Lessons From Job: Elihu Defends God

In Job 32, we are introduced to another person who has apparently been there listening to everything Job’s friends – Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar – have said.  We learn he was a young man, and because of this he had waited for the older and supposedly wiser friends of Job to finish before he chose to add his input to the conversation. But he was now angry at what he had heard and felt compelled to speak.

In Job 32-37, we learn what Elihu has to say.

  • Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar blamed Job’s suffering on some past sins, which Job consistently denied. Elihu, however, focuses on Job’s present sin, that of speaking wrongly of God during his suffering. In this, Elihu was correct. 
  • While Job’s friends were focused on proving he deserved what had happened to him, Elihu was more concerning with defending God. He wanted Job to see that the things he was speaking against God were wrong.
  • One of the greatest tests we face in suffering is continuing to trust God’s love and goodness when we don’t understand why we are hurting. God did not answer Job’s “why?” questions, and Job had become angry at Him, accusing Him of denying him justice and making his life bitter (Job 27:2). 
  • Much of what Elihu says is basically repeating some of Job’s own words back to him. For example, in Job 13:23-24, Job said to God, “How many wrongs and sins have I committed? Show me my offense and my sin. Why do you hide your face and consider me your enemy.” Elihu paraphrases this in saying (Job 33:8-10), “But you have said in my hearing – I heard the very words – I am pure, I have done no wrong; I am clean and free from sin. Yet God has found fault with me; he considers me his enemy.”
  • Even though much of what Elihu said was correct, his words cannot all be taken as truth. For example, Elihu proclaims that God is answering Job’s questions – such as, “God, why is this happening to me?” – but Job just wasn’t listening (Job 33:13-14). This was not true. Even when God begins speaking to Job in the final chapters of the book, He does not answer Job’s whys.

(For more on God’s failure to answer Job’s whys, see last week’s article: https://readywriterbr.wordpress.com/2017/03/03/lessons-from-job-why-the-question-god-didnt-answer-for-job)

    So what can we learn by reading Job 32-37, where Elihu is speaking?

    1. Even when we have a wealth of Bible knowledge, like Elihu we will fall short in our attempts to understand the complexities of our own or others’ difficult circumstances. 
    2. Choosing to walk in faith in areas where we lack understanding is more important than having an explanation of what is going on.
    3. To place our faith in a person, we must first know he or she is trustworthy. Trials will touch our lives. No one is exempt. The best way to prepare ourselves to walk in faith when the tests come is to spend time in God’s Word, getting to know Him better. 
    4. Perhaps Elihu’s biggest mistake was having TOO MUCH to say. His monologue lasts through six chapters. Psalm 141:3 (NIV) says, “Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.” This is advice Elihu would have been wise to have followed. 

    Elihu had many words to share with Job, some wise and others not so wise.  He had a better understanding of the situation than Job’s friends, but not a perfect one. He rightly corrected Job for his wrong attitude toward God, yet not all he said was true.

     The only one with perfect understanding is almighty God, and next week we’ll look at what He said to Job. In the meantime, guard against allowing bitterness against God to take root in your heart (Hebrews 12:15) when you don’t understand your circumstances. Learn from Elihu that saying too much can be a bigger problem than saying too little. And if you find yourself in a place where you feel you need to speak with someone concerning their response to suffering, use your words sparingly, wisely, and with grace.

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