the wisdom of youth

In my daily reading from Wordlive we were looking at one of Job’s friends, Elihu. He is the youngest of Job’s so-called comforters and can’t believe the poor quality of advice Job has received from the older friends. He has been sitting patiently and quietly – listening respectfully – until he can keep quiet no longer:

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 a mere mortal.’

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. (Job 32)

Several thoughts jumped off the page at me. One is a reminder that we need to listen to young people as much as to old people. In church it seems that (wrongly) old age counts more than young age.

I can remember the first church meeting I ever attended where there was a serious discussion about membership criteria. It seemed from the comments people were making that the church was leaning towards a more open membership stance. Until, that is, one of the oldest members in the church stood up and gave an impassioned ‘over my dead body’ type speech. Suddenly the mood in the meeting changed and nobody spoke to contradict him after that and the changes were not made.

On the other hand, at the first church where I was a minister some of the young people who were members wanted to remove the arbitrary age limit that was placed on voting in church meetings. I encouraged them to speak for themselves, to share their heart and speak about young people in the Bible through whom God spoke and acted. The initial opposition melted away in the face of their passionate, articulate presentation and the rule was changed almost unanimously.

The second thing that struck me from Elihu was his phrase about being like bottled-up wine, like new wineskins about to burst (a bit like when you put Mentos in Coke – see this link for an example). Jesus used the same image to describe how you can’t contain the new relationship with God that he had come to offer to the world in the old structures of Judaism. New wine was placed in new leather ‘bottles’ that were pliable and could expand as the wine continued to ferment. They would expand to bursting point.

I am challenged to consider whether I am bursting to tell people about Jesus and the new relationship with God that he offers. Or am I content to leave that to those who are more gifted, more extrovert, more confident, more enthusiastic?

I don’t remember Jesus placing caveats on ‘go’ (Matt. 28:19).

Please God, fill me with your Spirit until I am about to burst…

Be blessed, be a blessing.

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