Young people, it’s good to be young! We are in the prime of our lives. These are our glory years - the time of greatest achievement, success, popularity, and much more. King Solomon understood how amazing being young can be. This is why he wrote in Ecclesiastes 11:9, “Young man, be filled with joy while you are young. Let your heart be happy while you are a young man. Follow the ways of your heart and the desires of your eyes. But know that God will judge you for all these things.” If you are anything like me, then the majority of this verse will excite and energize you, while the last part could scare you a little bit. God’s judgment is not something that we like to think about. Still, Solomon makes us aware of it here so that you and I know to be careful.
We young people are notoriously known for having a “change the world” mentality. We want to do something that has never been done before. We want to be relevant in a unique, creative, out-of-the-box sort of way. While our energy and eagerness is admirable, we need guidance. We need someone to help us order our steps in the right direction; someone to help us perceive disappointments in a healthy way; someone who has been there and done that. Who better to take on the role of a mentor than the older generation? Truth is, there is no group better.
I want to tell you the account of a young man who was given the daunting task of being king over Israel after his father died. This young leader’s name was Rehoboam, son of King Solomon. Like many of us young people today, King Rehoboam faced a conflict of interest between his youthful ideals and eagerness, and the advice of his elder counselors. In 1 Kings 12 we read about how all of Israel gathered to crown him king. By the end of that chapter however, all of Israel with the exception of Judah, had rebelled against Rehoboam after he made a mistake that most, if not all, young people are guilty of making today. Why such a turn of events?
His downfall began when a man named Jeroboam who, had run away from King Solomon to the land of Egypt, returned to Israel after he heard of Solomon’s death. Jeroboam stood before the young king with Israel by his side and said to him, “Your father made our load heavy. Take away some of the hard work and heavy load your father put on us, and we will serve you.” The king instructed them to leave and return within three days after he’d contemplated their request. Now, Rehoboam had to figure out how to make his first executive decision.
It seemed as if he was headed in the right direction when he chose to consult the older leaders who had worked with his father Solomon. They told him to grant Israel their request and lighten their load. Instead of following through on their advice like he should have, Rehoboam went to the friends he’d grown up with to see what they had to say about the matter. His friends told him to say to Israel, “My little finger is bigger around than my father’s body! My father gave you a heavy load. I will add to your load. My father punished you with whips. I will punish you with scorpions.” Imagine that! The advice his friends gave was full of arrogance, but this is the response that Rehoboam chose to give to Jeroboam and Israel upon their return. This answer displeased Israel so much so that they chose to turn against the House of David.
Only Judah remained under Rehoboam’s rule. The rest of Israel had crowned Jeroboam as their new leader. In an effort to get the rest of Israel back under his control, Rehoboam organized a group of 180,000 able bodied young men to wage war against Israel. Armed with weapons and determination, all were ready and willing to fight. That was, until the Lord spoke and said not to enter war. After the word of the Lord came to him, Rehoboam did something I believe is worth mentioning: he obeyed.
Rehoboam’s story illustrates both our weakness and our strength as the younger generation. Like him, many of us young folks today might let the advice of an experienced elder go in one ear and out the other. Sometimes, we might even let arrogance get the better of us and cloud our judgment. This is our weakness. The latter part of Rehoboam’s account however, exemplifies the love we have for the Lord and the desire we have to obey his voice. If we KNOW that we have heard from Him, we want to obey. This is one strength worth noting.
All of you youngsters, part of the ‘Unnamed-for-now’ movement, consider this verse: Proverbs 20:29. It says, “The glory of a young man is his strength, but the splendor of an old man is his grey hair.” As I deliberated this verse, I found a definition for the word splendor that I would like to share with you. It simply means “a great brightness, a brilliant light.” If the strength of our youth is to be used to our advantage and considered our glory, then the old man’s grey hair - which tells of his acquired knowledge, wisdom, and experience - is to serve as the brilliant light we need to illuminate our way and guide us along the path that has been set before us. When our youthful glory works hand in hand with the splendor of the elders great things are bound to happen.