One of the, if not the greatest thanksgiving that I have continually in my life is the fact that our four children are in Christ. And before I talk about that today and this month, I want to say a personal word of profound love and gratitude to my wife, Patricia, for sustaining such an unwavering commitment to Christ and through righteous living that was embedded in the life of our children, so that they didn’t just have a preacher for a father, they had a model for a mother.
And in addition to that, people sometimes say, “What influence was most important on your children?” And the answer, of course, is Mom and Dad. But very close behind that is the impact of so many of you on my children, my grandchildren, and now great-grandchildren; and you touched all of their lives here at Grace Church, so that it’s not just what I preach or what Patricia says and does, but it’s undergirded by the strength of conviction and Christian life and dedication that the kids grew up seeing, and even the great-grandkids are seeing as well. So I’m profoundly grateful.
We have navigated the world as parents and grandparents, and now great-grandparents, and we have seen the hand of the Lord and seen His grace. And that’s very encouraging; I want you to know that, because I think there are many who assume that this is an almost impossible task, given the world in which we live.
Christian parenting under the influence of the Word of God and godly living, wrapped up in a faithful church, is God’s design for raising the next generation to love the Lord Jesus Christ. It can be done. And while there are things that shift and change in the culture, they are all overpowered by God, the living God, when we follow His pathway.
So this month we want to talk about Scripture with regard to family, and in particular, children. I used the title “Shade for the Children” because five or six years ago I gave a series on shade for the children—there’s a Chinese proverb that says, “One generation plants the trees, the next generation gets the shade.” And every generation should understand the responsibility that they have to plant the trees so there is shade for the next generation.
What we’re facing today is fierce, I will confess. Of all the things that disturb me in this culture, of all the horrific, sinful, wretched, wicked, corrupt influences that go on in this culture, I think the thing that distresses me most is the war on children. This culture is weaponized to destroy children; it’s systematically designed to do that. 62.5 million of them have been slaughtered in the womb since Roe vs. Wade in the ’70s. We all understand the breakdown of the family. If a child can escape abortion and be born, that child has about a 50/50 chance of being born to a married couple. It is likely that that married couple will get a divorce. It is likely that they will be unfaithful to their marital vows. It is likely that the child will be sent to a public school and come under the influence of those whose agenda is anti-God, anti-Christ, anti-Scripture.
And as you know our country, the politicians who lead it, are making laws that are devastating to children under the pressure of sexual freedom, homosexuality, transgenderism. The desire is to make that normal, and to punish people who speak against it with laws in the category of hate speech. The lies of systemic racism and the race hustlers dominate the ideologies of universities and even churches. Music producers, moviemakers, social media providers, big tech, you name it—they literally pump out things that destroy children. Children are under a relentless assault by all the forces of evil, and they are defenseless. And we have a society and a culture that wants to make sure that these who are pumping out this destruction are free to keep doing it without restraint. Children are defenseless when their parents sell them to a human trafficker who drops them eight to ten feet over a wall into Sodom and Gomorrah all by themselves—or when the Disney Corporation creates characters that are transgender to seduce children into accepting wickedness as normal, or when parents insanely offer their children gender identity options.
Children are under assault now. The government wants to even have more influence on them, so the President announced that they would like to provide government education free of charge from the age of three to twenty. You get the picture. From the President and the leading politicians and bureaucrats, teachers, race hustlers, pornographers, media people, tech people, even medical people—children, the most defenseless, are under attack. There is a war on children.
Now we know that children have some things against them just because they’re born from sinful parents. They start out fallen, so their nature is sinful—and we’ll say more about that in a moment. But in addition to that, they’re born into a world where they have to endure the impact of the sins of their parents. Exodus chapter 20 says the Lord your God punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation. In Numbers 14:18, it says that the Lord visits the iniquities of the fathers on the sons to the third and fourth generation. Jeremiah 32:17 and 18, “Lord, You bring the punishment for the parents’ sins into the laps of their children after them.”
Now that does not mean that God personally punishes individual children for their parents’ sin. In Ezekiel 18, the prophet Ezekiel under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says, “No one is punished for someone else’s sins, no one.” But what those passages are saying is that the sins collectively, of any generation of fathers, creates a culture that is the product of that sin that has to be endured by the children born into it. This is axiomatic, obviously—obviously.
