Dear radio friends,
What kind of questions do you ask in your life? A good way to learn the state of your heart is to examine the questions you ask. That is true for a parent. Many questions naturally arise when you hold your child in your hands for the first time. Will I be able to provide for this child? Will this child make me happy? What does the future hold? But do you ask this question: What does God require of me toward this child? How am I to fulfill that calling? Do you ask those question?
Today we are going to turn to the Scriptures in Judges 13:12-14. There Manoah, the father of Samson, asked the question every believing parent should ask concerning the children that God has given to us. We should ask these questions: What shall we do to the child? How shall we do this to him?
If we are to understand this passage, we must spend a few moments in the broader context, which will help us to appropriate the urgency and the heartfelt question which was spoken by the father, Manoah.
Samson, the judge, was born at the end of the period called “the Judges.” It was a time that was summed in the phrase, “There was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” The time of the judges was the 400+ years between the death of Joshua and the elders and the coming of a kingdom under Saul. The book of Judges illustrates what so often characterizes the church of God. There was a repeated cycle. Time after time the people of God fell into sin and apostasy; God, in His mercy, delivered them into the hand of their enemies; they would cry to the Lord; and God would in His mercy send them a judge to deliver them.
We read that in the time of Samson the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord. And the Lord delivered them into the hand of the Philistines. This time it was different. For, you see, sin is not simply a repeated cycle, but sin is a downward spiral. The sins that were committed at the time of the judges were not simply repeated, but each generation would plunge down deeper into the seas of indifference. Yes, all sin is sin. But sin in history and in one’s personal life does not stay the same but must ever progress and deepen in its filth.
In the days of Samson the sin of God’s people had plunged into new depths. Although God had sold them into the hand of the Philistines, apparently no one stirred himself in zeal for God. In fact, we are going to see, if you read the Bible on the life of Samson, that not only would no one stir himself in zeal for God, but the men of Judah will give Samson over to the Philistines. They reject even the judge that God sends.
But there is something more that we need to understand if we are to understand the question that Manoah asked about how he was to bring up his son Samson. Not only must we understand that it was a day of increasing evil, deepening evil; but the Bible tells us that Manoah’s wife was barren and could not have children. That word “barren” has a very heavy blow to it, a deep hurt. God, up to that moment, had made it impossible for Manoah and his wife to have children. Only those who have been in that place can truly understand the hurt. It is one of those ways of God which are very deep and touch us so profoundly and deeply. It is an area where our will and God’s will collide, in which God calls us to renounce our own will and to find the peace and sweetness of His will.
You can understand that in that situation Manoah’s question was very urgent, heartfelt, and sincere. Every birth is a miracle. Nothing of modern medicine, with all the talk of cloning and genetic code and all the rest, has taken away or explained the miracle of God in conception, pregnancy, and birth. Men are very crass and so are we. We are like the beasts that chew the cud and take for granted and assume and fail to be spellbound over the wonders of God. Birth, conception in the womb, is the work of God in making a human life. Every birth is a miracle of the wonder-working God.
Manoah and his wife knew that. They knew that in a special way because they could not have children. And they knew that this child was the profound gift of almighty God. God was going to entrust to them the life of a child.
Now can you understand something of the sense in which Manoah asked his question of God – How shall we order the child? What shall be the manner in which we bring the child up? Exactly what are we to do to him? What kind of life is he to be trained for? Secondly, How shall we do this? That is, exactly with what things are we to prepare him for his calling? The question, then, was simply this: What is my child to be and how do I rear him to attain to that calling? These are the most basic questions of a parent. No trimmings – bare-boned. Lord, what is my child supposed to be in this life? And, Lord, how am I to rear him to that end?
Do you ask those questions? Do you understand that God has placed that child in your care? That pregnancy is not an accident? That pregnancy is a work of God? That that is a human life? And that God has called you to be responsible and to rear this child?
Do you ask with some heartfelt, sincere, pressing fervor: Lord what are we to do and how are we to do it? How are we to bring up this child in a world which is filled with apostasy, in which more and more the church and the people of God fall into indifference to spiritual things, when more and more there is a willingness on the part of the church to adopt the life of the Philistines, a day in which there is the unrelenting influence of the world, the propaganda of the world? How are we to order the child and how are we to bring him up?
