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Elihu vs. Job: Righteous Man of God rebuked by God’s Prophetic Messenger
Job may be the oldest Bible book written in the times of the patriarchs. The Lord is a revealing communicating God Who made Himself known to Abraham in Ur of the Chaldees. Job from the land of Uz may have been a near contemporary who not only knew about Abraham’s God the Lord but had a personal living relationship with Him. Much of the poetic discourse of Job’s speeches has strong echoings of what King-Prophet David would compose and recite ten centuries later. Job’s three accusing friends share his revealed knowledge of the Lord based on their repeated statements. But Elihu seems to take wisdom and insight about the Lord to a deeper higher level that evidently eludes the other four believers in God. Nothing he exclaims or explains in six chapters of the Book of Job contradicts or disagrees with the revealed truths spoken by his audience. In fact, what Elihu declares and reveals coincides with what the Lord Himself majestically pronounces from heaven itself at the end of the book.
Elihu’s name in Hebrew means ‘My God is He’. He repeatedly claims his words and message are ‘perfectly complete in knowledge’, even inspired by God’s Spirit in granting him true wisdom to address the complex situation Job finds himself in. After listening patiently for days or weeks to the back-and-forth between Job and his accusers, Elihu is angry at Job’s failed attempt to justify or prove his mistreatment at God’s hands as if being unjustly punished for unknown crimes or offenses. Job feels God-handled by the Lord and manhandled by his friends, all the while maintaining his obvious innocence based on his public track record of a righteous life of fearing God while shunning evil – and everyone knows it, including God Himself! Elihu is also upset at the accusers who have failed to provide godly righteous response to both Job’s situation and his unrighteous handling of it if he is in fact so righteous as he makes himself out to be. Elihu’s righteous indignation at Job and his friends’ mirrors God’s own anger expressed from the stormy whirlwind direct from heaven itself. Although Elihu has no accusation for Job’s conduct before the affliction, there is plenty of material for Elihu to draw from on how Job dealt with his affliction. In fact, he warned Job to be careful lest he brings both justice (what Job was seeking from God) and judgment upon himself (what Job was feeling while perceived as God’s victim).
Nowhere are Elihu’s claims denied or rebutted. Job remains silent during Elihu’s rebuke. In fact, close study of Elihu’s words immediately followed by the Lord Himself speaking from heaven reveals strong correlation in both form and content with what is relayed to Job. There is also a striking seamless segue between Elihu’s message and the Lord’s appearance as if Elihu is acting as an opener, usher, official aide introducing and preparing the way for Job’s long-labored-prayed for audience with the Lord Himself- in-Personal-dialog. Job has been impudently rashly pridefully insolently self-confidently demanding to receive a fair, sympathetic hearing from God as Judge meting out premature and unwarranted judgment more than undue. Elihu sharply reminds him, as the Lord Himself will soon enough, that Job has no such standing as a mere sinful mortal before the Almighty Sovereign Ruler of the universe. Will the judged accuse the Judge?
The Lord expresses strong displeasure with Job repeatedly while speaking to him from the Shekinah Glory Cloud. Only when Job repents despising himself in dust and ashes of abject worship and humility confessing that he had no right to judge the Righteous Judge does the Lord grant reprieve, release, remedy, reconciliation, remission, and restoration. Righteous Job was no less righteous by faith’s trust in his God and was not in any sense in need of reconversion or rejustifying. Like Peter’s three denials falling into temptation and to some degree failing the tribulation test, Job’s righteous faith was refined, exposing spiritual defects needing heavenly purging and purifying toward perfecting growth in fear, faith, and fellowship with his God. Finally, the Lord then makes clear His anger at the three accusers who have not spoken of God what is right as Job now has post-epiphany, but graciously offers them full pardon and justifying mercy as well. Elihu goes noticeably unrebuked by the Lord.
Elihu is portrayed as a prophetic figure, fully human with an earthly ancestral lineage (Buzite, family of Aram – Gen. 10:23; 22:21 descent). All he is quoted as authoritatively rebuking and correcting Job comports with Scripture truths elsewhere and with the Lord’s own quoted voice when Elihu is finished speaking. He is most likely the author of the book as an eyewitness and earwitness of all that transpired, putting him in solid company with Enoch and Noah before him as prophetic preachers of righteousness, and with Samuel and Isaiah after him who also authored their announced material. Of course, the Book of Job is not exhaustive or a complete transcript of weeks or more of dialog. It is a selection of excerpts summarizing the conversations much like the Gospels and Acts. One could wish for more, but the Lord saw fit to record the highlights as best essential revealing of His sovereign lovingkind fearful compassionate mercy for believers’ maximum benefit in digest form.