Whatever is true about a given generation is going to affect the next generation. This is the default reality. Children are born as sinners, and they’re born into whatever level of sin and corruption their previous generation or generations left them. It’s so axiomatic that even ancient literature like Euripides, four hundred years before Christ, said, “The gods visit the sins of the fathers on the children.” Or Horace in Odes says, “For the sins of the fathers you, though guiltless, must suffer.” Or Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, that famous line where he says, “The sin of the fathers are to be laid on the children.” Everybody gets that. So they come into the world sinful, they come into a world that is defined by the sins of previous generations, and they’re going to have to navigate that.
In Deuteronomy chapter 5, we read in verse 9—well, let’s go back to verse 6: “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt”—God is saying to the children of Israel as they’re ready to go into the Promised Land after wandering forty years. And He says, “You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me.” “If you hate Me, subsequent generations are affected by that hate.” Verse 10 says, “But showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” There is hope. If you love God and keep His commandments, there is hope in surviving both your own fallenness and the kind of corruption that a child is born into.
I want you to turn in your Bible now to Deuteronomy chapter 6, and I want to give you a picture that I think is very instructive and sort of foundational as we talk about this. The children of Israel in the book of Deuteronomy are about to enter the Promised Land. It was a promised land, but it was a pagan land. There were no influences in that land whatsoever when it came to the true and living God. The people of Israel had been taken captive centuries earlier. They now had arrived back at the land; it was occupied, the land of Canaan, by endless tribes of idol worshipers. It was the worst kind of paganism—immoral, blasphemous paganism, totally engulfed by Satan. And when arriving, the children of Israel are instructed concerning some things.
If you look at Deuteronomy 6 and see how the chapter begins: “This is the commandment, the statutes, the judgments the Lord your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you’re going over to possess it, so that”—notice this—“your son and your grandson might fear the Lord your God.” You have a responsibility to your children and your grandchildren. And what do you want to teach them? To “fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commands which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged.” Lifelong submission to, obedience to, worship of, love for, fear of God.
Verse 3, “O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it, that it may be well with you and that you may multiply greatly, just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.” “Do what I just told you. Do everything the Lord commands you to do. Fear Him, obey Him all your life, so that you can pass it on to your children and grandchildren, so that you can enjoy the full blessing of the land of milk and honey.”
Verse 4, the famous Shema: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God”—note that, because you’re going into paganism with many gods—“The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.”
If you want to prosper in the land, if you want to pass on righteousness to the next generation and the next, love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your might. And that shows up in obedience, verse 6: “What I’m commanding you shall be in your heart.” It starts in the heart with loving God.
Then verse 7: “You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” In other words, the constant theme of life and conversation—inside the home, outside the home, all the time, from dawn to dark—is the Word of God, the Word of God. You talk about it when you sit in the house, when you leave and walk by the way, when you come back and you are ready to lie down at night, and when you rise up in the morning: the conversation’s always the same: It is the law of God, the law of God, encompassing loving God and obeying God.
In verse 8, he says, “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.” The idea there is your hands should operate in response to the law of God. Your mind should be concentrating all the time on God and on His law. That is something that was twisted by the rabbis who decided that what that meant was you get a little box and put it on your hand, and it’s got the Shema in it—another little box on your head with the Shema written and stuffed in the little box. And they went around with what were called phylacteries. That’s not the idea. God doesn’t want you to wear a box on your head and a box on your arm; He wants your hands to reflect your love for Him and your obedience. He wants your mind to reflect your love and obedience.
And then in verse 9, “Write it on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” So whether you’re going out or coming in, the Word of God is everything. Again, if you go to a Jewish home even today, you will find Deuteronomy 6:4–6 rolled up in a little scroll, stuck in a tiny little box stuck on the doorpost of every orthodox Jewish home. It’s meaningless to make some kind of object out of it when it’s talking about the heart. In other words, your love for God should control you all the time, everywhere, in what you think, what you say, and what you do.
Then verse 10: “Then it shall come about when the Lord your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you, great and splendid cities which you didn’t build, and houses full of all good things which you didn’t fill, and hewn cistern which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you eat and are satisfied . . .” In other words, “The land is ready for you. You’re going to go in, and we’re going to take action against the pagans. Judgment’s going to come on them, and you’re going to step in and take what they have prepared.”
