“Let No Man Ever Look Down on Your Youth”
“Let no man ever look down on your youth. On the contrary, become an example to the faithful ones in speaking, in conduct, in love, in faith, in chasteness.”—1 Tim. 4:12.
1. (a) What attitude toward older people and authority do young people often take today? (b) What has been done to placate young people, giving rise to what questions?
IN TODAY’S world one of the foremost topics of conversation is young people. The old adage that children should be seen and not heard, meaning they should be present with their elders but not be giving their opinion on matters, has lost its meaning, and, in fact, is looked upon by the younger generation as the older generation’s way of muzzling their free expression of thought. Because of the grant of freedom of expression and action, the young people today have much to say about how things are to be done; and if the authorities do not agree, youths often take matters into their own hands and do what they want. It would take reams of paper to spell out what has been done to placate young people, to keep them from causing problems for the older generation. Standards have been relaxed, laws have been changed, all in an effort to keep the younger generation contented. Is it possible that there has been a loss of the right perspective in this matter? Could it be that instead of catering to youth, they should be called upon and required to show a deep respect for their elders? Rather than looking to the conflicting theories of men, let us turn to the Word of mankind’s Creator and see what the proper view should be.
2. (a) What were God’s commands to his people Israel in regard to the proper attitude toward parents? (b) What responsibilities did parents have in training children?
2 Early in the history of the nation of Israel—the people chosen by God to be a special possession—God himself gave to the nation laws and commandments. Among the first Ten Laws was this one found in Exodus 20:12, which formed part of the Decalogue: “Honor your father and your mother in order that your days may prove long upon the ground that Jehovah your God is giving you.” Jehovah went on to say these words, recorded in Exodus 21:15: “And one who strikes his father and his mother is to be put to death without fail.” Parents in Israel were called upon to give proper training to their children so that they would be qualified in time to take on responsibilities within the family circle. The words of God’s servant Moses, spoken under inspiration, were: “And these words that I am commanding you today must prove to be on your heart; and you must inculcate them in your son and speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up. You should by all means keep the commandments of Jehovah your God and his testimonies and his regulations that he has commanded you.”—Deut. 6:6, 7, 17.
3. (a) What was done with wicked, rebellious children in ancient Israel? (b) Why was this not cruel and inhuman?
3 As time progressed, if a child proved rebellious, incorrigible, bent toward wrong conduct, it was the responsibility of the parents to take that child before the older men of the city for correction. These are the words regarding such a child: “In case a man happens to have a son who is stubborn and rebellious, he not listening to the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and they have corrected him but he will not listen to them, his father and his mother must also take hold of him and bring him out to the older men of his city and to the gate of his place, and they must say to the older men of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious; he is not listening to our voice, being a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of his city must pelt him with stones, and he must die. So you must clear away what is bad from your midst, and all Israel will hear and indeed become afraid.” (Deut. 21:18-21) Many persons in today’s world feel this is cruel, inhuman treatment. But it should be remembered that there were strict requirements resting first upon the parents to give the child the proper training. Remember Deuteronomy 6:17: “You should by all means keep the commandments of Jehovah your God and his testimonies and his regulations that he has commanded you.” Parents were not free to treat their children in a harsh, ungodly, cruel or unloving way. They were to be exemplary in godly traits, showing love, consideration and care for their offspring. The father was to be a person in whom the children could put their confidence as an honest, upright, integrity-keeping and loving servant of Jehovah. The mother was to have deep respect for her husband and to be a shelter and help to the children. Children were not to be turned out to shift for themselves. They were a heritage to be cared for in all respects. Thus, if a child went bad it would be because of that child’s rebellious course, that course leading in time, if not corrected, to the older men of the city and to their judgment.
4. How does God’s Word view children, and what reward comes to parents who do give proper training to their children?
4 The Word of God points out that it is a great blessing to have and to raise children in the discipline of Jehovah. The psalmist under inspiration records these words: “Look! Sons are an inheritance from Jehovah; the fruitage of the belly is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a mighty man, so are the sons of youth. Happy is the able-bodied man that has filled his quiver with them.” (Ps. 127:3-5) So it is that the child properly trained from his youth can be a person in whom confidence and trust can be placed and no one can look down upon such a child with scorn. How true the words of the Proverbs are when speaking about such ones: “The father of a righteous one will without fail be joyful; the one becoming father to a wise one will also rejoice in him. Your father and your mother will rejoice, and she that gave birth to you will be joyful.”—Prov. 23:24, 25.
BIBLICAL EXAMPLES OF UPRIGHT CONDUCT
5. In what different ways should children be an example?
5 The Bible record gives us much good information on the upright conduct of young people that should serve as an incentive to the younger generation of this twentieth century. By their conduct many of these young ones exemplified the qualities the apostle Paul spoke about in writing these words of advice to the young man Timothy. Remember, he said that Timothy should be an example in many ways, “in speaking, in conduct, in love, in faith, in chasteness.”—1 Tim. 4:12.
