3.7 Youth For Truth: Biblical Examples For Young People
One of the features of newly baptized converts is that they are generally
young- often under 25. There are many Biblical examples for young people.
The very first converts of the early church were comprised largely of
the same age group- and yes, it's possible to Biblically prove this. 1
Cor. 15:6 states that the majority of the 500 brethren who saw the risen
Lord Jesus were still alive when Paul wrote to Corinth, about 25 -30 years
later. Seeing that life expectancy in first century Palestine was around
50, it would follow that the vast majority of those first witnesses of
the risen Lord were under 25. Daniel was only 18 at the time of Dan. 2;
Joshua, Jeremiah, the disciples and other notable Bible characters also
bore the yoke in their youth. It is one of the wonders of God manifestation
that He can use almost any kind of simile to reveal His character to us.
Thus God is likened in the prophets to both a Father and a Mother; He
is likewise depicted as an old man (" the ancient of days" with
glorious white hair), and also as a young man. The point is that God uses
different figures of speech to reveal different characteristics to us.
Our present study is unashamedly designed to encourage the youngsters
of our community to pour out their idealism, their optimism, their positive
vision, before the Lord- without reserve!
" As a young man..."
So we want to begin by observing that God chose to liken Himself
to a dynamic young man. In fact, a young man deeply in love with a young
woman- the virgin daughter of Israel (Hos 3:1,2; Ez. 16:10,14). The love
and attraction which God felt for Israel in the Sinai wilderness is held
up as typical of His future feelings towards Israel: " As a young
man...rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee"
(Is. 62:5). Speaking of the same time, Hos. 2:14-16 allows us to infer
something about the attitude of God to Israel at the time of the exodus:
" I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness (as God did
at the exodus), and speak comfortably unto her...as in the days of her
youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt"
. In the same way as God (as it were) spoke charmingly to Israel, encouraging
her to 'go for' Him, Israel responded as a keen young woman would in this
situation. Her feelings towards God matched His towards her; thus He could
reflect later: " I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the
love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness"
(Jer. 2:2). The young man (God) tried to allure her, but she was keen
So far, so good. We have shown, if nothing else, that God's love for
His people (then and now) can be appropriately typified by the romantic
relationship between two youngsters. But the Bible minded reader ought
to have some big questions at the back of his mind. God and Israel being
so mutually in love with each other is hard to square with the frequent
accounts of the problems in their relationship- to put it mildly. "
They do alway err in their hearts" (Heb. 3:10), in "
turning back unto Egypt" - that is God's considered comment upon
their relationship. God had wanted to destroy Israel even while in Egypt
(Ez. 20:8), only refraining for the sake of His Name. Later, in the wilderness,
He actually wanted to destroy them in a moment, making of Moses a greater
nation. Instead, God slew the majority over a forty year period- for their
unfaithfulness to His covenant. Ezekiel 20 describes how Israel took the
idols of Egypt with them through the Red Sea; indeed, they lugged a whole
pagan tabernacle system with them through the wilderness, in addition
to the true tabernacle (Acts 7:43,44).
Yet the exodus and wilderness journey is described as God, a young
man, being madly in love with the young woman of Israel. How could a God
who loves purity, who cannot look upon iniquity, fall in love so passionately
with such a reprobate crew? It cannot be that God turned a blind eye to
their sin. And how can Israel be described as going after God in
the wilderness, showing Him all " the love of thine espousals"
(Jer. 2:2) when in their hearts, from Egypt right through the wilderness
journey, " they despised my judgments...(and thus) rebelled against
me" (Ez. 20:8,13,16,21)?