But verse 12 says, “Watch yourself”—when it all is there for you—“that you do not forget the Lord who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall fear only the Lord your God; you shall worship Him and swear by His name. You shall not follow other gods, any of the gods of the people who surround you, for the Lord your God in the midst of you is a jealous God; otherwise the anger of the Lord your God will be kindled against you, and He will wipe you off the face of the earth.” God is a jealous God.
Back in the fourth chapter of Deuteronomy, verse 24, “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. When you become the father of children and children’s children and have remained long in the land, and act corruptly, and make an idol in the form of anything, and do that which is evil in the sight of the Lord your God so as to provoke Him to anger, I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that you will surely perish quickly from the land where you’re going over the Jordan to possess it. You shall not live long on it, but will be utterly destroyed. The Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the Lord drives you. There you will serve gods, the work of man’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell. But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” He warned them, “I’m a jealous God. And when you go into the land and start producing children and children’s children and having families, and you turn from Me, and you turn to idols, I will wipe you out. I will wipe you out.”
Turn to the book of Judges, because the book of Judges gives us insight into what that first generation did when they went into the land. Judges chapter 2, verse 6. Now their leader is Joshua, and, “When Joshua had dismissed the people, the sons of Israel went each to his inheritance to possess the land.” So there they are: They’re in the land, they’ve been warned. They have been warned to pass righteousness on to their children and children’s children, to love God with all their heart, soul and mind, to obey Him.
So notice in verse 7, “The people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who survived Joshua, who had seen all the great work of the Lord which He had done for Israel.” That first generation that had seen the miracles of the Exodus and the wandering in the wilderness and how God provided food and protection, and how God allowed them to come into Canaan and how God made the walls of Jericho fall down—and they had seen all of that. And that generation was faithful: They “served the Lord all the days of Joshua,” and even after his death, “all the days of the elders who survived Joshua.” That first generation was faithful.
“Then,” verse 8 says, “Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten. And they buried him in the territory of his inheritance in Timnath-heres, in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash. All that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation”—oh, here’s the next—“after them who did not know the Lord, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel.” What a disaster not to pass on all of that to the next generation. What a disaster. What a massive failure.
So verse 11, “Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals, and they forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers.” Verse 13, “They forsook the Lord and served Baal and the Ashtaroth.” Amazing parental failure, massive. The original people, that first generation, were eyewitnesses of the Exodus and the miracles subsequently in the wilderness, and they failed to teach their children. Predictable results is in the verbs in verses 11 to 13: “did evil,” “did evil,” “served the Baals,” “forsook the Lord,” “followed other gods,” “bowed themselves down to them,” “provoked the Lord to anger.” This is the greatest monumental failure that a generation can make.
Baal and Ashtaroth. Baal was called “lord of heaven,” supposedly the son of a god called El. He was the god of rain, he was the god of storm; he is identified “lord possessor.” He was worshiped, by the way, with animal sacrifice. He was worshiped with certain rituals. He was worshiped with lewd dances. He was like all deities, seemingly worshiped with sacred prostitutes, both men and women. And supposedly Ashtaroth, his sister-wife, was the goddess of sex and the goddess of war, a prostitute called a holy virgin. That’s where they ended up in one generation.
Verse 14, “The anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and He gave them into the hands of plunderers who plundered them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies around them, so they could no longer stand before their enemies. Wherever they went, the hand of the Lord was against them for evil, as the Lord had spoken and as the Lord had sworn to them, so that they were severely distressed.” God judges, when one generation fails its responsibility to pass on righteousness to the next.
Verses 16 and 17 say God “raised up judges.” It was not a monarchy; they weren’t national rulers, they were simply deliverers who at different points God raised up to protect the people of Israel from complete oblivion. “The Lord raised up judges who delivered them from the hands of those who plundered them. Yet they didn’t listen to their judges, they played the harlot with other gods and bowed themselves down to them. They turned aside quickly from the way in which their fathers had walked in obeying the commandments of the Lord; they did not do as their fathers.” One generation. One generation.