6. How did young Elihu show respect for older persons in his dealings with Job?
6 The Bible book of Job tells us about the good example in speaking and conduct of the young man Elihu. This Elihu was a distant relative of Abraham. He was sitting in the presence of Job in the midst of his affliction and had listened to the words of counsel and criticism that had been given by the older men Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar to Job. He had also listened to Job’s own defense and his tendency to speak in self-centered terms concerning his disease, discomfort and distress. Then Elihu began his words of counsel in this way: “Young I am in days and you men are aged. That is why I drew back and was afraid to declare my knowledge to you men. I said, ‘Days themselves should speak, and a multitude of years are what should make wisdom known.’” (Job 32:6, 7) From that point Elihu spoke on the matters at issue. His conduct in this situation was above reproach. He realized that the older men should be recognized and be allowed to speak without interruption. He showed respect for these men. At the same time he also had a message to speak and when the appropriate time came he did speak out and give an inspiring discourse on the problems that Job was having, showing that Jehovah God is just and righteous in his ways.
7. How is this an example for young and old in our day, and what words of encouragement did Peter give along these lines?
7 By this course Elihu was certainly a fine example for young and old alike. We are hereby reminded that, whenever and wherever we might be called upon to defend the truth of God’s Word, our conduct should reflect the proper respect that is due. To know what is right and proper is one thing; to conduct ourselves in a proper manner in stating what is right is another. An individual showing proper respect and conducting himself in an upright way will not be a fomenter of unruly acts or words. He will not be the instigator of revolt against the laws of Caesar, or the laws governing Christians as found in God’s Word. He will not take things into his own hands on the pretext that the ways of justice and law are too slow, outmoded and in need of being revised. Rather, like Elihu, he will be a defender of what is upright, but will show by his proper conduct that he is one who deeply appreciates the word and commandments of Jehovah God. Such proper decorum will then be in keeping with the advice of the apostle Peter, who said: “Maintain your conduct fine among the nations, that, in the thing in which they are speaking against you as evildoers, they may as a result of your fine works of which they are eyewitnesses glorify God in the day for his inspection.”—1 Pet. 2:12.
8. What type of person did Josiah prove himself to be as a king in Judah?
8 Another example of faithfulness in youth is that of Josiah, King of Judah between the years 659 B.C.E. and 629 B.C.E. The book of Second Kings points out that he was only eight years of age when he was appointed king in Judah. In his eighteenth year, or at about the age of twenty-five, Josiah ordered that the repair work on Jehovah’s temple be completed. It was during that time that Hilkiah the high priest found the “very book of the law” in the house of Jehovah. This find was reported to Josiah, and the account in 2 Kings 22:11-13 tells us this: “And it came about that as soon as the king heard the words of the book of the law, he immediately ripped his garments apart. Then the king commanded . . . ‘Go, inquire of Jehovah in my own behalf and in behalf of the people and in behalf of all Judah concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is Jehovah’s rage that has been set afire against us over the fact that our forefathers did not listen to the words of this book by doing according to all that is written concerning us.’”
9, 10. How did Josiah set about restoring right worship in Judah?
9 By this immediate and positive response to ascertain what Jehovah’s will was and how it was to be carried out by the people, Josiah showed his great love for Jehovah and his desire to do Jehovah’s will. He wanted to inquire of Jehovah about his directions in the matter. He sent his servants to inquire of Jehovah’s prophetess, Huldah, as to what was to be done. Though the word of Jehovah was condemnatory of the actions of the people of Judah for forgetting his law, Josiah faithfully carried through and made certain that the words of the law were sounded down into the ears of the inhabitants of the land. The Bible account says:
10 “Then the king sent and they gathered together to him all the older men of Judah and Jerusalem. After that the king went up to the house of Jehovah, and also all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and also the priests and the prophets and all the people, from small to great; and he began to read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant that had been found in the house of Jehovah. And the king kept standing by the pillar and now concluded the covenant before Jehovah, to walk after Jehovah and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all the heart and with all the soul by carrying out the words of this covenant that were written in this book. Accordingly all the people took their stand in the covenant.”—2 Kings 23:1-3.
11. Outline some of the cleanup work Josiah did in behalf of the people of Judah, and what was said about him for his courageous action?
11 This young twenty-five-year-old king indeed had the interests of Jehovah at heart and, by his conduct, his love for righteousness and his speaking words of godly wisdom, he had the blessing of Jehovah. The account in Second Kings goes on to relate some of his acts in accordance with the words of the Law. He made unfit for worship Topheth, which was in the valley of the sons of Hinnom, so that no children would have to pass through the fire sacrificially to Molech. He tore down the high places of pagan worship in front of Jerusalem, and he got rid of the spirit mediums, professional foretellers of events, the teraphim and dungy idols, and all the disgusting things in Judah and Jerusalem. Thus it was said of him: “And like him there did not prove to be a king prior to him who returned to Jehovah with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his vital force, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him has there risen up one like him.” (2 Kings 23:4-25) Truly, no man could look down on this young king’s youth.
