Youth Answers Age
A daily devotion for December 19th
1 So these three men stopped answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. 2 But Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, became very angry with Job for justifying himself rather than God. 3 He was also angry with the three friends, because they had found no way to refute Job, and yet had condemned him. 4 Now Elihu had waited before speaking to Job because they were older than he. 5 But when he saw that the three men had nothing more to say, his anger was aroused.
6 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.
7 I thought, 'Age should speak;
advanced years should teach wisdom.'
8 But it is the spirit in a man,
the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding.
9 It is not only the old who are wise,
not only the aged who understand what is right.
10 "Therefore I say: Listen to me;
I too will tell you what I know.
11 I waited while you spoke,
I listened to your reasoning;
while you were searching for words,
12 I gave you my full attention.
But not one of you has proved Job wrong;
none of you has answered his arguments.
13 Do not say, 'We have found wisdom;
let God refute him, not man.'
14 But Job has not marshaled his words against me,
and I will not answer him with your arguments.
15 "They are dismayed and have no more to say;
words have failed them.
16 Must I wait, now that they are silent,
now that they stand there with no reply?
17 I too will have my say;
I too will tell what I know.
18 For I am full of words,
and the spirit within me compels me;
19 inside I am like bottled-up wine,
like new wineskins ready to burst.
20 I must speak and find relief;
I must open my lips and reply.
21 I will show partiality to no one,
nor will I flatter any man;
22 for if I were skilled in flattery,
my Maker would soon take me away.
1 "But now, Job, listen to my words;
pay attention to everything I say.
2 I am about to open my mouth;
my words are on the tip of my tongue.
3 My words come from an upright heart;
my lips sincerely speak what I know.
4 The Spirit of God has made me;
the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
5 Answer me then, if you can;
prepare yourself and confront me.
6 I am just like you before God;
I too have been taken from clay.
7 No fear of me should alarm you,
nor should my hand be heavy upon you.
8 "But you have said in my hearing—
I heard the very words-
9 'I am pure and without sin;
I am clean and free from guilt.
10 Yet God has found fault with me;
he considers me his enemy.
11 He fastens my feet in shackles;
he keeps close watch on all my paths.'
12 "But I tell you, in this you are not right,
for God is greater than man.
13 Why do you complain to him
that he answers none of man's words
14 For God does speak—now one way, now another—
though man may not perceive it.
15 In a dream, in a vision of the night,
when deep sleep falls on men
as they slumber in their beds,
16 he may speak in their ears
and terrify them with warnings,
17 to turn man from wrongdoing
and keep him from pride,
18 to preserve his soul from the pit,
his life from perishing by the sword.
19 Or a man may be chastened on a bed of pain
with constant distress in his bones,
20 so that his very being finds food repulsive
and his soul loathes the choicest meal.
21 His flesh wastes away to nothing,
and his bones, once hidden, now stick out.
22 His soul draws near to the pit,
and his life to the messengers of death.
23 "Yet if there is an angel on his side
as a mediator, one out of a thousand,
to tell a man what is right for him,
24 to be gracious to him and say,
'Spare him from going down to the pit ;
I have found a ransom for him'-
25 then his flesh is renewed like a child's;
it is restored as in the days of his youth.
26 He prays to God and finds favor with him,
he sees God's face and shouts for joy;
he is restored by God to his righteous state.
27 Then he comes to men and says,
'I sinned, and perverted what was right,
but I did not get what I deserved.
28 He redeemed my soul from going down to the pit,
and I will live to enjoy the light.'
29 "God does all these things to a man—
twice, even three times-
30 to turn back his soul from the pit,
that the light of life may shine on him.
31 "Pay attention, Job, and listen to me;
be silent, and I will speak.
32 If you have anything to say, answer me;
speak up, for I want you to be cleared.
33 But if not, then listen to me;
be silent, and I will teach you wisdom."
It is not only the old who are wise, not only the aged who understand what is right (Job 32:9).
Commentators seem to differ widely as to what to do with Elihu. Some regard him as a rather brash young man with the cocksure arrogance of youth who speaks up to tell the older men what they were doing that was wrong, while others seem to see him as merely repeating in other words the arguments of these friends, without adding much.
But I would like to differ with these latter commentators and agree with those who see Elihu as having a very important part in this book. Let me point out certain things about this young man as we are introduced to him: First, when you come to the end of the book and you read the rebuke that God gives to the three friends of Job, you will note that Elihu is not included. He is not rebuked for what he says, and he does not have to ask Job to pray for him, as they do. The second thing is that he is given an obvious, prominent part in this drama. His message occupies the next five chapters, and he is allowed to give one of the major discourses of this book. And third, he always speaks with courtesy and sensitivity to Job, despite the strong feelings that he admits he has. The other friends were caustic and sarcastic in their approach to Job, but this young man is very courteous when he addresses him. He recognizes the depth of Job's suffering, and he always speaks with understanding.
The fourth, and probably most important, thing is that Elihu claims to speak not as the other men did from their experience, but he claims to speak from revelation. That is what we read in verses 8-9. Elihu says,
It is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding.
It is not the accumulation of years of experience that makes people wise; it is what God has taught them through the years. And this is a very important point. God can teach a young man or woman as much as an older man or woman. And when we speak from the wisdom of God, then we can truly be wise, regardless of what our calendar age may be. I know we who have lived a long time tend to think it is the years that have made us wise! If we are wise at all, it is not only because we are older.
I am reminded of a schoolteacher who applied for a job and was turned down for another younger teacher who only had three years of experience. The first teacher protested to the principal,
I've had twenty-five years' experience, so why was I passed over in favor of this younger one? And the principal said,
Well, I have to disagree with you. You haven't had twenty-five years' experience. You've had one year's experience twenty-five times. It is quite possible to go through life repeating the same way of thinking and never learn wisdom. So Elihu is right here. It is not simply the elderly who are wise, because God gives wisdom.
Lord, grant me the wisdom not simply of age, but of revelation that comes from You.
Life Application: God's deep wisdom is timeless, and available to us at any age or stage of life. Do we perhaps settle for empty conventional wisdom, or do we hunger to hear from God?
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