I recently made a post which introduced this thought, called: Entropy – Why God, the Universe, and Pain Exist
I mentioned, just briefly, the book of Job, and this prophet Elihu.
The book of Job is, perhaps, one of the most difficult books of the bible for most Christians to read. To the casual observer, the book seems like a relentless rant against an unfortunate soul who was just a good guy trying to serve the Lord. The book opens with what may be termed ‘an heavenly conspiracy’ against Job, after that the man loses everything he owns to random destruction. When it seems things couldn’t get any worse, an horrible plague of boils afflicts the man’s body, and his own wife – his only remaining immediate family tells him to curse God and die.
Following all of this Job has to try to intellectually defend himself against three of the greatest minds in the world during his day, as they all sit around and accuse Job of sin. Finally, after all these things befall him, and he has made a final frustrated attempt to justify himself, God appears and shows Job just how small and insignificant he really is.
Kind of a bummer of a plot-synopsis, no? At least that’s the book of Job at casual observance. There is, in fact, a much deeper, and far more profound understanding of the book – a book filled with hope, and answers for the troubled soul (should we be wise enough to perceive it).
There is one character in the book of Job who completely turns the scales, he upends all human philosophies, turns the tide in Job’s favor and paves the way for redemption. This character can also reshape our view of the book of Job, and thereby redeem an integral part of Christian theology if we understand him. Indeed it is that in considering the goodness of God, this book of Job returns to our minds a great hindrance to optimism as to His character – He who allowed such horrors upon Job, how will He not allow the same on the rest of His children? Yes, a wrong (or absent) understanding of this book becomes a blight upon our security in salvation, and of God’s intentions in the world.
And, there is a second reason that the book of Job is difficult for Christians to read. Not only is it a generally morose book, which calls us (ignorantly) into question of the goodness of God, but it is also not a book which is thoroughly authoritative in content. We know that Job is a book of the bible, and we know there is a lot of wisdom in it, somewhere, but we are not certain of which verses can be authoritative, and which are human presumption because much of what is said in the book is declared to be either false, or spoken in ignorance. For this reason, generally speaking, only the last few chapters wherein God is speaking, and the narration, itself can be considered authoritative scripture. We must find the key to unlocking this book, if we are ever to reap its full benefits, and understand how it applies to our lives.
Let us therefore look at this character, Elihu, whom we often allow to slip into the voices against Job as all the others. Allow me to share a few observances about Elihu from within the book, which will begin to paint us a picture of who this man was, and what he means to us.
The first thing to note about Elihu is actually at the very end of the book of Job. In the final chapter of the book, after God has corrected Job, He condemns the deeds of all of the counselors who spoke BEFORE Elihu. God tells them that unless Job make sacrifice for them, He would not forgive them their attacks on Job. As God has just corrected Job, and even renounced the work of the devil,
- Elihu is the only character in the entire book whom God does not correct, rebuke, discipline or condemn.
- Elihu is hidden until he speaks.
Another interesting point about Elihu is that he remains shrouded in mystery. From the beginning of the book, Job’s other counselors are named, but Elihu is not mentioned once until the 32nd chapter, when he begins his discourse. It is evident from what he says that Elihu has been present for the entire conversation from the first opening of Job’s mouth, yet Elihu is never mentioned or alluded to until at last, he speaks.
3. Only when all other voices have been exhausted does Elihu step in and speak. Elihu does not speak until the final hour.
4 Elihu is the only human representative who speaks on behalf of both Job, and God.
Finally, and perhaps most significant:
5. Immediately after Elihu’s discourse, God speaks to Job.
Now, there are a number of conclusions we can draw from each of these points, but I will here state what I believe becomes apparent of Elihu’s narrative in the book: Elihu is the typological representation of the Messiah in the book of Job. In fact he declares this himself near the begining of his speech when he says plainly:
Behold, I am according to thy wish in God’s stead: I also am formed out of the clay. (Job 33:6)
In this verse, Elihu plainly declares himself, who he is (and recall, he is not corrected by God): He declares himself to be in the place of God, but a man formed of clay. He IS (or at the least, represents in the story) Jesus Christ: both God, and man.
In the story (whether parable or real history) Elihu (whose name litereally means: ‘God of him’ which may beg the question: ‘God of whom?’ But who is this book about? Job, or, rather: God’s righteous people.) plays not only the role of justifier, redeemer, advocate, intercessor, and friend; he also plays the literal role of the man Jesus Christ.
