Monday, January 12, 2015

Elihu—a good conversationalist

"Job in His Adversity" by Arthur Ackland Hunt
"Job In His Adversity" by Arthur Ackland Hunt
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Job 32:1-22

TO CHEW ON: "But there is a spirit in man,
And the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding." Job 32:8

As we begin today's reading of Job 32, does it feel as if we're walking in on the middle of a conversation? Well we are.

You have probably heard or read the story of Job, how in the heavenlies Satan and God's attention become focused on him. Satan gets God's permission to trouble him and so in one day he loses practically everything and is eventually left with only his pessimistic wife and his unhealthy life (Job 1:1-2:10).

One by one his friends "comfort" him. But the comfort of Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar is cold. They urge him to examine his life for the cause of his misfortune because in their experience (Eliphaz) and by their tradition (Bildad) such bad fortune is always a consequence of some sin. Job answers them, justifying himself. Zophar condemns him for being verbose, presumptuous and sinful, and concludes that Job is actually getting less than he deserves (Job 11:6). We come on the scene after Job has defended himself against this variety of accusations.

The speaker in our reading is Elihu, a younger man who has respectfully kept silent while the others talked. Now he steps forward. Today's reading is his preamble to his reasons for Job's suffering and what he says underlines the specialness of the human species (that we talked about a few days ago):
"There is a spirit in man.
And the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding."

Elihu elaborates as to why he has the nerve to speak up and contradict his elders. His reasons (in my words):
  • Just because you're a great man or have lived a long time doesn't mean you're wise  - Job 32:9.
  • I've listened closely to everything you've all said but you haven't convinced Job or me - Job 32:12-13, 18-19.
  • I have an opinion and I need to express it - Job 32:18,19.
  • What I have to say is, before God, the unvarnished truth and contains no flattery - Job 32:21-22.

I see in this passage a practical example of good human interaction—some things we can learn from young Elihu:

Elihu waited respectfully to have his say. 
But he finally asks to be heard despite his youth because of the spirit within him, breathed by God, which gives him insight.

In our interactions, do we view others, no matter what their age, race, status, or education, as worth respect and attention simply because they are created in God's "image and likeness," endowed by God's "breath" with understanding?
Elihu listened to the conversation before asking for the floor.
Do we listen first before we talk?
He spoke courageously out of conviction and integrity.
Do we speak just to hear ourselves give an opinion, or does our talk come from deeply held beliefs? If our beliefs contradict current wisdom, do we have the courage to speak them anyway? Is our talk sincere, or mixed with flattery to make it more palatable to those who may disagree with us?

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to interact respectfully with others, honouring Your image and likeness within them. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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