That’s why some of the responses to Job’s anxieties and complaints against God in his afflicted anfechtungen (griefs, miseries, woes) include quotes from Job that are not word for word, but capture the gist of his laments in compressed synthesis as composite of portions of his outbursts that couldn’t be left to stand unaddressed.
When Elihu states that Job said, ‘It profits a man nothing to delight in God’ (34:9), much of what Job is recorded as saying can be condensed into that sentiment (‘If this is how God treats me, what’s the point in being righteous vs. not? Look what the unrighteous get away with unscathed and this is the reward I get? If my level of consistent conscientious God-fearing wise living only invites such persecution at the Lord’s hands, just what lofty bar of conduct would satisfy God anyways? I fondly recall delighting in God when all went well and He honored me with heaven’s blessings, but now? Dishonor? Shame? Reproach? Injustice? Stench and taste of Sheol for the undead? Humiliated mockingstock publicly? I can’t even force myself to put on a happy face under these godawful grievances. Even if I could gin up a smile, it wouldn’t be enough to win God’s favor to bring relief anyhow. Hopeless, unachievable, why bother if this is all it gets me? Have Him just leave me be to the grave and I’ll catch up with Him on the other side when this is all over.’ Parallel to Solomon’s regretful reminiscing of ‘vanity’, ‘evaporating, up in smoke’, ‘all for naught?’ of Ecclesiastes.)
- The Lord Himself is the central star with top billing lead role in the true drama. Beginning, middle to end: The Lord remains true and trustworthy with all that is past, passing or to come. One can almost compile a compendium of systematic theology attributes of God in seed form that are an outline of what Job, Elihu and the Patriarchs knew from personal revelation and experienced relational dealings with the Most-High God of Glory. He stays Just, Fair, Holy, Good, Righteous as Job’s only hope and mainstay: The Lord gives, the Lord takes away; the Lord bestows, the Lord withholds; the Lord afflicts, the Lord uplifts; He disciplines, He comforts; He abases, then graces. The drama unfolds with the Lord speaking in heaven and concludes by the Lord speaking out of heaven.
- James gives a concise commentary on Job with just one verse (5:11): ‘You have heard of Job’s perseverance seeing what the Lord ultimately brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.’ When God allows you to be ‘Jobified’, His tenderness and sympathy will keep you justified, fortified, satisfied by Christ within you.
- The Book of Job has in seed form many crucial teachings of the Christian faith, from judgment to resurrection to atoning sacrifice for sin forgiveness to sanctified living to mercy ministry toward the needy to God’s sovereignty vs. human responsibility to the Holy Spirit’s heavenly constructive working in creation and in man.
- There are many parallels or takeoffs from Genesis including Satan, Adam, the fall into sin, the worldwide flood, animal offerings, prayer and worship, fear of God. Abraham reminds the Lord interceding for Lot in Sodom, ‘Will You sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?’ Much of this was commonly revealed knowledge familiar to Job and his friends and perhaps more widespread as God saw fit to make Himself known in the ancient world of the patriarchs including Melchizedek King-Priest of Salem and his realm, Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Lot and the extended family in Ur and Haran (with whom Abraham must have shared his conversion from paganism to the Lord). But for Elihu to have composed the book, the Lord must have audibly revealed the mystery he was not privy to as eyewitness, namely the heavenly confrontation between Himself and Satan that triggered the entire scenario. (Job likely was belatedly informed off the record, especially if the account was published during Job’s remaining 140 years).
- Further parallels with Apostle Paul, Peter and other persecuted Christ-disciples. Paul’s thorn in the flesh (angelos satana in Greek, messenger/delivery of Satan) may have brought Job’s trials and torments to mind driving him to hope and comforting grace in the Lord and encouragement in the Lord’s Scriptures praying in the Holy Spirit’s interceding groans, psalms, supplications, laments, mournings and appeals for mercy and prevailing peace during prolonged pathos.
