Summary: Elihu listened to Job as long as he could, but finally erupted with the contention that Job had too little faith, was too hypocritical, did not know how to cry out to God to ask for help with his needs, and offered no witness.
32:1-10 So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. Then Elihu son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, became angry. He was angry at Job because he justified himself rather than God; he was angry also at Job’s three friends because they had found no answer, though they had declared Job to be in the wrong. Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job, because they were older than he. But when Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouths of these three men, he became angry. Elihu son of Barachel the Buzite answered: "I am young in years, and you are aged; therefore I was timid and afraid to declare my opinion to you. I said, ’Let days speak, and many years teach wisdom.’ But truly it is the spirit in a mortal, the breath of the Almighty, that makes for understanding. It is not the old that are wise, nor the aged that understand what is right. Therefore I say, ’Listen to me; let me also declare my opinion.’
In Pennsylvania, I am told, there is a town that had to be moved because of a slow burn. The story is that this was a coal mining town, and, over the years, the mine shafts had been dug right under the buildings and streets of the town. But some spark had caused a fire to start way back in one of those shafts. The unmined coal began to burn, so far down that there was no way to put the fire out. So the mine owners abandoned the mine and sealed the entrances, hoping the fire would burn itself out. Weeks and months went by, and nobody thought too much of it, until suddenly, one day, a crack opened in one of the town streets, and smoke and fire came belching up through that crack! What had happened? The fire, though it had been well hidden underground, had not gone out. It had done a slow burn, building intensity all the time, until suddenly it found a weakness in the surface above it, and it shot out in a fiery frenzy. The slow burn had done so much underground damage that the entire town had to be abandoned.
People also do slow burns. Someone called, and as he spoke, there was a certain intensity in his voice. It was not so much what he said as how he said it. Pastor, I need to come see you. I need to come right away. I have something I must say. There was so much urgency in it that I did not even bother to ask what it was about, I just agreed that he could come. It seemed as though I was still hanging up the telephone when I saw his car arrive outside, I watched him race up the walk, I heard him lean on the doorbell, and he rushed into my office. Almost before I could greet him he started in, disgorging a list of complaints and hurts. I found out that some of his disappointments were as much as ten years old; feelings had been seething inside for a decade. And now, suddenly, urgently, with burning passion, they were all pouring out. I had had no idea my friend felt all of these things; he had kept them hidden for years, and now, without warning, it was all erupting. My friend had been “doing a slow burn”.
Sometimes people keep feelings deep down inside, and you would never know those feelings were there. But they have not gone away. The passions have not cooled. They have just gone into a slow burn, which eventually erupts and flares out in all directions.
This happens with young people. That teenager who seems so quiet may actually be holding in a host of negative feelings, and you won’t even know it, until, suddenly, there is a torrent of anger or some kind of acting out that stuns you. That young adult who says very little, but when he does, it feels arrogant, intimidating .. that young adult may be nurturing feelings that he has just never found a way to express. But when he does, watch out! You may feel led to abandon the place where you live, just like they did in that Pennsylvania town! It does not matter whether those feelings are right or wrong; they feel what they feel, and it will break loose. But it is vitally important that they be heard.
Elihu, a young man, had been sitting silently off to the side while Job and his three friends were batting issues around. Elihu had weathered Job’s storm of complaints. He had endured Eliphaz’s eloquence, he had bathed in Bildad’s blather, and he had squirmed at Zophar’s sarcasm. Elihu had been doing a slow burn. But now watch him erupt. Elihu can contain himself no longer. He must speak! And in his breaking loose, I think we may all hear some things we have needed to hear for a long time. They’ve been doing a slow burn, but they are now ready to break out.