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Devotions on the Book of Job (Tuesday, Week 13)

July 19, 2016 | by: Ben O'Donoghue | 0 Comments

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To echo the final phrase of Job 31 “The words of Job are ended”. We have spent several weeks listening to this man as he interacts with his friends and longs to hear from the Lord himself (see Job 31:35-37).

Job will finally hear from God- we will work through this when we gather next Sunday- but before he does, we have a new voice enter the fray. If you have the time to spare, read through the six chapters- four uninterrupted speeches- from Elihu (Job 32-37) and see if you can come to a conclusion as to what his longwinded words achieve…

There are essentially two views. The first- which we will summarise today- is that Elihu is to be seen as a positive and prophetic voice preparing the way for God himself to speak (the Old Testament equivalent of a John the Baptist I suppose). This view does not have many adherents, but there are some who see Elihu as being worth paying attention to.

Christopher Ash- who has been our able guide through much of this series- is one of them. And while I have agreed with him throughout this journey, and find his ultimate conclusions invaluable, I disagree with him at this point (more on this in Thursday’s devotion).

But, in the interest of seeing the alternative position, and in deference to Ash- from whom we have benefitted significantly thus far- I will summarise his reasoning.

Firstly, he notes the differences between Elihu and the other friends. He is given a genealogy (“Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite, of the family of Ram”), which seems to indicate weight and significance (note that no genealogy is given for Eliphaz, Bildad, or Zophar). He is given four speeches, more than any of the others. His speeches are not interrupted or answered, unlike the others’. And his speeches come in a critical position in the book and may naturally be regarded as being preparatory for the Lord’s words.

Secondly, he suggests that the message which Elihu brings is markedly different from that of the three friends: “[The friends] said that Job was suffering because he had sinned. Elihu says that Job has sinned because he was suffering.” In other words, the role of Elihu is to rebuke Job for his borderline disrespect of God. Ash writes:

“Again and again as we have listened to Job, we have had to gasp at his audacity in accusing God of injustice… Something within us hesitates when we hear Job speaking of God with such disrespect. It is not true that he is suffering because he has sinned. But it is true that because he is suffering he has said some sinful things. These will need to be corrected. Elihu begins the answering process that corrects him”.

Finally, Ash suggests that it is proper to take Elihu’s claims at face value unless there is clear reason to do otherwise:

“More than once Elihu implicitly claims divine inspiration for his words. If this is so—and I believe it is—then we are faced with a choice: either Elihu is a false prophet or he is a true prophet… It seems to me that without clear evidence to the contrary- either through God’s or the narrator’s explicit indicators, or through the un-Biblical nature of his doctrine- the natural reading of the text is that we should believe Elihu’s claims and take his words at their face value, as true prophecy from God".

As I said- I am not entirely convinced by Ash’s arguments. Nevertheless, it is helpful to consider the truth that Elihu speaks. He certainly has a heart for the sovereign and glorious justice of God! (look, for example at his closing words in Job 37:23-24)

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