Elihu reminds me of a friend I have who always tells it like it is. She is blunt and straightforward, and I absolutely love her for it. She must be strong in the spiritual gift of discernment, because she can cut through nonsense like a warm knife through butter.
It is interesting to me that the younger Elihu — not the windbaggy friends — is the one who speaks to Job immediately prior to God speaking to Job. The order is significant. Oftentimes the Lord sends people or circumstances to soften our hearts to truths we need to hear, doesn’t He? It happens so many times that it can’t be a fluke. For example, when I was fighting the freak-outs over having to go to the oncologist and get CT Scans, God’s message to me over and over again was: Trust Me. I saw it in the books I read, in the Bible verses I came across…even in the songs I heard on the radio. And then when the big moment came and I was stretched out on the CT table, the born-again Christian technician assured me that I was indeed in good hands. He wasn’t just talking about himself. And I was…in the best hands possible.
There are elements of Elihu’s speeches that I think might have begun the process of transformation in Job’s heart or at least prepared him to listen to God with an open mind.
“First you say, ‘I’m perfectly innocent before God.’ And then you say, ‘It doesn’t make a bit of difference whether I’ve sinned or not.'” (The Message)
“When things go badly, when affliction and suffering descend, God tells them where they’ve gone wrong, shows them how their pride has caused their trouble.”
“Do you have any idea how powerful God is? Have you ever heard of a teacher like him? Has anyone ever had to tell him what to do, or correct him, saying, ‘You did that all wrong!'”
“Job, are you listening? Have you noticed all this? Stop in your tracks! Take in God’s miracle-workers!”
The last thing Elihu says to Job before God speaks is:
“So bow to him in deep reverence, one and all! If you’re wise, you’ll most certainly worship him.”
I would say that Elihu gave Job an honest piece of his mind. He called it like he saw it, just like my friend does with me. I confess I do not have an innate tendency for bluntness. In fact, I am usually tiptoeing all along the edges of truth, trying not to hurt anyone feelings or get into a controversy.
I recently started receiving weekly emails from an apologetic group called Stand To Reason, and let me say that they have been challenging me in this area of my life. The latest topic I read was about the Intelligent Design debate and how ID scientists WELCOME debate from evolutionists. It is only when we know the oppositions viewpoints that we can refute them. Stand to Reason suggests that we Christians learn how to encourage debate with nonbelievers by listening to their opinions. Straight talk by parties on all sides leads to the truth about the Lord. We we are standing on solid ground, we will not fail our God.
So why, then, do I duck and run for cover when “religious” discussions arise with unbelievers? Why am I unable to intelligently be an Elihu? I think it’s more the case that I am unwilling than that I am unable. Jesus said it this way in Mark 13:
“You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell them about me.[b] 10 For the Good News must first be preached to all nations.[c] 11 But when you are arrested and stand trial, don’t worry in advance about what to say. Just say what God tells you at that time, for it is not you who will be speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
At this time, free speech is still a right given to people in our country. I think what Jesus said here can be applied to ANY trial we find ourselves in where we have to stand and reason with others about Christ. Elihu did not take credit for his words, either.
“I learned all this firsthand from the Source, everything I know about justice I owe to my Maker himself.”
The Holy Spirit enabled him…and he can enable us to deliver straight talk of our own.