************ Sermon on Psalm 127:3-4 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on June 16, 2002
Psalm 127 & 128
"Children are a Reward"
I A Gift From the Lord
A We know from Psalm 127 how precious our children really are: "Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them."
"Stop that wrestling. Look what you just did. You wrecked the end table."
Aren't children a precious gift from above? Aren't they one of life's richest blessings?
"Why would you slide down the roof and hood of the car? What possessed you to make it more slippery by throwing gravel on top? Look at all the scratches and gouges."
How dreary this world would be without the pitter-patter of little feet, the melodic strains of their laughter, the happy looks on their sun-freckled faces.
"Where is my screwdriver? I keep telling you to put everything back."
How fragile a child! How short is the time we have to delight in them. Moms and Dads, enjoy your children when they are little. And don't bruise their tender souls or burst the delicious bubble of their happiness ...
"Don't fill your glass over the floor ... Oh no! Juice all over the floor I just washed. That does it!"
How wonderful children and teens are. What fun they fill our lives with.
"Honey, how much did you spend? Are you sure they needed new clothes?"
Children are expensive! The USDA has estimated the cost is $10,210 for the first three years with a total expense of $192,780 through age 18. The break down of these expenses are: housing $69,780; food $30,270; travel $27,750; clothing $14,370; health care $10,050; child care and education $16,590; and other $23,970. [This does not take into account the cost of Christian education.]
B The psalmist tells us that "sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him." Notice the two things the psalmist says about children: heritage and reward.
Children are a "heritage." The term heritage is a translation of the Hebrew word that means "property, possession ... that which is shared/assigned." Children are the Lord's possessions, the Lord's property. And, He assigns them to or shares them with parents. From God's point-of-view there is no such thing as an "accidental birth" or a "surprise pregnancy" or an "unwanted child." Each one belongs to Him and is assigned by Him to parents.
Children are a "heritage." The Psalmist doesn't say "some children," or even "most children," but simply "children." In other words, all children ... your children, my children ... are the Lord's possession. All children ... your children, my children ... are assigned by Him to parents. It is proper, very proper, to speak of God's children when we talk of little ones.
Wise parents acknowledge that their children – each one of them – belongs to God and is a personal gift from Him. Wise parents acknowledge that each child is "assigned" to them by God. Wise parents acknowledge that each child is a "heritage from the Lord." Wise parents thank and praise God for each of their children.
C Children are also a "reward." The term reward conveys the idea of appreciation, of pleasure, of joy. Children are never to be viewed as a sign of God's displeasure, as His punishment for sin. To the contrary, the fruit of the womb is the trophy of God's love, His choice reward. Wise parents and grandparents take pleasure in children. Children bring joy into our lives. A world without children would be an impoverished world. Their zest, their laughter, their excitement, their unique way of viewing things adds to the fullness of life.
I have to say something here about what has been called the "cultural mandate":
(Gen 1:28) God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." These are the words of God when He first formed man in His image. I always thought Genesis 1:28 was a command of God, a mandate of God, to man. For some reason I always missed the opening words: "God blessed them and said ..." Genesis 1:28 is not the "cultural mandate"; rather, it is the "cultural blessing"! God did not command man to have children and to rule the earth; rather, He blessed man with the ability to have children and to rule the earth. Returning to the theme of Psalm 127, children are a sign of God's blessing. They are God's reward to His image-bearers (cf tie-in with image of God in Gen 1:27).
D Children are a heritage, a reward. And yet, as I tried to indicate by my opening words, they can be a tremendous challenge and a test of one's patience too. How quickly our children confirm that piece of sober Reformed doctrine that we used to read at baptism: "Our children are conceived and born in sin and subject to all manner of misery, yea to condemnation itself in Adam." I know that when children become 17 or 27 the tears, the concerns, and the challenges only become greater.
The psalmist does not tell us children are a gift of God because they are always so much fun or because they are so sweet and cute. The Promised Land was a heritage from God too. And, it took the Israelites years of struggle to wrestle this land from the Canaanites. Even then the land remained a mixed blessing. So it goes with the bundles of joy God entrusts to parents. Being a parent does involve struggle and trial.
Yet, we have to say and affirm the words of the psalmist that "Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him" (Ps 127:3).
E In a society such as ours where it is so easy to have an abortion we have to keep reminding ourselves and each other that children are a heritage, they are a reward. They belong to God, are entrusted to us, and are a sign of His blessing. For this reason we know we can't kill unborn human life.
The abortion movement disagrees with us and claims that the issue is a woman's right to control her own body. Those who favor abortion say that unborn babies have nothing to do with God but belong to their mothers who can do with them what they want. Those who kill the unborn never admit that children are a trust from God assigned to parents. Those who are pro-abortion don't view children as a sign of blessing upon image-bearers.
