Which is the most difficult era of human life? Infancy? Adolescence? Mature adulthood? Agedness? It probably depends upon where you are as to how you might answer that query.
While many might suggest that one’s “sunset” years are the hardest, my own judgment would be that the period designated as “youth” might be the most challenging.
Youth is a frustrating time in life. It is that period when one is hardly old enough to be “on his own,” and yet he is feeling a sense of independence. Youth ever are attempting to find some sense of identity; that is why they sometimes act and dress so weird. They are bizarre!
But then, so were we.
The Scriptures represent “youth” as a time both of danger and challenge. Moses said that “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen. 8:21), and Paul admonished Timothy to “flee
youthful lusts” (2 Tim. 2:22).
By way of contrast, though, the Creator also recognizes the value of youth to the divine cause. Youngsters have energy, they are daring, their hearts are filled with visions of the future; indeed; they can be a most valuable component in the service of Jehovah.
Solomon, who wasted much of his life in folly, perhaps thought better of the matter in his declining days.
He contended: “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, I have no pleasure in them” (Eccl. 12:1).
Again, Paul would say to Timothy: “Let no man despise your youth; but you be an example to them that believe, in word, in manner of life, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12).
It strikes me that whereas our youth can be quite impetuous and sometimes a bit silly, they are, nonetheless, a wonderful resource in the kingdom of heaven. The fact is, the Bible is replete with examples of how God has used younger people in some of the most vital roles in the unfolding of his marvelous plan of redemption.
Let’s reflect upon some striking examples that demonstrate God’s confidence in youth.
Joseph is truly one of the sterling characters of the Old Testament era. He was a favorite of his father, which incited the passionate envy of his brothers (cf. Acts 7:9). Accordingly, these hateful siblings sold Joseph to a caravan of Ishmaelites who transported him down to Egypt, where the younger brother was bought by an Egyptian officer named Potiphar.
As most everyone knows, during the course of his duties, Potiphar’s evil wife cast longing eyes toward Joseph. She attempted to seduce him, but he, with firm resolve, resisted, insisting: “How can I do this
great wickedness and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9). One of the stunning features of the account is the fact that Jospeh was only seventeen years of age (Gen. 37:2)! A young lad, in a strange land, separated from his people and his center of religious strength — yet faithful to his God. How thrilling!
As the story subsequently unfolds, we learn that Joseph was being used by Jehovah as a providential instrument for the preservation of the Hebrew nation. Joseph would later recognize: “God did send me [here] to preserve life” (Gen. 45:5). Again, at the end of his life, to his brothers he said: “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good to save many lives” (50:20).
All of this was done, of course, in view the Lord’s use of the Hebrew nation as an instrument in the divine plan which resulted in the incarnation of Christ. Think about it. God trusted a teenager to accomplish such
a vital role.
As the Hebrew people multiplied in the land of Egypt, they were perceived as a threat to the stability of that nation. Hence the order was given that Israelite male babies were to be thrown into the Nile. When Moses was born, his parents hid him for three months; then, they placed him in a small vessel fashioned from the papyrus plant, which they deposited by the river’s edge, committing their precious baby to the care of Jehovah.
In the meantime, Moses’ older sister, who is estimated to be about ten or twelve at this time (McClintock, Vol. IV, 330), was posted some distance away, keeping watch. Finally Miriam obtained Jochebed, Moses’ own mother, as a nurse for the child. Oh, the ways of providence!
Here is my point. The entire future of the Hebrew nation — the instrument to be employed for the conveyance of the Savior — was entrusted to a young girl.
Does this say something about how God values youth? Assuredly it does.
The story of David, who became Israel’s king, is too well-known to need elaboration. Who among us, both as child and adult, has not thrilled to the narrative of David’s encounter with the devilish Goliath?
What a breathtaking episode — the soldiers of Israel on one side of the valley of Elah, the defiant Philistine champion on the other. Morning and evening for forty days, Goliath had challenged Israel to combat, but they were frozen in fear (1 Sam. 17:10-16).
When David arrived on the scene he was chagrined at the timidity of his Hebrew kinsmen and volunteered to take on the infidel. But he was disdained as a mere “youth” — initially by king Saul himself, and then by Goliath (1 Sam. 17:33,42). Never mind; God was with this “youth,” who may have been about twenty-two or so at the time (Clarke, 264). Goliath was slain and the Philistine force was routed. Edersheim called this victory “the turning point in the history of the theocracy” (89).
Again, the Lord invested in youth, and the cause of truth triumphed.
… to be continued in July 2014 edition.