“Woe to you, O earth, when your king is an adolescent and your princes eat in the morning. Blessed are you, O earth, when your king is the son of a noble one — your princes will eat at an appropriate time, in strength and not in drunkenness.”
Certainly Judah would have ample young kings and several would rule well with the aide of their custodians. Of course, such had not been the case prior to Solomon’s lifetime, though certainly it can be presumed that he had seen young kings before and had seen how the princes would oftentimes abuse the king’s youth for their own gain — most typically to the detriment of the people of the land.
There is something more to these verses, though, in the context of the larger passage. And here the key is the word “adolescent.” In a literal sense, this can refer to a boy. Typically this word refers to a young man who is learning a trade and might be eligible for marriage, though has not yet been betrothed. In modern times, we would think of this as a teenager — in Solomon’s times, this would probably refer to someone a little younger.
Spiritually, though, this word refers to someone who is immature in his faith, and when we begin to think of these words in this sense a very different picture comes to mind. Woe to the land when your king acts like a child. And while that opens up a million-and-one possible places of application, my intention here is to focus on the principle in question — we need leaders on every level that are spiritually mature — men and women of faith — to lead our institutions and our nation, or the people will suffer while our princes get drunk serving themselves.
There was a time in our nation that grew hair was seen as a mark of maturity and honor — even in the church, a congregation considered them fortunate to have an old pastor instead of a young one — because with the old pastor comes wisdom. Today, the trend is to celebrate the young pastor and the energy he brings with him. People often look at churches who have old pastors as churches which are dying. Part of the problem, of course, is that often, when churches hire a pastor, they hire him to do the work of ministry…not to train them to do the work of ministry as the Apostle Paul instructs in Ephesians 4.
To this — to the church in America — Solomon is saying, “woe to the earth.” Why woe? It is because we are not being salt and light; it is because we have not become pillars and buttresses of the Truth; it is because we have not torn down the idols of our society and striven take every thought captive to the Word of God. Popular, high-energy preachers cannot accomplish this task. Mature pastors who train their congregations to do the work of ministry can and will.
There is a mindset we must change and it must change one congregation at a time. But that means Christians must repent of their idolatry of the youth and of their cult of personality. Until that changes, our land will continue to spiral into immorality and godlessness.