gift of God and a display of his grace. In Chapter 36, Job proclaims God’s glory and majesty in such a way that the “why” questions of suffering seem to pale in the light of his bigness.
So what should be our perspective on Elihu? I think it’s to recognize that well-meaning people will often offer advice that includes a mixture of the good and the bad. And even though a person’s motives or sense of self-righteousness might be wrong, the words they say might contain some truth. Pastor Mark has encouraged us to never let an arrow of criticism pierce our hearts until it first passes through the filter of Scripture. That’s why it’s so important for us to engage in this reading challenge—so we know the Biblical filter. And let’s also remember that we have all been Elihu at times—offering commentary that might be correct yet come from a place of naivete, ignorance, arrogance, or self-righteousness. It’s hard to extol the greatness of God and empathize with the sufferings of others at the same time. And yet, in some way, the juxtaposition of those two things are the only way to make sense of life. Jesus did it on the cross; living in that tension requires us to follow Him.