In today's reading, the thing that stood out for me was mistaken first impressions.
First, the example of Elihu. It doesn't say how old he was but it does mention that he was younger than Job and his friends. (This immediately made me think about the verse I teach my Grade 1 friends: 1 Timothy 4:12. I want them to know that even though they are among the youngest in the school that they have value and can be an example.) A first impression of Elihu could have been that with his lack of age and experience he may not have had authority or even anything to add to Job and his situation. However, this was not true.
From this website:
Elihu was one of Job’s friends—not one of the three who had come to comfort Job at the beginning of the book, but one who arrives later and offers the last and longest single speech to Job. Elihu is identified only as the “son of Barakel the Buzite, of the family of Ram” (Job 32:2). In Job 32—37 Elihu offers a response to Job that lifts up the Lord, condemns Job’s three friends, and rightly confronts Job....
...In short, Elihu condemns Job’s friends and Job’s claim of being without sin, declares God’s justice, condemns Job’s attitude toward God, and exalts God’s greatness. Elihu’s four-part speech is followed by God breaking His silence to directly answer Job. In Job 42:7 the Lord condemns Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. Elihu is not mentioned again after he finishes his speech, but, significantly, he is not rebuked by God.
Elihu’s life and speech offer many insights for today. First, he dealt with the real issues of the situation rather than looking at the situation from a human perspective. Second, he emphasized God and His greatness rather than focus on a human response to problems. Third, he responded with respect, allowing others to speak first before offering his own response. These traits can help us today as we seek to understand why God allows suffering and as we attempt to help others who face suffering.
In the NT, when Paul and Barnabas were healing and sharing the gospel, people proclaimed them as gods in human form. Paul and Barnabas were so distraught that they tore their clothes and tried to make sure people understood that THEY were not the important ones, but mere messengers for the Living God. However, first impressions are hard to deny and people only see what they want to see. The people of Lystra stayed true to their first impression.
Even though they said these things, they barely stopped the crowds from sacrificing to them.
As humans, we can be so blind to reality. We choose to believe what we see and it's hard to change our first impressions even when confronted by the truth.
Finally, I think it is remarkable that Paul was stoned and left for dead and yet was well enough to travel to Derbe the next day. How bad was Paul hurt that the people stoning him believed they had succeeded in ending his life? Yet, how amazingly quick was his recovery that Paul was well enough to travel the next day? The mistaken first impression of the people stoning Paul was that they had eliminated him from preaching. They believed the Jews, who were intent on poisoning their minds with false truths, and attempted to end Paul's mission. However, they were unsuccessful in every sense because not only was Paul very much alive, but he was able to travel to spread the gospel even farther because of persecution. The gospel was shared in Derbe, again in Lystra, Iconium, Antioch, Pisdidia, Pamphylia, Perga, Attalia, and again they returned to Antioch. The intent was to stop Paul's ministry. The result was the spread of gospel.
Sometimes we can be too focused on initial impressions or on things that are not true. We might be wrong about someone's value, we might be mistaken about someone's actions, and we might believe that we have the power to interrupt God's plan by inserting our own agenda. Sometimes we need to step back from the situation and think about our first impression and find out if it is, in fact, as true as we think it is.
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage: Job 34-35; Acts 15:1-21