For three hundred years the judges tried. For three hundred years or so God raised up judges to protect them. The end of the story of the judges is basically chronicled in the final verse, chapter 21, verse 25: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” One generation, and then three hundred years—the second generation, the third generation, the fourth generation—the iniquity escalated and ended up with that freewheeling wickedness that’s defined as “everyone doing what was right in his own eyes.”
Back in Deuteronomy 12, verse 8, God had said—and I’m quoting that verse—“You shall not do at all what you are doing here today, every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes.” They were doing it—back in chapter 12 it’s chronicled—and for three hundred years they kept doing it until it was the defining reality, forsaking the true God, forsaking the responsibility to pass on the truth about the true God to the next generation. Failure to raise children—to borrow New Testament language—in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, in the fear of God, is a multigenerational disaster that invites not only the difficulty of the fact that all that are born into it are sinful, that all that are born into it are basically born into a sinful, corrupt culture that’s been produced in multiple generations. That is bad enough, it’s tough enough, and it invites divine judgment.
But I want to add something. Not only were all those children born as sinners and born into idolatry, born into a generation that didn’t know God and did what was right in their own eyes, but the culture actually turned on the children. Go back to chapter 12, Deuteronomy. Not Judges, Deuteronomy. And in Deuteronomy chapter 12, verse 28: “Be careful to listen to all these words which I command you, so that it may be well with you,” told them at the beginning. We’re back to the beginning. We went to the end in Judges; we’re back to the start of their arrival in the land.
“I command you, so that it may be well with you and your sons”—your children—“after you forever, for you will be doing what is good and right in the sight of the Lord your God. When the Lord your God cuts off before you the nations which you are going in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, beware that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How do these nations serve their gods, that I also may do likewise?’ You shall not behave thus toward the Lord your God, for every abominable act which the Lord hates they have done for their gods”—and here’s how bad it gets—“they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.” What? It’s not enough that the child is sinful, it’s not enough that the culture has been basically defined by generations of corruption and idolatry, but they actually kill the children, they burn them.
In Carthage, one of the places were child sacrifice was done, there were gods depicted made out of some kind of metal. They had their arms like this, tilted down a little bit, and live babies were placed into their arms just over a fire; and as the fire eventually caused the little one to curl up, he fell through the arms of the bronze idol into the fire as a sacrifice from the parents. When parents ran out of children, they would buy poor children, pay their poor parents for a child to use as a sacrifice. That’s what the pagans do.
In chapter 18, verse 10—verse 9 first: “When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or daughter pass through the fire.” You never offer your children as a sacrifice. Sad to say, when they did get into the land, they were disobedient, and they did offer some of their children in the fire.
A passage in Ezekiel—I think Ezekiel says so much about this that’s helpful. He’s speaking to the people years after they had been in the land in Ezekiel 16. There’s a lot of places we could look at this. But for time’s sake, Ezekiel 16, verse 20: “Moreover”—here comes the indictment. “Moreover”—God is speaking in this whole chapter—“moreover, you took your sons and daughters whom you had borne to Me.” What a statement. “You bore them to Me; they are Mine. And you sacrificed them to idols to be devoured.” “Were your harlotries so small a matter? You slaughtered My children”—mark that. In the truest sense, your children aren’t yours. Whose are they? They’re the Lord’s. “Borne to Me. You slaughtered My children.”
Over in verse 36, “Thus says the Lord God, ‘Because your lewdness was poured out’”—and again, these pagan idolatries were all basically built around sex cults—“‘because your lewdness was poured out and your nakedness uncovered through your harlotries with your lovers and with all your detestable idols, and because of the blood of your sons which you gave to idols, therefore, behold, I will gather all your lovers with whom you took pleasure, even all those whom you loved and all those whom you hated. And I will gather them against you from every direction and expose your nakedness to them that they may see all your nakedness. I will judge you like women who commit adultery or shed blood are judged; and I’ll bring on you the blood of wrath and jealousy.’” The children of Israel did the very things that God told them not to do. This is unthinkable, unthinkable that they would go so far as to give their own children in a fire.
Chapter 20 of Ezekiel. Again, verse 30: “Thus says the Lord God, ‘Will you defile yourselves after the manner of your fathers and play the harlot after their detestable things?’”—verse 31—“‘When you offer your gifts, when you cause your sons to pass through the fire, you are defiling yourselves with all your idols to this day. And shall I be inquired of by you, O house of Israel? As I live,’ declares the Lord God, ‘I will not be inquired of by you.’” “Don’t ask Me for anything—nothing. You’ve gone too far to lay any claim on Me.”
