Smile... The Future's On Its Way
by C.J. Horn
The Next Generation: A Perspective on Children
At one point along the route where Jesus carried His cross through Jerusalem, He turned to the weeping women and said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck" (Luke 23:28-29). He said this because there was a time coming in Jerusalem of such catastrophe that it would be better that a child was spared from such horror. And in making this prophecy he pointed out the grief a parent can know.
The One who created all knows the heart of a parent. In Ezekiel 24, His word describes children as the "excellency" of a parent's "strength." That is, the highest expression of a person's power is the ability to produce another life. It is the ability to perpetuate oneself. Parenthood is more fulfilling than any other creative endeavor, because a living person has come into being, who although existing independently of the parent, is an expression of the parent. Of course, this can be corrupted into self-serving egotism, but nonetheless, parents can't help but feel pride because they have produced another living being . the fruit of their own body.
Children are also described as "the desire of the parent's eyes" (Ezek 24:25). Every parent understands this who has been separated from a child through death or estrangement. There is an overwhelming ache to see the child's face or hold them. The child is the thing the eyes desire the most. When Moses warned the children of Israel about forsaking God, he spoke about the devastation of losing the children: "Thy sons and thy daughters shall be given unto another people, and thine eyes shall look, and fail with longing for them all the day long..." (Deuteronomy 28:32).
The parent-child relationship is used to describe the relationship between God and His people: "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him" (Psalms 103:13). The same passage in Ezekiel 24 (referenced above) contains this thought. Children are "That which your soul pitieth" (Ezekiel 24:21). Pitieth can also mean "beloved." The prophet Hosea talked of the "beloved fruit of the womb" (Hosea 9:16). It can mean to "spare," as in Malachi 3:17: "...I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him."
This feeling of sympathy and tenderness can extend toward all children. It is difficult to watch a news segment on television or see a picture in a magazine ad that shows starving or diseased children. Instinctively one's heart goes out to children who suffer, because they suffer in childlike innocency. Their eyes seem to look through the camera lense with a haunting expression that simultaneously cries for help and asks the reason why.
As unpleasant as it may be, it is true that children suffer because of the actions of parents and adults. The Biblical record is replete with instances where this is so. Children would be captured and carried away (Deuteronomy 28:32, 41; 2 Chronicles 29:9) because adults in Israel disobeyed God. Jeremiah 14:16 described a scene in "the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword," where there would be no one to bury the dead (including the sons or the daughters). Even more gruesome and unthinkable are the references to child sacrifice (Jeremiah 7:31) and cannibalism of children (Leviticus 26:2; Deuteronomy 28:53).
When a generation of children is slaughtered at the hand of an enemy, whether that enemy be famine or war, or disease, or even an enemy of greed and selfishness, one wants to find what is effecting these causes and stop them. A caring person gropes for perspective and finds little satisfaction in the answer that it is the fault of parents and governments that children suffer. And any time one looks for a scapegoat for the world's ills, one comes away feeling empty, because no matter who is responsible, finding someone to blame is no real comfort in the end. It is not good to look too long at what mankind has become. It is like the old adage that we become that which we gaze upon intently. It is then with a compassionate heart for children who suffer, that the following is offered as that which might be, with God's help.
Plants & Cornerstones
Psalm 144 ends on a high note: A double portion of happiness is promised: Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the LORD (Psalms 144:15). In today's world "happiness" is used to mean the absence of troubles. This is not what the Bible means. Consider when James wrote "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation, for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life..." (James 1:12). Including the word blessed "happy" and the word "endureth" in the same thought gives one a good idea of the essence of Biblical happiness. It exceeds current circumstances, and frees one to live on a future looking plane.
Also, in Psalm 144 are two fascinating descriptions of sons and daughters: "That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace" (Psalm 144:12). This verse follows a plea that the Lord would deliver the Psalmist family and nation from "strange children." These "strangers" would speak vanity (this subject has been discussed at length in Chapter Three on education). Their right hand would be a "right hand of falsehood." Psalm 17:7 helps define the "right hand" by contrasting "falsehood" with salvation: "O thou that savest by thy right hand them which put their trust in thee from those that rise up against them." These "strange" children then, were those people who were "strangers" in the sense of being ungodly unbelievers. The Psalmist concluded that to be delivered from these ungodly unbelievers would result in children that were described as plants & cornerstones.
Sons: Plants Grown Up in Their Youth
Plants bring to mind fruitfulness. And there is much evidence in Scripture that our children are the best illustration of bearing fruit.
Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. (Psalms 127:3,4).
A plant "grown up in its youth" brings to mind a maturity that is evidenced by a surrender to total reliance on God. Biblically defined "youth" bears the connotation of at least the age of marriage (Proverbs 5:18 Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth). But there are examples in the Bible of those who grew to manhood and then to old age without ever surrendering to the Lord. Age does not necessarily guarantee a growth of faith.
Though David was just a "youth" when he faced Goliath, his maturity was evidenced in his reliance on the "Lord of hosts" (1 Samuel 17:33, 45). All through his life David relied on God, even to the point he was known as the man after God's own heart (Acts 17:22). Psalm 71 was written by David as he faced old age. He said "O God, thou hast taught me from youth: and hitherto have I declared thy wonderous works" (Psalm 71:17)
Solomon, David's son and the wisest man who ever lived wrote, "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth ..." (Ecclesiastes 12:1). This verse in Ecclesiastes ends with the idea that there comes a day when the strength of youth is gone. While children are strong and young, they should be told the truth by word and by example. The greatest of life's achievements is to live Paul's admonition to Timothy:
"Let no man despise (look down upon) thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity" (1 Timothy 4:12).
