Meet Your New Theology Prof: Elihu
Theology is word that literally means the study of God. So, the entire Bible is theology, but if we wanted to learn about who God is we would probably think first of turning to the words of Jesus or Paul or David or Isaiah. Today, however, I’d like to introduce you to the words of one of someone you might not know, but who is a wonderful teacher to sit under if you want to know the character and the ways of God. His name? Elihu.
Elihu speaks only in chapters 32–37 of the book of Job. After chapters and chapters of back-and-forth between Job and his friends, in which it is often hard to tell if they are speaking accurately or wrongly about God, Elihu finally speaks. He had been there, but had kept silent, wisely deferring to the older men in the room. Of all the speeches from Job and his three friends, none come close to the God-glorifying truth that flows from the mouth of Elihu. He begins by wisely and humbly declaring he will offer his opinion (32:10, 17), even though his words prove to be much more than that. Here are five important lessons about God from the words of Elihu.
God is not silent, but he does not speak in the way we often want
For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it. (Job 33:14 ESV)
This is Elihu’s answer to Job’s complaint that God is silent. God speaks all the time, if we have the ears to hear. If you are waiting for an audible voice giving you special revelation no one else has, you might very well be waiting until the end of your life. But make no mistake, God has spoken, and is speaking, if only we will accept his chosen means of communication. While we can learn of God from creation and from our circumstances, he has spoken most fully and definitively in his word, the Scriptures.
God could end us and this world with just a thought
If he should set his heart to it and gather to himself his spirit and his breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust. (Job 34:14-15 ESV)
God sustains us and the entire universe with what Elihu calls “his spirit and his breath.” If he decided to withdraw them, even for an instant, we would all cease to exist. It is only by the grace, goodness, and power of God that we woke up this morning with life and an inhabitable world. Let’s not take that for granted. Praise and thank him today for your existence.
You are never too sinful or too righteous for God
If you have sinned, what do you accomplish against him? And if your transgressions are multiplied, what do you do to him? If you are righteous, what do you give to him? Or what does he receive from your hand? (Job 35:6-7 ESV)
In all your sinning you can never harm God, and in all your good works you can never give anything to him that would actually benefit him. What a wonderful, double-sided truth! On the one hand, you can never sin so much as to be outside of his love. And on the other hand, you can never do enough good works to put him in your debt. Or you could say it this way: no one is so sinful they cannot be covered by the blood of Christ, and no one is so good that they do not need the blood of Christ.
God uses adversity for our good
He delivers the afflicted by their affliction and opens their ear by adversity. (Job 36:15 ESV)
Notice the grammar here. He delivers the afflicted by their affliction. He opens ears by adversity. God does not merely deliver us from affliction, but the affliction is actually his means of bringing about our deliverance. Perhaps this means he means to deliver us from something much more dangerous than affliction — namely sin. Or, perhaps it means the affliction is necessary and his ultimate purposes for our good require it. Elihu also shows us that God uses adversity to open our ears to him and his will. Sometimes, it’s the only way we will truly listen.
God uses the weather for diverse purposes
For he draws up the drops of water; they distill his mist in rain, which the skies pour down and drop on mankind abundantly. (Job 36:27-28 ESV)
Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen. (Job 37:13 ESV)
Elihu perceives God’s sovereignty and purposes through the weather he creates and sends upon the earth. In the first passage above, I believe we have evidence of the water cycle, thousands of years before scientists would observe and discover this pattern! In the passage from chapter 37, Elihu has been speaking of God’s use of weather. He gives us three reasons God causes weather to happen: for correction, for his land, or for love. God can send weather to punish or correct us, to nourish the land he’s made, or simply because he loves us and wants to bless us (see Acts 14:17).