Gordon E. Johnson

DEVOTIONALS from the Book of Job


God Has Another Voice for Job to Hear – Elihu

Job 32-33

Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute

Job and his friends have come to an apparent stalemate. Zophar, the third friend, did not even venture to take his turn. They had given up on Job. Theirs had been the voice of moral tradition with truths of value but, in fact, truths totally irrelevant to poor Job in his grievous condition divested of everything but his self-righteousness. But Job did have a deep faith to defend, indeed if not without some reason, he could defend it on the horizontal plane. But God had another and deeper purpose to fulfill. God would bless Job far beyond all measure of his temporary losses.

Jehovah in the epilogue clearly indicates His displeasure with the three friends. "And so it was, after the LORD had spoken these words to Job, that the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, ‘My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Jobhas'" (Job 42:7).

To the apparent stalemate Job's silence added a new dimension -- the terse and fateful words: "The word of Job are ended" (Job 31:40). But God had much more to present to Job through a most unlikely messenger, Elihu. The reader must bear in mind that God is ultimately in control of every circumstance; He may choose whom He wishes to speak His word--even Balaam's ass. That advice may be timely, correct but also mixed with human elements to be discounted in total dependence on God Himself and His Word.

In our need for guidance in the face of an important decision, the Word of God must be the final and determinative authority. Peter states it well: "We also have the prophetic word made more sure, which you do well to heed . . . for prophesy never came by the will of man, but holy men of Gods spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:19. 21).

There is also to be sought the biblical advice of spiritually mature believers and the providential circumstances which God introduces into our life. But as to our best knowledge, Job had no written Word to turn to. His friends had failed him by their much speaking and Job's circumstances were desperate. However, Job did have a sincere faith grounded in a God who communicates faithfully His will to His own in any age and in a variety of ways.

God's Messenger, Elihu the Younger   Job 32

The author sums up the present stalemate: "So these three men ceased answering Job because he was righteous in his own eyes" (Job. 32:1). Without any introduction we learn who is God's timely messenger, Elihu -- an unlikely choice, but one entrusted with truths never before unveiled to man, truths that will anticipate some of the precious truths of the New Testament. 

In this way we may glimpse how God communicated to Job precious truths that He would later set forth in the New Testament: the incarnation of God's ultimate messenger, the Messiah, the reality of our ransom through God's grace and His gracious provision of a "kofer", an atonement, a price paid in our behalf. What God brings to Job through Elihu adds significant support to Job's faith already tested greatly -- "The substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things nor seen" (Hebrews 11:1).


Elihu was an actual eyewitness to all the heated conversations between Job and his friends. As he listened to them, his spirit and understanding of God's way burned in his heart; he could not accept Job's self-justification (v.2) but his deference to age and custom would not allow his interruption (v.3). When no alternative was found, he bursts forth: "I am young in years, and you are very old. Therefore I was afraid, and dared not declare my opinion of you" (v.6). Elihu stresses his unique advantage as an onlooker, hearing both sides and their arguments. They had not convinced Job nor answered his words (v.12).

From the outset Elihu approaches the scene from a different perspective; "But there is a spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding. Great men are not always wise, nor do the aged always understand justice"  (vv.8, 9).  He infers that they did not understand that it was God who had vanquished Job or cast him down. He would send the humbling experiences to alert Job to his hidden pride.

The sin of pride and its consequences is a key concept and will be inserted frequently throughout the rest of book.  God must deal with pride. Elihu declares: "They [the friends] are dismayed and answered no more; words escape them. And I have waited, because they did not speak, because they stood still and answered no more" (vv. 15,16).  

With the friends silenced, Elihu is so sure of the truth that is in him such that he compares his spiritual condition to new wine in wineskins -- he is about to burst. With a God-given confidence, he has no other alternative than to open his lips and answer Job (vv.17-20). Again with courtesy and humility: "Let me not, I pray, show partiality to anyone; nor let me flatter any man. For I do not know how to flatter, else my Maker would soon take me away'' (vv. 21, 22).  Inferred in this statement is that God judges pride in any form.

