Ever since I learned there are different characters speaking in Job, I've been careful to see who is speaking. After all, In Job 42:7 - 9, God dismisses the words of Job's three friends and says he'll forgive them only if Job prays for them. There is not a similar comment about Elihu, so I feel optimistic about learning something from him.
Elihu urges Job to think about God's power and majesty. Job has been focused on his own pain and misery. Any thoughts about God's power have been about God's power to afflict. I can't grasp the intensity and duration of Job's losses and suffering. Maybe someone in a prisoner of war camp could identify. Or someone with a painful chronic disease. Or someone in Moore, Oklahoma.
My complaints, painful as they feel at times, are petty compared to Job's. Like a child crying because she can't have the ice cream flavor she wants. As a believer, I have both the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit for comfort. Job had neither. He had teachings passed down from his fathers and his own experience. Based on Job's experiences, God is not a very nice person.
Elihu seeks to change Job's mind about God. At the Suffering Seminar, Elihu is the person who introduces God and his credentials. he talks a lot about the weather, which would have been maybe the only way to observe God's power and creativity. A modern day Elihu might have referenced atoms or astronomy.
I appreciate these comments Elihu makes.
But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction. He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food. (36:15 - 16, NIV)
I like that he says God "delivers in their suffering," not "from their suffering." I love the phrase, "He is wooing you from the jaws of distress." It contrasts with the heavy-handed God of Job's experience. Other translations use allured (ESV) and enticed (NASB).
I also appreciate Elihu's warning to Job:
Beware of turning to evil, which you seem to prefer to affliction. (36:21, NIV)
Job began his dark journey resolved to accept whatever from God's hand. I imagine my resolve would have been threadbare by this point. When I feel abandoned or rejected by another person, I tend to reject that person in response. In case Job is reaching that threshold with God, Elihu cautions him.
C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, "Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is....We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means--the only complete realist."
It's faith-challenging to walk through these issues with Job. I'm glad I know the ending of his story and my own.
c 2013 Roberta Tucker Brosius
Friends, Roberta was my roommate at Bible College. We continued our training at the same seminary, and now she has written five years' of curriculum to take high school students through the Bible. Not to mention the fact that she is a prolific devotional writer. She KNOWS the Bible, and it's my privilege to welcome her as a regular contributor. Check out her blog at http://www.robertabrosius.blogspot.com/