Thursday, April 28, 2016

"Wisdom does not necessarily come with age ..."

Day #120

Scripture Reading:  Job 31 - 32 ...

Solomon wrote in his proverbs, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.  Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud” (Proverbs 16:18-19).  He also wrote, in words repeated later by James, “He (God) mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble” (Proverbs 3:34).  “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).  Pride is always focused on self rather than God and as we have seen, pride was sneaking up on Job.  In an effort to defend himself against the accusations of his “friends,” Job went too far in challenging God’s justice and in Chapter 31 Job continues to lay out his case before God and his friends.  He closes by saying, “I sign now my defense – let the Almighty answer me; let my accuser put his indictment in writing” (31:35).

Attempting to declare his innocence of all wrongdoing, Job used the word "if" over and over and over again.  He says, "IF I have done this" or "IF I have done that" or "IF I have not done this or that" ... "If ... if ... if ... "  You want to just interrupt and say, "Job, STOP!"  But in Job's defense, it is a bit difficult to ignore accusations being made repeatedly by those who claim to be your friends.  I don't want to make Job out to be "worse" than he was.  He had been through a lot, and his friends were not helping.  They offered him no comfort, did not point him to the God who is faithful and responded as though they KNEW Job better than he knew himself.

Yet, the actions of Job’s friends did not excuse Job’s response.  His friends did not rightly present God’s ways to Job, being more intent on “putting Job in his place.”  But neither did Job come to God’s defense by declaring His justice and faithfulness.  Job gave in to the temptation to defend himself rather than the honor of his God.  Soon God would grant his request for an answer, but first, God used the young man, Elihu, to speak truth to Job and the rest.  Apparently, Elihu had arrived with Job’s other friends, but had kept silent because he was younger than the rest.  He could do so no longer.

Finally, young Elihu, who had been listening to this long, drawn-out conversation, decided that for the glory of God he must end his silence.  He explains that he hesitated to speak because Job and his friends were all older than he and he expected them to speak with wisdom.  He now explains that he was "angry with Job for justifying himself rather than God"  (32:3).  How many have done the same through the ages.  Wanting to maintain our innocence is folly.  "There is no one righteous, no not one!" (Romans 3:10).  We all know that, yet it seems some need to be reminded of that truth.  There is benefit in humbling ourselves, confessing our sin AND in knowing that God is always just and righteous in all He does.  When you try to justify yourself it often results in questioning God and makes you feel distant from Him at the very moment when you most need Him.  How much better to confess your sin, trust in God's grace and draw near to Him.

As believers we know that we have a great High Priest, Jesus, who is seated at the Father's right hand, who is interceding for us.  Job believed in God and in His forgiveness, but somewhere Job and his three friends took their eyes off of God and became entangled in an endless and foolish debate that led only to a dead end.  I have been involved in similar discussions where humility and a simple confession that we don’t know everything would have brought the only resolution possible:  faith in the God who knows everything from beginning to end and who is at work in the midst of every circumstance, every situation, in ways we cannot possibly know or explain.  Mercifully, young Elihu was now moved to speak.

He says, "The spirit within me compels me ..."  Indeed, it was GOD's Spirit within Elihu who prompted him to speak.  He said "It is the Spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding."  This is what Paul wrote in I Corinthians 2, when speaking about wisdom from the Spirit of God:

"For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him?  In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.  We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. ... The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God ... he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. ... But we have the mind of Christ" (I Corinthians 2:11-16).

True wisdom does not come with age; it is a gift from God through the work of His Spirit.  As you listen to young Elihu speak over the next few chapters you will hear more wisdom in a short time than you heard from Job's other friends over this whole long discourse.  There are people in this world who are "smart," by the world's standards, but few who are truly wise.  The wisdom of man does not lead to the one, true God; it cannot, because true wisdom requires humbling yourself before your Creator and acknowledging that HE, and not YOU, is God.  Pride gets in the way of people coming to God or receiving wisdom from God because it deceives the mind into believing it already knows everything!  Pride makes people unteachable and leaves them in their own ignorance.

Job and his friends needed to hear from God.  God now speaks to them, first through Elihu and then from the mouth of God Himself.  Young Elihu (we don’t know how old he was) now becomes God’s spokesman.  Later, God would use a young man named, Jeremiah, to be a powerful prophet to speak to His people (Jeremiah 1:6-8) and still later Paul wrote to his young friend, Timothy, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young” (I Timothy 4:12). Elihu understood that wisdom comes from the Spirit of God.

As you seek to be wise, always be quick to listen and quick to learn. Wisdom can be yours when you are willing to humble yourself and draw near to the One who holds Your life in His hands.

"Father, it is comforting to know that Your grace and love are sufficient for my every need.  I gladly and willingly humble myself before You, confessing my sin and resting in Your forgiveness through faith in Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me, Lord, to seek Your wisdom.  Fill me with Your Spirit so that I can share Your wisdom with others and give You glory for who You are.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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