I suggest the solution to this problem lies in the fact that God was
attracted to a certain faithful element within the people of Israel at
this time. Robert Roberts rightly described the generation that was under
twenty years old on leaving Egypt as the most faithful of all Israel's
generations. The faithful element with whom God so 'fell in love' was
not just comprised of the 'under 20s'. Joshua and Caleb also featured
amongst them, as did the Levites (who the curse of destruction in the
wilderness did not apply to: Num. 14:29 cp. 1:49). Numerically, the largest
of these three groups who constituted the 'faithful element' was the under
20s. It is fitting, therefore, that this faithful remnant are personified
as a young person. Thus God reflected to Hosea: " When Israel was
a child (s.w. " young man" ), then I loved him, and called my
son out of Egypt" (11:1). We are told that Israel were delivered
from Egypt because they prayed for that deliverance. Yet God would not
hear the prayers of sin-bitten Israel as a whole, who were content to
share in Egypt's materialism (Ex. 16:3; Num. 11:5); it must have been
the prayers of the righteous remnant which so moved God to respond.
Dt. 8:2-7 describes God leading Israel through the wilderness for 40
years so that they could then enter the land. 'Israel' here must
refer to the under 20s, Joshua, Caleb and the Levites. It was only they
who went through the wilderness for 40 years. It was 'Israel' in this
sense with whom God was in love. They considered in their heart, that
God was treating them as a father does his son (Dt. 8:5). This has a practical
significance to it; the under 20s would have been at variance with their
natural parents, who knew they were condemned to death in the wilderness,
and who refused to take their covenant with God seriously. That young
remnant were led to meditate that God was their Heavenly Father; natural
relationships that were not based around a true love of God, paled into
insignificance as they spiritually matured. Dt. 8:3 says that they
learnt to live by every word of God during those 40 years. This is just
not true of rebellious Israel generally. But the under 20s, Levites, Joshua
and Caleb all developed into keen lovers of the word during that time.
They are classic Biblical examples for young people.
There is further evidence that this group of young people were
keen to 'do their Bible readings'. On the wilderness journey, God "
raised up your sons for prophets (forth-tellers of God's
word), and of your young men for Nazarites" (Am. 2:10,11).
If it was the Levites and the under 20s who entered the land, it is likely
that a strong bond formed between them. Therefore the young zealots took
the Nazarite vow, which enabled a non-Levite to make the dedication expected
of the priesthood. The long hair represented the high priestly mitre;
and the restrictions concerning wine and defilement for the dead were
identical for both Levite and Nazarite. We have suggested that the typical
'young woman' who married God in the wilderness years was primarily these
keen young people. Rom. 7:1,2 significantly likens Israel's marriage to
God as being a marriage to the Law. This adds further point to
our deduction that those youngsters were bound together in love of the
One of the ringleaders of this group was Joshua- a great Biblical example
for young people. His love of the word is stressed throughout the record.
He was just over 20 at the time of leaving Egypt, and is styled a "
young man" . The Hebrew means 'growing one', and is translated "
child" in Hos. 11:1. He " departed not out of the tabernacle"
(Ex. 33:11), where the Angel spoke God's word to Moses. Ps. 91 comments
upon how he dwelt in " the secret place" , where the word was
spoken (see the connections between the " secret" place and
God's word: Job 15:8; 29:4; Ps. 25:14; Prov. 3:32; Is. 45:19; Dan. 2:18;
Am. 3:7). It was because of this love of the word that Joshua was preserved
in those wilderness years, as the bodies of his peer group were abandoned
in mass graves in the Sinai scrub: " A thousand shall fall at thy
side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee"
. Joshua calmly looked at those sights, knowing whom he had believed:
" Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see (i.e. meditate
upon) the reward of the wicked" (Ps. 91:7,8). Similar feelings will
doubtless be experienced by the faithful young believer, as the final
judgments and plagues start to fall at the Lord's return.
Despite his youth, Joshua's love of the word, and subsequent spiritual
insight, led him to be chosen to accompany Moses, to witness the mighty
theophany in the mount. In his twenties, soon after leaving Egypt, Joshua
was made the leader of the Israelite army which fought Amalek. He was
told to compose that army of men of his personal choice (Ex. 17:9). One
wonders if the condemned generation had much heart for a fight. Can we
not imagine him choosing the zealous young reformers of Egypt, along with
Joshua appears to have been only one of a group of Moses' " young
men" , who moved around the camp running his errands (Ex. 24:5; Num.
