As I mentioned last week, many of us at Queen Way are currently following a one-year chronological Bible reading plan, and we're currently in the book of Job. In our weekly bulletin, I've been posting not only the daily reading assignments, but also corresponding "Reflection Questions" that encourage us to delve deeper into these readings.
Regarding Job 32-34 and Elihu's response to Job and his three friends, I posed the following question: how did Elihu balance respect for his elders with the need to speak the truth? This question is based on the following verses from Job 32
"Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job because they were years older than he" (vs. 4).
"I am young in years and you are old; therefore I was shy and afraid to tell you what I think. I thought age should speak, and increased years should teach wisdom" (vs. 6).
Job and his three friends had argued and debated for what appears to be a long time. Job defended his righteousness, expressed dissatisfaction with his friends for their baseless accusations, and with God for unjustly inflicting him with pain and loss. It was a debate filled with repetition and hasty replies, and now that it had finally died down, the young man Elihu stepped forward to offer his perspective.
Elihu wasn't like most young men. He wasn't prideful or rash. He didn't rush to judgment. He didn't deceive himself into thinking that he was somehow wiser or even as wise as these older men. He could've jumped in earlier and irreverently called out these older men for their foolish babbling and quarreling, but instead, he stood back and reflected upon their comments. When his moment came, he tactfully interjected himself into the conversation. He had a tone of respect and was diplomatic in his approach.
But at the same time, he didn't allow these older men to despise his youth. He didn't use his age as an excuse not to act. He didn't assume that because these men were older they were automatically right in their observations. And most importantly, he wasn't cowed by their gray hair and wrinkled skin; he was willing to speak the truth where it was lacking.
As a young evangelist, I very much appreciate Elihu's example. I know that there have been plenty of occasions where I have hesitated to act or speak because I was afraid of how the older folks in the congregation would receive my comments. There have been plenty of occasions where my comments have been ignored on account of my age, especially when it comes to marriage and child-rearing. I've studied with older men and women (even Christians) who begin with the assumption that their age and experience trump anything I have to say...and at times I have backed away when I shouldn't have, or have at least been discouraged.
On the other hand, there have been times where I've spoken too quickly, have acted arrogantly, and have not had the proper respect for those older than me.
Elihu teaches us that we can be respectful and kind all the while being bold in our proclamation of the truth. He teaches us that we need to deliberate upon our words and actions before acting, that we need to think before we speak. We learn from this young man that even when those older than us are wrong and we are right, that we need to remain reverent in our behavior.
What a great example! Lord, help me to be more like Elihu.