Chapter 23, again, verse 37: “They have committed adultery, and blood is on their hands. Thus they have committed adultery with their idols and even caused their sons, whom they bore to Me, to pass through the fire to them as food.” In other words, they fed their children to the gods. “Again, they have done this to Me.” Verse 39: “They have slaughtered their children for their idols, they entered My sanctuary on the same day to profane it; and lo, thus they did within My house.” “They went from sacrificing their children to idols to showing up at My house.” Don’t, please don’t go worship God on the Sabbath if you just offered your children to a god as human sacrifice on Friday. Forsaking the true God and His worship and obedience is a multigenerational disaster, a disaster of massive proportions.
Child sacrifice is a part of world religious history. All kinds of evidence has been gained by archaeologists. We now know that the Aztecs sacrificed their children every day. The Incas did it regularly. The Mayans did it and believed that the child would exist in some kind of resurrected form. Mass child sacrifice occurs in northern Peru with a tribe called Moche. One of the Andean gods was Ekeko; to his honor, children were offered.
The Phoenicians on the coast of the land of Israel offered human sacrifice. I mentioned them earlier, the Carthaginians—they know about these idols because they have found evidence of them, where the child was placed to slide down into the fire. Plutarch, writing about child sacrifice in Carthage, also said that it was common to buy little ones from the poor and slit their throat before they threw them in the fire. You might be surprised to know the Quran documents that the Arabs were engaged in human sacrifice of children to Allah. All kinds of evidence of this in premodern Europe, particularly in southern Africa and Uganda. There’s evidence of child cannibalism in human history.
Recently we all realized that aborted babies were being dismembered, and baby body parts were being sold by Planned Parenthood. When it was discovered and chronicled in video, instead of indicting Planned Parenthood for selling aborted baby parts, the man who took the video was indicted on nine counts.
This is a very dangerous place for children. You have about a 50/50 chance to survive the womb. No way to escape judgment. Satan’s war starts in the womb and never lets up. It’s carried through every medium possible to destroy children: broken homes, sinful parents, in every electronic form of media, educational system—it’s everywhere. Satan’s war on children, by the way, is a war on God because the children belong to Him.
I want to show you that, so let’s close by looking at Mark chapter 10. Mark chapter 10. I think it’s safe to say this: that the Pharisees had no interest in children. Apparently their theology of works had basically excluded children, since they couldn’t do righteous works, so they were ignored. But in verse 13 of Mark 10—this is also the same account as in Matthew and Luke—“They were bringing children to Him”—the people—“so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, ‘Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’” Whoa, what a statement. “‘Truly I say to you, whoever doesn’t receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.’ And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.” They’re His. They belong to the kingdom, and so the King picked them up and blessed them, just as in Ezekiel: “These are My children.”
To help you with that, Psalm 127. Just a couple of passages are really important. Psalm 127, verse 3; it’s an unqualified statement: “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord.” Children are a gift of the Lord. “The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; they will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate.” We’ll say more about that in subsequent weeks. But I just want you to notice verse 3: “Children are a gift from the Lord.”
Look at Psalm 139: “O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways.” “You know everything about me, everything about me.” How so? Go down to verse 13: “You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I’ll give thanks to You, I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance” when I was just a zygote. “In Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!” “You wove me in the womb; I belong to You.” Psalm 22:9, David says to God, “You brought me forth from the womb. You brought me forth from the womb.”
Go back to Genesis—and not literally, just thinking in your mind; we don’t have time for that. From Genesis 4:1, whenever a woman conceived of a child it was viewed as an act of God. Even in chapter 17, verse 20, a child born to an unbeliever, Ishmael, is a gift from the Lord. Ruth chapter 4, verse 13, “Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife . . . and the Lord enabled her to conceive” a son. First Samuel 1:19-20, Hannah conceived a son “from the Lord.” All the way through from Genesis, children are from the Lord.