11:27,28); as a similar group did for Nehemiah and Paul years later. The
young men of the New Testament were also characterized by their love of
the word (1 Jn. 2:14). Moses would have had a special fondness for this
generation who were to enter the land. A large part of the Law was concerned
with Israel's behaviour after they had settled in the land; these would
only have been relevant to that younger generation. It is fitting that
both Moses and Caleb (and Joshua?) maintained their youthful vigour right
up to their death (Dt. 34:7; Josh. 14:11).
The extent of spiritual despair, despondency and apostasy amongst the
condemned generation cannot be overstated. They neglected the circumcision
of their children (Josh. 5:5,6), showing their rejection of the Abrahamic
covenant with them. There is good reason to think that Rom. 1 is a description
of Israel in the wilderness. Rom. 1:23 accuses them of changing "
the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to...fourfooted
beasts, and creeping things" , clearly alluding to Ps. 106:29 concerning
how Israel in the wilderness " changed their glory (i.e. God) into
the similitude of an ox that eateth grass" by making the golden calf.
The effective atheism of Rom. 1 is matched by Ps. 106:21: " They
forgat God their saviour" . The long catalogue of Israel's wilderness
sins in Ps. 106 is similar to that in Rom. 1. " Full of envy"
(Rom. 1:29) corresponds to them envying Moses (Ps. 106:16), " whisperers"
(Rom. 1:29) to " murmerers" (Ps. 106:25), " inventors of
evil things" (Rom. 1:30) to God being angered with " their inventions"
of false gods (Ps. 106:29). Because of this " God gave them up"
to continue in their sexual perversion and bitterness with each other,
even to the extent of murder (Rom. 1:27,29). They were a rabble of about
2 million people living in moral anarchy, driven on in their lust by the
knowledge that God had rejected them. Those young people had to violently
rebel against the attitude of the world and older generation around them.
The waters of the Red Sea truly made them new creatures. They were so
evidently not the product of their environment and parental example.
Psychologists mock young Christians of today for living out parental expectation,
and conforming to background environment. Yet if our response to baptism
has made us truly new creations, this just cannot be true.
And now for a different Biblical example for young people. John Mark
was an example of one 'brought up in it' (almost) who made it real for
himself in the very end. His mother Mary owned the home where the first
ecclesia met in Jerusalem- he would have known all the leading lights,
the doubts, the joys, the fears, the debates of the early church. Barnabas
was his kindly uncle, who took him on the first missionary journey with
Paul. Cyprus was OK, but once they landed at Perga, Paul insisted on leaving
the coast road and going up the dangerous road to preach on the uplands;
and Mark quit, scared perhaps to risk his life that far. And so he went
back to his mum in Jerusalem, and the safety of the home ecclesia. And
no doubt he was warmly welcomed home, as the Jerusalem ecclesia by then
were beginning to consider Paul as being just way out. But over the months,
things changed. John Mark wanted to go again, and his uncle Barnabas encouraged
him. But Paul would have none of it. That rejection must have sorely hurt
Mark; and we hear nothing more of him for about 15 years. Then, when Paul
was in prison, he starts to get mentioned. He is called there Paul's "
fellow-prisoner" (Col. 4:10), as if he too had been imprisoned for
his bold preaching. To Philemon, Paul writes that Mark is his " fellow-worker"
; and in his last days, he begs Mark to come and see him (2 Tim. 4:9-11).
Peter also, probably writing likewise from Rome [" Babylon"
] mentions Mark as his " son" (1 Pet. 5:13), and tradition has
it that Mark wrote down Peter's Gospel. So the young brother who possibly
had been made flabby by the nice background, eventually made it real for
himself in the end.
