Monday, September 11, 2006

Elihu the youth

Job 32:4-10

1So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. 2Then Elihu son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, became angry. He was angry at Job because he justified himself rather than God; 3he was angry also at Job's three friends because they had found no answer, though they had declared Job to be in the wrong. 4Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job, because they were older than he. 5But when Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouths of these three men, he became angry.

6Elihu son of Barachel the Buzite answered: "I am young in years, and you are aged; therefore I was timid and afraid to declare my opinion to you. 7I said, 'Let days speak, and many years teach wisdom.' 8But truly it is the spirit in a mortal, the breath of the Almighty, that makes for understanding. 9It is not the old that are wise, nor the aged that understand what is right. 10Therefore I say, 'Listen to me; let me also declare my opinion.'

This text is part of the daily lectionary today. These words are spoken by Elihu after he's heard his elders give their advice to the mourning Job. I love the fact that Elihu begins by listening to the wisdom of his elders and waiting to speak until those who are supposed to have wisdom have spoken. But, in the absence of what he sees as wisdom, he decides that it's time for the voice of youth to speak up. As the youngest one present, possibly a high school youth on a committee, he becomes frustrated with both Job and his "friends," because neither side seems to be adequately repentant and neither side quite gets it right. Elihu goes on to provide what I see as a kind of middle ground between Job and the other friends. Anyway, as one who works with young people, this passage struck me as one that calls upon young people to speak up when the wisdom of the elders seems flawed.