Today I read the words of one of my favorite Bible characters and figured I would share what I learned from him. His name is Elihu and the only time he shows up in the Bible is Job 32-37. Job 32:6-8 and 17-22 explain the main truth that Elihu teaches about being a biblical man of God.
So Elihu son of Barachel the Buzite replied:
I am young in years,
while you are old;
therefore I was timid and afraid
to tell you what I know.
I thought that age should speak
and maturity should teach wisdom.
But it is a spirit in man
and the breath of the Almighty
that give him understanding…
I too will answer;
yes, I will tell what I know.
For I am full of words,
and my spirit compels me ⌊to speak⌋.
My heart is like unvented wine;
it is about to burst like new wineskins.
I must speak so that I can find relief;
I must open my lips and respond.
I will be partial to no one,
and I will not give anyone an ⌊undeserved⌋ title.
For I do not know how to give ⌊such⌋ titles;
otherwise, my Maker would remove me in an instant.
From this, I quickly recognize that Biblical men preach the truth despite their age. They learn truth so they can share it when need be.
Up to this point, Job’s friends were telling Job that the reason life was so bad was because he had unconfessed sin in his life and God was punishing him for it; oblivious to Satan’s claim that Job would curse God if God let bad things happen to him. Bildad, Zophar, and Eliphaz—not to mention Job and Elihu—had no idea why so many bad things were happening to Job, but they claimed it was due to sin, going off a very low view of God. One that says, “God is holy and He will punish sin, and righteousness will be rewarded.”
All Job can say is, “I’m innocent. I help people (16:4-5), I don’t lust (31:1, 9-12), I confess my sin—I know I have some I struggle with (7:20-21). God is still with me (13:15).”
This is why Elihu comes in with words blazing. Job admits he’s not sinless, and he does good for others, but all Bildad, Zophar, and Eliphaz can do is condemn him. After a long speech by Job about why this treatment by God is not about sin in his life, he stops talking and the original three don’t speak. This is when Elihu says, “I am young in years, while you are old; therefore I was timid and afraid to tell you what I know. I thought that age should speak and maturity should teach wisdom. But it is a spirit in man and the breath of the Almighty that give him understanding.” This is reminiscent of 1 Timothy 4:12, where Paul tells Timothy to “be an example to the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” Elihu is clearly an example of speech in what he says and conduct in how he says it. He doesn’t yell and interrupt, he waits for a pause in the conversation.
So, in addition to me learning truth to be able to share it when need be, I need to learn the proper way to do it. I need to not fight to be heard; I need to wait for people to listen to what I have to say.
The last six verses of Job 32 explain more. Elihu says,
I too will answer; yes, I will tell what I know. For I am full of words, and my spirit compels me ⌊to speak⌋. My heart is like unvented wine; it is about to burst like new wineskins. I must speak so that I can find relief; I must open my lips and respond. I will be partial to no one, and I will not give anyone an ⌊undeserved⌋ title. For I do not know how to give ⌊such⌋ titles; otherwise, my Maker would remove me in an instant.”
This goes to show that the truth of God is not meant to be held up inside of us. Elihu was about to explode, and I feel the same way often. However, the last two verses of the chapter are key. This goes to show exactly what Elihu was going to speak about. He wasn’t going to call Job a sinner or innocent, and he wasn’t going to blast the other three guys either. He was there to speak about God, and God alone. He wanted to point Job and his friends to God, and not himself. He even says that if he was to call them anything undeserved, God would remove him instantly.
If I’m going to be a man of God I need to preach the truth about God and let that convict people. I need to not just blast people about sin and judgment and then add the truth that Christ came for them. I need to preach that God is holy, righteous, all-knowing, creator, etc…
In closing, if you look at the end of chapter 37 and the beginning of 38, we see that heavy, true preaching of God will bring God’s presence and allow people to hear Him speak. Elihu says,
“‘Yet out of the north He comes, ⌊shrouded⌋ in a golden ⌊glow⌋;
awesome majesty surrounds Him.
The Almighty—we cannot reach Him—
He is exalted in power!
He will not oppress justice and abundant righteousness,
Therefore, men fear Him.
He does not look favorably on any who are wise in heart.’
Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind. He said:
‘Who is this who obscures ⌊My⌋ counsel
with ignorant words?
Get ready to answer Me like a man;
when I question you, you will inform Me.’” (Job 37:22-38:3)
Elihu concludes, and God begins His discourse to Job by asking him when he became the know-it-all about everything.
If I’m to be a man of God, I need to make sure I prepare the ground for God to do His work. I prepare the soil, but God plants and grows the fruit.
Do I study the truth in order to share it or just to make me feel good about myself? Is what I say really truth, or just my ideas?
God, let me use my knowledge to help others. Don’t let me keep it to myself. Keep my teachings sound, please.