July 9, 2010

Whatever Happened to Elihu?

So I finally finished Job today. It ended the way I remembered, of course, with Job confessing that God is sovereign and Job's friends having to make a sacrifice due to their false words to Job concerning God and His will. But one thing I wonder, what happened to Elihu?

Elihu kind of sneaks into the picture at Chapter 32. Before this, Job and his friends are debating whether or not a righteous and obedient life deserves calamity. Job especially focuses on his past, remembering how good he had it and how righteous he was, and bemoans his present state, telling God to give him an answer pertaining to why He allowed these bad things to happen ("Let the Almighty answer me!" Job 31:35). The beginning of Chapter 32 tells us that Elihu, up until now, has hesitated from joining the discussion because he is younger than everyone else. This act of respect is probably the only thing holding Elihu back from asserting himself before now, since by the time he does join in "his anger burned" (verse 5) because of what his elders were saying about God.

In short, Elihu's speech goes on for several chapters. He rebukes Job and his friends for basically putting God in a box as if His ways could be predicted or controlled ("Who gave Him authority over the earth? And who has laid on Him the whole world?" 34:13). Elihu defends God's justice and sovereignty, saying "His eyes are upon the ways of a man, and He sees all his steps" (34:21). And he also breaks that proverbial box his elders tried to use to contain God by describing His awesome wonders and majesty ("God thunders with His voice wondrously, doing great things which we cannot comprehend" 37:5; "Stand and consider the wonders of God" 37:14).

After this, God answers Job (in a whirlwind, no less!), and for the next four chapters Job is humbled in the wake of His words that describe His power and might. Elihu isn't mentioned again, and seems to disappear as mysteriously as he appeared earlier. He wasn't rebuked along with his elders, but he didn't receive any reward for his words either (at least none that is recorded). So what happened to him?

You know what God told me? Elihu was taken care of. It doesn't matter that he wasn't praised for his tenacity and faith to stand up for God in the presence of those older and wiser than he. He knew who he was as God's child, did what was asked of him, and then moved on. Often God asks us to do things for His kingdom that probably won't result in any kind of recognition. Sure, we've helped others by acting on what He tells us to do and have become stronger in our faith for doing so, but there are no parades for anonymous donations, leading our children to Christ, or even helping a disabled person cross the street. Acting on His will without regard for accolades keeps us humble and focused on the One who rewards us in Heaven (Matthew 6:1).

So what can we learn from Elihu?
  • Respect your elders. He understood his lowly position and waited to act out of respect for those in a position of authority.
  • Recognize righteous indignation and act carefully in it. His "anger burned" against the words being spoken, but he did not act out his anger and was careful to only say the words that would further his cause.
  • Remember 1 Timothy 4:12: "Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity, show yourself an example to those who believe." This can even apply to being young in your faith, and not just your age. Even if you just accepted Christ and you're 80 years old, you're young in your relationship with Him, but you still have something to offer to more mature believers if you allow God to direct you.
  • Rest in God's love and sovereignty. Basically, Elihu practiced what he preached. He told the others that God's will did not depend on our obedience or works. In doing so, he did what God asked of him without thinking he was entitled to anything for doing so.
May we all become like Elihu; willing to remain behind the scenes until God calls us forth for His purpose, and then humbly doing His will simply because He has asked it of us.


  1. I know that I am posting years after this was written, but I just want to mention that it seemed like Elihu was in err himself. First, implying that God is beyond all of us and cares little. Second, his boastfulness in his own knowledge compared to everyone else's, and third, his angry accusations.

    1. I can't think of an answer as for his thoughts on God, however I can begin an answer on

      "his boastfulness in his own knowledge compared to everyone else's, and third, his angry accusations."

      I believe that his knowledge boast was in response to his elders' firing off wrong after wrong after wrong for 20+ chapters. Over and over again it was Job crying about why God has judged and forsaken him, followed by his friends saying how God is punishing him for some hidden sin, followed by Job saying "screw you y'idiot, you don't know my pain!" and the cycle continued. It was only then when Elihu decided "they messed up, time for me to say something"

      As for anger, I can attest to his feelings as I am only the oldest child so I can't be a sole speaker when it comes to how my parents handle my siblings or finances. It simply isn't my place to say anything, but when it gets too much, I have to say something or risk losing everything (not exaggerating). Of course I'm angry too but I do my best to remain in my place as I speak out against them

  2. I'm glad you wrote this...I was just studying this and pondering on the same question. Whether he was right or wrong, we don't really know. However, I'm going to hold on to what you pointed out: "Often God asks us to do things for His kingdom that probably won't result in any kind of recognition." Again, Thanks!!