God’s Word puts forth the promise and plan of redemption. And the perpetuation of the Christian faith and the building of Christ’s Church comes in part by his operating through us, his people, in the passing on of our faith to others (Matthew 28:20). This great commission applies to our own children (Deut. 6:8).
And in his kindness to us God weaves throughout the Bible many parenting examples, both good and bad. We can look at the beauty of Hannah’s heart that fully grasped that her long-awaited son belonged to the Lord and not to her. A few chapters later we might cringe when we read of old Eli who loved the ark of God so much that he died when it was captured yet didn’t have the backbone to stand up to his own sons. My heart wants to cheer for the parents who had the courage to bring their babies to Christ for a blessing rather than the priests, swimming against the cultural current and facing ridicule from their society. And who can’t identify with King David who seriously blew it with his young adult son, permanently injuring their relationship?
Another fascinating parental example occurs in Judges. Judges recounts a dark time in Israel’s history. The Bible tells us that the nation had deteriorated so greatly since Joshua’s death that every man was doing right in his own eyes. The Lord sent them judges, or short-term tribal deliverers to help them fight their enemies. In chapter 13 God tells us what happened before Samson was born.
An angel of the Lord appeared to Samson’s mother to tell of the birth of a child who would be “a Nazirite unto God from his birth and a deliverer of God’s people.” (v. 5) She reported the event to her husband Manoah. Manoah’s reaction was to pray that the angel would come again.
The angel did come again and Manoah asked him, “How shall we order the child? And what shall we do?” (v. 12)
What strikes me first about Manoah’s prayer is his faith. Even though the couple was infertile, he never questioned the truth of whether a baby was coming. Secondly, his deep sense of responsibility. He realized his unsuitableness for the work of training up a child that would be so used by God. The angel had already given his wife these instructions but that wasn’t good enough for Manoah. He wanted to hear it for himself. He was so impressed with the weight of their calling as parents that he asks for the angel to come back and repeat it for his own ears to hear.
What a contrast this is to the thoughtless self-confidence many of us feel when it comes to raising up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We overestimate our wisdom and abilities. When met with parenting dilemmas I have often sought some sort of quick-fix to band-aid the problem, rather than turn to the Lord in prayer or even the real-life Titus 2 women he has placed in my life to help me love my children well.
We need the Holy Spirit to fit us for the work of each day. Because it is work. We may be tempted to think we’re doing something wrong because we’re having to work so hard. Nope. It’s hard for everyone. All of us. Sometimes physical and always spiritual. And we deceive ourselves if we think we’re smart enough to figure out every parenting dilemma on our own, apart from the Lord’s help.
I want to be more like Manoah, feeling and confessing my ignorance and asking for God’s help to persevere in faith and obedience each day. Manoah understood this was a spiritual responsibility that he was unequipped for apart from the help and instruction of God. Prayer is the best weapon of all parents in raising up their children for Christ because God will not leave grace-seeking parents alone in the work He assigns to them.
The Surprising “Non-Answers” Given to Samson’s Parents
So how did God answer Manoah’s prayer of how to raise up the child? If you read Judges 13 you will see that God had nothing new to communicate at all. He just repeated what he’d told Manoah’s wife already. And I think this is a very important principle for us in 2019. We may labor in prayer and get no new answers. Often I rise from prayer with no new solution or plan for change in what is burdening me. But I am renewed in keeping to the principles that God has already laid out in His Word. They have not changed and will never change. The Lord has already spoken. I am reminded that His character is trustworthy. He will not leave us alone. Manoah received no new word than what he already knew.
And imagine a first time mom like Manoah’s wife! I can imagine she was eager for every tidbit of information she could get to prepare for her joyous new role. But what short instructions she received. Maybe she wished like I do sometimes for a script or some foolproof steps to make sure she’s doing the best job she can do. It would be easy if parents always knew just what to say or the perfect action to take to make certain the Lord will regenerate our children and mature them into useful tools in his hands.
God didn’t give those kinds of instructions to her and he doesn’t give them to us either. The regenerating work done in their souls is His alone. But he did tell Samson’s mother one thing. She had to be something. If the child was going to be a “Nazirite from birth” then she had to be a Nazirite herself. She too had to be set apart.
Who we are is so much more important than what we say or what we do. And not just when our children reach an age old enough to notice our hypocrisies. What we say and do is only a reflection of what we truly are – are we in Christ? Resting in His finished work? Repenting of sin? Loving our neighbor? Pursuing holiness and obedience?
May the Lord give us the realization of our neediness and dependence on him.
May he give us great faith and an understanding of our responsibility.
May he use our children to change us even as he uses us to change our children.
May we not place more effort in doing, than we do in being.