I have Nourished and Brought Up Children
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I Have Nourished and Brought Up Children

"I have nourished and brought up children and they have rebelled against me."  This might be the cry of many parents who have reared children during these troubled years since 1960.  The cultural revolution which has shaken western culture has brought in drinking, drug use, sexual promiscuity and the occult as never before.  Parents' hearts have been broken as they have seen their children destroying themselves morally and spiritually.  Our culture changed more in the 60's and 70's than in the previous millennium.

But these words were not spoken by modern parents but the God of Israel through the prophet Isaiah (1:2).  The Lord goes on to say, "The ox knows its owner and the donkey its master's crib.  But Israel does not know; my people do not consider" (Is. 1:3 NKJ).  Through the prophet God laments their apostasy from Him. 

The prophets reminded Israel of God's gracious love and care.  The Israelites had been slaves in Egypt and God had redeemed them and led them out.  For forty years God had marvelously provided for them through their desert wanderings.  He had guided them into the land of Canaan and enabled them to conquer their enemies, giving them a land "flowing with milk and honey."  When they turned away from Him Jehovah had sent prophets to warn them and to lead them back to Himself.  God was so patient.  Isaiah affirms, "But the word of the Lord was to them, precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line; line upon line, here a little, there a little' (Is. 28:13).  God trained them like little children with endless repetition.

After all of this divine care, Israel rebelled against their God.  How sad!  Was God to blame?  Hardly!  Many people today are influenced by a psychology which views the child as innocent, a blank slate upon which parents write their message.  With the proper environment children are sure to turn out well.  It is commonly believed that education is the secret that will guarantee healthy, law-abiding citizens.  It is a philosophy of determinism.  Unfortunately it ignores the fact that men are born sinners (Ps.51:5) and are innately flawed from birth.

Child training is important and vital.  Parents must teach their children the Word of God (Dt. 6:4-9).  The home should be saturated with Scripture.  Parents are also responsible to train and to discipline their children (Prov. 22:6) and "the rod of correction" may be needed at times because "foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child" (Prov. 22:15).  While children are at home and under their authority they should insist on behavior consistent with the parents' standards.  A Christian elder is to have "his children in submission with all reverence" (I Tim. 3:4).  And parents must pray and commit their children to God, like Hannah (I Sam. 1:27-28).

Having said all of this one is still confronted with the awesome power of the human will, a will which can choose to serve God or to rebel against Him.  This spirit of rebellion grieves the heart of God and has from the beginning (Gen. 6:5-6).  If people can rebel against their God they can also rebel against human authority, including the wishes of their parents.  It is simplistic to blame godly parents for failure if some of their children turn away from God and their training, unless one is also prepared to blame God.

Parents should do all they can to train their children properly.  Frequent moves can be very uprooting and unsettling for children.  They need the stabilizing influence of a church where they have good friends who encourage them in the right direction.  A father who is away from home too much may put a burden on his wife.  But some preachers and missionaries who itinerate much of the time have had good success with their children.  Here a strong, stable, assembly environment is vital.  On the other hand, some fathers who are home all of the time have had problems with some of their children.  There is the mysterious factor of human choice.

One can think of a godly elder who had one son.  This son rejected the faith, became a homosexual and died of Aids.  Another godly man had two sons.  One went on for God and became a leader in his assembly.  Another son rejected the faith in college and lived his life as an atheist.  A friend of a godly evangelist in Canada said after his death, "He led many others to the Lord but was unable to lead his own children to Christ."  A godly missionary to Europe had two daughters.  One went on for the Lord and has spent her life as a missionary.  The other turned away to a dissolute life and has made shipwreck.  Let us be slow to pass judgment on such parents.

As one passes through life, he comes to realize that often there are no easy, simple answers.  Why does one person turn to Christ and become a devoted follower of Him and another reject the Lord and live a life of rebellion?  Some believe in double predestination and believe that human choice is an illusion.  They teach that some individuals are predestined for hell and there is no choice they can make to change their destination.  But to those who believe that God is a God of love and that salvation was provided for all (I Jn. 2:2), then human choice is a necessity.  This too vindicates God in His judgment on sinners.  They have had a choice.  The plea of the prophets of the Old Testament and of the New is to sinners to exercise their choice and to turn to God.  "Come now and let us reason together, says the Lord" (Is. 1:18).  The voice of the evangelist still echoes that same cry today.

Donald L. Norbie
November 7, 1997