At this point Job was silent. He had ended his defense and given oath that he was not guilty of the sins he had been accused of by his friends. Job had challenged God to either vindicate him or pass sentence on him. The trial had gone on long enough and it was time for the Judge to act. Job’s three friends were silent too, appalled that Job could and would speak so boldly to and about God. They were now awaiting God’s judgement on Job. They were sure it was coming very soon. But God was silent. Nothing happened. Fire did not fall from the sky. There was no thunder, lightning or earthquake. The silence was God’s eloquent witness to Job’s three friends that they were wrong in what they had said both about Job and about God. God’s silence was as much a confirmation of Job’s innocence as it was His restraint against the friends’ guilt. And it was God’s witness that the God of the entire universe is not at anyone or anything’s beck and call. God does not appear just because someone thinks it is time for a showdown. Everyone is now silent. The crowd that had gathered didn’t know what to think and many waited to see what might happen next. They did not have to wait long.
In the crowd around Job’s ash heap was one who could and would not keep quiet. Elihu was so unknown his whole pedigree had to be given so people might know who he was. Neither Job nor his three friends had to have that sort of introduction for others to know them. Elihu’s speech is long…six chapters in our Bibles. He was full of himself. And he felt the need to explain the character of God and apply that to Job’s situation. He actually said many of the same things as the others, but his purpose was different. Elihu was not trying to prove Job was a sinner, but that Job’s view of God was wrong. And he introduced a new thought. Elihu maintained that while God does send suffering it isn’t always to punish us for our sins. It is to keep us from sinning and to make us better people.
Elihu gave two reasons for speaking last. He is clearly the youngest of the group and he wanted to respect his elders. It would have been a terrible breach of etiquette for him to speak before those older than he. But he also wanted to listen to the entire debate before speaking himself. He quoted from all their speeches which shows he was listening. He was a young theologian, and like many young theologians, he showed plenty of youthful conceit in what he said. But it also seems like he may have actually wanted to help Job find the answers to the questions he had. There was, however, a distinct edge to his voice as he spoke. Elihu was angry. He was angry at the three friends for not refuting Job. He was angry at Job for justifying himself rather than God. The three friends had given up and were now waiting for God to come and deal personally with Job. Elihu knew he was young, and he couldn’t claim to have wide experience in the ways of God and man, but he claimed to have something better…the insight of the Spirit of God. He claimed the Holy Spirit had spoken to his spirit and revealed God’s truths to him. He didn’t need the wisdom that comes from experience because he had been taught directly by God. Hence his exhortation to Job and his friends to listen to him.
Elihu also claims to be impartial because neither Job nor his three friends had attacked him personally. While he may have been impartial, he was not neutral. He was too angry for that. Six times in his speech he addressed Job by his name, something Job’s friends had not done. And in the East, it was a sign of disrespect for a younger man to address their elders in such a familiar way. Elihu had waited a long time to speak, so long that he thought he might burst with the Spirit before he had a chance. He believed he had a mandate from God to tell everybody what he knew. We will soon see that when God does appear, He completely ignores Elihu and everything he said.
Chapter 33 is fairly remarkable in that Elihu introduces a new insight to what Job’s three friends had to say. Elihu maintained Job’s suffering and that of others was intended to keep Job from sinning. He believed that God allowed people to suffer to get their attention so they would not fall prey to sin. Therefore, suffering was preventative, not punitive. God does all He can to keep us from sinning and going into the pit of death and this is evidence of His grace. Elihu assured Job that his words were sincere, that he didn’t have any inside track with God, and that he was made out of clay just like Job and everybody else. Elihu also didn’t want his speech to be a monologue, but Job and his three friends were talked out. They had nothing else to say. And, it may have been that Elihu didn’t pause long enough for Job to get a word in edgewise. It could also have been that Job didn’t think it was worth his time to respond to Elihu.