Wilderness Generation - ?
God is ultimately perfect. He therefore loves spiritual idealism. "
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven
is perfect" (Mt. 5:48) is evidently designed to provoke idealism.
Perhaps it was for this reason that God was so attracted to that generation
of youngsters who left Egypt. Freedom, real freedom, was what they dreamt
of in Egypt- and they got it! The youth of the world has ideals which
it can never realize. Over the hill of 30, very few care for the ideals
of their student days. Yet a truly unique feature of our faith is that
as we grow older, the real possibility of realizing our spiritual ideals
becomes clearer and clearer. Not for us is the disillusion and vapidity
of the world. As the outward man perishes, the inward man is made new-
day by day; at times, even hour by hour.
Those young people in the desert were fired up by the word. God's word
" is truth" - another ultimate ideal. The frequent
Biblical association of young men with prophets and the word of God is
sure proof that youth is the time for truth. The exultant flame
of the well trained mind should be set loose on God's word. The word alone
can absorb all the rampant intellectuality of youth. Personally grasping
its truths for ourselves, as that young generation did, will give us the
motivation to hold our head up in a world desperately adrift from its
God. Our life now is the antitype of the circular journeys of Israel's
wilderness walk. The world sees its' careers as ladders, to be raced up.
To us, our work is just that circular walk. The mind of those youngsters
was not on the physicalities of that repetitious, aimless wandering. It
was fixed upon the true Hope of Israel, the words of the Kingdom,
the covenant of the fathers. Because of this, they were bound together
in true fellowship with Moses (Jesus) and the older Levites, in an intensity
which few generations have equalled. Our hope of Israel, coupled with
experiencing the crass spiritual indifference of this century,
ought to be forging another wilderness generation.
When we’re young, we
dream of success, of ‘making it’. But most people don’t, and unless they
turn to God, they remain trapped within the impossibility of achieving what
they dreamed of. And it is common amongst those who rise to the peak of
apparent success, that they in turn come to a crisis- they can’t forgive
themselves for having neglected some inner or spiritual call which they had
earlier in life. They left God’s call unanswered in earlier life; and now,
they perceive that in the end only one thing matters. And they wasted their
lives. Youth is the time to get it right, to make the decision for God which
in some ways only gets harder the longer life goes on. Of course, at any
point in life, no matter what the accumulated ruins of all our errors in
judgment and poor decisions, we are never outside the plan of God- we can
always enter it, providing we live, but it’s so much better for our lives if
we decide the only way right at the start. And somehow, all the rest
will fall into place. I met recently two middle aged men. One had been
raised knowing Christ, but had endlessly delayed that decision until in
practice he just felt he couldn’t make it. He felt guilty, guilt was written
all over him. The second man was gifted artistically, but had followed a
business life, and now looked back in guilt and anger, knowing that his
career was over, he couldn’t go back and live life again… it’s a fleeting,
once-only affair. As someone who, for all my other misjudgments, did
decide right in my youth, I appeal to you… decide for Him now. Not
just by getting baptized, but by committing yourself to a live wholly for
Him, in Him, because of Him, for His glory… Sense the intensity of the call
of Jesus, to take up His cross, to live the crucifixion life. Death is an
intense experience. Those who have the chance to draw near to death
experience a new scale of values, true values and importances are the ones
which abide the sifting out process. And we live as men ‘given over to death
for Jesus’ sake’, ever facing the intensity of death, of dying for Him. And
this is the paradoxical thing, the difficult thing, for youth- to die when
you’re young, in a spiritual sense. To give it all for Him. But look at the
ages of soldiers who die in combat. So many of them, and often the bravest
of them, are youngsters. If they can do it for a worldly wreath, tear
stained 50 year old mum and dad standing at the military funeral, and the
memories slowly fading away over the next 20 years… surely you can do it for
that eternal weight of glory, for the only cause truly worth fighting and