“And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and thou shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou riseth up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).
“And when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What mean the testimonies and the statues and the judgments which the Lord our God hath commanded you? Then thou shalt say unto thy son, We were Pharoah’s bondmen in Egypt; and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and the Lord showed signs and wonders, great and sore, upon Egypt, upon Pharoah, and upon all his household, before your eyes, and he brought us out from thence, that he might bring us in, to give us the land which he sware unto our fathers. And the Lord commanded us to do all these statues, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this day. And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the Lord our God, as he hath commanded us” (Deuteronomy 6:20-25).
“If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them, then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place, and they shall say unto the elders of the city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice, he is a glutton and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die; so shalt thou put evil away from among you, and all Israel shall hear and fear” (Deuteronomy21:18-21).
These verses from the Mosaic Law introduce our theme. They were firm and hard, insisting upon obedience from children and the exercise of parental government in the home. Is there not a need for people today to think on the matter of parental government, seeing the veritable rash of wayward children, disturbed homes, divorces, void of spiritual guidance, and a breakdown of respect for authority?
Two Kinds of Parents
In the first chapters of First Samuel we see two kinds of parental government and the results of each kind. One is that of Eli and the other of Hannah. One proved to be a failure and the other produced blessed results.
It was the obligation of Jewish parents to train their children in the knowledge and respect of God. Failure in this effort was one of the most serious crimes and the punishment for failure was of the greatest magnitude. Now, as then, the family is the fountain of all national life. The hope of the nation is in the families where the young are trained to a pure, holy, pious and righteous way of life. It was incumbent on all parents to be attentive to this duty, especially those of leadership.
This obligation rests upon every father and mother today to see that their children are brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Failure does not mean the death of the child, as under Moses’ Law, but it always means sorrow, grief, worry, punishment, either here or in the hereafter. The family is still the fountain of national life. It is still a sin against society, the child, and God to not train up the child in the way that he should go (Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:1-4).
While we are taught this duty, not all obey God in doing it. Look at Eli. Generally, he was a good man and faithful in his official priestly duties. But he was radically defective in the government of his family. His children grew up unrestrained, self-willed, indulgent and even irreverent for things holy and divine. They were never guided in the proper values.
Eli’s sons were priests because they inherited the duty. They did not care for the people and had little religious interest. They used their position for personal gain, to satisfy their passions, commit adultery and take unfair portions of food for themselves. They brought disgrace and public contempt on their office and their father.
We are not left to wonder what contributed to their misconduct. Eli was responsible. Children sometimes resist the influence of the best of homes, but this is not the rule. Trained properly, they will likely be proper. When children are lawless, corrupt, irreligious and reject Christ we can be fairly certain that there was a sinful neglect in their spiritual training. There are exceptions, but that is the rule.
Training of children consists of more than sending them to Bible study once a week. It demands living before them day by day an exemplary life. Children learn by words, but mostly by deeds. During the formative years many parents have been “too busy” with lesser matters to attend to the spiritual training necessary for their family. Somehow, some seem to think that they can neglect the Word of God, ignore the church, put the world first in their life and still their children will grow up loving God and desiring to live a life that will take them to heaven.
Eli was at fault for not checking the wickedness of his sons. He had the authority to act, but did not. “For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knoweth, because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not” (First Samuel 3:13). Too many parents ignore the misdeeds of their small children and the children do not learn to abide by parental directions of restraint later. Too many parents run to the defense of their children regardless of what the child does, right or wrong. While we must stand by them when they are wrong, we must stand so that they will know they are wrong and make correction. Too many parents condone the misbehavior of their offspring.
The result was a total failure for Eli, his sons, and even suffering upon the priesthood and Israel. God showed His displeasure with Eli by the judgments placed against him and his family.
Look at Hannah, the mother of Samuel. When she was childless she prayed that God would give her a child for God’s own sake. “If thou wilt give thine handmaid a man child, then 1 will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life...” (First Samuel 2:11). Her ambition for her son was that he would be a servant of God. Is not this the ambition that every parent should have for every child? Do we receive our children and train them so that will be the case with them? Hannah kept her promise, and the noble life of Samuel is a reflection of the kind of parents he had. While we are not required to give our children to God in the same fashion as was Hannah’s promise, we are to rear our children to the glory of God and that cannot be done short of exercising parental responsibility and power. Samuel was a tower of righteousness in his life. He was a godly man and a leader of Israel for many, many years. The name of Samuel is revered as one of God’s most devoted messengers. What a tribute to Hannah!
The home is where the child is trained. From the home come the business leaders, political people, teachers, labor leaders, religious leaders, etc. The stream will rise no higher than the spring and source. There is always that great need for homes where God, truth, honor, respect, love, work and discipline is very much in evidence. Restraints on ill-behavior that is spasmodic and irregular, brutal and intemperate, will produce more of a savage than a respectable human being. Parents ought never abandon their children to the vice and immoralities of society. The drug problems and juvenile delinquency so rampant among the youth today is directly attributable to parental failure in most instances. Parents have not cultivated in their young the noble aspirations, but urge them on to worldly success and personal satisfaction. Such only leads to ruined lives and hopeless graves. People without training that God directs are frustrated, confused, searching for something and finding no meaning to their existence. They do not know how to cope with life, let alone the spirit.
Possibly the sternness of the Puritan home was too much, but when one compares the results with so much in evidence today, we are inclined to think that, if they erred, they did so on the safest side.
There must be a cultivation and development in the young heart for morality, responsibility, truth and honesty. One of the bitter failures of our present day is basic, fundamental honesty. Until one is taught to love God, he will find no reason to live right and probably will seek out whatever means at his disposal to do whatever he wishes.
We spend so much time, money and energy on “educating” our children regarding the affairs of life, secular matters, worldly matters, and neglect that which far supersedes these things in importance. Children need to learn to make their own decisions, but parents must provide for them the will of God so that they can learn to make intelligent and righteous decisions. Parents have the duty to lead, mold, form that child so he can “stand on his own feet” before God and be acceptable. Parents who do not give their all to this task are failures regardless of whatever else they might accomplish in life. Parents must rear their children so that when the child walks in the ways of his training he will be walking on the road to heaven with God. Anything less is too little.
Judge Sam Davis Tatum, juvenile judge for many years, listed what he considered the six basic causes of teenage delinquency:
(1) Lack of religious training in the home.
(2) Petted and pampered children; too much freedom too early.
(3) Broken homes; one parent families; and all the attendant insecurity.
(4) Consuming intoxicants, often in imitation of parents as well as peers. The easy access to alcohol and drugs.
(5) A discordant home where there is nagging, fussing, strife, immorality, profanity, etc.
(6) Dictatorial and overly rigid parents, who consider themselves as dictators rather than parents, “laying down the law,” but seldom showing how life is to be lived.
Parents have a lot to consider, do we not? God help us do our job well.
1. Who did God place over the home?
2. What did the Jews have the obligation to do for their children regarding God’s law?
3. Who exemplifies two kinds of parents?
4. What did Hannah promise regarding her child?
5. When is a person truly educated?
6. From what source is this education primarily to come?