I am increasingly aware of the children within our church. We rejoice in the new babies that have been born within our families, but it seems also that God is bringing in families with children. They are everywhere. David Meredith said in his first anniversary session that Church Growth is not simply the same church getting bigger, each new person brings a new dimension to the church and as a result we have to be prepared to make adjustments. We are however not simply seeing children being added, but there are new adults as well and if you are an adult reading this, we welcome you and your children.
How do we respond to these events and blessings? Recently one of our ladies said to me “We have prayed for years that God would bring in new families. We are seeing our prayers being answered.” That is a good and proper response. God is given glory and that has to be the goal of all our responses and decisions. In Zechariah 8 the Lord promises,
“… I have returned to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, … And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets.” (Zech 8:3,5).
We have to see this as a sign of God’s grace and undeserved blessing.
As parents, and a church we can learn from Jacob’s response. After twenty years in exile and estrangement Jacob and his twin brother Esau meet. After an initial embrace,
Esau asked, “Who are these with you?” Jacob said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.” (Gen 33:5)
Notice again God is given glory. Those of us who know the story know that Jacob did not always make wise decisions and he had children by 2 wives and by 2 women to whom he was not married. Even though he had made mistakes he was able to recognise that each child was a gift from God. In a world of confused morality it is vital that we see that each child is a gift from God. Again we are to thank God for them and to pray for them.
A further question arises, if children are a gift from God then how are we to treat them. In the wider world we see utter confusion. On one hand we see an over-emphasis on personal education, with children as young as infants supposedly needing to be taught matters that earlier generations somehow managed to work out without too much detail. On the other hand we see the horrible events taking place in Machynlleth and other examples of children being abused. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that in some cases, both within and outside the church children have become ‘idols’. That may seem a little harsh, but if children are the ones who govern events in our lives and our homes then God has been dethroned. Isaiah says that when children rule it is a sign of God’s judgement, “And I will make boys their princes, and infants shall rule over them.” (Is. 3:4)
If children are a gift from God how can they also be evidence of judgement? The answer is found in the old adage about fire, “Fire is a good servant, but a bad master.” I am not suggesting that children are to be servants, but Proverbs makes it quite clear that children are not simply to be taught, but they are to be trained, Pr. 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” When children are not taught and trained or are taught wrongly, it is inevitable chaos will follow.
Moses addressed this when giving his final instructions before the people entered the Promised Land. He set the priority in that God was to be loved,
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
But these principles and commandments are to be taught within the family and believing community,
“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Dt 6:4-7)
The sense of this passage is not that it is formal teaching at school or a church gathering, but within the context of the home. This was not simply a parental responsibility, but included grandparents and the wider family, “Make them known to your children and your children’s children —“ (Dt 4:9)
Let us rejoice and exercise our responsibilities toward children and grandchildren, but never let us allow children or grandchildren to become idols, usurping the place of the God who loved us and gave Himself for us. Let us do all that we can to pray for these children and their parents that they might grow up to love and serve our God.
A most grateful Granddad,
Bernard Lewis November 2012