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Lesson 10: The Wrath of Elihu *

Introduction: What do you think is "righteous anger?" I think this is anger over slights to God's reputation and program. Regular anger arises because of slights to me. As I understand it, righteous anger is fine and regular anger is not. Do you agree? Ephesians 4:26 says, "In your anger, do not sin." That seems to suggest that some anger is fine. We have seen that Job's friends engage in what they surely believed was righteous anger because they thought that Job was slighting God and His program. This week we focus on the anger of Elihu, one of Job's friends. Let's plunge into our study of the Bible and see what we can learn about whether Elihu's anger is appropriate!

  1. Who Is Elihu?

    1. Read Job 32:1. Why would the "friends" stop arguing just because Job thought he was right? Do you stop arguing just because the other person thinks that he or she is right? (They apparently thought it was useless to continue to argue based on Job's attitude.)

      1. Is this a practical lesson to make life better - don't argue with people who are sure they are right?

    2. Read Job 32:2. Would you call this "righteous anger?"

      1. I've suggested that righteous anger is okay, what do you think?

      2. Do you agree with Elihu's view of Job's arguments? (Job was justifying himself and challenging God's justice.)

      3. Do you think that Elihu inherited an angry attitude from his father? How would you feel if your name was "Barakel the Buzite?" (In case you are wondering, this is a joke.)

    3. Read Job 32:3. Is Elihu only angry with Job? (No! He is also angry with the three older friends.)

      1. Notice Elihu is angry because the friends "found no way to refute Job, and yet had condemned him." Was Elihu angry because they condemned Job, or because they found no way to refute him?

      2. Why were they unable to refute Job? (Because Job was telling the truth.)

    4. Read Job 32:4-5. What do we learn about Elihu that is important in judging whether he should have gotten angry? (Elihu is younger. If a person learns that some arguments are not worth having, that lesson most likely comes with age and experience.)

  2. Elihu's Righteous Charges

    1. Read Job 32:6. What is the assumption in this statement? (That Elihu knows more than Job. This is unlikely true, and the assumption is no doubt irritating to Job.)

    2. Read Job 32:7. Do you agree? Do humans become more wise with age?

      1. Do you really think Elihu believes this? (I'm doubtful because he thinks he knows more than Job and the older friends.)

    3. Read Job 32:8-9 and Job 32:18-19. What advantage does Elihu think he has despite his young age? (That the Holy Spirit guides his mind.)

      1. Do you agree that a Spirit-filled young man is wiser than an old man? (In my experience, young fools often age into old fools. Thus, I agree with Elihu that age does not necessarily bring wisdom. Of course, if you have access to God's wisdom, then no human wisdom is better regardless of age.)

    4. Read Job 32:10. What is the danger of Elihu's claim to be lead by the Holy Spirit? (He could be wrong. He could be deceiving himself.)

      1. I recall a local elder who was a terrible sermon speaker. One reason he was terrible was an obvious lack of preparation. Repeatedly, as we were about to go on the platform for him to preach, he would tell me that the Holy Spirit told him to change the sermon topic the night before - and he spent all night writing a new sermon. What is your reaction to that message from the Holy Spirit? (After this happened several times, I told him that the Holy Spirit knew in advance what he should preach, and it was unlikely the Holy Spirit would change His mind the night before the sermon.)

    5. Read Job 32:11-12. Elihu argues that it is his turn to speak. Why? (He waited, his elders failed, and now he will do better than his elders.)

    6. Read Job 32:13. Do you agree with Elihu? Is there something wrong with letting God refute Job, assuming that is what God has in mind?

    7. Read Job 32:14. What kind of arguments should we expect from Elihu? (He says he is going to make new arguments. We will see.)

    8. Job 33 begins Elihu's argument. Let's pick it up in the next chapter. Read Job 34:5-6. Is this a correct statement of Job's position? (Yes.)

    9. Read Job 34:7-9. Are these the new arguments that Elihu promised? (Yes and no. The older friends also said that Job deserves what is happening to him. Elihu's reference to Job disparaging God's fairness is an old topic. The difference is that Elihu mentions a specific sin: association with evil people.)

      1. Is there any evidence of this specific sin?

    10. Read Job 34:12-15. Do you agree with Elihu? Or, do you agree with Job who said that God smiles on the schemes of the wicked ( Job 10:3)? (Elihu is obviously right.)

    11. Read Job 34:17-19. Recall last week that Job charged that the older friends were partial towards God ( Job 13:8). Elihu says that God is an impartial judge. Is Elihu also partial towards God? (Absolutely.)

      1. Is there something that we can learn in Job's accusation that these friends show partiality towards God and not him? (We know, of course, that while Elihu speaks the general truth, it has no application to Job's specific situation. Perhaps if the friends looked for a way to defend both God and Job, they might have come up with ideas that more closely approached the reality of what was happening to Job.)

    12. Read Job 34:35-37. Is Elihu raising new arguments here? (This is exactly what the older friends have been saying. Job must have sinned because he is suffering. When Job denies that his sin has caused his suffering, and challenges God's justice, then the friends argue that Job is disrespecting God.)

      1. Why would Elihu say that he has new arguments, when we find he is either repeating the old arguments or making a false accusation? (Elihu thinks he is filled with righteous anger, but it seems more likely that Elihu is filled with his own vanity.)

    13. Elihu continues his charges for three more chapters. In the last chapter, Job 37, Elihu modifies his argument. Let's look at it. Read Job 37:14-18. Have you heard similar arguments before? (This sounds very much like what God says to Job starting in Job 38. With this theme that God is God and Job is not, Elihu emphasizes something that the older friends did not.)

  3. Contemplation

    1. Read Job 1:6-12. Is Job telling the truth when he says that he does not deserve what is happening to him? (Absolutely, in the sense that wrongdoing brings suffering. However, in this case, doing right brought on suffering.)

      1. Are the friends telling the truth about wrongdoing bringing suffering? (Absolutely, if Deuteronomy 28 is true.)

      2. So, how can things get so badly twisted when everyone is telling the truth? (Read 1 Corinthians 13:12. None of the humans saw the entire picture.)

    2. Re-read Job 1:12. Is this a defensible decision? Did it cause Satan to later admit, "I'm wrong, I give up on evil?"

      1. Did God's permission to harm Job create any positive change?

    3. Read Isaiah 45:9-11 and Romans 9:21. What important lesson do these teach us? (We know that God has the most extreme love for us because He died in our place. But, when it comes to running the universe, we need to leave the matter to Him. As you have read in these studies before, our lives are not about us, they are about God and the cosmic conflict between good and evil. Although Job's suffering may seem completely contrary to God's rules, we know that it was important in the conflict between good and evil. We know it was important because of the comfort Job's example provides when we suffer.)

    4. Friend, will you agree to leave running the universe to God? Will you simply trust Him to do the right thing?

  4. Next week: Out of the Whirlwind.
* Copr. 2016, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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