“Then I said, ‘Ah Sovereign Lord, I don’t know how to speak; I am only a child.’
But the Lord said … ‘You must go on whatever errand I send you.’“
Elihu: The Messenger of God
Now comes the part of the whole story that is my personal favorite, at least my favorite character. You see, sitting back and listening to everything that was being said was a young man named Elihu. He was never mentioned before, probably because he was too young to be noticed. But once he starts talking, there is no doubt he possessed a spiritual discernment unknown by the others.
It is pleasant to notice Elihu’s modesty and tact in entering the discussion with his elders. It says that his “wrath was kindled” against Job and the three friends. This is explained later when he talks about the constraining of the Spirit within him, so that he was “ready to burst.”
Ezekiel refers to this “heat of the Spirit” when the Lord had moved him to speak. Jeremiah spoke of God’s word being “in his heart like a burning fire” and being “weary of holding it in. Indeed (he) could not” (Jeremiah 20:9). When “the Sovereign Lord has spoken, who can but prophesy” (Amos 3:8)? “Woe to me, if I do not . . .” (I Corinthians. 9:16).
Who could blame Elihu? Here he was sitting there as he saw Job becoming more and more concerned about clearing his own character than justifying the love and character of God. He also watched as his elders condemned Job without mercy and never were able to find an answer to Job’s complaints or to explain to him God’s purpose.
Elihu realizes that he is in a very delicate position for a young man. How is he going to speak to these dignified seniors? He holds himself back, waits and watches for the right moment. If indeed the Spirit of God has chosen him to be the “interpreter,” he will wait until He opens the way for him.
That is where many of us miss it. We think that just because we have a message from the Lord, whether it is to a specific brother or sister or in a congregational time of worship, we have to give it now! Do you notice the urgency? I am sure we have all said, “Lord, what would you have me to say?” However, we also need to ask, “Lord, when would you have me say it?”
Proverbs 15:23 says: “A man has joy in making an apt answer and a word spoken in the right moment—how good it is!”
So finally, there is a pause. The friends “stopped answering Job” and “the words of Job are ended.” The Lord’s message comes to Elihu and he obediently speaks. He takes from the beginning a place of humility and acknowledges his youthfulness and confesses how he had shrunk from saying what was on his heart because of their age and his respect for them. He knows there’s “a spirit in man,” and that it’s “the breath of the Almighty” alone that gives understanding and not age or position. So he is going to be obedient to the Lord and boldly say “Listen to me” although he is young.
He had waited and listened very attentively to every word that the older men had “searched out to say” while they were reasoning with Job, but he saw that they had utterly failed to convince him. “Not one of you has proved him wrong and none of you has answered his arguments. Look, Job hasn’t said anything to me, so I’m not going to answer anything he said. All I want to do is speak for the truth, not revenge.”
After all that, Elihu pauses almost as if he was waiting for some kind of encouragement from them or something. But they just sit there.
“You sit there baffled and embarrassed with no more replies. Should I just sit here and wait because you haven’t said anything?” No, he must be faithful to God regardless of their silence. He has to fulfill his “part” in God’s purpose and give the light that has been given to him.
Many times, we fail to imitate his example. It seems that we need the support and encouragement of our listeners. Their silence intimidates us and consequently we miss the anointing of the Lord on our words. A portion of the Epistle of Barnabas says “When you are in the company of unbelievers, be careful how you use the Word of God. Do not cheapen it by introducing it at an inappropriate moment, when it may lead to ridicule or blasphemy.” This is wise counsel, but if the Lord has truly given permission to proceed, you cannot let anything hold you back. The Lord instructed Jeremiah very distinctly to “tell them whatever I tell you to say. Don’t be afraid of them, or else I will make a fool out of you in front of them because I have made you impervious to their attacks. They cannot harm you.” He told Ezekiel to “go to the people and whether or not they will listen, tell them: This is what the Lord God says!” Elihu had no choice. He must be obedient.
The older men had searched out what to say to Job and when they finally figured it out, it was powerless and unconvincing. Elihu was “full of words.” He was in every sense the messenger of God. The Spirit within him was pouring the message into his mind, so that he would have to speak to find relief. No matter how uncomfortable he felt because of his youth and position, he had no alternative but to deliver his message. He would beg their forgiveness if he did not speak as respectfully as he should but he did not want to show any partiality or do anything that would prevent him from giving the message of God. He did not want to use any flattering titles, he just wanted to be very frank, or the Lord would put him aside and he would not be entrusted with this honor again.
If you are interested, you can download the whole study of Job.
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