First Elihu said that Job claimed to be sinless but that is not what Job said. That was Zophar’s interpretation of Job saying he did not lie, he was not wicked, that he was just and upright, and that he had not disobeyed God. Job never said he was sinless. He consistently maintained his integrity, but he never said he was sinless. In 9:20-21 Job denied perfection. Neither Zophar nor Elihu were accurate. Being blameless is way different than being sinless. Next Elihu quoted Job as saying God was unjust and treating him like an enemy. Job did say this, but Elihu was only concerned with refuting what Job said about God, not what Job said about himself. Five times Elihu used the word pit. James speaks of God’s purpose in discipline as being to save people from death by breaking their pride and bringing them back to a place of obedience. James 5:19-20. Elihu tells Job that God seeks to keep people from the pit, but rebellious sinners draw near to the pit. Then they go down to the pit, and into the pit. When it is almost too late, the Mediator brings them back from the pit and they are rescued. Elihu states “God does all these things to man, twice even three times, turn his soul from the pit, that the light of life may shine on him.” We read in 2 Peter 3:9, “God is not willing that any should perish.”
In ‘The Problem of Pain’ C.S. Lewis says, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Sometimes God uses our pain to warn us, humble us, and bring us to a place of submission. But it is a mistake to say that all suffering comes from God, because we cause our fair share of suffering all by ourselves. Elihu states that God permits suffering in order to keep people from sinning and going to the pit. Ultimately Elihu hoped that Job would submit to God, accept his painful situation, and get from it the blessings God had for him. Elihu paints an interesting picture. The sinner has been warned by dreams and visions and has been chastened by sickness and suffering. He is drawing near to the grave and the destroyers…messengers of death…are about to capture him. Then a special messenger suddenly stands up…one among a thousand and pleads his case. This messenger has a two-fold purpose. He is to tell the sufferer what he ought to do, and he interceded with God to have the person restored. It is most likely this angel is the Angel of the Lord, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Mediator who gave His life as a ransom for sinners. As the Angel of the Lord, the Son of God visited the earth in Old Testament times to deliver special messages and accomplish important tasks. Elihu saw this Angel not only as a Mediator between God and man, but also as the provider of the ransom for sinners. THIS is the heavenly mediator Job has been asking for throughout the debate!
The concept of ransom is woven into the fabric of Biblical theology. The Hebrew word means to atone for sin by the offering of a substitute. But the condemned sinner can’t be set free by the paying of some cheap price such as money, good works, or good intentions. It must be a ransom God will accept, and God asks for the shedding of blood. See Leviticus 16-17. Job did not ask his three friends to ransom him because he knew they couldn’t. Only God can provide the ransom, and He did. So, if God has provided the ransom for lost sinners about to go down into the pit, how silly of them not to receive it! Elihu also asked that Job humble himself before the Lord and confess his sins. Job did not respond because he was waiting for God to speak. As you read Elihu’s speeches you get the impression that he was not growing. He was swelling. You also get the impression people were tired of listening to him because he had to keep exhorting them to listen carefully to him. He compared his speaking to the enjoyment of a tasteful and nourishing meal. Elihu responded to Job’s claims that God was unjust. He said that meant God was not God as He was unjust. If God is truly God, then He is perfect, and if He is perfect then He cannot do any wrong. An unjust God would be as crazy as a square circle or a round triangle. According to Elihu, what seems injustice to us is really justice. He also emphasized that God is sovereign, and a sovereign God cannot be indicted by any law and judged by no courts. God was not appointed to His throne so no one can take it from Him.
The Book of Job magnifies the sovereignty of God. From the very beginning it is clear that God is in control. Even the evil one is told what he can and can’t do. During the debate between Job and his three friends it appears that God is absent, but God is well aware of how Job feels and what he and his friends say. Thirty-one times in this book God is called ‘The Almighty’. In this case, Elihu was on point. God is sovereign and can do no wrong. But like Bildad, Elihu made a big mistake in singling out only one attribute of God. God is more that justice. He is also loving, gracious, and merciful. God is not obligated to conduct an inquiry or gather evidence. He already knows everything. He rules over nations and individuals. God gives His people freedom to make decisions and His people have the freedom to turn from their sins, repent, and trust Him.
Job never bargained with God like the evil one said he would. But Elihu felt the need to address this again, even after Eliphaz already had. God’s character is the same whether men obey or disobey Him. God cannot change for the better because He is already perfect. And He cannot change for the worse because He is holy. God is gracious and God is just. But God is also great and mighty and Elihu thought Job needed to recognize just how great God is. Elihu must have missed that part of Job’s speech. With tomorrow’s reading the cycles of speeches will be over and then God will speak.
In His Grip,
Pastor Matt W.