Listen to Your Elders

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Then some of the wise old men stood and spoke to all the people assembled there.

Jeremiah 26:17

As I watch younger Christian leaders today, I remember how much I was once like them. With youth comes enthusiasm, vision, boldness . . . and often arrogance. I think of some things I once said to my older leaders and I cringe. How could I have been so full of myself? Why was I so reticent to listen to my elders?

Jeremiah 26 encourages us to pay attention to our elders. This chapter focuses on events in the ministry of Jeremiah at the beginning of the reign of King Jehoiakim (around 609 B.C.). The prophet called the people of Judah to repentance, promising that if they did not turn back to the Lord, he would destroy both the Temple and the holy city of Jerusalem. When Jeremiah finished his proclamation, the priests, prophets, and people wanted to kill him (26:8). Soon the government officials got involved, putting the prophet on trial. The priests and prophets still wanted to kill Jeremiah, but the people and public officials began to take his side (26:16).

Just then, “some of the wise old men stood and spoke to all the people assembled there” (26:17). The Hebrew phrase translated here as “wise old men” reads literally, “old men of the land” (’anashim mizziqnei ha’aretz). In all likelihood, this phrase does not refer to identified leaders so much as to older men who were respected for their wisdom. These elders reminded the people of a prophecy of Micah, where he threatened the Temple and Jerusalem (26:18; see Micah 3:12). In response, King Hezekiah and the people did not kill Micah, but rather turned from their sins and were delivered from judgment (26:19). The word of the elders helped to persuade the officials not to take Jeremiah’s life.

What did the elders have to offer, in addition to the respect they received in a culture that honored old age? They remembered the past and took it seriously. They helped the people, most of whom would not have known the story of Micah and Hezekiah, learn from experience. Thus the elders steered the people and the officials in the right direction, even when the priests and prophets sought to lead Judah astray by killing Jeremiah.

Today I’m reminded that I have much to learn from those who are older than I am, even as I also have much to learn from the vision and creativity of those who are younger. I pray for the humility to listen to my elders, to seek out their wisdom, and to benefit from the well-aged perspective of their years.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Who are the “elders” in your life who guide you? Do you listen to your elders? Why or why not? When have you heard God’s direction for your life from those who are older than you?

PRAYER: O Lord, you give your church all that it needs to flourish, if only we would accept your gifts. You give us the young, people of vision and passion, people who aren’t afraid to ask hard questions and challenge our sacrosanct wineskins. We need the young to keep us moving, to stir us to action, to stimulate us to new ways.

And we also need the “old men and women of the land.” We need those who have lived long and full lives, and who are willing to share their mature wisdom with us. Help us, Lord, to listen to our elders, to value them and their insights.

I thank you for those elders who are also people of new vision, who continue to look for the new thing you are doing. How marvelous that some people can combine the visionary passion of youth with the mature reflection of old age. Help me, Lord, to be one of those people!

In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen.