Elihu has come on the scene agreeing with Job about his friends’ wrongness and hurtful accusations. He has come with humility and with patience by citing his youth and biding his time before speaking. In Job chapter 33, Elihu seeks not to drop a couple truth bombs, prove his point, and exit stage left. Instead, he plans, prepares, and presents his case with concern, clarity, and compassion.
Behold, I am toward God as you are;
I too was pinched off from a piece of clay.
7 Behold, no fear of me need terrify you;
my pressure will not be heavy upon you.
8 “Surely you have spoken in my ears,
and I have heard the sound of your words.
9 You say, ‘I am pure, without transgression;
I am clean, and there is no iniquity in me.
10 Behold, he finds occasions against me,
he counts me as his enemy,
11 he puts my feet in the stocks
and watches all my paths.’ ~Job 33:6-11
Elihu begins his exhortation by identifying with Job. He reassures him that he is on his side, for his good, and looking to the God they both serve. In this, Elihu recognizes Job as a godly man. Unlike the other three friends with their charges of hypocrisy and falseness, Elihu honors Job’s efforts and counts them as right and just. Elihu’s willingness to respect the good in Job disarms defenses and gives him a platform by which to admonish what Job did amiss.
Behold, in this you are not right. I will answer you,
for God is greater than man…
“Behold, God does all these things,
twice, three times, with a man,
30 to bring back his soul from the pit,
that he may be lighted with the light of life. ~Job 33:12, 29-30
Next, Elihu reminds Job 1. that he was carefully listening and 2. of what he’d said wrong. Elihu does not assume or presume actions he has not seen. There is no supposing of underlying deceit or sin. Instead, Elihu goes only upon what he has heard straight from Job’s own mouth. Elihu brings a fair and just argument against Job. His approach proves his sincerity and care for Job. Faithful are the wounds of a friend.
Elihu contends that God is greater than man. He argues that God’s providence is always for our good regardless of whether we can understand how. Therefore, fighting against him is self-destructive. He assures Job that God brings pain and suffering not because he is our enemy, but for a very specific good purpose – to save and sanctify men.
Elihu exhibits infinitely more mercy and grace in just his opening statements than Job’s other three friends did in their entire conversations.
If we must exhort, comfort, or contend with our fellow men, let us learn Elihu’s wisdom. Let us come in humility, clarity, concern, and compassion if we truly seek to help. Let us come first agreeing about wrongness and injustice done to our peers before we examine the wrongness and injustice done by them. Let us learn to identify with before we attempt to correct. Let us learn to praise the noble and right deeds of others before we deal with the wrong. Let us always deal in facts and in truth rather than assumptions and accusations. Let us be fair, sincere, and loving when approaching to care for or correct. Finally, let us always encourage with God’s ultimate good will towards men in all circumstances. Doubtless our friends will be much more apt to believe God is for them in the midst of suffering if they first believe that we are.