Obviously, some young people bring early death upon themselves by their lifestyles–overdosing, drinking and driving, and so forth. But what of those who live an exemplary life–who love Christ and seek to serve him? Why would God take them out of the world when they possibly could do so much good? Their deaths aren’t always so easy to understand. I want to mention only one reason that might apply at times to such cases.
King Josiah was one of Judah’s best kings-perhaps the best. Here’s what we’re told about this young king:
“Before him there was no king like him who turned to the Lord with all his mind and with all his heart and with all his strength according to all the law of Moses, and no one like him arose after him” (II Kings 23: 25, HCSB).
He took down the high places, drove out idolatry and held the greatest Passover ever. Yet, he died in his prime at age thirty-nine! What on earth could God have had in mind in taking him? Think of what more good he could have done in another 30 years!
Well, God knew what He was doing. And He graciously lets us in on His purpose. The people had been sinning so seriously in God’s eyes that He had determined to bring destruction on them. His wrath was already set against Judah (Cf. II Kings 22: 17). He says that His wrath “will be kindled against this place, and it will not be quenched” (HCSB). So, wrath was on the way, and would not be stopped even by the sweeping reforms of Josiah. It was due, and it was coming.
But because of Josiah’s reign, God exempted Josiah from the judgment that was about to fall:
“I will indeed gather you to your fathers, and you will be gathered to your grave in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster that I am bringing on this place” (II Kings 22: 20 HCSB).
The wrath was coming, and it would not wait-but God graciously took Josiah out of this world before it fell on the land so that he would not have to experience it.
Obviously, we see here a reason why one “promising” young person died in his youth: to preserve him from trouble to come. It was a kind act of God to take him, as we say, “before his time.” We can never be sure because we will not receive divine revelation about it, but there may be times when choice Christian men and women are removed from this earthly scene to keep them from having to undergo certain hardships that, in God’s providence, He is about to bring upon a country, a church, a family, and so forth. Let’s not hear, then, regrets about God’s judgment in taking a youth who is living righteously for Him. It may be a great mercy on His part. God knows what He is doing!
The Christian Counselor’s New Testament and Proverbs, translated by Jay Adams
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