Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Elihu speaks at Last

There is wisdom in waiting to speak.

Job 32:1-22 (ESV)

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.

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 has not directed his words against me, and I will not answer him with your speeches.

“They 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. or I am full of words; the spirit within me constrains me. 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.”

Job was wrong to justify himself. He may be blameless and upright but he’s not without sin. His challenge to God is wrong, and he’s going to get taken to the woodshed for it.

There’s also a lesson in Elihu’s struggle over whether to speak up. He correctly sees himself as junior to everyone else, and he bites his tongue for a long time.

But when it’s clear that Job is done and the other three men ceased to answer Job, he sees his opening. We don’t know whether Elihu was praying about whether he should speak, but it looks like he was. His opening is totally clear – and the text highlights that.

It feels like a sign.

Christians make a lot of errors in this area. We speak when we should stay quiet, and we stay quiet when we should speak. Usually, hesitating to speak is wise, but failing to speak up when it’s needed can be a big mistake. Mature Christians welcome criticism from others, especially their juniors. Even when it’s off base, that just creates a teachable moment.

But taking your time and praying about this is the key. It’s an interesting form of prayer too. You don’t need any words; you just “connect” and wait for Him to respond. If there are any words from your end, they’re something like, “Ok, what now?” Or, “I’m listening.”

The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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