“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion” (Prov. 18:2).
These are words of rebuke for the fool in all of us. For even if you are one to hold back in silence, can you remain silent for long? In today’s reading from Job, Elihu has waited and patiently listened. He has heard the rather dismal advice of Job’s friends (Bildad, Zophar, and Eliphaz), and he has heard the defense of Job, but anger burns within him from the self-righteousness and inadequacy of their words.
[Above: The Wrath of Elihu by William Blake, c. 1805]
So finally Elihu speaks, but is there really much more wisdom in his understanding? Here in these chapters, Elihu makes some noteworthy points, emphasizing the sovereignty and wisdom of God with the comparative smallness and creatureliness of man. However, as Mike Mason puts it in The Gospel According to Job, “despite all the good that might be said of Elihu, the fact remains that he really is an astonishingly pompous little windbag.”
In the book of Job, we have followed about thirty continuous chapters that both directly and indirectly seek to petition God for an answer to the cause of Job’s miserable position in the pit of suffering, yet none of the discourse seems to warrant an answer from the Almighty. Finally, however, we will soon see that there seems to be something from Elihu which prompts a response (chap. 38).
Certainly Elihu is smart, though is it because of his God-given wisdom that Job and friends are blessed with a divine answer? Could our relationship with God possibly be reduced down to just Elihu’s approach? Perhaps, we wish to think, if I just study this situation enough and honor God appropriately and extensively, then the Lord will just have to answer me.
Isn’t this often our biggest problem with prayer? Sometimes we are troubled because God has seemed to answer the prayers of those around us, but has left us alone in confused silence. Or perhaps it is instead the frustration that he has answered certain prayers in the past, but seems to refuse to answer us when it comes to that thing that we really, desperately want to know.
Only one thing is certain: we are all fools in our understanding of God. For perhaps Elihu was just so foolish and long-winded that the Lord needed to interrupt him before he went on forever!
The Good News—which is actually worth saying again and again while we may be praying and praying and waiting for God to interrupt us as he interrupted Elihu—is that God, in fact, has already interrupted our ramblings. In the midst of our aimless and miserable wanderings, about two thousand years ago God did break in and provide an answer to our yearning and confusion.
“Are you still so dull?” Jesus once asked (Matt 15:16, NIV). Yes, we were then—and yes, we are now. Thankfully, however, Jesus communicated what none of us ever could: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34, NIV).