With this burst of spiritual energy Elihu prepares to address Job. Earlier he had silenced the friends (v.16).  The messenger begins with a blend of courage, courtesy and God-given insight for a younger man. His masterpiece of interpretation of God's ways with man begins in Job 33. However, a word of caution, as with any human vessel, what may begin with God's truth may degenerate into a fleshly exercise of knowledge.

Elihu will be God's mouthpiece in this unique chapter in the Old Testament. But later  God's  messenger will be carried away by his own zeal and reverts to some of the accusations of the three friends. This reality becomes a reminder to us that all human counselling, as valuable as it may be, may revert to human and or fleshly advice.  It is no small honor and responsibility to be  a true spokesperson for God's truth.

Elihu and His Interpretation of the Ways of the Almighty     Job 33

Elihu now kindly asks Job to consider his words (v.1). They come from a heart in tune with God and grateful for the privilege to be God's voice; again we see his gracious approach. "The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life" (v. 4). He realizes that he is now God's deputy in his grasping the dynamics of Job's sufferings. Elihu reveals a touch of humility and a reminder to Job that he is "formed out of clay" as was Job. Job need have no fear of him (vv.6, 7). It becomes more evident than ever that Elihu on this occasion is a bearer of God's Word; his character and conduct indicate a good witness.

Elihu as a eyewitness remembers what Job had actually said. In referring to Job and what he said, he does not exaggerate it, nor does he personally evaluate it. A divine rule of thumb is that if there is going to be any real deliverance for sin's grasp, the reality of sin must be confronted squarely and fairly; Elihu does that without fanfare (vv.8-11). No solution can be found to what is not fully exposed, the sin for what it is. Pride provides such evasion and dishonesty. But there can be no final deliverance without a full heart confession and admission. Elihu confronts Job by simply repeating verbatim what Job had said and what he had heard.

Elihu does not paraphrase what Job has said but merely quotes the seven times Job uses the "I" and "my" in laying at God's doorstep the cause of his problem. Of course, it is obvious to us from the prologue that it was the satanic inter action in heaven that launched the suffering with God's full permission with specific restraints; nonetheless the creature can never judge the Creator. Elihu does go directly to the heart of Job's sin and flatly identifies it for what it is worth as God sees it. "Look, in this you are not righteous. I will answer you, for God is greater that man" (v.12).    

God through Elihu in one rhetorical question cuts through the verbiage to identify Job's sin. He took just a few words to accomplish that which earlier  had taken chapter after chapter of talk. "Why do you contend with Him? For He does not give an accounting of any of His words. For God may speak in one way, or in another, yet man does not perceive it" (vv.13, 14).  In brief, the problem is not ever God; it is rather man who does not grasp the divine intent of humbling the proud to be followed later in love and blessing. Elihu now will break new ground in the Old Testament world.

The Varied Ways of the Almighty – Dreams or Visions     Job. 33:15-18

Elihu will state in ascending degrees of worth how God, a faithful and a communicatory Dios, may on occasion speak to His own. If anything is learned about the sovereignty of God in the  book of Job, He rules absolutely in His creation; finally in His two reproofs of Job (Job 38-41) He devastates Job with 80 questions exclusively drawn from His physical world. Job cannot answer one question! How devastating!

Elihu begins with God's most common way in which He may speak--mere dreams, so often without special meaning. However, in Old Testament times God did use visions to reveal His truth. He confirmed his covenant with Abram while in a deep sleep. "Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him. Then God said to Abram: ‘Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and they will serve them and they will afflict them four hundred years'" (Genesis 15:12,13). This revelation became historically true in Israel's sojourn in Egypt.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

The Urim and Thummin afforded the priest on occasion access to God's will. Abiathar came to David with the "ephod." "It is reasonable to assume that this was the high priestly ephod, not the  ordinary ephod of priestly wear" [1] (1 Samuel 23:6). In the days of the prophets it was customary of the king to ask of God's counsel from the "man of God." David in the days of his ascendancy to the throne consistently sought and received  God's word through the faithful prophets of God.


