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God's Desire for Children of the Old Testament
Various Passages
 By Paul Robison

A brother told the following two stories under the heading: "This child means the world to God".  The first story is about Lydia.  "Lydia lives in our neighborhood.  Through a mutual friend, [I] learned that she had quit eating and became obsessed with fat grams.  She was afraid of not being the right size, of being different from the other students at school.  The pressure to be perfect was more powerful than the hunger pains she denied."  The second story is about Joey.  "Joey started attending church with his mother.  [I] quickly learned that there were problems at home.  One day when services were over, I saw Joey playing with my son, Daniel.  They were both about five.  I called, 'Son, it's time to go.'  When Daniel got up to follow me, his blond-haired friend grabbed my coat.  'Mister, mister, why do you call that boy "son"?'  At first, I didn't understand.  Then I realized that this little guy had never had a parent call him 'son'" (all stories from Shank).  Children today often face very difficult situations.  Some children are born into this world that are very unwanted.  This was not the attitude of the ancient Israelites.  Their attitude "could be summed up like this: 'We want children.  We want them now.  We will have as many children as we can because children are very important to us.  In fact, we would rather be 'wealthy' with children than with money'" (The Bible Almanac).  They took the first command in the Bible very seriously: "Then God blessed them, and said to them: 'Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it'" (Genesis 1:28).  Isn't it interesting that children were the first thing on God's agenda?  Children were important to the ancient Jews because children were important to God.  The apostle Paul tells some Christians that things written in the Old Testament were written for our learning (Romans 15:4).  This sermon starts a series dealing with children and parenting each third Sunday.  Today, we want to look at God's desires for children in the Old Testament.
 
God's first desire is this: Value them!  Have you ever noticed how God's blessing is often linked to the birth of children?  We just saw it in the first command (Genesis 1:28).  After the worldwide flood, Genesis 9:1 reports: "So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.'"  Job 42:12ff reports: "Now the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; for he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1000 yoke of oxen, 1000 female donkeys.  He also had 7 sons and 3 daughters."  If children are linked with God's blessing, then they are valuable.  Value them!  The Jews saw their children as God's gift.  Joseph said to Jacob in Genesis 48:9: "These are my sons, whom God has given me in this place."  In 1 Samuel 1:20, we read: "So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, 'Because I have asked for him from the Lord.'"  Samuel's name literally meant "Heard by God."  Solomon wrote these words in Psalm 127:3-5: "The fruit of the womb is a reward.  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth.  Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them."  Arrows in a warrior's hand are an asset, and children are an asset too.  You see, all these passages show that we should highly value our children as God's gift.  They are His reward to enrich our lives.  Value them!  Now look at another passage in Deut. 18:9-10: "When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations.  There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire ..."   What does this mean?  In 2 Kings 23:10, we discover that this practice was associated with the Ammonite god called Molech.  The ritual performed is uncertain, but in some way babies and children were burned to death as a sacrifice to Molech.  Did God take any actions against this unjust practice?  Look at Jeremiah 7:32: "Therefore behold, the days are coming' says the Lord, 'when it will no more be called Tophet, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter, for they will bury in Tophet until there is no room."  This prophecy was fulfilled when Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 B. C.  Those who had seen their children as worthless and shed their innocent blood in a ritual to a pagan god were severely punished by the true God.  Why?  Because children are valuable to God.  And if God has done that to the Jews, what will He do to us Americans who shed so much innocent fetal blood—55 million abortions since Roe Vs. Wade?  Value your children!
 
