Job 32:17-20 I too will have my say; I too will tell what I know. For I am full of words, and the spirit within me compels me; inside I am like bottled-up wine, like new wineskins ready to burst. I must speak and find relief; I must open my lips and reply.
As I read these passionate words of Elihu, my mind goes to the prophet Jeremiah’s words: “But if I say, ‘I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” (Jeremiah 20:9), to the words of the apostles Peter and John to the Jewish Sannhedrin: “we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20), and to the words of the Apostle Paul “Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16).
There is a big difference, however, between Elihu on the one hand and Jeremiah and the Apostles on the other: the latter were motivated by true wisdom that had its source in the wisdom of God, whereas Job’s ‘counsellor’ was motivated by man’s wisdom. Elihu’s humanistic worldview had its source in human ‘logic’, which found no room for a God who declared: “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9). So, his ‘uncontainable’ words of ‘wisdom’ to his friend, Job, which occupy six chapters, are quite useless in helping the poor sufferer.
All this challenges me in two ways:
Firstly, I need to be ‘delighting in God’s Word and meditating on it day and night’ (Psalm 1:2), so that my worldview is constantly being informed by it, lest the pervading humanistic culture surrounding me leads me away from it.
And, secondly, once God’s Word, and its powerful message to a lost and suffering world, really grips my own heart, it should become something that I cannot contain within me but must share it with others. This is made especially urgent because of the large number of ‘passionate’ Elihus, particularly in the media, who are speaking with ‘authority’, and having a significant influence on the way our culture is going, alienating us increasingly from the God who is calling us to himself through Jesus, and who declared as soon as Elihu had finished, “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?” (38:2).
Let us also be encouraged by the further words given to Isaiah: “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but WILL accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11). Why do I try to hold this in like ‘bottled up wine’ in ‘new wineskins ready to burst’?
– Bruce Christian