- An entire ‘theology of suffering’ finds its earliest expounding with Job, both in principle and practical experience perfectly dovetailed as lived out in real life with perennial permanent global application transcending time and culture. The answer to suffering is not ‘this is why…’ but ‘God is Who is All for you.’ Leave any ‘why this? why me?’ to the Lord who is intimately lovingly mercifully faithfully worthy of worship and fear and love and trust and obedience Who is always with you and for you in and through no matter what Satan, sin, self, suffering cursed world can inflict upon you. What others mean for evil and we misconstrue as horrid or undue or intolerable, the Lord means for good like heavenly sandpaper, soldering iron, smelter, scalpel, chemo, labor pains, self-denying mortification of sinful flesh to perfect and mature our faith preparing for heavenly glory.
- Elihu prophetically reveals deeper wisdom and insight about the Lord in light of Job’s ordeal that Job himself or his accusers are oblivious to in their counsel. A righteous person can germinate evil in over-reliance on their own righteous resume’ before God and others; God has full sovereign yet loving right to allow life’s pressures to reveal true character, polish and perfect raw rough uncut natural state to gem quality for His glory and our benefit; turning up the heat can brighten the light of God into our life; God tests and tries our justifying (saving relational) righteousness so it justifyingly proves its genuineness in no other way but affliction; growth in perfecting grace comes by growth in repenting which comes by exposal of our true condition and stage-one issues that can respond to early yet painful treatment before metastasizing (if already stage-two or greater, the more painful the treatment cure to prevent fatal damage); God being God, of course, He always knows what He is doing as absolutely Trustable and Worthy of utmost fear, worship, respect and praise despite all temptation otherwise; Pride precedes destruction and a haughty spirit sets up a fall’s big fail (Solomon would include this in his Proverbs, Peter would learn this the hard way.); Focus on how Good and Great God always remains in all moments, not on how bad or bad off you happen to be at the moment; compared to God, any claim of righteous is wretcheous; the creature no matter how exalted or wise or gifted can never outsmart, outwit, outmaneuver, outmatch or even dream of being on equal peer terms with the Creator, His thoughts, methods, motives, plans, ways as if a bug stood a chance up against Behemoth or a leaf vs. Leviathan!
- The Lord out of love rebukes and disciplines Job with a view toward earnest repenting of unwise, foolish, ignorant speculations about God and His Ways; offering false ungodly counsel to his audience which offended God Himself in the process; discrediting God’s Justice by substituting his own faulty notion of what ought to be just by mere mortal measures and sinful standards diminishing God’s reputation and disgracing His Supreme Honor; putting words in God’s mouth swapping out the Lord’s revealed (and unrevealed secret) truth for his own puny truisms as equal or superior pronouncements on how God’s universe should be run, governed and regulated especially pertaining to his selfish limited parochial defensive perspective; Job had a worldview of God, but lacked a fuller heaven-view; ingratitude failing to appreciate that if God’s Hand were truly fully against him, the story would have ended at Chapter 2 in Sheol or somewhere worse!; Job should have humbled himself like the parable taught, ‘God, be merciful to me such a sinner!’ instead of exalting himself, ‘God, be merciful to me as such a righteous man ought to be treated, the way You used to treat me! It’s shocking and shattering and godawful to be so Godforsaken when I have always been so God-favored?!’ The good news: God calls Job ‘My servant’ four times at the end of the book, just what He regarded Job at the book’s beginning. (See Apostle Peter’s triple restoration by the Lord Jesus in John 21).
- While not quoted directly in the New Testament, like Joseph and Isaac and Jacob and Joshua, Job can be spiritually discerned as a prefiguring Christ-type in the Old Testament. Many, many references in Job have uncanny allusions and echoes to Psalms, Isaiah and other Messianic prophecies that find fulfillment in the Lord Jesus as the Ultimate Suffering Servant Man of Sorrows Lamb of God Sin-Bearer Crucified Prisoner Exchange for sinners resurrected from grief to glory Pioneer of Pious Pain. God-forsakenness has been man’s lot since Adam’s fall. What David prophesied in Psalm 22 was proto-experienced by Job to unspeakable depths and fulfilled to an infinite eternal degree in Jesus’ body and soul on sin’s cross, absorbing the wrath of galactic hell as the Righteous in place of the unrighteous to win us heaven with God.