11–17 October 2015.
Job’s three friends have given up arguing with Job, unable to answer his questions about suffering and God’s justice. Then all of a sudden we find a fourth person there: Elihu. Our Old Testament scholars tell us that Elihu wasn’t originally part of the story, but that he was added in later especially to make fun of those orthodox Jewish teachers who thought they had all life’s answers.
Chapter 32 told us that Elihu is a young man with the simple answers typical of the young. He sees the world in a black-and-white way, and thinks he has all the answers. Elihu is a very angry young man. He arrogantly thinks he has “perfect wisdom” (see 36:4), and then gets even angrier because everyone just ignores him and his ideas.
Elihu is angry at Job because Job isn’t willing to just repeat the simple answers of faith. Elihu isn’t interested in comforting Job at all; all he cares about is defending “right ideas” about God, even if they go against our experiences of the real world. And Elihu is angry at the friends because they can’t convince Job of these so-called “proper answers”.
Elihu has no humility, or the experience or wisdom to understand that life isn’t so black and white, that life is more complicated than simple answers can solve. Full of pride and stupidity, Elihu thinks he can put himself in God’s place to act as judge, to judge Job and his three friends.
Back in chapter 15:2, Eliphaz had described Job as a fool full of hot air. But in chapter 32, the foolish Elihu describes himself that way! He is so angry, he is bloated with arguments, his belly is full of wind like a swollen wineskin ready to explode! But when our bellies are full of gas, we know where it comes out! So now in chapter 33, Elihu starts to “pass his wind”. And he is so arrogant and proud of himself that he demands everyone listen to the noise he makes!
When it comes to faith issues, and even everyday discussions, I hope none of us are like Elihu angrily “passing wind” on each other! I hope that instead we can talk calmly and humbly together with patience, trying to understand together the great mysteries of life and faith.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis