Elihu is a wonderful breath of fresh air in a conversation that was quickly getting stale. This young man had been sitting there the whole time listening as these four older, “wiser,” men talked themselves into stalemate of two opposing viewpoints. The three “friends” said that Job was suffering because he was a sinner. Job said that he was not a sinner and that God’s sense of justice was skewed. Job just wished that he could present his case and be vindicated, proving that he was really a righteous man. He didn’t deserve to suffer.
Here are a few observations about Elihu that will helpful for us today:
1. He was respectful of age. Elihu did not blurt out his opinion because he yielded to his elders. This is a value that has been lost in our culture. It would do us well to reconnect to this and show more respect to those who have been around the block a few more times than we.
2. He was respectful of feelings. Even though Elihu was very frustrated and believed that his opinion was right and the others were wrong, he did not blast into the conversation with accusing tones and pointing fingers. He began his speech with humility and empathy. It would do us well to remember this in times of conflict in our lives. You will never get anywhere in a conversation if your opening words are, “You are wrong and here’s why…” Those words will simply send up the hearer’s defenses and close their minds to any shred of clear thinking that you may have to contribute. Instead, like Elihu, begin with a validation of the person to whom you are speaking, admit that you are fallible and do not see the whole picture, and try to establish that your relationship with the person is very important. Then, over the bridge of relationship that you have built, you can deliver your perspective on the situation.
3. He saw that the issue was a matter of focus. The reason Job and the three men were in a stalemate was because they were all operating under a false presupposition. Somewhere down the line they had bought into the idea that God will ALWAYS bless the good man and will ALWAYS curse the sinner. This kind of theology completely externalizes a relationship with God and places God into a box. They had limited the idea of God’s justice to a very narrow parameter and had, in essence, made man’s behavior the dictator of God’s behavior. Elihu said, “Time out guys. Who’s really in charge here? You guys think that you can predict what God will do. The truth is that you can’t. God is going to do what God is going to do…period.”
4. His speech opened the door for Job to hear God. It is interesting to notice that as soon as Elihu is done speaking it moves right into the words of God and Job has no response. Many times people get locked into distorted thinking and they cannot hear from God. It requires the intervention of a godly person to come and lovingly speak the truth to them before they can be receptive to God’s truth.
Here’s the take home. Job’s problem was that he was more worried about his image as a good guy than he was about the truth of God’s nature. Job was so convinced that His suffering was unjustified that he was willing to accuse God of being cruel. Big mistake.
How often do we do that? Unfortunately, for many of us, we spend a lot of time managing our image. We are so focused on doing the right thing and being perceived as being a good person (being vindicated like Job desired) that we neglect the fact that what matters most is cultivating an authentic relationship with God. Ironically, an authentic relationship with God can become an obstacle to maintaining a “righteous” image. When that happens we know we have entered the distorted zone.
As we will explore more tomorrow, the reality of God is that He is not predictable or “safe.” God is the Almighty Ruler of the universe. He is the maker and sustainer of all things. He does not call us to conform to a set of rigid, external rules, He calls us to throw ourselves into an obedient, dynamic, relationship with Him as we submit ourselves to follow the cloud and be receptive to His leading…even when it could jeopardize our image.