The scriptures that are referred to in this article use the word ‘child’ but readers of YPS should not be put off by that because in the Old Testament the meaning of the word is usually ‘youth’ or ‘young man’. It may also refer to a ‘young woman’ as well.
‘When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt’, Hos.11. 1. Hosea, the prophet, was writing his book about 750 years after the nation of Israel had been delivered out of Egypt. He is giving the background to that escape and showing why God determined to take His people from that country to a better land that He would give to them. He refers to the nation at that point as ‘a child’ and certainly it was so politically as its history had been swamped by the captivity. But it was soon to re-emerge and would flourish in a land of its own. Hosea describes his understanding of God’s motives in pointing out the childhood aspect. This would suggest weakness and vulnerability as well as immaturity and, perhaps, wilfulness. Yet in spite of that God says, ‘I loved him’. This is an unequivocal expression of love and though not always appreciated by the nation in its vicissitudes and suffering it was ever true. Using this love as a launching pad God next ‘called’ the people out. This was a tough call for some for though in slavery they were nevertheless secure and enjoyed a reasonable lifestyle with good accommodation and excellent food. Water too was freely available. A venture into the wilderness would put all of these blessings in jeopardy. God also says, ‘I taught Ephraim also to go, holding them by their arms’. This shows God’s care for them in the wilderness journey. It is like teaching a child to walk. One holds their arms to support them and then as progress is made and lessons learned so one would hold them by the hands, and then maybe by a finger only. Soon they are able to walk unaided. Moreover, God says, ‘I drew them with cords … with bands of love’. Now able to walk the child needed guidance and direction. This was done carefully and in love. God also fed them,‘I gave meat unto them’, v. 4. Indeed so much progress had been made and such blessing bestowed on the child that the question is posed, ‘How shall I give thee up, Ephraim?’ v. 8. Though tempted to do so God never did … He brought them through. These words would make us think of God’s dealings with us. We have been loved, even when we had no love to God.We have been called out of Egypt, which is a type of the world, and tenderly led throughout our lives. We have developed as young Christians so that now we can walk the walk. We have been spiritually fed and nourished. He will not give us up and we shall not go back to Egypt, see v. 5.
‘From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise’, 2 Tim. 3. 15. Here, the word ‘child’ does mean‘infant’ but then when we were firstborn again we all were infants in the things of the Lord and in particular in the holy scriptures. Timothy had a great advantage and blessing in his home life as a child in that he had a mother, Lois, and a grandmother, Eunice, both of whom loved the Lord and His word. It was their exercise that the young Timothy should learn the word thoroughly as that would become his guide and standard throughout his life. They would be able to make him wise not only as to how to be saved but also how to walk and to please God. It is incumbent on every young believer to read the scriptures daily, to study their teaching as time permits and to avail oneself of the opportunity of teaching in the assembly, at conferences, Bible readings or on a one-to-one basis or small groups meeting in a home. Many older brethren today can look back to such opportunities and thank God for their mentors who led by example as well as precept. An understanding of the scriptures will warm and rejoice your heart. It will preserve your life and testimony. It will bring you close to God and to Christ. You will better understand God’s purpose and plans and you in turn will be able to teach others also and be a blessing to them and your local assembly. So, as Paul counselled Timothy, ‘Give attention to reading’!
‘Is Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child?’, Jer. 31. 20. Jeremiah chapter 31 deals with the promise of God to His people as they return to the land in restoration to undertake rebuilding work on all that had been broken down. The beautiful words of verse 3 correspond with our first section above. ‘I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee’. Verse 9 would suggest our second section, ‘I will cause them to walk by the rivers of water in a straightway, wherein they shall not stumble’, and,‘Their soul shall be as a watered garden’, v.12. With these and many other blessings the questions God now asks about Ephraim are i) Is Ephraim my son? and, ii) Is he a pleasant child? The answer to the first is a most definite ‘Yes’ but the answer to the second may be in some doubt. Salvation and son ship should produce pleasant children. Pleasantness suggests enjoyment and delight. Of the Son of God it was said,‘in whom is all my delight’. In the Old Testament Jonathan is described by David as being ‘lovely and pleasant in his ways’. There is nothing so attractive as a young person who is pleasant. It is not in the nature of Christ likeness to be impatient, ignorant or unthankful and every Christian young person has a responsibility to cultivate a pleasant attitude and demeanour. It is honouring to the Lord. It is the Lord’s purpose to change sinful lives and unlikeable people into those who are ‘lovely and pleasant’. Has he succeeded yet with you?
‘Say not, ‘I am a child’: for thou shalt go to all that I send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak’, Jer. 1. 7. The prophet was not a child but as an excuse claimed to be one! He did not want to go on the mission God had planned for him. God told Jeremiah that He had before his birth, indeed even before his conception, marked him out as one to serve. God had set him apart and ordained he should be a prophet unto the nations, see 1. 3.Jeremiah, however, had other ideas. He did not want to go and said, ‘Behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child’, v. 7. God replied to Jeremiah in terms that he would have found difficult to resist. God knew that fear was a big thing in Jeremiah’s statement so He said, ‘Be not afraid’. That fear of opposition from men was accompanied probably by a fear of loneliness and isolation in the service of the Lord, so God said, ‘I am with thee’. The third element of Jeremiah’s refusal was a fear of not knowing quite what to say in certain circumstances. God says, ‘I have put my words in thy mouth’. So, all of Jeremiah’s excuses for not serving were dealt with and he was reassured. We know of course that he went on to be an outstanding and effective prophet for God. The Lord is still equipping young people to serve him. What is your excuse? Do you think the Lord can handle your problem? Or is He not up to it? Of course He is. So, don’t be afraid to go forth to fulfil His great commission, ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel’, Mark 16.15. ‘And, lo, I am with you always’, Matt.28. 20. You will never regret it.