|by Rev. Sterling Durgy
Most of the 78th Psalm is devoted to a description of God's faithfulness to the people of Israel. God is portrayed as the Great Shepherd, lovingly guiding his people, remaining faithful to them even when they turn away from Him; a God whose discipline is designed to bring people back to Him. The psalmist, Asaph, also relates the continual tendency of the Israelites to turn away from God and wander into sin.
However, the beginning of the psalm is devoted to a challenge to each generation to pass on the knowledge of God to each succeeding generation,
For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that they should teach them to their children; that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children, that they should put their confidence in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments, and not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not prepare its heart, and whose spirit was not faithful to God. Psalm 78:5-8
This challenge echoes God's words before the exodus and at Mount Sinai in which God commands His people to remember His deeds to their children (Exodus 12:26, Deuteronomy 11:18-19).
It is not a coincidence that the Last Supper was a celebration of the Passover. The deliverance of the nation of Israel from slavery in Egypt was the central salvation event of the Old Testament. The Gospel, the story of God's deliverance of His people from sin through Jesus Christ, is the corresponding event in the New Testament. Both ceremonies, Passover and Holy Communion, commemorate God's salvation by action, but have a strong commemorative component as well. In other words, the re-telling of the salvation event is inseparable from the celebration of the ceremony. In each case the purpose is not only to remember the event, not only to experience God's blessing by participating in the ceremony, but also to continue remembrance of the event by communicating the history to the next generation.
In Ephesians, Paul exhorts fathers to raise their children "in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (6:4). Neither the need to bring people into the church by evangelism nor the discipleship ministry of the church should not blind us to the fact that the family presents the best discipleship opportunity the church ever has. Indeed, the importance of raising children in the faith is as important in the church as it was to the nation of Israel. We have a good example in Timothy. Timothy, who received two letters from Paul preserved in the New Testament, was instructed in the Scriptures from the time of his childhood by his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice, and as an adult became a leader in the early church (II Timothy 1:5, 3:14-17).
The church has an important role in the life of every child that is a part of it. Every child brought into the church comes under the influence of the entire fellowship of faith. It is the task of the entire congregation to pray, work and live in such a manner that these children come to know the Lord and His ways. It is, therefore, proper for infants to be dedicated or baptized in the presence of the entire congregation whenever possible. The church's ministry to orphans is not just to provide for their material needs, but to try to "fill the gap" for spiritual training as well.
But experience shows that it is the parents who always have the major influence upon their children, so much so that if parents are not converted, children who profess faith often do not continue to follow the Lord. Further, if a child is abandoned to the world, it makes little difference to the child whether the parent was involved in sin or in good works, the child is still abandoned.
No less saintly individuals than Eli (who was given the task of raising the prophet Samuel to serve the Lord) and David (king of Israel) were guilty of failing to raise their children to love and serve God (I Samuel 3:12-13, I Kings 1:6). Because of this, Eli fell dead, and David's children were immoral and rebellious. Parents cannot force their children to follow the Lord, but parents should not do less than they are able to do to help their children understand and grow in faith.
The duties of Christian parenthood flow from the nature of their God. Just as God is love, the first duty of parents is to love their children (I John 4:8). Because all children are wanted by God and are important to God, Christian parents seek to bring their children into God's presence, and God's presence into their children's lives through prayer (Luke 18:15-16). Because God is holy, Christian parents model righteousness to their children (Matthew 18:6). Because they are the objects of God's grace through Christ, they model humility and gratefulness to God (Ephesians 2:8-9) and show their gratitude by serving God (Ephesians 2:10, II Corinthians 5:14-15). Since God makes us accountable, they not only teach their children their faith, they call upon their children to live by it, and lovingly provide guidance through careful, prayerful use of correction, approval, and rewards (Ephesians 6:4). As God seeks out the fellowship of people, Christian parents bring their children to the house of the Lord to seek fellowship with other Christian children (Hebrews 10:25, I Corinthians 15:33). Just as God finally gives us free will, Christian parents have as their goal the maturing of their children so that they, in turn, can be effective Christian parents to grandchildren (Matthew 19:4-5, Luke 15:11-12).
Sometimes in their zeal to promote evangelism and missions, Christians have belittled the importance of the ministry of parents in the home. The truth is that there is no better place to disciple future Christians. It is in the home that we have a chance to show how Christianity applies to every part of life. In addition, in times like ours when families are falling apart throughout our nation, there is no more important Christian duty than to model Christian homes to our culture.
Copyright 1999 Sterling M. Durgy. All Rights Reserved
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