Saturday, September 3, 2016

Two Lessons From a Young Man

“Now Elihu had waited till Job had spoken, because they were elder than he.” – Job 32:4

I’m sorry; I like this boy. I like the fact that he waited until the old men had spoken, when he was ready to burst with what he wanted to say (v. 18-19). I like the way he recognized that "multitude of years should speak wisdom." I realize that later on he gets a little bombastic and carried away with the sound of his own voice; but, by and large, I think he handles himself fairly well in the company of these older men. (I notice that in the last chapter, God rebukes Job's other three friends, but not Elihu.)

+ God’s Word or Just My Opinion? +

“And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said, I am young,
and ye are very old; wherefore I was afraid, and durst not show you mine 
opinion." (Job 32: 6)

The first thing that recommends him to me is that he understands what he is about to say is his opinion. Three times in this chapter he uses the term, "mine opinion." (The word is only used in one other place in the Bible.) The fact that he is willing to acknowledge his words are not etched in stone is commendable.

It’s important in life to be able to distinguish between "Thus saith the Lord" and our own opinions. The latter do not, and should never, carry the same weight as the plain teaching of the Word of God. To put my opinions on the same plane as God's, is to trivialize the Bible and make me an authority unto myself—and, worse, others. There are enough enumerated sins and plain directives in the Word of God to keep us straight. We need not try to make a holy principle out of what is only a subjective opinion. Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) wrote,  Call your opinions your creed, and you will change them every week. Make your creed simply and broadly out of the revelation of God, and you will keep it to the end.”

+ How Shall I Repent? +

"Surely it is meet to be said unto God, I have borne chastisement, I will not offend anymore: That which I see not teach thou me: if I have done iniquity, I will do no more." (Job 34: 31-32)

The boy’s right again; surely this is the way to approach God when we have sinned. Repentance is a lost art, I think. So few of us are very good at it, no doubt, because we've had so little practice. We're quick to lay hold on Psalm 103:14 ("For He knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust."), but much slower to acknowledge Ezekiel 18:30 ("Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin."). There are so many extenuating circumstances to our sin that by the time we're through voicing them, we almost appear blameless. Even Adam and Eve, without parents (today's common scapegoat), still found some place else to shift the blame.

Elihu may have been self-righteous and self-assured, but he did have a knack for getting to the point: "Show me my sin, and I won't do it anymore." How simple and straightforward is that? Not, "Work with me on this, God; you know my temperament and background and how threatening authority can be to me." (I'm rolling my eyes.) We can never hope to experience forgiveness and cleansing till we are willing to come clean with God. He’s not looking for penance, but He does expect penitence. Repentance is not just being sorry for our sin; it’s being sorry enough to quit.

Have I been able to revise your opinion somewhat of this long-winded young man (chap. 32-37), One thing is true: he did know how to brag about His God! But one way or the other, take these two questions his words generated in my own mind and let them speak to your heart. Truth is truth no matter who speaks it…or how old he or she may be.                                                                                                                        
“…And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye not read, Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?”  - Matt. 21:16

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