Social discourse can be a tricky thing, especially when a young person challenges the veracity of an elder. As a youngster, I was taught to “respect” my elders which meant even if they asserted something I knew to be untrue, the proper (respectful) behavior was to keep my lips sealed and my tongue in check.
Today’s more free-wheeling social interactions allow for a lot more give and take. Young adults can be cheeky and bold, sometimes intimating they know more than they really do. If you’ve ever witnessed a young person challenge a college professor (as I have) only to be verbally sliced and diced by said professor, the experience can be understandably awkward.
Our culture has given young people a convenient pass when it comes to gleefully pointing out someone’s error. In the vernacular, it’s called a B*ll-Sh*t Meter, an awareness that someone’s speaking untruthfully, blowing smoke, attempting to pull the wool over another. Studying the Elihu chapters in The Book of Job, I suspect as the young Elihu listened to his elders, he noticed the room getting smokey.
Arriving today at Chapter 35, we have Elihu continuing his scold. He’s not speaking from ignorance. Given his youth, we might suppose he lacked understanding, but Elihu reflects the Psalmist’s observation about how wisdom sometimes comes “out of the mouths of babes.” Here is Elihu refuting the assertions of Job and of Job’s supposed comforters.
Job 35 is one of the ebullient passages from scripture where the speaker (in this case Elihu) compares the diminutive standing of mankind to the wonders of the universe and of an almighty and personal God. Elihu asks, who does Job think he is to make demands on God, to dare suggest he is more right or just than the Creator. And he doesn’t wait for Job to answer.
He goes on. Look at the heavens, Job! The clouds are relatively close at hand, but beyond that is a vast space, all of it the Creator’s realm to have and hold as He sees fit. And if Job committed great sins, why should the God of the universe even notice? Within God’s limitless universe, Job’s sin – indeed, Job’s very existence – is a mere iota, a speck.
Further, Elihu demands, can Job give anything (from his hand) to God … as if God would take notice? Elihu maintains what Job has enumerated in his own defense is nothing but empty talk, a multiplicity of words without meaning or understanding.
Instead of the Elihu’s elders speaking with understanding, it is the young man himself in this case who offers a more complete picture of God. The sonnet above summarizes Elihu’s speech.