The more we meditate upon the activities of Josiah, the more remarkable it seems that a young man of twenty should have attempted and accomplished such great things for God (see 2 Chron. 34: 3 etc.). There is no hint in the sacred records of any backing on the part of the leaders of the people. As for the people themselves, the early chapters of the book of Jeremiah reveal that their hearts were not with the king in his godly efforts, although they did not actively oppose him. It is a story of individual faith in God on the part of a young man who perceived that things were very wrong round about him, and who earnestly desired, by God’s help, to put them right.
The Word of God contains much encouragement for young men. Some of the outstanding characters in the Bible were young. The names spring easily to the mind: Joseph, David, Elihu, Jeremiah, and Daniel. We are living at the end of the dispensation of grace, and departure from God and His truth is widespread. There is also a deplorable lack of spiritual energy in what is done in God’s name. We would appeal to the young men to get to their Bibles, and exercise their minds and hearts about what they find there. You must not allow yourselves to be discouraged by the criticisms of older men. We should always treat with respect what others may say to us, but we must not allow it to break our hearts and cast us back from useful service. Old men are apt to get set in their ways, and limited in their outlook. Too often with them what has been should still be. No reconsideration of the situation can be tolerated! The grip of tradition can be very firm and injurious, even over those who have long stood aloof from the age–old evils of Christendom. It is possible to reject traditions a thousand years old and yet be slaves to traditions of scarcely fifty years standing.
Dear aged brethren, it is an old man of long and wide experience who is addressing you. Do not discourage young men. Do not snub the Josiahs of twenty years old. You may perhaps know within yourselves that things are not as they should be. Possibly there is with you a feeling of weariness due to declining strength, a weariness which may dispose you to settle down to accept things as they are rather than speak and act boldly for God. Give yourselves to prayer that God may be pleased to raise up faithful young men, but beware that you do not put obstacles in the way when the energy of youth begins to operate. It is admitted that young men can be forward and overstep themselves, but what would you rather have? Enthusiasm in the things of Christ that needs a guiding hand—or spiritual apathy? On the one hand, young men should never despise the counsel of the aged, but on the other, the aged should never discourage the zeal of the young.
There never has been a greater need for vigour in the things of Christ. With a bright exception here and there, many of the meetings of the Lord’s people are marked by drift. Activity, such as it is, is mechanical, the outlook gloomy and fatalistic. The rich seam of Bible knowledge that once so marked the saints is being rapidly eroded as the old depart this scene and the young depart the meetings. Many no longer seem to know why they are where they are (if they ever did), and the drive for material contentment seems to have all but obscured the reality of the heavenly hope.
It is against a background such as this that Paul delivers his parting charge to Timothy—a young man—a charge which applies to young men everywhere. The aged apostle does not hold back with his language: “suffer”, “be strong”, “labour”, “endure”, “testifying earnestly”, “flee”, “pursue”, “persecuted”, “be urgent”, “use diligence” (2 Tim. 1: 8; 2: 1, 6, 12, 14, 22; 3: 12; 4: 2, 9). It was an invitation to a life with little in the way of reward here, but the prospect of a “heavenly kingdom” (v18) to come. And so young men who read this, what of you? Will you fill the ranks, and will you go forward in the dynamism of youth to serve the Lord?