Do you find them fearful? You do not know what shall take place in the future. It is rather dark and unknown.
There are beginnings of different things. We stand near the beginning of a new volume of THE STANDARD BEARER. Many of you young people stand at the beginning of a new school year. Many of you are beginning your education in a different school than the one you attended last year. Young People’s Society and catechetical training have begun again. Soon a new year will be here, 1980, a new decade.
As you stand before the beginning of all these things there must be some fear to one degree or another. Many questions will be asked. Will I receive good grades in school? Will I be able to handle the transition in catechism from Bible History to the Heidelberg Catechism? Will I become sick, or perhaps die? Will I be strong spiritually or will I succumb to the temptations of the devil?
Looking back is easy. Viewing all that one has come through one can say “Hitherto hath the Lord blessed us.” However, looking forward is not that easy. Through our human eyes we look into the future and we tend to despair. Everything looks like an obstacle over which we will stumble.
At this time, as well as always, we need the Word of God to direct us, to shed light upon our path so that the darkness of doubt and despair may be dispelled. We must look upon Jehovah, finding our strength and courage in Him.
Young people, we can do that by following the example of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, when he and the people of Judah were in a position in which they did not-know what to do. We read of this incident in II Chronicles 20.
Judah was in danger. Three mighty kingdoms, Moab, Ammon, and Mt. Seir, had joined hands together in a confederation for the purpose of taking the children of God captive and spoiling the land. Militarily speaking, the confederacy had every advantage against which Judah had no chance. Further, Judah had received the fateful news that the enemy was arrayed for battle.
Understandably, the children of Judah were afraid. The very thought of having to meet such a formidable foe brought them to their knees, upon which they cried unto the Lord “We know not what to do.” They could visualize the whole battle before their eyes. The helpless children and the sick would be brutally killed while all the able-bodied would be taken captive to lead a life of slavery.
Thus, the whole congregation stood before the temple: husbands, wives, children, little babes, old grandparents, the sick, and the untried youth.
Their fear was a real fear, a perplexing question that vexed their righteous souls. These were the enemies which God had forbidden them to destroy. How could God first forbid their destruction and now bring them up to destroy His children? Would God really allow this confederacy to wipe out His church? After all, they were not as the other nations but were God’s chosen possession, and heirs to the promise. The promise was that they were to have the victory, that the seed of the serpent would go down in defeat. Did God change? Would Christ be born? How could the promised seed be born if the church were trodden under foot and destroyed?
As young people you have and will face similar questions throughout your lives. You, too, are and shall be surrounded by enemies as long as you shall live.
There are powers that will threaten your natural, physical lives. Today there are wars and rumors of wars. The large powers such as the United States and Russia are in an arms race, each struggling for the psychological advantage of having the biggest, newest, and the most. Will a nuclear world war obliterate all life from this earth? We certainly have concern for our physical lives.
However, the real problem for the church of Jesus Christ and its young people is not that which will harm our physical lives. The battle which you will fight is not first of all an international political war, but a spiritual battle of faith against unbelief. Thus, the battle is in the heart.
That old adversary, Satan, goes about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour and destroy. In fact, your and my enemy does not appear to be our enemy. What he has to offer is pleasing to our flesh and very hard to resist. A life of fun and pleasure, luxuries and riches, all appeal to our vanities. The old deceiver stands in the doorway of the lodge hall beckoning the unwary to its meetings. On the college campus the real life is in the fraternity or sorority. When we look for work his union sweetens the pot.
As if that were not enough, the father of the lie points to the achievements of men rather than to the glory of God. Man has subdued the earth from the depths-of the sea to the outreaches of space. No problem is so great that man in his ingenuity can not figure it out. Philosopher of philosophers, Satan has the answer to all our inquiries. His pleasing message is not to follow the narrow, strict, hard way of obeying the law, but to mold and shape your own destiny as you have the right to do what you please with your own life.
Sounds pleasing, does it not? So pleasing does it sound that we are ready to join Satan and the world. In doing so we are ready to abandon the preaching of regeneration as God’s way into His kingdom. We are ready to trade our citizenship in the kingdom of everlasting life for that. which is passing and temporary.
The knowledge that we are so inclined puts fear into our hearts. How shall we be able to stand in a world that is becoming increasingly wicked? We, too, cry “We know not what to do.”
In answer to the question of what to do, we turn again to the example of Jehoshaphat. This scriptural history is more than just a Bible story. It is God’s message to us. What did Jehoshaphat do which serves as our guide even today? He gathered all the people before the Lord and they bowed down as they looked to the sanctuary of the temple. Although they did not know what to do, their eyes were upon Jehovah. This is always the answer for the troubled church. She must look away from herself and focus her attention upon her God.
Judah had good reason to lift her eyes heavenward. Their king, Jehoshaphat, reviewed before them all the wonderful works which the Lord had performed on their behalf. He led them safely out of Egypt and through the burning wilderness. During this journey He protected them from the burning sun by the pillar of cloud by day and guarded them by a pillar of fire by night. The shoes on their feet did not wear out; they were fed and refreshed with bread from heaven and water from the rock. When the enemy came He sent the angel of death to disquiet them. No, their God was not a man, but the living God, creator of heaven and earth.
In addition to listing all that Jehovah had done for them, the king had to make plain to the people that this was not done because of their own goodness. Their history clearly showed otherwise in that they constantly went whoring after other gods from which Jehovah had to call them. The goodness was in the Lord Himself, as that goodness was represented in the presence of the blood of Jesus Christ typically manifested on the altar. On the basis of that blood, Judah could very well look to Jehovah and trust in His promises.
That is your and my calling today. As members of the church today we have an even clearer understanding of Jehovah’s faithfulness. Christ no longer is simply a promise, but He has come in the flesh and fulfilled the work of redemption. We have the privilege to behold God’s covenant faithfulness as it is revealed in the cross and as the benefits of that cross are given to us through the working of the Holy Spirit.
By faith we now see Jehovah in the marvelous depths of forgiving love as we kneel before the cross and witness the suffering and death of the Son of God in our flesh. As the children of Judah we behold such power, such love, such mercy that we bow in humble adoration and confess that Jehovah is in truth the only God and worthy of all praise. Thus, to Him we turn for guidance and courage as we face whatever He is pleased to send us in the future.
Knowing these things we confess three truths. Our first confession is that God knows all the future because He is God. God does not have to wait around for something to happen before He can act. Rather He is the sovereign determiner of all things.
Secondly, we confess that the direction of God’s control is centered in His people as they are in Jesus Christ. No matter what He will in His wisdom do with us in the future, we firmly believe that it will be for our good.
Finally, we seek our strength from Him, believing that He will not send us a great trial but that He will also accompany that trial with the necessary grace to bear it.
What happened to Judah as they stood before the Lord with their little ones and their children, as they placed their burdens on the Lord, confessing that He is faithful and has control of the battle from beginning to end? They were not destroyed by the enemy. Rather, the enemy fought among itself and was killed by its own numbers. Needless to say, Judah could not boast in this victory for the battle was the Lord’s.
Before this God, young people, you stand. Upon this God you must fix your eyes. When you grow fainthearted, discouraged, and know not what to do, remember Judah. For, turning to Jehovah in all your needs, you will have no fear for the future, but will have peace in your hearts, knowing that you shall abide in Christ forever, Whom you shall follow into glory.