And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said, I am young, and you are very old; why I was afraid…
Elihu speaks with becoming modesty in these words, although most of his discourse shows that he is perfectly self-confident, and full of contempt for the old censors of Job. He cannot but admit at least the conventional distinctions between the claims and dues of youth and age. Let us look at these distinctions.
I. DEFERENCE IS DUE TO AGE. We all feel that this is appropriate, even though age does not always appear in a light that fully justifies its claims. On what grounds does this deference rest?
1. The experience of age. Certainly age has had opportunities of gaining wisdom that are not afforded to youth. Whether a good use has been made of those opportunities is another matter. Still, it is scarcely possible to pass through the world without learning something, if only from one's own blunders.
2. The maturity of age. There is a certain rawness about youth. Apart from its acquisitions from without, the growth of the inner life of a man should ripen, and time should mellow his temperament.
3. The dignity of age. Age is not always dignified; still, the fatherly relation implies a certain rank that is only found with added years. We must respect the orderly arrangement that gives places of honour to years.
4. The achievements of age. The old hero may have become a feeble invalid. Yet he still wears the scars of the battles of bygone days, and we must respect him for what he has done.
5. The infirmities of age. These claim considerate and sympathetic treatment, not slighting and scornful disregard.
II. MODESTY IS BECOMING IN YOUTH. This is especially fit on two grounds.
1. The claims of age. If these are to be respected, youth must stand back for a time. However it might desire to assert itself, youth here finds itself confronted by an obstacle that must not be rudely thrust aside. It may chafe against the restraints, and think them most unreasonable. Perhaps it would be well for the young to consider that they will be aged some day, and will need the consideration shown to age. Meanwhile their advantages are greater than those of the aged in many respects, so that the attempt to surround a naturally melancholy lot of increasing infirmities with honours is really a pathetic confession of the loss of many of the solid boons of life. The young need not envy the honours of age, seeing that they have the powers and opportunities and delights of the sunny spring-time of life.
2. The imperfection of youth. New and untried powers promise great things, but they need regulating and guiding. It is possible to do immense harm by rushing forward ignorantly and without circumspection. It is wiser to begin quietly, and feel our way by degrees.
III. NEITHER THE DEFERENCE DUE TO AGE NOR THE MODESTY BECOMING IN YOUTH SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO INTERFERE WITH DUTY. Old men should be careful not to suppress the generous enthusiasm of youth. They should rather mourn that they have lost it, if it is no longer with them. No venerable position can justify the obstruction of good works. The young have to learn to combine a suitable modesty with fidelity to truth and right. There will be no progress if the constitutional timidity of age is permitted to stand in the way of every proposed improvement. Deference does not mean absolute submission. After all, the consequences of actions are much more important to the young, who will live to reap them, than to the old, who will soon leave the world. The future is for the young; the young must be allowed to shape it. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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 shew you mine opinion.