"But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding."
Job 32:8

Monday, May 6, 2013

The social prejudices that God doesn't care for

Today I want to share with you all a message that I brought to youth group several weeks ago and one that I've been wanting to share for some time ever since I finished reading the book of Job. But before I get into that, I want us to think for a moment because for some of us, this may simply be a message I'm preaching to the choir, but for a lot of us, I believe, we hold these reservations without us noticing them.

You see, how often do we neglect someone's advice or wisdom because of a social prejudice we may hold? Whether it be with respect to their age, gender, ethnicity or class, do we ever ignore them, if even for a moment because we think that since they are younger, different or come from a different country, that what they may have to say isn't worth our time?

Keep that in mind as we just briefly look at two people from Scripture, the first one coming from the book of Job.

Now, in the book of Job we have Job (duh) who lost just about everything material-wise and family-wise in his life, so a group of his friends came to mourn with him and after mourning, they begin a discussion. Now, when I read Job, I like to imagine its one epic argument... but that's besides the point. But we find the friends discussing what Job could have possibly done to deserve all that had happened. And it isn't until Job 32 that we hear from the person that I want to bring to the forefront today.

Job 32:1-5 NIV says, "So these three men stopped answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. But Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, became very angry with Job for justifying himselfrather than God. He was also angry with the three friends, because they had found no way to refute Job, and yet had condemned him. Now Elihu had waited before speaking to Job because they were older than he. But when he saw that the three men had nothing more to say, his anger was aroused."

Here we have a youth of his time in society who was troubled by the words he was hearing to the point of being compelled to speak out, not for his own personal gain, but for the sake of the truth.

Godly focus. That's what Elihu had. And not only that but respect. He respected the others because they were older than himself. And so he waited.

And then, in Job 32:6-8 NIV, he begins to speak, "

"So Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite said, 'I am young in years, and you are old; that is why I was fearful, not daring to tell you what I know. I thought, ‘Age should speak; advanced years should teach wisdom.’ But it is the spirit in a person, the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding."

He was fearful, he had respect. The kind of respect for his elders that it seems a lot of grown ups today complain that society is lacking. But here was a sincere youth who, despite everything that was being said, waited patiently until he could speak. 

But after realising the folly and all that was being said, what was his final conclusion? That it is God and God alone who gives understanding. 

But before we expand on this, I want to take it further, beyond just talking about age.

Let's take a moment, and jump ahead to the time of Christ and look briefly at the man who prepared the way for Christ before His ministry began. 

Of course, we're talking about John the Baptist who was prophesied about in Isaiah 40:3 NIV,

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
    make straight paths for him.’”

And when we think about John, what do we imagine? Someone whom many people had come to in order to be baptised, the very man that God chose to prepare the way for His Son. We have all these images in our head about John and the influential figure he was at his time.

But at face value, what was he? A poor guy with barely the clothes on his back. 

If we look at Matthew 3:4 NIV, what do we see? 

"John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey."

Whether it was a lifestyle John chose or a result of his circumstances, this was the life John lived. And yet in Matthew 3:5-6 NIV, we see,

"People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River."

All I can imagine issomeone, considered to be at the bottom of society, having such a godly influence that people traveled across Judea to come be baptised by him. 

And when we thought that God had shown all there needed to be demonstrated that He is neither limited nor cares about the social prejudices we place on people, He decided to take the lowliest position, making Himself a vulnerable infant born in a manger. 

And, sometimes. Sometimes, because of these prejudices we hold, we can be tempted to fall into the trap that Elihu speaks of,

"For God does speak - now one way, now another - though man may not perceive it." (Job 33:14 NIV)

What if, the very people that we ignore in our lives because of the prejudices we may hold in our hearts are the very ones God wants to use to  speak to us? That is what we must always be careful because God works in some amazingly mysterious ways sometimes and the last thing Satan wants is for us to realise and listen to what God is saying. 

Now, before we finish, there are a few words of encouragement that need to be shared.

Because God does not care for the limits that society tries to place on His children whatever those limits may be, we have a duty to uphold as Christians regardless of who we are in society, and I believe Paul says it beautifully in the first book of Timothy, "

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity." (1 Timothy 4:12 NIV) 

Whatever limit people try to place on you, remind yourself that regardless, God calls you to set an example for all believers. a

And because of His sufficiency and grace, we lack nothing. 

"For Christ conquered death with only a tree, and if you have more than that, how much more will He want to see, you see, you have all that you need." David Bowden from "No Excuse

God has given each of us exactly what we need in order to fulfill the mission He has set out before us.

And now He waits with an outstretched hand and a message to share: that the limits society places on us are the very constraints He will use to make His Name known and to fulfill His perfect and pleasing will.

So now the choice rests with us. Do we hold onto our prejudices that place both ourselves and those around us in shackles or will we trust God with what He has given us?

God bless you all.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13 NIV

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