There is a verse in the Bible which is altogether astounding to me. It is what we read in Genesis 18:19 concerning Abraham and what God says about Abraham. We read, “For I (that is, God) know him (that is, Abraham), that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.” In that verse, God is saying that He is totally confident in Abraham, confident that Abraham will command his children to follow the way of the Lord. He is confident that a believing parent will instruct his children in the truth of His Word.
I find that astounding. For us to read that Abraham was confident that God would do the right thing; for us to read a verse in which the believer says that he is fully persuaded that God will be faithful – this would be expected, of course. We may express our confidence in God who will perform all His good pleasure and shall be faithful unto us without fail. But for Jehovah to express confidence in Abraham, and Abraham here as the father of all the faithful, thus as our father, the father of all that believe; for God to express this confidence that Abraham, a frail man and fallen sinner, will perform this spiritual calling of instructing his children – that is remarkable. That is astounding.
Jehovah does not have misplaced trust. Jehovah does not express an unfounded confidence. For God’s confidence does not rest in Abraham, and it does not rest in us, but it rests in the covenant of His grace. It rests in His grace which will work in those whom He has brought into His covenant, causing them to be faithful and to command their children to walk in the way of the Lord. Looking at His grace, God says that He has confidence that believing parents will instruct their children in the way of the Lord.
Does the Lord express this confidence about you?
In this week, many of us will again be at that time of year when our children go back to school. It is our calling, as believing parents, to provide for them a Christian education, to form Christian schools, and to bring them up in the way of the Lord. We do that because God has established His covenant with us. When God has established His covenant with us wherein He gives us to know Him, it will also burn in our hearts that our children be brought up in the way of knowing Him in all things.
I would like to call your attention, then, to Jehovah’s confidence in believing parents to instruct their children in the way of the Lord.
Exactly what was Jehovah’s confidence? It was this: that Abraham would perform this calling with respect to his children and his household, a calling, namely, to bring them up in the way of the Lord. We read that God is confident that Abraham will command his children and his household after him, that they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment.
The word “command,” that Abraham will command his children, is rather striking and noteworthy. It is not the usual word given to express our parental calling. We would look for the word “instruct,” which lays emphasis upon the knowledge that we are to impart to our children. Or we would look for the word “train,” that is, to bring them up or to nurture them, to rear them in the way of the Lord. Here Abraham is said to command his children and household after him that they may keep the way of the Lord. The word “command” here stresses the idea of authority given to the parent from God to instruct his children. All authority is of God ( Rom. 13), that is, the right to rule or to instruct. This has been invested alone in God. But parents, now, under God, have the right to rule, have authority to bring up, to instruct their children in the way of the Lord.
We can understand why that is so. If God had simply said that He gives parents this authority, it would not be enough. But He tells us why He gives this authority. He gives this authority in order that parents may bring up their children in the way of the Lord, that they may command their children to keep the way of the Lord. So God invests authority in parents for this specific task: that they may bring up their children, not in their children’s way, not in their own way, but in God’s way. So, involved in that authority is responsibility, because you can never mention authority without responsibility.
A covenant father, then, is not simply one who slaps his kids around and tells them that if he ever catches them doing this or that, he’ll do that or this. But a covenant parent is one who is knowledgeable that he is responsible for all of his actions before God’s face. And he is responsible for bringing up his child in every area of that child’s life in the way that he must go, bring him up in the way of keeping the way of the Lord, that he may do justice and judgment.
That is really at the heart of it. The heart of all parental instruction is this: children, keep the way of the Lord. Children, we are pilgrims and strangers, begotten of grace. We are seeking a heavenly kingdom. We are living in the fellowship of God. We must live our life in intimate fellowship with God and we must seek that eternal kingdom. An important part of that life is obedience to God in every aspect of our life. Children, that is the way we must go. We must go the way that God tells us. We must go the way that God has pointed out in His holy Word. We must learn to be obedient and we must learn to see everything in the light of God’s Word. You cannot simply tell your children to do that. You yourself must lead them in that way. You must be the example for them in that.
So we may say that God calls us to instruct our children in the path of Christian life, in the path of Christian obedience. God said, Abraham will speak to his children of the judgments of God which fall upon sinners and the blessings of God that are to be found in the way of obedience and faithfulness. Speak to your children, then, of the results and of the judgments of God in the way of evil. That is very timely. A child is always attracted to what glitters. A child is attracted to showy things, to the big world, to evil-doers, to uncleanness. Tell your children that the judgments of God rest upon the way of the evil-doer. But the Lord knows the way of the righteous.
So the goal of our instruction is that our children may learn to do justice and judgment. Abraham’s business was to promote practical religion in his family, godliness in their lives – godliness in their lives with God’s people and godliness in their lives before all the world, that the truth and justice of God may shine out of them.
Jehovah was confident that Abraham would command his children, that is, exercise the authority that God had given; confident that Abraham would bring them up in the way of a pilgrim stranger, of a child of God on earth; and confident that he would do that with a very pointed admonition of the judgments of God upon sin and evil and the goodness of God revealed to the righteous.
