Every now and then in life there is a situation that pops up which causes a person to be in need of sound advice.
For some people this happens more regularly than for others. However, with the multitude of challenges that life throws at us, there will be that one challenge or those few predicaments that would cause us to ask a lot of “Why?” questions. This was the type of situation that Job was dealing with. His trial was so severe because he had lost so much of what he had acquired and worked hard to establish. He was not only in mental turmoil – the physical pain from the boils that engulfed every part of his body was excruciating. Amid the stench of Job’s situation, Job’s three friends: Bildad, Zophar, and Eliphaz had words of strong rebuke for him. Words which were so incorrect that God said:
“…I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has. 8 So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” Job 42:7-8 (NIV)
However, there was one man who came to speak with Job while Job was being afflicted by Satan. This man’s name was Elihu. But, besides being the youngest and waiting to speak after Job’s three friends had finished their admonitions, Elihu’s advice was never rebuked by God. Elihu’s advice had a power, clarity, and hope that was distinctively positive and empowering – one that God did not rebuke.
Elihu began his words of inspiration by indicating that none of Job’s friends had proved Job wrong – none of them had answered his arguments. He went on to emphasize that they should allow God to refute Job:
12 I gave you my full attention.
But not one of you has proved Job wrong;
none of you has answered his arguments.
13 Do not say, ‘We have found wisdom;
let God, not a man, refute him.’ – Job 32:12-13 (NIV).
I know what it feels like and I am sure many can also testify like me of some occasion when someone who is your friend begins to give you advice without wisdom. Elihu felt that Job’s friends were evading Job’s arguments and definitely failing to address the real issue. Having identified this growing situation Elihu delves into the meat of his encouragement to Job in an effort to keep Job’s faith focused and strong.
What made Elihu’s advice powerful?
The power of Elihu’s advice was built upon his determination to be impartial. Elihu saw that because Job’s friends were not in Job’s situation they felt at liberty to talk – not knowing the full facts about Job’s suffering. As we discovered in Job 2:3-8 (NASB) – The agony and hardship Job faced was because of Satan and his wicked agenda to destroy Job.
Another strength of Elihu’s advice was his ability to remove flattery from his lips.
21 I will show no partiality,
nor will I flatter anyone;
22 for if I were skilled in flattery,
my Maker would soon take me away. – Job 32:21-22 (NIV).
The power of Elihu’s advice was also found in Elihu’s confidence in the righteousness of God. Elihu was not only confident in the righteousness of God but he also acknowledged his own fragility as a man just like Job – as one taken from clay.
6 I am the same as you in God’s sight;
I too am a piece of clay. – Job 33:6 (NIV)
Elihu did not fail to emphasize that although Job was suffering and felt abandoned – God is greater than man – :
6 I am the same as you in God’s sight;
I too am a piece of clay.
I am the same as you in God’s sight;
I too am a piece of clay.
7 No fear of me should alarm you,
nor should my hand be heavy on you.
8 “But you have said in my hearing—
I heard the very words—
9 ‘I am pure, I have done no wrong;
I am clean and free from sin.
10 Yet God has found fault with me;
he considers me his enemy.
11 He fastens my feet in shackles;
he keeps close watch on all my paths.’
12 “But I tell you, in this you are not right,
for God is greater than any mortal.
Elihu further highlights that God is just. In my own life, just like Job I sometimes feel like Job in Job 34:5-6:
5 “Job says, ‘I am innocent,
but God denies me justice.
6 Although I am right,
I am considered a liar;
although I am guiltless,
his arrow inflicts an incurable wound.’ – Job 34:5-6
However, this kind of thinking is inaccurate and as Elihu puts it:
“…Far be it from God to do evil,
from the Almighty to do wrong.
11 He repays everyone for what they have done;
he brings on them what their conduct deserves.” – Job 34:10-11 (NIV)
Elihu’s advice also highlights the fact that as humans we have so much limited knowledge which requires us to humble ourselves in the presence of of such a Just and All-Knowing God whose creative and sustaining power is beyond our greatest imagination. Elihu goes on to say:
35 ‘Job speaks without knowledge,
And his words are without wisdom.
36 ‘Job ought to be tried [a]to the limit,
Because he answers like wicked men.
37 ‘For he adds rebellion to his sin;
He claps his hands among us,
And multiplies his words against God.’” – Job 34:35-37 (NASB)
Elihu’s powerful advice also affirms that God is mighty and does not hate us.
5 “Behold, God is mighty but does not despise any;
He is mighty in strength of understanding.
6 “He does not keep the wicked alive,
But gives justice to the afflicted.
7 “He does not withdraw His eyes from the righteous;
But with kings on the throne
He has seated them forever, and they are exalted. – Job 36:5-7 (NASB)
Another highlight of Elihu’s advice is his emphasis on the exalted impeccability and precision of God’s teaching methods.
22 “Behold, God is exalted in His power;
Who is a teacher like Him?
23 “Who has appointed Him His way,
And who has said, ‘You have done wrong’?
24 “Remember that you should exalt His work,
Of which men have sung.
25 “All men have seen it;
Man beholds from afar.
26 “Behold, God is exalted, and we do not know Him;
The number of His years is unsearchable. – Job 36:22-26 (NASB)
What makes Elihu’s advice so excellent is the quality of the encouragement that he extended to Job. He told Job to remain faithful to God by refusing to take bribes. He also encouraged Job to beware of those people and circumstances that might entice him to turn to evil. Elihu was able to capture and expose the essence of the mind games that Satan plays upon us as humans. Satan wants us to believe that affliction, hardship and trials are worse and more painful than turning from evil – but this concept is so false! It is always best to stay in the hands of God who can take us through and out of every affliction, hardship and trial!
Finally, Elihu encouraged and counseled Job 36:26-29 (NASB) and Job 37 (NASB) to behold the Jaw-dropping Majesty and Awesome Power of God and to realize that as men and women there are lots of questions we can not answer and things we do not know about the power of God and how He has created the wonderful world we see and how He continues to sustain life throughout the universe. If it were not for the powerful hand of God’s mercy protecting us from the schemes and crimes of Satan and his staff things would have been much more devastating on earth!
Praise God today for “modern-day Elihus” who allow themselves to be blessed by God to encourage us in our times of distress and hardship!