God's second desire is this: Instruct them!  Look now at Genesis 18:17ff: "And the Lord said, 'Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?  [Notice now what God says next about what He expects of Abraham.]  For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has spoken to him."  Doesn't it sound like God was expecting Abraham to guide his family in keeping God's ways?  Instruct them!  With regards to the Jewish feast of the Passover, notice what God says in Exodus 12:25ff: "It will come to pass when you come to the land which the Lord will give you, just as He promised, that you shall keep this service.  And it shall be, when your children say to you, 'What do we mean by this service?' that you shall say: 'It is the Passover sacrifice of the Lord, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households.'"  The feast had a meaning based on God's actions, and God wanted the children to be taught that meaning annually when this feast was observed.  Instruct them!  God is even more direct in Deuteronomy 6:4ff: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength.  And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."  Model your love for me, teach your children diligently in all places, remind them of the scriptures you know, and show them the scriptures that you have written on your entrances.  Wasn't this continual instruction?  Instruct them!  "In ancient Israel, education was an informal process.  The parents did most or all of the training.  There were no classrooms or structured curricula.  [Training in the synagogues took place after the Exile.]  The Jewish parents' major concern was that their children come to know the living God" (Zondervan Pictorial Dictionary).  This should be our goal as well.  Yes, parents, we have that responsibility.  Instruct them!
 
God's third desire is this: Discipline them!  Notice now Deuteronomy 21:18ff: "If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and who, when they have chastened him, will not heed them."  Let's stop a moment and notice that it was expected that the parents would chasten their son.  That word "chasten' can mean verbal or physical correction.  So, after the parents had tried to discipline their son, if he was still rebellious and disobedient, the parents could then share their problem with the elders of the city, and the men of the city were then to stone that rebel to death.  And verse 21 explains that this was to prevent further evil and to serve as a lesson for other Jews.  Doesn't it sound like God wanted the Jews to take discipline to promote obedience seriously?  Aren't we thankful that we live under the new covenant and don't have to administer so drastic a punishment for those who are rebellious today?  Discipline them!  Now notice what God tells Samuel in 1 Sam. 3:12-13: "In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end.  For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them."   You see, Eli's sons had corrupted the priesthood.  Eli tried to warn them, but he didn't remove them from the priesthood nor take the matter before the elders.  God's punishment would come upon Eli for not disciplining his sons properly.  Discipline them!  Proverbs 22:15 states: "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him."  Good parents will notice what "rod of correction" needs to be administered during discipline.  Some children you can correct just with words.  Some you can correct by making them sit for while in a certain spot.  Some you can correct with a firm pinch on their collarbone.  Some you can correct with the board of education.  Notice I am not asking anyone here to abuse their children.  Corporal punishment taken to an extreme can be harmful, but pain used wisely can sometime help the child to avoid wrong behavior in the future.  "The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother" (Proverbs 29:15).  Discipline them!
 
God's fourth desire is this: Consider them!  There is an interesting verse in the story of Ishmael.  His mother had left him for dead.  Now look at Genesis 21:17: "And God heard the voice of the lad."  The God of the universe heard this dying boy's cry.  Isn't that amazing?  Do you hear the voice of your child?  How did General Naaman of Syria get his leprosy cured?  It all started with a child according to 2 Kings 5:3: "If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria!  For he would heal him of his leprosy."  Consider them!  Daniel and his teenage friends were about to be executed because nobody knew nor could interpret the king's dream.  Daniel and his friends prayed that God would not let them perish, and that same night God revealed the king's dream to Daniel.  God does hear teenagers' prayers (Daniel 2:23).  Look now at Matthew 21:15ff: "But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that Jesus did, and the children crying out in the temple saying: 'Hosanna to the Son of David!' they were indignant and said to Him: 'Do You hear what these are saying?'  And Jesus said to them: 'Yes, Have you never read: 'Out of the mouths of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise?""  Consider them!  Someone gave this insight: "How often do we fail to grasp the truth, or the struggle, in a comment because we are not really hearing what is being said?  How often do we smile at a cute perspective or give a quick pat answer to a question without seriously reflecting on what the child said or wondering what was behind the comment or question?  In our fast-paced busyness and distraction, ... we [often] miss important insights that we need to learn from our children.  And we miss opportunities to help them [get] through their questions and their fears" (Stonehouse & May).  Consider them!                                                      
 
