Rearing children is a difficult task. No parent would deny the supreme joy that children bring. But neither can we deny the perplexity, frustration, or uncertainty begotten by our begotten. Fortunately, God has supplied dazed and confused parents with both spiritual instruction (Deuteronomy 6: 3ff; Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4), and insightful examples (Romans 15:4).
It would have been nice if God had offered a detailed account of the rearing of some godly man like David or John the Baptist. Did Jesse approve of David’s music? Did Zechariah set a curfew? However, God didn’t record such a comprehensive account because I’m not raising David or John. I’m raising Haley (and beginning in August, the Lord willing, her sibling).
Consider two families-Noah’s (Genesis 532-10:32) and Lot’s (Genesis 19:1-38). Interestingly, there are a number of similarities. Both dwelt in ungodly environments. Both had righteous men at their head. God delivered both from cataclysmic events. Yet Noah’s boys and Lot’s girls appear far dissimilar in the end. Observe the following;
Spiritual wisdom is important. In Genesis 13:8f, Lot focuses upon the cities of the plain of Jordan. The citizens of Sodom were “exceedingly” wicked in God’s eyes, and Lot was personally personally appalled at their lawlessness (II Peter 2:7ff). Yet he took his wife and children into such a godless place simply because it was a good business move. He was motivated more by temporal wisdom that by spiritual concern. Some of his daughters died in Sodom (Genesis 19:14-15); his wife died looking back (Genesis 19:26); his two surviving daughters sacrificed their virginity to and bore children by their father after they enticed him to drunkenness (Genesis 19:30ff). What would have happened to this family had Lot been more spiritual in his choices?
Active faith makes an impact. Noah spent years proclaiming righteousness and preparing to save his family from an event absolutely unimaginable (Genesis 7:11f). His boys saw a father who trusted God so completely that he built an incredible boat to receive an unbelievable menagerie. Imagine the ridicule and scorn they must have endured. Yet Noah was resolute and his faith must have inspired some trust in young Shem, Ham, and Japheth, for God delivered the boys and their wives as well. Contrast Noah’s active faith with Lot’s fear and hesitation. Granted, Lot was righteous (II Peter 2:7ff), but he gravitated repeatedly toward men (Genesis 13:12; 14:12; 19:20ff), attempted to appease the Sodomites with his virgin daughters, hesitated to leave Sodom, and begged God not to send him to the mountains, “lest some evil take me, and I die” (Genesis 19:19). God delivered him, yet his faith was far from monumental. It is little wonder that his wife and daughters did not appear to share his abhorrence of ungodliness, and that his sons-in-law ridiculed him. We must do more than simply despise evil.
Parents must guard their character constantly. Lot’s girls seem to have been exposed to a pattern of inconsistency. How would you feel if your father offered you to a mob of sexual perverts? His sons-in-law considered his warnings a joke. He hesitated to leave. He couldn’t stop his wife from looking back. He was afraid of the mountains though God had delivered him. He allowed himself to become drunken before his girls. Perhaps their incest and sinful reasoning shouldn’t surprise us. But Ham, in Genesis 9:18ff, manifests contempt and disregard for Noah in response to one mistake. No doubt Ham harbored some dishonor for his father, yet Noah’s intemperance offered the opportunity for him to display his irreverence and mockery. Perhaps Ham was looking for inconsistency in his father, but Noah had apparently offered no ground for such criticism – until now. Parents, we must guard our character constantly. Our kids are watching.
A child eventually chooses his own character. It’s difficult to tell whether Noah’s boys, before the flood, were righteous like their father. Perhaps God saved them for Noah’s sake, though I believe otherwise. Shem and Japheth appear to imitate their father’s godliness in their reverence in Genesis 9:18f. Ham is another story. He is over 100 years old, with at least four boys of his own when he revels in his father’s sin. His character is now his own to pursue, and he pursues ungodliness on this occasion. Perhaps this is an indication of his moral fabric as a grown man. Though Noah was wrong in his drunkenness, Ham was old enough now to choose his own path. Noah had provided a godly example for his boys. “God saved my Dad from the flood.” Who else could make such a claim? But as with Noah and Ham, parents can only provide their children the foundation of faith – instruction, evidence, examples, admonition. There are no guarantees that they will trust God. We can’t give them our faith. How frustrating! Yet my little girl needs to love God by her choice, not by mine.
There are other lessons here and elsewhere. God knows that parents need help with their children and that children need help form their parents. Let’s work hard to offer our boys and girls every opportunity to survive this world. We owe it to them. We owe it to our folks. We owe it to God.