Pharisees didn’t have any interest in children, their legalistic system. But Jesus did, apparently, and it was not unusual for Him to have parents coming to Him. Back in chapter 9 there are a couple of reference to children. Back in 9:36, He took up a child in His arms; talked about receiving one. Here some parents bring their children; they just want Jesus to touch them. He healed, by the way, with a touch. So they knew He had power. But the disciples rebuked Him.
In Judaism children were commonly brought for a special blessing on the day before the Day of Atonement. The Jews had always valued the blessing of a father, the blessing of a prophet, the blessing of a rabbi. The Talmud says they brought children to the synagogue for that very purpose. As the father laid his hands on his child’s head, he would take him to the elders to have the elders lay their hands on his little head. And one by one, he would ask the elders at the synagogue to bless the child and pray that the child would grow up—and here’s a quote from some of their literature: “He would grow up famous in the law, faithful in marriage, and abundant in good works.” Famous in the law, faithful in marriage, and abundant in good works. So the people were used to this.
“But the disciples rebuked them.” By the way, these are very small children. While Matthew and Mark use the general term paideia, which means a child, Luke uses brephos, which means a baby, a small child. So they were bringing children to Him, and that would include smallest of children. And we know they’re small because verse 16 says, “He took them in His arms.” The parents wanted Jesus to touch them: touch of blessing, a touch of prayer, give them some hope. If this man of God, this obviously powerful prophet of God touched their children, maybe He would bless them with the ultimate: eternal life. “But the disciples rebuked them.” Epitimaō is the verb: to censure, to reprimand. Literally used for punishment. They exploded against these parents.
Verse 14, “Jesus saw this,” and He exploded back. He was angry. They were wrong, and He was angry. You have to understand, this wasn’t a minor issue. He was angry at their indifference toward children, “and said to them, ‘Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’”
That’s an incredible statement: “The kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” He doesn’t say, “The kingdom of God belongs to these,” like these children happen to be elect children. He says, “The kingdom of God belongs to such as these”—to this category of humans, this class of beings, these kinds. Matthew says, “The kingdom of heaven belongs to these.” They’re God’s. He calls them “My children” in Ezekiel. By the way, nothing is said about the parents’ faith. Nothing is said about a covenant, a baptism, a circumcision, a rite, a ritual. If there was ever to be a place of comment on infant baptism, this would have been it. Jesus says absolutely nothing.
“The kingdom of heaven belongs to these.” What? Yes—little children, before they reach the age where they can believe or reject, belong to God. That means when your little ones arrive, you’re stewarding them for God. Are they sinners? Of course. Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, in sin my mother conceived me.” Psalm 58:3, “The wicked are estranged from the womb.” Of course.
Sinfulness is not a condition that comes on people later on; some people try to teach that, that we’re all born neutral, and we’re sinners because we choose to be sinners. That’s absurd on the face of it since that would mean that nobody ever chose not to be. We know they’re sinners because that’s evident in the fact that they die. They all die eventually. Some die in childhood, some die in the womb, some die in the very act of birth. But before they’re of the age when they can understand their sinfulness and the gospel, they belong to God. And what that means is that when they die, He gathers them to Himself; they’re part of His kingdom. I will tell you, this generation of people, the leaders, the immoral people that are engaged in this massive assault on children, are going to have to answer to God; and that day will come.
But what about us? We’re going to have to answer to Him, too, for the little ones He gives us. When they arrive, they’re His, and our life commitment is to make sure that as they grow and we influence them, they come to faith in Christ, right? That’s raising your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
I have four more pages, and it’s all the best stuff. What can I say? Does that mean you’re coming back next week? OK, we’re going to pick it up right there. Let’s pray.
We embrace that responsibility, that duty, that privilege, that opportunity of raising these precious little ones that are given to us. O Lord, how I pray that You’ll give parents wisdom, that You’ll give them grace, that You’ll help them to focus their whole lives on passing righteousness to those precious little ones who belong to You. They’re Yours. You put them in our hands to steward, to raise “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” the Scripture says.
We think about all the children that are here in these families gathered today, and probably a thousand of them all over this campus and more tonight. Lord, give wisdom to their parents. May this whole church embrace them and love them and show them what it is to love You. Raise a generation who don’t do what’s right in their own eyes, but who do what’s right in Your eyes. That’s our prayer, in our Savior’s name and for His glory. Amen.
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