God's fifth desire is this: Involve them!  God wanted children involved in all sorts of Jewish worship.  They were to be present for the sacrifices.  Deuteronomy 12:12 states: "And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your sons and your daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levite who is within your gate ..."  They were to be present at the Jewish feasts of Pentecost and Tabernacles.  Deuteronomy 16:11 and 16:14 state that just about the same words that we read in the previous verse; sons and daughters were to be active in these feasts.  Involve them!  They were be present when the covenant was renewed.  Deuteronomy 29:10-12 affirms: "All of you stand today before the Lord your God: your leaders and your tribes and your elders and your officers, all the men of Israel, your little ones and your wives, also the stranger in your camp ... that you may enter into covenant with the Lord your God, and into His oath, which the Lord your God makes with you today, ..."  They were to be present at the reading of the law.  Deuteronomy 31:10-11 says: "And Moses commanded them, saying: 'At the end of every seven years, at the appointed time in the year of release, at the Feast of Tabernacles, when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God in the place He which He chooses, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing.  Gather the people together, men and women and little ones, and the stranger who is within your gates, that they may hear and that they may learn to fear the Lord your God and carefully observe all the words of this law ..."  Involve them!  When an enemy was about to attack Judah, 2 Chronicles 20:13 states: "Now all Judah, with their little ones, their wives, and their children stood before the Lord."  At the rededication of the wall in Jerusalem, Nehemiah 12:43 informs us: "Also that day, they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced, so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard afar off."  God wants your children to be involved in the activities of this congregation as well (May, Posterski, Stonehouse, & Cannell).  Involve them!
 
God's sixth desire is this: Bless them!  In Genesis 27:1ff, Isaac tells Esau that he is getting old and before he dies, he wants to bless him.  Esau is to hunt and to prepare him some food before the blessing will be given.  Can you image how excited Esau was?  He had waited many years for this moment.  But Jacob steps in and ends us getting the blessing instead.  Now notice verse 26: "Then his father Isaac said to him: 'Come near now and kiss me, my son.'  And he came near and kissed him; and he smelled of his clothing, and blessed him and said: 'Surely, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field which the Lord has blessed.  Therefore may God give you of the dew of heaven, of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine.  Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you.  Be master over your brethren, and let your mother's sons bow down to you.  Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you!"  Bless them!  Someone has noted that there are four parts to this family blessing: a special situation or special touch, a spoken message, a special future is emphasized, and the person being blessed is highly valued (often some kind of word picture is involved).  In this case, the meal was special, and Isaac also employed a kiss (but this kiss may have been more to smell out the situation).  Isaac spoke a short message of selected words, which he had probably formulated earlier.  The special future here was God giving good harvests in the years ahead.  That this son is highly valued is seen when Isaac says that others will serve and bow down before him.  Bless them!  We also might consider passing on such a blessing to others.  We sort of do that with our High School seniors who graduate by awarding them a quilt and a Bible and having special messages.  But you could do the same thing in your own family.  You could have a special meal and  put your arm on your son or daughter's shoulder.  You could speak some prepared words.  You could ask God to bless their future or to help them to make a difference in the future.  You could show how you highly value them by emphasizing some strength or talent or by using a word picture to praise them.  For example, you might say something like this: "When I think of your mechanical skills, you're going to be helping many people in that garage where you'll work one day."  Now if all that's sounds too complicated, then just praise your child over and over again until they get the message: You approve of them, you believe in them, and you are sure that they will make a difference!  Bless them!
 
Children mean the world to God.  The Old Testament shows us that He wants us to act in these ways:  value them, instruct them, discipline them, consider them, involve them, and bless them.  "Some would gather money along the path of life; Some would gather roses and rest from worldly strife.  But I would gather children from among the thorns of sin; I would seek a golden curl and a freckled, toothless grin.  For money cannot enter in that land of endless day, and the roses that are gathered soon will wilt along the way.  But oh, the laughing children, as I cross the Sunset Sea, and the gates swing wide to heaven, I can take them in with me" (Author Unknown).  If you haven't been viewing your children as God views them or if you need to be immersed in Jesus ' name to have your sins forgiven, Wn't you come to Jesus now?
 
Books consulted:
Harold Shank, Children Mean The World to God, Nashville: 21st Century Christian, 2001.
Catherine Stonehouse & Scottie May, Listening to Children on the Spiritual Journey, Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010.
Scottie May, Beth Poterski, Catherine Stonehouse, Linda Cannell, Children Matter, Grand Rapids: Eerdman, 2005.