Daughters: Cornerstones Polished like a Palace
At first glance, Psalm 144:12 may lead a person to think of a child as being a cornerstone in the sense of a foundation stone in a building. But this is not what this verse is speaking about. First of all, the "cornerstone" means a visible edge of two walls meeting at the corner, and the word comes from the meaning of prominent or bright. The word for this bright corner part of the building is also translated as the word May, as the month of May when bright green new growth is seen and flowers bloom in profusion. Thinking in that manner gives one a better idea of what the Psalmist is describing when he talks of daughters that show forth this type of brightness and beauty. Women (and daughters by extension) are designed by God to be beautiful. This beauty has been corrupted and used wrongly throughout the centuries, but the fact remains that women are seen by God as beautiful. And the God who created all of the beautiful flowers also created the woman who blooms and bears children. Consider the blessing of Psalms 128:3;
Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table.
Most young ladies are taught from a very young age that their value is an economic value. A battle wages between men and women over "equal pay for equal work." That battle is based on the assumption that the truest indication of a persons worth is the rate at which he is compensated for time spent. This framework of "earning power equals intrinsic value" necessitates the careful choosing of when "offspring" will occur along the ladder of upward career mobility, because children are said to interfer with a woman's ability to succeed economically.
We have come so far as to coin a phrase for a childless woman and her husband. It is "DINK" (Double-Income, No Kids). Our present world promotes the idea that a woman with no children can offer great value because she has placed she and her husband in a "double-income" status without the financial drain of children.
If in bringing up a daughter, one negates or minimizes the importance that God places on a woman's role as the highest created expression in His universe of flowering and bearing fruit, then we have robbed our children of a beautiful, fulfilling truth.
Plants or Cornerstones: More About Life
Scripture is replete with examples of building. The concept of children is even based on a theme of "building," the word for "son/daughter" means "a builder of the family name." The word "exhort" as in the case of "Exhort one another daily" (Hebrews 3:13) is a term which means to build up rather than to tear down.
No discussion of building would be complete without the mention of the spiritual house that God is building made up of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. The cornerstone of this house is the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph 2:20; Isaiah 28:16; Mark 12:10; Psalm 118:22).
Isaiah's prophecy about the chief cornerstone is repeated in 1 Peter 2:6: "Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded" (disgraced or shamed). Jesus talked of his body being the temple that would be destroyed and he would raise it up again in three days (John 2:19,21). He spoke of His bodily resurrection from the dead. Jesus is called a "living stone", and believers are "built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:4,5). When the believer comes to faith in Jesus Christ, he is placed by faith in the "house of God, which is the church of the living God" (1 Timothy 3:15). Believers are called upon to present themselves as a "living sacrifice" (Romans 12:1), prayerfully following the Chief Cornerstone, as Paul did. "That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death" (Phil 3:9,10). Whenever anyone is critical of God for the ills of this world, they need to remember that Jesus Christ went to Calvary to die for sin. He is the one who said, "Let the children come to me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God" (Matthew 19:14). Sin is what causes a child to go hungry and suffer; sin brings the ravages of disease. Sin is not pretty, neither was Christ's death on the cross. His death is an historical event that satisfied God's eternal judgment on sin. The reality is, death and sin have been "swallowed up in victory," (1 Corinthians 15:54), and all creation awaits the final redemption (Romans 8:22,23).
In the meantime, here in this present life, sin (the breaking of God's laws) still has grievous consequences. These consequences have burned themselves through the history of mankind with all the selectiveness of a raging fire. However, unless one is to be hopelessly discouraged by the conditions that prevail, one must look beyond mankind's present condition, with a view in mind of building for eternity.
When the Children of Israel crossed into the Promised Land, they were to build, seting up "great stones" and plaster them and write all of the words of God's law there (Deuteronomy 27:1-8). The believer on earth awaits the redemption of his body (Romans 8:23), God has written His perfect law on the believer's heart, "written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart" (2 Corinthians 3:3). That is why Paul said "ye are the temple of the living God" (1 Corinthians 6:16), because it is God that must change the heart of man, not man who changes his own heart. When God writes His law on the heart of believers, these "lively (living) stones" (1 Peter 2:5) become "fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone" (Ephesians 2:19,20). Not only that, the "bulding fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord, in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:21,22).
Building for Eternity
In this earthly life, man is a builder and a planter, created in the image of the "living God" (Matthew 16:16). But perhaps more than that, he and his children are eternal beings, destined for an eternal dwelling place. Whether the children that have issued from our own bodies become citizens of this heavenly dwelling place is a responsibility that overwhelms any parent. We cannot give our faith to our children, for each individual must come to Christ on his own. But it is the responsibility of the parent to provide an atmosphere where spiritual growth is possible, where strong foundations of truth can be laid in the heart and mind of a child. Abraham worshipped the "living God," the Divine Architect of a "city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (Hebrews 11:10). Our children's citizenship in that city should be our goal. Parents have the privilege like Paul of being "masterbuilders" in the lives of their children, building upon the same foundation that all must build upon, the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:10-11).