God answered those questions. Manoah had asked the question: how shall we order the child? What is this child to be? And God answered, “This child is to be trained for a godly life, for a life which sets him decidedly apart from the world and unashamedly devoted to God.” The answer was put in these words: “Of all that I said unto the woman let her beware. She may not eat of any thing that cometh of the vine, neither let her drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing: all that I commanded her let her observe.” God was telling Manoah and his wife that Samson was to be reared as a Nazarite. A Nazarite in those days was one who could not cut his hair, could not drink strong wine, and could not touch a dead body. The Nazarite was a visible reminder to God’s people that they had been separated unto the Lord and consecrated as a separate and holy people to their God; that God’s grace had taken them out of a fallen world and made them to be a people for Himself; had delivered His people from the darkness and despair of sin and made them His own friends. The life of a Nazarite was a picture of those who are saved in Christ. They too are to live a new and holy life, lives which are not consumed and wasted and deformed in sin, but a life which is alive unto God in all good works, in repentance, love, and joy of God. A Nazarite was a picture of one who had been made holy unto God. Therefore the answer to the question, “What is this child to be?” was this, He is to be holy, he is to be reared for a godly life.
Do you ask, as a parent, “Lord, what is the goal of my parenting? Exactly what am I to train my child in?” God’s answer: Holiness. The fruit of Christ’s death. What Christ purchased: a new and holy life.
Today, in the world, children are being brought eagerly to Moloch (an idol, in the Old Testament, whose hands were outstretched, made red hot, and babies were thrown into his hands in a screaming death). So also today many children are brought up to Moloch, to the gods of relativism. Parents bring up their children and lay them upon the altars of the idol that ultimately there is no truth, there is only choices. Or other parents bring up their children according to the god “fashion.” They want to have her to be little Miss Beauty, or into the beauty pageants. Or according to the gods of materialism. They say to their children: “Don’t worry. Daddy will get that for you.” That is the ultimate comfort for the child. We will get that for you. Still others bring up their children to lust. They talk to their teenagers about safe sex, lesbianism, and homosexuality as being alternate life-styles. So, as Moloch in the Old Testament would stretch out his arms to consume children and their cries would screech in the ears of their parents, so also the gods of this world consume countless children and young people. And their cries, the cries of these children are heard in broken homes and in school-shootings and in sexual abuse and in abortions.
Now in this day, a day that is spiraling down in sin, God says, “You, parent, you who have sworn your love to Me, you who belong to Me, you are to bring up your boys and your girls, your teenagers and your toddlers to be holy, to live unto Christ in the beauty of holiness.”
Your question must be: “How shall this child be shown by me to live a holy life?” That is your goal. That is first. Not first of all, what shall be the child’s financial portfolio; how shall the child relate to other children; what shall the child wear; will my little girl be cute? That is not the question! The question is: Will they be holy?
That is why, children, your parents are to say No to certain friends for you and to say No, you cannot go there and say Yes, we go to church, to the house of God and Yes to godly education and Yes to the people of God.
How are we to bring up our children? We are to bring them up to be holy.
But the second question that Manoah asked was: “How shall we do unto him?” That is, how do we do that? The answer of God was, “All that I commanded her, let her observe.” In other words, God was saying, You do it by obeying God’s Word. You live out of the Word of God as it is written by the Holy Spirit now upon fleshly tables of your heart. That is how you are equipped to be a parent to bring up your child to be holy.
That means, first of all, that your life as a parent must be an example to your child. The Word of God to Manoah and his wife was, “All that I commanded her, let her observe, let her do it first.” The question of Manoah was, “What shall we do to him?” And the answer of God was concerning the conduct of the parents. God says, “Don’t ask first of all what you are supposed to do for him. I’m concerned first of all about your life. Your life must be godly. Your faith is the first and most important factor in the rearing of your child. You must walk in true faith.” You see, beloved in the Lord Jesus Christ, God always uses the means of examples and visual display of His truth in Jesus Christ. You cannot train another person in holiness without sincerity, without repentance. Many of us have known the blessing of a godly parent. We look back now and, as parents ourselves, we see that our own parents were indeed weak and sinful. And we remember that as a child we did not always think they were very nice. When they disciplined us we resented them. Now we look back and say, “My father and mother had faith. They loved God and they loved me in God. And we bless them for their memory.” We do not analyze and say, “Well, because of my father I’m hurt and crippled here and I can’t cope here in my life.” No. We look upon a godly father and mother and we say, “This much I knew: I knew where my father stood. He served the Lord.”
