So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes.
Then Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, burned with anger. He burned with anger at Job because he justified himself rather than God. He burned with anger also at Job’s three friends because they had found no answer, although they had declared Job to be in the wrong.
Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job because they were older than he. And when Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, he burned with anger.
Job 32:1-5 (ESV)
Now here is a man that lived up to his name.
Elihu means “God is his strength.”
The God who truly requires no introduction is ever so gracious that He prepares the way before Himself: tilling the hardened earth of our hearts as best as it will allow so that His word might not go forth in vain. He needs no witness from the mouth of a man, yet in mercy he sends one. He sends the voice crying out in the wilderness, uprooting the excuse of men and exposing their great need of the One coming. These voices are held in contempt by those that are wise in their own eyes; but they are considered of God a blessing unto His people. (Elihu was a Buzite, which literally means “contempt;” and his father’s name Barachel means “God has blessed”.)
Such a blessed voice was this Elihu. For after the seeds of discord and confusion were sown by those three fools called “friends” of Job, this little-remembered young man delivers his word immediately before the Almighty boasts of His majesty, and is never mentioned again. The Lord never rebukes this one: indeed, He begins right where Elihu leaves off and even expounds upon much that he said. This man was a sword long sharpened for a particular day of war, to cut asunder the lies of one man’s heart; he was a choice arrow crafted for a single flight, to pierce one target reached by no other; he was a treasure-trove of precious gems, fashioned for the day of lack: he was the witness of God among the profane, that their babbling mouths might be shamed through the foolishness of preaching.
The words of Elihu are words of great offence to the religious heart. It is no wonder that he is left so forgotten. He is a sort of prophet – not one trained of men, nor versed in “higher thought;” but of the simplicity of true wisdom found only in the stillness of God’s voice…
And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said: I am young in years, and you are aged; therefore I was timid and afraid to declare my opinion to you.
I said, Let days speak, and many years teach wisdom. But it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand. It is not the old who are wise, nor the aged who understand what is right. Therefore I say, Listen to me; let me also declare my opinion. Behold, I waited for your words, I listened for your wise sayings, while you searched out what to say. I gave you my attention, and, behold, there was none among you who refuted Job or who answered his words.
Beware lest you say, “We have found wisdom;” God may vanquish him, not a man. He (Job) has not directed his words against me, and I will not answer him with your speeches.
They (Job’s friends) are dismayed; they answer no more; they have not a word to say. And shall I wait, because they do not speak, because they stand there, and answer no more? I also will answer with my share; I also will declare my opinion. For I am full of words; the spirit within me constrains me.
Those who know their God are ever ruined for Him: they cannot stand to bear the prattling on of carnal men, who love to pit fool against fool and declare the craftier wise. The end of all human thought without God is emptiness and confoundment.
Elihu observed all of this with eyes quite unhindered by the scales of man’s reasoning: he beheld the folly of Job’s defence as well as the folly of his accusers, for he beheld the manifold wisdom of the sovereign Lord. From within his belly there groaned a burden of righteous angst not of his own making; and from within his very bones there kindled a holy fire destined to enflame the words of his mouth.
Like the pressure of a great river held back by a dam, he longed after the very desire of God for those waters to be liberated as is their nature – for the word of God is not bound. Those who truly have the word of God within them have also its desire at work in them. These have given up the futility of their own hearts for the in-filling of God’s heart. Those who so know their Maker speak of what they have seen and heard in the secret of His counsel, seeking not the approval of man, but of their Lord.
Behold, my belly is like wine that has no vent; like new wineskins ready to burst. I must speak, that I may find relief; I must open my lips and answer. I will not show partiality to any man or use flattery toward any person. For I do not know how to flatter, else my Maker would soon take me away…
…My words declare the uprightness of my heart, and what my lips know they speak sincerely. The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
Job 32:19, 33:3-4
These are not the words of arrogance, but of humility’s confidence. Elihu did not come wielding the word of the Lord; the word of the Lord came weilding Elihu. The word was the wine, the man was the wine-skin; and this man recognized that such was the righful order. His rebuke was not to destroy Job, but to show him the right. It was to remind his self-justifying friend of God’s kindness and forebearance so that he might repent back to the eternal blessedness of the Name he had once rested in.
Behold, I am toward God as you are; I too was pinched off from a piece of clay. Behold, no fear of me need terrify you; my pressure will not be heavy upon you.
Job had begun well in his suffering, and was commended for the saying “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” [For the scripture thereafter says, “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” (Job 1:22)] But Job did not continue in this right and humble frame of spirit. For thereafter he began to rather pity himself; and in response to the false accusations of evil suspicion from his friends, he attributed their folly to God and counted his sufferings unjust.
Surely you have spoken in my ears, and I have heard the sound of your words. You say, “I am pure, without transgression; I am clean, and there is no iniquity in me. Behold, He finds occasions against me, He counts me as His enemy, He puts my feet in the stocks and watches all my paths.”
Behold, in this you are not right. I will answer you, for God is greater than man. Why do you contend against Him, saying, “He will answer none of man’s words?”
For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men, while they slumber on their beds, then He opens the ears of men and terrifies them with warnings, that He may turn man aside from his deed and conceal pride from a man; He keeps back his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword.
There is no injustice with God: He works great evil unto the good for those that are with Him. He turns loose the very hords of hell to prove the mettle of His servants; and He delivers them from the gates of destruction, that they might see how their God delivers destruction back unto the enemy’s gates. The sufferings of the present time are the growing pains of the Life begotten of God within the creature. It is of mercy that He will not relent, and it is of wisdom that we should submit ourselves to the knife of our skilled Physician. The Lord will ever draw out His own unto the brink of despair, that they may learn the trust of Him – the faith which is called heavenly vision. He will expose the self-preserving heart by any means until it at last cries aloud, “It is well! You have declared my soul Your own, here it is for safe-keeping, as I cannot preserve myself, nor endure unto the end. But with You it shall be possible.”
Man is also rebuked with pain on his bed and with continual strife in his bones, so that his life loathes bread, and his appetite the choicest food. His flesh is so wasted away that it cannot be seen, and his bones that were not seen stick out.
His soul draws near the pit, and his life to those who bring death. If there be for him an angel, a Mediator, one of the thousand, to declare to man what is right for him, and He (the Mediator) is merciful to him, and says, “Deliver him from going down into the pit; I have found a ransom; let his flesh become fresh with youth; let him return to the days of his youthful vigor;” then man prays to God, and He accepts him; He (God) sees his face with a shout of joy, and He restores to man his righteousness.
He (the man) sings before men and says: “I sinned and perverted what was right, and it was not repaid to me. He has redeemed my soul from going down into the pit, and my life shall look upon the light.”
Behold, God does all these things, twice, three times, with a man, to bring back his soul from the pit, that he may be lighted with the Light of Life.
Much more was also declared by the mouth of Elihu before the Lord spoke to Job from the whirlwind; but this I hope has introduced the essence of it. It is wisdom greatly despised by the world, and often forgotten by God’s people. He aquired his knowledge from heaven afar, he ascribed righteousness to his Maker; his words were not false, but perfect in knowledge. He declared purity in the heart by the loving of God’s justice, and trust in the Lord by the disciplines of His mercy.
Though perhaps little more than a youth, he yet spoke from what he had both seen and heard in the Lord.
God was his strength.