Elder Neil Phelan, Jr.
Have you noticed that the one-hundred and twenty-seventh psalm begins with the Lord building the house and concludes with the record of children? Why is this? Because children are the building blocks of the church!
The future prosperity of Zion is the aim of this psalm. The psalmist depicts children as Zion's future warriors. While the psalm exposes the utter helplessness of man without God to build His house, it demonstrates the believers responsibility to God's house by being faithful with the precious gift that God has given him: children. Spurgeon wrote, "By these(children), under the power of the Holy Ghost, the city of the church is both built up and watched, and the Lord has the glory of it."(The Treasury of David,vol.III,p.86). By attrition, a church will die if there are no young lambs feeding among the flock.
CHILDREN IN THE INFANT CHURCH
Were there children in the infant church? We can be sure that there were because Jesus told Peter to, "Feed my lambs". A lamb is a little sheep, a lambkin. Notice the emphasis on my. They belong to Jesus; they are important to Him; and He demands that they be fed. Are we any less responsible to our Lord and His lambkins than Peter? They too, need food, pasture, and a sheepfold for safety.
There were lambs feeding among the flock at Ephesus. Their age and their number we are not told, but being born again believers, they too had spiritual needs. As Paul addresses the husbands, wives, masters and servants, he does not ignore the believing children. He addresses them both personally and pointedly. Paul confronts the most besetting sin of children, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth"- Ephesians 6:1-3. This admonition from the beloved apostle not only acknowledges their presence, but accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit, it would be sure to have a positive influence upon their relationship with their parents as well as their Lord.
In this short admonition to the children, Paul points them to the ten commandments which should be staple food for children. The first four commandments are loaded with thou shalt nots, but here, we find Jehovah making a promise to believing children thousands of years ago. Paul reminds the children of the New Testament Church that this first commandment with "promise" is just as valid to God's children today as it was the day that Moses penned it. The promise is one that every parent would wish for their child: that they will live longer and happier." Parent, have you pointed your child to these ten?
There were lambs at Colosse. As Paul addressed the believing wives, husbands, servants, and masters, he addressed these children as well, "Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord" -Colossians 3:20. He is telling the children, "when you obey your parents you are pleasing God." In one of our home devotionals we observed this text and one of my children said, "I never realized that when I obeyed you I was pleasing God."
CHILDREN WERE IMPORTANT TO JESUS
Children were important to Jesus. When the parents brought their little ones to Jesus, that he would put his hands on them and pray, the disciples rebuked them, 'Why, the master has more important matters to attend. We have need of his time more then they. There are miracles to be performed and doctrines to be discussed. These are not old enough to be considered by the master. Bring them later, when they are full grown.' That was the opinion of the disciples. Little did they realize that later may have been too late.
Jesus well knew the importance of children and His opinion was, "Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven." -Matthew 19:14. Several things should be noted from this admonition.
First, who said it: "Jesus said". That should be enough for the church throughout all ages. Secondly, do not forbid children to come unto me. We hear this invitation in another place, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" - Matthew 11:28. All ye must include children, for they too can labour and be heavy laden. How young were you, dear reader, when you first began to call upon the Lord? When were your first spiritual yearnings? Even the child is visited by the Lord and shown his sins. Baptism is the answer of a good conscience toward God at any age. If a child is spiritually alive, they need spiritual food. They need to come to Jesus.
Thirdly, Jesus places the emphasis upon ME. Suffer them to "come unto me". Not to a doctrine; not an institution; not traditions; but ME. While it is the responsibility of the parents to teach their children the doctrine of the Bible, Jesus must be the nucleus of it all: the corner stone of all doctrine. One person asked a group of children when they should give their hearts to Jesus. The answer from a child was this: "when you know who He is!" Spurgeon said some of his most devoted church members were baptized at the age of eight.
Finally, notice that Jesus said, "Of such is the kingdom of heaven". The kingdom is made up of children; old children, young children, middle aged children; but they are all children in Jesus' eyes. The Apostle John frequently addressed the church as "little children." The most aged of the disciples are no more important to Jesus than these little ones. Each has a particular role to occupy in the flock of God.
Too many times, these little creatures are ignored as less than spiritual and taken for granted. Are there children in your assembly? Do you know their names? Do you encourage them along the way? They are your future!
MOLDING OUR HERITAGE
As we have noted, children are given to us from God. They are "an heritage of the Lord", heirlooms handed down to us from the giver of every good and perfect gift. Since all life springs forth from God, "the fruit of the womb is his reward." This precious gift from the Father of lights is the greatest gift that God can give to a home. When society is rightly ordered, they are observed as such. If the Lord has blessed you with a child, whether by natural means, or by adoption, He has given you one of the greatest possessions this side of glory. This kind of gift, from this kind of giver, should be cherished with the greatest love and devotion known to man and handled with the greatest care.
