A Golden Disclosure
“Jed Harris, producer of Our Town and other plays, became convinced he was losing his hearing. He went to a specialist, who gave him a thorough checkup. The doctor pulled out a gold watch and asked, ‘Can you hear this ticking?’ Harris said, ‘Of course.’ The specialist walked to the door and held up the watch again. ‘Now can you hear it?’ Harris concentrated and said, ‘Yes, I can hear it clearly.’ The doctor walked out the door into the next room and said, ‘Can you hear it now?’ Harris said, ‘Yes.’ The doctor said, ‘Mr. Harris, there is nothing wrong with your hearing. You just don’t listen.'”1
If that seems a little funny, it’s because it’s such a common condition. As with all the rest of us, the problem is usually not with hearing, but listening–the deep, considerate exercise alluded to in 1 Corinthians 14:29 (where it is called judging, discerning, etc.). Without this kind of focus, we miss game-changing pieces of revelation–something that might have become spiritual food for us in years to come, or even a word of rescue. Elihu was the source of such a word. The man literally disclosed to Job God’s operational principle upon mankind. It would have gone a long way toward making sense of Job’s sufferings. However, this disclosure was embedded amidst other words, and we don’t know if Job was listening anymore at that point. If he wasn’t, he missed pure gold.
Worth the Price of Admission
The disclosure of how God works in our lives is worth the price of admission. The details of His work are different from person to person, but the overarching principles are the same. Once you learn them, you can begin to recognize them even if the names and circumstances are all changed.
First, God speaks. He does so even as we swear in frustration that He doesn’t. In fact, He does in multiple ways (33:14). But we generate a constant level of ambient noise through excuses, evasion, and dismissals that actually silence those words. That is why “man does not perceive it.” Our refusal to listen might mean it is all over right there. God would be fully justified in saying, “I’m done with you; you beg incessantly for answers that you don’t want and direction that you won’t take.” He could do that, but He doesn’t. Instead, He tries to open the ear of the heart (33:16).
If Lines Are Out…
If communication continues to be out, God does not stop. He simply starts speaking another language–that of suffering. You might claim confusion with His former attempts, but this dialect is understood by all. The message–“the rebuke”–is pain (33:19). Ignore words all you want, but you won’t be ignoring this one. You will pay it a premium of attention. Sometimes even if you’re listening well, situations come along that teach in a way that words never could.
What’s the Urgency?
What’s with all this divine urgency? For sure God doesn’t speak in order to generate pleasant religious background noise. His words are calculated to save us from “the pit” and “the sword” (v. 18, 24, 28, 30)–dangers that threaten our spirit, soul, and body in various ways. Things that we are tending toward because of dumb decisions, foolish neglect, and bad attitudes. Yet there is more at stake than preventing ill-effects. God’s kind work restores us to a vigor that we did not previously have (33:25). It stimulates a celebratory joy (33:26-27) and enlightenment (33:28-30) unknown to us before He went to work in our lives. None of His work leaves us the same way as He found us. None of His children are poorer after encountering His hand.
Elihu’s disclosure is often overlooked as life goes upside down, but without the principles contained in it, we would all be both stuck and doomed.