The Wisdom of a Young Man
The book of Job teaches us a lot of wisdom and a lot about wisdom. Especially, it shows us our position before God. In the book, there is a debate between Job and his three friends. Job’s friends were arguing that Job must have done something sinful and that was why God was punishing him. Job maintained that he had not sinned and that God was not treating him fairly.
After much debate, the three friends gave up. Then a young man appears on the scene. Elihu had been there, quietly listening to the debate, but now he began to speak. In Job 32, we find that he was angry. He was angry with Job’s friends because they accused Job of sinning, but they could not name anything he had done wrong. He was angry with Job because Job maintained that he was righteous instead of maintaining that God was righteous Job had accused God of being unfair. Elihu had a right to be angry about both of these things.
There are some that say Elihu was an arrogant man, but I believe he spoke appropriately and with great wisdom. This is indicated by the fact that in Job 42:7, God is angry with Job’s three friends, but not with Elihu. As we will see, Elihu’s arguments were basically the same arguments that God made.
Elihu explains in chapter 32 that because he was a young man, he let the old men speak and he listened. This is what young men should do. But Elihu had wisdom enough to consider all that the old men said and not just accept it as true wisdom. He explained that he thought he would hear good wisdom from these old men, but that he had not heard it. We need to remember this great truth that is found in verses 8 and 9 — old men may not be wise and young men may be as wise as old men in what really matters because the wisdom that matters does not come from years but from God. Certainly wisdom about God can only come from God. We cannot discover about Him, not matter how long we live.
Job 33:12 can easily be used to convey the theme of the whole book of Job. “God is greater than man.” Elihu says this in response to Job’s accusation that God was making up a false charge for which to punish him (verses 8-11). In verse 13, he asks why God should give an account for what He does. He continues by saying that there is much we can learn from God in different ways, except that we are too stupid to get the message. Thus we have no right to demand an explanation from God for what He does — we may not understand it anyway. While Elihu does talk about God disciplining those who do wrong, he was careful not to apply it directly to Job since he did not know of anything Job had done wrong. This was very different from Job’s three friends.
In chapter 34, Elihu puts Job in his place. In verses 7-9, Elihu says that Job is in the company of wicked men because of his words that it does a man no good to be righteous. He is bringing Job back to his senses — what Job was saying in his pain and frustration was just what wicked men say.
In verses 10-15, Elihu defends God’s actions simply based on who God is. He explains that God by nature cannot do injustice as Job was claiming. Verse 13 says, “Who gave Him authority over the earth? And who has laid on Him the whole world?” Doesn’t that sound much like God’s argument to Job — where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth (Job 38:4)?
Job 34:31-33 contains wording that is difficult to understand, but he is pointing out to Job that a man has no right to be proud of his righteousness once he has sinned at all. Just because a man has been punished and may never sin again, that does not deserve a reward from God. I believe that here Elihu is answering Job’s question of “What does a man get from serving God?” with the correct answer, “You don’t deserve to get anything.”
Chapter 35 is really the great point in Elihu’s speech because it mirrors so well what God says later. He asks the question, “How can you say that your righteousness is more than God’s?” (v. 2) Job had asked, “What makes it better for a man to serve God than to sin if he gets the same misery either way?” (v. 3)
The answer is found by looking at the sky (v. 5). Do you remember the words of Psalm 19:1 — “The heavens declare the glory of God….”? Elihu is telling Job to get the greatness of God into his mind. Then the answer to his question will become clear. Sinning against God will do nothing to such a great person and being righteous does nothing for such a great person (v. 6-8).
Elihu’s main point is this — God is greater than man. Who is man to question what God does? God does not owe us anything as Job seemed to forget. We owe God everything.
This is wisdom that none of the old men seemed to have at that occasion. Job needed a young man to remind him of the truth about his position before God. Wisdom does not always go to the old because true wisdom comes from God.