The psalmist pays particular attention to the time of youth because this is the best time for teaching and direction. We must remember: children are not children for very long. The brevity of childhood is beautifully depicted by the familiar tune:
"Where are you going, my little one, little one,
Where are you going my little one now.
Turn around your two, turn around your four,
Turn around your a young man walking out of the door."
This season of life seems to pass so rapidly. We see the blossom spring forth, and before we turn around three times, the fruit is mature and ready for harvest. That is why the psalmist would focus our attention to children. It is important for parents to teach their children while they are young for the promise is, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it" - Proverbs 22:6. Childhood is a delicate time in the life of every person which is brief, but immensely important; important for development, not only physically and mentally, but also spiritually.
The Psalmist compares this age to "arrows in the hand of a mighty man." A mighty man is a warrior, a man of power. What would such a man do with arrows? He would carefully shape the arrows and send them forth in battle. Children today are the warriors of the church tomorrow. They must be molded and shaped for the days to come when they must leave the bow. They must strike the target by their swift and accurate flight. So children should be shaped, molded and directed. What is the target? To please Jesus Christ, "to speak with the enemies in the gate." Yes, children are the future of the church. We would be happy to have our quiver full of them. Without children, the local assembly has little hope of shining a future light. There should be children in the church.
OUR CHILDREN: SOMEONE'S FUTURE
Not too long ago, the rock group, Crosby, Stills and Nash recorded a song with this leading lyric: "Teach Your Children". Just as the psalmist would alert Zion to the value of their youth, the world, too, well knows the value of children. They are someone's future.
Since children are given of God as Zion's future warriors, they have always been the prized target of Satan and other haters of God's house. To frustrate our purpose, the world will cast doubt upon God and His word by educating them with evolution, political agendas, situation ethics, psychology and a warped sense of morals and values. Religions will use them to build up their coffers by ensnaring them with programs and entertainments for the sake of numbers rather than for the honor and glory of God. The great doctrines of the Bible, such as the sovereignty of God, unconditional election, particular redemption, total depravity, irresistible grace and the preservation of the Saints are overlooked somewhere between the trip to Disneyland and Jackson Hole. For the sake of being broad minded, parents can be quite cooperative in these areas with little thought of where their children will be tomorrow, next year, or in the future of Zion.
CONCLUSION: A PLEA TO PARENTS
When I first began to travel among the churches, I witnessed a disturbing scene. A mother taking a preacher to task for letting her children down. Her children had left the nest as well as the church. She blamed the ministry. I felt sorrow for the woman as well as the preacher. But most of all, I felt sorrow for the lost children. I wondered what might have been done to alter the circumstances. As a parent and a minister I am more convicted of this truth than ever before: the primary responsibility of teaching children belongs to the parents and the immediate family. While there are those that rightly oppose the modern day Sunday school, they have neglected the responsibility God has given them as overseers of God's heritage. This great sin of omission has been the little fox that has spoiled many a tender vine. If parents place the spiritual instruction solely upon the church, a man made institution must be invented to accommodate this task.
Even though society changes, and the world waxes worse and worse, God and His word does not change. While the Bible gives numerous examples of conversions both young and old, the emphasis of preserving God's heritage is upon the parent. My conviction is not my own, but from the information from God's word. As the Bible speaks frequently about children and the parent child relationship, notice, if you will, where God places the responsibility of biblical training :
1) "And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" - Ephesians 6:4; 2.
2) "Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates: That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth" Deuteronomy - 11:18-21
3) "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it" - Proverbs 22:6.
4) "But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" - 2 Timothy 3:14-15.
5) "As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth" -Psalm 127:4.
If there was ever a time in which children needed to be taught by their parents, today is the day. Children today are facing strong delusions that an older generation never knew. They face opposition of science in areas of creation, genetics and sodomy. They are inundated with subliminal messages in music and television. Their righteous souls are vexed day by day with ungodliness on the television, in newspapers and magazines, and now computers. Moral values are being challenged by people with authority and power. Strong parental role models are becoming the minority. All of this from without, the wars and loss of habitat has affected the lambkins from within. No wonder, that in some places children are an endangered species and in others they are already extinct. To this observation we must allow our readers to reach their own conclusion. If believers and the house of God are training up their children as they should then God has ordained such. If not.......? Parents, teach your children and bring your building blocks to church.