Usually we expect elderly people to be wise. They have experienced many things. They have learned what actions bring good results and what actions cause bad results. They have suffered and have learned how to handle emotional and physical pain. They know what to expect in life and have experienced both its unjust punishments and unjust rewards. As people with religious convictions, they have discovered how God is related to this life and can instruct the young adult about all these matters.
In the East, traditionally, the elderly are respected and honored and their opinions and judgments are sought by younger people. Here in the West, it is the young people who know the latest scientific discoveries, who can film with our camcorders, record with our VCR's and operate our computers.
Perhaps it is natural that because the young have superior technical knowledge, they often feel they know more about life than their parents and grandparents. Ignoring ancient customs and the standards of the elderly, the young sometimes get themselves involved in all sorts of terrible predicaments. The elderly in the household may feel they can't do much to help. Often the parents and grandparents grieve over the broken lives of their children and grandchildren.
Parents hope that their children will accept and honor their way of life. Of course, children sometimes feel resentment if their family tries to force them to fit into the traditional patterns. Rather, the children feel it is more beneficial to adjust to the culture in which they live. Because immigrant children learn English more easily than their parents, often they are the ones who translate and interpret modern life to their elders. This reversal of roles, where the child instructs the parent, puts a strain on everyone in the household.
Occasionally, a child comes along who is able to bridge the gap between the old and the new. He observes the traditions while absorbing what is good and growing through participation in modern life. His parents are proud of him and his peers also respect and like him. Such children are rare indeed and there is much less tension in the households where such children live. What parent would not delight in such a child?
According to the Qur'an, Zakariya's son Yahya (also called John) was one of these exceptional children. The Qur'an teaches that Yahya was filled with wisdom from his youth. He learned about life, its pains, disappointments and injustices without having to learn through experience. God had given him wisdom in his youth and that wisdom dictated all of his actions and helped him in all of his relationships.
Often children and young people are cruel to the animals. They throw stones at dogs, tie tin cans on cats' tails and step on lizards to make them shed their tails. They are ready to beat the donkey that balks and have to be supervised lest they forget their duties to feed the chickens and ducks. Yahya didn't do these things. He felt pity for God's creatures. He realized they were dumb creatures moved by their natural drives and instincts, unable to think or reason for themselves. Yahya lived at peace with nature because he sensed these creatures belonged to his God. That is wisdom!
Yahya kept himself pure. He guarded his life from youthful lusts and passions. His mind excluded evil thoughts. Thus he avoided evil actions. That is wisdom!
Yahya was devout. He had a humble, submissive attitude toward God. He kept God's commands. He worshiped God in all he was and did. That is wisdom!
Yahya was kind to his parents. He treated them with honor and respect. His submission, obedience and understanding kept him from rebelling against them or being proud, stubborn or critical. That is wisdom!
Any parents would have been proud to have Yahya as their son. Yahya had all these good qualities because God had given him wisdom when he was still a youth rather than letting him acquire it through age and experience. (Sura 19:12-15)
The Bible teaches that wisdom is the most important thing a child can possess. The Bible urges young people to seek wisdom and understanding. In the section called Proverbs 2:1-11, we read:
"My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless. For he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair - every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you."
These are wonderful promises for believers. They are a great encouragement to young people who are starting out in life.
We can find wisdom no matter how old we are. (And surely there are many parents and grandparents who feel they need a great deal of wisdom in dealing with their children.) The Bible says: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." (Proverbs 1:7) If you respect, honor and obey God, you are wise. Then, because God holds first place in your life, everything else will fit into its proper place. That is wisdom!
If you have this wisdom, you must learn to use it. Every situation is an opportunity for you to ponder what the wise reaction should be. Instead of acting on impulses or letting your emotions and personal desires dictate your way, you learn to consider, to reflect, to understand and base your actions on choices that will bring the most praise to God.
Do you admire the Qur'anic Yahya for his wisdom? God can give you wisdom, too, if you seek His help with all your heart. My authority, the Bible, says so.
The Bible also has very high words for John, whom the Qur'an names Yahya. Listen to these promises the Lord's angel spoke to John's father, Zechariah.
"Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to drink wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth." (Luke 1:13-15)
The Bible says little about this remarkable boy's childhood. It says merely:
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