Unless the Lord Builds the House (Part 3)

Heritage, Reward, Gift

Now this remarkable statement:  

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
    the fruit of the womb a reward.

Psalm 127:3

The Hebrew word “Hinè” which translates here as “behold” is like a flashing road sign.  It says ‘Pay close attention to what is coming up next!’ “Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift?  The fruit of the womb his generous legacy?” Psalm 127:3 The Message

Just as hard work does not guarantee financial success, there is no guarantee that every marriage will result in children.  Not every pregnancy comes to term. Early in our marriage, my wife became pregnant with twins. She was thrilled, because as a child she had dreamt of raising twins.  But the twins were born prematurely and lived just ten minutes. We were crushed with grief and afraid we might not be able to have children.

Some couples very dearly want to have children, but no children appear.  Even after consulting medical specialists, not every couple can give birth to healthy children.  In the end, children are a mysterious gift from God which can never be taken for granted, and if they are given, we can only say thank you!

What Are Children For?

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
    are the children of one’s youth.
 Blessed is the man
    who fills his quiver with them!

The psalm compares the children born to a man in his youth as “arrows.”  This is a curious, a strange and awkward metaphor. How can we understand it?  A bow and arrows may be used in hunting food, or may be used for protection in battle against enemies.  In either case two things are necessary for the archer. First, the archer must have crafted his arrows well.  In ancient times arrows were not produced in a factory but were handcrafted, often by the bowman himself. They had to be skillfully crafted to shoot true and straight.  Secondly, it goes without saying that the archer must be skilled and practiced in handling the bow to shoot.

Raising children certainly requires more skill, adeptness and wisdom than crafting arrows and mastering the skill of an archer.  It is a vastly underappreciated skill in our society. Did you know that the average child care worker in the United States earns less per year than the average trash collector?  Children require careful attention, respect, guidance and thoughtful discipline. The book of Proverbs tells parents “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he shall not depart from it.”  (Proverbs 22:6) The apostle Paul tells us “Take your children by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master.” (Ephesians 6:2 – The Message).

In Matthew 28 Jesus commands his disciples “Go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.”  This command is the great commission. When we practice the great commission in our families by ‘taking our children by the hand and leading them in the way of the Master’, we are not engaging in a minor, ordinary or unimportant commission. Children are God’s gift, but shaping them to become fully devoted followers of Jesus takes a lot of work.  Raising children involves plenty of drudgery, patience and endurance, but it is no less a great commission than preaching the gospel to an unreached people in an isolated community. It requires the greatest skill, wisdom and resourcefulness. Bringing up children is God’s mission.

Donald Marsden

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