God may speak in simple ways but always with a purpose in mind. Elihu addresses one divine purpose among many. "When a deep sleep falls upon men, while slumbering on their beds, then He opens the ears of men, and seals their instruction. In order to conceal pride from man, He keeps back his soul from the Pit, and his life from perishing by the sword" (vv.15-18). Remember that Elihu spoke thus to Job clearing indicating God's intent on speaking to Job. His purpose was crystal clear; Job must confront the cardinal sin of pride; the inspired author will highlight in many diverse passages that basic sin that raises the ire of God Himself.

The Origen of Pride    The First Sin to Appear in God's Celestial Universe    

The understanding of the heinous nature of pride is fundamental to a grasp of Job's sufferings and also many of ours.  So subtle is pride that we seldom recognize it in ourselves, especially the pride of self-righteousness. Pride is so evident in others but seldom accepted as our sin.

The appearance of pride in God's celestial universe is an unexplained mystery. Under the cover of the pride and power of the King of Tyre, God unveils the emergence of pride in heaven itself. "You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God . . . the workmanship of your timbrels and pipes was prepared on the day you were created. You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; you were on the holy mountain of God . . . Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you down to the ground" (Ezekiel 28:12-17).

Such a graphic description of a heavenly rebellion could not literally describe the fall of a mere mortal. The selfish assumption of a God-given beauty and privilege led to the first evil desire. God could never tolerate such a catastrophe in His heavens. Pride, the premier sin, God must treat with a perpetual curse wherever and whenever found in angels or man.  Such is the setting our Job's trials in the prologue and his later earthly response.

Isaiah virtually duplicates the same occasion under the cover of the king of Babylon. "How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! . . . For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the north; I will be like the Most High. Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest  depths of the Pit" (Isaiah 14:12-15). These two passages mark the inevitable wrath of God against pride that leads invariably to destruction. The serpent induced our parents to join the rebellion "and death spread to all men, because all sinned" (Romans 5:12). 

That same spirit of defiance reappeared among those of the plain of Shinar. They said: "Let us build ourselves a tower whose top is in the heavens, lest we be scattered" (Genesis 11:1-8). Clearly they rejected God's leadership to assume their own right to rule independently. But the Lord came down and scattered them in the confusion of languages. The same spirit moves today in the same-sex marriage ruling when five judges decide that they know better than the Creator's plan for families. It reappears in the transgender movement that spreads confusion under the guise of "diversity."  Pride and selfishness are sin God must judge.

 The Varied Ways of the Almighty -- Chastened by Sickness or Circumstances Job 33:19-22

At God's disposal are other ways in which He is speaking though natural disasters or illness. The sickness may appear to be a common human plight, but God is developing His purpose.  Job could relate to that on several occasions--the loss of his possessions, his reputation, his family and his marriage. Elihu had said that man does not perceive God's speaking. "Man is also chastened with pain on his bed, and with strong pain in many of his bones so that his life abhors bread . . .Yes, his soul draws near the Pit, and his life to the executioners" (vv.19,20, 22). 

Do remember that Job is hearing exactly what Elihu is saying. Is he perceiving it?  But God is faithful to Job and shares the truth to be confronted.

When fourth stage cancer strikes a man in his fifties, the invulnerable becomes very vulnerable. Allow me a recent experience. A nephew of mine was raised in a wealthy but godless home. With no spiritual guidance he became an addict of drugs, alcohol; life was a series of detoxifications.

The specter of death, however, awakened him to the reality of God. A few months passed and his hopes rose and fell with medical reports. With the suggestion of his sister who was to visit us, he joined her without sharing his inner desire. He knew full well the visit would be an encounter with God. From his arrival God providentially arranged for  him a full morning alone with me.

I shared the way of salvation from a Gideon New Testament. When we arrived at the prayer of faith, I did not want to induce him to sign, but rather said: "You can say: Yes, No, Not now." I left him with his decision.  A short time later he left the testament for me to see. There in bold letters his name and date of commitment What a change and what joy! 

He carried that testament wherever he went, sharing his faith with family. God called him home. God has spoken and he will never die.

In our next study we will climb the Mount Everest of the Old Testament of how God spoke with finality in the incarnation and vicarious death of His own Son, a sublime truth now shared by Elihu in veiled but identifiable words of prophesy.

[1] The Illustrated Biblical Dictionary (InterVarsity Press, Tyndale House Publishers), 1980, Vol. 3, pp. 1612-18.