Monday, June 13, 2011
The Frustration Of The Young
By Job chapter thirty-two, twenty-nine chapters of dialogue and argument have passed. In chapter thirty-two, a new character enters the fray, Elihu. Now Elihu says he has kept silent until now because he was intimidated by everyone else present. They are, after all, much older than him, so who was he to speak up, but now he has reached his breaking point. He says that he is like a wineskin ready to burst, and so Elihu gets a six chapter speech of his own, the longest single speech in the book of Job.
If we were looking at the book of Job as a literary piece, Elihu is sort of odd. Is he for Job or against Job? He certainly doesn't side with Job's three friends, but he doesn't support Job either. Some scholars think that Elihu's speech acts as a bridge connecting the argument over wisdom with God's statement to Job. In this case, Elihu's speech would be sort of a prologue to God. That might be, but it's a strange prologue if that is the case. In many ways, Elihu doesn't seem to fit well with anything. He's just sort of thrown in there.
I'm not going to try to explain why Elihu makes an appearance in the book of Job, but one thing that did stand out to me during this read through was Elihu's frustration at his elders. Elihu was apparently taught to respect his elders and assume that with years comes wisdom, but after listening to Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar argue for twenty-nine chapters, Elihu has come to a startling conclusion. None of these men know anything more than he does. They've all turned into boilers venting steam at each other. Their supposed wisdom is nothing but hot air.
I think Elihu, in this sense, speaks for many of the younger generation. The younger generation is largely ignored, much like Elihu until chapter thirty-two, but that doesn't mean they aren't watching. It also doesn't mean they aren't very concerned with what is being said. After all, they are just as affected by the crises of life as anyone else. So, they stand back, waiting to gain wisdom from those who should know more than they. The sad thing is that more and more of the younger generation is starting to speak up, and when they do their message tends to have a unified tone: you don't know any more than we do.
As a younger minister myself, it is frightening how few people their are my age in church, not just in my congregation, but in almost every congregation I know. Most people my age are tired of hearing arguments in churches that don't actually lead any where. To put it harshly, they see most church arguments as the arguments of old men wanting to prove themselves right. So, not surprisingly, they have thrown in the towel and gone home to be with friends who are also tired of the same old arguments.
By the time the book of Job ends everyone has been put in their place. Job has had his court hearing with God, and his response was to say, "I had no idea what I was talking about. I repent in dust and ashes." Job's three friends were also humbled. God was very clear that they had not spoken right of him, and they needed to repent. I don't want to make too much out of this, but is it ironic or prophetic that the only one who wasn't put in his place was Elihu. Elihu is the only one who wasn't forced to repent.
Maybe there is a lesson our churches need to learn in that.
Stopping point: Job 42