Once we realize that Elihu is the Christ, all of the points I mentioned above about him come into perfect perspective: 1. God does not correct Elihu, because He would never correct Jesus, who is always in the perfect will of God. 2. Elihu is hidden until he speaks because the revelation of Jesus Christ was not granted unto man until He was ‘spoken’ (born) into the world. 3. Elihu did not speak until the counsellors were silenced because Jesus did not appear until all of the counselors of this world (the Law and the prophets) were found wanting. 4. Elihu is the only one of the counselors who sought to justify both God, and man because Jesus came as our advocate before a righteous God. 5. God spoke to Job after Elihu’s speech because the only way to God the Father is by Jesus Christ.
Now, as mentioned, the book of Job is difficult for Christians, because while there is a lot of wisdom in it, it is not a wholly authoritative book. We don’t know what parts, and what verses can be considered inerrant Truth. Yet now when we recognize that Elihu is (or at least represents) the Word of God: the man Jesus Christ, we now know that we can fully rely on his testimony, as well as on God’s. That gives us a full 6 more chapters of authoritative scripture in the book of Job by which to weigh all the other voices – and through which to understand the message of the book.
I think that this information, alone, is enough to set the captives free – if this changes your perspective of the book, you can study for yourself, and see redemption as the pinnacle of its message, but let’s look at a few more particulars that may help you with hope and expectation (faith) in your journey as it pertains to this book.
I’ll pinpoint a few highlights to help us right our perspective, so we can again be optimistic about the will of God for our lives in the face of the book of Job.
- The root of Job’s problem, and the error he DID fall into were not out of his heart condition (for the Word repeatedly declares he was righteous), but of IGNORANCE. Indeed, ignorance is the first (and consistent) issue which God finds in Job; the very first words He spoke to Job were these: ‘Who is this that darkeneth counsel BY WORDS WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE?‘ (38:2) Righteous as he was, Job (and his counsellors (excepting Elihu)) were in ignorance.
Now what, exactly, were they in ignorance about? And why did it need to be corrected, if Job was already righteous?
Let’s address the first question first. What was Job and his friends ignorant about? They certainly seemed to have wisdom. They certainly all had SOME knowledge of God through experience, and a degree of revelation.
Let’s start with this. As the readers of the book of Job, we are privy to knowledge that Job did not have. Because we could see what happened in the heavenly realm, the author of this book places the readers at a place of advantage over Job. You and I know from the beginning of the book that it was not God who afflicted Job; it was Satan. This is something that Job did not realize. From the beginning of the book Job declared:
‘…the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’ Now, the bible clearly declares that this is a righteous statement. In it, Job reveals that even if God’s intent were to destroy him, that he was going to bless the name of the Lord, anyways. It is an admittance that he does not understand the ways of God, or why God would ‘take away.’ In such a statement, Job proved himself that he was thoroughly righteous (by our words we will be justified, and by our words we will be condemned (Matt 12:37)). But this statement also reveals that he did not understand that it was not God, but the devil who afflicted him. Even as Elihu declares of God later, disrupting this misnomer: ‘…[God] will NOT afflict.’ (37:23)
You see, this mis-assignment of blame, this ignorance, runs through the entire book until Elihu clarifies the Truth. Job, and all of his counsellors know that God does not do evil; for this reason Job simply laments himself (and says a couple of things worthy of correction), and the rest of his counsellors, striving to justify why God WOULD afflict Job condemn him again, and again as guilty of sin.
Ignorance is the main element of the book, and the area in which God was pruning righteous Job by allowing (not causing) his circumstances. We often have a similar perspective in our day that I call ‘extreme sovereignty’ (forgive my rant against ‘Calvinism’) when we ascribe EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS to God. That is ignorance, and by default it makes God guilty of evil because evil happens – remember this is the central reason Job was corrected by God.
Here is the central thought of God’s correction of Job, it is found in chapter 40, at the end of verse 8:
‘…wilt thou condemn me that thou mayest be righteous?’
In his ignorance, Job had ascribed everything that had happened to him to God, both the good, and the bad. Job was certain of his own righteousness, but he was uncertain why a loving God would afflict him so. You see, the root of his problem was that he ignorantly believed that God was the author of EVERYTHING. If we believe He is the author of everything, then we are automatically ascribing the evil to Him as well as the good. We are righteous, God must be guilty, because evil exists. But as we know from New Testament revelation, it is ‘Every GOOD, and every PERFECT gift [that] is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.’
I could keep going, and I have more to say about Elihu, but lest this post be too overlong, I suppose I’d better leave off here and plan to write a part II.
God bless – ask questions below if you’ve got em’;)