12. What personal experience did young Jeremiah have with Jehovah?
12 One of the major prophets of Jehovah in the latter days of the Kingdom of Judah was the man Jeremiah. In his manhood he proved to be a faithful and trusted servant of Jehovah. But even from his youth up this young servant of Jehovah was one that the older ones could not look down upon and criticize. He writes of his personal experience with Jehovah God in these words: “And the word of Jehovah began to occur to me, saying: ‘Before I was forming you in the belly I knew you, and before you proceeded to come forth from the womb I sanctified you. Prophet to the nations I made you.’ But I said: ‘Alas, O Lord Jehovah! Here I actually do not know how to speak, for I am but a boy.’ And Jehovah went on to say to me: ‘Do not say, “I am but a boy.” But to all those to whom I shall send you, you should go; and everything that I shall command you, you should speak. Do not be afraid because of their faces, for “I am with you to deliver you,” is the utterance of Jehovah.’”—Jer. 1:4-8.
13. For his faithful course before Jehovah what trials did Jeremiah go through, and for how many years did he faithfully prophesy concerning Jehovah’s judgments?
13 Jeremiah took Jehovah at his word and did become a fearless spokesman for Jehovah to the people of Judah and Jerusalem. His full faith rested upon his God Jehovah. His bold ministry was not performed without opposition from his own fellow Israelites. The Bible account shows that he was condemned, placed in stocks, there was a plot on his life, and he was thrown into a deep cistern which served as a prison for him. The Bible book of Jeremiah contains the account of this man’s prophecies from the mouth of Jehovah God. For forty years he acted as the prophet of Jehovah sent to “uproot and to pull down and to destroy and to tear down, to build and to plant.” (Jer. 1:10) Yes, from his youth up this man of God indeed was one that no man could look down upon.
14. (a) Because of upright conduct what positions did young Daniel and his three companions come to have? (b) How did Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego prove their loyalty to Jehovah God?
14 Contemporary with Jeremiah as a prophet was the young man Daniel. This young servant of Jehovah was taken captive to Babylon when just a boy. He, together with his three close companions, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, made Biblical history during their sojourn in Babylon. As young men in that pagan land they faithfully did the will of their Creator, Jehovah God. Because of his upright conduct Daniel came to be entrusted with rulership over all the jurisdictional district of Babylon and the chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. His companions, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, were appointed to positions of responsibility in the government also, and later went on to prove they were devoted slaves of Jehovah in the fiery furnace episode.—Dan. 2:48, 49; 3:8-30.
15. How was the Lord Jesus a fine example for young people today?
15 Of particular note in considering youthful servants of Jehovah is the life story of the Lord Jesus Christ. His earthly life began around the year 2 B.C.E., in the little town of Bethlehem when his mother, the virgin Mary, gave birth to him and laid him in a manger. While the Bible account does not go into great detail concerning the boyhood days of the Lord Jesus, still what is told gives us a glimpse of this young, perfect one, sent to earth to ransom imperfect mankind. At a young age he traveled with his parents to Jerusalem for the festival of the passover. While there he came into contact with the teachers in the temple of Jehovah. And it was there that his parents found him after losing him in the crowds that had been in attendance in Jerusalem for the passover. The Bible record tells us about the occasion and informs us that those in the temple who were listening to him talking were in “constant amazement at his understanding and his answers.” In spite of his tender years—he was about twelve years old then—he was giving attention to the Word of God and had gained the respect of those with whom he came in contact. However, the Bible record shows that Jesus continued in subjection to his parents and that he went on progressing in wisdom and physical growth and in favor with God and men.—Luke 2:41-52.
16 So it was, with all of these examples recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures, and with the conduct and way of life of Jesus vividly in mind, that the apostle Paul could give good counsel to another young man, Timothy, and advise him to be “an example to the faithful ones in speaking, in conduct, in love, in faith, in chasteness.” (1 Tim. 4:12) And that this young man was a fine example is borne out by Paul’s reference to him in 1 Corinthians 4:17. In speaking to that Corinthian congregation Paul said: “I am sending Timothy to you, as he is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord; and he will put you in mind of my methods in connection with Christ Jesus, just as I am teaching everywhere in every congregation.” Of this young man the apostle Paul also wrote to the Philippian congregation: “For my part I am hoping in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I may be a cheerful soul when I get to know about the things pertaining to you. For I have no one else of a disposition like his who will genuinely care for the things pertaining to you.”—Phil. 2:19, 20.
17. What question are we now asked concerning youths, and what is the right answer to that question?
17 Is it then possible in this day and age, the twentieth century, a time of great turmoil and stress among peoples of all nations, that the examples of the past can be helpful in directing the youths of this modern world? By all means the reply is Yes! For the lives of these men, and others not mentioned, can serve as guideposts for young people in order that ‘no man will look down on their youth.’ In fact, throughout this earth we have examples of young people that indeed are giving no cause for anyone to look down on their youth, but, rather, to be favorably impressed with their speech, their conduct, their love, their faith and their chaste conduct. A reading of the following article will show what these young people are doing in bringing praise to their Grand Creator, Jehovah God, and how they can be given further assistance by their parents and the adult generation.
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No man could rightly look down upon Jeremiah, from youth on, though he was opposed and put in stocks for his ministry