Rejoicing in Youth
Jehoahaz was only twenty-three years old when he became king (2 Kings 23:31). His brother Jehoiakim was only twenty-five (2 Kings 23:36). Upon Jehoiakim’s death, his son Jehoiachin became king at the age of eighteen (2 Kings 24:8). After Jehoiachin’s brief, three month reign, his uncle Zedekiah took the throne, himself only being twenty-one years old (2 Kings 24:18). Notice a pattern here?
These four are the final kings to sit on David’s throne in Jerusalem before Nebuchadnezzar led the Babylonian hordes to destroy the city and end the earthly dynasty per God’s forewarned judgement. Besides sharing the common factor of all being sons or a grandson of Josiah, they were all quite young when they took the throne for their relatively brief reigns (3 months, eleven years, 3 months, and eleven years, respectively). And they were all, to a man, despite their youth, explicitly condemned by God for their wickedness (cf. 2 Kings 23:32, 37; 24:9, 19).
Let that sink in. Even Jehoiachin, who was only eighteen years old and lasted only three months on the throne, was old enough and served long enough to draw the attention – and judgment – of heaven itself (cf. Jeremiah 22:24-30). If you do the math, Jehoahaz was a prisoner of Egypt at roughly twenty-three, Jehoiakim was dead at around thirty-six, and Zedekiah was a blind, son-less Babylonian captive by the time he was thirty-two. The way we look at youth and age today, these weren’t kings, they were kids, “young men” at the most.
And that’s the rub. These days, the larger tendency of the world – and thus the temptation for Christians – is to expect too little of our young people, to excuse their immaturity and iniquity on the basis of their age. “Kids will be kids” is the dogma of the moment. In our culture, we encourage our children and young people to enjoy their childhood, their teenage years, their college years, their twenties, in a way that too often implies that real responsibility, full adulthood, and rigorous moral accountability don’t kick in until their thirties or forties.
But the Bible says otherwise. In Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:1 the Preacher calls young people to carefully balance the fun and opportunities of their youth with the reality of a God who sees, knows, and judges. Enjoy life, yes, but remember there is a larger context for the fun we naturally seek. The Bible says that young people can do great evil and earn God’s wrath.
The challenge for our young people – and for those of us who parent them, teach them, and are concerned for them and about them – is to avoid allowing the shallow silliness of our time and place to blind them to the present responsibilities they possess before God. We want them to rejoice in their youth, but only in a way that acknowledges God’s claims on their lives.
-- Jeff Wilson