Silence. An angry silence. An awkward silence.
Scripture to meditate on:
So these three men stopped answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. But Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, became very angry with Job for justifying himself rather than God. He was also angry with the three friends, because they had found no way to refute Job, and yet had condemned him. Now Elihu had waited before speaking to Job because they were older than he. But when he saw that the three men had nothing more to say, his anger was aroused.
So Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite said:
“I am young in years,
and you are old;
that is why I was fearful,
not daring to tell you what I know.
I thought, ‘Age should speak;
advanced years should teach wisdom.’
But it is the spirit in a person,
the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding.
It is not only the old who are wise,
not only the aged who understand what is right.
“Therefore I say: Listen to me;
I too will tell you what I know.
I waited while you spoke,
I listened to your reasoning;
while you were searching for words,
I gave you my full attention.
But not one of you has proved Job wrong;
none of you has answered his arguments.
Do not say, ‘We have found wisdom;
let God, not a man, refute him.’
But Job has not marshaled his words against me,
and I will not answer him with your arguments.
“They are dismayed and have no more to say;
words have failed them.
Must I wait, now that they are silent,
now that they stand there with no reply?
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.
I will show no partiality,
nor will I flatter anyone;
for if I were skilled in flattery,
my Maker would soon take me away. – Job 32
Job’s persistent friends have all but given up. The narrator tells us the original group (Bildad, Eliphaz and Zophar) have concluded that Job was “right in his own eyes” and they were getting nowhere with all their speech making.
Job likely considers this a golden silence. Unfortunately, it doesn’t last long. Having waited for his elders to exhaust themselves, the youngest of the group, Elihu now pipes up. And you get the impression Elihu has been busting to say his piece. “Now listen to me!” He says, “I will show you my opinion!”
We’ve all been there. That moment when a conversation should die a natural death… and yet someone in the groups has missed all the cues. It’s painful. Eye’s dart around the circle. This confrontation is about to go from bad to disastrous and everyone knows it, except the person who is talking.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve not only experienced this, you’re just as likely to be offending party in this scenario. James 3:3 reminds us of how important (and difficult) it is to tame the tongue and control our speech. Perhaps at times the best gift we can give to each other, and to ourselves, is the gift of silence.
“Therefore I say: Listen to me; I too will tell you what I know.” – Job 32:10
Questions to ponder:
- Has there ever been a time when the situation called for silence and you failed to realize it too late?
- How and when can your silent presence be a blessing to friends or family?