Have you ever had to “get real” with a friend in distress? Perhaps you’ve been in a situation where saying what needed to be said felt like threading a needle with a haystack...or a roundhouse kick to the trachea.
No question, we’ve all been there at one point or another.
But while stirring a storm in [seemingly] tranquil seas is never fun1, there’s something to be said about the willing word spoken at the perfect time.
‘Cause truth is: when verbal courage2 is expressed through patience and fearless articulacy, it carries the power to inspire change.
Enter Elihu, the unsung hero in arguably the most underrated book in the Old Testament (i.e. Job).
While most of the chapter’s content surrounds Job and his three misguided amigos, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, it’s not until chapter 32 until Elihu breaks in and gives them counsel worth adhering to.
For the next six chapters (32-37), Elihu puts on a ‘confrontation clinic’, where he constructively critiques Job’s assessment of his own suffering as well as the faulty theology of his three friends.
Breaking it down...
- In Job 34 Elihu shifts to declaring God’s justice. Verse 12 specifically states, “It is unthinkable that God would do wrong, / that the Almighty would pervert justice."
- In Job 35 Elihu turns again to Job in condemnation. In verses 13–14 Elihu says, “Indeed, God does not listen to [the arrogant person’s] empty plea; / the Almighty pays no attention to it. / How much less, then, will he listen / when you say that you do not see him, / that your case is before him / and you must wait for him.”
- In Job 36-37 Elihu highlights God’s greatness. This lengthy portion declares many of God’s attributes. In Job 36:26 Elihu states, “How great is God—beyond our understanding! / The number of his years is past finding out.” Elihu rightly points Job to God’s might, saying, “Listen to this, Job; / stop and consider God’s wonders” (Job 37:14).
For Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, the truth significantly mutes their coerciveness, evident by the fact their speeches shorten (Bildad finishes with six verses in chapter 25), and ultimately die out at the end (Zophar can't even manage a closing comment)3.
As for Job, he not only agrees with Elihu, hence his initial silence, but is spurred to repentance (42:1-6), fittingly concluding matters. And God? Considering Elihu was echoing his sentiments exactly, it should be no surprise God had no direct response for him, though God’s recognition of Job’s godly sorrow (v. 7) is certainly indicative of a job well done on Elihu’s part.
My point in summarizing this random passage of Scripture…?
Though I could settle for…
- Truth breeds truth.
- Truth in love leads to repentance.
- Truth stands firm.
- God speaks to and through man for his highest good.
…I suppose what grips me the most is the belief that the truth should always point in the direction of God who is greater than whatever we’re going through.
Yes, we can be correct in our theology and speak it coherently…but if it’s detached from God’s fatherheart of mercy…and fails to lead one towards grace…can we honestly say we’re living as God’s mouthpiece?
And look, I know courage doesn’t necessarily imply perfect execution of proactive action. After all, the truth can get messy. But I guess this is why I love the story of Elihu so much.
For starters, Elihu doesn’t look for the platform; the platform finds him. Case and point…Elihu doesn’t speak until the lack of truth compels him to (34:18-20). Thus, before Elihu even utters a word, he’s allowed patience and self-control to brew the truth in God’s perspective4.
Furthermore, Elihu coated his words in humility. For instance, though Elihu was angry against Job’s pride and the deception of his companions, he still refers to them as “wise men” (34:2), though they were anything but in this context. In addition, Elihu establishes his words in confidence knowing they were from God, but also in caution, knowing the goal was not to prove himself right, but to set the table (roll the red carpet, if you will) for God’s opening rebuttal (chapter 38)5. In short, Elihu knew his place as God’s embouchure and didn’t allow himself to swerve off course, despite his arousal…and despite his security in how God was using him. Pretty cool, eh?
My encouragement to you, friends, is to consider how Elihu
approached the truth and apply it in your own life, regardless of whose (i.e.
Job or Elihu) shoes you’re in.
‘Cause bottom line: whatever sole6 your soul is in, if you walk in humble obedience and the firm belief that God will use it to reflect His very best, then He’ll undoubtedly guide you whenever you have to speak the whole truth…and nothing but the truth.
1) The irony here lies within the heart of the “corrector” seeking the exact opposite (i.e. peace in the place of turmoil, clarity in place of ambiguity, etc.)
2) Both in the giving and receiving of it
3) From Job: Rebuked in Suffering, Desiring God, Publication 1985-07-21
4) Again, the truth knows its time and ceases the opportunity when it arrives.
5) Seriously, how awesome is 38:4-7? To think one day we’ll know how the angelic host felt when they watched God create the universe
6) It’s a pun. See previous sentence ;)
Photo creds: www.thebricktestament.com, giving.yale.edu
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