John T. Willis

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Elihu--Part 2 [Elihu as Counselor]

Elihu begins his speeches in an entirely different way than Job's three friends. Job's three friends are VERY DEFENSIVE. They have a "chip on their shoulders." They are steeped in TRADITION. They are focused on ONE ARGUMENT, and one argument ALONE, namely, ALL RIGHTEOUS PEOPLE PROSPER, AND ALL WICKED PEOPLE SUFFER. In reverse, they assumed that Job must be a great sinner BECAUSE he was suffering. Job's friends were not concerned about Job's pain, Job's feelings, Job's losses, Job's experiences. Their only concern was to WIN THEIR DEBATE. Having raised as a child and young men, I was steeped in just this attitude. I thought religion was all about WINNING DEBATES. At that point in my life, I would have agreed thoroughly with Job's friends. We are RIGHT, and Job is WRONG. And if we can PROVE this, we are the ultimate Christians!!! WOW!!! What a warped view of religion. But it took me some time to study the Bible, have some significant experiences, and being taught by loving, understanding mentors to completely change my life. I am so thankful.

Elihu's approach was different. Elihu was not steeped in rigid tradition. Elihu was open to listen to others. Elihu was concerned first with Job as a person, not with winning a debate against Job. From now on, the debate falls away. Elihu patiently and lovingly guides Job from Job's horrible experiences and feelings to a marvelous experience with God. Obviously, I am not mesmerized by scholars who contend that Elihu simply "redundantly repeated" the arguments of Job's friends. Far from this!!!

Elihu begins, not with arguments, but with an attitude--an attitude of concern, empathy, love, and gentleness. This attitude of Elihu exudes from Job 32:6-33:7. This section falls into four segments or paragraphs or pericopes.

I. Elihu timidly offers his OPINION. Job 32:6-10.
a. Elihu timidly begins by confessing that Job and Job's friends are much older than Elihu, and thus Elihu was "timid and afraid" to declare his OPINION. Elihu continually reminds Job and all who hear that Elihu does not feel or believe that he knows everything and has solved all of Job's ideas and feelings and beliefs. See further 32:10, 17. Elihu honors older people, and seeks the experiences and ideas of older people. Verses 6-7.
b. Elihu openly confesses that he is completely dependent on God. Every human being, including Elihu and Job and Job's friends, exists ONLY because God is our Creator and Sustainer, and any understanding any of us has is due to God's will, God's insights, God's understanding. Verse 8.
c. Hence, neither old age or youth that is important, but God's will and God's way. Verses 9-10.

II. Elihu now addresses Job's friends. "You" and "your" are PLURAL. Job 32:11-14.
a. Elihu patiently "listened" to the arguments and words of Job's friends. BUT, Job's friends did not "confute" Job. If the two sides of this debate must be decided, Job certainly wins. The arguments of Job's friends are weak and not substantiated. Verses 11-12. [By the way, God verifies this clearly in Job 42:7].
b. In spite of the weak arguments of Job's friends, they STILL insist that they have found "wisdom," and God will prove that Job is wrong. Elihu says that it will be quite easy to show that their view is incorrect. Verses 13-14.

III. Elihu continues in Job 32:15-22.
a. Elihu reminds Job's three friends and the whole crowd listening that those three friends soon abandoned their debate. They had nothing more to say. Verses
15-17. The narrator of the Book of Job verifies this in Job 32:3.
b. Elihu declares that he "MUST" speak in light of all these incorrect words of Job's three friends. Elihu is like wine in a wineskin just ready to burst. If Elihu does not speak, he will "explode." Only by speaking can he have "relief." Verses 18-20.
c. Elihu promises that he will not take "partiality" in this discussion. He favors neither Job nor Job's friends. Elihu's only concern is to help Job in Job's great suffering and pain. Verses 21-22.

IV. Elihu beseeches Job to intervene at any point. Elihu does not appear as a debater, but as a counselor, ready to help Job in every way. Job 33:1-7.
a. Elihu humbly submits himself to God, his Creator and Sustainer. Verses 1-4. The statement in verse 4:
"The spirit of God has made me,
and the breath of the Almighty gives me life"
is NOT an arrogant claim that God has given Elihu a special revelation to solve Job's problems. Just the opposite. Elihu declares that he is totally dependent on God. Elihu's every "spirit" or "breath" comes from God. Each breath he takes comes from God. He is totally dependent on God. By implication, of course, all human beings, including Job and Job's three friends, are completely dependent on God--their very lives.
b. Elihu openly, gently, fervently beseeches Job to stop Elihu at any time and show Elihu that Elihu is wrong or headed in the wrong direction. He cries out to Job: "Set your words in order before me; take your stand." This is Job's "golden opportunity" to lay his court case before everyone. BUT, Job does not respond. Why? Could it be that Elihu is beginning to touch Job's heart by Elihu's ATTITUDE toward Job? Verse 5.
c. Elihu declares that he does not feel that he is superior to Job in any way. Elihu "was formed from a piece of clay." God, the great potter, created Elihu, and Elihu is completely dependent on God. The same is true of Job--and of all human beings. Verse 6. See the same metaphor in Genesis 2:7. The word "formed" in Genesis 2:7 is "potter" language.
d. Elihu has no intention to WIN a DEBATE against Job. On the contrary, Elihu wants to make Job comfortable and prepared to discuss Job's problems with Elihu and before God.

In my opinion, Elihu is headed in the right direction. In my opinion, Elihu is patiently preparing Job to listen to God. Now, we will turn to the major issues of Job for following blogs.

How do YOU respond? When YOU encounter preachers, elders, old people? Are they steeped in TRADITION? Are they open to listen and understand and empathize? We do not need DEBATERS. We need COUNSELORS, supporters, helpers. What kind of person are YOU? What kind of persons are your friends? Your church? Your family? Your community? We are now getting to the REAL issues of life. Share YOUR ideas with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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