We know better. We know children are a heritage, a reward. How dare we or anyone snuff out such a good gift from God?!
F If children are a reward from God, does that mean that a lack of children is a sign of God's displeasure? That is how it was viewed by Old Testament culture. I know there are some today who think the same thing. Abraham and Sarah, Hannah, Zechariah and Elizabeth all thought they were either being punished or tested by God when they were not blessed with the birth of children. More than once the Bible tells us of times when God closed the wombs of various people. But in each and every case, God closed the womb either because of a specific sin (Gen 20) or to further His plan of salvation (1 Sam 1).
Children are a reward from God. But the cultural blessing is not meant for every single couple or woman. It is a blessing given to mankind in general so that we, as a human race, can fill the earth and subdue it. Children are a reward from God. But the inability to have children today is not to be seen as a sign of God's displeasure.
II Children Require Training
A Children are a heritage, a reward. They are God's gifts and blessings entrusted to parents. As any parent can tell you, this means they involve work, hard work. Some day those who are parents must answer to God for what they have done with this gift.
What does God require of parents? The psalmist tells us in verse 4:
(Ps 127:4) Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Children are like arrows. The picture is that of a warrior with arrows in his hand. Imagine the scene. A warrior in battle doesn't stop to make his arrows (HOLD UP ARROWHEADS). He doesn't start looking for a piece of flint or bone to carve into this shape; he doesn't look for a reed or stick to tie it to. Nor does the warrior in battle ignore his arrows. Rather, he uses them by directing them toward a target.
Children are like arrows. Parents have the job of directing them. A parent is responsible for the direction of his or her children. A child, like an arrow, is incapable of directing himself. It is the basic responsibility of parents to direct the lives of their children. This makes a great deal of sense when we consider what I already said: that all children are born sinners. The children God has blessed us with need parental authority.
Topic: Parental Duties
Subtopic: Instruction Of Children
Title: Put Up The Fences
Dr. James Dobson reports the findings of an interesting study done on school children in his film series "Focus on the Family." A group of educators decided to remove the chain-like fences from around the school playgrounds. They believed the fences promoted feelings of confinement and restraint. The curious thing they noticed, however, that as soon as the fences were removed, the children huddled in the center of the playground to play. Conclusion: Children need boundaries; children need direction.
B Undoubtedly the Psalmist was thinking of what is found in the Book of Proverbs when he talked about children as arrows. We read:
(Prov 22:6) Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. In day-to-day Hebrew life the words train up refers to two different but unrelated actions.
First, it refers to what is done to newborn infants. The midwife would take a newborn child into her arms, dip her finger in the juice of crushed dates, grapes, or olive oil and then reach inside the mouth of the infant and rub its palate or gums, causing the baby to suck as the flavor was tasted. In other words, she would create a thirst for the mother's milk. Then the infant would be placed on the mother's breast for nourishment.
Second, it refers to young horses. When a horse was wild, a rope was placed in its mouth as a bridle, and it was ridden until it became "broken" and "submissive."
Both properly describe what is involved in "training up" God's children. It includes creating a thirst for the spiritual life. It means directing a child to faith and life in Christ. It means giving a child moral guidance and teaching him or her to submit to God and His laws.
Topic: Parental DutiesChristian parents know better than that. They know their children need to be taught integrity and values. They know their children need direction.
Subtopic: Instruction Of Children
Title: Teach Integrity
In ancient China, the people desired security from the barbaric hordes to the north; so they built the great Chinese wall. It was so high they knew no one could climb over it and so thick that nothing could break it down. They settled back to enjoy their security. During the first hundred years of the wall's existence, China was invaded three times. Not once did the barbaric hordes break down the wall or climb over the top. Each time they bribed a gatekeeper and then marched right through the gates. The Chinese were so busy relying upon the walls of stone that they forgot to teach integrity to their children.
In this light, consider the all-to-common refrain that we hear today. More than one person has said to me that they don't want to decide what their child believes, what values to hold, what lifestyle to pick; they say they will leave it up to their child to decide for him or herself. Parents who talk this way forget that children are like arrows: they need to be directed. And, because of sin, without that direction they cannot help but choose for a life without God and Christ. Parents who talk this way are abdicating their responsibility.
Each child, congregation, is to be viewed as a heritage, that is, as a gift; they are to be viewed as a reward, that is, as a blessing; they are to be viewed as an arrow in our hands, that is, as something needing direction. How blessed we are that God has entrusted so many to our care.
I would like to end with a prayer of General Douglas MacArthur for his son.
Subtopic: Parental Prayers
Title: Build Me a Son, Lord
Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.
Build me a son whose wishbone will not be where his backbone should be; a son who will know You [and Christ].
Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail.
Build me a son whose heart will be clean, whose goal will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.
And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength.
Then I, his father, will dare to whisper, "I have not lived in vain."
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