I have a fan of University Challenge in my house. For those of our readers that don’t live in the UK, this is a quiz show where students from two different universities are set up against each in a battle of intelligence. But, as they are the elite of those universities, the questions are difficult and often very wordy. I can’t say it is one of my favourite shows but I enjoy watching when the know-it-all captain interrupts the question and gets it wrong. Sorry! The show host has a very British sarcasm and will often comment on the mistake as the rest of the question makes it plain that they were wrong. If there is one thing to take from this show it is that there is wisdom in waiting and listening before speaking.
The last chapter ended with “The words of Job ended.” So where do we go from here? We meet Elihu … another friend. We haven’t heard from him until now. Oh no, not another friend! Well, that’s what I thought anyway. But Elihu seems different. He has waited until the other three friends have run out of words. He has waited until everyone has spoken.
He had let them have their say because they were older, but like he says ‘It is not only the old who are wise, not only the aged who understand what us right.‘ Elihu has a point, one which Paul pointed out to Timothy.
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12
It was Elihu’s age that held him back originally as he states that he was fearful because they were older. There are lots of reasons why we don’t speak up or out. Being the youngest or the least experienced can be intimidating. But Paul’s encouragement to Timothy can be taken by us too. We don’t have to let the insecurities about ourselves demand our behaviour. Sometimes it is right to not speak, after all, Jesus chose to not defend himself, but there are other times we should not stay silent. Being afraid should not be the reason for staying in the shadows. Has GOD put something in you that you are avoiding because of fear? What is holding you back? Is it time for you to step over fear and speak up?
And so Elihu is stepping onto the stage to begin his six chapter long monologue. Yes, six chapters, so it is clear that he isn’t short for words. And, looking ahead a little, he is about to open up a new answer to Job as to why he suffers, and since not one of the friends has proved Job wrong, Elihu will not use their arguments. He comes at this from another angle. Often Elihu has been grouped with the other friends, but he is not like them and is worth listening to.
What will he have to say that hasn’t already been said? What other argument will he be able to bring? There is a clue as to why we should listen ….
It is the spirit [Spirit] in a person, the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding. Job 32:8
You know what, those little square brackets in the text can often help when we study the Bible. Ok, so sometimes they are just telling us a measurement that we understand, but other times it does this: ‘It is the spirit [Spirit] in a person …’. This is why we should listen. Elihu is saying that he thinks GOD, the breath of the Almighty, the Spirit has revealed some wisdom to him and given him understanding. This is why Elihu must speak up because GOD has showed him something that will change this all around. This is why Elihu has to step over his fearfulness. This should be the reason why we speak up too. Has GOD put something inside of you that needs to be ‘said’ (written, drawn, done, presented, declared, sung …)? Do you know that the ‘word’ that GOD has put into you has the ability change the atmosphere and environment around you?
I think we need to sit up because Elihu has begun to do just as Paul encouraged Timothy to do. He has not let anyone look down on him. Elihu may well be about to set an example in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity … he isn’t perfect, but his role in this story is essential.