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Thursday, January 14, 2016

God Speaks, Part 1

Little is said that gives us a fix on this young whipper-snapper named Elihu, except that he comes from a noted family and that he is angry with Job and his three friends. His side of the argument begins with a long runway before he actually gets his first point off the ground. And, he seems to think rather highly of what he is about to present to Job about his situation and God’s character. He seems to think that Job has attacked God and that it is his task to defend God.

He disdains and disposes the arguments of Job’s three friends and, claiming to have the Spirit of God Himself on his side, begins with one simple piece of advice, God is speaking to you! “For does God speak—now one way, now another―though man may not perceive it” (33:14). Like any good preacher Elihu has three points:  
  • God speaks through dreams and visions (33:15-18)
  • God speaks through chastening on the bed of pain (33:19-22)
  • God speaks through the mediation of an angel (33:23-25)
Job had dreams of terror (7:14) and he is experiencing deep suffering. Two out of three kinda gets your attention. Elihu offers his advice, “Job, God is speaking to you through your dreams and suffering; you need to listen carefully.” Job had falsely interpreted his suffering as God’s rejection of him instead of God’s communication to him.  
I’d much prefer God speak to me through the mediation of an angel than through troubling dreams or physical pain. The measures God takes to communicate with Job may say more about Job (and me) than God. Regarding God speaking through pain C. S. Lewis famously said, “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Could it be that Job had plateaued in his walk with God and God used the megaphone of pain to "bump it up"? Job’s story began with God’s declaration that Job was righteous. Could his experience been that of Galatians 3:1,3, “O foolish Galatians...are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” 
Job believed in atonement or he would not have offered sacrifices to atone the sins of his children. Had he, over time, become such a good person, that he began to believe in his own goodness?  Who knows. Clearly however, suffering has gotten his attention. 
Suffering isn’t my communication of choice either, but sometimes it takes suffering to get my attention. "Lord, I am listening!"
Older Post

"I thought, 'Age should speak; advanced years should teach wisdom'" (Job 32:7)

One of the many truths that Africa taught us was the importance of listening to older people. The three “Rs” of Africa are respect, religion, and relationships (America seems to have lost all three). Respect says that older people have something to say because they’ve lived, they’ve learned, and they’ve survived. Their experience enhances their speech and reinforces their words.

Elihu knew that same lesson: for days he sat listening to older men pontificate about Job’s problem, knowing that they did not care for Job as much as they were trying to “fix” him. As he listened, he heard as well Job’s self-defense and his condemnation of God. Finally, he speaks; yet even as he begins, he acknowledges the timeless truth. Job 32:7 says, “I thought, ‘Age should speak, advanced years should teach wisdom.’” Elihu demonstrates true wisdom by respecting his elders and speaking only when God’s timing makes it clear that he should. And he ascribes the wisdom of his youth to God: "But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding." The wisdom of God upon a young person's life teaches him to both respect the elders and to speak in a timely manner.

This lesson seems lost on America in general today; yesterday's liberal press applauded the end of "Baby Boomers’" influence in high government as it assessed and celebrated the end of the previous President's service. No president has been treated with less respect than President Bush. Whether one agrees with his policies or not, any honest assessor should acknowledge that the Office of the President deserves respect.

Sadly, churches seem to have lost this truth as well. Seminaries, churches, and Christians flock to young people with degrees while ignoring older people with wisdom, simply because they are old. This fascination with youth exhibits a dangerous trend to replace wisdom with information. God’s wisdom takes time to gain and a lifetime to flesh out. 

Take time to appreciate age, listen to wisdom, and learn what Elihu demonstrated and James commands: “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Job 32:1-34:37
  • What provoked Elihu's anger?
  • How does one gain understanding? (See also 1 Corinthians 2:11, 14)
  • Describe Elihu's view of God.
  • List the ways God speaks.
  • What is the end goal of God's speaking to man?
  • What does Elihu communicate to Job and his friends about God?
  • How does what he says differ from what Job's friends have said about God?
Turning truth into prayer
Thank the Lord for the older people in your life. Ask Him to show you areas where they are respect-worthy and ways in which you can communicate your respect to them.