Why is Jehovah confident that Abraham will do this? That is an important question. In our pride we would answer: “There is no mystery about that. That is plain enough. God is saying that if we do our part, instruct our children, then God will do His part: He’ll bless it.” That is religious pride. That is the worst of all pride.
No, that can be no comfort to us. That cannot be any comfort for us because we know our own weakness and our sin and the host of difficulties and failures which are involved in commanding our children to keep the way of the Lord. A believing mother who confesses at the end of the day her impatience; the husband and wife with their little children, knowing those moments when all seems to be in a turmoil – they cannot find any comfort in such an answer. They cannot find comfort in saying, “Well, it’s conditional. God says: Do your part, and then I’ll do My part. So that it rests upon us.” We cannot find any comfort in such words.
The Christian school teacher who stands conscientiously before the children in the classroom and, at the end of the day, asks himself: “What could I have done better?” The covenant father who knows his own sin and sees his sin being repeated in his children cannot find comfort in such an answer.
How then can God be so sure that believing parents are indeed going to fulfill their calling toward their children? God is confident because of His own grace which was given to us before the world began. In II Timothy 1:9 we read, “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” God says, “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him.” God’s confidence rest in this, that God has known Abraham, not known simply of him or about him, but known him in the mystery of His eternal grace and knowledge.
This knowing is God’s eternal election, which is the cause for Abraham’s desire to command his children. It is not a conditional thing. God is not saying, “You bring up your children in the way of the Lord and then I will bless you.” No, no! God is saying, “It all depends upon My grace of election. Because I know My own and I bring them to Me, I know also that My electing love will work in them this earnest desire, this great burden, to instruct their children in that way of salvation. I know that when I work in the heart of parents the wonders of My redeeming grace, those hearts will become burdened for their children to bring up their children in that way of the Lord.” God’s confidence, therefore, is in His own work. God can be confident only in His own work. He cannot be confident in the work of another. He cannot be confident that His covenant is going to be established if that is conditioned upon the work of another, if it is conditioned upon a contribution that must be made from someone or something other than Himself. It is only the work of God that can be established. It is only the work of God that is powerful and true.
So we reject all pride. We reject the pride that says, “Man does this and man does that. God promises this and God promises that, but now man does this and man does that and if he does it, then God says ‘Well, OK, I’ll keep my promise, but it is all conditioned upon what you do.'” No, that is God-dishonoring. That dethrones God. We do not determine what God does or does not do. God determines what we do and what we will be.
The knowledge God had of Abraham was simply the knowledge of His almighty grace, the knowledge of His eternal election, and the knowledge of His own predetermination. Eternally He chose Abraham and his children in Christ. And out of that knowledge He willed to show him that grace and had that grace worked in him: this desire to instruct and to bring up his children. Your desire to teach your children the way of the Lord is the fruit of God’s wonderful grace in your hearts.
That is why God is so confident.
Then God will also bring to us the blessing. We read, “Jehovah shall bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.” God had spoken many things of Abraham. But, centrally, He had said that Abraham would be blessed. God would multiply Abraham, and God would reveal to him the secrets of His covenant and love. God says, “Abraham, you shall be blessed. I will work in you the desire to train your children. And in that way of working in you the desire to train your children, I will bring upon you all the things that I have spoken. I will bring you blessedness. I will bring upon you that you will see in your children the work of My grace.”
Does Jehovah express this same confidence in you and in me? Does He say of you, “I know him, I know her, that they will command their children after them to keep the way of the Lord. I know something about those believing parents.” Do you know yourself as an unworthy sinner, the object of His grace, saved in Christ? Does God work in you this great desire to teach your children the ways of the Lord? If so, this is all because He has first loved you.
Be resolved to love Him. Be resolved to be faithful to Him. Live in that assurance as you rear your children.
Then we may have peace. For the rearing of children is often a work which is very pressing upon our hearts. It is a great work. It is a work which is beyond our hands, beyond our strength to accomplish. And we bring to it nothing but our own weaknesses. But our confidence is in God – confidence that He who hath begun a good work will also complete that work. And He who has called us to a task will certainly give to us the grace for that path. Then we shall be jealous. And we shall be faithful to bring up our children in this coming year in the way of the Lord. We will be faithful to teach them, faithful to support and maintain Christian schools where they are taught the way of the Lord. And we will do this out of thankfulness, thankfulness to God.
Let us be resolved to command our children to keep the way of the Lord. And let us be resolved to do this out of thankfulness to God for the grace that He has shown to us.
Let us pray.
Father, as we begin another year in the instruction of our children in the Christian day-school, and as we take up that instruction in our homes, teaching and training our children, we look to Thee for a blessing. We pray that we may understand that the instruction of our children and their education is vital, that it is the mighty power in Thy hand to prepare and mold them for the place that they shall have in Thy kingdom. May our hearts not faint or fail us in this year. May we be found faithful to pray for our children. May we be found faithful in our example before our children. And we pray, heavenly Father, that through the efforts of our instruction, and through the efforts of the Christian school, Thou wilt train a seed, a generation, to know Thee, to love Thee, and to keep Thy ways. In Jesus’ name do we pray, Amen.