Are your children going to be able to say that about you? What about your own example? Do they see that you place upon them requirements that you yourself do not keep? Do they see that you are all mixed up in your priorities? Do they see that we are guilty as parents of glaring inconsistencies and then we gloss over our inconsistencies with a clever use of our words? Do they see that we are more concerned about how we appear to others than how we really appear before God? That we are more concerned with what our children think we are than with what God knows we are? The Word of God says, “Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath. You bring them up, first of all, in your own example.”
But it means, secondly, that we provide a Christian education for them. God said to Manoah, “Of all that I said unto the woman, let her beware.” The education of our children in holiness must be thorough. It must be a preparation for all aspects of their life. For their spiritual life? Yes. For their mental life? Yes. For their emotional life and the skills of their body? Yes, every aspect of life. Our education of them must be driven by a love to communicate the truth of God as it bears upon every nook and cranny of earthly life. Here is the origin of the Christian school: Parents, believing it to be their calling to rear their children in holiness and to apply the Word of God to every aspect of life, beginning in their home and then going on from a home to a Christian day school and a Christian high school. And not just establishing these schools, but monitoring their children’s progress, praying and working with their teachers, having teachers who stand in their place possessing in their heart the same truth that they possess. What a blessing of God. Then talking. Talking with the teacher and with the child, covenanting together to work together, setting aside their own sins, aiming at one thing: that their children might be trained in holiness.
That means that our rearing of our children will be sacrificial. When Manoah’s wife was pregnant, her life as a mother began in self-denial. She herself had to observe the law of the Nazarite. She had to put away that glass of wine. She had to exercise self-denial. The fundamental spiritual law of growth and holiness and godliness is self-denial. Deny yourself! Exercise yourself unto godliness. Give all diligence to your faith. Parent, the time of rest is ahead for you. (I am not referring now to when your children are out of the home. I’m referring to heaven!) As a father and mother it is not the time for indulgence – that you live for those moments when you can get away by yourself and sit down on a soft pillow. But it is the time, right now as a parent, of fasting and praying, of girding up your robe and of a spiritual pilgrimage of self-denial.
The questions of your children as they struggle with holy living have a way of coming up when you are busy. Here you are, as a mother, getting the meal on the table, cleaning the house, working on the grocery list, cutting out your coupons, and here comes your little boy or girl with questions. You are tempted to say, “I don’t have time for that. Ask me some other time. Here, go watch the TV for a few moments. Leave me alone. I don’t have time.”
Father, those questions are going to come to you when you are tired. All you want to do is get your kids home, put them to bed, and as you are putting them to bed and hoping that you can get to the paper (or TV set to watch the NCA final tournament game) and it all comes out. They’ve got all these questions and problems. Perhaps you kneeled with them a moment in prayer and as a result of the prayer your little girl or your little boy says to you, “Dad, I have something to tell you.” And your flesh is saying, “Oh, not now.” Yes, now! The time of a parent is not the time of rest now. Where are your priorities? So crucial is the gift of the child that you are to deny yourself and rear your child in holiness.
By a miracle of God’s hands, God blesses your marriage with children.
Manoah and his wife were given Samson. Although they did not know it at the moment of his birth, there were many problems and heartaches ahead for them. For although Samson is listed as a hero of faith, there were many times when Manoah, as a father, probably despaired of ever seeing any faith in his son at all. We have no reason to believe that Samson’s parents did not dedicate themselves to their task. They gave Samson a godly training. And we read that the Spirit of the Lord did come upon Samson. But it was not easy for them as parents, to say the very least. Their son Samson would thumb his nose at their warnings not to marry an unbeliever. He succumbed to his lust time after time. Their son was to know great victories. But their son is remembered for his shameful defeat at the hands of Delilah. And the consequence was that his eyes were put out. At last we read that Samson was laid to rest beside his father Manoah. His father was not alive to see the last act of his son destroying the pagan temple.
They were hard times to bring up a boy. The long haul was before them. There were many tears in that home. That is the same way it is today. You see, parenting has a way of exposing to us our own sins and weaknesses. Nothing else can. But, nevertheless, bringing up a child to be holy before God is a glorious task because it depends upon the sacrifice of Christ. That is the only possibility. There is the hope, and there is the joy, for every Christian family. Bowing before the sacrifice that God has made for our sin, we are committed to press on and to bring up our children in holiness. There is our answer. How shall we bring up our child? What are we to do? We are to bring him up in holiness. How? Look to the blood of Christ. Lay hold of the Word of God by faith. In our doing of these things, by grace, God will work in and through us to attain His purpose.
And His purpose? To use us to plant the heavens and to bring forth the seed which shall serve Him and walk in this world in the truth.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word. We pray that it may be a blessing to our hearts. Amen.